The Michigan hype train is looking to go full-steam ahead for another week.
Coming off a 63-3 demolishing of Hawaii, the Wolverines (1-0) are looking to produce similar results when it welcomes UCF into Michigan Stadium on Saturday. The Knights, under new head coach Scott Frost, are equipped with a new high-tempo offense and snapped a 13-game losing streak on Saturday with a 38-0 victory over South Carolina State.
Here are The Michigan Insider's five things to watch as U-M takes on UCF on Saturday.
1. Chris Evans, obviously.
To some, the emergence of true freshman running back Chris Evans might have been a bit of a surprise. The team, however, has been watching Evans work his magic throughout camp. After 112 yards and two touchdowns against Hawaii, can Evans work his magic for a second week in a row? Obviously, expectations should always be tempered when it comes to freshmen, that goes without saying. But U-M fans should be pleased with the specific skillset that he brings to the running back group.On his long touchdown run, Evans hit the hole for a score that most current running backs on the roster might not be able to do.
If Evans can at least show a small glimpse of what he showed last week, then he has certainly made his case for more meaningful carries in the offense down the line.
2. Wilton Speight
Bouncing back from his first quarter interception and leading the team on a 98-yard drive for a touchdown, Wilton Speight didn't allow the mistake to linger and looked much better as the game progressed. One of the main things to watch in regards to Speight would be whether he can start strong and finish just as strong. He had a couple of really nice throws, as did John O'Korn and Shane Morris as well. However, a couple of throws were a little high -- a screen to Amara Darboh comes to mind -- and a long ball to Darboh that came up short and should've been intercepted.
These issues will obviously be addressed with head coach Jim Harbaugh and passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch this week and we will see if downfield passing is in the gameplan this week. For the sake of comparison, it took some time for Jake Rudock to be able to complete the deep throw with his receivers. Once he did, he was lethal. These receivers have been working with Speight a year longer than they had with Rudock, seeing if the chemistry and connections are expedited is something we will be looking for going forward.
3. More snaps for Rashan Gary?
With injuries to Bryan Mone and Taco Charlton that will keep them out of the game against UCF, the Wolverines will have to shuffle things around on the defensive line for the time being. Luckily for U-M, the defensive line is one of the deepest positions on the entire team. Does Charlton's absence open the door for more snaps for freshman Rashan Gary?
Playing 17 true freshmen last week sends a message, Harbaugh is getting you prepared for the college speed. It's no secret U-M loses quite a bit of experience after this season, so getting the freshmen prepared will be important as most of them are likely to play a major role for the team next season. Gary is one of those players. Besides, you just simply don't bench the number one recruit in the nation, He looks the part, he has the size of someone that has been around a college strength and conditioning program, now he just needs to see results, and those results will come.
Gary didn't exactly bust the door down in week one, but there's absolutely no reason to believe that won't happen at all. He showed ability to get penetration and still has some things to work on as he gets acclimated to the college level. Getting playing time early in the season will pay dividends as Big Ten season is just a few weeks away.
4. Will the tight ends be more involved?
The Wolverines offense was extremely efficient with a vanilla playbook. U-M isn't going to play its hand for the first few weeks of the season. However, what stood out to us the most was the lack of targets Jake Butt saw against Hawaii. Of course, Butt made the most out of his one catch on the day, a 19 yard touchdown, but that was the only action he saw all game. If things go similar as they did against Hawaii, he may not see more than a half of playing time. Either way, it'll be interesting to see whether Butt and Speight link up for more targets on Saturday.
5. "Dr. Blitz" vs. the spread
The high-blitzing defensive scheme of Don Brown came as advertised against Hawaii. Linebackers were flying around the field and the havoc the scheme created forced Hawaii into two pick-sixes on the day.Though the Wolverines are favored by five touchdowns and UCF is an inferior opponent, the Knights up-tempo spread offense will be a good gauge to see how this U-M team will perform against it. The linebackers appear to be the most athletic and fast group U-M has had in years and will certainly be put to the test on Saturday. Mike McCray's play was excellent and earned him Big Ten POTW honors, can he have a repeat performance?