Staff writers Tom Van Haaren, Michael Rothstein and Chantel Jennings discuss three pertinent issues surrounding Michigan sports in this week’s roundtable.
1.) Which Michigan football starter from last season has the best chance of being usurped by a rookie this season?
Tom Van Haaren: I'd be surprised if any of the returning starters lost his job outright going into the season. The main competitions will be at the spots where the starter has left the team. If Jake Ryan were to move to defensive end, then his spot at SAM would be open obviously. The returning starters are all solid players that I think will get even better in their second year, so like I said I'd be really surprised to see one of last season's starters who is returning this season to lose his spot outright.
Michael Rothstein: I don't know if there is a starter who will lose his job. There are veterans competing for positions who could get beaten out, especially on the offensive and defensive lines, but no established starter will likely lose his job. If I had to pick one person, though, it would be Thomas Gordon losing his job to Jarrod Wilson, just because Wilson has a chance to be a special player. But other than that, I have a tough time seeing it. A guy such as Kenny Demens might end up sharing some time with a Royce Jenkins-Stone, but he won't be replaced by him.
Chantel Jennings: I think Desmond Morgan could see some serious competition from Joe Bolden. Bolden enrolled early and has the ability to be an All-American linebacker some day. Bolden is a little bit bigger than Morgan and I think his upside in the open field is much better than Morgan’s. If for some reason the coaches decide they want Bolden to play strongside linebacker, I could see the coaches possibly moving Ryan onto the line to fill in for what Michigan lost there.
2. Michigan is on a four-game win streak and playing arguably its best basketball of the season. Why?
TV: They say shooting is contagious, and it just seems like several players are finding their shots right now. Between Matt Vogrich, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Evan Smotrycz finding their way out of slumps and Stu Douglass finally hitting a few for Michigan, the Wolverines’ long-range game is really strong. Michigan's offense is often about the 3-point shot, and right now it’s really working.
MR: A lot of it has to do with schedule -- weaker teams on the road, home games against top teams -- and with Hardaway Jr. finding his way out of his funk. That has been immeasurable for Michigan. Add to that Beilein's teams typically start peaking in late February into March (look at the history from West Virginia and Richmond) and there's an easy reason. Their best basketball? Probably, when you consider the competition. But I think there is still room to play better. Defensively, however, this might be the best they've ever played under Beilein at Michigan. Might not be close. They are a very good defensive team.
CJ: This season, Michigan emphasized winning the Big Ten rather than making its way into the NCAA tournament. With that, Michigan coach John Beilein had his players focusing on playing well in February so they could play well in March. Why that amount of focus seems to be turning itself into production on the court is probably because of the solid senior leadership from Zack Novak and Douglass. They know what it’s like to play poorly in February (in 2010 they went 3-6) and they know what it’s like to play well in February (in 2011 they went 6-3). They know what worked and what didn’t work in the past and did their best to make this season the latter.
3. Do you expect anything to top last weekend in the next 10 months of football recruiting? What could possibly top it?
TV: From an excitement standpoint for the fans, probably not. I think the only thing that could really top that weekend is if Michigan finishes the class just as strong. With eight commits on the ESPNU 150 Watch List, if the Wolverines can close out the rest of the class with their top prospects then they might have a chance to have a top three class in the country. We'll see how it shakes out.
MR: No. Unless Michigan decides to force every commit left to pick the same weekend, the numbers game just doesn't add up to it being possible. If Michigan's class stays together, look for signing day in 2013 to be a pretty celebratory affair. The only thing that could top it would be like four five-stars committing the same weekend to Michigan, and I just don't see that happening, again, based off numbers. That was the best weekend Michigan has had as a program in a long time.
CJ: If Michigan were to add more potential five-stars to that list, such as OL Ethan Pocic, TE Adam Breneman, DB Kendall Fuller, or OL Laremy Tunsil. that could top a big four-star weekend. The Wolverines picked up some high-quality prospects but haven't landed multiple five-stars in one class in a long time. Currently, QB Shane Morris as the lone five-star in the class, but we’ll see what happens over the next few months.