TAMPA, Fla. -- Michigan’s season -- and an era of Michigan football -- concluded in an NFL stadium in Florida on Tuesday. The careers of Denard Robinson and perhaps the most impactful walk-on in Michigan history -- Jordan Kovacs -- ended.
So, too, did what was an up-and-down season for the Wolverines. They went 8-5, with losses to the two teams playing for the national title, another two teams in the top 10, and Nebraska, which represented its division in the Big Ten title game.
But throughout it all, Michigan had a number of standout players, some of whom make a bright future for the Wolverines.
That’s all covered in the final 2012 edition of The Michigan Ten.
1. OT Taylor Lewan: The stalwart of the Michigan offensive line had one of the better games of his career against perhaps the toughest opponent he has faced. As Lewan pointed out after the game, he has faced multiple first-round picks in his career (including J.J. Watt and Ryan Kerrigan) but Jadeveon Clowney was considered potentially the best. Lewan -- with some help -- limited him to four tackles and the Arizona native solidified his chances to be a high first-round pick should he leave for the NFL.
2. QB Devin Gardner: Michigan’s future looks good at quarterback with the junior. He didn’t have his best passing day but ran well and understood when he needed to take off from the pocket. He still threw three touchdowns as well and consider this: He threw for more touchdowns and rushed for as many touchdowns as Denard Robinson despite three fewer starts (eight to five).
<3. LB Jake Ryan: Michigan’s best defensive player was relatively quiet in the final game of his redshirt sophomore season, making only four tackles (1.5 for loss with half a sack) and recovering a fumble. And yes, that was a quiet type of day for him. But he ends the season as the team’s leading tackler and sets himself up for a potential All-American season in 2013.
4. ATH Denard Robinson: The senior’s final game at Michigan went much like his potential NFL career could go -- he threw one pass, ran for 100 yards, and caught one pass for 7 yards. Robinson leaves college football as the NCAA record holder for rushing yards by a quarterback with 4,495 and sixth in career total offense in the Big Ten.
5. WR Jeremy Gallon: The redshirt junior turned in a career day in the Outback Bowl with nine catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns. This was important for two reasons. First, Michigan doesn’t have to hunt for a No. 1 receiver next season as it’ll have Gallon. Second, he clearly has strong chemistry with Gardner, so it could be a really strong quarterback-receiver combination next season.
6. DT Quinton Washington: From having not played much at all before this season, Washington became a bright spot, highlighted by a final game where he had three tackles, blocked a field goal and had a sack. With Will Campbell and Craig Roh leaving, Washington will have to become a leader on the defensive line next season.
7. K Brendan Gibbons: The Florida native has become almost automatic for the Wolverines. He made field goals from 39 and 40 yards in the Outback Bowl, finishing the season making his last 13 attempts.
8. S Thomas Gordon: Michigan’s leading tackler in the Outback Bowl, Gordon had a consistent season. He tied for third on the team with 81 tackles, had four tackles for loss, a couple of interceptions, a couple of pass breakups and a sack. With J.T. Floyd and Jordan Kovacs leaving, Gordon will become the most experienced defensive back.
9. WR Roy Roundtree: He had a quiet Outback Bowl, but Roundtree leaves Michigan sixth in career receptions (154) and yards (2,304). Those are better numbers than Desmond Howard, Tai Streets and Amani Toomer -- all of whom played in the NFL.
10. LB Joe Bolden: The freshman played a lot in Kenny Demens’ absence Tuesday (Demens was injured in the first half) and played well, making three tackles and a tackle for loss. He likely will force his way on the field either as a middle linebacker or, at worst, a heavy rotation linebacker next season. He has potential to be a really good linebacker for Michigan.