The Michigan Wolverines have dominated college athletics in 2013 with national championships in Men’s Swimming & Diving, Men’s Gymnastics, and the Rifle Team. The Softball team made it to the Women’s College World Series and Men’s Basketball made it to the Final Four and an appearance in the title game. Do I actually care about any of this? Other than the Final Four, no, not at all, but I can pretty much write anything I want since most people that visit this blog are MSU slaps and won’t read this article [editor’s note: this is true].
Michigan hopes to continue this dominance in 2013. After an “unacceptable” season last year, going 8-5, team 134 looks to rebound with the goal of winning the Big 10 and a trip to Pasadena for the 100th Rose Bowl.
There are many questions going into this season. No Denard Robinson, no Jordan Kovacs, Jake Ryan is out with an injury till October, and they are only returning 12 starters. On the other hand, Devin Gardner is the perfect fit for the pro style offense, the team has a lot more talent and depth, Blake Countess returns, and the schedule is more forgiving than in 2012. All in all, Michigan should have a very strong team and should be in contention for the Big 10 title.
The most obvious difference with this team will be at QB where Devin Gardner is replacing the face of Michigan football, Denard Robinson. Gardner did get some experience last year, starting the last 5 games, and gave fans a glimpse of what the offense could look like this year. While Gardner will be running the pro style offense, Al Borges will still mix in some of the spread to utilize the running ability of his QB. The huge question is if he is able to stay healthy. Behind Gardner are walk-on Brian Cleary and freshman Shane Morris. Morris is most likely to be the #2, but Michigan has no idea if he would be ready to lead this team if Gardner goes down.
Protecting Gardner will be the offensive line. Michigan is replacing 3 starters, but returning is the best tackle combo in the Big 10 with Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. In the middle will most likely be RS freshmen Braden and Kalis at guards and RS sophomore Miller at center.
With the O-line being bigger, it should help the running game bounce back from a terrible year. It will be an interesting battle to watch for who is named the starter. Fitz Toussaint is 100% healthy after breaking his leg last year and will probably get the start for the season opener. Pushing Toussaint will be the #1 RB recruit in the country, freshman Derrick Green. Look for Green to claim the starter position by mid-season.
One position that is still looking for some playmakers is at WR. Michigan is returning starters Gallon and Dileo who are reliable, sure-handed receivers. Problem is, they are both about 5’10”. Michigan needs a third receiver that is a burner and can stretch the field. The competition seems to be between Chesson and Darboh. Both are over 6’2” and the coaches rave about their talent. In addition to WR, TE Devin Funchess will be a big target for Gardner. After a breakout freshman year, Funchess will be a huge weapon in the passing game since he creates mismatches all over the field. True freshman, Jake Butt, could also see some playing time at TE.
On the defensive side of the ball, Michigan has some big holes to fill. The leader and voice of the defense is gone in Jordan Kovacs. Stud LB Jake Ryan tore apart his knee and will be out at least until October. Fortunately, Michigan has put a huge emphasis the last few years on recruiting defense and is very deep with talent at every position.
The DL is expected to be a force this year and should be able to put a lot of pressure on the QB without having to rely on blitzes and crazy schemes. Watch for Frank Clark to have a breakout season.
Cam Gordon and Brennan Beyer will replace Jake Ryan at LB until he is healthy. Bolden, Ross, Morgan, and Jenkins-Stone are all sophomores and juniors that got starter’s minutes last year at LB and should all contribute to the success of the defense.
Blake Countess returns at CB after tearing his ACL last year and will be paired up with Raymon Taylor and Courtney Avery. This could be the best corner combo in the Big 10, other than MSU.
The D was solid last year and part of that was eliminating long gains. With the depth and talent on the team this year, the Wolverines should be even better.
Cant wait for the season to start. I expect Michigan to be in the Big 10 title game and finish the regular season with at least 10 wins. Anything else will be (according to Hoke) “unacceptable”.