ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan made a few splashy moves between the end of the season on Dec. 30 and Saturday’s spring game.
Michigan hired Pep Hamilton from the NFL’s Cleveland Browns as passing game coordinator/assistant head coach to replace Jedd Fisch, who became UCLA’s offensive coordinator. Third-year coach Jim Harbaugh announced plans to take the football team to Rome for part of its spring practices. Michigan reeled in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, which includes 5-star prospects in wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon.
But after Michigan’s spring game, a few questions are bound to arise between now and August, when Michigan regroups for the start of preseason camp in Ann Arbor. Here’s a look at what’s in store for the Wolverines during the offseason.
Michigan will head overseas for its much-ballyhooed trip to Rome for its final 3 spring practices, scheduled for April 27-29, to go along with cultural immersion experiences during a week in Italy.
It’s another novel idea from Harbaugh, who shook up college football over the last few years with a marathon stretch of satellite camps in June of 2015 and 2016. When the NCAA placed restrictions on satellite camps, Harbaugh simply came up with another idea — to take his team on an international trip.
Michigan will practice at the Olympic Training Center in Rome, take part in a coaching clinic and host a scrimmage April 29 at the Stadio del Marmi in Rome.
The NFL draft
Say a final goodbye to Michigan’s seniors and to Jabrill Peppers, as they have aspirations to play in the NFL. The 2017 NFL Draft opens April 27 in Philadelphia, and Michigan is set to have more than a handful of players selected.
Harbaugh said in the fall that he anticipates that number to be in the double digits. If Harbaugh’s prediction is correct, Michigan would see its most players selected in an NFL draft since 2008. That year, NFL teams selected 7 Wolverines.
However, Michigan now has to replace its departed, experienced players with those who have fewer reps and even those who have never played college football.
Spring recruiting evaluation period
Michigan’s coaches are already courting the 2018 prospects. The NCAA’s spring recruiting evaluation period began April 15 — the day of Michigan’s spring game — and continues through May 31.
During the seven-week period, college coaches can travel to watch potential recruits compete at their high schools, but cannot have face-to-face contact with recruits or their parents while away from campus, unless the meeting is circumstantial.
Michigan also will keep a close eye on several recruits, including 4-star quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Thompson-Robinson, who will be a senior at Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School this fall, has said he will choose between Michigan and UCLA Sunday night.
Freshmen arrive on campus
Eleven players from Michigan’s incoming freshman class enrolled in January; the remaining 19 freshmen will join the Wolverines in June to take summer classes and to participate in offseason conditioning workouts.
247Sports ranks Michigan’s incoming freshman class fifth in the nation. That class includes quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, who will likely use his first year on campus to learn the playbook, to put on weight and to get acclimated to college, and five defensive linemen: Luiji Vilain, Deron Irving-Bey, Phillip Paea, James Hudson III and Kwity Paye.
Start of fall practices
Spring served as a warmup, a time for tinkering with some areas and continuing overhauls in other areas.
Yet there’s suddenly a highly anticipated quarterback competition — and not between Wilton Speight and John O’Korn. Instead, the focus is on Speight and Brandon Peters following the spring game last Saturday. Peters, a freshman, threw for 160 yards and a touchdown on 9-of-17 passing and was intercepted once, while Speight’s subpar afternoon (9-for-26 passing, 2 interceptions, 78 yards) threw a wrinkle into the competition.
Michigan will aim to refine its offensive line, which lost 3 starters, and to replace its top 2 receivers and its entire secondary. The Wolverines won’t have the benefit of having a Group of 5 opponent in its season opener to experiment with its younger players and backups in live football action. Michigan opens the 2017 season Sept. 2 against Florida in Arlington, Texas.