So Let's Talk About the Offense

Looking ahead to what Michigan's offense will look like in 2017

Photo: Patrick Barron
Previously: So Let's Talk About the Defense

Like on defense, Michigan has some holes to fill offensively. Skill position-wise, key contributors De'Veon Smith, Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, Jake Butt and maybe most-notably Jabrill Peppers are all gone. We got a small preview of this year's offense during the Orange Bowl when both Peppers and Butt were out due to injury.

But if the spring game is any indication, young talent is ready to step up to have their shot in 2017.

The running game
The focus for Michigan this year, and stop me if you've heard this before, is going to be on the running game. Harbaugh offenses have always been run-first everywhere he's been, and at Michigan, things began to look up in 2016 averaging 212 yards rushing per game, up from 158 yards per game in Harbaugh's first year.

Coming back and leading the way will be sophomore Chris Evans who's 7 yards per carry last year led the team. Joining him and also likely to see plenty of carries this year are junior Karan Higdon and senior Ty Issac. I expect all 3 back to see action throughout the season with maybe one breaking out to have a banner season.

With the current experienced depth at RB, it's easy to look passed redshirt-freshman Kareem Walker. He could factor into this offense as well this fall.

The running game, the offense, heck the whole program will only go as far as the offensive line will take it. As 2016 played out, especially at the end, the OL really struggled to establish Michigan's ground game against teams like Iowa and Ohio State, which were both games in which Michigan had the lead in with under a minute to play. Had they been able to run the ball, and thus run out the clock, 2016 would've had a much different ending.

After the spring game, it seemed as if a logical depth chart could be pieced together, and from left to right it goes Cole, Bredeson, Kugler, Onwenu and Runyan. That doesn't mean anything other than that's how it looked in the spring game. Odds are things will get shaken up, expect Juwan Bushell-Beatty to possible battle for the RT spot. I'm hearing good things about center Cesar Ruiz and Stephen Spanellis who could backup guards or tackles.

The QB race
After Wilton Speight's injury-plagued end to 2016 and then a lack-luster spring game coupled with Harbaugh's comments at Big Ten Media Days, have given merit to the rumors and speculation that redshirt-freshman Brandon Peters just might overtake the returning starter for the job come September. Aside from the confirmation from Harbaugh that a QB race is very much happening this fall camp, there were "sources within the program" that say that Peters has had a very nice off-season. I can't say I heard the same about O'Korn until Harbaugh mentioned him this week.

Hard not to assume Speight will be the front runner to start against the Gators on September 2nd, especially given his starting experience, road experience, and stats from 2016 which ain't all that bad...204 of 331, 2538 yards, 18 TDs and 7 INTs and a passer rating of 139.76. Not banner numbers, and a slight drop off from Rudock the year prior, but not terrible either. The key for Speight will be growth from year 1 to year 2.

Does Peters have a higher ceiling than Speight? There's a real sense out there that he does, and that would be a factor in which will lead the Wolverines in 2017 and for years to come.

The good news for Michigan fans is that the QB spot is in good hands with Harbaugh who's overwhelmingly proven to be a quarterback guru. I think it's safe to assume that we've entered an era where every position is truly up for grabs every off-season. Harbaugh has been very out front about his love for competition, and nowhere is that true more than the QB spot.

IF Peters is the starter in 2017, it'll be because he beat Speight outright for the job...and if that happens, expect big things from the redshirt-freshman. I do not expect this to turn into a Henson-Brady situation where both will see the field equally until one separates themselves. Whoever starts against Florida will be the starter.

Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, we won't know anything for sure until September 2nd.

Talent galore
It's no secret that Michigan is replacing basically every starter who caught a football last year (they're not, but it feels that way). Seniors Butt, Darboh and Chesson all moved onto the NFL...and in their place will be a host of unproven but immensely talented youngsters. Kekoa Crawford, Tarik Black and five-star freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones will all see action right away. Hearing good things about incoming freshman Nico Collins.

In the slot, expect to see plenty of Eddie McDoom and Nate Johnson who are both battling for that position which should be tight race. The "depth chart" coming out of spring had Ian Bunting and Tyrone Wheatley Jr 1st and 2nd at the tight end spot respectfully, with newcomers Nick Eubanks and Sean McKeon wresting for the 3rd spot. We saw flashes of Jake Butt in Ian Bunting in the Orange Bowl...which was great to see for Michigan fans.

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