2008 Michigan Preview - Offense
Michigan RB Brandon Minor
Michigan RB Brandon Minor
Posted May 2, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Michigan Wolverine Offense

Michigan Wolverines

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN Michigan Preview | 2008 Michigan Offense
- 2008 Michigan Defense | 2008 Michigan Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Michigan Preview | 2006 CFN Michigan Preview 

What you need to know:
If nothing else, this will be interesting. The pieces aren't there for Rich Rodriguez to run things the way he did at West Virginia, so offensive coordinator Calvin McGee will have to scramble a bit. It's not like there isn't Michigan-level talent, but there's a ton of inexperience and few sure things. Starting with the positives, the running backs, despite losing Mike Hart, should be fantastic with Brandon Minor, Carlos Brown and Kevin Grady to be the focal point of the attack. Greg Mathews leads a tall, fast receiving corps that looks the part. And then there are the issues. The quarterback situation is shaky with Steven Threet taking the early lead in the race. While he’s a nice talent, he’s a tall passer; he’s not Pat White. The line could be the biggest concern with little returning experience and no veteran depth whatsoever.

Returning Leaders
Passing: David Cone
1-1, 21 yds
Rushing: Brandon Minor
90 carries, 385 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Greg Mathews

39 catches, 366 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Junior RB Brandon Minor
Player who has to step up and become a star: Redshirt freshman QB Steven Threet
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OT Mark Ortmann
Best pro prospect: Minor
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Minor, 2) WR Greg Mathews, 3) OT Stephen Schilling
Strength of the offense: Running back, tight end
Weakness of the offense:
Offensive line, quarterback


Projected Starter
While former Georgia Tech transfer Steven Threet doesn't fit the mold of the quarterback the new offense might like, he's a smart, solid passer with just enough mobility to be a running threat. At 6-6 and 230 pounds, the redshirt freshman is the best pure passing option among the quarterbacks, and with so many unknowns on both sides of the ball, he's the safest option. He was a top high school talent who's more than good enough to get the offense going, but he's just not the right fit.

Projected Top Reserve: Sophomore Nick Sheridan might not have the skills to be the starter on day one, but he has the type of speed and mobility needed for the offense. The 6-1, 212-pounder has been a holder for the kicking game and has seen some mop-up duty, but not enough to be able to hit the ground running. Even so, he was good enough in the off-season to get a long look this fall.

Among the more interesting options will be David Cone, a 6-7, 214-pound sophomore who holds the honor of being the team's most productive returning quarterback with one completion for 21 yards against Minnesota. While he's a pro-style quarterback with a big arm and nice passing touch, he operated out of the wishbone in high school.

If the coaching staff is prepared to truly be in a building mode, it'll take its lumps with Justin Feagin, a 6-0, 190-pound speedster who's the team's best fit for the attack. While he's not that big, he's big-time quick in the Pat White mold rushing for 1,313 yards and 25 touchdowns last year as a high school senior, but he also has an efficient arm. While he might have been considered a great safety prospect under the old regime, he could be the answer for the offense this year.

Watch Out For ... Threet to not be that bad. Lost in all the concern over the offensive changes is that Rodriguez is good at making adjustments. He's not going to make Threet do what Pat White had to, and he's more than able to tinker with the attack to go with the strengths.
Strength: A common goal. Everyone's in the same boat. This was going to be Terrelle Pryor's job before the uber-recruit decided to go to Ohio State, and now the idea is to get from point A to point B as painlessly as possible. Considering this is Michigan, in relative terms, there's almost no pressure whatsoever to succeed right away.
Pryor is in Columbus. If Feagin isn't the guy, this will be a hodge-podge offense that'll be thrown together on the fly. There could be elements of several different styles thrown in, with RB Brandon Minor even getting a snap or two here and there.
Outlook: Without question, this is the most intriguing quarterback situation of the 2008 season, and while the players might not be in place to do things like the coaching staff ideally would want, it's not like they backed up the turnip truck and dumped out some guys to throw under center. Every prospect was a big-time recruit and a top high school talent, and while none of them are Pryor, things might not be quite as bad as they appear.
Rating: 6

Running Backs

Projected Starters
Ready to break out from the shadow of Mike Hart is Brandon Minor, the team's second leading rusher last season with 385 yards and a touchdown. The 6-1, 214-pound junior is a big banger who's also a sprinter, cranking out a 10.9 in the 100 meters in high school. A phenomenal all-around athlete, he has the skills to be just the playmaker the offense needs to rely on until the quarterbacks get their feet wet. While he hasn't had to be a full-time workhorse yet, he ran 21 times for 157 yards against Minnesota.

The offense loves to use the fullback in a variety of ways, meaning 6-1, 232-pound sophomore Mark Moundros should get plenty of work. A blocker, he's not likely to see many carries, if any, but he's a part-time receiver making three catches for 11 yards, and he's a whale of a special teamer.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-9, 229-pound Kevin Grady was the superstar recruit of three years ago who was supposed to take the running game to another level, and while he has 4.43 speed and tremendous quickness, his career was derailed by a knee injury. He spent last year getting healthy, and now the junior, once everything clears up from his off-the-field issue with a drunk driving charge, should be a key cog in the attack.

Carlos Brown finished third on the team with 382 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards per carry, but he has to get over a broken finger to hold off Grady for the No. 2 job. At 6-0 and 213 pounds he has good size and elite speed. The former cornerback made the transition last year and appeared to be a natural, carrying the running game in the win over Illinois with 113 yards on 25 carries, and showing off his speed with 132 yards and two touchdowns against Minnesota on just 13 carries.

Sooner than later, 5-10, 185-pound redshirt freshman Avery Horn will be involved in the ground game. Extremely fast, with 10.5 speed in the 100, he has the potential to be a dangerous return man as well as a home run hitter from the backfield.

Watch Out For ... the coaching staff to do everything possible to get as many backs on the field at the same time. It won't be wishbone time, but there should be times with Minor is in the backfield at the same time with Grady, Brown or Horn. The running backs are a strength and they'll be used like it.
Strength: Speed. Mike Hart was a warrior who made things happen when he was in the open field, but he wasn't much of a speedster. The wheels in the backfield are better with this year's group.
Injury issues. Grady has to be all back full from his torn ACL, while Brown has to get over his finger injury. The big concern is keeping Minor in one piece. Never fully healthy over the second half of last season, he's the vital cog in the attack.
Outlook: This is supposed to be a running offense, and Michigan has runners. Even without Hart, this is still a good situation with four excellent options to form a good rotation. In a perfect world, Minor is the main man, Grady and Brown can each contribute around seven carries per game, and Horn carves out a role for himself sort of like Noel Devine did last year for West Virginia.
Rating: 8.5


Projected Starters: Alright, Greg Mathews, it's time to shine. Expected to possibly be a major player going into last season after all the drama surrounding Adrian Arrington and his spring suspension, he was the third man in the mix once Arrington returned. Mathews caught 39 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns, but the 6-3, 207-pound junior has the size and talent to do far more. The cousin of former Ohio State star, and current Miami Dolphin, Ted Ginn, doesn't have elite wheels, but he's not bad at getting in the open.

Looking to be the main running mate on for Mathews at the inside Z position is 6-1, 214-pound sophomore Junior Hemingway after a four catch, 37-yard season. A good runner, getting five carries for nine yards, he has good quickness and the potential to grow into a key playmaker in several areas.

Working at the Y is 6-3, 201-pound sophomore Toney Clemons after making one catch for five yards. A huge target as well as a big-time athlete with great speed, he should be able to stretch the field a bit.

Adding a calming, go-to target for the new quarterback will be 6-5, 250-pound junior Carson Butler, the returning starter at tight end. With 13 starts over the last two years, and with 20 catches for 246 yards and two touchdowns, he's a reliable veteran who isn't afraid to hit a little bit.

Projected Top Reserves: Pushing Hemingway for time at the inside Z spot will be 6-3, 210-pound junior LaTerryal Savoy, a superstar recruit from a few years ago who has produced precisely squat. Partially last in the shuffle, he caught one pass for nine yards last year and now has to finally live up to his tremendous potential and become a regular playmaker.

Already in school this spring was true freshman Darryl Stonum, one of the team's top recruits. At 6-3 and 185 pounds he has the body already, and he has the sprinter's speed to eventually become a star on the outside. He'll start out behind Mathews on the X, but he could be the key to the deep passing game as the season goes on.

Butler doesn't have a firm hold on the starting tight end job as 6-5, 225-pound senior Mike Massey will once again play a role in two tight end sets and on special teams. He made four catches for 38 yards before getting knocked out for the year with a knee injury in the fifth game of the year. He might not be a big blocker, but he was missed from the offense.

Watch Out For ... Stonum. The offense needs playmakers in all spots, and while he wasn't the star of the spring, Stonum showed enough to be a factor right away this fall. No longer a beanpole, he has added plenty of muscle and size to be ready.
Strength: Size and speed. When you become known for cranking out NFL-caliber wide receivers, you tend to get NFL-caliber prospects. Everyone is big, everyone is fast, and everyone was a great high school player who came to Ann Arbor to be part of the assembly line, but ...
... the light hasn't gone on for enough of the prospects. Oh sure, there's plenty of talent and upside, but this group won't be good enough to demand a full-time commitment to the passing game.
Outlook: Mathews is a good receiver to build around and he'll show that he was more than just a complementary target in the attack last year. Now it's time for some of the former star prepsters to play up to their former hype. If the running game works like it's supposed to, there should be plenty of chances to hit on the big play. This speedy group has to take advantage.

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: Michigan always has talented linemen waiting to step in and produce, but this year might be a stretch , especially on the left side where No. 1-pick-in-the-draft tackle Jake Long is gone along with Adam Kraus and Justin Boren, who combined at right guard and center. Trying to step in and take over for Long on the left side will be Mark Ortmann, a 6-7, 294-pound junior who started two games last year at right tackle. A great athlete with the measurables to become a prototype tackle, he needs more starting time and he needs to prove he can be a consistent pass protector.

Starting in place of Krause will be 6-6, 288-pound junior Tim McAvoy, who saw a little bit of time last year and got the starting call against Northwestern at right guard. One of the best athletes on the line, he should grow into a perfect blocker for the new offense with his quickness and ability to get on the move.

Sophomore Stephen Schilling is the only returning starter on the line after starting every game but two at right tackle, and spending the other two games at right guard. At 6-5 and 295 pounds he has decent size
with big-time upside. He had issues with a shoulder injury and a bout of mono two years ago, but he came back to become one of the team's steadier, most versatile linemen.

Taking over for Justin Boren in the middle will be junior David Moosman, a 6-5, 292-pound career backup who has the ability to play guard, but will start out at center. Extremely strong, he should be great for the ground game, and while he's not a next-level athlete, he's quick enough to handle himself well in the new offense.

There was a revolving door at right guard last year, and it's the one spot that won't suffer from having a new starter. 6-5, 292-pound junior Cory Zirbel has plenty of experience as a backup and has spent most of his time on special teams, but now he'll be the main option with his tremendous combination of strength and quickness.

Projected Top Reserves: The line needs someone, anyone with a little experience to provide some sort of veteran depth, and at the moment, 6-7, 308-pound sophomore Perry Dorrestein is it after seeing time in four games last year. A backup behind Jake Long last season, Dorrestein will now work mostly at right tackle behind Schilling. He could move to the other side if needed.

Forget about giving the new guys any time to get their feet wet, the best players will be needed from day one. True freshman Dann O'Neill could be one of the main options sooner than later at tackle. The 6-7, 295-pounder was rated among the best tackle prospects in the nation and he should grow into a star in pass protection.

Watch Out For ... this to be the make-or-break area for the team. There might be question marks in several areas, but if the O line is mediocre, it's time to move on to 2009.
Strength: The program. Can Michigan get by on brand name? You have to be at a certain level to even be considered by Michigan to play on the line, so there's good talent and decent prospects. However ...
Can anyone actually play? Outside of Schilling, there's no one the line can count on from day one. For Rodriguez to run the offense like he wants, he needs a specific skill set up front, and the jury is still out on whether or not this front five is athletic enough.
Outlook: Fortunately, the change of the past few years from being big and beefy to sleek and quick should pay off as this season goes on. The Wolverine line is hardly light, but it's not lumbering. While the blocking should be fine as the season gets on, the personnel losses are too massive to expect anything special. Losing Long and Kraus were bad enough, but the defection of Boren, among others, makes this a major concern.
Rating: 6.5