10 biggest departures for Michigan football team
Denard Robinson was the record-setting quarterback, then highly successful tailback. Jordan Kovacs was his co-captain, and a ballast in the secondary.
Taylor Lewan was an All-American.
He's likely gone.
Michigan will return some key pieces next season, as guys such as quarterback Devin Gardner, linebacker Jake Ryan and receiver Jeremy Gallon try to improve upon an 8-5 finish.
But they'll have to do it without several key players.
A look at the top-10 departures Michigan will have to address:
1. QB Denard Robinson: He had faults, and it drove some fans crazy. But toss aside the records, and the comebacks, and the interceptions, and all the noise, and consider: Michigan's tailbacks had their worst season in recorded school history, but Robinson averaged 7.15 yards per carry, just off a school record. He was one of just two non-option-offense tailbacks to rush for 100 yards against South Carolina this season, while the rest of Michigan's backs combined for 6 yards on eight carries. He did not start at quarterback the last five games, and Devin Gardner's ascension mitigates Robinson's loss there. But there's no replacing Robinson's ability to create and produce on the ground, nor his identity as Michigan football.
2. LT Taylor Lewan: Although the junior has yet to declare for the NFL Draft, all signs point toward him departing after a stellar third season of starting duty. He has started the past 28 games at left tackle, and became an All-American this past season. Lewan struggled against Ohio State, but secured his place among the nation's greats by containing South Carolina All-American Jadeveon Clowney in the season finale. Michael Schofield, Lewan's assumed replacement, is solid but not nearly as dominant.
3. OL Patrick Omameh/Elliott Mealer/Ricky Barnum: These three comprised an inconsistent and often leaky interior offensive line, and none ranks among the most talented players leaving the program. But, collectively, their losses will be felt. It's a massive task to introduce three new starters at the same position group, and that list likely will grow to four with Lewan's pending NFL decision. Compounding the problem is the Wolverines are expected to replenish the ranks solely with underclassmen. It's possible they will start three redshirt freshmen and one sophomore, alongside Schofield. Michigan's offensive line wasn't productive this year, and could regress next year, at least early.
4. S Jordan Kovacs: Michigan's most consistent defensive back started 46 games in his career. He was never the fastest player, nor the strongest, but his instincts and intellect turned him into a three-time all-Big Ten performer and the unquestioned leader of the defense. His potential replacements -- Jarrod Wilson and Marvin Robinson seem to be the leaders -- combine for zero starts.
5. DT Will Campbell: Big Will didn't produce until his final season -- but when it finally clicked for him around the Notre Dame game, it really clicked. He finished with 44 tackles (which led Michigan's defensive line), 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack. At 308 pounds, he became one of the Big Ten's best run-stuffers and was named all-league by the media.
6. WR Roy Roundtree: He never regained his 2010 form, but proved his value down the stretch in 2012, hauling in 18 catches for 405 yards in the final five games. Although Roundtree faded to a No. 2 option behind Jeremy Gallon, his loss will be felt because of the tenuous depth that is left at the potion. Only Gallon and Drew Dileo have experience among returners. Roundtree also provided tremendous leadership and had a knack for the big play.
7. TE Mike Kwiatkowski: The former walk-on coasted under the radar this year, but he easily was Michigan's best blocking tight end and sprung some big plays. Devin Funchess led Michigan with five touchdown catches, and made some dazzling plays, but must bulk up and work on his technique to replace Kwiatkowski. A.J. Williams returns as a big body, but his technique needs great improvement.
8. DE Craig Roh: He started a Michigan-record 51 games in his career, and finished with 38 tackles and a team-high four sacks this season. Roh had a solid 2012, but Michigan should segue nicely into the future with a crop of young, talented defensive ends. Brennen Beyer, Frank Clark, Mario Ojemudia and possibly Keith Heitzman will be the leaders at the two end spots, with redshirt freshmen Chris Wormley, Tom Strobel and Matt Godin entering the fray. Michigan also adds talented incoming freshman Taco Charlton.
9. CB J.T. Floyd: The third-year starter's absence was felt in the Outback Bowl, when Michigan's second-ranked pass defense was carved up without him. But Michigan's future is bright, too. The season-ending ACL injury to Blake Countess was difficult, but it allowed Raymon Taylor to pick up a year's worth of experience. Now, Michigan essentially has two returning starters in Countess and Taylor, despite Floyd's departure.
10. LB Kenny Demens: He was a four-year starter who was challenged early in the season by freshman Joe Bolden, but improved his play -- especially in pass coverage -- and warded off the challenge. But Bolden showed he can play, too, while logging extended time in key games, including the entire second half against South Carolina after Demens suffered an injury. Michigan shouldn't miss a beat at middle linebacker.
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