A crowded position, but Ben Mason making noise as Michigan fullback

“Another guy giving everybody a run for their money is Ben Mason,” Harbaugh said. “Just a wonderful, wonderful, physical

It’s readily apparent that Jim Harbaugh loves the fullback position. While the position has steadily been phased out of offenses across the country — at both levels — thanks to the spread offense, The Michigan football coach has stayed true, utilizing fullbacks within a pro-style offense more commonly found in earlier decades.

Last year, Khalid Hill led the team with 13 total touchdowns. Hill and his platoon mate, fifth-year senior Henry Poggi, are back this season — along with a newcomer that Harbaugh has shown unabashed admiration for.

“Another guy giving everybody a run for their money is Ben Mason,” Harbaugh said. “Just a wonderful, wonderful, physical football player.”

 

Mason, a freshman who enrolled early and was listed as a linebacker by recruiting websites, made the switch to fullback this spring and immediately earned praise from Harbaugh for his physicality at the position. And though snaps may be difficult to find with Hill and Poggi still on the roster, Harbaugh was adamant that the freshman will still see the field.

“He will help us this year,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll help us win games. He’s climbing up the depth chart at the fullback position. He’s made to be a fullback. Just real excited to watch him. Every day you just get excited to watch him come play.”

a-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 1 AS Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh look on as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 2 Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.  Brandon Folsom/Special to the Free Pressa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 3 Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, sporting an AS Roma shirt, watches as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 4 Michigan fullback Joe Beneducci kicks a soccer ball as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 5 Michigan fullback Joe Beneducci makes a catch as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 6 Former Michigan equipment manager Jon Falk looks on as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 7 Michigan offensive lineman Jon Runyan kicks a ball around as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 8 Michigan offensive lineman Jon Runyan dribbles a ball as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 9 AS Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman kicks a football as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 10 AS Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman throws a ball as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 11 AS Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman throws a football as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 12 Michigan offensive lineman Mason Cole dribbles a soccer ball as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 13 Michigan offensive lineman Mason Cole heads a ball as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 14 Michigan defensive lineman Maurice Hurst kicks a ball as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 15 Michigan defensive lineman Maurice Hurst looks on as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 16 Michigan defensive lineman Maurice Hurst poses with a AS Roma jersey as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 17 AS Roma midfielder Maxime Gonalons tries to catch a football as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 18 AS Roma midfielder Maxime Gonalons misses catching a football as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 19 AS Roma midfielder Maxime Gonalons throws a football as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 20 AS Roma forward Umar Sadiq looks on as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 21 AS Roma forward Umar Sadiq makes a catch as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 22 AS Roma forward Umar Sadiq poses with his new Michigan football jersey as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 23 AS Roma forward Umar Sadiq throws a football as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 24 Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, left, and AS Roma CEO Umberto Gandini look on as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 25 AS Roma CEO Umberto Gandini looks on as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 26 Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and AS Roma CEO Umberto Gandini talk as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 27 Michigan quarterback John O'Korn holds a soccer ball as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 28 Michigan quarterback John O'Korn looks on as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFPa-crowded-position-but-ben-mason-making-noise-as-michigan-fullback photo 29 AS Roma forward Umar Sadiq and Michigan quarterback John O'Korn talk as the U-M football team and AS Roma work out on Monday, July 17, 2017, in Ann Arbor.  Brandon Folsom Special to DFP

Well received: U-M doesn’t usually let much leak from its practices, but on Friday, the athletic department released some practice footage — with one particular play that made the rounds on the Internet.

In the video, redshirt sophomore quarterback Brandon Peters lofts a pass into the end zone, intended for freshman receiver Oliver Martin. 

The ball appears underthrown, but the defensive back isn’t able to turn his head around in time, and in one smooth motion Martin leaps, reaches over the defender and plucks the ball off his back. 

It was, to say the least, a circus catch. And it was also a glimpse at the immense talent of Michigan’s young receiving corps, a group that earned praise this week from not only passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton but also Harbaugh.

“The receivers are doing really well,” Harbaugh said Friday night. “(Donovan Peoples-Jones) and Oliver Martin and Tarik Black are making a lot of plays. They really are. They’re making some superb athletic types of plays. I’ve never seen freshmen doing it the way they’re doing it.”

[Four U-M freshmen could make claim as nation's top WR class]

In addition to Peoples-Jones, Martin and Black, Harbaugh also mentioned that Nico Collins — the fourth member of Michigan’s group of highly-touted freshman receivers —  could also see the field early. While the freshman have caught Harbaugh’s eye, the other, more experienced receivers have also contributed to a group that Harbaugh says is “coming along nicely.”  

“It’s got a chance to be really good,” Harbaugh said. “The young receivers, Grant (Perry) as well, Kekoa Crawford, Eddie McDoom — he’s not giving up anything to anybody. There’s quite a few guys that are really battling hard.”

Just for kicks: Kenny Allen did it all for Michigan last season. 

The now-graduated special teamer took kicking, punting and kickoff responsibilities for the Wolverines. Allen finished 2016 with the eighth-best average per punt and left Ann Arbor as the second-most accurate kicker in program history. Now, all three roles are open — but this time around, Harbaugh wants to spread the wealth.

“It’s not gonna be one guy doing it,” Harbaugh said. “It’ll be a different punter, different kickoff person, and a different field goal guy.”

At kicker, Harbaugh said Quinn Nordin — formerly the nation’s top-ranked kicker prospect — was “kicking really well,” while walk-ons Kyle Seychel is “back in the mix” and “doing a good job.” Ryan Tice, meanwhile, may be the kickoff specialist.

The biggest battle may be brewing at punter, where Harbaugh says the two players are “neck and neck.”

“Will Hart is really punting well but Brad Robbins is the real deal,” Harbaugh said. “I mean, I haven’t had a freshman punt as well as Brad Robbins has. But Will Hart, he’s not giving an inch either.”

 

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