2019 Season Countdown: #10 Joshua Uche

Tag: 2019 season countdown


21Aug 2019
Blog, homepage 12 comments

2019 Season Countdown: #10 Joshua Uche

Josh Uche (image via MGoBlue)

Name: Joshua Uche
Height:
6’2″
Weight:
250 lbs.
High school:
Miami (FL) Columbus
Position:
Linebacker
Class:
Redshirt junior
Jersey number:
#6
Last year:
I ranked Uche #40 and said he would be a backup linebacker and special teamer (LINK). He made 15 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, and 7 sacks.
TTB Rating:
82

I doubt anyone other than Uche’s family was as excited to see him blow up in 2018 as I was. When Uche came out of high school, I was excited about his ability to bend around the corner and rush the passer. Edge rushers are hard to come by, and someone with that natural ability should be valued. Uche was a bit player last year, but he still managed to lead the team in sacks – he made more (7.0) than 1st round pick Rashan Gary (3.5) and new Patriots standout Chase Winovich (5.0).

Perhaps best of all was the fact that he didn’t beat up on the patsies on the schedule. All 7 of his sacks came against solid teams like Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, and Northwestern. One sack against Northwestern was a huge play in a game that ended up tighter than it should have been.

It’s hard to say how much Uche will be utilized in 2019. He played less than a third of Michigan’s defensive snaps and was essentially a pass rush specialist, yet he still picked up 7 sacks in one season, which is the fifth best total in the last decade. Talk out of the spring and camp has been that Uche will be used in a variety of ways, but I don’t know that there’s too much mystery: Michigan is going to rush him off the edge as a defensive end, and they’ll blitz him from the second level. He should have a future as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL at some point, which doesn’t exactly mesh with how Michigan plays defense, but it’s nice to have at least one of those explosive edge rushers available.

Prediction: Backup SAM linebacker; 25 tackles, 6 sacks

20Aug 2019
Blog, homepage 9 comments

2019 Season Countdown: #11 Ambry Thomas

Ambry Thomas (image via MLive)

Name: Ambry Thomas
Height:
6’0″
Weight:
182 lbs.
High school:
Detroit (MI) King
Position:
Cornerback
Class:
Junior
Jersey number:
#1
Last year:
I ranked Thomas #29 and said he would be a nickel corner and special teamer (LINK). He made 9 tackles, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 pass breakup; he caught 2 passes for 5 yards; and he returned 19 kickoffs for 412 yards (21.7 yards/return) and 1 touchdown.
TTB Rating:
90

Thomas was a highly touted cornerback prospect who has not taken the path to excellence that many expected. Blocked by two very good corners in David Long and Lavert Hill, Thomas has spent much of the past couple seasons working on special teams or dabbling on offense. During the 2018 season, Brandon Watson had a lot of success as the third corner, too. Thomas showed flashes – such as a 99-yard kickoff return against Notre Dame in the opener – but they were somewhat rare. In the final three games of the season (Indiana, Ohio State, Florida), the only appearance on the stat sheet for Thomas came on 6 kickoff returns against Ohio State. (On a side note…that game included way too many kickoff returns.)

This was expected to be a breakout year with Long off to the NFL and Watson having graduated. Unfortunately, it has not worked out that way so far. Jim Harbaugh said Ambry Thomas was not on the 110-man roster to start August camp, and he is not practicing after dealing with colitis. He will likely be back, but when? And will he be physically capable of excelling when he does return?

Michigan has had good cornerback play since Jim Harbaugh and Mike Zordich arrived in Ann Arbor. This list was made prior to the announcement of Thomas’s afflicition, so the Wolverines will be down the #11 player right off the bat. Now the job will likely fall to Vincent Gray, a late 3-star offer from the class of 2018. Jaylen Kelly-Powell has moved from safety to corner to mitigate the loss of Thomas, but that takes the second cornerback spot from a somewhat unknown in Thomas to basically complete unknowns. Kelly-Powell and the other options (Gray, D.J. Turner II, Jalen Perry, and Gemon Green) have barely been on the field, if at all. Cornerback is probably the biggest question mark on the team.

Prediction: Starting cornerback by end of season; 15 tackles, 1 interception

19Aug 2019
Blog, homepage 2 comments

2019 Season Countdown: #12 Josh Metellus

Josh Metellus (image via MLive)

Name: Josh Metellus
Height:
6’0″
Weight:
218 lbs.
High school:
Pembroke Pines (FL) Flanagan
Position:
Safety
Class:
Senior
Jersey number:
#13
Last year:
I ranked Metellus #25 and said he would be the starting strong safety with 45 tackles and 1 sack (LINK). He made 48 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions (1 for a TD), and 6 pass breakups.
TTB Rating:
71

Metellus has been a very pleasant surprise in Ann Arbor over the past couple years. He was All-Big Ten Honorable Mention in 2017 as a sophomore, and it was nice to have a returning starter. He stepped up his game in 2018, making Second Team All-Big Ten to the coaches and media, along with First Team to the Associated Press. His huge 73-yard interception return for a touchdown on the final play of the first half against SMU gave Michigan some much-needed relief during a bit of a nail-biter that was 14-7 prior to the pick. His performances against Maryland and Wisconsin earned him the team’s defensive player of the week award, and he was named to Pro Football Focus’s Big Ten Team of the Week after Nebraska.

This year Metellus should be a huge piece of Michigan’s defense. I could make an argument to move him higher on the list, but I like the pieces Michigan is compiling at safety – including J’Marick Woods, Brad Hawkins, Daxton Hill, Quinten Johnson, and others. Metellus is the best of that bunch right now, but there’s both experience and talent behind him. Metellus can cover and support the run. I was skeptical when he came out of high school, but I’m a believer now. Metellus is among the top few true safeties Michigan has developed over the last twenty years, right up there with Ernest Shazor, Jarrod Wilson, and Jamar Adams.

Prediction: Starting safety; 55 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 interception

19Aug 2019
Blog, homepage 33 comments

2019 Season Countdown: #13 Carlo Kemp

Carlo Kemp (#2, image via MGoBlue)

Name: Carlo Kemp
Height:
6’3″
Weight:
286 lbs.
High school:
Boulder (CO) Fairview
Position:
Defensive tackle
Class:
Senior
Jersey number:
#2
Last year:
I ranked Kemp #37 and said he would be a backup strongside end and defensive tackle (LINK). He started twelve games, making 17 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 0.5 sacks.
TTB Rating:
84

From the perspective of pure playing time, Kemp made quite a leap in 2018. He went from a mediocre backup in 2017 to a part-time starter in 2018, and he went from being a backup defensive end to basically a full-time defensive tackle. It’s arguable how much of an impact he made, however. He finished the year with 17 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 0.5 sacks over twelve starts. On pace for roughly 1.5 tackles per game and 1 sack every 24 starts, not many offensive linemen lined up across from him are afraid going into their matchup.

The loss of three defensive tackles boosts Kemp’s importance, and by all accounts, he’s a standout leader. Some have suggested that he should be a captain, along with rumblings about Khaleke Hudson, Josh Metellus, and others. I have little doubt about his leadership; those traits were discussed during his recruitment. He grew up in a football family (he’s the nephew of Chuck Pagano and John Pagano, both long-time NFLers) and knows the commitment it takes to succeed at a high level in football.

Unfortunately, Kemp is lacking in a couple areas. One is explosion. The other is size. He’s expected to play nose tackle, a position normally reserved for 330+ pound behemoths. When not that, they’re lighter but lightning quick. Aside from his positive leadership qualities, Kemp is basically just a guy. He will occasionally slice into a backfield and make a play, but he would be ranked lower if Michigan could afford to lose defensive tackles and still chug along. As things stand right now, Kemp is a fairly important piece of the defensive puzzle, since the interior line starts to dissolve into freshmen rather quickly after the first three guys.

Prediction: Starting nose tackle; 25 tackles, 1.5 sacks

18Aug 2019
Blog, homepage 10 comments

2019 Season Countdown: #14 Khaleke Hudson

Khaleke Hudson

Name: Khaleke Hudson
Height:
6’0″
Weight:
220 lbs.
High school:
McKeesport (PA) McKeesport
Position:
Linebacker
Class:
Senior
Jersey number:
#7
Last year:
I ranked Hudson #2 and said he would be the starting Viper with 75 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, and 2 interceptions (LINK). He made 44 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 blocked punts.
TTB Rating:
80

I ranked Hudson at #2 overall last year, behind only Shea Patterson. We got a chance to see what the team looked like without Hudson when he was ejected from two games for targeting, a rule that Don Brown said affected his play for the remainder of the year. For better or worse in regard to Hudson, the defense as a whole didn’t miss a beat. The Wolverines plowed ahead with an elite defense until the whole thing went to s*** against Ohio State and then Florida.

The primary replacement at Viper last season was Jordan Glasgow, who still exists this year in the form of Viper/WILL Jordan Glasgow. There are some reports indicating that Glasgow is playing both positions, while others say Glasgow has made the full-time switch to WILL. Maybe the coaching staff is confident in redshirt freshman Michael Barrett to back up Hudson at Viper, or perhaps one of the other options, who are mostly true freshmen.

I expect a bit of a bounce back from Hudson. The Viper position has been much more productive, both in 2016 and 2017, and Hudson shouldn’t have to make any adjustments to his game. Maybe it was a one-year blip. Maybe it was just the fact that the Wolverines didn’t play Minnesota in 2018. Whatever the reason, Hudson should have a solid year in 2019. But if he goes down, the incredibly creative Don Brown could go with Barrett, Glasgow, more of SAM Josh Uche, a veteran safety (J’Marick Woods, Brad Hawkins), or a talented freshman (Daxton Hill, Quinten Johnson, Joey Velazquez). As perhaps the most recognizable position in Michigan’s defense, it will be very interesting to see who gets the snaps in 2019 when Hudson needs a breather.

Prediction: Starting Viper; 60 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 interception