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13 Michigan

Aug. 20, 2012
Aug. 20, 2012

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Aug. 20, 2012

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13 Michigan

They have a Heisman candidate, they're better than Ohio State. That's a pretty good start, right?

This is an article from the Aug. 20, 2012 issue

Key Recruit

ROYCE JENKINS-STONE The 6'2", 206-pound outside linebacker, who had 145 tackles as a senior at Detroit's Cass Technical, turned down offers from Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma and Tennessee. He'll push for snaps behind three returning starters.

Breakout Player

BLAKE COUNTESS As a true freshman, the 5'10", 182-pound sophomore cornerback started the Wolverines' final six games and ranked second on the team with six pass breakups. A former gymnast, the disciplined, athletic Countess should continue to improve with experience.

The Skinny

BRADY HOKE enjoyed a successful debut season in 2011, winning 11 games, knocking off Ohio State and beating Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. "That's all great," Hoke says, "but at the same time, you've got to remember what your goals are." For the Wolverines the goal is to win their first Big Ten title in eight years. A veteran offense is led by dual-threat Heisman candidate Denard Robinson and monstrous left tackle Taylor Lewan. But one of the major reasons for Hoke's success was the turnaround of the defense—which improved from 108th in scoring D two years ago to sixth last fall—under coordinator Greg Mattison. His big challenge this season will be replacing two four-year starters on the D-line.

Final Analysis

MICHIGAN'S CONFERENCE-TITLE hopes took a hit last month with the DUI arrest and indefinite suspension of running back Fitz Toussaint, who was expected to ease Robinson's rushing burden even more this fall. But just as Toussaint developed quickly last year, senior Vincent Smith (6.0 yards per carry in 2011) and sophomore Thomas Rawls (6.1) should excel in his absence. The Wolverines' schedule does them no favors, opening with Alabama in the Cowboy Classic and including road games at Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State. The Wolverines will be better this season, but that will not necessarily be reflected in their final record.

THE VITALS

Coach Brady Hoke (2nd year)

11--2 (6--2 Big Ten)

2011 Record 11--2 (6--2, 2nd in Big Ten Legends)

Final AP Rank 12

Returning Starters Offense 6, Defense 7

2011 STATS

Total Offense (Rank) 404.7 YPG (42)

Rushing Offense 221.9 YPG (13)

Passing Offense 182.9 YPG (93)

Total Defense 322.2 YPG (17)

Rushing Defense 131.7 YPG (39)

Passing Defense 190.5 YPG (16)

TELLING NUMBER 526

Decline, in yards, of Robinson's rushing production between 2010 and '11, with the emergence last fall of Toussaint, who averaged 5.6 yards per carry.

TOP PLAYERS

Offense

QB Denard Robinson

Sr. 6'0", 197 pounds

2,173 YDs (P), 1,176 YDs (R)

RB Fitz Toussaint

Jr. 5'10", 202 pounds

1,041 YDs, 9 TDs

LT Taylor Lewan

Jr. 6'8", 309 pounds

13 starts

Defense

DE Craig Roh

Sr. 6'5", 281 pounds

32 tackles, 4 sacks

LB Kenny Demens

Sr. 6'1", 242 pounds

94 tackles, 3 sacks

SS Jordan Kovacs

Sr. 6'0", 202 pounds

75 tackles, 4 sacks

Special Teams

K Brendan Gibbons

Jr. 6'1", 230 pounds

54/55 PATs, 13/17 FGs

PHOTOMICHAEL PIMENTEL/ISIPHOTOS (LEWAN)Lewan is a mountain on the blind side, but the spot next to him could be filled by a walk-on or a true freshman.PHOTOLON HORWEDEL/ICON SMI (COUNTESS)