Michigan football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Wolverines, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About The Michigan Offense
The offense figured it out as the season went on, but it’s still going to need a little while before it’s able to be more explosive and more dangerous. As long as the offensive line is fine, everything should be okay.
The Wolverines started pounding away with the ground game, and while they finished 83rd in the nation, they were effective when they had to be. This year, the front five should be tremendous, especially compared to where it was just a few years ago with four starters back to blast away for a good enough group of backs to get by.
With fifth-year seniors Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh leading the way, and TE Jake Butt still around, the receivers are in place, so all that’s missing is a settled quarterback situation, but there aren’t too many worries with Wilton Speight looking the part this spring.
Biggest Key To The Michigan Offense
The running game always has to work. Michigan was able to get by Penn State and its nasty defense with just 87 rushing yards, but the other three times the offense came up with fewer than 100 yards on the ground – the three worst rushing games of the season – were the three losses.
Utah held Michigan to 76 yards, Michigan State allowed just 62, and Ohio State gave up just 57. The passing game will be good, but the Wolverines want to take control early on and keep it after finishing ninth in the nation in time of possession. That happens with a great defense along with a strong ground game.
What You Need To Know About The Michigan Defense
After helping make Boston College’s defense No. 1 in the country, defensive coordinator Don Brown is coming over to Michigan to work with a D that doesn’t need a whole bunch of help. The Wolverines finished fourth in the nation in total defense and was first in pass efficiency defense – and they could be almost as strong with a little work.
The linebacking corps loses all three starters and doesn’t have much in the way of quality, developed depth, but the coaching staff is playing around with the parts in place using star safety Jabrill Peppers this spring to go along with the other options. But this is going to be the one sticking point early on.
The line will be a rock, especially at tackle with the versatile Chris Wormley leading the way – he can play end depending on the alignment – while the secondary should be special with CB Jourdan Lewis coming back for another year and Peppers working like a safety even if he’s at linebacker.
Biggest Key To The Michigan Defense
The linebacking corps has to be terrific. Joe Bolden and Desmond Morgan were 1-2 in tackles combining for 154 stops. They’re gone, and so is James Ross, who came up with 35. It’s not panic time for the Wolverine linebackers, but it’s the one big question mark.
Give credit to the coaching staff for being creative enough to put Jabrill Peppers at linebacker and try him out on the strongside, but the other two spots have to be rocks. Ben Gedeon was the understudy behind Morgan last year, and he should be fine inside. In a perfect world, two killer outside linebackers emerge so Peppers can do something else, but get ready for a fight for spots this fall.
Michigan Will Be Far Better If …
The D can come up with more takeaways. As good as the Wolverine defense was, and as great as it was at getting into the backfield and as amazing as it was at coming up with stops against great passing games, it only came up with a grand total of two fumble recoveries and picked off ten passes.
Michigan got a fumble against Oregon State, and recovered one against Penn State. That’s it. The turnover margin didn’t matter all that much overall, but if Don Brown’s defense can start making more big plays – Boston College came up with 23 takeaways last year – Michigan might go to a whole other level.
Best Michigan Offensive Player
TE Jake Butt, Jr. – He’d have been a second round pick in this year’s NFL Draft and maybe the first tight end off the board. Now he’s a key part of the attack with wide receiver ability in the prototype next-level tight end frame. With receivers Amara Daboh and Jehu Chesson taking the pressure off, Butt won’t be double-teamed – throw the ball his way and he’ll go and get it.
Best Michigan Defensive Player
DB/LB Jabrill Peppers, Jr. – He might also be the best offensive player, too, and the best special teamer. No matter where he lines up, he’s a special talent with a next-level blend of size, speed and attitude. He’s really, really good, and he knows it.
He’s a dream NFL safety, but he’s being tried out at strongside linebacker to turn his wheels loose in space to let him rumble. The Wolverines will play a 10-1 defense – ten defenders, and whatever Peppers wants to do.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Wilton Speight, Jr. – At last count, Michigan has 147 quarterbacks in the mix for the starting gig – or at least it seems that way. The job isn’t settled yet, but Houston transfer John O’Korn didn’t blow it up this offseason and one-time super-recruit Shane Morris might get moved to another spot just to get him on the field. By the time the spring game rolled around, it was Speight who appeared ready to take over.
Jake Rudock threw a few too many picks early on, but he turned in a nice season, and that’s all Speight needs to do – be a nice quarterback. He doesn’t have to be the next Tom Brady, but he’s got the size, tools and arm – and the receiving corps to work with – to come up with a solid year.
The Michigan Season Will Be A Success If …
It ends with a Big Ten championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff. Why not start to think really, really big? Brady Hoke might have had a lot of problems, but his decent recruiting classes are maturing at just the right time, and now Jim Harbaugh should be ready to make it all work.
The Wolverines have a breezy non-conference schedule and get Penn State and Wisconsin at home. The rest of the schedule should be a problem outside of three games that’ll make-or-break the season – at Iowa, at Michigan State, and …
Nov. 26 at Ohio State – It’s been four years since Michigan last beat the Buckeyes, and it has yet to get past Urban Meyer. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Jim Harbaugh is doing wonders for the program, and he’s changing the way the college football is operating, but Michigan head coaches – no matter who they are – are judged by their record over Ohio State.
Harbaugh will get a free pass for another year, but it might be impossible to win the Big Ten North without getting out of Columbus with a win for the first time since 2000.
2015 Michigan Fun Stats
– Third Down Conversions: Michigan 86-of-186 (46%) – Opponents 50-of-181 (28%)
– Red-Zone Scores: Michigan 52-of-56 (93%) – Opponents 27-of-34 (79%)
– Second Quarter Scoring: Michigan 150 – Opponents 64
2016 Michigan Season Prediction
What’s going to happen to Michigan this season? Check out what the final record is going to be …