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Michigan Football: Predicting How Brady Hoke Will Replace Every Senior

Zach DirlamSenior Analyst IINovember 29, 2012

Michigan Football: Predicting How Brady Hoke Will Replace Every Senior

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    As the Michigan Wolverines wait to find out what bowl game they'll be heading to on New Year's Day and who their opponent will be, head coach Brady Hoke and the rest of the coaches will be hitting the recruiting trail hard to prepare for the 2013 season.

    The Wolverines will use the extra 15 bowl practices to further expedite the development of the team's reserve players in order to help find replacements for 14 seniors next year. 

    Who is in line to replace all of the seniors departing Ann Arbor after the 2012 campaign officially comes to a close this winter?

    Click ahead to find out!

Quarterbacks

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    Outgoing Seniors: Denard Robinson and Jack Kennedy

    Who Will Replace Them: Devin Gardner and Shane Morris 

    Senior quarterback Denard Robinson will put the finishing touches on one of the most impressive statistical careers in the history of Michigan football in the Wolverines' upcoming bowl game, and the Maize and Blue will sorely miss his production in the rushing department next season.

    The Deerfield Beach, Florida native racked up 4,395 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns over the course of his career, and has been the Wolverines' leading rusher for three straight years.   

    Robinson was the subject of endless scrutiny for his passing accuracy, or lack thereof, during his time in Ann Arbor, but no one can deny that he will go down in history as one of the greatest athletes ever to don the winged helmet.

    The future at the quarterback position looked bleak at the start of the 2012 campaign, but junior signal-caller Devin Gardner impressed in four starts under center for the Wolverines, after Robinson went down with an ulnar nerve injury during Michigan's loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

    Gardner will take over as Michigan's full-time starter next season, and the Inkster High School product will benefit from not having to deal with rotating in and out of the game, thanks to Robinson's departure.

    Michigan's other senior quarterback, Jack Kennedy, only appeared in five career games and never broke the two-deep.

    Now that Gardner is likely going to be granted an extra year of eligibility, the Michigan coaches will give some serious thought to redshirting incoming five-star quarterback Shane Morris, instead of wasting a year of his eligibility buried on the depth chart.

Running Back/Fullback

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    Outgoing Seniors: Vincent Smith and Paul Gyarmati

    Who Will Replace Them: Justice Hayes and Sione Houma

    Many who follow the Michigan Wolverines closely know that Vincent Smith may never have been a great running back, but the Pahokee, Florida native has been one of the toughest players in the country and does much more than his career statistics reflect. 

    Smith only rushed for more than 300 yards once while at Michigan, since his primary role for the Wolverines was to haul in an occasional screen and pass-block in countless third-down situations.

    Redshirt freshman running back Justice Hayes should step into Smith's role as Michigan's No. 3 running back in 2013.

    Hayes came to Ann Arbor as a highly touted all-purpose back out of Flint, and next season will be a chance for the former four-star prospect to earn more than the 16 carries he had in 2012.

    Fifth-year senior fullback Paul Gyarmati will also departing from the backfield after Michigan's upcoming bowl game. 

    This will not be a big loss for the Wolverines, since junior Stephen Hopkins and redshirt freshman Joe Kerridge were ahead of Gyarmati on the depth chart.

    A former three-star prospect and No. 5 fullback in the nation, true freshman Sione Houma will replace Gyarmati as Michigan's third-stringer. 

Wide Receiver/Tight End(s)

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    Outgoing Seniors: Roy Roundtree, Brandon Moore and Mike Kwiatkowski

    Who Will Replace Them: Jerald Robinson, Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams

    Although wide receiver Roy Roundtree's production dipped significantly after the 2010 season, the fifth-year senior benefited from Devin Gardner taking over at quarterback and became one of the Michigan Wolverines' top players for the final three games of the 2012 campaign.

    Roundtree will long be remembered for catching Gardner's Hail Mary pass in the final seconds of regulation, which set up a game-tying field goal in Michigan's 38-31 overtime victory over the Northwestern Wildcats this year.

    The loss of Roundtree, in addition to Gardner's emergence as the Wolverines' starting quarterback, means Michigan will need someone to step up and become a reliable deep threat in the passing game.

    The most likely candidate right now is Jerald Robinson, who has hauled in five catches for 69 yards this season. The Canton, Ohio native has the build and speed to be a downfield target and could be in line for a breakout year in 2013.

    Fifth-year senior tight ends Mike Kwiatkowski and Brandon Moore will be out of eligibility in January, which means true freshmen Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams will not be splitting reps with other tight ends very often next season.

    Williams was primarily used as a blocking tight end in 2012, while Funchess hauled in 14 receptions for 230 yards and five touchdowns.

Offensive Linemen

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    Outgoing Seniors: Ricky Barnum, Elliott Mealer and Patrick Omameh

    Who Will Replace Them: Kyle Kalis, Jack Miller and Joey Burzynski

    The Michigan Wolverines may not have had one of the best offensive lines in school history this season, but replacing three fifth-year seniors will be no easy task, and things will only get more difficult if junior left tackle Taylor Lewan opts to enter the 2013 NFL Draft.

    Patrick Omameh has been Michigan's starting right guard since the final three games of the 2009 season, and the 6'4", 305-pounder was named First Team All-Big Ten this year.

    Expect redshirt sophomore Joey Burzynski to step into Omameh's starting spot next season alongside redshirt freshman center Jack Miller, who is the top candidate to replace Elliott Mealer. Miller has appeared in just six games over the past two years for the Wolverines.

    The final vacant spot along Michigan's front five will be left behind by Ricky Barnum and should be filled by former five-star prospect Kyle Kalis.

    Michigan's offensive line will struggle early on in 2013, but once the group comes together and some of the younger players get some game experience under their belts, the Wolverines will have legitimate unit for years to come.

Defensive Linemen

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    Outgoing Seniors: Will Campbell and Craig Roh

    Who Will Replace Them: Jirbeel Black and Chris Wormley

    Another problem the Michigan Wolverines had all season long was getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks with a four-man rush, but the departures of former five-star defensive tackle Will Campbell and four-year starter Craig Roh will open things up for two new starters next season.

    Campbell was a serviceable defensive tackle this year, while Roh played his best football in November, when Michigan needed him the most, after the Scottsdale, Arizona native struggled through the first two months of the 2012 campaign.

    The Wolverines will miss the experience the duo brought to the defensive line, and although their replacements are unproven, Jirbeel Black and Chris Wormley are going to have more chances to make plays, thanks to the emergence of sophomore rush end Frank Clark.

    Black has appeared in all 38 games the Wolverines have played over the last three seasons.

    On the other hand, Wormley had an inside track to seeing the field as a true freshman for the Wolverines, until the Whitmer High School alum from Toledo, Ohio tore his ACL in August.

    Both will be part of a rotating contingent of linemen for Greg Mattison's defense in 2013, regardless of whether or not the two wind up winning a starting job during fall camp.

Linebackers

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    Outgoing Seniors: Kenny Demens and Brandin Hawthorne

    Who Will Replace Them: Joe Bolden and Mike McCray

    Linebacker is one of the positions head coach Brady Hoke and the Wolverines' coaching staff have recruited better than any other since arriving in Ann Arbor, which is why the Maize and Blue faithful shouldn't be worried about the loss of fifth-year middle linebacker Kenny Demens or long-time reserve Brandin Hawthorne.

    Demens struggled in Michigan's opening two games, but rallied against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and finished the season as the Wolverines' No. 2 tackler.

    Hawthorne started in five games last season for Michigan before being replaced by sophomore Will linebacker Desmond Morgan, who started all but three games this year for the Wolverines.

    There will not be a change at outside linebacker for the Wolverines unless true freshman James Ross III manages to pass Morgan on the depth chart.

    Meanwhile, Hoke and Mattison made the decision to get true freshman middle linebacker Joe Bolden on the field in several big-game situations to prepare the Cincinnati, Ohio product to take over for Demens in 2013.

    The vacant spot on the depth chart left behind by Hawthorne will more than likely be filled by incoming four-star prospect Mike McCray, who already has the size and strength required to play as a true freshman at the college level.

Defensive Backs

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    Outgoing Seniors: Jordan Kovacs, Floyd Simmons, J.T. Floyd and Steve Wilson

    Who Will Replace Them: Marvin Robinson, Dymonte Thomas, Blake Countess and Jourdan Lewis

    Fifth-year senior safety Jordan Kovacs has been one of the greatest stories in college football for the last two years.

    The Curtice, Ohio native started his career with the Michigan Wolverines as an unknown walk-on, but finished it as one of the team's best defensive players. He finished the 2012 season with five tackles for loss and two sacks.

    Junior defensive back Marvin Robinson should take over Kovacs' starting spot after being his immediate back up for much of this year, and with third-stringer Floyd Simmons departing as well, the Wolverines will turn to four-star prospect Dymonte Thomas to take over as the No. 2 strong safety for team 134. 

    J.T. Floyd has been Michigan's top cornerback for the past two seasons, but sophomore Blake Countess should be ready to assume that role for the Wolverines, despite missing the entire year after suffering an ACL injury in the season opener. 

    Finally, Steve Wilson played in one game this season and does not occupy a spot on the depth chart. Michigan will have a much better cornerback to replace Wilson in four-star prospect Jourdan Lewis.

    The star of Detroit's Cass Tech High School will compete for a spot on the two-deep with several other incoming freshmen and returning players.

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