As luck would have it, I’m the 11W writer tasked with the unsavory role of previewing the 2013
Maize Sun and Blue. Despite their terrible uniforms and even more ridiculous traditions, TTUN is looking to make some noise in 2013. Apparently up in Ann Arbor, an 8-5 season is reason for optimism. So let’s take a look at the 2013 Wolverines.
Gone is three time September Heisman winner Denard Robinson. Without him, the team will be lead by
WR QB Devin Gardner, who burst onto the scene for an injured Robinson in the 9th game of the season against Minnesota. In that game, Gardner tallied 234 yards passing and 2 TDs with another touchdown on the ground.
Over the next two games against Northwestern and Iowa, Gardner averaged 300 yards passing, tallying 5 total TDs with another 5 on the ground. Then came the Ohio State game where Gardner’s production saw a sharp downturn, throwing for just 171 yards and 1 TD while rushing for -28 yards and another score.
Despite the poor showing against the Scarlet and Gray, Gardner would go on to throw for 224 yards and 2 TDs against the South Carolina Gamecocks. While the Wolverines ended up losing, it's clear Gardner’s throwing game is an upgrade from the three years of Robinson arm-punts.
Unfortunately for Gardner, it'll be tough finding anyone willing to be on the receiving end of a pass. There is a significant lack of depth at the WR position, only made more dire with the move of Gardner to quarterback and the graduation of Roy Roundtree. Senior Jeremy Gallon returns (49 receptions, 829 yards and 4 TDs) as well as senior Drew Dileo (20 receptions, 331 yards and 2 TDs).
After that, it’s pretty tough sledding. All signs point to sophomore Amara Darboh (who mostly played special teams last season) grabbing the third WR spot, but the speedy redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson will push him for playing time. This group could be helped out by their TE group which returns sophomore Devin Funchess (15 receptions, 234 yards and 5 TDs) and welcomes freshmen Jake Butt and Khalid Hill. Help is on the way, but it's not there yet.
Toting the rock will be senior Fitzgerald Toussaint. While Toussaint had an impressive sophomore season, (rushing for 1,041 yards) a one-game suspension in 2012 coupled with a broken leg against Iowa limited what the RB could do. Many in TSUN have got to be asking if Toussaint is back to 2011 form. If he isn’t the Wolverines have a number of alternatives including true freshman Derrick Green (one of the top prospects in the 2013 class), Thomas Rawls (a power runner who scored four touchdowns last season), true freshman DeVeon Smith and fleet-footed sophomore Justice Hayes. A lot of question marks at this position.
Whoever is the starting RB will operate behind an offensive line that returns two starters in senior All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan and senior Michael Schofield. Expected to fill the remaining slots are sophomore center Jack Miller, right guard Kyle Kalis and redshirt freshman left guard, Ben Braden.
Defensively, the Wolverines will have to deal with the loss of LB Jake Ryan who went down with an ACL injury this Spring. Ryan led the team in total tackles (88), tackles for loss (16) and sacks (4.5). Up-front, Michigan returns junior DE Frank Clark, senior tackle Quinton Washington, sophomore tackle Ondre Pipkins and senior DT Jibreel Black. The Wolverines will lean on freshmen DEs Taco Charlton, Chris Wormley and redshirt sophomore Keith Heitzman to replace Craig Roh.
At LB, the loss of Kenny Demens and Ryan due to injury makes a strength of the 2012 Wolverine D a little less intimidating. Desmond Morgan will replace Demens at middle linebacker and James Ross will likely slide over to replace Morgan’s weakside LB spot. With that said it’s anyone’s guess who will fill Ryan’s shoes. At the moment it appears the job will go to either senior, Cam Gordon or junior Brennan Beyer.
Finally in the secondary TTUN will have to replace three-time honorable mention All B1G players J.T. Floyd and Jordan Kovacs. Junior CB Raymon Taylor (45 tackles 2 INTs) returns as well as senior safety Thomas Gordon who tied tallied 81 tackles in 2012, good enough for third on the team. The other corner position looks to be junior Blake Countess’ and sophomore Jarrod Wilson will slide in to replace Grodon at the strong safety position.
All-in-all this team has a lot of questions to answer heading into 2013. Will Gardner hold up as a QB for a full season? Who will get the majority of carries at RB? Can someone step in to replace Jake Ryan’s production? And will the loss of some good players in the secondary ultimately become a problem for TTUN’s defense? Luckily for the Wolverines, strong recruiting classes in 2012 and 2013 should help to infuse the program with talent right away.
Woof. Wow I’m glad that’s over. Play us off, keyboard upset cat...
See you guys on 11/30.