A brief recap of how 5-star Tulsa, Okla., safety Daxton Hill signed with Michigan football for the class of 2019.
Kirkland Crawford, Detroit Free Press
Signing day’s over, the college football season is coming to a close.
But this is Michigan.
There are always questions. Welcome back to the mailbag.
Q: Why do guys sit out bowl games to not risk injury but will play in the Senior Bowl or Shrine Game? Thoughts? — @greg_wally
A: This is clearly referring to senior running back, and Michigan captain, Karan Higdon. Higdon announced Thursday he would be skipping the Peach Bowl to prepare for this spring’s NFL Draft. He’s already accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl later this winter.
These are personal decisions, much like a player’s decision to turn pro early or finish their eligibility. I’m not going to judge someone’s decision here. But we can look at facts.
Higdon’s played in 39 college football games. Part of his value to NFL teams right now is the fact he hasn’t been over-used, as his 471 carries average out to about 12 per game for his career. He has a young daughter to take care of. And while his initial draft position is probably in the eye of the beholder, the best possible NFL showcase for him is both a trip to the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine.
Not the Peach Bowl.
This is a difficult thing for fans to digest and I’m not going to tell them how to feel either. The Peach Bowl is one more game of tape in a line of 39 others. The Senior Bowl is a full week of work in front of NFL scouts from every team, who will be able to evaluate every aspect of Higdon’s game up close while leaving no stone unturned. The Senior Bowl is not a blow-off event. It may be boring for fans, but for players it’s incredibly important.
Risking an injury before the biggest job interview of your life in a non-championship bowl game isn’t worth it for some. Rashan Gary and Devin Bush Jr. won’t get the Senior Bowl, but they will have the combine. And they’re both viewed as first-round picks. Higdon isn’t. Either way, again, this is a personal decision.
It’s the same personal decision Jake Butt made when he played in the Orange Bowl and tore his ACL in his final game as an unpaid college player. It’s the same personal decision Chase Winovich has made, as he intends to play for Michigan one final time.
Players are people. They’re not characters in a video game. Lives are complex and people have to do what they believe is in their best interest.
Just like hordes of college assistant coaches do every single December when the coaching carousel sends guys whizzing all over the country to different jobs basically minutes after the regular season ends.
It’s part of life.
Q: Which 3 star (Michigan recruit) do you like the most? — @BrandonPisarski
A: It’s a tie between wide receiver Mike Sainristil and offensive lineman Zach Carpenter.
Sainristil has been listed as a receiver for Michigan, which is important. He’s a quick-twitch athlete who has the ability to make plays in space and, like 4-star receiver Giles Jackson, he brings a level of explosion with regard to lateral speed that this roster doesn’t have.
These are possible game breakers. But Michigan has to show a willingness to use them properly. This hasn’t always been the case here. Speed can’t be gimmicked. It has to be turned into a functioning piece of the every-down offense. This passing game has to start attacking every area of the field. These guys can help.
Carpenter, meanwhile, is a polished interior lineman from Archbishop Moeller in Cincinnati. He comes from a great program. Michigan projects him as a future center. I thought he was severely underrated as a physically advanced lineman who plays with great leverage and technique.
He’s a great fit for Michigan.
Q: Can we all agree that the sky is not falling? Also i agree now is the time. Meyer’s grip is gone. Blood is in the water to switch the tide. — @andrewhth
A: The sky was never falling, it was just more of the same. Michigan didn’t beat Ohio State. Again. And the beat goes on. Again.
Michigan has itself back in the area Harbaugh’s teams were at during his first two years here: They’re a double-digit winner who is on the edge of the playoff looking in. If the playoff was expanded, Michigan would’ve been in this year. But it wasn’t. And the Wolverines aren’t.
Michigan’s recruiting reflected a productive year overall, as the Wolverines closed on just about everyone they wanted late. Zach Harrison, the 5-star defensive end from Ohio, ended up picking Ohio State. Things may have looked a bit different Wednesday for Ryan Day if Harrison had picked Michigan. But he didn’t.
Either way, Harbaugh has to win this game on the field. There’s no way around it. Michigan isn’t going to advance itself as a program until it either beats Ohio State or Ohio State crumbles. I don’t see the latter happening, even with a new coach.
So Michigan will have to rely on the former.
Q: Do you see any D lineman being able to step up with the loss of Aubrey (Solomon)? — @bboos11
A: Michigan’s thin at nose tackle right now, which creates plenty of opportunity for players like incoming freshmen Mazi Smith and Chris Hinton. Smith will enroll early at 6-foot-3, 303 pounds (at least that’s where he’s listed).
The Wolverines will likely need to get something out of at least one of those players this season. Michigan could also use a big jump from interior lineman Donovan Jeter, who moved inside and played sparingly as a redshirt freshman.
Carlo Kemp and Michael Dwumfour are Michigan’s best two interior tackles. Dwumfour is the more disruptive of the two. And while either can play nose, Dwumfour seems to make the most sense right now.
But you have to rotate through up front. You need at least four players who are trusted enough to give serious reps. Otherwise, things start to fall apart. Linebackers aren’t running free. Pockets are clean and man-to-man coverage gets seriously exposed.
True freshmen are rarely the answer inside, even as rotational players. But Michigan may not have a choice.
Contact Nick Baumgardner: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.