The Wolverine

November 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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32 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2016 "There are a lot of great players out there, but this guy — to be able to coach a guy like Jabrill Peppers is a real joy," head coach Jim Harbaugh said, before adding "there's nothing he can't do," and noting his star looked to him like a Heisman Trophy winner. Through Oct. 21, Peppers was tied for seventh nationally with an average of 1.7 tackles for loss per game and had added 2.5 sacks. He had racked up a total of 38 stops, second on the team to Gedeon's 51, and an impressive six quarterback hurries, which leads the squad on the school-supplied statistics. He and his teammates in the back seven have enhanced a line that might be the best and deepest Michigan has ever boasted — and that's not hyper- bole. It has speed and strength up the middle; in short, it's been as dominant as hoped. Wormley is getting pressure on 15.1 percent of his pass rushes (11 hurries, four sacks and four QB hits), according to Pro Football Focus, while fifth-year senior tackle Ryan Glasgow (12.6 per- cent, eight hurries, two sacks and five QB hits), redshirt junior tackle Maurice Hurst (20.3, 12 hurries, two sacks and two QB hits), freshman end Rashan Gary (16.7, eight hurries, two sacks and five QB hits) and senior end Taco Charlton (17.1, eight hurries, four sacks and two QB hits) have provided strong compliments. It came to a head Oct. 8 at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights were manhandled up front and managed only two first downs, finishing 0 of 17 on third down. "We were playing on half the field all night. The guys up front — Chris Wormley, Ryan Glasgow, Taco Charl- ton — had a great game; Mo Hurst and eventually [freshman] Michael Onwenu, who was playing both ways on the offensive and defensive line," Harbaugh said. "The constant pres- sure …" The defensive front made life mis- erable for Rutgers the way it had for most opponents in the first half of the season. The Wolverines didn't even have all hands on deck for the first six games, either. Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Bryan Mone and Charlton both missed most of the first third of the season with injuries, but are approaching full strength at the season's midpoint. There appears to be no ceiling to how good this unit could be. OFFENSE REMAINS A QUESTION MARK TO SOME Despite huge scoring numbers on offense — the Wolverines ranked No. 2 nationally at 50.0 points per game after six contests — some remained uncon- vinced that the unit is good enough to compete with the big boys. Pro Foot- ball Focus was among them. "The big questions for Michigan re- main on the offensive side of the ball, where they've used a committee ap- proach to run the ball effectively, but the passing game may have issues against better competition unless quar- terback Wilton Speight improves," the website wrote. "It's the same story as last year where quarterback Jake Rudock had a rough first half, but he turned things around about halfway through the season." A similar turn for Speight could work wonders, PFF added, noting above average could be enough to complement a dominant defense. The Wolverines ranked 37th nation- ally in team passing efficiency at 145.38 through six games and had done a good job protecting the ball, throw- ing 12 touchdowns against only two interceptions. They'd lost only two fumbles, one by the redshirt sopho- more Speight and the other by senior running back De'Veon Smith. Michigan's passing yards per game (215.0) tied for 84th in the land, while the total offense checked in at No. 32 (470.0 yards per game) and the rush- ing offense was 15th (255.0 yards per game), skewed in part by a 481-yard performance at Rutgers. At the same time, the Wolverines ran for 130 against a very tough Wisconsin front, which was an accomplishment to be proud of, Harbaugh said. In a running back-by-committee approach this season — four backs have man- aged 250 yards or more, led by fresh- man Chris Evans's 400, and eight have rushed for a touchdown — redshirt junior Ty Isaac was the one who came After six games, freshman Chris Evans leads the Wolverines with 400 rushing yards, but it has been truly a team effort in piling up 1,530 yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN The U-M defense has several stars pro- jected to go high in next year's NFL Draft, but head coach Jim Harbaugh has made it a point to recognize one of its unsung heroes in senior cornerback Channing Stribling. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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