At the beginning of the 2008-09 men’s basketball season, no fans could have hoped for a 21-14 season. And no fans could have foreseen the gargantuan role that then-freshmen Stu Douglass, Zack Novak and Laval Lucas-Perry would play in Beilein’s offense.
Without those contributors — vastly under the radar at season’s start — the Wolverines could have never made one of the best turnarounds in the NCAA.
So it got us thinking, which players are the “under the radar” Wolverines for 2009-10?
1. Zack Novak
Yes, we realize that he was one of the unforeseen players that brought about last season’s success, but that doesn’t change how unappreciated Novak is. Without his 14 points against then-No. 4 Duke, the Wolverines never could have pulled off the magical upset. This season, with Stu Douglass switching at point guard with incoming freshman Darius Morris, Novak will sink more into his role at shooting guard.
2. Mike Martin
With the graduation of defensive stalwart Terrence Taylor, the Michigan football team is left with a gaping hole in the middle of Greg Robinson’s defense — and Martin is the right man for the defensive tackle job. Much quicker than Taylor, Martin is more inclined to get to the quarterback, and teamed with incoming freshman Will Campbell, he should be playing nearly every down at one of Michigan’s thinnest positions.
3. Brandon Burlon
As a freshman last season, Burlon was a contributor in one of the NCAA hockey’s deepest defensive squads. Now, with Mark Mitera off to Anaheim, Burlon will have the chance to play alongside captain Chris Summers on the first line. And after a first round exit to Air Force last season, the defense could make or break this team’s chances at an NCAA Championship.
4. Patrick Omameh
No one denies that the offensive line was a shell of its former self last football season. And with Stephen Schilling moving to left guard where he belongs, the right tackle position is wide open. Money says Omameh gets the job. According to a July 11 article from Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, Omameh has put on 30 pounds of pure muscle, which can do nothing but help a line that begged for Jake Long last season.
5. Tyler Burgoon
Michigan baseball coach Rich Maloney made it no secret that he had high hopes for Burgoon last season. Unfortunately, Burgoon spent some time injured and finished with an ERA hovering around five. This summer, Burgoon is tearing up the Cape Cod League for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, earning himself a spot in the All-Star game. With Chris Fetter off to the Padres, Burgoon’s time to shine could be this season.
6. Tyler Clary
It’s hard to believe that an NCAA National Champion would be under the radar, but when students and alumni think of Michigan swimming, they think eight-time Gold Medal-winner Michael Phelps. Well, Clary is hot on Mr. Phelps’ tail. After a second-place finish to Phelps at the U.S. National Championships, Clary comes back next year as, arguably, one of the best swimmers in the NCAA.
7. Carlos Brown
In a football season that was known early on for former-Wolverine Sam McGuffie and later for then-junior Brandon Minor, Brown was lost in the Wolverines’ crowded backfield. Brown has been injured a lot in the past few years, but when given the chance (i.e. Northwestern last year), Brown can be lightning to Minor’s thunder.
8. Matt Vogrich
Enter this year’s Zack Novak. ESPN has him rated higher than Darius Morris in the 2009 recruiting class. Reports say he is devastating from behind the arc. And at 6’4”, he’s no push over. Everything we hear makes it sound like Vogrich is a perfect fit in Beilein’s offense and adds to an already impressive three-point shooting arsenal.
9. Darryl Stonum
With offers from Florida, USC, Alabama and a slew of other big-time college programs, Stonum was supposed to be the next in line of talented Michigan receivers. His career has been devastated by off-the-field issues and bad quarterback play. But this year should be his with an accurate quarterback in Tate Forcier.
10. Chris Cameron/Thomas Kelley
Both competed with the Big Ten’s best for the all-around men’s gymnastics title last year, with Kelley winning. Both were a key part of Michigan’s co-Big Ten Championship. And both were the main reason the Wolverines finished as NCAA runner-ups. Did we mention they’re still juniors?
11. Alex Hunt
As a freshman last season, Hunt was every volleyball coach’s dream — a tall, left-handed hitter. But she far exceeded expectations with 243 kills. Her development will be crucial if the Wolverines hope to defeat (or even win a set against) Big Ten superpower Penn State next season.
12. Mauro Fuzetti
If it wasn’t for superstar Peri Marosevic last season on the soccer field, the Wolverine nation would know Fuzetti. But overshadowed by the’ fifth pick in the MLS Draft, Fuzetti’s 24 points was good enough to make him All-Big Ten first team, just not to get noticed. Fuzetti is ready for the limelight.