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2013 Michigan Preview – Offense
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Posted Jun 25, 2013 2013 Preview - Michigan Wolverine Offense

Michigan Wolverines

Preview 2013 - Offense

- 2013 Michigan Preview | 2013 Michigan Offense
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What You Need To Know: The production will be fine, but this is a stepping-stone season to what should be a phenomenal 2014. However, now the coaching staff gets to do what it wants. It’s not like anyone was crying about having Denard Robinson at quarterback, but the coaching staff had to adjust to a style it didn’t really want to run. With Devin Gardner taking over late in the season, he started to show what the Michigan offense could potentially do. The passing game should be even crisper and more dangerous, even with a slightly above-average receiving corps that should be decent, but not elite. The running game depends on several X factors including the health of Fitzgerald Toussaint and the emergence of true freshman Derrick Green working behind a promising line that needs to revamp the interior.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Devin Gardner
75-126, 1,219 yds, 11 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Fitzgerald Toussaint
130 carries, 514 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Jeremy Gallon
49 catches, 829 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Devin Gardner
Player who has to step up and be a star: Redshirt freshman OG Ben Braden
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore C Jack Miller
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Taylor Lewan
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Lewan, 2) Gardner, 3) RB Fitzgerald Toussaint
Strength of the offense: Young Prospects, Gardner
Weakness of the offense: Line Interior, No. 1 Receiver


Be honest. If you were told before last season that Denard Robinson would become a wide receiver and Devin Gardner would show enough glimpses of greatness to come into 2013 as a not-that-crazy fringe Heisman candidate, you probably would’ve assumed the season was going in the tank. Even as late as October 27th, when Russell Bellomy stepped in for a banged up Robinson against Nebraska, it didn’t seem like Gardner was quite up to speed. The 6-4, 210-pound junior didn’t show anything when given the chance early in his career completing just 11-of-23 passes for 176 yards with a touchdown and a pick in 2011, even though he was supposed to provide a boost for the passing game in place of Robinson. And then came the 12-of-18, 234-yard, two score performance against Minnesota last season to kick off November, and now he looks like a potential superstar in the making.

Just when it seemed like the Gopher game was a bit of a fluke, Gardner overcame a rocky 59 minutes against Northwestern to hit Roy Roundtree on a 53-yard Hail Mary to lead the way to a stunning overtime win, and then he turned in a nice finishing kick as the pro-style passer the coaching staff has been waiting for. He threw a pick in each of the last five games, but this offseason he took the team and the job as the starting quarterback by the horns and now looks like the type of leader and playmaker who can elevate everyone else on the offense. If all goes according to plan, this is his team now. An elite recruit brought in to be a smaller, better passing version of Terelle Pryor, he has the size, the mobility - rushing for seven scores -  the arm and the talent to be terrific.

If Gardner slips or struggles in any way, the screaming will start to put in freshman superstar prospect Shane Morris, a 6-3, 183-pound bomber with excellent speed and athleticism to go along with his pro-style skills. He might need to add a little weight, but the program has been waiting for him for a few years and he should eventually be the team’s signature star. Scout’s No. 3-ranked quarterback, he’s a can’t-miss prospect with NFL upside.

Sophomore Russell Bellomy is a 6-3, 213-pound dual-threat talent with size, mobility and a great arm, but the former Elite 11 camper was a disaster when he got the opportunity. Even though he looked better at times than Gardner last offseason, his 3-of-16, 38-yard, three interception day against Nebraska showed he wasn’t quite ready. However, he’s a talented player with a world of upside once he returns from a torn ACL suffered this spring. Even with Bellomy injured, 6-3, 199-pound redshirt freshman Brian Cleary might be nothing more than an emergency option. However, he was one of the only healthy quarterbacks this offseason and got in some work. He has good size and great smarts, but he’ll only be playing in blowouts.

Watch Out For … whether or not Morris burns his redshirt. Gardner will likely be the starter for the next two years, but Morris has been in the plans for the last few years and the coaching staff can’t wait to see what he can do. In a perfect world, Gardner is fantastic and Morris hits the ground running as a seasoned sophomore in 2015.
Strength: The coaching staff. Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges know how to put their passing quarterbacks in a position to succeed. The coaches fit the player with Robinson, and now the player will fit the coaches.
Weakness: Backup experience. Yeah, Morris is a special talent, but he’s still a true freshman. Bellomy has to get another shot at some point to show what he can do, but he can’t be expected to do anything again until next year. It would be nice if Cleary could really be the No. 2 and keep Morris on the bench for a redshirt season, but that might be a luxury.
Outlook: Can Gardner really make that next step forward and be a star for a full season? He has the size and the tools to be a phenomenal performer, but the receiving corps might not be quite up-to-snuff to put up gigantic numbers. Even so, if he’s keeping the offense moving, he’ll be doing his job. However, it’ll be interesting to see if the giant shadow of Morris makes any sort of a difference.
Unit Rating: 8

Running Backs

Senior Fitzgerald Toussaint wasn’t exactly rocking before he suffered a season-ending broken leg against Iowa in mid-November. The 5-10, 210-pounder turned into a dangerous part of the 2011 rushing tandem with Denard Robinson tearing off four 100-yard games in the final five regular season outings, but he failed to hit the century mark last season and only finished with 514 yards and five scores. Never quite in the swing of things after being benched in the opener against Alabama following an arrest for a DUI, he didn’t show off his tremendous breakaway speed and came up with his touchdowns in blowouts. However, once he comes back healthy, he should be one of the team’s key parts. There’s too much talent and too much upside to not crank out 1,000 yards.

As good as Toussaint might be, the hope and expectation is for 6-0, 220-pound freshman Derrick Green to take the ground game to another level by adding a tremendous blend of power and speed. The nation’s top running back recruit looks the NFL part right out of high school with the toughness and physical ability to blow through arm tackles and a knack for always pushing forward around the goal line. Don’t be shocked if he gets the ball right away and becomes a catalyst for the offense – he’s really that good.

Sophomore Justice Hayes saw a little bit of work rushing for 83 yards and a touchdown in his limited action, but the potential is there to be fantastic if he gets some more seasoning. While he wasn’t phenomenal this offseason, the 5-10, 190-pound former star recruit has the skills. Almost certain to go to Notre Dame, he changed his mind late in the game but now will have to fight to get work. He’s not all that big, but he has great hands, 4.45 speed, and has the look and the ability to be the exact type of back who can put up huge numbers in the Hoke/Borges attack. He’s a flash around the corner. He’ll combine forces in the backup rotation with Drake Johnson a 6-0, 212-pound redshirt freshman with the potential to provide a little thump. The Ann Arbor native ran for 2,805 yards and 37 scores as a high school senior, and with athleticism and size, he could find a niche.

5-10, 217-pound junior Thomas Rawls was a terrific recruit who stayed relatively close to home and has grown into a decent backup. He only ran 57 times, but he finished third on the team with 242 yards and four touchdowns with a 63-yarder against Illinois. Big, strong and quick, he has just enough talent and experience to continue to be a part of the rotation and see garbage time.

If and when the offense ever uses a fullback, sophomore Joe Kerridge will step in after seeing a little bit of time throughout last season, used mostly as a blocker with a 12-yard catch against Nebraska. At 6-0 and 241 pounds he’s a sledgehammer with good smarts and the ability to always get the assignment right, but he won’t get any carries. He’ll have to hold off Wyatt Shallman, arguably the nation’s top fullback recruit. The 6-3, 245-pounder could carry the ball a bit or could end up moving over to linebacker. Potentially devastating around the goal line, he’s too good to not be in the mix right away.

Watch Out For … De’Veon Smith. All the attention and all the love has been given to Derrick Green, and rightly so, but don’t count out Smith from the rushing equation. The 5-11, 218-pounder from Ohio is a blaster of a runner with a good burst once he gets into the open field.
Strength: The potential. There’s a big IF element to the Michigan running backs, but if Toussaint is 100% and if Green is almost as good as the hype, all of a sudden the loss of Denard Robinson won’t kill the running game. The coaching staff has traditionally been fantastic at putting the backs in a position to succeed, and now they’ll get to carry the workload with Robinson off to Jacksonville.
Weakness: That IF factor. Toussaint didn’t exactly rock before getting hurt, and he still has to show he can get back to 2011 form. Green might be a fantastic prospect, but he still has to show it – he’s still just a true freshman. Hayes, Johnson and Rawls all have skills, but they haven’t shown enough to be special.
Outlook: Denard Robinson led the team with 1,266 yards and seven scores, and Devin Gardner added seven scores. Now the running backs have to carry more of the load, and they will with a deep group of okay backs behind Toussaint. However, this good group becomes fantastic if Green is the real deal.
Unit Rating: 8


Is Jeremy Gallon a No. 1 target? He ended up becoming one last season with a team-leading 49 catches for 829 yards and four scores, averaging 16.9 yards per try, but he disappeared for stretches during the season. He was one of the lone bright spots in the loss to Alabama with four catches for 107 yards, and he lit up South Carolina for nine catches for 145 yards and two scores, but he was mediocre at times in between. However, as soon as Gardner took over, he took off with 31 of his grabs coming over the last five games, and with his extreme speed and two years of experience, he should be even more of a factor.

With longtime producer Roy Roundtree gone, Drew Dileo needs to become a bigger factor after finishing third on the team with 20 catches for 331 yards and two scores averaging 16.5 yards per try. Extremely quick, he can be used as a kick and punt returner as well as a dangerous playmaker on the move. Mostly known for completing a pass for a first down off a fake field goal in the 2012 Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech, he was hit-or-miss as a receiver last season catching four passes for 92 yards against Michigan State and four more for 69 yards and a score against Minnesota.

There will be an ongoing battle for playing time in the rotation among a slew of decent but relatively untested prospects. 6-1, 200-pound senior Joe Reynolds has barely been able to see the field as anything more than a special teamer, but he’ll combine with 6-3, 193-pound redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson to backup Gallon. Chesson was a decent recruit last year out of St. Louis with room to get a little bigger and become a strong, physical presence who can stretch the field a bit.

6-2, 213-pound sophomore Amara Darboh saw a little time as a receiver as well as a special teamer. He hasn’t caught a pass, but the former four-star prospect is very big, athletic and has the ability and upside to find a job as the third wide receiver in the rotation. Also big is 6-3, 206-pound senior Jeremy Jackson, who caught four passes for 31 yards.

The tight end situation should grow into more of a positive with 6-4, 228-pound sophomore Devin Funchess a big-time prospect who hit the weights over the last year after coming to Ann Arbor looking like a big wide receiver. A four-star talent, he showed right away some of his skills and potential catching 15 passes for 234 yards and five scores, spreading out his touchdowns with a 29-yard score against Iowa and a big play against Air Force – he can stretch the field. 6-6, 265-pound sophomore A.J. Williams is a blocker and physical presence, but he might see more of a role in the passing game in two tight end sets. He might be shoved aside in the roster by Jake Butt, one of the top prospects in the 2013 recruiting class with 6-6, 235-pound size and next-level athleticism. Snagged away from Ohio State, the Columbus native is like a big wide receiver playing tight end.

Watch Out For … Khalid Hill. The 2013 recruiting class of receivers wasn’t any big deal, but the tight ends were great. Butt is the star, but 6-2, 230-pound Khalid Hill is an interesting option who’s built like a fullback but is a pure, reliable receiver who could quickly turn into a midrange go-to target who can move the chains.
Strength: Devin Gardner. All of a sudden, there’s going to be more of a passing game than there was when Denard Robinson was under center. The air attack became far stronger once Gardner took over, and the production should continue.
Weakness: Top shelf talent. The opportunity is there for a superstar receiver to emerge, and the changes in offense should help, but do any of the receivers scare anyone? Gallon is fine and Dileo has speed, but there isn’t any one receiver who can’t be erased by a good Big Ten corner.
Outlook: It will take a village. There’s just enough talent returning to hope for a decent year, but it’s a group of receivers – no more, no less. The tight ends could quickly be the biggest positives as the season goes on, and the combination of Gallon and Dileo will be good enough to air it out a bit.
Unit Rating: 7

Offensive Line

The Michigan line continued to improve in the Hoke era, but now there’s a little bit of work to do in the interior. Fortunately, the team got a gigantic break this offseason when senior Taylor Lewan put off NFL millions to spend one more year as the anchor at left tackle. The All-American and First Team All-Big Ten blocker has 6-8, 308-pound size and a huge frame to get around. He might not be a Jake Long-like killer who’ll throw his man into the fifth row, but he’s a good technician with great athleticism. The leader up front, this is his line to work around.

Lewan is the all-star on one side, and 6-7, 303-pound senior Michael Schofield, an unsung key cog up front who started out his career at left guard and now will continue to work at the more natural right tackle spot. Quick and with a nice frame, he’s dependable and solid. While he’s not a blaster, he gets the job done.

Replacing Elliott Mealer at center is sophomore Jack Miller, a 6-4, 291-pound backup who saw a little time last season but has to quickly grow into one of the leaders up front. Mealer, a former guard, was fine at center, but Miller is far more athletic and far quicker with the strength to be a mauler. There’s a world of upside.

The guard situation is in the spotlight with 6-6, 314-pound redshirt freshman Ben Braden taking over on the left side and 6-1, 291-pound junior Joey Burzynski stepping in on the right. Braden wasn’t a top prospect as a tackle, but he has excellent size and a great frame; he’ll be tough to get around. He could eventually move over to right tackle, but he needs to turn into a steady starter at guard. Burzynski is an academic all-star out of San Diego who has seen a little time at left guard, and while he’s not massive, he has the frame to get great leverage.

6-8, 316-pound senior Eric Gunderson is a massive blocker who has logged in a little time at right tackle and will once again work behind Schofield. Huge with long arms, at the very least he has the right frame to see time on the outside, while 6-5, 297-pound redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis has the upside to become special inside. Scout’s No. 6 offensive tackle a few years ago, he has the frame to add at least ten more pounds of good weight while he brings the versatility to play any spot on the line but center. The type of blocker who puts his man into the fourth row, but with the feet to play tackle, he could be an anchor for the line in the near future.

Watch Out For … the new guys. Lewan is going to be a starter at the next level, Schofield is solid and Kalis has the potential to be special, but the real talent is stepping off the bus with one of the nation’s top recruiting classes for the line. Kyle Bosch is the best of the good tackle prospects, while Patrick Kugler is the nation’s No. 1 guard prospect while Chris Fox and David Dawson aren’t far behind. The 6-5, 311-pound Bosch might be good enough to step in for Lewan next year on the left side with a nasty, physical streak for the ground game. The 6-5, 280-pound Kugler is a dominant force who’s a football player’s football player – his dad is the head coach at UTEP – with the versatility to play anywhere in the interior. The 6-6, 297-pound Fox has been targeted by the program for a few years and he’ll be a nasty run blocker, while the 6-4, 282-pound Dawson is a pure guard with the upside to be a killer once he gets a little bigger.
Strength: Pass protection. Hoke knows how get good production out of his lines, and he has the veterans on the outside to go along with the young upside in the interior. Overall, as long as Lewan and Schofield are doing their jobs, the rest of the line will come into place.
Weakness: Experience. There’s a world of upside and the freshman class is phenomenal, but overall the experience is an issue. Michigan hasn’t done all that well up front over the last several years when it had to undergo some wholesale changes, and while things won’t fall off the map, there are concerns.
Outlook: Last year was when the line was supposed to come together and shine, and in a lot of ways, it did. The future is blinding bright with so much young talent to work with, but the transition begins now behind two senior tackles and with the hope of a good rotation in the interior.
Unit Rating: 7

- 2013 Michigan Preview | 2013 Michigan Offense
- 2013 Michigan Defense | 2013 Michigan Depth Chart