But now, teammates and coaches say Thomas has stepped up his game and come on as a player who could be a major contributor on a secondary that has a lost several key contributors — including cornerbacks David Long and Brandon Watson.
Mike Sainristil got the ball on a crossing route at the 23-yard line, beat his defender and coasted into the end zone.
It was the first drive of Michigan’s Spring Game on Saturday, and though there was no real scoring, it wasn’t lost on the crowd that the freshman wide receiver had scored the opening touchdown — well, insofar as there are touchdowns in a no-tackle scrimmage.
But if there’s one player who hasn’t really faced a true positional battle in his time at Michigan, it’s redshirt junior kicker Quinn Nordin. For a season and a half, the job was his and it wasn’t really a question.
Now, though? He’s locked in a bona fide battle with sophomore Jake Moody, a battle Harbaugh called “neck and neck” on April 3.
However, when Bush got injured and sat out the Peach Bowl, his absence proved that he was the true anchor of Michigan’s linebacking corps, leaving the Wolverines with a hole they struggled to fill. How others step up to fill that hole could determine how high Michigan’s ceiling is in 2019.
Though Michigan loses Bushell-Beatty to graduation, Runyan, Bredeson and sophomore center Cesar Ruiz — an All-Big Ten Third Team honoree — will be back to anchor the unit in 2019. Warinner returns as well, hoping to bring consistency back to a program once known for its bruising offensive linemen.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Charles Matthews stood at the line and made the free-throw motion. He buried his head in his shirt for a second. Missed the first free throw. Bent his knees, stayed in that position for an extra beat as his teammates subbed out. Sunk the second free throw.
Then, he made his exit.
Matthews didn’t even see the crowd rise to its feet, applauding the captain who had done so much for the Michigan basketball program. He kept his head down.