New head coach Rich Rodriguez is ringing in a new era of Michigan football in 2008 and it is going to be an initial bumpy ride. With such Maize and Blue notables such as offensive tackle Jake Long, quarterback Chad Henne, runningback Mike Hart, wide receivers Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington, and pass rusher Shawn Crable lost to the NFL Draft, there will be a nearly new roster to go along with a new offensive mindset (the spread offense).
At a glance, you would get the feeling the cupboard is bare. I am not about to insult anyone's intelligence (or blindly get my own hopes up) and state that Michigan will win the Big Ten conference this season. But with RR's first recruiting class (and a jump on an outstanding '09 class) and some talented holdovers from last year's squad, the Wolverines should be an intriguing, and sometimes exciting, work in progress.
Here are some of the players I expect to step to the forefront this season with standout performances:
Morgan Trent, CB, 6-1, 190, Senior
Trent earned Big Ten honorable mention and has the potential, size and speed to go along with big game experience to excel. He is poised to follow Ty Law, Charles Woodson, and Marlin Jackson into the NFL and playing on Sundays.
Brandon Graham, DE, 6-2, 276, Junior
Graham is a threat to break the school's single-season sack mark of 12 after coming off a 2007 campaign in which he recorded 8.5 sacks and should have an expanded role in 2008 to maximize his talents.
Tim Jamison, DE, 6-3, 266, Senior
With 5.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles, Jamison started all 13 games at defensive end and earned Big Ten honorable mention. With Graham, he gives Michigan an explosive pair of bookends on the D-line.
Terrance Taylor, DT, 6-0, 319, Senior
Taylor is an excellent athlete who has the strength and quickness to blow up opposing backfields and is a preseason Bronco Nagurski Trophy candidate, given to the defensive player of the year.
Carlos Brown, RB, 6-0, 213, Junior
Brown is who I would consider the front-runner in the three-way battle (Kevin Grady, Brandon Minor) for the starting tailback slot and has the speed and elusiveness needed for the spread offense.
Darryl Stonum, WR, 6-3, 185, Freshman
Stonum is one of the top playmaking wideouts coming out of the 2008 recruiting class and excels at the run after the catch. Pairing his 4.4 speed with his size and he is primed to play right away and step in as a big play waiting to happen for Michigan.
With so many positions up for grabs in Ann Arbor and a new coaching regime and philosophy, Michigan fans, for the first time in a long time, will be asked to show some patience as Rodriguez and his staff implement their style into the program as the Wolverines look to be retooling while they rebuild in getting ready for 2009's reload for a run at the conference championship.