So where do the Wolverines go next year? RichRod's resume shows his teams struggle in year one but tend to show dramatic improvement by the second year. I wouldn't expect a BCS Bowl, but anything less than 7-5 will be a huge disappointment. The schedule will be easier and the players will have an entire offseason in the program. Here's what I expect to see.
QB: Steven Threet will enter spring ball as the starter, but Tate Forcier will enroll in January, so the competition begins immediately. Shavodrick Beaver will join the team in the summer. I think he probably red-shirts. Nick Sheridan will sit on the bench with David Cone.
RB: I don't know how anybody takes the starting job from Brandon Minor. Michael Shaw will definitely see time and Carlos Brown should at least get some spot duty. Sam McGuffie is apparently not transferring (for the moment) but multiple concussions raise questions about whether or not he'll play again. Because of the depth here, incoming freshmen Teric Jones, Fitzgerald Toussaint and Vincent Smith will hopefully red-shirt.
FB: Mark Moundros was excellent this season as a blocker. He didn't get many opportunities as a receiver. He'll be the starter next year with Vince Helmuth backing him up.
WR: Greg Mathews and Darryl Stonum are the likely starters on the outside, with Martavious Odoms in the slot. Junior Hemingway and Terrence Robinson will be back from injuries at the outside and slot, respectively. Toney Clemons, James Rogers and Ray Roundtree will provide depth. Incoming freshman Jeremy Gallon will probably play in the slot and we're hunting for at least one more outside guy.
TE: Carson Butler has moved to DE and there are rumors he won't be back next year anyways. Kevin Koger will be the starter, although TE doesn't have a big role in the spread offense. Brandon Moore took a red-shirt this year and could be in line for a position switch.
OL: By the end of the year, the starting unit was Stephen Schilling & Mark Ortmann at tackle, John Ferrara & David Moosman at guard and David Molk at center. Molk will have to fight off Rocko Khoury next year. Ricky Barnum is likely to challenge for and even win one of the guard spots. Schilling and Ortmann will probably keep the tackle jobs unless Dan O'Neill bulked up enough to start, in which case Schilling could move to guard.
DE: Brandon Graham is a given at one side. The other will probably be Ryan Van Bergen, with Butler, Adam Patterson and Greg Banks providing depth. It's my fervent hope they're able to do so adequately, allowing incoming freshmen Anthony LaLota, Craig Roh and possibly Jason Ankrah to red-shirt.
DT: This will be a huge problem spot. Mike Martin will be one starter. Sophomore Renaldo Sagesse will probably win the other spot unless five-star recruit Will Campbell signs with Michigan, which he is expected to do. There isn't a whole lot of depth here because John Ferrara moved to OL earlier this year. That means two other recruits, Pearlie Graves and DeQuinta Jones, may have to play as well.
LB: Jonas Mouton is the only sure thing here. Obi Ezeh has two years as a starter under his belt, so you'd think he's got the MLB spot locked down next year. But freshman J.B. Fitzgerald will at least get a shot in camp. Either one of them could play in the middle or the weakside. Marrell Evans was a disaster in the first half of the Utah game before disappearing, so he seems unlikely to be a starter. Kenny Demens and Brandon Herron haven't gotten any buzz, so I have no idea if they'll be viable players or not. There are a slew of recruits coming in but none of them look likely to be starting next year, unless five-star Jelani Jenkins commits.
CB: Donovan Warren and Boubacar Cissoko will start. Troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd will compete with 4.5 star recruit Justin Turner for the nickle job. Given the plethora of spread offenses in the Big Ten, the nickelback will probably see as much time as the starters.
S: Improvement here is second only to QB in terms of importance. Stevie Brown would seem likely to start, but he has been the victim of more long TD plays than any safety I've ever seen. Brandon Smith red-shirted this year and is supposedly a freak athlete. Michael Williams saw time this year as a hybrid LB/S and might be able to play in the backfield. Vladimir Emilien just committed to Michigan but he missed his senior year with an injury and will hopefully take a red-shirt in 2009.
K: Brendan Gibbons is the only recruit in the class, so the job seems to be his. Bryan Wright did some work as a kickoff specialist, but has never had a real shot as the placekicker.
P: Zoltan Mesko is not only the Space Emperor but one of the best punters in the country.
Next Week: Defending the program from the morons on the internets.