Credits: Tyler Bruens, John Zaccardelli, Andrew Goddeeris, Bill Rothwell
The defense will generally be in 3-3-5 scheme but will have many different formations depending on the team and game situation. The team was 82th overall in yards given up per game with 393.33, better than Maryland, but worse than in state rival Michigan State. Even though the secondary was awful last year, it was the rushing defense that was ranked lower among the nation’s teams, 91st out of 120. A more experienced line and linebackers will hopefully improve the run defense along with allowing the defensive backs to cover receivers tighter.
Defensive Line Starter [Backup] (third)
Nose Tackle: #68 Mike Martin [#73 Will Campbell] (Adam Patterson)
Defensive Tackle: #92 Greg Banks [#95 Renaldo Sagesse] (Terry Talbott)
Defensive End: #53 Ryan Van Bergen [#90 Anthony LaLota] (Jibreel Black)
The defensive line is expected to be the strongest part of the defense. Returning starter Mike Martin will stuff the middle while backup Will Campbell will rotate in and team up for goal line stands. Look for both of them to push the opponent’s line and pressure the quarterback on a consistent basis. Van Bergen will move to the end position even though he is not the ideal quick big man. Seniors Banks and Sagesse bring experience at the tackle position, but do not be surprised if Martin slides over to allow Campbell more playing time at the nose position. Freshmen LaLota and Talbott could push for playing time if not the occasional appearance for early experience.
Linebackers Starter [Backup] (third)
Middle Linebacker: #45 Obi Ezeh [#25 Kenny Demens] (Mark Moundros)
Outside Linebacker: #8 Jonas Mouton [#27 Mike Jones] (Isaiah Bell)
Linebacker/Defensive End #88 Craig Roh [#42 J.B. Fitzgerald] (Brandon Herron)
Defensive Back /Linebacker: #7 Brandin Hawthorne [#15 Thomas Gordon] (Josh Furman)
Last year the linebackers looked lost in the old scheme, but it was pointed out that the defensive backs’ missed coverage had more to do with the problem than the linebackers’ actual skills. Still, Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton have too much experience not to perform under Greg Robinson’s scheme. Captain Mark Moundros is getting a lot of reps in pre-season ball which is not a good sign of the quality of the scholarship backups Demens and Jones because Moundros just recently switched from fullback to linebacker. The new scheme will move away from the “quick” and “spinner” positions, but they still have the same feel will Craig Roh trying to rush from the linebackers and Brandin Hawthorne or Thomas Gordon floating into the back field. This is the one unit on the defense that will see the most backups play early in the season because of the uncertainty of performance from the experienced players.
Defensive Backs Starter [Backup] (third)
Corner 1:#12 J.T. Floyd [#18 James Rogers] (Courtney Avery)
Corner 2: [#24Cullen Christian] (Tony Anderson) (DOOOOOOOMMMMMM)
Safety 1: #32 Jordan Kovacs [#14 Teric Jones] (Marvin Robinson)
Safety 2: #4 Cameron Gordon [#5 Vladimir Emilien] (Mike Williams)
There has been plenty of turnover in the secondary going back to last year when Cissoko was suspended then kicked off the team and now Justin Turner choosing to depart before the start of the season. J.T. Floyd, solid but not flashy, is a decent corner. The injury to Woolfolk (out for the season with a dislocated ankle on Aug 17) leads to a lack of depth and experience for the second season in a row. Cullen Christian, a top recruit, will now be tasked with starting on day 1. If he struggles, DOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.The small but effective Jordan Kovacs who led all defensive players in tackles last season will float down to the line of scrimmage to cover the run or extra receivers. Cam Gordon or Vlad Emilien will look to solidify the back field and decrease the big play factor. Ideally both will show promise and allow Kovacs to only come in special situations.
The Michigan offense was not the main culprit in the team’s disappointing finish last season, finishing 41st in the nation in scoring with 29.5 points per game. However, there is no doubt that there is room for significant improvement.
Committee candidates: #15 Mike Cox, #20 Michael Shaw, #2 Vincent Smith, #28 Fitzgerald Toussaint, #33 Stephen Hopkins.
This will be a very interesting situation to keep an eye on throughout the season. As it stands now, four tailbacks have a chance to be the starter, with the other three earning carries. The four tailbacks are Vincent Smith, Michael Shaw, Mike Cox, and Fitzgerald Toussaint. Smith would be the favorite if not for the ACL injury he suffered in last year’s Ohio St. game, as by the end of last season he had emerged as the premiere option. Michael Shaw has the most experience as he enters his third year as part of the system, which should enable him to, at least early on, have a significant number of carries. However, if reports out of practice are to be believed, it is Toussaint who currently receives the most reps with the first team. Mike Cox, at 211 lbs, will be the bruiser of the bunch. He’s not the shifty-type that a spread option prefers for a tailback, so assume most of his carries to be short-yardage and goal line situations. Hopkins could also push for the short-yard situations.
Wide-outs: #21 Junior Hemingway, #22 Darryl Stonum [#6 Je’Ron Stokes]
Slot: #12 Roy Roundtree [#9 Martavious Odoms] (#19 Kelvin Grady)
Notable Backups: #83 Jerald Robinson, #82 Ricardo Miller, #17 Jeremy Jackson, #10 Jeremy Gallon, #8 Terrance Robinson
The top two Receivers are expected to be Junior Hemingway and Darryl Stonum. Hemingway is probably the more sure-handed of the two, and Stonum brings speed as evidenced by his kick return performances from last season. Look for him to make a significant impact. At slot is the top receiver from last season, Roy Roundtree. He finished the season with 434 yards, but only emerged late in the year, with 92, 126, 56, and 116 yards receiving in the final four games of the season, respectively.
The backups include Martavious Odoms at slot, arguably the fastest player on the team, in addition to Je’Ron Stokes, Jerald Robinson, Ricardo Miller, Jeremy Jackson, and Terrance Robinson. Stokes, J. Robinson, Miller, and Jackson all provide what the starters lack: height. The shortest in the group is Stokes at 6’1”. Terrance Robinson’s shorter but provides the speed necessary for the spread offense to work. Look for Terrance to make his mark in the return game. Out of the other receivers looking to make a break, look for Stokes to make a splash this year. He was a highly touted prospect, having originally committed to Tennessee before Philip Fulmer’s departure led him to Michigan.
#86 Kevin Koger [#80 Martell Webb] (#88 Brandon Moore)
A two-man race between two near-clones: Kevin Koger and Martell Webb. Each provides a solid blocker with size who has a tendency to drop very catchable balls. Their jobs will be primarily to block. Look for Koger to hold the starter’s job, at least at first.
#44 Mark Moundros
Practically non-existent. Over/under on plays using a FB this year? 10? Any takers? If necessary, look for Cox or Mark Moundros to fill the role.
Left Tackle: #72 Mark Huyge [#77 Taylor Lewan]
Left Guard: #52 Stephen Schilling
Center: #50 David Molk
Right Guard: #65 Patrick Omameh
Right Tackle: #79 Perry Dorrestein [#65 Patrick Omameh]
The only loss to the starting offensive line this year is departing left tackle Mark Ortmann… which might actually be a good thing. Fighting for the right to replace Ortmann, and to tow the tackle spot on the blind side this year, are Mark Huyge, Perry Dorrestein, and red-shirt freshman Taylor Lewan. Given the Jake Long comparisons, many would like to see the young behemoth Lewan start, but the front-runner in this competition is Huyge, simply because he started at right tackle last year for the Wolverines.
If Huyge moves from the right side to the left, there are a multitude of options for filling that vacant spot. In order to keep his guard-to-guard part of the line consistent, head coach Rich Rodriguez can put the second place winner of the left tackle sweepstakes at right tackle. This person, due to seniority, will probably be Perry Dorrestein.
Rodriguez also has the option of moving the red-shirt sophomore Patrick Omameh to right tackle. For purposes of consistency, Patrick Omameh will likely play right guard. Opposite him at left guard will be senior stud Stephen Schilling, and splitting the two at center will be red-shirt junior David Molk.
#16 Denard Robinson [#5 Tate Forcier] (#7 Devin Gardner)
It just seems appropriate to conclude this preview with the position that has been the focus of the media- quarterbacks. By this time, there is near certainty that true sophomore Denard (Shoelace) Robinson will start for Michigan this year. He is faster, appears to be making better reads than the others in practice, and has vastly improved his knowledge of the playbook. The real question this year is how much Rich Rodriguez will incorporate his very young, talented backup quarterbacks in his offensive schemes.
True sophomore Tate Forcier, in all likelihood, will backup Robinson. Do not be surprised to see Forcier come in for a couple of possessions each game as a change of pace quarterback. Since Forcier seems to have been in Rodriguez’s doghouse since the Iowa game last year, it is unlikely that Tate the Great will reclaim his starting job. Unfortunately for Forcier, he has too much competition sandwiching him on the depth chart.
Expect to see Devin Gardner burn his red-shirt this year on the field. Remember that Rich Rodriguez is fighting for his job this year, and that leaving arguably his most prized recruit in his tenure at Michigan on the bench seems idiotic. Gardner committed to Michigan stating that he did not want to red-shirt, and there is a lingering notion in practice that his wish will be granted.