Michigan Football: The Blueprint for a Perfect Offseason

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Michigan Football: The Blueprint for a Perfect Offseason
Carlos Osorio, Associated Press

There's really no such thing as a perfect offseason. 

Whether it's Alabama or West Texas A&M, every college football program will inevitably miss out on coveted recruits or suffer an unexpected injury. Some teams will have players arrested, and others could incur NCAA sanctions. 

So far, however, the offseason has been a pretty good one for the Wolverines. They've held on to all 16 recruits, nine of whom are ESPN 300 commits, and the program is in position to land its third consecutive top-10 class.

Michigan was also able to lure offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier away from Nick Saban's staff at Alabama, announcing his hiring just one day after relieving Al Borges of his duties. After a season in which the offense never found an authentic identity and was markedly inconsistent, this was a necessary change.

With just over six months until the Wolverines take the field in their 2014 opener, what do Hoke and Co. have to accomplish between now and then to make this the best offseason possible? 

 

Avoid a Quarterback Controversy

Freshman quarterback Shane Morris showed strong potential in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Can we leave it at that? I thought he displayed solid arm strength and better-than-expected mobility, but he was inaccurate on quite a few throws, and he was operating with a limited playbook. 

Some media outlets, including Sports Illustrated, have said that there may be a quarterback controversy brewing in Ann Arbor. It's no secret that frustration has been building around the Michigan football program after regressing in consecutive seasons, and the pressure to succeed in 2014 will be unusually high. 

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Gardner didn't have a perfect season in 2013. Having said that, he did have a 60 percent completion percentage, threw 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions and was a constant threat in the running game. 

He did all of this with an offensive line that allowed an average of 2.77 sacks per game for a total of 270 negative yards. This ranked Michigan 105th in that category. Gardner also didn't have the luxury of a decent running game to support him. Michigan finished 2013 ranked 102nd in total rushing

Morris' time will come, and I'm excited to see him vie for the starting job in 2015 alongside incoming freshman Wilton Speight. Right now, however, sticking with Gardner is the right move. 

 

Have a Great National Signing Day 

The word "great" is highly subjective when it comes to recruiting. It's a strong indicator of future success when programs consistently land top-ranked classes, but it's more important for Michigan to sign players who can fill direct needs and contribute quickly. 

Hoke has already secured some key reinforcements in cornerback and No. 2 overall recruit Jabrill Peppers, defensive tackle Bryan Mone, offensive tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty and wide receiver Drake Harris. All three have the potential to see significant playing time in 2014, with Peppers likely playing a major role on special teams. 

Michigan's No. 12-ranked class is a very good one as it stands now, and there's a lot to love about this bunch of incoming freshman. Having said that, securing commitments from running back Jeff Jones and defensive tackle Malik McDowell would make for some delicious icing on the cake for the Wolverines. 

McDowell is the No. 5 overall defensive tackle in the 2014 class, and landing him along with Mone would go a long way toward helping the Michigan defense create some pressure next year. This is a major area of need, as the Wolverines ranked 91st in team tackles for loss and 66th in team sacks in 2013. 

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Jones turned heads at the Under Armour All-American game.

Jones has become one of Michigan's biggest targets leading up to national signing day. His stock has been skyrocketing since earning MVP honors at the Under Armour All-American game on Jan. 2, and it was no coincidence when Michigan offered him a scholarship on Jan. 3. The versatile back, who's scheduled to visit the Michigan campus on Jan. 31 for his final recruiting visit, could compete for playing time right away in 2014 in a Wolverine backfield that lacks clarity. 

 

Take Appalachian State Seriously

For Michigan fans, it's still painful to relive the horrors of 2007's loss to Appalachian State. Woefully unprepared for the Mountaineers' fast-paced spread offense, the game would go down as one of the biggest upsets in college football history. 

Come Aug. 30, the Wolverines will finally have a chance to avenge that loss as Michigan will once again open its season against Appalachian State in the Big House. 

Can Michigan channel its past heartbreak into an explosive start to the 2014 season? 

Lackluster performances early in the 2013 season proved to be ominous signs for the Wolverines, and the importance of a strong start in 2014 can't be exaggerated.

For this strong start to materialize for the Wolverines, a great offseason is imperative. 

 

Follow Tom on Twitter @TomLogan_BR

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