Season Expectations Continued
The season is drawing alarmingly near, meaning that it is time to finish up my expectations for the various position groups. So, with no further ado:
Wide receivers and Tight Ends (Jason Avant WR, Steve Breaston WR, Tim Massaqoui TE)
Best Case: Avant continues to be the premier possession receiver in the Big Ten, Breaston returns to his freshman form and begins to fill Braylon Edwards shoes as Chad Henne's favorite deep ball target and Carl Tabb shows some consistency as a backup possession/blocking type guy. The rest of the receivers are talented but unproven, but I could definitely see Adrian Arrington hauling in 5 or 6 TDs this year and either Doug Dutch or Mario Manningham using speed to consistently stretch defenses and open up short routes for Avant and Breaston. At tight end I fully expect Massaqoui to live up the hype that always seem to accompany him. He could be the best tight end in the Big Ten this year and Tyler Ecker seems to have a nose for making big plays when it really counts (see Ohio State in 2003 and Minnesota in 2004). If this group plays somewhere in the vicinity of their talent they will be the best group of passing targets east of the Mississippi and maybe in the whole country.
Worst Case: Avant seems like a sure thing, but its possible with teams focusing on Breaston he will have a hard time getting the ball. Tabb could be non-existent and the none of the young guns (Arrington, Dutch, Manningham et al) step forward. In that scenario Henne could have trouble finding targets and defenses could stack the box to stop the run.
Injury Case: Both Avant and Breaston were limited by injuries a year ago so this is of some concern. The depth is exceedingly good though (perhaps the best in the country) so Michigan should be fine here.
Best Guess: I think that Avant can be counted on for 70+ catches and at least 900 yards. Breaston will be electric again and should help stretch defenses with his speed. Arrington will have a very, very good year (500+ yards) as a third option and Tabb will be very valuable as a blocker at the WR position. Massaqoui will be solid but not spectacular and Ecker will save at least one game.
Offensive Line (Jake Long, Adam Stenavich, Mike Kolodziej, Matt Lentz)
Best Case: Long is already out for a significant portion of the year due to injury, but it bodes well that it was hard to list returning starters for this grouping because so many players saw significant time last year. Flat out best case, this group is a "Michigan Line" and they just bulldoze people. All the talent is there for this to happen, its just a question of getting people into the right places and the Michigan coaching staff always seem to excel at this.
Worst Case: Players don't adjust to new positions and there are growing pains up and down the line. I also worry about the center position which was shaky enough last year to justify playing an All-American (David Baas) out of position.
Injury Case: Injuries are the most significant threat to this group. Leo Henige has never really been healthy his whole time at Michigan (I blame Ryan Acre, but perhaps more on that later) so having Henige listed as a starter makes me nervous. This group is an injury to Lentz or Stenavich away from disaster or at least serious realignment.
Best Guess: This grows into a Michigan Line just in time for the Notre Dame game and spend the rest of the season pummeling hapless defenders. Jake Long comes back just in time for the Ohio State game and very publicly mauls someone.
Ok, that is all for the offense. I will be back later tonight with the defense.