Michigan Preview 2006 - Offense
Michigan Wolverines
Posted Aug 6, 2006

Michigan Wolverines Preview 2006 - Wolverine Offense

What you need to know ... The offense was a major disappointment last year finishing ninth in the league in total offense with inconsistency on the line and banged up running back Mike Hart the main reasons for the problems. New offensive coordinator Mike DeBord isn't going to change things up too much, but the call has gone out that everyone has to be in better shape. The line has trimmed down and should be more athletic, and the backs appear to be the most fit they've been. The passing game needs Steve Breaston to finally play like a number one receiver, while Mario Manningham should emerge as more of a star with quarterback Chad Henne getting better and better. If Henne goes down, watch out. There's no quarterback depth whatsoever.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Chad Henne
223-382, 2,536 yds, 23 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Mike Hart
150 carries, 662 yds, 4 TD
Mario Manningham
27 catches, 433 yds, 6 TD

Star of the offense: Junior RB Mike Hart
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior WR Steve Breaston
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman RB Carlos Brown
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Jake Long
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hart, 2) Long, 3) QB Chad Henne
Strength of the offense: Running back
Weakness of the offense:
Quarterback depth

Chad Henne has started for two years and now appears on the verge of becoming the type of All-Big Ten passer who makes big things happen on a consistent basis. His durability will mean everything with no one, absolutely no one, ready to step in and take over if an injury strikes. Jason Forcier is a great runner who needs time to become a better passer, and true freshman David Cone needs time to learn how to be a Big Ten passer.
The key to the unit: Henne's health. The season is over if he misses any appreciable time.
Quarterback Rating: 7.5

Projected Starter
- Chad Henne, Jr. - 223-382, 2,526 yds, 58%, 23 TD, 8 INT, 54 carries, 25 yds, 1 TD
Henne was thrown to the wolves as a freshman and turned into a more polished, more confident passer last season throwing only five interceptions outside of a three-pick performance against Northwestern. He has more mobility than he gets credit for and a good enough arm to make all the throws, but he was mostly just a cog in the machine over the last two seasons. Now he appears ready to be a true leader who'll be a main playmaker for the offense and make everyone around him better.

Top Backups
- Jason Forcier, RFr.
While he's not huge at 6-2 and 206 pounds, his game is speed. He's fast with the feet and quickness to not only buy himself time, but to also take off and come up with yards in chunks. However, he's far from a polished Big Ten passer and he'll need plenty of time before he's ready for prime time.

- David Cone, Fr.
He's a big 6-6, 205-pound passer, but he needs a lot of work. He'll get it in practices with the team in desperate need of a number three quarterback. While he has the tools, he played in a pure running offense in high school. If he sees the field in meaningful time, fire off the panic siren.

Running Backs
There undeniable talent to make this one of the Big Ten's best backfields if everyone is healthy. Mike Hart, when 100%, is among the nation's most productive backs, but he couldn't stay on the field last year. While he's a special runner, the coaching staff will be using Kevin Grady more and more to keep the Hart fresh. True freshman Carlos Brown is so good that he could end up seeing equal time as the number two man.
The key to the unit: Mike Hart's health. With Grady and Brown in the mix, there's no reason Hart should get more than 20 carries unless absolutely needed.
Running Back Rating: 8.5

Projected Starters
- Mike Hart, Jr. - 150 carries, 662 yds, 4.4 ypc, 4 TD, 16 catches, 154 yds, 9.6 ypc, 1 TD
When healthy, Hart is one of the nation's best running backs and a threat for All-America honors. He was a bit overused as a freshman getting 274 carries over the final ten games of the season, got dinged up early on against Notre Dame, got healthy enough to run for 435 yards over a three game span, and then got hurt again and was never right the rest of the way. He's a quick 5-9 and 198 pounds with great hands and a combination of quickness and power. He tore off a 64-yard run last year, but he's not a home-run hitter.  

- Fullback Brian Thompson, Sr. - 6 catches, 41 yds, 6.8 ypc, 2 TD
While not the most athletic fullback option, Thompson is a decent receiver and a good special teamer. He's a former linebacker who brings that toughness as a blocker, but he's not going to see many, if any, carries.

Top Backups
- Kevin Grady, Soph. - 121 carries, 483 yds, 4 ypc, 5 TD, 14 catches, 113 yds, 8.1 ypc
The star recruit of last year turned into a decent number two back, but he rarely showed off the flash that made him so heralded. He became a factor over the second half of the year highlighted by a 94-yard, two touchdown day against Indiana; he scored four touchdowns in the final three regular season games. He's a good receiver with a fantastic combination of strength and speed in a compact, and much better conditioned 5-9, 216-pound frame.
- Carlos Brown, Fr.
The 6-0, 195-pound true freshman got to spring ball early and was fantastic. He's lightning fast with the dash to instantly provide more of a pop to the running game. While he's not going to power over anyone right away, he'll be too good to keep out of the mix.
- Fullback Obi Oluigbo, Sr.
The 230-pound senior hasn't done much outside of the special teams so far, but he came on this spring and appears to be a viable option to see several touches. The former linebacker is a great athlete who and should be utilized more now that he's in better shape.

As always, there's speed, size, and skill in the Michigan receiving corps, but there's also big bust potential if everyone doesn't play up to their talent level. The loss of Jason Avant takes away a number one target who caught 82 balls last year. The number two man, Mario Manningham, caught 27. Manningham and Steve Breaston each have All-America potential, but it's a big jump going from a complementary player to an all-star. The tight ends are strong with Tyler Ecker and Mike Massey a talented 1-2 receiving punch.
The key to the unit: Steve Breaston has to finally show that he's more than a superstar kick returner.
Receiver Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- Mario Manningham, Soph. - 27 catches, 433 yds, 16 ypc, 6 TD
For only making 27 catches, Manningham sure made a lot of noise. He started in three games as a true freshman and made the game-winning grab in the classic win over Penn State and made four grabs for 103 yards and a score against Wisconsin. He's not the biggest receiver around at 6-0 and 187 pounds and he'll get pushed around a little bit, but he has sub-4.4 speed and should be the team's top deep threat and go-to receiver.

Steve Breaston, Sr. - 26 catches, 291 yds, 11.2 ypd, 2 TD
Will he ever be a productive wide receiver? He's one of the nation's most electrifying kick returners and is always a home run threat when he has the ball in his hands, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy over the last two seasons and for all the attention, he hasn't been all that splashy on offense. He appears to be driven to come up with a big senior season. He has the talent to be an All-American if the light finally goes on.

- Tight end Tyler Ecker, Sr. - 21 catches, 285 yds, 13.6 ypc, 2 TD
A great all-around tight end with good size, great blocking skills, and tremendous hands, Ecker appears to be ready for another All-Big Ten caliber season. He became a steady target over the second half of last year, but he might be forever known for his role in the final wild play in the lost to the Huskers when he was tackled just short of the goal line.

Top Backups
- LaTerryan Savoy, RFr.
Savoy has the size at 6-2 and 203 pounds and has great speed, and now he'll have to grow into a key role playing behind Mario Manningham. Along with being a top high school receiver at Mamou High in Louisiana, he was a star safety picking off 13 passes his senior year. He showed great hands this spring with the ability to adjust to the ball; he's a keeper.
- Adrian Arrington, Soph.
A tall, thin target behind Steve Breaston, the 6-3, 187-pound sophomore has 4.46 speed and the talent to grow into another typical great Michigan receiver. He's back after missing the end of last year on a kickoff against Northwestern. He'll be used as a deep threat.
- Tight end Mike Massey, Soph. - 8 catches, 51 yds, 6.4 ypc, 2 TD
While not as big as Tyler Ecker and not as good a blocker, he's a good receiver who saw a little bit of starting time last year. He's solid on special teams should be more of a part of the passing game.

Offensive Linemen
Forget about the good old days of behemoth Michigan linemen who lined up and simply outbeefed everyone else.
The call has gone out since the end of last year that the coaching staff wants a lean, mean, fighting machine up front, and most of the top players have slimmed down. Now the question becomes where to put everyone on a line that has experience, but was too inconsistent last season and was always dinged up. Jake Long is a starter at left tackle and Mark Bihl is likely set at center, beyond that, everything will likely change before the opener.
The key to the unit: A starting five needs to be set and it needs to jell. If there are the constant position changes that happened last year, it could be another mediocre season for the line.
Offensive Line Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- OT Jake Long, Jr.
An All-America candidate and the one sure-thing on the line, Long got in better shape this off-season and is now down to a tight 316 pounds. At 6-7, he's a long player with good arms for pass protection. At his new size, he should be quicker and better in pass protection.
- OG Adam Kraus, Jr.
The former tight end is an athletic guard and has starting time at center. Despite being banged up late last year, he's a tough run blocker who's great on the move.
- C Mark Bihl, Sr.
With all the movement that's still likely to go on with the starting lineup, the 297-pound senior appears a near-lock to start in the middle. He's in the best shape of his career and has more than enough experience to be a solid starter after getting the nod seven times over the last two season.
- OG Reuben Riley, Sr.
Able to play tackle of guard, the versatile Riley has even seen time at center. The 303-pound senior will be penciled in at right guard, where he'll bring athleticism and a ton of experience to the inside, but it's hardly set in stone.
- OT Mike Kolodziej, Sr.
Kolodziej should be faster after shedding nearly 20 pounds this off-season. He got one start at right tackle last year and appears to be the front runner this season despite having problems this spring with the team's speedier pass rushers.

Top Backups
- OT Cory Zirbel, RFr.
While he has a world of talent with excellent athleticism, the 6-5, 297-pound Zirbel, predictably, will need time before he's consistent. He'll start out seeing time at right tackle but could move to the other side if needed. 
- OG Alex Mitchell, Soph.
Mitchell has to be in better shape to be part of the starting mix. At the very least, the 311-pound sophomore will be a key reserve at both guard spots and will see time on special teams, but the coaching staff wants him to be quicker and trimmer to push for the job on the right side.

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