Michigan Monday: Offense

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Last updated: 08/19/2013 2:15 AM
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Football
Michigan Monday: Previewing the Michigan Offense
By Tony Gerdeman

It is expected to be a very good season for the Michigan football team, as they will certainly be competing for a Big Ten championship this year. However, they will be one of the six teams in the conference who can say the exact same thing.

Offensively, the Wolverines will go to a more pro-style, downhill attack, but there will still be pistol looks, read options, etc. There's no reason to turn quarterback Devin Gardner into John Navarre. That being said, the depth behind Gardner is thin, so don't expect many called runs for him.

Quarterback

Devin Gardner
rJr (6-4 210

The team's offensive identity. A threat to be the most productive Big Ten QB. Could explode.
Shane Morris
Fr (6-3 201)

The team's offensive future. Is the only other healthy scholarship QB on the roster. Will play.
Assorted Walk-ons
The team's greatest fear? Walk-on Brian Cleary is battling with Morris to be the backup.

Devin Gardner gets acquainted with Ryan Shazier
Photo by Dan Harker
Devin Gardner
Devin Gardner played as well as you could possibly ask a wide receiver to play quarterback a year ago. He took one week to get re-accustomed to the position, and ended up putting numbers on the board that would please any coach, even with his one-interception-per-game habit.

This year, there is no doubt that he'll be better, and he was damn good last year. Yes, his two worst games came against the two best teams he faced, but that's how things usually work for quarterbacks.

He enters the 2013 season having started five games last year, and took #1 snaps all through bowl practices, spring practices and now fall camp. If you are doubting his ability, I can only tell you that you're doing it at your own peril.

Behind him is true freshman Shane Morris. Morris is battling for the #2 spot right now, but I would expect him to win it because there's no reason for him not to. He has two seasons to learn behind Gardner, provided Gardner doesn't leave for the NFL after this season.

Morris is not ready yet, and offensive coordinator Al Borges is hoping that he's not needed either.

Running Back

Fitz Toussaint
rSr (5-10 200) 

Declared himself the starter, but is returning from nasty leg injury. Disappointing season last year.
Thomas Rawls
Jr (5-10 217)

Had 242 yards rushing last year. Could possibly be passed by at least one freshman.
Justice Hayes
rSo (5-10 190)

One of UM's faster RBs, but only played in 6 games last year, rushing for 83 yards.
Drake Johnson
rFr (6-0 203)

Redshirted in 2012. Has perhaps been recruited over.
Derrick Green
Fr (5-11 240)

Rivals and Scout both rated him the nation's #1 RB recruit in the 2013 class. Sees action immediately.
Deveon Smith
Fr (5-11 218)

The top RB in Ohio in the class of 2013. Had an offer from OSU. Could contribute early. Tough.
Assorted Fullbacks
They've got a few. They run hard, they block, they get bloody, they repeat.

Fitzgerald Toussaint is a former 1,000-yard rusher, but managed just 514 yards on the ground last year (4.0 ypc). He was injured late last year, but looks to be back to 100%. The question is which 100% is he, the 100% from 2012 when he was average, or the 100% from 2011, when he was much more consistent?

Thomas Rawls was the second-leading rusher at running back last season, but managed just a 4.2 ypc average. The good thing is that the offense will have an actual identity this year, and not four or five semi-identities. The Wolverines will be able to get into a groove and get back to pounding the ground, and then play-actioning all over the field.

There are expectations for the freshmen tailbacks. Derrick Green and Deveon Smith are both good enough to play, and they could be in the mix quickly. However, they're still just freshmen. They will have to earn their coaches' confidence.

Drake Johnson and Justice Hayes have done little, but they provide depth, and they could certainly take reps and carries away from the freshmen, who are likely more talented than they are.

Wide Receiver

Jeremy Gallon
rSr (5-8 187)

Could be in for a huge year with Gardner at the helm. Caught 49 passes in 2012. Could see 80 in '13.
Amara Darboh
So (6-2 213)

Burned his redshirt on special teams last year. Never caught a pass. Typical big-bodied UM WR.
Jehu Chesson
rFr (6-3 193)

Tall and fast. Perhaps Michigan's fastest receiver. A nice speed complement to Darboh.
Drew Dileo
Sr (5-10 177)

Good slot guy. Can take a hit. Caught 20 passes for 331 yards last year.
Dennis Norfleet
So (5-7 168)

Former RB who has moved to slot receiver. Has some slick moves.
Jeremy Jackson
Sr (6-3 206)

Has 11 career catches in his first three seasons. Michigan has recruited over him.
Assorted Freshmen
Brady Hoke brought in three 3-star WRs. At least one or two should play, but not be overly needed.

Jeremy Gallon may only be 5-foot-8, but he plays a half a foot taller. He's not the fastest guy, he's not the shiftiest guy, he just has this knack for getting open, and sometimes wide open. He will be Gardner's security blanket, albeit a short-sheeted version.

Amara Darboh should be a chain mover, not unlike a Greg Mathews on the low end, or a Junior Hemingway on the high end. Jehu Chesson will be able to get behind a defense, but I'm interested to see if he can go up and fight for a ball. It can take some receivers a few years to learn that ability.

Drew Dileo and Dennis Norfleet will be in the slot. Norfleet showed promise early in the season in the return game last year, but was never as explosive as most thought he could be. Dileo does whatever he is asked, and is certainly a playmaker. He's reliable and can take a hit, which is what you need in the slot.

Tight End

Devin Funchess
So (6-5 228)

Pass catcher with loads of potential. Got quiet last year when Gardner was his QB, however.
Jake Butt
Fr (6-6 235)

Butt appears to be a nice combo tight end who can catch and block equally well. Could see a lot of time.
A.J. Williams
So (6-6 265)

A blocking tight end. Probably more of a third tackle when he's on the field.
Jordan Paskorz
rJr (6-3 251)

More of a fullback-type with limited experience. Wouldn't expect many passes headed his way.
Khalid Hill
Fr (6-2 230)

Hill is also more of a fullback type. He might need to grow into something before he sees much time.

Devin Funchess is the talk of the town among the tight ends in Ann Arbor, but he still only had four catches for 48 yards in the five games started by Gardner. Now, I'm fully confident that they've built up a rapport since then, but the number is certainly alarming. He will also need to continue to improve as a run blocker so that he can stay on the field with this new-ish running game.

Jake Butt is just a freshman, but it sounds like he could be involved early. I would expect plenty of two-tight end sets, and Butt will be in there, as will A.J. Williams. Butt is a more complete tight end than Williams, who is more of a skinny tackle.

This being Michigan, we should expect tight ends to be dragging across the field as long as there is still breath in their lungs.

Offensive Line

Taylor Lewan
rSr (6-8 308)

UM's anchor at left tackle. Consensus All-American. Mobile. Nasty. Gets penalized a bit.
Mike Schofield
rSr (6-7 303)

Starter at RT, started all 13 games there last year as well. Has reportedly improved. Wasn't great in 2013.
Jack Miller
rSo (6-4 291)

Likely starter at center. Played in just six games as a reserve last year.
Kyle Kalis
rFr (6-5 297)

One of the many in the mix to start at one of the guard spots. Former Ohio State commit.
Joey Burzynski
rJr (6-1 291)

Walk-on who has seen time the last two seasons, and is battling for a job on the interior.
Ben Braden
rFr (6-6 314)

One of the many class of 2012 offensive linemen to redshirt last year. Fighting for a large role.
Blake Bars
rFr (6-5 284)

Like every other lineman not named Lewan or Schofield, he's in the mix elsewhere.
Erik Magnuson
rFr (6-6 286)

Will provide depth, unless he wins one of the two guard jobs that are still open at this point.
Patrick Kugler
Fr (6-5 280
)
Rated the #1 guard in the nation per Scout. Could get a look with so much unknown on the interior.
Graham Glasgow
rSo (6-6 303)

Walk-on. Competing with Jack Miller to start at center. OSU also offered as a preferred walk-on.

Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield will be starting at the same tackle positions they were at last season. Everybody knows about Lewan – All-American, took a pass on the NFL Draft, owns an educated pig. Schofield, they say, has improved. He is entering his third year as a starter and has yet to even earn Honorable Mention All-Big Ten accolades. He's okay, but they need better from him.

The educated guessers have redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis at right guard and redshirt freshman Ben Braden at left guard. Both are high school tackles who can move, which should allow quite a bit of pulling. Jack Miller and Graham Glasgow are competing for the center spot. Smart money is probably on Miller right now, but I don't think anybody has gone all-in on that one yet.

Brady Hoke has loaded up on the offensive line in recruiting and he has blue chippers filling out the depth chart like thick-necked wall-to-wall carpeting.

Overall, this should be one of the best offenses in the Big Ten, even without one single workhorse tailback. There is plenty of talent on hand, but some of that talent is going to be called upon perhaps a little earlier than most coaches would like.

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