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Posted on Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Fall camp has arrived! Now, 5 storylines to follow as Michigan football team opens practice today

By Kyle Meinke

The Michigan football team has 18 returning starters this year, which should indicate we know this team pretty well.

Of course, that couldn’t further from the truth.

After an off-season coaching change, scheme overhauls on offense and defense and the announcement Sunday that starting receiver Darryl Stonum would redshirt the season, the Wolverines will have some familiar faces, but still feel entirely different than they did a year ago.

With fall camp opening today with a 4 p.m. practice (no pads), things should begin to sort themselves out. Here are five storylines to keep an eye on ahead of the Sept. 3 opener against Western Michigan:


Melanie Maxwell |

Denard’s chemistry with receivers

Key dates for Michigan

First-year Michigan coach Brady Hoke will be asked daily about the development of quarterback Denard Robinson. How is he progressing in picking up the new pro-style offense, and how is his timing coming along with the receivers and their new routes? The junior exceeded all expectations last year, when he burst onto the national scene and set an NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Now, there are elevated expectations for him. How will he handle the pressure?

Dismissing the distractions
The announcement Sunday that Stonum would redshirt this season after being suspended indefinitely in May for a second DUI is a blow to Michigan's depth at receiver, and starting punter Will Hargerup (four games) and Terrence Robinson (one game) also were suspended for violations of team rules. It's the first bit of adversity for Hoke, who had enjoyed a smooth transition until this news broke on the day his team reported to camp. Stonum's redshirt is particularly significant, because he was Michigan's second-leading receiver last year and was expected to fulfill a vital role in the new pro-style offense. Now, Michigan will have to hope Roy Roundtree continues to grow into one of the Big Ten's top receivers. He led Michigan with 72 catches for 935 yards last year — in a run-first offense. What kind of leap will the junior make this year?

Ready for a breakout season
The coaching staff loves redshirt freshman Jake Ryan and the intensity with which he competes. Ryan was one of the biggest stars of the spring game, and reportedly has added weight to his 6-foot-3, 224-pound frame — addressing perhaps his biggest weakness. The previous coaching staff slotted Ryan inside, but Hoke likes his athleticism and tenacity on the edge. Expect Ryan to compete with Cam Gordon for playing time there.


Redshirt freshman Jake Ryan, shown wrapping up running back Fitzgerald Toussaint in the spring game, has a chance to play a key role for Michigan this season.

Melanie Maxwell |

True freshmen to keep an eye on
Matt Wile, a top-five kicker from San Diego, will make a strong case to be named starting placekicker. He has a strong leg and sound mechanics, but is he ready mentally to handle kicking in front of 110,000 people? If Hoke deems he is, Wile likely will get the nod against Western Michigan after Seth Broekhuizen and Brendan Gibbons combined to make just four of 14 field-goal attempts last year. Wile also could see time at punter while Hagerup — the team's only punter — serves his four-game suspension. Another freshman who could see the field early is running back Thomas Rawls. He’ll be an underdog to be named the featured back, but will be given a chance to compete for the job in camp.

Reserve with the most to gain
Sophomore cornerback Courtney Avery will be key to the back seven overcoming last year's epic struggles (it finished 112th against the pass). Starting corners J.T. Floyd and Troy Woolfolk return, but are coming off serious injuries. Avery, who played in every game last season and started five, could play an important role in shoring up the depth in the secondary. Hoke said Avery showed improvement in the spring, and he likes his attitude and ability to compete one play at a time.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Tue, Aug 9, 2011 : 2:22 a.m.

Uhm, injuries are the the most important thing to watch, along with the weather forecast.


Tue, Aug 9, 2011 : 12:58 a.m.

Thank you to Kyle for giving us some insight into the fall camp stories to follow. These will be indicators of team readiness for the first few games of the season. Here are some other stories we followed last season (2010), but we don't have to follow anymore: o Who will walk on to be the placekicker? o How "inexperienced" is the team, really, when they actually return more starters than any other Big 10 team (2010)? o How many hours of practice will need to be vacated to comply with the NCAA sanctions? o How low can the turnover margin go and could it be worse than previous years ?

Terry Star21

Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

Chemistry; Denard will be fine because he knows how to remain calm - he is not arrogant and will not be intimidated ! He treats the receivers like brothers, family. Distractions; There are no distractions - you practice and play with what you have and look forward not backwards. Roundtree will give all, but please give him that #1 jersey and watch what happens ! Breakout; There are many individuals ready to breakout, I like Jake Ryan and pray for Campbell - but I'm telling you it is a new day - watch for the entire team to breakout (fans included - don't sell your ohio state tickets,PLEASE) ! True Freshman; I'm excited about this group. Remember Wile is under a new, competent coach that knows not only how to prepare a whole team, but how to ween the new guys in ! Freshman will rise to occasion ! Tough news about Hagerup - betting other teams coaches would have looked the other way, same with Stonum as he probably would be in the school up north and down south's lineup for sure. MgoBlueForTim.......Hoke's got what it takes to be the compete coach !

Wally the Wolverine

Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

I love the whole redshirting strategy. We retain the image of punishing a player, while giving him his senior season all over again. At the same time, his absence is low risk for our new coach who will still be in his "grace period". Everybody wins.


Tue, Aug 9, 2011 : 2:24 a.m.

He can transfer and sit out a season if he wants. Those who stay will be champions!

Terry Star21

Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 6:41 p.m.

You would win too - just join us at Michigan !


Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

Wait a minute, am I to understand this correctly, the team starts practice today? GIGGITY!!!


Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 12:29 p.m.

The contrast between how Brian Kelly handled the Michael Floyd incident and how Coach Hoke handled Stonum's case tell you everything you need to know about the integrity of the coaches. Kelly comes out looking rather Tressel-like, I'd say.

Terry Star21

Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 6:40 p.m.

Very good point - you know Stonum would have been in the msu, osu and nd lineup this year !


Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : noon

It is good to see a coach with some intestinal fortitude at Michigan (thats not to say RR or Carr or any other Mich coach did not), unlike Kelly at ND, Hoke has not waivered and given in to having a top player suspended! The punishment is fitting and I am glad to see he was given the opportunity to redshirt this year and return next. Hopefully this helps Stonum mature as a young man and come back in 12' and dominate! This I think shows that Hoke is not just lip service but true to his word when it comes to molding and creating men of integrity on and off of the football field! This also makes a very big impression in the locker room in that every one must be accountable not just the subs and non stars, and that everyone has to put out or they wont play.