Michigan Football: Why Wolverine Fans Should Love Team's New Identity
There's no doubt that this 2013 Michigan team will have a different look to it. Gone are the days of Denard Robinson and the spread offensive schemes.
The transition to a pro-style offense will take a big step forward this fall, but certainly won't be entirely there.
The offensive line just isn't quite good enough to dominate opponents yet, nor is there a clear-cut workhorse running back that is ready to carry this offense.
However, there will be a few changes on Team 134 that will be welcome sights.
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I list this one first because it is the most important. The way Michigan turned the ball over this past year was a downright joke, and it was something that plagued them all season long.
As we all know, Denard Robinson was the main culprit. Without him there, the amount of turnovers is sure to drop.
Fumbling wasn't really an issue with the running backs, as almost all of the turnovers came from whoever was playing quarterback.
Devin Gardner had a few poor interceptions in 2012, but that's to be expected from somebody who was as inexperienced as he was.
Now a veteran, turnovers should be a rare sight from Gardner (or anybody else on this offense) in 2013.
A Pro-Style Quarterback
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This is not a knock on Denard Robinson in any way whatsoever; but at the same time it will be a welcome sight to have a pocket passer playing QB for Michigan once again.
Although Devin Gardner isn't necessarily your typical pocket passer, he's not far off. Plus, he's the perfect man to bridge the gap until Shane Morris is ready.
We saw how accurate Gardner can be at times last year, and there's no reason not to think he won't duplicate those performances this year.
Again, Gardner is now a veteran and should move on from the mistakes he made last year.
The sky is truly the limit when it comes to how good this kid can be.
A Dominating Defense
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Say what you want about Michigan's defense, but I expect this unit to dominate. Too many key pieces are back and too much young talent is ready to emerge for this not to be one of the best defenses in the country.
Michigan's defense was very good for most of last year, except for a few games down the stretch. The performances against Northwestern, OSU and South Carolina were simply inexcusable.
In 2013, we shouldn't see any of those mental lapses.
There may be some growing pains and struggles early on as new starters are worked in, but by midseason this unit should be dominant. Fortunately, Michigan's schedule for the months of September and October is extremely favorable.
However, the month of champions, November, is absolutely brutal. We'll learn where this Michigan defense stands once it takes on the November gauntlet it'll have to face.
Glimpses of a Punishing Ground Game
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There's no denying that Michigan's ground game in 2012 was abysmal. All of the production came from Robinson, with the running backs basically doing nothing all season. In fact, the numbers the running backs put up were some of the worst in Michigan history.
Whether it was the offensive line's fault or the running backs' fault can be debated. Regardless, where does Michigan turn to for ground production with Robinson gone?
The progression of this mostly young, inexperienced offensive line will be a real wild card, as will Fitz Toussaint's recovery speed.
If the line isn't better than last year's, it's hard to envision much success from these running backs. However, if this unit gels faster than expected, then we should definitely see some of that ground production return.
If Toussaint is healthy, he will be the guy to carry the load. If not, it will likely be Derrick Green.
We may see glimpses of a punishing ground game, but that's probably about it.
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After last year's disappointment, some obvious changes are needed. No more can there be four-turnover games that wind up as a loss. No more can there be defensive lapses in big games at the most crucial times.
Fortunately, these issues are being addressed.
It may sound like a cliche, but Michigan was a few plays away from being 11-2 or even 12-1 this past year. Every game but the Alabama contest was right at Michigan's fingertips for the taking.
Again, the schedule sets up favorably in September and October, so it will be interesting to see where this team is headed into November.
Team 134 is probably not going to be a great Michigan team; the offense is going to struggle mightily at times and it will be up to the defense to keep them in some games. That will likely result in a few losses.
More important, though, is the foundation of success Team 134 will be laying for the future of Michigan football.