Picture above:Michael Shaw, WR (Fr.) and Sam McGuffie, RB (Fr.)
With the main pieces of the 2007 Capital One Bowl run gone the 2008 Michigan Wolverine football team is getting little acknowledgement around the nation.
Quarterback; Chad Henne, Runningback; Mike Hart, Wide Recievers; Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington and Tight End; Tyler Ecker all made the move to the NFL from the starting skill positions. Also, the Wolverines lost their best lineman for the last four years, Jake Long, to the Miami Dolphins.
The 2008 schedule brings hope for either a winning season or a complete bust of a year. The Wolverines start the season with two home games versus Utah and Miami (OH), chances are that they win both of those games. Actually, I take that back, Michigan lost to Appalachian State last year with a better team, so who knows?
After those two easy opponents the questions begin to roll into Ann Arbor. The schedule pins Michigan against a up and down Notre Dame team, Wisconsin and Illionis. I believe that the Wolverines can beat Notre Dame, but the next two I can't see them winning. Wisconsin is always a team that can beat anybody on any given Saturday and even though Illinois lost Rashard Mendenhall they still have a mobile QB in Juice Williams.
Game six of the year is an another easy win for the boys from Michigan as they play their rivals from the border, Toledo. The rest of the season will be a real challenge for this young team. They play at Penn State, home versus Michigan State, at Purdue and Minnesota, home versus the Wildcats from Northwestern and then at Ohio State.
If the Wolverines can win at least two of those six games I think their in line for a Bowl Game selection, likely the Alamo Bowl or the Independence Bowl with a record around 7-5.
New head coach, Rich Rodriguez, has made noise already in Ann Arbor. Rodriguez will implement the Spread Offense and has yet to name starters less than a week before Week One. A main question to be answered is, who will start at QB? The candidates are Justin Freagin (Fr.), Nick Sheridan (Red. So.), Steven Threet (Red. Fr.) and David Cone (Red. So.).
The head runner for this job has to be the Adrian, Michigan native, Steven Threet. The transferred student from Georgia Tech sat out last season due to the switching of schools, but is lucky to be the Wolverine's starter. Former backup, Ryan Mallett, had the job all but wrapped up but transferred to Arkansas because it was likely that Michigan would get Terrelle Pryor...well they didn't and the QB job is up for grabs.
At runningback the talent and experience is a little deeper. The highly touted Freshman Sam McGuffie leads the pack of tailbacks, along with Brandon Minor, Michael Cox, Carlos Brown, Kevin Grady, Avery Horn, Jimmy Potempa and Mike Milano. Horn, Potempa and Milano have a slim to none chance of even being considered for a top three runningback on the squad this season. I see Minor with the starting job versus Utah on day one, but McGuffie, Brown and Grady have a great chance of taking it from him.
Other positions have great battles and they'll need to be solved soon. I would love to see the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes on the last day of the season but I see Ohio State continuing their streak and setting down Michigan very easily.
Projected 2008 Offense Starters:
QB: S. Threet RB: B. Minor FB: M. Moundros WR1: G. Mathews WR2: M. Shaw TE: C. Butler OL: S. Schilling OL: T. McAvoy OL: D. Moosman OL: M. Ortmann OL: C. Zirbel
Projected 2008 Defense Starters:
DE: T. Jamison DE: B. Graham DT: T. Taylor DT: W. Johnson LB1: O. Ezeh LB2: B. Herron LB3: O. Opong-Owusu CB: D. Warren CB: M. Trent FS: B. Harrison SS: S. Brown