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Monday, August 4, 2008
Three questions for Michigan

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- As Michigan begins preseason practice Monday at 2:30 p.m ET, here are three questions to monitor throughout the next three and a half weeks.

1. Will Steven Threet cement himself as the starting quarterback, or will another candidate make the coaches' decision tougher?

Threet, a transfer from Georgia Tech, appears to be the man to beat. As the valedictorian of his high school, he's certainly capable of grasping Rich Rodriguez's system. But are his feet as quick as his mind? Rodriguez needs a mobile quarterback, and Threet doesn't exactly fit the mold. It will be interesting to see how freshman Justin Feagin, a more prototypical Rodriguez quarterback, performs on the practice field this month.

2. How will the team's strength and conditioning upgrades translate to the practice field, particularly for the offensive linemen?

By now everyone knows Mike Barwis is God's gift to the weight room, and Michigan appears to be a stronger and faster team than it was in 2007. The most immediate dividends must come on the offensive line, which returns only one starter [Stephen Schilling]. If players like Mark Ortmann, David Moosman and Tim McAvoy display the athleticism needed to run this offense, Michigan could survive some early growing pains under center. It also will be interesting to see if highly touted freshmen Ricky Barnum and Dann O'Neill factor into the mix this summer.

3. Who steps up at linebacker and safety?

The defense needs to be a stabilizing force early on, and a lot depends on finding capable starters in the back half. Linebacker might be the most intriguing position competition outside of quarterback, as two seniors (Austin Panter and John Thompson) try to ward off several talented sophomores (Obi Ezeh, Marell Evans, Jonas Mouton). Stevie Brown made a strong push this spring at safety, and Brandon Harrison tries to lock down the other starting spot in his final season.