Five to surprise in 2012: No. 4 S Josh Furman

This series will look at five players who played either a little or not at all during this Michigan football season but will be, by the time the end of next season rolls around, names you'll know.

No. 5 -- Chris Bryant

No. 4 -- Josh Furman

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Occasionally this season, a massive amount of dreadlocks would fly down the Michigan Stadium field during games that didn't belong to quarterback Denard Robinson.

One of the other "dreaded" Wolverines is special teams gunner Josh Furman.

Furman, who will be a redshirt sophomore next season, is part of the most experienced group on the Michigan roster next season -- its secondary. But if there is going to be someone who steals time from one of the starters, it could very well by the 6-foot-2, 208-pound Furman at safety.

"He's a great athlete, lanky, what 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3," incumbent safety Jordan Kovacs said. "He's fast. He's rangy.

"He makes plays on the ball, and if he can be a little more physical he's going to be a very good player."

Furman barely played on defense this season -- mostly because he was behind Kovacs, Thomas Gordon and Troy Woolfolk. Woolfolk has graduated. Kovacs and Gordon return, but it wouldn't be a surprise if he stole snaps from one or both of them.

Furman offers a good speed component as well and is a more natural fit at Gordon's position -- free safety. He ran a 10.82-second 100-meter dash, a 4.38-second 40-yard dash and had a 38.5-inch vertical leap in high school. And he showed that athleticism on special teams, blocking a punt and playing in every game on special teams this season.

Kovacs sees it, and coaches have also pointed out Furman's play as a bright spot in practice. While he might not beat out Gordon for a starting job, don't be shocked if he plays.

Even if it comes, in some plays, at the expense of Kovacs.

"As long as we're winning, that's fine with me," Kovacs said. "I want the best players to play. That's what it is about."

Worst-case scenario: Furman struggles through the spring and ends up passed by freshmen Jarrod Wilson and Allen Gant on the depth chart. He remains on special teams and that ends up being his only impact.

Best-case scenario: Furman pushes both Gordon and Kovacs for time during the spring and passes Gordon during fall camp to become the starter at free safety for the next three seasons. He uses his rangy, athletic frame to become the Wolverines' next ball-hawking safety to give cover for Michigan's cornerbacks. His play also allows defensive coordinator Greg Mattison to allow Kovacs to cheat up even more in run support.