2021 Season Countdown: #1 Aidan Hutchinson

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2Sep 2021
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2021 Season Countdown: #1 Aidan Hutchinson

Aidan Hutchinson

Name: Aidan Hutchinson
Height:
6’6″
Weight:
265 lbs.
High school:
Dearborn (MI) Divine Child
Position:
Outside linebacker
Class:
Senior
Jersey number:
#97
Last year:
I ranked Hutchinson #88 and said he would be the starting strongside end (LINK). He made 15 tackles.
TTB Rating:
88

Hutchinson’s solid 2019 season seemed to have him primed for a huge year in 2020, so when he made 15 tackles from his defensive end position in the first two games, it seemed like he was tracking well. Then he got hurt early in the third game against Indiana, and I felt a little bit of life drain out of me. Michigan was already in bad shape, having lost to Michigan State and, in that game, having lost Jalen Mayfield and Ryan Hayes, too. The Wolverines were cursed in 2020.

Hutchinson himself has a relentless motor. Along with those impressive 15 tackles for a defensive lineman across two games, he seemed one or two steps away from making several sacks. I don’t know that I’ve seen another defensive lineman come this close to making as many hits on the quarterback, but still, Hutchinson’s production has just been okay, not stellar.

Going into the 2021 season, Hutchinson is Michigan’s most important player. The team did not perform well at all last season once he got injured, and they were lifeless on defense. Nobody else seemed capable of putting pressure on the quarterback, and teams didn’t have to run away from anyone, either. It was open season on the entire Michigan defense. Hutchinson is an emotional leader on and off the field, which is supported by his naming as captain. Some prognosticators have him going in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and while I don’t think he will have enough production to be an All-American, that’s not out of the question.

Prediction: Starting outside linebacker; 60 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 7 sacks

2Sep 2021
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2021 Season Predictions

Aidan Hutchinson

Look below for my bold, sure-to-be-100%-correct predictions for 2021.

LEADING RUSHER
It doesn’t get any bolder than picking the guy who has finished #1 or #2 in rushing the past two seasons (and the #1 guy from 2019 is playing for UCLA now). Yes, you guessed it. I’m picking Hassan Haskins. Haskins was a ho-hum recruit who has become a very dependable runner, if lacking great breakaway speed. Last season he took a stranglehold on the job, running 61 times for 375 yards (6.2 yards/carry) and 6 touchdowns. Sophomore Blake Corum should also get a good chunk of carries, but in crunch time, I expect Haskins to be the primary back.
Prediction: Hassan Haskins, 900 yards

Hit the jump for the rest of the prognostications.

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1Sep 2021
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2021 Season Countdown: #2 Cade McNamara

Cade McNamara

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Name: Cade McNamara
Height:
6’1″
Weight:
212 lbs.
High school:
Reno (NV) Damonte Ranch
Position:
Quarterback
Class:
Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number:
#12
Last year:
I ranked McNamara #65 and said he would be a backup quarterback (LINK). He completed 43/71 passes for 425 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions; he also ran for 1 touchdown.
TTB Rating:
65

My, what a ride it’s been in just a couple seasons for Cade McNamara. Thought by many to be a down-the-road option at quarterback for a team that had Shea Patterson, Dylan McCaffrey, and Joe Milton when he committed, that road got a lot shorter in a hurry. Patterson graduated and moved on, McCaffrey transferred to Northern Colorado, and suddenly McNamara was the primary backup to newly anointed starter Joe Milton in 2020. That situation evolved quickly, as well, with Milton getting injured/playing poorly mid-season, thrusting McNamara into the limelight. McNamara played late against Wisconsin, took over early against Rutgers, started against Penn State, and . . . promptly got hurt.

Milton looked the part of a stud quarterback, but he didn’t play like it with 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Meanwhile, McNamara looks like an average dude but didn’t turn over the ball. He commanded the offense better than Milton did in more extended playing time, and McNamara’s decision-making was quicker. One of the main things I look for when evaluating quarterbacks is how quickly they make decisions at the line of scrimmage and progress through their reads. That was an area where Milton struggled, but McNamara does well in that phase, despite his lack of elite physical talents.

This off-season McNamara has had to fend off 5-star freshman J.J. McCarthy, who reportedly struggled a little bit in the spring but has turned it on during fall camp. The coaching staff has been steadfast that McNamara is the guy, even though McCarthy will play. Michigan also has former Texas Tech starter Alan Bowman and redshirt freshman Dan Villari on the roster. It will be interesting to see whether McNamara entrenches himself as the starter or if McCarthy pops up if McNamara struggles. It would be great if Michigan can put the brakes on the revolving door at quarterback and keep players at the position for a few years. I’m expecting McNamara to have an efficient 2021 season. Michigan should be able to run the ball to keep pressure off of him, and he has some talented targets at wideout and tight end.

Prediction: Starting quarterback; 2,800 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, 6 interceptions

31Aug 2021
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2021 Season Countdown: #3 Daxton Hill

Daxton Hill

Name: Daxton Hill
Height:
6’0″
Weight:
192 lbs.
High school:
Tulsa (OK) Booker T. Washington
Position:
Safety
Class:
Junior
Jersey number:
#30
Last year:
I ranked Hill #3 and said he would be the starting free safety (LINK). He made 46 tackles, 1 interception, and 5 pass breakups.
TTB Rating:
100

Daxton Hill was Michigan’s highest rated recruit in the class of 2019, and much like other skill position players at Michigan under Jim Harbaugh, he has not lived up to the expectations. He certainly was not the only one, but he appeared to be disinterested in playing football during the 2020 season. There were times where he did not appear to be going full speed, either in running or tackling. There were even times where he seemed disinterested in getting lined up and in a good stance. When walk-on safety Hunter Reynolds got a chance to play, he seemed to outperform Hill if only because Reynolds looked like he actually cared.

Going into his third year, it’s time for Hill to finally reach his potential. A new coaching staff reportedly plans to use him in a variety of roles in the secondary, playing anywhere from corner to nickel to strong safety to deep safety. I am a little concerned that his new position coach is Ron Bellamy (a former receiver and a high school coach through last season), but it’s also fair to note that Bellamy played in the NFL. Guys who play in the NFL tend to know stuff.

Hill has very good speed, he has decent size, and he has playmaking ability. He can also lay the lumber if he wants. The big question is whether Jim Harbaugh, Mike Macdonald, and Bellamy can bring the best out of him. Michigan needs him to play at a high level if they want to win, since there are questions at cornerback and in the front seven. I think the new staff might be a positive jolt of energy for Hill, so he should take a step forward in 2021, perhaps resulting in an early departure for the NFL.

Prediction: Starting safety

31Aug 2021
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2021 Season Countdown: #4 Josh Ross

Josh Ross

Name: Josh Ross
Height:
6’2″
Weight:
224 lbs.
High school:
Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary’s
Position:
Linebacker
Class:
Fifth year senior
Jersey number:
#12
Last year:
I ranked Ross #15 and said he would be the starting WILL linebacker (LINK). He made 53 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 interception.
TTB Rating:
79

Ross had a rough season in 2020. As part of a deteriorating defense – in performance and health – Ross played in every game. While defensive linemen and his fellow inside linebacker Cam McGrone fell apart, Ross kept plugging away. Reports have come out since then that Ross himself was struggling with a lower body injury, too. He missed tackles and got lost in coverage at times. Everyone expected better from him since he was a fourth-year player who was Honorable Mention All-Big Ten in 2018, but it just didn’t work out.

Reports about Ross’s leadership have been glowing this off-season, and Ross has been named one of the four team captains. He has played a lot but has somehow only started ten games in his career. Among the linebackers, he’s the grizzled veteran. New linebackers coach George Helow revealed recently that redshirt freshman Nikhai Hill-Green will be starting next to Ross at inside linebacker (beating out Michael Barrett), and I think that elevates Ross’s importance even more. The team needs an experienced player on the inside to get people lined up and keep people calm if and when things go poorly on the field.

Prediction: Starting middle linebacker