Top 5 Questions Entering Fall Camp

Michigan’s 2012 season officially gets under way on August 4th with the beginning of fall camp. Last year at this time there were a host of questions going into camp. What would the offense look like, how would Al Borges adapt to Denard Robinson, how much would the defense improve, etc. Michigan has reduced the number of question marks entering the 2012 campaign but key issues remain.

Here are 5 key questions for Michigan entering fall camp.

R. Barnum5. Can Ricky Barnum & Brandon Moore fill the shoes left by David Molk and Kevin Koger?

A 4 year starter, Molk was not only the best linemen on the team, but also the heart, soul, and mind of the offensive line. Barnum now steps in as the brains of the operation and while he has starting experience, the majority of that time was spent at guard. In the offense that Michigan runs, the success of the offensive line, and the offense as a whole, depends on the play of the he center. A large drop off in play at the center position could be devastating. Getting good snaps and making sure that the correct calls are made up front can’t be overvalued. Michigan has played without Molk in the past and the results were unspectacular to say the least. Barnum cemented himself as the starter during spring practice but how well he plays with live bullets is unanswered at the present.

Koger’s impact on Michigan’s offense has largely been underrated. While Koger never put up monster numbers in the passing game, his play was critical. Michigan’s success in the running game over the last 2 years, especially from the shotgun, was due in large part to the play of the TE. Without a strong blocking presence at TE, Michigan’s running game will suffer. Brandon Moore goes into his 5th year as a Wolverine, but has seen limited action during that time. Like Barnum, Moore won the starting TE job in the spring but how good he will play has yet to be determined.

4. What kind of production will Michigan get from the WR core?

Michigan is without a #1 WR, both figuratively and literally. Roy Roundtree is the most proven WR on the roster but the combination of a position change and offensive scheme reduced his effectiveness. The other WRs on the roster are either unproven, or lack “go to” WR ability. Will Roundtree be able to reproduce his 2010 numbers? Will either of the 2 incoming freshman be able to contribute right away? All eyes will be on Denard Robinson’s arm but the play of the WRs will be just as important.

3. Will Jibreel Back & William Campbell be able to hold up in the middle of the Michigan defense?

Expectations have been sky high for Big Will from the moment he stepped on campus. While there were flashes last season of the talent most expected from the beginning, Campbell did not consistently made plays. Black’s move from rush end to DT is dramatic and his lack of size is a major question going into the season. The success of the defense as a whole is tied to the amount of success that Campbell and Black have at DT. Without a strong presence in the middle of the defensive line, Michigan has little hope of building on last year’s defensive success. Michigan doesn’t have long to figure things out since the Wolverines will face one of the best offensive lines in the country in week 1.

2. How much has Denard Robinson improved as a passer?

Denard’s struggles in the passing game are well documented. Denard is now goingBrenen Beyer - MGoBlog into his senior year but despite that, major questions concerning his passing remain. Going into the off season Denard committed himself to reducing the number of turnovers and improving as a passer overall. While NCAA rules prohibit Denard from working with Al Borges on the field during the off season, Denard was given areas to improve upon. Those areas almost certainly included footwork, arm mechanics, and decision making. Denard’s improvement in those areas are critical in ensuring that Michigan enjoys the same or better offensive success this season. With Junior Hemmingway having graduated, the margin of error for Robinson has reduced significantly. Denard no longer has the luxury of throwing the balls up for grabs expecting a play to be made. Denard’s arm will have to make plays on its own.

1. What is the status of Fitzgerald Toussaint and Frank Clark and how will Michigan deal with their absence if suspended?

The decisions on whether/when Clark and Fitz will be reinstated have yet to be decided by Brady Hoke. If Clark and Toussaint both miss a significant amount of time, how Michigan deals with the losses will be critical. RB was a major question mark heading into last fall, and wasn’t decided until Toussaint emerged in the middle of the year. The tailback position and the running game overall becomes a major question mark again if Fitz is suspended. Frank Clark has been locked in a position battle with Brennen Beyer at DE since the spring. Beyer will obviously be the beneficiary if Clark misses a significant amount of time, but Clark brings a different set of skills. Clark is one of the few truly explosive edge rushers on Michigan’s roster. If Clark misses time, the Wolverines will be forced to get creative if they hope to effectively pressure the QB.