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Michigan is No. 10 in Athlon’s preseason top 25

The Detroit News

Losing 18 starters hasn’t affected Michigan much in the eyes of national college football analysts.

The Wolverines are ranked No. 10 in Athlon Sports’ preseason top 25, released Monday. That’s in the neighborhood of other analysts such as Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports, who have come out with post-spring rankings.

And, while Athlon called coach Jim Harbaugh’s task next season “a major rebuilding project,” Michigan “won’t be down for long” thanks to top-shelf recruiting classes in back-to-back years.

“Quarterback Wilton Speight is back after a promising first year as the team’s starter,” according to the publication. “The receiving corps must be revamped, with incoming freshmen Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black likely to play a huge role in the passing game this season. The strength of the offense should be the ground game. Sophomore Chris Evans leads a talented group of running backs, with Ty Isaac, Kareem Walker and Karan Higdon providing support. The left side of the line should be anchored by Mason Cole and Ben Bredeson, but this unit did not perform well late in the 2016 campaign and remained a concern exiting spring ball.”

Athlon doesn’t believe the Wolverines’ defense will slip, despite just having one full-time returning starter back.

“Sophomore lineman Rashan Gary is a rising star, senior tackle Maurice Hurst is a candidate for All-America honors and the recent recruiting efforts should produce starting talent in the back seven,” according to Athlon’s preseason magazine.

Alabama is No. 1 and Ohio State No. 2 in Athlon’s preseason rankings. Penn State is No. 6, giving the Big Ten three teams in the top 10. Wisconsin is No. 12.