Big Ten

2010 NCAA Football Preview: Michigan Wolverines

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Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 5-7, 1-7
Bowl Game: None
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): NR, NR
Conference finish: 10th Big Ten Conference
Offensive rank: 59
Defensive rank: 82

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Brandon Minor, 502 yards, 8 TD; Carlos Brown, 480 yards, 4 TD
Passing: Tate Forcier, 2,050 yards, 13 TD, 10 INT
Receiving: Roy Roundtree, 434 yards, 3 TD; Greg Mathews, 352 yards, 1 TD
Tackles: Stevie Brown, 80 total tackles; Jordan Kovacs, 75 total tackles
Sacks: Brandon Graham, 10.5 sacks (10 solo, 1 assisted)
Interceptions: Donovan Warren, 4 interceptions (1 touchdown)

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2010 Season Outlook

Schedule
(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 4 vs. Connecticut: The matchup the following week will get more national attention, but the opening contest against the Huskies will give us a pretty good idea of where the Wolverines stand. UConn is not expected to be a consistent top 25 team this season. Sure, they could peek their head in towards the bottom at some point, but overall the Huskies are thought to be in the middle of the pack team, but with enough talent to make a little noise in the Big East. Michigan needs this home game to kick off the season right, or at least to avoid a discouraging home loss.

September 11 @ Notre Dame: Last year's matchup was a thriller with Tate Forcier tossing the winning touchdown pass with just 11 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Against a similarly rebuilding Irish team, the Wolverines will look to build confidence early on national television.

October 9 vs. Michigan State: The Spartans will field a good offense and their linebackers corps is among the best in the Big Ten, but their secondary is suspect. If Forcier/Robinson, or whoever's under center by the time this one rolls around, can take advantage, they'll be in good shape. Michigan State is a team that could make a push in the conference this season, so a win here could be a boost in the conference standings for the Wolverines.

November 27 @ Ohio State: One of the biggest, most storied rivalries in all of college football. Need I say more? I will anyway. Few are giving Michigan much of a chance going up against what could be an Ohio State team a win away from competing for the national title. Michigan hasn't beaten Ohio State since 2003 when the Wolverines were ranked fourth and the Buckeyes were ranked sixth. With Ohio State possibly holding national championship aspirations, or at least Rose Bowl hopes, going into this one, it's hard to see Michigan squeaking out a win.

AP: N/A

Coaches': Not Ranked

Key Losses

Carlos Brown, RB; Brandon Minor, RB; David Moosman, G/C; Brandon Graham, DE; Stevie Brown, LB/S; Donovan Warren, CB; Zoltan Mesko, P

Key Returning Players

Tate Forcier, QB; Denard Robinson, QB; Roy Roundtree, WR; Stephen Schilling, G; David Molk, C; Craig Roh, DE/LB; Mike Martin, NT; Troy Woolfork, CB

Offensive Overview

The quarterback battle rages on with Tate Forcier, last year's starter, receiving some not-so-flattering reviews from teammates in response to his lack of attendance at voluntary workouts. Denard Robinson, on the other hand, received some glowing reviews from Steve Schilling, a senior guard. "He makes you want to play for him," Schilling said according to The Michigan Daily, "and he has those qualities to be a special leader and a special quarterback." Senior cornerback confirmed Robinson's commitment, adding that Forcier has tried "to come out, but he's not as consistent as Denard is. And that's allowed Denard to jump a little bit ahead of Tate and I think that Tate's going to have to do a lot of work to catch back up to Denard in camp this year."

Coach Rich Rodriguez declares the two to be neck-and-neck in the battle, but if you're the kind to read into the buzz around the practice field, it seems like Robinson has the edge. Forcier boasts experience and an intangible quality that helped the Wolverines to a 4-0 record off a couple of close wins, including the Notre Dame victory. Unfortunately, the honeymoon took a turn shortly thereafter, as the Wolverines would win only one of their remaining eight games. Robinson is a speedster behind center and whether or not he wins the starting job, expect to see him on the field. Whoever ends up the starter will not be guaranteed the job all season long, and the debate will probably rage on until the end of the year. Whoever shows they are the more consistent option will land this job.

The offensive line returns a couple of talented players on the interior in guard Stephen Schilling and center David Molk, who has battled injuries. Perry Dorestein will get the nod at right tackle after starting eight games at the position last season. Patrick Omemeh should get the nod at right guard coming off three starts last season, with redshirt freshman Taylor Lewan expected to start at left tackle. Rocky Khoury could see time at left tackle and center.

The Wolverines lose their two leading rushers from a year ago, but a slew of promising backs will work their way into the rotation this season. Michael Shaw, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Kelvin Grady and Michael Cox should all see action to some degree. Roy Roundtree enters the season one of this offense's top targets in the passing game. Wide receivers Darryl Stonum, Junior Hemingway and Martavious Odoms will also be big parts of the passing game with Kevin Koger the starting tight end.

Defensive Overview

Ryan Van Bergen enters the season as an end in the Wolverines' 3-3-5 alignment. A tackle last season, he's expected to fill the role of a 3-4 end nicely with Greg Banks, another tackle-to-end convert, starting opposite him. Anthony LaLota will figure to be a big part of the rotation as well. In the middle are a couple of very talented nose tackles in Mike Martin and William Campbell, each of whom will see considerable time in the rotation.

Sophomore Craig Roh will play as a hybrid end/linebacker in the new alignment. Expected to be the primary pass rusher on this defense upon the departure of Brandon Graham to the NFL, Roh is fast, strong and was talented enough to be named a Freshman All-American last season. Obi Ezeh, who last season did not live up to expectations coming off a fantastic freshman campaign, will get the nod in the middle with Jonas Mouton, who has started the previous two seasons, also in the starting lineup.

The new five-man secondary will feature Troy Woolfork, who has the potential to emerge as a top cornerback prospect. He has not shown that potential as a premier cover corner on the field, however, and will have one more shot before his Michigan career is over. Replacing Donovan Warren, who led the team in interceptions with four in 2009, is J.T. Floyd. Cameron Gordon could be the linebacker/safety hybrid in this bunch coming off a strong spring, but for now that role will likely go to Thomas Gordon with Cameron being used at strong safety. At free safety, Jordan Kovacs will get the start after a nice freshman campaign in which he finished second on the team with 75 tackles.

Special Teams Overview

Replacing punter Zoltan Mesko, who averaged 44.5 yards per punt as a senior last year and was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award as well as being named a second team All-American, will not be easy. Will Hagerup and Seth Broekhuizen will compete for the duties. Brendan Gibbons is thought to be the leader to take over place kicking duties, although he could find himself pushed by either Broekhuizen, Hagerup or Justin Meram. Darryl Stonum will be used as the primary kick returner once again with Jeremy Gallon the punt returner.

Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez

Many agree that 2011 will be a good year for the Wolverines, who by that time will hopefully have their quarterback situation completely settled, return experience at the skill positions and should be solid on defense. Whether Rich Rodriguez is around to reap the benefits of the building he's done for the Wolverines is a topic of disagreement among the Michigan faithful. After coming to Ann Arbor following a successful run at West Virginia, the transition has not been a smooth one. Losing, combined with NCAA investigations, tends to have that effect.

Will a .500 season cut it for RichRod? What about a game or two above .500? In all likelihood, a 7-5 season to the Michigan faithful will feel a lot like kissing their collective sister, and calls for RichRod's head will only get louder. There's no question that he needs to take his team to a bowl game, and probably win it, to keep his job. Whatever happens, prepare for the Rich Rodriguez coaching drama to be a hot topic in the silly season of college football.

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Martell Webb, TE; Stephen Schilling, G; Jonas Mouton, LB; Obi Ezeh, LB; Troy Woolfork, CB

Season Prediction

6th Big Ten Conference

The biggest battle to watch is obviously that for the starting quarterback spot. We may not know the starter until just before the season, but whoever it is will be looked to for consistency, something the Wolverines lacked at the position on several occasions in the second half of the season last year. Once they get it sorted out, they'll be ready to move forward with some talent at the skill positions and a solid offensive line. On defense, the Wolverines need a playmaker to emerge, especially in the secondary and pass rush. The 3-3-5 alignment allows the defense to take advantage of depth in the secondary, as well as their versatile athletes who can step up as linebacker/safety hybrids and end/linebacker hybrids.

The Wolverines have a realistic shot at starting 6-0 if they can get by Connecticut in the opener and then Notre Dame the following week and Michigan State on October 9. Then comes Iowa at home and Penn State away before closing with Wisconsin (home) and Ohio State (away). At first glance, the Wolverines could again find themselves in another late season slide that could ultimately cost Rich Rodriguez his job. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

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