Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News breaks down Michigan’s offense ahead of the season opener on Saturday against Florida.
Position of strength
And now it’s time for the faux controversy – stirred up when Jim Harbaugh called the quarterback competition a “dead heat” heading into preseason camp – to end. Harbaugh revealed about midway through camp that Wilton Speight and John O’Korn had separated themselves, but did Speight, the starter last season, do something to lose the job? Expect Speight to start again this year. But with redshirt freshman Brandon Peters in the fold, and O’Korn feeling more confident in his game, those are added strengths to the position, despite the fact Peters has yet to play a college down. This is a position of strength for the Wolverines.
Down the center
Patrick Kugler has waited and waited for this moment. The fifth-year senior has said he didn’t want his Michigan legacy to be the guy who lost the center competition a few times and left. He’s been pushed by freshman Cesar Ruiz, but Kugler’s teammates have said he’s a guy who knows the playbook inside and out and is performing with leadership and smarts, not to mention ability. He’s a new starter to the line that will feature three new starters, but with his longevity in the program he should slide right into the role just fine.
Adding some Pep
John O’Korn said his game and confidence level have completely changed because of Pep Hamilton’s addition to the staff as pass-game coordinator. Wilton Speight said he has enjoyed working with Hamilton, who takes an all-business approach to coaching the quarterbacks. The receivers have said Hamilton is focused on making this a big-play offense with Michigan’s young but talented receivers. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has called Hamilton one of the best football coaches in the game.
Carrying the ball
This seems to be Ty Isaac’s time to shine at running back, considering it is his final season and also because he entered the spring with a renewed focus on improving and making his mark. Chris Evans had highlight moments last season as a freshman and he added some weight to become a more complete back, particularly in pass protection. Karan Higdon’s burst was noted during camp by John O’Korn. And then there’s Kareem Walker, who continues to make improvements. Bottom line, there will be more running back by committee.
Three starters are gone from last year’s offensive line and Patrick Kugler appears ready to fill in at center, allowing Mason Cole, who started his first two seasons at left tackle and last year at center, to move back outside. Sophomore Ben Bredeson finished out last season starting at left guard, so he’s back. But what about the right side? Slimmed down Michael Onwenu – and that means slimmer than 380 pounds – has impressed his teammates in camp, and the battle continues at right tackle with Jon Runyan Jr. and Juwann Bushell-Beatty. But with the addition of Greg Frey as a second offensive line coach and in influx of young talent, improved play should come faster.