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Thursday, November 8, 2012
WolverineNation roundtable

By WolverineNation staff

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Questions at quarterback, issues along the offensive line, and what, exactly, will Michigan do at receiver next season if Devin Gardner moves back to quarterback as anticipated?

Jerald Robinson
When the shuffle starts for 2013, Jerald Robinson could be a key for U-M at receiver.
These questions are tackled here this week, in WolverineNation's weekly roundtable.

1. Michigan has had some major issues with its offensive line this season. What would be your strategy to fix it?

Michael Rothstein: This late in the season Michigan kind of has to go with who has gotten it there, mostly because of the options behind those players. Maybe -- maybe -- they could make a change at center to Jack Miller and then decide who is better between Elliott Mealer and Ricky Barnum at left guard, but there’s no guarantee Miller is going to react better in a pinch to a position often referred to as the quarterback of the offensive line. If anything, the strategy becomes shifting your runs more toward the outside and getting on the edge, which is where Michigan has had success anyway this season.

Tom VanHaaren: Offensive line isn't a group that you want to rotate players in and out of on a regular basis. This is potentially a backup goalie scenario in hockey where the fans want to replace the starter with the backup. Depth is a big issue for Michigan along the line and there might not be a better option at this point than sticking with what you have.

Chantel Jennings: At this point in the season I'm not sure it's smart to do too much. The offensive line is about chemistry and, though there have been breakdowns, I don't think it's necessarily smart to throw someone who has never played with that group into the starting lineup.

2. If Gardner heads to quarterback next season, Michigan could have a receiver issue. Who becomes the Wolverines' go-to guy next year?

Rothstein: While Jeremy Gallon is the obvious answer, I’m going back to what players told me before this past season, which is Jerald Robinson. He has been buried some on the depth chart this season, but the talent level is there. I think Michigan looks to him, at least during the spring, to see what it might have.

VanHaaren: Gallon is going to need to step up and be a reliable target next season, but I also think Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson need to show something. The depth isn't great at receiver -- if those two pan out then it's a big deal for Michigan's future at the position.

Jennings: Drew Dileo and Gallon will both be back and I think we'll see even more from Devin Funchess at tight end. But as far as a big target down the field (a Gardner or Roy Roundtree spot), I think we could see Darboh or Chesson. Chesson won multiple state titles in hurdles and sprints in Missouri in high school. I'd like to see a matchup between the 6-foot-3 Chesson and some of the DBs in the Big Ten.

3. Does Gardner's play Saturday against Minnesota mean a shorter hook for Denard Robinson once he returns from injury? Or does it matter?

Rothstein: Will Robinson start if healthy? Yes. But if he really struggles, akin to what happened against Notre Dame, I think you’d see Gardner come in versus sticking with Robinson, who is clearly off. That said, this is still Robinson’s team for a month, so you stay with him.

VanHaaren: No. Brady Hoke himself said there won't be a competition when Robinson is fully healthy, and I don't think Hoke would make a change like that this late in the season. Gardner played well but it was against Minnesota, and Robinson has earned the right not to fear for his job if he has a bad performance at this stage in his career.

Jennings: I don't think so. Robinson will remain the starter. With him on the field against any team, there's never a 100 percent bet against Michigan. Hoke will close out this season -- good or bad -- with Robinson. If Robinson is injured, that's another story, and I think then he'll go to Gardner more quickly. I think especially against NU and Iowa, if Robinson is feeling some pain in his arm, then we might see a shorter hook for that just because they'll want him at his peak for OSU.