September 18, 2012

Borton's Blog: Surprise, surprise

One-fourth of the regular season has already melted away, revealing a few surprises in the ranks of the Wolverines. Here are a handful that jump out as the non-conference season draws to a close.

1. Tailing D-Rob - It's no surprise that Denard Robinson is leading the Wolverines in rushing, with 351 yards and four touchdowns through three games (although 8.8 per carry is pretty healthy). The eyebrow-raiser here involves the fact that U-M doesn't have a single tailback with 100 yards altogether, much less in a game.

Fitzgerald Toussaint (23 carries, 92 yards) figures to change that, perhaps in his first try against the Irish on Saturday night. But his slow start has produced scrutiny for the offensive line, and the sooner those questions go away, the better off the Wolverines will be.

2. Devin, Pt. I - Don't let anybody tell you now they knew junior Devin Gardner would be leading the Wolverines in receiving yards (155) and touchdown catches (three) heading into the Notre Dame game. He's flat-out exceeded all expectations in making the transition from quarterback.

That doesn't mean he's arrived, in terms of route running, getting off the line, embracing blocking tasks, etc. It just means he'll make a bigger impact that most casual observers might have guessed.

3. Devin, Pt. II - There was a bit of a buzz in fall camp about true freshman tight end Devin Funchess, starting with his enormous hands. But six catches, 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the two games in which he's appeared also exceeds expectations. He's here to stay, and could be a mighty popular target again as soon as Saturday night.

4. Fleet Feet - Fellow true freshman Dennis Norfleet has been talked about as a potential special teams contributor since he verbally committed to the Wolverines. But Norfleet left no doubt, owning the kick return position from game one. He's averaging 22.9 yards per return, and gives every appearance of being ready to break one, providing the most aggressive, north-south return efforts for the Wolverines since Steve Breaston.

5. Boom Is Back - Punter Will Hagerup went from a big-weapon leg as a true freshman to looking lost as a sophomore. He's announced his return, averaging an eye-opening 48.5 yards per punt through three games. He (and the Wolverines) could use a season-long stretch of thunderous consistency out of the junior.


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