Three keys for Michigan in 2015
Rumor has it, Michigan got a new coach. And in typical maize and blue fashion, it flew under the radar and we didn’t hear much about it all offseason. Here’s what the new Michigan man and the Wolverines have to do to hang tough in the Big Ten East.
Get boost under center
Michigan’s quarterback problems at the end of the Brady Hoke era were well-documented. The hope is that Jim Harbaugh will turn that around the nation’s 112nd ranked pass offense in his first year. He’ll have his choice of Iowa transfer Jake Rudock and Shane Morris, who filled in for Devin Gardner periodically in 2014. Harbaugh hasn’t hinted at which direction he’s leaning toward as both figure to battle it out in fall camp. He did recruit Rudock to add some experience to the position. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t give the job to Rudock because then-sophomore C.J. Beathard developed better in his system. Whether it’s Rudock or Morris, the center of Harbaugh’s rebuilding project will require plenty of development at his former position.
Get Jabrill Peppers involved early, often
Much has been made about the No. 2 recruit in the 2014 class. Peppers will add a playmaking ability that some have likened to Charles Woodson. Before those lofty comparisons gain any validity, Peppers have to stay healthy. He missed nearly all of last season with leg injuries and elected save a year of eligibility. Back and at all strength, Peppers has been drawing rave reviews all offseason. That chatter only heightened when Harbaugh talked about the idea of him getting reps on offense. A three-way player is rare, but so is a player of Peppers’ talent. He’ll be hard for Harbaugh to keep off the field, though if Peppers lives up to the hype, that’ll be a welcome problem to have.
Keep expectations realistic
Rich Rodriguez and Hoke both set the bar high for themselves with early statements. Rodriguez knocked off No. 9 Wisconsin in his fourth game and Hoke led the Wolverines to the Sugar Bowl in his first year at the helm. Both were billed as the savior. Obviously, things didn’t work out for either of them. Preseason excitement is at a high in Ann Arbor to begin the Harbaugh era. But the reality is, the Wolverines have to replace their best skill player in Devin Funchess. There’s still no clear starter at quarterback or running back. For all the hype surrounding Harbaugh’s new offense, the nation’s seventh ranked defense will likely be the steadying force again. His rebuilding job will have to navigate through the brutal Big Ten East, which wasn’t kind to inexperienced groups last year. There will be plenty of big moments in the Big House this year. But the Wolverines aren’t out of the woods quite yet.