2009 Michigan Preview - Offense
Michigan RB Brandon Minor
Michigan RB Brandon Minor
Posted Jun 15, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Michigan Wolverine Offense

Michigan Wolverines

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Michigan Preview | 2009 Michigan Offense
- 2009 Michigan Defense | 2009 Michigan Depth Chart
- 2008 Michigan Preview | 2007 Michigan Preview | 2006 Michigan Preview

What you need to know: Everyone knew the pieces weren’t in place, but that didn’t stop the screaming and yelling over an offense that ranked dead last in the Big Ten in yards, passing, passing efficiency, and scoring. It all comes down to the quarterback situation with true freshman Tate Forcier being asked to walk in and star from the word go. Others will be in the mix, like veteran Nick Sheridan and true freshman Denard Robinson, but it’s not a stretch to call Forcier one of the Big Ten’s most important players. Everything else should be better with a deep stable of good, big, fast running backs, led by Brandon Minor, a veteran receiving corps that has flopped in terms of playing up to the prep-hype, but should be fine, and a line that returns seven players that saw key starts last year. The spread isn’t going to blow up quite yet, but there will be games, unlike last year, when everything clicks. If nothing else, this won’t be the Big Ten’s worst attack again.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Nick Sheridan
63-137, 613 yds, 2 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Brandon Minor
103 carries, 533 yds, 9 TD
Receiving: Martavious Odoms
49 catches, 43 yds, 0 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Brandon Minor
Player who has to step up and become a star: Freshman QB Tate Forcier
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore C David Molk
Best pro prospect: Minor
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Minor, 2) Forcier, 3) OT Mark Ortmann
Strength of the offense: Running back, Experience Everywhere But QB
Weakness of the offense: Proven Production, Quarterback Experience


Projected Starter
While he’s not Terrelle Pryor, who would’ve been the starter from day one last year, Tate Forcier might be a better fit for the Michigan offense. The star recruit from San Diego is only 6-1 and 187 pounds, but he’s a deadly accurate passer and is terrific on the move. Able to throw the ball equally well on the move and in the pocket, he should instantly upgrade the team’s passing efficiency. But it’ll be his running skills that should finally put a charge in the Wolverine attack. He ran for 2,049 yards and 24 scores, and threw for 7,448 yards and 61 touchdowns, in high school, and while he’s going to make a ton of big mistakes, the reward should be tremendous once he gets his feet wet.

Projected Top Reserve: Junior Nick Sheridan isn’t all that talented and he might not be able to throw the ball, completing just 46% of his passes for 613 yards and two touchdowns with five interceptions last year, but he’s very fast and he’s experienced. The 6-1, 220-pounder only ran for 92 yards and a touchdown on the year, but he had a few bright spots. He was fantastic in the win over Minnesota with 203 passing yards and a score and wasn’t awful in the season opener against Utah, but he was overmatched for most of the season.

Florida wanted Denard Robinson for his athleticism and all-around skills, but it was Michigan who gave him a chance to be a quarterback. The star recruit chose the Wolverines at the last second and will battle for playing time from the moment he sets foot on campus. While he’s not all that big at 6-0 and 180 pounds, he’s freakishly strong and has torn off a 4.32 in the 40. He’s not the passer that Tate Forcier is, but he’s a more dynamic runner and could be the home-run hitter for the Michigan attack that Pat White was for West Virginia.  

Watch Out For ... Forcier to be good. It’s asking way, way too much for a true freshman to save Michigan football, but that’s what he’ll have to do. He’s going to make a lot of boneheaded, potentially game-killing mistakes just because he’s a true freshman, but he’ll get the chance to play through them. He has the talent to be a great one with a little bit of seasoning.
Strength: The future. Pat White was great as a freshman under Rich Rodriguez, but the former West Virginia star turned out to be the greatest running quarterback in the history of college football. Forcier and Robinson will have the world thrown in their faces as they try to handle everything surrounding the Michigan starting quarterback job, and if given time to mature, they’ll be great.
It isn’t 2011 yet. After the disaster of last season, there might not be too much of a grace period for the quarterbacks even though they’re young. If Forcier isn’t leading the team to wins, there will be some Maize and Blue grumbling that Robinson needs to be in, and vice versa. Wolverine fans aren’t insane, they know it’s going to take a little while for this to work, but Forcier and Robinson have to at least show upside. Simply put, they can’t bust.
Outlook: There will be times when it’ll all work. The holes will be there, the offense will come up with the execution it’s supposed to, and either Forcier or Robinson will rip off a huge run to make Wolverine fans giddy with the excitement of what the attack could become. And then the drive will halt with an interception. There’s no question that the quarterback situation has taken a dramatic turn upward, even with the departure of Steven Threet, but it’s going to take some time for this to all come together. If the true freshman can handle the spotlight and the pressure, and the goofiness of things like Duke basketball player Greg Paulus being rumored to want to join the show (before he chose Syracuse), everything will eventually be fine in an inconsistent and promising season. Eventually.
Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters
Looking to be the break out player last year was Brandon Minor, a 6-1, 216-pound senior with tremendous athleticism, great size and excellent speed. A banger when he has to be, he also has home run hitting wheels cranking out a 10.9 in the 100 meters in high school. However, while he led the team in rushing, he only ran for 533 yards with nine touchdowns with his production coming in chunks. He ran for 155 yards and three touchdowns against Purdue and 117 yards and two scores against Penn State, but he didn’t crack the 100-yard mark the rest of the year and six of his scores came in a three game span.

The Rodriguez offense loves to use the fullback in a variety of ways, although not necessarily in a traditional sense. 6-1, 228-pound junior Mark Moundros won’t see many carries, he ran just three times for 14 yards and caught a two-yard pass for a touchdown, but he’s a whale of a special teamer and a strong blocker.   

Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 206-pound junior Carlos Brown didn’t get a whole bunch of work last season after starring for a key stretch in 2007. Injuries have been the biggest issue suffering a broken finger early on and having a variety of other problems that limited him to just five games and 122 yards of production. With his combination of size and elite speed, he’d be a great fit for the offense, but the former cornerback has to prove he’s tough enough to battle through the little things, and durable enough to stay on the field and be counted on.  

Redshirt freshman Michael Cox showed excellent power throughout spring ball but wasn’t able to break free often enough to use his 4.47 speed. A phenomenal athlete, he has the moves and toughness to be a major factor, but he’s still a work in progress. He’s becoming more natural with the ball in his hands and has been good enough to potentially work his way into a big role if everything breaks the right way, but with his skills he could end up moving to the defensive side.

5-6, 158-pound jitterbug Vincent Smith was the star of spring practices wowing everyone with his tremendous quickness. He’s a scat back who rips through a hole in a hurry and uses his 4.5 speed to gain yards in chunks. He’ll be used in a variety of ways as a runner and a receiver just to get the ball in his hands.

Mike Shaw
should be the X factor in the running game this season. The 6-0, 177-pound sophomore got a little bit of work last season rushing for 215 yards while catching six passes for 32 yards and a score, and now he’ll be a key part of the attack after returning from repairing a hernia that kept him down all of last year. A slippery back with great quickness, he’ll be a key part of the rotation.

The light hasn’t gone on for senior Kevin Grady, the superstar recruit of a few years ago who was supposed to be the next great Michigan running back. At 5-9 and 226 pounds, he has the frame to be a tough runner to go along with the 4.43 speed and tremendous quickness to make him dangerous from anywhere on the field. His career took a bad turn with a horrible knee injury and he’s been a hard worker, but he didn’t do more than contribute as a special teamer last year running just 14 times for 33 yards and a score.  

Watch Out For ... Smith. Small, hard to see, and quick, he could grow into a devastating change-of-pace back who can take advantage of the holes created by the offense. He can make things happen on his own, but he’ll be fantastic when he gets a little room to move.
Strength: Speed. This is a very fast group with good size. You have to check in with a 4.5 40 to be a part of this show with every back showing off great straight-line speed on around a 210-pound frame (excluding Smith).
Production. The group looks the part but it didn’t do much as a group last year. The one sparkplug, Sam McGuffie, who ran for 486 yards and three scores, transferred to Rice, and while Smith looks like the next shot of energy, all the other talented backs have to start playing up to their measurables.
Outlook: If the supposed talent in the Wolverine backfield can finally start to shine through, the running game could be devastating. To be fair, there was no threat of a passing game and defenses teed off on the running backs, but there should still be plenty of chances for Brandon Minor, Carlos Brown, Mike Shaw, and the other prototype-looking backs to finally start to produce. The offense will go with a rotation of backs until it finds a hot hand, and there will be little patience if someone isn’t producing. There’s talent in bunches, and now it all needs to shine through.
Rating: 8


Projected Starters: With all the stars of the 2007 Michigan passing game gone, it was up to now-senior Greg Mathews to shine as the No. 1 target. While he didn’t have anyone who could throw to him, he did what he could finishing second on the team with 35 catches for 409 yards and a receiver-leading two scores. At 6-3 and 209 pounds, the cousin of former Ohio State star Ted Ginn hasn’t broken out and hasn’t had a wow game, but he has been around long enough to be dependable. His hands are fine, and while he doesn’t have elite wheels, he can stretch the field a little bit.  

Sophomore Martavious Odoms doesn’t fit the normal profile of the big Michigan wide receiver. At only 5-9 and 171 pounds, he’s a lightning quick target who was a star punt returner averaging 12.6 yards per try to go along with a 23-yard average on kickoff returns. He led the team with 49 catches for 443 yards, and while he didn’t get into the end zone and he didn’t break off many big plays from his spot in the slot, those should be coming soon.

Sophomore Junior Hemingway was neck-and-neck for a starting job early last year before missing the most of the year with an ankle injury. He caught two passes for 41 yards with a touchdown against Utah, but that was it. He’s back and healthy now, and while he’s not going to push out Greg Mathews or Martavious Odoms out of a job, he could quickly become the No. 3 target in the mix with his 6-1, 226-pound size and excellent deep speed. However, he has to prove he can stay healthy.  

With Carson Butler moving to the defensive side early last year, Kevin Koger needed to step up in the open tight end spot. The sophomore only caught six passes for 93 yards and a score, but he had a nice season as a blocker and he showed big-time upside. He’s expected to be a big part of the passing offense this year, and at 6-4 and 245 pounds, has the frame to grow into a strong downfield blocker.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior LaTerryal Savoy has the 6-3, 213-pound size and he has the look of a top target, but the superstar recruit of a few years ago has done precisely squat. He caught four passes for 38 yards with an 11-yard touchdown grab against Purdue, and now he’ll have to shine quickly or he’ll be an afterthought in the passing game with so many good young players looking to take his place.

There are plenty of decent receivers to go around, but no one has the talent of Darryl Stonum. One of the team’s top recruits last year, and a huge get for Rich Rodriguez, the 6-2, 188-pound sophomore showed flashes of greatness catching 14 passes for 176 yards and a 51-yard touchdown against Purdue. However, he played like a true freshman making a ton of mistakes, struggling with his routes, and not blocking anyone. After a strong spring, he might crack the starting lineup sooner than later as a home run hitter.

Terrence Robinson was supposed to be a key part of the offense early on, but a leg injury knocked him out for the year. Now the redshirt freshman will push for time in the slot, but can also be used on the outside if needed. The 5-9, 173-pounder is one of the team’s fastest players and will get the ball as much as possible on the move.

Originally considered a possible candidate to grow into an offensive tackle spot, 6-6, 246-pound redshirt freshman Brandon Moore won’t have to put on the extra weight and will stick at tight end. He’s not a great route runner, but he’s a devastating blocker who’ll come in on pure running downs and could be used in two tight end formations.

Watch Out For ... Stonum. He’s still a bit raw and he’s still not going to block anyone, but he has the standout talent needed in a good, but not elite group of Michigan targets.
Strength: Veterans. Toney Clemons took off after deciding he didn’t like the spread offense, but everyone else of note is back and there’s an infusion of more talent with Hemingway and Robinson healthy. This group will make the quarterback and the passing game better.
Weakness: The offense. It’s possible to run a great ground game and an ultra-efficient passing attack if everything goes right in the Rodriguez version of the spread, but with so many questions at quarterback it’ll be hard for there to be any sort of consistency. It’ll be vital for the receivers to be extra-sharp and extra-patient. They’ll have to be ready to make the plays when they get the chance.
Outlook: The receiving corps doesn’t have the tremendous talent of past Michigan teams, but it’s experienced, deep, and potentially great if the young prospects show up as expected. There’s a chance that the projected backups, primarily Stonum and Robinson, knock out the starters at some point, while the tight end, Koger, will be featured more. This group will be better than the production will show, but it’ll be up to them to step up and shine even though the ball won’t be flying through the air all that often.
Rating: 7

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: Senior Mark Ortmann had to step in and take the place of the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Jake Long, and he was fine. The 6-7, 284-pound left tackle slimmed down, got quicker, and should be better for the offense this season and even better on the move. Running was never a problem, he’s a fantastic athlete for his size, and now after a year of being in the system, he should be far stronger. He could play right tackle if needed, but with his fit and his experience, he’s best for the left side.

Junior Stephen Schilling will move to left guard after spending last season starting every game but the finale at right tackle. He struggled on the outside, wasn’t consistent after a strong freshman season, and asked to be moved inside this spring. The change proved to be a revelation as he showed he could handle the toughness of being a plowing guard, while at 6-5 and 304 pounds he has the size to go along with decent athleticism.

The key to the line might be the play of Mark Huyge, a 6-6, 291-pound sophomore who was good enough this spring at right tackle that it allowed Schilling to move inside. A major surprise, considering he didn’t see the field last year, he showed that he could handle the workload with excellent athleticism and good toughness. He’s great at pulling and getting on the move.

6-5, 292-pound senior David Moosman was a fixture at right guard starting every game. Originally considered for the starting center job, he quickly moved over to guard where he was fine for the running game, even if he doesn’t have the athleticism to fit the system. Extremely strong, he’ll be used more for the hard yards and to pound away behind.

Back at center after starting every game is David Molk, an athletic 6-3, 283-pound sophomore who should grow into a star. Considered by some as the nation’s top center prospect coming out of high school, he’s the best athlete on the line and moves like a much smaller player. In this system, which puts a premium on quick interior linemen, he should be an All-Big Ten performer very soon.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Tim McAvoy is a decent veteran who can spot-start here and there. The 6-6, 297-pounder was out for a stretch this off-season with a wrist problem, but he’ll be a key backup at left guard after starting five times last season and at center. Extremely athletic and a good fit for the offense, he could end up seeing plenty of time if Stephen Schilling ever moves back out to tackle.

Redshirt freshman Patrick Omameh is supposed to be the next great Michigan tackle, but he’ll have to battle with Mark Huyge playing so well this spring. While Omameh is a bit undersized at 6-4 and 276 pounds, he’s tremendously strong and can move well.

Mark Ortmann might be the key veteran on the line, but he’s being pushed hard by 6-7, 310-pound junior Perry Dorrestein for the job. A backup behind Jake Long two years ago, Dorrestein can play either tackle spot and might end up taking over the right side job, where he started against Ohio State, if Ortmann proves too good to take off the field. He got starts against Illinois and Toledo last year on the left side.

Watch Out For ... Molk. West Virginia centers were always superstars on the awards front, and Molk has the talent and the athleticism to be the best Rodriguez has ever coached. He could end up being the star of the line.
Strength: Time. There were a variety of issues going into last year, with the biggest one being the time needed to learn the new style of play. Now there are plenty of veterans with all five projected first-teamers having started last year, and a slew of veteran backups who saw starting time as well.
More time. For the offense to work, the line has to be full of players with a specific skill set that doesn’t necessarily fit the Michigan profile. While there are plenty of good athletes to work with, there still might need to be a little more of an adjustment period before one of last year’s biggest weaknesses becomes a strength.
Outlook: This group took a brunt of the blame for the offensive woes of last year, but it was thrown into a bad situation. Not only did the line have to replace four starters, including Jake Long, Adam Kraus, and Justin Boren, but it had to take a hard left turn as far as how it functioned as a blocking unit. This year, there’s a ton of experience returning, excellent battles for playing time at almost all the spots, and an emergence of some promising, athletic linemen like Molke and tackle Huyge. There aren’t any sure-thing superstars, but there’s enough talent and experience for this to be one of the team’s biggest areas of improvement.
Rating: 7.5