2015 Season Countdown: #83 Dan Liesman

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8Jun 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #83 Dan Liesman

Dan Liesman (image via Twitter)

Name: Dan Liesman
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 233 lbs.
High school: Lansing (MI) Catholic
Position: Linebacker
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #66
Last year: I did not rank Liesman. He did not see any game action.

Walk-on linebacker Dan Liesman did not play at all last year and has spent the last three season as a scout team player. That didn’t stop the new coaching staff from starting him in this year’s spring game, though. The intrasquad scrimmage might not portend the future exactly, and some players were unavailable due to injury, but the fact that Liesman played almost the entire time at inside linebacker indicates there’s at least something the coaches like about him. Based on what I saw, I do not think he will crack the rotation at all. But he is a guy that the coaches might want to reward with some mop-up duty or special teams play.

Prediction: Backup linebacker, special teamer

7Jun 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #84 Michael Jocz

Name: Michael Jocz
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 231 lbs.
High school: Novi (MI) Novi
Position: Tight end
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #95
Last year: I ranked Jocz #86 and said he would be a backup tight end. He played in four games.

Jocz is undersized at 231 lbs. but the guy has some receiving skills (check out the link above). Junior Jake Butt is Michigan’s only proven option at the tight end position, and for the second year in a row, the Wolverines have another contributor (Khalid Hill) coming off of a torn ACL. The Wolverines should have a full-strength Butt and some other pieces at tight end, but Jim Harbaugh likes to use multiple tight ends. If there are injuries, Jocz could find his name called for certain situations.

Prediction: Backup tight end

6Jun 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #85 Karan Higdon

Name: Karan Higdon
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 190 lbs.
High school: Sarasota (FL) Riverview
Position: Running back
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: N/A
Last year: Higdon was a senior in high school. He was a 247 Composite 3-star, the #40 running back, and #478 overall.
TTB Rating: 73

Higdon was a late success story for the new coaching staff this winter. He had been a Hawkeye commit, but he was interested in Michigan for a while without reciprocation. Jim Harbaugh extended an offer just before National Signing Day, and Higdon fought through a snowstorm and some travel issues to make it to Ann Arbor. Leading up to NSD, it was a question of whether he would stick with Iowa or flip to Michigan, and obviously he sent his National Letter of Intent to the Wolverines. Higdon is a slightly undersized back who has good vision and runs tough, though he lacks great speed.

Michigan’s situation this year is an intriguing one. There are two very highly touted recruits (Derrick Green, Ty Isaac) with experience, last year’s leading rusher returns (De’Veon Smith), and Drake Johnson made a late-season push before tearing his ACL for a second time. Yet three of the four guys have been hampered by injuries at one point or another, none has been outstanding, and the job remains up for grabs. It would be a surprise if Higdon were to beat out all those guys, although it’s not impossible. It would probably be best for him to redshirt, let the situation in front of him play itself out, and then have an extra year to make an impact down the road.

Prediction: Redshirt

5Jun 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #86 Wilton Speight

Name: Wilton Speight
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 235 lbs.
High school: Richmond (VA) Collegiate
Position: Quarterback
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #19
Last year: I ranked Speight #87 and said he would redshirt. He redshirted.

Michigan had an established starter going into last season, and the Wolverines had a highly touted sophomore backup. They also had redshirt junior Russell Bellomy, who existed in a helmetless state. Both backups had seen game action in the past, so there was no need to play Speight.

This spring Speight earned some early praise for his mental acuity and leadership, but as practices wore on, the coaches reportedly started to realize that Speight was not the same kind of athlete as a couple of the other options. He supposedly dropped toward the bottom of the depth chart, and a minor injury removed any chance we had of seeing him in the spring game. Meanwhile, incoming transfer Jake Rudock looks like he’ll be the starter this year, Shane Morris returns as the #2 guy, and there might be a battle for the #3 spot between Speight, freshman Alex Malzone, and freshman Zach Gentry. Malzone had already moved past Speight this spring, and Gentry has higher upside. Unless several injuries occur, Speight will probably sit on the bench or be a mop-up guy this season.

Prediction: Backup quarterback

4Jun 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #87 Grant Newsome

Grant Newsome

Name: Grant Newsome
Height: 6’7″
Weight: 280 lbs.
High school: Trenton (NJ) Lawrenceville School
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: N/A
Last year: Newsome committed to Michigan in June 2014 (LINK).
TTB Rating: 84

Newsome was perhaps the crown jewel of Michigan’s 2015 recruiting class, as the Wolverines beat out the likes of Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, and Wisconsin for his services. Initially from Virginia, he went to boarding school in New Jersey. When I wrote the scouting report on him, I was impressed with his length and athleticism. He looks like a prototypical left tackle prospect, and while he still requires some molding, he has a chance to be a multi-year starter at the position.

That stretch as a starter won’t begin just yet, however. At 6’7″ and 280 lbs., he has a long frame without the bulk to match. Michigan has a returning starter on the left side in the form of sophomore Mason Cole, and there are a couple more developed prospects who would probably slide in if an injury occurred. The coaching staff will probably work him on both the left and right sides, and perhaps Cole’s long-term future is on the inside; a slot for Newsome might open up after a couple of Michigan’s interior guys graduate, allowing Cole to slide inside. Regardless, Newsome will probably redshirt this year while he hones his technique and gains some necessary strength.

Prediction: Redshirt