NCAA Season Preview: Michigan Wolverines

Michigan Football

I’ve been a Michigan fan since I was 9 or 10 years old. Not too long before Desmond Howard struck that Heisman pose against Ohio State, I was introduced to College Football and the University of Michigan. My Michigan fandom is over 20 years counting and still going strong. My Michigan fandom was so strong that when I was in high school, I took as much merchandise as possible from the Michigan representative that came to my high school for a college fair. Although my grades in school were average at best (I was the smart kid that slacked off), I really thought about wasting the $40 application fee just to say I received a rejection letter from the University of Michigan (I didn’t apply because I didn’t have $40). For me it’s all about the winged helmets, Hail To The Victors, and the Big House. Previewing what could be a magical season for my team here on 7poundbag seemed like the right thing to do.

Season Review:2

The 2012 Michigan Wolverines finished last season with an 8-5 record (6-2 in Big 10 play). The team ranked 79th in overall offense and 13th in overall defense. It was the 2nd season in charge for head coach Brady Hoke.

Offense:

Under offensive coordinator Al Borges the Wolverines ran a hybrid spread/pro-style offense. This was done to accomodate the skills of now Jacksonville Jaguar Denard Robinson. However, look for more pro-style this season under new quarterback Devin Gardner. Gardner, the 4th year junior, is finally getting his chance to be the man at Michigan after being shifted to receiver last season, and then back to QB after Robinson’s arm injury. Gardner is 6’4″ with a cannon of an arm. He’s got plenty of targets to get the ball to in receivers Jeremy Gallon, Jeremy Jackson, Drew Dileo, Dennis Norfleet (among others) and tight end Devin Funchess.

As good as Gardner should be in this offense, Michigan wants to get back to a power running game. The team will start off the season as running back by committee between Fitzgerald Toussaint, Justice Hayes, and true freshman Derrick Green. Green, is the fans hopes to be the standout. The highly rated Brooklynite (can’t resist a chance to shout out my borough) by way of Virginia will get plenty of chances to claim the top running back spot. The offensive line is young, but look for senior Taylor Lewan to lead a competitive unit. Lewan was expected to go pro last season, but came back in the hopes that he can lead this Michigan squad to a Big 10 title and a Rose Bowl appearance.

Defense:

Michigan’s defense ranked #13 overall last season. Last year’s Wolverines ranked 47th against the run and 5th overall in pass defense. However, defensive end Craig Roh, defensive tackle Will Campbell, middle linebacker Kenny Demens, cornerback J.T. Floyd, and safety Jordan Kovacs are no longer members of this defensive unit. Even with those losses key players such as linebackers Jake Ryan (who is nursing an injury), Desmond Morgan and cornerbacks Blake Countess and Ramon Taylor return.

On the defensive line look for more from sophomore Ondre Pipkins. Ondre is a mountain of a man and he should be able to get some pass rush from the defensive tackle spot. Greg Mattison is a well regarded defensive coordinator (as well as an excellent recruiter) and although the defensive front 7 will have some young players, the unit shouldn’t fall off much if at all. The strength of the team is still in the secondary where Countess looks to be the next great Michigan cornerback. The redshirt sophomore might be spending his last season in Ann Arbor if he has a big season.

Special Teams:

Punter Will Hagerup is suspended for the 2013 season due to an unspecified violation. Hagerup has been suspended multiple times during his stay at Michigan, so his loss isn’t a huge surprise. Matt Wile who punted in the Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina (because Hagerup was suspended) should be the punter this season. Place kicker is senior Brendan Gibbons. Gibbons was 16-18 on field goal attempts last season. Speedy but diminutive Dennis Norfleet (5’7″) should feature on the punt and kick return teams.

Recruiting:

Michigan’s recruiting class was highly rated. The class was ranked #2 overall by Scout.com, 5th overall by Rivals.com, and 6th overall by ESPN.com. The team received 27 new players on National Signing Day back in February. Quarterback Shane Morris and running back Derrick Green were 2 of the highly rated members of the class. Morris, the left handed QB, should be the backup to Gardner this season. Derrick Green, as mentioned earlier, will hopefully claim the #1 running back spot before the season is over. Defensive back Dymonte Thomas and tight end Jake Butt should also feature from this true freshman class.

Outlook:

Coach Brady Hoke has never lost at Michigan Stadium. However, he isn’t as good on the road. The good thing is that Michigan’s toughest games are at home. Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio State all have to come to the Big House. Key games on the road are November matchups at Michigan State and a Northwestern team that should be pretty good this season. It wouldn’t be unexpected if Michigan starts out the season 7-0 before their November stretch at Michigan State, home to Nebraska, at Northwestern, at Iowa, and home to Ohio State begins. That 5 game stretch could be the difference between a Big 10 Legends division title and a bowl berth in an also-ran bowl.

So, how do I think the Wolverines will finish? I’ll go with 10-2 (regular season, not counting a possible title game or bowl game) with losses at Northwestern and Ohio State and the Wolverines will win that Legends Division title. I won’t give the Wolverines a Big 10 title and a Rose Bowl appearance though. Why? The Ohio State Buckeyes won’t go 12-0 again but I like Urban’s boys to win the Big 10 Leaders division, The Big 10 Championship Game, and now that they’re bowl eligible to make a trip to the Rose Bowl.

 

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About Earl (EJ) Brewster 284 Articles
Born, raised, and still reside in Brooklyn, New York. I'm in my mid 30's, and I love sports, music, politics, and blogging about real life. You can find me on Twitter at @EJ_Brooklyn_Own

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