2021 Season Countdown: #32 Luke Schoonmaker

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4Aug 2021
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2021 Season Countdown: #32 Luke Schoonmaker

Luke Schoonmaker

Name: Luke Schoonmaker
Height:
6’5″
Weight:
252 lbs.
High school:
Hamden (CT) Hamden Hall
Position:
Tight end
Class:
Redshirt junior
Jersey number:
#86
Last year:
I ranked Schoonmaker #53 and said he would be a backup tight end (LINK). He played in all six games.
TTB Rating:
81

Schoonmaker seemed to take a step back in 2020. After catching 2 passes for 54 yards and 1 touchdown in 2019, he was fighting with Erick All for backup snaps last season. With Nick Eubanks as the starter, All largely took over the backup role (and dropped a lot of passes in the process), relegating Schoonmaker to the third guy at the position. (That does not include Ben Mason, who was more of a fullback.)

Now Eubanks (and Mason) have graduated, which should be good news for Schoonmaker. With All likely ascending to the starter’s role, that probably puts Schoonmaker in the #2 role. He has decent speed but has struggled a little as a blocker; however, he has gained 10 pounds since last season, squeezing those 10 pounds onto a shorter frame (fun fact: Schoonmaker was listed at 6’6″ in 2020 and is now 6’5″). Redshirt freshman Matt Hibner and true freshman Louis Hansen will both also be vying for snaps, but Schoonmaker is more experienced and has shown to be a quality backup.

Prediction: Backup tight end

3Aug 2021
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2021 Season Countdown: #33 Andrew Vastardis

Andrew Vastardis (image via MGoBlue)

Name: Andrew Vastardis
Height:
6’3″
Weight:
296 lbs.
High school:
Ashburn (VA) Stone Bridge
Position:
Center
Class:
Sixth year senior
Jersey number:
#68
Last year:
I ranked Vastardis #48 and said he would be a backup center (LINK).
TTB Rating:
N/A

I pegged Vastardis as a backup going into the 2020 season, and I was proven wrong immediately when he started the first four games of the year. To top it off, he was voted a captain. Unfortunately for him, he tried playing through injury but eventually missed the final two games of the year. In the meantime, his performance was decent but nothing special. Vastardis is a hard-nosed player and respected by his teammates, but he’s neither big nor quick.

I’m not confident in this ranking, since it basically projects a starter, captain, and sixth year player to be a backup to a sophomore who has never played the position in a game, but word coming out of practice is that Zak Zinter will be the starting center. Of course, Vastardis’s presence already helped chase one guy (Zach Carpenter) off to Indiana, so maybe Zinter will be the next Zach(k) to get his position yoinked by the former walk-on. But either way, Vastardis is a good guy to have as a veteran presence, whether he’s a starter or backup.

Prediction: Backup center

2Aug 2021
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2021 Season Countdown: #34 Trente Jones

Trente Jones (image via 247 Sports)

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Name: Trente Jones
Height:
6’4″
Weight:
305 lbs.
High school:
Loganville (GA) Grayson
Position:
Offensive tackle
Class:
Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number:
#53
Last year:
I ranked Jones #72 and said he would be a backup offensive tackle (LINK). He played in one game.
TTB Rating:
88

Jones seems to have been lost in the shuffle over the past years, so some may have forgotten that he was an Under Armour All-American and the #108 overall player in the country. After redshirting as a freshman and then playing in just one game last season, it’s understandable that he might have been forgotten. Scuttlebutt out of practice is that he and former offensive line coach Ed Warinner did not quite see eye to eye. While Warinner has proven to be a very good offensive line coach, sometimes people just don’t mesh.

According to that same scuttlebutt, Jones and new offensive line coach (former tight ends coach) Sherrone Moore get along much better. And it doesn’t hurt that a couple starting-caliber offensive linemen moved on in Zach Carpenter (transfer to Indiana) and Jalen Mayfield (drafted by the Falcons), the latter being more significant for Jones’s case. With the right tackle position open, it appears to be coming down to Jones and classmate Karsen Barnhart to see who will start. I’ll give the edge to Barnhart, who started four games at left tackle in 2020 when Ryan Hayes was injured. But injuries always happen, and Jones should be one of the first guys off the bench.

Prediction: Backup offensive tackle

1Aug 2021
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2021 Season Countdown: #35 Julius Welschof

Julius Welschof (image via Twitter)

Name: Julius Welschof
Height:
6’6″
Weight:
286 lbs.
High school:
Miesbach (Germany) FOS Altoetting
Position:
Defensive tackle
Class:
Redshirt junior
Jersey number:
#96
Last year:
I ranked Welschof #67 and said he would be a backup defensive tackle (LINK). He made 6 tackles and 0.5 sacks.
TTB Rating:
78

After redshirting in 2018 and playing in just one game in 2019, Welschof became a rotational player in 2020. An athletic big man, Michigan used him in pass rush situations, lining him up at defensive tackle and having him loop and stunt. When forced into action against the run, he did not perform well. I still have nightmares of him getting pushed around against Wisconsin.

There has been positive buzz about him this off-season. How much value should those rumors get? I don’t know. I do know that if I were putting together a 3-4 defense, I would really like having a 6’6″, 290-ish pound guy playing 4i. The biggest question is whether Welschof has improved at defeating run blocks (down blocks, combo blocks, etc.). If Shaun Nua has not improved those skills, then Welschof will probably remain a sub-package guy.

Prediction: Backup defensive tackle

31Jul 2021
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2021 Season Countdown: #36a J.J. McCarthy

J.J. McCarthy

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Name: J.J. McCarthy
Height:
6’3″
Weight:
195 lbs.
High school:
Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy
Position:
Quarterback
Class:
Freshman
Jersey number:
#9
Last year:
McCarthy was a senior in high school (LINK). He completed 92/165 passes for 1,392 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.
TTB Rating:
89

McCarthy was Michigan’s second commitment in the 2021 class after only offensive lineman Giovanni El-Hadi. McCarthy was a standout player early in his career at La Grange Park (IL) Nazareth Academy before finishing his career at IMG Academy in Florida. The decision to transfer came when football in the state of Illinois came into question during the pandemic.

McCarthy is known as a great leader with a rocket arm and solid mobility. He’s not the biggest or fastest quarterback, but he’s in the range of a lot of mobile quarterbacks who are taking college and NFL quarterbacking by storm. At 6’2″ and 195 lbs., he looks more like Mac Jones (6’2″, 180 in high school), Baker Mayfield (6’1″, 190), Sam Howell (6’0″, 225), etc. than the 6’5″ statue quarterbacks of yesteryear. I think his size, athleticism, and skills match the offense better than anyone Michigan has had since Jake Rudock in 2015.

Will he take over in 2021? That is the huge question. McCarthy graduated in December and participated in spring practice, but Jim Harbaugh came out of the spring naming Cade McNamara the starter. At Big Ten Media Days, Harbaugh reiterated that McNamara was #1, McCarthy was #2, Dan Villari was #3, and transfer newcomer Alan Bowman would slot in there somewhere, depending on how August practice goes.

Right now my guess is that McNamara is truly #1, and Bowman would be the second-best quarterback option to start the year. But I think it’s important for McCarthy to get snaps this season and prepare for the future. He has more upside than McNamara or Bowman, and the offense can be more dynamic with him, since he can push the ball downfield better and he moves better than both. I also think it’s important for the state of the program right now to get a 5-star player to come in and perform like a 5-star, because fans and possibly recruits might be wondering at this point whether Michigan can develop its offensive skill players to the level they should. Shea Patterson, Dylan McCaffrey, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Zach Charbonnet are all recent high-level recruits who have somewhat fizzled during their time in a winged helmet.

Prediction: Backup quarterback