I did this last year, too: thinking it was best to save the Michigan preview until the week before the season and erroneously believing that said preview as far more complete than it actually was, I find myself short on a Vanderbilt preview. I have little knowledge about the Commodores and nothing prepared. Since Vandy sans Cutler projects to be a walkover, I don't feel that bad about it.
Instead, a listing of things I'll be looking for as indicators of what the season holds.
OffenseHenne's accuracy. It's not a big deal if his downfield attempts are a bit off, but I dearly want to see his outs, slants, stops, and the like on the money.
Riley's pass blocking. I'll be watching the offensive line extensively but I probably won't be able to tell whether or not Bihl or Mitchell are performing adequately without the aid of tape. Everyone will know if Riley's whiffing regularly.
Manningham in command. No screaming from the sidelines, no missed routes, six catches and a touchdown. Or something like that.
Carson Butler. Manbearfreak.
Steve Breaston. A number of short catches he turns into six yards he shouldn't be able to, one ridiculous event, and no limping.
Run game. Obviously, but a run game that's nothing like Hart's 200 yard miracle against MSU, but one in which he's making first contact with tackles four, five, eight yards downfield. I'll be looking to see whether or not Obi Oluigbo can lock down the fullback spot and for any evidence of the rumored zone running.
The elimination of those run-on-run-off substitution patterns. Herrmann came up with these after one of those Purdue games when Tiller had fifteen guys in the huddle, then ran four off before the snap and stuck with it long after that had disappeared. It came to symbolize all the extra garbage Herrmann heaped on the players brains, which made bodies slow and fans grumpy. Hopefully they'll abandon this for well-defined substitution patterns.
Something other than obvious base-formation zone against three wides. Without question the most irritating thing about last year was Jamar Adams or Prescott Burgess hovering in the general area of a slot receiver before the snap on almost every play that featured three wides. Herrmann gave away the defensive call on that side of the field in every instance.
Varied coverage in the secondary. Pressing every play is about as smart as deep-zoning every play.
Tim Jamison. Obvs.
Chris Graham doing something. Anything.
Shawn Crable looking smart.
Cornerbacks other than Leon Hall. A potentially fatal weakness, but at least Michigan has four options. One should be adequate.