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Michigan's offense: Five key points

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Drake Johnson

Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News analyzes five key points for Michigan’s offense this season.

QB conversation

A year ago at this time the water-cooler talk was similar to this year: Who’s the starting quarterback? It turned out to be graduate transfer Jake Rudock, who improved each week to lead the Wolverines to a 10-3 season. It’s an unknown again this fall. Sort of. Wilton Speight is the quarterback Michigan fans had a chance to see, though briefly, which makes him a known commodity. Sort of. John O’Korn had to sit out last season after transferring from Houston, and no one has seen him in game action (spring game doesn’t count) in over a year and a half. The coaches have said they’ve enjoyed the competition from their ringside seats. Now, who’s going to throw the first punch, er, pass?

Bredeson vs. Newsome

Nope, this isn’t a hotly-contested legal case, but it is a hotly-contested position battle at left tackle. Michigan knows four of its starters on the offensive line – the four returning starters – Erik Magnuson, Kyle Kalis, Ben Braden and Mason Cole. Cole started as a freshman at left tackle in 2014 and has moved to center to fill the vacancy left by Graham Glasgow. Grant Newsome, a sophomore, was expected to slide into left tackle, but freshman Ben Bredeson has pushed him in preseason camp. Either way, Michigan will have a young left tackle, and the coaches have said they will not hold back starting any player, regardless of age.

Jake Butt

Big Butt

This should be a big season for senior Jake Butt, the first in the spring to say Michigan could be in the national championship conversation this season. Butt has never struggled with confidence and he enters this season feeling good about his decision to remain at Michigan and not make the jump to the NFL. Personally, he wants to set school tight end records, and this is the type of offense that could allow him to do that. But in the bigger picture, Butt wants the program’s first Big Ten title since 2004. Tight end could play a large role in how this offense unfolds, and that’s not all on Butt. Ian Bunting is immensely talented and the No. 2 tight end, and Tyrone Wheatley Jr. is not only gigantic, but he’s displayed great hands.

Catching fancy

Lest people think the tight ends are the only threat in the pass game, remember Michigan has a full tank of talented receivers, including Jehu Chesson, the team’s MVP last season. Chesson is full-go after a knee injury suffered in the bowl game. Jim Harbaugh said this summer that Amara Darboh was the team’s best receiver coming out of the spring, and that might be because Chesson was sidelined with the knee injury, but big things are expected for Darboh this fall. Chesson and Darboh are a strong one-two punch, but Moe Ways, Grant Perry and Drake Harris will have big supporting roles.

Michigan’s defense: Five key points

Run game boost

De’Veon Smith will be the main piece of the puzzle in the run game, and his hard-running performance in the bowl game is his springboard into this fall. Smith wants to carry the ball a lot this fall and believes he can be THE back, but Ty Isaac and Drake Johnson will get carries. Isaac stepped back last season and reassessed his career and re-committed himself to the game. Johnson, who has endured two ACL injuries during his career, and a crazy incident in April when he was run over by a forklift while stretching in the track building, offers a changeup, a gracefulness as a back that has proven to be very effective.