The 2014 Michigan Wolverines will pull back the curtains a bit tonight and open up the gates to the Big House to give fans a look at the progress they have made since camp has opened.
In 14 short days, they will open up the season at home against Appalachian State, but there are still many questions to answer before then and no shortage of storylines as we head into the season. Not that Michigan will show everything tonight, but it is still important to get some reps in, improve and clean things up and most importantly, stay healthy.
The Offensive Line
How Michigan plans up front on offense may very well be the key to the entire season. Earlier this week, Brady Hoke stated that as of now his starters would be (from left to right) freshman Mason Cole, sophomore Erik Magnusson, junior Jack Miller, junior Graham Glasgow and sophomore Ben Braden.
Sophomore Kyle Kalis still remains in the mix, but has battled a back injury during camp. When healthy, he is expected to make a strong push for time, as well. If this is the group that Michigan goes with tonight, we have to see them open up some holes in the run game and protect the quarterback.
It will be interesting to see how Cole fares at left tackle. He received some first-team reps back in spring practice, but has put on about 20 pounds since then and has had a good camp, according to Hoke. The Wolverines have been high on him throughout his recruiting process and since he arrived on campus in January.
The Running Back Battle
By all accounts, the starting running back battle in Ann Arbor is a three horse race between sophomores De’Veon Smith, Derrick Green and Drake Johnson. Smith seems to have the slight edge as of now, but all three appear to have had great camps so far. Tonight, we will get our first public look at who has the upper hand.
Of course, much of their production hinges on the offensive line. With that being said, a decisive runner that moves the chains and perhaps breaks a big run or two needs to emerge from this battle.
To be honest, if the offensive line is performing well, there is not really a wrong answer here. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is a professional who knows how to find roles for all of his players, especially in the run game. Regardless of who emerges as the lead back, all three and perhaps even USC transfer Ty Isaac, who is waiting to hear back from the NCAA about his hardship waiver, will get plenty of carries and a chance to contribute to the offense.
The true freshman sensation will take the field in shoulder pads for the first time in front of the general public, where he is expected to get a ton of reps at nickel and cornerback.
Hoke has tried to take it slow with Peppers to start camp and let him work his own way up the depth chart. It looks as if he has done that to this point and he certainly will factor into the overall picture in the secondary.
There isn’t much of an overall expectation of what we should see tonight from him, but as both a fan of the team and someone who followed him in high school, it will be very interesting to see how his skill set has translated to the college game thus far.
A Hard-Hitting, Blitzing Defense
If the Wolverines are to push for a conference championship this year, it looks like their defense will have to carry them. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison wants to go back to being a more physical defense and they absolutely have the guys to get it done.
The defense line needs to be better this year, but they will have a little more help from the back-seven, it appears. The linebackers will be blitzing more and we should see a ton of press coverage from the cornerbacks. Far too often last season, opposing offenses were able to nickel-and-dime the Michigan defense and make big plays.
Bringing the heat is a welcome addition to this defense and seeing that to some extent tonight would be ideal.
Will you be in attendance at the scrimmage tonight? Let us know what you would like to see in the comments below!