2017 Season Countdown: #7 Patrick Kugler

Tag: 2017 season countdown

25Aug 2017
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2017 Season Countdown: #7 Patrick Kugler

Patrick Kugler (#57, image via Land of 10)

Name: Patrick Kugler
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 303 lbs.
High school: Wexford (PA) North Allegheny
Position: Center
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #57
Last year: I ranked Kugler #33 and said he would be the backup center. He started one game and played in five total.
TTB Rating: 83

Kugler came in with a lot of promise as a highly rated player and All-American. He was also the son of an NFL offensive line coach, who is now an FBS head coach at UTSA. It was thought that he would be ready to play center for Michigan by year two, maybe three. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case, and Michigan has had to rejigger its line several times to figure out the center spot, moving both Graham Glasgow and Mason Cole to center at times. Meanwhile, Kugler barely saw the field early in his career, and he started one game at left guard last season before ultimately being outplayed by freshman Ben Bredeson.

This year Kugler has finally appeared to seize the center position that we thought he would grab three years ago. Cole, who started at center in 2016 after playing left tackle the previous two years, is back at left tackle. Freshman Cesar Ruiz is battling at center and left guard, and he would probably be inserted if something were to happen to Kugler. One would think that Kugler would be ready to make the line calls as a fifth year senior, and the hope is that he can avoid mental mistakes while being able to hold up physically. In the spring, Ruiz looked the part physically, but he was a split second slow on recognizing blitzes. I would be very nervous if Michigan entrusted the center spot to a true freshman, even though Ruiz might be one of the best centers to come out of high school in a while.

Prediction: Starting center

24Aug 2017
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2017 Season Countdown: #8 Khaleke Hudson

Khaleke Hudson (#7, image via MLive)

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Name: Khaleke Hudson
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 205 lbs.
High school: McKeesport (PA) McKeesport
Position: Viper
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #7
Last year: I ranked Hudson #46 and said he would be a backup strong safety. Hudson made 8 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass breakup.
TTB Rating: 80

Hudson looks like Tarzan and plays like Tarzan. He obliterated people in high school, and he struggled with digesting the defense in 2016, but he still blocked 2 punts. With a couple senior safeties and a pretty good sophomore in Tyree Kinnel, it wasn’t surprising that Hudson didn’t see the field much. The biggest question was whether Hudson or Josh Metellus would step forward first, and it seemed like the coaching staff thought Metellus was further ahead, since he stepped in for Jabrill Peppers in the bowl game.

Going into this spring, there were still questions about whether Hudson could handle the intricacies of the defense. After a few spring practices at Viper, the answer seemed to be a resounding YES. By almost all accounts, Hudson is just a hair away from being Jabrill Peppers; meanwhile, Metellus is no longer a factor at Viper and resides at strong safety. Nobody is a close second at Viper, but freshman Jaylen Kelly-Powell and redshirt sophomore Jordan Glasgow provide depth. It’s Hudson’s job unless something happens. I look forward to seeing Hudson support the run, chase after quarterbacks, and do his impression of a first round draft pick.

Prediction: Starting Viper; 65 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions

23Aug 2017
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2017 Season Countdown: #9A Devin Bush, Jr.

Devin Bush, Jr. (image via Detroit Free Press)

Name: Devin Bush, Jr.
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 232 lbs.
High school: Pembroke Pines (FL) Flanagan
Position: Linebacker
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #10
Last year: I ranked Bush #31 and said he would be a backup inside linebacker. He made 12 tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss.
TTB Rating: 85

Bush was the type of speedy, hard-hitting linebacker that Michigan seemed to have been lacking for years when he came out of high school in 2016. The son of a former NFLer and Florida State star, perhaps Bush’s pedigree got people a little more excited than normal, too. The recruiting sites liked him, but they didn’t love him. He was a shoo-in to play early after moving to campus in January 2016, partly because Michigan had very little depth at inside linebacker. Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray II held down the starting inside linebacker jobs and ate up the vast majority of snaps, but Bush was the #3 inside guy and held his own when given the opportunity.

Fast forward to 2017 camp, and the hype has continued inside the Michigan sphere. While Bush was mostly a WILL in 2016, he has taken over Gedeon’s vacated MIKE linebacker position, and the coaches like his ability to blitz and play sideline to sideline. ¬†Despite lacking prototypical middle linebacker size, the 5’11”, 232-pounder can hold his own physically. Michigan has no proven depth at inside linebacker, and they’re likely counting on at least one freshman – Josh Ross, Drew Singleton, and/or Jordan Anthony – to be on the two-deep. Redshirt junior Jared Wangler has moved to fullback, but he wasn’t much of a threat to play meaningful snaps at linebacker, and the other potential contributors are second-year players. It’s a young position group aside from McCray, so keeping Bush on the field will be important with Michigan’s complicated defense.

Prediction: Starting middle linebacker; 90 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 4 sacks

23Aug 2017
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2017 Season Countdown: #9B Ben Bredeson

Ben Bredeson (image via Twitter)

Note: With all the cutting and pasting and such while putting together the countdown list, a couple names disappeared. One of those was Bredeson, whom I’m slotting in here at #9B.

Name: Ben Bredeson
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 310 lbs.
High school: Hartland (WI) Arrowhead
Position: Offensive guard
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #74
Last year: I ranked Bredeson #59 and said he would be a backup offensive guard. He started eight games at left guard.
TTB Rating: 88

Bredeson was a highly touted offensive lineman coming out of high school who was pegged by many as an offensive tackle. The coaching staff insisted he was pushing Grant Newsome for the starting left tackle job, but when the season came, Newsome was entrenched at left tackle. Meanwhile, then fifth year senior Ben Braden was struggling with a back injury to start the year, so Bredeson and redshirt junior Patrick Kugler filled in for a spell. Once Newsome was injured, a brief flirtation with Juwann Bushell-Beatty at left tackle turned into a position switch for Braden, opening the door for Bredeson to become a full-time starter at left guard. He played solidly and didn’t have a lot of busts, but he couldn’t get a push and could only offer a bunch of stalemates per game.

Believe it or not, Bredeson is Michigan’s second most experienced starter, behind just left tackle Mason Cole. Center Kugler, right guard Michael Onwenu, and whoever takes the right tackle position will have only a handful of starts among them. I imagine some of those stalemates will turn into wins this season now that he has some extra strength and experience, so I expect a solid left side of the offensive line with Cole and Bredeson. Michigan will probably be pretty heavy with running to the left, because those are their two best linemen. It would be great to see this unit take a step or two forward from their mediocre performance last season.

Prediction: Starting left guard

22Aug 2017
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2017 Season Countdown: #10 Quinn Nordin

Quinn Nordin (image via Land of 10)

Name: Quinn Nordin
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 205 lbs.
High school: Rockford (MI) Rockford
Position: Kicker
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #3
Last year: I ranked Nordin #51 and said he would be a backup punter/kicker. He redshirted.
TTB Rating: 89

Ranked by some as the nation’s top kicker, Nordin entered 2016 with an uphill climb ahead of him. It was Kenny Allen Hill, and it proved too large to surmount. Allen was a fifth year senior who pulled triple duty as the kicker, punter, and kickoff specialist. He was relieved occasionally, but not by Nordin. Nordin suffered from an injury and sat out the season, allowing him to redshirt.

Now Michigan has no proven kickers, and Nordin ranks this highly on the strength of high school hype and a 97-yard field goal in the spring game. The schedule is tougher in 2017 than it was in 2016, the offense lost some key guys, and the defense lost 11 out of 12 starters (yes, I included Jeremy Clark as a starter). Field goals might be a little more important in 2017, and hopefully Nordin is capable of living up to the hype. If he can’t, that might cost Michigan a game or two.

Prediction: Starting placekicker and kickoff specialist