Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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2013 Season Preview A Quick Look At The Players, Games and Teams To Watch This Fall A By Andy Reid lthough the Wolverines took a step back last year from a win-loss perspective (dropping from 11-2 in 2011 to 8-5 in 2012), there were certainly positive developments, and there's plenty to be excited about in 2013. Redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner is back to lead what figures to be an explosive offense, and the defense will be stockpiled with plenty of experienced talent. The schedule softens up, too, with home games versus Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State. If the ball bounces the Wolverines' way, they have an excellent chance to play in their first-ever Big Ten Championship Game. And these are the players, games and question marks that will have the biggest impact on the 2013 season. Top Five Players lon exploded. He caught 31 balls for 511 yards (102.2 yards per game) and 1. Fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan: If Lewan stays healthy three touchdowns in those five games, emerging as Gardner's favorite through the 2013 season, he will end his Michigan career with 48 or 49 target. starts, depending on whether the Wolverines advance to the Big Ten Gallon stands just 5-8 and 187 pounds, but he has a knack for getting Championship Game. That's just shy of the program record set by defensive open and climbing the ladder to make catches. end Craig Roh last season (51). With a whole offseason to work on the budding As a redshirt freshman in 2010, Lewan quickly chemistry between him and Gardner, Gallon is became a fan favorite, because of his fun, quirky poised for a big final season. personality, the mustache tattooed on his index 4. Sophomore tight end Devin Funchess: In finger and infamous tandem bicycle. His play on his first-ever game at Michigan Stadium, Funchess the field bolstered that connection with the fans, caught the attention of the entire U-M fan base by when he repeatedly mauled opposing defensive hauling in four passes for a whopping 106 yards linemen. (26.5 yards per catch) and a touchdown in a 31-25 The 6-8, 308-pound Lewan surprised many by win over Air Force. choosing to return to Ann Arbor for his final year of He added four more catches for 45 yards and eligibility, instead of entering the 2013 NFL Draft. a score in the next two games (a 63-13 win over He has a chance to enter the hallowed pantheon Massachusetts and a 13-6 loss at Notre Dame) to of Michigan offensive linemen — alongside Steve stand out even further as a true freshman. Hutchinson, Jumbo Elliott, Jake Long and others His production dropped off once the Wolverines — with another stellar season. hit conference play. He didn't tally more than one 2. Redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner: catch in any game after the trip to South Bend, but Entering the 2012 season, many Michigan fans he did record a few more highlight plays, like a 29wondered, "What would the Wolverines do withyard touchdown reception versus Iowa. out Denard Robinson?" When Robinson injured He finished the year with 15 catches for 234 yards his ulna nerve during a 23-9 loss at Nebraska, they and a team-high five touchdowns. The sophomore were faced with that reality. has worked to bulk up and perfect his blocking And Gardner stepped in the next week to answer technique so he can be a better overall tight end in the question with gusto. In just five starts, Gardner 2013 — and he is poised for a big season. The 6-5, compiled an impressive 1,219 passing yards and 228-pounder will provide a big target for Gardner 11 touchdowns, even though he had spent the Fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan, and will create mismatch nightmares for the linemajority of his time practicing and playing wide who put off the NFL for one more season in backers and safeties trying to cover him. receiver before Robinson went down. Ann Arbor, hopes to lead the Wolverines to a 5. Fifth-year senior strong safety Thomas Now, Gardner (6-4, 210) is the unequivocal Big Ten title. starter at quarterback. With an entire year to study photo by per kjeldsen Gordon: Gordon has tallied 171 total tackles in the last three seasons (including a career-high 81 the position and learn under offensive coordinator last year), the most of any returning player. Al Borges, he has a chance to take a big leap forward in 2013. He has also tallied 9.5 tackles for loss, four fumble recoveries, three sacks, 3. Fifth-year senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon: Through two and a three interceptions and three forced fumbles. half seasons at Michigan, Gallon had made a name for himself as a reliable He has been a steady, solid defensive player throughout his career. Now — though not dynamic — option in the passing game. Through the first the veteran leader of the Wolverines' back seven (safety Jordan Kovacs and eight games of the 2012 season, Gallon had amassed 53 career catches for middle linebacker Kenny Demens graduated last season), Gordon will have 820 yards and four touchdowns while producing some highlight-reel plays to step up from a leadership standpoint. A likely move from free safety to such as a 64-yard catch in the waning seconds of the 2011 Notre Dame strong safety will get him involved much more in the run game, and he contest that set up the game-winning touchdown. should have a highly productive season. When Gardner took over with five games to go in the 2012 season, Gal- 64  ■  The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview

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