Hoke Has Wolverines on the Rise: Is Another BCS Bowl in Store for Michigan?
Michigan is arguably the most successful college football program of all-time. That means high expectations are a part of the gig. No one knows that better than Brady Hoke. Lloyd Carr won a national title and 78% of his games at Michigan, but was run out of ton after the 2007 season because he couldn’t beat Ohio State. Winning 10 games a year isn’t enough if one of those 10 wins isn’t against the Buckeyes. Michigan fans, perhaps, got a heavy dose of karma for being so greedy after getting rid of Carr. The 3-year Rich Rodriguez era was an epic failure. Hoke quickly got the Maize n Blue back on track in his first season (2011) as he led Michigan to a Sugar Bowl victory.
Entering 2012, Michigan was a Top 10 team. Some even suggested the Wolverines would be a sleeper national title contender. Things don’t always go as planned. By Michigan standards, 2012 was an average year. Because of his first season, Hoke could afford having an average season and probably can again in 2013. But that won’t stop him from trying to find the winning formula. Michigan has potential. Hoke has recruited exceptionally well since arriving in Ann Arbor. But does he have enough talent and experience to contend for a Big-10 title this year? Let’s break down the 2013 Michigan Wolverines…
The Wolverines Offense: Replacing the School’s Most Exciting Player Won’t Be Easy
Say what you want about Denard Robinson’s passing abilities – or lack thereof – but that guy made more big plays than any Michigan quarterback…ever. He was one of the most athletic quarterbacks in NCAA history (right up there with Michael Vick, Antwan Randle El, etc.). Now Michigan must replace his experience and skill. They’ll do so with a similar type of quarterback – Drew Gardner. Gardner isn’t quite as athletic as D-Rob (who is?), but he can run when he needs to and has a much more accurate arm. He’s drawn some comparisons to RGIII. Let’s not get carried away with those silly comparisons. It’s way too early for that. But comparisons like that shows just how much potential Gardner has.
Michigan went 8-5 in 2012. If they’re going to improve on that record, they’ll need a big year out of running back Fitz Toussaint. He’s as explosive of a running back as there is in the Big-10. But he must stay healthy. Without him, Michigan’s offense struggled last season. He plays a key role on this team as there isn’t much proven talent behind him. Another offensive player that is key to this team – and Gardner’s success – is wide receiver Jeremy Gallon. He’s one of the smallest receivers in the conference, but he makes up for it with speed. He averaged just a shade under 17 yards per catch and led the team in receptions (49) and yards (829) by a wide margin.
The Wolverines Defense: Key Players Gone from a Disappointing Defense
In 2011, new defensive coordinator Greg Matteson helped guide the Wolverines defense to a surprising year. Under the previous regime, Michigan’s defense was frequently torched. That changed immediately after Matteson arrived. But then in his second season, Michigan’s defense went backwards. Now it’s up to Matteson to find a way to get the Wolverines defense back to where it was in 2011. If he’s going to do that he’ll have to work some magic. Michigan returns 6 starters on the defensive side and has some key roles to replace.
One advantage Michigan’s defense will have is they won’t be facing too many potent offenses. The Big-10 certainly isn’t known for high-octane offense. But it’s crucial that Michigan finds some quality interior defensive linemen to shut down the run. If not, that potent Michigan offense won’t be as effective…on the sidelines.
A Final Word on the 2013 Michigan Wolverines
It’s no secret…if you can’t beat Ohio State, you’ll never win the fans over at Michigan. So far, Brady Hoke is 1-1 but things are only going to get tougher for him with Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Michigan, right now, is a step behind Ohio State in terms of talent. Hoke is working his tail off recruiting, but if he’s going to beat out Meyer and the Buckeyes, he might want to start handing over suitcases full of cash (just kidding!). On paper, Michigan appears to be an 8-9 win football team. If they beat Ohio State, Michigan fans will consider that a success.