Four Position Changes for Michigan to Consider in 2019

Four Position Changes for Michigan to Consider in 2019


March 15, 2019
Hassan Haskins (image via Wolverines Wire)

With spring practice beginning in Ann Arbor, there will be lots of positive talk and fluff around the program. Every position will be better than last year, and every newcomer will be compared to a past standout at his position.

And there are often position changes from season to season, so here are some switches that the players and coaches might consider.

Hassan Haskins: LB >>> RB
Haskins was a somewhat lightly recruited player coming out of high school, but Michigan landed him with the intention of playing him at running back. The running back position has thinned out considerably in the meantime, with projected starter Chris Evans getting suspended and backup O’Maury Samuels being booted from the team. Listed at 6’1″ and 212 lbs., Haskins has reportedly been a standout in the weight room this off-season. With the linebacker positions pretty solidly in place and question marks in the offensive backfield, Haskins should be repping on offense this spring.

Khaleke Hudson: Viper >>> S
Hudson has been named an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention player for two consecutive seasons at the Viper position. We were told that Michigan fans wouldn’t miss Jabrill Peppers after the 2016 season, and those whispers proved to be true. Meanwhile, Michigan has heavily recruited the Viper position, with players like Quinten Johnson, Daxton Hill, Joey Velazquez, and others all having repped at the safety/outside linebacker hybrid position. With Tyree Kinnel’s graduation following 2018, Michigan may be best served putting Hudson the back end more and putting Jordan Glasgow, a freshman, or someone else at Viper.

Michael Barrett: WR >>> RB
The 6’0″, 224 lb. redshirt sophomore bounced around last season, much like Haskins. Barrett spent time at slot receiver and linebacker. With his build slot receiver is an odd fit, and while the Viper position might not be a bad place for him to play, the Wolverines have numerous players pegged for Viper. Barrett was a dynamic running quarterback in high school, and he should get a chance to stand out in the backfield this spring to see if he can be one of the top three or four running backs. Either Haskins or Barrett should make the full-time switch to running back, so let them duke it out.

Michael Onwenu: OG >>> DT
This is an extreme suggestion, but Onwenu is 6’3″ and 350 lbs. with limited success at offensive guard so far. There have been rumors this off-season that Onwenu could be on his way to the bench if Andrew Stueber or Stephen Spanellis steps up his performance. Questions have existed about Onwenu’s conditioning and motor, and moving to the defensive line would alleviate some of those concerns, since defensive linemen rotate so often. Furthermore, Michigan needs help on the interior defensive line after Aubrey Solomon’s transfer and Bryan Mone’s graduation.

35 comments

  1. Avatar
    Comments: 1166
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    Roanman
    Mar 15, 2019 at 7:00 AM

    Seriously? Is there someone on the inside that thinks Onwenu needs to play at Nose Tackle?

    Is there any buzz on Filiaga?

    I thought that Haskins was the pick of the litter as a running back coming in. Although I kind of liked him at viper too.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2918
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Mar 15, 2019 at 9:26 AM

      There are some on the inside who think he’s the 6th or 7th or even 8th best offensive linemen.

      There’s not much buzz on Filiaga. From what I’ve heard, he’s not one of those top 8.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 1211
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    je93
    Mar 15, 2019 at 8:19 AM

    I keep forgetting that Haskins & Barret aren’t the same guy

    Hudson needs to play as close to the LoS as much as possible. I don’t think he does very well on D outside of blitzing

    I called for onwenu to move back in 2016, but 1) we had no depth at OG and 2) DBrown needs quickness at DT, while onwenu isn’t, and tires too easily to be effective. Besides, he would take all season just to figure the new position out. We’d lose a starter (or at least experienced depth) at OL, for a potential liability at DT

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2918
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Mar 15, 2019 at 9:29 AM

      I don’t think that’s quite true about Onwenu. He wouldn’t take a full season to adjust.

      And okay, let’s assume he is a liability at DT. Who isn’t viewed as a liability at DT right now? It was a very unproductive year on the interior defensive line.

      • Avatar
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        Roanman
        Mar 15, 2019 at 8:02 PM

        Yeah, I don’t think the Nose Tackle position is all that tough to acclimate too. He played a lot of D in high school, and then here as a freshman.

        Nose Tackle is the epitome of “low man wins’ positions. The technique is not incredibly different from that of a guard, and likely simpler in the sense that he ain’t pulling and then finding someone to hit. They’ll come looking for him.

        I hear the argument about continuity on the offensive line, but if Onwenu wears down because of conditioning and has to platoon, continuity is impacted anyway, although to lesser degree, I will admit.

        I think he’s a natural born two gap Nose kid. I’d probably want to move him regardless, but if he comes in heavy and someone else is getting it done at guard, I’m introducing him to the new guy. We need bodies on the defensive line and he has a huge one.

        I’m pretty sure he’s gonna play defense on Sunday anyway. If he wants to keep playing.

      • Avatar
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        je93
        Mar 15, 2019 at 11:19 PM

        I value your opinion, but onwenu would take SOME time to acclimate – about on time for sparty/ND?

        That’s giving up a starter on OL for a depth guy on DL. Risk-reward says not worth it (IMO)

        • Avatar
          Comments: 1166
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          Roanman
          Mar 16, 2019 at 7:09 AM

          The difference on the D line is that unless you are a way deep depth guy, the depth guys play.

          Most people rotate at a significantly higher rate on the D line than they do on the O line. Mattison for sure wanted to rotate heavily, I don’t have any idea what Nua does or likes to do, but forced to bet, I’d bet rotate em.

          As was pointed out at the other site yesterday, we have enjoyed wonderful successes with freshmen defensive line players and I hope we do again this year too, but a huge run stuffing presence like Onwenu should be employed as a huge run stuffing presence, particularly if you have guys that can play the guard position as well … maybe better … as he can.

          • Avatar
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            je93
            Mar 16, 2019 at 10:33 AM

            There’s nothing we’ve seen in the last three seasons to suggest we have an OL that can play RG better than onwenu – this is all hope & speculation

            Last year’s DTs were not good. Hoping that moving a 2yr starter at OG over to NT, and seeing an increase in value is the kind of fan speculation that may be fun, but also proves why we’re on the internet and not the sidelines

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 4579
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            Lanknows
            Mar 16, 2019 at 11:29 AM

            Jeter might be/probably is a better run-stuffer than position-switching Onwenu. The big problem last year was lack of penetration from guys like Mone and Marshall.

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 4579
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              Lanknows
              Mar 16, 2019 at 11:52 AM

              I think you’re going to see Hutchinson move inside because he’ll probably show up at over 280 on the next roster and we project to have good depth at DE even without him (Paye, Danna, Villain, Uche, etc). Hutchinson had a GREAT season for a freshman on the DL and appears on an all-conference track.

              Inside: Kemp and Dwumfour are locks to play. So Michigan arguably only needs 1 or 2 more guys to complete their rotation. Between Jeter, Smith, and Hinton (a bunch of high 4-star recruits), they are very likely to get that viable rotation player.

              Probably more likely than they are to find a quality starting OL from among Steuber, Mayfield, Spanellis, let alone 2 if they move Onwenu.

              Of course they need to address both spots.

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 4579
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    Lanknows
    Mar 15, 2019 at 11:50 AM

    This is a fun topic to discuss. My general take – stability is a good thing.

    Onwenu – PLEASE DONT MESS WITH THE FIRST STABLE OL SITUATION WE’VE HAD IN YEARS!!!!! Keep Shea safe. Onwenu is an all confence player at OG already with potential to be elite. He may be JAG at DT. Maybe this was the right move 2 or 3 years ago. Now? No way. We need a starting OT and a reliable 6th man on OL. Steuber can only cover one of those and would have to learn a new position just when he might be starting to settle in.

    Hudson – Michigan has played their best safety at viper so I doubt this happens. Rather have Hill or Hawkins emerge as rangy safety-safety than viper-safety, but if it somehow ends up that the third best safety is clearly better in the viper-safety role (somebody like Woods ?) than it could make sense. I doubt it’s worth the upheaval to Hudson though. While it’s scary to have a new guy at FS, I think there’s enough talent to let Hill-Hawkins-Woods duke it out.

    Haskins – already pretty big for RB. Probably a bigger need at SAM than RB assuming Brown keeps using that.

    Barrett – I can get behind this one, especially with the WR depth we have with all the incoming recruits. Kind of figure he’d end up at LB though.

    Are there any prominent examples of RBs moving from other positions? Seems like a you-have-it-or-you-don’t position to me.

  4. Lanknows
    Comments: 4579
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    Lanknows
    Mar 15, 2019 at 11:59 AM

    Is there a reason you are confident about Steuber/Spanellis but not Dwumfour/Jeter?

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2918
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Mar 15, 2019 at 3:10 PM

      I don’t think that’s an accurate representation of what I said. I didn’t say I’m confident in Stueber/Spanellis.

      Perhaps a more accurate statement is that I don’t have a lot of confidence in Onwenu, and that stance is echoed within the program.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 4579
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        Lanknows
        Mar 15, 2019 at 9:11 PM

        What do you mean by “that stance is echoed in the program”?

        I know there’s some disappointment that Onwenu hasn’t reached his ceiling, which Balas has vigorously expounded on, questioning the kid’s motivation and work ethic. At the same time, there are bigger issues on the OL (specifically at OT) and they keep starting Mike every year. Guys like Runyan, Mayfield, Steuber, and Spanellis have failed to unseat him. Michigan would need multiple young players to make a leap to push Onwenu out of the top 5.

        I think it’s fair to say Onwenu has proven himself to be the 3rd or 4th best OLmen Michigan has so far. His size and talent indicate he has potential to play much better. Moving him would seriously compromise the OL with highly speculative return on the defensive side.

  5. Avatar
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    Extrajuice
    Mar 15, 2019 at 6:43 PM

    Barrett should definitely be at RB. I thought his high school highlights had RB written all over him. Haskins highlights weren’t that great. Maybe he could be a short yardage type of guy but Barrett is much more explosive. It wouldn’t surprise me if Haskins never really has a position.

    As for Onwenu, he’s gotta stay on the OL for now. If he’s beat out, sure, try DL. Otherwise I’m all for continuity. What about Paea? Is he still on OL or did he switch over to DL?

    • Avatar
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      Roanman
      Mar 15, 2019 at 7:42 PM

      I think you’re right on Barrett. Those three guys all kind of run together on me. So I went back and looked, Barrett is the kid with the nice film running the ball, he’s shifty and has some top end. Haskins is the kid with knees and elbows flying all over the place. Although somehow, he does manage to keep from falling down.

      It is a bit different hitting the hole rather than standing there 3/4 yards back reading and then making a decision. If he can do that, I think he has a chance to be pretty good.

      • GKblue
        Comments: 277
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        GKblue
        Mar 15, 2019 at 9:54 PM

        I thought Barrett was the better RB recruited that season. When they started talking LB I surmised Brown won a behind the scenes battle for his services at Viper. Then moving to receiver it was a reflection on his athleticism. I think we need to give him a shot at finding a home in the backfield.

  6. Avatar
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    AC1997
    Mar 16, 2019 at 12:52 AM

    I am not an expert and have no inside info, but I thought Onwenu was solid last year. Maybe he has limitations, but I thought he was consistently average and eliminated a lot of mistakes. Not sure where the negativity comes from.

    Why not move Paea back to DL since he actually played there?? I figured that was an easy change since he is buried on the OL, has DL experience, and has size.

    • Avatar
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      Roanman
      Mar 16, 2019 at 7:16 AM

      Onwenu also played D line here, and I am reasonably certain that Onwenu has more snaps on defense in games than does Paea. Both guys went both ways in high school. I would give a slight experience edge to Onwenu in a comparison of two reasonably experienced D line guys.

      I always thought Paea should play guard here. He might not make it here at that position, but he was an impressive kid at the high school level when it came to pulling, finding a target and then blasting that target. I think Onwenu is out of position at guard and of course, that was by necessity. If that necessity no longer exists, I’m moving the big boy to where he belongs.

  7. Lanknows
    Comments: 4579
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    Lanknows
    Mar 16, 2019 at 12:12 PM

    Someone above mentioned Onwenu’s NFL draft potential.

    If it’s true his future lies at DT at the next level I think that’s the most compelling argument that can be made to make him switch.

    That said, he’s doing pretty well at OG. All conference says something, as does being named OL of the week twice. Even though people here are dubious of such honors, it’s also backed by NFL speculation that he’ll get drafted as an OG. Maybe that’s just on physical potential but he’s playing well enough in some eyes.

    The other thing to keep in mind is we are talking about a 4th year player. That’s when a lot of guys make a leap. Same class as Spanellis, Uche, Eubanks, Dwumfour, Kemp, Hawkins. A lot of those guys are on watch for untapped potential and bigger roles. Justifiably so. Almost seems like Onwenu is diminished in some eyes because he’s been playing, so the light has already been shined on his warts.

    I think we should assume that Onwenu will get better. And given his talent and the urgency of the last college season and the 2020 NFL draft — he could be a first team all conference player or even all american.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2918
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Mar 16, 2019 at 1:51 PM

      I’ve seen him ranked anywhere from the #8 to #12 offensive guard in 2020 class, mostly coming from questionable sources. And this far ahead of the draft, he’s more likely to move down than up, since lower level prospects will rise in the rankings and underclassmen will declare. For some perspective, 9 players got drafted at OG in 2018, 11 in 2017, 13 in 2016, and 16 in 2015. That seems to be a downward trend (maybe teams are converting tackles into guards), but either way, it’s not too promising for a guy ranked between #8 and #12 and probably dropping over the next year.

      I’m not saying he would get drafted at NT. In fact, if I had to bet right now, I would probably say he doesn’t get drafted, regardless of what position he plays. Third team/honorable mention All-Big Ten as a junior isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, and he was the team’s “OL of the week” against SMU and Rutgers, two of the worst teams on the schedule last year.

      All-American in 2019? You said yourself that he’s (at best) the third-best lineman on Michigan’s team, and I think it’s baffling that you think he could be as high as #3 (presumably behind Runyan and Bredeson, and possibly ahead of Ruiz?). This all seems to be a bunch of malarkey.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 4579
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        Lanknows
        Mar 16, 2019 at 3:04 PM

        Thanks for clarifying.

        Not saying he WILL be all-american. Saying he has untapped talent. The knock on him has never been about ability but motivation/work. That’s going to frustrate coaches and trigger some people with a certain disposition towards gifted athletes.

        If work ethic continues to be a question than a rotational spot like backup NT might be the right fit. But again, Michigan needs to find 2 OL to make a leap to get to a place where that move benefits the team.

        It happened last year with Runyan. He went from 1 career start his first 3 years to first team all conference his 4th year. That kind of leap could happen for Spanellis too. Or a younger player like Steuber or Horniford or Filiaga. But it could also happen for Onwenu — and if he makes a leap, he’s starting from a much higher base – potential NFL pick and fringe all-conference honors.

        I’m talking about a best case scenario.

        Comparing to Runyan again. Yeah, it’s more impressive to be OL of the year against PSU and Wisc than Rutgers and SMU and better to be 1st team and 3rd team, but both made all-conference and got honored for 2 games. Runyan has 15 career starts, Onwenu has 21. Runyan was probably the better player last year but he’s a year older and doesn’t have Onwenu’s upside.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 4579
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        Lanknows
        Mar 16, 2019 at 3:13 PM

        I don’t think Runyan’s in the top 3. A bunch of people on here have said they don’t buy the all conference honors and that’s a strong piece of evidence in their favor, IMO.

        We can talk about Onwenu’s fringe stock, but I haven’t seen Runyan on NFL radars at all.

        I think there’s a reason Runyan got passed by Onwenu from the day he arrived at campus and never beat him out. He emerged only when the void at OT opened up. Good for Runyan – great to see the kid get better and get honored for his play – but I don’t think he’s got the talent that Onwenu has. I don’t think he’s on that level as a player even though he was more consistent and reliable in 2018.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 2918
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Mar 16, 2019 at 8:30 PM

          I…I…don’t even know what to say to this. You talk up Onwenu by saying he was an All-Big Ten player (third team/honorable mention), and then you talk down Runyan by saying he was an All-Big Ten player (first team). Sometimes it seems like you just say stuff to say stuff.

          Oh, and you talked up Onwenu by saying he was 2-time OL of the week (vs. SMU, Rutgers) as if that means something, but then you talk down about another 2-time OL of the week (vs. PSU, Wisconsin) who was also named the team’s OL of the YEAR.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 4579
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            Lanknows
            Mar 17, 2019 at 12:47 PM

            I don’t think I can be any more clear. I’m talking about upside.

            Runyan and Onwenu are performing at a similar level. Yet Onwenu is dogged by rumors of not working hard.

            • Thunder
              Comments: 2918
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Mar 17, 2019 at 1:03 PM

              Upside schmupside. They’re going into their final year on campus. One guy is better than the other guy, according to the conference’s coaches, the team’s coaches, and the media. You say Onwenu has more upside (because he’s bigger, I guess), while I could sit here and say that the other guy has more upside because his dad was a high draft pick who had a long NFL career. Upside is a fantastic thing when a guy is a freshman or sophomore, but when you’re a rising senior, I think upside goes out the window.

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 4579
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                Lanknows
                Mar 17, 2019 at 3:21 PM

                It’s a subjective thing so reasonable minds can disagree.

                Who played better in 2018 isn’t necessarily the better player. Just as it wasn’t in 2017.

                My speculation is based on the
                -age (Onwenu is younger)
                -size (Onwenu is bigger)
                -talent (reflected by recruiting ranking)
                -the buzz about work ethic (which can be rectified…but might not).
                -history (Runyan failing to beat out Onwenu at his natural position OG).

                If you said “upside schmupside” about Runyan last year you would have been wrong. It didn’t go out the window when he was a rising senior and it shouldn’t have. You’re not throwing upside out the window for Spanellis either, rightfully so.

                I have no idea if Onwenu will reach his but I think it’s silly to call that irrelevant with any player who is getting better every year.

                IMO, the 2016 class (including Peters, Evans, Bredeson, Hill, Kemp, Eubanks, Uche, Nordin, Dwumfour, Spanellis, Hawkins, Onwenu and McKeon) have lots of opportunity to improve and progress towards being the best players they can be.

                • Thunder
                  Comments: 2918
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Mar 17, 2019 at 4:05 PM

                  It’s hard to say that somebody doesn’t have upside when we haven’t really seen them play and/or they haven’t had an opportunity to start. No, I’m not saying the same thing about Spanellis, because he’s been a backup and we don’t know what he would look like if he got starters’ reps. We’ve seen Onwenu as a starter at RG for two years, and we’ve seen Runyan as a starter at LT for one year.

                  My hot take: Onwenu isn’t going to be an All-American in 2019.

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 4579
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Mar 17, 2019 at 8:53 PM

                  The idea that a guy on the bench is more promising because we haven’t seen him play is not one I subscribe to.

                  Because the coaches have. 9 times out of 10 when the guy on the bench comes in (due to injury or ineffectiveness) he’s not as good and the coaches are validated.

                  It’s a common reaction for fans to have but it’s usually wishful thinking. At least without some more info (at least some buzz) it’s just wishful thinking.

                  Anyway, Spanellis has played in 12 games so he’s not some shrouded mystery man.

                  I think it’s unlikely that Onwenu is an all american in 2019. I also think it’s unlikely he loses his job to a classmate he’s beaten out for 3 years running or that a successful multi-year starter moves to the other side of the ball. I think it’s likely Onwenu continues to be a good starter and gets all conference honors again.

                  We’ll see I guess…

                • Thunder
                  Comments: 2918
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Mar 17, 2019 at 9:43 PM

                  I disagree on your assertion that 9 out of 10 times, the starter is better. We’ve seen several examples over the years of the backup coming in and performing at a higher level, such as Juwann Bushell-Beatty (over Nolan Ulizio), Devin Gardner (over Denard Robinson in 2012), Ben Gedeon (over Joe Bolden), Michael Schofield (over Ricky Barnum), etc. The starter is better in most cases, because some of them are standouts, but we’re talking about the weak spots. That’s where I don’t think your 9 out of 10 stat applies. I would say it’s probably closer to 6 or 7 out of 10.

                  Nobody’s implying Donovan Peoples-Jones’s backup is better than him, because he’s a standout. The guys who are in question are the bottom few guys, the weak points of your offense or defense. A good example is Devin Gil, who was considered a weak point in 2018…and most people seem to agree that Josh Ross is better and should have been starting.

                  As for the all-whatever list, yeah, I agree that Onwenu will probably be all-conference again. But that’s because offensive line all-conference awards are often Lifetime Achievement Awards. That’s how someone like Kyle Kalis becomes all-conference. Unless you’re a real standout, voters are like, “Hmmm…Kyle Kalis, huh? I’ve been seeing that name in a lineup for a couple years now. He must be decent. Eh, let’s toss him on the second team.”

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 4579
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Mar 18, 2019 at 11:42 AM

                  Think we’ll have to agree to disagree.

                  I appreciate your argument and the examples cited but I think I could list out all the times people pined for backups who came in and weren’t better. That said, it’s not unreasonable to say 6 out of 10 vs 9 out of 10. Ballparking either way.

                  I don’t Onwenu is the weak spot on the OL is probably where we differ most. A 3rd year guy doesn’t quality for a lifetime achievement award. The ‘weakness’ there is relative to expectations.

    • Avatar
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      Roanman
      Mar 17, 2019 at 8:08 AM

      Actually, I said he’ll play the nose on Sunday … if he plays on Sunday. I didn’t say he would be drafted.

      Unless he gets religion regarding his conditioning, I’m not certain about draft potential. He still has some issues as a D lineman, particularly against a team that comes at you with some pace. You could get bit trying to get his big rear end off of the field against a team that spreads you out and wants to run plays quickly.

      I’d spend some time looking at late game and two minute film. If he were still there late, I think I’d look hard. If he was there after day two, I’d definitely sign him as a free agent.

      He and Mone are two examples of huge guys coming in who have to fight weight to get on the field as opposed to guys coming in who have to gain it to play. I’ve strongly come to the conclusion that it’s easier and better to have to get them bigger than it is to get them smaller.

      • Thunder
        Comments: 2918
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Mar 17, 2019 at 8:29 AM

        THANK YOU! The dudes who come in who have weight problems to start usually have weight problems throughout. Onwenu, Mone, William Campbell, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Ondre Pipkins, etc. rarely reach their “potential” and if they do, it takes them several years. Chuck Filiaga’s another guy on the current roster that many expected to be contributing by now, but it’s looking like he’ll be spending this year on the bench, too, and maybe he’ll have a shot as a redshirt junior in 2020.

      • Avatar
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        je93
        Mar 17, 2019 at 10:47 AM

        I don’t think UM offense has any 2min film, but good luck on your hunt

        • Avatar
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          Roanman
          Mar 17, 2019 at 12:23 PM

          Of course they do. Unless your point is that one must have a two min offense in order to have a two minute film.

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