2007 Michigan Preview - Offense

Posted Jun 26, 2007

Preview 2007 Michigan Wolverine Offense Preview

Michigan Wolverines

Preview 2007 - Offense

- 2007 Michigan Preview | 2007 Michigan Defense Preview
2007 Michigan Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Michigan Preview 

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 early on.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Chad Henne
203-328, 2,508 yds, 22 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Mike Hart
318 carries, 1,562 yds, 14 TD
Adrian Arrington
40 catches, 544 yds, 8 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Mike Hart
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior OT Mark Ortmann
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 Mario Manningham
Strength of the offense: Experience, skill positions
Weakness of the offense:
Quarterback and running back depth


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.
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 2009.
Rating: 9

Running Backs

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 the year.

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.
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 early.
Rating: 9


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 last season.

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 Breaston gone.

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.
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.
Rating: 8

Offensive Linemen

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.
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 very good.
Rating: 8


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