Mark Snyder has spent years covering the Michigan beat for the Detroit Free Press, and he’s been a go-to source for me with any question I’ve had about the Wolverines. Here’s a sample of his outstanding work.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark__Snyder (double underscore)
We traded e-mails this week, preparing for Saturday’s game at the Big House. You can check out the Q & A I did for the Free Press here, and Mark was kind enough to answer my questions, too:
1. Do you think Brady Hoke is ready to start Shane Morris, or will he stick with Devin Gardner?
A: I'm past the point of trying to figure out his decisions, because we don't know enough about the criteria. But I assume he would try to go with Morris because, if not, what was all this for? If he stays with Gardner after a week of making him re-earn his job, that seems like a very public demerit. If he goes with Morris, Gardner knows it's an ongoing competition.
2. Devin Funchess dominated the Gophers last year. Will they see a different player Saturday, and why?
A: He is battling a leg injury that he suffered against Notre Dame and has noticeably been affected since. He said it will be painful all year but he's willing to play through it. (Obviously a potential firs round draft pick, it's worth the effort.) Funchess' greatest limitation last week was Devin Gardner's wayward passes and he still caught four passes in the first half for more than 80 yards. If Gardner or Shane Morris is more accurate, Funchess is a problem for anyone.
3. I see a true freshman starts at left tackle. What’s your general assessment of the offensive line?
A: They've been better than last year but that's not saying much for one of the worst offensive lines in Michigan history. Against equal talent -- Notre Dame and Utah -- they've gotten little push for the running game. The problem is they're all juniors or younger so physically they're still maturing. There may be a change there this week.
4. The Gophers can run, but they have struggled mightily with passing. How do you think that plays to Michigan’s defensive strengths?
A: It should be good on good that way because U-M's run defense has been outstanding the past three weeks. The secondary has been better since the Notre Dame first half debacle, but there was leakage last week as Utah hit a few plays. Michigan's corners -- except Jabrill Peppers -- are still small which makes them vulnerable to size. Playing without their starting safety and corner the past two weeks, both injured, doesn't allow for a good read.
5. How big of a crowd would you expect for Saturday and what will be their mood at kickoff?
A: It may be still over 100,000 but possibly not by much. At least this is an opponent that people have heard of and I assume Berkley Edwards' fan base will fill in the empty seats. Seriously, though, there will be a short fuse with the fans that are there, wanting to see improvement. But whatever the crowd, it'll still be more than 98% of the teams in the country, which is still pretty darn impressive.