Spring practice is in full swing for most schools in the Big Ten, and the first drafts of depth charts across the conference are starting to take shape. Some positions are well in hand, but others won’t be decided until the teams take the field in September. This week we’re taking a look at the most interesting position battles to watch in the coming month for each team. Next on our list is Michigan.
Quarterback: For the second year in a row, Michigan’s most important question to weigh this spring is about who will be taking snaps for the offense in September. Last season, graduate transfer Jake Rudock provided a more-than-adequate answer while leading the team to 10 wins. Now, his roommate and fellow St. Thomas Aquinas graduate John O'Korn is the front-runner for the job.
O’Korn was the American Athletic Conference’s freshman of the year in 2013 at Houston and sat out last season after transferring to Michigan. Senior Shane Morris is battling to take the job from him. Morris didn’t play in 2015, opting to use a redshirt. Many thought that indicated he was headed elsewhere to finish his career, but the strong-armed lefty decided to stay in Ann Arbor and fight for a chance to play. Early enrollee Brandon Peters has reportedly looked like a natural under center in his first few weeks on campus, but playing as a true freshman is probably a stretch.
Linebacker: Losing all three starters at the position from 2015 makes for an open competition to start the spring. Sophomore Jabrill Peppers moved from safety to strongside linebacker and will likely hold down that spot. Right now, seniors Mike McCray and Ben Gedeon are lining up beside him. They will have to fend off junior Noah Furbush and a handful of underclassmen, including highly touted early enrollee Devin Bush.
Running back: The starting job is senior De'Veon Smith’s to lose at this point. He ran the ball 180 times last season, more than triple the attempts of any other player on the roster. Though Smith is expected to be the feature back again in 2016, there are several runners capable of chipping into his totals. Former five-star recruit Ty Isaac says he has refocused on making the most of his career in Ann Arbor after falling out of the rotation last October. Senior Drake Johnson gives the Wolverines a different style of runner if he can make cuts at full speed now that he’s recovered from an ACL tear in late 2014. Early enrollees Kareem Walker, the top-ranked running back prospect in the country, and 225-pound Kingston Davis both said they don’t plan on patiently waiting for their opportunity, either.