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August 26, 2013

Revised predictions for the 2013 season

A month ago, when camp started we may have had an idea of what to expect this season but after three weeks of camp, much has changed. Here then is a revised staff prediction from our entire staff.

John Borton: Mine's an obvious one, but with a twist. I figured Amara Darboh to be the breakout performer at the wide receiver position this year, stepping into the big receiver role and gathering in 500-600 yards worth of receptions. Obviously, that's on hold until next year.

The twist is this: Darboh's absence drops Devin Gardner under 3,000 yards passing on the season. Not by a lot, but just enough. Also, one of Michigan's true freshman receivers (Da'Mario Jones?) steps up to see significant snaps and contribute 10-15 catches in supplementing the veterans.

Chris Balas: Everything has played out exactly the way I predicted.

Okay, not really. I expected redshirt freshman Ben Braden to solidify his starting job at left guard, figuring he and fellow redshirt frosh Kyle Kalis would be entrenched in the starting lineup for four years. Now, Braden seems to be vying for a back-up position behind either Chris Bryant or Graham Glasgow at guard while also backing up the tackles.

We heard a lot about Bryant's strength as a true freshman before he got hurt. He's got the potential to be a dominant run blocker - if healthy last year, he'd have started some games. If he continues to work himself into shape, he'll be the guy at left guard. And as we've said many times, 'if he wants to go somewhere, he's going to go - and he's going to take someone with him.'

Michael Spath: I had Michigan splitting reps between at least two ball carriers, with both senior Fitz Toussaint and freshman Derrick Green both capable of rushing for 800 yards or more this season as the Wolverines' embarrassment of riches in the offensive backfield prevented a single ball carrier of earning a majority of reps.

But in camp, Toussaint emerged a clear-cut No. 1 while the rest of the running backs struggled to keep up. Green has been hobbled with an ankle injury and will not be much of a factor, at least early in the year. Offensive coordinator Al Borges has always had a preference for a dominant lead back that earned 75 percent of the carries, and that's what Toussaint will be that guy this year.

Tim Sullivan: I initially thought that Notre Dame might be Michigan's most difficult game of the year. Given the Irish's unexpected attrition (namely in the form of QB Everett Golson), in addition to the guys that we knew were going to run out of eligibility, they're a couple pegs down in my mind now that the season's approaching.

Ohio State should be a great team (though that defensive front seven will have to come together) and road games at Michigan State and Northwestern should be tougher than at home against the Irish. That's not to say Michigan definitely beats ND, but I don't look at it as the toughest game on the schedule anymore.

Andy Reid: I initially thought Michigan State would be the Wolverines' biggest competition for the Legends Division crown.

The Spartans don't play Ohio State, Wisconsin or Penn State from the Leaders Division this season, which I thought would give them an easy path to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game.

But Michigan State still has to play Nebraska, Northwestern and Michigan from the Legends - and with the Spartans' offensive concerns, I don't see them winning any of those three games.

The Wolverines' biggest competition for the division is Nebraska. It will be a huge showdown when the Cornhuskers come to town.


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