The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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180 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW 1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State: The Big Ten's two-time Offensive Player of the Year is back to claim the honor for a third straight season, and he probably will. A true dual-threat, Miller averaged 263 yards of offense per game in 2013, throwing for 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns while rushing for 1,068 yards and 12 scores. 2. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin: Gordon shared time with All-Big Ten back James White and still finished second in the conference with 1,609 yards, behind only Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah. He also notched 12 rushing touch- downs and averaged an impressive 7.8 yards per carry in a breakout campaign. 3. Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska: A projected top-five pick in the NFL Draft (by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.), Gregory notched 19 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks and 18 quarterback hurries in his first season out of junior college. The Big Ten hasn't had a top-10 pick in the last six drafts, but he's a good bet in 2015. 4. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska: The explo- sive, 5-9 standout ranked first in the Big Ten with 1,690 yards rushing, coming off a 2012 season in which he ranked fourth with 1,137 yards. He's an early favorite for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors and will have a good shot if he stays healthy. 5. Brandon Scherff, T, Iowa: A second-team All-Big Ten and All-America selection in 2013, the senior was a fixture on a line that finished first in the Big Ten in sacks allowed (15). He's been on an All-Big Ten team since he broke into the starting lineup in 2011. 6. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State: Last year's Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year and a second-team All-American, the former three- star recruit notched 14 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, leaving many to wonder what are they put- ting in the water in East Lansing to keep cranking out overachievers? 7. Kurtis Drummond, S, Michigan State: Drummond, a first-team All-Big Ten selection last year, returns to headline a secondary that ranked No. 3 nationally in passing yards allowed. He finished second on the team in total tackles (91) and picked off four passes in proving his all- around ability. 8. Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland: Diggs, a former Michigan recruiting target, played in only seven games last year due to injury, but still finished sec- ond on the team in both catches (34) and receiv- ing yards (587). He averaged an impressive 17.3 yards per catch and scored three touchdowns. 9. Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern: Mark led the Big Ten in all-purpose yards per game (166.6) in 2012, but played only one full game last year because of a preseason hamstring strain and an ankle injury suffered Oct. 12 at Wisconsin before taking a redshirt. The All-American punt returner (in 2012) is ahead of schedule in his rehab. 10. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State: Cook had to battle for the starting job early in 2013, but once he won the position he made the most of it. He led the Spartans to a 13-1 record, the Big Ten title and MSU's first Rose Bowl win since 1988 while throwing for 2,755 yards and 22 touchdowns against only six interceptions. 11. Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan: Funch- ess earned honors as the Big Ten's best tight end last year despite playing most of the season as a wideout. The junior could be a top-five player with better consistency — he caught 49 passes for 748 yards and six touchdowns, but also had several drops last year. 12. Noah Spence, DE, Ohio State: Spence notched eight sacks among his 52 stops last year, a team high, and also finished second with 14.5 tackles for loss. He'll sit out the first two games this year due to suspension. 13. Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State: Langford carried the ball a league-high 292 times for 1,422 yards and scored a Big Ten-best 18 touch- downs. He rushed for more than 100 yards in eight consecutive games, including a career-high 151 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Ne- braska Nov. 16, and was one of the league's most pleasant surprises. 14. Jake Ryan, LB, Michigan: Ryan is now com- pletely healed from an ACL tear he suffered in spring practice a year ago, one that slowed him in 2013, but now must prove he can make a seamless transition to middle linebacker from strongside linebacker. The Michigan defense will go as he goes. 15. Blake Countess, CB, Michigan: Countess earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the me- dia last year after picking off six passes, but he'll need to be more consistent making plays (though he's always around the ball). He could spend much of his time at nickel back. 16. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State: A Freshman All- American, the former Michigan target started as a true freshman last year and racked up 7.5 sacks in an impressive debut. He was the captain of's All-Big Ten freshman defensive team for 2013. 17. Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State: CBS Sports' No. 1 defensive tackle in its early 2015 mock NFL Draft, Bennett notched seven sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles last year. OSU boasts one of the top defensive lines in the nation, and he's part of the reason why. 18. Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan: The fifth- year senior signal-caller has all the tools, but he needs to cut down on the mistakes. He threw for 2,960 yards in his first year as a starter but also coughed up 11 interceptions. An improved line would help him immensely — he took a pound- ing last year. 19. Rob Havenstein, OT, Wisconsin: A two-year starter, the 330-pound right tackle helped pave the way for a pair of 1,400-yard rushers last year. He earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and is a favorite to grab first-team ac- colades this year blocking for All-America running back candidate Melvin Gordon. 20. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State: Last year's freshman phenom seemed to prog- ress each week. He finished the season with 2,955 yards passing and 20 touchdowns, and led the way to a stunning 31-24 win at Wisconsin in the season finale. 21. Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska: Bell didn't meet the hype last year, catching 52 passes for 557 yards after notching 863 passing yards in 2012, but he's capable. He's only 33 catches and 579 yards away from being the Cornhuskers' all-time leader in both categories and is also an outstanding blocker for his size. 23. Carl Davis, DT, Iowa: The Detroit native be- came a dependable run stopper and gap plugger for the Hawkeyes last year, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors from the league's coaches. The fifth-year senior recorded 42 tackles (11 solo) and four tackles for loss in his first year as a starter. 24. Jack Allen, C, Michigan State: The redshirt junior and 2012 Freshman All-American earned second-team All-Big Ten recognition from the media last year in paving the way for 1,400-yard rusher Jeremy Langford. He was also named to the Big Ten All-Bowl Team for his per- formance in a victory over No. 5 Stanford in the Rose Bowl. 25. Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB, Northwestern: Ariguzo is the Big Ten's leading returning tackler, having notched 106 stops in 2013, and he also led the Wildcats with four interceptions in 2013. Some believe he might be the conference's best at his position. Redshirt junior cornerback Blake Countess posted six interceptions in 2013, which leads all returning Big Ten players this fall. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN Top 25 Players In The Big Ten 178-181.Big Ten Preview.indd 180 6/19/14 3:13 PM

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