The Wolverine

June-July 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JUNE/JULY 2020 THE WOLVERINE 7 BY AUSTIN FOX E SPN college football writer Adam Rittenberg took a look into the future of the sport this spring to try and determine which programs are set to have the game's top offenses, defenses and quarterback situations over the next three years, while also providing his overall top-25 power rankings. Michigan made the cut in all four of those categories. Rittenberg tabbed U-M with the game's No. 11 defense in the na- tion through the 2022 campaign, the No. 23 offense, the No. 24 quarter- back group and placed the Maize and Blue at No. 18 on his overall power rankings list. The Wolverines were one of 14 pro- grams that made an appearance in all four of Rittenberg's categories, with Alabama, Baylor, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State, Texas, Texas A&M and Wisconsin being the 13 others. U-M's defensive rank checked in third among Big Ten programs, be- hind No. 3 Ohio State and No. 10 Penn State. "Michigan's defense has been the team's best unit during coach Jim Harbaugh's tenure, but its general dominance has been overshadowed by struggles in big games against Ohio State and others," the analyst wrote. "Veteran coordinator Don Brown isn't going to ease off the gas, but his scheme brings both risks and rewards." Rittenberg emphasized the strong blend of youth and veteran presences Michigan will have on its defense in 2020, citing the likes of sophomore safety Daxton Hill and redshirt soph- omore linebacker Cameron McGrone as members of the former, and ju- nior defensive end Aidan Hutchin- son, fifth-year senior defensive tackle Carlo Kemp, senior defensive end Kwity Paye, senior cornerback Am- bry Thomas and redshirt junior line- backer Josh Ross making up the latter. The ESPN writer wasn't quite as high on U-M's offense as its defense moving forward, however, placing the unit at No. 23 on his list. That ranked fifth in the Big Ten, behind No. 2 Ohio State, No. 10 Penn State, No. 18 Min- nesota and No. 22 Wisconsin. "After a choppy start under new coordinator Josh Gattis, Michigan's offense showed some promise last fall," Rittenberg explained. He went on to note that former quarterback Shea Patterson "pro- duced well at times," but that "Mich- igan desperately needs an elite quar- terback to emerge." The analyst also said that U-M "projects well at running back" with the return of sophomore Zach Char- bonnet and redshirt sophomore Has- san Haskins, while adding that the club returns its top receivers in junior Ronnie Bell and senior Nico Collins. A quarterback unit that has seen its share of ups and downs under Har- baugh was placed at No. 24 nationally by Rittenberg, which again ranked fifth in the Big Ten behind No. 2 Ohio State, No. 12 Penn State, No. 17 Min- nesota and No. 22 Wisconsin. "A good-but-not-good-enough stretch under Jim Harbaugh under- scores Michigan's glaring need for an elite quarterback," Rittenberg wrote. "While Ohio State and Penn State are producing record-setting play- ers, Michigan is still searching for a superstar under center." He went on to compliment the up- side of both redshirt junior Dylan McCaffrey, who "brings a true dual threat to the backfield," and redshirt sophomore Joe Milton, noting that "some both within and outside the program peg him as the quarterback with the highest ceiling." He went on to say if neither is the answer, U-M could quickly turn to highly touted commit J.J. McCarthy, a consensus four-star recruit and Rivals' No. 33 overall prospect in the 2021 class. Rittenberg concluded the series with his overall future power rankings, in which U-M checked in at No. 18, be- hind fellow Big Ten squads No. 2 Ohio State, No. 10 Penn State and No. 13 Wisconsin. His justification was simple. "Until an elite QB emerges, Michi- gan likely won't sniff the top 10 of these rankings," Rittenberg wrote. ❑ Inside Michigan ATHLETICS ESPN Ranks Michigan Football Among Top 20 Nationally For Next Three Seasons Don Brown's defense was determined to be the strongest part of the Wolverines for the next three seasons by ESPN's future power rankings, checking in at No. 11 nationally. PHOTO BY BRANDON BROWN

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