2020 Season Countdown: #16.5 Chris Evans

    Chris Evans (image via Wolverines Wire)

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    Name: Chris Evans
    Height: 5’11”
    Weight: 216 lbs.
    High school: Indianapolis (IN) Ben Davis
    Position: Running back
    Class: Fifth year senior
    Jersey number: #12
    Last year he played (2018): I ranked Evans #15 and said he would be a backup running back with 120 carries for 650 yards and 5 touchdowns with 22 catches for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns. He ran 81 times for 423 yards (5.2 yards/carry) and 4 touchdowns, plus 18 catches for 148 yards and 1 touchdown.
    TTB Rating: 68

    Okay, every year I screw up and leave someone off the countdown, having to fix it halfway through once I realize my mistake. I thought I was doing well this year, because I made DOUBLE SURE to include every 2020 signee and carry over every roster member from 2019. But of course, Chris Evans wasn't a signee and wasn't on the 2019 roster, so I had to wedge him in here after I realized my mistake.

    Evans took a step back in his true junior season of 2018, going from 600+ rushing yards in each of his first two seasons to just 423 yards in 2018. However, he did reach a career high in receptions (18) while watching Karan Higdon handle the starter's workload. The coaching staff really seemed unable to get him going, with his only successful games coming in blowouts or mismatches (SMU, Rutgers, Western Michigan, etc.). It was the first year he did not reach 100 yards in at least one game, with a high of 86 coming against the MAC's yearly sacrifice, the Broncos.

    This year I decided to place Evans at #16.5, a few spots higher than Zach Charbonnet (LINK), not because I think Evans will be the starter or take a plurality of the workload. The reason is that I think Evans opens up some more possibilities for the offense. He's the best receiver out of Michigan's backfield, and Josh Gattis's offense is a knockoff of systems that have used running backs in the passing game more often than what we saw Michigan use in 2019. Saquon Barkley caught 54 passes at Penn State. Alabama's top two backs caught 22 and 20 passes in 2018 when Gattis was there. Even the forgettable Bill Belton caught 26 passes for Penn State back in 2014.

    Michigan running backs totaled 20 catches in 2019, led by Charbonnet's grand total of 8.

    Assuming Gattis wants to replicate the more diverse passing game we've seen in other versions of this offense, I think Evans will pair well with Charbonnet in the backfield. I would like to see both of them on the field at the same time, and I would like to see Evans used in the RPO game as a slot receiver. Whether that will happen or not remains to be seen, but I think it would be a mistake to just use one running back at a time when the Wolverines have three guys available with starting experience (Charbonnet, Evans, and Hassan Haskins).

    Michigan's most talented non-freshman skill guys are the following group, so I would try to get them together whenever possible:

    • WR Ronnie Bell
    • WR Giles Jackson
    • RB Zach Charbonnet
    • RB Chris Evans
    • TE Nick Eubanks

    Prediction: Backup running back

    Here are some highlights to remind you of some of his ability:

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    Ex-Wolverine Updates: Week 3

    Rashad Weaver (image via Pittsburgh Sports Now)

    FORMER PLAYERS

    WR Tarik Black (Texas): Black supposedly was injured early and did not record any stats in a 63-56 win over Texas Tech.

    TE Mustapha Muhammad (Kilgore Junior College): Muhammad transferred from Michigan to Houston and is now at Kilgore Junior College, which has canceled its season due to COVID.

    CB Myles Sims (Georgia Tech): Sims did not record any statistics in a 37-20 loss to Syracuse.

    Hit the jump for more.

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    2020 Season Countdown: #17 Vincent Gray

    Vincent Gray

    Name: Vincent Gray
    Height: 
    6’2″
    Weight: 
    190 lbs.
    High school: 
    Rochester (MI) Adams
    Position: 
    Cornerback
    Class: 
    Redshirt sophomore
    Jersey number: 
    #31 #4
    Last year: 
    I ranked Gray #25 and said he would be a backup cornerback (LINK). He made 20 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 5 pass breakups.
    TTB Rating:
     71

    Gray entered the 2019 season as a likely backup to Lavert Hill and Ambry Thomas, but for a short time, it looked like he might be pressed into significantly more duty when Thomas was hospitalized with colitis. Luckily, Thomas recovered and Gray had some wiggle room to grow and learn. Gray made one start throughout the season and got a pretty good grade from PFF, notching 5 pass breakups in that backup role. While he didn't make many big plays, he was in position to flail and be physical and avoid getting beaten much.

    This year Gray was expected to be the #2 corner behind Thomas, but Thomas has opted out in favor of preparing for the NFL Draft. That leaves Gray as perhaps the #1 corner on the team as the most experienced guy. All other options have been garbage timers or haven't seen the field in college yet. Gray has good length, but his speed and quickness are a little bit of a question mark. He makes me nervous if he's matched up against some of the better receivers in the league, but cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich and defensive coordinator Don Brown have worked wonders with corners overall, with the lone exception of when they come up against Ohio State.

    Prediction: Starting cornerback

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    Marlin Klein, Wolverine

    Rabun Gap (GA) Nacoochee TE Marlin Klein (image via Detroit News)

    I'm a couple days late on this one due to life keeping me busy, but class of 2022 Rabun Gap (GA) Nacoochee tight end Marlin Klein committed to Michigan on Tuesday. He picked the Wolverines over Florida State, Georgia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and others.

    Klein is listed at 6'6" and 215 lbs. As a sophomore in 2019, Klein caught 15 passes for 335 yards and 4 touchdowns.

    RANKINGS
    ESPN: Unranked
    Rivals: 3-star, 5.7 grade, #40 WR
    247 Sports: 3-star, 88 grade, #18 TE

    Hit the jump for more on Klein's commitment.

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    Ex-Wolverine Updates: Week 2

    Rashad Weaver (image via Pittsburgh Sports Now)

    FORMER PLAYERS

    WR Tarik Black (Texas): Texas did not play this weekend.

    TE Mustapha Muhammad (Kilgore Junior College): Muhammad transferred from Michigan to Houston and is now at Kilgore Junior College, which has canceled its season due to COVID.

    CB Myles Sims (Georgia Tech): Sims made 4 tackles in a 49-21 loss to UCF.

    Hit the jump for more.

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    2020 Season Countdown: #18 Ryan Hayes

    Ryan Hayes (image via Twitter)

    Name: Ryan Hayes
    Height: 
    6’7″
    Weight: 
    302 lbs.
    High school: 
    Traverse City (MI) West
    Position: 
    Offensive tackle
    Class: 
    Redshirt sophomore
    Jersey number: 
    #76
    Last year: 
    I ranked Hayes #77 and said he would be a backup offensive tackle (LINK). He started two games and played in twelve games.
    TTB Rating:
     84

    Hayes was forced into action a little early last year. He was expected to be the #4 tackle going into the season, with Jon Runyan, Jr. entrenched on the left side and Jalen Mayfield/Andrew Stueber battling for a starting gig on the right side. Then Stueber tore his ACL, giving Mayfield the right tackle job by default. And then Runyan was working through an injury to begin the year.

    So Hayes went from the #4 tackle to starting the opener in pretty short order. He did about as well as expected, showing some nice athleticism while also looking lost at times. It was good for him to get his feet wet, but it was also nice when Runyan returned to take over the role for the remainder of the year.

    This year with Runyan gone and Stueber looking like a starter at guard, Hayes seems pretty solidly locked in to the left tackle position. Mayfield is further along in his development, but offensive line coach Ed Warinner said there were no plans to move Mayfield over to protect the blind side. That indicates that there's confidence in Hayes's ability, and he's also put on some weight, jumping up to 302 pounds on the fall roster. I expect some growing pains as a first-year full-time starter, but overall, I think Hayes should be a pretty good player by the time the season wraps.

    Prediction: Starting left tackle

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    Michigan's 2020 Schedule Released

    P.J. Fleck (image via Bleacher Report)

    Here's Michigan's schedule for 2020:

    October 24 @ Minnesota
    October 31 vs. Michigan State
    November 7 @ Indiana
    November 14 vs. Wisconsin
    November 21 @ Rutgers
    November 28 vs. Penn State
    December 5 vs. Maryland
    December 12 @ Ohio State

    What record will Michigan have after those eight games?

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