The Wolverine

January 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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sophomore Bryan Mone (foot) back from injury, creating an eight-man rotation that might necessitate a 4-3 defensive alignment, while the sec- ondary will return redshirt freshman wunderkind Jabrill Peppers, junior safeties Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas, and should have three play- ers vying to start opposite junior cor- nerback Jourdan Lewis. Most of the defense's best players return, with another year of experi- ence and the swagger to compete at the highest level. Playmakers Emerged: U-M could still use a dynamic player at the run- ning back position, but the emergence of redshirt junior Jehu Chesson at wide receiver — he averaged 16.9 yards per reception in November — gives Michigan that deep threat to make defenses take notice while classmate Amara Darboh is reliable and an occasional big-play threat, and junior Jake Butt is the best tight end in the Big Ten. With those three all returning to Ann Arbor, Michigan would boast, arguably, the best receiving trio in the country, providing its new quarter- back with plenty of weapons to score at a prolific rate next season. Schedule Looks Good, On Pa- per: Michigan has one of its weaker non-conference schedules in recent memory, with a September of Hawaii, Central Florida and Colorado that combined for a 7-31 record this fall. U-M has five Big Ten home games, with the conference moving to a nine- game schedule, and while the Wol- verines must play at Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State, they entertain Penn State and Wisconsin programs that are wondering if they made the wrong coaching hires in James Frank- lin and Paul Chryst. MSU also hemorrhages so many important parts, including quarter- back Connor Cook, center Jack Allen, left tackle Jack Conklin, wide receiv- ers Aaron Burbridge and Macgarrett Kings, defensive end Shilique Cal- houn and defensive tackle Lawrence Thomas. Mark Dantonio has built a tremen- dous program in East Lansing, but 2016 will likely be a rebuilding year for State. On paper, Michigan has three tough games, all on the road. If it can win one, it should go 10-2. Win two and it should have a chance to play for the Big Ten championship. Jim Harbaugh: In his second sea- son at the University of San Diego, Harbaugh improved the Torros' record by four wins. At Stanford, he lifted the Cardinal to 5-7 and laid the groundwork for a winning season in year three. At San Francisco, he guided the 49ers to the Super Bowl in year two. Harbaugh is better in his second season, and there is every reason to believe, with a full year of under- standing the challenges, the strengths and the weaknesses of his program, he will put Michigan in a position to succeed at a greater level. ❏ Associate Editor Michael Spath has been with The Wolverine since 2002. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Spath_Wolverine.

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