Players to Watch: Michigan Wolverines
The much-anticipated Michigan rivalry game is upon us. As the students and alumni pack Beaver Stadium one last time this year in their blinding white attire, let’s examine one of the best teams in the country, the Michigan Wolverines. After hiring former NFL head coach Jim Harbaugh, the program has seen a dramatic turnaround. They’re on the verge of their first bowl appearance since 2013 and will be seeking their first win since a Sugar Bowl victory in 2012. Currently ranked by the College Football Playoffs Selection Committee as the 12th best team in the nation, the Wolverines present the Nittany Lions with their biggest challenge of the 2015 season.
No. 15 Jake Rudock, QB
The former Iowa Hawkeye is finding success in Jim Harbaugh’s offense. In his third season as a starting college quarterback, Rudock has gotten a wealth of experience in multiple offensive systems and has shown a massive amount of improvement since transferring this summer. After throwing for six touchdowns last week against the Hoosiers, Rudock is on pace to set personal bests in touchdowns, passing yards and quarterback rating. Despite a long, complex passing motion, Rudock can deliver bullet passes to his receivers and run the offense efficiently.
No. 4 De’Veon Smith, RB
Sophomore De’Veon Smith is Michigan’s leading rusher and number two in all-purpose yards this season. While he doesn’t get the extraordinary amount of carries in a game other backs do, he makes the most of it with a relentless running style and decent breakaway speed. While seldom used as a receiver, he can become a factor when needed and make big catch and run plays. He’s certainly someone the linebackers will need to keep a close eye on this Saturday.
No. 88 Jake Butt, TE
One of Michigan’s most reliable receivers, Jake Butt is the guy to throw to when you’re in need of a first down. He’s mostly known for his role in the short to intermediate receiving game with a knack of finding the soft spots in the defense and running both perfect hitch and out routes. He adjusts well to the ball and his soft hands can almost guarantee a first down. As a blocker, he’s strong enough to take on both defensive ends and linebackers, so you know he’s going to be out there blocking in the run game. No matter what kind of play you’re running, you know Jake Butt is going to be involved somehow.
No. 86 Jehu Chesson, WR
The Wolverine's top touchdown machine, senior Jehu Chesson is a threat the Nittany Lions will be focusing on all week. Chesson had a career high 10 catches and four touchdowns last week in Michigan’s win over Indiana. He’s an incredibly speedy receiver, working mostly in the slot and in triple option plays. His straight-line speed is incredibly tough to keep up with, so the defense will need to make sure they have their high safeties in position and keeping an eye on him.
No. 26 Jourdan Lewis, CB
I had never heard of Jourdan Lewis before I started scouting the Michigan defense, but I’ve been really impressed with his abilities. While his size isn’t ideal for the position, he makes up for it with great use of his hands. His hands are always up and are a disruption to the receiver, which explains his FBS leading 20 pass-deflections. Besides his great handwork, his closing speed and fluidity are superb. The junior will certainly be a name to watch for on draft boards in the near future.
George Stockburger is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.