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RUSH OFFENSE vs. FLORIDA RUSH DEFENSE
Michigan finished #33 overall with 213 rushing yards/game in 2016, but leading rusher De’Veon Smith graduated. The depth chart is probably a little thinner this season, with Chris Evans, Karan Higdon, and Ty Isaac likely to share crunch-time carries. They all put up excellent yards per carry last season, with Evans leading the way. Michigan’s offensive line was #64 in Adjusted Line Yards, and they’ll be starting four guys at positions they weren’t starting at last season. Ben Bredeson returns at left guard, Mason Cole moves from center to left tackle, and there are brand new starters at center, right guard, and right tackle. It’s a concerning unit. Florida was #37 in rushing defense, giving up a little over 144 yards/game, and that’s consistent with their #36 Adjusted Line Yards ranking. Florida’s top tackler, safety Marcell Harris, is out due to injury, and the #2 guy (Jarrad Davis) was a 1st round draft pick. The top available, returning tackler is sophomore middle linebacker David Reese II (49 tackles), a one-time Michigan commit. The Gators have some talent on the starting defensive line in tackle Taven Bryan and end CeCe Jefferson, but the #2 guys at both DT spots are freshmen, and the #2 DE is suspended.
Hit the jump for the rest of the preview.
PASS OFFENSE vs. FLORIDA PASS DEFENSE
Michigan was #85 with 212 yards/game through the air in 2016, but #41 in passer efficiency rating. Redshirt junior Wilton Speight will be the starting quarterback, and he threw 18 touchdowns and 7 picks on 61.6% completions. He lost all of his receivers, though, so Michigan is breaking in new players at tight end and both outside receiver spots. The new starters are expected to be sophomore Kekoa Crawford and freshman Tarik Black at receiver, and redshirt junior Ian Bunting at tight end. The Wolverines tied for #39 with 22 sacks allowed, and pass protection might be an issue for such a young and inexperienced offensive line. Florida was #28 in Adjusted Sack Rate, and their top two sack guys return in Jabari Zuniga (5.0) and Jordan Sherit (3.5). Florida was tied for #14 in interceptions last season, and cornerback Chauncey Gardner had 3 picks last season, including 1 he returned for a TD. He’s their top guy in the defensive backfield. Otherwise, the Gators have lost Teez Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Harris, and Marcus Maye, so they’re breaking in a bunch of new players, too. They’re thin at safety, but their cornerbacks are experienced and talented. Michigan’s best bet is probably to try to take advantage of Florida’s inexperienced safeties, but the offensive line needs to protect long enough up front for their tight ends and slot receivers to break open.
RUSH DEFENSE vs. FLORIDA RUSH OFFENSE
Michigan was #15 in rushing defense last season (119 yards/game), #7 in yards allowed per rush (3.22), and tied for #6 in rushing touchdowns allowed (9). The defensive line was #3 in Adjusted Line Yards, but the starting four defensive linemen are gone. Michigan does return its #2 tackler in weakside linebacker Mike McCray, but the next guy was #9 in backup defensive end Chase Winovich, who is now a starter. Defensive coordinator Don Brown will blitz and stunt to shoot guys into the backfield, so I don’t expect a huge dropoff with the guys Michigan has available, but we don’t know exactly how the front seven will operate. Florida was #99 in Adjusted Line Yards, and they’re breaking in some new starters. Left tackle Martez Ivey is the best of the bunch, but the rest of the guys are less talented and somewhat inexperienced. Backup left tackle Kadeem Telfort is suspended. Speaking of being suspended, so is starting running back Jordan Scarlett. The Gators were #113 in rushing yards and #106 in average yards per carry. The top two guys are expected to be Lamical Perine (4.6 YPC, 1 TD) and Mark Thompson (4.4 YPC, 2 TDs). Starting quarterback Feleipe Franks is a dropback guy and not a big threat to run.
PASS DEFENSE vs. FLORIDA PASS OFFENSE
Michigan was #2 in passer efficiency rating defense last season, but that can be thrown out the window a little bit since they lost basically their entire defense. The defensive line should still be able to get after the quarterback, so that helps, but the secondary is totally unproven. The cornerbacks came in for some criticism from assistant coach Mike Zordich in the last week, and Michigan has moved two receivers to corner during the off-season to shore up depth. The only current Michigan player who made an interception last year is Mike McCray, who returned it for a touchdown against Florida State. Sophomore Lavert Hill is the only defensive back who made even one pass breakup last year, and he made . . . one. Michigan was #5 in sacks, and their #2, #4, and #6 sack guys return in Chase Winovich, Maurice Hurst, Jr., and McCray. Florida QB Feleipe Franks redshirted in 2016, so it’s tough to say how he’ll perform, but he beat out Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire and incumbent part-time starter Luke Del Rio. Florida was #79 in passer rating last season, even though they were #34 in Adjusted Sack Rate. Starting receiver and potential big-play guy Antonio Callaway is also suspended, and Florida’s other receivers don’t appear to be too awfully dangerous, except for sophomore Tyrie Cleveland. Cleveland averaged over 21 yards/catch last season with 2 touchdowns. He has decent size at 6’2″, 196 lbs. and should be a good test for Michigan’s cornerbacks. Tight end DeAndre Goolsby made 38 catches for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns, so he’s a consistent target but not an elite playmaker.
- Florida players recruited by Michigan include: DE Zach Carter, DE Antonneus Clayton, OT Jean Delance, WR Daquon Green, WR Josh Hammond, CB C.J. Henderson, LB James Houston IV, RB Adarius Lemons, OT Andrew Mike, LB David Reese, WR James Robinson, CB Brad Stewart, WR Freddie Swain, CB Marco Wilson
- Florida players suspended for this game: WR Antonio Callaway, DE Keivonnis Davis, LB James Houston IV, LB Ventrell Miller, WR James Robinson, RB Jordan Scarlett, DT Jordan Smith, OT Kadeem Telfort, WR Rick Wells
- Florida players from the state of Michigan include: LB David Reese, a former Michigan commit
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED…
- On January 2, 2016, Michigan beat Florida in the Citrus Bowl by a score of 41-7
- Jake Rudock went 20/31 for 278 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions
- Michigan harassed Treon Harris into 8/21 passing for 146 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception
- Jehu Chesson caught 5 passes for 118 yards and 1 touchdown
- Feleipe Franks hits two deep balls against Michigan’s secondary
- Michigan’s offensive line and Wilton Speight look shaky
- Khaleke Hudson forces a fumble
- Michigan 24, Florida 10
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