Michigan Football: The 4 Most Important Storylines Surrounding Wolverines' 2014 Spring Game

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

It's time to officially start the countdown until fall--Wolverines football will be back before you know it. Until then, focus on Saturday's spring game.

Now that the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl flop is in the rear-view, the Michigan Wolverines can focus their attention to getting better, not living in the past.

Sure, it's important to learn from mistakes, but dwelling on them could cause Team 135 to burst at the seams.

But forget the transgressions of Team 134. Instead, prepare for the launch of what should be Year 1 of Operation: Redemption for Brady Hoke, who enters his fourth season as the Wolverines' head coach.

In just hours, the maize and blue takes the field in the annual spring game at The Big House. Before, during and after, messageboards will flow to the limits with comments about this year's squad.

The following topics are of high priority, but there are several others worth mentioning. Don't be afraid to get the conversation started in the comments section.

O-Line/D-Line Development

In 2013, Michigan's defense had 25 sacks (No. 65 overall). However, it's O-Line gave up 34 (third-most in the nation). Needless to say, Devin Gardner doesn't want a repeat of that this fall.

And he shouldn't have to endure such punishment. Slowly but surely, the front four is coming into clear view and taking shape. Michigan's coaching staff saw Willie Henry emerge as a pass-rushing and run-stopping threat.

Toward the end of the year, the will-be-redshirt-soph hit another level--16 of his 26 tackles came in the final four weeks. Look for him to lead, not follow. Henry's stock is certain to skyrocket, and Saturday could be Day 1 of that ascent.

Well, a continuation of his ascent. He's a case of rapid, but not overnight, progression.

Replacing Taylor Lewan at left tackle is a must, and so is affixing another guy to right tackle, a post vacated by Michael Schofield. The absence of an All-American and All-Big Ten force on the O-Line is cause for concern.

Erik Magnuson was a candidate for left tackle, but he's recovering from a shoulder injury. During a recent interview with MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner, Magnuson, a 6'6," 295-pound RS SO, updated his status:

It [shoulder injury] happened during fall camp last year, before the season. It was a lot of pain, but I didn't want to miss any games. They said I can suck it up and play through or take the surgery. So I waited until the offseason.

It's worth noting that Magnuson started seven games while nursing a sore shoulder. That explains some of his growing pain.

Ben Braden is next in line for a featured role. The 6'6," 319-pound RS SO seems like a logical fit at right tackle, or even at one of the guard spots.

Devin Gardner's Confidence

He'll be up against his own, but still--Gardner has to act like he's being hunted by the most rabid Buckeyes and Spartans if he's ever going to benefit from a glorified practice session. Seriously, though; a quarterback never wants to get sacked 34 times in one year.

Monitor Gardner's comfort level. His poise in the pocket--or lack thereof--should give an accurate indication of far he's come mentally and physically. Don't forget that's recently removed from a walking boot and crutches.

Despite all of that, there could be a "new" Gardner on the horizon.

How Does Jake Ryan Look?

Coming off an ACL injury suffered in 2013's spring practices, senior linebacker Jake Ryan is the No. 1 person of interest on defense. Moving from SAM to MIKE should allow Ryan to influence everything from runs to passes. That's what player of his caliber do.

And if Ryan is going to play Sundays, he'll need to show off his former ways on Saturday. If Michigan gets Ryan v. 2012, Hoke and Mattison needn't worry--that version is among the best linebackers in the nation.

Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith

The race for No. 1 in the backfield is actually a two-person sprint. Nussmeier will almost certainly use at least two featured backs while shuffling what could be up to a steady, three- or four-man rotation.

Green and Smith are heavy hitters. Essentially, they're linebackers who can run the ball. At 6'0," and 230 pounds, Green has "downhill" written all over him. However, Smith could prove to be the true home-run threat. Equipped with a quicker step, in terms of overall skill, Smith is essentially Green's equal.

Following the spring game, each carry will be dissected and discussed. Of course, a spring game won't provide every answer. But it'll probably provide enough to spark debates until Week 1.

Follow Maize 'n Brew's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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