2014 Michigan Wolverines Team Preview
Head Coach: Brady Hoke
2013 record: 7-6 overall, 3-5 Big Ten Leaders
2013 Bowl result: Lost to Kansas State 31-14 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
2014 Returning Starters: 7 offense, 8 defense
Odds to Win 2015 College Football Championship Game: 50/1
Odds to Win 2014 Big Ten Championship Game: 9/1
Odds to Win 2014 Big Ten East Division: 5/1
Regular Season Wins: over 7.5 -155 / under 7.5 +125
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The Michigan Wolverines started off last season 5-0 before a 43-40 loss in four overtimes at Penn State. From that point on Michigan would only win one more game for the rest of the season, a triple overtime win over Northwestern. They lost 42-41 at home to rival Ohio State after Michigan coach Brady Hoke made a gutsy call to go for two late in the game instead of kicking the extra point to send it into overtime. Michigan would then be blown out by Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
With 15 starters returning, Hoke needs a successful season or the rumblings from the Michigan faithful will grow louder for his replacement.
Last season, Michigan averaged 374 yards per game on offense including only 126 rushing yards per game. Michigan scored 32 points a game. Hoke fired offensive coordinator Al Borges and hired Doug Nussmeier from Alabama to run the offense.
Quarterback Devin Gardner returns. He completed 60.3% of his passes for 2,960 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, along with 165 carries for 483 yards with 11 touchdowns. Gardner threw for 450 yards with 4 touchdowns against Ohio State. However, Gardner would miss the bowl game with a broken foot. He wasn’t limited in the spring with the injury and will be the starter barring injury. Then freshman Shane Morris started the bowl game was wasn’t very effective. He could step in if Gardner is injured or ineffective.
Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint is now with the Baltimore Ravens. He rushed for 648 yards with 13 touchdowns, and also caught 18 passes. Sophomores Derrick Green and and De’Veon Smith will split the carries. Green had 83 carries for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns. Smith had 26 carries for 117 yards last season. Justice Hayes will get a lot carries on third down.
The Wolverines must replace leading receiver Jeremy Gallon now with the New England Patriots. Gallon had 89 catches, 1,373 yards and 9 touchdowns. Devin Funchess will become the go-to receiver after making 49 catches for 748 yards and six touchdowns. Sophomore tight end Jake Butt had 20 catches, 235 yards and 2 touchdowns as a freshman. Jehu Chesson will also get a lot of targets.
A large part of the reason Michigan struggled on offense was because the offensive line allowed 114 tackles for loss last season. They weren’t much better at run blocking either. The line must play much better this season, but must replace both tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. They do return four players who started games last season in guards Kyle Kalis and Kyle Bosch, tackle Erik Magnuson and center Graham Glasgow.
Michigan allowed 372 yards per game on defense and 27 points a game in 2013. Greg Mattison’s defense was very strong at the beginning of the season but as they began to play worse and worse the team started to go on their losing streak.
Frank Clark, Brennen Beyer, Chris Wormley, Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton are part of a deep unit on the defensive line.
The three starting linebackers also return in Jake Ryan, James Ross and Desmond Morgan. Ryan missed part of last year with an injury, and will move to middle linebacker in 2014.
Starting corners Blake Countess and Ray Taylor also return along with safety Jarrod Wilson. Freshman Jabrill Peppers is a five star recruit at cornerback and he will contribute immediately.
Senior kicker Matt Wile takes over for Brendon Gibbons. Will Hagerup was the 2012 Big Ten punter of the year, but missed all of last season with a suspension. He returns as the punter in 2014. Defensive back Dennis Norfleet will return kicks again after averaging 23.5 yards per return last year. He could also return punts, since Gallon handled those duties last year. Wide receiver Drew Dileo is also a possibility for returns.
Michigan opens with Appalachian State. The last time the Mountaineers came to Ann Arbor they pulled off a memorable upset in 2007. The Wolverines then travel to Notre Dame before hosting Miami-(OH) and Utah. In Big Ten play, Michigan hosts Minnesota, Penn State, Indiana and Maryland. The Wolverines travel to Rutgers, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Ohio State. I can’t see more than 9 wins for Michigan in such a tough division with Ohio State and Michigan State.
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