2018 Season Countdown: #39 Ben VanSumeren

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19Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #39 Ben VanSumeren

Ben VanSumeren (image via MLive)

Name: Ben VanSumeren
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 232 lbs.
High school: Essexville (MI) Garber
Position: Fullback
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: N/A
Last year: VanSumeren was a senior in high school (LINK). He was 11/25 passes for 249 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 INTs. He caught 85 passes for 1,259 yards and 13 TDs. He ran the ball 54 times for 387 yards and 6 touchdowns. And he made 43 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 1 sack.
TTB Rating: 78

That summary after “last year” is called filling up the stat sheet, my friends. VanSumeren did a little bit of everything for his high school team, and sometimes that’s what it looks like when you have a big-time football recruit playing at a small school. Talent gap aside, it’s amazing that he just touched the ball so much, especially when 85 of those touches came on receptions. It’s not too hard to get a running back 150+ touches a year, but when a guy is lining up at receiver most of the time, that’s impressive.

I kept holding off on VanSumeren when I was making this list. I thought about him in the 60s. Then I thought about him in the 50s. Still not high enough. Then I thought about him in the 40s. And I finally thought it appropriate to place him at #39. Michigan lost co-starting fullbacks Khalid Hill and Henry Poggi, leaving behind sophomore Ben Mason and position-switching fifth-year senior Jared Wangler, plus a few walk-ons. On top of that, Mason is coming off a knee issue and might take some snaps at linebacker. With as much as Hill and Poggi played over the past two seasons, I think Mason and VanSumeren will be those two guys this year. Michigan might go with a few less fullback sets due to having Shea Patterson at quarterback and wanting to spread the field, but I still think Jim Harbaugh and Pep Hamilton are going to stick to their roots.

Prediction: Backup fullback

18Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #40 Joshua Uche

Josh Uche is changing from #35 to #6 (image via MWolverine)

Name: Joshua Uche
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 226 lbs.
High school: Miami (FL) Columbus
Position: Linebacker
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #35 #6
Last year: I ranked Uche #51 and said he would be a backup SAM linebacker (LINK). He made 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 sack.
TTB Rating: 82

Uche has the unfortunate luck of being a little bit of an odd fit in Michigan’s defense. Last year I thought he would be a backup SAM linebacker when Michigan went to heavier fronts, but it turned out that Michigan mostly just kept Khaleke Hudson in there at Viper most of the time. Uche is more of a pass rush specialist, but you don’t always need pass rush “specialists” when your regular defense is getting home with blitzes and excellent play from the defensive line. Furthermore, Michigan had Noah Furbush to come in as a part-time pass rusher and blitzer, and Furbush did a good job as a sub package guy.

Khaleke Hudson returns this year at Viper, and once again, Furbush remains present as a sub package player. Michigan wants to get Uche on the field, so he’s playing some at WILL linebacker. He’s battling Devin Gil, Josh Ross, and others, and I think Uche will lose the battle to be the starter. However, defensive coordinator Don Brown has mentioned that they have certain packages designed with Uche in mind, and he can be a rusher like Furbush. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing some third down packages with both Uche and Furbush on the field; since Michigan can lock up on the back end, those are some dangerous guys to send on a blitz package.

Prediction: Backup linebacker, special teamer

17Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #41 Joshua Ross

Joshua Ross (image via MLive)

Name: Joshua Ross
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 229 lbs.
High school: Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary’s
Position: Linebacker
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #12
Last year: I ranked Ross #59 and said he would be a backup linebacker (LINK). He played in all thirteen games and made 4 tackles.
TTB Rating: 79

Ross’s 2017 season went about as expected. Michigan doesn’t rotate linebackers a lot, so Ross didn’t play a ton of defense. The defense is complicated, so Ross didn’t play a ton of defense. The team had Devin Bush, Jr. and Mike McCray II at inside linebacker, so Ross didn’t play a ton of defense. He did play as a backup on occasion and he spent quite a bit of time on special teams, which is where he made his impact.

The coaching staff did find him worthy of burning his redshirt, and I think that’s noteworthy going into the 2018 season. Jordan Anthony and Drew Singleton kept their redshirts, but they got Ross’s feet wet. Now he appears to be in a battle for the WILL linebacker position vacated by McCray, with the other candidates being Josh Uche and Devin Gil. I think Gil has the inside track with Uche beind a wild card, since Uche has bounced around a bit. But out of those three, the guy with the highest upside at inside linebacker is Ross. I view him as someone who could start to steal more and more snaps as his career progresses and push some other guys to the side.

Prediction: Backup WILL linebacker

17Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #42 J’Marick Woods

J’Marick Woods (image via Twitter)

Name: J’Marick Woods
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 203 lbs.
High school: Florence (AL) Florence
Position: Safety
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #26
Last year: I ranked Woods #54 and said he would be a backup safety and special teamer (LINK). He made one start and totaled 9 tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss for the year.
TTB Rating: 80

For a first-year safety at Michigan, Woods had a solid season. Safety is not an easy position to play as a true freshman when the game is moving quickly, the defense gets more complicated, and you have to communicate so much with your teammates while processing everything the opposing team is doing. Luckily for Woods (and Michigan), there were a couple more veteran guys to handle the majority of the snaps, while Woods was able to sit back and learn. He played spot duty before earning a start in the Outback Bowl against South Carolina.

This year Woods is roughly in the same spot as last season, but with an extra year of experience under his belt. Starting safeties Josh Metellus and Tyree Kinnel return, and so does utility man Jaylen Kelly-Powell, who has earned a lot of off-season hype. The safeties were the weak spot of the defense last season, however, and Woods could supplant someone like Metellus if he’s unable to improve on his performance from last year. Woods is known as a big hitter, but he needs to work on his coverage before becoming a full-time player. And once Kinnel graduates after the 2018 season, Woods could step into a starting role in 2019.

Prediction: Backup safety, special teamer

17Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #43 Kekoa Crawford

Kekoa Crawford

Name: Kekoa Crawford
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 195 lbs.
High school: Rancho Santa Margarita (CA) Catholic
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #1
Last year: I ranked Crawford #13 and said he would be a starting receiver with 40 catches for 520 yards and 3 touchdowns (LINK). He made 17 catches for 243 yards and 1 touchdown; he also returned 8 kickoffs for 139 yards (17.4 yards/return).
TTB Rating: 81

As you can see, Crawford dropped significantly on the countdown from 2017 to 2018, from #13 down to #43. And that was before he left the team to pursue greener pastures elsewhere. Crawford played a lot last season, especially after starting wide receiver Tarik Black went down with a foot injury midway through the year. Crawford’s numbers look okay for a #3 or #4 receiver for a whole season, but he was expected to do more and never seemed to mesh with any of the three quarterbacks who saw game action.

This year Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones are both expected to be starters, and they’re a year older. Meanwhile, Nico Collins saw more action late in the year, Grant Perry is a senior, and Oliver Martin is coming off a redshirt. The arrow seemed to be trending down for Crawford. I still think he has talent and could have been a decent contributor at Michigan if he stuck around, but with only 2018 and 2019 remaining, he was destined to be overshadowed by Black and Peoples-Jones, if not others.

Prediction: None; he transferred

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