Well, the 2012 regular season has come to a close with Michigan finishing 8-4 on the year. Finishing just a tad bit short of their goal of reaching the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis. As the regular season closes, I think we are seeing more questions than answers in regards to what will happen to the program in the future. More specifically, what will 2013 be like?
Looking ahead to the 2013 season, I have identified some preliminary areas of concern for next season.
Lewan is considered one of the top offensive players in the 2013 NFL Draft. According to Mel Kiper he says that Lewan could go as high as the sixth pick of the draft. Considering Lewan is only a junior, the choice is up to him whether he stays or goes.
For anyone being touted as a top ten pick in any draft, the temptation to forgo school and go pro is hard to pass up. Especially considering the amount of millions Lewan will make with his first contract.
If Lewan decides to stay, that will be the best-case scenario for head coach Brady Hoke. The offensive line will already be reeling with the losses of Omameh, Mealer and Barnum. Lewan and senior-to-be Michael Schofield will be the only potential returning lineman who will have experience, Hoke will be forced to fill these holes with inexperienced players such as Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson, Blake Bars, Chris Bryant, Erik Gunderson, Joey Burzynski etc. All kids who have potential to become great, just have limited to no playing time to speak of . Having Lewan's presence would be huge in terms of mentoring and experience alongside Schofield. If Lewan bolts for the draft, it would prove to be difficult replacing an All-Big Ten player and his production. The offensive line could be the biggest area of concern. But, considering how Hoke and staff could work magic, we might see a complete turn around. Only time will tell.
DISCLAIMER: I will NOT talk about "what-if" situations with potential recruits and commitments. I am only going to discuss who we have.
Michigan flirted with a "featured back" title for only a short time. The 2012 season didn't seem to go Toussaint's way, finishing with only 514 yards until his season was cut short by a nasty injury early in the Iowa game. Hoke believes Toussaint will be 100% by the time next September rolls around. But, considering he doesn't have a redshirt year to spare, what if he isn't ready to go? Toussaint will be a senior and it's safe to say that Michigan doesn't have a number one running back pending the health of Toussaint. With Vincent Smith graduating, it leaves the backfield with Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes. Many have been calling for Rawls to be the number one back, but Borges has remained loyal to Toussaint all season.
Toussaint suffered a nasty leg break against Iowa. There is no telling what type of player he is going to be when he returns. Can he make the same cuts? Will he have any power return? Will he lose any speed? All legitimate questions that need time to answer them. But, does Michigan football have that time to spare?
To make a long story short in my non-professional opinion, yes. The senior-to-be -- or junior-to-be pending medical redshirt status -- can absolutely lead Michigan to another successful season. Gardner is no slouch. A five-star quarterback coming out of high school, Gardner has the tools to be successful on the field. He has shown that with his performances against Minnesota, Northwestern and Iowa. The pending schedule for 2013 season should help build Gardner's confidence going into the Big Ten season. But, with my opinions aside, can Gardner find the rhythm with his receivers to be successful through the air? Can Gardner have a featured back that could help relieve some of the pressure from his shoulders? Signs point to yes. Having a full offseason to train and study with the notion that he will most likely be the starting quarterback will help as well.
Michigan needs their "go-to receiver". With Roundtree, sometimes you had it and sometimes you wondered where it went. Towards the end of this season, Roundtree was one of the best receivers on the team. Making clutch catch after clutch catch. Perhaps Roundtree was aided by Gardner, who seemed to find him more than Robinson could, but I digress. He is no longer here, but Gallon, Dileo and Funchess -- the marquee receivers returning -- are. Someone has to step up and be the main guy. Gallon has the ability to be "that guy" but whether he seizes the opportunity is up to him. Not sure if Hoke will be handing out the Howard patch this season. But Michigan needs a guy they can rely on to bail them out or when them ball games. Does Michigan have that receiver this year?