April 16, 2013
2013 Post-spring depth chart & analysis: Offense
Headlined by fifth-year senior Jeremy Gallon, Michigan's wide receiver corps appears capable of emerging a strength for the Wolverines this fall. See who we project to start at receiver, the offensive line, and the rest of the offense.
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Quarterback: With Russell Bellomy's ACL injury this spring,
the only real threat (and we use that term loosely) to Devin Gardner
disappeared. The redshirt junior will start the opener against
Central Michigan and will quarterback this team for the entirety of
the 2013 season as long as health allows. This spring, Gardner
showed the command and leadership needed to take ownership of this
offense and this team. With his skill set, he should emerge one of
the most dangerous QBs in the country, capable of throwing for 3,000
yards and rushing for another 400 or more.
In the wake of the Bellomy injury, redshirt freshman walk-on Brian
Cleary became the de facto No. 2 signal-caller but four-star Shane
Morris will arrive this summer intent on wrestling away that role.
The coaches and teammates speak highly of Cleary, and we saw him
improve throughout the spring game, but if he has to play in an
emergency situation the worst possibly scenario has unfolded.
Running Back: Over the last four weeks, junior Thomas Rawls,
redshirt sophomore Justice Hayes, sophomore Dennis Norfleet and
redshirt freshman Drake Johnson were given every opportunity to
separate themselves from the pack and become the frontrunner to
start at tailback Aug. 31. Instead, offensive coordinator Al Borges
essentially said earlier this week that if fifth-year senior Fitz
Toussaint is healthy and ready to go by the opener (and all
indications are that he will be) then he will be Borges' choice to
carry the football. That is both a testament to Toussaint's
potential and also an indictment of the backs on the current roster.
It simply appears that Michigan's present flock doesn't include a
bread winner, but in niche roles, all of them can play a part. Hayes
projects as a solid third-down back while Norfleet could be a
big-play machine with just a few carries. Rawls' window may be
closing faster than anyone's but he could still help in
short-yardage situations, and because of his experience a year ago,
he'd probably receive the first crack at filling in for Toussaint in
Of course, five-star Derrick Green and two other tailbacks will
enter the fold soon enough, and they should be a factor in the
running game also. At the moment, though, the job belongs to (a
Wide Receiver: What was a concern entering spring ball now
appears to be a positive for the Maize and Blue. Fifth-year senior
Jeremy Gallon is back and will headline the receiving corps after
developing a rapport with Gardner a year ago. Senior Drew Dileo is
reliable and could be in line for greater touches this year while
fifth-year senior Joe Reynolds appears on the brink of becoming the
next in a long line of walk-on success stories at Michigan.
The biggest development, though, came from sophomore Amara Darboh
and redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson. Both big-framed receivers, they
showed strong hands and the ability to go up and get the ball at his
highest point during the spring. Borges was hesitant to say the
classmates have arrived -- they have to prove themselves worthy on
game day first -- but he's excited about the direction they're
Senior Jeremy Jackson could also be in line to increase his reps,
and gives Michigan a solid fourth target if Darboh and Chesson need
Tight End: Three different Michigan tight ends caught at
least one pass in Saturday's spring game, including sophomore A.J.
Williams, who didn't snag a single ball a year ago despite playing
considerably. Williams has dropped close to 20 pounds and is intent
on keeping defenses honest, not tipping his hand to a running play
by his mere presence. He isn't the big-play target that classmate
Devin Funchess and freshman Jake Butt are, but he can run the length
of the chains for a first down.
Funchess had two grabs, including a leaping, acrobatic haul down the
middle of the field that once again showed off his incredible
athleticism. Bigger, more physical, and more eager to block,
Funchess has the ability to be the complete tight end that Borges
loves to feature. It's not impossible to believe he could catch
40-50 balls this year and come down with 10 TDs after recording five
scores on just 15 grabs in 2012.
Butt, meanwhile, made a nice catch, leaving his feet and hanging on
despite a powerful hit from safety Thomas Gordon to receive a
touchdown in the spring game. Butt is only 231 pounds and could
stand to add another 10 to his 6-6 frame before the start of fall
practice, but the coaches like his ability to add offense to the
passing attack, and Borges said earlier this week that he envisions
a day when he's employing two and three tight ends at the same time
to take advantage of mismatches with the defense.
Offensive Line: Here's the good news: offensive tackle is set
with fifth-year seniors Taylor Lewan on the left side and Michael
Schofield on the right side. Schofield is ready to take his place in
the upper-echelon of Big Ten offensive linemen, and he and Lewan
should form the best bookends in the conference. More good news:
there is great competition along the interior with five legitimate
contenders vying for three spots.
Now the bad news: we may be no closer to determining the starters at
guard and center than we were when the spring started as walk-ons
Joey Burzynski and Graham Glasgow continue to push Ben Braden, Kyle
Kalis and Jack Miller.
Miller met with the media this spring and usually that speaks
volumes about what the coaches think of a young man (if they're
willing to let him face reporters) but in the spring game, Miller
struggled, and Glasgow played at least an equal number of snaps at
center. The redshirt sophomore also got a long look at left guard,
competing with Braden, and it's clear that Glasgow is well-thought
of, given his opportunity to compete for two spots. If both Miller
and Braden end up emerging, it's quite likely Glasgow is the first
lineman in if there is a need on the interior.
Kalis rotated with Burzynski often during the spring game and will
have to progress dramatically this summer and into fall camp to hold
off his challenger as Burzynski came close to winning a job a year
ago and is hungry to seize this opportunity.
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