Everything has changed for Michigan Football under Jim Harbaugh following Saturday’s 31-20 to archrival Ohio State. The defeat dropped the Wolverines to 0-3 under Harbaugh against the Buckeyes and in his post-game press conference it was apparent that the gloves are off for the Wolverines. There must be change in 2018 for Harbaugh to take his program to the next level.
Harbaugh wasn’t angry or fiery following the loss, but it appears he has redoubled his resolve to finally put his stamp one hundred percent on the program. Harbaugh didn’t defend his players in the presser, he called them out for their mistakes and served notice that more will be expected next season.
Michigan’s record must change against its rivals, dramatically, as soon as 2018 or the criticism of Harbaugh will only grow louder from those outside, and a few inside, the fan base. His job is among the safest in college football, but his mystique is starting to evaporate and the national media love taking shots at the Wolverines’ head man who has made himself a target with his high profile off-season behavior.
2018 is the year that Jim Harbaugh plans to take control of the program. All, but a couple of Brady Hoke’s players remain. Harbaugh will finally start a season with a quarterback he actually recruited.
Wilton Speight’s departure isn’t a small thing, he would have likely taken the starting QB competition to the wire and potentially won the job for the third consecutive season – that wouldn’t have been good for anybody. Speight had reached his ceiling. It was obvious. It’s time for Brandon Peters and Dylan McCaffrey to take center stage and lead the Harbaugh era Wolverines.
When Harbaugh took over the program it was strong on defense from a talent standpoint, but there was little to nothing left in the offensive cupboard. It showed. Michigan lost 11 players to the NFL draft in 2017, not one of them was an offensive lineman or a quarterback. That has to change.
Offensively, Michigan will be led by the redshirt sophomore Peters at quarterback who will be pushed by the redshirt freshman McCaffrey.
They will play behind an offensive line recruited entirely by Harbaugh. It’s a virtual lock that sophomore Cesar Ruiz will start at center after receiving work at guard this season when Michael Onwenu was injured. Onwenu and Ben Bredeson will return at the guard spots, however the tackle spots are up for grabs.
Left tackle Mason Cole is off to the NFL and right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty is still a work in progress on the right side. He’s strong as a run blocker, but a pass protection liability. Michigan is hoping, but cannot count on Grant Newsome returning to form following a catastrophic knee injury in 2016. If Newsome can go it would be a huge boost to an offensive line Michigan hopes jells in 2018 as a top Big Ten until.
Redshirt freshmen Chuck Filiaga, Andrew Stueber and Joel Honigford will push John Runyan Jr. and Nolan Ulizio for playing time at tackle. Harbaugh is counting on this group to deliver “man ball” in 2018 and just as it has in recent years, the offensive line development and the quarterback will be the key to the Wolverine’s success.
The other offensive positions have Harbaugh feeling good heading into the off-season. The team’s young wide receivers experienced great progress this season; a deep and talented group returns.
Tarik Black, who was injured in the third game of the season, returns along with stablemates Kekoa Crawford, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, Oliver Martin, Grant Perry and Edie McDoom. This group was praised by the coaching staff and gives Michigan faithful great optimism for next season.
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