Michigan Wolverines Football: Hoke's Recruits to Make Impact in Season Opener

Joel GreerCorrespondent IAugust 27, 2012

April 14, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke runs a drill with defensive tackle Quinton Washington (76) and defensive tackle William Campbell (73) before the Michigan spring game at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Probably the biggest surprise of Michigan's 2011 turnaround was that it happened chiefly with players from the Rich Rodriguez campaign.

When Michigan opens the season Saturday against Alabama, you'll begin to see the real transition, as several of Brady Hoke's recruits will be in action. 

Eight players come from the tail end of the 2011 recruiting class, while another dozen will make their Michigan debuts as true freshman.

"Obviously there are some talented guys who probably are going to get better as the season progresses," Hoke said at his Monday press conference. "It speaks to itself to some degree about depth and where we feel we are, and where we need to be."

Offensively, six true freshmen are listed on the official depth chart released for the opener. Kyle Kalis, Ben Bradin and Eric Magnuson are penciled in as offensive line reserves, while A.J. Williams and Devin Funchess are backup tight ends.

Look for wide receiver Amara Darboh—who's been impressive during training camp—to be the first freshman to get significant playing time.  

On defense, another half dozen freshmen may participate early. Nose tackle Ondre Pipkins and rush end Mario Ojemudia are expected to contribute, while James Ross III and Joe Bolden are listed as reserve linebackers. Terry Richardson and Jarrod Wilson are secondary reserves.

Don't be surprised if Joe Bolden isn't the first to see action at MIKE (middle) linebacker.

Hoke still undecided on Toussaint, Clark

Despite their appearance on the depth chart, Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark may not play Saturday because of lingering legal issues.

"We haven't made a decision," Hoke said. When he was asked when the two would play, all he added was, "Soon."

New Look Defensive Line

While there were no real surprises on the offensive depth chart, there were on defense. There's no secret Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison have been concerned with the defensive line.

Missing from last season are nose tackle Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and Will Heininger. After trying several combinations, the staff has decided—at least for the moment—on Craig Roh at strong-side end, Jibreel Black at rush end, Quinton Washington at nose tackle and Will Campbell at tackle.

Kick Return Speed

Redshirt sophomore Josh Furman and freshman Dennis Norfleet will be sharing kickoff return duties. Both could challenge for fastest player on the team, and both have had 2,000-yard seasons as running backs in high school. 

Furman has been fighting for playing time at safety, while Norfleet may also join Jeremy Gallon as a punt returner.