December 19, 2012
Borton's Blog: Five on the rise
Hearing fifth-year senior captain Jordan Kovacs talk about younger players yesterday stirred a thought or two about 2013, and freshmen who have been seen very little, or not at all
but who certainly WILL BE in the spring and fall of 2013. Here's a quick list, and some honorable mentions that reveal what a strong class this is.
Keep in mind, the crew of 2012 already produced Michigan's kick returner in Dennis Norfleet, a backup nose tackle (likely headed for a starting job) in Ondre Pipkins, a contributing defensive lineman in Mario Ojemudia, significant linebacker trainees in Joe Bolden and James Ross III, in addition to depth chart makers in defensive end Keith Heitzman, cornerback Terry Richardson and safety Jarrod Wilson.
On the offensive side, freshmen Kyle Kalis, Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson made the offensive line depth chart, although none tore off the redshirt. Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams made an impact at tight end, and although no other true freshmen made the two-deep on offense, plenty trained to reach that level next year.
Freshman Amara Darboh saw action on special teams, adding to the long list of freshmen contributing or in position to do so.
Anyway, here's the roster of unseen or nearly unseen freshmen who are about to get hit the big stage in a big way
1. Ben Braden, OT - The huge (6-6, 308), long-armed mauler has done more than enough in practice to make his case for 2013. Some savvy onlookers think if Taylor Lewan leaves for the NFL, Braden might actually get first crack at left tackle.
2. Amara Darboh, WR - Darboh's circus catch in practice this week got plenty of folks stirred up, including junior quarterback Devin Gardner. The one-handed grab stood out among a number of significant plays for the rookie, who happens to perform at a spot of prime need for 2013.
3. Kyle Kalis, OL - The big bruiser (6-5, 294) out of Ohio needs to improve in some areas, like any young offensive lineman. But with the spots up front getting thrown wide open after the bowl game, Kalis will be moving in and bringing his suitcase.
4. Jarrod Wilson, S - Wilson has the notice of no less than Kovacs himself, and the freshman also played enough in spots to gain some confidence. Look for him to make a move in the spring.
5. Drake Johnson, RB - Michigan needs running backs - desperately. Johnson proved more than just a warm body down the stretch in the season, playing well enough in practice to get head coach Brady Hoke talking about him. The Wolverines are hoping for a major influx of talent there, but Johnson can keep himself in the discussion.
And yes, that does leave off freshmen such as defensive players Chris Wormley, Tom Strobel, Willie Henry and Royce Jenkins-Stone, as well as others who could battle their way into the lineup. They could easily move up this list come spring.
That's all good news for Michigan, which is about to reap the benefit of an exceptional 2012 class.
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