The Wolverine

January 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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24 THE WOLVERINE JANUARY 2017 progressed — right tackle Erik Magnu- son earned unanimous first-team All- Big Ten honors in his final campaign, while junior center Mason Cole (play- ing the position for the first time in his career, sliding over from left tackle) and fifth-year seniors Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden were selected All-Big Ten second team on both ballots. True freshman Ben Bredeson even picked up honorable mention honors after solidifying the left guard position. That being said, this group still re- mained leaky at times. Missed assign- ments led to a game-changing safety at Iowa and a few missed opportunities in the Ohio State game. The Wolver- ines tied for 28th in sacks allowed with 1.5 per game, and when U-M needed tough yards in the fourth quarter — at Michigan State in a 32-23 win, at Iowa in a 14-13 loss and at Ohio State in a 30-27 double-overtime setback — they couldn't get them. Some of that falls on the backs, of course, but five yards in the fourth quarter against OSU should never happen, and that starts up front. A key and unnecessary facemask penalty, too, killed a big screen play late in the third quarter and led directly to seven more points for the Buckeyes. On a positive note, Michigan did average 5.0 yards per carry and 223.2 rushing yards per game, so the big guys were getting push up front on many occasions. They were just some- what inconsistent. They rallied when sophomore starter Grant Newsome went down, however, and proved to be a solid group. Best Player: RT Erik Magnuson Most Improved: LG/LT Ben Braden Who To Watch In 2017: OG Ben Bredeson and OG Mike Onwenu QUARTERBACK: B+ Reason For The Grade: Redshirt sophomore Wilton Speight was one of the biggest surprises at any position for the 2016 Wolverines, earning third- team All-Big Ten honors after complet- ing 183 of 293 passes for 2,375 yards with 17 touchdowns and six intercep- tions. Redshirt junior John O'Korn had been the favorite to win the starting job last spring, but Speight put in the work and became a more than serviceable option at the position. Speight's 145.6 pass efficiency rating in 11 games ranked 35th nationally. And though this wasn't necessarily a big-play offense — Speight aver- aged 12.98 yards per completion, good for 46th in the country — the chains moved pretty well on third down, at a 44.2 percent clip (tied for 34th). It wasn't all perfect, of course. Though he was injured in the Ohio State game and played through shoul- der pain, Speight still lost a fumble at the goal line and threw two criti- cal interceptions, including a pick-six (though his arm was hit on the throw). He also struggled at Iowa, completing only 11 of 26 throws for 103 yards with a pick on a pass that could have, and probably should have, been caught. Still, the overall product exceeded what anyone might have imagined heading into the season, especially since there was no real Plan B option in O'Korn or redshirt junior Shane Mor- ris. That provides hope for an even better showing in 2017. Best Player: Wilton Speight Most Improved: Wilton Speight Who To Watch In 2017: Brandon Peters WIDE RECEIVER: B- Reason For The Grade: Michigan missed sophomore Grant Perry after he was suspended for two games and then demoted for a bit, which became evident during his solid game at Ohio State. His four receptions for 49 yards against the Buckeyes were just over a quarter of his entire output for the sea- son (183 yards in 10 games). Fifth-year senior Amara Darboh became the go-to guy that fifth-year senior Jehu Chesson was last year, catching 52 passes for 826 yards and seven scores in earning second-team All-Big Ten honors. Darboh saved his best game for Michigan State in East Lansing, catch- ing eight passes for 165 yards in the best performance by a Michigan re- ceiver in the Harbaugh era. His show- ing was critical in helping U-M pull away. But the Wolverines never really had an extremely dependable second re- ceiver option outside of senior tight end Jake Butt. Chesson, last year 's team MVP, took a step back and caught 31 passes for 469 yards. Freshmen Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom caught nine passes between them. The Wolverines were not explosive in the passing game, comparatively speaking. They were 84th nationally in passing plays over 10 yards (96), 94th in completions of 50 yards or more (two) and dead last in plays of 60 yards or more (zero). Best Player: Amara Darboh Most Improved: Amara Darboh Who To Watch In 2017: Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom RUNNING BACK: B Reason For The Grade: Four differ- ent running backs averaged 4.9 yards per carry or better, led by true fresh- man Chris Evans' impressive 7.1 aver- age. Senior De'Veon Smith had some missed assignments in pass protection, Wideout Amara Darboh set single-season career highs with 826 receiving yards, 15.9 yards per catch and seven touchdowns in his fifth-year senior campaign. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN Fifth-year senior Kyle Kalis was named a second-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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