2018 Season Countdown: #35 Noah Furbush

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24Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #35 Noah Furbush

Noah Furbush (#59, image via MGoBlue)

Name: Noah Furbush
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 238 lbs.
High school: Kenton (OH) Kenton
Position: Linebacker
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #59
Last year: I ranked Furbush #37 and said he would be a backup SAM/WDE and special teamer (LINK). He made 30 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 pass breakup, 2 fumble recoveries, and 1 interception returned for 27 yards.
TTB Rating: 64

In the year 2018, Furbush seems like a very odd player. Why? Because he’s still at Michigan. He’s a part-time starter, but due to Michigan’s defensive personnel choices, he’s limited in how many snaps he sees per game. It seems to me that a lot of fifth year seniors around the country would grad transfer if they were in his situation and try to go somewhere to be a full-time starter. Defensive coordinator Don Brown figured out last season that he could move Furbush around to a bunch of different places and use him as a weakside end on passing downs, stand him up to use him as a blitzer, or even drop him back into coverage. Realistically, Furbush might be Michigan’s most versatile player, but he rarely gets discussed because of the star power of Rashan Gary, Chase Winovich, Devin Bush, Jr., Khaleke Hudson, Lavert Hill, David Long, and others.

This year I expect more of the same from Furbush. He has developed into a very effective player and a key guy for Don Brown. Michigan lost weakside linebacker Mike McCray II to graduation, but Furbush has not been mentioned as potentially sliding over to WILL. He’s still a utility guy who will be deployed all over the field. It’s crazy that Michigan has three quasi-starter, fifth-year-seniors in Furbush, Brandon Watson, and Bryan Mone who will be coming off the bench but could start at Michigan, not to mention a bunch of other schools. There’s a glut of talent on the defensive side of the ball in Ann Arbor, and I expect Furbush to take another step forward this year. I could see him earning an NFL opportunity after this season, even though he’s not a full-time player for the Wolverines.

Prediction: Backup SAM, weakside end, special teamer

22Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #36 Stephen Spanellis

Stephen Spanellis (image via Michigan Daily)

Name: Stephen Spanellis
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 307 lbs.
High school: Baltimore (MD) Gilman
Position: Offensive guard/center
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #72
Last year: I ranked Spanellis #44 and said he would be a backup offensive guard (LINK). He played in 13 games at center, guard, tackle, and elsewhere.
TTB Rating: #63

I believe Spanellis qualifies as what Jim Harbaugh would call “an ascending player.” He redshirted in 2016 and became the team’s jack-of-all-trades extra lineman in 2017. Tom Strobel previously held that role as a tight end and extra lineman, and with Strobel moving on to Ohio, Spanellis found himself inhabiting that spot. He would occasionally wear #97 to line up in the backfield as an extra fullback in goal line packages, too. When Patrick Kugler got hurt in the Outback Bowl, Spanellis ended up taking over the center position while Cesar Ruiz started and played at guard.

In the great All or Nothing season released on Amazon Prime Video this off-season, the production documented the coaching staff taking a look at Spanellis snapping the ball and beginning that transition. Spanellis was a tackle in high school, but he was expected to be a guard in college. Going into this season, he could very well be the #2 center behind sophomore Ruiz. I expect incumbents Ben Bredeson and Michael Onwenu to reprise their roles as the starting guards, but Spanellis is reportedly in competition at right guard with Onwenu, and there’s a chance he wins it. Whether he wins the job or not, I expect him to be a regular contributor, either as a backup or as an extra player for jumbo packages.

Prediction: Backup guard/center

21Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #37 Carlo Kemp

Carlo Kemp (#2, image via Zimbio)

Name: Carlo Kemp
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 264 lbs.
High school: Boulder (CO) Fairview
Position: Defensive tackle
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #2
Last year: I ranked Kemp #19 and said he would be a backup strongside end (LINK). He made 3 tackles.
TTB Rating: 84

Kemp received a lot of hype going into the 2017 season. Practice reports were very positive, and he was looked at as a heavy rotation guy behind Rashan Gary. When the season came, the starting defensive ends played a ton (perhaps too much) and Kemp didn’t get on the field too much. When he did, he was just okay. As of his sophomore year, he was just a guy – not a bad player, but not a standout, either.

Now one has to wonder if he’s on a slightly faster path to Lawrence Marshall Land. When Kemp arrived a couple years ago, he was given a shot at inside linebacker. Then he was a weakside end. Then he was a strongside end. And now the talk is that he’ll play a fair amount of 3-tech defensive tackle (note: he’s reportedly closer to 280 lbs. now, but he’s still officially listed at 264). Kemp can play 5-tech or 3-tech, but he’s probably not any kind of option at weakside end. My overall excitement for Kemp has worn away a little bit, but the coaches still appear to be counting on him to play a decent-sized role.

Prediction: Backup strongside end and defensive tackle

20Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #38 Eddie McDoom

Eddie McDoom (image via Boston Herald)

Name: Eddie McDoom
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 181 lbs.
High school: Winter Garden (FL) West Orange
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #13
Last year: I ranked McDoom #38 and said he would be a backup receiver with 12 catches for 150 yards and 1 TD (LINK). He made 11 catches for 81 yards, ran 8 times for 43 yards, and made 2 tackles.
TTB Rating: 89

McDoom was expected to be a backup last year, and that was accurate. He put up modest stats working mostly from the slot. He and Donovan Peoples-Jones are the most jet-sweep-y guys on the team, so McDoom got some of those carries and did okay with them. So far his career-long carry is 33 yards, which came in 2016 against Michigan State, but 5.4 yards/carry last year wasn’t bad. The biggest disappointment is McDoom’s lack of contribution in the passing game. I was almost spot-on with my guess that he would get 12 catches (he got 11), but the yardage was way off. McDoom has speed and the ability to do things in open space, but Michigan hasn’t been able to get him there. On top of that – and maybe this is why he was limited to 11 catches – he had an egregious drop late in the game against MSU in 2017.

This year I think McDoom is one of the guys who could benefit most from the arrival of Shea Patterson at quarterback. Patterson can improvise, and McDoom is the type of speedy slot guy who can suddenly find himself wide open when the quarterback reverses field on a scramble. I also detailed the other day how an RPO could work with Patterson and McDoom (LINK). If McDoom can develop a rapport with Patterson, then McDoom could be a breakout player. He will have to hold off redshirt freshman Oliver Martin and fight with senior Grant Perry for snaps. He also can contribute in the return game. I know some people have begun to give up on McDoom, but I still think he can be an effective football player, given the right situation.

Prediction: Backup slot receiver, special teamer; 12 catches, 150 yards, 2 TD

19Jul 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #39 Ben VanSumeren

Ben VanSumeren (image via MLive)

Name: Ben VanSumeren
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 232 lbs.
High school: Essexville (MI) Garber
Position: Fullback
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: N/A
Last year: VanSumeren was a senior in high school (LINK). He was 11/25 passes for 249 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 INTs. He caught 85 passes for 1,259 yards and 13 TDs. He ran the ball 54 times for 387 yards and 6 touchdowns. And he made 43 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 1 sack.
TTB Rating: 78

That summary after “last year” is called filling up the stat sheet, my friends. VanSumeren did a little bit of everything for his high school team, and sometimes that’s what it looks like when you have a big-time football recruit playing at a small school. Talent gap aside, it’s amazing that he just touched the ball so much, especially when 85 of those touches came on receptions. It’s not too hard to get a running back 150+ touches a year, but when a guy is lining up at receiver most of the time, that’s impressive.

I kept holding off on VanSumeren when I was making this list. I thought about him in the 60s. Then I thought about him in the 50s. Still not high enough. Then I thought about him in the 40s. And I finally thought it appropriate to place him at #39. Michigan lost co-starting fullbacks Khalid Hill and Henry Poggi, leaving behind sophomore Ben Mason and position-switching fifth-year senior Jared Wangler, plus a few walk-ons. On top of that, Mason is coming off a knee issue and might take some snaps at linebacker. With as much as Hill and Poggi played over the past two seasons, I think Mason and VanSumeren will be those two guys this year. Michigan might go with a few less fullback sets due to having Shea Patterson at quarterback and wanting to spread the field, but I still think Jim Harbaugh and Pep Hamilton are going to stick to their roots.

Prediction: Backup fullback