2015 Season Countdown: #86 Wilton Speight

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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

3Jun 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #88 Nolan Ulizio

Name: Nolan Ulizio
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 293 lbs.
High school: West Chester (OH) Lakota West
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: N/A
Last year: Ulizio was a senior in high school (LINK). He was a 247 Composite 3-star, the #137 offensive tackle, and #1274 overall.
TTB Rating: 65

Ulizio was a late flip from UConn after Jim Harbaugh was hired. D.J. Durkin, who was newly hired from Florida, had some previous relationships in the state of Ohio, and he was sent in to attempt to reap some late rewards. Ulizio was a 2-star recruit to some sites, and he had not even been evaluated by ESPN until after he switched his commitment to Michigan. Michigan’s coaching staff identified him as a late bloomer who hit a growth spurt, which helped him turn into an FBS recruit.

I have my concerns about Ulizio because of his lack of athleticism, but the kid is tenacious and has some decent technique. As he puts on muscle and continues to grow into his body, he could be an asset down the road. That will take some time, however. He looks like a fit at right tackle or offensive guard, and Michigan has some more experienced depth at those positions. I expect him to redshirt this season, and I don’t see him really factoring into the rotation until 2017 unless there are several departures.

Prediction: Redshirt

2Jun 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #89 Jon Runyan, Jr.

Jon Runyan, Jr. with his family

Name: Jon Runyan, Jr.
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 276 lbs.
High school: Philadelphia (PA) St. Joseph’s
Position: Offensive guard
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: N/A
Last year: Runyan committed to Michigan in June 2013 (LINK). He ended the cycle as a 247 Composite 3-star, the #122 offensive tackle, and #1127 overall.
TTB Rating: 73

Runyan was a very early commit to the 2015 class, and some people had questions about why he was offered since he was not well regarded by recruiting sites and did not garner an impressive offer list. In fact, 247 Sports lists him as having received just one offer, although sometimes kids stop reporting offers after they commit. Regardless, Runyan is a Michigan legacy whose dad was a high NFL draft pick and long-time player. The biggest question about Runyan, Jr. seemed to be about his size, and he was reported to be about 245 lbs. when he committed nearly two years ago.

He reportedly got up to 276 lbs. by his senior year, which is still pretty light for a college lineman. You also may see in the highlights below that he’s lacking some technique – especially when blocking in the open field – and he also lacks the sheer power one would expect of a high-level prospect. Iowa takes kids like this every year and churns out one or two high draft picks on the line, so size and strength can be improved with quality strength and conditioning. But without that size coming into college, Runyan will probably find himself redshirting like most linemen this season.

Prediction: Redshirt

1Jun 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #90 Chris Fox

Chris Fox (right) is still not 100% healthy.

Name: Chris Fox
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 303 lbs.
High school: Parker (CO) Ponderosa
Position: Offensive guard
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #73
Last year: I ranked Fox #83 and said he would be a backup offensive guard (LINK). He played briefly in one game.

Fox has missed the majority of the last two seasons due to bad knees. A torn ACL wiped out his freshman year, and lingering knee problems took away most of his redshirt freshman season. The only time he saw the field last year was in the season opening blowout victory over Appalachian State.

At this point Fox is rumored to be likely to take a medical hardship sooner or later. He was still on crutches this winter, and he was nowhere to be found for much of the spring. As Jim Harbaugh and his staff look to make way for contributors on both sides of the ball, guys who have to spend years rehabbing might find themselves pushed toward pooping or getting off the pot. With five specific guys likely to hold onto their starting positions, plus another few decent backups, Fox would be on the outside looking in this year, anyway.

Prediction: Medical hardship or backup offensive guard