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2013 Michigan Thoughts

Feature writer John KayserHello Hokeamaniacs!

It’s that time of year once again. Every August around this time we all get a little happier. This year is not different. Why? It’s Michigan football time again! And for now, here are my early thoughts of Team 134 and what we “fans” should expect for Michigan 2013.

The good is apparent in all fans eyes this year. With a talented and deep team Michigan fans have good reason to be optimistic. Coach Hoke keeps turning out top 5 recruiting classes. Players are looking more like prototypical Michigan men. The right kids are coming to Ann Arbor and with each passing year the players taking the field will be even more capable of dominating the opposition.

The offensive and defensive lines are talented and packed with depth. How they will mesh and how quickly they learn will determine a lot this year. I believe this years secondary could end up being a strong point on the team once again this season. The linebacking unit even with the loss of Jake Ryan to injury still has the capabilities needed to win and dominate on Saturday. There sure is a lot to be happy about in Ann Arbor nowadays!

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner staying healthy will be a focal point of the offense, especially with Shane Morris temporarily injured. A big concern of mine is the running back situation. Yes in 2011 Fitzgerald Toussaint looked poised to have an amazing career with the Maize and Blue. Yet, after his regression in 2012 I am very skeptical that he will be the leader on the ground the Wolverines need this year. As most know, the offense under offensive coordinator Al Borges is set to return to the full traditional pro-style ground and pound attack scheme. Or as I call it “Bo ball”.

I am concerned though if Fitz really is the answer. He seems to dance around a lot, and seems to do better on outside runs. Basically I’m not sold on his ability to run between the tackles and be effective consistently. I have faith that if it shows early he cannot be the back he was in 2011 that coach will make the right call and put in someone else.

We are however very young and inexperienced all over the field. I see this as a double edged sword. While this season will help them develop and give them great experience, still not sold that there wont be some severe growing pains at times this season. All in all I think this team is the best team since Coach Carr left. Wether they show it or not we will see.

The biggest storyline in my eyes will be the coaching. Hoke certainly has acquired the talent recruiting, this year will show exactly how much he can do with that talent. The coaches and their ability to develop the players will be shown a lot in 2013. If they are as good as advertised we should be in Big Ten title contention this year. Yet, if not the staff could come under fire. I believe we will be an amazing team this year though regardless.

Predictions for 2013:

Best case scenario would be a 13-1 record with a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl victory. There is no reason I see why this team can not win every game. Really! Which team in the Big Ten has more talent and is better? A case can be made for only on other club, but let’s not at this time yeah?

My worst case scenario would be a  9-4 with losses possible against Ohio State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, MSU, or Northwestern. Hopefully this doesnt happen. But as they say always prepare for the worst. Last season was a major setback for the program especially after the first year success Hoke and company achieved in 2011.

Personally I am predicting an 11 win, 2 loss season with those two loses coming to Ohio State in the regular season but beating them in the Big Ten Championship.  Outside of that, I can see an early loss to Notre Dame, Northwestern or Nebraska. But that’s it! MSU is going down again. And if the Wolverines win all their games, that wouldn’t surprise me.

Either way this season will be a dramatic improvement on last year.

As for the Central Michigan game this coming Saturday, here are the 5 things I’ll be focusing on:

1. Experience vs. Hunger:  The Wolverines are a bit inexperienced in some areas and a driven CMU team shouldn’t be discounted. We can never say a game is a gimme. especially after some of the losses we’ve seen over the past several seasons. Yet I’m sure Brady Hoke’s team will to do its best to not underestimate the Chips. Our inexperienced lines and generally young team make this game more nerve racking than it should be. But overall the best talent should win the day.

2. The Michigan Quarterback: Devin gardner. Everyone knows the Michigan line needs to keep him healthy and protected this year.  I worry though about offseason rust and consistency. Gardner performed well and was at times downright amazing through the five games he started last year in place of the injured Denard Robinson. Hopefully Gardner picks up where he left off and doesnt regress in anyway. I don’t expect him to and I look for Gardner to shine with a big performance on Saturday.

3. Offensive Line Production:  Like I mentioned earlier, the inexperience  on the line is an obvious cause of anxiety for many Michigan fans leading up to this game with Central. The talent is obviously there yet, most of the guys filling in as back-ups are young and will be making their debut in The Big House. We should all expect some growing pains. Let’s hope that the size and strength of our youngsters will more than makeup for any potential blocking breakdowns that might occur. Overall, with Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield returning to hold-up the ends, the line should have a sound foundation in 2013.

4. The Pro Style Offense:  Even if the Wolverines did implement alot of Al Borges’s “pro style” offense last season, there is bound to be some transitional setbacks this year when the team is expected to really run that offensive system exclusively. The coaching staff must communicate well with the players and correct any problems quickly.  Although it’s not a huge concern i cannot overlook the uncertainty. If the line slips in any way and causes Devin to have to scramble for safety more times than not, things might have to spread out a bit just to make gains. But I see no reason why 2013 will not be the most “Michigan” type offensive attack we’ve seen in Ann Arbor since some six seasons ago.

5. The Running Game:  The coaching staff really has been promoting Fitz Toussaint as the feature back once again so far this offseason. I sure hope Fitz is the Fitz of 2011 and not the Fitz of 2012, injury included. Yet, with a stable of young backs all getting snaps we need consistency and production from all of them. This will be a strength of our team by November. But November is too far away. For now, let’s hope that if Toussaint is struggling, Hoke and company will give Johnson, Hayes, Green or Rawls the opportunity to carry the load.

Overall, the game against Central should be exactly what we expect it to be; a warm-up for the Notre Dame game the following week in Ann Arbor.

I hope this was informative! I’ll see you all in Ann Arbor on Saturday!

Go Blue.

John Kayser - May the Hoke be with you! © January 11th, 2011
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