If you're looking for top-notch and in-depth college football coverage, then look no further than CBSSports.com's College Football Insider, Jeremy Fowler. Fowler works tirelessly to inform his readers about the latest happenings in the college football world. Fowler's name entered the Michigan circles for his exclusive coverage of former Alabama transfer Chad Lindsay.
He took some time to answer a few of my questions regarding Lindsay and the state of the Michigan program heading into the 2014 season.
JH: You were covering the Chad Lindsay "recruitment"/transfer story extensively. With new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier his former coordinator with Alabama, do you consider this a bad look for Michigan not landing him? Many people considered this a done deal when news first broke he was transferring.
JF: Not alarming. From what I understand, Michigan wasn't offering a guaranteed starting spot, and he would have had to earn the job at the grassroots level. He'll have to do the same at Ohio State, but the Buckeyes clearly have a void at center they need to fill. Lindsay probably knew that.
JH: Speaking of Nussmeier, do you feel like he is the quick fix for Michigan this year?
JF: Quick fix? No. Right fix? Yes. What I mean by that is Nussmeier's offense isn't the type you pick up in a few weeks. It's fairly complex with heavy NFL terminology and situational formations. The quarterbacks will need time to adjust and the first month might not be graceful. But based on an interview with Nussmeier in the spring, he seems ready to play to strengths, commit to the running game and maximize Gardner's potential. For that, he's the right hire. But it will take time. Expect better blocking across the field, especially at receiver. That was one of Nussmeier's calling cards at Bama, where other coaches I know certainly vouch for his skills as an OC.
JH: Brady Hoke has mentioned this spring that the chemistry in the locker room has been much better compared to last season, do you feel that there was a possibility of poor senior leadership from other players which could also add to the possibility of a poor season?
JF: When losses mount, that's usually a part of it. It seems the team just didn't understand toughness yet. Losing that many close games proves it. That the Wolverines had the NFL draft's 11th pick at left tackle and still couldn't run the ball speaks to that problem. So, though senior leadership was probably an issue to some extent, it's more about the team having no idea what winning really takes.
JH: What needs to be done for Michigan to get back to being "Michigan," like so many people have referred to in the past? Looking up and down the roster, it definitely isn't bare. But the team is still going through 7,8, or 9 win seasons.
JF: Michigan's offense is predicated off running the ball well, so without that, the offense will continue to look lost at times. Whether it's a more efficient offensive line or the emergence of Derrick Green or De'Veon Smith, the running game needs to grow up in a hurry. Asking Devin Gardner to run the entire offense without help won't help. Defensively, from what I've seen and heard, has a chance to be pretty solid. It's still trying to find a way to defend Tyler Lockett, so maybe a little more safety help over the top will help.
JH: A lot of the blame for the porous Michigan offense fell on the offensive line a season ago, will this continue to be a concern for the offense going forward in the foreseeable future?
JF: Huge implications there. Brady's high on a lot of these guys but, with linemen, sometimes it's difficult to determine whether they need one year to be ready or three or four. Then you've got guys like Graham Glaslow, who's talented but found offseason trouble. This group's somewhat of an enigma but the staff is optimistic that a year of frustration will translate in 2014. And watch for true freshman tackle Mason Cole. Has excellent feet. Not sure if he's ready yet but very talented.
JH: Do you feel Michigan should be lead by Devin Gardner at QB this season? Shane Morris has shown (albeit in a small serving size) promise in the bowl game last season. Do you feel Morris can do enough during summer camp to upset the believed senior leader of this offense?
JF: Gardner's earned the right to enter camp as the starter, but Michigan is playing this the right way - best man wins. Let this unfurl for 2-3 weeks in camp, then pick a starter. I would not be shocked if Wilton Speight gets the job. Not saying he will, but the Wolverines were impressed with his poise and early command of the offense. Overall, though, there's really not a clear-cut winner here yet. Gardner's the closest thing to a safe bet, I guess. He should be able to thrive in Nussmeier's playaction game.
JH: Whom do you feel could be some emerging players for the Michigan offense and defense this year? Do you see any potential incoming freshman or early enrollees being instant impact players for the Wolverines this season?
JF: I mentioned Cole earlier, so he and Freddy Canteen have the best chance among offensive freshmen. Canteen will play and play a bunch. Could take hold of the starting slot job. Wilton Speight has a chance if he plays. Of course, they can find a spot for Jabrill Peppers. Bryan Mone is a big, big dude. I have no idea if he's up to speed defensively but he certainly looks the part.
JH: Finally, the seat has turned blazing hot under Brady Hoke this season if you consider public perception into the equation. If Michigan has another poor year, say another 7-8 win season, do you feel that this could be it for Hoke in Ann Arbor if the team struggles this year?
JF: Not sure I'd call the seat blazing hot. Perhaps lukewarm. Key word is improvement. Don't think he has to win 10-plus games to keep his job, but sometimes it's about how you lose and where the program's going. Might be hard to justify another 7-win season, especially as Hoke has set the bar for conference title or bust. But if Michigan wins eight or nine and looks good doing so, especially on offense, that could go a long way.