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Thursday, May 23, 2013
The Michigan Ten: Summer edition

By Michael Rothstein

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Spring football is over. Summer is here. So who are the most important players to Michigan right now?

As the Wolverines prepare for the 2013 season, WolverineNation presents a special offseason edition of the Michigan Ten (previous ranking in parentheses).

1. QB Devin Gardner (2): Michigan’s starting quarterback, the redshirt junior has the potential for a breakout season this fall. He has adjusted well to the pro-style offense preferred by offensive coordinator Al Borges and has settled in as a leader. If Michigan is to have any success this season, it will need Gardner to both play well and stay healthy as his backup option is either a walk-on or freshman Shane Morris.

2. LT Taylor Lewan (1): If Gardner is the most important player on the roster, Lewan is right behind him. The anchor of the Michigan offensive line surprisingly returned for his senior season with the Wolverines and is one of the top offensive linemen in the country. He’s going to be a preseason favorite for the Outland Trophy and will be the critical factor in protecting Gardner’s blind side.

Desmond Morgan
Desmond Morgan will play a more integral role in the defense as he moves to middle linebacker.
3. LB Desmond Morgan (NR): Morgan is shifting to middle linebacker from the weak side and while he feels more comfortable in the middle of it all, it is still an adjustment. Morgan is now more responsible for the entirety of the Michigan defense in terms of making checks and adjustments.

4. WR Jeremy Gallon (5): When Gardner replaced Denard Robinson, Gallon’s productivity skyrocketed. He has been Gardner’s favorite receiver and longtime throwing partner even when neither one was playing. They would work out together, on their own, for hours. Now, Gallon is Michigan’s most experienced and talented receiver.

5. S Thomas Gordon (8): While Morgan will be the man dealing with all the checks on the defense, Gordon is the playmaker, even more so with linebacker Jake Ryan sidelined. Gordon has made 171 tackles in his career, forced three fumbles, recovered four fumbles and intercepted three passes. Now, though, he is the critical piece of the secondary with Jordan Kovacs’ departure.

6. TE Devin Funchess (NR): The sophomore had a decent season as a freshman, but the transition to the full-time pro style can only aid the tight end. He had 15 receptions in his rookie season -- including no more than one catch in any Big Ten game -- but he could have a huge sophomore season. Other than Gallon, he is the most well-known quantity among Michigan’s receivers.

7. DE Frank Clark (NR): He showed flashes over the first two seasons, first as a backup to Craig Roh his freshman year and then in a rotation with Brennen Beyer and Mario Ojemudia last season. This year, he’ll still be in a rotation with Ojemudia and perhaps freshman Taco Charlton, but he’ll be expected to play more often and become more of a playmaker this fall. A good pass rusher, he still needs to improve against the run.

8. RT Michael Schofield (NR): While Lewan receives all the attention and accolades, Schofield will, somewhat quietly, start this third year on the offensive line this fall. As a bookend tackle opposite Lewan, he could end up being an NFL draft pick on his own by the end of the season. While Lewan blocks Gardner’s blind side, it’ll be Schofield’s job to really handle any major run blocks on the edge.

9. DT Quinton Washington (6): Washington emerged last season as Michigan’s most consistent and reliable defensive lineman. Now entering his final season with the Wolverines, he’ll be an anchor on the line with inexperienced players both backing him up and surrounding him on the line. If the Wolverines are going to get any pressure from the front four, they will need Washington to have a good season.

10. LB James Ross III (NR): Ross was probably the star of the spring on Michigan’s defense, likely solidifying his spot as the weakside linebacker. After showing good instincts and speed his freshman season, he appeared to add more muscle to his frame -- while not losing any of the speed or instincts -- entering his sophomore year. He could be a future star.