Welcome to part 2 of the 5 part Michigan Wolverines football season preview. In the first installment I provided some background information on the program. In this edition I will zero in on the offense and project the starters.
Michigan had two true freshmen quarterbacks last year and averaged 29.5 points per game, although that number dipped to 20.9 in conference play. Even with the reduced numbers in Big Ten play the offense played well enough that Michigan should have won at least 6 games and earned a bowl bid. During their 7 game conference losing streak the Wolverines lost in overtime at Michigan State 26-20, they lost a two point heartbreaker at Iowa 30-28, and inexplicably lost to Purdue 38-36. Those are 3 games that Michigan should’ve, could’ve won. Ultimately turnovers (15 interceptions and 13 lost fumbles) and a failure to execute were the undoing of Michigan’s offense.
Fast forward to 2010 and Michigan will have two returning QBs with experience. The last time a starting QB returned to Michigan was in 2007 (Chad Henne). Those quarterbacks will be operating behind an offensive line that I believe will be one of the best in the Big Ten. Those two factors alone are enough to give fans hope that this team will get back on track. Another reason is that this team finally has some depth and it also has players with experience in this offense.
The first question fielded by Rich Rodriguez at Big Ten Media Day was about the quarterbacks. Everybody wants to know who will be lining up under center for that first series on September 4th. Rodriguez is not going to tip his hand and will continue with the familiar mantra of, “It’s a wide-open competition” which I believe it truly is.
Tate Forcier (So, 6-1, 194) was sensational during Michigan’s 4 game winning streak that opened the 2009 season. Despite his youth he displayed an uncanny ability to make the big play and showed tremendous field awareness. Unfortunately, his shoulder was damaged in the Indiana win and he was not the same quarterback the rest of the way. He still managed to complete 58% of his passes and toss 13 TDs en route to 2050 yards through the air. He did throw 10 interceptions, but 4 of those came in the final game of the season. He is a natural leader, but I think the coaches would like to see him start leading by example especially when the lights aren’t on.
Denard Robinson (So, 6-0, 188) made tremendous strides during the winter and spring practice. He was fabulous during the spring game and showed that he is capable of throwing the ball. Word on the street is that Robinson has been leading the charge all summer doing a lot of (voluntary) extra work. If he is not leading some passing drills or 7-on-7s he can be found in the film room. He is easily the fastest player in the Big Ten and has big play potential every time he steps on the field. They won’t use him as one-dimensionally as they did last year.
Devin Gardner (Fr, 6-4, 203) is waiting in the wings. I can’t imagine a scenario where Rodriguez would go with the true freshmen in such a critical season. Ideally Gardner will redshirt to gain some separation between him and the Forcier/Robinson duo. By the time Gardner finishes his Michigan career he might be one of the best QBs in school history, he is that good.
Projected starter: I’m really intrigued by Robinson’s potential, but I think in the end they will go with Forcier. The only thing that will hold Forcier back is Tate Forcier.
The good news is that Vincent Smith (So, 5-6, 170) is fully recovered from his knee injury and ready to go for fall practice. The bad news is that Mike Shaw (Jr, 6-1, 180), Michigan’s most experienced RB, is battling academic issues this summer. Mike Cox (RS So, 6-0, 200) and Fitzgerald Toussaint (RS Fr, 5-10, 200) will make a serious push for playing time. Stephen Hopkins (Fr, 6-0, 236) will also be in the mix as a big back. For more on the running backs you can check out my post-spring report: Who is the cream of Michigan’ RB crop?
Projected starter: As long as Smith is healthy I believe he will be the starter.
Martavious Odoms (Jr, 5-8, 173) and Roy Roundtree (RS, So, 6-0, 170) are Michigan’s most consistent receivers. They have both worked very hard this summer and are poised for big seasons out of the slot. What the Wolverines need is for somebody to emerge on the outside. Can Junior Hemingway (RS Jr, 6-1, 227) stay healthy long enough to be that guy? Will Darryl Stonum (Jr, 6-2, 192) finally put it all together? Both Hemingway and Stonum have the potential to be big play receivers. The question is will that potential be realized? Roundtree could also work on the outside. Michigan has a slew of young talented receivers and it is likely that one of them will become a big part of the offense this year. That group of receivers includes; Je’Ron Stokes (So, 6-0, 187), Jerald Robinson (Fr, 6-1, 191), Ricardo Miller (Fr, 6-4, 212), Terrence Robinson (RS So, 5-9, 173), and Jeremy Gallon (RS Fr, 5-8, 171).
Michigan has a trio of talented tight ends in Kevin Koger (Jr, 6-4, 251), Martel Webb (Sr, 6-4, 257), and Brandon Moore (RS So, 6-5, 260).
This is a unit I am really excited about because I believe it will be Michigan’s best position group. The return of David Molk (RS Jr, 6-2, 270) to the center position is huge. He is the heart of the line and losing him to a knee injury last year greatly contributed to Michigan’s demise. Molk will be flanked by two outstanding guards in Steve Schilling (Sr, 6-5, 300) and Patrick Omameh (RS So, 6-4, 290).
Taylor Lewan (RS Fr, 6-8, 290) has all the makings of Michigan’s next great offensive linemen. I fully expect him to beat out Perry Dorrestein (Sr, 6-7, 305) for the starting left tackle job. “He [Lewan] is dirty sometimes,” said Craig Roh. “Which is what a Big Ten offensive lineman should be like, just a nasty guy. I never hear anyone on the defense saying, Taylor is a really nice guy to go against. It’s always like, he’s holding me or he’s knocking me over when the play’s over, he’s just a nasty guy, which is the kind of mentality that we need on the offensive line.”
Mark Huyge (RS Jr, 6-6, 305) will have to hold off Michael Schofield (RS Fr, 6-7, 295) for the starting right tackle spot. Don’t be surprised if by the end of the season Lewan and Schofield have locked down the tackle positions.
Here is my projected starting offensive line:
LT: Taylor Lewan (RS Fr) 6-8, 290
LG: Steve Schilling (Sr) 6-5, 300
C: David Molk (RS Jr) 6-2, 270
RG: Patrick Omameh (RS So) 6-4, 290
RT: Mark Huyge (RS Jr) 6-6, 305
The second unit:
LT: Perry Dorrestein (Sr) 6-7, 305
LG: Quinton Washington (RS Fr) 6-4, 307
C: Rocko Khoury (RS So) 6-4, 290
RG: Elliott Mealer (RS So) 6-5, 310
RT: Michael Schofield (RS Fr) 6-7, 295
One thing to take notice of with the offense is how many of these guys will be back in 2011. There is 1 senior (Schilling) in my projected starting line up and if you go to the two-deep you will only find two more seniors (Dorrestein and Webb). This offense is just going to get better and better. I think they will be very good this year, but in 2011 they could be scary good.
Be sure to check out the other parts of the 2010 Michigan Football Season Preview
- Part 1: The primer
- Part 3: The Defense
- Part 4: The Schedule
- Part 5: The Special Teams
- Part 6: The Over/Under