Spring Preview: Talented Michigan eyes Big Ten title
Michigan came close to breaking through to the Big Ten title game last season in Year Two under Brady Hoke. But, alas, it didn’t happen—as a loss at Nebraska in which Denard Robinson got hurt proved to be detrimental. So, the program still is searching for its first Big Ten championship since 2004. It could come this season, if among other things, Devin Gardner proves to be the real deal and the defensive line develops. Yes, this is still a relatively young team, but it has lots of talent, potential and hunger as it begins life without Robinson, a Michigan icon.
BTN provides live coverage of Michigan’s spring game at 1 p.m. ET Saturday on BTN2Go only. It will then air at 9 p.m. ET Saturday on BTN. Track the Wolverines football chatter on our BTN.com Michigan Connect page.
Hear Michigan coach Brady Hoke and OL Taylor Lewan’s spring teleconference:
BACK IN 2012 …
Record: 8-5 overall; 6-2 Big Ten; lost Outback Bowl to South Carolina
|Sat.||Sep. 1||vs. 2 Alabama*||8:00 PM ET||ABC||L 14 – 41|
|Sat.||Sep. 8||vs. Air Force||3:30 PM ET||ABC/ESPN2||W 31 – 25|
|Sat.||Sep. 15||vs. Massachusetts||3:30 PM ET||BTN||W 63 – 13|
|Sat.||Sep. 22||at 11 Notre Dame||7:30 PM ET||NBC||L 6 – 13|
|Sat.||Oct. 6||at Purdue||4:00 PM ET||BTN||W 44 – 13|
|Sat.||Oct. 13||vs. Illinois||3:30 PM ET||ABC/ESPN||W 45 – 0|
|Sat.||Oct. 20||vs. Michigan State||3:30 PM ET||BTN/BTN2||W 12 – 10|
|Sat.||Oct. 27||at Nebraska||8:00 PM ET||ESPN2||L 9 – 23|
|Sat.||Nov. 3||at Minnesota||12:00 PM ET||BTN||W 35 – 13|
|Sat.||Nov. 10||vs. Northwestern||12:00 PM ET||ESPN||W 38 – 31|
|Sat.||Nov. 17||vs. Iowa||12:00 PM ET||ESPN||W 42 – 17|
|Sat.||Nov. 24||at 4 Ohio State||12:00 PM ET||ABC||L 21 – 26|
|Tue.||Jan. 1||vs. 11 South Carolina*||1:00 PM ET||ESPN||L 28 – 33|
Offense: C Ricky Barnum; G Joey Burzynski; G Patrick Omameh; WR Roy Roundtree; QB/WR Denard Robinson.
Defense: T William Campbell; LB Kenny Demens; CB J.T. Floyd; S Jordan Kovacs; E Craig Roh
OUTLOOK ON OFFENSE
|2012 Offense (FBS Rank)|
|Passing Yards:||2591 (92)|
|Rushing Yards:||2389 (42)|
|Points per game:||29.8 (58)|
|Yards per game:||383.1 (79)|
|Field Goals:||18 (28)|
Life without Denard Robinson begins, as the program moves forward without one of its all-time greats. And, honestly, things are probably gonna be just fine, as coordinator Al Borges can use more of his West Coast-style playbook with Devin Gardner at quarterback as the attack assumes a more conventional look. Gardner turned some head last season—but he struggled when the competition got better.
The Wolverines received surprising news when OT Taylor Lewan announced he would return for his senior season. He’ll be one of the nation’s best. Right tackle Michael Schofield also is back, giving Michigan two bookends up front. But the interior must be replaced, as guards Joey Burzynski and Patrick Omameh and center Ricky Barnum are gone.
Keep an eye on young studs like Kyle Kalis and Jack Miller. The line isn’t the lone concern, as more is needed from the running backs. Fitz Toussaint isn’t taking full scale part in spring drills while recovering from a leg injury. Incoming freshman Derrick Green may be the answer when he enrolls over the summer; he’s considered to be the nation’s top back. Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes are still around but are pedestrian options. A go-to receiver also is needed. Is Jeremy Gallon really the guy? Jeremy Jackson and Drew Dileo are back, too.
OUTLOOK ON DEFENSE
|2012 Defense (FBS Rank)|
|Passing Yards:||2203 (4)|
|Rushing Yards:||1957 (54)|
|Points per game:||19.8 (19)|
|Yards per game:||320.0 (13)|
|Field Goals:||21 (122)|
Who will be the stars and playmakers for this defense? The focus is up front for a unit that must replace T Will Campbell and E Craig Roh. Players like Ondre Pipkins, Frank Clark, Jibreel Black and Quinton Washington must step up along the line. And injury to LB Jake Ryan means he may be out for most—if not all—of the coming season. Brennen Beyer has been moved from DE to LB as a result.
At least there’s nice depth at linebacker. CB Blake Countess must show he is over a knee injury that cost him almost all of last season. And he needs a partner. Thomas Gordon is the answer at one safety spot. Who is the other?
|Sat.||Aug. 31||vs. Central Michigan|
|Sat.||Sep. 7||vs. 4 Notre Dame|
|Sat.||Sep. 14||vs. Akron|
|Sat.||Sep. 21||at Connecticut|
|Sat.||Oct. 5||vs. Minnesota|
|Sat.||Oct. 12||at Penn State|
|Sat.||Oct. 19||vs. Indiana|
|Sat.||Nov. 2||at Michigan State|
|Sat.||Nov. 9||vs. 25 Nebraska|
|Sat.||Nov. 16||at 17 Northwestern|
|Sat.||Nov. 23||at Iowa|
|Sat.||Nov. 30||vs. 3 Ohio State|
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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