Way Too Early 2017 Depth Chart: February 2017

Way Too Early 2017 Depth Chart: February 2017


February 16, 2017

Wilton Speight (image via Times Leader)

Back in August I took a look at how the depth chart might look in 2017 (LINK), and then I updated it in September (LINK), November (LINK), and January (LINK). Of course, things are always fluid, there will be early departures, there will be injuries, etc. But now that we have the 2017 class signed or enrolled early, things are perhaps a little bit clearer.

Hit the jump for another early look at 2017.





QB: Wilton Speight (RS Jr.), John ‘Korn (5th), Brandon Peters (RS Fr.), Alex Malzone (RS So.), Dylan McCaffrey (Fr.)
RB: Chris Evans (So.), Kareem Walker (RS Fr.), Karan Higdon (Jr.), Ty Isaac (5th), Kingston Davis (So.), O’Maury Samuels (Fr.), Kurt Taylor (Fr.)
FB: Khalid Hill (5th), Henry Poggi (5th)
WR1: Eddie McDoom (So.), Donovan Peoples-Jones (Fr.), Maurice Ways (RS Jr.), Zach Gentry (RS So.)
WR2: Drake Harris (RS Jr.), Kekoa Crawford (So.), Tarik Black (Fr.), Nico Collins (Fr.), Brad Hawkins (Fr.)
WR3: Grant Perry (Jr.), Nate Johnson (So.), Oliver Martin (Fr.)
TE: Ian Bunting (RS Jr.), Tyrone Wheatley (RS So.), Devin Asiasi (So.), Sean McKeon (RS Fr.), Nick Eubanks (RS Fr.)
LT: Grant Newsome (Jr.), Juwann Bushell-Beatty (RS Jr.), Ja’Raymond Hall (Fr.)
LG: Ben Bredeson (So.), Jon Runyan (RS So.), Joel Honigford (Fr.)
C: Mason Cole (Sr.), Cesar Ruiz (Fr.)
RG: Michael Onwenu (So.), Patrick Kugler (5th), Stephen Spanellis (RS Fr.)
RT: Nolan Ulizio (RS So.), Chuck Filiaga (Fr.), Andrew Stueber (Fr.)

SDE: Rashan Gary (So.), Lawrence Marshall (RS Jr.), Carlo Kemp (RS Fr.), Deron Irving-Bey (Fr.)
DT: Maurice Hurst (5th), James Hudson III (Fr.), Donovan Jeter (Fr.), Phillip Paea (Fr.)
NT: Bryan Mone (RS Jr.), Aubrey Solomon (Fr.), Michael Dwumfour (RS Fr.)
WDE: Chase Winovich (RS Jr.), Ron Johnson (RS Fr.), Luiji Vilain (Fr.), Shelton Johnson (RS So.), Corey Malone-Hatcher (Fr.), Kwity Paye (Fr.)
SAM: Josh Metellus (So.), Noah Furbush (RS Jr.), Joshua Uche (So.), Jordan Glasgow (RS So.)
MIKE: Mike McCray (5th), Reuben Jones (RS So.), Elysee Mbem-Bosse (So.), Ben Mason (Fr.)
WILL: Devin Bush (So.), Devin Gil (So.), Jordan Anthony (Fr.), Drew Singleton (Fr.), Jared Wangler (RS Jr.), Joshua Ross (Fr.)
CB: Lavert Hill (So.),  Ambry Thomas (Fr.), Keith Washington (RS So.)
CB: David Long (So.), Brandon Watson (RS Jr.), Benjamin St-Juste (Fr.)
FS: Tyree Kinnel (Jr.), Jaylen Kelly-Powell (Fr.), Tru Wilson (So.)
SS: Khaleke Hudson (So.), J’Marick Woods (Fr.)

K: Quinn Nordin (RS Fr.), Ryan Tice (RS So.)
P: Brad Robbins (Fr.), Ryan Tice (RS So.), Will Hart (RS Fr.), Quinn Nordin (RS Fr.)
LS: Andrew Robinson (RS Jr.)

Also, there are some players on here whom I do not expect to return to Michigan in 2017.

71 comments

  1. Comments: 669
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Feb 16, 2017 at 6:50 AM

    Do you know something we don’t about Gentry being outside?

    • Comments: 64
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      AC1997
      Feb 16, 2017 at 7:28 AM

      Gentry actually spent most of 2016 practicing at WR instead of TE. I think his ultimate destination is still up in the air based on how much weight he puts on and how he does. I’d like to see him complete the Jay Reimersma transition and become a TE (especially if the rumors about us losing one are true).

      • Comments: 450
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Feb 16, 2017 at 9:05 AM

        It’s probably irrelevant whether he’s listed at WR or TE, since he’s not likely to break into the significant portion of the depth chart in either case.

        • Comments: 1915
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Feb 16, 2017 at 11:34 AM

          OTOH you have people out there arguing we need to recruit 3 TEs in a tiny class because we need bodies at TE.

          I don’t agree with that but if Asiasi doesn’t return Gentry could be a player at TE.

          WR does seem unlikely, but TE is in play IMO.

          Having him work at WR makes sense development-wise. He is probably pretty undeveloped in terms of route-running. And while you can say the same about blocking, it may benefit him to focus on the more limited package of things that WRs have to do than the variety of things TEs have to do.

    • Comments: 1608
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Feb 16, 2017 at 8:06 AM

      As AC1997 said, Gentry got moved to wide receiver rather early last season. He might move back to TE this spring or fall, but right now I’m just leaving him at WR.

  2. Comments: 64
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    AC1997
    Feb 16, 2017 at 7:32 AM

    Here are my questions based on how you put this together:

    1 – You have Kareem Walker sitting #2, ahead of Higdon and Isaac. Is that based on some inside info you heard about how he did in practice? I figured he would be 4th and trying to work his way up. (Still can’t figure out what Isaac has to do to get more carries.)

    2 – We know that DT/NT requires a lot of rotation. Behind Mone/Hurst, how do you see the snaps playing out? Will they slide Gary over, will Solomon get a lot of snaps, is Hudson going to be ready, and what do you think of Dwumfor as a rotation piece?

    3 – Any thought on the WR? I guess seeing Perry/Harris/Crawford/McDoom at the top isn’t much of a surprise. I hope they (or a freshman) can emerge as a star.

    • Comments: 1608
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Feb 16, 2017 at 8:13 AM

      1. I’ve basically given up on Isaac being a heavy contributor. It doesn’t matter how he plays on Saturdays – the coaches just won’t give him more playing time. He outperformed De’Veon Smith at times, and then he sat the bench. He got 1 carry for a 7-yard TD against Iowa and never touched the ball again, when Smith couldn’t do jack squat. Maybe a new RB coach will make a difference, but that remains to be seen. Anyway, I just don’t see Michigan rolling out a top two of players who can’t break tackles in Evans and Higdon. I figure Walker is the next best bet for a guy who can lower his shoulder and gain some yards after contact.

      2. I think Gary will probably stay at strongside end most of the time. They might slide him down to 3-tech for passing situations, but I think Solomon’s going to play a lot as a freshman. I don’t think Dwumfour will be better than the top couple guys, but he might be a guy you can throw in there late in games to give Mone/Hurst/Solomon a rest.

      3. Perry is supposedly on his way back, so there’s that. I don’t think he’s a terrible kid, and Michigan was his dream school, so I think he’ll do whatever he can to get back in the good graces of the program. He made a bad mistake, but it wasn’t on the level of, ahem, some other programs we’ve seen lately. It seems like Harris, Crawford, and McDoom were being groomed for their positions last year. I think Peoples-Jones has a shot to start this year, too, if he’s willing to block. I don’t expect him to start for the full season, but 3-4 starts wouldn’t surprise me.

      • Comments: 64
        Joined: 9/13/2015
        AC1997
        Feb 16, 2017 at 10:28 AM

        1 – Yeah, I do wonder about the RB coach too. Can’t figure out the Isaac doghouse situation. I don’t know enough about Walker’s style to know if he’s different than Higdon (who I’m a little higher on than you are).

        2 – I actually think Dwumfor will be a solid back-up. With limited snaps he can go all-out and I think after a year in the program he’ll have the size and experience to be decent.

        3 – I’m not optimistic on Harris at this point, but we’ll see. I think you’ll see a ton of rotation early in the season as they figure things out.

        • Comments: 1915
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Feb 16, 2017 at 11:13 AM

          Agree on the early season rotation at WR.

          Would be surprising for Harris to comeback to pass Crawford given that Harris was a JR and Crawford a freshman. Probably depends how much emphasis Michigan places on having a downfield threat. Harris still demonstrates potential downfield, but we haven’t seen much us from him.

          Ultimately I think that Perry, McDoom and Crawford are the leaders for now based on last year’s playing time.

          It’s going to be a fun position to watch. My guess is that the pure outside guys will take a little while to develop (Black, DPJ, Collins) and you’re going to hear about a couple of them practicing at DB. That seems like something Harbaugh would do and, in DPJ’s case, it might be a better long-term fit for his elite athleticism.

        • Comments: 1608
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Feb 16, 2017 at 1:29 PM

          1. Walker is more powerful than Higdon. He might not end up being better overall, but Higdon doesn’t break many tackles.

          2. I think Dwumfour might be a solid backup, but he’s not a guy who’s going to make plays right now, IMO. He’s just a guy who fills space. Maybe I’ll see something different in the spring, but last year he wasn’t ready to b playing.

          • Comments: 1915
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Feb 16, 2017 at 3:40 PM

            Walker vs Higdon power is highly debatable. Walker is bigger but Higdon runs with a lower center of gravity. I thought Walker looked shiftier. Higdon might be more decisive. Neither player looks like a standout to me, but Higdon at least has proven himself serviceable.

      • Comments: 1915
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Feb 16, 2017 at 11:08 AM

        I think it matters very much how well Isaac plays on Saturdays. The problem has been that he can’t stop screwing up.

        This is not some inexplicable personal vendetta by the coaches. The starter was a better player than the backup. We have YEARS of evidence to back that up. A 7 yard run doesn’t change that. The coaches put the best man in in a close-fought game. A guy who carried his team on his back just the week before.

        As for pecking order at RB – I think it’s reasonable to think somebody will leap up into the top 3 and drop Higdon or Isaac down. I would consider one of the freshman to be more likely than Walker. Walker was unimpressive in spring and would probably have played last year if he was an impact guy. He’s young enough that there is some wiggle room here but putting him ahead of Higdon and Samuels seems like a bit of star-gazing.

        Going back to Isaac – I think he has demonstrated he’s a decent player with the ball in his hands, but he hasn’t proven he’s a better runner than Higdon for example. IF he gets the rest of the stuff down (knowing plays, executing blocking assignments with enthusiasm, better “vision”, etc.) then I think he will have a shot at being the power back that complements Evans. That’s a lot of IFs for a 5th year senior though.

        Furthermore, this all assumes he makes it through the Spring without any major breaks with the coaching staff. With Wheatley and Fisch gone there is some turnover so I could see this going any way really. From Isaac being the #1 back to being not invited back after his 5th year “tryout” in the spring.

        • Comments: 450
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          WindyCityBlue
          Feb 16, 2017 at 11:35 AM

          My understanding was that Walker sat out last fall because of academic issues, not because he was way down on the depth chart, but that he is back to being fully in the mix for 2017. We’ll know more come spring practice, I imagine, but based on the most recent things I’ve heard, I would not be that surprised if he went as high as second on the depth chart. Isaac and Higdon had some productivity last year, but quite a lot of it was against crappy defenses or in garbage time, or both. Neither got much of anything done against quality defenses when it mattered, so I wouldn’t say they can’t be jumped.

          • Comments: 1915
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Feb 16, 2017 at 11:45 AM

            The academic issues were there but he was playing in spring (before they would have been a big deal) and available late in the season (after they were supposedly settled).

            Michigan is just like any other school where if you are a big time player you are going to get extra support to make it happen.

            Agree with your comments about Higdon and Isaac, I just think there is a more likely options than Walker.(namely the freshman). Walker can get better sure, so can Higdon and even Isaac. Improvement isn’t limited to dudes with fancy recruiting rankings or guys who we haven’t seen play.

            • Comments: 450
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              WindyCityBlue
              Feb 16, 2017 at 6:22 PM

              Sure, anybody can improve, but odds are that a guy who’s starting his fifth year is closer to his ceiling than a guy starting his third. Given that Isaac and Higdon had fairly comparable on-field performance last year, if I had to bet on one of them to be particularly better than the other this year, it’d be Higdon, recognizing that it might very well turn out that neither of them is all that much better in 2017.

              As far as Walker, we have no on-field performance to judge. This is about all that’s been public: http://www.mlive.com/wolverines/index.ssf/2016/12/michigan_rb_kareem_walker_has.html

              I take teammate hype/coaching hype/practice buzz with a big grain of salt, but there it is for what it’s worth. If he were completely blah, I doubt anything would have been said about him at all. As noted, I expect we’ll learn more at spring practice, but I don’t count his absence last year against him. They made the decision to redshirt him, and stuck with it.

              • Comments: 1915
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Feb 16, 2017 at 11:06 PM

                Agree with most of this but people say stuff about bleh players all the time.

                Agree it’s too early to write anyone off, but typically RBs have it or don’t. If you believe Smith/Higdon/Isaac are bad, then Walker should have played.

                • Comments: 450
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  WindyCityBlue
                  Feb 17, 2017 at 6:26 AM

                  Well, I don’t believe that the combination of Smith, Higdon, Isaac AND Evans was so bad that we should have burned Walker’s redshirt just to get him a couple of games, when it probably would have taken him that long to get up to speed in games no matter how good he was.

                • Comments: 1915
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Feb 17, 2017 at 12:03 PM

                  You’re viewing a RB red-shirt as a valuable thing?

                  How many 5th year senior RBs have been any good over the last decade or so?

                  That red-shirt is useless. Either Walker is going to be good and gone to the NFL by then or he’s going to grad transfer elsewhere. <— not a certainty, but very likely one or the other.

                  Why was Chris Evans able to get "up to speed" a few weeks after arriving on campus while Walker had been around for almost a full year as an EE? Evans had over 100 yards his first game. RBs have it or they don't.

          • Comments: 1915
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Feb 16, 2017 at 11:55 AM

            My opinion on RB is you either have to have exceptional physical talent (Evans) or exceptional toughness (Higdon).* You have to be a play-maker or a guy who is going to grind, work hard, block, not blow his assignments, etc.

            The 5-star kids who are not exceptionally talented (e.g., Isaac, Walker, Green) seem to generally have a harder time transitioning to the grinder/worker role than the 3-star kids like Higdon. If a guy has that exceptional talent – you can usually see it right away.

            I see this dichotomy evident in our 2 RB recruits. Samuels is a physical talent guy, Taylor is a grinder (who knows it). I think we’ll know pretty quickly which one is more likely to have a role.

            * [Of course it’s better to have both a la Mike Hart, but those guys are rare. Hart’s balance and elusiveness were exceptional talents, even if the kid was slow in a line.]

        • Comments: 64
          Joined: 9/13/2015
          AC1997
          Feb 16, 2017 at 12:16 PM

          I am confused. What do you mean that Isaac keeps screwing up? I think the point that Thunder is making is that his performance on Saturdays has been overall positive and seems to warrant more PT. So there must be something else going on behind the scenes we can’t see.

          Yet your comment implies he’s made a bunch of screw ups on Saturdays that warrant being benched. Two years ago he had a bad game with fumbles….what since then?

          • Comments: 1608
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Feb 16, 2017 at 1:18 PM

            He has missed an occasional blocking assignment, but so have others, including De’Veon Smith. (Also, Isaac made a couple nice blitz pickups.)

          • Comments: 1915
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Feb 16, 2017 at 3:52 PM

            Everybody messes up sometimes, but Isaac has done it frequently for a guy getting limited snaps. Missed blitzes, missed holes, fumbles — this stuff counts as performance.

            Isaac’s performance on Saturday’s hasn’t been very good.

            Thunder puts a lot of stock in how a guy looks running the ball (and uses YPC as an indicator) regardless of if it comes in meaningful situations or not. He thinks (or thought) that Isaac deserved more playing time based upon it. I’m more inclined to see the playing time distribution as correct. I tend to put a lot of stock in playing time as a proxy for all the other stuff that matters for running backs. As far as running ability – I think what matters is production in difficult situations. The challenge there is that the coaches mostly give meaningful snaps to one or two guys so sample sizes get real small for anyone else. (e.g., Isaac’s 7 yard run vs Iowa).

            Isaac’s been called out for stuff that has nothing to do with running the ball in public and via the rumormill. He’s lost playing time and moved off the depth chart every year. It’s not just offfield stuff, but onfield stuff. He’s been given plenty of chances. He has not performed well enough on Saturdays.

            I honestly don’t think people are talking about Isaac so much if he didn’t have the 5-star pedigree. What he’s done on the field isn’t any more impressive than what Karan Higdon has done, but that guys a 3-star so nobody cares if he is dismissed by the next younger player.

            I also think Chris Evans is about to be a great player and all the clamor for more higher rated backs is a bit silly. If he was a 5-star people wouldn’t be saying that. He played like one – which should be more important.

            • Comments: 1608
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Feb 16, 2017 at 4:23 PM

              “Thunder puts a lot of stock in how a guy looks running the ball (and uses YPC as an indicator) regardless of if it comes in meaningful situations or not.”

              The second half of this comment is inaccurate. I have provided loads of data that represent meaningful situations. Just because you ignore it doesn’t mean I haven’t provided it. Yes, there have been times – mostly during the Michael Cox days – when I projected garbage time performance and suggested that he should play more, but that showed to be at least somewhat accurate considering he got drafted and spent a couple years in the NFL while the guys ahead of him did not.

              As for Isaac, the situational stats compare favorably to the other backs on the roster. Just for poops and giggles, here’s a look at important, meaningful stats for Higdon:

              When losing: 7 carries for -9 yards, 0 TD
              When tied: 6 carries for 25 yards, 0 TD
              When winning by 1-14 points: 15 carries for 49 yards, 0 TD
              When winning by 15+ points: 44 carries for 360 yards, 6 TD

              Here they are for Isaac:

              When losing: 4 carries for 9 yards, 0 TD
              When tied: 13 carries for 60 yards, 1 TD
              When winning by 1-14 points: 18 carries for 70 yards, 2 TD
              When winning by 15+ points: 39 carries for 278 yards, 2 TD

              So literally the only category in which Higdon outpaces Isaac is in blowouts. When Michigan is up by more than two touchdowns, Higdon gains 1 yard more per carry and scores more. The reason I believe Isaac is better is because he’s better. That’s why the question remains about what’s keeping him from seeing the field more.

            • Comments: 68
              Joined: 9/15/2015
              ragingbull
              Feb 16, 2017 at 4:41 PM

              evans should be a great player, and i agree he will be, provided he remains healthy and gets the touches. he may not be 225 lbs (though size is often greatly overrated in my opinion) but he checks off most every other box. the dudes got a real chance. no one else on roster approaches his current skill set and ability.

              itd be near criminal if evans does not see 200-250 touches next fall…id love to see evans approach 200 carries (like 15 per game) and another 25-40 catches. weve all seen what electric RBs can do in the pass game (and michigan has been victimized by their share), if evans earns the bulk of the rushes / total snaps, hed offer great options in the pass game.

              evans will be fun to watch, no doubt. plus he rocks the kid n play / big daddy kane hair which never hurts!!

            • Comments: 1915
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Feb 16, 2017 at 6:08 PM

              Is the point of this discussion if Isaac should be ahead of Higdon? I thought it was about something different.

              You’ve argued before that Higdon’s stats were mostly garbage time stats and I’ve agreed. Higdon and Isaac both demonstrate the limited utility of YPC, something I’ve argued for years and continue to stand by. I’m glad you finally(seem to) agree with me that garbage time stats aren’t very meaningful.

              The other thing I’ve argued about is sample size. The stats you point to are great because what they tell you is that neither guy has many meaningful carries to their name — as you’d expect from 3rd and 4th stringers.

              If you are saying (as you seem to be) that Isaac is definitively better based on the 15 or so carries in meaningful situations last year… I don’t know what to say. That’s just not a statistically significant difference in this context. That’s not ‘ignoring’ data it’s basic statistical understanding. Sample size is a thing.

              In other words – we don’t have “loads of data” for Isaac in meaningful situations because his snaps have been limited in them.

              But going back to the point. This has been about if Isaac/Higdon deserve to steal snaps from Smith (as was argued many times) or Evans. Now, in the context of 2017, it’s about who deserves to be the #2 back).

              I don’t think any of us feel super strongly about Isaac or Higdon. You are putting them 3rd and 4th on your list. I am agreeing that they may be passed by someone. All we really know is that Higdon passed Isaac in the eyes of the coaches. You are assuming this is based on off-field issues, I’m assuming it’s based on on-field results. Particularly since the off-field rumors disappeared and the coaches said he was doing a great job, working hard, etc.

              So….Higdon was better because Higdon was better. The coaches know what they are doing and ypc is only a part of the RB picture. How many blitz pickups did Higdon blow? How many wrong holes did he hit. You and I don’t know, but we both noticed them with Isaac. So you can’t say he was better based on (whatever conclusions you are making from the ‘loads of data’).

              As for Cox, he was unsuccessful at UMass and unsuccessful in the NFL. He got drafted to return kicks and played RB due to a unusual string of injuries. You want to argue this proves something about the utility of garbage time production?

              • Comments: 1608
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Feb 16, 2017 at 6:39 PM

                This was about something else, until you insinuated incorrect things about me and that I don’t use data from meaningful situations. I’m not willing to let comments like that slide.

                The “sample size” thing is a cop-out. They’re backup running backs. There’s no overwhelming set of data. There are no 400 carries to parse. It’s not a two-headed monster where each player gets 150 carries. We’re talking about a team that had one RB (Smith) and then a bunch of guys (Evans, Higdon, Isaac) who shared backup duties. So if you want to dismiss that as “sample size” issues, then what you’re doing is dismissing an argument that refutes yours as irrelevant.

                I don’t know how many blitz pickups Higdon missed or how many holes he missed. I don’t track them statistically. I know both Higdon and Isaac missed blitz pickups, and both of them missed holes.

                I didn’t really bring up Cox. You brought him up (though you didn’t mention his name) by talking about garbage time statistics. I know whom you were referencing. The weird thing is that on one hand, you’re bashing me for being a fan of Cox (a random 3-star) getting more carries. But on the other hand, you’re saying vague things about “5-star colored glasses” or whatever and suggesting I wouldn’t be pro-Isaac if he weren’t highly rated. It can’t be both. If I were enamored with recruiting rankings, I wouldn’t have been promoting Cox. And if I were pro-underdog, I wouldn’t be touting Isaac’s abilities.

                The bottom line is that, in these two particular situations, I was pro-Cox (who made it to the NFL) and I’m pro-Isaac (whose numbers are, at the very least, ARGUABLY better than Higdon’s). And suggestions that I’m being illogical or uninformed in those positions are unfounded. You might disagree with me, but Tom Coughlin – who’s a better coach than Rich Rodriguez or Brady Hoke – didn’t draft Vincent Smith or Sam McGuffie to return kicks or be a backup running back.

              • Comments: 1915
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Feb 16, 2017 at 11:17 PM

                I don’t think it’s unfair to say we can’t make definitive statements when there isn’t enough data.

                The YPC debate has been going on over years. It’s a stat you’ve pointed to repeatedly. I don’t think this is something off base or unfair.

                I wasn’t talking specifically about Cox, because the YPC thing has been said about a whole lot of guys. If there is a quintessential example it is Ty Isaac and his time at USC. I was doubtful he was a top 20-30 player on the team when he transferred because he was a 5th stringer. You liked his YPC and thought he was an impact guy. I argued that was irrelevant garbage time stats.

                I don’t agree that Isaac’s numbers are better than Higdons. The number of meaningful snaps they took is small, the YPC and production difference is negligible. You’re reading a lot into 15-20 carries. Overall, their production was similar but Higdon (in my eyes and the coaches) had the edge because he didn’t screw up as much.

                Or maybe the coaches just saw too similar players and went with the younger option…

                Production was close enough that it could flip next year, but given age differences I wouldn’t bet on it.

              • Comments: 1915
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Feb 16, 2017 at 11:19 PM

                I’m not bashing you for being a fan of Cox. You’re not the only one who watches late into blowouts to see who passes the eye test. I think you put more stock in that than most though.

                I AM being critical of using YPC as a definitive measure, particularly when it’s based on limited or inconsequential situations.

              • Comments: 1915
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Feb 16, 2017 at 11:20 PM

                We never debated if McGuffie or Cox or Smith should return kicks.

        • Comments: 1608
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Feb 16, 2017 at 1:28 PM

          I don’t think it’s an “inexplicable” vendetta by the coaches, per se, but it’s inexplicable from an outsider’s point of view. And I don’t buy your repeated negative comments about Isaac or that other players are better than him. There’s something going on behind closed doors, in practice, etc. that isn’t showing itself on the field and isn’t popping up in press conferences. Something other than talent/production is holding Isaac back from playing, and it’s not Karan Higdon’s otherworldly talent. Higdon had 29 carries for 66 yards in the last six games of the year. Isaac had 11 for 85 while sitting out the bowl game. Something funky is going on.

          • Comments: 1915
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Feb 16, 2017 at 4:01 PM

            I don’t think it’s inexplicable that a guy who was 5th string at USC ends up 5th string every year at Michigan. His size is unusual, his speed is unexceptional, his production as a runner is meh, there are off-field issue, there are on-field blunders, etc. It all adds up!

            Higdon’s YPC on the year is better than Isaac’s and he passed him on the depth chart just like Drake Johnson and Derrick Green passed him on the depth chart the year before.

            Again, I don’t think you come up with this theory if he wasn’t overrated as a recruit.

            It’s probably just the talent isn’t as good as you think it is and your definition of ‘production’ isn’t quite the same as the coaches.

            • Comments: 64
              Joined: 9/13/2015
              AC1997
              Feb 16, 2017 at 5:05 PM

              Did Ty Isaac cut you off in traffic or something? Geez… That’s the most randomly negative batch of comments for a player that seems at worst “decent” in limited time.

              I think we all agree that Isaac must have some flaws working against him with the coaches. But I think Thunder is correct – those things aren’t obvious when watching him on Saturdays. Your overly negative comments seem bizarre in the context of other players on the roster.

              No one is saying that Isaac is a star. What Thunder (and I) feel is that he seems to have done enough on Saturdays to deserve a few more carriers – especially relative to the guys who were getting those carries.

            • Comments: 1915
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Feb 16, 2017 at 6:14 PM

              I have nothing at all against Isaac and hope he wins a Heisman next year.

              What I disagree with is the continued insistence by many people that certain guys should play over certain other guys (Isaac over Smith, Morris over Gardner, etc), even when those guys prove to be limited/average/bad football players. Pretty much all because of recruiting rankings and expectations.

              I think when you watch Isaac you see a very average running back who is mistake-prone. I mean, you’ve seen him fumble, you’ve seen him miss blocks, you’ve seen him execute blocks without much energy or enthusiasm. This to me is pretty obvious stuff. It explains why he doesn’t play. What am I missing?

              I think Drake Johnson is more impressive with the ball in his hands. I think Karan Higdon is more impressive between the tackles. I don’t think Isaac looks very fast. etc. The matter is subjective of course, but I think if you see more than that you have your recruiting ranking glasses on.

              • Comments: 110
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                GKblue
                Feb 17, 2017 at 2:12 PM

                Unless I have snoozed through the NCAA decision, has there been any news on Drake Johnson getting his 6th year? Will he be extended by JH? Where will he fit in the 2 deep?

                Will he transfer? Will they offer him a GA?

                Timing wise does this all likely come to light after spring ball?

                • Comments: 1608
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Feb 18, 2017 at 9:29 PM

                  There hasn’t been any news on Johnson, but he’ll almost certainly get a 6th year. I think it would be a bad PR move not to invite him back after he got run over, so if he wants to return, I think Harbaugh will take him back. Plus he has some skills as a football player.

                • Comments: 1915
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Feb 19, 2017 at 6:18 PM

                  Kind of interesting that none of Evans, Johnson, Samuels, Isaac are really between that tackles power backs. Higdon and Taylor profile more like Harbaugh backs than anyone else. Then again MccCaffrey looked alright in the Stanford system.

              • Comments: 1915
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Feb 18, 2017 at 1:14 PM

                I haven’t heard anything about Johnson but I expect him to be back. I think that played into the decision-making about 2017 recruiting class. Michigan could have reached for another back or a player at another position — or they could invite Johnson back and add a scholarship to 2018.

                I would put him 3rd on the early depth chart (between Higdon and Isaac) but I see the #2 RB job as wide open.

                I think Evans is going to get the ball 20+ times a game and be a star if the OL gives him any kind of opportunity.

                • Comments: 1608
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Feb 18, 2017 at 2:41 PM

                  I would bet that Evans will NOT get the ball 20+ times a game. There are too many talented backs, and Harbaugh didn’t even do that with a more durable back in De’Veon Smith.

                • Comments: 1915
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Feb 19, 2017 at 6:11 PM

                  I don’t think any of our other backs are nearly as talented as Evans. If anyone is going to steal carries from Evans I think it’ll be a freshman.

                  Smith wasn’t a exactly a ‘primary’ back last year due in part to the frequency of blowouts, inconsistency of the run blocking, and Jabrill Peppers. Still, he did get 16 or more carries in 5 of the last 7 games – so that’s how the team finished the year. Harbaugh’s said he prefers to have a primary guy in the past.

                  That all said, Evans may not have that workload in him and a rotation may make more sense. I did qualify my statement with the question about the OL. It’s also possible the team has to pass a lot more often.

                • Comments: 1608
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Feb 20, 2017 at 10:17 PM

                  The only back in Jim Harbaugh’s college football coaching career to average 20+ touches per game was Toby Gerhart in 2009. Scrawny Chris Evans isn’t going to touch the ball 20 times a game. The last Michigan running back to get 20+ touches a game was Mike Hart in 2007, so it’s been a decade.

            • Comments: 1915
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Feb 16, 2017 at 6:15 PM

              I would not put Higdon as definitively ahead of Isaac because he too has been pretty mediocre. But I would put him there for now based on what we saw last year. Higdon was the better player.

              • Comments: 1608
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Feb 16, 2017 at 6:45 PM

                That statistics don’t show that Higdon was the better player. Numbers/facts disagree.

              • Comments: 1915
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Feb 16, 2017 at 11:28 PM

                The statistics do show Higdon was better. Both in overall YPC and in highlight yards/opportunity.

                http://www.footballstudyhall.com/pages/2016-michigan-advanced-statistical-profile

                I don’t really care about this debate. The statistics don’t actually say anything definitive at all. Pretending like they do, either way, is absurd.

                Anyway, the fact that we’re arguing about Ty Isaac – a guy people said should be starter and should take snaps from Smith and a guy who ranked in the countdown as #19 and #33 and #34 – vs Karan Higdon – a guy who has ranked #72 and #84 in the countdown and is a no-name 3 star recruit about says it all.

                Isaac has been and continues to be wildly overrated. It’s not a mysterious off-field issue, it’s just a player who isn’t that good. We’re talking about a 5th year senior who has never finished a season higher than 4th string, at Michigan or USC.

          • Comments: 450
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            WindyCityBlue
            Feb 16, 2017 at 6:27 PM

            Well, tell the whole story here. 53 of Isaac’s yards came on one carry, which skews the picture quite a bit when he only had 11 carries in all.

            • Comments: 1608
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Feb 16, 2017 at 6:45 PM

              a) In what category did he only have 11 carries? I’m not sure where that 11 is coming from.
              b) Also, the “remove his biggest play” thing is a weird. Why is his biggest play removed? What logic is there in removing his biggest play? It especially doesn’t make sense in a comparison when you don’t remove the other guy’s biggest play. Why aren’t Karan Higdon’s biggest plays removed from the equation also?

              • Comments: 450
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                WindyCityBlue
                Feb 16, 2017 at 8:52 PM

                WTF…”I’m not sure where that 11 is coming from”?? Ummm…read YOUR OWN post just above:

                “Something other than talent/production is holding Isaac back from playing, and it’s not Karan Higdon’s otherworldly talent. Higdon had 29 carries for 66 yards in the last six games of the year. Isaac had 11 for 85 while sitting out the bowl game. Something funky is going on.”

                And I gave you the logic in not overemphasizing one play out of 11 (as opposed to one play out of 50 or 60). But if you want to remove Higdon’s best carry out of the 29 that YOU cited, go ahead, and see what happens.

                • Comments: 1608
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Feb 16, 2017 at 9:04 PM

                  My apologies – I reply to comments on the back end, so I don’t necessarily see them in context. It speeds up my replies, but sometimes things get jumbled. I thought you were talking about the situational stats mentioned in my discussion with Lanknows.

                  But okay, take away Isaac’s 53-yarder and you’re left with 10 carries for 32 yards.

                  Take away Higdon’s longest run (13 yards against MSU), and you’ve got 28 carries for 53 yards.

                  So one guy ran for 3.2 YPC (+53 yards) in the second half of the year, while another guy ran for about 1.9 YPC (+13 yards). That still shows Isaac getting 50% more yards every time he touched the ball.

              • Comments: 1915
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Feb 16, 2017 at 11:29 PM

                It’s not really that weird to remove an outlier. That’s what a lot of statistical analysis does.

                • Comments: 4
                  Joined: 10/3/2015
                  UM2013
                  Feb 17, 2017 at 1:04 PM

                  @thunder and lank

                  Disregarding the stats, what are your thoughts on Isaac as a runner purely from watching the game? It seems like that might be the source of the disagreement.

                  For example, I see multiple references above to a lack of speed and vision – not sure I’d agree there. Isaac showed unique patience on multiple runs, and despite a long-striding style, seemed to be at least as fast as Higdon (albeit without Higdon’s acceleration).

                • Comments: 110
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  GKblue
                  Feb 17, 2017 at 2:20 PM

                  The coaching staff and offensive analists may do just that in assessing on the field performance.

                  Did the opponent’s defense simply break down during garbage time; or did the RB bust a tackle against 1’s and 2’s, cutback and head for daylight? That film room time arguably tells a much clearer story than what we see with limited stats or on game day.

                  Look for the assignable cause for the flyer first, they do.

                • Comments: 1915
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Feb 18, 2017 at 1:08 PM

                  Isaac is fine as a runner. Higdon is fine as a runner. They are both replacement level backs if you’re talking about talent. Higdon seems to come with less baggage, hasn’t had attitude issues, hasn’t had to lose weight, hasn’t transferred, hasn’t fumbled, hasn’t repeatedly been demoted. That’s why I think he’s ahead.

                  But if you’re just talking talent I think it’s pretty indistinguishable. Higdon seems better between the tackles. Isaac seems better off-tackle. Isaac has the kind of size that would make him a great H-back/blocker/pass-catcher but we have seen that the coaches don’t trust him to do that. Higdon hasn’t proven himself on that front either.

                • Comments: 1608
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Feb 18, 2017 at 2:43 PM

                  Higdon has had SOME issues. He’s not Captain America.

                • Comments: 1915
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Feb 18, 2017 at 1:10 PM

                  @GKBlue

                  The coaches are looking at this more than we do. They care more than we do. They have better information.

                  I don’t think coaches are infallible by any stretch, but Harbaugh and company have earned our trust.

                • Comments: 1915
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Feb 19, 2017 at 6:14 PM

                  True that Higdon had some issue – missed Wisc for reasons that were supposedly not injury related. Still – he was back the following week. Whatever it was was minor.

                  Higdon’s been reported to be a very high character kid. Isaac has not had the same glowing claims.

  3. Comments: 450
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Feb 16, 2017 at 9:42 AM

    If Harris was being “groomed” at WR, he certainly didn’t show anything as a result. 2 catches for 11 yards all season. He and Ways have had their chance to prove they can contribute at this level, and they’ve failed. Time to start looking elsewhere. I certainly wouldn’t slot Harris in as the starter just because he’s been around longer.

    • Comments: 64
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      AC1997
      Feb 16, 2017 at 10:25 AM

      I think what Thunder is referring to is that they threw Harris out there early in a few games down the stretch and even attempted to throw some deep shots to him. How much of the lack of success on those plays is on him, the QB, or the defense is impossible to know.

      If I had to guess, Perry is a starter if he gets his situation settled. He has earned that with his play. Then I think they’re going to let McDoom/Crawford/Harris battle each other for snaps giving those three the first chance to play the most. The freshmen will have their chances too, but will probably have a limited number of routes they learn initially.

    • Comments: 1915
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Feb 16, 2017 at 11:21 AM

      There were a couple seniors on the team, both got invited to the NFL combine. That fact explains why production for any backup, “groomed” or not, was low.

      Harris played, and played meaningful snaps at that. Ways is in a different category.

      I wouldn’t consider Harris a starter either, but there’s still a decent chance he’s invited back in 2018. Until proven otherwise, he’s Michigan’s best deep ball threat and, if nothing else, that gives him a role in 3rd and long situations.

  4. Comments: 1915
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Feb 16, 2017 at 11:30 AM

    I would swap Jeter and Marshall, per rumors (on Marshall) and Jeter (EE) saying he was working at Anchor. He does seem to be the most Wormley-esque of the frosh.

    We sure do have a lot of WDE options don’t we…

    Hard to imagine the Reuben Jones move works out. Not many DEs end up at MLB.

    Ross should be at MLB IMO, per the previous discussion but it hardly matters when you’re that far down the line.

    Like WR, the scrum of inexperienced bodies is going to be very interesting to watch for 2.5 positions. At least LB has 2 seemingly clear starters in McCray and Bush who will likely get the majority of snaps.

    Rumors that Hudson can’t cover + Metellus looking meh at Viper make me think some change is coming to safety. Looking ahead to the countdown…Kinnel is gonna be pretty high up there.

    • Comments: 217
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Feb 16, 2017 at 12:46 PM

      What rumors?

      “Rumors that Hudson can’t cover + Metellus looking meh at Viper make me think some change is coming to safety. Looking ahead to the countdown…Kinnel is gonna be pretty high up there”

      • Comments: 1608
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Feb 16, 2017 at 12:50 PM

        There has been practice chatter that the reason Hudson didn’t play more is because of his stiffness in coverage, which is confirmation of some concerns as a recruit. He’s kind of a linebacker in a safety’s body. You want him coming downhill to support the run, but covering a wide swath of the field is problematic.

        • Comments: 1915
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Feb 16, 2017 at 4:02 PM

          Kind of like Jabril Peppers. Get him to Viper!

  5. Comments: 50
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    JC
    Feb 16, 2017 at 1:12 PM

    Overall pretty accurate. Biggest question marks from your depth chart

    Harris starting (few comments discussing above)

    OL – Nobody knows. Small army of freshmen coming in with two decently ready to compete for playing time early. Newsome could use a redshirt year. Are Runyan, Ruiz, Steuber, Ulizio, or Kulger going to be able to step up?

    Peters may push for #2, that’ll be fun to see if it happens. If he takes the #1 spot I’ll lose my mind.

    • Comments: 1915
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Feb 16, 2017 at 4:03 PM

      I doubt O’Korn comes back to be 3rd string. He can play elsewhere without any penalty. I think he knows he’s safe as a backup.

      • Comments: 450
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Feb 16, 2017 at 6:32 PM

        At this point, I don’t think anyone knows how he’ll stand relative to Peters at the end of August. O’Korn certainly has no idea how much Peters will improve through spring practice, summer and fall practice. O’Korn is probably at or near his ceiling at Michigan, Peters probably not.

        • Comments: 1915
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Feb 16, 2017 at 11:32 PM

          Sure. I’m making a guess based on circumstantial evidence. But I think O’Korn attends practices and has a pretty good guess about how far away Peters is.

          The ceiling debate is immaterial to 2017 since that’s the only year O’Korn would care about.

          • Comments: 450
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            WindyCityBlue
            Feb 18, 2017 at 10:02 AM

            Yes, he knows where Peters stands NOW, but that’s not the issue. The issue is where Peters will be at the end of August, after significantly more formal practice. Will he have passed O’Korn and be a clear #2 behind Speight? O’Korn really has no idea, and neither does anyone else, but based on O’Korn’s uninspiring showing last year, I wouldn’t be overly confident about holding on to the backup slot if I were him.

          • Comments: 1915
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Feb 18, 2017 at 1:03 PM

            You get that there is a relationship between now and 6 months from now right? It’s not final, but it’s also not nothing.

            O’Korn has a very informed view, even if he can’t predict the future perfectly. He knows better than we do what he’s up again.

            This strikes me as VERY similar to the Morris/Isaac stuff. The star-gazers assume the bench player is better than the starter.

            I’m excited about Peters but it’s clear he’s got a lot of development to do to catch up. It’s more likely he’s 3rd string than 1st string in 2017. Arguing otherwise is just being wishful or star-gazing.

  6. Comments: 68
    Joined: 9/15/2015
    ragingbull
    Feb 16, 2017 at 1:30 PM

    whoever says theyre in great shape with numbers at DB needs to take a hard look at the above chart. i tried explaining in another thread that theyre not ok there, they could really use more bodies (and talented bodies) at both S and CB. they currently have 6 scholarship CB and 5 scholarship S – not nearly enough. i love the talent at some of those spots (i think long, thomas, etc will be really good players and i think a guy like kelly-powell will never be a star but he should be the type able to play reasobably well for like 40 games) but those numbers overall arent exactly feasible

    • Comments: 1915
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Feb 16, 2017 at 4:05 PM

      Exactly right. I think this is based on the assumption of 2 CB and 2 S on paper as starters. Ignores the reality that you are playing 5 DBs more often than not, and you need 6-8 to get through a year.

      Michigan is very light at DB and will need to move people around.

      • Comments: 4
        Joined: 10/3/2015
        UM2013
        Feb 17, 2017 at 12:57 PM

        Definitely going to be a bit thin in the secondary, but luckily Michigan won’t see too many teams that should be able to take advantage of that. Outside of maybe Penn State, the opposing quarterbacks don’t exactly inspire confidence.

        Despite a young receiving core, UM may actually have the most potent passing game in the big ten next year.

        • Comments: 1915
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Feb 18, 2017 at 1:21 PM

          Agreed it’s encouraging that we don’t face too many good QBs (though I would not sleep on Hayden Moore), but PSU and OSU are going to be the defining games of the season. More importantly, the secondary still plays a huge role in stopping the run game in modern football.

          Plus, one of the reasons last year’s D was so effective is that they completely shut down any WR screens that gave bad QBs cheap yards. It’s unlikely anyone will replace what Lewis and Peppers and Hill did in this regard.

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