Brady Hoke is entering his third season as the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. Fans have witnessed both sides of the fence his first two seasons, as a BCS bowl game was clinched in 2011 and a subpar 8-5 record was reached last season.
What is in store this time?
Michigan does return the fewest starters in the Big Ten with 12, but there are plenty of backups that picked up valuable experience. And while expectations are never low for Wolverines fans, there comes a point during the offseason where everybody has to put together a list of reasonable goals.
The Wolverines have a few.
A More Balanced Offense
Last season, Michigan was a running machine but lacked in the passing game. Michigan struggled at times to move the football and put points on the board, as it finished ranked 41st in rushing yards and 97th in passing yardage.
A lot of this had to do with the quarterback issues of an unhealthy Denard Robinson and throwing Devin Gardner into the lion's den.
You can expect a more balanced unit and an offense that can move the football effectively this season. Gardner is a more complete quarterback than Robinson was, which allows the Wolverines to operate like a balanced offense.
Gardner isn't so quick to run and doesn't give up on throwing the football. He also appears to be a lot more accurate than the former Michigan quarterback. Instead of designing a playbook that leaned more to a quarterback taking off, Gardner will be asked to make the throws and play the role of a traditional quarterback. The new pro-style offense will fit this team nicely.
The running back depth is also looking good with Fitzgerald Toussaint, Justice Hayes, Drake Johnson and Derrick Green.
Questions with the interior of the offensive line remain, but the overall pieces of this offense are solid enough for this unit to take many steps forward.
Another Great Defense
Defense is what Michigan has relied on over the last two seasons and it will look to continue its high level of play under defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. But with the injury to linebacker Jake Ryan and a defensive line that has a hard time generating a pass rush, there are concerns about this unit possibly heading in the wrong direction.
Don't even think about it.
The loss of Ryan will hurt, but a combination of Cameron Gordon and Brennan Beyer should be good enough to get the job done until he returns.
You also have to like the potential up front of Chris Wormley, Matt Godin and freshman Taco Charlton. Those are all athletic and young guys who should add a little spice to the pass rush.
The secondary also looks good on paper with Courtney Avery and Ramon Taylor. Getting Blake Countess back will be absolutely huge as well.
Michigan was tied with Boise State last year for the fifth-best pass defense in the country. Although it may be asking a bit much to repeat that result, throwing on the Wolverines won't be easy.
Michigan should once again have a quality defense which ranks among the best in the Big Ten.
Expectations are obviously higher in Ann Arbor, but remember that we are discussing reasonable goals. Michigan should have no problem winning eight games, but anything beyond that is questionable.
Notre Dame is on the schedule, a trip to Penn State, Nebraska, Ohio State and then a road game in East Lansing. All of these games could result in a loss—the Wolverines weren't given many breaks schedule-wise.
There are also questions surrounding the team that need to be answered before anybody can be comfortable picking a BCS bowl trip.
Will the offensive line hold up replacing three starters? Can Gardner perform at a high level for an entire season? Will Ryan be missed more than we originally thought?
A reasonable goal is the same amount of victories the program finished with last year.
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