Michigan Football in Review; Harbaugh, Peppers, Lewis, Chesson, Butt

Jim Harbaugh lead Michigan in his first year as head coach [Stewart Mandel/Fox Sports]

Ann Arbor—-Led at the helm by head coach Jim Harbaugh, the Michigan Wolverines finished their regular season 14th in the country. Although the season didn’t end as planned, having had a devastating loss to Ohio State that finished off their chances for the playoffs, Michigan can still look forward to a bowl game on the first day of 2016 against the Florida Gators. Looking at the season as a whole, Michigan surpassed expectations in the first year under the Harbaugh era, as they made leaps and bounds from the level of play they were at with Brady Hoke leading the way. Under Hoke, Michigan only tallied up 5 wins, and had a concussion scandal that eventually led to Hokes departure from Ann Arbor. The Wolverines shocked the country as they finished the regular season at 9-3. Expectations are everything, and the Wolverines certainly surpassed them if you look at the season as a whole.

 

However, once the season started, and Michigan really solidified itself as a force to be reckoned with, the Wolverines weren’t simply going to be happy with being just ‘better than last year’. Michigan’s opening day game was in Utah to face the Utes, and it was a one score game in the end, but Ruddock appeared to be indecisive, lackluster, and careless for the ball, but that loss to start off the season for Michigan might have been the jumpstart that the Wolverines needed. Michigan had a new found fire burning underneath them and they rallied 5 wins in a row, setting up a highly anticipated game against in their in state rivals, The Michigan State Spartans. Coming into the game, the Wolverines had pitched 3 straight shutouts and their defense planned on slowing down star quarterback Connor Cook long enough for their own offense to scratch some points on the board, and that’s the way it went early on. Michigan’s offense and defense both did their job, and put their team in position to try and close out the game, but with only a couple ticks left on the clock, and Michigan needing to run a play, Harbaugh sent out the punting unit. Blake O’neill, a rugby style punter who came over from Australia was called on to do the punting duty, but a low snap and poor handling caused Michigan to fumble the football right into the hands of a Spartan who was able to take the ball to the house as the the clock hit triple zeros. This was a game Michigan should have been able to win, and it was a heartbreaker as fans were crying as they left the Big House. Michigan righted the boat for the next couple of weeks, but the mental toll on the players after the Michigan State game was just too much for them as they endured a blowout loss to Ohio State.

 

Even though the Wolverines won’t be able to achieve the goal of winning a national championship, they do have star players who will be able to return to help the team get back in their winning ways. Jabrill Peppers, a redshirt freshman, helped Michigan on all three phases of the game. Playing countless snaps throughout the game, Jabrill Peppers found himself as a finalist for the Paul Hornung which is given to the player who is the best two way player, or in Jabrill’s case, best three way player in the nation. Peppers was also named Big Ten Conference Thompson-Randel El Freshman of the Year. Peppers had a fantastic year and he will be looking to continue his dominance in all three phases of the game. Jabrill and his fellow defensive back, Jourdan Lewis were named to the All-Big Ten defensive first team, this duo helped fuel the back-to-back-to-back shutouts during their five game winning streak. Michigan will be looking forward to having this key piece of their defense back for another year.

 

Jake Butt and Jehu Chesson (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

On the offensive side, the Wolverines’ dominant tight end, Jake Butt, was named Big Ten Conference Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year. Butt helped the offense started clicking after they had a very slow start to the beginning of the season. Flanking Butt out wide is Jehu Chesson, who made fantastic catches throughout the year, and was someone Rudock could look to whenever he needed a big play. Butt has recently chosen to stay in Ann Arbor for another year, and Michigan is hoping that Chesson will come back for another year as well, and if that is so, then Michigan has a very experienced and talented receiving corps for the 2016 season.

 

As a whole, no one expected for the Michigan football program to have as quick of a turnaround that it did. With Harbaugh resurrecting the program, fans of Maize and Blue can expect a championship contending team for many years to come.

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