1. Who will be the backup quarterback? And who should?
Obviously, the short answer here is Shane Morris, but the long answer has more to do with just how he is able to win the backup job, how good he will be, and whether Michigan can get enough from Brian Cleary to redshirt Morris.
In a perfect world, Devin Gardner doesn't miss any time other than garbage time in which Cleary can do mop-up duty and keep Morris's redshirt alive. This isn't a perfect world, and planning on a starting quarterback to miss no time is a dicey proposition. A long-term injury to Gardner probably means the end for this team's Big Ten title hopes, but if Morris is good enough — a stretch given his mono-nucleosis last season and his raw tools in diagnosing plays and reading defenses — all might not be lost. Of course, that means burning his shirt and playing him in backup duty to get his feet wet.
Michigan has already seen what life is like when your QB goes down. An injury to Gardner would have massive implications given the depth chart. Michigan may not be able to win with Shane Morris, but he might be the only hope if the worst happens.
2. Is Devin "pretty boy" Funchess ready to step up?
Funchess had quite a few jaw-dropping moments last season, but they were even more incredible because of how long he was able to be all but absent from our consciousness. His big plays were big, but blocking and the rest of the tight end yeoman's work was a struggle for the freshman. He hasn't put on much weight, but hopefully an added year of strength training and technique work will help him improve as a blocker and as a receiver so that he can have more of a consistent impact on the game.
3. Is Blake Countess going to be 100%?
Blake Countess will have had almost a year to the day to recover from his torn ACL suffered against Alabama in last year's season opener. He entered last season as Michigan's best corner, and will do so again this year. Things are thankfully steady in most of the rest of the secondary with Raymon Taylor — Countess's replacement a year ago — taking over the other starting CB spot and Thomas Gordon back at safety, but Michigan's pass defense was shaky last year and Michigan needs big things from Countess to help cover the loss of Jordan Kovacs. Countess will need to be as close to 100% as possible for this defense, and fall camp will be the first chance we get to see him go full speed.
4. Is Frank Clark for real?
The offseason has been rife with talk of Frank Clark's impending breakout, although last year was the same up until his legal trouble derailed the early season and set his development back. Now, up to 277 lbs, Clark has the size to match the athletic ability he brought to the weakside defensive end position.
Michigan hasn't had a true pass rush threat at the DE since Brandon Graham, and it is one of the biggest remaining obstacles between the Michigan defense going from good to great. Clark has been off season approved by everyone up to Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. He will have to prove it on the field this fall, or he could be pushed by sophomore Mario Ojemudia and freshman Taco Charlton.
5. Will Ondre Pipkins flash his potential?
The defensive line is a hard place to make a big impact as a freshman, and that goes double for nose tackle, a position that routinely sees double teams and relies very much on impecable technique. Quinton Washington's emergence last year took the heat off Pipkins — who some fans were irrationally clamoring for even after it became apparent that Michigan was in good hands.
But with a year under his belt, and a few less pounds, Pipkins will have an opportunity to carve out a role on the defensive line, where there is always a lot of rotation. Washington has been a solid starter for Michigan, but Pipkins brings more in terms of penetration ability and playmaking from the interior. That is if he develops, and how fast he is able to do it. It isn't unreasonable to think that Pipkins is still a year away from really living up to the five-star hype, but an early track to doing so would give this defensive line another dimension in a year when a lot of youth is going to be depended on all over.