- Wilton Speight QB
The particulars: 6 feet 6, 243 pounds, junior.
The skinny: Harbaugh doesn’t return much on offense but Speight is his most important returning player. Speight has been in Harbaugh’s system for three year and will be a returning starter, he’s expected to take it to the next level and it will be necessary if Michigan is going to make any noise in the Big Ten.
“I’ve lost 20 pounds since the Florida State game,” Speight said. “I wanted to get better, I wanted to do better than last year. That was one of the things coach (Jim Harbaugh) thought I should do and that’s what I did. I wanted more speed. I wanted to be quicker. I wanted to be healthier.
“I just went through a four-hour practice and I feel like I could do another one right now. That was not the case at the end of last season.”
Look for Speight to take it to the next level.
- Mason Cole (OL)
The particulars: 6 feet 5, 305 pounds, senior.
The skinny: Cole returning for his junior season as huge for Michigan. He’s one of two returning offensive lineman and he is without a doubt the best of the bunch. He’s explosive, has a high football IQ and can play anywhere on the line. If Cesar Ruiz can hold down the center spot, Cole can slide over to tackle to solidify the spot left vacant by the catastrophic knew injury to Grant Newsome.
- Rashan Gary (DL)
The particulars: 6 feet 5, 287 pounds, sophomore.
The skinny: If Michigan’s defense is going to approach the success of last years squad will have to come from Gary. Last season he posted good numbers for a freshman (27 tackles, 5 for loss & a sack), this year he should take it to the next level and take some pressure off the rest of the rebuilt Michigan defense. Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison is impressed. “I keep going back to winter conditioning. It’s a small thing, but when you have a guy that’s 6-foot-5, 285 pounds that leads the sprints and leads the conditioning and leads it and does everything the way he’s supposed to do it, you’ve got something special happening. That’s what he’s shown.”
- Mike McCray (LB)
The particulars: 6 feet 4, 248 pounds, 5th year.
The skinny: McCray is the only returning player on Michigan’s defense and the most experienced linebacker on the team. After a breakout 2016, McCray, finally healthy expects to lead a young, athletic linebacker crew. While the position group lacks experience, it is deep in talent and the return of McCray will help this developing group.
- Chris Evans (RB)
The particulars: 5 feet 11, 212 pounds, sophomore.
The skinny: There is no doubt that Chris Evans is important to Michigan, they haven’t had a true feature back in a long time and no Michigan running back has rushed for over 1,000 since 2011. Michigan expects Evans to end the drought in 2017. He’s a big back with a lot of quickness and speed. Evans has added twelve pounds to his frame since the bowl loss to Florida State which should help grind out yards when Michigan needs them most, closing out games.
- Maurice Hurst (DL)
The particulars: 6feet 2, 282 pounds, 5th year.
The skinny: Michigan got lucky when Hurst announced his return for a 5th year, the DL was hit hard by graduation, so a returning starter was a hug boost for Michigan. Not only is Hurst experienced, he’s good and at times dominant. His numbers last season — 34 tackles, 11½ for loss, 4½ sacks were NFL caliber, expect Hurst and Gary to form an elite DT combo for Michigan in 2017
- Chase Winovich (DE)
The particulars: 6 feet 3, 255 pounds, senior.
The skinny: In the first extended playing time of his career, Winovich showed he was a potential star on the Michigan defense. Winovich will look to increase his 2016 production (35 tackles, 9.5 for loss & 5 sacks) with a breakout year at DE.
- David Long (CB)
The particulars: 5 feet 11, 187 pounds, sophomore.
The skinny: Michigan lost their two starting cornerbacks to the NFL in Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling and that leaves opportunities for some talented underclassmen to contribute in 2017. Long is one of the cornerbacks expected to the next great CB at Michigan. He turned heads in practice as a true freshman but nagging injuries kept him from getting meaningful playing time, that changes in 2017.
- Lavert Hill (CB)
The particulars: 5 feet 11, 168 pounds, sophomore.
The skinny: Hill is following the same path as sophomore David Long. He has impressed in practice and will now get his opportunity at a starting spot in Don Brown’s defense. Michigan has a young, athletic group in the defensive secondary but are counting on Hill and Long to lock down the cornerback spots and lead a young defense in 2017.
- Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (TE)
The particulars: 6 feet 6, 276 pounds, junior.
The skinny: The tight end position is uber important in Jim Harbaugh offense and the position group took a major hit in the offseason when budding star Devin Asiasi decided to transfer back home to UCLA. Enter Wheatley, the HUGE and athletic son of former Wolverine star Tyrone Wheatley. Wheatley will be relied upon to solidify a position that was set back with the transfer of Asiasi. Michigan thinks Wheatley is more than capable of filling Asiasi’s shoes and look for a breakout year from Wheatley, Jr.