Going into the beginning of spring practice, there are lots of questions about the 2018 team. Some are obvious. Some, maybe not so much. Here are the top five things I’ll be looking for throughout the spring.
1. What will the offense look like?
Michigan’s offense was, to be kind, largely ineffective in 2017. Offensive line coach and run game coordinator Tim Drevno was nudged out the door, and he was replaced by a combination of former Ohio State/Minnesota offensive line coach Ed Warinner and former Florida head coach/Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain. Furthermore, offensive tackle/tight ends coach Greg Frey left for Florida State and was replaced by Central Michigan’s Sherrone Moore. Moore won’t change the look of the offense. Warinner might switch things up a little bit, depending on what types of bodies he wants on the offensive line. McElwain is the key here. He’s not known as an innovator, but will Michigan be in shotgun? Pistol? Will the use of the fullback be dialed back a bit? Will he pack it in with multiple tight end sets, or will he spread it out more?
Hit the jump for four more questions about the spring.
2. Who will be under center?
The quarterback job is totally up in the air right now. Shea Patterson was brought in from Ole Miss, and he’s the expected starter (if he’s eligible). But wait, Brandon Peters has more starts at quarterback than any other returning Michigan player. But wait, some insiders have said that Dylan McCaffrey is preferred by the coaching staff over Peters, but he just wasn’t physically ready in 2017. So far the NCAA has failed to rule on Patterson’s eligibility, so how much will Michigan rely on him in the spring? If he takes most of the snaps with the first team and then he’s ruled ineligible, an opportunity for Peters/McCaffrey to develop chemistry with the other starters might have been missed. If the coaches let Peters/McCaffrey get all the first team reps due to the uncertainty surrounding Patterson, then what if Patterson is ruled eligible and misses his chance to mesh with the starters?
3. How will the offensive line shake out?
Michigan lost starters at left tackle (Mason Cole) and center (Patrick Kugler). Odds are good that sophomore Cesar Ruiz will start at center, but Michigan whiffed on some grad transfer opportunities to shore up the tackle position, most notably Rice’s Calvin Anderson, who chose Texas. That means Michigan has to fill the left tackle hole from within. Ben Bredeson, James Hudson III, and Andrew Stueber are all contestants, though it’s desired for Bredeson to stay inside at guard. Meanwhile, the right tackles (Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Jon Runyan Jr., Nolan Ulizio) return but they played poorly last year, and Stephen Spanellis might be looked at as an option there after spending the 2017 season practicing mostly at guard and center.
4. Who takes over for Mike McCray II?
Michigan only lost two defensive starters to graduation, and one was weakside linebacker McCray. The main backup last year was Devin Gil, but Michigan brought in three linebackers in the 2017 class (four if you count FB/LB Ben Mason). We saw Joshua Ross play a backup role and some special teams, but Drew Singleton and Jordan Anthony also loom. Singleton in particular has earned positive reviews now that he’s further removed from his ACL tear in 2016.
5. What kind of rejiggering will Michigan do on the defensive line?
The other departed senior on defense is potential first round draft pick Maurice Hurst, Jr. Michigan has two very capable players at nose tackle in Bryan Mone and Aubrey Solomon, but there are guys lined up for playing time who haven’t played a ton. Carlo Kemp is reportedly moving from 5-tech defensive end to 3-tech defensive tackle, a move some expected Rashan Gary to make at some point during his career. Michael Dwumfour has earned rave reviews as a Maurice Hurst, Jr., Jr., but injuries have limited him. Meanwhile, the coaching staff was very high on Donovan Jeter going into 2017, but a leg injury forced him to redshirt. The coaching staff tried him out at multiple spots on the defensive line before he supposedly settled in at 3-tech DT, but things can change from season to season.
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