The Wolverine

February 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 19 of 75

20 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2018 represents one more very big piece of a potentially dominating defensive puzzle in 2018. 5. RASHAN GARY Sophomore, DE A third sophomore in the top five, Gary provided leadership and feroc- ity beyond his years. He captured the Richard Katcher Award, given to Michigan's outstanding defensive lineman. He also pulled in first-team All-Big Ten laurels (coaches), while demonstrating that he'll be a force for the 2018 Wolverines. Among Gary's 67 tackles were six sacks and 12 stops for loss, along with a team-high seven quarterback hur- ries. He forced a fumble as well, and forced offensive coordinators to pay attention to him, creating opportunity for others at times. The former No. 1 prep player in the nation flexed his muscles in season two, with much more to come. 6. LAVERT HILL Sophomore, CB Hill helped turn the preseason "question mark" that many consid- ered Michigan's secondary into an ex- clamation point for most of the year. He became a second-team All-Big Ten choice (coaches), locking down one cornerback spot in an all-underclass- men defensive backfield. Hill tied for the team lead with two interceptions, while breaking up seven passes. He notched five tackles for loss among his 25 total stops. Most impor- tantly, he gave offensive coordinators something to think about long and hard when planning an attack against a secondary that led the nation in aver- age passing yards allowed per game (150.1). 7. DAVID LONG Sophomore, CB The other sophomore in Michigan's cornerback tandem, Long didn't come up short when it came time to step up as a first-year starter. He earned All- Big Ten honorable mention (media) via solid play all season long. The sophomore snagged a pair of interceptions, leading the team in pickoff return yards at 105. That's be- cause he raced back 80 yards with one in a win at Maryland. He also notched six pass breakups, half a sack and two stops for loss among 21 total tackles. 8. MASON COLE Fifth-Year Senior, LT The captain breaks the string of defensive dominance on the list, ty- ing former Wolverine Craig Roh for the most starts ever by a Wolverine (51). The second-team All-Big Ten performer (coaches and media) sur- passed Jon Jansen's record 50 starts by a Michigan offensive lineman, and Cole never missed a start in his career. The three-time All-Big Ten honoree four years ago became the first true freshman offensive lineman in Michi- gan history to start a season opener. He's been a fixture in the U-M lineup ever since, sacrificing his own posi- tional continuity in moving from left tackle as a rookie to center in 2016 and back to left tackle in his final year. 9. KARAN HIGDON Junior, RB Only six yards kept Higdon from becoming Michigan's first running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark since Fitzgerald Toussaint in 2011. Higdon still earned Michigan Offen- sive Player of the Year honors, assert- ing himself in his third season wearing the winged helmet. Higdon rushed for 994 yards on 164 carries, averaging 6.1 per try. He led the team in both rushing yards and totes, as well as rushing touchdowns (11). Higdon earned third-team All- Big Ten status (coaches and media) in his breakthrough campaign with the Wolverines. 10. MIKE MCCRAY Fifth-Year Senior, LB Michigan's other captain proved a solid leader for Michigan while gar- nering honorable mention All-Big Ten status (coaches and media) along the way. He shared the Robert P. Ufer Be- quest, presented to the player demon- strating the most enthusiasm and love for Michigan. McCray finished second on the team with 84 tackles and third with his 17 tackles for loss. He notched five sacks, five quarterback hurries, broke up a pass and forced a fumble. 11. TYREE KINNEL Junior, S Kinnel earned Michigan's Most Improved Defensive Player award in his first year as a starter. An honor- able mention All-Big Ten performer (coaches and media), he captured Big High Risers 1. David Long, So., CB — Long didn't appear in The Wolverine's pre- season top 25 last fall. He clawed his way clear up to No. 7 on the list fol- lowing the bowl game, furthering a charge of young defensive guns. 2. Laver t Hill, So., CB — Hill checked in at No. 24 in the preseason, but wound up on the cusp of the top handful, at No. 6. He and Long dem- onstrated the Wolverines should be strong at the corners for some time. 3. Karan Higdon, Jr., RB — Higdon also missed the preseason list, but rushed his way into the top 10 at No. 9. He barely missed a 1,000-yard cam- paign, with a year remaining in the winged helmet. 4. Sean McKeon, So., TE — McKeon also didn't make the initial list, but climbed to No. 13 with his efforts as Michigan's top receiver. 5. Zach Gentry, R-So., TE — Gentry is the other previously unranked tight end whose efforts put him in focus at No. 15 in the postseason, with an eye on a big 2018 campaign. — John Borton Sophomore cornerback David Long was the biggest riser on the top-25 list, going from unranked all the way to No. 7. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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