- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Big Ten media days are around the corner, beginning on July 28 in Chicago. But we can hardly wait for the event and the season to arrive, so we’ll get you ready in the coming days by identifying three pressing questions that each league squad will face at media days, along with their possible answers.
Checking in next is Michigan, who have quarterback Devin Gardner, defensive end Frank Clark and linebacker Jake Ryan joining head coach Brady Hoke for the media festivities. Here is what they can expect to hear:
1. Is there hope for the offensive line?
Questions about the offensive line hovered around the program all offseason, and for good reason. The unit struggled mightily last season and then lost its two senior starting tackles to the NFL. A true freshman early enrollee, Mason Cole, spent time with the first unit this spring. Getting Erik Magnuson back from injury and Graham Glasgow back from his suspension will help some. But this is a group that needs to have made major strides in the summer for Michigan to have much of a chance in the fall.
2. Can the defense carry the load at times?
It's no coincidence that two of the three players the Wolverines are bringing to Chicago are from the defensive side of the ball. That's where most of the team's most experienced and recognizable players reside, as the offense is very green outside of Gardner and Devin Funchess. Greg Mattison's defense had some good moments last year but was hardly a lockdown unit, allowing more than 30 points five times. Hoke adjusted some roles on the defensive staff this offseason, and Mattison promises to bring more pressure than he did in 2013 with a veteran linebacking corps and some promising young talent on the D-line. Incoming freshman Jabrill Peppers could also have an immediate impact on the back end. Expect Hoke to once again deflect some of the hype surrounding Peppers but also talk optimistically about the defense's chance of being one of the best in the Big Ten.
3. Is Hoke feeling any pressure?
It's an unavoidable subject, given that Hoke has gone just 15-11 after an 11-win first year in Ann Arbor. He himself has said anything short of a Big Ten title is a failure for Michigan, and the Maize and Blue have yet to do that on his watch -- or get particularly close to it the past two seasons. Hoke has bought himself some time with highly rated recruiting classes, and athletic director Dave Brandon has given no indication that he's starting to get an itchy trigger finger. But another rough season by Wolverines' standards -- especially if rivals Ohio State and Michigan State continue to excel -- won't go over well with fans. Hoke will likely say he and his coaching staff need to do better and there's always pressure to succeed at the nation's winningest program. But the questions will keep coming until he delivers a championship.
4hMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy
1dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy