The Michigan Wolverines start the Brady Hoke Era on Saturday at the Big House against Western Michigan. Here seven players who are keys for the Wolverines to be successful in 2011:
No. 1: Denard Robinson, QB
Denard Robinson is the key to Michigan’s offense in 2011.
The two biggest questions for the 2011 season for the Michigan Wolverines are can Robinson adapt to Brady Hoke and Al Borges’ new system, and if Robinson can stay healthy a full season?
First, Robinson had a great season in 2010. Robinson passed for 2,570 yards, completed 62.5% of his passes, and threw 18 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. On the ground, Robinson ran for 1,702 yards, scored 14 touchdowns, and averaged 6.6 rushing yards per attempt.
Second, this offseason Robinson has had to adapt to Hoke and Borges’ new system. That system is a West Coast offense where Robinson will have to take more snaps under center now. It will also want Robinson to hand the ball off more to help lighten the load off Robinson.
Robinson will have to learn not to always tuck and run with the ball, but to be patient. Plays will develop if given time. There will times to tuck and run with it.
Michigan will want Robinson to start and finish this season.
Third, the biggest and most important factor for Michigan to be successful is keep Robinson healthy.
Robinson did not even finish at least 10 games last year. Imagine what he could do if didn’t get injured last year and finished games.
No. 2: Ryan Van Bergen, DT
Ryan Van Bergen is a senior leader for the Wolverines on the defensive line this season and listed number one on the depth chart heading into Saturday.
The senior had 30 tackles last year, and four sacks.
Van Bergen has been steady on the defensive line making 26 career starts on the line, and playing in 37 games. Van Bergen has 90 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, nine sacks, one fumble recovery and six pass breakups during his career as a Wolverine.
Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison are definitely ready to make this team a defensive team again.
Michigan drops its 3-3-5 scheme, and Mattison brings in the 4-3 scheme. Van Bergen will play tackle this season in the scheme.
Van Bergen also got up to 288 pounds this offseason to help beef up the line.
Mattison doesn’t want the Wolverines to give up any more big plays, and Van Bergen will help anchor a defensive line that has to attack quarterback and shut down opponent’s running games, which the Big Ten has a lot of good running backs.
No. 3: Mike Martin, DT
Mike Martin is number one on the depth chart in the 3-4 scheme in the middle for the Wolverines, and also a team captain in 2011. Martin will be called upon to be a defensive leader for Hoke and Mattison.
In the offseason, Martin beefed up to 304 pounds to get stronger and better.
While at Michigan, Martin has racked up 108 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in his career. Last year, Martin had 36 sacks and 1.5 sacks.
No. 4: Craig Roh, DE
In his career at Michigan, Roh has racked up 80 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles and four pass breakups during his career. Roh had 42 total tackles, a half of a sack, and two forced fumbles last year.
This offseason Roh added 18 pounds and is up to 269 now. Roh will be the defensive end in Mattison’s 3-4 scheme.
In the new 3-4 scheme, Roh will be looked upon to be a physical presence and helping stop the big plays from ever happening.
No. 5: Troy Woolfolk, CB
Troy Woolfolk was going to the one of the steady, solid upperclassman last year, but then got injured. Now, Woolfolk is back and ready to hit again.
In 2009, Woolfolk had 46 tackles. Now, Woolfolk is back and starting on the left side come Saturday when the season kicks off.
Woolfolk got disappointed with being injured last season, but worked harder to get healthy again, and now is the starter. Woolfolk will be relied upon heavily by Mattison to help anchor the secondary that gave up way too many big plays.
No. 6: Roy Roundtree, WR
Roy Roundtree was the Wolverines leading receiver last season after hauling in 72 catches for 936 yards and seven touchdowns.
With Darryl Stonum out now, Roundtree will be counted on even more. Offensive coordinator Al Borges needs that go to receiver to step up and run good routes and block down field as well.
Roundtree will definitely be called upon to do that.
Roundtree will be the starter opposite Junior Hemingway. Both are fast, and can open down field.
Like the defensive lineman, Gordon put on weight and muscle as well. Gordon is up to 222 pounds. Gordon will look to be an athletic linebacker who can play off the edge with a fire.
Last year, Gordon accumulated 77 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, three interceptions, four PBUs, two fumble recoveries, one blocked kick and a defensive touchdown.
Gordon played safety and linebacker last year, but will start the year as a linebacker come Saturday.
This was a huge improvement as Gordon, as he switched from wide receiver to defense in the spring of 2010.