Michigan linebacker Mike McCray speaks with members of the media during the Big Ten Media Days at McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Michigan reloads with young talent

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By Courtney Baumann

courtney-baumann@uiowa.edu

Michigan’s 2017 roster looks a lot like Ohio State’s did in 2016.

After losing 12 players to the 2016 NFL Draft, Ohio State was left with few returning starters and an abundance of young players who had rarely or never seen game time.

The Wolverines are in the same boat after 11 players moved on to start professional careers.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh isn’t worried, though, whether the six returning starters will do their job in leading the pack.

“They were there when we won nine-straight games and everybody was high-fiving in the locker room after the game,” Harbaugh said. “And they were also there when we lost three out of our last four games … They know what it feels like.

“They’ve seen that. And maybe that’s going to motivate them even more this year, give them more reason to put all their talent and pour their whole heart into everything that they’re doing.”

Linebacker Mike McCray is one of the few returning starters, the only one on defense.

After spending the last few years with the likes of Jabrill Peppers, Taco Carlton, and Chris Wormley, McCray will have to adjust to new talent beside him.

Of the 10 new starters listed on the depth chart, one is a senior, two are juniors, one is a sophomore, and six are freshmen.

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McCray, a senior, is not at all worried about who he will work with.

“I have no worries on our defense or our team to come out in the first game and come out with a win. We’ll do perfectly fine,” McCray said. “It helps, just having that experience, but if you can play, you can play.”

Among those returning on offense is quarterback Wilton Speight, who threw for 2,538 yards last season.

Speight started 11 of Michigan’s 13 games last season, but Harbaugh did not give much at Big Ten media days about his status as the 2017 starter, other than that he has “the advantage” heading into fall camp.

“Yes, so Wilton’s in a good spot. He comes in really tied for first with John O’Korn and Brandon Peters, legitimately, through competition, throughout all the spring, went through 15 practices and was a dead heat,” Harbaugh said. “Wilton really had some impressive moments … Mostly in a good spot.”

One of the surefire starters on the offensive line is Mason Cole. A senior, Cole has started 38-consecutive games.

Cole played center last year for Speight and knows exactly what the QB brings to the team.

Along with talent playing the game, Cole said, Speight has an incredible amount of game knowledge. The emotion Speight has during the game also is an extra pick-me-up for the offensive line, as well as the rest of the team.

“It’s hard to see, sitting in the stands, how intelligent he is. He studies the game inside and out and spends time on that in the off-season, really studying the game.

“Being a leader as the quarterback can be touchy, but one thing he does bring is emotion to the game,” Cole said. “When we score a touchdown and you see a quarterback react like he does, get excited like he does, that only adds so much excitement for the offensive line.”

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