The Michigan spring game is set to kickoff this Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET in the Big House, with Wolverines fans anxiously waiting to see the progress that has occurred this spring.
The Brady Hoke-led Wolverines are entering their third year under his leadership looking for a Big Ten title this fall, with the road to the title beginning this spring. This is a preview of what to look for in the spring game.
There are a number of position battles that have yet to be settled, and there are a few early enrollees that have made waves this spring. Here is what to look for out of the Wolverines this Saturday.
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
When: Saturday, April 13, at 12:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: BTN2Go (1 p.m. ET)
Watch: Big Ten Network at 9 p.m. ET (tape delay)
The loss of starting center Elliott Mealer was a huge blow to this offensive line heading into 2013, but there are a number of able bodies waiting in the wings for the Wolverines.
Jack Miller was in the mix for the starting job last fall, but he eventually fell behind in the race and served as a backup. He is expected to have the lead for the position heading into the spring game.
This position appeared settled entering last year’s spring game, but there was a shuffle at the position early in the fall. Miller may be the leader, but the competition is far from over.
Others in the mix are Blake Bars and Joey Burzynski.
Thomas Rawls, Justice Hayes, Drake Johnson and Dennis Norfleet will carry the running back load this Saturday.
Heading into the spring game, Rawls and Hayes were expected to show some separation, but so far that hasn’t happened.
The position group is still missing incoming freshman Derrick Green—who most expect will be the starter this fall—and the injured Fitz Toussaint, so the spring game will be the one shot these guys have to show they deserve the spotlight before the backfield gets crowded this summer.
The loss of Jake Ryan was a massive blow to the Michigan Wolverines earlier this spring, as the team lost the most explosive defender on the roster.
In his place, two experienced defenders are battling for starting snaps.
Cam Gordon is an experienced player that has earned time alongside Ryan in the past and is the shoo-in for the position. He will be on the field a lot this fall at linebacker and should take over the starting role.
Another player to watch is former defensive end Brennen Beyer, who recently moved to linebacker following Ryan’s injury.
He was a linebacker to start his career, and the move back should provide him with some playing time this fall.
The loss of Jordan Kovacs opened up the safety position for the Wolverines, but it appears that Marvin Robinson has stepped in to take over the starting spot opposite of Thomas Gordon.
There is a battle brewing that will unfold this Saturday with a number of players pushing Robinson for playing time.
Names to watch are Jarrod Wilson, Allen Gant and Jeremy Clark. Dymonte Thomas has an outside shot, but he should see most of his reps come at nickelback in the spring game.
Watch this battle closely, as it will likely head into summer undecided.
Dymonte Thomas, DB, 6’1”, 190 lbs
Dymonte Thomas was a star safety, just months ago taking on his first collegiate spring experience. He has since moved into the nickelback and corner role for the Wolverines, and has been very consistent throughout spring.
The Wolverines defense is looking for playmakers in the secondary to make up the gap left with the departure of Jordan Kovacs. Thomas is a factor heading into the spring game.
Look for Thomas to be brought along in the nickelback formation during the spring game and throughout 2013.
Taco Charlton, DE, 6’6”, 265 lbs.
Taco Charlton has been making a name for himself this spring with defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. Mattison recently had this to say to the media about Charlton (h/t MLive.com):
Sometimes I look at him and I say, "You’re too big to play." This is a young man that’s 6-6, 270 pounds. He’s getting some valuable reps.
The good thing for Taco is he gets to see two guys that are veterans that kind of know how to play it, and he gets to see what’s right or wrong and so he can learn a little quicker.
The two veterans are Frank Clark and Mario Ojemudia, and both are helping bring along the rising defensive star. Look for Charlton to get a lot of looks in the spring game as the Wolverines look to build depth for 2013.
Charlton is a name to watch as a true freshman this fall.
This is the first time that Brady Hoke will be able to field two full teams for the Michigan spring game since arriving in Ann Arbor. Michigan fans have to be excited to see the depth finally taking hold from Hoke’s recruiting efforts.
There won’t be a lot of flash that comes from this game, but there will be smashmouth football.
Reports are out that Devin Gardner will be untouchable at quarterback wearing an orange jersey (h/t MLive.com) in the game. There won’t be any bone-chilling hits on the quarterback, but that doesn’t mean this won’t be a fun game to watch.
Look for a lot of new faces to get looks at positions like linebacker, offensive line and in the secondary. The early enrollees are trying to prove they deserve playing time, and this game will help them solidify that notion heading into the summer.
Devin Gardner should look very methodical and sharp, and the receivers will show a lot of growth from last season.
Overall, this will be a fun game to watch and will be ruled by defense. As the Wolverines continue to piece together a starting offensive line, the experienced defense will rule the day, and the transition to a defense-first program will be complete for Hoke.
The spring game should provide a lot of positives for the Wolverines, and hope for a strong 2013 for the fans.