The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 32 Michigan.
Previewing Michigan’s Offense for 2014:
Al Borges is out. Doug Nussmeier is in. And Michigan is hoping that its program under Brady Hoke can be turned around because of it. After the Wolverines finished the 2013 season No. 86 nationally in total offense, Hoke fired Borges and hired Nussmeier away from Alabama. Nussmeier’s job? Fix a leaky offensive line, an up-and-down quarterback and two inexperienced running backs.
The biggest on-field concern for the Wolverines this season is on the offensive line. Michigan allowed a national-worst 114 tackles for a loss a year ago and averaged just 3.28 yards per carry as a team on the season. Michigan loses starting tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield but does return four players (guards Kyle Kalis and Kyle Bosch, tackle Erik Magnuson and center Graham Glasgow) with starting experience from a year ago.
Elsewhere, the Wolverines will rely on sophomore running backs Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith to handle the workload on the ground, while Justice Hayes will likely be the team’s third-down back. Combined, all three rushed for just 393 yards on 111 carries a year ago.
After throwing for 2,960 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2013, senior quarterback Devin Gardner is back for his final season — with his third offensive coordinator. Gardner overcame a broken bone in his foot last December and practiced at full speed during the spring, putting himself ahead of sophomore Shane Morris in the quarterback race.
Previewing Michigan’s Defense for 2014:
Michigan’s defense began 2013 where it left off in ’12 — as a unit that found a way to keep a struggling offense in games. But as the season progressed, the defense began to slip, ultimately finishing No. 41 nationally in yards allowed per game, the worst mark of coordinator Greg Mattison’s current tenure with the Wolverines.
The good news? Michigan brings back a ton of experience and a ton of depth from that group. All three starting linebackers return (Jake Ryan, James Ross and Desmond Morgan). Ryan, who missed half of last year with a knee injury, will move to middle linebacker this season and will likely be flanked by Ross and Morgan.
Up front, Michigan brings back Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer, as well as 2013 contributors Chris Wormley, Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton. In the defensive backfield, starting corners Blake Countess and Ray Taylor are back, as is starting free safety Jarrod Wilson.
The biggest boost here, though, might not arrive until August, when five-star cornerback Jabrill Peppers joins the program. Arguably the most anticipated recruit in Michigan history, Peppers is expected to have an impact right away in the defensive backfield, whether it’s at corner or safety.
Previewing Michigan’s Specialists for 2014:
Michigan adds the 2012 Big Ten Punter of the Year, Will Hagerup, back to its roster this season. Hagerup missed the entire 2013 season due to a team-enforced suspension. The Wolverines will also have a new kicker this season; look for senior Matt Wile, who served as Brendan Gibbons’ backup over the past three years, to step into that role.
After Michigan went 8–5 and 7–6 over the past two seasons, the shine from Hoke’s 11–2 debut campaign is officially gone. The 2014 season is clearly the most important of Hoke’s tenure at Michigan. This is the youngest team Hoke has had during his time in Ann Arbor, but there is plenty of talent on the roster.
Michigan’s defense should be strong enough to keep it in games early in the season, but if the offense doesn’t show significant improvement, it’s hard to envision this team posing too much of a threat in the new Big Ten East Division.