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Michigan will have a tough time replacing Brandon Graham's production on the defensive line.

Earlier: Five Hopeful Predictions for 2010

After the last two seasons, the counterpart to my “Five Hopeful Predictions” post should come rather easily — I could probably pick five things that will go horribly wrong with the secondary alone and do pretty well for myself. That would be too easy, however, so I’ll do my best to keep the focus on the team as a whole while making my five pessimistic predictions for the 2010 season (if you’re curious, here is last year’s version — I went 2/5, for the record):

  1. The team finishes 90th or worse in pass efficiency defense — Last season, the Wolverines finished 70th in the country in pass efficiency defense, and that was with Donovan Warren and Troy Woolfolk manning the secondary. This year’s secondary features no player of Warren’s talent or Woolfolk’s experience, and the results likely won’t be pretty. The good news? It is possible to field a decent team with a horrific secondary: last year, Cal (8-5), Stanford (8-5), and Florida State (7-6 against a very tough schedule) all finished 90th or worse in pass efficiency defense. Those are outliers among some awful squads, but they’re also the schools with overall talent most comparable to Michigan’s at that point on the list. Teams will throw on Michigan, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll win. It does help, though, and the pass defense will likely cost the team some games in 2010.
  2. Michigan’s defense records 20 or fewer sacks — Despite the presence of Brandon Graham and his 10.5 sacks, Michigan finished just 68th in the country with 22.0 team sacks in 2009. Graham is off to the NFL, and while the defensive line should still be the strength of the Wolverine defense, I don’t see how the team will fully replace Graham’s tremendous production while also trying to mask the deficiencies in the back seven. I still expect Craig Roh to have a big season, and Ryan Van Bergen is a very solid defensive end, but this team could have a tough time getting to the quarterback if for no other reason than that the secondary may not be able to slow down the passing game enough to give the pass rush a chance.
  3. No player breaks the 1,000-yard rushing mark — With the coaching staff talking about rotating 3-4 players at running back, and the quarterback competition far from resolved, it’s tough to see anyone becoming the first Wolverine in the Rich Rodriguez era to eclipse the 1,000-yard plateau. The player with the best chance to prove me wrong may very well be Denard Robinson, who could threaten to put up Pat White-level numbers if he emerges as the clear number one quarterback, but that’s a very big “if” with Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner vying for playing time. While the Wolverines have several talented running backs, it doesn’t appear that anyone has emerged as a workhorse back — sophomore Vincent Smith, who is fresh off reconstructive knee surgery, sits atop the depth chart with oft-injured junior Michael Shaw, who may not even be academically qualified to play. Michigan should have a productive rushing offense, but it will likely be by committee, and not with a star feature back.
  4. Michigan converts less than 65% of their field goals — I predicted this last year, and senior walk-on Jason Olesnavage managed to come through and prove me wrong, hitting 11-of-15 field goals for a 73.3% conversion rate. Once again, questions surround Michigan’s kicking game, however, and with Olesnavage gone redshirt freshman Brendan Gibbons or redshirt freshman walk-on Seth Broekhuizen — currently listed as co-starters on the official depth chart — will have to step up. So far, the kickers have reportedly been inconsistent throughout the spring and fall, and I expect similar results as the season kicks off on Saturday. With no upperclassmen kicker — walk-on or otherwise — ready to take over the job, we might witness some major growing pains in the kicking game this year.
  5. The team loses at least two of the three rivalry games — Those games, of course, being Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State. This may seem like a lack of progress after Michigan took down Notre Dame last season and came close to pulling an epic comeback in East Lansing, but that may be deceiving — both of those teams should be improved this season, and the Buckeyes appear to be bona-fide national title contenders. Michigan’s best chance at a rivalry victory will be at home against the Spartans, but road contests in South Bend and Columbus will be very daunting for a team so green on defense.

Let’s all hope I go 0/5 on these predictions, as my love for the team far outweighs any pride I have in my prognosticating ability. Starting tomorrow, the season preview content begins to wrap up with Part I of my predictions for each game.

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Senior Mark Moundros has adapted quickly to linebacker after moving from fullback in the spring.

A couple weeks before last season, I threw out five positive predictions for the Wolverines. If you’re wondering how last season measured up to expectations, check out the post — none of the five came true (although Tate Forcier came close to completing the 60% of his passes I expected him to, finishing with a 58.7% completion percentage) and Michigan finished 5-7. This year, I’m throwing caution to the wind and trying my hand at this “optimism” thing one more time; here are five hopeful predictions for the 2010 season:

  1. Denard Robinson averages 250 yards of total offense There’s no question Denard Robinson is a special athlete, and if his passing has really progressed as advertised, he could put up some big numbers this season. 250 yards of total offense per game isn’t an outlandish number for a dual-threat quarterback — in 2009, that number would be good for 33rd in the country, and many of the players near the top of the list aren’t household names, but quarterbacks who can eat up yards on the ground. As a sophomore, Pat White averaged 261.3 yards per game, and while I don’t expect Robinson to match White’s production, I think he’ll come close, and close enough to make the Michigan offense very dangerous.
  2. Mark Moundros totals 70 tackles — That’s right, redshirt senior fullback-turned-linebacker walk-on Mark Moundros, who is currently in a battle with redshirt senior Obi Ezeh to start at middle linebacker, will have at least 70 tackles, the exact figure Ezeh turned in last year. All indications point to Moundros as the probable starter come Saturday, and he had displayed solid tackling ability and a nose for the football since moving from fullback in the spring. It appears that Greg Robinson’s defense will have the middle linebackers attacking the line downhill, which should play to Moundros’s strengths. I don’t expect him to be a world-beater, or even an all-conference caliber player, but anything better than “decidedly below-average” will be a step in the right direction after 2009.
  3. Carvin Johnson earns Freshman All-America honors — This doesn’t sound quite as outlandish as it appears in print, as Jordan Kovacs was a College Football News second-team Freshman All-American last year, but it still means Johnson will be a solid contributor to this year’s defense. The Louisiana native appears tailor-made for the spur position, which is essentially Stevie Brown’s linebacker/safety hybrid spot, as he is a very good tackler who drew rave reviews in his senior season after flying under the radar as a recruit. Johnson won’t be asked to do too much in coverage, but when he does, he shouldn’t be overmatched — he practiced some at cornerback this fall and recorded seven interceptions en route to being named first-team all-state in Louisiana’s largest division last year. Like any true freshman thrust into a starting role, there will be some bumps in the road, but I expect Johnson will be a pleasant surprise for the Wolverines in 2010.
  4. A Michigan receiver breaks 50 receptions — In Rich Rodriguez’s first two seasons at Michigan, the production from the wideouts has been disappointing — Roy Roundtree led the team with 32 catches last season after Martavious Odoms paced the team with 49 in 2008. With Roundtree, Odoms, and Darryl Stonum all poised for big seasons, and Michigan’s quarterback situation looking like the best it has been since Chad Henne graduated, I expect at least one receiver to crack 50 receptions in a breakout season. The safe bet is for Roundtree to eclipse that mark while working from the slot, but don’t count out Odoms, a great possession receiver who is now working on the outside — he could see a lot of screens and quick passes that could pad his stats significantly.
  5. Rich Rodriguez keeps his job — I’m not even necessarily predicting a bowl appearance, not with the defense in the shape it’s in, but I do think this team will show enough progression to allow Dave Brandon to keep Rich Rodriguez around for 2011. Rodriguez has seemingly caught every tough break imaginable in his two-plus years in Ann Arbor, and while this team still has a ways to go before they win like the Michigan of old, they’re certainly moving in the right direction. The offense should begin to resemble Rodriguez’s outstanding West Virginia units, and there is plenty of young talent across the board. I think this team will look just good enough for Brandon to give Rodriguez a chance to lead what should be an experienced and talented 2011 team, which only seems right, as Rodriguez has finally built the foundation for what should be a Big Ten contender.

Let’s all hope that these predictions hold up much better than last year’s, and I’ll have the flip side to this coin — my five “less hopeful” predictions — coming up soon.

True freshman Carvin Johnson sits at the top of the depth chart at spur.

Earlier: 2010 Official Depth Chart Breakdown: The Offense

While the offensive side of the official depth chart lacked many unexpected moves, its defensive counterpart has some very intriguing — and unforeseen — twists:

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The first thing that jumps out to me on the defensive line is the placement of sophomore Will Campbell — third string, a disappointing spot to be in for the former five-star recruit, who showed up to camp overweight at 333 pounds. He is stick behind senior Adam Patterson, who has all of eight career tackles in 25 appearances.

True freshman Jibreel Black earned a spot on the two-deep behind Ryan Van Bergen at defensive end, a very good sign from a player many thought would contribute immediately. The absence of redshirt freshman Anthony LaLota — especially in lieu of redshirt junior Steve Watson, who is on his third position in four years as a Wolverine — might not be a good sign for the former four-star prospect.

Your starting defensive line is redshirt junior Ryan Van Bergen at defensive end, junior Mike Martin at nose tackle, and redshirt senior Greg Banks defensive tackle. That’s a lot of experience along the line — this should be a strong unit up front.

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They weren’t kidding about redshirt senior Mark Moundros making a serious run at Obi Ezeh for the middle linebacker spot — the former fullback is listed as a co-starter with Ezeh, who was benched late last season despite making 31 career starts in three seasons. This is a position battle that could very easily continue into the season, especially as Moundros becomes more accustomed to the defensive side of the ball. Sophomore Craig Roh and redshirt senior Jonas Mouton are your other starters. Roh is finally at the proper weight for a player who will spend the majority of his time blitzing, while Mouton has been impressive in fall practices after a disappointing 2009 season.

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At cornerback, senior James Rogers gets the nod for now to start across from redshirt sophomore J.T. Floyd. As expected, the backups at corner are all true freshmen — Terrence Talbott and Cullen Christian back up Rogers, and Courtney Avery sits behind Floyd.

The biggest surprise on the depth chart is true freshman Carvin Johnson’s rise to the top of the depth chart at spur. Johnson was an unranked recruit when he first committed to Michigan, but finished as a high-ranked three-star who was creating a lot of buzz on blogs and message boards. He moves ahead of redshirt freshman Thomas Gordon, who most projected as the starter, and walk-on Floyd Simmons. Another true freshman safety, Marvin Robinson, has also landed on the two-deep — he sits behind Jordan Kovacs at bandit.

Redshirt freshman Cameron Gordon stays atop the two-deep at free safety, where is he backed up by another walk-on, redshirt junior Jared Van Slyke. Redshirt freshman Vlad Emilien, who many presumed would at the very least challenge for the starting job, is stuck at third string.

Special Teams:

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The battle at placekicker is still ongoing between Brendan Gibbons, Rivals.com’s No. 8 kicker in the class of 2009, and walk-on Seth Broekhuizen, a fellow redshirt freshman. True freshman and Army All-American Will Hagerup will start at punter, with Broekhuizen at backup. It could be an up-and-down year in the kicking department with two freshman handling the specialist duties — keep in mind the team will also have to find a replacement for kickoff specialist Bryan Wright, who transferred to Bowling Green for his fifth year.

Darryl Stonum will once again be Michigan’s top kickoff returner after he averaged 25.7 yards per return in 2009 and set the school record for single-season kickoff return yards with 1,001. He will be backed up by Martavious Odoms, who is one of three receivers vying for the punt return job, along with redshirt freshman Jeremy Gallon and redshirt sophomore Terrence Robinson. Stonum should once again be an excellent return man, and Michigan should at least have a sure-handed player handling punts among the three candidates.

Kelvin Grady's strong fall camp has earned him a co-starter spot at slot receiver.

Michigan released its official depth chart today for the UConn game, and there are a few surprises on the two-deep for Saturday. The entire depth chart can be found at the Football Depth Chart page. Let’s start by breaking down the offense:

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No surprise at quarterback, as Rich Rodriguez has said we won’t know who the starter is until kickoff; for the second straight season, we get three players all tied at the top. Devin Gardner, in Rodriguez’s words, will “probably not” redshirt this season — it looks like he has done enough in the coaches’ eyes to see the field this season and help the team. I still expect Denard Robinson to be the starter on Saturday, but we’ll probably see all three quarterbacks at some point.

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Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw head up what should be a rotation of at least 3-4 running backs. Note that Teric Jones, who was recruited at running back but played in the secondary for the past year, is back at his natural position.

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This is where things get a little interesting. Your starting wideouts are Darryl Stonum/Junior Hemingway and Martavious Odoms on the outside and Roy Roundtree/Kelvin Grady in the slot. This is probably a product of the depth and talent at slot receiver, especially with Grady having a breakout fall camp, and Rich Rodriguez’s subsequent attempt to get the best players on the field. The only true freshman on the depth chart, interestingly, is Jeremy Jackson — I suspect this is because he has by far the best hands out of the group, and he should be a reliable possession receiver if the team needs to use him.

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The depth chart at tight ends looks exactly the same as it did last year. It will be very interesting to see how much this position factors into the offense with all the talent at receiver.

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It appears that the veterans have held off the talented youngsters at tackle, as redshirt junior Mark Huyge and senior Perry Dorrestein get the nod at tackle over redshirt freshmen Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, at least for now. They will be joined by what should be a very good interior line in left guard Stephen Schilling, center David Molk, and right guard Patrick Omameh. The depth across the board is very strong, and this should be by far the best offensive line Rich Rodriguez has had at Michigan.

I’ll have a breakdown of the defense either later today or tomorrow afternoon, and my game previews for the season will begin on Wednesday as we rapidly approach game day in Ann Arbor.

Redshirt sophomore walk-on Jordan Kovacs will be Michigan's most experienced starting safety.

[Programming note: I’m headed to Rock the Bells, a ridiculously awesome one-day hip hop music festival, in New York City this weekend. I will be in a car all day on Friday and Sunday and spending all of Saturday at the show. If anything breaks, I’ll do my best to put something up when I have some downtime, but this will likely be the only post of the weekend — if I find some spare time, I might try to squeeze in a special teams preview, but I make no promises. I’ll be back with much more season preview material on Monday.]

Returning Contributors: Jordan Kovacs (RS So.), Kevin Leach (RS Jr.), Mike Williams (RS Jr.), Brandin Hawthorne (So.), Vlad Emilien (So.), Floyd Simmons (RS So.), Jared Van Slyke (RS Jr.), Zac Johnson (RS Jr.)
Ready to Contribute: Cameron Gordon (RS Fr.), Thomas Gordon (RS Fr.)
Incoming Freshmen: Josh Furman, Carvin Johnson, Marvin Robinson, Ray Vinopal
Key Departures: Stevie Brown

Returning Player Stats:

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The Projected Starters: Redshirt sophomore and former walk-on Jordan Kovacs will line up at bandit — essentially what Michigan called the strong safety last year — after starting eight games and finishing second on the team in tackles in 2009. Kovacs surprisingly emerged when safety Michael Williams was benched for poor play last year and surpassed all expectations for a guy who made the team in open tryouts, showing a great nose for the football, solid hitting ability, and good discipline. Kovacs is somewhat limited physically, however, and his lack of top-end speed was exploited on a couple big plays last season. He probably won’t make any all-conference teams, but Kovacs is a steady player who won’t find himself out of position often, which is all the team can really ask from their safeties right now.

At spur — think Stevie Brown’s linebacker/safety hybrid position from last year — the competition is still ongoing for the starting spot, although it appeared heading into fall camp that redshirt freshman Thomas Gordon had grabbed the top spot on the depth chart. Gordon was a high school quarterback at Cass Tech (where he played alongside classmates Will Campbell and Teric Jones) who only started playing on defense as a senior, so he’s relatively inexperienced at the position. Nicknamed “Prison Abs” by Rich Rodriguez as a recruit, Gordon has the physical tools required to be a solid safety, but understandably needed to work on technique coming out of high school — we’ll see how much progress he has made in that regard this fall.

Redshirt freshman Cameron Gordon (no relation) appears to have locked down the free safety position after an outstanding spring followed a position change from wide receiver, where he practiced in 2009. At 6-3, 207 pounds, Gordon is a physical presence in the middle and has earned a reputation as a hard hitter in practice, although he struggled with his tackling during last weekend’s scrimmage. As a former receiver, Gordon should make some plays with the ball in the air, but there are legitimate questions about whether he has the fluid athleticism needed to be a solid cover guy in center field. Since neither Gordon has ever played a down of college football, we will have to wait until the fall to see how they’ll hold up in game conditions.

The Competition: While Kovacs and Cameron Gordon look to have put a stranglehold on their respective positions, there is still a lot of competition at Thomas Gordon’s spur position. Redshirt junior Kevin Leach is a former walk-on linebacker who moved to spur in the spring, and he has game experience after recording 46 tackles in 2009. Like Kovacs, Leach is pretty limited physically in comparison to his scholarship counterparts, but he makes solid decisions on the field, which could give him the chance to play a big role again this fall.

Also competing to start at spur are two highly-touted freshmen, Josh Furman and Marvin Robinson, who each possess tremendous athletic ability. Furman is a speedster who played running back and linebacker in high school, and at 6-2, 207 pounds he has the size to be a physical presence at safety. He was regarded as a raw prospect in need of a lot of coaching, however, which could limit his playing time, especially early in the season. Robinson lacks Furman’s top-end speed, but otherwise is a very good athlete and a strong physical presence. He could see time at any of the three safety spots, and I expect he’ll see the field a fair amount this fall. Redshirt junior walk-on Floyd Simmons brief time at linebacker while mostly contributing on special teams in 2009, and he is also in the mix at spur, although I’d be surprised if Rodriguez decided to go with two walk-ons for the box safety positions.

Another true freshman, Carvin Johnson, could also see the field at safety or potentially cornerback, where he has seen some practice time recently. Johnson was an unknown recruit when he committed to Michigan, but the recruiting buzz around him picked up significantly afterward — it appears Rich Rodriguez and his staff did very well in unearthing Johnson from Louisiana. He was known as a ball-hawking safety who was very strong in run support in high school, but like so may other safeties on the roster he may not have the elite speed necessary to be strong in deep coverage — like MGoBrian, I thought he was ticketed for a spot at spur or bandit until practice reports indicated otherwise. Again, we’ll have to see where he ends up.

At free safety, sophomore and former four-star recruit Vlad Emilien is Cameron Gordon’s closest competition. Emilien burned his redshirt to make one special teams tackle last season after missing his entire senior year of high school with a torn ACL — one day, someone will have to explain why college coaches routinely burn redshirts on players who make a few appearances on special teams. Anyways, Emilien is now a sophomore, but there are still concerns about that senior year injury and its lingering effects after Emilien has been victimized on big plays in each of the last two spring games — he may not have the speed needed to cover deep center field in this defense. With no film on him at safety from the past two years, Emilien is yet another unknown quantity at the safety position.

Others: Redshirt junior Michael Williams is a former Army All-American recruit who saw a lot of playing time at free safety last season, but despite recording 56 tackles he was benched for routinely being out of position and allowing big plays. Williams was supposed to be in the mix to start at spur this year, but reports from spring and fall camps have indicated that he has fallen behind the competition. He has all the physical tools needed to be the answer at any of the safety positions, but it appears he still hasn’t put it together enough mentally to earn the coaching staff’s trust.

Sophomore Brandin Hawthorne somehow managed to use up his redshirt with even less of an impact than Emilien, appearing on special teams in four games last season without recording a tackle. Hawthorne was a wiry linebacker in high school who was initially expected to compete for time at one of the strong safety positions, but when Emilien went down with an injury in the spring he backed up Cameron Gordon at free safety. Wherever he ends up, he’ll have to pass several players on the depth chart before he sees the field in any role beyond special teams in 2010.

A pair of walk-ons, Jared Van Slyke and Zac Johnson, have contributed on special teams, but neither is expected to see the field much on defense this season. True freshman Ray Vinopal was the lowest-rated recruit in the 2010 class — he might have a promising future, but I’d be very surprised if he saw anything more than mop-up and special teams duty this fall.

Outlook: Much like at cornerback, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the safety position for Michigan heading into the fall. Kovacs should be a solid, but unspectacular, presence at bandit, while the two Gordons appear physically ready to make an impact at the collegiate level but lack real game experience. There is so much unknown here that it seems fruitless to even try forecasting how this unit will perform, but it’s safe to assume that there will be some growing pains with so much inexperience on the field, especially as the coaches look for the right combination of players in the secondary. How the players and the staff adjust to those bumps in the road will play a huge role in Michigan’s success in 2010.

Previous Position Previews: Quarterback, Running Back, Outside Receiver, Slot Receiver, Tight End, Offensive Tackle, Interior Offensive Line, Defensive Tackle, Defensive End, Linebacker, Cornerback

For every position preview, click here or hit the “2010 Position Previews” tag at the bottom of the post.

J.T. Floyd (12) will be Michigan's top corner in the wake of Troy Woolfolk's injury.

The position previews forge on with a look at the most disconcerting position group on the roster — the cornerbacks:

Returning Contributors: J.T. Floyd (RS So.), James Rogers (Sr.), Teric Jones (So.), Tony Anderson (RS Jr.)
Incoming Freshmen: Courtney Avery, Cullen Christian, Terrence Talbott
Key Departures: Donovan Warren, Boubacar Cissoko, Justin Turner

Returning Player Stats:

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The Projected Starters: Standout senior Donovan Warren will line up across from junior Boubacar Cissoko, who is poised for a breakout year after starting all 12 games as a sophomore.

Senior Troy Woolfolk can play either safety or corner, and is a solid option as a nickel corner, while blue-chip freshman Demar Dorsey is also competing for a big role in 2010 after an impressive showing in fall drills.

Redshirt freshman Justin Turner is also in line for a breakout year after being one of the country’s top defensive back recruits in 2009.

We all know the story by now: Michigan’s secondary is a decimated unit after a series of unfortunate events — Boubacar Cissoko getting kicked off the team, Donovan Warren leaving school early, Demar Dorsey and Adrian Witty (again) being denied admittance, Justin Turner transferring, Troy Woolfolk suffering a season-ending injury — leaves only unproven veterans and true freshmen battling for time at cornerback.

With all that has transpired, redshirt sophomore J.T. Floyd is now the team’s de facto number one cornerback, coming off a season in which he saw little playing time after appearing unready to see the field when he played in the opener against Western Michigan. Floyd is a former three-star recruit who played safety in high school, and he has earned the praises of the coaching staff and practice observers for his improvement since the end of last season. How much he has improved will go a long way towards determining the success of the Wolverine defense this season.

While Floyd is cemented as the team’s top corner, who will start across from him is a questions that thus far remains unanswered. As it stands right now, senior James Rogers appears to have the inside track on the job. Rogers started his career at cornerback before switching to wide receiver in 2008, but he moved back over to corner during the 2009 season when the team needed more depth at the position. Rogers is a former high school track star and at 6-1, 183 pounds, he has great physical attributes for a corner — the question will be if he can play with proper technique after bouncing between offense and defense throughout his collegiate career. If he wins the job, expect Rogers to be serviceable, but the ceiling here — especially in comparison to a guy like Cullen Christian — is relatively low.

The Competition: A trio of true freshmen — four-star Cullen Christian and three-stars Courtney Avery and Terrence Talbott — will compete not just for playing time, but to start alongside Floyd as the 2010 season rapidly approaches. Christian is the highest-rated of the group, has the most college-ready body (6-0, 187 lbs.), and possesses very good cover skills, but he must improve on his tackling if he wants to see significant time. Avery has been mentioned as the freshman who could see the field the soonest, despite being a three-star prospect who played mainly quarterback in high school. He is a very good athlete, but at 5-11, 167 pounds he needs to add some weight, and soon. Talbott, at 5-11, 171 pounds, is also in need of some bulk, and he is also a pretty raw prospect — on the plus side, he was a strong tackler in high school, a quality the coaches are really looking for in all their defensive backs. My guess is Christian sees the most playing time of the three freshmen based on overall talent and size, but everything is very much up in the air right now.

Sophomore Teric Jones has bounced around enough times to make even James Rogers’s head spin: Jones arrived on campus as a three-star running back/slot receiver prospect, but was moved to cornerback last fall and saw brief mop-up duty against Eastern Michigan and Delaware State while spending most of his nine appearances on special teams. This spring he moved to safety to compete to back up Jordan Kovacs at bandit, but was moved once again to cornerback after Woolfolk’s injury. Jones has ideal speed for a corner and hits surprisingly well for a 5-9, 195-pound defensive back, but he will have to learn proper corner technique in a hurry if he wants to see the field this year.

Others: Redshirt junior Kelvin Grady was moved this week from slot receiver to cornerback, and considering Grady’s outstanding scrimmage performance as a receiver last Saturday, this says a lot about the depth and quality at cornerback right now. [EDIT: Guess that rumor wasn’t true. Thanks to commenter Steve for the heads up.]

Redshirt junior walk-on Tony Anderson has played on special teams throughout his career at Michigan and could see time at corner if the situation calls for it, but he’s unlikely to get significant time on defense unless the team gets hit with even more injuries. True freshman Carvin Johnson has seen practice time at both safety, his natural position, and cornerback, but with three other true freshmen at corner I don’t foresee him having much of an impact here.

Outlook:
Okay, planning for a nuclear attack may be a bit over the top, but let’s look at this situation rationally for a minute: Michigan’s top corner will be a redshirt sophomore whose most memorable moment as a Wolverine was getting torched by a Western Michigan receiver in garbage time last year. That’s our top corner. The other spot will be manned either by a senior who has switched positions multiple times without ever seeing significant playing time or a true freshman. Behind that, we have more true freshmen and a walk-on who has only seen time on special teams. While it is conceivable that this unit could be something besides a complete disaster, well, the reality points to expecting something close to worst-case scenario. I will be very, very happy if I’m dead wrong about this position, but after two years of having my optimistic expectations crushed, I’m going to seek shelter in a bunker of realistic pessimism. My apologies if you expecting some comfort from this preview — here’s a winking puppy to make you feel better.

Previous Position Previews: Quarterback, Running Back, Outside Receiver, Slot Receiver, Tight End, Offensive Tackle, Interior Offensive Line, Defensive Tackle, Defensive End, Linebacker

For every position preview, click here or hit the “2010 Position Previews” tag at the bottom of the post.

Eso Akunne lines up a three against Oostende (via Michigan Basketball's Facebook page).

Despite cutting an 18-point halftime deficit down to eight by the start of the fourth quarter, Michigan dropped its third straight game in its European tour, losing 70-55 to Oostende, another Belgian professional squad. Michigan may be finding its rotation, however, as they ran out the same starting five for the third consecutive game: Darius Morris, Stu Douglass, and Matt Vogrich at guard, with Zack Novak and Blake McLimans up front. Here’s the box score from yesterday’s contest:

As you can see, the team struggled once again with connecting inside the arc, shooting just 9-for-26 on two point shots. Freshman forward Jordan Morgan was 4-for-4 on the afternoon, all on two-pointers, meaning the rest of the squad hit just 5-of-22 — not good at all. That 4-13 mark from the free throw line is disconcerting as well. I’ll have a more complete look at the European tour — and its potential implications for the 2010-11 season — after the final contest is played this afternoon. For more, as always, check out UMHoops’ coverage.