Michigan's football season is nearing the halfway point and its basketball season is a week away from starting so Tom, Mike and Chantel jump in on three questions surrounding football, basketball and the omnipresent football recruiting in this week's WolverineNation roundtable.
1.) Michigan's defensive line has suffered several injuries in the two-deep this season. Which player is most vital to keep healthy through the conference season?
Tom Van Haaren: I know his stats aren't off the charts, but I think I might go with Craig Roh here. Nathan Brink is out with an injury and freshman Chris Wormley is out with a torn ACL. Behind Roh there isn't much outside of some true freshmen. They could move Jibreel Black over, but you're kind of robbing Peter to pay Paul with that. I think Roh has actually done a good job at his position and they need him to stay healthy.
Chantel Jennings: Whether fans are happy, angry or indifferent that Frank Clark has played, he really has gotten a lot of pressure off the end this season. He leads the team with three tackles for loss and has played one less game than everyone else. As the Wolverines get into the Big Ten season, quarterback pressure is going to be key and Clark has shown the ability to do that.
Michael Rothstein: Going with the copout answer and saying, well, all of them. None of Michigan's defensive linemen has shown he is capable of being a dominant force so as long as defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is going to run specific packages with different players up front they are going to mix-and-match anyway. But if I were forced to pick one, I'd say Quinton Washington. Michigan has no one in the middle who has been even close to elitel, but he has been the best of the bunch at a thin position.
2.) Michigan basketball season is just around the corner. Which part of the Wolverines' game are you most interested to see?
TV: I want to see if the freshmen are the real deal. These guys were highly touted and some scouts have said they expect big things out of guys such as Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. I want to know just how good this team is going to be with these guys and how much of an impact they'll have within the Big Ten conference play.
CJ: I’m really interested to see how Michigan coach John Beilein uses his big men this season. He runs a four-guard, outside-shooting-blitzkrieg kind of offense. Everyone and their mother knows that. But, with players such as McGary, Jordan Morgan, Max Bielfeldt and Jon Horford, he has an option to put two players on the interior and run a bit of a high-low deal, while opening up the outside a bit. It would really make the Wolverines more dynamic and harder to plan for, but we just don’t know how Beilein will do anything. And we probably won’t until they get into the thick of the season, but it should be interesting.
MR: How Michigan deals with leadership and expectations. The last time the Wolverines were in a spot like this -- high expectations with unknown leadership -- the team fell apart and ended up under .500. Michigan should have too much talent to let that happen, but if the Wolverines struggle at any point, who is going to lead and pull them out of it?
3.) Michigan football has just one commit in the 2014 class. Florida State already has seven 2014 commits, LSU has three, Georgia has three. With the growing trend in early commitments, is this something Michigan should be worried about?
TV: No. It's not always a good thing to get commitments this early, and all those schools listed have something in common. They're in talent-rich states that make it easier for them to secure top-tier talent. Michigan has secured the right type of players and the guys that they want, it doesn't matter when they get them as long as they get them.
CJ: I don’t think it’s anything to be worried about. Just because the 2013 class filled up so quickly doesn’t mean that every class will do the same. Yes, Michigan has one commit. And that commit is one heck of a player and I think he will draw the kind of players to Michigan that they want. On top of that, the fact their first recruit is at arguably the deepest position group on the Wolverines’ roster says a lot about the recruiting tactics and the talent Michigan is bringing in.
MR: I'm going to say yes, but only in the vein that the more programs that start taking commits early, the more pressure there might be to offer -- and then not fully evaluate -- some of those players. Overall, each staff will move at its own pace and if they get swept up in early offer mania, it won't be good for the prospect or the coaching staff. But it is -- and should be -- a concern for college coaches.