The main objective throughout spring practice for the Wolverines is to create competition at each position. In spring practice everyone gets a chance to show their skills. Michigan must find players that can fill in for departing seniors and find depth at positions with established starters.
What to watch
-All eyes will be on the quarterback position with prolific senior Denard Robinson in his second season under offensive coordinator Al Borges’ flexible offensive attack. Robinson holds the single season rushing record by a quarterback with over 1,700 yards in 2010. Passing for nearly 5,000 career yards and 40 touchdowns through the air, Robinson brings valuable experience to the quarterback position. Borges hopes Robinson can be more consistent in the passing game after competing 55 percent of his passes in 2011, down from 62.5 in 2010. Junior quarterback Devin Gardner showed progress towards the end of the season last year as a passer. It will be interesting to see if Gardner can continue to make strides in the passing game, which will in turn push Robinson. Red-shirt freshman Russell Bellomy will also get a chance to show what he can do after an observation year. There is a good chance for Bellomy to turn some heads, as he is well suited towards Borges’ offense.
-The secondary unit will be one to watch in 2012. Defensive backs coach Curt Mallory has done a tremendous job in his first season with the Wolverines after inheriting one of the worst secondaries in the country. The Michigan defensive backfield will stay mostly intact with converted safety Troy Woolfolk being the only departure. The inexperienced group found their swagger towards the end of last season, improving a pass defense that was ranked 111th in the country into the top 20. Returning cornerbacks J.T. Floyd and Blake Countess solidified their spots after Woolfolk was moved to safety. Former walk-on Jordan Kovacs has held his own and more, starting the last three years and collecting 266 total tackles along the way. Red-shirt junior Thomas Gordan started 10 games last season at safety, with a career high nine tackles against Notre Dame. The secondary must take advantage of these valuable practices to come together and gel as a group to take it to another level in 2012.
Holes to Fill
-There are obvious question marks in the trenches for Michigan. Big Ten offensive lineman of the year David Molk and All-B1G second team selection Mike Martin have graduated. Don’t forget about Ryan Van Bergen who had 14.5 sacks and 135 tackles (27.5 for a loss) in his career. Senior Will Campbell and junior Quinton Washington have no choice but to step up, as they saw limited tick behind Martin and Van Bergen the past couple seasons.
-There will be new faces at the tight end position for Michigan with seniors Kevin Koger and Steve Watson gone. Koger provided solid blocking at the line of scrimmage and was dependable in the passing game. Watson also provided depth at the positon and will be missed as a blocker. Converted wide out Ricardo Miller will have the opportunity to prove himself this spring at tight end. There is a chance for in-coming freshman A.J. Williams and talented pass catcher Devin Funchess see the field in their true freshman seasons.
-The receiving core also took a blow with the departure of Junior Hemingway, who had a knack for making difficult catches down the field. Darryl Stonum was expected to be a starter at wide receiver next season but was kicked off the team shortly after Michigan won the Sugar Bowl. Stonum was also going to be counted on in the return game that struggled with only 645 kick return yards last season. It is time for red-shirt senior Roy Roundtree to rise up to the occasion and be Robinson's go-to-guy next season.
-Senior Craig Roh will move from weak-side defensive end to the strong side. Converted linebacker Brennan Byer and talented sophomore Frank Clark will battle for the vacated weak-side position. Roh is the un-questioned leader on the line with 38 career starts under his belt.
-Junior defensive end Jibreel Black will move inside to add depth at the tackle position. At 6-foot-2, 260 pounds Black is slightly undersized at the tackle position but adds speed and quickness to the group.
-In replacement of Molk, fifth-year senior Ricky Barnum is making the transition from left guard to center. Barnum is a three-year letter winner for the Wolverines on the offensive line but has only appeared in nine games, making three starts.
-Offensive tackle Mike Schofield will return to the right side after starting ten games last season at the left guard spot. At 6-foot-7 and 299 pounds, the red-shirt junior has appeared in all 26 games during his career. Schofield has also been a key contributor on special teams.