As I looked at the scholarship count for 2018 (LINK), there were a number of names that stuck out of guys who don’t have a clear path to playing time. This post is intended to examine some of those players’ potential to contribute in the future. This is NOT based on any rumors, but simply logic.
QUARTERBACK: With just four players on scholarship for 2018 – including two true freshmen – it wouldn’t make much sense for anyone to leave. Brandon Peters (RS So.) should be the #1 guy, and Dylan McCaffrey (RS Fr.) would presumably be the primary backup. Both of them were recruited by Jim Harbaugh, and both of them are talented, 4-star guys. The one guy who could throw a wrench into those plans is Shea Patterson, a potential transfer from Ole Miss (LINK).
FULLBACK: Michigan loses its top two guys at fullback, but the next guy will be just a sophomore in 2018, and that’s Ben Mason. With Mason looking like the clear front-runner to start, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for Jared Wangler (RS Sr.) to return in 2018. Not only was Wangler a linebacker for his first few years on campus, but he was at least fourth on the depth chart this season. There are walk-ons who could surpass him, and so far Michigan hasn’t deployed a fullback as light as him (229 lbs.) under Jim Harbaugh
RUNNING BACK: Departures happen all the time, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if someone leaves in the next year or two. However, the running backs are spaced out pretty well, from senior Karan Higdon to junior Chris Evans to redshirt sophomore Kareem Walker to the freshmen.
WIDE RECEIVER: Drake Harris and Maurice Ways, Jr. have already chosen to depart, so that thins the ranks a little bit, but Michigan brought in four wideouts in the 2017 class. With a lot of trust being put in Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black, there seemed to be less and less emphasis on Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom this year than expected. Neither one redshirted and both could go elsewhere to have two years of eligibility left. Much like the Shea Patterson situation, the potential arrival of Ole Miss’s Van Jefferson could be disruptive to their careers, too.
TIGHT END: The departure that makes the most sense is Ian Bunting (RS Sr.). I thought Bunting was going to replace Jake Butt pretty well, but instead, Bunting was passed up by every other scholarship tight end on the roster, all of whom are younger. Zach Gentry (RS Jr.), Sean McKeon (Jr.), Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. (RS Jr.), and even Nick Eubanks (RS So.) were used earlier in the season and/or games than Bunting. Bunting had just 1 catch for 6 yards on the season. Along the same lines, Wheatley is getting older and seems to have two guys ahead of him (Gentry and McKeon).
OFFENSIVE LINE: With the uncertainty on the offensive line and two seniors graduating (Mason Cole, Patrick Kugler), there are two starting spots available, and Michigan likes to use six or seven linemen a game for random formations and short yardage stuff.