Coach Rich Rodriguez was fired for probation after major violations related to excessive practice time. Michigan tried to get Les Miles to fill the position, but was unsuccessful. Then Brady Hoke was hired. Hoke feels he has what it takes to turn this team into one fans and players can be proud of, but the Big Ten is a tough conference and Michigan has a lot to work on with rebuilding trust.
Quarterback Denard Robinson considered leaving after Rodriguez was fired, but stayed to give Hoke a chance after Hoke offered to build his offense around Robinson. Although he’s struggling a little with the new program, he should be another stellar performer this season. There is no clear running back for Michigan, but Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith will be returning and trying to make a name for themselves.
Hoke likes to use tight ends and fullbacks unlike Rodriguez. Therefore receivers Kevin Koger, Brandon Moore, and Steve Watson will be looking for more playing time while redshirt freshmen Dylan Esterline, Nate Allspach and Ricardo Miller will be looking to get a chance to play at all.
On the offensive line, Ricky Barnum has arisen as the top candidate for left guard, while senior Mark Huyge is No. 1 for now at right tackle. Patrick Omameh returns as right guard. This offense will struggle to conform to the new ways of Hoke, but if they stay uninjured and can practice together, they have enough talent to work well during the season.
Defensively, Mike Martin will return as nose tackle, but Michigan is exploring a way to use Martin at end in certain situations. Craig Roh will move from outside linebacker to end and joining Martin inside will be the returning Will Campbell. The Wolverines have lofty expectations for sophomore end Jibreel Black.
Kenny Demens will be the main middle linebacker after 82 tackles last season. Mike Jones is looking for a starting spot on the outside after his injuries last year while redshirt freshman Jake Ryan and sophomore Cam Gordon have been competing at the strong-side position. Cornerbacks troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd are expected back and starting the season.
Special teams has receiver Jeremy Gallon as primary punt returner. Incoming freshman Matt Wile who follows Hoke from San Diego to Michigan will move to replace kickers Brendan Gibbons and Seth Broekhuizen who had an abysmal season in 2010. Will Hagerup will return as punter.
Michigan 2011 Schedule: (More 2011 College Previews Here)
September 3 — Western Michigan
September 10 — Notre Dame
September 17 — Eastern Michigan
September 24 — San Diego State
October 1 — Minnesota
October 8 — @Northwestern
October 15 — @Michigan State
October 29 — Purdue
November 5 — @Iowa
November 12 — @Illinois
November 19 — Nebraska
November 26 — Ohio State
Michigan begins 2011 as a long shot in the new Big Ten. The Wolverines start the new Hoke era by hosting Western Michigan followed by the first night game in school history against Notre Dame and will prove to be a tough battle to win.
The end of the season will be difficult starting out with road trips to Iowa and Illinois before ending with Nebraska and Ohio State at home. Look for the Wolverines to win six games, seven if they get lucky.