ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Welcome to the first edition of the WolverineNation roundtable, where staffers Chantel Jennings, Michael Rothstein and Tom VanHaaren discuss pressing issues and topics surrounding the Michigan sports landscape.
This new feature runs Thursdays and if there is something you want the three of them to chat about, drop an email to email@example.com.
1) Michigan gave its MVP award to Denard Robinson at the football bust Monday night. Who was this season's MVP?
VanHaaren: I thought about it and really don't know if I disagree with giving it to Denard. There wasn't one other guy who made more plays this season than Denard. If it could go to a whole unit, I might say the entire defense for how much they improved.
But if I'm giving it out to one player, then I think Denard is the most deserving after the performance he gave throughout the entire season.
Rothstein: Robinson makes sense, but he was so inconsistent this season that he helped Michigan lose some games as well, and while I'd love to give it to defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, he didn't actually play. But I'm staying on defense and going with an unorthodox choice -- Ryan Van Bergen.
Before you look at me funny, here's why: Michigan sorely needed someone other than Mike Martin to step up on the defensive line, and Van Bergen more than did that. His presence forced teams to account for more than Martin on the line, opening up pressure points to reach the quarterback and in run defense. That pressure also helped the linebackers get into position and the secondary to make plays. Don't forget his leadership, either. He might not have been a captain in name, but he was in presence and personality. That's huge.
Jennings: I'm going with senior center David Molk. Yes, Robinson got better in the pocket and was still good with his feet this season, but none of that happens if Molk doesn't hold up the offensive line. He won the Rimington Trophy as the best center in the country, and I can't imagine there's any quarterback out there who wouldn't want Molk on his team. He was an emotional rock for the team, and when it comes to next season, I think Michigan will have the hardest time replacing him.
2) Michigan basketball is in that weird guarantee game period before Big Ten play starts. Who is the one player that needs to improve the most over the next two weeks?
Jennings: A sixth man, any sixth man. My money would be on senior guard Stu Douglass or junior guard Matt Vogrich, but really, at this point the Wolverines just need someone to step up and start hitting shots. Michigan coach John Beilein loves having that automatic scoring burst coming off the bench, and it makes Michigan a much harder team to defend. But this season, Vogrich and Douglass aren't contributing the way Michigan needs them to. Every Big Ten team will put their top defender on sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr., so at the point the question becomes, who will score so that opposing teams have to stretch their defense? If the answer isn't Douglass or Vogrich, Michigan is in trouble.
VanHaaren: Basketball isn't really my forté, but I have noticed that Michigan seems to be lacking a really solid inside presence this season. It seemed like Jordan Morgan was turning into a good player last year, and for some reason there's been a stall in his progress.
Morgan needs to start grabbing boards on both ends of the floor, and if he can do that I think it will help improve Michigan's entire game.
It really surprised me to see that Evan Smotrycz is leading the team with 51 total rebounds, while Morgan has 39. Jon Horford has 32 rebounds compared to Morgan's total numbers while only playing in 97 total minutes compared to Morgan's 188.
Rothstein: Again, this might sound weird, but it is point guard Trey Burke. He's going to be the guy with the ball in his hands the most during Big Ten play, and as good as he has been, he can get better in other areas. And Big Ten defenses, night in, night out, are going to be tougher and more physical than anything Burke has seen. He has the grit to do it, and I think he will be able to as he understands Beilein's offense better down the stretch. But he just needs to keep improving.
3) Urban Meyer is at Ohio State. Where does his presence affect Michigan the most?
Rothstein: I know my colleagues are going to say recruiting -- to be fair I saw their answers earlier -- and while I somewhat agree, I'm going a different route. Against Michigan specifically, Meyer's presence is going to hurt the Wolverines' defense. He understands what defensive coordinator Greg Mattison likes to do, likes to call, and the pacing at which he likes to call a game. While much of that can be picked up on tape, working with a guy for three seasons certainly helps in understanding all of that, and I think it'll be a hidden advantage on game day. But yes, recruiting with Meyer will be a big deal as well.
Jennings: Recruiting. Mattison is a great recruiter for Michigan, but I'm guessing he picked up some of his tricks from Meyer when the two were at Florida together. Meyer already flipped two commitments from other Big Ten schools, which isn't shocking, but he will recruit Ohio kids hard. So does Michigan. It will be interesting to see who wins the Ohio recruiting battles over the next few seasons.
VanHaaren: The immediate impact obviously will come on the recruiting trail for Ohio State, but I think where it ultimately will affect Michigan the most is on the field. That's really what everything comes down to and why fans care about recruiting in the first place.
They want to see their team get the best prospects, so they can have the best product on the field. Urban Meyer put together some top recruiting classes at Florida, and it wasn't just the fact that he got five-stars to pick the Gators. It was that he got the right fits for his scheme, both offensively and defensively. Evaluating the right prospects and convincing those kids to choose his school is what he's very good at.
That translates onto the field with how his teams play and how hard it was for teams to beat him at Florida and Utah. Once he gets a few recruiting classes in, builds depth with his players, and gets the right pieces in place, I think it's going to be very difficult to beat the Buckeyes. It helps Meyer that he already has the quarterback he wants in Braxton Miller.