Michigan Football: 5 Reasons Wolverines Are Bound to Overachieve in 2013
Most sports-related websites have released at least some version of a preseason top 25, and the majority of them aren't giving Michigan much respect.
Plenty are pronouncing Nebraska as the division favorite, with some even placing Michigan State and/or Northwestern higher than the Wolverines.
True Michigan fans know what to expect from this 2013 team and what the realistic expectations should be. The national "experts" probably only know the basics about the Wolverines and not much else.
So why might this Michigan team do better than most are predicting right now? Here's a look at a few key factors on which true fans have set the bar so deservedly high for this year.
How Good Devin Gardner Can Be
I figured I'd get this one out of the way first because it's the most obvious. Devin Gardner seemingly has all the potential in the world and could be absolutely great at quarterback this season.
I think the national media realizes he'll be good, but I don't think they know how good.
He has all the tools to become one of the best signal callers in the country, and with plenty of game experience over the past two years, Gardner is finally ready to put it all together.
If the running game winds up struggling, Gardner could definitely carry this offense with his arm.
When quarterbacks are able to do that, that's when potential Heisman talks begin.
The Potential of This Running Game
Now this one may be a bit of a stretch, as I do think it will struggle, but at the same time it could easily be turned into a strength.
The offensive line is filled with question marks and the backfield has plenty of concerns as well. Starting with the running backs, a number of questions have to be addressed for this group to be successful.
How will Fitz Toussaint rebound from his injury? How effective will Derrick Green be as a freshman? Will any of the other backs step up and play a significant role?
Even if things do fall into place with the running backs, it could all be for naught if the offensive line doesn't perform.
Three new starters will have to be broken in on the interior, as all three have had little or no game experience. This unit may struggle mightily all season, or could actually be quite solid by the middle of the year.
It is impossible to predict how these kids will gel.
The Emergence of Young Pass-Catchers
Even though the title of this slide mentions "young" pass-catchers, I still have to mention Jeremy Gallon. We saw what he could do late last year when he had Gardner throwing to him, so there's fair reason to think he may be in for a monster season.
He had at least 67 receiving yards in each of the team's final five games last year, including a 145-yard performance against South Carolina's vaunted pass defense.
Gallon will need someone else to emerge in the passing game, though. Devin Funchess is the popular pick, as he has the makeup and all the tools to be one of the best tight ends in the country.
Consistency seems to be the key for Funchess right now as he looks to have a breakout season.
Amara Darboh is the popular choice to start on the outside, as his 6'2", 215-pound frame gives this offense the outside presence it desperately needs. In fact, I expect Darboh to start the entire year and actually be a very reliable and crucial part of this passing game.
Finally, there are some long shots who could emerge, such as Jehu Chesson and Da'Mario Jones. Jones will only be a freshman, while Chesson is a redshirt freshman. It wouldn't be a surprise to see one or both of them play a small role.
Young Talent on the Defensive Line
The national media probably looks at Michigan's defensive line and sees that two starters have been lost in Craig Roh and Will Campbell, and then assumes that it will take a step back.
Well that's not the case at all. The young talent that Michigan has waiting in the wings is incredible, and much of it will be on display this fall.
Tom Strobel, Chris Wormley and Willie Henry are all redshirt freshmen that look set to see significant roles this year, with sophomores Ondre Pipkins and Mario Ojemudia looking to chip in as well.
There will also be a number of other incoming freshmen arriving on campus soon, with one, Taco Charlton, having already arrived.
This defensive line is probably the weakest part of what should be a stifling defense; but with that being said, this is still a solid unit.
The Duo at Cornerback
The national media seems to have forgotten that Blake Countess will be returning to this secondary, almost as if his return won't be a huge boost.
Statistically, this was one of the best secondaries in the country last year, and Countess wasn't even a part of it. Now imagine what it could be like with his return.
Raymon Taylor is at least decent opposite of Countess, and the depth is incredible and talented. In fact, this is easily one of the two or three best corner duos in the Big Ten.
This tandem should be very hard to throw on, forming a lethal pass defense once again in 2013.