5 To Watch: Wolverines Offense

GoBlueWolverine.com reporter Josh Newkirk stops by to offer Irish fans five players to keep an eye on when Michigan has the ball. QB Devin Gardner is the X-factor on offense but U-M really lacks a true No. 2 WR. With the Michigan interior line inexperienced, the Irish defensive front could give the Wolverines trouble in Week Two…

No. 12 Junior QB Devin Gardner: With the graduation of Denard Robinson, Gardner is the new leader of the Wolverine offense. Like Robinson, Gardner is a duel-threat QB and has the ability to make things happens with arms or legs. He doesn't have Robinson's elite speed, but his passing ability is what makes him truly special as the U-M signal caller. He loves the play-action waggle to his right, and if the play breaks down he has the ability to find the open man or fall forward for positive yardage. His best quality is his ability to make a play when the play breaks down. You will definitely see that on Saturday night against the Irish defense.

Gardner threw for a touchdown and ran for two more in the opener vs. Central Michigan. He also threw two interceptions. If Gardner can limit his mistakes, he could truly be the X-factor in week 2 vs. the Irish. And the Wolverines chances of winning or losing squarely sit on his shoulders.

No. 77 Fifth-year senior OT Taylor Lewan: Lewan could have easily been the No. 1 pick by Kansas City Chiefs in the 2012 NFL draft, but chose to comeback for his final season as a Wolverine to win a Big Ten championship. While beating the Irish won't accomplish that, pass blocking their strong defensive front can showcase why he is considered the best offensive lineman in the country. He'll most likely matchup with ND senior OLB Prince Shembo this Saturday. Lewan should have his way in passing situations against the Irish. He is definitely the most talented player on the field at all times and the Wolverines should/will be counting on him "Under the Lights."

No. 87 sophomore TE Devin Funchess: At 6-foot-5, 235-pounds, Funchess is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He is too fast for a linebacker to cover. He is too tall for defensive backs to check one-on-one. He is more a receiver in a tight end's body. He still has work to do on his blocking. But is one of the more favorable matchups for the Michigan offense this Saturday.

Funchess had two catches for 47-yards against Central. Michigan really didn't need to pass -- considering the game was never in doubt -- by dominating CMU 59-9. He did come out of the game limping in third quarter, but U-M coach Brady Hoke said it was just a cramp. He should be one of Gardner's favorite targets Saturday. And should be a difference maker early and often.

No. 21 Fifth-year senior WR Jeremy Gallon: Gallon may be small at 5-foot-8, 184-pounds, but he certainly makes up for his size with his big play ability on the field. He is the clear No. 1 WR on the Wolverines offense. He had four catches for 47-yards and touchdown in week 1 vs. CMU. When Gardner needs a completion, he looks to Gallon. The Irish defense should expect Gallon to get the ball thrown his way on third-downs throughout the contest. If they can lock him down, it could be big problems for the Wolverines.

The problem with the Michigan offense, is they lack a true No. 2 WR this season. Senior Drew Dileo is an option, but won't strike fear in the Irish defense and is more of a slot receiver. Redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson could stretch the field but is unproven and still doesn't have his first catch as a Wolverine. So stopping Gallon will loom large for the Irish, as they try to make someone else beat them on the outside.

No. 60 redshirt sophomore C Jack Miller: With one career start under his belt, Miller had an average performance against CMU last week. In his second career start, he might have his toughest challenge of his career against Irish senior NG Luis Nix. There is no way Miller will be able to stop Nix one-on-one. He'll need help from fellow newbie's on the line Graham Glasgow or Kyle Kalis. The interior of Michigan's line is their biggest weakness on offense. And Notre Dame has a clear advantage. If Michigan wants to run the ball on Saturday, they'll have figure out a way to block Nix and Co. The big question is, will they be able to?


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories