The "Preview"

The moment has nearly arrived as the 2008 Michigan football season is about to kickoff. After saying goodbye to a great head coach in Lloyd Carr, Ann Arbor welcomes the young and innovative outsider Rich Rodriguez to roam the sideline of the Big House. Rodriguez' arrival wasn't exactly easy after taking the job, but he has since moved on and seems pretty determined to coach his hungry and eager Wolverines to a successful season.

This season will be interesting as there is a great deal of uncertainty as far as what the Wolverines are capable of doing under a new coaching staff. Most of the uncertainty falls on the offensive side of the ball due to a lack of experience and a new system, but the talent and depth are there in key playmaking positions such as RB and WR. The QB position and the offensive line seem to be the areas of major concern. So… we shall see what unfolds. The defense is well rounded and doesn't lack experience, so they may have to be the ones that lay the hammer down for the majority of the season.


The QB position is a two man race between redshirt transfer Steven Threet and walk-on Nick Sheridan. Rodriguez has already made it clear that both have made necessary strides throughout the offseason and appear to be the Wolverines best chances to win this season. Threet is a traditional drop back passer that resembles the likes of Grbac, Brady, Navarre, and Henne. He definitely adds the dimension of being able to throw the deep ball, but the main question is whether he can adapt to Rodriguez' system and make the offense work consistently. Sheridan is different because he is a bit more athletic and mobile, but his passing range is not as impressive. However, he appears to be a very smart guy and if he manages a drive well enough to utilize the talent surrounding him by throwing short accurate passes, then he just may be the one that wins the job. I give the edge to Threet as of right now, but I would not be shocked to see Sheridan receive a good amount of playing time. Rodriguez' main focus is to

The offensive line is without a doubt the backbone to running a successful scheme and it appears that this season will surely include some growing pains. It's not based on talent because they just may have that… eventually, but it also comes down to proper experience and sufficient depth. Rodriguez has needed to improvise and shuffle the line around because of injuries, transfers, and graduation. The only returning starter is right tackle Stephen Schilling and he seems to welcome the leadership role upon himself. Schilling is accompanied on the right side by veteran David Moosman and former defensive player John Ferrara. The left side is occupied by juniors Mark Ortmann and Tim McAvoy, but freshman Ricky Barnum will see time as well. Ok, here's the real scary part and it is the center position, which happens to be quite crucial to any offense. Since Justin Boren went down south to tOSU and… Cory Zirbel was injured; the void is basically being filled by freshman David Molk or David Moosman. So… yes… it will be interesting and sometimes nasty, but as Lloyd used to say: "hope springs eternal".

There is also a problem at the RB position, but I assure you that it's not a bad one. There just happens to be a stable full of talented backs and the clear starter is yet to be named. My opinion is that junior Brandon Minor has the edge, but Carlos Brown has more speed and might work better in the spread. Oh yeah, then there's a couple of freshmen that have made a statement throughout camp. Their names are Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw. Both McGuffie and Shaw have earned significant praise from Rodriguez and his staff and plan to see a great deal of playing time. I think all of the RB's will be used this season and there is a chance that McGuffie or Shaw will catapult into superstar status when Big Ten play comes around. Rodriguez will utilize these guys to their potential and they will determine how often the Wolverines score on offense. Overall, things look bright.

The WR's and TE's are just as deep as the running game, but there is also a lot of youth within the positions. Since Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington left for the NFL the only player with a decent amount of playing time is junior Greg Matthews. Matthews was very dependable on short routes and slants, but he has never really gone for the deep ball. In any case… he's a dependable guy who will make the catch and not be afraid of a potential hit and I expect a good season out of him. Freshman Darryl Stonum has been labeled as the next explosive WR for the Wolverines and due to the fact that he enrolled early and started practicing… he just may live up to the hype. He has tremendous speed and has proven that he can make the big play. Other WR's include Junior Hemingway and LaTerryal Savoy. Hemingway appeared to be talented in limited action last season, but an injury has slowed him down a bit. I expect Savoy to see some action, but since Rodriguez has brought the spread to town… we will be introduced to his valuable weapon known as the slot receiver. The main guys that will be used in this position will be freshman Martavious Odoms and Tony Clemons. There has been some good mention about Odoms, so… watch out! Rodriguez will most likely use both.

Carson Butler is the apparent starter at TE because of his athletic ability, but he certainly has company beside him. Mike Massey is a senior veteran that is also quite capable of making an impact and newcomer Kevin Koger was highly touted during camp. There will be a lot of competition at the TE position and I'm positive that Rodriguez will go deep… like most of the playmaking positions on offense.


The front line really wants to get out there and put on a show for the fans on Saturday. The DE's are probably the most talented duo that we have seen in years at Michigan. Senior Tim Jamison is a beast that has big time ability once he breaks through blockers. The other end is occupied by junior Brandon Graham, who just happens to be my favorite player on the defense. Graham already made strides last year as he consistently punished opposing QB's, but he needs to improve against the run. He's primed for a Lamarr Woodley type of season. Seniors Will Johnson and Terrence Taylor control the middle of the line. Taylor had some problems last year, but the strength and conditioning has really made him a different type of player. Now that he has slimmed down, perhaps his talent and capabilities will be more visible. I think his performances against Appalachian State and Oregon are behind him now. Johnson is another guy who looks to improve from a disappointing 2007 season that was plagued by injuries and inconsistent play. The Wolverines also have depth on the DL and freshman Mike Martin has been mentioned as an instant impact player that will definitely see time on the field.

The LB's are unproven for the most part as the best player is a sophomore. Obi Ezeh showed promise as a freshman last season and will undoubtedly be the leader for a core of players that haven't seen much playing time. Now that Ezeh is more prepared, I expect great things out of him. He is accompanied by two sophomores Marell Evans and Jonas Mouton on the weak side. Both will battle for the starting spot. Senior Austin Panter will control the strong side. Johnny Thompson backs up Ezeh in the middle and could also see significant time. There is depth at the position, but much like the OL… they lack experience. This position has disappointed as of recent. I have seen too many missed tackles and blown assignments, even from veterans, but I hope to see some improvement this season. My expectations are not that high, though.

The defensive backfield could be just as great as the DL is projected to be. The CB's have both seen a good amount of playing time. Fifth year senior Morgan Trent was decent last year and appears ready to leave his legacy as a great leader in 2008. Trent is accompanied by super sophomore Donovan Warren, who earned Big Ten accolades for his performance last season. Warren appears to be in the same mold as Hall, Jackson, Woodson, and Law. Yes, you can say "shutdown" corner, but that term is severely overused. Warren is a tremendous talent and I anticipate him and Trent to have an outstanding season as they blanket opposing receivers. The backups to those two will be sophomore Troy Woolfolk and freshman Boubacar Cissoko. Both have earned praise from Rodriguez and Cissoko has been labeled as quite versatile.

The safeties are experienced and very very fast. Junior Steve Brown will occupy the free safety position and he will be backed up by fifth year senior Charles Stewart. Strong safety belongs to Brandon Harrison who is also a senior. I believe he will get the job done as he is also a seasoned veteran that has been contributing since 2005. As I said… these guys are fast! Also keep an eye on sophomore Artis Chambers and incoming freshman Brandon Smith as they will also be incorporated into the defense.

Special teams doesn't bother me as kicker K.C. Lopata showed great consistency last year after the dismal Gingell experience. Punter Zoltan Mesko has already shown all-American potential and I expect him to pick up right where he left off. The return games will be interesting because there will be new faces performing the duties. On kickoffs and punts, Rodriguez will most likely use Martavious Odoms, Donovan Warren, Michael Shaw, and… possibly Morgan Trent. Brandon Harrison is also considered an option. Special teams should be impressive this season.

The 2008 season will be interesting to say the least and I expect Michigan to play with purpose and intensity. After a disappointing 2007 season, the Wolverines know how important the first game is and they will be ready and determined to entertain on Saturday against Utah. The term of "deserving victory" has been the key since Rodriguez took the job in the winter, but we shall see how that philosophy translates when the Wolverines take on their first challenge. The offense will have its fair share of mishaps, but they should improve significantly by the time Big Ten play comes around. There is too much talent on offense and I'm sure Rodriguez will utilize each athlete and push the limits of their capabilities. If the offense is slow coming out of the gate then the veteran defense will have to pick up the slack and force turnovers. Overall, the season should be fun and I expect the Wolverines to surprise the majority that doubts them.

Here's to a great season and GO BLUE!!!

-By Duane


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