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Countdown to Kickoff 2009: The Preseason Top 50—No. 47 Michigan Wolverines

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Countdown to Kickoff 2009: The Preseason Top 50—No. 47 Michigan Wolverines

Spring practice is wrapping up across the country and we are a little over four months away from kickoff. To make the time go a little faster, I will count down my top 50 teams one team at a time.


No. 48  NC State Wolfpack

No. 47  MICHIGAN WOLVERINES

Change can be good.

It can also be frustrating, scary, and sometimes painful. No team knows just how difficult change can be than more than Michigan.  2008 may just be a year they choose to forget.

The year began with a triumphant victory over Florida in what would be Lloyd Carr's swan song. 

Fast forward through the buyout drama involved with the hiring of Rich Rodriguez, multiple transfers (including one player who did the unthinkable and transferred to arch rival Ohio State), dismal performances on the field, Rodriguez calling out fans to the media, losses to all three rivals (ND, MSU, OSU), to the end of what would turn out to be a three win season.

The 2008 Wolverines set two school records that no coach, player, or fan will ever celebrate—the most losses in school history and the biggest defeat to Ohio State in the 106-year history of the rivalry.

The proud Michigan program was at one of the lowest points in its storied history.

The sun is shining a little brighter in Ann Arbor these days. With the new season comes a renewed sense of hope and a new crop of young, but talented "Michigan Men".

Leading the pack is quarterback Tate Forcier.  The freshman enrolled early for spring practices and has already taken campus by storm.

Forcier is a run-pass threat and a perfect fit for Rodriguez's spread offense who has used the 15 spring practices to really extend his lead over Nick Sheridan entering summer camp.

Steven Threet, who started eight of 12 games last season, transferred after Forcier and Denard Robinson committed to Michigan on national signing day.

Once the quarterback puzzle is solved some of the other pieces should fall into place. Tailback Brandon Minor showed flashes of greatness when he was healthy last year, while receiver Martavious Odoms showed the potential of being a game-changer as a freshman.

The defense will again have a new voice. Greg Robinson takes over as defensive coordinator after the Scott Shafer experiment lasted just one season.  Robinson inherits a very young defense anchored by stand outs Brandon Graham and Obi Ezeh.

Corner Donovan Warren and safety Stevie Brown will need to step up, but under Robinson's tutelage Michigan has the pieces in place to show dramatic improvement as the season progresses.

 

KEEP AN EYE ON

William Campbell: A five-star recruit from Detroit, Campbell must excel for a line that lost three starters, including nose tackle Terrance Taylor. Campbell already has enrolled to get a jump on learning the scheme and getting his massive 6-foot-5, 315-pound body in shape.

Tate Forcier: He already is a star on campus as he looks to stabilize this key position. Forcier, a San Diego native, is a threat with his feet and his arm, making him the perfect weapon for Rodriguez's spread-option attack.

Brandon Minor: Minor, a senior, never has lived up to his high school hype, but showed flashes last season.  Another year in Rodriguez's system and Minor seems primed for a breakout season.

 

RICH RODRIGUEZ—A MAN ON A MISSION

Despite the struggles in 2008, Rodriguez is upbeat.  It is his natural front.  A smile is never far away, but behind that smile there is no fiercer competitor.

A few years ago Rodriguez pulled his son Rhett out of T-ball because the league didn't keep score.

"Everybody bats, and everybody scores," Rodriguez said. "At the end of four innings, there's no winner. I said, 'To hell with that.'"

The pattern in Rodriguez's coaching career is clear—year one is a struggle; year two has been a revelation. In 2001, Rodriguez's first season at West Virginia, the Mountaineers went 3-8—they went 9-4 in 2002.

That pattern helps to explain the lack of panic among Michigan fans. He's done it before and he'll do it again.

"Last year, there wasn't too much enjoyment out there," tailback Brandon Minor said. "This year is going to be totally different."

That's the mission.

 

UP NEXT:  The first team from the SEC West checks in at No. 46.  Can their second year coach turn it around?

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