After its exciting turnaround season in 2011, Brady Hoke's Wolverines became serious contenders for this fall's Big Ten Championship.
But serious flaws on both sides of the ball were first exposed in the season opening 41-14 loss to Alabama and again in Saturday's 31-25 win over Air Force. The culprits were both the offensive and defensive lines.
Fixing them won't happen overnight, and frankly, won't be totally completed by 2013.
So tuck away those dreams of a BCS title game at least until 2014. And, considering how Michigan fared against Alabama, that's not all that bad.
Taking a look at the offensive line, this season's edition is comprised of three fifth-year seniors (LG Ricky Barnum, C Elliott Mealer and RG Patrick Omameh) and two redshirt juniors (LT Taylor Lewan and RT Michael Schofield).
That level of experience should have produced better results, especially from the running backs. Aside from QB Denard Robinson, the Michigan rushing leader against Alabama was Vincent Smith with 33 yards on 13 carries. Against Air Force, Fitz Toussaint could muster only seven yards on eight carries.
Sure, Michigan's o-line will improve as the season progresses, but don't look for the Wolverines to coast into December's Big Ten title game. Looking ahead, the departure of the three seniors will necessitate a rebuilding job in 2013.
Fortunately, the task becomes easier with each recruiting class. Freshmen Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson and Ben Braden should be ready to step up, as will RS SO Joey Burzynski and RS JR Erik Gunderson. Five more talented recruits will join the o-line next year, so by 2014 Michigan will not only be good, they'll be deep too.
Of course, super quarterback recruit Shane Morris will be a sophomore in 2014 as will WR Jaron Dukes and RB DeVeon Smith.
On defense, it's been no secret that Hoke and DC Greg Mattison have been trying to fill holes along the front. Neither Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen or Will Heininger have been easy to replace. The defensive line was totally dominated by Alabama and often bruised by Air Force.
Michigan will lose five senior starters this season, so it will be rebuilding there, too.
The turnaround on the defense will be quicker. Six true freshmen have already seen action, and more recruits are on the way.
The real problem next season will be the offense. Along with the personnel changes along the offensive line, Michigan will be transitioning back to the pro-style offense, which includes replacing Robinson with Russell Bellomy, Devin Gardner or Morris.
Sure, it would be nice to believe that Michigan will easily knock off Notre Dame, Michigan State and Nebraska this fall, before making it two straight over the Buckeyes. No, from what we've seen thus far, getting to the Big Ten title game will be no easy task. And the same can be said for 2013, too.
Here's a look at Michigan's 2014 hypothetical depth chart.
WR Amara Darboh/Jehu Chesson
WR Csont'e York/Jerald Robinson
SL Justice Hayes/Dennis Norfleet
FB Wyatt Shallman/Sione Houma
RB Thomas Rawls/DeVeon Smith
QB Shane Morris/Russell Bellomy
TE Devin Funchess/AJ Williams
LT Erik Magnuson/David Dawson
LG Kyle Kalis/Chris Fox
C Jack Miller/Blake Bars
RG Patrick Kugler/Chris Bryant
RT Ben Braden/Blake Bars
WE Frank Clark/Brennen Beyer/Taco Charlton
SE Chris Wormley/Keith Heitzman/Mario Ojemudia
NT Ondre Pipkins/Willie Henry
DT Henry Poggi/Matthew Godin
SAM Jake Ryan/Tom Strobel
MIKE Joe Bolden/Kaleb Ringer
WILL James Ross/Royce Jenkins-Stone
CB Raymon Taylor/Gareon Conley/Terry Richardson
CB Blake Countess/Delonte Hollowell
FS Dymonte Thomas/Josh Furman/Jeremy Clark
SS Marvin Robinson/Allen Gant
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