I know, after last year, everybody can't wait until this spring. Spring is the time for us to see what players have improved, what players are potential starters, red-shirts from last year, and, most of all, we can see the new guys at work. It basically gives us a chance to get an outlook for our team for the 2009 season. I'm going to give my watch list of players for this spring. We already know who the stars on the team are, but here are some of the guys to look for this spring.
I am going to start with the new guys.
QB - Tate Forcier 6'1" 185
I believe that Tate will have the biggest impact of all the players. Michigan's lack of quarterback last year was one of the main reasons for their horrible season. Tate is a passing QB that can run. He can make plays when things break down in the pocket. His biggest asset is his accuracy; completing around 70 percent of your passes is great, no matter what level you are at.
Tate won the Elite 11 accuracy award. He will bring the type of skills and confidence that we need in a QB. Enrolling early will allow him to learn the playbook and get a feel for the guys around him. We need to remember that Tate is still a freshman, and freshmen will make mistakes, no matter what. But look for Tate to make an instant impact.
QB - Denard Robinson 6'0" 180
I know it seems weird I would put a second QB on here, but Denard has raw talent. I don't believe that Denard will be the starting QB, but you better believe he will see a lot of time as QB. I think you will see Michigan run some wildcat and two QB formations. I mean, Denard can run a 3.9 - 40. He is also a very good passer. He also likes to take off out of the pocket and run like Forrest Gump.
He will be a big part of the team this year. He is one of the guys who wants the football in his hands when the game is on the line. Expect to see Denard get a lot of playing time. Here is a link of Denard in a track meet. Denard is the last guy in the 4 x 100 relay. Trust me, you will be able to tell who he is. This is speed at its best.
He is in red.
CB/Safety - Justin Turner 6'2" 185
Everyone has heard the comparison between Justin Turner and Charles Woodson. While Turner has a long way to go, he has shown some signs of greatness. He is a big athletic type that can pursue the ball with the best of them. He is a ball-hawk wherever he is on the field.
I think that he will play more safety than corner, but he could eventually turn into a shutdown corner. If you watched the US Army All American Bowl, you saw how he could be a great corner. The fourth quarter interception did remind me of watching Charles Woodson making his athletic interceptions. Turner also played running back in high school. He rushed 193 times for 1,349 yards and scored 11 touchdowns as a senior and caught nine passes for 116 yards and one TD.
He could play both sides of the ball, but I see him staying on defense. He will definitely make an impact right away. I also believe he will be starting as a freshman. He has the physicality and quickness we have been looking for in a defensive back. Look for Turner; he will be the one wearing No. 2.
William Campbell - DT 6'5" 317
William Campbell is a beast of a man. He will be playing defensive tackle for us this year, which is what he played in high school (in addition to also serving time on the OL). Due to lack of depth at that position, he will definitely be a starter. Campbell is a big guy who will draw a lot of double teams. He can also overpower the offensive linemen and get at the QB. He is pretty quick on his feet for a big man.
We are going to need him to contribute right away for us to have a decent line. If Campbell can stay healthy, I see him being a four-year starter; he is like a young Terrence Taylor. Expect Campbell to make a huge impact on defense this year. Can't wait to see the big guy in maize and blue this year.
Notable mentions - Jeremy Gallon (WR), Vincent Smith (RB), Jeron Stokes (WR), Anthony LaLota (DE), and Craigh Roh (DE)
Now to the red-shirts. (red-shirts are harder to evaluate)
Brandon Smith - S 6'3" 210
Smith is a big physical safety, unlike Stevie Brown. I believe that Smith will have a very good shot at starting this year. He is a fast guy who can hit really hard. Since we never got to see him on the field, there are good things being said about Smith. He should be able to contribute right away. If he doesn't become the starter, he will get ample playing time.
Terrence Robinson - WR 5'9" 170
Terrence was red-shirted last year due to injury. He was one of the most highly talked about freshmen last year. He is a burner who can find himself open a lot. His smaller size makes him more difficult to find in crowds; if he gets into space he is a goner. He is also very hard to tackle once he gets going. Terrence will bring a Martavious Odoms type speedster this year for us. Expect to hear a lot about Robinson this year.
Honorable mentions - Dan O'Neil (OL), Roy Roundtree (WR), and Brandon Moore (TE)
Finally, players returning from last year.
Mike Martin - DT 6'2" 285
Martin played in all 12 games as a true freshman; he had 20 tackles as the primary backup at defensive tackle. 4.5 of those tackles were for losses, with two of them being sacks. He is also another big plugger in the middle. He will be starting due to lack at depth for defensive tackle.
He is a guy who can make some big plays. If needed, he can jump into the starting position, as he demonstrated last year. He will make a huge contribution to the team this year. This is a guy that we will need to be a leader for our young defensive line. He is going to need to be at his best for our line to be where it should.
Michael Shaw - RB 6'0" 205
Shaw rushed for 215 yards and averaged more than five yards a carry while being injured for most of the season. Shaw is a faster Brandon Minor; he is a speedster who could break a big play at any time. If he can stay healthy, he will get a lot of playing time this year. I believe he will be the No. 2 back, behind Minor. If he is healthy, he could possibly be starter material. Look for Shaw to battle for as many snaps as he can get.
Darryl Stonum - WR 6'2" 180
Stonum played in 11 out of the 12 games; he was suspended for an alcohol related incident. Before the suspension he managed to catch 14 passes for 176 yards. He wasn't used as much as I thought he would be. He is an explosive receiver that can use his strength and speed to get open.
He will definitely get more looks this year. He may even move into a starting position. Stonum can go up up and snatch the ball out of the air with the best of them. He will be used a lot this year. Expect him to be a starter about three games into the season.
Honorable mentions - L.B. Fitzgerald (LB), Justin Feagin (WR), and Kevin Koger (TE)
These are some of the guys that will either make names for themselves or become starters. Spring practice is right around the corner, so let's get ready for some Michigan football in '09.