The 2012 college football season is quickly approaching. For the Wolverines, their first big test comes during the very first game of the season. As we all know by now, Michigan will face Alabama in Dallas Stadium that will bring in huge ratings for the ABC/ESPN Network.
Even though the season will only be a day old, this game will show the nation just how prepared (or not) this team is. It will also justify whether Michigan deserved a top ten ranking or not.
I will break down what I believe are five important points of interest to be looked at come September 1st. Which also will be important in determining the outcome of this game.
Point One: Running Backs
- Rewind about a month ago and this point of interest wouldn’t even be an issue. With all signs pointing to redshirted Junior Fitzgerald Toussaint missing the Bama game, and this is beating a dead horse (so to speak), someone will have to fill the void that Toussaint leaves. In most cases last season, especially during the last half of the season, he made that offense go. With unproven guys like sophomore Thomas Rawls and redshirted freshman Justice Hayes, it provides a little bit of uncertainty in the running back position. You also can’t forget about senior Vincent Smith as well. If any one of them have what it takes to step up and lead this running back position, September 1st would be the perfect time to do so.
Point Two: Denard Robinson’s chemistry with the starting center
- Denard Robinson had the luxury of standing behind four-year starter and All-American David Molk during his first three years at Michigan. The offensive line will feel the effects of losing Molk. But, that’s not entirely the issue. The chemistry with Denard Robinson will be a huge factor throughout the season. We saw the effects of what losing Molk could do to Robinson during the Sugar Bowl, as he did not start the first series of the game. Which resulted in bad snaps and timing issues. With redshirted Senior Ricky Barnum looking ready to take over the center position, his chemistry with the quarterbacks is going to be important throughout the season. With Robinson only seeing one full-time center his entire Michigan career, it’ll be interesting how he interacts with a new face snapping him the ball.
Point Three: Can Denard Robinson live up to the Heisman hype?
- This is a big year for Michigan football. The national spotlight is finally back, and they are heavy favorites to win the Big Ten this year. But, probably the most important piece of national spotlight is focused on our quarterback. Robinson has been named to many watch lists this year, none more important than being in the conversation for a potential Heisman trophy. Can he live up to the hype? The answer is simple, he’ll take this team as far as his arm and legs will take them. Mechanics will be a huge thing to watch this year, especially considering this is his last shot to prove to pro scouts that he can play quarterback at the next level. He doesn’t have the same deep threat that bailed him out many times in Junior Hemingway. So he will have to be smarter and more precise with his throws. He’s proven that he can get it done under adversity, I don’t expect this year to be much different. He is in line to break a few school records, so I expect Robinson to make Michigan history this year. If Robinson can get it done, Michigan will be very successful on offense this year. Robinson’s performance against Bama would be a HUGE leap of confidence if he has an incredible game. It’d also kickstart his Heisman campaign and put him out front early.
Point Four: Wide Receivers
- This point and the previous one kind of go hand in hand. Robinson needs someone to catch his passes, so someone needs to step up. With Senior Roy Roundtree in his final season (and donning a fresh new jersey number) and Junior Hemingway gone to the NFL, someone needs to step up and get the job done. Roundtree’s year last wasn’t a good one, with 19 receptions for 355 yards and two touchdowns, it can be considered an anomaly because he didn’t get very many looks. Since he’s their go-to guy, Roundtree’s numbers will greatly increase. The rest of the receiving corps gets a little foggy. They have depth, but this kind of depth lacks experience. Redshirted Junior Jeremy Gallon is the only guy who has experience and could be the darkhorse to have a great season. Gallon is famously known for his huge catch against Notre Dame (“THEY LEFT HIM ALL ALONE!”) to set up the game winning touchdown to Roundtree last year. Drew Dileo is another guy looking to see some balls thrown his way, he’s been a dependable guy at the wide receiver position, though he’s been relatively quiet during his career, he is looking to make some noise in 2012. Behind Gallon and Dileo, you have junior Jeremy Jackson and redshirted sophomore Jerald Robinson. Both have limited playing time but could see an increase this year. Two incoming freshman to look at to sneak in and find some playing time are Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson. Darboh is very likely to see some playing time weighing in at 6-2 218 pounds just before fall camp, his measurables equal out to be big time status. He performs well in camp, it’d be hard to redshirt a guy like him. How these receivers will be used against Bama will be interesting, considering their defense is always stingy and use aggressive corners.
Point Five: Can Mattison work magic with the defense?
- It’s no secret, Alabama is really good on both sides of the ball. Considering Bama lost a few players, notably the biggest in Trent Richardson, it’ll be interesting to see how Mattison uses his defensive looks and pressure the Bama offense. The defensive core is pretty much the same, the defensive backs have all returned with added depth to the linebackers, except for the defensive line. It’s hard to replace guys like Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen in one season, but Mattison and Hoke have seen adversity before and will not shy away from it. Senior Craig Roh has moved down to the end position and added on weight, the coaches seem to be very excited about this move and his abilities he brings to that position. The other end position gets a little messy with the indefinite suspension of Frank Clark (who is all but guaranteed to miss the Bama game). Brennen Beyer looks prepared to take the other end position, which leaves the issue of who backs up Beyer. Incoming freshman Chris Wormley, Tom Strobel, and Mario Ojemudia are looking for early playing time and could get it. I expect Ojemudia to find playing time this year as he is a highly skilled guy. Another player that absolutely needs to step up this year is senior Will Campbell. Campbell, a consensus five-star coming out of Cass Tech, has not lived up to expectations when arriving on campus. With only one year left to prove his worth, he will get plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills this season at one of the defensive tackle positions. The other tackle position left will be a difficult one to fill. The position does not have a clear leader, but guys like Richard Ash, Jibreel Black, and Quinton Washington are looking to fill that hole. Incoming freshman Ondre Pipkins has been turning heads throughout his high school career is also primed to steal playing time away from the older guys. Weighing in at 6-3 337 pounds, it is safe to say he is an absolute MONSTER at 18 years old. With all the existing talent, and some minor holes to fill, it’ll be interesting to see how Mattison handles the defense. Rest assured, the team will be prepared. Never forget, Mattison Second Half Adjustments!