Each Thursday, the WolverineNation writers sit down to discuss three issues surrounding Michigan sports. This week, they check out future draft stock, the Big Ten basketball tournament and the 2014 class' signing day.
1. Looking at this year's true freshmen and sophomores on the football team, who do you think has the potential to go the earliest in the NFL draft when they declare?
Michael Rothstein: On principle, I'm not picking a true freshman here because development is such a fickle thing in college, so I'm looking at the sophomores and redshirt freshmen and immediately drawn to Devin Funchess. He had a strong freshman season and as the offense shifts from a hybrid to the pro style, his production should skyrocket. Combine that, his physical tools and how tight ends are being used in the NFL, and he screams potential first-rounder if everything progresses as it should.
Chantel Jennings: I’m going to go with an offensive and defensive choice, and both are on the lines. Offensively, I’ll say Kyle Kalis. I think he’s going to have a solid three- to four-year stretch at Michigan on the O-line. With his focus and Darrell Funk’s coaching, I think he’ll be ready. Defensively, I’ll say Taco Charlton. When I saw him play, he was just so obviously ahead of the game. He’s mature and poised, and I think he’s going to have an opportunity to play early. With a few years under his belt, Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison coaching him, and picking up even more strength and speed, I think he could be one of those guys about whom I say, “I saw him when.”
Tom VanHaaren: There are 10 offensive linemen between the two classes, so the odds are probably in their favor. Michigan has recruited some top linemen, and there are a few in there who could be very successful. Someone such as Kalis or maybe Patrick Kugler.
2. There's about a month to go until the Big Ten tournament in Chicago. Which basketball player needs to grow the most in the next month for Michigan to have the best shot at a championship?
Jennings: I think Nik Stauskas doesn’t need to grow so much as relocate his groove. He’s a phenomenal 3-point shooter; no one is arguing that. But during the conference season he’s at 37 percent from behind the arc. For a player who knocked down 45-of-50 in a video over Christmas break in his backyard, shooting 1-for-3 is terrible. With Michigan mixing things up inside, it would only be a help to the Michigan big men if Stauskas could knock down another two or three 3s a game to force defenses to extend the floor, opening up the inside.
VanHaaren: I think the growth of Mitch McGary has been exciting for a lot of fans to see. He has improved a lot over a short period of time, which has been needed. However I think Glenn Robinson III has hit something of a wall in the past few games. He was a big part of Michigan's success early in the season, and for them to continue having success I think he needs to figure things out going forward.
Rothstein: This is tough because growth isn't necessarily the issue. McGary has shown more and more each game, but the thing Michigan needs is for Robinson, and to a lesser extent Stauskas, to find their early season form. Those two players could be the difference between early exits in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments or a run at both titles.
3. When we get to signing day for the 2014 class, which position group do you think will be the most impressive one?
VanHaaren: There are a few options here. With Michael Ferns in this class the linebacker group could be very good depending on whom they get. Heck, with just Ferns that's an outstanding get at linebacker. The numbers there will likely be smaller, though, so I will go with defensive line. I think Michigan has a shot to land some very highly ranked guys along the line.
Rothstein: It's such a small class that the numbers won't wow anyone like the Michigan offensive line haul this season, but I'd look at the defensive line. Michigan still seems focused on landing some more top talent there and is in on some big-time prospects already. This seems to be the spot where the Wolverines have the best chance to make a big impact.
Jennings: By class, I’m picking one player -- I think Wilton Speight is going to end up being a really big name for the Wolverines to have on their signing day list. He has kind of flown under the radar and isn’t on too many watch lists, but I think he’ll be one of the top-ranked QBs at the end of the day.