Michigan is currently going through all of the drills in spring practice in hopes of improving as a football team heading into the 2013 season. With the fewest returning starters in the Big Ten (12), Brady Hoke and his guys could certainly use this time to address any concerns and try to answer any questions the team may have.
Although the coaching staff would love to have an answer for everything when the spring drills are over, the harsh reality is that is never the case. Every team in the country has areas it could improve on and any coach would tell you that you could even make the strengths of your team that much stronger.
The Wolverines will still have concerns when the spring comes to a close and these will have to be dealt with when fall camp opens up.
Here are some of the things that will remain on the to-do list for Michigan.
When you lose the entire interior of your offensive line, we have some concerns heading into the regular-season opener.
It does make things a little easier knowing that you have a future NFL player at left tackle in Taylor Lewan, but he can only do so much and certainly isn't good enough to fill the void of the three men that have left.
One of the things coach Hoke has done really well is recruit massive offensive linemen and guys who have the look to be great. Kyle Kalis is somebody who should have no problem holding down a starting guard spot and Chris Bryant should be ready to step up to the plate after getting hurt in last season’s fall practices.
As for the center spot, it could be the combination of Jack Miller, Joey Burzynski and even Graham Glasgow.
Putting together an elite offensive line is probably the hardest thing to do in all of football. Getting all five guys to play and work together is not an easy task and sometimes can’t be done. When you have to replace three starters from this unit, you don't name a legitimate starting five until you see more production in fall camp.
Replacing Jake Ryan
Well, this is a new question mark that the coaching staff now must answer, huh? Easily one of the best players on the team and a leader defensively, linebacker Jake Ryan has suffered a torn ACL in spring practice.
While the severity of the injury has not yet been determined, there is a good chance he will miss the entire season.
The good news is that linebacker is a position that Michigan has depth at. The bad news is that Ryan was the engine to this improved unit, and no matter who steps in to replace him, they won't be able to provide the playmaking ability that he brought to the table.
The most likely candidate to step in and replace Ryan is senior linebacker Cameron Gordon. He has yet to really see significant playing time in his three-year career and actually stepped on campus as a receiver, but he at least has experience. Being in the system and knowing how things are done, Gordon should be considered the front-runner to replace Ryan.
However, depending on the health of redshirt freshman Kaleb Ringer, he could see some action there as well. Brennen Beyer is also somebody who could make the switch to his more natural position, as he is currently expected to play strong-side defensive end.
This injury hurt, but the good news is there are options on the table to choose from.
While the logical choice at this point is Gordon, you want to make sure you are making the right decision considering the impact Ryan had on this defense.
Running Back Order
Along with offensive line questions, Michigan must find out who the starting running back is going to be.
Who starts at RB this season?
Fitzgerald Toussaint is the most experienced and accomplished back on the roster, but he is still recovering from last season’s injury. He is expected to be ready by the time the season opens up, although I'm not sure anybody knows what to expect from him at this point.
Drake Johnson has all of the tools to be that workhorse runner, but he redshirted last season and has to prove himself before making the leap.
Many expect 2013 recruit Derrick Green to be named the starter within no time. The only problem is that he doesn't arrive on campus until fall camp and will have a shorter amount of time to show the coaching staff what he can do. With that said, the kid is incredibly talented and should turn heads when he sets foot in Ann Arbor.
With questions surrounding Toussaint and Green still not on the field, running back is another area that will have to wait until fall camp arrives.