After Saturday's win Iv been hearing non-stop optimism around campus about the 2009 season, and maybe im a bit of a pessimist, but I think it is rather unfounded.
First of all, I dont think that the Minn game is necessarily us turning the corner. I think we had a great game plan on both sides of the ball, plus Minn was a bit overrated. Although I would love to have somone explain to me y our defense was so effective against Minn, despite the fact that it has looked horrific against any decent oppenent this season.
But anyway, were going to have either Threet, Sheridan, or a true freshman at QB during the 2009 season. Not to mention, an entirely new defensive line (cross your fingers Graham returns). Also were losing our best safety in Harrison, and Morgan Trent who in my opinion is way overrated, but a lot of people seem to like him.
With all of that said, I definitely predict improvement, especially on the offensive side of the ball. We will have a more experienced starter, or a true freshman that fits better into our style of offense.
In addition, we will have a more experienced offensive line, with possible changes at certain positions, as we might throw in one or more of the following current freshman: Barnum, Oneal, Koury, Mealer. (Cant say for sure with Zirbel. It would be great to have him, but its unclear whether hell ever play football again.
At WR, we definitely won't be hurt by the returns of Terrence Robinson and Junior Hemingway. I dont think Matthews is a current NFL draft pick, so Id suspect hell return. Other than that, things will stay the same. More experience is always good. Odoms is looking solid. No tremendous WR recruits in the 2009 class (losing Bryce Mcneal was a definite blow), so expect it to stay relatively the same until 2010 wen Ricardo Miller and Jeremy Jackson arrive.
At RB, Minor has really established himself as the starter. There are several forums devoted to his recent brilliance so I wont get to far into that. Im still curious as to what will be done with McGuffie next yr. Notice that Shaw got a bunch of carries on Saturday. I personally would like to see McGuffie redshirt so that he can pack on a few lbs (a few being 20-25). He also has some work to do with his technique: running lower and behind his pads. Or possibly expect to see him a lot more in the slot, where he has been relatively effective, despite looking hilariously akward on his long catch in Minn. I dont expect Toussaint or any of the other freshman to contribute here.
But based on how the defense has played, I am somewhat sceptical of our chances of improving greatly. Despite having 3 seniors and a beat of a junior defensive line, we have managed to look absolutely terrible against mediocre oppenents such as Purdue. As I expect, based on his incredible numbers this year, that Graham will be headed to the NFL. Of course we will cross our fingers to the contrary, but lets analyze based on worst case scenario that we lose our entire defensive line. Martin will be definite starter at DT. He has looked very solid this year. Sagesse has been the backup to Will Johnson this year so he is the current favorite. Hopefully Campbell will recommit, and establish himself as a capable true freshman starter.
Our current backups at DE are Van Bergen, Adam Patterson, and Greg Banks. The latter two havent seen much time, if any. We also have the two DE recruits (Lalota and Roh). Both in my opinion would benefit greatly from a year to redshirt. Roh is far to small to play at this level, as he is only 230 lbs. Lalota is far more physically imposing, but he is new to football and needs work on his technique. Im hoping that the current backups can prove themselves enough to hold down the DE spots until 2010, and allow the incoming recruits to redshirt and develope.
Michigan's 2008 linebacker core has been the worst of recent years. Expect Ezeh and Mouton to return as starters, with Fitzgerald or Demens filling in the hole left by Thompson. We might miss Witherspoon and Hill. But the fact that Fitzgerald and Demens have both not played a snap at LB this year makes me somewhat uneasy about the liklihood that the 2009 linebackers will bring the consistency that we need.
Also the losses of Harrison and Stewart (im not particular sad about this one) gives way to either Mike Williams, Brandon Smith, or Isaiah Bell, the latter two of whom havent played a snap at safety for Michigan. Stevie Brown will be a near certain starter. You can have your own opinions on this truth.
Cissoko has played ok/good in his time over the past few weeks, especially considering his lack of experience. Plus Justin Turner will be coming in and might contribute, so I dont feel that were giving much up hear. But nevertheless, I dont see much reason to predict improvement in a defensive backfield that has allowed the most passing yards in the Big10.
As I said, I think that the offense will certainly improve, as the only current Sr on that side of the ball is Massey, whos been demoted to backup TE. (I thought Moosman was a Sr but the Depth Chart has him as a Jr.) And I don't expect any of the current juniors (Matthews, Minor, McAvoy, Moosman, Ortman) to be heading to the NFL quite yet.
The defense on the other hand, has been extremely disappointing this year, and the unit is losing 7 current starters (the Dline, Harrison, Trent, Thompson). The LB's could improve being that Thompson was pretty bad, and Ezeh and Mouton hopefully will benefit from more experience. The DB's still will have relatively skilled personelle, but they need to tighten coverage at the corners, and be far smarter and more consistent at the safety positions. Dont expect much from the DLine, althou our line this year, which should have been our strength, was relatively neutralized by opponents smart gameplanning and quick passing.