Fall camp has arrived! Now, 5 storylines to follow as Michigan football team opens practice today
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 | AnnArbor.com
Denard’s chemistry with receivers
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.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
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 —Â 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.