Every Thursday, your WolverineNation writers will discuss three pressing issues in Michigan sports. This week, Mike, Tom and Chantel look at changes in the Michigan football team, Trey Burke’s growth as a point guard, and recruits with NFL potential.
1. Which part of Michigan's game will look the most different this year, as opposed to last?
Michael Rothstein: Personnel-wise, it is the defensive line and that isn't close considering there are three new starters and four players at new positions. In scheme, though, it'll be how Michigan moves the ball on offense. Although much has been made of Michigan looking for wide receivers, it wouldn't be shocking to see Michigan move the ball with shorter throws to get guys such as Jeremy Gallon open in space.
Tom Van Haaren: I'm not sure that any area will have a huge overhaul from last season to this season, but I guess I would say defensive line play. Losing Mike Martin in the middle and switching positions with Jibreel Black, Craig Roh and Frank Clark will give the defensive line a new look. I know a lot of people are concerned with that area, but I have a feeling the D-line won't be as much of a problem as some fans seem to think.
Chantel Jennings: I think Michigan's run game is going to look a lot stronger than it did last year. With a year of learning with Al Borges, Denard Robinson should be able to make better decisions, such as when to run, not run, throw, not throw (there were a few issues with that last season). With this ability, Robinson should be able to break out for some pretty significant gains. With Robinson’s growth in his run game, this will also open things up for Fitzgerald Toussaint, who has worked on his vision over the past year, meaning he, too, should be able to be efficient with the ball and possibly burn a few teams while he's at it.
2. Trey Burke had many impressive games for the Wolverines this year. What's the one part of his game that needs to improve the most if Michigan wants to make it deep into March?
MR: There are a lot of areas. He needs to work on being able to anticipate the hedge in the ball screen better -- although in the scheme of the offense last season, that wasn't his fault. Michigan's offense became predictable by the end of the season, and Purdue, Ohio State and Ohio picked up on that. His defense is critical. With Stuart Douglass gone, Burke is likely going to have to pick up the opponent's best offensive weapon now. He needs to be able to handle that and not have it tire him out for what he's going to need to do on offense.
TV: He needs to step up as a leader. With Zack Novak and Douglass out of the picture, someone needs to run that team and the obvious answer is Burke. He already leads by example, but on the floor the Wolverines will need Burke to be the vocal leader. Every team that makes it far into the NCAA tournament has its go-to leader, and it's only a good thing if that leader is also the best player on the floor. Burke can (and should) be that.
CJ: I think he just needs to work on some in-game decisions, which comes with maturity. There were a few times in late-game situations when he went for the hero shot rather than the smart play. With four seconds left at Northwestern he jacked up a 3 for the win. He missed and the game went into overtime (where Michigan won), but the Wolverines would've been in the bonus if Burke had driven the lane and drawn contact and a foul. Then, there was the Arkansas game, where again, Burke launched a 3 for the win. The problem is, he could've (and should've) driven, but instead, he used the high-ball screen to take a long-range 3. Overall, he was a good decision-maker this year. Next year, with practice, I think he'll be a great decision maker.
3. Which commit in Michigan's 2012 and 2013 classes has the most NFL potential?
MR: I think there are a lot with potential. I'd say the one with the most NFL potential is Shane Morris. It is tough to predict with linemen whether they'll be NFL players as their development is so critical there as well as how their size and strength handle the college game. Skill position players are a little bit easier to predict -- for instance, when I watched Michael Floyd play basketball in high school, I knew he'd be an NFL player and it was a no-brainer. That said, Morris has the early tools, a good quarterbacks coach in Al Borges and has the type of game NFL teams like. So I'm going with Morris, although guys such as Joe Bolden, Jarrod Wilson and Erik Magnuson have potential as well.
TV: That's a tough question, and it's hard to answer so early on. These are still kids, so they're still growing and developing. The linebackers, defensive and offensive linemen all have good size, but based on talk I would probably say Kyle Kalis. At this point there's no way to predict this, but after talking to former NFL offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley, who trains Kalis, that would be my answer. Bentley told me he sees Kalis as the guard version of Jake Long, which is a pretty big compliment.
CJ: I’m going with linebacker Joe Bolden on this one. At the Under Armour All-America game he had to stop hitting during practices because he was hitting too hard. The kid is incredibly athletic and gifted with good size and speed. With him enrolling early and putting in time at Michigan, I think he’ll develop well and be a guy several pro teams are after.