Michigan Football: Biggest Questions Going Into 2013 Season

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2013

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Quarterback Devin Gardner #12 of the Michigan Wolverines passes in the fourth quarter against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Outback Bowl January 1, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  South Carolina won 33 - 28. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Brady Hoke has some major issues to deal with before the season if Michigan is going to improve upon its 2012 showing.

It's safe to say that last season didn't exactly go according to plan. The Wolverines were ranked eighth in the preseason AP Poll, but only managed to finish 8-5 and 24th in the final rankings.

Despite a couple of major losses for Michigan, Hoke should be able to get his team right back near the top of the Big Ten again.

Here are the three biggest questions that need to be answered if Michigan is to get there.


Can Devin Gardner Lead the Michigan Offense?

The blunt answer is that he better be able to do so.

Russell Bellomy tore his anterior cruciate ligament back in April. It's going to take a superhuman recovery to get him back on the field in 2013. Shane Morris is only a freshman, so you'd think Michigan will want to redshirt him this season. He's out as an option, and MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner reported Hoke isn't looking to bring in a transfer.

Devin Gardner should be able to handle the load. The Wolverines won't need him to win the Heisman Trophy. As long as he can move the offense and limit turnovers, Michigan should be just fine.

Gardner did very well in replacing Denard Robinson last season. He completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also threw four fewer interceptions than Robinson.

While not quite the athlete that Robinson is, Gardner is arguably a better pure passer. He should fit in well with Hoke and Al Borges' offense. Plus, he's got more than enough speed to create more time for himself in the pocket.

Athlon Sports named Gardner to the preseason All-Big Ten third team. He's got the talent to be the guy for Michigan. Now if he gets hurt, the Wolverines will have a major problem on their hands.


Who Will Be the Starting Running Back?

Along with Robinson went a majority of the Wolverines' ground game as well. Here's a breakdown of Michigan's top four runners (Note: Devin Gardner was the fourth-leading rusher with 101 yards.)

Back in March, Fitzgerald Toussaint was coming along very well from the broken tibia and fibula he suffered against Iowa. There's no doubting he'll be ready by the time the season begins. The bigger question is whether he'll really be that needed.

The Wolverines are welcoming in 5-star running back Derrick Green. 247Sports had him ranked as the 26th-best recruit of the 2013 class.

Green is a powerful back who's got very good speed for his size (6'0", 220 lbs.). He has the body and style that will allow him to be the starter against Central Michigan.

Throw in the fact that Hoke hasn't been knocked off his feet by anybody in spring practice and you've got quite a battle between Toussaint and Green.

As things stand now, Hoke will probably give Toussaint the majority of the carries, with Green getting the nod as the season goes on. There will no doubt be a big transition from high school football to the FBS, but Green will be ready for it.

While he's not a finished product, the freshman has more than enough to become an impact player right away for the Wolverines. With a little experience under his belt, he should flourish in Ann Arbor.


Will the Wolverines Be Able to Fix the Turnover Problem?

Turnovers are the kind of thing that generally tend to even out over a period of time. If you had a really good turnover margin one year, you should probably expect that to level off a little bit in the next season.

Hoke will be hopeful that is the case for Michigan. The Wolverines finished tied for 99th in the nation last season in turnover margin. They turned the ball over 27 times, while getting it back 18 times.

You simply can't be a national title or BCS contender and turn the ball over that much.

Part of this problem was due to the turnover-prone play of Robinson, who threw nine interceptions. He also had trouble holding on to the ball at times, as well.

Even if Michigan holds on to the ball better offensively in 2013, it still needs to improve on the defensive side. The Wolverines only intercepted seven passes (tied for 96th) and recovered 11 fumbles (51st in the nation).

The return of Blake Countess will be a huge boost to the secondary. Athlon has him listed as preseason third team All-Big Ten.

You're not going to see Michigan turn around its turnover problems and get near the top of the list, but the Wolverines should be much better in forcing the opposing team to cough up the ball.