My thoughts on the biggest questions leading up to the Wolverines’ 2019 Season.
With Kickoff fast approaching the Wolverines face several questions. In this article, we’ll try to see what ones are most important.
How does the new Wolverines offense perform?
With nothing but rumors to operate on so far, this question is somewhat difficult to answer. Gattis will be running a Pro-Spread offense, similar to what he worked with at Alabama and Penn State. Reports indicate this system is tailor-made for Shea Patterson. Plenty of RPO’s will utilize his speed and mobility, as well as throwing ability.
Gattis claims there will be no-huddle, EVER. Fast-paced, in your face action, non-stop. This approach could be considered a more high-risk, high reward style of play calling. Michigan will likely be faster and more explosive, having quicker drives with more passing touchdowns. This could also lead to an increase in interceptions as Michigan attacks more though the air. Don’t panic if Shea Patterson throws a few more picks.
- Michigan ranked 25th in Offensive S&P last season and ran the ball 60% of the time. Expect that to improve and the Wolverines to be more balanced.
- Shea Patterson will likely throw more touchdowns, and a few more interceptions, no need to panic.
- The up-tempo offense will operate faster than ever before, which could lead to early mistakes.
How about that offensive line?
No really, how about that offensive line? It returns four starters from a year ago, Ben Bredeson, Jon Runyan Jr, Cesar Ruiz, and Michael Onwenu. All four are on the Outland Trophy watchlist this season (an award given to the best college interior lineman each year).
Though the Wolverines will probably be running the ball less this season, all reports indicate that the offensive line will make sure that when they do, it will be effective.
The O-Line should also be able to buy their quarterback more time in the pocket. Patterson, who completed almost 65% of his passes last year for 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns, will have more time on his side this year. This could help his decision making in the new offense, and hopefully help limit and mistakes.
- The offensive line looks to be the best ever for Harbaugh
- Should open up holes for a relatively inexperienced running back group
- Shea Patterson will have more time to relax and make decisions, lessening mistakes.
What is the running back situation?
The running back position may be the biggest mystery for Michigan this year. So far, the starting job is Senior Tru Wilson‘s to lose. He ran the ball efficiently last season behind Karan Higdon and Chris Evans, averaging 5.9 yards a carry, but was not considered an every-down back.
Christian Turner is the backup, for now, and could dazzle with his speed in 2018. Though he only had 20 attempts, Turner put up respectable numbers, averaging 4.6 yards a touch.
True Freshman Zack Charbonnet “Is coming on like a freight train,” says coach Harbaugh.
“When you look at his work ethic, he’s always in the weight room, always in the coaches’ offices,” adds Gattis. A top-five Running back recruit from the 2019 class, Charbonnet is expected to take the starting job as the season progresses. At 6’1 220 Lbs, he is the biggest back in Ann Arbor, and his physical ability fits their philosophy for the ground game. We haven’t seen him in action yet, but if rumors are true, you’re not going to want to miss it.
- The running backs are somewhat inexperienced but have talent and potential.
- Not likely we will see someone emerge as an “every-down” back until later in the season.
- Offensive Line should help compensate RB’s lack of experience.
What’s changed defensively?
No way to sugarcoat it, Don Brown was absolutely shredded in the final two games of 2018. After being a brick wall for eleven games, Michigan’s defense was torched to the tune of 103 points closing out the season.
With Rashan Gary, Devin Bush, Chase Winovich, and David Long being lost to the NFL Draft, Michigan’s defense likely takes a step back. Don’t expect it to be too significant though. The secondary returns Josh Metellus, and Lavert Hill, and adds a Five Star safety in Daxton Hill. The defensive line picked a key grad transfer in Mike Danna and has plenty of talent left over with the likes of Aidan Hutchinson, Josh Uche, and Kwity Paye.
The Don of Defense didn’t look the part when he had no answer for Ohio State, in a 62-39 loss to finish Big Ten play. The team from down south hit crossing routes seemingly on demand for easy yards, as Brown’s man coverage was simply beaten with speed.
Changes have come according to Brown, who in an interview said “The one thing I can tell you is that we’re more prepared versatility-wise in coverage. But the aggressive nature will never change. As a matter of fact, I’d like it to be more aggressive.” What’s been seen in practices leads us to believe Don Brown will deploy more man zone concepts. Still, don’t expect too much change, he’s made a name for himself on his defensive philosophy, and it’s unlikely he will deviate far from it.
- You can teach an old Don a few new tricks, expect SOME man-zone concepts.
- Michigan takes a step back defensively, still likely a top-10 unit.
- They will still solve most problems with aggression, and lots of it.
Putting it all together
If they put it all together, Wolverines fans and you have reason to be excited. A lot of changes are coming, and they may take some getting used to for the players. The way Michigan lays out its schedule should work in their favor. A tune-up game against MTSU, a stiff but manageable contest against Army, a bye, and a road test in Madison, Wisconsin. If they can manage not to stumble out of the gate, Michigan should very easily start 7-0 heading into the home showdown against Notre Dame. There is no reason to believe the Maize and Blue won’t be contending for the Big Ten title again, as long as their new systems don’t confuse them. The days are winding down, and soon enough, college football and the University of Michigan will return.