Michigan Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Michigan Wolverines
Posted Aug 6, 2006

Michigan Wolverines Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Super Mario and Stevie B. – Seemingly, every year the Wolverines lose an electrifying and productive wide receiver.  Braylon Edwards in 2004.  Jason Avant in 2005.  But, each year, the Wolverines don’t miss a beat with their passing game and this year shouldn’t be any different, due to the pair of pass catchers who are back in Ann Arbor this fall.  Steve Breaston is a guy that has been on the scene for a while and there are few players in the nation who are as dynamic with the ball in their hands as much as Breaston.  The senior from western Pa. power Woodland Hills will also destroy teams with his abilities in the return game.  Last year, Breaston never really became the receiving threat that most projected him to be, but that was partly because of the emergence of Mario Manningham, the alliterative star from Ohio, of all places.  Although he’d had a tremendous game at Wisconsin, it was in the dusk of the October night against Penn State at home when Manningham forged his legacy.  His first touchdown catch was a gem down the left sideline, but when he snagged the slant route across the middle with zeroes on the clock, his name was forever etched in Michigan history.  And, he was only a freshman.  With Avant off to the NFL, Manningham and Breaston have to share the passing game burden, and they’re both going to have to prove they can stretch the limits of their abilities.  Breaston has been a guy that QB Chad Henne throws to immediately after the snap or on quick screens where he can catch and run.  Manningham was a true deep threat all season long.  However, both of them are going to have to prove they can run routes across the middle – curls, digs and deep slants.  Offenses forget that when they possess receivers with speed, sometimes the best place to get them free is in the middle of the field.  Defenses can be so perimeter conscious that when a guy with some speed can catch a ball in the middle he can almost be as effective as he is out in the flat.  Plus, someone has to catch the ball on third down to keep the chains moving.  If this duo can round out their ‘game’, the Michigan passing game won’t miss one beat.

2nd and Seven – Something to Prove – Throughout the 2005 season, one of the most improved units on the entire Michigan team was the secondary quartet.  This improvement was most evident when the Wolverines went to Northwestern and slowed down one of the most potent passing games in the nation.  With Leon Hall back at corner, the Wolverines have a potential All-American and resident play maker.  Hall’s cover abilities are almost without peer in the Big Ten this season and his leadership and play will be the key for this back four.  Most teams will go away from Hall, so Charles Stewart and/or Morgan Trent will have to step up in the void created by the graduation of Grant Mason.  Safety Ryan Mundy should be healthy enough to return to his free safety spot after missing the season with an injury.  For as good as this unit turned out to be, a number of people will remember the Gonzalez catch in the Ohio State game and the game winning touchdown pass given up against Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl.  This group will want to put to rest any thoughts that those key plays will occur in 2006.  

3rd and Three – The Forgotten man – After a solid 2004 season, Michigan DE/OLB LaMarr Woodley looked as though he was on a crash course with college football stardom, but the former blue chip high school stud from Saginaw seemed to toil in obscurity, even though his numbers were actually better than the year before.  Part of it had to do with the massive expectations bestowed on the young man and the other part was the fact that he suffered with nagging injuries throughout the year.  Some might say that Woodley is a ‘tweener’, a man without a position.  But, at 6’2” and 265 pounds, Woodley is talented enough to play either DE or OLB and if he’s healthy this season, look out, this kid is going to have a magnificent season.  Those who watched him last year might think of him as just a ‘regular’ player, but put on some film from his sophomore season in 2004.  There were times when he ate up anything in his path.  His quickness and power are evident when he’s healthy, but he has to evolve into more than just a ‘nice’ player this season.  He has to be a difference maker on every play – something he definitely can do.

4th and One – On the spot? – Michigan’s head coach Lloyd Carr is used to taking some heat.  It’s part of the job description, right behind, win Big Ten and graduate players.  But, last year, the performance of Carr and his coaching staff fell under scrutiny, probably more so than it had in any other year.  But, if Anthony Gonzalez is called out of bounds in the Ohio State game, the Wolverines would’ve been on a five game winning streak heading into the Alamo Bowl.  However, after the crushing Ohio State loss and yielding a come-from behind victory to Nebraska, the critics were baring their fangs again, and it wasn’t just media.  Carr ultimately had changes to make on his staff, reassigning Mike DeBord to the offensive coordinator position and naming Ron English as the defensive coordinator position.  Maybe the different ‘voices’ will have the desired effect, but if not, well, let’s just no go there.  Carr did his best motivational job in 1997, getting his team rallied around a mountain climbing motif, selling it to them all season long.  Selling it to a National championship Michigan team.  Can Carr drum up the motivation to get the most out of this team to challenge Ohio State, Iowa and Penn State for the Big Ten title?  We’ll see soon enough. 

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