Michigan Football: Position-by-Position Fall Practice Preview
It's hard to believe, but the Michigan football team will be opening fall camp in just over two weeks.
There will obviously be plenty of things at every position for fans to keep an eye on, just as there is every year.
With that being said, here's an overview and synopsis of how Michigan shapes up at each position.
Everybody knows the situation here; Devin Gardner is potentially in store for a very, very special season.
He is on the cusp of not only being one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten, but in the entire country.
If Gardner has the kind of year many are expecting of him, it probably means Michigan will be playing in the Big Ten Championship and in line for a BCS bowl.
Losing Russell Bellomy to injury really hurts, as there is literally no experience behind Gardner. Shane Morris would probably be the first guy in if anything were to happen to Gardner, even though he's only a freshman.
Morris' biggest competition for that backup spot will come from two walk-ons in Brian Cleary and Alex Swieca.
This is an incredibly hard position to judge. As a unit it could wind up being one of the strongest on this entire team.
With that being said, it could also wind up being the worst That's how much uncertainty there is at the position.
The main reason is because it is impossible to predict how Fitzgerald Toussaint will bounce back from his leg injury. Will he run the way he did down the stretch in 2011? Or will he falter and be ineffective just as he was last year? Only time will tell.
It is also very hard to predict how Derrick Green will perform. Only a freshman, there could be growing pains with him, or he may be a stud right off the bat. Again, only time will tell.
Behind those two is a large number of players who may or may not play a role; some of the names include Thomas Rawls, Justice Hayes, Drake Johnson and DeVeon Smith.
As mentioned above, though, how productive Green and Toussaint are is the key to this unit.
This is, in my opinion, easily one of Michigan's two or three weakest positions on the entire team.
I do trust Jeremy Gallon, but other than him there are a lot of question marks. Drew Dileo will once again be a role player, so we can't expect him to be a game changer or anything.
Jeremy Jackson and Joe Reynolds will both be seniors, but both men will likely only provide little (if any) production.
Realistically, two youngsters in Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson could wind up being the next two biggest contributors behind Gallon and Dileo.
Darboh saw some game action last year as a freshman, although he never caught a pass. Chesson redshirted, so he may be just a little bit behind Darboh when it comes to playing time.
I wouldn't expect a whole lot from the three incoming freshmen, as Da'Mario Jones appears to be the only one who may see playing time. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if he redshirts.
As Gallon is obviously the star of this unit, I think Darboh is the next most important player, and the one to keep the closest eye on.
This is quickly turning into one of the strongest units on this entire team.
Devin Funchess' and A.J. Williams' contributions as freshmen last year are the main reason why. Both men should obviously take another big step forward this season.
The position will only get stronger, though, with the addition of Jake Butt. The fact that he was an early enrollee will almost assuredly allow him to see the field.
This trio of tight ends should make this unit deadly. Funchess' production in the passing game is definitely the key for this group, as he has the ability to become one of the better tight ends in the country.
Honestly, we may be saying the exact same thing about Butt a year or two down the road.
Well, here it is, folks: the biggest key to this entire Michigan team. How fast this unit progresses will likely define Michigan's season.
Three players with no meaningful game experience will likely wind up starting, to go along with veterans Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield.
Lewan and Schofield are obviously great, so there are no questions surrounding those two. The concerns lie with the youngsters.
Jack Miller is probably going to be the starting center by default, while Ben Braden and Kyle Kalis look to start at the guard spots.
The ceiling appears to be high for Braden and Kalis, so it's crucial those two progress quickly. The situation at center could be a year-long struggle, though.
If these five men gel quickly and exceed expectations, this offense will be lethal, setting up what should be an amazing season.
If the line struggles, though, we could have another disappointment like last year.
The most likely scenario is for this group to struggle early, but iron things out and actually be a pretty solid unit by midseason.
I am incredibly intrigued by the situation Michigan has at defensive line. No, this certainly isn't a great group, but it's not a bad one either.
Just about all of the players on it have interesting story lines heading into the season. For example, will Quinton Washington build off of his breakout season last year? If he does, he'll easily be one of the best tackles in the Big Ten.
Has Jibreel Black finally found a home as a senior on the interior of this line? Ondre Pipkins has all the potential in the world, but can he start to put it all together as a sophomore?
Perhaps the most intriguing player, though, is Frank Clark. A popular breakout choice, Clark is the kind of freak athlete that can take over games from his defensive end spot. He has shown flashes of doing this in the past, but never has been able to do it consistently. Will this be the year?
To go along with the projected starters, there are a ton of youngsters that should earn playing time as well, including Taco Charlton, Chris Wormley, Willie Henry, Matt Godin and Tom Strobel.
It looks like bodies will be rotated in at an amazingly high rate, but it definitely isn't out of necessity.
Everyone knows about the Jake Ryan situation, as the star player will miss the first half of the season, but will hopefully return by November.
With a healthy Ryan, this is arguably the strongest position on Michigan's entire team. Without him, it is still a strong unit.
Desmond Morgan is a veteran with a ton of experience, and will probably be the emotional leader of this group with Ryan out.
To me, James Ross is the most intriguing player in this group, though. Only a sophomore, he is on the verge of breaking out in a big way after seeing crucial time last year.
Cam Gordon and Brennen Beyer will man the SAM position while Ryan is out, and will hopefully at least be adequate.
The depth that Hoke and this staff have built at the position is incredible, evidenced by the fact that a talent like Joe Bolden will likely be a backup this fall.
Cornerback is also one of Michigan's two or three strongest units on the team.
If Blake Countess truly returns at full strength, which is expected, then he will probably earn All-Big Ten honors and could be looking at All-American honors before his career is done.
Who starts across from him seems to be up in the air, but only because the competition is so strong.
The job will either go to Raymon Taylor or Courtney Avery, both of whom have a ton of experience and are proven commodities.
The depth behind these three is magnificent, and only continues to get stronger each year.
It's looking more and more like Dymonte Thomas may wind up being the starting nickelback, something that adds to the strength of this position. Even though he's only a freshman, Thomas will be a stud sooner rather than later.
Safety definitely won't be a strength this fall, but it shouldn't be a weakness either.
By this point in his career everyone knows what to expect out of Thomas Gordon. He isn't going to wow you or make the highlight reel play, but he does just enough to get the job done. It would be nice if he picked his game up a notch, though, as a fifth-year senior.
Some fans may have a few questions surrounding Jarrod Wilson, who will be a first-time starter.
The sophomore is athletic enough and did gain some experience last year, so there really shouldn't be too much to worry about.
The only concerns that could arise with Wilson are all mental, so he'll need to conquer that aspect quickly (if he hasn't already.)
Unlike a lot of these positions, depth is a huge problem here at safety. Marvin Robinson's departure from the team leaves absolutely no experience behind the two starters, so an injury could hurt more than usual.
Again, this position probably isn't a strength, but the starters should do enough to ensure it's not a weakness either.