The Michigan spring game is Saturday at 5 PM ET, giving Wolverines fans who can’t make the trek to Ann Arbor, Mich., the opportunity to watch—and overreact, of course—to the performance of a team for which the expectations will be sky high in 2019.
The following are seven players whose performances will be studied just a little bit closer than that of their peers.
1. Shea Patterson, Sr., Quarterback
Shea Patterson enjoyed arguably the best season for a quarterback under Jim Harbaugh at Michigan last season, completing 64.6 percent of his throws for 2,600 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
His passer efficiency rating (149.8) was the best Harbaugh has received from his signal caller in Ann Arbor.
Patterson elected to return to Michigan for his senior season and is obviously the presumed starter for the Wolverines—but not so fast.
Harbaugh told the Detroit Free Press the following about his quarterback last month:
"There's no possible way that Shea Patterson will be able to put his feet up, in my opinion," Harbaugh said Monday afternoon. "Got serious competition there with Dylan (McCaffrey) and Joe (Milton) right now. (It'll) be a fun spring.”
2. Tarik Black, Jr., Wide Receiver
If Tarik Black is healthy—and, you know, Nico Collins and Donovon Peoples-Jones are also healthy—Jim Harbaugh has the best group of wide receivers he’s ever had at the college level.
That’s a hell of an if. But that’s how good this group is and Black could legitimately be the best of the trio.
People-Jones and Collins are out for the spring game—naturally—so the spotlight will be squarely on Black.
3. Ben Mason, Jr., Wherever He Lines Up
Mason was a fullback for Michigan a year ago, but he’s going to be all over the place in 2019.
We know Michigan has a history of playing guys both ways, most famously with Charles Woodson and Jabrill Peppers, and that will continue with Ben Mason.
But, while the norm for this is a wide receiver-secondary combo, Mason has been lining up at fullback, running back, tight end, defensive tackle and defensive end this spring.
4. Dylan McCaffrey, Jr., Quarterback
If Harbaugh is to be believed, McCaffrey is pushing Patterson for QB1 status this spring—and he definitely has the chops to do so.
The former four-star prospect—not to mention the brother of Christian and son of Ed—threw his first career touchdown against Western Michigan last season, two weeks before a 44-yard touchdown run against Wisconsin.
Even if he doesn’t usurp Patterson, he’s the guy to lead this team in 2020.
5. Vincent Gray, RS Fr., Cornerback
Bad news: David Long is gone.
Good news: Lavert Hill is back.
Bad news: Lavert Hill is hurt.
Good news: Vincent Gray has stepped into the lineup in place of Hill and, according to head coach Jim Harbaugh, he’s “doing a fabulous job.”
6. Mike Sainristil, Fr., Wide Receiver
The No. 59 cornerback in the class of 2019 has been impressing folks at wide receiver this spring—a position he’s playing partially based on the preference of the coaching staff and partially out of dire need.
With two of the team’s top three wide receivers out, it’s Sainristil who has been making a name for himself lately, and he’ll have an opportunity to shine on Saturday.
7. Ambry Thomas, Jr., Cornerback
The time has come for Ambry Thomas to make waves in Ann Arbor.
The former four-star prospect out of Detroit is widely regarded as the fastest player at Michigan and he will be expected to step in, to some extent, for NFL-bound cornerback David Long.
That likely means we won’t see him as much (or at all) on special teams and/or offense, while he focuses on locking down opposing wide receivers.