After going 11-2 in Brady Hoke’s first season at Michigan, the Wolverines fell to 8-5 in 2012 and lost a heart breaker to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Helping us with our 2013 spring preview of Michigan is Brian Cook of mgoblog.
Michigan’s 2012 season was slightly below the expectations of most Wolverine fans. A lot of that had to do with the injury to QB Denard Robinson and several cornerbacks were also injured.
Michigan also suffered some slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; all in all it was a slightly disappointing year, but an understandable one.
The Michigan defense should be stout in 2013.
The linebackers return almost intact; rising sophomore James Ross is a major breakout candidate.
Michigan gets Blake Countess back at corner to go with returning starter Raymon Taylor.
The defensive line loses a couple starters but will break in the first wave of Brady Hoke’s solid recruiting classes; they’ll have depth and hopefully more impact from that all-important weakside defensive end spot.
Finally, while I wouldn’t necessarily call quarterback a strength just yet, Devin Gardner exceeded everyone’s expectations as a starter for most of the second half of the year. With an off-season actually playing the position, he should improve a great deal. He’s not just Michigan’s X-factor–he’s one of the biggest in all of college football.
Offensive line is one of two main concerns Michigan has entering the 2013 season. Even with Taylor Lewan back Michigan is replacing three starters and is going to start at least one freshman (albeit a redshirted one).
The other concern is running back, a huge problem last year even before Fitzgerald Toussaint broke both bones in his lower leg. He’ll be out in spring, leaving a motley collection of low-rated journeymen to battle it out. Major help arrives in fall with #1 tailback Derrick Green and 4/3* tweener DeVeon Smith.
Wide receiver could also be a problem spot. Jeremy Gallon was tearing it up late in the year with Gardner as his quarterback and Devin Funchess could blow up in year two. Other than that it’s dodgy. Field-stretchers and possession sorts are in short supply.
It’s not too tough to challenge for the Big Ten Championship these days. Michigan has Nebraska and OSU at home; the Nebraska game will probably be for the division title. Back to back Ohio State games loom if Michigan does beat the Huskers. That’s tough, but they can win.
The national championship is likely out of reach. Michigan is short of playmakers on offense and doesn’t project to have enough world-shattering defensive players to make up the difference.
Jake Ryan is the only real pass rusher they have; the safeties aren’t going to be out of this world. They’ll be vulnerable enough to drop the two or three games it will take to disqualify them from a big time national contender run.
You can follow Brian and mgoblog on Twitter @mgoblog.