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Phil Steele's preasons all-Big Ten teams released: 12 Wolverines honored

Michigan places twelve players on Steele's all-Big Ten team, but just one on the first team.


Preseason all-X teams are an interesting combination of past production, expectations of a player blowing up, and unabashed hype. Of course this means that in many senses these teams are totally meaningless going forward. "Hey, I really think these guys will be good and these other guys will be good, but a little less so than those first guys..."

They are also something football related to talk about in June, which is the most important thing when baseball season (yuck) is in full swing. So let's check out what Steele has to say.

First Team

LT Taylor Lewan

I don't know if this should be all that surprising given that Michigan doesn't really seem to have any stars outside of the injured Jake Ryan (who does not appear), but as for first teamers, Lewan is it. It is a well deserved nod for the returning senior, and he will probably be first-team on quite a few preseason lists.

Second Team

WR Jeremy Gallon, KR Dennis Norfleet, PK Brendan Gibbons

Given the season that Gallon put together last year, and his growing comfort with Devin Gardner, it is no surprise to see him this high. Gallon could be one of the biggest benefactors from the change in offensive focus now that Gardner is running the show.

Norfleet flashed a lot of potential as a kick return specialist a year ago. He didn't break one for a touchdown a year ago, but at this point it feels like it is only a matter of time given his agility, speed, and knack for finding seams in coverage units.

Gibbons. Brunettes, yo.

Third Team

QB Devin Gardner, DE Frank Clark, DT Quinton Washington, LB Desmond Morgan

Gardner is a pretty easy selection for the third team as A) the two players ahead of him are established starters while he is still somewhat transitioning into the role full-time and B) everyone else in the conference is an unknown or relative garbage outside of do-it-all Kain Colter from Northwestern (who is 4th team).

Two of Michigan's defensive linemen come in for honors here. Frank Clark's is most likely based on the rumors from spring of him emerging as a roving death machine. Washington, on the other hand, is most likely here because he had such a steady season as a starter a year ago in the middle. While Washington probably won't ever be the kind of explosive playmaker in the middle to make a push for post-season first-team honors (I say probably because I won't count him out after last year), Clark is an X-factor that could blow up this year if the rumors are true.

Morgan is a curious selection because he is probably Michigan's third best linebacker between Ryan and James Ross. However, Ryan is not here due to injury (otherwise he is at least second-team and more likely pushes Shazier for first-team honors) and Ross because he is still transitioning into the starting role it looks like he will have locked down soon.

Fourth Team

RB Derrick Green, TE Devin Funchess, RT Michael Schofield, S Thomas Gordon

Derrick Green hasn't even set foot on campus and someone already thinks he is the fourth-best running back in the conference. Let's hope that's the truth.

Funchess is another player that could blow up with the combination of another year of experience and the offensive shift that follows Devin Gardner taking the reins of the offense. If Funchess can handle more blocking duties -- thus staying on the field a bit more -- he has the size and athleticism to be a terror over the middle in the passing game.

Schofield tends to get overlooked on the offensive line, but he might even warrant a higher placement than what he received as a fourth-teamer.

Finally, Thomas Gordon is the one snub I am most upset about. Given Michigan's penchant for not allowing big offensive plays the last couple years, as well as Gordon's integral role in that, he should have been higher.

Overall, Michigan's presence on these lists is just about right for a team that doesn't have a lot of proven offensive weapons, is replacing a good chunk of its offensive line, and isn't much of a star power defense. This is about what we think of this team going into the season: talented enough to at least win nine games, but if things go right and a few players take a step forward it could be an 11 win outfit.

Other observations

- Ohio State has 16 players on these lists. Twelve of those are first- or second-team selections. Say hello to your runaway conference title favorite.

- Michigan State places five players on the first- or second-team defense but not one on offense.

- Steele picks Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon above James White for the second team based almost entirely on a handful of games last season. Let's see how that one works out.

- Both Illinois and Purdue fail to place anyone on any of the four offensive teams. Illinois because that offense was terrible last year and Purdue because the school doesn't exist.

- Players that could make a push to be included on these lists at the end of the season: G Kyle Kalis, WR Amara Darboh, LB James Ross, LB Jake Ryan (please), S Jarrod Wilson, CB Blake Countess.