Michigan head coach Brady Hoke lured offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier away from Alabama with a clear mandate to rebuild the running game.
Michigan’s offense, once known for producing a steady stream of elite collegiate running backs and offensive linemen, had devolved during the post-Lloyd Carr era into one that relied on the quarterback position to power its running attack.
Michigan returns to the practice field eager to forget the memories of last season’s disastrous collapse. With outside temperatures in the low single digits, the team practiced in their massive indoor practice facility, shielded from the bitter wind chill outside and any prying eyes hoping to get a glimpse of the workouts.
Michigan enters spring practice with significant questions on both sides of the ball, but with none more important than how to improve the offense.
The following players have an opportunity to move up the depth chart—or slide back down depending on their performance—during the spring.
As Hoke enters his fourth season in Ann Arbor, he’s under pressure to beat rivals Michigan State and Ohio State—which battled for the Big Ten championship last season—while Michigan lurked in the Legends division cellar.
Preparation for winning the Big Ten starts with spring practice, and these are the players to watch.
Nussmeier inherits an offensive line characterized by poor play and injuries that loses its two best players to graduation. He also needs to contend with the injury of quarterback Devin Gardner, who injured his foot versus Ohio State, missing the bowl game, and who is expected to still be “limited” during spring practice.
A crucial element of his offensive play-calling while at Alabama was the use of the inside and outside zone-running plays. If he can solidify the offensive line, Michigan has two capable running backs who could thrive in a system similar to what Nussmeier ran in Alabama.