The Wolverine

December 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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MAIZE N' VIEW MICHAEL SPATH M 2013 Has A Rosy Look for the Big Ten title Dec. 1, but over the last four games, with the emer- gence of junior Devin Gardner at quarterback, optimism for 2013 has grown exponentially. U-M has not won the Big Ten title since 2004, but it should be the favorite to come out of the Legends Division next season, perhaps opposite Ohio State. Here is a quick look at Michigan ichigan and its fans are ad- mittedly disappointed the Wolverines will not compete the season at defensive tackle and will anchor this unit. Between sopho- mores Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark, and freshman Mario Ojemu- dia, Michigan has three talents at weakside end, but they combined for only three sacks and have to produce more. Linebackers: Kenny Demens position by position, and why enthu- siasm is growing for the Maize and Blue's future prospects. Quarterback: The departure of De- nard Robinson was expected to be a huge loss and the biggest single reason U-M would be unable to com- pete for the conference crown next year, but Gardner has changed that. He has the leadership intangibles to rally the offense around him, making young receivers better, offering expe- rience to a rather green offensive line, and providing opportunity to estab- lish a running game while defenses lock in on the signal-caller. Running backs: In the absence of Robinson and his 116.6 yards rushing per game, Michigan's ball carriers will have to increase their production considerably. Redshirt junior Fitz Toussaint seemed to be playing his best in November before a leg injury ended his season. If he can bounce back healthy, he's still the No. 1 tailback while sophomore Thomas Rawls, redshirt freshman Justice Hayes and a slew of other backs jockey for opportunity. Wide receivers: Redshirt junior Jeremy Gallon will be the No. 1 re- ceiver, and he drove home the point this year that his lack of size — he's only 5-8 — is no hindrance, catching 40 balls for 684 yards. Junior Drew Dileo should have a bigger role, but the key will be the development of true freshmen Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh. Tight ends: Freshmen Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams gleaned tons of valuable experience this sea- son, and their presence will make the position a strength next year. As the young receivers progress, 90 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2012 The emergence of junior Devin Gardner at quarterback makes the Wolverines one of Funchess can be that big-play threat in the passing attack while Wil- liams has proven himself a capable blocker and does have the hands to catch the ball. Recruit Jake Butt could also be an asset. Offensive line: The biggest potential the favorites to win the Big Ten next season. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL graduates, but freshman Joe Bolden played significant minutes at middle linebacker this season, showing the instincts and playmaking skills that will only be enhanced with another offseason. Redshirt sophomore strongside backer Jake Ryan should continue to prove Michigan's best de- fensive player while sophomore Des- mond Morgan and freshman James Ross, who both started this year, will vie for the weakside position. Secondary: Safety Jordan Kovacs weakness for the Maize and Blue, the line will have to replace three seniors on the interior while it's becoming likely that left tackle Taylor Lewan will enter the NFL Draft. That means U-M could have four new starters along the line. Kyle Kalis (guard) and Ben Braden (guard or tackle) figure to be two of those starters in their redshirt freshman seasons while classmate Erik Magnuson could also work his way into the lineup. Michi- gan really needs current redshirt freshmen Jack Miller (center) and Chris Bryant (guard) to win jobs and serve as "veteran" linemen. Defensive line: U-M will have to re- place starters Will Campbell at tackle and Craig Roh at end, but the Wol- verines have been rotating so many players this year that freshman tackle Ondre Pipkins and redshirt fresh- man strongside end Keith Heitzman should step into the two voids, and each will have plenty of competition. Redshirt junior Quinton Washington, meanwhile, has been the surprise of and cornerback J.T. Floyd move on, with Kovacs' departure likely to impact more. The captain of the defense, he has been instrumental in the success of the defensive backfield the past two seasons. Redshirt junior Thomas Gordon will likely slide over from free safety to strong safety to take Kovacs' role, and freshman Jar- rod Wilson will compete to earn the other starting nod. Sophomore Blake Countess is in line to replace Floyd after sitting out 2012 with an ACL injury, and he and classmate Raymon Taylor could prove to be the Big Ten's best cornerback tandem. Special teams: All the key members are back — junior Will Hagerup at punter, sophomore Matt Wile kicking off and redshirt junior Brendan Gib- bons at placekicker. The trio experi- enced terrific campaigns and should be at the top of their games in 2013. With six starters back offensively and six defensively, there are holes to fill, but the depth of experienced backups in 2012, and the burgeoning of key playmakers, makes it clear that in 2013 the only acceptable out- come for the Wolverines is a Rose Bowl berth. ❑ Associate Editor Michael Spath has been with The Wolverine since 2002. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Spath_ Wolverine.

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