For the Michigan offense, questions about how they are going to replace the
production of Braylon Edwards may be getting a little old. That's because no
matter how many times they're asked, the answer is always the same. Versatility.
"We want to be the kind of offense where it doesn't matter who's on the field because anybody can hurt you," said senior tight end Tim Massaquoi. "We want to have a lot of characteristics to our game that you can't just pick one thing to try and stop us."
With an abundance of talent returning around sophomore quarterback Chad Henne, the plan is to make picking out one way to shut down the offense extremely difficult. Jason Avant and Steve Breaston both return as experienced receiving threats, and sophomore tailback Mike Hart will be looking to improve upon a spectacular freshman season that included him being named newcomer of the year in the Big Ten. Helping Hart with the backfield duties this year will be Kevin Grady, one of the top high school backs in the country a year ago. If teams choose to focus on any of the aforementioned players, the tight ends will be there to make them pay.
"We still play a very important role," Massaquoi said of the tight ends. "We have to block and check for blitzes and things like that. Our role has been more wide spread as to where we aren't just catching balls down the field. We're doing all the things that tight ends need to do. We need to block, read coverages, and know the defensive packages. Whatever helps us win, that's what we're going to do."
Now that Edwards has taken his high flying circus act to the NFL, doing "whatever
helps the team win" may mean becoming Henne's security blanket. Thus far
in the pre-season the second year quarterback has demonstrated a much broader
understanding of the playbook, which should allow for more involvement from
a number of players this year.
"He's reading things more now and is able to read what the difference are in defenses," Massaquoi said of Henne. "Last year he was just playing football. Now he's still playing football but he has a much larger knowledge of the offense."
Henne's comfort with the offense has allowed the coaches to build on that and add a few new formations this season. Massaquoi commented previously on the likelihood of seeing both he and fellow tight end Tyler Ecker on the field at the same time a little more this year. On Monday the All-Big Ten performer suggested that the same thing will happen with tailbacks Mike Hart and Kevin Grady.
"I think we'll see a couple times where you'll see them in there together," Massaquoi said."We've got some things in there to get them both on the field so the defense has to try and figure out who's getting the ball. We'll have two running backs in the backfield and have them split in the backfield."
It's clear that there is a bubbling confidence present on this years offense. The unit as a whole is anxious to get on the field and show what they've got.
"I can't wait," Massaquoi said. "We've been waiting since January 2nd. We've been working hard the whole summer and it's exciting to know the season is right around the corner. You're going to see an exciting group that's excited to play football again. We're just going to go out and have fun. In my last year I want to just have fun playing this game and leave it all out on the field every Saturday."