The Michigan Wolverines head into the spring with a lot of experience gained over the past year. The third season in the Brady Hoke era should bring a more fluid offense, and another strong showing from the defense.
This is a look at the two-deep predictions for the Wolverines at every position heading into this spring.
While quarterback finally belongs to Devin Gardner, the offensive line is replacing its entire interior heading into the new year so finding continuity in front of the seasoned signal-caller is a must.
Here is a breakdown of what the depth chart will look like heading into the spring for the Wolverines.
The quarterback position is locked up by Devin Gardner as he heads into his fourth year with the Michigan program.
He was recently granted a extra year of eligibility because of an injury sustained during his sophomore season. That gives Michigan the chance to have him at the helm for the next two seasons.
Behind him this spring will be the most interesting battle. Early enrollee Shane Morris and sophomore Russell Bellomy will go head-to-head for the No. 2 spot behind Gardner.
Don’t be surprised to see Morris take a redshirt with the news of Gardner’s sixth year.
1. Devin Gardner (Jr.)
2. Shane Morris (Fr.) or Russell Bellomy (So.)
The running back position is wide-open for the Wolverines.
Fitz Toussaint will sit out spring practices with a broken leg injury from last season, and highly regarded incoming freshman Derrick Green will not be on campus until the summer so four backs will step up and compete for the job.
Thomas Rawls, Justice Hayes and Drake Johnson will attempt to make the starting rotation with breakout spring performances.
Thomas Rawls should be the leader heading out of spring, but Justice Hayes could be a rising star.
1. Thomas Rawls (Jr.)
2. Justice Hayes (So.)
The fullback group for Michigan is hitting a transition with Joey Kerridge and Sione Houma battling for the starting role.
Kerridge is the bigger body of the two, coming in at 6’0”, 244 pounds, but Houma is a bruiser and could earn time in the more dynamic halfback role when needed.
1. Joey Kerridge (So.)
2. Sione Houma (So.)
The Wolverines are set at tight end heading with Devin Funchess stepping back into the position for Michigan.
Last year, Funchess was a force in the offense as a pass-catching tight end and with the departure of a number of key receivers, his role is expected to be expanded in the passing game.
Behind Funchess will be a A.J. Williams and early enrollee Jake Butt. Williams is a blocking tight end with Butt being able to carry both roles relatively well.
If Butt can mature in the offense this spring, he may head into summer as the No. 2 tight end.
1. Devin Funchess (So.)
2. A.J. Williams (So.) or Jake Butt (Fr.)
Michigan is moving into the pro-style offense for the third season under Hoke and that will allow for the Wolverines to rely on less playmakers at wide receiver.
Stepping up at one of the outside positions will be Jeremy Gallon, a returning starter who accumulated 49 catches for 829 yards and four touchdowns a year ago.
Behind Gallon will be Jehu Chesson and Jeremy Jackson.
1. Jeremy Gallon (Sr.)
2. Jehu Chesson (Fr.) or Jeremy Jackson (Sr.)
Opposite of Gallon will be rising senior Drew Dileo. Dileo is a lot like Gallon in size—they are both under six feet—but he produced 331 yards and two touchdowns a year ago.
He is a proven player who will get the first nod at the starting receiver spot.
Battling Dileo will be Amara Darboh and Joe Reynolds. This is an open battle that could go in any direction heading into the summer.
1. Drew Dileo (Sr.)
2. Amara Darboh (So.) or Joe Reynolds (Sr.)
There are no questions at left tackle for the Wolverines heading into spring with Taylor Lewan anchoring the offensive line in 2013 once again.
Erik Magnuson is expected to be the backup for the Wolverines for the second year in a row.
1. Taylor Lewan (Sr.)
2. Erik Magnuson (Fr.)
According to Kyle Meinke, Hoke has told the media that Ben Braden, Blake Bars and Joey Burzynski will battle for the starting left guard position.
The interior line is replacing three starters, so finding the right mix early is important for this group.
Burzynski is a rising junior and the only walk-on in the group. He is also the reserve center for the Wolverines.
1. Ben Braden (Fr.) or Blake Bars (Fr.)
2. Joey Burzynski (Jr.)
The center position is the biggest concern for the Wolverines.
Jack Miller is the incumbent reserve who saw playing time in six games last fall, but he has yet to lock up the starting job officially.
Joey Burzynski will serve as the backup.
1. Jack Miller (So.)
2. Joey Burzynski (Jr.)
Right guard is the final of the three open positions along the Michigan offensive line heading into the new year.
There are two freshmen who are leading the charge for the starting right guard position.
Redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis and incoming early enrollee Kyle Bosch will battle for the right guard position.
This will be the weakest point of the line heading into 2013.
1. Kyle Kalis (Fr.)
2. Kyle Bosch (Fr.)
Michael Schofield is a rising senior at right tackle and one of the two experienced starters along the offensive line.
He heads into spring with the starting job in hand, so the battle for No. 2 is the one to watch unfold.
Early enrollee Logan Tuley-Tillman is hoping to gain some looks this spring, but the battle will be be between Ben Braden and Erik Gunderson for playing time in the fall.
1. Michael Schofield (Sr.)
2. Ben Braden (Fr.)
The strong side of the defensive line is wide open heading with Chris Wormley, Keith Heitzman and Tom Strobel all battling for starting snaps.
The strong side end has to be the anchor of the defensive line, which, battle with tight ends on a regular basis.
Chris Wormley was headed for playing time a year ago before an ACL tear forced him to redshirt, and Tom Strobel is a big body that will be tough to keep on the sideline.
Keith Heitzman appears to be best served as a solid backup.
There are a lot of bodies to pull from, but Chris Wormley takes a small edge heading into practice.
1. Chris Wormley (Fr.)
2. Tom Strobel (Fr.) or Keith Heitzman (So.)
Nose tackle is the only position along the defensive line that has a solid starter heading into spring.
Quinton Washington is the incumbent starter at nose tackle after he finished 2012 with 32 total tackles.
Behind Washington will be Ondre Pipkins and Richard Ash.
Pipkins is the first option off of the bench for the Wolverines.
1. Quinton Washington (Sr.)
2. Ondre Pipkins (So.)
Jibreel Black is another rising starter on the defensive line as the rising senior is expected to have a huge spring.
He played in a reserve role a year ago, and is expected to continue the climb to the starting spot in short order.
Behind Black are Matt Godin and Willie Henry. Walk-on Ryan Glasgow is also a name to watch this spring.
1. Jibreel Black (Sr.)
2. Matt Godin (Fr.)
The speed rush defensive end position is one of the most wide open competitions on the defense.
Brennen Beyer is the expected front-runner, but Frank Clark and Mario Ojemudia are battling hard to work their way into the starting rotation.
Also look out for incoming early enrollee, Taco Charlton, as he tries to earn playing time as a true freshman by making an impact in the spring.
1. Brennen Beyer (Jr.)
2. Mario Ojemudia (So.)
The "Sam" linebacker position is locked up with returning starter Jake Ryan stepping onto the field for his junior season.
Ryan was as good as they come at the position last season and is expected to turn in an All-American performance in 2013.
Behind Ryan will be experienced rising senior Cameron Gordon.
1. Jake Ryan (Jr.)
2. Cameron Gordon (Sr.)
The middle linebacker position is losing playmaker and leader Kenny Demens as the Wolverines go about the task of replacing him.
The easy fix is to place experienced middle man Joe Bolden into the starting lineup and get moving with spring ball.
The Wolverines are expected to experiment a bit. There is talk that starting "Will" linebacker Desmond Morgan could move over, but that doesn’t seem to be the right fit.
Expect spring to finish with Joe Bolden getting the starting snaps in the middle.
1. Joe Bolden (So.)
2. Royce Jenkins-Stone (So.)
The "Will" position is full of talent with rising junior Desmond Morgan and sophomore James Ross battling for the starting position.
Morgan may get a look in the middle, but his best fit is on the outside. If he doesn’t turn in a good spring at either position, he may fall out of the starting rotation.
James Ross is a tenacious linebacker that is looking for playing timel. Don’t be surprised if either player exits spring as the listed starter.
1. Desmond Morgan (Jr.)
2. James Ross (So.)
Blake Countess fell to a season-ending injury against Alabama in the season opener last year. This spring, he is looking to regain his footing as the starting left corner for the Michigan defense.
The march to starting playing time won’t be easy as he will battle with Courtney Avery for the starting position.
Avery started five games last year, and is a three-year letterman with the program. This is an open competition for the starting corner spot, but Countess should get the starting nod.
1. Blake Countess (So.)
2. Courtney Avery (Jr.)
The right cornerback position should not see as much competition for Michigan.
Rising junior Raymon Taylor should step in for the departed J.T. Floyd and excel for the Wolverines. Taylor is one of the most athletic corners on roster, and has the most experience of any returning expected starter at the position.
Behind him is expected to be the rising junior Delonte Hollowell and Terry Richardson.
1. Raymon Taylor (Jr.)
2. Delonte Hollowell (Jr.)
The free safety position is loaded with talent and returns starter Thomas Gordon and contributor Josh Furman to the lineup.
Gordon is the leader of the defense as one of the lone rising seniors that will start for Michigan.
In 2012, Gordon finished with 81 total tackles and two interceptions. He will enter the 2013 season as one of the best at his position in the country.
1. Thomas Gordon (Sr.)
2. Josh Furman (Jr.)
Jarrod Wilson is the assumed starting strong safety, but the competition will be tough for the starting position.
Early enrollee Dymonte Thomas is physically ready for the college game. It is just a matter of learning the system over 15 practices for him to earn time.
Marvin Robinson is another player that will earn looks at strong safety. He was the listed backup at the position for most of the season last year and will battle for the job.
1. Jarrod Wilson (So.)
2. Marvin Robinson (Sr.)
The Wolverines return both starters at the specialist positions with kicker Brendan Gibbons and punter Will Hagerup returning to Ann Arbor.
Both have had solid careers for the Wolverines and should continue to help Michigan climb the ladder in the Big Ten.
Specialists are often overlooked, but they will win and lose a lot of games at the top levels of college football.
Place Kicker: Brendan Gibbons (Sr.)
Punter: Will Hagerup (Sr.)
The Wolverines will return both of their punt and kick returners next season in the increasingly talented Big Ten.
Dennis Norfleet, Drew Dileo and Jeremy Gallon are all used in kick returns, and Jeremy Gallon is the lead punt returner.
It should be a group that shows a lot of growth and makes for a handful of explosive plays this fall.
Dennis Norfleet (So.) and Drew Dileo (Sr.) or Jeremy Gallon (Sr.)
1. Jeremy Gallon (Sr.)
2. Drew Dileo (Sr.)
QB – Devin Gardner, Russell Bellomy
RB – Thomas Rawls, Justice Hays
FB – Joey Kerridge, Sione Houma
TE – Devin Funchess, A.J. Williams
WR – Jeremy Gallon, Jehu Chesson
WR – Drew Dileo, Amara Darboh
LT – Taylor Lewan, Erik Magnuson
LG – Kyle Kalis, Joey Burzynski
C – Jack Miller, Joey Burzynski
RG – Chris Bryant, Blake Bears
RT – Michael Schofield, Ben Braden
SDE – Chris Wormley, Tom Strobel
WDE – Brennen Beyer, Mario Ojemudia
NT – Quinton Washington, Ondre Pipkins
DT – Jibreel Black, Matt Godin
SLB – Jake Ryan, Cameron Gordon
MLB – Joe Bolden, Royce Jenkins-Stone
WLB – Desmond Morgan, James Ross
RCB – Blake Countess, Courtney Avery
LCB – Raymon Taylor, Delonte Hollowell
FS – Thomas Gordon, Josh Furman
SS – Jarrod Wilson, Marvin Robinson
K – Brendan Gibbons
P – Will Hagerup
KR – Dennis Norfleet, Drew Dileo
PR – Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo