Jim Harbaugh loves competition, and we do, too.
Here at The Michigan Daily, we like to make athletes compete for awards they don’t even know exist. We may or may not throw a ceremony, and we probably won’t invite anyone, but here are our midseason awards for the Michigan football team:
MVP: Jabrill Peppers
This one was easy.
Michigan’s redshirt sophomore all-of-the-above has been the Wolverines’ answer to just about every situation. He’s returned a punt for a touchdown, run for two more as a wildcat quarterback and is tied for fifth nationally with 10 tackles for loss.
He’s been so good, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh stumped for Peppers to win the Heisman after yet another stellar game at Rutgers last week. And the craziest part is, he could be doing even more.
While Peppers has seen a fair number of offensive snaps early on, until the Rutgers game, he had been used often as a decoy, or handed off the ball on read options. Against the Scarlet Knights, he kept the ball three times, and the results were a 63-yard run and two touchdowns.
There’s a lot of ways to describe a performance like that, but we’ll just say it meets the definition of most valuable.
Best freshman: RB Chris Evans
Other than Peppers, this was the only other unanimous choice on our ballot.
Evans was a relative unknown prior to the season, but there aren’t many fans who don’t know who he is by now. Through six games he has 48 carries for a team-high 400 yards, giving him an impressive 8.3 yards per carry.
Evans has earned those yards in a variety of ways, too, combining his raw speed, shifty cuts and surprising strength to keep opponents guessing. Evans hasn’t broken through as the starter — that job still belongs to senior De’Veon Smith — but he’s giving Michigan about as good a change of pace as it could ask for.
Surprise of the first half: DE Chase Winovich
It took Winovich until this year to settle into a position.
He came to Michigan as a linebacker three years ago, then transitioned to tight end before moving to the defensive line.
Now, it’s safe to say he’s settled. Winovich has been a steady contributor to one of the best defensive lines in the country, racking up 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Winovich has drawn praise from teammates and coaches, and in a strange twist, been compared to Harbaugh. Considering that, maybe his ascent shouldn’t have been a surprise.
Play of the first half: Wilton Speight’s touchdown to Amara Darboh against Wisconsin
It was hard not to give this one to Peppers for his touchdown against Colorado, but given the context, Speight and Darboh get the nod.
Locked in their first close game of the season, the Wolverines used this play to beat the Badgers and remove the air of uncertainty around their true ranking. After the game, the answer was clear: Michigan was among the nation’s elite.
Speight hadn’t had his best game before the touchdown, but sometimes all it takes is one big play to turn the tide. And the win didn’t hurt, either.
Player Michigan needs to get hot: Jehu Chesson
Speight and fifth-year senior kicker Kenny Allen also received votes, but Chesson gets this distinction. After the fifth-year senior receiver carried the Wolverines’ passing game down the stretch this year, he has been relatively quiet to date.
He ran for a score against Colorado, but until his touchdown catch at Rutgers last week, he had yet to find the end zone through the air.
The Wolverines will need their biggest deep threat to re-emerge as the schedule begins to intensify, and Chesson stands plenty to gain from a resurgence in terms of his draft stock.
If he does, perhaps he could find himself on our end of the season awards list for comeback player of the year. There’s also a chance that award might not exist.
We’re just making this up as we go.