May 1, 2013

Post-spring Hot 11: Injured stars generate excitement

Though they didn't participate in team drills this spring, injured starters Blake Countess, Jake Ryan and Fitz Toussaint still moved the needle with promising news on the health front.








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TheWolverine.com Hot 11

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Player
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The Analysis

1




face="verdana">Devin Gardner,

QB

style="font-family: verdana;">Could it have been anyone
else? This is Gardner's team. The offense and the
Wolverines will go as he goes. Good news arrived when U-M
learned Gardner was granted another season of eligibility,
and it continued into the spring as he proved to possess
the leadership skills to rally his teammates. Gardner
figures to be Michigan's top performer week after week
this fall.


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2


face="verdana">

face="verdana">Taylor Lewan,

OT

style="font-family: verdana;">Lewan
passed up a likely top-five selection in the NFL Draft to
return for his senior season with the hope of capturing
the Big Ten title that has eluded him thus far. According
to those close to the program, Lewan has grown up
considerably, and is ready to lead a young offensive line
to its potential. He'll do so while showcasing himself as
one of the nation's premier offensive linemen.


3


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style="font-family: verdana;">Frank Clark,

DE

face="verdana">The junior defensive end put his teammates
on notice to expect big things from him this fall. The
linemen he wrestled with in the spring raved about his
play, pushing the bar to double-digit sacks for the 6-2,
277-pounder. In the absence of Jake Ryan, he could become
the game-breaking performer this defense badly needs.


4


face="verdana">

face="verdana">Jeremy
Gallon
,

WR

style="font-family: verdana;">style="font-family: verdana;">Sure there was a lot of talk
about Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, but Gallon just went
about his job like he has for two seasons -- with stubborn
consistency. The 5-8, 187-pounder remains Gardner's No. 1
target and because of that, he should put up big numbers
this fall, challenging for all-conference first-team
honors.


5


face="verdana">

style="font-family: verdana;">James Ross,


LB

style="font-family: verdana;">
While Clark is making life chaotic for QBs, Ross will be
wreaking havoc on running backs (and some quarterbacks
too). He has the explosion and acceleration to fill the
gap created by Ryan's absence, emerging the dominant
playmaker defensively. It would be disappointing if he
finished with anything fewer than 10 tackles for loss.


6


face="verdana">

face="verdana">Devin Funchess,

TE

face="verdana">Coordinator Al Borges has told anyone
willing to listen that he intends for the tight ends to be
greater utilized this season and in future campaigns.
That's good news for Funchess, who has added weight to
become a more powerful blocker, and thus a player that
never has to come off the field. Still, Funchess won't
make his mark engaged in a one-on-one but as a downfield
and red-zone target capable of 50 receptions.


7


face="verdana">

face="verdana">Desmond
Morgan,


LB

face="verdana">This was supposed to be the year that
Morgan got forced out of the starting lineup, but no one
told him that. The junior instead asserted his hold on the
middle linebacker post ahead of sophomore Joe Bolden,
showing he can be the rock that cleans up every ball
carrier funneled to him. 

8


face="verdana">

face="verdana">Blake Countess,

CB

face="verdana">He didn't participate in full-contact
drills during the spring, and he hasn't busted out a max
effort yet, but the junior cornerback is expected to be at
full health by the time fall camp opens in August. And
while his secondary mates have forged on without him,
Countess brings an element the backfield currently lacks
-- a playmaker.


9


face="verdana">

face="verdana">Jake Ryan,

LB

style="font-family: verdana;">There is no set timetable
for when he will return, but Ryan could be back in October
coach Brady Hoke said at the conclusion of spring ball. If
that were to be the case, the Maize and Blue would welcome
their top defender just in time for a brutal five-game
November stretch that will determine the fate of the Big
Ten Championship.


10


face="verdana">

face="verdana">Fitz Toussaint,

RB

face="verdana">Toussaint also sat out most of the spring
while recuperating from a shattered leg that occurred late
in the 2012 season. But while he mended, his competitors
for carries unfortunately proved they're just not up for
the job. That puts the onus back on Toussaint to be the
first-string tailback come Aug. 31. A slot he promises
he'll be ready for. 


11


face="verdana">

face="verdana">Cam Gordon,

LB



style="font-family: verdana;">Ryan's immediate replacement
at the SAM linebacker position, Gordon impressed his
coaches in winter conditioning and then had an even better
spring practice. He's not as strong against the run as
Ryan, and will likely rotate with Brennen Beyer, but he's
showcasing himself as an animal in passing situations and
could benefit greatly from rushing the passer opposite
Clark. 





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