CFN Preview 2013 - Michigan Wolverines
Michigan OT Taylor Lewan
Michigan OT Taylor Lewan
Posted Jun 25, 2013 2013 Preview - Michigan Wolverines

Michigan Wolverines

Preview 2013

- 2013 Michigan Preview | 2013 Michigan Offense
- 2013 Michigan Defense | 2013 Michigan Depth Chart
- Michigan Previews 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

- Suggestions or something we missed? Let us know
- Follow us ... @ColFootballNews

By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Brady Hoke
3rd year: 19-7
11th year overall: 66-57
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 24, Def. 21, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best Michigan Players
1. OT Taylor Lewan, Sr.
2. LB Jake Ryan, Jr.*
3. QB Devin Gardner, Jr.
4. LB Desmond Morgan, Jr.
5. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, Sr.
6. S Thomas Gordon, Sr.
7. RB Derrick Green, Fr.
8. OG Patrick Kugler, Fr.
9. S Dymonte Thomas, Fr.
10. QB Shane Morris, Fr.
*Ryan is out with a torn ACL
2013 Schedule
8/31 Central Michigan
9/7 Notre Dame
9/14 Akron
9/21 at Connecticut
10/5 Minnesota
10/12 at Penn State
10/19 Indiana
11/2 at Michigan State
11/9 Nebraska
11/16 at Northwestern
11/23 at Iowa
11/30 Ohio State
But Ohio State went 12-0.

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke has done an amazing job on the recruiting trail, upgrading the talent level and laying the foundation for a huge next several years. The Wolverines finished second in the 2013 Scout recruiting rankings …

But Ohio State finished first.

The base is being built. All of a sudden, Michigan is far faster, far more athletic, and far better, and there's a world of upside and promise helped by Scout's fourth-best recruiting class of 2012 …

But Ohio State finished third.

Hoke has restored the glory from the rocky Rich Rodriguez era. All of a sudden, the defense is better, finishing 13th in the nation and second in the Big Ten …

But Michigan State's D finished fourth in the nation and first in the Big Ten.

Under Hoke, Michigan has won 19 games over the last two seasons …

But Nebraska has also won 19 games and played in the 2012 Big Ten championship game, and Wisconsin has gone to three straight Rose Bowls.

Michigan, if you're going to do this whole Leaders and Best thing, at some point you have to actually lead and you need to be the best no matter what.

When is Michigan finally going to start winning championships on a regular basis and not use RichRod, or Lloyd Carr, or Greg Robinson, or Jim Tressel, or Ed Martin, or recruiting restrictions, or academics, or anything as a reason why the richest of rich football programs can't be among the true leaders and best in college football every single year?

Notre Dame has academic restrictions and it went 12-0 before losing in the BCS championship.

Yes, Hoke really is doing a phenomenal job and the talent is coming in to ensure a whopper of a run in the very near future, but Penn State had every possible excuse in the book to stink last season and it went 8-4 in the regular season, just like Michigan. Wisconsin couldn't play dead for the first half of the season and it managed to fight back to win eight games and a second straight Big Ten championship.

And, yeah, Ohio State, barriers and all, went 12-0.

The 2013 Wolverines are rock-solid across the board. Some might complain about the lack of developed depth, and there might not be any elite receivers, and star pass rusher Jake Ryan might have torn his ACL, and the superstar recruits might need time to mature, and the offensive line needs to revamp the interior, and Devin Gardner might need a full season to show he really is a franchise quarterback, and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint might be coming off a broken leg, and … and … and …

There's no excuse. With a relatively light and breezy schedule with no Wisconsin and with Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State at home, no, there really is no reason why this rising team with a terrific coaching staff and a world of upside can't win big and win big now.

You're Michigan, and that means you're supposed to be really, really good at playing college football. It's time to find a way to go 12-0.

Ohio State did.

What to watch for on offense: The emergence of Devin Gardner as a big-time star. Whether it was at Ball State or San Diego State, Brady Hoke preferred pro-style passers who could spread out the field and open up big holes up front for the running game. It's not that the coaching staff wasn't happy to have a dual-threat playmaker in Denard Robinson, and Gardner did his part as a receiver, but once No. 12 took over the starting quarterback reins late in the season, the passing game took off. Gardner has the size, the athleticism and now the knowledge that yeah, he really might be the player the program thought it was getting as a top recruit. The receivers are going to be good enough, the running backs will provide the help and the starting tackles are back – it's all there for Gardner to succeed.

What to watch for on defense: The emergence of pass rushers to replace Jake Ryan. It's not like the Wolverines had much of a pass rush throughout the season with just 15 before coming up with seven in the final two games. Ryan was the catalyst throughout the season with 16 tackles for loss – no one else had more than nine – and he led the team with 4.5 sacks and 88 tackles. While there's some hope for him to possibly come back late in the year, the torn ACL he suffered this offseason will likely keep him out until next season. Who'll pick up the slack? The Wolverines have big options on the end in Frank Clark and Keith Heitzman, but the move of end Brennen Beyer from end to outside linebacker to combine with Cam Gordon in Ryan's spot will potentially make it all work.

The team will be far better if … the turnovers stop against the better teams. Considering the defense failed to come up with a pick over the final five games, the turnover issue became a major problem. Nothing would've helped in the opener against Alabama, but it's not a stretch to suggest that the Wolverines would've beaten Notre Dame, Ohio State and South Carolina if the offense didn't keep giving it up. The O gave away 19 picks and eight fumbles on the season, but the bigger problems came in the biggest of games turning it over 18 times in the five losses and just nine times in the eight wins. Alabama – three picks. Notre Dame – five picks and a lost fumble. Nebraska – three picks. Ohio State – three picks and a lost fumble. South Carolina – a pick and a lost fumble.

The schedule: It's as good as could be reasonably asked for. There's always going to be Ohio State to deal with from the Leaders, but there's no Wisconsin and getting Indiana at home and a depleted Penn State isn't bad. There's no way all the tough games could be at home, but welcoming the Buckeyes, Notre Dame and Nebraska should be a big help. But it's Michigan; it's going to get every team's best shot.

Getting past Central Michigan, Akron and a road trip to Connecticut shouldn't be a problem, and hosting Minnesota and Indiana to go along with the away date in Happy Valley should mean 7-0, or at worst 6-1 with a loss to the Irish. Going on the road three times in four weeks – at Michigan State, at Northwestern and at Iowa with the Nebraska game thrown into the mix – comes after a needed off week.

Best offensive player: Senior OT Taylor Lewan. He wouldn't have been in the mix with Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Lane Johnson if he had come out early, but would've likely gone in the late first round and definitely in the top 50. At 6-8 and 308 pounds he's tall, rangy and has a great frame with good enough quickness to handle most speed rushers. However, it's not wrong to suggest that Gardner could become the team's top player for this season, and it's really not that crazy to argue that the most talented offensive players might be freshman running back Derrick Green, guard Patrick Kugler or quarterback Shane Morris.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Desmond Morgan – but it's very, very debatable. Actually, it's Jake Ryan, but the torn ACL put that on hold for a little while. Morgan might not be spectacular, and safety Thomas Gordon and cornerback Raymon Taylor could become all-stars, but it's the steady Morgan who could turn into the team's top defensive stat star after moving to the middle. He did a nice job last season on the outside with 81 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss, and while he isn't all that big and will get banged on – he missed two games last year – but he should put up huge numbers against the run.

Key player to a successful season: Junior LB Brennan Beyer. The defensive end will move to strongside linebacker to combine with Cam Gordon to replace Jake Ryan. He only made 19 tackles and wasn't a pass rusher, but that has to change in a hurry. Gordon is a good veteran who made 17 tackles and three tackles for loss, but he has the quickness and potential to be a playmaker behind the line if he's turned loose.

The season will be a success if … Michigan wins the Big Ten title. There might be a few too many problems to realistically think about going unbeaten and doing something truly special, but with every big game except the Michigan State showdown at home, and talented depth backing up a decent group of veterans, there's no reason not to win the Legends. However, it might take two wins over Ohio State to get to Pasadena.

Key game: Nov. 2 at Michigan State. Next year, the Ohio State game will really, really matter when the Wolverines and Buckeyes are together in the East division. This season, the Nebraska game will be big, but that's at home and it comes after the battle with Michigan State, which should, at the very least, determine the front-runner for the Legends title. The Spartans will be stronger than they were last year, but so should the Wolverines.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Michigan 1st Quarter Scoring: 62 – Michigan 2nd Quarter Scoring: 148
- Penalties: Opponents 84 for 719 yards – Michigan 62 for 628 yards
- Rushing TDs: Michigan 27 – Opponents 9

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