|It's time to see what the Inkster product can do leading Michigan's football team.|
Redshirt junior Devin Gardner is the clear front-runner for the quarterback job. After Denard Robinson got hurt against Nebraska, Gardner started the next five games, going 75/126 for 1,219 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Michigan appears to have a "franchise" type quarterback, but what will Michigan's offense look like with him fully entrenched at the position? Gardner is better from under center than Robinson ever was, so the I-formation stuff should be more prevalent. He can still run the shotgun passing stuff, but he's not a downhill runner in the same way that allowed Robinson to run for 1,000+ yards the past few seasons.
Others to watch: The only other scholarship quarterback on the roster for the spring is redshirt sophomore Russell Bellomy.
With Fitzgerald Toussaint injured, Vincent Smith off to his post-college career, and Derrick Green not arriving until summer, the pickings will be slim this spring. This should be Michigan fans' first chance to see redshirt freshman Drake Johnson, who earned some praise from Brady Hoke around bowl time. He has good size and speed, but that doesn't always translate to success. Junior Thomas Rawls (57 carries, 242 yards, 4 touchdowns) and redshirt sophomore Justice Hayes (18 carries, 83 yards, 1 touchdown) earned some carries, but neither one did much with his opportunities.
Others to watch: Sophomore Dennis Norfleet has moved back to running back after a short stint at corner for the Outback Bowl. Sophomore Sione Houma and redshirt sophomore Joey Kerridge will fight for the fullback spot.
In the five games that Gardner started at quarterback, fifth year senior Jeremy Gallon had 31 receptions for 511 yards and 3 touchdowns. He looks to be the top receiver in 2013, but there's plenty of room for others to emerge. Two other seniors return in Drew Dileo (22 catches, 331 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Jeremy Jackson (4 catches, 31 yards), the former of which is a jack-of-all-trades, the latter a lumbering possession receiver. Then there's sophomore Amara Darboh, who played but was never targeted, and redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson. Since Dileo appears to be nothing more than a complementary receiver, it would be good for Gardner and the Michigan offense to find another reliable target between Darboh and Chesson.
Others to watch: Fifth year senior walk-on Joe Reynolds (3 catches, 22 yards) worked his way into the rotation last season and has decent quickness.
Sophomore Devin Funchess (15 catches, 234 yards, 5 touchdowns) should have playing time locked up at the U-back position. Fellow sophomore A.J. Williams is a mammoth tight end who's more of a blocker. The wild card in the mix is freshman Jake Butt, who enrolled early and is physically developed enough to play as a freshman. Williams isn't much of a target downfield, so if Gardner can work out some chemistry with Butt in the spring (and summer), Michigan should have a nice 1-2 punch of receiving tight ends between Funchess and Butt.
Others to watch: Redshirt junior Jordan Paskorz has played in just one game (on special teams against UMass) during his three seasons, and the rest of the guys on the roster are young-ish walk-ons with little experience; the best of those is redshirt junior Dylan Esterline.
The two sure starters are the bookend, fifth-year senior tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. Between those two will be any combination of about a dozen other players, because the three interior starters graduated. Redshirt freshman all-everything guard Kyle Kalis will probably step in at one guard spot. That leaves the other two spots up for grabs between redshirt sophomore Jack Miller, redshirt junior walk-on Joey Burzynski, redshirt sophomore Chris Bryant, and redshirt freshman Ben Braden; the former two will probably vie for the center spot, while the latter two will fight for the right guard position. None of them have played extensively, and if either Bryant or Braden starts the season, it will be his first ever game experience. In the long term, Braden will probably end up at right tackle, so you could see Schofield and Braden flip if the coaches aren't confident in Braden's ability to pull.
Others to watch: Redshirt freshman Erik Magnuson will have every chance to succeed Lewan at left tackle, and classmate Blake Bars has practiced at both center and guard. Both appear to be at least a year away from playing significant time. True freshman Kyle Bosch has apparently impressed people with his size and work in the weight room as an early enrollee, but he's very young; if the coaches wouldn't play Kalis as a freshman, they probably won't play Bosch, either, unless injuries occur. But it will still be interesting to see how Bosch fares in the glorified practice.