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Wednesday, December 26, 2012
WolverineNation Mailbag

By Michael Rothstein

Joe Bolden
Jake Ryan (47) and Joe Bolden (35) are part of an LB unit that will be among the B1G's best in 2013.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan’s football season will have concluded a week from today, the first full day of Michigan A.D.

And yes, life After Denard [Robinson] will look markedly different for the Wolverines, one of the topics hit on in this week’s WolverineNation Mailbag.

Have questions for the Mailbag? Send them to @chanteljennings on Twitter or jenningsespn@gmail.com. Now, on to what you want to know:

@SportsGuyPaul: How does the Wolverines defense shape up for next year? Will they be feared or just inflated from the soft conference teams?

This hits on the After Denard factor more than anything. With the Michigan offense in a state of transition on the line (three or four new starters) and in formation (full-time pro style), Michigan will need its defense to be extremely strong. Fortunately for the Wolverines, they have a chance at it. Their linebackers should be among the Big Ten’s best even with the departure of Kenny Demens. The secondary also has a chance to be really good, as long as Jarrod Wilson or Marvin Robinson is able to handle some of what Jordan Kovacs leaves behind.

The bigger question is on the lines, where Michigan will have some experience -- Quinton Washington and the three-headed rush end of Frank Clark, Mario Ojemudia and Brennen Beyer return -- but still will need to find enough guys who can play the attacking style Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison prefer.

Next year’s unit could equal what this year’s one did and possibly, by season’s end, be better.

br220253 from The Den: Thoughts on 2013 Big Ten/Michigan football? Able to take steps back toward being national powers? 

Yes, it is possible. Michigan’s schedule sets up nicely next season, with Nebraska, Ohio State and Notre Dame all scheduled to make trips to Ann Arbor. That will be a big benefit for a team which, in many ways, will still be finding itself next season. The biggest concern will be on the offensive line, where Michigan will break in a bunch of new starters, and at running back, a position which has both health and productivity question marks. If the Wolverines can get those two spots sorted, they have a chance for a really good season.

As far as the Big Ten, Ohio State probably looks like the team to beat. Braxton Miller returns and while a bunch of the Buckeyes defense graduates, they will still hold on to linebacker Ryan Shazier, who could be one of the best players in the Big Ten. Nebraska, Big Ten championship game performance aside, should also be pretty good next season as should Northwestern.

The team to watch, somehow, could be Indiana. The Hoosiers appeared tantalizingly close in a lot of games to turning things around at the perpetual Big Ten doormat, so they could fight at least for a bowl berth next season.

The most intriguing team would be Wisconsin -- mostly due to the change in coaching staff and how Gary Andersen adjusts from Utah State to the Big Ten. Defensively, it should be fine as a lot of talent likely returns for the Badgers. It’ll be interesting on offense, though, to see what Andersen does.