The dog days of July are here. Spring practice is nearly three months in the rear view, and the open of preseason camps nationally arrives in less than a month. This week, we’re looking ahead to August to identify two key areas in which each Big Ten team must make strides over these final weeks of the offseason.
Next up is Michigan.
Get together with Jake Rudock: This one looks like the most obvious summer-checklist item, perhaps, in all of the Big Ten. Rudock, the Iowa transfer who threw for 4,819 yards in two seasons, appears a solid match for the Jim Harbaugh offense. But the senior quarterback arrived only after his graduation in May and has had mere weeks to get acquainted with teammates. Presumably, he’ll enter August practices with every opportunity to win job over Shane Morris, Alex Malzone, Wilton Speight and true freshman Zach Gentry, who is equally pressed for time to learn the system. Rudock possesses the advantage of experience in a pro-style system similar to what Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno have installed in Ann Arbor. Before Harbaugh, Drevno and quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch get busy with their band of quarterbacks next month, Rudock needs to have built relationships among the offensive players, particularly with receiving targets like Amara Darboh, Freddy Canteen and Jake Butt.
Develop a sack specialist or two: The summer is a time for long hours of conditioning and extra work in the weight room. Though the Wolverines on defense look solid in the secondary, especially with the expected emergence of Jabrill Peppers as a redshirt freshman, they need work up front. Gone are both starting defensive ends and star linebacker Jake Ryan. New defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, in shifting Michigan to a 3-4 alignment, can lean on linebackers, but without a couple of playmakers at the line of scrimmage, the task of slowing Big Ten quarterbacks looks difficult. So who is going to break out? Ends Henry Poggi, Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton look like candidates to get after the quarterback from the edge. Inside, it’s likely up to Willie Henry or Bryan Mone to go above and beyond in summer workouts. Someone needs to emerge, and it's best to lay the groundwork in the summer.