With the college football season only two weeks away, teams are preparing in camp and players are working hard to refine their individual games. In order for Michigan to accomplish their goals of a Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl berth, these are the five players that should have the most impact on the team outcome:
At the strong safety position, Wilson has the daunting task of replacing the most reliable defensive player in recent Michigan history. As a backup for Jordan Kovacs last year, Wilson appeared in 10 games. He only tallied eight tackles and one fumble recovery, but didn’t seem overwhelmed as a freshman. That bodes well for this year. His tackling ability will be relied upon heavily once opposing players get past the first level.
By all reports from camp, the sophomore TE has turned himself into a mountain of a man and has improved in all facets of the game. This will be key for the Wolverines as he’ll need to stay away from the invisibility cloak he employed down the stretch last season. As you saw early in 2012, Denard Robinson found Funchess time and time again, but once Devin Gardner entered the fray, he relied more on receivers and less on The Funch. I’ve heard that Gardner worked with Funchess quite a bit in the offseason, so look for him to be a huge weapon up the seam and in the red zone.
3. Frank Clark
If you believe the offseason hype around the junior defensive end, it would sound as if Clark is the next Reggie White. If he can become one-tenth of that, it’ll be great for the Michigan defense. Clark will be needed to put pressure on opposing QBs…and a lot of it. With the loss of Jake Ryan for most of the season, Clark’s ability to get in the backfield will alleviate the need to blitz as much as DC Greg Mattison did last year. Taking pressure off the linebacking corps will be huge for Cam Gordon, Desmond Morgan and James Ross. If Clark can live up to the hype, look out opposing offenses.
2. Jack Miller
There’s no doubt the offensive line will have their work cut out for them to keep Devin Gardner healthy this year. At the center of it, literally, is the redshirt sophomore from Perrysburg, Ohio. Miller only played in six games last year – all as a backup – but played admirably spelling Elliott Mealer. At 6’4″ and 290 pounds, he will need to avoid being pushed around and may have freshmen playing along either side of him. He’ll need to be a leader with Taylor Lewan, bring the young guys along and maul for the running game.
There’s no doubt that of any position on the team, QB is the one that can least afford injuries. Behind Gardner sits true freshman Shane Morris and redshirt freshman Brian Cleary. Because neither of them are ready to take the reins, Gardner’s durability will be the overwhelming factor of Michigan’s success throughout the year. We’ve seen what Gardner can do on the field; in spurts last year, he was the best player on the field. Can he be the offensive leader along with Lewan that leads this team to a BCS bowl? His production and health will most influence Michigan’s chances for a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl berth.