The Wolverine

2020 Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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128 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2020 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY CLAYTON SAYFIE Michigan opens the season on the road once again, something that hasn't boded well for the Wolverines in recent times. The Maize and Blue have started two campaigns under head coach Jim Harbaugh with true road games, losing both contests (Utah in 2015 and Notre Dame in 2018). U-M is hop- ing to turn those fortunes around to begin the decade. With the 2020 season comes a new era for Washington football. Head coach Jimmy Lake was promoted from his post as defen- sive coordinator, replacing Chris Peterson. The latter stepped down from the position after compiling a 55-26 overall record in six seasons with a College Football Playoff (CFP) appearance in 2016. After an 8-5 campaign in 2019 that saw the Huskies lose four of their last seven reg- ular-season tilts, Lake is looking to return the program back to Pac-12 championship and CFP contention in his first year. That path will start on a national stage against the Wolverines with the college football world watching. An offense that averaged 32.0 points (41st nationally) and 391.2 yards per game (79th) last season is expected to have difficulties in 2020. Taking over the reins on that side of the ball is new coordinator John Donovon, a former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive as- sistant, who has his plate full in replacing significant production from a year ago. Jacob Eason bypassed his fifth-year senior season to enter the NFL Draft and Colson Yankoff transferred to UCLA, leaving the Huskies' QB room in a precarious situation. The favorite to start under center is redshirt freshman Jacob Sirmon, who has limited experience and has only completed two ca- reer passes on three attempts for a total of 19 yards. True freshman Ethan Garbers and redshirt freshman Dylan Morris are the other options. The Huskies also will be thin up front after losing three starting offensive linemen, including two-time first-team All-Pac-12 honorees Nick Harris and Trey Adams. They return just two starters in the trenches — fifth-year senior left guard Luke Watten- berg and redshirt junior right guard Jaxson Kirkland. The inexperienced Washington offense — which returns just four starters — is head- lined at the skill positions by junior wide receiver Terrell Bynum and redshirt sopho- more running back Richard Newton. Bynum racked up 31 receptions for 368 yards and two touchdowns a year ago, while Newton posted 498 yards and 10 touchdowns on 117 carries while splitting time in the backfield. The strength of Lake's club is the second- ary, one that is considered among the top groups in the country entering the season. Three Huskies return on the back end, with senior corner Elijah Molden, a projected future first-round NFL Draft pick, highlight- ing the group. The first-team All-Pac-12 per- former intercepted four passes and broke up 13 more throws in 2019, both of which led the team. Washington has the two highest-graded returning corners in the Pac-12, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), in Molden and sophomore Trent McDuffie, who was dubbed a second-team Freshman All-Amer- ican by the outlet last year. Redshirt junior outside linebacker Joe Tryon returns after compiling 41 total tack- les, 12.5 stops for loss and a team-high eight sacks. A stout front seven also includes fifth-year senior defensive tackle Levi On- wuzurike, who notched 45 total stops, six tackles for loss and two sacks last season en route to first-team All-Pac-12 honors. In a season where U-M is emphasizing getting more explosive plays, that won't come easy in game one. The Huskies gave up just 12 gains of 30 or more yards all of last season, which ranked No. 1 nationally. Leaning on a stellar defense will be the ticket in year one for Lake while he tries to return Washington to winning at a high level. Notes A trio of Huskies have been included in early 2021 mock drafts — senior cornerback Elijah Molden (first round), fifth-year senior defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike (second round) and redshirt junior outside linebacker Joe Tryon (first round) … Washington's de- fense ranked 35th in the country last season by giving up 348.6 yards per game. ❑ Huskies Begin New Era By Hosting Michigan 2020 SCHEDULE Date Opponent 2019 Result Sept. 5 Michigan — Sept. 12 Sacramento State — Sept. 19 Utah State — Oct. 3 at Oregon L, 35-31 Oct. 10 Oregon State W, 19-7 Oct. 17 at Utah L, 33-28 Oct. 23 Arizona W, 51-27 Oct. 31 at California L, 20-19 Nov. 7 Stanford L, 23-13 Nov. 14 at USC W, 28-14 Nov. 21 Colorado L, 20-14 Nov. 27 at Washington State W, 31-13 PLAYERS TO WATCH Offense: Richard Newton, R-So., RB The 6-0, 208-pounder appeared in 10 games last season … His 10 rushing scores were tied for the fifth most in the Pac-12 in 2019 … He added two recep- tions for 16 yards and a score … Also threw for a 13-yard touchdown on a trick play in the Las Vegas Bowl. Defense: Elijah Molden, Sr., CB His four interceptions last season were tied for the most in the Pac-12 and 17th nationally … His 13 passes broken up ranked 12th in the country and second in the conference … ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. (No. 13) and Todd McShay (No. 18) both listed him among their top 20 2021 NFL Draft prospects. Pro Football Focus listed fifth-year senior de- fensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike No. 18 on its list of the top 25 prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft. PHOTO BY SCOTT EKLUND/RED BOX PICTURES GAME 1 • WASHINGTON HUSKIES • SEPT. 5 QUICK FACTS All-Time Series: Michigan leads 7-5 First Meeting: U-M 50, Washington 0 (Sept. 26, 1953 in Ann Arbor, Mich.) Last Meeting: U-M 31, Washington 29 (Aug. 31, 2002 in Ann Arbor, Mich.) Head Coach: Jimmy Lake, 0-0 (1st year) 2019 In Review: 8-5, 4-5 Pac-12 North (T-2nd) Final 2019 Ranking: Unranked Returning Starters: 14 (4 offense, 7 defense, 3 spe - cialists) Last Bowl Appearance: 2019 (Las Vegas Bowl vs. Boise State, W 38-7) RETURNING LEADERS Passing: Jacob Sirmon (19 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT) Rushing: Richard Newton (498 yards, 10 TD) Receiving: Terrell Bynum (368 yards, 2 TD) Tackles: Elijah Molden (79) Sacks: Joe Tryon (8) Interceptions: Molden (4)

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