Too many people are just writing off Fitz. Granted, he had a forgettable season. But he came in late -- his own fault, yes -- and was running behind a very meh line that didn't open many holes for any other backs, either. And then, of course, the leg. But he's shown himself to be a very good back in the right circumstances. And I expect he'll come back very hungry. That's assuming he heals properly, of course. But there's no reason to assume he won't. I'm excited about a running game that includes Lewan, Fitz, and Green/Smith.
How does Lewan coming back change your expectations for next year?
At least not until mid season and Fitz has to recover, so u don't see him getting better until late in the season.
As much as I hate saying this, because I've been extremely high on Fitz going back to before he even stepped on campus, but there is a very real chance his amazing string of games last season was a mirage.
His success basically came as a direct result of teams totally focusing on shutting down Denard, and basically allowing Fitz to beat them.
If you go back and look at Denard's rushing stats in the games Fitz went off on people, they're generally pretty pedestrian, and vice versa.
Here is that monster stretch at the end of the year for Fitz....
Purdue: 20 carries - 170 yards - 8.5 ypc
Iowa: 16 - 58 - 3.6
Illinois: 27 - 192 - 7.1
Nebraska: 29 - 138 - 4.8
Ohio: 20 - 120 - 6
Here were Denard's stats in those same games....
Purdue: 15 - 63 - 4.3
Iowa: 12 - 55 - 4.6
Illinois: 12 - 30 - 2.5
Nebraska: 23 - 83 - 3.6
Ohio: 26 - 170 - 6.5
Here are the games Denard went off on people early in 2011......
Notre Dame: 16- 108 - 6.8
Eastern: 26 - 198 - 7.6
SDSU: 21 - 200 - 9.5
Minn: 6 - 51 - 8.5
NW: 25 - 117 - 4.7
Here are Fitz's numbers from those same games.....
Notre Dame: Didn't play.
Eastern: 11 - 46 - 4.2
SDSU: 13 - 67 - 5.2
Minn: 11 - 108 - 9.8
NW: 14 - 25 - 1.8
So while that doesn't necessarily tell the whole story, you can see a pattern emerge. I'm not saying Fitz is bad or anything, but I think it's pretty plain to see that his success was a direct result of teams opting to let him do his thing and focus on shutting down Denard. The only game where he and Denard really went off in the same game was against OSU.
This past year it felt like teams decided to focus exclusively on shutting Fitz down, while letting Denard run wild in the hopes that he would get banged up or wear down, and it showed.
We'd be undefeated going into the Ohio game.
This gives me more hope that we WIN that game. Lewan stopping Ohio's edge rushers and providing leadership in his last game in Michigan Stadium - HUGE!
I thought that our biggest question mark next year was the ability of all those young O-linemen to gel and perform. This will help the O-line immensely. I think this means that we should have at least a serviceable running game and a good passing game to go with a suffocating defense. In college football, that means the sky is the limit. I have a lot of confidence in DG and I think this means the offense will click pretty well. A huge deal.
Part of the problem is that people read 'prediction' as 'best-case scenario that is at least reasonably possible.' I don't think it's insane to think Michigan could go 12-0 considering our talent and our schedule, but you're off your damn rocker if you think that's the most likely result. It's better to think in terms of a baseline, or a midpoint between best and worst outcomes, IME.
Howeva, I have a hard time thinking objectively at all about OSU, and I think that unless we start seeing a Cooper/Lloyd dynamic start to unfold, The Game's as unpredictable as it gets (also leaving aside the immense talent discrepancies from 2009-2011). That said, to me the baseline is 10-2 with an OSU win and 9-3 with a loss. I'm predicting two losses from the NW, MSU, NU, PSU, ND quintet, in order of increasing likelihood. Predicting three losses from that group isn't entirely batty either.
We're a great home team under Hoke, but not a great road team. Expect at least one road loss, wtih the likeliest candidates being MSU and Northwestern. (Just because MSU crashed this year doesn't mean it won't be very difficult to win in East Lansing next year...as it happens it was very difficult to beat them in Ann Arbor this year).
In terms of home games, ND doesn't really scare me without Teo and Eifert. Nor does Nebraska. So it comes down to Ohio. Are we going to be good enough to theoretically beat them at home? I think so. Are we going to actually beat them at home? We'll see.
I think that it is worth one victory, but not more. I was thinking 8-4/9-3 before this. Now I'm thinking 9-3/10-2. Interior line is a huge question mark. Receivers and TEs other than Gallon are huge question marks. RB looks to have no talent outside of true freshmen. D-line and defensive backfield are badly lacking in established playmakers. Shedule is easier than average, but not a complete cupcake walk. Penn State is on the road. Iowa and MSU are teams that I think we would beat easily at home,but those are both on the road and we have sucked especially at Iowa City. Two of our home games are against teams that went 12-0 this year. Lots of games on that schedule next year where I would peg our chances of wining at about 60%, which means that I'm expecting a few losses.
Coaches have called guard his natural position. My guess is based more on the athleticism, length and speed of Magnuson/ Braden. Both have much larger frames and longer arms, which is a huge help dealing with speedy edge rushers. I think Magnuson is our next All-American tackle.
Schofield to guard...
I respect Lewan, and I think he's an absolute beast based on the games I've watched him play in this last season. I certainly think with the games against teams with good defenses (Scar, MSU, OSU) he held his own and could be a captain to help anchor the OL. However, I don't get how Lewan is equivalent to the"Michigan difference" between Michigan getting an extra win and not. It was predicted on another forum topic what Michigan record would be for the 2013 season but it seems a few says he's worth an extra win. If one player can singularly contribue to make that much of a difference, in which games do you see him making a difference? I wouldn't be too quick to sellout the talent on Michigan OL even without him.
We've heard the staff really likes Braden. If he's so good, he should get on the field at RT. Schofield can move back to LG next to Lewan, which worked really well in the past. Then there are only two interior spots for a bunch of guys (Bryant, Miller, Kalis, Bars, the walkons, Kugler) to compete over. Also, it gives Braden a chance to tune up for the point when the left handed Morris will be QB. Magnusen understudies for another year behind Lewan at LT.
But I like Kalis at LG. That would give us two dominant run-blockers on one side, one of whom is smart enough to make the necessary calls to keep plays successful. I'd rather not have both of our seniors right next to each other. Let Schofield stay on the right side and help make the calls over there.
14-0 is obviously the correct answer.
I'd like to wait and see what happens in Spring Practice. I want to see if there is any attrition or if guys are struggling. We have a favorable schedule, we have Lewan coming back, we have what appears to be stability on defense, I think that we have a decent shot at going undefeated. I think it will be really tough though because I'm convinced that Michigan and Ohio State will face each other twice this season, possibly splitting the two games. I'd say anything below 10-2 would be a disappointing year.
For the young guys may make the most difference.