Previewing Utah’s Opponents: Michigan Wolverines

Everyone knows about new coach Rich Rodriguez who came over from West Virginia and will try to implement his spread offense, but this year could and should be rough for the Wolverines.  The team should still be able to compete for a top three spot in the Big 10 or worst case maybe fourth place in the league.  Players did leave the program when Rodriguez came into town through graduation, transfering for not fitting into the sytem, and leaving early for the NFL.

Offense: Well this will be interesting with the schools all time leading passer Chad Henne, all time leading rusher Mike Hart, and losing four offesnive lineman including the number one overall pick Jake Long.  The offense will be full of new characters where most are not fully suited for the spread option.  Currently there are three options at quarterback with Nick Sheridan and Stephen Threet who transfered from Georgia Tech and has a slight lead.  Neither of these quarterbacks are not extremely mobile which is needed in this offense.   The wild card in this race is true freshman coming in with Justin Feagin is the player that Rodriguez wants while in high school ushed for 1,313 yards and 25 touchdowns and passed for 1,420 yards and 19 scores.  Rodriguez has no problems playing true freshman, because while at West Virginia he played Pat White as a true freshman.  A two quarterback system could be used at times this year to be able to play to the quarterback strengths.

At running back they are trying to replace Mike Haart who was the teams all time leading rusher.  The running back postion seems to be their best or at least their deepest.   The lead back is junior Brandon Minor who ran for 385 yards last season in relief Haart.  Then there is Junior Kevin Grady who was a standout recruit but tore his ACL in 2007 and is an interesting case because of that.

The receivers also lost their top two to the NFL and are left with inexperienced but talented players.  The best wide out that is returning Greg Mathews is a proven one who will start on the outside at the X position. Mathews started five games last year and is a big receiver which the Wolverines need.  The spread needs faster shiftier guys and Michigan hassophomore Junior Hemingway who fits that and emerged himself in that spot to start at the outside Z receiver.

The offensive line will be new as well with four new starters who in the spread need to be mobile with all the pulling the lineman will do, so that will be interesting to see how that develops.

Defense: The defense will be their strong point and will need to try to carry the team early on, and return seven starters.  In saying that they have had recent trouble in defending the spread, which is what Utah will run.

The defensive line is the teams best unit with all four starters back which include Tim Jamison and Brandon Graham had 14 sacks between them a season ago, and the two have tremendous speed.  Speaking of speed the Wolverines need that at the linebacker and also they need to replace 90 tackles.  Against the spread the linebackers need to be able to cover the field horizonatlly which as in the past caused problems.

The defensive backs will be lead by spring ball star and new staring free safety, Stevie Brown, who was making plays and gives hope to a unit that was thought to be lilmited in ability.  Senior Brandon Harrison is taking over the other safety spot after getting promoted from the nickle package.  The seconday should be solid bu if they face three and four sets that is where a team could thin out the talent Michigan has.

Early Prediction: As of this past week Michigan is giving 4.5 in Vegas for this game against Utah.  This really could go either way and I do not want to sound like a Ute homer and pick them but the Utes have a real good chance and could win.  This is a pick’em game but the edge has to be at Michigan because they are at home, but look at last year they lost to App State who runs a spread that is not as good as Utah’s.

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