Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez: Outside receiver, secondary areas of concerns
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said Tuesday his two biggest areas of concern heading into spring practice are outside receiver and the secondary.
AnnArbor.com beat writer Dave Birkett analyzes both positions, the questions facing the Wolverines and where Michigan will turn for answers.
Who's back: Junior Hemingway, Darryl Stonum, Je'Ron Stokes
Who's gone: Greg Mathews, LaTerryal Savoy
Top newcomers: Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, Jerald Robinson
Birk's Eye View: Both Hemingway and Stonum showed flashes of brilliance last year, but Michigan's top returning receivers are slot men Roy Roundtree and Martavious Odoms. It's conceivable Roundtree can play outside on occasion, but the Wolverines are best off keeping him in the slot. Hemingway (16 catches, 268 yards, 2 TDs) is out most of the spring after offseason knee surgery, so the three early enrollee freshmen - Jackson, Miller and Robinson - have an opportunity to earn playing time. Jackson, the son of running backs coach Fred Jackson, is the most polished of the bunch, while Miller appears the most physically ready. Stokes is the wild card of the group. He played sparingly last year as a true freshman (6 games, 2 catches) but has speed to stretch the field. Expect him and two of the freshmen to settle into the rotation behind Hemingway and Stonum.
Who's back: Troy Woolfolk, J.T. Floyd, Mike Williams, Jordan Kovacs, Vlad Emilien, Teric Jones
Who's gone: Donovan Warren, Boubacar Cissoko
Top newcomers: Cam Gordon, Thomas Gordon, Justin Turner, Cullen Christian, Demar Dorsey, Marvin Robinson
Birk's Eye View: Michigan was awful against the pass last year, and Warren's decision to turn pro early leaves the Wolverines young and thin in the defensive backfield this spring. Woolfolk will start at one cornerback spot, while Floyd and Turner vie for the other job. Floyd, a third-year sophomore played in nine games and made two starts last year with mixed results. Turner, a redshirt freshman, would have gotten on the field if not for a late start to fall camp. Christian and Dorsey won't be on campus until the summer and have an uphill battle to start, but both are talented enough to force their way into mix. At safety, both Kovacs and Mike Williams have starting experience, but neither appears a fit in Michigan's defense. This is a big spring for Emilien, who never cracked the rotation despite enrolling early last year. Cam Gordon is a converted receiver with the ball skills to push for playing time, while incoming freshman Marvin Robinson might be end up being the best of the bunch, though it's tough to expect a true freshman to start in the Big Ten. It'll be interesting to see how much Kovacs and Williams have developed this spring, or if they're just placeholders for Michigan's talented-but-unproven underclassmen.
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.