Wolverine Wednesday: Offensive Starting Projections

By: NFL Draft/Michigan writer: Matt Moore (@Matt23Moore)

 

Welcome to the first installment of Wolverine Wednesday. The goal of this weekly update is to provide readers with more knowledge of the most winning program in NCAA history: The Michigan Wolverines. So much tradition comes with the Michigan brand: the winged helmets, coach Schembechler, the Big House, the Go Blue banner, 42 Big Ten titles, and 11 National Championships. Hopefully, readers of these articles will be able to get a glimpse into storied past, the thrilling present, and the exciting future of Michigan football.

 

Next season is quickly approaching and it is important to know who will be on the field for the Maize and Blue. Last season, we saw our fair share of position switching and new faces. Jake Ryan broke out as a dominant defensive force, Jeremy Gallon proved to be an offensive weapon at receiver, and of course there was Devin Gardner who impressed us both at quarterback and wide receiver. So, who is going to be where this year? I give my prediction on who will be on the field at the Big House come August 31st against Central Michigan.

Quarterbacks:

Starter:

Devin Gardner-You can quote me on this one: “Devin Gardner will start as Michigan’s quarterback”. Shocking, I know. But, what is the ceiling for Gardner? I prefer to answer that question with another question: is there a ceiling? The 6’4’’ 210 pound quarterback can hurt you in so many different ways. He only played five games as Michigan’s quarterback, but in that short amount of time he has gained a lot of hype. And deservingly so, Gardner posted 1,219 passing yards, 11 passing touchdowns, and 7 rushing touchdowns in those five games. Those numbers equate to 243.8 passing yards per game and 3.6 total touchdowns per game. Gardner should provide the quarterback type for Al Borges’ pro style attack, while his athleticism keeps the read option wrinkle available.

gardner

(Photo via mgoblue.com)

Backups:

What does make me nervous is the backup situation, considering we only have one scholarship player behind Gardner and he is a freshman. That freshman is the infamous 4/5 star recruit Shane Morris. I would not mind Morris seeing a little game action his freshman year. The whole Michigan staff has done nothing but rave about his talent and leadership. Some experience his freshman year could prove more beneficial than a redshirt. Redshirt sophomore Russell Bellomy was supposed to provide the Wolverines with some extra depth. However, Bellomy tore an ACL during April workouts and will be out for the whole season. Preferred walk-on Brian Cleary may see some game action, something even he probably did not expect as a redshirt sophomore. If the Wolverines choose to redshirt Morris, then look for Cleary to get trash time in the Akron/Central Michigan type games. Finally, there is walk on freshman Alex Swieca. Even diehard Michigan fans probably don’t know much about Swieca…that is because there is not much to know. Swieca actually didn’t play high school football, but he did play overseas in the Israel Football League for a year. But, if you watched the spring game, then you know he can surprise you. He threw some solid balls and looked to have a connection with some recievers.

 

Running backs:

Starter:

Fitzgerald Toussaint: Redshirt senior Fitzgerald Toussaint had a break out year in 2011 (rushing for over 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns) and started the season in 2012. But alas, the injury bug once again bit Michigan. Toussaint was sidelined with a broken leg in week 11 against Iowa. (Side note: Toussaint would have been a HUGE help in the week 11 five point loss to Ohio last year. At the time, Michigan was still adjusting to a new offense and the last thing they needed was to lose a productive running back. In that game, the maize and blue only rushed for 108 yards and a majority of those were on Denard Robinsons spectacular 67 yard touchdown in the second quarter. Sorry to bring everyone back to that game…) This year, Toussaint will most likely be the starter for the opener against CMU. He has seniority and the most game experience. Coach Hoke also made the exciting announcement last week that Fitz is 100% recovered from his injury last fall.

toussaintx-inset-community

(Photo from content.usatoday.com)

Backups: Michigan has the blessing of depth in the running back department. In the group of nine backs, there is one guy that everyone should be particularly excited about.  5 star running back and number one running back in the nation according to Scouts.com and Rivals.com: Derrick Green.  It would probably be useful to redshirt Green if the coaching staff doesn’t think he is quite ready for college ball or wants to save him for after Toussaint graduates. However, Green could have a great camp and could be looked to right away. Apparently, he has put on a lot of weight and looks really good coming in. Either way, he is going to fit in perfectly with the prototypical pro offense that Michigan is adjusting to. Look for Green to be a huge playmaker for the Wolverines in the future, or possibly to mix in a little this year.

(Here’s a little bit of Derrick Green hype-his performance in the Army All-American game. The announcers loved to rant and rave about him. He also had a few nice runs.)

In terms of definite backups for this year, Thomas Rawls will most likely get some playing time. Rawls is a big, powerful back that was often looked to in goal line situations. He runs through tackles and showed impressive vision in the spring game. Dennis Norfeet and Justice Hayes should sprinkle in as speedy options.

 

Wide Receiver

 

Starters:

Redshirt Senior Jeremy Gallon has been with Michigan through some tough years (for sanity’s sake let’s not talk about the tragedy that was the Rich Rod era) and was mostly looked at as a secondary or tertiary receiving option. However, after his breakout season last year, Gallon will be Michigan’s go to receiver this fall. Last year, Gallon lead the team in receiving yards (829), receptions (49), and receiving touchdowns (4). Garnder and Gallon appeared to have a great connection in the spring. There is even a youtube video of Gardner closing his eyes and hitting Gallon on an out route.  Other than Gallon, no wide receiver position is set in stone. At this point, Gallon is the only receiver that I can confidently say is a definite starter.

gallon

(Photo via espn.go.com)

In the Mix:

Senior Drew Dileo was a vital receiver for Michigan last year. Although Dileo lacks the size and speed to be a standout receiver, he has great hands and runs solid routes. Dileo came up with some great catches in third down situations and was a vital part of Michigan’s receiving corp. 6’3’’ senior Jeremy Jackson could provide the Maize and Blue with some extra height at the position, although in all three years Jackson has only accumulated 11 receptions for 122 yards. Other than those predictions, Michigan has not given much of a hint into their receivers. Look for young guys like redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson and sophomore Amara Darboh to mix in. True freshman Csont’e York or Jaron Dukes could find their way on the field.

 

Offensive Line

Starters: Michigan fans were thrilled to hear that redshirt senior Taylor Lewan would forego the 2013 NFL draft and stay for his senior year. There has been a lot of hype surrounding the left tackle of the Wolverines. Last year, Lewan was a first team All-American according to the Associated Press, Walter Camp, ESPN.com, and Sports Illustrated. The 6’8’’ 315 pound bulldozer is perceived as a shoe in for a top ten NFL draft pick next year.  Redshirt Senior Michael Schofield will be on the opposite side of Lewan at right tackle. Last year, Schofield started at 13 games for the Wolverines.

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(Photo from annarbor.com)

In the mix: The rest of the offensive line is pretty much up for grabs. Redshirt sophomore Jack Miller will most likely be the center for the Wolverines. He has appeared in six games for Michigan as a reserve center. Also in the mix at offensive line should be redshirt junior Joey Burzynski (who appeared in eight games last year), redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis, and redshirt senior Eric Gunderson.