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Wednesday, April 24, 2013
WolverineNation Mailbag

By Michael Rothstein

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan’s potentially early entrants have made their decisions -- Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. in the draft, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary out -- and now, the Wolverines roster for next season is starting to take shape.

Also, the most intriguing position battle on Michigan’s football team still has little definition entering the summer.

We address these issues in this week’s WolverineNation Mailbag. Send your questions for next week to @chanteljennings on Twitter or jenningsespn@gmail.com.

Now on to this week’s questions.

bradpalm1 from The Den asks Between Fitz Toussaint, Derrick Green, Dennis Norfleet, and Deveon Smith, who do you believe has the best chance of receiving the biggest load of carries.

Michigan's Fitz Toussaint
If healthy, Fitzgerald Toussaint will be the favorite to start the season opener at running back.
That’s a good question. Right now, Toussaint. Providing he’s healthy entering fall camp, he’ll get the first crack at regaining his starting job. My opinion? He does as long as he recovers well. He still has the talent that made him a 1,000-yard rusher in 2011 and this is his last chance to prove himself worthy to NFL suitors. That’s a big deal to him. Of everyone else, I’d list the order at Green, Smith and Drake Johnson, with Norfleet and Justice Hayes in a third-down back type of role. Don’t sleep on Johnson, as he has a good size/speed combination and could push for time. But until he shows he isn’t healthy or capable of returning to form, everyone is chasing Toussaint in my opinion. But Green and Smith will be given a chance to win the job, for sure. The key to all of this, of course, is whether or not the interior of the line can block people. If they can’t, this conversation doesn’t matter at all.

tcellis01 from The Den asks Assuming all the big names are still there (Jake Ryan, Devin Gardner, Blake Countess) -- what do you think Michigan's chances of making the first football playoff are?

If all of those guys return, pretty decent. The problem is Michigan’s schedule for 2014 is less than set because of the realignment shifting divisions and schedules. Of those three you mentioned, Gardner is the biggest key to any sort of run to a playoff in 2014, mostly because Michigan will have experienced backups to Ryan and Countess at that point. They will also have a lot of talent there. If Gardner chooses to leave after this season -- and it would be a possibility with a good year considering he is graduating next month -- Michigan would then roll with either Russell Bellomy, Shane Morris or freshman Wilton Speight in 2014. If one of those three could be a game-manager and Green or Smith turns into an elite rusher early, Michigan could still be okay. But much of any anticipated success starts with Gardner on offense. Of course, there’s a long way between now and then.

@A_Lew99 from Twitter asks Chances Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin start over Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert?

First, I think you’re forgetting Nik Stauskas, who is the likely opening day starter at the two next season and that he’ll start over both Irvin and LeVert at the beginning of the year. That scenario is all predicated on Michigan finally going to its long-discussed two-big offense with Mitch McGary at the four and either Jon Horford or Jordan Morgan at the five. Glenn Robinson III said last week he plans on playing the three a lot more next season and that’s probably where he starts. The point is the more interesting question and it is one where there is still some question. Derrick Walton Jr. will be the starter by the end of the season in my opinion. But Michigan might look to Albrecht early on to be a steadying influence. Either way, the duo will probably end up in a 25-15 minute share for most of the year.