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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.