It seems like yesterday watching the final Michigan football game of the season against Kansas State in the bowl game. It was a fitting end to a rather disappointing season. 2014 brings a new year and some new faces that will try to get Michigan back to its winning ways. Spring practice officially began Tuesday and the Wolverines are sure to be eager to begin this season.
We’ve already previewed each of Michigan’s position groups prior to the start of the spring practices, but I will be doing a general preview of the season now.
After a 7-6 season at Michigan, you’re bound to experience some kind of adjustments. Offensive coordinator Al Borges was fired and former Alabama OC Doug Nussmeier was brought in for a mere $800,000 per year. With Nussmeier in the fold, Michigan hopes to improve an offense that struggled mightily for the majority of the 2013 season. No other coaches lost their jobs, but there was some shuffling with the assistants’ duties.
Unfortunately, injuries always seem to hit at this time. This year was no different, as sophomore TE Jake Butt went down with a torn ACL. Around this time last year, Jake Ryan also tore his ACL, but was able to return for about half of the season. There is already speculation that Butt could return as early as the third game of the season. Without Butt, the depth at the TE position is a little thinner as a result.
The offensive line was the most inconsistent unit from last year’s squad, and this year’s team already has its work cut out. Erik Magnuson, Chris Bryant, and Joey Burzynski will miss all of spring practice with injuries.
The Wolverines currently have a few guys still on the mend from last season’s injuries. Ondre Pipkins tore his ACL and will be limited in spring practice. He will be looked upon to be a force on the interior defensive line all season. His recovery is crucial to the success of the defense. Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith were two freshman running backs that made a splash last year. Drake Johnson could have been a third if not for yet another ACL tear. With him back, Team 135 will benefit from a strong core of young, talented backs.
Quarterback controversy? Please…
Devin Gardner will be your Michigan quarterback in 2014. End of discussion. Unfortunately, he will be limited a bit in spring practice, still recovering from his foot/toe injury. Gardner has unlimited athletic ability and a terrific upside. A lot of fans were frustrated with early season turnover problems in his first year as starter. I will admit that there were times when I shared this frustration. But go ahead and a take a look at Gardner’s numbers from last season:
Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Yds/Gm
345 208 0.603 2,960 21 11 246.7
He also added 483 yards rushing and 11 more scores. Those 11 interceptions all came near the beginning of the season. He finished the year throwing just one interception in the final six games. Without Gardner battling through sacks and injuries, the Michigan football team probably wouldn’t have been lucky enough to reach a bowl game last year.
Shane Morris is a guy that will hopefully do a lot of great things for this program one day. I just don’t see 2014 being his time to shine. Gardner is a fifth-year senior who has the makings of really thriving under new QB coach Nussmeier. Barring some sort of injury or (hopefully not) poor play, No. 98 will be your Michigan quarterback this season.
The offensive line remains the biggest question mark on this team. Adding the injuries to this issue only makes things tougher. Brady Hoke and Co. will have a lot on their plate preparing this inexperienced group for the 2014 campaign. Their success is instrumental in the overall success of this football team.
Expectations, just like every other season, are high for the Michigan football program. The spring practices are extremely important in the development of the team. With practices already started, the annual Spring Game, held on April 5, is fast approaching.
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