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April 12, 2013 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-04-12

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8 - Friday, April 12, 2013

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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ERIN KIRKLAND/Daily ERIN KIRKLAND/Daily ERIN KIRKLAND/Daily ERIN KIRKLAND/Daily PAULSHERMAN/Daily
Redshirt junior Devin Gardner is currently the Fifth-year senior tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint Fifth-year senior offensive tackle Taylor Senior receiver Jeremy Gallon stands atjust Junior defensive end Frank Clark has earned
only healthy scholarship quarterback on roster, isn't at full strength after a broken leg last year. Lewan bolsters Michigan's offensive line. 5-foot-8, shorter than the younger wideouts. more praise this spring than any other player.
Five things to watch in Spring ame

ByZACH HELFAND
Daily Sports Editor
This much is certain: the interior of
the Michigan football team's offensive
line will wear facial hair and eat break-
fasts at Benny's Family Dining in Ann
Arbor. That leaves, well,just about every-
one as options.
After a disappointing season on the
ground in 2012, the Wolverines will
unveil a new, and likely very young, inte-
rior line at Saturday's Spring Game. Any
of the three eventual starters, in all like-
lihood, will see their first game action in
the fall.
This spring, the offensive linemen
have grown facial hair as ateam-building
exercise. Redshirt junior quarterback
Devin Gardner often takes the group out.
to breakfast.
The hope is that the closer the group
is, the better it willbe. Aside from former
quarterback Denard Robinson, Michi-
gan's backsstruggled to gain much on the
ground last year. Then-redshirt sopho-
more Fitzgerald Toussaint didn't do
much to create his own space, but often,
he had no holes to choose from.
Redshirt freshman guard Kyle Kalis
should be a near-lock to start at guard. At
center, redshirt sophomore Jack Miller
will likely get the start.
The real competition is at the other
guard position, between redshirt sopho-
more Chris Bryant and redshirt fresh-

man Ben Braden. Freshmen Kyle Bosch
and Patrick Kugler could challenge for
the starting spot, but the transition from
high school to Division Ilineman is a very
slow process. Bosch has the advantage of
enrollingearlybuthe remains alongshot.
Bryant had a promising future until
tearing his anterior cruciate ligament
prior to last season and could have an edge
over the freshmen. The 6-foot-6, 314-
pound Braden has the most impressive
frame, and likely would've challenged for
the starting tackle position had fifth-year
senior tackle Taylor Lewan gone pro. But
can he translate that to guard?
Michigan coach Brady Hoke has
recruited the line heavily, and that should
start paying off in 2013.
WANNA SEE IF YOU CAN RUN IT,
RUN IT: The competition at running back
could be the top story line of the Spring
Game, if only the top two competitors
were playing. After a regression at tail-
back in 2012, the position this year is even
more uncertain.
Toussaint hasn't returned to full-con-
tact drills after fracturing his leg on Nov.
17. Derrick Green, perhaps Hoke's most
highly-touted recruit, remains in high
school.
Neither promises a return to the
ground-game success of 2011 immediate-
ly. Yet the rest of the field hasn't exactly
seized the opportunity. Hoke has praised
the remaining backs - junior Thom-
as Rawls, redshirt sophomore Justice

Hayes, sophomore Dennis Norfleet and
redshirt freshman Drake Johnson - yet
no one has separated.
And the praise isn't exactly rousing.
"Justice has really done a nice job," Hoke
said after practice on April 4. "Thomas,
too."
Dennis Norfleet, on the other hand,
has run well inside "in spots."
Michigan ranked fifth in the Big Ten.
in rushing with 2,389 yards in 2012, but
more than half of those yards came from
Robinson. If no one impresses in the
Spring Game, Michigan fans better start
hoping Green is as good as advertised and
Toussaint's leg heals soon.
BETTER WATCH YOUR (QUARTER)
BACK: Speaking of less-than-high praise,
here's Hoke on quarterback Brian Cleary.
"Has a good arm," Hoke said. "I'm not
going to say he's throwing bullets, but
he's got a good arm, good accuracy."
Yes, that's Brian Cleary, a non-scholar-
ship redshirt freshman and the current
backup to the most important position
on the team. The former backup, redshirt
sophomore Russell Bellomy, tore his ACL
earlier this spring. And here is where the
previous two story lines converge. The
development of the interior line is so
important because Gardner needs all the
protection he can get. Finding a power
back is crucial to take the heat off Gard-
ner.
Yet even if the linemen exceed expec-
tations and a running game emerges,

Gardner will likely get dinged up here
and there. If Cleary becomes a service-
able backup, Michigan can redshirt
incoming freshman Shane Morris.
Cleary's first chance to show the public
his worth comes Saturday.
LOOK OUT FOR CLARK: The Wolver-
ines' last impact pass rusher left after
2009. His name was Brandon Graham,
and Michigan hasn't had a player like
him since.
Enter Frank Clark. The junior defen-
sive end has a long, long way to go to
attain Graham status, but he has earned
the highest praise of any single player
this spring.
Hoke said Clark is "unusual," noting
that "Frank has an ability, a God-given
ability."
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison
said that Clark "thinks about football day
and night."
Lewan named Clark as the player he
least likes to see in one-on-one drills.
Clark said that he lines up against Lewan
20 times per day, calling ittheir "project"
to go against each other as much as pos-
sible.
Even last year, the matchup would
have been one-sided. Clark showed
improvement throughout the 2012 sea-
son after beingsuspended for the opener.
He finished with 9.5 tackles for loss, two
sacks and a forced fumble. When left
unblocked, he hit people, and hard.
Yet he had to fight for playing time.

This year, Clark has beefed up to 274
pounds, up about 50 pounds from his
freshman year.
Clark still has a lot to prove, but he's
the most likely to turn heads on the end. S
LAST OF THE RECEIVERS: Gardner's
favorite target, fifth-year senior Jeremy
Gallon, exploded late last season.. The
diminutive wideout blossomed into a via-
ble threat. But take a good look Saturday,
he's likely the last of a dying breed.
Smaller receivers like Gallon fit in for- *
mer Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez's
spread offense. But the offense of Hoke
and offensive coordinator Al Borges
favors a more traditional look with bigger
receivers.
Meet the pass-catching future: 6-foot-
2, 213-pound sophomore Amara Darboh
and 6-foot-3, 193-pound redshirt fresh-
man Jehu Chesson.
Chesson, Borges said, has speed. Dar-
boh is more elusive.
Both are big.
The current offense features Gallon
(5-foot-8) and Drew Dileo (5-foot-10).
Roy Roundtree, last year's No. 1 receiver,
stood at 6-feet tall.
"We wanted to get some bigger kids in
there, knowing that the little guys have
done a great job for us, but we did want to
give a little more range to the position,"
Borges said.
"We've won a few jump balls," Borges
continued, then paused. "Lost a few, but
haven't lost them all."

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MICHIGAN FOOTBALLCHARTH

/

WIDE SLOT WIDE LEFT LEFT RIGHT RIGHT TIGHT WIDE
RECEIVER RECEIVER TACKLE GUARD CENTER GUARD TACKLE END RECEIVER
Jeremy Drew Dileo, Taylor Lewan, Chris Bryant, Jack Miller, Kyle Kalis, Michael Schofield, Devin Amara Darboh
Gallon, Senior Fifth-year senior Redshirt Redshirt Redshirt Senior Funchess, Sophomore
Senior sophomore sophomore freshman Sophomore
QUARTERBACK RUNNING BACK
Devin Gardner, Fitzgerald Toussaint,
Redshirt junior Fifth-year senior

0

By ZACH HELFA]
Daily Sports Edito

WEAK-SIDE
CORNERBACK DEFENSIVE END
Raymon Taylor, Frank Clark,
Junior Junior &
Mario Ojemudia,
Sophomore
WEAKSIDE
LINEBACKER
James Ross ll,
Sophomore

LEFT DEFENSIVE
TACKLE
Quinton Washington,
Fifth-year senior
MIDDLE
LINEBACKER
Desmond Morgan,
Junior

RIGHT DEFENSIVE STRONG-SIDE
TACKLE DEFENSIVE END CORNERBACK
Ondre Pipkins, Keith Heitzman, Blake Countess,
Sophomore Redshirt sophomore & Redshirt sophomore
Jibreel Black,
Junior
STRONG-SIDE
LINEBACKER
Cameron Gordon,
Fifth-year senior OR
Joe Bolden,
Sophomore
Gordon, Fifth-year senior KICKER Brendan Gibbons, Fifth-year senior
after losing all three starters to Senior Will Hagerup is the likely Matt Wile will assume the punting 0
graduation and strong-side line- starter, but only if he is reinstated responsibilities. The return men
backer, after the loss of starter from his third suspension. Michi- will likely be sophomore Dennis
Jake Ryan, a redshirt junior, to gan coach Brady Hoke said he still Norfleet on kicks and senior Jer-
injury. remains suspended indefinitely. emy Gallon on punts, though Gal-
Not pictured is the punter. Should he remain in limbo, junior lon struggled with punts in 2012.

STRONG SAFETY Jarrod Wilson, Sophomore FREE SAFETY Thomas

ND
rr

returning starters on the offense opener against Alabama but sus-
and defense (including junior tained a season-ending knee inju-
defensive end Frank Clark, who ry in the first quarter.
split time last year) plus the addi- The positions to watch include
tion of redshirt sophomore Blake the interior offensive line, which
Countess. Countess started the undergoes a complete overhaul

The Daily football beat takes a
highly speculative look at Michi-
gan's depth chart. We project 12

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