The Wolverine

April 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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APRIL 2019 THE WOLVERINE 33 cited about the opportunity we have to get explosive plays downfield. "As soon as you start doing that and you are a big-play threat — where you can go the distance on any given play — now all of a sudden, defenses have to respect that. They can't come after your quarterback with seven or eight guys, because they don't want to be in single coverage against all three of those players." Michigan's quarterback could take advantage in many ways. Patterson certainly proved capable through the air last year, throwing for 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns. Jansen stressed that Patterson earned trust throughout 2018, tossing only seven interceptions. He mentioned the #SpeedInSpace hashtag that comes along with Gattis and expects Patter- son will be turned loose to make it ring true. "I totally anticipate that," Jansen said. "When you look at what he was allowed to do last season, from the start against Notre Dame to the end of the year, there was so much more they allowed him to do. That comes with building trust at that position. "He was very responsible with the football. He did a great job with the snap count and communicating that to his offensive line. The protections were good, because the offensive line was playing better, but also because they understood what they were supposed to do on every single play. "That all starts from the confidence you have in the quarterback that's leading your team." Patterson — backed capably by red- shirt sophomore Dylan McCaffrey — comes in as Michigan's second-most productive returning rusher, due to at- trition. He carried 76 times and netted 273 yards with a pair of touchdowns, behind only former walk-on and se- nior tailback Tru Wilson's 364 yards and a TD on 62 tries. Wilson, redshirt freshman Christian Turner and early enrollee true fresh- man Zach Charbonnet will battle it out to replace 1,000-yard rusher Karan Higdon from 2018. "Tru Wilson isn't necessarily going to be your No. 1 guy, but he holds onto the ball, blocks in pass protection ex- tremely well and has earned the right to be on the field," Jansen said. "Chris- tian Turner, in the bowl game last year, we saw the speed he has. "If the field was only two inches wider, we'd be talking about how spe- cial of a play that was and what he can do." Turner 's long apparent TD bolt against Florida came back when a re- play showed he barely stepped out of bounds at the 40. "Zach Charbonnet is a guy who is 6-1, 225," Jansen said. "He looks like he could be a bell cow-type of runner. That's what we've got to find out: who is going to be No. 1?" Michigan's fullbacks and tight ends might be asking another question in a reportedly more spread-out, explosive offense. Namely, what about us? While Jansen takes a wait-and-see approach, he points to Alabama's Josh Jacobs as comparable to Michigan ju- nior fullback Ben Mason. Jacobs ran for 640 yards and 11 touchdowns on 120 carries last season, while he added another 247 yards and three scores on 20 catches. "He was in my estimation a full- back type of body," Jansen said of Jacobs. "He was extremely good at running the football. He was also a good blocker, a good pass blocker, they threw him the ball out of the backfield. Look for Mason to be used in a lot of the same ways. "We have one of the best fullbacks in the country in Ben Mason. He is still going to utilize him, maybe as a full- back, maybe as a running back, maybe as an H-back." Michigan's tight ends will certainly still be heard from as well, Jansen in- sisted. "The tight end position is never going to go away," Jansen offered. "When you've got guys like [redshirt junior] Nick Eubanks, like [senior] Sean McKeon, you've got some young guys with great size and ability like [redshirt freshman] Mustapha Mu- hammad, you're always going to need those guys to block. "But the unique thing about that po- sition is, when we get a chance to go four wides, or have those three receiv- ers out there but you also want to have a bigger body going across the middle, you can line them up in the slot. You can flex them out. You don't have to have them next to an offensive tackle." As an All-American tackle himself, Jansen remains excited about Michi- gan's offensive line resurgence under second-year assistant Ed Warinner. "Go all the way back to spring ball and look at the techniques they were working on," Jansen said. "You saw it better against Notre Dame, and then every week, they never got away from grinding away at their technique. "All of a sudden, at the end of the year, you've got an All-Big Ten player in [fifth-year senior] Jon Runyan Jr. [Senior] Ben Bredeson, who is playing next to him, I thought he played at an All-Big Ten level. [Junior] Cesar Ruiz did a great job of growing up in the course of a football season." Senior right guard Michael Onwenu provides a fourth returning starter, and redshirt freshman Jalen Mayfield ap- pears potentially ready to plug in at tackle, maybe even moving Runyan from left to right tackle. Regardless of the configuration, Jan- sen expects more progress. "Any time you can return four start- ers, and you get an influx of talent like we have in this recruiting class, you are looking at the development of a very solid and good offensive line," Jansen assured. "We're going to be talking about protecting the quarterback and opening up holes. I'm very confident this line is going to be good." He feels the same about Michigan's offense, period. Speed, space and a little old-fashioned Bama grit could provide a potent combination. ❑ Nico Collins led U-M with 632 receiving yards as a sophomore in 2018, and he ranked second in both catches (38) and touchdown grabs (six). PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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