This is the sixth in a week-long series sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011
It's time to start wrapping up this campaign, but since it was so much fun all the posts leading up to today are linked below. Hope you enjoyed them.
Monday: How I Became A Michigan Football Fan
Tuesday: Maize n Brew's All-Time Favorite Michigan Football Team
Wednesday: Maize n Brew's Michigan Tailgating Traditions
Thursday: Maize n Brew's All-Time Favorite Michigan Football Players
Friday: My Most Memorable Michigan Football Moment
Monday: Expectations for the 2010 Season
Tuesday: Christmakwanzanukah in July, the Release of 2011
Expectations for the 2010 Michigan Football Season
If anyone tells you the know what's going to happen to the Michigan football team this season slap them. Slap them hard. If anyone is being honest, they have no clue what's going to happen this year. As Adam Rittenberg has already said, this team could win ten games, but it could also lose ten games. The Sporting News has Michigan as the 71st ranked team and the Orlando Sentinel has the Wolverines at 68. Then there's Tom Deinhart and the Rivals.com crew who have Michigan ranked at least at No. 41. There are just far too many questions on both sides of the ball to give anyone a clear idea of what's going to happen this year on field for the Wolverines. So with that in mind, I'm not going to tell you how the season will play out (yet), but I am going to tell you what I expect to see from several key players and positions.
There Will be Improved Quarterback Play - This seems pretty obvious, but after the Iowa game neither quarterback looked very good. Denard Robinson wasn't allowed to throw because he missed spring practice and Tate Forcier couldn't throw because of a torn up shoulder. Both were turnovers waiting to happen at the end of the year as the defenses got more complicated and the weight of a full year of college football caught up to them. With the summer off and some time at home I expect big things out of both Robinson and Forcier. The time to heal for Forcier is going to be a huge difference maker for the incoming sophomore. Additionally, knowing the type of competitor and student of the game he is, I have no doubt that Tate spent a lot of time watching film so that he doesn't make the same mistakes he made last year, this year. As for Denard, for the first time in his life he had real quarterback coaching and the difference it made is undeniable. He was the star of the Spring Game and showed off his arm just as much as his feet.
What it all boils down to is experience is the best teacher. Tate and Denard will make some mistakes this year. But they'll be different ones and they'll be far less frequent. And with that experience will come ball security. As both quarterbacks cut down on their mental mistakes and limit their turnovers, production out of the quarterback position will skyrocket this year.
A Healthy David Molk Should Make the Michigan Line One of the Big 10's Best - Without question David Molk was the heart and soul of the Michigan offense. If you doubt me look at the precipitous drop in production of this offense the moment he went down. Molk is a special player that actually makes every player on that line and in that offense better because he is so damn good. Molk actually understands the offense, the assignments, and everyone else's responsibilities and his loss last year sent the whole offense into chaos. With Molk back, he, Stephen Schilling, Patrick Omameh, Mark Huyge, and Taylor Lewan/Perry Dorrestein should keep Michigan's quarterbacks upright and clear the way for a potent offense.
More after the jump........
Michigan Will Have a Tailback by Committee - Anyone hoping for a clear cut starter is going to be very disappointed. The Michigan Running Back position is absolutely crammed with young talent, but no one has grabbed the two starting slots yet. Vincent Smith remains a favorite to see playing time, but since he's recovering from an ACL tear I'm not optimistic he's going to play this year. A big question mark will be Fitzgerald Toussaint who was a practice squad all-star but was un-impressive during the spring game. Regarless, he, Michael Cox ("Mike"), Michael Shaw, Stephen Hopkins, and Smith will all see time at tailback this year and it'll take a couple of solid performances for any of them to separate themselves from the pack.
Michigan Will Display a More Diverse Offense - Simply by virtue of the fact that Michigan returns nine starters on offense (I'm counting Omameh at guard and Junior Hemingway at WR), the Wolverines will be a much more complete offense. Everyone has had at least two years in Rodriguez' system and everyone has played Big Ten games. With the team experienced in the basics, the pre-season practices will be spent installing the rest of Rodriguez and McGee's offense. The result will be a lot of new looks that Big Ten opponents haven't seen and a lot more options for the QB's and coaches come game time. It also means that we'll see the read option run a lot better this season than last.
The Linebackers Will Improve By Leaps and Bounds - Much has been made of just how bad Michigan's linebacking corps was last year, in particular Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton. Many of us have also come out and said that 90% of that performance was really poor coaching by the now departed Jay Hobson. Fortunately, Michigan Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson now takes over Linebacker coaching in its entirety. Last season Robinson turned Stevie Brown, a converted safety who was completely lost at any position, into one of the Michigan defense's best players and managed to get him drafted in spite of three prior disappointing seasons. Such is the power of the GERG! You're going to see much better Linebacker play this season.
Michigan's Pass Defense Will Continue to Struggle - I'm not going out on a limb here with this one. Michigan returns two starters, Troy Woolfolk (CB) and Jordan Kovacs (SS), to a pass defense that was one of the worst in the league last year. Returning two starters is generally a good thing, but this will be Woolfolk's first season as Michigan's No. 1 corner and will be drawing the toughest assignments day in day out. And as much as I like Kovacs' aggressiveness and tackling ability, he doesn't have the speed that I like to see at that position. Certainly both are a year older and more experienced, but neither performed at an All-Big Ten level last year. And they're just two players in the secondary. After them, inexperienced J.T. Floyd and J.T. Turner will have to fight off incoming star freshman Cullen Christian for the last corner slot. At safety, Cameron Gordon looks to have locked down the FS position, but he's a converted receiver. There are going to be growing pains there, and we're going to see a lot of competition with Marvin Robinson and Vladimir Emilien trying to crack the rotation. There are too many uncertain and inexperienced elements to expect this unit to be dominant yet.
Michigan's Defensive Line Should Be Really Goooood - Sure Michigan loses Brandon Graham, but man is there a lot of talent returning. Look, you're never going to replace a guy like Graham. But one of the amazing things is that Graham did all these things with young talent around him. Craig Roh was a freshman. Ryan Van Bergen and Mike Martin were only Sophomores. William Campbell was only a freshman. Now all that talent has a experience under its belt and a chip on its shoulder. I cannot for the life of me understand why Mike Martin is being ignored in the preseason discussions of the best interior linemen in the Big Ten. Will Campbell is in many ways a younger version of Brandon Graham, a consensus five star talent who will eventually terrorize the Big Ten. Craig Roh and Ryan Van Bergen should deliver some crushing hits and apply ample pressure in Graham's absence. Then you also have to consider the contributions of Senior DTs Greg Banks and Renaldo Sagesse. These two seniors filled in admirably last season and promise to deliver both critical minutes and critical stops for the Maize n Blue.
Michigan Will Make a Bowl Game - This expectation goes without saying. While we at Maize n Brew believe Rodriguez is entitled to a full four years regardless of the outcome of this season, we are not blind to the implications of another losing season. Even so, we fully expect that Michigan will return to its rightful place come the end of the season: in a bowl game. There is the outside chance that Michigan could find itself in a lower end New Year's Bowl game, but with two sophomore QBs, a lot of questions in the defensive backfield, and an extremely difficult schedule, A December Bowl game is and should be expected out of this squad.
Those are my expectations. I'd love to hear yours and hear about the expectations I might have missed.