Michigan reached the half-way point of its season after Saturday’s win over Illinois and now sits at 4-2 on the season. Despite returning fourteen starters, Michigan came into this season with some key questions. Through the first six games a number of those questions were answered, some continue to be the source of much debate.
After six games so far this season, here are a few of the things we’ve learned (not in order)
While Michigan has yet to hit the meat of its conference schedule, there has been little noticeable step down in the play of the center position post-David Molk. Much was made over Ricky Barnum taking over for Molk at center and while Barnum was talked up throughout both fall and spring camp, Elliott Mealer ultimately proved to the most capable option at center. Molk’s leadership and experience were always going to be impossible to replace. Mealer has actually played better than Molk in a several areas, most noticeably in the man blocking scheme.
2. Jake Ryan is a legitimate star in the making.
Ryan played well a year ago and more than exceeded the expectations most had for him when he signed a little known 3 star prospect out of Ohio. Ryan has taken more than a step forward this season, turning into a dynamic playmaker on defense. Ryan is well on his way to All-Big 10 honors and has been the lone constant force on the Michigan defense on a week to week basis.
3. Michigan’s freshman TEs are more than capable of having an early impact.
TE was viewed as a major question mark heading into the season after the loss of Kevin Koger. The emergence of Devin Funchess as a pass catcher and AJ Williams as a run blocker has softened the blow caused by the departure of Kevin Koger. Funchess has arguably been the biggest positive surprise on the offensive side of the ball.
4. A shaky front seven on defense is only cause for concern for a short period of time.
Michigan’s front seven was a mess during the first 3 games of the season. The defensive line got pushed around, the LBers and safeties whiffed on tackle after tackle, and the Wolverines were unable to generate any sort of pass rush. Last season it took 8 games for Michigan’s defense to show significant improvement, this season it took 3 games. The front seven that took the field against Notre Dame on September 22nd was miles away from the defense they played the previous three games.
5. Fitzgerald Toussaint may not be the running back most thought he was.
Michigan is only six games into the season but Fitz has showed no sign of being the same runner than he was a year ago. It took until game 8 for Fitz to emerge as a viable every down back last year and most expected him to hit the ground running and take off right where he left off at the end of last season. That hasn’t occurred and Fitz has looked slow, unmotivated, and hesitant. It is very possible that Michigan will employ a Running Back By Committee approach through the remainder of the season.