The University of Michigan non-conference football preview for 2009:
Western Michigan University Broncos
Western Michigan’s hopes in 2009 will be anchored by returning starting quarterback Tim Hiller, who will be playing his senior season.
Although the Broncos will be breaking in a relatively green receiving core, they return four out of five starters on the offensive line and a pair of solid running backs. There should be yards and points available for WMU in 2009.
A Michigan defense that severely underachieved in 2008 will be tested in the first game under new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. One specific match-up to watch will be Broncos’ wide receiver Juan Nunez vs. Michigan’s free safety.
Michigan will be fielding a new starter at the free safety position, as Stevie Brown has been moved to an attacking strong safety role. Whoever mans the rear guard for the Wolverines’ will have to keep an eye on Nunez, an emerging deep threat.
The weakness for Western Michigan will likely be their defense. They return only four starters, none of whom are in the secondary.
A developing Michigan offense under coach Rich Rodriguez should be improved at most positions, especially quarterback. The addition of much greater speed at that position will give the Wolverines more options (pun intended).
With most starters returning, Michigan should have a balanced attack; the main question will be how much incoming freshmen Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson play in the opener.
If Rodriguez is satisfied enough with their progress to allow either/both to play significant amounts of time, the Michigan offense will have a much more potent run/pass attack that could threaten the Broncos’ defensive youth.
In the first game of 2009, the University of Michigan will try to begin the Rich Rodriguez era in earnest, chalking 2008 up to growing pains. If they can develop a full-blown option attack, they might do just that.
Without a consistent running threat at quarterback, the Rodriguez offense creates tremendous pressure to execute each play properly. The margin for error is reduced nearly to zero.
Forcier and Robinson, however, have the physical skills to run the Rodriguez offense as it is meant to be run.
The Western Michigan game will be a quintessential Michigan opener—if Michigan has its act together, it should win easily. If not, the Broncos are good enough to scare the 100,000+ fans in Ann Arbor.