Over the next few weeks, I'm going to break down each of Michigan's three units: offense, defense, and the special teams. I'll cover each position and its starters, along with the experience, the talent, and the strengths and weaknesses of each. Today, I'm going to start with the offensive side of the ball. Hope you enjoy!
When a team runs the spread option offense, 99 percent of the time the team uses a mobile quarterback.
Well, Michigan was the one percent that didn't last year.
It wasn't necessarily their fault, however, because they just did not have anyone that could run it. Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan split time at quarterback but neither fared to manage any steady success. Threet played a great game in a 27-25 upset of, at the time, ninth ranked Wisconsin and Sheridan managed the offense in a 29-6 win against Minnesota who, at the time, was 7-1.
But now Threet has transferred out, and Rich Rod heavily recruiting a signal caller to run the show. The Wolverines were able to bring in California prospect Tate Forcier to Ann Arbor.
Forcier showed signs of promise in his first action as a Wolverine during the spring game. The only flaw on his part is he's a freshman. Can he live up to the hype? Can he manage the offense? These are all questions we'll find out as he progresses.
Hopefully Forcier will be able to fill the hole the Wolverines had at the position and will be able to run the offense to its full potential.
This is by far the most experienced group on the offense. Brandon Minor, Carlos Brown, and Kevin Grady complete a trio of seniors who will be able to carry the ball this season.
Last year, freshman phenom Sam McGuffie saw a lot of playing time, but he's transferred back to his home state to play for Rice. Minor will see the majority of the carries, but Brown will be able to give Minor a blow when needed and Grady could be a goal line back with his size. Minor is overcoming an injured wrist, and Grady's been in trouble with the law and also had a few injuries.
These three seniors will make this group of running backs top notch in the conference and help Michigan's run game improve from last season as long as they can stay healthy.
Last year, there were at least two or three freshman and sophomores thrown right into the fire of game play week one against Utah.
Martavious Odoms, Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway were those young guys who had to come in to play right away. The inexperience caused havoc throughout the season (also somewhat thanks to the confusion at quarterback) for the receivers.
Greg Mathews was the only returning starter at the position last season as a junior, and this year as a senior will again lead the group. The one area of concern for the group is holding onto the football. Maybe it was just from being young and nervous, but watching games last year, I saw too many dropped passes and fumbles from this group. That needs to be stopped this year.
Hopefully now that the young players last year have a year under their belts, they should produce more excitement and points in the passing game this fall. A new quarterback that fits the systems helps, too.
In my opinion, we'll be able to see this groups' improvement the most when the Wolverines take the field on September 5. With all five starters returning, this is now a veteran group of teammates who will be more comfortable with each other and the offensive blocking assignments which will result in more time for Forcier to look for an open receiver and open more running lanes for the backs to take advantage of.
Anchored by junior Dave Bulk at center, the line includes Mark Ortmann, Stephen Schilling, Dave Moosman, and either Tim McAvoy or John Ferrara.
This group will be the key component in 2009. Despite being undersized, I believe their strength and conditioning will be able to wear teams out late in games, unlike last year.
Excellent pass protection and physical run blocking will help power the offense and score points and erase the struggle of last season.
The unit in review
Michigan's offense should be much improved from last season. With each starter returning, and a new quarterback included, the Wolverines should be scoring points and wearing out their opponents thanks to their conditioning and style of play. 2009 should see Michigan's win total rise thanks in part to this group.