2017 Season Countdown: #41 Ambry Thomas

Tag: 2017 season countdown

22Jul 2017
Blog, homepage 24 comments

2017 Season Countdown: #41 Ambry Thomas

Ambry Thomas (image via Twitter)

Name: Ambry Thomas
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 171 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) King
Position: Cornerback
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: #1
Last year: Thomas was a senior in high school. He made 37 catches for 902 yards.
TTB Rating: 90

Thomas was a highly sought after recruit within the State of Michigan, but for a long time, it seemed like he was heading out of the region. He made some noise early about going down to SEC country or the west coast, and they seemed like very real possibilities. I’ve had my eye on Thomas for a few years, because he’s lightning fast and played like the fastest player in the state since he was a sophomore. Michigan was able to reel him in a year after landing fellow King alum Lavert Hill, and he’s one of the top few prizes in the 2017 class.

Thomas enrolled in January and spent the spring looking like a lanky tenth grader out on the field. Even the listed weight of 171 lbs. might have been stretching it, so he needs some time in the weight room. Will he have a chance to spend enough time in the weight room before he needs to see the field? Doubtful. Michigan will probably need him to play slot corner throughout this season in nickel and dime situations, and he could be a key backup on the outside. He’s a liability in run support, but he has speed and playmaking ability on third down. The Wolverines lost three cornerbacks from the 2017 class, and nobody has put a stranglehold on any of those spots. Thomas also offers some upside as a punt or kick returner, and potentially as a wide receiver. I don’t think Thomas will be a full-time starter this year, but he may be able to stake his claim for 2018 on the outside over the likes of Hill, David Long, Keith Washington, and others.

Prediction: Nickel corner, special teamer

21Jul 2017
Blog, homepage 23 comments

2017 Season Countdown: #42 Grant Perry

Grant Perry (image via Deadspin)

Name: Grant Perry
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 196 lbs.
High school: Bloomfield Hills (MI) Brother Rice
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #9
Last year: I ranked Perry #32 and said he would be the starting slot receiver with 20 catches for 190 yards and 2 TDs. He made 13 catches for 183 yards and 1 TD.
TTB Rating: 71

Perry took a tiny step forward as a sophomore in 2016. A fairly reliable slot option and a decent blocker, he made 13 catches (down from 14 in 2015) but raised his total yards from 128 to 183 and his yards per catch from 9.1 to 14.1. He had a 54-yard catch-and-run against Colorado, and 49 yards with a career-high 4 catches against Ohio State. That’s not a great year, but it’s solid for a slot guy who plays on a team with a bunch of tight end options.

But Perry didn’t make headlines for his receiving abilities. No, his headlines were earned in East Lansing, where he allegedly tried to cut in line, got in a scuffle, and tried to run from the police. An officer was injured, and felony charges were filed. Altogether, it wasn’t an extremely harmful incident – except to Perry’s reputation.

It was unclear this off-season whether Perry would even be on the team in the fall. He reached a plea deal and avoided a permanent felony conviction, so he is now expected to return. But in the meantime, Donovan Peoples-Jones took a shot at snaring Perry’s #9 jersey and a couple other players tried to stake their claim for the slot receiver job. Perry, Eddie McDoom, Nate Johnson, Oliver Martin, and others will try to play in the slot, but Perry is the most proven receiver. He will probably face some sort of suspension for a week or two before hitting the field, but beyond that, he could be Michigan’s #2 receiver. The Wolverines are relying on freshmen and other unproven guys, and he might end up being Wilton Speight’s most trusted target.

Prediction: Starting slot receiver after suspension; 20 catches, 225 yards, 2 TDs

20Jul 2017
Blog, homepage 7 comments

2017 Season Countdown: #43 Nate Johnson

Nate Johnson (image via 247 Sports)

Name: Nate Johnson
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 185 lbs.
High school: Thompson’s Station (TN) Independence
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #25
Last year: I ranked Johnson #94 and said he would redshirt. He played in three games, making 1 catch for 4 yards.
TTB Rating: 76

I don’t know why Nate Johnson didn’t redshirt last year. His deployment makes little to no sense. Late in the year – ensuring a burned redshirt – he caught 1 pass for 4 yards against Illinois, and that’s all he did. Now maybe keeping a fifth year in your back pocket for someone like Nate Johnson isn’t worth a great deal, but at least it would be an option in 2020 if both parties are interested.

I don’t trust Nate Johnson. I don’t like young guys returning punts, especially when they haven’t proven themselves as star players. Additionally, when we saw him in the spring game, he muffed a punt and fumbled a slant route. His hands and concentration are questionable, and yet, he appears to be the front-runner for the punt returning job. I could make an argument to rank him lower, and I can’t think of any reasons to place him higher. There are other guys on the roster who should be able to do just as good of a job, but maybe he’ll be lightning with the ball in his hands if we ever get a chance to see it. My guess is that if he starts the year as the punt returner, he won’t end it that way.

Prediction: Starting punt returner for part of the season; backup slot receiver

19Jul 2017
Blog, homepage 5 comments

2017 Season Countdown: #44 Stephen Spanellis

Stephen Spanellis (image via Twitter)

Name: Stephen Spanellis
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 335 lbs.
High school: Baltimore (MD) Gilman
Position: Offensive guard
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #72
Last year: I ranked Spanellis #95 and said he would redshirt. He redshirted.
TTB Rating: 63

Spanellis played both offensive guard and tackle last year and in the spring. He had and has some reshaping of his body to do, and it’s unclear how quickly that change will take place. Michigan is a little bit thin on experienced offensive linemen, and with three seniors having graduated after the 2016 season, opportunities have arisen. Spanellis isn’t in the conversation to start, and he probably won’t be Michigan’s sixth or seven lineman, either. That would be quite a leap from where he was in the spring, which was still on the two-deep but not pushing for a huge role. I think Spanellis will play this year when it gets to garbage time, but he’s probably a year or two away from being serviceable.

Prediction: Backup offensive guard

18Jul 2017
Blog, homepage 3 comments

2017 Season Countdown: #45 Garrett Moores

(image via ClickOnDetroit)

Name: Garrett Moores
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 217 lbs.
High school: Novi (MI) Catholic Central
Position: Quarterback
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #15
Last year: I ranked Moores #81 and said he would be the starting holder. He started at holder and scored a 2-point conversion.
TTB Rating: N/A

Is this too high for a holder?

Not if it’s the Mortell Holder of the Year Award winner.


On a serious note, Moores did a good job as the holder last year, and he even scored a 2-point conversion on a fake extra point against Rutgers. (Who didn’t score in that game? Oh, yeah. Rutgers.)

Moores was a solid high school quarterback and is decently athletic. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Michigan cook something up for him again this year. Hopefully he can repeat.