The Wolverine

February 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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FEBRUARY 2018 THE WOLVERINE 29 game. He'll star in Detroit right away." Sporting News' Eric Galko projected Hurst as the No. 17 pick, going to the Los Angeles Chargers, which he said are loaded with talent but "depth on their defensive line is the missing piece." Pro Football Focus graded Hurst as the nation's top player in college foot- ball this past season and is the highest on him, projecting him to come off the board at No. 3 overall to the Colts. "The Colts can go a number of ways with this pick, but adding difference- makers on the defensive side must be an offseason priority," PFF noted Jan. 18. "Hurst fits the bill as an interior disruptor as he finished 2017 with the top grade at any position at 96.8 [out of 100]. He notched 14 sacks, 29 QB hits, and 70 hurries on 782 career rushes and he can create havoc in the run game as he ranked second in the nation with his run-defense grade of 94.2." Cole has been playing out of position at left tackle with the exception of one year (2016) at center, a season in which he excelled in earning second-team All- Big Ten honors. He is projected as a guard or center in the NFL and is con- sidered a third- or fourth-round pick. Cole tied a school record with 51 starts and is analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s No. 5 prospect at center after earning unanimous second-team All- Big Ten honors in his final season while playing left tackle. He flirted with the NFL last year, but insisted he had no regrets in coming back — even after a disappointing 8-5 season. "In the end, you've got to do what's best for you," Cole said. "For you as a player, for your family, whatever it might be … do what's best for you. "For me, it was to come back. I don't regret it one bit. If I could say that to anyone, I'd recommend coming back and getting your degree. …. It's im- portant."'s Charlie Camp- bell, a respected draft analyst, sees Cole going anywhere from the third to fifth round, but he reported Jan. 6 there were some potential concerns about Cole's size. "Cole is a solid player, but he doesn't have a special trait, such as being very strong or particularly athletic," he wrote. "Some sources have said that Cole isn't as tall as his listed numbers and that they see some limitations to him for the NFL." A HANDFUL OF HOPEFULS Though Hurst and Cole are the only Wolverines almost assured to get drafted — a far cry from the record 11 that went in seven rounds a year ago — there are a few others who could get selected, and one is a pretty good bet. has linebacker Mike McCray as a projected third- to fifth-round pick, and though some be- lieve his speed will limit him at the next level, nearly everyone cites his feel for the game as a reason an NFL team will take a look at him. McCray said in December he was excited for the Outback Bowl, but look- ing forward to his next chapter. He's recently engaged and ready to make a living after piling up 84 tackles, includ- ing 17 for loss and five sacks, in his final year of U-M eligibility. "Life actually begins," he said. "I'll be on my own, basically, and that will really be the moment I start my life and chasing my dreams." ESPN's Kiper ranked Hurst the No. 23 overall prospect in the draft and No. 3 defensive tackle, while he listed Hill the No. 5 fullback/H-back and McCray the No. 9 inside linebacker. McCray said he, fullback Khalid Hill and others would likely work out at the EXOS training center in San Diego in preparation for NFL tryouts. "We had a lot of guys go out to San Diego last year, eight or nine," McCray said. "You do a lot of research, call to see to weigh your options. You check on guys you'll be working out with, how many people they have, trainers, position groups who you're going to work with, results they had in the past … things like that. "For me, I feel like EXOS is probably best overall, from a training and nutri- tion standpoint to get my body right." McCray ended the regular season with one of his best games, notching 11 tackles in a loss to Ohio State, and he played well in the Outback Bowl before getting banged up and leaving the game late. "Coach [Don] Brown told me it was the best game I ever played here at Michigan," McCray said of his perfor- mance versus the Buckeyes. "[It was] just one of those games; I just felt good playing my hardest, playing my heart out. … I just wanted to go out with a bang a little bit. "We just didn't come out with the win." McCray accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, the annual North-South game played at Ladd- Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. Cole and Hurst also accepted invites to the game, established in 1950 as a show- case for seniors preparing to enter the NFL Draft. The game precedes the NFL's scouting combine, scheduled for Feb. 27 to March 5 in Indianapolis, in which McCray, Hurst and Cole are all expected to participate. Hill, meanwhile, also flirted with the NFL last season before deciding to re- turn for a fifth year. Many project he'll be an undrafted free agent, although's Campbell be- lieves he could get drafted late. "Hill recorded 17 carries for 34 yards and three touchdowns in 2017," he wrote. "He blocked well for Michi- gan, plus he had five receptions for 62 yards." Center Pat Kugler, running back Ty Isaac and fullback Henry Poggi are among the others who could get a look as free agents. Kugler and Isaac both struggled with injuries late in the year — Kugler was replaced in the Outback Bowl because of one, Harbaugh noted, and Isaac didn't play — while Poggi has shown toughness as a lead blocker and will try to make a squad. There won't be nearly as many U-M rookies in NFL camps this summer as there were last year, but the ones there will try to do their part to add to Michi- gan's impressive NFL contingent. ❏ Cole is viewed as a third- to fifth-round pick by's Charlie Campbell. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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