First and foremost, I've been a Michigan football fan since I was seven years old. I remember watching the Remy Hamilton game when they beat Notre Dame on a last second field goal in 1994.
Even though I knew nothing about football at the time, I knew I liked Michigan's helmets and I thought it would be cool to go there.
Little did I know that I would be there during one of the worst stretches in school history—one that included four losses to Ohio State. Now that I'm about to graduate, the bad luck I've brought will hopefully wear off.
I like coach Rich Rodriguez's offense—I see in it a very similar look to Bo Schembechler's philosophy of football with the option running game. I also believe that Rodriguez, through his toughness with the players and his demands of them, possesses a moxie similar to Bo's.
I think Bo was lucky that in 1969 apathy had not spread through American society and tainted everybody. He was lucky that there was no indifference in any of the players who played Michigan football at the time.
That was the problem last year—not just the lack of the quarterback, and not just the injuries. It was the indifference of some of the players towards Rich Rodriguez's way of doing things that really hurt.
Fortunately, enough of the players who caused those problems are gone that now Rodriguez can get down to business.
The key to this team's success will be the offensive line. I believe this so much that I will actually devote a separate article to it (see Part II).
The quarterback position will be much improved from last year, when the Wolverines had to choose between a walk-on and a player who became utterly indifferent as the season progressed. Freshman Tate Forcier will probably start at least by the time the Big Ten season rolls around.
He has a solid arm and can throw the deep ball when necessary, but I really like his elusiveness and mobility. He can improvise and throw on the run, keep the play alive, and can run to get the yards himself if necessary.
Freshman Denard Robinson will come to Michigan as a highly touted running quarterback, yet his mobility is not what impressed me when I saw his video. Robinson has an absolute cannon for an arm—I'm surprised he can throw as well as he does.
He completes some risky passes across his body, on the run, downfield.
The only disadvantage that he and Tate have is a lack of size. Some doubt that they will be able to handle the hard-hitting Big Ten.
It would not be good for many Wolverine fans to see another season's worth of Nick Sheridan starting against Ohio State.
At running back, Michigan is in really good shape. Barring injuries, the Wolverines should have a starting tailback tandem of seniors in Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown—both of whom are experienced, powerful, and fast.
Minor was Michigan's leading rusher last year with 533 yards on 106 carries, averaging five yards per carry. Both he and Brown were injured for parts of the season, but if they had been healthy, last season might not have been so bad.
If they can avoid injury this upcoming season and average four to five yards per carry, this team is going to be able to control the clock with their ground game.
Backing up these two will presumably be sophomore Michael Shaw and freshman Vincent Smith. Shaw led the team in rushing against Minnesota last season, and there are discussions about moving him to wide receiver. He's currently listed as a wideout on the depth chart, but that may change by the time the season rolls around on Sept. 5.
Smith is one of the several Pahokee, Florida products who have populated Ann Arbor under Rodriguez. He's a small running back who could be a very speedy guy in the open field.
I would also expect junior Mark Moundros to start at fullback and get his fair share of touches this upcoming season.
Wide receiver is the offensive skill position that most Michigan fans should be worried about, as senior Greg Matthews and sophomore Martavious Odoms return from last year's disaster.
Odoms was installed as a return man, and seemed unable to hold onto the ball for any prolonged period of time. Hopefully the Florida native will have adjusted to Michigan's weather by the time next season rolls around.
I believe Matthews, who failed to produce as a deep threat last year, is one of the few Michigan players who actually tried to do more than he could last season.
After redshirting his freshman year, Roy Roundtree expects to make a splash this upcoming season. If there is any receiver on this team who could be the deep threat necessary to keep the defense honest, it would be him.
While I'm primarily basing this off of a 50-yard touchdown reception that he caught from Forcier in the spring game, I also think that he has rapport with this team and a thirst to prove himself.
At the same time, he lacks experience and will have to be given some space to learn how to play in the system.
Darryl Stonum will return as a sophomore, but it's not clear for how long. It would be great to seem him stay out of trouble, but if he gets in Rodriguez's dog house one more time, he'll be on the outside looking in.
Sophomore Kevin Koger will likely be the starting tight end. At West Virginia, Rodriguez seldom ever used a tight end, but with Koger's talent, the coach may be coming around to the position.
He has been working with Koger as a blocker while also installing more looks in the offense that use one or two tight ends.
In closing, I reiterate my belief that Michigan will be a better team as long as they can control the ball on offense and keep the defense off the field. Rich Rodriguez may have a no-huddle offense, but it's also run-oriented in order to control the game tempo.
If the Wolverines can do these things, they will win at least enough games to become bowl-eligible.
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