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Before the season began, TheWolverine staff made predictions on several topics involving the 2018 campaign, including who the team’s leading rusher would be, the squad’s top receiver, etc.
Michigan’s top freshman was also a subject that was discussed, and we’ve decided to take a look back at the accuracy of our August predictions below.
What TheWolverine Staff Said in August:
Chris Balas: “There’s probably not an ‘impact freshman’ this year, so to speak, but there are some guys who are going to contribute. Offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield is already doing some running with the ones at right tackle, and he’ll see some game action … beyond four games, who knows?
“One guy we’re hearing plenty of in fall camp — wide receiver Ronnie Bell — is going to see time at a position in which there are already several outstanding players ahead of him. It says here, however, that Bell is going to have a few big plays this year that make people sit up and take notice. He’s a freak athlete, “jumps out of the stadium” per his teammates and is going to play.
“In that sense, he’ll be the freshman who makes the biggest impact.”
Brandon Brown: “Based on everything we’ve been hearing this fall, defensive end Aidan Hutchinson is poised for an all-star career at Michigan and it could start this fall. At 6-6, 268 pounds, Hutchinson already has college-ready size and is picking things up very quickly. Junior defensive lineman Rashan Gary has taken Hutchinson under his wing and expects big things from the freshman in the not-so-distant future.
“It’s been reported that Hutchinson is taking a lot of team-two reps behind Gary and that could mean he’s already in line for some spot duty as soon as the season kicks off. Hutchinson obviously has great size but he also has great genes as the son of former All-American Chris Hutchinson and he’s also inherited dad’s motor and work ethic. All of those things should add up to him finding his way onto the field early and potentially often in 2018.”
Austin Fox: “The obvious answer here is nobody, but for argument’s sake, we’ll go with running back Christian Turner. It would be ideal if a third runner emerged behind senior Karan Higdon and junior Chris Evans, and Turner will have every opportunity to do so.
“He will face stiff competition from the likes of sophomore O’maury Samuels, junior Tru Wilson, redshirt freshman Kurt Taylor and freshman Hassan Haskins, though, but is more than capable of coming out on top. Even if Turner does claim the No. 3 job, it’s unlikely he’ll be asked to carry the ball a whole lot — he just needs to be serviceable if/when Higdon and Evans need a break, or if one of them goes down with injury.
“It also wouldn’t be a complete shock if Turner makes little or no impact at all this season. The Wolverines simply don’t need any of their freshmen to play a key role this year … and that is a wonderful thing.”
The Final Verdict:
Balas and Brown were spot on with their picks of Bell and Hutchinson, respectively.
Only three freshmen played in all 12 games for Michigan this year, with Bell and Hutchinson being two of them and kicker Jake Moody being the third.
Every other freshman in the class redshirted — with perhaps the exception of fullback Ben VanSumeren, depending on whether or not he plays in the bowl game.
The trio of freshmen who saw extensive action this year didn’t just see time in blowouts, but played meaningful snaps in tight games.
Bell, for example, caught a 22-yard touchdown against Maryland right before halftime on Oct. 6 that turned a tight 10-7 game into a 17-7 affair heading into the break.
Hutchinson, meanwhile, made the biggest play of his career in the second quarter of the Sept. 22 blowout of Nebraska, when he tipped a pass that ricocheted back into the hands of Cornhusker freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez in his own end zone, resulting in an ‘illegal touching’ call on Martinez and two points for U-M.
Moody was obviously the surprise freshman of the group, as he was expected to sit behind redshirt sophomore Quinn Nordin on the kicking depth chart.
That was precisely the case up until the Nov. 17 showdown with Indiana, when Moody took over for an ill Nordin and made six field goals, and followed it up by making two more the next week against Ohio State.
It should be noted that Moody handled Michigan’s kickoffs all season long as well.
Outside of those aforementioned three, every other freshmen on the roster played in three games or fewer this season, meaning they can all play play in the bowl game and hold onto their redshirts (again, outside of VanSumeren, who is the only Wolverine freshman to currently be residing on the four-game threshold).
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