Our success obviously revolves around how well Al Borges is able to utilize Denard Robinson. While the Rodriguez offense was tailor made for this guy Borges likes to spread you out in more 3 and 4 wide pro-style sets combined with a power running game, with the QB under center (as opposed to zone read from the shotgun). If Denard can show improvement in his touch throws and timing routes (which I think he will) and Al Borges is smart enough to realize that running option plays from the shotgun for a while may be advantageous for a while, I think this offense can do well. A lot of experience is returning, unlike previous years, which bodes well for the smoothness of the transfer to a new system. However timing of WR routes with QBs is important to the Borges offense and takes a while to develop.
I think this offense will have growing pains but it will always be exciting to watch Denard play. He can create with his feet and defenses have to respect that. If we can have one or more running backs emerge to shoulder some of the load and attention coming out of the backfield, it will make Denard's life a lot easier. Fitzgerald Touissant has been talked up for a few years now as a guy who impresses in practice but then shatters a shoulder or destroys a knee. He has been named the starter for tomorrows game, lets see if he can live up to the hype. Michael Shaw has shown flashes over the past few years with a lot of breakaway speed but just hasn't put it together consistently. Those two will be taking most of the carries tomorrow.
I keep telling myself "it can't get any worse," and it likely can't, but that's what I said last year and the defense was arguably worse. On the bright side Hoke was able to convince Greg Mattison, the man who brought you terrifying Ravens defenses of the past three years, to come back to Michigan as defensive coordinator. His presence alone makes me fell much better about the defense, it's still a mixed bag overall. The D-line is good with potential to be great if Will Campbell develops into a nose tackle during the year. Right now be excited about Craig Roh playing the position he wants at the weight that is ideal for it. He was a dangerous speed rusher as a defensive end when he was 10-20 lbs underweight...now...he has arrived. I am excited. Be even more excited for Mike Martin he was a force to be reckoned with even when doubled and I assume this year will be no different. Ryan Van Bergen is a solid contributor as well, overall this is the best position group on the defense.
Linebackers are more of a mystery. Kenny Demens showed flashes of being a solid MLB well see how he does as a full season starter. Cam Gordon impressed in practice last year, until we discovered that he is not fast enough to play safety and took poor angles to the ball, he is now your starting SLB. Its tough to judge him after the move last year considering he had never played linebacker in his life. Well see if the Mattison Magic is real, hope for the best. The WLB spot will be taken by Jones, Hawthorne or Morgan I am not really sure what to think of any of these options at this point, none are likely to be standouts.
Corner is another situation which couldn't get worse. With Woolfolk returning from injury after being out all last season he brings senior leadership along with needed speed and experience at corner. Teric Jones is your starting deep safety. Last year is a hybrid linebacker safety role he registered a lot of positives but its a different position and he has to be an every down guy. Kovacs is another leader on this defense. He may not be the most athletic but he gets it done. He takes good angles to the ball and tackles well. At the other corner position JT Floyd, Courtney Avery and Blake Countess are fighting for the job. Any of these guys will likely be targeted opposite Woolfolk Avery and Floyd have game experience, but were vulnerable in coverage at points last year.
With the defense it is tough to make a call. You hope that the slight increases in depth and experience will help in addition to the coaching change. I think it will and this defense will certainly be better, but not good. I hope they prove me wrong but it is tough for me to think that you can turn around this mess in a year, especially when installing a new scheme. We shall see.