VOTE: Who is Michigan’s most valuable player in 2017?

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — As the 2017 season approaches, the Michigan football team has plenty of holes to fill.

The Wolverines are ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll, but lost 18 starters from its 2016 team. This year is a chance for players not just to shine but to make key contributions.

Michigan opens the season against Florida Sept. 2 at 3:30 p.m. ET in Arlington, Texas.

Here are Land of 10’s top three candidates to become Michigan’s most valuable player in 2017: quarterback Wilton Speight, defensive end Rashan Gary and running back Chris Evans

Wilton Speight, QB

The quarterback is the focal point of a football team, and Wilton Speight took on that role without a hitch in 2016. Speight threw for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns in 12 games, and he has put himself in position to earn the starting job again. Despite his subpar performance in Michigan’s spring game, he’s in contention to earn the starting position over John O’Korn for the second year in a row. Speight said he lost more than 20 pounds during the offseason and said he has improved in his ability to finesse in the pocket and to understand more components of the game.

Rashan Gary, DE

The summer hype train continues to chug along for Rashan Gary, who returns to Michigan’s defensive line with the expectations that he will be one of Michigan’s top overall players. Coaches quickly inserted Gary as part of Michigan’s two-deep roster as a freshman, and the 6-foot-5, 280-pound product of Paramus (N.J.) Catholic finished 2016 with 27 tackles, including 5 tackles for a loss of 17 yards, a sack and 7 quarterback hurries. Now a sophomore, Gary has improved his conditioning and has continued to streamline himself physically.

Chris Evans, RB

Chris Evans immediately emerged as a standout in his freshman season in 2016, running for 614 yards and 4 touchdowns, including 112 yards and 2 touchdowns in his first college game — a 63-3 win last September against Hawaii. Some projected him as Michigan’s first 1,000-yard back in five years, but Michigan rotated four productive running backs last season: Evans, De’Veon Smith, Karan Higdon and Ty Isaac.

Evans is Michigan’s leading returning rusher. If Michigan opts to utilize a No. 1 running back instead of a platoon system, Evans could reach the 1,000-yard rushing plateau this year.

Related: Vote: Who is Michigan’s unsung hero in 2017?

Vote: Who is Michigan’s most improved player in 2017?

The post VOTE: Who is Michigan’s most valuable player in 2017? appeared first on Land of 10.

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