Wolverine Anatomy: An Overview of the University of Michigan’s Wolverines, Season 2013
By Erikush Growski
The Michigan Wolverine’s 2013 season is well on its way. The first few games played this season have proved the Rich Rod era is officially over. Gone are the days of triple option offenses and underperforming defenses. Brady Hoke seems destined to return the Wolverines to greatness by going back to the basics. Offensive coordinator, Al Borges, is orchestrating a balanced offensive that relies on a productive run game and sure-handed tight ends. It appears to be working as the new Wolverines have won 17 straight games at Michigan Stadium – the longest active home winning streak among BCS conference teams. Team 134 is playing a smash-mouth style of football that Wolverine fans have been begging for. Led by four team captains, there is no shortage of talent on the bench. If the Wolverines continue their dominance at home, away games at State and Northwestern could be the only hurdles standing in the way of a 43rd Big Ten title and possibly a 12th National title.
Devin Gardner has the opportunity to guide the U of M offense in 2013. The 6’4” senior/junior has the speed, accuracy, and strength needed to be a great quarterback. His decision making under pressure leaves room for improvement, but that should come as Gardner progresses through the season. Devin is no Tom Harmon but he has the ability to lead this team to greatness.
The offense returns five starters and none are more important than All American left tackle, Taylor Lewan. Giving up an almost guaranteed high first-round selection in the 2013 NFL draft, Taylor opted to return to Ann Arbor to play for the Maize and Blue. Lewan will become only the ninth player in Michigan’s history to start four seasons as an offensive lineman.
Michigan’s running game stars fifth-year senior Fitzgerald Toussaint, as well. Fitz returns after a season-ending leg injury last year sustained during the Wolverine’s game against Iowa. However, he seems to have picked up where he left off. Now averaging around five yards per carry, he could have a career best season as long as he stays healthy. The Wolverines also have an impressive freshman running back tandem featuring Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith. Both are bigger than Toussaint and have the potential to dole out defense headaches when Fitzgerald needs a rest.
Jeremy Gallon has emerged as the go to receiver this year. Gallon’s ability to make big plays under pressure is sure to land him among the Michigan’s greats by the season’s end. In addition, taking the pressure off the receiving core are Wolverines’ stellar tight ends, Devin Funchess and Jake Butt. Both have made key catches and have become an intricate part of the new pro-style offense.
Under the guidance of defensive coordinator, Greg Mattison, Michigan will look to finish their third season ranked in the top 20 in total defense. The challenge will be replacing Captain Jake Ryan, who tore his ACL during spring practice. Fortunately for the Wolverines, Cam Gordon and Brennen Beyer have risen to the occasion. Along with a young but competent defensive line, Michigan will continue to give opposing quarterbacks headaches. Preventing big plays will rest heavily on the shoulders of Thomas Gordon, Blake Countess, and team Captain Courtney Avery. This trio has done a respectable job thus far, but has not been the shut down crew that the Wolverines will need in their quest for a 43rd Big Ten title. The 4-3 defense has demonstrated a “bend don’t break” approach could cause problems as the second half of the season is filled with tougher, better rated teams.
Fifth-year senior, Brendan Gibbons, continues his perfection in the kicking game. His powerful leg will give the maize and blue an advantage this time around. Gibbons has converted 114 straight PAT’s and has also made a program record of 16 consecutive field goals. Junior Matt Wile has handled the punting/kicking duties for the 2013 season to date and has been consistent. On kickoffs, Wile has the ability to create touchbacks and averages around 40 yards per punt. One huge area of improvement has been on kickoff and punt returns. The Wolverines have a star in sophomore receiver/kick returner Dennis Norfleet. Against Central Michigan, Norfleet had a career best 39 yard kickoff return and is averaging over 25 yards per return this season. On punt returns, Norfleet shares the role with Jeremy Gallon.
The 2013 University of Michigan Wolverines’ season is at a nail-biting fork in the road. They have played well, but at this early date, it cannot be determined if they have every talent perfected in order to take the school all the way to bowl glory. It appears the elements are all there, but will they be mixed the proper way and executed with flawless timing? Only time will tell the tale. As the Wolverines’ schedule proceeds, so will the suspense. Go Blue!
For further information on the University of Michigan’s Wolverines, please visit their website at www.mgoblue.com.