Michigan’s spring game will highlight several key position battles that will rage throughout the 2013 offseason.
Due to a scheduling conflict with Ohio State (whose spring game begins at 1 p.m. ET), Big Ten Network decided to air both school’s spring games on tape delay on Saturday night. Ohio State has the 7 p.m. slot while the Wolverines faithful will have to wait until 9 p.m. to get their first fix of offseason football.
It’s a small price to pay after enduring months without our favorite past time.
What positional battles should we watch for? We’ll take a look below at some of the key areas Brady Hoke must assess during the spring game and beyond this summer.
Big Ten football is won and lost in the trenches. With the Wolverines attempting to re-establish smash-mouth football in 2013, they will need some young offensive linemen to have a good spring.
Sophomore center Jack Miller has his work cut out for him as he will likely have two redshirt freshmen—Ben Braden and Kyle Kalis—manning the guard positions next to him next season.
How these youngsters handle the pressure will tell us a lot about how the Wolverines will fare in 2013. Can they reach their potential early enough to help Hoke or will he have to look elsewhere to make his decision upfront?
While the favorites to win the starting running back position will not be participating, there will still be talented ball-carriers at Michigan Stadium on Saturday.
Fitz Toussaint and Derrick Green—an incoming freshman who might steal the job—will not be participating. Toussaint is still recovering from an injury and Green has not yet registered at the school.
Green, a five-star recruit, was ranked as the fourth-best running back in this year’s class by 247 Sports’ composite ranking score.
That leaves Drake Johnson, Thomas Rawls, Justice Hayes and Dennis Norfleet to display their talents at the spring game. Of the bunch, Rawls may have the best shot at coming out on top. Although, he was given chances last year due to Toussaint’s injury woes and didn’t definitively seize the position.
Johnson is the wildcard of the group, as he has the biggest upside and raw talent of the group.
Jake Ryan, Michigan’s top returning defensive player, suffered an ACL tear and is out indefinitely. That leaves reserves Cam Gordon and Brennen Breyer to step up and pick up the pieces for the Wolverines.
Also departed is inside linebacker Kenny Demens, leaving Hoke with some interesting choices to make this spring.
Gordon, a fifth-year senior, has played on and off but has never lived up to the 77 tackles he recorded as a redshirt freshman in 2010. If he can stand out, he should secure the strong-side linebacker duties, but that remains to be seen.
Breyer will challenge him for that spot. He will be moved into the rotation regardless after switching back to linebacker following a season at defensive end in 2012.