ROYCE JENKINS-STONE The 6'2", 206-pound outside linebacker, who had 145 tackles as a senior at Detroit's Cass Technical, turned down offers from Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma and Tennessee. He'll push for snaps behind three returning starters.
BLAKE COUNTESS As a true freshman, the 5'10", 182-pound sophomore cornerback started the Wolverines' final six games and ranked second on the team with six pass breakups. A former gymnast, the disciplined, athletic Countess should continue to improve with experience.
BRADY HOKE enjoyed a successful debut season in 2011, winning 11 games, knocking off Ohio State and beating Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. "That's all great," Hoke says, "but at the same time, you've got to remember what your goals are." For the Wolverines the goal is to win their first Big Ten title in eight years. A veteran offense is led by dual-threat Heisman candidate Denard Robinson and monstrous left tackle Taylor Lewan. But one of the major reasons for Hoke's success was the turnaround of the defense—which improved from 108th in scoring D two years ago to sixth last fall—under coordinator Greg Mattison. His big challenge this season will be replacing two four-year starters on the D-line.
MICHIGAN'S CONFERENCE-TITLE hopes took a hit last month with the DUI arrest and indefinite suspension of running back Fitz Toussaint, who was expected to ease Robinson's rushing burden even more this fall. But just as Toussaint developed quickly last year, senior Vincent Smith (6.0 yards per carry in 2011) and sophomore Thomas Rawls (6.1) should excel in his absence. The Wolverines' schedule does them no favors, opening with Alabama in the Cowboy Classic and including road games at Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State. The Wolverines will be better this season, but that will not necessarily be reflected in their final record.