Michigan Football's 5 Most Intriguing Players Heading Into 2014

By Michael Briggs

Michigan Football’s 5 Most Intriguing Players Heading Into 2014

Michigan Football
Sage Osentoski-USA Today Sports

The Michigan Wolverines may not be the media favorite to win the Big Ten entering the 2014 season, but with a mix of proven leaders and a trove of former top-rated recruits who could emerge, there is no doubting Michigan's place in the race. These five players offer the most intrigue of the two categories.

5. Derrick Green

Derrick Green Michigan Wolverines Football 2014 Season
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

5. Derrick Green

Derrick Green Michigan Wolverines Football 2014 Season
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Green, last year's top returning running back, will need to play a more significant role in 2014 for the Wolverines to achieve better offensive balance after averaging just 3.3 yards per carry as a team in 2013. The nation's former No. 1 running back recruit dropped weight with explosion in mind, but consistency will be the real key for the true sophomore as De’Veon Smith and Justice Hayes vie for carries.

4. Jake Ryan

Jake Ryan Michigan Football 2014 Season
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

4. Jake Ryan

Jake Ryan Michigan Football 2014 Season
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan missed the beginning of last season due to an ACL injury and heads into 2014 with yet another career-defining challenge with his switch to inside linebacker, which Michigan hopes will keep him more involved in the action. When healthy, Ryan can be a star, as his 2012 totals— 88 tackles (16 for a loss) and 4.5 sacks— prove, but will he end his career in similar fashion?

3. Jabrill Peppers

Jabrill Peppers Michigan Wolverines 2014 Season
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

3. Jabrill Peppers

Jabrill Peppers Michigan Wolverines 2014 Season
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN's No. 2 overall player in the 2014 recruiting class, Peppers has already invoked comparisons to Michigan's 1997 Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson. The New Jersey native will start his freshman season at the nickel position but could see time anywhere in the defensive backfield, according to head coach Brady Hoke. Peppers also possesses Woodson-like versatility as a return man and offensive threat.

2. Shane Morris

Shane Morris Michigan Wolverines Football 2014 Season
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

2. Shane Morris

Shane Morris Michigan Wolverines Football 2014 Season
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Shane Morris is undoubtedly the future of Michigan football, but is he the present as well? Thrown into the fire in the Wolverines' bowl game, the true freshman QB had some nice moments, and speculation suggests he is breathing down the neck of incumbent starter Devin Gardner. While his spring game performance was mediocre, fans will start to chant his name if the Wolverines stumble out of the gate.

1. Devin Gardner

Devin Gardner Michigan Football 2014 Season
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

1. Devin Gardner

Devin Gardner Michigan Football 2014 Season
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Gardner possesses the talent to torch defenses with his arm, as his nearly 3,000 passing yards last season indicate, but there are plenty of questions about the quarterback heading into his senior season. With doubts about his consistency and ability to win games already lingering, the Wolverines' new offense under incoming offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will determine a positive or negative outcome to the Gardner equation.

Michael Briggs is a College Football Writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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