Finally the incredibly long off season is over, and Team 134 is ready to take the field. While many have been saying the 2014 season will be the one where Brady Hoke has a full compliment of "his" players and will finally be removed from the speed bump known as the Rich Rod era, this team should hardly be discounted.
There has been a continual building of talent since Brady took over in January 2011. With only 15 seniors, the talent on this team is obviously young but it’s top notch.
While Michigan is replacing 3 OL, with all due respect to Team 133, it will be an upgrade, at least at some point in the season. Jack Miller, Graham Glasglow and Kyle Kalis, look to bolster subpar line play, and bookend tackles Lewan and Schofield might just be the best tandem in the country.
The stable of running backs harken back to the days of Bo stomping the sidelines, with several potential great backs toting the leather this fall. Fitz Touissant will be the first, and if OC AL Borges has his way, will carry the lion share of the load. Drake Johnson, fresh off his redshirt, comes in after impressive bowl practices and spring camp, looking for carries, as do true freshman Derrick Green and Deveon Smith, both among the nations top tailbacks.
Jeremy Gallon has grown into QB Devin Gardner’s favorite target, and with the fall camp injury to likely #2 Amara Darboh, there are some questions as to who will step up. I believe RS Freshman Jehu Chesson will be that guy . He has the talent, but is still somewhat raw. Speed is one of his strengths however, so stretching the field at 6’3 is a good thing.
While QB is a position of strength for Team 134, depth isn’t there. Many close to the program have raved about Devin Gardner’s ability to make plays. He has great talent, but still only has 5 career starts under his belt. Shane Morris coming in as a true freshman has obvious 5* talent, but needs to learn the offense, and hasn’t played much in a year since missing a large part of his senior year of HS with mono.
On defense, it’s been the better part of a decade since Michigan has been able to roll 2-3 deep on the defensive line without much drop off. This year they have that luxury, and while there is a ton of youth sprinkled all throughout the 2 deep, the talent is there. Pressure was lacking last year from the DL alone, where rarely did the opposing QB have pressure without blitzing. This year just feels like it will and should be different. From Clark to Pipkins, Wormley, Heitzmann, Washington, Black, Ojemudia, Strobel, there is just talent there. Henry Poggi, a top recruit, has the talent, but really needs a year in the strength and conditioning program to get to where he’s needed.
Even without Jake Ryan, who is out until October (estimated) recovering from his ACL injury in the spring, the linebacking core has instincts and speed like we haven’t seen in awhile. Brennan Beyer, James Ross, Cam Gordon and Desmond Morgan all have the ability to be on the All B1G teams, with James Ross being the most likely possibility to be first team. He has the potential to be an NFL prospect.
In the secondary, replacing captain Jordan Kovacs won’t be easy, but Courtney Avery has been pegged as not only his replacement at Safety, but also a captain.
Blake Countess also coming back from an ACL injury sustained in last year’s season opener and Raymon Taylor will occupy the other corner. Depth is becoming plentiful, but inexperienced. Expect to see some freshman playing backup roles in the two deep, and garner some playing time. Dymonte Thomas, Delano Hill and Channing Stribling the most likely candidates.
CMU comes in off a 4 game win streak to end the 2012 season, helping Head coach Dan Enos slightly off the hot seat after back to back 3-9 seasons. They are replacing 3 OL (one of which was the #1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft), their starting QB and several key members of their defense.
Like Michigan of old, expect UM to try to establish the run early and often, and set up the play action pass. Defense will try mightily to get home to the quarterback without the need of blitzing, and contain the run. Regardless of the level of competition, we will be able to learn a lot from this game, even though I expect a very vanilla game plan. How well does the interior OL get a push? Last year they struggled even against inferior opponents. How does the pass rush perform? Is Frank Clark the freak many have said he’s become?
At the end of the day, Michigan should win by 21+, but sometimes you never know in the first game. Rust, a vanilla game plan, and an effort to try and see what works best can put you at a disadvantage with regards to margin of victory. But expect the defense to be dominant, and allow a late score or two with the 2nd and 3rd teams. UM 38, CMU 13