Dienhart: 5 things I'll watch at Michigan football practice

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Dienhart: 5 things I'll watch at Michigan football practice

B1G INTERVIEW - Maryland coach Jim Harbaugh joins the BTN set at Big Ten media days.

The future bubbles with promise at Michigan, as Jim Harbaugh continues to fold in talent that he has recruited. And he’s getting some studs. Most of last year’s key contributors are back, but the offense needs more playmaking ability as it searches for a quarterback. The top running backs return but are largely pedestrian, and a veteran line with four starters is back but needs to improve. The best part of the attack is an experienced corps of pass catchers and a stud tight end.

[ MORE: @BTNStatsGuys: 5 fun facts for Michigan Wolverines ]

Here is what I’ll be looking for a Wolverine practice.

1. How do the QBs look? Jake Rudock flew in last year from Iowa and saved the day as a graduate transfer, playing an efficient brand of football in leading Michigan to a smashing debut under Jim Harbaugh. Now, Rudock is gone. Who steps in? There is no shortage of candidates. Keep an eye on John O’Korn, a transfer from Houston who was AAC Freshman of the Year in 2013. Junior lefty Shane Morris, who redshirted last year, has played in eight games, while sophomore Wilton Speight, who looked good in relief of Rudock last year in taking Michigan to victory at Minnesota, left spring drills as the apparent leader.

2. Is the o-line dominating? For the last few years, the once-proud unit failed to live up to its lofty standards. But it looks like the worm has turned. The Wolverines front is loaded with veteran talent. I wanna see how converted tackle Mason Cole looks at center. And is Grant Newsome looking good at left tackle, Cole’s old spot? He could be a future star.

3. Do the linebackers shine? The line is boffo. The secondary is sleek. The area to watch on defense is the LB corps. Some big holes to fill with Joe Bolden, James Ross and Desmond Morgan gone. All eyes will be on Jabrill Peppers, who has transited from the secondary. He figures to be a wild-card who lines up in a variety of spots. Senior Ben Gedeon is the only vet linebacker with appreciable experience. Mike “Big Play” McCray looks good at an inside slot by Gedeon after missing 2015 with injury. True freshman early enrollee Devin Bush Jr., could impact. I also wanna see junior Noah Furbush.

4. Is the defense dominating? Michigan saw coordinator DJ Durkin leave to coach Maryland. Don Brown was hired from Boston College. Brown is a respected and intense coach who arrives after a successful three-year run with the Golden Eagles. Will the unit skip a beat? Has it embraced Brown’s concepts and attacking style?

5. Are the running backs a cut above? Michigan needs a difference-maker here. De’Veon Smith is healthy and a proven option. Drake Johnson is healthy, too. Ty Isaac is out of the doghouse and physical force who shined in the spring. But none of these guys wow. So, I wanna see true freshman early enrollees Kareem Walker and Kingston Davis. Walker comes more touted than Davis, but Davis is a bigger back that Harbaugh loves.

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Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

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, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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