Imagining What Michigan's Starting Lineup Will Look Like in 3 Years
Because you're in a lull after national signing day, anxiously waiting for the Michigan Wolverines to take the field and prove that 8-5 and 7-6 aren't the new norm.
Because you simply can't wait to see what the new prospects will be like three seasons from now.
Because you want to believe that Brady Hoke will have the maize and blue on the national stage and in Big Ten title contention.
That's why slideshows such as the following exist. Because you can't get enough Michigan football, and waiting until 2017 to talk about 2017 just isn't possible.
Recruit information via 247Sports unless otherwise noted
Depending on if he redshirts this fall, Wilton Speight could be a junior or senior in 2017.
By then, the former Richmond Collegiate (Va.) star should be settled into his role as the Wolverines' No. 1 quarterback. Of course, a player from the 2015 or 2016 class could end up with the job.
But let's assume that Speight is indeed the future and worthy of leading the offense three years from the end of the 2014 stretch.
At 6'6" and 220 pounds, he's college-ready today. Physical prowess isn't an issue. A couple of years behind Shane Morris is a definite possibility for Speight, who should be golden after learning from the lefty pro-styler.
In 2017, the days of the running quarterback will be a distant memory. And so will the days of force-fitting a guy behind center. Morris is a natural for the genuine pro offense.
So is Speight, who'll likely be the leader of Team 138.
As of Feb. 11, 2014, Michigan didn't have a wideout commitment in its 2015 or 2016 classes, making it a bit difficult to project a full roster of receivers.
However, there is a corner in the 2015 haul who could play both ways, and that's Shaun Crawford, a 4-star prospect out of Lakewood St. Edward (Ohio).
At 5'9" and 173 pounds today, Crawford could be near the 190-pound mark during his sophomore or junior year. And again, depending on redshirt status, he'll be either or come 2017.
Perhaps the second coming of Jeremy Gallon on offense, Crawford could very well be the Wolverines' No. 1 slot option three years from now.
Of course, he'll probably be a rock-solid corner as well, making him an invaluable two-way threat for Hoke.
Like his predecessor, Jabrill Peppers, who went No. 1 overall in the 2017 NFL draft, Crawford will be a favorite among coordinators and teammates due to his ability to impact games. And like Peppers, Crawford will help mold a new breed in Ann Arbor: the full-time two-way anchor.
A senior and two-time All-Big Ten mention, Drake Harris should be Speight's No. 1 man. Think Chad Henne to Mario Manningham...but better. Considering Henne and Manningham's chemistry, it's a stretch to think that a combination could top them.
But Speight could end up as one of the conference's top signal-callers, and when aired with all-conference types such as Harris, the sky is the limit. There is a lot to like about Michigan's future pass-and-catch game, and that's mostly due to Speight's potential.
In 2017, Maurice Ways should be a junior or senior, making him yet another candidate for future starter. At 6'4", he embodies the lengthy and athletic receivers Michigan loves to recruit. Seeing him as a strong contributor for Speight is easy.
The class of 2015 prospect is the prize of the Great Lakes State. An in-state tug-of-war should be expected, as Michigan State is also after Brian Cole.
At 6'2" and 190 pounds, the Saginaw Heritage superstar has the lean, sleek frame built for speed, speed and speed.
Bursting onto the scene as a dynamic frosh and then evolving into a post-Jabrill era weapon, Cole should be a legitimate star by the time the fall of 2017 arrives. The junior will already have had two years of playing time, as he skipped the bench and hit the field on Day 1.
Ian Bunting should be a junior who's readying to take over Jake Butt's role. That being said, it'll be an incredibly hard act to follow, as Butt just left as one of the top tight ends of the Hoke era.
Classified as an athlete (primarily RB and OLB), Osa Masina is one of Michigan's most versatile 2015 targets. That being said, once he signs with Hoke, Masina gets moved to tight end.
For one, the Wolverines don't need the 6'4", 218-pounder in the backfield. They're set in the department. A redshirt sophomore in 2017, Masina steps out at 240 pounds, touting a solid set of hands and firm grasp on the tight end position...
and then he and Bunting get to work on undersized defenders.
Run, Run, Run
By now, Derrick Green is gone, but not after spending four years at Michigan.
In 2015, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier gets a stable of running backs that lasts the Wolverines for two years: Michael Weber, a 4-star out of Detroit Cass Tech, and Jacques Patrick, a 4-star out of Orlando Timber Creek.
Both bruisers with adequate speed, Weber and Patrick continue the power-running trend reset by Green, who was among the top-rated backs of the 2013 class. After a few years of futility on the ground, the Wolverines top the Big Ten in rushing yards for the second straight season.
Weber and Patrick prove to be a 1,500-yard combo that can't be tamed by conventional Big Ten linebackers. In turn, teams load the box and dare the Wolverines to run, in which case they answer with deep strikes to Harris, Cole, Bunting, Crawford and Ways.
It's impossible to project every starter on the offensive line, let alone predict the majority of those at the top of the depth chart.
However, it's clear that the Wolverines signed a program left tackle in 2014, and that's Mason Cole of East Lake Tarpon Springs (Fla.), who, by 2017, is one of the Big Ten's elite linemen.
An All-American mentioned in the same breath as Taylor Lewan and Jake Long, Cole becomes another prime example of Hoke's recruits developing into stars, especially on the O-line.
Also an All-American senior, Juwann Bushell-Beatty of Paramus Catholic (N.J.) anchors the right tackle spot, giving Speight a pair of bookends to shield him from hungry Buckeyes and Spartans.
Seeing Bryan Mone as a star in 2017 is as easy as A, B, C, 1, 2, 3.
However, he didn't last that long in college. No, he gave up his senior season and entered the 2017 NFL draft, leaving Michigan as a three-year starter and two-time all-conference mention.
That being said, redshirt junior Brady Pallante, a former 3-star recruit out of Naples Barron Collier (Fla.), ends up as a 6'3," 285-pound Charlie Hustle for Hoke, who continually pats himself on the back for giving the would-be greyshirt a chance in 2014.
The lineup changes, but Pallante remains a constant.
His work ethic praised, Pallante's vigorous preparation becomes contagious. A leader on the field, the once-uncelebrated recruit becomes the heart and soul of the defensive line that boasts juniors Noah Furbush of Kenton High (Ohio) and Lawrence Marshall of Southfield High (Mich.).
Recruited in 2014 as a linebacker, Furbush quickly packs on pounds, adds strength and moves to defensive end; Marshall finds a home everywhere, playing a hybrid role of DE/DT/OLB, giving Greg Mattison an athletic centerpiece to feature each Saturday.
After seeing playing time as a true frosh, Michael Ferns could see a bump to starter in 2015, his sophomore year.
As a senior in 2017, Ferns could be playing for a spot in the NFL draft. His playmaking potential and nose for the ball are tickets to to the next level.
If he ends up as half of the player he's supposed to be, Michigan should have an All-Big Ten-caliber linebacker manning the middle of the field.
A junior by time this scenario unfolds, Justin Hilliard, a 5-star OLB out of Cincinnati St. Xavier, could also be among Hoke's handful of NFL hopefuls.
As of February 2014, 247Sports reported Hilliard's interest in/from Michigan as "warmer."
Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson, 2014 signees, went to Elkton Eastern Christian (Md.). Dele Harding, a 6'3," 218-pound OLB graduates from there in 2016.
See where is this going?
Harding doesn't have a rating as of now, but he'll probably be in the 4-star range. He has offers from USC and Tennessee, so it's safe to assume that other major players will enter the picture before NSD 2016.
But for the sake of this slideshow, let's say Hoke gets help from Canteen and Watson, who encourage Harding to go blue.
There. Now that the scenario has been explained, try to picture Harding with Hilliard and Ferns...it hurts just to think about the hits they'll make.
As mentioned earlier in the show, Crawford and Cole could be two-way threats.
That being said, we're left with two spots to fill in the secondary. So far, this hasn't been a full construction of a starting lineup, and that's due to the degree of speculation.
So far, other than Crawford and Cole, Tyree Kinnel, a 4-star DB out of Wayne High (Ohio), is the only prospect who sticks out as a potential No. 1.
As for the the fourth spot, well, let's leave that as "TBD." We're already stretching here, but it's logical to assume that most of the players mentioned in this slideshow could end up with Michigan. Hoke's success on the trails could easily result in that coming true.
And 247Sports indicates some sort of contact/interest between Michigan and each recruit listed. So there's that.
Have fun with this one! Don't be afraid to comment with suggestions for an ideal 2017 Wolverines starting lineup.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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