Catching up with the Michigan Wolverines a week from opener vs. Florida

A week from now, all questions will be answered — for the time being, at least.

No. 17 Florida will have some semblance of a quarterback depth chart as it takes the field in Arlington, Texas, for its Sept. 2 season opener with No. 11 Michigan.

And the Wolverines should have a roster by then.

In the meantime, get to know Florida’s first opponent through the stories the have emerged this preseason out of Ann Arbor, Mich.

The other QB competition

Michigan has also not announced a starting quarterback yet, but there seems to be a little more clarity for the Wolverines.

Wilton Speight was the team’s starting quarterback last season, and despite a lackluster finish to 2016 he looks to again be the guy under center as junior.

He completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 2,538 yards, 18 touchdowns and 7 interceptions last season.

Speight has been pushed by redshirt senior John O’Korn, but the reports coming out of Ann Arbor indicate he’ll hold on to the job.

The Detroit Free Press wrote that “Speight’s been the safest bet throughout this process and is still the popular pick to win this job.”

Rashan Gary hype

Michigan returns only one true starter on defense — that being linebacker Mike McCray — but they also bring back a player many expect to be one of the best in the country.

Sophomore defensive end Rashan Gary, who was the top-ranked recruit nationally in the Class of 2016, has been generating incredible hype this summer.

Stuck behind a star-studded defensive line last year, Gary is now in the spotlight and ready to deliver on his considerable potential. How good could he be?

According to the Detroit News, Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown said this of Gary: “Best I’ve ever seen combining speed, strength, change of direction and the mental curve. He’s unbelievable. The sky is the limit.”

Gary was named an AP second-team preseason All-American.

He’s not the only budding star on that defensive line, though. Redshirt senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst has been mentioned as a potential first-round NFL Draft pick after this season.

While Hurst was a rotation player along the line last year, Pro Football Focus ranked his “pass rush productivity” No. 1 among draft-eligible interior defensive linemen last year and his “run stop percentage” No. 6. The Detroit Free Press wrote: “He’s the most explosive player off the football on Michigan’s roster and he plays with better leverage than anyone else on the team.”

What about the secondary?

Michigan’s cornerbacks got called out by secondary coach Michael Zordich recently and the back of the Wolverines’ defense has much to prove with no career starts on its collective resume.

Michigan had the top pass defense in the country last year (just ahead of Florida), holding opponents to just 142.5 passing yards per game, but cornerbacks Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling and Jeremy Clark and safeties Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill are all now in NFL training camps.

Hill’s brother Lavert Hill is expected to take over as the team’s top cornerback.

Experience at running back

Michigan lost leading rusher De’Veon Smith, but sophomore Chris Evans, junior Karan Higdon and redshirt senior Ty Isaac are all back.

Evans rushed for 614 yards on an average of 7.0 per carry last season while Higdon rumbled for for 425 yards (5.9 per carry) and Isaac rushed for 417.

The Detroit Free Press expects Evans to be the lead back, but Higdon and Isaac all have substantial upside potential.

But who will catch passes?

The exodus of talent that left Michigan’s roster after last season hit the wide receiver group as hard as any.

The Detroit Free Press notes that the combined stats of every Wolverines returning receiver and tight end amounts to 35 catches for 408 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Michigan could be leaning heavily on its new freshmen receivers, including Donovan Peoples-Jones, the No. 1 ranked receiver in the Class of 2017 according to the 247Sports composite, and Tarik Black.

Even walk-on Nate Schoenle is pushing for playing time, according to Land of 10.

The Free Press wrote: “The competition at wide receiver will be one of the hottest-burning battles on the team for most of the season. And, simply put, U-M’s going to play a lot of guys here this season.”

Mind games

Finally, Land of 10’s Sean Keeler writes that Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh gets the edge of Florida’s Jim McElwain in the category of preseason mind games.

And to think, we get seven more days of buildup to this much-anticipated showdown.

The post Catching up with the Michigan Wolverines a week from opener vs. Florida appeared first on SEC Country.

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