Position battles—in addition to the well-known competition under center—are beginning to emerge at Michigan football’s fall camp.
While there’s no resolution at quarterback, it’s also not entirely clear who he’ll be handing off to the most, either. The Wolverines have a stable of running backs but no obvious starter.
Plus, Michigan isn’t as settled up front as anticipated. The one vacant position on the offensive line is still not secured.
True freshmen are factoring into the competition at left tackle, but they’re also making an impact at several other positions—especially for backup or rotational roles.
Position Battle: Running Back
In March, head coach Jim Harbaugh said on The Michigan Insider (h/t Angelique S. Chengelis of the Detroit News) that De’Veon Smith was the “clear-cut starter” at running back.
The validity of the statement isn’t a question because it was merely spring practice, but the competition is open this fall. Drake Johnson, Ty Isaac and Kareem Walker lead the players chasing Smith for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.
“I feel confident and just excited to get out there and compete,” Isaac said, per Geoff Robinson of the Detroit News. “I don’t know anybody on this team that doesn’t go out there to compete and be the starter. That’s my goal. There’s a lot of depth in the room, but I want to win that starting spot.”
Smith is the two-time leading rusher, but his career-high mark is just 753 yards. The senior has topped 60 yards just six times in 28 appearances, so Smith isn’t locked in as the starter.
Michigan will once again rotate between a few backs—and sometimes use Jabrill Peppers—each week, but it’s not an equal split. Whoever wins the No. 1 spot will be the featured runner.
Position Battle: Left Tackle
Grant Newsome is the favorite to start at left tackle, but the coaching staff is experimenting with the offensive line.
According to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, right tackle Erik Magnuson said he and center Mason Cole are the only players who have consistently taken first-string reps at their position.
Magnuson added Juwann Bushell-Beatty “is looking really good” and had plenty of praise for Ben Bredeson—a 4-star prospect and the highest-ranked recruit from Wisconsin.
Per Chengelis, Magnuson said the freshman “had very good coaching in high school because his technique and fundamentals are spot-on. He knows football very well. Some guys understand the game better than others, and he’s one of those guys. It’s been very impressive watching him.”
The expectation of Newsome starting hasn’t changed, but don’t be surprised if both Bushell-Beatty and Bredeson earn regular snaps.
More Praise for Freshmen
Bredeson and No. 1 overall prospect Rashan Gary aren’t the only newcomers turning heads. The Wolverines might need to find touches for Chris Evans, a versatile 4-star athlete, according to the Michigan Insider’s Josh Henschke:
Evans can contribute at running back, receiver or as a returner, while 4-star lineman Michael Onwenu—who is listed at 6’3″ and 350 pounds—could play offensive or defensive line.
Harbaugh said “Onwenu is somebody, he’s one of my favorites,” per Nick Baumgardner of MLive. “He’s done a heck of a job.”
Although the secondary should boast a terrific starting unit, depth is a question. But Khaleke Hudson will be available, and the 3-star could solidify a second-string spot.
“He’s a great athlete, great kid, he’s smart, he’s going to be a good player, a really good player for us,” starting free safety Dymonte Thomas said, according to Snyder.
Taking hype as gospel can be dangerous, but Michigan is already seeing Harbaugh and Co.’s recruiting efforts pay off.
All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.
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Source: Bleacher Report-CFB News