Don't mean to sour anyone's excitement here, but I can't escape the feeling I've had since the Spring that this team is hideously thin in the middle and (I believe) there's a good chance it's going to bite them in a tight game. Everyone is so caught up in the potential of the offense and the undefeated season from last year that it's almost as if it's been overlooked.
Hard to ignore:
- Big Hank bailed them out a ton last year. Much more than he gets credit, as most of the hype on the D-line last year went to Simon. And in the games in which Hankins missed time the middle of the line was awful without him.
- Hale and Bennett are solid but unspectacular starters. Neither demands anything close to a double-team.
- With Schutt out, that leaves two backups with no experience behind the two starters -- one of which is Chris Carter (we all know the history there) and the other is a true freshman.
- Behind them, you have Curtis Grant, who if I have to hear one more insider say he has "turned it around" this offseason, I'm going to throw my laptop through the window. You guys pay attention to this team like I do and we all know that guy just can't make it happen at this level. If the coaches had any faith in him whatsoever they wouldn't have moved a senior fullback to his position halfway through the season. And I love Mike Mitchell's potential, but I'm not betting the middle of the linebacking corps on a true freshman.
More than anything, I think people have underestimated what losing Hankins is going to look like. The schedule is light, luckily, but I do think there's a good chance the defense will have a hard time (at times) preventing long, sustained drives against power running teams -- including potentially Michigan if Derrick Green gets carries.