Michigan Football: Finalizing the Wolverines' Week 1 Depth Chart

Adam Biggers@@AdamBiggers81Senior Analyst IIAugust 29, 2012

Michigan Football: Finalizing the Wolverines' Week 1 Depth Chart

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    The anticipation has built for months. 

    And finally, the Michigan Wolverines' 2012 college football season is here.

    Well, almost.

    The eighth-ranked Wolverines open the fall with arguably the toughest opponent available, the defending national champion and second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, on Sept. 1 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

    It could be an upset in the making, or it could end with a resounding win by Alabama.

    While the Wolverines have a challenging schedule ahead, some of the main issues surrounding them aren't questions of which teams they'll beat, rather, they're questions of which players will see the most action.

    Breaking down the depth chart can be a tedious task. However, it's only right to fully analyze the roster as the Wolverines prepare for what could be their finest season under second-year head coach Brady Hoke.

    Get ready for a whole of roster breakdown as we dive into the Wolverines' Week 1 depth chart.

    Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Ground and Pound: Rawls, Toussaint and Hopkins Lead the Way for Michigan

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    The following information was obtained from TheWolverine.com and was accurate as of Tuesday afternoon.

    Stable of backs vs. Alabama

    Thomas Rawls is supposed to get the starting nod against the Crimson Tide. The 5-foot-10, 218-pound Flint native is an impressive specimen. As a freshman, he stood out to the Michigan coaching staff. However, a shoulder injury derailed his true debut.

    Rawls will be the primary back Sept. 1 while Fitz Toussaint serves his suspension, which was given to him in July by coach Brady Hoke after a drunken-driving incident. Toussaint's charge has been reduced to operating while visibly impaired, according to a report that cited a Twitter post from AnnArbor.com Wolverines beat writer Kyle Meinke.

    Toussaint, a junior, was the Big Ten's seventh-leading rusher in 2011, running for 1,041 yards and an 86.6 yards-per-game average.

    Vincent Smith, a senior, could see action Saturday if Toussaint isn't cleared to play. However, that seems a bit unlikely. If Toussaint is available, there is no doubting that he'll suit up and see a few carries. Should Rawls falter, Toussaint could take over the No. 1 role for the duration of the contest.

    Toussaint's status is up in the air at the moment, but Hoke isn't worried. There are other guys to plug into the offense if need be.

    "We've got guys who have worked awfully hard, gotten a lot of reps through the course of spring football and fall camp," Hoke told TheWolverine.com. "Two new, young kids have gotten valuable time from a special teams standpoint and a running back standpoint. I feel very comfortable with whoever is going to dot that 'I' or be in the gun next to Denard.

    "Vince Smith has played a lot of football here. Rawls, carry wise, is probably not close, but Thomas Rawls, he fits. Then Justice Hayes is a guy I've seen grow as a back."

    Hayes, a former Grand Blanc star, could see a few carries, too. However, he might be used as receiver out of the backfield more often than not.

    Senior fullback Stephen Hopkins is a bruiser at 6-feet-even, 240 pounds. He had just 11 carries for 43 yards in 2011 but could come in handy Saturday. Alabama has an NFL-sized defensive line, and if Rawls needs a breather from the ground-and-pound attack, look for Hopkins to spell the sophomore from time to time.

    Freshman Joe Kerridge is the No.2 fullback. Paul Gyarmati, a senior, is No. 3.

No Question at Quarterback, Denard Robinson Is the Man for the Job

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    With Heisman Trophy-frontrunner Denard Robinson running the show, the Wolverines should be quite comfortable in knowing that the ball will be in good hands.

    Robinson, one of college football's elite athletes, is a threat on the ground, but the 6-feet-even, 195-pound senior is developing into a more skilled passer. He threw a career-high 20 touchdown passes in 2011, but his completion percentage dropped from 62 percent in 2010 to 55.5 percent in 2011.

    Robinson is expected to have a huge season, just ask HUGE, a popular radio personality in Michigan and MLive.com columnist who is also known by his government name of Bill Simonson.

    Simonson predicts that Robinson will win the Heisman and that the Wolverines will go 14-0 en route to a national title.

    Lofty prediction, sure. But HUGE loves the Wolverines, which is clearly evident each time he writes about them. But it's not just his respect for Michigan football that prompted him to forecast success for the Wolverines. A preseason No. 8 ranking and having a player like Robinson is enough, he said Tuesday night during a brief Facebook chat with yours truly.

    Devin Gardner is listed as the No. 2 quarterback—which he is, in essence. However, he'll probably see more time at wide receiver—that's why he was moved to the position. Gardner saw sparse playing time in 2011. The more the Wolverines tried working him into the offense, more problems seemingly followed.

    At 6-4, 205 pounds, Gardner has the physical size to be an effective target for Robinson.

    Russell Bellomy, a 6-3, 202-pound frosh, could be an adequate backup behind Robinson.

Wide Receiver Corps Led by Roundtree and Gallon

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    Roy Roundtree just had knee surgery, but he's scheduled to start Saturday against Alabama.

    The senior is Michigan's second-leading returning receiver and one of its top offensive weapons. As a junior, he hauled in 19 catches, good for 355 receiving yards and two scores.

    Recovering from knee surgery is hit or miss. At times, players bounce back as if nothing happened. Other times, the injury nags a player for years. Roundtree's recovery seems to be going smoothly.

    "Roy understood what he had to do to get back and every time I saw him, he was in the training room getting a little extra, getting something done on that knee," Wolverines offensive tackle Taylor Lewan told the Detroit Free Press. "That's why he is back so fast, that commitment."

    Jerald Robinson, a 6-foot-1, 206-pound sophomore, is listed as the No. 2 man behind Roundtree. Devin Gardner, a 6-4, 205-pound junior, is listed at No. 3 "X" wideout.

    Jeremy Gallon, a 5-8, 185-pound junior, will anchor the "Z" spot. Gallon was a reliable target for Denard Robinson in 2011; he caught 31 passes, good for 453 yards and three scores.

    Juniors Drew Dileo and Jeremy Jackson, along with freshman Amarah Darboh, round out Gallon's reserves.

    Brandon Moore, a 6-5, 225-pound senior, is the go-to guy at tight end, although he had just a nine-yard catch in 2011.

    Freshman Devin Funchess could see time on the field, while senior Mike Kwiatkowski and freshman AJ Williams occupy the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively.

Taylor Lewan Anchors the O-Line

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    The following graphic was obtained from TheWolverine.com. Although it was accurate as of Tuesday afternoon, there have been changes made as Michigan enters Week 1. The graphic is simply used as as a visual tool.

    Icon  77 Taylor Lewan | 6-8, 302, JR
     70 Kristian Mateus | 6-7, 285, SO
    Icon  75 Michael Schofield | 6-7, 299, JR
     57 Elliott Mealer | 6-5, 310, SR
    Icon  56 Joey Burzynski | 6-1, 284, SO
     61 Graham Glasgow | 6-6, 314, FR
    Icon  65 Patrick Omameh | 6-4, 299, SR
     58 Chris Bryant | 6-4, 341, FR
    Icon  52 Ricky Barnum | 6-3, 292, SR
     60 Jack Miller | 6-4, 263, FR

    Junior tackle Taylor Lewan anchors what should be formidable Wolverines offensive line in 2012.

    With the exception of guard Joey Burzynski, the Wolverines return adequate experience in the trenches, which should bode well for the running attack led by Fitz Toussaint and Thomas Rawls.

    Elliott Mealer is expected to start at left guard against Alabama.

    Other reserves

    Kyle Kalis

Linebackers Have Room to Grow

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    The following graphic was obtained from TheWolverine.com. Although it was accurate as of Tuesday afternoon, there have been changes made as Michigan enters Week 1. The graphic is simply used as as a visual tool.

    Icon  90 Jake Ryan | 6-3, 230, SO
       4 Cameron Gordon | 6-3, 222, JR
    Icon  44 Desmond Morgan | 6-1, 220, SO
     40 Antonio Poole | 3-0, 0, RS
     49 Kaleb Ringer | 6-1, 225, FR
    Icon  25 Kenny Demens | 6-1, 248, SR
     35 Joe Bolden | 6-3, 230, FR
       7 Brandin Hawthorne | 6-0, 214, SR

    A relatively young group, the Wolverines linebacking corps has a lot of room to improve upon while gaining valuable experience in 2012. As far as the defense is concerned, the linebackers could be the only noticeable liability.

    But suggesting the group could be a liability isn't exactly fair. Let's just say it's rebuilding.

    Senior Kenny Demens had 10 more tackles in three games a year ago. As the obvious leader of the pack, it'll be Demens' job to keep the youngsters focused on tasks.

    Jake Ryan made leaps and bounds in terms of progress in 2011, not to mention during the summer of 2012. Michigan fans should expect to see plenty of him this fall. He's expected to start at the strong side linebacker in Week 1. 

    "I can tell you this: Any time Jake Ryan is on the field, I feel good," Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Mattison recently told the Detroit Free Press. " Based on how he has worked and—now again, he has to go through this camp also—but Jake Ryan has really, really worked extremely hard.

    "I'll be interested to see how he does because now it's not new to him, either. ... He had a very, very good off-season as far as strength gains and weight gains and that kind of thing, too. So that will be interesting."

    Freshman Kaleb Ringer is out for the year due to a knee injury (along with offensive lineman Chris Bryant, who suffered a fractured shinbone), which could thrust freshman Joe Bolden or Antonio Poole into a regular No. 2 role -- but don't forget about Brandin Hawthorne, either. The senior knows what Mattison's defense is all about.

    Other reserves

    Mike Jones (junior)

    James Ross III (freshman)

The D-Line: Campbell, Roh and Black Are Expected to Start vs. Alabama

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    The following graphic was obtained from TheWolverine.com. Although it was accurate as of Tuesday afternoon, there have been changes made as Michigan enters Week 1. It's used to serves as a visual tool.

    Icon  97 Brennen Beyer | 6-3, 225, SO
     57 Frank Clark | 6-2, 228,
    Icon  88 Craig Roh | 6-5, 269, SR
     67 Nathan Brink | 6-5, 263, JR
     92 Keith Heitzman | 6-3, 251, FR
    Icon  73 William Campbell | 6-5, 322, SR
     54 Richard Ash | 6-3, 301, SO
     41 Kenny Wilkins | 6-3, 280, SO
    Icon  55 Jibreel Black | 6-2, 260, JR
     76 Q. Washington | 6-4, 302, JR
     95 Chris Rock | 6-5, 267, FR

    Jibreel Black and Craig Roh will be two obvious players to watch—both for Michigan fans and Alabama fans. The pair are disruptive. Black was moved from tackle to end.

    Will Campbell is down to about 312 pounds after cutting out Honey Buns from his diet. He's still the same old rock, though. Cambpell is one of the most valuable components of the defensive line.

    This is what the defensive line depth chart for Michigan's duel with Alabama looks like.

    Defensive end

    Jibreel Black (junior)

    Frank Clark (sophomore)

    Brennen Beyer (sophomore)

    Mario Ojemudia (freshman)

    Defensive tackle

    Will Campbell (senior)

    Nathan Brink (senior)

    Jibreel Black (senior)

    Nose tackle

    Quinton Washington (junior)

    Richard Ash (sophomore)

    Ondre Pipkins (freshman) Note: Pipkins suffered a neck injury Aug. 17 during practice.

    Defensive end

    Craig Roh (senior)

    Nathan Brink (junior)

    Keith Heitzman (freshman)

The Secondary: Countess, Floyd and Kovacs Bring Experience and Skill

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    The following graphic was obtained from TheWolverine.com. Although it was accurate as of Tuesday, there have been changes made as Michigan enters Week 1. It's used to serve as a visual tool.

    Icon  18 Blake Countess | 5-10, 176, SO
     37 Terrence Talbott | 5-11, 178, JR
    Icon    8 J.T. Floyd | 6-0, 185, SR
       5 Courtney Avery | 5-11, 173, JR
    Icon  32 Jordan Kovacs | 6-0, 197, SR
       3 Marvin Robinson | 6-2, 200, JR
    Icon  30 Thomas Gordon | 5-11, 208, JR
     22 Jarrod Wilson | 6-2, 190, FR

    Senior captain Jordan Kovacs led all Big Ten safeties with 75 tackles in 2011.

    Michigan's pass defense was so-so in 2011, but it should improve this fall due to the experience factor. With two experienced and skilled cover guys at the corners -- Blake Countess and JT Floyd—the Wolverines have adequate protection when it comes to defending the deep ball.

    Courtney Avery showed skill last season a reserve. He could see significant playing time this season.



    Blake Countess (sophomore)

    Courtney Avery (junior)

    Terry Richardson (freshman)

    Strong safety

    Jordan Kovacs (senior, captain)

    Marvin Robinson (sophomore)

    Floyd Simmons (freshman)

    Free safety

    Thomas Gordon (junior)

    Jarrod Wilson (freshman)

    Josh Furman (sophomore)



    J.T. Floyd (senior)

    Raymon Taylor (sophomore)

    Delonte Hollowell (sophomore)

Now Comes the Fun Stuff: Return Guys, Kickers, Punters and All of That

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    No need for a graphic from TheWolverine.com here. But if you want to take a look at the site's most recent depth chart, be my guest. As stated in prior slides, it's accurate -- and by accurate, I mean the information cited in this slideshow was the information on the site Tuesday afternoon. Changes have been made

    The following list of specialists constitutes the group that will play against Alabama. Special teams aren't always the most exciting to write about, but they are exciting to watch.

    Michigan was No. 11 in the Big Ten on kickoff returns in 2011 with an average 18.4 yards. But punt returns didn't always equal big yards. The Wolverines were No. 5 in the Big Ten with a nine-yard average -- not too bad, but it could have been better.


    Brendan Gibbons (junior)

    Matt Wile (sophomore)


    Will Hagerup (junior)

    OR -- Matt Wile (sophomore)


    Jareth Glanda (junior)

    Curt Graman (junior)


    Drew Dileo (junior)

    Jeremy Gallon (junior)


    Matt Wile (sophomore)

    Seth Broekhuizen (junior)

    Fast guys to return punts

    Jeremy Gallon (junior)

    Dennis Norfleet (freshman)

    Fast guys to return kicks

    Josh Furman (sophomore)

    Dennis Norfleet (sophomore)

    Vincent Smith (senior)

    Note: This slideshow will be updated if any significant moves are made prior to Saturday's game.

    Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81