Michigan offensive backfield still blurry

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The man who will take the first snap for Michigan in the Rich Rodriguez era remains a mystery. So does the guy who will take the first handoff.

Rodriguez listed no definitive starter at either running back or quarterback on his depth chart for the season opener against Utah, which was released Monday.

It's no surprise that an "OR" separates quarterbacks Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan, but true freshmen running backs Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw also have the same designation. It's significant that both true freshmen were listed ahead of veterans Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown on the depth chart, showing Rodriguez's confidence in his young skill players, who might better fit his system than the returnees.

We aren't the only ones wondering who will start under center.

"I don't know who the quarterback is," junior wide receiver Greg Mathews said Monday. "I just try in practice to go with both of them, to get my timing down with both of them because you never know. One could go in there and throw a couple interceptions and then you have to bring the next one in. You have to be prepared for everything."

Mathews said both quarterbacks have been practicing with the first-team offense, as is the case for most of Michigan's skill players. Though the offense won't be huddling nearly as much as in years past, both quarterbacks have shown different styles of leadership so far.

"Nick's definitely a comedian," Mathews said. "He's the funniest kid ever. He just likes to keep everybody loose and joke around. Steven Threet, he's more of a serious guy, but I enjoy both of them."

This is notable because Mathews isn't the first player to describe the two quarterbacks in this manner.

Sheridan is the former walk-on with no recruiting hype who most thought would never come close to having a chance to start at quarterback, but he seems loose and confident. Threet is the guy projected to win the job all along. He's got the size, received a decent amount of recruiting attention coming out of high school and has some familiarity running the spread. But an all-business approach could be a sign of nervousness.

Here's how starting right tackle Stephen Schilling described the two when we talked last week.

"Nick might be a little more relaxed, laid back, trying to find guys. Steve's a little more serious. But they both want to work hard and they both want to bring a lot of energy to the huddle."

Other Wolverines depth chart notes include:

  • The starting spots at center and right guard remain open, though David Moosman is listed at both places and should start at one.

  • Freshman Martavious Odoms is the only wide receiver to have locked up a starting spot. Mathews and freshman Darryl Stonum continue to compete at the "X" receiver, while Stonum and junior LaTerryal Savoy are listed as potential starters at the "Z" spot. Expect Stonum to play and contribute immediately.

  • Junior Carson Butler and fifth-year senior Mike Massey continue to compete for the starting tight end spot. What's somewhat surprising -- other than Butler not cementing himself is the starter -- is that freshman Kevin Koger also could start there.

  • As expected, the defense is much more defined. Obi Ezeh is listed ahead of John Thompson at middle linebacker and will be flanked by Austin Panter and Marell Evans. The starting safeties are Stevie Brown at free and Brandon Harrison at strong.

  • Harrison and Morgan Trent are the primary kickoff returners and Donovan Warren will start off returning punts, but Odoms is in the mix at both spots.