2009 CFN Michigan Preview
Michigan DE Brandon Graham
Michigan DE Brandon Graham
Posted Jun 15, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Michigan Wolverines

Michigan Wolverines

Preview 2009

By Pete Fiutak

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

Head coach: Rich Rodriguez
2nd year: 3-9
9th year: 63-35
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 30, Def. 19, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best UM Players
1. DE Brandon Graham, Sr.
2. LB Obi Ezeh, Jr.
3. RB Brandon Minor, Sr.
4. LB Jonas Mouton, Jr.
5. S Stevie Brown, Sr.
6. CB Donovan Warren, Jr.
7. P Zoltan Mesko, Sr.
8. QB Tate Forcier, Fr.
9. WR Martavious Odoms, Soph.
10. WR Greg Mathews, Sr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6
2009 Record: 0-0

9/5 Western Michigan
9/12 Notre Dame
9/19 Eastern Michigan
9/26 Indiana
10/3 at Michigan State
10/10 at Iowa
10/17 Delaware State
10/24 Penn State
10/31 at Illinois
11/7 Purdue
11/14 at Wisconsin
11/21 Ohio State

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 7-5
2008 Record:

8/30 Utah L 25-23
9/6 Miami Univ. W 16-6
9/13 at Notre Dame L 35-17
9/27 Wisconsin W 27-25
10/4 Illinois L 45-20
10/11 Toledo L 13-10
10/18 at Penn State L 46-17
10/25 Michigan State L 35-21
11/1 at Purdue L 48-42
11/8 at Minnesota W 29-6
11/15 Northwestern W 21-14
11/22 at Ohio State L 42-7

You knew it was going to take a while before the right pieces were put in place.

You knew the Rich Rodriguez era was going to need at least a year before it started to produce.

You knew the Big House program needed to be torn down to be built back up again.

Now, after a disastrous debut that even the most pessimistic of Maize and Bluers couldn’t have predicted, there are three major questions. 1) Was it a case of Michigan needing to start from scratch, with all the bumps that come with it, in order to try to become an annual national championship contender, 2) was there anything positive to come out of last year, and 3) is it possible the hiring of RichRod a gigantic mistake?

It’s not the 3-9 record that was such a problem; it’s that nothing worked and that the team wasn’t even close to being productive after beating Florida in a bowl game the year before.

There were bad losses in the past, Appalachian State happened on Lloyd Carr’s watch, but that was like losing to USC compared to last year’s 13-10 gack to a miserable Toledo squad. The three wins came against a Miami University team that might have been the MAC’s worst team, over Wisconsin in what was more of an epic choke from the Badgers than a great second half from the Wolverines, and at Minnesota against a Gopher team that didn’t seem like it wanted to play football ever again the week after a season-killing, last-minute pick six that loss to Northwestern.

The good stable of backs were supposed to be able to get things moving on the ground if all else failed. It didn’t happen.

The terrific group of veterans on the defensive line was supposed to dominate games to keep the scores low enough to give the offense a chance. It didn’t happen.

Last year was about discovering talents for this year to go forward and start to improve starting now. That didn’t happen either.

Last year might have been a lost season considering no quarterbacks were developed, several top defenders where were counted on so heavily have to be replaced, and the record was so bad that it didn’t allow for any semblance of a grace period going into this season. And then came the 2009 recruiting class to provide a ray of sunshine.

After the Terrelle Pryor fiasco of last year, when Rodriguez put all his eggs for the season in the prep quarterback’s basket, even though almost everyone knew Pryor was going to put on the hat with the O on it, he and his staff came out roaring with a tremendous class that showed, if nothing else, that he can recruit big-time talents. Fine, so recruiting well at Michigan is about as difficult as finding a pitchy singer on American Idol, but it was still a major positive sign that there’s an influx of talent coming in that should form the base of a new Michigan.

The stodgy program needed a jolt to the system, and if a 3-9 record was needed to potentially take a giant leap forward, so be it. With that in mind, will there be any sort of understanding if this year is less-than-stellar with all the new players in place?

Yeah, right.

What to watch for on offense … Tate Forcier. The true freshman quarterback has more pressure on his shoulders than any player in America. Recruited specifically to be the main man for the Michigan offense from the moment he set foot on campus, he showed off a great combination of arm strength, running ability, and talent for the Rich Rodriguez attack this off-season. There will be a grace period for him considering he’s so young, but it’s not a stretch to say the entire season revolves around his development.

What to watch for on defense … the 3-4. There are linemen, but most of the best ones are young and inexperienced. New defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, the former Syracuse head coach, will use a variety of alignments including a hybrid safety/linebacker position to take advantage of the one area on the defense, safety, with a glut of talent. Every defensive coordinator likes to say there will be more blitzing and more aggressiveness, but it should actually happen this year for the Wolverines with all the speed and athleticism in the back eight.

The team will be far better if … it stops giving the ball away. It was almost like the team was getting paid to put the ball on the ground at times. The team lost 18 fumbles and finished 104th in the nation in turnover margin, putting itself behind the eight-ball time again killing an offense that had no offensive firepower to catch up (with the notable exception the Wisconsin choke). There’s no margin for error for this team. It either has to win the turnover battle each and every week, or it’s going to lose.

The Schedule: Starting out with four straight home games and six in the first eight should give Rodriguez time to get his team ready for the tough finishing kick. If the Wolverines can beat Notre Dame, they'll likely be 4-0 in non-conference play (but don't assume an opening day win over a potent Western Michigan). If they can somehow split the back-to-back road trips against Michigan State and Iowa, they have a chance at a nice bounceback season. Penn State and Ohio State come to Ann Arbor, but going to Illinois and Wisconsin, especially with the Badgers thinking revenge after last year's choke, will be tough. Michigan almost never misses the truly good teams, and this year Minnesota and Northwestern aren't going to be elite.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Brandon Minor. At the moment, Minor is the best offensive player by default. Everyone would love it if it turned out to be Forcier or fellow true freshman quarterback Denard Robinson, but Minor leads a strong stable of backs full of size, speed, and talent. He has been hit or miss as far as his production throughout his career, but when he’s on he’s among the Big Ten’s best offensive weapons.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Brandon Graham. Expect a drop-off in production and a disappointing season stat-wise for the sackmaster who came up with ten last year. As the lone star on the line, and with the defense likely to work more in a 3-4, teams will throw everything and the waterboy at him to keep him from getting into the backfield. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be any worse a player, it’ll just mean he might make a little bit less money after next year’s draft.    

Key player to a successful season: (Besides Forcier or Robinson) Senior OT Mark Ortmann. Or possibly junior Perry Dorrestein. Of course the quarterback will be the key to the Michigan season, but beyond Forcier or Robinson, the offensive line has to be far more effective. It got unfairly hammered on last year considering it had to replace so many starters and was taking on a new system, but now there’s no excuse. There’s experience, depth, and talent. Ortmann will likely hold down the left tackle job, but he’ll get a big push from Dorrestein. Whoever is on the outside has to produce more and do everything possible to give the quarterback time to work.

The season will be a success if ... Michigan finishes in the top five of the Big Ten standings. Yeah, woooooo, the Leaders and Best want to finish in the upper-division, but a winning record and a bowl game would be a terrific step for a program and a team that, unlike last year, has the pieces to do what Rodriguez wants. The problem is that all the key parts of the equation are young and will need at least a year of season. With that said, there’s no one on the schedule that Michigan absolutely positively can’t beat, and that includes a rebuilding Ohio State and Penn State. Going to Michigan State, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin will be tough to get through without at least two losses, but this is still Michigan. Anything less than a bowl game will be a disaster.

Key game: Sept. 5 vs. Western Michigan. The Wolverines have to come out roaring to set the tone that this is a new year, a new team, and the true beginning of a new era. Western Michigan is no slouch, beating Illinois last year and Iowa the year before, and with a team good enough to win the MAC title. After the way the last two years started, with opening day losses to Appalachian State and Utah, and after losing to Toledo last season, yes, beating the Broncos to start things off would be a major plus.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Third quarter scoring: Opponents 80 – Michigan 20
- Third down conversions: Opponents 76-of-196 (39%) – Michigan 48-of-176 (27%)
- Passing yards per game: Opponents 230 – Michigan 143.2

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