Last year I picked the right guy (Denard Robinson) but fell short on the yardage. Now that it looks like Fitzgerald Toussaint will miss some time due to legal issues, it’s even more likely that Robinson leads the team in rushing for the third straight season. Hopefully he can stay healthy and make this come true.
Denard Robinson, 1200 yards
Starting flanker Roy Roundtree looks like he’s being groomed to be this year’s #1 target, now that he’s been moved to the multiple receiver side and wearing the #21 jersey. The coaches want him to be The Guy, and he’s been successful before. He doesn’t have the same ability to catch balls in traffic as last year’s leading receiver Junior Hemingway, but he does have some smoothness and shiftiness to him.
Prediction: Roy Roundtree, 750 yards
Starting middle linebacker Kenny Demens returns to the same role this season. He doesn’t have the same talent in front of him to keep him clean, but the mass of Quinton Washington and William Campbell, along with the steady play of Craig Roh, should help Demens maintain some level of consistency.
Prediction: Kenny Demens, 90 tackles
The pass rush is not this team’s specialty. Especially if weakside end Frank Clark can’t play much because of legal issues, the athleticism just isn’t there for the full-time players. The best pass rusher on the unit is SAM linebacker Jake Ryan, but he might be overmatched if he has to play too much weakside end. Ryan is better as a guy who moves around from the edge to an inside blitz, back to the edge, etc.
Prediction: Jake Ryan, 5.5 sacks
I picked J.T. Floyd for this spot in 2010, but he got hurt halfway through the year. Then I picked Jordan Kovacs last season, and he ended up with just 1 pick. The best cover guy on the squad is Blake Countess, in my opinion, but Countess had 0 picks last year, though he had 1 in the spring game. So I’m going to combine my last two choices.
Prediction: J.T. Floyd and Jordan Kovacs, 2 interceptions each
All-Big Ten First Team
Prediction: Taylor Lewan, Denard Robinson
Leading Scorer (non-QB, non-kicker)
Prediction: Fitzgerald Toussaint
Breakout Offensive Player
A lot of starters return again in 2012, and last year’s choice (Jeremy Gallon) already kind of broke out. Lots of exiting Michigan players have mentioned Jerald Robinson as a guy to watch, but I have yet to see it. I’ll go with Thomas Rawls, who at the very least should be able to run over some mediocre competition through the first half of the year (except Alabama) and pile up some decent numbers.
Prediction: Thomas Rawls
Breakout Defensive Player
This is a tough choice, because the back seven guys all return, the defensive line is expected to be mediocre, and perhaps my #1 choice during the offseason (Frank Clark) is in legal trouble and might miss too much time to be a smart choice here. I guess I’ll go with Thomas Gordon, who showed flashes of playmaking ability last year. I expect him to be even better in pass coverage this year and help support the run quite a bit, so this should be a big year for him.
Prediction: Thomas Gordon
Most Disappointing Offensive Player
Lots of outgoing players have chosen Jerald Robinson as a breakout player, and we haven’t even seen a glimpse of it in a spring game. Before Roy Roundtree’s 2010 breakout season, he had a good end to the 2009 campaign and an awesome spring game. Before Jeremy Gallon’s 2011 breakout season, he had some nice plays during his 2010 redshirt freshman season. Robinson must do a lot in practice, but it never translates to anything more than that. He won’t disappoint me because I’m not expecting a ton, but I do think he’ll disappoint some of those guys who think he’ll be a stud.
Prediction: Jerald Robinson
Most Disappointing Defensive Player
The only way anyone in the back seven disappoints is if they regress. It’s already a rather solid group, perhaps without a superstar but pretty good nonetheless. I think defensive tackle/end Jibreel Black is going to struggle. He’s too small to play 3-tech and too big/stiff to be a quality weakside end. He might be okay against the run as a weakside end, but Michigan probably won’t get much of a pass rush out of him.
Prediction: Jibreel Black
The Big Finish
Sept. 1 vs. Alabama: LOSS. Michigan is probably going to struggle, especially running the ball. Alabama has a very good offensive line and stops the run well. That leaves the game in Denard Robinson’s hands, and he can’t pass Michigan to a win.
Sept. 8 vs. Air Force: WIN. Air Force is going to struggle this season, and Michigan will be angry coming off the loss to Alabama.
Sept. 15 vs. Massachusetts: WIN. UMass is in its first season in the FBS, and Michigan should handle them pretty well. And it won’t be a close final score like it was a couple years ago.
Sept. 22 at Notre Dame: WIN. This is basically a toss-up because Notre Dame is going to be on the upswing this year, I think. The Fighting Irish will be better, but Denard Robinson shouldn’t be making the same mistakes he did in last year’s game.
Oct. 6 at Purdue: WIN. Purdue probably won’t be very good this year.
Oct. 13 vs. Illinois: WIN. Illinois doesn’t have the offensive firepower to beat Michigan. They always seem to have a couple good defensive players, but they’re probably going to get overpowered on offense.
Oct. 20 vs. Michigan State: LOSS. Michigan State’s defense scares me a little bit, and Michigan hasn’t shown over the past few years that they can handle the pressure up the middle.
Oct. 27 at Nebraska: WIN. This was a blowout in Ann Arbor last season, and Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead had a bit of a rough day. Michigan’s defensive line manhandled Nebraska’s offensive line, so it won’t be a blowout, just a fairly close victory.
Nov. 3 at Minnesota: WIN. Minnesota is bad.
Nov. 10 vs. Northwestern: WIN. Offensively, Northwestern will give Michigan some trouble like they always do. But eventually Michigan will figure it out, and the Wildcats won’t be able to hold up on defense.
Nov. 17 vs. Iowa: WIN. Iowa lost quite a bit last year, and I think this might be a year when Kirk Ferentz and his revamped coaching staff can’t hold it all together.
Nov. 24 at Ohio State: LOSS. The Buckeyes are going to be good at the whole defense thing, but I expect them to take a year before Urban Meyer’s offense really takes shape. However, the game is at the Horseshoe, so Michigan will be a little off their game.
Final record: 9-3