|Drake Johnson (#20) scored two touchdowns in Saturday's rivalry game against Ohio State|
Let's see less of this guy on offense next year . . . De'Veon Smith. Smith was essentially forced into action late in the year when Derrick Green went down with a broken collarbone. Smith was the starter essentially by default, and he responded with just one solid game (18 carries, 121 yards, 1 touchdown against Northwestern). Drake Johnson started against Ohio State and did well, and then Smith stepped in with 3 carries for 4 yards when Johnson got hurt. Smith is too slow to be a full-time back, and he doesn't break as many tackles as an ideal short-yardage back should. It's not Smith's fault that he got so much playing time, but Michigan can do better. Johnson passed him up late in the year, starter Derrick Green will return in 2015, and the Wolverines will also have the services of USC transfer Ty Isaac. Barring injuries or transfers, I think Smith should be no higher than #4 on the depth chart next year.
Let's see more of this guy on defense next year . . . Ben Gedeon. It will be interesting to see how the linebacker positions shake out next year. With a potential coaching change coming, the scheme may also change. However, Michigan should once again be deep at the linebacker position. The sophomore Gedeon would be a starter on some Big Ten teams, but he was stuck behind Butkus Award finalist Jake Ryan at middle linebacker. Next year weakside starter and #2 tackler on the team Joe Bolden will return, and former starting inside linebacker Desmond Morgan will come back from his shoulder injury that caused him to redshirt this year. Furthermore, part-time starter at strongside linebacker James Ross III will be back. It would almost be a shame for Gedeon to have to wait until his senior year to start, but that's a possibility with Bolden, Morgan, and Ross returning, all three of whom will be seniors in 2015.
Let's see more of this guy on defense next year . . . Jabrill Peppers. Peppers, the 5-star cornerback who took a medical redshirt, is needed in the secondary. Michigan should be solid at the very least with everyone but Raymon Taylor returning, but Peppers' playmaking potential is desperately needed. Michigan got just 2 interceptions from defensive backs this season, both of which came from sophomore Jourdan Lewis. Peppers could play safety, but his tackling ability is a good fit at slot corner, too; he or Blake Countess could start on the outside, with the other guy playing in the slot.
Play of the game . . . Devin Gardner's touchdown pass to Freddy Canteen. It was only a 3-yarder and Michigan's fate was essentially already sealed, but Gardner rolled right to find Canteen in the endzone near the sideline. Canteen - who showed flashes of promise in the spring but was quiet all season - made an excellent diving catch, getting a foot down before sliding out of bounds.
MVP of the game . . . Drake Johnson. I would like to pick Gardner (22/32, 233 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception), who made some nice plays as well. But Gardner also gift-wrapped two touchdowns for Ohio State. The first one was an interception on the opening drive, setting up OSU on Michigan's side of the field. The second was a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee. So I'll pick Johnson as the MVP. Johnson carried the ball 15 times for 74 yards (4.9 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns, and he threw a halfback pass to Gardner for 18 yards. When Johnson went down with what I'm guessing is an ACL injury late in the game, Michigan's running game suffered greatly.