The Wolverine

April 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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44 THE WOLVERINE APRIL 2020 BY CHRIS BALAS M ichigan spring football has been canceled for the fore- seeable future due to coro- navirus concerns, but the season doesn't appear in jeopardy. We take a look ahead to fall and go in depth on some of the positives, some of the concerns and several of the more intriguing position battles to anticipate. TOP FIVE PLUSSES 1. The Receiving Corps: This crew got a boost when Nico Collins an- nounced he'd return for his senior season. He was the most talented of the trio that also included Tarik Black (transfer) and Donovan Peoples-Jones (NFL Draft), and by most accounts he was even the hardest worker and had the best attitude of the three. He could be in line for a monster senior season. Junior Ronnie Bell dropped a few balls last year, but he was the Wol- verines' best route runner and most explosive option after the catch. His work ethic and willingness to block had head coach Jim Harbaugh prais- ing "I'd take a team full of Ronnie Bells" last year, and he provides the perfect complement to Collins. The duo ranked one-two on the team in re- ceiving last year after they combined for 85 catches, which gained 1,487 yards (45.6 percent of the squad's re- ceiving yardage) and eight scores. Sophomores Giles Jackson, Mike Sainristil and Cornelius Johnson are all very good depth guys who have their strengths, and a three-man freshman class will provide some competition. "The leadership of Ronnie Bell and Nico is something that we're going to lean on heavily," offensive coordina- tor Josh Gattis told former U-M All- American Jon Jansen on his podcast this spring. "As the year went on, you saw the emergence of Giles Jackson, Mikey Sainristil, Cornelius Johnson. "We'll be a much better skill unit, even though we're younger. We've just got to be able to capitalize and make the plays that we need to make." 2. Starting Defensive Ends: 'Salt and Pepper ' is the nickname se- nior Kwity Paye and junior Aidan Hutchinson came up with as a defen- sive end duo, and opposing quarter- backs and ball carriers got plenty of dashes of both last year. Paye finished the season with 50 tackles, 12.5 stops for loss and 6.5 sacks, while Hutchin- son added 68, 10 and 4.5, respectively. Both earned All-Big Ten honors and shared the Richard Katcher Award as the team's best defensive linemen. They developed into leaders, as well, and should be one of the confer- ence's most formidable duos this year in coordinator Don Brown's defense. "It starts with your bookends at defensive end, Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye, and I really feel good about developing depth there," Brown said this spring. 3. Running Back Depth: The Wolverines return both players that started games in 2019 in sophomore Zach Charbonnet and redshirt soph- omore Hassan Haskins, and also add fifth-year senior Chris Evans, who was not with the team last season due to an academic issue. Early enrollee Blake Corum, a consensus four-star recruit from Baltimore St. Frances, will also push for playing time, while redshirt sophomore Christian Turner could also be in the mix. "I feel like we have great depth at running back," Gattis said. "We'll be able to make sure that our guys are competing at a high level. We have some guys back that have played, and we're adding some new pieces that have played here before in Chris LOOKING FORWARD The Strengths And Concerns Of Michigan Football In 2020 2020 FOOTBALL ANALYSIS.

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