Dangergroups: The Best Position Groups Michigan Will Play In 2014

Submitted by Ace on July 16th, 2014 at 2:02 PM

Note: I'll be off for the next week for a vacation that serendipitously coincides with the Art Fair invasion of Ann Arbor. Have a great week, everyone. Townies, get out while you still can.


Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog

HTTV is out, Draftageddon is in full swing, and there's nary a non-baseball sport happening right now.* Armed with the knowledge from those first two and the boredom of the third, it's as good a time as ever to do some football opponent overviews. After doing extensive—some would say excessive—amounts of research on Michigan's opponents, here are the five most dangerous position groups the Wolverines are slated to face this year, plus one with the potential to be very good that I felt obligated to include since I had zero non-conference opponents on the list. Let's begin with the obvious.

Ohio State's Defensive Line

Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington, Michael Bennett, Noah Spence. All four were composite top-60 overall recruits; Washington and Spence were both consensus five-stars, and the other two are already proven collegiate stars after Bosa emerged as one of the best freshmen at any position in the country last year. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better starting front four in the country; only Washington is a new starter, and he's talented enough that last year's starting DT, Joel Hale, volunteered to move to offensive guard this offseason after refusing the same switch a year prior.

As SBNation's Bill Connelly noted in his Ohio State preview, the Buckeye defensive line was surprisingly mediocre by advanced metrics last year, both because of the ugly play in the back seven and a lack of quality depth behind the starters up front. After losing All-American linebacker Ryan Shazier and top cornerback Bradley Roby to the NFL, the former issue may still be, well, an issue. The depth along the line, however, should be better this year; Tommy Schutt, Michael Hill, and Donovan Munger provide plenty of talented options at defensive tackle, while redshirt freshman Tyquan Lewis and blue-chip true freshman Jalyn Holmes should give the Buckeyes two quality backups in addition to senior Steve Miller, who had three sacks in limited time last year.

At the very least, this is a unit that will be very tough to handle in passing situations. If the addition of defensive coordinator Chris Ash shores up the problems that plagued OSU's run defense—tackling with arms would be a good place to start—then this could be a group that keeps offensive coordinators up at night.

Maryland's Receivers

Yeah, it would've been nice to get this guy (via)

Injuries limited Maryland's two best receivers to just seven games apiece last season. In the midst of such turmoil, however, the Terrapins found they had tremendous depth out wide, and the experience their backups-turned-starters gained last year will prove quite valuable in 2014.

The headliners, of course, are former five-stars Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, who both would've been serious threats to crack the 1,000-yard mark in 2013 if their seasons weren't cut short. Both are now healthy, and they give Maryland the most explosive pair of receivers in the conference.

The supporting cast is stellar, as well. Levern Jacobs emerged as the team's go-to guy when Diggs and Long went down, recording 46 catches for 640 yards on a very impressive 9.0 yards per target; that wasn't the product of the more hyped receivers taking attention away from Jacobs, either, as he recorded two 100-yard efforts as the team's top option. Sophomore-to-be Amba Etta-Tawo was just as explosive (9.1 YPT) on 31 receptions—he also surpassed the century mark twice in the latter half of the season. 6'3" junior Nigel King (33 receptions, team-high four TDs) gives the team a bigger possession receiver, while fellow junior Marcus Leak reportedly excelled in the spring.

There are only a few issues with this group, two of which aren't their fault. Quarterback C.J. Brown is a dual-threat type with some accuracy issues—his middling 59% completion rate in 2013 was still a major improvement over his 49% mark in 2011 (he missed 2012 due to injury). There's the question of how to keep all these receivers happy—there are five proven targets and only one ball to go around. Then there's the issue actually inherent in the receiving corps: among the players listed above, only King stands above 6'1", and Maryland had serious issues scoring touchdowns in the red zone last year. A below-average offensive line had a lot to do with that problem, however, making this some serious nit-picking. This is an outstanding group that has so many options they'll expose any secondary with a major weak point.

Penn State's Tight Ends

Three PSU TEs caught at least 15 passes in 2013 (via)

While Allen Robinson deservedly drew most of the attention among Penn State's pass-catchers in 2013, QB Christian Hackenberg was fortunate to have a group of three excellent tight ends—Jesse James, Kyle Carter, and Adam Breneman—all of whom return this fall. Each caught at least 15 passes last year, and their collective numbers should go up as the Nittany Lions look to replace Robinson's 97(!) receptions.

At 6'7", 257 pounds, James provides a huge target, solid blocking, and the most game experience at the position. With eight TDs over the last two years, he's a major threat in the red zone, and he'll be a starter either in name or function.

The other starter—given PSU's personnel, they'll trot out a ton of two-TE sets—should be sophomore Breneman, who displayed NFL potential last year after recovering from a torn ACL that cost him his senior season of high school ball and five-star status on the recruiting sites. He bounced back to catch 15 of his 19 targets for 186 yards (a team-high 9.8 YPT) with three touchdowns; he can split out, work the middle of the field, and like James he must be accounted for near the end zone.

Breneman ate into a serious amount of Carter's production last season. Carter recorded 36 receptions, second on the team despite playing just nine games, as a freshman in 2012; last year, that number dipped to 18, and Breneman is poised to take on an even bigger role now that he's well removed from the ACL injury. That makes Carter by far the best #3 tight end in the conference, and you can bet James Franklin and Co. will find ways to utilize such a deep position group.

Michigan State's Secondary

No, BiSB, I refuse to put another picture of Kurtis Drummond on this site (via)

With two starters gone from the secondary, including first-round corner Darqueze Dennard, some of this is assuming that Pat Narduzzi's scheme and talent development will continue to produce outstanding results. After the past few years, however, that feels like a very safe assumption, and there's no shortage of talent among State's back four.

Kurtis Drummond, as BiSB is sure to remind you, is the best safety in the conference and a very safe bet to go in the first round of next year's NFL draft. He led that defense in solo tackles (49), even managing to chip in 3.5 TFLs, picked off a team-high four passes, and broke up six more. There isn't a more complete safety in the country, and his discipline and play recognition allows Narduzzi to run his hyper-aggressive Cover 4.

Junior Trae Waynes steps into Dennard's #1 corner spot, and he looks more than ready for the role after posting five PBUs and three INTs of his own in 2013. Like Dennard, Waynes has the aggressive-coverage-bordering-on-interference thing down pat—before you complain, Michigan very much wants their corners to do the same this year—and he got tested plenty as teams looked to avoid Dennard last year; despite seeing plenty of action, he held up very well.

Darian Hicks currently leads a group of three sophomores competing for the other corner spot, while redshirt freshman Jalyn Powell made a surprise spring push for the starting strong safety spot, where junior R.J. Williamson—who played a good deal last year rotating in for now-graduated SS Isaiah Lewis—was expected to take over. With that much competition (and that much Narduzzi), don't expect the MSU secondary to take much of a dip this year, if any.

Indiana's Offensive Backfield

Sudfeld and Coleman are one of the B1G's best backfield duos (via)

This would've been an even easier pick if dual-threat QB Tre Roberson hadn't transferred over the offseason, but that move may actually be a good sign for Indiana if it means the more polished passer from last year's two-QB rotation, Nate Sudfeld, is poised for a breakout season.

As a sophomore in 2013, Sudfeld completed 60% of his passes at 7.8 yards per attempt with 21 TDs to just nine INTs. Those numbers look more impressive when considering Roberson vultured a lot of his touchdown opportunities and Sudfeld's presence in the backfield tended to tip pass for teams defending the Hoosier attack. While Indiana loses a lot in the receiving corps, Sudfeld should improve now that he's not looking over his shoulder after every off-the-mark pass, and he's got a go-to receiver in productive slot bug Shane Wynn.

The real star of the high-flying Hoosier offense, however, is running back Tevin Coleman, who'd be getting a lot more hype if he didn't play in the same conference as Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah. Coleman rushed for 958 yards and 12 TDs on just 131 carries (7.3 YPC); he was coming off a 215-yard performance against Illinois when he missed the final three games of the season with an ankle injury. When healthy, he's explosive enough to leave MSU's defense (and their fans) agape. The numbers are rather astounding [emphasis mine]:

But the primary reason I can't worry too much about Indiana's offense is Tevin Coleman. Highlight Yards basically look at a runner's explosiveness once he reaches the second level of a defense. Combining that with Opportunity Rate (the frequency with which you reach said second level), we get a pretty good idea for what kind of back you are. Coleman's 35.9 percent Opportunity Rate was nothing special, but no one in the country was more explosive.

Of the 199 FBS players with at least 100 carries in 2013, only seven averaged 8.0 highlight yards per opportunity or greater. Boston College's Andre Williams and Missouri's Henry Josey averaged 8.0, Maryland's C.J. Brown and Ohio State's Braxton Miller averaged 8.4, West Virginia's Dreamius Smith and UL-Lafayette's Elijah McGuire averaged 8.6 ... and Tevin Coleman averaged 12.0. His average was 40 percent better than the second best. He had 14 carries of at least 20 yards (only 12 players had more), and he had eight of at least 40 (most in the country). He is unlit dynamite every play he's on the field.

Coleman is the ideal back for Kevin Wilson's spread offense, and his production should only go up after he split carries with now-graduated back Stephen Houston last season. IU may lean on him more as they figure out how to replace the lost production among their receivers; Coleman should be up to the task.

Dark Horse: Notre Dame's Offensive Line

Christian Lombard and Co. made life easy for Tommy Rees last year (via)

After losing their two most experienced linemen, including first-round left tackle Zack Martin, I'm not quite ready to place Notre Dame's OL among the above groups, but there's a good chance I'll look stupid for not doing so. The Irish still return six linemen boasting a combined 54 starts, and the talent level is among the best in the country. They finished second in adjusted sack rate and 22nd in adjusted line yards last season; in all likelihood, they're reloading, not rebuilding.

Right guard Christian Lombard and center Nick Martin (Zack's younger brother) are the senior anchors of the line, and while both missed time to injury last year, they should be healthy for the fall. The projected starter at left guard, Steve Elmer, played ten games in 2013—including four starts in place of Lombard—and held up remarkably well for a true freshman; at this trajectory, he's a future star.

While there's a little more uncertainty at tackle, the potential is very high there, as well. Junior Ronnie Stanley, a former top-150 overall recruit, is slated to take over for the elder Martin at left tackle after starting all 12 games at right tackle last season. The only major question mark on the line is at right tackle, where 2013 four-star recruit Mike McGlinchey is penciled in as the starter. If he can't cut it in his first year on the field, two other four-star recruits from that class, Hunter Bivin and Colin McGovern, are there to step in as needed. While losing Zack Martin is a major blow, it's one that Notre Dame should be able to withstand.

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*MLS fans, call me when there's a team in Detroit.

Comments

ChiBlueBoy

July 16th, 2014 at 2:30 PM ^

To Ace or anyone else on here: Which, if any, of UM's units would rank as high as any of those listed above, and where would you place it? I have to think our secondary will be strong this year. With some luck, WR could also be a position of strength.

MGoStrength

July 16th, 2014 at 2:48 PM ^

I'd say secondary or linebackers are agruably the best in the conference, especially with depth.  How many 2nd team DBs are the likes of D. Thomas, Stribs, and Taylor (assuming Peppers and Lewis are 1st team) or at linebacker RJS and Gedeon?  Those are some pretty good players that may not even be 1st string.  And, that's not even including the fact that the guys starting could be the best in the conference at their position.  Ryan and Countess seem poised for big years and then you have the top recruit in the country walking in.  And, Morgan, Ross, Lewis, and Wilson are no slouches.  The only question mark is the other safety position.  I'd say LB/DB would be on this list.

Ace

July 16th, 2014 at 3:27 PM ^

I'd put the secondary up there with any in the conference, potentially including MSU if their new starters aren't quite up to the standard of their predecessors. The receiving corps is so deep and has such a top-flight talent in Funchess that I'd put them above any aside from Maryland, and Michigan has the advantage of a much better quarterback throwing to those guys.

The linebackers are in the Notre Dame O-line tier, to me ... lots of talent, much of it proven, but a few question marks (how does Ryan's game translate to the MIKE, especially) that keep the group from being sure-fire elite.

GoBLUinTX

July 16th, 2014 at 7:06 PM ^

this about the LBs but I have to think the coaches are smart enough to realize the change must be a net positive and so will make it work.  After all, if it was not for the change they'd be an elite squad, yes?  So the coaches, who I assume have a modicum of intelligence, presumably weighed the advantages/disadvantages of changing and concluded that at worst they'd still get elite production from the LBs, at best they'd get super elite production. 

Or, you know, the wrong people are pulling down some serious coinage.

ChiBlueBoy

July 16th, 2014 at 7:27 PM ^

I understand your logic. But coaches also have to take calculated risks. They may believe that JMFR will be good to great in the middle. He may show it in practices and in his understanding of the role. And success may be the most likely outcome. But he may surprise them on either end of the spectrum by being All American or by stinking up the joint. Until you get into a game, against a real opponent, at game speed, and then repeat a few times, you just don't know for sure. The coaches may be making all the smart moves and still have it go pear-shaped.

dragonchild

July 16th, 2014 at 7:50 PM ^

If MLB Jake Ryan is even 90% JMFR, that's better than SLB 100% JMFR who's simply optioned off by sending out a slot and then running the other way.  Bear in mind JMFR isn't injured or has something wrong with him in particular.  Even if he doesn't play the middle as well as he holds the edge, putting him there makes the opposing OC's job more difficult.  And, I reiterate that the change to the over is designed to allow him to play more aggressively than the conventional MLB in the 4-3 under.

That said, I agree that the linebackers have some question marks.  The secondary has an even bigger question mark (who's FS?), but their ceiling this year is absurdly high.  A lot of stuff has to go right, but they just might give MSU a run for their money.

alum96

July 17th, 2014 at 3:00 PM ^

I will disagree on the WRs - the potential is there but we literally have 1 proven WR.  How 1 proven WR can put you in an elite group is beyond me.   There is TONS of potential and in theory the WR corps a year from now, even if Funchess left to the NFL, could be better than this year.  

You wrote the LBs have question marks but what about the WR corp aside from Funchess is NOT a question mark?  No one is a proven impact WR aside from Devin.

  • Canteen - highly touted spring, never played college football
  • Darboh - highly touted spring players a year ago, yet to play meaningful college football player
  • Chesson - highly touted blocker, some small flashes late last year - 15 catches in his career
  • Harris - hamstrings.  Too skinny to play right now? Unknown.
  • Ways - most likely a big body RS who needs to work on getting off the line as a future possession WR type
  • Jones - seems to be the leader of his class but just a special teams guy thus far
  • York, Dukes - dont hear much about them
  • Northfleet/ Hayes (?) - potential slots but who knows

I'd list this as one of the big unknowns on the team and its a vast array of inexperience.  If 2 of the guys above not named Funchess "hit" it could be an excellent group but anyone projecting that now is extremely aggressive.

I'd put the secondary ahead of WRs if only that we have seen a lot more of those players - last year's CB starters + Strib + Lewis + Wilson, at least these guys have seen the field.   You need to get something out of that 2nd S and you hope Peppers is at least a decent role player/Nickel this year and you have something that could be very good.

And I think if Gedeon can surge into the starting group the starting LBs could be the best in the conf... it will mean not only is he special but he took a quality player and made him into a top end reserve.  Gedeon + JMFR + Ross would be an imposing 3 IMO if Gedeon surges.

 

getsome

July 16th, 2014 at 4:08 PM ^

LB could potentially be that group if another B1G team were compiling similar list, considering um has multiple year returning starters at all 3 spots and like 8-10 touted prospects on depth chart.  and DBs might have a chance but they only have 1 S with any experience so thats huge question mark.  while UMs LBs will be good and def a strength, unfortunately theyre not in the same class as some units listed.  OSUs DL has chance to be best DL in the entire country and Marylands WRs are top 5 if healthy.  also agree on NDs OL potential.  and IU and MSU units are very good but i dont think top 5 or top 10 nationally.  that dude phil steele puts out unit listings every year and i know few people work as exhaustively as he does on ncaaf.  from a fan and gamblers perspective id say steele is one of the most accurate and consistent...check out his units for UM, im sure he has them listed at several positions

reshp1

July 16th, 2014 at 2:53 PM ^

* And the Tour de France

 

Yeah, I know what you're thinking... why do I want to watch a bunch of lycra clad dudes ride around on bikes? It's seriously a very compelling sporting event filled with human drama and surprises though, even if you haven't ridden a bike since you were a kid. And the timing is perfect... it nicely fills in the summer doldrums between when hockey/basketball end, and when football camps/preseason starts back up.

SC Wolverine

July 16th, 2014 at 2:57 PM ^

This is good stuff as we desperately endure the summer sports drought.  While reading this, I was wondering if a similar article for some other B1G school would include any UM squads on such a list.  Perhaps the Wolverine linebackers?  A good future article would summarize what other B1G blogs are saying in their previews of our team.

Broken Brilliance

July 16th, 2014 at 3:27 PM ^

This writer at BSD seems an eency weency bit too confident, seeing as how they needed a complete whiff on a deep ball by Stribling and multiple missed field goals to beat us.

Here's a laughable quote from the link above:
"Luckily, their defense is coached by Greg Mattison, who kind of sucks at his job."

alum96

July 17th, 2014 at 3:03 PM ^

I think Utah will be a very difficult matchup.  They beat Stanford at home last year - so they are a physical team and if you look at the losses last year most were close (i.e. they lost to a very good ASU team by 1 point).  Their win-loss stunk and I dont know what players they lost but that looks like a very tricky team.  If we play anything like Akron or Uconn last year it will be a bad outcome.

Maaly

July 16th, 2014 at 3:38 PM ^

Only group on the list I am worried about is OSU's defensive line especially with the addition of Larry Johnson to their staff. 

m1jjb00

July 16th, 2014 at 3:41 PM ^

The difference I think b/n you and me is that I'd put more weight on recruiting rankings and less on the reputation generated by past starts.  It seems like you're also giving a unit credit for the scheme being run that might help it look good.  IU's presence on the list might be an example.  I'm more afraid of Braxton Miller and whomever you pencil in at RB (Elliot?) than Sudfeld plus Coleman.

ak47

July 16th, 2014 at 4:57 PM ^

I'm so scared we are going to lose to Maryland this year.  Grew up in Baltimore and both my siblings went to UMD, I'll never hear the end of it if we lose.  This must be what its like for most people and MSU.

Sparty123

July 16th, 2014 at 5:48 PM ^

they were a decent team last year and return a lot of players on both sides of the ball.  As an MSU fan I view our matchup with them - at Maryland, at night, on national TV, and a week after OSU game and 3 weeks after UM - as a major problem.  That one worries me a lot.

ak47

July 16th, 2014 at 10:57 PM ^

I don't disagree, that is why I am nervous about the game. I actually follow maryland pretty closely, they were my team until I went to Michigan for college and I'm super pissed that they moved to the big ten because now I don't really get a second team.  I think they will surprise a lot of people in both football and basketball this year.  I know my siblings are pretty excited for this football season, they know they have a good team and Michigan and penn state are still below were you would expect them to be historically and get msu at home.  This is probably one of their better chances at the division.

charblue.

July 16th, 2014 at 6:19 PM ^

I just share something: This team on paper is the best Michigan has had to offer in years on every front. The only question about this team is whether it will produce. Seriously. 

This is the best Michigan's roster has been since Lloyd Carr was still recruiting. Now, it doesn't mean it will succeed or win. It just means that potential-wise, this team has the capability of doing great things. I don't give a shit what the conference opposition is, because Michigan has the defense to deal with it, and it has the offense to go places this team --meaning the Rose Bowl --if it performs. And, of course, given the schedule and whatever circumstances that's a huge if. Circumstances could deny a great year. But better that than poor execution and performance. 

Gardner is not a good qb, he is potentially a great one. But he has to demonstrate that. The defense can shut down anyone. But it has to demonstrate that. The greatest caveat to any success this season, rests with the Oline. And if it can't perform, if it sucks like last year, then Hoke's regime is basically over. 

I don't really care about Brandon and the game experience. Because winning takes care of that. Let's get back to winning the way Michigan is supposed to. It doesn't matter what others think or how they rate us, or whether we make watch lists or whether we are the flavor of the week or month, just play like Michigan heritage football. And the rest takes care of itself. 

MGoStrength

July 16th, 2014 at 7:06 PM ^

You seem to assume players are what they are capable of, or maybe what their recruiting rankings were in high school.  To me, they are how they play.  It doesn't matter what they were ranked as recruits or are capable of.  In terms of Gardner he is still a great runner, but right now he is a guy with questionable decision making who pre-determines where he's going with ball, makes questionable checks, and stares down his recievers.  He has great legs and can make plays with his feet, and he can fix these issues, but until he does he's not a great QB.  He is what he is...not what he could be.  

 

Regarding the defense can shut down anyone...that also has yet to be proven.  They were shredded by a number of questionable offenses.  I think bringing everyone back and having game experience for a lot of sophomores and juniors they should show improvement this season, but that's not who they are, it's who they can be.  Until they show they can do it, one can't assume they will.  

 

Finally regarding the best team on paper since Carr, Hoke's first year was better unless this team proves a lot this season and the main difference is on both lines.  There were a number of all conference performers on both lines.  If we can get DE production from Clark/Beyer the way Roh/VanBergen played, and if we can get someone in the middle to produce the way Martin did, then we're talking.  Also, we had the best center in the country in Molk and an all conference guard in Omemeh.  If Kalis and whoever plays center can live up to that status that would make a world of difference, but this team will only go as far as both lines will take them.  The talent at the other positions won't make a difference if the o-line can't generate room to get a consistent running game going and if the d-line can stop the run and generate some pass rush. 

charblue.

July 16th, 2014 at 7:43 PM ^

The point of  my remarks is this: This team is highly capable if it proves to be so. It has that potential, not saying it  will. And if it doesn''t, if it doesn't win at home and succeed on the road in a fashion that Michigan hasn't in years, well, given the circumstances of today's expectations, I would say it's curtains for this regime. And maybe not this year, because of the road schedule, but. who's kidding whom. 

This is the best team Michigan has fielded since the Carr years, and I stick by that assertion.

I don't really give a shit whether you agree, because this is what I believe However, I do expect to be properly interpreted which your response clearly suggests is not the case. 

 

MGoStrength

July 16th, 2014 at 8:27 PM ^

For example you are are saying on the one hand that the defense can shut anyone down and at the same time saying it has to prove that.  That doesn't exactly make sense.  If they can do something they certainly must have already shown it otherwise it wouldn't need to be proven.  And, if it does need to be proven, then you can't exactly make the statement as if it were true. There's no need to suggest someone can't read.  Just clarify your point.  It's OK to disagree. Aren't we on here to discuss this stuff?  Ultimately I think we agree that this team is talented.  That's really what you're saying, right?  I just think you're more optimistic that this is the year the talent shows up in the W/L column where as I tend to take a "show me first, then I'll believe it" stance.

 

Out of curiosity, when you say "if it doesn't win at home and succeed on the road in a fashion that Michigan hasn't in years...it's curtains for this regime." what exactly do you mean?  What if they win 7,8,9, etc. games does Hoke get fired?  IMO if Michigan wins 8-9 games and they are competitive with the rivals I highly doubt Hoke gets fired.  Maybe if they only win 7 and/or look like crap against MSU/OSU, but if this year's squad wins more games than last year's I have a hard time seeing Hoke get fired.  I think it's more about how the year pans out, if it gets better or worse over the course of the season, how good/bad they look in the wins/losses etc.  I don't think the record is the end all, but that's just me.

GoBLUinTX

July 16th, 2014 at 7:35 PM ^

Debbie Downer and Negative Nancy distract you, I happen to agree with you, especially about the defense.  It has been donkey years since Michigan has had quality and depth at almost all defensive positions.  Strike that, at all D positions.  There is a bit of figuring out to do at safety but that isn't because of the lack of personnel, that's because there are so many to choose from.  And then there is Peppers.  Same thing with both the DL and LBs, the most encouraging thing I haven't heard is Mattison calling out a grossly low ranking player to have a break out year.  Nathan Brink ring any bells?  Personally I believe the D will have a very special year.

As with the defense, the offense returns nearly intact and like almost nobody else, I have confidence that the OL will be solid.  They won't be stellar, but they'll be solid enough to get the job done.  After all, every one of those lads is a human being with something to prove.  Not just about themselves, but about the team, the team, the team.  Funk and Nuss will open fall camp having a very good idea who the front five will be and what they'll be doing.  Baring injuries, by the end of the week, they'll have it nailed down and will spend the next three weeks drilling the ever loving crap out of them.

 Last year the talking heads were predicting 10-2 from Michigan and the odds on favorite to play in Indianapolis.  As we all know too well that didn't happen however, there is just too much talent on this team, talent with game experience, to believe they can't control their destiny this season. 

MGoStrength

July 16th, 2014 at 7:53 PM ^

Not sure if I was Debbie Downer and Negative Nancy, but I'll bite assuming I was.  Don't get me wrong, I think they have the potential, I just don't think you can say that's who they are now. Until they show it, it remains wishful thinking.  FWIW I agree Gardner and the D will be really good, although I still remain somewhat skeptical about the pass rush (rushing only 4).  I think the back 7 is good enough to make up for this against most teams on the schedule. But, regarding the o-line, I guess I'll beleive it when I see it.  To me, this is potentially what holds the team back from breaking through.  I still think this unit is another year away.

alum96

July 17th, 2014 at 3:07 PM ^

Agreed.  The lack of awesome D-line really irks me.  We've had some great one offs like Graham and Martin but having a dominant front 4 like the 97 team would be fun.  And with the talent we get it should happen once every 4-5 years.  Seems like it's once every 12-13.

Farnn

July 16th, 2014 at 10:46 PM ^

Tom Brady couldn't have gone 13-0 behind that OL with no running game.  Gardner did extremely well considering the constantly changing offensive scheme and lack of a running game.   Look at his stats vs the best seasons of the last 2 good starting QBs at MIchigan:

2013 Devin Gardner:   2960 yds, 60.2% comp%, 21 TD, 11 INT, and 8.58 ypa

2010 Denard Robinson:  2570 yds, 62.5% comp%, 18 TD, 11 INT, and 8.8 ypa

2006 Chad Henne:  2508 yards, 61.9% comp%, 22 TD, 8 INT, and 7.6 ypa

That is Gardners first year as a starter and he had very comparable stats to the best seasons of the previous 2 Michigan QBs.  Nothing to be an apologist about, Gardner is good.