The Wolverine

April 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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16 THE WOLVERINE APRIL 2019   INSIDE MICHIGAN ATHLETICS Identifying A Starting Running Back Is Crucial By Brandon Brown With senior running back Chris Ev- ans not with the team heading into spring ball, the position battle in the backfield is wide open. Senior Tru Wilson is returning, but he's a former walk-on and should not be viewed as the leader in the club- house. Redshirt freshman Christian Turner showed flashes of promise last season, but he was injured for most of the year and played very sparingly. Turner's classmate Hassan Haskins wasn't a big-time recruit coming out of high school, but the staff loved him and recruited him aggressively. Once in Ann Arbor, he bounced around be- tween offense and defense last year, but he's going to have to remain a ball carrier now given the numbers. Finally, there's freshman Zach Char- bonnet who's already on campus as an early enrollee. The fan base would love for the 6-1, 222-pounder to be the savior out of the backfield, but that's a lot to ask a rookie. He was insanely productive at Oaks Christian in Westlake Village, Calif., but college football is a completely different animal. Jim Harbaugh loves to run the ball so he's going to need someone to carry the load. Is it Turner? Charbonnet? Can it be Wilson with some assistance from junior fullback Ben Mason? How much is the running back going to be asked to do under new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis? All of those questions need to be answered and if this spring plays out like previous springs under Harbaugh, we probably won't know much until next fall. Wolverines Need To Establish Cornerback Depth By Chris Balas There are cases to be made for several positions here. For one, who replaces Devin Bush Jr. at middle linebacker? His speed and talent to erase potential big plays with his side- line-to-sideline ability will be sorely missed. The Wolverines also need to find run stoppers on the interior de- fensive line, and there's no clear cut No. 1 running back. Replacing cornerback David Long, however, is the one that really sticks out. To do what defensive coordinator Don Brown wants to do — get after the quarterback and pressure the de- fensive backs by having them play 90 percent press man coverage — you need guys capable of … well, covering. Senior Lavert Hill is more than ca- pable in that respect, but it takes more than one, as we saw last year in Co- lumbus when Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins shredded the Michi- gan defense. Nickel Brandon Watson simply couldn't keep up, and the safe- ties were in a tough spot, too, given the OSU receivers' speed. It's time for junior Ambry Thomas to step up and secure his spot as a dependable cover corner. He's got the speed and the ability, but he's got to prove he's more than just a nickel back and that he's capable of translating his potential into results. He's one of the fastest guys on the team, and it's time to put that to good use. Keep in mind, however, that it will likely take more than two, so at least a pair of the many young guys on the roster are also going to have to step up to provide depth. POINT ❙ COUNTERPOINT WHICH POSITION BATTLE IS MOST IMPORTANT FOR MICHIGAN THIS SPRING? The Wolverines need junior Ambry Thomas to become a dependable cover corner this season. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN Michigan's men's basketball team came up just short of winning the Big Ten championship during the regular season. In U-M's five league losses, its offense struggled and scored an aver- age of only 63.0 points per game — just more than seven points worse than its season average. The Wolverines' offense was not as good as some of head coach John Beilein's best in Ann Arbor, but it still stacks up favorably. Michigan had its fourth-best adjusted offensive rating (115.2) since 2008, a metric that takes into ac- count how many points per 100 possessions a team scores. Where Michigan's offense did not match up is that it attempted the second-lowest percentage of threes (39.6) in the Beilein era. Here's a look inside the numbers: — Andrew Hussey Adj. Off. Effective Turnover 3FG 2FG 3FGA Year Rating FG Pct. Pct. Pct. Pct. Pct. 2019* 115.2 51.9 13.8 35.1 51.4 39.6 2018 114.7 53.9 14.0 35.2 54.7 43.2 2017 122.3 57.0 14.2 38.5 56.3 45.1 2016 114.6 54.5 14.5 38.0 52.6 44.3 2015 110.0 49.4 15.6 35.3 47.0 40.6 2014 123.9 55.7 14.8 40.2 52.7 40.1 2013 121.9 54.6 14.6 37.9 53.4 34.2 2012 114.3 53.4 17.5 35.1 54.0 44.2 2011 112.8 52.3 16.6 35.3 51.7 43.0 2010 107.4 47.5 16.3 29.7 49.8 43.3 2009 112.2 50.3 17.5 33.4 50.4 47.9 2008 104.4 45.8 19.8 31.2 45.2 40.7 * Regular season numbers only How Michigan's Offense Stacks Up

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