Make no mistake, the Michigan hype train is out of control. At one point in the offseason, the Wolverines had received more attention in the national championship betting market than any other team (Alabama included) and Jim Harbaugh's group poured into that hype with a new partnership with Nike and Jordan Brand.
However, many pundits have turned skeptical on this particular squad, pointing out various flaws (highlighted by uncertainty at quarterback) and indicating that Michigan is overvalued. Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus put together a list of the 10 college football teams returning the most talent from 2015, though, and the placement of the Wolverines could provide some justification for their top-10 preseason status.
Michigan comes in at No. 3 overall (behind only Alabama and LSU) and here is what Palazzolo had to say about the defense:
For those following PFF all spring and summer, it's no surprise to see Michigan on the list. They have the nation's best defensive line which include four players who played at least 330 snaps and graded at 83.0 or higher (DT Maurice Hurst, DT Ryan Glasgow, DT Chris Wormley, DE Taco Charlton). Jabrill Peppers is slotted to play more linebacker this year after posting a strong 85.5 grade as a safety/slot hybrid a year ago and let's not forget CB Jourdan Lewis whose 89.1 grade is the best of all returning cornerbacks.
The returning talent, especially along the defensive line, is no secret on the defensive side of the ball. Even beyond the group up front, Peppers and Lewis are legitimate All-Americans and Michigan's secondary received a ton of praise a year ago.
Still, it isn't only the defense that returns a ton of talent, and Palazzolo explains that about the offensive group:
While the defense is the clear strength of the team, the offense has strong skill position players in WR Jehu Chesson (78.4) and one of the nation's top receiving tight ends in Jake Butt (80.9). RB De'Veon Smith is coming off a strong year while former OT Mason Cole moves to center to anchor the offensive line. Michigan is looking for a game-managing quarterback to feed their playmakers and let the defense win games.
It would be difficult to find many teams with more established pass receivers than Michigan with Chesson, Butt and Amara Darboh, and the offensive line should be improved from an already solid unit in 2015. Quarterback, as referenced above, is a question mark, but Harbaugh's ability to "coach up" that position cannot be overlooked, and a deeper dive into the roster certainly explains why some experts (and fans) love Michigan in 2016.
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