What is going on with the Michigan Wolverines this year?
After starting out 6-0 last year en route to an 11-2 season and an unexpected Sugar Bowl win in Brady Hoke's first year as coach, the Wolverines sit at 2-2 five weeks into the season.
Expectations for the Wolverines were high this season after their Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech last year. One of the most dynamic players in the country, Denard Robinson, was also coming back for his senior year and most expected he and the offense to be even better in Hoke's second year at the helm.
Needless to say, things haven't gone quite as well as Michigan fans would have hoped. They have already equaled their loss total from last year and do not have the look of a potential BCS Bowl Game contender at this point in the season.
Now, some of that could be due to the fact that the Wolverines have played a much tougher schedule through the first five weeks of this year than they did last year. This years slate included an opener against No. 1 ranked Alabama and a rivalry game at much-improved Notre Dame. Last year, the Wolverines faced both Eastern and Western Michigan, San Diego State, Minnesota and Notre Dame all at home in the first five weeks.
Regardless of the tougher schedule, the Wolverines just look out of sync this year on offense and their defense is operating more like an open faucet than a brick wall.
Here are three players who can help the Wolverines get back on track in the second part of the season.
1. Denard Robinson.
Who better to lead the charge of getting back on track than the quarterback and best player on the team?
Robinson dazzled us week-in and week-out the past few years with his escapability, speed and ability to break off ridiculously long runs over and over again.
This year, he has not quite done that as much.
Through the first four games last year, he had accumulated 552 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 71 carries in addition to 624 yards passing and another six touchdowns for a total of over 1000 yards of total offense and 11 touchdowns.
This year he has thrown for more yards than last year (837) and the same number of touchdowns (six), but he has not quite equaled his rushing success this year with only 441 yards and four touchdowns on 66 carries.
My point here is that the Wolverines are at their best when Denard's focus is running the ball and throwing only when necessary. For the Wolverines to get back on track, they need to run Denard more and throw less.
2. Fitzgerald Toussaint
Denard needs some backup.
Toussaint was the No. 2 guy behind Denard last year and helped take the focus of opposing defenses off of Michigan's do-it-all QB. This year he has not quite been the dynamic running back that he needs to be in order for the Wolverines to have the success they crave.
Through three games this year (he was suspended for the opener against Alabama), Tousssaint has only 150 yards rushing yards and one touchdown to go with one reception for 17 yards. These stats are unacceptable for a guy that is expected to be a 1000-plus yards rushing, nine-plus touchdown guy like he was a year ago.
Toussaint needs to start being the other go-to guy on offense for the Wolverines to get back on track this year.
3. Jeremy Gallon.
Gallon was the go-to guy after Junior Hemingway of the Michigan receivers last year racking up 31 catches for 453 yards and three touchdowns.
While he is on pace to beat his totals from last year with 179 yards receiving already, he still needs to do more as the No. 1 receiver in order to fill Hemingway's shoes. This should not be a big problem considering the Wolverines are passing more per game this year with 209.3 average yards per game than they did last year with 182.85 average yards per game.
With the offense focusing more on passing this year than last year, Gallon and the receiving corps need to step up their game in order to get the Wolverines back on track.