2015 season preview: Michigan Wolverines

The Wolverines finished with a negative-16 turnover margin last season, something D.J. Durkin and Jim Harbaugh will surely look to change going forward. AP Photo/Tony Ding

Previewing the 2015 season for the Michigan Wolverines.

2014 record: 5-7 (3-5 Big Ten)

Key losses: LB Jake Ryan, QB Devin Gardner, C Jack Miller, DE Frank Clark, DE Brennen Beyer, WR Devin Funchess

Key returners: TE Jake Butt, LB Joe Bolden, CB Jourdan Lewis , WR Amara Darboh, OL Kyle Kalis, OL Graham Glasgow

Instant impact freshman: ESPN 300 athlete Brian Cole is a prospect who could make an early impact for Michigan. The Wolverines lack a big, athletic playmaker on offense and Cole could be that guy. He was a prospect who could have played defense or offense, but likely gives Michigan the biggest impact on offense. -- Tom VanHaaren

Class of '16 update: The Wolverines are off to an outstanding start in the 2016 class with the No. 10-ranked class in the country. The staff has six ESPN 300 prospects committed and a chance at the No. 1 prospect in Rashan Gary as well as a few other ESPN 300 recruits. If Michigan closes strong, this could end up being a very important class for coach Jim Harbaugh’s turnaround of his alma mater. -- Tom VanHaaren

Biggest question mark: Who is going to be holding the football? The Wolverines enter training camp with an unsettled depth chart at nearly every offensive skill position, including quarterback. Iowa transfer Jake Rudock and junior Shane Morris will garner a lot of the attention in that battle. Elsewhere, Michigan doesn’t have any playmakers with a consistent track record of success. The team’s top three backs -- Derrick Green, Drake Johnson and Ty Isaac -- were all sidelined at the end of 2014 due to injury or, in Isaac’s case, transfer rules. Darboh (36 receptions in 2014) is the only returning receiver who made more than 15 catches last year.

Most important game: A visit from Ohio State in late November will be circled on maize and blue calendars for more than the usual reasons this year. One of the sport’s top rivalries is heightened by the first meeting of two of the sport's top coaches -- Harbaugh and the Buckeyes' Urban Meyer. The season finale also will provide a better view of what direction the team is headed after its first year with the new staff.

Upset special: Watch out for Northwestern, a team that has a habit of surprising one or two favorites annually. The Wildcats and standout running back Justin Jackson visit Ann Arbor in early October for Michigan’s first Big Ten game at home. The Wolverines can’t afford to look past this game toward Michigan State, which comes to town a week later.

Key stat: Turnovers -- creating them on defense and preventing them on offense -- were Michigan’s biggest issue in 2014. The team finished 124th in the FBS with a negative-16 turnover margin. That needs to be an emphasis if Michigan is going to return to a winning record this season. Ball security is at the top of the list of things Harbaugh will weigh when choosing a quarterback. New defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin uses a scheme that helped Florida create 30 turnovers last season -- three times as many as the Wolverines had.

Prediction: Seven wins. Michigan is more experienced on the offensive line and its defense should be deep enough to keep most games close. Harbaugh and the new staff will have their effect, but untangling all of the knots that have built up in this program during the better part of the past decade will take some time. Without significant firepower on offense, the Wolverines are not built to compete with the top teams in the Big Ten this season.