Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner throws during the spring game in April. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Ann Arbor — Coming off a disappointing 7-6 season, just 3-5 in the Big Ten, Michigan coach Brady Hoke saw the need for an improved offensive attack and went out and got a new coordinator and quarterbacks coach in Doug Nussmeier, who served in the same capacity the last two seasons at Alabama.
The Wolverines scored points but are expecting better this season.
Here’s a look at the five key players who could make a difference this season.
Devin Gardner, QB
Gardner said he has learned plenty from his first year as a starting quarterback last season. Now, entering his final year, he has a new coordinator and quarterback coach in Nussmeier and a renewed outlook.
Freddy Canteen, WR
This isn’t a freshman-to-watch list, but Canteen, an early-enrollee freshman, will be a player to keep an eye on this fall. He’s fast, he’s got spring practice under his belt, and he is confident he will be a major contributor immediately as a receiver.
Kyle Kalis, OL
Kalis started eight games at right guard last season as a redshirt freshman. The offensive line remains a question mark heading into this fall, just as it did last year, but Kalis got significant playing time and experience to build upon this year. He should be a leader on the line.
Devin Funchess, TE
Expect to see plenty of Devin-to-Devin plays developing, as Gardner undoubtedly will find Funchess, the Big Ten tight end of the year last year, as his go-to receiver. If he eliminates drops, or at the very least limits them, he could have a big statistical year.
De'Veon Smith/Derrick Green, RB
You’re probably not going to see more of one than the other. They’ve talked about being a one-two punch, and the coaches have made clear they will use multiple backs if that’s successful. Smith emerged from the spring with a slight edge at running back because he’s stronger in pass protection.