Starters: Fifth year senior Amara Darboh (52 catches, 826 yards, 7 TDs) has been more productive this year than any Michigan receiver since Jeremy Gallon in 2013. Darboh has had some key drops, but that’s because he’s the go-to guy for quarterback Wilton Speight and gets the ball thrown to him in crunch time. Otherwise, he has made some highlight-reel catches and turned in some big plays this year. Michigan likes to use him as both a possession guy and a downfield threat, although he’s not a huge weapon in the deep passing game. Classmate Jehu Chesson (31 catches, 469 yards, 2 TDs) has seen his production fall off dramatically from the second half of the 2015 season, and he just doesn’t look like the same player after a knee injury against Florida in last year’s bowl game. Senior tight end Jake Butt (43 catches, 518 yards, 4 TDs) stands 6’6″, 250 lbs. and won the Mackey Award for the country’s best tight end. He’s not a great blocker, but he’s a very good route runner with sure hands.
Key backups: Michigan will be without the legally challenged Grant Perry (13 catches, 183 yards, 1 TD) due to legal troubles, and he’s the only other wideout who has been regularly targeted this season. The next most productive guy is 6’0″, 180 lb. freshman Eddie McDoom (5 catches, 59 yards; 15 carries, 154 yards), a speedster who has clearly made more of a mark on end arounds and reverses than in the passing game. Fellow freshman Kekoa Crawford (4 catches, 47 yards, 1 TD) and redshirt sophomore Drake Harris (2 catches, 11 yards) may also see some additional time. The backup tight ends haven’t factored into the passing game much: five tight ends have caught either 1 or 2 passes. We should see a lot of 6’6″, 276 lb. redshirt freshman Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. and 6’3″, 287 lb. freshman Devin Asiasi in mostly blocking roles.
Hit the jump for the rundown of Florida State’s defensive backfield.
Starters: The Seminoles have just four healthy safeties remaining after a spate of injuries, including receiver-turned-safety Ermon Lane, who started for the second half of the year. They have also been missing standout safety Derwin James and Nate Andrews for most of the year. Sophomore A.J. Westbrook (6’0″, 186 lbs.) should continue to start at free safety, where he has made 32 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, and 3 PBUs this season. The strong safety is expected to be junior Trey Marshall (6’0″, 210 lbs.), who has mostly been playing a hybrid LB/S role this year. He has 54 tackles, 2 TFLs, and 4 PBUs this season, but he’s used to playing at the line of scrimmage, so he may be a liability if forced to play deep. Things are more solid at cornerback, where sophomore boundary corner Tarvarus McFadden (6’0″, 198 lbs.) was a First Team All-ACC selection after making 17 tackles, 3 TFLs, 8 INTs, and 5 PBUs; he also won the Jack Tatum Trophy for being the nation’s top defensive back. Opposite McFadden is senior field corner Marquez White (6’0″, 184 lbs.), who made 22 tackles, 2 TFLs, 2 INTs, and 3 PBUs this season. Naturally, Michigan should stay away from McFadden and White while trying to test Westbrook, Marshall, and/or whomever else gets thrown in at safety. The coaching staff will have to figure out ways to get Darboh and Chesson matched up with the safeties.
Key backups: The primary backup at corner is 6’1″, 196 lb. sophomore Marcus Lewis, who has 22 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, and 2 PBUs on the season. He may end up playing a fair amount of Star (Marshall’s position) if they do indeed move Marshall back to strong safety. Another option at Star is 5-star freshman Levonta Taylor (5’10”, 169 lbs.), who has 12 tackles and 1 PBU this season. At safety it’s guys who haven’t played much. That includes sophomore Calvin Brewton (6’0″, 186 lbs.), who has played in eight games and made 6 tackles, and freshman Carlos Becker III (6’2″, 183 lbs.), who has made 5 tackles.
Advantage: Michigan. The Wolverines don’t have an elite-level player at wide receiver like FSU does at cornerback in McFadden, but the injuries at safety are significant. Derwin James was a bona fide star as a true freshman, and it also hurt them to lose Andrews and Lane. Meanwhile, Michigan is mostly intact other than the loss of Perry, who is a solid player but not frequently targeted.
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