Michigan Football: 5 Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason

Adam Biggers@@AdamBiggers81Senior Analyst IIJanuary 6, 2014

Michigan Football: 5 Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason

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    Losing 31-14 to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl was just the tip of the iceberg for the Michigan Wolverines, who have several adjustments to make and concerns to address before even thinking of contending for a 2014 Big Ten title. 

    This past year's 7-6 skid dashed preseason expectations that included winning a division championship, downing Ohio State and rattling off two in a row versus Michigan State. 

    Not one of those three goals came to fruition, despite a somewhat encouraging offensive display during a 42-41 season-ending loss to the Buckeyes at The Big House. 

    Now, it is back to the drawing board. Team 134 fell short.

    If Team 135 wants to avoid a similar outcome in Ann Arbor, coach Brady Hoke must correct lingering issues prior to spring practice. 

Depth at QB

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    Is Devin Gardner the answer? 

    Prior to 2013, he most certainly had been thought to be the answer. With just five starts to his credit, Gardner took over last fall with hopes of building on his promising post-Denard Robinson warm-up sessions. 

    He played well versus South Carolina in the 2013 Outback Bowl, but that was a flash in the pan. Falling out of orbit, he posted a 7-5 record before breaking his foot on Nov. 30 against Ohio State.

    So, needless to say, it's time for Michigan to reevaluate its quarterback position. 

    Shane Morris appeared beyond his years while completing 63 percent of his passes during Team 134's bowl loss. It wasn't a bad start for a frosh getting his first go at the big time. 

    Wilton Speight, a 2014 commit, is already enrolled at Michigan, as one of seven early arrivals. He should have ample time to get a head start in his newest, and perhaps most challenging course: Al Borges 101. 

    Learning the ways of Borges' offensive system can be tricky. Mastering an up-and-down offense that either wows or lulls won't be easy for Speight, a 247Sports 3-star pro-styler out of Richmond Collegiate (Va.). 

    Getting Morris reps as the No. 1 quarterback should be the priority—no waiting needed. He's as ready as he'll ever be. It's time to ride the Shane Train. 

    As for Speight, he has a well-rounded skill set that should attract Michigan fans who grew sick and tired of spread quarterbacks. 

    Morris is the guy, but Speight could be right there with him.




Get RBs Back on Track

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    Fitz Toussaint is done. 

    His career at Michigan has ended, and the onus is now on offensive coordinator Al Borges and running backs coach Fred Jackson to mold the next backfield star for the Maize and Blue. 

    Derrick Green? 

    Sure. He'll do. 

    De'Veon Smith? 

    He's not too bad, either. 

    That pair should serve as the 1-2 punch Michigan so desperately needed this past season. It was all but written in stone that Green would headline a backfield group complemented by Thomas Rawls, Justice Hayes and Toussaint, a senior who was two years removed from a 1,000-yard season. 

    Michigan is pursuing Vic Enwere, a Cal commit who may flip. Should he do that, there will be more horses to work with. That's never a bad thing, especially for the Big Ten's No. 11-ranked rushing unit, which averaged 125.7 yards per game this past season.

    And don't forget about Drake Johnson, whose season was abruptly ended in Week 1 when he tore his ACL. 

    The shoulda, coulda, woulda game is fun… I consider what would've happen if Michigan went with Derrick Green earlier: http://t.co/md6ehD8Z8e

    — Chantel Jennings (@ChantelJennings) December 16, 2013

Back to Borges

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    Forty-one versus the Buckeyes, and six versus the Spartans. 

    That's what Borges' calls gave Michigan in 2013—either a lot of points or hardly any at all. 

    Borges has endured the lion's share of criticism from fans and media members. His inept scoring attack was directly responsible for Team 134's shortcomings. 

    But don't forget what he did with a good quarterback in Jason Campbell and two steady backs (Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown) at Auburn. He can replicate that at Michigan. 

    Year No. 4 should be make or break for Borges, who suddenly decided to utilize his talented offensive weapons at the last minute.

    Known for "helping" the other team, Borges was cited by LostLettermen.com during the Rose Bowl, which was won by Little Brother, Michigan State. 

    When did Al Borges become Stanford's offensive coordinator?

    — LostLettermen.com (@LostLettermen) January 2, 2014

Appalachian State

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    Considering the past, and this dreadful past season, Michigan should be on full alert for its season opener of 2014. That's when Appalachian State comes back to town, looking for its second win in Ann Arbor in as many attempts. 

    The Wolverines should roll over the Mountaineers this year. Their 34-32 loss in 2007 to Appalachian State was the exception, not the rule. 

    Well, prove it, Michigan. Prove it Aug. 30 at The Big House. 

    Former Mountaineers star quarterback Armanti Edwards is long gone—and that's a great thing for Team 135. 

    Oh, and watch the field goals. Can't be too careful. 

Pass-Rushing Prowess

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    Team 134 scraped together 25 sacks in 2013 while Devin Gardner was sacked 34 times. 

    There's a problem when the other team gets your quarterback more than you get theirs. 

    Greg Mattison's defense bent, broke a little and even looked flat in some instances. But it has enough talent to survive the rigors of the Big Ten, so don't be so quick to dismiss Mattison's strategy just yet. 

    In 2013, the position of defensive end should have been a strength for Michigan. It wasn't. Next season (there's that line again), Frank Clark will be the leader due to his senior status. 

    But Taco Charlton will have another year of experience, too, for his sophomore season. He was expected to contribute as a freshman, but didn't progress as quickly as some would have liked. 

    As a redshirt freshman, Chris Wormely showed promise. Sophomore Mario Ojemudia also had a respectable season. The pair combined for 39 tackles (Ojemudia had 20) and appeared in 13 games apiece. 

    Coaching up the talent is the next step. 


    Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81