Michigan Football: Talented Youngsters Already Contributing to B1G Title Chase

Joel GreerCorrespondent IOctober 13, 2012

Michigan's Mario Ojemudia (53)
Michigan's Mario Ojemudia (53)Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

As the Michigan Wolverines battle for a slot in the Big Ten championship game, freshmen and sophomores will be counted on more heavily. What's impressive about this particular group of youngsters is that they come equipped with plenty of game. 

Even more intriguing is that the coaching staff is assembling the nucleus of what might be some darn good football teams in the near future.

Add what might be the nation's top recruiting class in 2013, and the Wolverines will be among the nation's elite very, very soon.

Better yet, the superior depth which is being created should help Michigan (4-2, 2-0) in its quest for the Legends Division title. 

Sprinkled throughout Michigan's crushing 45-0 win over Illinois (2-5, 0-3) Saturday were a variety of plays that will be featured on YouTube throughout the week.

True freshman Dennis Norfleet looked more like Houdini on a 42-yard punt return, sophomore tailback Thomas Rawls escaped down the sideline for a 63-yard touchdown run and freshman tight end Devin Funchess caught his third touchdown of the season.

Defensively, freshman defensive end Mario Ojemudia recovered a fumble and had a quarterback sack. Jake Ryan, who's surprisingly only a redshirt sophomore, showed why he might have been the best defender on the field Saturday. Ryan posted a team-high 11 tackles, a forced fumble and 1.5 sacks.

Let's also not forget sophomore cornerback Raymon Taylor, who took over for starter Blake Countess early in the Alabama loss. Countess won't be back until next spring. 




The play of Rawls and Ojemudia can only make players ahead of them work harder. Rawls is no doubt pushing Fitz Toussaint for the starting job. In fact, Toussaint showed some signs of the player who actually rushed for over 1,000 yards a season ago. 

Michigan also turned loose sophomore Justice Hayes, a speedy scat back who will bring a change of pace to the Michigan backfield. Hayes had 16 carries for 66 yards, including a 24-yarder.

The Wolverines couldn't be in better shape to face the Spartans (4-3, 1-2) October 20. Offensive coordinator Al Borges has his offense working on all cylinders. In the two Big Ten games against Purdue and Illinois, the Wolverines have tallied 89 points, 936 total yards and just two turnovers. Defensively, Michigan has allowed just 13 points and 347 total yards. 

There's no question Spartan coach Mark Dantonio has more to think about than "little brother." 

Michigan State lost a tough 19-16 double-overtime decision to Iowa (4-2, 2-0), who's now a contender in the Legends Division race.