77 OT Taylor Lewan (6’8″ 315 pounds, SENIOR)
Lewan could have very easily declared for the 2013 NFL Draft and probably would have been picked in the top 15 or 20 selections, but he chose to come back to school for his fifth and final year of eligibility to improve his stock even further. Right now, Lewan is considered one of the top three best tackles in the country, and depending upon whom you are asking, he might be the best in the nation. Lewan is a first-team All-American who has started 35 games leading into his senior season, and probably his most notable performance to date came against the South Carolina Gamecocks when he held his own against Jadeveon Clowney pretty well. Still, Clowney exposed some flaws in Lewan’s game likely one major reason he came back to school.
Reports out of Ann Arbor indicate that Lewan has gotten leaner this offseason, something that didn’t seem to be a huge problem anyway being that he’s nearly 6’8″ and 315 pounds. Lewan has long arms and really good quickness off the snap. He is excellent in pass protection thanks to his wide base and ability to re-anchor, and in the running game, he shows a bit of a nasty streak. He has the quickness and athleticism to get to the second level and pop a linebacker when he needs to. He can occasionally be a little bit too over-aggressive, but overall, NFL coaches are going to be really eager to get their hands on this kid. He has the look of a sure-fire first round pick, if not a top five or 10 selection.
12 QB Devin Gardner (6’4″ 210 pounds, RS JUNIOR)
Well, Michigan thought they were going to have to take the 2009 High School All-American Devin Gardner–a quarterback–and move him to the WR position to finish out his collegiate career last season. It actually worked out pretty well, as Gardner led the team in receptions through the first four games, and had four touchdowns. After an injury to Denard Robinson, Gardner was forced into action as a QB, which he had been the previous two years for the Wolverines, and he excelled to the point that he started the last few games for them in 2012, and proved he has the potential to be one of the top signal callers in the conference, if not the country.
Gardner has a slight hitch in his throwing motion, which doesn’t seem to affect velocity at all, and I didn’t see many passes batted down in game action, so it obviously isn’t that big of a deal. Even so, it’s really the only slight hiccup in Gardner’s mechanics. Despite taking over in the second half of the season, he displayed solid overall footwork, mechanics, and pocket presence. He looked really comfortable on all of the rollouts and playaction passes Michigan ran for him, and he has the benefit of playing in a pro-style passing attack with the Wolverines.
Gardner has good size and athletic ability, though he’s nowhere near as explosive as Denard Robinson was. Not many are. He has the ability to create, he has a strong arm, and as he grows in his experience and ability to read defenses, he won’t force so many throws. Depending upon how much he has progressed from year one to year two, we could see Gardner forego his fifth and final year of eligibility and enter the 2014 NFL Draft. Otherwise, he’s a pretty safe bet for 2015. Either way, teams are going to have a lot of scouts’ eyes on Gardner this season.
10 WR Jeremy Gallon (5’8″ 187 pounds, SENIOR)
Gallon led the Wolverines last season with 49 catches for 829 yards, and also added four touchdowns. He is a vertical threat who can also work the slot, and he has great quickness. If Gallon can master a route tree, he could be a force as a slot receiver. He’s obviously not a big receiver, so working the slot is where he’s going to make his mark in the NFL. Lucky for him, the NFL is trending a bit toward smaller playmakers, and they are finding ways to get them involved. Gallon can contribute in the return department, and he can take some carries out of the backfield as well. Despite his height he is a great athlete capable of winning jump ball situations, as we saw against South Carolina. His explosiveness and athleticism will get him drafted as a potential slot receiver, and depending on what kind of reliability he shows as a pass catcher in 2013 with Devin Gardner at QB, he could be a very intriguing mid-round selection.
75 OT Michael Schofield (6’6″ 304 pounds, SENIOR)
Lost a little bit in the hype of Taylor Lewan last year was the performance of right tackle Michael Schofield. Schofield is a solid prospect in his own right who started 13 games as a junior and has started 23 games in his career leading into his senior season. He’s not as much of an athletic freak as Lewan, but he has great fundamentals and has the look of a starting tackle in the NFL. He is nimble enough on his feet to be a starter at right or left tackle, and he has a great build for the position. Plays with a chip on his shoulder too. An agile OL prospect, Schofield could emerge in his senior season as one of the top at his position in the nation.
30 SS Thomas Gordon (5’11″ 208 pounds, SENIOR)
One of the most experienced defenders on Michigan’s roster and certainly one of the most productive. The returning leading tackler with Jake Ryan out indefinitely, Gordon has the ability to be an NFL safety, but he needs more consistency. He had 81 tackles, four tackles for loss, and two interceptions last season. He has started 27 games heading into his senior season and has pretty good size for the position. He’s not an overly aggressive safety and will make some plays that leave you scratching your head, but he’s also had some flashes of greatness. Gordon can play both safety positions and also contribute on special teams.
28 RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (5’11″ 200 pounds, SENIOR)
Toussaint had a season ending injury in November last year against Iowa, AND he has had off-field trouble with a DUI. His injury history and now off-field issues are really going to make it tough for Toussaint to get drafted by a team, unless he has a big senior season. He rushed for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore in 2011, but was held to just over 500 yards last season before he got injured. Toussaint has pretty good speed and vision, but his grade right now is pretty incomplete. He may have NFL potential, but it’s going to take a big senior year to quiet the doubters.