2018 Season Countdown: #15 Chris Evans

Tag: 2018 season countdown

13Aug 2018
Blog, homepage no comments

2018 Season Countdown: #15 Chris Evans

Chris Evans (image via Michigan Daily)

Name: Chris Evans
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 216 lbs.
High school: Indianapolis (IN) Ben Davis
Position: Running back
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #12
Last year: I ranked Evans #11 and said he would be the starting running back with 110 carries for 600 yards and 6 touchdowns (LINK). He had 135 carries for 685 yards (5.1 YPC) and 6 touchdowns; he also caught 16 passes for 157 yards (9.8 yards/catch) and 1 touchdown.
TTB Rating: 68

Evans went into the 2017 season as the front-runner for the lead running back spot. In fact, confidence seemed to be so high that he was sitting out some reps in the spring because he was a known commodity. And he did indeed start the first game against Florida. He had 22 carries for 78 yards (3.5 YPC), but he was outshone by Ty Isaac; as a result, Evans never had more than 15 carries in any game for the rest of the season. Isaac and, more notably, Karan Higdon pushed past him with Higdon finishing the season with 994 yards. Isaac eventually fell by the wayside, but Evans would resurface with a 97-yard, 2-touchdown effort against Purdue and then a 191-yard, 2-touchdown game against Minnesota. Evans and Higdon would be Big Ten Co-Offensive Players of the Week against the Gophers. It was a decent year overall, but not quite what we expected when he was sitting out in the spring.

Now the shoe appears to be on the other foot for the Michigan football team. Higdon is the established guy, and Evans is the one fighting for respect. He has always had strong legs, but now Evans is 216 pounds. Reports leaking out of camp are that Evans is playing some in the slot to get him on the field with Higdon. He might not be the front-runner right now, but I rank him this highly because there are some serious question marks behind the top two running backs. Whereas Isaac and Kareem Walker were on the roster last year to provide a pretty imposing top four running backs, now it’s sophomore O’Maury Samuels, walk-on Tru Wilson, and freshmen.

Prediction: Backup running back; 120 carries for 650 yards and 5 touchdowns, plus 22 catches for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns

12Aug 2018
Blog, homepage no comments

2018 Season Countdown: #16 Michael Dwumfour

Michael Dwumfour (image via Miller Sports Time)

Name: Michael Dwumfour
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 285 lbs.
High school: Wayne (NJ) DePaul
Position: Defensive tackle
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #50
Last year: I ranked Dwumfour #23 and said he would be a backup defensive tackle (LINK). He made 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 0.5 sacks.
TTB Rating: 69

Dwumfour battled shoulder problems going into the 2017 season, and he did not earn a heavy rotation spot throughout the year. He played in nine games and made 4 tackles. Maurice Hurst, Jr. ate up a ton of snaps early in the season at nose tackle, and the Wolverines have good defensive linemen every year. I ranked Dwumfour #23 based on off-season hype and uncertain depth on the interior.

It’s the same story this year. For the second year in a row, we have heard Dwumfour described as another Hurst. Hurst himself didn’t really flash truly impressive play until his redshirt sophomore year, and that’s where Dwumfour is now. This ranking is based entirely on hype. If Dwumfour is a Hurst clone, he probably deserves to be ranked higher. But we haven’t seen anything in his limited time on the field to indicate he has truly achieved that level of elite play. The hope is that Dwumfour can be a star, because the other interior linemen – Aubrey Solomon, Bryan Mone, Donovan Jeter, Carlo Kemp, Lawrence Marshall, etc. – have not shown star power yet, either. It’s a talented group overall, but somewhat unproven.

Prediction: Starting defensive tackle

11Aug 2018
Blog, homepage 2 comments

2018 Season Countdown: #17 Tyree Kinnel

Tyree Kinnel (image via Dayton Daily News)

Name: Tyree Kinnel
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 215 lbs.
High school: Huber Heights (OH) Wayne
Position: Safety
Class: Senior
Jersey number: #23
Last year: I ranked Kinnel #4 and said he would start at safety with 70 tackles and 1 interception (LINK). He made 70 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions (for 28 yards and 1 TD), and 6 pass breakups.
TTB Rating: 74

Kinnel pulled off the nearly impossible feat of making my prediction exactly right when he made 70 tackles. In fact, up to this point, he’s about what I expected from him coming out of high school. The safeties were the weak spot on the defense in 2017, even though they were far from terrible. Kinnel was beaten on some slot fades, and he was taken to the house a couple times. As a safety in Michigan’s aggressive, man-to-man defense, those things are going to happen sometimes. Kinnel is usually a guy who’s in the right place, but he doesn’t have great height or makeup speed, so if a team can beat him initially, he’ll probably stay beaten.

This year nobody looks to be challenging him for his starting position, and that seems about right. Michigan is very inexperienced at safety behind Kinnel and Josh Metellus. The most experienced guy is Utah transfer Casey Hughes, who has mostly played corner during his career. Sophomores Brad Hawkins, Jaylen Kelly-Powell, and J’Marick Woods all got playing time last year; Hawkins and Kelly-Powell have received hype this spring and summer. I still believe Kinnel will start, but with sophomores as backups (instead of freshmen like last year), I think Michigan should be a little better off at safety this season with less of a drop-off if Kinnel goes down.

Prediction: 75 tackles, 2 interceptions

10Aug 2018
Blog, homepage 7 comments

2018 Season Countdown: #18 Ben Mason

Ben Mason (image via Detroit News)

Name: Ben Mason
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 254 lbs.
High school: Newtown (CT) Newtown
Position: Fullback
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #42
Last year: I ranked Mason #77 and said he would be a backup fullback (LINK). He had 3 carries for 4 yards and 2 touchdowns.
TTB Rating: 74

I may or may not have underranked Mason last season. On the one hand, I ranked him #77 and he scored 2 touchdowns, which is pretty good for the 77th-most important player on the team. On the other hand, Michigan had two senior fullbacks on the roster who probably could have punched in those two 1-yard touchdowns. Khalid Hill and Henry Poggi were the co-starters at fullback in 2017, but it was always likely that Michigan would plan to groom Mason for 2018, which is exactly what they did.

This spring there was a bit of a stir when it came out that Mason was playing fullback and linebacker, and Mason did an interview where he discussed his preference – according to him, he has none. He was a fullback and linebacker in high school, and he was seemingly recruited for linebacker before moving to the offensive side of the ball. He does not appear to be a strong contender for any of the linebacker positions, which makes sense to me. It’s one thing for a defensive player to moonlight as an offensive guy, but it’s a whole different story when you try to make an offensive guy into a defensive player; the only case that seems to make sense is when you put in a tall receiver with ball skills when it’s time to defend a Hail Mary. Mason should be focusing on offense, even though Michigan may use the fullback less with Shea Patterson behind center. I expect this Michigan team to be a little more spread-oriented and a little less smashmouth-y.

Prediction: Starting fullback

9Aug 2018
Blog, homepage 7 comments

2018 Season Countdown: #19 Jon Runyan, Jr.

Jon Runyan, Jr.

Name: Jon Runyan, Jr.
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 304 lbs.
High school: Philadelphia (PA) St. Joseh’s
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #75
Last year: I ranked Runyan #31 and said he would be a part-time starter at right tackle and a backup left guard (LINK). He started one game at right tackle and played in nine games.
TTB Rating: 73

Runyan almost made a liar out of me, but he sneaked in a start at right tackle in the bowl game to make me look like Nostradamus. An athletic but slightly undersized Big Ten lineman, Runyan has been looked at as a stopgap at a few different positions. He has practiced at every position on the line at one point or another. He’s one of those players that hasn’t flashed greatness, but has shown consistency.

That will likely continue to be the theme going into 2018. Runyan isn’t huge and powerful, and he doesn’t generate a lot of movement when run blocking. He doesn’t have a ton of upside, but he’s a decent player entering his fourth year. The word filtering out of spring was that he would likely start at right tackle while Juwann Bushell-Beatty and James Hudson III battle it out on the left side; the loser of that battle will likely be a backup. New offensive line coach Ed Warinner must like Runyan pretty well. The other wild card could be freshman Jalen Mayfield, but starting a true freshman who didn’t enroll early is always a tricky proposition. I’m not expecting greatness from Runyan, but I think he can do a decent job this year.

Prediction: Starting right tackle