Michigan Football will begin fall camp on August 6th. There is a lot of excitement surrounding this team and expectations are at Big Ten Championship levels for Team 133. Below are 5 questions and 5 observations about the Wolverines as they prepare to launch a new season.
Michigan’s leading rusher from 2011, Fitz Toussaint, is currently serving an indefinite suspension. Who will rise up in his place if that suspension lingers into the season? My best guess is Thomas Rawls (So). He battled through a shoulder injury as a true freshman, but showed flashes of his potential. The 5-foot-10, 220 pound pinball rushed 10 times for 73 yards against Minnesota last year.
4 of the 5 starters on the offensive line appear to be set; LT – Taylor Lewan (RS Jr), C – Ricky Barnum (RS Sr), RG – Patrick Omameh (RS Sr), RT Michael Schofield (RS Jr), who will fill the 5th spot? If the open spot is LG the prime candidates include Elliott Mealer (RS Sr), Kyle Kalis (Fr) and Joey Burzynski (RS So). If Schofield, who started 10 games at LG last year, slides back to guard, that would probably leave a true freshman to handle RT duties. In that case keep an eye on Erik Magnuson and Kalis.
Michigan Football Legends jerseys: Roy Roundtree has already been bestowed the honor of wearing #21 this season in tribute to Desmond Howard. Three more players will wear legend jerseys this year; 47 (Bennie Oosterbaan), 48 (Gerald Ford), 87 (Ron Kramer). Who will earn the right to wear one of those legendary and previously retired numbers? It seems likely that this will be an honor reserved for seniors and if that is the case Jordan Kovacs seems like an obvious choice. So does Denard Robinson.
Will Devin Gardner (Jr) play WR this season? Gardner is an exceptional athlete who finds himself stuck behind Denard Robinson on the depth chart. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds he has the size to play receiver. Brady Hoke hasn’t ruled out the possibility and has always says he wants to get his best athletes on the field. This is certainly something to keep an eye on as fall camp progresses.
How will Michigan replace Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and Will Heininger on the defensive line? The starting D-line is shaping up to look something like this; NT – William Campbell (Sr), DT – Jibreel Black (Jr), DE – Craig Roh (Sr), Rush End/OLB – Brennen Beyer (So). Beyond those 4, the depth is inexperienced and will likely feature some freshmen.
For the seniors, on defense, it will be the first time in their Michigan careers that they will run the same defense as they did the previous season.
For the first time in a long time, Michigan enters the season without a big question mark stamped on their kicking game. Brendan Gibbons was a revelation last year. Meanwhile Will Hagerup and Matt Wile both punted well in 2011.
Offensive Coordinator Al Borges has a history of developing quarterbacks. When Borges took over coordinator duties at UCLA he inherited Cade McNown as his QB. McNown was last among Pac-10 quarterbacks in passer efficiency in Borges’ first season, and first in the country his second. Don’t expect a repeat of the 15 interceptions Denard Robinson threw last year.
Jordan Kovacs’ story from a player who was cut in his first walk-on attempt to an All-Big Ten safety would make a far better movie than Rudy. Kovacs enters 2012 with 266 career tackles. With 34 more tackles he will become the 15th player and first defensive back in school history to join the 300 tackle club.
Denard Robinson needs 1,141 yards of total offense to pass John Navarre for the top spot in the Michigan record books.