2015 Season Countdown: #16 Chris Wormley

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15Aug 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #16 Chris Wormley

Chris Wormley

Chris Wormley
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 300 lbs.
High school: Toledo (OH) Whitmer
Position: Defensive end
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #43
Last year: I ranked Wormley #17 and said he would be a starting defensive tackle with 35 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks. He started six games and made 21 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks.

Wormley has continued to take incremental steps forward each year. When he was in high school, there were questions about his motor. When he got to college, he was probably going to play as a freshman before he tore his ACL in the summer. When he was a redshirt freshman, he showed a couple flashes of having the athletic ability dominate. Last year he started to put it all together for longer stretches. He split time at the 3-tech defensive tackle position, and he was fairly productive (7th on the team in tackles for loss, tied for 5th in sacks). He has yet to have a breakout game of dominance, but he seems to make one or two plays per game.

The new coaching staff has worked wonders with Wormley, because most guys stop growing upward in college. Now listed at 6’5″ and 300 lbs. (previously 6’4″, 295), Wormley has been playing strongside end in the new regime. He has the chops to move inside to defensive tackle, but despite the injury to Bryan Mone, Michigan has more depth on the interior. At the strongside end spot, it’s basically up to Wormley, Taco Charlton, and then questions (mainly, are Henry Poggi and Tom Strobel tight ends or defensive ends?). Wormley and Charlton are both known for inconsistency, but now that Brennen Beyer has graduated, those two might push each other to new heights in their attempts to become full-time starters. For his own part, Wormley started earning lots of hype in the spring, and D.J. Durkin has said some really positive things about him recently. My guess is that he beats out Charlton, although there will be lots of rotation on the defensive line.

Prediction: 40 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 6 sacks

14Aug 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #17 Ben Braden

Ben Braden

Ben Braden
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 331 lbs.
High school: Rockford (MI) Rockford
Position: Offensive guard
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #71
Last year: I ranked Braden #27 and said he would be the starting right tackle. He started all twelve games at right tackle.

The tackle positions were giant question marks heading into last season. Michigan had lost Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield to graduation and the NFL, and the backups at those positions were completely unproven. Braden, who had played in just two games in 2013, was one of them. Meanwhile, Erik Magnuson was the higher rated recruit and had played more in 2013. It seemed likely that Magnuson would start at one of the two tackle spots. Instead, Braden locked down the job on the right side while true freshman Mason Cole started all twelve games on the left. Michigan’s offensive line improved from terrible two seasons ago to mediocre last year.

The line as a whole needs to take another step forward, but so does Braden as an individual. A weakness in pass protection makes him a bit of a liability. However, he seems likely to start somewhere. Going into the season, he looks like a front-runner to start at one of the guard positions. Michigan had Magnuson starting at right tackle in the spring, and Braden had bumped over to left guard. Some early reports out of August practice have Braden playing some right guard. Either way, he and Kyle Kalis are manning those two spots. Braden has added 9 lbs. to his already massive frame, and he was reportedly torching the other linemen in sprints and conditioning in the spring. If he can hone his technique, he could be a very powerful interior presence for the next couple seasons.

Prediction: Starting right guard

13Aug 2015
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2015 Season Countdown: #18 Jehu Chesson

Jehu Chesson

 Jehu Chesson
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 207 lbs.
High school: St. Louis (MO) Ladue Horton Watkins
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #86
Last year: I ranked Chesson #39 and said he would be a backup receiver with 18 catches, 220 yards, and 2 touchdowns. He started four games and had 14 catches for 154 yards.

I have found Chesson to be intriguing since he started demolishing people in 2013, whether it was as a gunner on punts or as a blocker in the running game. Unfortunately, that prowess has not carried over to the receiving department, where has been just so-so. With a largely ineffective passing game last year, Chesson was the fourth-leading receiver. He started four games, but he never seemed to develop a chemistry with Devin Gardner and struggled in the catching department. His best performance from last season was 2 catches for 34 yards against Rutgers, and he has just one touchdown in his career (a  58-yarder against Michigan State in 2013).

Chesson was one of Michigan’s representatives at Big Ten Media Days, so he is looked at as a leader and responsible member of the team. He has packed on 12 lbs. since last season, and he can be counted on as a blocker and hard worker. But I have doubts about whether he can be a standout receiver because he hasn’t really even shown glimpses of that during the past two years on the field. Jim Harbaugh is going to run the ball a lot, especially with question marks at quarterback, but someone needs to step up soon at receiver. The smart [Monopoly] money is on classmate Amara Darboh, but Chesson will probably start on the other side and be given plenty of opportunities. There are some young guys with more natural receiving talent, but that won’t necessarily translate to on-field team success.

Prediction: Starting wide receiver; 25 catches, 320 yards, 2 touchdowns