2021 Season Countdown: #9 Gemon Green

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28Aug 2021
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2021 Season Countdown: #9 Gemon Green

Gemon Green (image via Rivals)

Name: Gemon Green
Height:
6’2″
Weight:
181 lbs.
High school:
DeSoto (TX) DeSoto
Position:
Cornerback
Class:
Redshirt junior
Jersey number:
#22
Last year:
I ranked Green #46 and said he would be a backup cornerback (LINK). He started six games and made 22 tackles with 9 pass breakups.
TTB Rating:
82

It was easy to watch Michigan’s secondary in 2020 and reach the conclusion that every player did bad and is bad. I think every Michigan fan probably felt that way at one point or another a year ago. But I thought Green had his fair share of positive moments. After getting embarrassed in week two against Michigan State, Michigan’s two starting cornerbacks went in divergent directions. Green seemed to take umbrage at getting picked on and improved. Opposite corner Vincent Gray seemed shell-shocked and the staff had to completely change how he played defense.

Going into the 2021 season, those career arcs seem destined to continue. Green was reportedly the first corner to lock up his starting job, while Gray’s spot seems to have been usurped by D.J. Turner II. Michigan continues to prioritize tall, lanky, athletic corners who are similar in body type to Green, and I think the coaching staff likes what they have in him. Green doesn’t have blazing speed, but he’s physical and has some length to make up for some of that lack of burst. I think the new defensive philosophy will help Green continue to ascend, making Green a possibility for the lower end of all-conference status (third team or honorable mention).

Prediction: Starting cornerback; 32 tackles, 1 interception

27Aug 2021
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2021 Season Countdown: #10 Andrew Stueber

Andrew Stueber

Name: Andrew Stueber
Height:
6’7″
Weight:
338 lbs.
High school:
Darien (CT) Darien
Position:
Offensive guard/tackle
Class:
Fifth year senior
Jersey number:
#71
Last year:
I ranked Stueber #20 and said he would be the starting right guard (LINK). He started six games.
TTB Rating:
82

In some ways Stueber is Michigan’s most experienced offensive lineman. Not in years (Andrew Vastardis is in his sixth year), but in playing time. After redshirting in 2017 and playing minimally in 2018, Stueber was in a battle for the starting right tackle job with Jalen Mayfield in 2020 when Stueber’s ACL quit on him. He returned in 2020 to become the starting right guard, eventually bumping out to tackle when Mayfield himself got hurt. Stueber acquitted himself fairly well and was one of just two linemen to start every game.

I debated placing Stueber higher on this list, but I think Michigan has depth on the offensive line – especially after starting so many guys in 2020 – and there are a bunch of key, seemingly top-heavy positions. Stueber is probably not looking at being a high draft pick in the NFL, but he is massive, has some versatility, and has turned out to be a solid leader. The expectation is that he starts at right tackle, with Vastardis at center and Zak Zinter at right guard.

Prediction: Starting right tackle

27Aug 2021
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2021 Season Countdown: #11 Ryan Hayes

Ryan Hayes (image via Twitter)

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Name: Ryan Hayes
Height:
6’7″
Weight:
307 lbs.
High school:
Traverse City (MI) West
Position:
Offensive tackle
Class:
Redshirt junior
Jersey number:
#76
Last year:
I ranked Hayes #18 and said he would be the starting left tackle (LINK). He started two games.
TTB Rating:
84

Hayes played quite a bit as a redshirt freshman in 2019, making him one of the more experienced offensive linemen. Unfortunately, one of the many reasons for Michigan’s poor season in 2020 was injury, and Hayes was not spared. Along with right tackle Jalen Mayfield and center Andrew Vastardis, Hayes’s season ended early. In Hayes’s case, he did not play after Michigan’s loss to Michigan State, leaving the Wolverines to start redshirt freshman Karsen Barnhart in his place.

The left tackle position appears to be locked down by Hayes; every off-season projection has him back to starting on the blind side. He has always had tantalizing size and athleticism, but the technique and strength have been a little lacking. He still could probably add some more bulk as his career progresses, but he is up from 302 lbs. to 307 this year. Hopefully by 2022 he can be in the 315 range. Considering his experience and athleticism, Hayes should be one of the more consistent pieces on the line this season. If Michigan has a good season, I think Hayes will be named an all-conference player.

Prediction: Starting left tackle

26Aug 2021
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2021 Season Countdown: #12 Zak Zinter

Zak Zinter (image via Detroit News)

Name: Zak Zinter
Height:
6’6″
Weight:
320 lbs.
High school:
North Andover (MA) Buckingham Browne & Nichols
Position:
Center/guard
Class
: Sophomore
Jersey number:
#65
Last year:
I ranked Zinter #79 and said he would redshirt (LINK). He started four games at right guard.
TTB Rating:
80

Zinter was supposed to redshirt in 2020 – according to me – but that didn’t work out. He played some special teams in the first couple games, but then Michigan suffered a spate of injuries on the offensive line. Once right tackle Jalen Mayfield got injured, Michigan bumped starting right guard Andrew Stueber out to right tackle and inserted Zinter. It’s noteworthy that Michigan played Zinter rather than a few redshirt freshmen like Trevor Keegan, Trente Jones, Jack Stewart, etc. Zinter played fairly well for a freshman and moved some people, but the line as a whole was a major issue.

This off-season there has been talk that Zinter is Michigan’s best offensive player. Even the coaching staff has suggested as much. That might seem like bluster and hype, but why would Michigan talk him up rather than an older guy who’s captain material or draft-eligible? We’ve been burned by the off-season hype machine before, so I’m not ready to say Zinter is the most important offensive player. I also think Michigan has a fair amount of depth on the offensive line. But if Zinter’s play can match the hype, I look forward to watching him push people around this fall.

Prediction: Starting right guard

25Aug 2021
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2021 Season Countdown: #13 Brad Hawkins

Brad Hawkins (image via MGoBlue)

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Name: Brad Hawkins
Height:
6’1″
Weight:
221 lbs.
High school:
Suffield (CT) Suffield Academy
Position:
Safety
Class:
Fifth year senior
Jersey number:
#2
Last year:
I ranked Hawkins #7 and said he would be a starting safety (LINK). He started all six games and made 39 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 2 pass breakups.
TTB Rating:
78

There have been some jokes made this off-season about how old Brad Hawkins is. He originally committed in the 2016 class, ended up going to prep school, signed with Michigan again in 2017, and is now going into his fifth college season. For a little perspective, he first signed with Michigan in the same class as Kingston Davis and Rashan Gary. You probably don’t remember the first guy, and the second guy is going into his third NFL season.

As for Hawkins on the field, he has been serviceable. But for a guy who has played in 42 career games and started 17, his total of 4 pass breakups, 0 interceptions, 0 fumbles forced, and 0 fumble recoveries is a bit frustrating. I expect safeties to get their hands on the ball more than that. He’s the type of guy who allows a guy to make a catch and is immediately there to tackle, which is fine, but Michigan needs more than “fine.”

Normally I would put a third-year starter higher on this list, but Michigan seems to really like sophomore Makari Paige and redshirt freshman R.J. Moten. Moten in particular seems to be a dark horse candidate to make an impact this season, if practice rumblings are to be trusted. Paige played quite a bit last season but didn’t really make any flash plays. Hawkins should have a solid season and will probably be honorable mention all-conference.

Prediction: Starting safety; 60 tackles