The Michigan Wolverines‘ offense will need to take a huge step forward this season after a disappointing 2013 showing across the board. There were a variety of reasons for their issues last year, but changes have been made and players have another year of experience under their belt.
The defense has the ability to carry this team, but the offense will have to do its fair share and put points up on the board. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier should be able to help in that regard big time and will put his players in a position to succeed. Follow me through the jump, where I’ll give my picks for Michigan’s five offensive breakout players in 2014.
Kyle Kalis, Guard
This is a big year for Kalis, and really for the whole offensive line. Last year was a disaster, but I think Kalis has the ability to be one of the best guards in the conference, if not all of college football. Kalis began the year in the starting five along the offensive line, but was then hampered by injury and inconsistency. It’s tough for a young offensive lineman to develop in any scenario, let alone dealing with road blocks. He will adjust and should be a mainstay in the trenches for the Wolverines for the rest of his career there, and it begins this season.
Dennis Norfleet, Wide Receiver
Norfleet is a very intriguing player to me this season. He should be a big factor on special teams in the return game, but he has the ability to grab some solid playing time on offense this year.
He started his career as a running back, but made the switch over to wide receiver last season. He did not make much of an impact last year, grabbing only six catches and four rushing attempts in 2013, but Norfleet has the athleticism to be a nice weapon for the Wolverines if put in the right position to succeed. He will get some time playing in the slot and could be a very versatile weapon for the Michigan offense. Norfleet certainly could be an X-factor.
De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green, Running Backs
It may be sort of a cop-out to lump these two together, but this can be one of the bigger strengths of Team 135. They have two of the most talented backs in the country, perhaps even three if Ty Isaac‘s hardship waiver goes through. Regardless, these two are poised for big years.
Smith has been named the number-one running back to start camp, while Green is showing up to camp in far better shape than last season. In limited action last season, Smith just looked like the more decisive runner and was lighter on his feet.
Green showed up to camp overweight last year and struggled to find himself much playing time, but he is back down to around 220 pounds and has dropped his body fat percentage from 27 percent down to nine. He is cut and ready to go. Assuming the offensive line pulls it together, the running game will get a huge boost this year. Michigan’s offense is ready to breakout.
Devin Gardner, Quarterback
It’s tough to call this pick a breakout one, but 2014 should bring smarter, more consistent play from the quarterback position. Regardless of what many have said, there really is not a quarterback competition at Michigan. Gardner played well in the latter part of the 2013 season, as he cut down his mistakes and was one of the better quarterbacks in Big Ten play.
Keeping Gardner upright will be a big key this year, but Nussmeier should be able to figure that part out and put him in a position to be very good. I could live with a stat line such as 3,000 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, and 10-12 interceptions. He isn’t the purest passer, so there will still be occasional hiccups, but he has the talent to get the job done.
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