Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Taming Our Freshmen Expectations

It seems like every year under head coach Rich Rodriguez, incoming freshmen had big shoes to fill when it came to contributing early.

In '08, it felt like the whole team was new. Sam McGuffie was our starting RB, Martavious Odoms was our go-to WR, and the terrible twosome (literally) of Threet/Sheridan was at the helm of the Wolverines' offense.

In '09, we still had no quarterback. Enter the Tate/Denard freshmen showdown.

In '10, it was the year of the special teams. No more Olesnavage/Mesko tandem at place kicker and punter respectively meant that the Wolverines needed an overhaul. And boy, was it ever a wild ride with Hagerup (who I supposed wasn't terrible for a punter) and Gibbons/Broekhuizen (who were both terrible for place kickers).

And that brings us to '11. Which of Brady Hoke's young guns will we see in '11? By my guess, less than a handful will see significant playing time, but there will be a few fortunate ones and they are...

PK Matt Wile- Be forewarned: MATT WILE WILL STRUGGLE IN '11. It's not that I think Wile is bad, but you can't exactly practice kicking in front of 100,000 people, so I'm sure the freshmen will miss a few bunnies here and there while he works out the kinks. Even if Wile only makes 65% of his FGs in '11, competition (or a lack thereof) from Gibbons (who has hit on 20% of his FGs as a Wolverine) and Broekhuizen (who has hit on 33%) should be weak enough to make Matt Wile Coach Hoke's #1 guy at PK. Wile also punts, but I don't think Hagerup's going anywhere.

CB Blake Countess- Blake is the headliner of Coach Hoke's first recruiting class at Michigan, so I would expect him to at least see the field on occasion. Since we really don't know defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's depth chart for his 4-3 defensive attack, it's hard for me to say in any definite form how often Blake will see the field. If Countess is good enough in practice to surpass JT Floyd and/or Courney Avery (he will not pass Woolfolk) on the depth chart, the Wolverine secondary should actually be in pretty good shape in '11 (fingers crossed).

TE Chris Barnett- With only two scholarship TEs on the Michigan roster in '11 (Senior Kevin Koger and Junior Brandon Moore), Chris Barnett will likely see playing time in the Brady Hoke offense, which frequently includes two TEs in offensive packages. I doubt Koger will be passed on the depth chart, but a healthy competition with Moore (in which I believe Barnett will win) should give Barnett the chance to contribute to Michigan's offensive attack on Saturdays in '11.

LB Kellen Jones- In Mattison's 4-3 system there is an obvious void at linebacker, where 2010's graduating seniors Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh have departed. It seems to me like Kenny Demens, who will be a junior in '11, should hold down the middle linebacker spot for the next two years. This leaves availability on the outside, where I believe that freshman Kellen Jones may see significant playing time.

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