Midway through August and sports fans often find themselves in a lull. The NBA, and NHL are in their offseason, the NFL only in early preseason. As the weather begins to cool off, and the leaves slowly start their transition of color, one thing starts to grow. Anticipation for Michigan Football.
As the Autumn season draws closer, so does College Football. With that, the passing of time brings with it an air of excitement for fans anxiously waiting for something to cheer about.
Fall camps are underway. With it, rumors drift about like loose leaves, about players to watch for this year, teams with playoff chances, and dreams, and legends.
Though with these rumors also come questions. Such is the case once again for the team in Ann Arbor, the Michigan Wolverines.
Michigan Football Preview
Feeling After Last Season
After a season that many felt might finally be the year for the Maize and Blue to end their Big 10 title drought. Things came crashing down like a building under demolition. Fans found themselves in familiar place. Stuck asking themselves “what’s next?” and maybe more importantly “who are we?”
“Who are we?” perhaps the most important question left unanswered by Harbaugh and company after four seasons.
The Wolverines are a team without identity, undefined, rough, and somewhat inconsistent. They’ve been a team that wins when they’re supposed to, but not when they need to. Having come so close to their dreams and aspirations, only to fall flat, and come up just shy. A team that too often has many “what if’s” and not enough results.
The fall from grace often leaves fans broken, and upset. After all the hype, the same result, Not Enough. I myself have tried to stay away from the hype this offseason, opting for a more “believe it when I see it” type of approach to this season. But as the August 31st kickoff approaches, it’s almost impossible not to get swept up in the excitement of what this team could accomplish.
After all, there are many things to be excited for in Ann Arbor. Quarterback Shea Patterson returns after having the most efficient season since Drew Henson. He has proven weapons in Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Nico Collins. Both exceeded 600 yards in receiving last year. Tarik Black with a small sample size, has proven to be lethal, and all are reportedly flourishing in the new Offense.
Losses on Defense
The defense loses some absolute studs in Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich, along with Big 10 defensive player of the year Devin Bush. They do return most of its starters outside of that. The addition of grad transfer Mike Danna who was an absolute force for Central Michigan (37 Solo Tackles, 9.5 sacks, 2 Forced Fumble) helps soften the blow of the draft.
Devin Bush May have the biggest shoes to fill. It’s unlikely we will see a player of his caliber again for a while, but Don Brown believes junior Josh Ross is ready to step up.
Michigan Football: The Offense
It’s not just players Michigan replaced this offseason though. A few new faces on the sidelines are already making waves, none bigger than new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. Gattis has been the biggest news out of Ann Arbor since his hiring in January. According to Harbaugh himself, he has the keys, and full control. The Offense has been the most consistent complaint for Michigan Football fans since Harbaugh was hired.
A product of the Bo Schembechler era, Harbaugh has preferred a slow, methodical offensive style that relied on time of possession and grinding out drives to wear down defenses, with a “run it till it breaks” type of strategy. This method worked well against teams that didn’t have the skill sets to match Michigan. It stalled however at times against more prolific defenses. This season, Michigan will have an offensive coordinator born in 1984, instead of a 1984 offense.
Gattis aims to strike quick when Michigan needs it, rather than take time on a long methodical drive, a complete 180 of previous game plans.
The offensive line looks to be even better than it was a year ago, returning four starters. The big men will aim to further improve after allowing only 23 sacks last season, top 40 in that category, and an improvement of 16 less sacks than the 2017 season.
Reportedly, Shea Patterson fits the offense flawlessly, and the skill players it intends to target are said to be excelling. Out of fall camp, there are so many rumors of players flourishing in this new style. This leads us to believe Gattis has fixed another problem with the Wolverines previous playcalling, over complication.
A simplified offense makes for less mistakes, it’s easier to learn, and means should a starter get injured, the next man up is better prepared.
Overall Look of the Season
There are plenty of questions left for the Wolverines, and as the season gets underway, many more will arise. The team will have to do their best to provide answers. As for Michigan’s identity, this year is the defining moment for the program, and it’s coaches, to let everyone know just who they are. The pieces are there, the odds are in their favor, and the path is open.
“Who are we?” Is not a question the Wolverines should look to ask in 2019, no, this is the year to stop asking questions, and start asserting answers.