The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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A Quick Look At The Players, Games And Teams To Watch This Fall BY ANDY REID T he Wolverines took a step back last year from a win-loss perspective (dropping from 11-2 in 2011 to 8-5 in 2012 and 7-6 last year), but Michigan head coach Brady Hoke is hoping that a more mature, experienced roster and a shakeup in the coaching staff, including the hiring of new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, will add a jolt of positive energy this year. Fifth-year senior quarterback Devin Gardner is back to lead a hopefully explosive offense, and the defense will be stockpiled with plenty of experienced talent. The schedule is certainly manageable, save for three brutal road games at Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State — the first time Michi- gan has ever faced its three biggest rivals on the road in the same season. Despite that, the Wolverines have an excellent chance to play in their first-ever Big Ten Championship Game. These are the players, games and question marks that will have the biggest impact on the Wolverines reaching that goal. 2014 SEASON PREVIEW 72 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW 1. Fifth-year senior quarterback Devin Gard- ner: The quarterback position is changing, and the NFL is starting to catch up. Quarterbacks such as San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick and Seattle's Russell Wilson are blending traditional pocket passing with new-age spread-option packages to confuse defenses across the league. Many of the quarterbacks taken in the 2014 NFL Draft — including Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Ball State's Keith Wenning and Clem- son's Tajh Boyd — have the mobility to move the pocket, extend plays and pick up yards with their legs. Gardner has proven he can move the chains with his feet. Excluding sacks, he racked up 751 yards and 11 touchdowns on 130 carries (5.8 yards per rush) last season. And, as the 2013 campaign went on, Gardner took much better care of the ball. In non-confer- ence play, he completed 58 of 101 attempts (57.4 percent) for 801 yards with seven touchdowns and eight picks. In Big Ten play, he led the conference with 2,159 passing yards. Gardner connected on 150 of 244 attempts (61.5 percent), threw 14 touch- downs and tossed just three interceptions. 2. Junior wide receiver Devin Funchess: When Funchess posted 15 catches for 234 yards and an impressive five touchdowns as a true freshman tight end in 2011, it was clear that he was a mismatch nightmare for linebackers when he was coming off the line of scrimmage. What Michigan opponents didn't know at the time was that, along with his 6-5, 230-pound frame, Funchess has the speed to burn past corner- backs and safeties. He proved that last season, spending most of the year split Top Five Pro Prospects Fifth-year senior Devin Gardner has accounted for at least two touchdowns in 14 of his last 17 games under center. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 72-76.Season Preview.indd 72 6/19/14 11:38 AM

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