The 5 incoming freshmen most likely to play for the Michigan football team next year
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Brady Hoke's first recruiting haul as the Michigan football team's head coach is shaping up to be one of the school's finest in its modern recruiting era.
It's drawn so much praise, in fact, that it's easy to forget most of the team's 23 verbal commitments won't see the field for at least a couple years -- especially at positions of strength, such as linebacker and running back. Still, there are a few freshmen who will be called upon next season, either because of circumstance or talent.
For five players, both apply, and it makes them the likeliest true freshmen to see the field in the fall. They are, in descending order:
It's rare for true freshmen to play regularly on the offensive line because of the physical superiority of veteran defensive linemen, and also the time it takes to digest the complicated blocking and protection schemes. However, one freshman might be asked to round out the rotation next year, with starters David Molk and Mark Huyge departing from a group of eight scholarship players.
If that's the case, Michigan would have several options from which to choose -- it has perhaps the country's No. 1 offensive line haul, and is a finalist for a couple more -- but Kalis would be the guy. The consensus five-star recruit has separated himself from his classmates in technique and physique (6-foot-5, 300 pounds), in part because of his pedigree. His father played the position in the NFL, and he's now working out with former NFL lineman LeCharles Bentley. Kalis can play tackle or guard, although if he were to play next season, it most likely would be at guard, the easier of the two to play.
If he's not needed for depth, the staff would jump at redshirting him. It's just, they might not have that luxury.
4. A.J. Williams, tight end
Williams is a three-star recruit, and it's possible he'll switch to offensive line at some point. But, tight end also is one of two positions that has been crushed by turnover (defensive line is the other), with both starter Kevin Koger and backup Steve Watson graduating. Brandon Moore (two career catches) is the top returner, and Ricardo Miller (no catches) also is on the roster, but neither has played a meaningful snap.
This is shaping up to be the Wolverines' thinnest position on offense. Even if Williams isn't used in the passing game, he could be used as a blocking tight end, especially in two-tight end sets. That also would provide insurance at the position, in case of injury.
3. Joe Bolden, linebacker
Bolden is walking into a position of great depth, with every linebacker from the two-deep expected to return next season. But, as one of Michigan's three early enrollees, Bolden should be well along in picking up the scheme by the time fall camp rolls around, and he already has flashed the kind of size (6-3, 225 pounds) and speed that could challenge for a spot in the rotation.
2. Amara Darboh, receiver
Michigan lost top receiver Junior Hemingway to graduation, and now projected starter Darryl Stonum has been kicked off the team due to his legal troubles. That means there is a void in the starting lineup alongside top returners Jeremy Gallon and Roy Roundtree, and especially for someone of size, as neither of those two is taller than 6-foot.
The spot likely will go to either little-used returners Jerald Robinson (6-1) or Jeremy Jackson (6-3), although Darboh (6-2) could join the fray with a strong fall camp. Even if he doesn't start, he could see the field right away as a reserve. Wideout Jehu Chesson joins Darboh in the incoming class, but Darboh is more polished.
Courtesy U.S. Army All-American Bowl
Pipkins is being called "college ready," and he might have to be, more than any other player in this class. Starting defensive tackles Mike Martin and Will Heininger have graduated, and top returner Will Campbell has yet to grow into an every-down player.
Pipkins is virtually guaranteed of playing right away and, in fact, could be tabbed as a starter out of the chute. His 6-foot-3, 320-pound frame gives him an edge most freshman don't have in physique, and he showcased elite speed during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
He also is one of the fastest-rising recruits in the country, going from Rivals' No. 246 player when he committed last summer to No. 14 in the service's latest ranking.
That makes him Michigan's top-ranked recruit -- and its most important heading into next season.