2018 Season Countdown: #20 Sean McKeon

Tag: 2018 season countdown

8Aug 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #20 Sean McKeon

Sean McKeon (image via Land of 10)

Name: Sean McKeon
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 251 lbs.
High school: Dudley (MA) Shepherd Hill
Position: Tight end
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #84
Last year: I ranked McKeon #52 and said he would be a backup tight end (LINK). He started ten games at tight end and made 31 catches for 301 yards and 3 touchdowns.
TTB Rating: 77

I underranked McKeon last season by a good bit. I thought then redshirt junior Ian Bunting would be the starter after Bunting filled in capably for Jake Butt in 2016. I still think Bunting would have been a fine starting tight end, but the coaching staff obviously liked McKeon, who led the team in receptions (31) and touchdown catches (3) while barely finishing #3 in receiving yards (he had 301; team leader Grant Perry had 307). McKeon proved to be a largely reliable tight end. Unfortunately, the coaching staff – particularly Jim Harbaugh – goofed in the Outback Bowl and called for a handoff to McKeon, who promptly fumbled it away; Harbaugh didn’t realize he didn’t have an actual fullback in the game. It wasn’t really McKeon’s fault, but it did leave a slightly bad taste in some fans’ mouths.

Going into the 2018 season, McKeon seems pretty well entrenched as a starting tight end, or at least a heavy contributor. Redshirt junior Zach Gentry should also play quite a bit, and while McKeon has more starts, I think Gentry is the guy who can help create big plays and stretch the field. You don’t find 6’8″ guys who can run like Gentry, but 6’5″ guys who play like McKeon are a little more common. I think I would be a little bit disappointed if McKeon leads the team in receptions again, because that would likely mean that Donovan Peoples-Jones and/or Tarik Black underachieved or got hurt. McKeon might match his numbers from 2017, but he should end up a little farther down on the stat sheet this season.

Prediction: Starting tight end; 25 catches for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns

7Aug 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #21 Aubrey Solomon

Aubrey Solomon (#5, image via Freep)

Name: Aubrey Solomon
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 287 lbs.
High school: Leesburg (GA) Lee County
Position: Nose tackle
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #5
Last year: I ranked Solomon #26 and said he would be a backup nose tackle (LINK). He made 18 tackles and 2 tackles for loss.
TTB Rating: 89

Solomon had a long, winding path to Ann Arbor leading up to the 2017 season. A lot of times, it seems like odd recruitments lead to delayed – or destroyed – success. But for whatever reason, I thought Solomon would succeed pretty immediately at Michigan. If you look at Michigan’s nose tackles in recent years – Bryan Mone, Maurice Hurst, Ryan Glasgow, etc. – Solomon was more successful in his first year than any of them. In fact, you have to go back to Mike Martin in 2008 to find a nose tackle with a better freshman season (20 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, 2 sacks). Martin had a very good college career before petering out in the NFL.

Solomon is expected to start here in 2018. He’s a bit of a wild card because he should see an uptick in grass time this season, even though he has just one season under his belt and we haven’t seen him make huge impacts on the game. I would like to rank the starting nose tackle higher, but Michigan has other options there – fifth year senior Bryan Mone, redshirt sophomore Michael Dwumfour, and redshirt freshman Donovan Jeter, to name a few. It would definitely be a blow to lose him, but I think Michigan could handle an injury or two on the defensive line.

Prediction: Starting nose tackle; 35 tackles, 2 sacks

6Aug 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #22 Michael Onwenu

Michael Onwenu (image via MLive)

Name: Michael Onwenu
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 350 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) Cass Tech
Position: Offensive guard
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #50
Last year: I ranked Onwenu #16 and said he would be the starting right guard (LINK). He started nine games at offensive guard.
TTB Rating: 78

Onwenu seemed like the heir apparent to Kyle Kalis at right guard after the 2016 season. He struggled mightily with his weight as a true freshman, and the hope was that he would be in better shape for 2017. Despite losing weight he still wasn’t in shape. He began the season as the starting right guard, but it was a position he would lose to freshman Cesar Ruiz later in the year. Onwenu got the start at left guard in the Outback Bowl, but that was because a bunch of linemen were injured or got sent home.

This year I guess Onwenu is going to start again, but center/guard Stephen Spanellis has been making a push to steal Onwenu’s spot. It would be a little disappointing to see the highly touted Onwenu get sent to the bench, because it would represent another apparent failure to develop a well regarded offensive lineman. Then again, may the best man win. Onwenu has had three years to get in shape, and one reason he hasn’t played as much as possible is that he still weighs upward of 350 lbs. At some point one would think it should kick in that something needs to change when it comes to diet or conditioning, but if that doesn’t happen, he could get passed permanently. The only senior lineman on the roster is tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty, and Onwenu isn’t going to bump out to tackle and replace Bushell-Beatty (if JBB even starts). This is almost a now-or-never situation for Onwenu.

Prediction: Starting right guard

5Aug 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #23 Juwann Bushell-Beatty

Juwann Bushell-Beatty (#76, image via Land of 10)

Name: Juwann Bushell-Beatty
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 311 lbs.
High school: Paramus (NJ) Catholic
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #76
Last year: I ranked Bushell-Beatty #39 and said he would be a backup offensive tackle (LINK). He started seven games at right tackle.
TTB Rating: 68

Bushell-Beatty looked like a backup going into 2017, and that was indeed the case to begin the year. Nolan Ulizio started the season at right tackle, and Mason Cole played on the left side. Ulizio struggled mightily, but Michigan stuck with him for the first five games before finally replacing him with Bushell-Beatty. Bushell-Beatty’s run blocking was solid, while his pass protection was subpar. For undisclosed reasons, he was also sent home from bowl preparations and missed the game against South Carolina.

For some reason he’s now lining up at left tackle, where it seems like a guy with poor pass pro skills would be a bad choice. One of the big position battles on the team all spring and going into the fall appears to be Bushell-Beatty vs. redshirt freshman James Hudson III. Hudson has a higher long-term ceiling, but he’s still adjusting to the offensive system after being recruited for defensive tackle. Bushell-Beatty has some versatility to play left tackle and right tackle, and he’s the most experienced guy on the line as the only fifth year senior.

Prediction: Starting left tackle

4Aug 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #24 Grant Perry

Grant Perry

Name: Grant Perry
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 195 lbs.
High school: Bloomfield Hills (MI) Brother Rice
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Senior
Jersey number: #88
Last year: I ranked Perry #42 and said he would be the starting slot receiver with 20 catches for 225 yards and 2 TDs (LINK). He caught 25 passes for 307 yards and 1 TD.
TTB Rating: 71

Perry had a very tumultuous off-season going into 2017 when he faced felony charges in East Lansing. I thought that incident would – and should – turn into a short suspension during the season, but there Perry was against Florida in the season opener. During a season in which the passing game struggled mightily, Perry ended up leading the position group in receptions and receiving yards with 25 and 307, respectively. His lone touchdown came against Cincinnati on a 33-yard reception on which Perry looked comparatively quick, but overall, it was a pretty uneventful season.

Some might think a leading receiver should be ranked higher than #24 in a countdown like this, but I think 2017 was a fluke. Perry isn’t a bad receiver, but he’s not the best pass catcher on the team. Sophomore Donovan Peoples-Jones should be better, and sophomore Tarik Black is back from a broken foot. The Wolverines also have a couple tight ends who could eat up a lot of targets, depending on how much new quarterback Shea Patterson wants to look at them. We know what Perry is at this point, and that’s an okay slot receiver in the Big Ten. I think Patterson will find him dependable and he’s a solid blocker.

Prediction: Starting slot receiver; 18 catches for 230 yards and 1 TD