September 26, 2008

Inside Michigan: Offense

MADISON, Wis. - After losing Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Jake Long, Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington, one may have thought the 2008 Wolverines would endure some early offensive struggles in the new season. By adding new coach Rich Rodriguez and his elaborate spread system, it was almost expected.

Before the Badgers and Wolverine's square off this Saturday, the following takes a look inside Michigan's offense, their key players, and what to expect come game day:

Quarterback:

This has been an interesting positional battle that has leaked into the season for the Wolverines. Neither Stephen Threet or Nick Sheridan are the prototypical rushing threat usually incorporated in a spread offense, so there have been some growing pains in the early stages.

Early on in the season, Threet has logged the most time under center and has thrown for 307 yards and two touchdowns in three games. Sheridan, who started the season opener, has tallied 192 passing yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions in limited action.

Heading into the Big Ten opener, Threet is listed as the starter on the Wolverine depth chart and while he has yet to throw any interceptions, his 102.3 passing yards per game are below average. It will be interesting to see what the Badgers do to rattle the young quarterback as they attempt to pressure him with their dynamic defensive line.

Running backs:

So far, Sam McGuffie, 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, has dominated reps as the Wolverine feature back. In his first three career starts, let alone games, he has 213 rushing yards on 50 carries and one touchdown. His versatility has also led to nine receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown to compliment his 33.7-yard average per catch.

"The running back is a little bit smaller in nature, so he does a good job of, you know, all of a sudden he pops out from a hole and gets a few more extra yards," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "I'm sure you guys have all seen the YouTube clips. I think he's a tremendous athlete and presents a unique challenge."

Backing up McGuffie through the first three games have been Michael Shaw, Brandon Minor and Kevin Grady who combined have 21 carries and 111 yards with two touchdowns.

Wide receiver and tight ends:

The Wolverines have historically had very talented wide receivers. This year's group may not be much different when it's all said and done as two of Michigan's top three wide outs are true freshmen. Martavious Odoms leads the team in both receptions (14) and receiving yards (120), and fellow freshman Darryl Stonum is third among Michigan wide outs with five catches for 48 yards. In total, three receivers have more than 100 receiving yards with Odoms, McGuffie and [d]Greg Mathews[/db] round out that group.

Tight end Carson Butler, while not used like a UW h-back, has netted only two receptions for 17 yards in three games.

Offensive line:

Sophomore right tackle Stephen Schilling anchors the unit with 16 straight starts at his position. Otherwise, the rest of the line is relatively young and inexperienced. At center, David Molk is only a redshirt freshman and only has three career starts under his belt.

The line is rounded out with either Mark Ortmann or Perry Dorrestein at left tackle trying to replace Jake Long, and Tim McAvoy and David Moosman at left and right guard respectively.

So far, the offensive line has only been able to help the rushing game to only 124 yards per game while only allowing three sacks on their quarterback.

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