By Adam Biggers/@AdamBiggers81
The season is upon us–just 11 days! So to celebrate, I contacted Ace Anbender of MGoBlog and Matt Pargoff of Maize and Blue News to participate in a Wolverines roundtable discussion, something that I enjoyed doing while writing for Maize ‘n Brew (thanks for the idea, Zach!)
So instead of writing a bunch of words, I’m going to get straight to the point. I asked Ace and Matt the following questions, and they replied.
But in order to round out this roundtable, I’ll go ahead and give you some of my thoughts to start: You already know what I think about Jabrill (he’s going to be OK), Mason Cole and the O-line. Also, I’m going with 9-3 on the year, with a win over Notre Dame, but losses to Michigan State and Ohio State. I outline game-by-game predictions with my latest on Bleacher Report.
Here’s Ace of MGoBlog:
Player with most upside?
It’s gotta be Jabrill Peppers, right? The coaches are essentially saying he’ll start at corner—a loaded position group for Michigan—as a true freshman, and we all saw what he could do in high school.
If that answer is too obvious, I’ll go with Maurice Hurst Jr., who looked great in the open scrimmage. Defensive tackles with that kind of burst off the snap are a rarity; he should be a key rotation piece this year and he looks to have a bright future ahead of him.
Will Mason Cole hold onto top spot?
I go back and forth on this, since I’m not sure how the Kalis injury would affect the starting five, but after seeing Cole hold up in pass protection better than Ben Braden did in the scrimmage I’d have to say he does; he looks like one of the team’s two best tackles right now, regardless of age.
Jabrill hype is ___________
Unsung hero or heroes?
Amara Darboh’s ability to be an Avant-like possession receiver across from Funchess should provide a major safety blanket for Devin Gardner, and that could really open things up for the other weapons in the passing game. On the other side, Jarrod Wilson turned in a really solid performance last season that largely went unnoticed, and his knack for keeping plays in front of him will be even more important this year with the corners playing more aggressive man coverage.
There’s so much competition in the back seven on defense—with solid, proven Big Ten players potentially losing their starting spots—that it’s hard to imagine Michigan doesn’t have a much-improved pass defense (and defense in general) this season, and it’s not like they were bad in that regard last year. They could really push through into elite territory.
The obvious weakness is the running game, unfortunately. The good news is I think this time around the coaches will be more inclined to allow the offensive line to work through their issues and hopefully get the type of in-season improvement MSU did in 2013.
With everything happening in South Bend and Columbus right now, expectations might be going up, but for now I’ll stick with 9-3. I think U-M wins at least one of the three rivalry games, and I also think the offensive line costs them a game they shouldn’t lose.
Great analysis from Ace. If you haven’t already, check out his work MGoBlog.
Now it’s on to Matt of Maize and Blue News:
Usually the hype for a five-star prospect fizzles a bit once you get to see them play against actual college competition, but not so with Peppers. He’s still going to have flaws that will be revealed during the season. He is a true freshman, so there is still a lot to learn. But based on his quick rise up a stacked depth chart at corner and his play in the scrimmage on Saturday evening, he stands a strong shot at being the Wolverines’ best true freshman performer since Mike Hart and Chad Henne in 2004.
Will Mason Cole hang onto the top spot?
As of right now, it certainly looks like Cole will be the starter at left tackle when the season begins. He’s been the player consistently mentioned as manning that position with the top unit throughout fall camp, so if he loses the top spot, it will be a last minute development. The big key will be that the Wolverines make that decision soon, then fully commit to the choice they made, rather than tinkering with the starting lineup each week like last year. That only created more problems. So if Cole does win the job in fall camp, he should be allowed to make mistakes and develop without fear of being immediately unseated.
A lot of people are sort of taking for granted that Matt Wile will be solid in his place kicking duties this fall despite the fact that he has never been the go-to guy for that role at Michigan. With the offense looking a little shaky going into the season, he could be called on to finish a lot of drives. He missed two of his five kicks last season, but both failed efforts were from beyond 50 yards. As long as he can be consistent in close, he will be a huge asset to the team.
If the defense plays fully up to its potential each week without major inconsistencies, and the offensive line makes steady improvement as the season goes on, then Michigan could still end up with a very good record. Those first seven games aren’t exactly loaded with the toughest competition. But will the offensive line develop as the season progresses? Will the defense be negatively affected by practicing against an offense that doesn’t challenge it? I’ll go with 8-4 in the regular season.
Again, another solid critique from the editor/owner/CEO of Maize and Blue News.
Thanks to Matt and Ace for participating.
Readers: Feel free to reply to these questions in the comments section. Follow me on Twitter @AdamBiggers81 and follow my podcast @SITMBigAndKid.