Returning Starters – Offense: 9 Defense: 8
Preview: After a disastrous 5-7 campaign in the last season of Brady Hoke as head coach Michigan will move on to Jim Harbaugh who was Michigan’s first choice to fill the position. Now that Michigan has their guy leading the program expect the team to continue to head in the right direction until they’re competing with Ohio State atop of the Big Ten East. Harbaugh has to be excited that the cupboard isn’t bare with 17 returning starts, including 8 on a defense that should be one of the best units in the Big Ten.
The first plan of action is to turn around an offensive unit that couldn’t move the ball consistently in 2014. The interesting thing is the offensive system won’t change much given Hoke tried to mirror what Harbaugh used to run at Stanford. Michigan will focus on improving their pass efficiency, but they first need to settle on a starter. There’s a plethora of QBs to choose from with Iowa transfer Jake Rudock and top returning player Shane Morris in the mix. Harbaugh could also choose his own recruit with highly touted freshman QB Zach Gentry coming in this fall. The O-line returns 5 starters and with the proper coaching this unit has the size to handle most opponents Michigan will face. RB also returns a lot of highly recruited and underperforming talent. USC transfer RB Ty Isaac will likely enter into the mix with return players Green and Smith. WR is a position of concern with Funchess moving on to the NFL. Darboh and Canteen will look to fill the void at the receiver spot.
Michigan was solid on the defensive side of the ball in 2014 and the unit would have put up even better numbers if they hadn’t had their backs against the wall on many occasions because of the offense. The Wolverines return a ton of depth and talent on the defensive side of the ball and this unit should carry the team again in 2015. Michigan has to replace playmakers on defense with Ryan, Clark, and Beyer moving on, but the team still returns more than enough talent to be even better this season. The secondary is a strength and this unit will build around highly touted recruit Jabrill Peppers. Michigan has also loaded up on quality LBs in recruiting over recent years and this unit will be led by veterans Joe Bolden and Desmond Morgan.
Prediction: Michigan should be better in 2015 in their first season under Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines could be the surprise team in the Big Ten if they find a consistent option at QB. The Wolverines have the talent, but the question is whether the players who were recruited to be part of Brady Hoke’s team will be receptive to change. Michigan will test themselves in the nonconference with games against Utah, Oregon State, and BYU, and we’ll get a great idea of where this squad stands early on. A bowl game is likely the floor for this squad with finishing second to Ohio State in the Big Ten East being the ceiling.
Projected Record: 8-4 (5-3)