The Schedule, The Defense
You, me, other bloggers, your aunt's next-door neighbors' cousin who looks at the internet sometimes…all of us are sick and tired of looking back at the 2013 season and seeing a tire fire, or a smoking crater, or whatever other analogy you'd like to add that describes the 2013 Michigan offense.
It was a mess. We all know this.
It was such a mess that the offensive coordinator is now unemployed. Michigan went out and spent top dollar for his replacement. Let's turn the page, shall we?
Outgoing: Taylor Lewan, Michael Schofield, Erik Gunderson
Returning: Kristian Mateus (rsRr), Joey Burzynski (rsSr), Graham Glasgow (rsJr), Jack Miller (rsJr), Chris Bryant (rsJr), Erik Magnuson (rsSo), Ben Braden (rsSo), Kyle Kalis (rsSo), Blake Bars (rsSo), Kyle Bosch (So), Dan Samuelson (rsFr), Chris Fox (rsFr), Logan Tuley-Tillman (rsFr), Patrick Kugler (rsFr), David Dawson (rsFr)
Incoming: Juwan Bushell-Beatty, Mason Cole
We start with the offensive line because as it stands right now, that's the most important position...all 5 spots...on the entire offense. Without a competent OL, you get the 2013 edition of the Michigan Wolverines, a fundamentally broken scheme that will get you nowhere. And no one wants to go back there again.
I'll admit that Michigan losing two potential first round tackles is a rough way to attempt to go from bad to better, but it's the reality we live in. Michigan must do some addition by subtraction. Lewan was as good of a tackle as there is in CFB last season, and Schofield was probably just as good but over-shadowed.
How do you move on? Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier likes zone blocking schemes. So does OL coach Darrell Funk. Now get together in a room and make this boat sail, mmmk? It's worked for Michigan before (see: 2006), and it will work again. Michigan is quietly loaded with young OL talent, most of which has seen meaningful playing time.
For reasons passing understanding, I feel oddly confident about this group. I think Michigan can be successful with what they have.
So a wild-ass guess at the starting lineup on August 30th? If I were a bettin' man I'd probably go (left-->right)
Returning: Devin Gardner (rsSr), Alex Swieca (rsJr), Russell Bellomy (rsJr), Brian Cleary (rsSo), Shane Morris (So),
Incoming: Wilton Speight
The picture at the beginning of this post sort of says it all. Michigan ended the year with an injured Devin Gardner, who spent much of the season running for his life and delivering expected results because of that, and true-freshman Shane Morris who was thrust into the starting role against K-State and played relatively well…all things considered.
Bellomy is also back in the mix fresh off his ACL injury recovery.
So, what does that mean for 2014? IMO, you stick with Gardner but keep Morris and Bellomy ready to go. Devin is a senior, probably going to be a captain, and you can't really put a price on that. He's been in the program forever, out-lasting his first head coach and two offensive coordinators. He's played two positions, both pretty well. He's got a good arm. He's tall and he can move well outside of the pocket when not injured. I think Nussmeier knows what he's got, and will work with it.
But the future is Shane Morris, and that shouldn't be neglected no matter how well Devin performs.
Outgoing: Fitzgerald Toussaint, Thomas Rawls (transfer)
Returning: Justice Hayes (rsJr), Ross Douglas (rsJr), Drake Johnson (rsSo), De'Veon Smith (So), Derrick Green (So), Wyatt Shallman (rsFr), FB Joe Kerridge (rsJr), FB Sione Houma (Jr)
One of the many by-products of terrible offensive lineman play, aside from a banged-up quarterback, is a terrible running game. Michigan has some pretty decent backs, but you probably wouldn't know that if you look at the 125.7 rushing yards per game average (which includes Devin Gardner's 40.25 ypg)…which was the 102nd ranked rushing offense in the country. I guess an argument could be made for having nowhere to go but up. Right…guys?
When your QB is your leading rusher, and it's not Denard Robinson, that's a bad sign. Derrick Green is said to be thinning down...which will serve him well as he competes to be Michigan's go-to rusher. De'Veon Smith, Drake Johnson and Justice Hayes are all viable contributors who will compete.
Ross Douglas, who you may recall was a defensive back last year, is now a RB. He will add needed depth where Rawls once lived.
The key for Michigan is developing the youth. The offense as a whole is pretty young, and nowhere is that more apparent than running back. I believe the switch to a zone blocking scheme will help produce more/better running lanes for these guys.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Outgoing: Drew Dileo, Jeremy Gallon, Jeremy Jackson, Joe Reynolds
Returning: Devin Funchess (Jr), Dennis Norfleet (Jr), Jehu Chesson (rsSo), Amara Darboh (rsSo), Da'Mario Jones (So), Jaron Dukes (rsFr), Jack Wangler (rsFr), Csont'e York (rsFr)
Incoming: Freddy Canteen, Drake Harris, Maurice Ways
Hey, Keith Hetizman is now a tight end. Obviously a move made because of the Jake Butt ACL injury. Depth is an issue there, and this is meant to help that. You may remember Heitzman from such positions as strong-side DE. I'm still convinced that we may see Wyatt Shallman at TE as well, but we'll see.
On to WR, Michigan needs some help here. Replacing Gallon/Dileo is not going to go well unless a few guys step up big time. True-freshman Drake Harris could find the field early and often. But guys like Norfleet, Chesson, and Amara Darboh who's returning from a late August foot injury that kept him out go last season.
Tight end, turned part-time receiver Devin Funchess is a bit of a wildcard in terms of where he fits best into the new Nussmeier offense. He's a baller, no question about it. Does Butt's injury affect what Funchess could do as a WR? More news at 11.
Gallon broke all kinds of Michigan receiving records this last season, and his absence creates a major void in that position group. The talent to replace Gallon exists, but there was a connection that Gardner and Gallon just seemed to have. Kind of like connection between Denard and Roy Roundtree. You just hope that a relationship is being fostered between Gardner/Morris and the current receiver corps this off-season/spring.