Preview 2007 - Offense
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What you need to know:
Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord
didn't change things up much in his first year, and there aren't
going to be a lot of bells and whistles for an attack with all
the stars returning. Chad Henne, Mike Hart, and Mario Manningham
form the best skill trio in America, while tackle Jake Long and
quarter Adam Kraus form one of the nation's best left sides. The
only issue is depth, which is stunning undeveloped or a program
like Michigan. Of course there are talented prospects waiting in
the wings, but there will be major problems if injuries strike
Passing: Chad Henne
203-328, 2,508 yds, 22 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Mike Hart
318 carries, 1,562 yds, 14 TD
40 catches, 544 yds, 8 TD
Star of the offense: Senior RB Mike Hart
Quarterback and running back depth
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior OT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore C Justin Boren
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Jake Long
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hart, 2) Long, 3) WR
Strength of the offense: Experience, skill positions
Weakness of the offense:
Projected Starter: With 7,777 career passing yards, 70
touchdown passes and just 28 interceptions, senior Chad Henne
has come up with a tremendous career and should grow into
the best NFL quarterback prospect from Michigan since Elvis
Grbac (remember, Mr. Brady wasn't thought of as a top prospect).
He's 6-2 and 224 pounds with a rifle arm and a willingness to
put the ball in places to make plays he probably shouldn't.
Coming off a tremendous 22 touchdown, 2,508-yard season with
just eight interceptions, he's primed to become an All-America
caliber passer with a great line in front of him and great
receivers to work with.
Projected Top Reserve: Is Ryan Mallett
ready? Michigan wasn't afraid to put Henne in as a freshman, and
it might force its superstar recruit to hit the ground running
in an emergency situation. In a perfect world, the 6-6 247-pound
true freshman can redshirt, but he showed up early for spring
ball and started to learn the offense. First, he has to become
more fundamentally sound; he trusts his arm too much.
Watch Out For ... Henne to slowly creep up as top 50
draft pick. It would be nice if he were a little bit taller and
had a bit more mobility, and he needs to work on his throwing
motion, but he has the talent to lead a team at the next level.
Strength: Arms. Henne has a rocket, but Mallett
could throw a peanut through a brick wall. There's not a throw
on the field that these two can't make.
Weakness: Henne in the really, really big games. Lloyd Carr
isn't the only one on the hot seat after the last few years
against Ohio State. Henne has never beaten the Buckeyes and
hasn't won a bowl game.
Outlook: As long as Henne gets time to work, he'll
carve up defenses. He has the experience, the talent, and the
skill players to make him look good. Now he has to create a
legacy as a winner, which will only come with a win over Ohio
State and a Big Ten title. Mallett will be a superstar ... in
Projected Starters: If it's possible to run for 3,967
career yards, 27 touchdowns, and catch 59 passes for 516 yards
and two scores for Michigan and still be underrated, senior
Mike Hart has done it. Coming off a sensational 1,562-yard,
14 touchdown season as the steady, consistent force in a BCS
run, he tore off nine 100-yard games, with three more with 91
yards or more, before getting shut down by USC. Even though he
only ran for 47 yards against the Trojans, he scored twice. Not
a home run hitter, the 5-9, 196-pound veteran is a tough
between-the-tackles runner who always cranks out positive yards.
With 19 career games with 100 yards or more, he's been one of
the nation's best running backs, when healthy. No national title
caliber team will rely more on one running back than Michigan
will, and Hart needs to stay in one piece.
6-1, 222-pound sophomore Mark Moundros will fill the
fullback role, when it's used. Michigan usually goes to
three-wide sets, or uses a variety of players in the fullback
role, but Moundros needs to quickly grow into a tough blocker
and part-time receiver.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 213-pound sophomore
Brandon Minor is more than a bruising tailback, he's a
sprinter, cranking out 10.9 in high school in the 100. A
phenomenal all-around athlete who finished second on the team
with 238 yards and two touchdowns with a 5.7-yard-per-carry
average, he'll get more work to keep Hart fresh for later on in
Is Carlos Brown a running back or a corner? He switched
to the defensive side before spring ball, but will likely end up
providing more depth for the running game, at least until this
fall when Kevin Grady is scheduled to return from a knee
injury. Brown has elite speed in a 6-0, 202-pound frame, while
Grady is also a speedster, with 4.43 wheels, and a world of
upside if he's healthy. The star recruit of two years ago is
ahead of schedule and should be back in time for the season, but
it's still a wait-and-see approach. He has all the measurables,
but he hasn't used them yet and could probably use a year to
redshirt before taking over the starting job in 2008.
Watch Out For ... Hart to get fewer carries. He's so
vital that losing him for any stretch of time might all but shut
down the Wolverine ground game. The passing game will take on a
bigger role, while other backs will get more work.
Strength: Hart. The ultimate workhorse, all he's
missing is size. He has the heart of a warrior, is always able
to take the ball for stretches, and he never fumbles. He can
catch a little, too.
Weakness: Backups. Grady's knee injury was a serious step back
for the overall depth. Minor and Brown are big, talented backs
who should be able to step in and shine, but they're not Hart.
Outlook: The Big Ten's second best running game
should shine again as long as Hart is healthy. He has a great
offensive line to work behind, and he should be a 100-yard game
waiting to happen yet again. The emergence of the backups, and
the hope for Grady to come back healthy, will be the key to
keeping Hart fresh for the finishing kick. There are enough
layup games on the schedule to get Hart on the bench relatively
Projected Starters: A case could've been
made that 6-0, 181-pound junior Mario Manningham was the
best player in college football over the first half of the
season before he suffered a knee injury against Michigan State.
After starting off the year with five catches for 71 yards and a
touchdown in wins over Vanderbilt and Central Michigan, he
exploded with three straight 100-yard games and eight touchdown
catches in four weeks, including a 113-yard, two-score effort in
the pivotal win over Wisconsin and a four-catch, 137-yard, three
score performance against Notre Dame. He returned late in the
year, but wasn't quite the same despite catching 12 passes for
165 yards against Ohio State and USC. Most known for his last
second touchdown catch to beat Penn State in the 2005 classic,
he's a big-play target with sub-4.4 speed. Now he has to prove
he can hold up.
It appears the drama surrounding 6-3, 187-pound senior Adrian
Arrington has subsided, at least for now. Suspended for
spring ball for undisclosed issues, he was let back on the team
in June and should be a key running mate next to Manningham. He
stepped up his play when Manningham went down, and while he
isn't a consistent go-to target, he's a reliable number two with
4.46 speed, making 40 catches for 544 yards and eight scores
6-4, 229-pound senior Mike Massey isn't a big, bruising
tight end, but he's a decent receiver, making eight catches for
72 yards. A solid special teamer so far, he'll have to grow into
more of a role player for the passing game and will be replaced
on short yardage running plays.
Projected Top Reserves: The absence of Arrington
this spring allowed for the emergence of 6-3, 207-pound
sophomore Greg Mathews, who looked like the next big
thing this off-season. With size, strength and talent, and he
turned into enough of a force in spring ball to push Arrington
for a starting spot if more problems arise. Mathews, the cousin
of former Ohio State star Ted Ginn, made seven catches for 68
yards and will start out the season behind Arrington, but will
see plenty of time in three-wide sets.
Starting out behind Manningham will be 6-2, 205-pound sophomore
LaTerryal Savoy, who didn't do anything last year. A
superstar recruit a few years ago, he appeared to be on the
verge of blowing up after a a great 2006 spring, but it never
happened. Now he'll be a bigger part of the rotation with Steve
Working along with Massey at tight end will be juniors Chris
McLaurin and Andre Criswell, who'll be blockers more
than receivers. The 6-3, 236-pound McLaurin is a former
linebacker who's spent most of his time on special teams, while
Criswell, at 257 pounds, is a former fullback who can hit.
Watch Out For ... Mathews. While the coaching staff's
praise of the sophomore might have been a bit over the top to
give Arrington a push, Mathews really is a good one. He has all
the tools to be the next great Michigan receiver.
Strength: The 1-2 punch of Manningham and
Arrington. There was a time when it didn't seem these two would
be the major players expected, with Manningham's knee injury and
Arrington's off-field issues potentially taking away Chad
Henne's deep threats, but all appears right with the world. If
Arrington can be consistent and can take away focus from
Manningham, the passing game will blow up.
Weakness: Tight end. Tyler Ecker wasn't exactly the next Kellen
Winslow, but he was a decent veteran who could block. Carson
Butler, who caught 19 passes for 166 yards and a score, was
kicked off the team, leaving a big void and a lot of scrambling.
Outlook: It's all about Manningham. Arrington,
Mathews and Savoy are big-time prospects who can all produce
from time to time, but Manningham has to stay healthy and has to
build on what he started to do at the beginning of last year.
The loss of leading receiver Steve Breaston means someone has to
step up and become a go-to target for short to midrange passes.
At the moment, the corps is full of deep threats. While that's
not necessarily a bad thing, it would be nice if there was some
steadiness to go along with the spectacular.
Projected Starters: The left side of the
line might be the best in college football with the return of seniors
Jake Long and Adam Kraus. There was a good chance neither
would be back at their spots, with Long good enough to have been a top
50 draft pick had he left early, and Kraus possibly moved to center. The
6-7, 313-pound Long is one of the nation's premier tackles, having gone
from very good to special after slimming down and getting quicker. A
strong pass protector, he can also bury defenders in the running game.
The 6-6, 296-pound Kraus doesn't get the attention Long receives, but
the veteran guard is every bit as nasty when it comes to the running
game. The former tight end can move, but he's at his best when he's
allowed to by physical on pounding running plays. One of the line's most
versatile players, he's seen time at center, and is at home at guard.
Replacing Mark Bihl in the middle was the key piece to the puzzle, and
it was solved with the emergence of 6-6, 297-pound sophomore Justin
Boren this spring. Michigan always has good prospects on the line,
but the coaching staff is particularly excited about Boren's potential.
He can play guard if needed.
The only question mark is at right tackle, where 6-6, 297-pound
sophomore Mark Ortmann takes over for Reuben Riley. A great
athlete, he has the measurables to grow into a prototype blocker, and he
has a little bit of experience at both spots. Now he needs to show he
can be consistent in a full time role. He'll also be the main backup on
the left side behind Long.
Back at his starting spot at right guard is 6-5, 313-pound junior
Alex Mitchell, who has seen time at both guard and tackle spots
throughout his career. While he didn't necessarily get leaner, like the
coaching staff had been hoping for going into last year, he has gotten
in better overall shape and has been a consistent, reliable blocker.
Projected Top Reserves: Battling for the open
right tackle job will be 6-5, 297-pound sophomore Steve Schilling,
who has the upside and the potential, but doesn't have the experience of
Ortmann. He's back after missing all of last year with a shoulder
problem and a bout with mono.
The 6-5, 296-pound Cory Zirbel will be in the hunt for playing
time at right tackle, and will be the key backup if anything happens to
Jake Long on the left side. The junior has seen plenty of playing time,
and now he needs to be consistent. Even so, there wouldn't be a major
drop-off in production if he sees time for any appreciable stretch.
Watch Out For ... Boren. Mark Bihl might have been an
All-Big Ten caliber center, but Boren, in time, has All-America
potential. With his size, quickness and all-around ability, he'll be a
great one to build around over the next few seasons.
Strength: The left side. Several NFL teams would
love to have Long and Kraus on the same side. Long is a sure-thing, and
possibly the first tackle taken in next year's draft, while Kraus will
be one of the top guards.
Weakness: Proven depth. It's Michigan, so there are several good
players waiting in the wings, but there will be a major adjustment
period if a rash of injuries hit. Losing Long would hurt, but losing
Kraus, at least early on, would be disastrous.
Outlook: The call went out early last year to
change the direction of the line. No long would Michigan have a slew of
beef-eating behemoths up front; the coaching staff wanted a leaner,
meaner, more aggressive group. The change worked, for the most part, but
considering the new overall quickness, the line wasn't as great in pass
protection as it should've been. On a national scale, this will likely
be an overrated front five going into the season, but it's certainly