The Wolverine

January 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JANUARY 2017 THE WOLVERINE 25 but was still U-M's most dependable player there. He was also the leading rusher, going for 810 yards and averag- ing 4.9 yards per rush. He didn't have to shoulder the load alone. Evans added 565 yards, sopho- more Karan Higdon 422 (6.2 yards per carry) and redshirt junior Ty Isaac 417 (5.6). Isaac was instrumental in a 14-7 win over Wisconsin, picking up yard- age when others stalled, while Evans proved to be the home-run threat that had been lacking. Michigan finished a solid 27th na- tionally in running plays of 10 or more yards with 83 and was able to move the ball consistently on the ground. At fullback, redshirt junior Khalid Hill was almost an automatic yard when the Wolverines needed him on the dive play — he matched Smith's 10 rushing touchdowns and developed into a solid, not great, blocker. He also caught 14 passes for 105 yards and two scores. Redshirt junior Henry Poggi became a decent blocker at the posi- tion, while walk-on Bobby Henderson also had a few solid carries. Best Player: RB De'Veon Smith Most Improved: RB Karan Higdon Who To Watch In 2017: RB Chris Evans TIGHT END: B+ Reason For The Grade: Michigan's tight ends set a single-season record for receiving yards as a group last year with 853 yards (the previous high was 827 in 1969), but this group took a step back in 2016. Senior Jake Butt was still really good, catching 43 passes for 518 yards and four scores, but no other tight end caught more than two passes. The group hauled in 52 balls, down from 68 last season. What brings the grade up a bit is the blocking by the underclassmen. Redshirt freshman Tyrone Wheatley Jr. caught only two passes for 27 yards and a score, but was a monster in in the running game. Some believe he could be an NFL tackle if he moved positions. Additionally, true freshman Devin Asiasi is unbelievably strong for his age and might have been the Wol- verines' best blocker at the position. Butt, meanwhile, continued to struggle in that area and will need to get better there to excel at the next level. He also dropped a few balls this year, which is out of character for the Mackey Award winner for the nation's top tight end. Still, a solid season for the group col- lectively. Best Player: Jake Butt Most Improved: Tyrone Wheatley Jr. Who To Watch In 2017: Devin Asiasi SPECIAL TEAMS: A- Reason For The Grade: The good solidly outweighed the bad this year, and the Wolverines didn't miss for- mer coach John Baxter, who returned to USC in the offseason. Coaches Jay Harbaugh and Chris Partridge got a lot out of the teams, especially fifth-year senior kicker/punter Kenny Allen and redshirt sophomore return man Jabrill Peppers. Allen struggled against Colorado and Wisconsin, missing his only four kicks in the two games, and then didn't miss again all year. He finished 16 of 20, including a clutch 51-yarder in the fourth quarter at Iowa that should have been the game-winner and a criti- cal 37-yarder in overtime at Ohio State that also should have been the game- winner. His kicking didn't affect his punting or his kickoffs, either. He averaged 42.6 yards per punt, dropped 20 of them inside the 20 with only five touchbacks and racked up 45 touchbacks on 77 kickoffs. He earned All-Big Ten honors as both a punter (second team) and kicker (honorable mention). Peppers, meanwhile, averaged 14.8 yards per punt return despite having a long touchdown called back at Rut- gers and 26.0 yards on 10 kick returns, though teams mostly chose to kick away from him. Coverage teams could have been better. The Wolverines finished 56th in punt coverage (7.28 yards allowed per return) and 74th in kick cover- age (21.02). They ran into the punter three times for penalties, but they also ranked first in the country with four blocked punts and tipped a handful of others. Best Player: PR Jabrill Peppers Most Improved: PK Kenny Allen Who To Watch In 2017: New punter/kicker ❏ Michigan's All-Big Ten Honors Award Winners Jabrill Peppers: Defensive Player, Linebacker and Special Teams Player of the Year Jake Butt: Tight End of the Year Jourdan Lewis: Defensive Back of the Year First-team selections Unanimous: DL Taco Charlton, LB and return specialist Jabrill Peppers, DB Jourdan Lewis, TE Jake Butt and OL Erik Magnuson Coaches: DL Chris Wormley (second team by media) Second-team selections Unanimous: DL Ryan Glasgow, DB Channing Stribling, P Kenny Allen, WR Amara Darboh, C Mason Cole, OL Kyle Kalis and OL Ben Braden Coaches: DB Delano Hill (honorable mention by media) Media: LB Ben Gedeon (third team by coaches) Third-team selections Unanimous: QB Wilton Speight Honorable mentions Unanimous: K Kenny Allen, OL Ben Bredeson, LB Mike McCray, RB De'Veon Smith and DB Dymonte Thomas Media: WR Jehu Chesson Coaches: DL Matt Godin Fifth-year senior Kenny Allen was named a second-team All-Big Ten pick by the media and coaches as a punter, and he also earned unanimous All-Big Ten honor- able mention for his work at kicker. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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