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You can read the entire Michigan team preview in Athlon Sports' 2012 Big Ten magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
Big 10 Legends PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Brady Hoke , 11-2 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Al Borges | DEF. COORDINATOR: Greg Mattison
A lot of early buzz has centered on tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint, who wrested control of the starting job midway through last season and finished with more than 1,000 yards, enough to merit inclusion on a lot of preseason award lists. But much like it always has, the Wolverines’ offense still revolves around quarterback Denard Robinson. And like always, gifted athleticism aside, there are nagging questions about just how accurately he can throw the football. He threw a conference-high 15 interceptions in 2011. Offensive coordinator Al Borges said in spring ball that Robinson had decreased his interceptions by a factor of four over the previous season.
“The two things that have gone away in Denard’s game are fall-off throws off his back foot and indiscriminate decision making,” Borges says.
On the ground, Robinson and Toussaint make for as formidable a 1-2 punch as there is in college football, with 220-pound sophomore tailback Thomas Rawls set to force his way onto the football field. In the air, the Wolverines are more uncertain. They’ve lost most of their receiving corps production from last year, and senior Roy Roundtree, last year’s greatest enigma, is the only key returnee. If Roundtree can rediscover the form that led to a breakout sophomore season and be a dependable receiving weapon, there’s no reason Michigan’s offense, ranked third in the Big Ten a year ago, can’t lead the conference.
Will Denard Robinson Be a Heisman Finalist?
First, the encouraging news for the Wolverines: Their defense is no longer the national laughingstock it had become under the previous regime. Under coordinator Greg Mattison, the scoring defense soared to sixth-best in the country last year, and the unit returns seven starters. Now for the concern: Fear of a backslide was stoked when Hoke said the unit looked weak up the middle following the Spring Game in April.
The complications start up front. Three of the unit’s four lost starters were linemen. Of those remaining, three are flip-flopping positions. Most notable is Craig Roh, who is on his fourth position in as many years. He’s always seemed on the verge of a breakout season, and if he could actually achieve one from his new strong-side end position, it would bolster a pass rush that needs a new leader.
As it has in previous seasons, the linebacking corps remains loaded with question marks. Incumbent middle linebacker Kenny Demens, the group’s veteran presence, will face a fight for his job this August with Mike Jones and freshman Joe Bolden, who is poised to contribute at any of the three linebacker spots.
The secondary is stacked with three returning starters, not including the star of the group, sophomore Blake Countess.
Mike Martin, DT
He was a two-time second-team All-Big Ten selection and the 2011 Maize and Blue season captain. He capped his U of M career with a career-high 10 tackles in the Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.
Denard Robinson, QB ”Shoelace” could go down as the most prolific rushing quarterback in NCAA history. He needs 1,252 yards to beat Pat White’s all-time record of 4,480.
Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB After two injury-plagued seasons, he showed a propensity for making opponents miss en route to a 1,000-yard season.
Blake Countess, CB Sophomore who has never intercepted a college pass is the anchor of the defense.
|Sept. 1st||Alabama (Arlington)|
|Sept. 8th||Air Force|
|Sept. 22nd||at Notre Dame|
|Oct. 6th||at Purdue|
|Oct. 20th||Michigan State|
|Oct. 27th||at Nebraska|
|Nov. 3rd||at Minnesota|
|Nov. 24th||at Ohio State|
It took him more than two seasons, but Brendan Gibbons proved to be a reliable kicker with his 13-of-17 performance last season. He heads into fall camp with a slight edge over sophomore Matt Wile for the starting nod. Wile will also compete with Will Hagerup for the starting punter nod, having outperformed him while splitting duties last season.
There’s a lot to like about the Wolverines. They’ve got two potential Heisman Trophy candidates in Robinson and Toussaint and depth in their defensive backfield for the first time in ages. Their biggest obstacle in 2012 might be a murderous schedule, one that includes a neutral-site opener against defending national champ Alabama and road trips to South Bend, Lincoln and Columbus.