On April 14th, Michigan football will take the field for the annual spring game in front of thousands of fans. There are a few reasons that college teams do this, but I tend to think it's to give fans a small taste of what's to come later in the fall. It's a good time for fans to go to a free game, although parking is not (hint hint). The upcoming season of 2012 should be a great one for Team #133 if things work out the way most envision. I want to go over a few things that I believe should be evident, even if it's just a scrimmage.
Here's a list of things to look for in the spring game:
1. The confusing mystique of Denard Robinson. Denard has a very loyal following in Ann Arbor, and one only has to watch one game to see why. This will be Hoke's second season as head coach, but I think what gets lost among the hullabaloo is that Al Borges, offensive coordinator, will be in his second season as well. Last season was Denard's first in a pro-style offense under Hoke and Borges, and while at times it looked nice and fluid; at others it looked sporadic and clumsy. It's no accident Denard threw a conference high 15 interceptions and had a low completion rate. What we need to see at the spring game is a much more confident pocket passer who can take passes from under center just as well as he would in a shotgun formation. Denard will always be able to burst out of the pocket to make a big run if he needs to, but he needs to show off more accuracy of his arm.
2. The Barnum (and Bailey) circus? Ricky Barnum is a senior this upcoming season, and primed to take over the center position from David Molk. Molk provided consistency, strength, agility, and intelligence in that position that will be difficult to replecate. Barnum has the talent to take over but not much experience. Also gone is Huyge so look to Schofield or possibly Kalis to get some major snaps at right tackle.
3. Defensive line. It was a real treat last season seeing our defense progress from one of the worst to top 20 in the country. A lot of it had to do with the arrival of Greg Mattison from the Baltimore Ravens, and a lot had to do with significant improvement from the D-line. With Martin, Van Bergen, and Heininger all gone it will be up to Will Campbell, Craig Roh, and Richard Ash to bear the load this season. Martin and Van Bergen alone were the pivotal guys and I want to see if the current D-Line, Campbell specifically, can step up.
4. Secondary should be a primary focus. With stalwart cornerback Troy Woolfolk gone, now it's up to Blake Countess and J.T. Floyd to anchor the secondary. This has been a big issue for the past few seasons; giving up the big play at the worst time; amd hopefully at the spring game they have more of a spring in their step (pun intended).
5. Receiver core. Hemingway, Odoms, and Koger are gone and it's up to Roundtree, Gallon, Jackson, and Grady to pick it up a bit. I can see Denard throwing to Roundtree on a post route, or a fade, and Gallon is speedy enough to warrant two defenders. Maybe Chesson catches a few big passes. I think the receiving core is one of the positions where depth is going to hurt the most.
I could make this a lot longer. Things are never finely tuned in the spring game and rumors are always abundant. Remember just a couple years ago when Denard started and Forcier played just a few horrible snaps? Rumor had it Tate did not put in the effort in the offseason, waas called out by fellow teammates, and lost his helmet wings. That turned out mostly true and prophetic, as he left Michigan after Denard became a star that season and transferred to San Jose State, only to flame out there as well. Position rosters are never finalized in the spring game but it does give a good indication as to how things are going to flow for the upcoming season. I think I can say that I'm more excited for this spring game than I have been in a long time.
Photo Credit: Toledo Blade