Thursday, April 25, 2013
By Chantel Jennings, Tom VanHaaren & Michael Rothstein
Every Thursday, our writers sit down and take a look at three topics in Michigan athletics from the week. Today they consider breakout football players, basketball’s prospects next season and the ESPN 150.
1. Which Michigan football player do you think could have a breakout in 2013?
After taking over for Denard Robinson, Michigan QB Devin Gardner looks to step onto the national stage in 2013.
Michael Rothstein: I'm going with the Michigan seniors from Wednesday's survey and saying Devin Gardner. It sounds like a different answer because Gardner is somewhat of a known quantity, but he has the potential to be one of the better quarterbacks in the country. His size/speed/decision-making combination is extremely tough to replicate. If he prepares as he should, Gardner should flourish in an offense suited to his skills, which Al Borges knows how to run.
Chantel Jennings:Devin Funchess or Jake Butt. The problem with Funchess last season, and he admitted this, is that he wasn’t physical enough, which is what he worked on over the offseason. And with Butt coming in physically ready to pound people, that’s only going to fuel competition at the position. I think Butt could steal the starting spot. One of these two could step out as a huge contributor.
Tom VanHaaren: I think Gardner is going to surprise a lot of people. Surprise might be the wrong word, since he had a good performance last season once he took over. I think he is going to show a lot of improvement, though, and part of it might be the new offense being a better fit for him. He has some new weapons around him, too.
2. With all five of Michigan's freshmen coming back, as well as the incoming class, how good could Michigan's basketball team be next season?
Rothstein: Extremely good. I've told a couple of people already there is a chance Michigan's starting five -- and roster -- will be second only to Kentucky next season in terms of talent. There are still questions, mostly surrounding the point guard and how Michigan and John Beilein could adjust to an offense featuring primarily two bigs, but there is a chance for the Wolverines to be quite good next season. If Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Caris LeVert and Nik Stauskas all progress well, Michigan could have a solid eight-man rotation of guys who will play professional basketball somewhere down the road.
Jennings: That question hinges on point guard play. Because a team can have a ton of talent, but eventually the fact it doesn’t have a distributor who is as good, if not better (here’s looking at you, Trey Burke) than the rest of the players, the team’s ceiling will be markedly lower. If Spike Albrecht or Derrick Walton (Harper Woods, Mich./Chandler Park Academy) can rise to that occasion, I think the Wolverines could be Final Four-bound again.
VanHaaren: I think it depends on the point guard. Losing Burke was obviously a big deal, so if there isn't too much of a dropoff in performance there then I think they can be very good once again. Bringing back McGary and Robinson certainly helps.
3. Michigan has a ton of recruits on the ESPN 150. Which prospect on that list intrigues you most for the 2014 class?
Rothstein: I'd say Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic). The No. 2 player in the class and No. 1 cornerback at what could be a position of need in 2014 would be a massive pull for Michigan. While there alredy would be talent on campus, Peppers seems like a prospect who could push for time from the second he steps on campus.
Jennings:Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge). If the Wolverines can snag that high of a recruit out of the stronghold of the South, it would be a huge coup. He would be Hoke’s highest-ever commit, and between Hand and Bryan Mone (Salt Lake City/Highland), the Wolverines would have a pretty nasty interior line in the 2014 class alone.
VanHaaren: That's tough to pick just one because I think all of them have the potential to be very good. I'm going to say Wilton Speight (Richmond, Va./Collegiate School), though. He's being overlooked by a lot of fans and people watching this class, and I'm not sure why. Speight already has a lot of skills that will be vital for success in college. His accuracy is going to help him early on, and I believe that he will compete with Shane Morris (Warren, Mich./De La Salle)s once Gardner leaves the program. He intrigues me because I think he has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove a lot to some of the critics.