December 6, 2012
Borton's Blog: Peek at 2013
Michigan football fans find themselves dragging through a post-Columbus malaise, prior to gearing up for the Outback Bowl and a New Year's Day showdown with South Carolina. Here's a little something that looks past the bowl and offers some light at the start of the 2013 tunnel.
Most found immediate reason for optimism when the quarterback situation went from a who-knows proposition to rampant rejoicing over a potential two-year quarterback find. That development isn't alone, though, in the top-five reasons for optimism regarding 2013.
1. Devin Gardner, QB -- Gardner didn't just come in and fill a void for injured senior quarterback Denard Robinson. The junior (for now) connected on 63.3 percent of his passes for 1,005 yards and eight touchdowns, appearing ready to hit the ground running (and passing) next fall.
Gardner absorbed a little dose of reality in Columbus, against a better opponent and a sterner pass rush. He proved good enough in the first half against the Buckeyes, and throughout his multi-contest debut at the end of the season, to expect big numbers next fall. And if Brady Hoke's "gut feeling" proves true, and Gardner has two more seasons behind center, the Wolverines will be more than a handful in 2014.
2. Defensive Line Depth -- Yes, seniors Will Campbell and Craig Roh depart after the bowl. But the defensive line grooming behind them should pay huge dividends in 2013.
Younger players seeing significant action in backup roles included ends Brennen Beyer, Mario Ojemudia and Keith Heitzman, while Ondre Pipkins mixed it up some among the defensive tackles. Combined with returning starters Quinton Washington, a fifth-year senior, and Frank Clark, a junior, along with a swingman in senior Jibreel Black and others such as redshirt freshmen Chris Wormley, Matt Godin and Willie Henry, the crew should give Michigan's cadre of defensive line mentors should have more than enough with which to work.
3. Jeremy Gallon, WR -- Gallon became Michigan's most consistent and productive receiver this season. Entering a 2013 campaign in which wide receiver will be - at least initially - a question mark, Gallon's presence will be bigger than ever.
The redshirt junior hits the Outback Bowl with team highs in catches (40) and yards (684) this season. While not a huge target (literally or figuratively) around the end zone (two TD catches this year), he's moved the chains plenty, including cashing in on some deep throws. He provided a favorite target for Gardner, and that duo will be looking to connect often going forward.
4. Offensive Line Building Brady Hoke admitted it at the end of the season - Michigan's offensive line did not come together this year as he had hoped. It will be in rebuilding mode next year, which in itself brings more concern than hopefulness, at least initially.
But the components look awfully good, according to those in the know. That means players like freshman tackle Ben Braden, freshman guard Kyle Kalis and others could eventually form a line more formidable than the one about to disband. How soon? That's going to be one of the most scrutinized aspects of the 2013 Wolverines.
5. Healing Offseason -- The individual who was arguably Michigan's best cornerback entering 2012, sophomore Blake Countess, barely got his legs under him this season before they were taken out. Countess returns in 2013, after sophomore Raymon Taylor subbed in admirably for him this season.
So while the Wolverines won't feature a senior at the corner spots next year, they'll trot out two talented and now-experienced performers, with a host of young challengers filling in behind.
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