They say, it's always darkest right before it goes pitch black. For some Michigan fans, this is how they feel right now. I've been weighing in pretty heavily lately on the subject of the "state of Michigan football" as it were. Mainly because it's the hot topic right now and people seem to be gravitating towards it. But for reason's that I can not explain, I am in the typing mood lately. I have things on my mind and I have a blog to write them on.
I've been listening to a far more frequent amount of local talk radio this week than I usually do. Drive time radio, mainly in the afternoon in metro Detroit is especially depressing this week. Between the Lions, Wolverines and Spartans, all three teams were losers last week. That coupled with very little else to discuss this week, makes for really irate hosts and frustrated call-in guests. There seems to be nothing better to do than dial up a radio station and let loose all of your inner most thoughts about football and how it effects your life.
Don't get me wrong. I'm just as emotionally distraught as most of the Michigan fan-base after last week. On Sunday, I posted maybe the most depressing post I've ever written. But as the week has played out and I've had some time to collect my thoughts, I've had many moments of clarity not only about how I feel about Michigan football in the state it is currently in, but how I feel about the future direction of the program.
I'm just going to go through all of the major topics one by one...so please bear with me.
I'll admit it, when he was hired, I had my doubts. I liked Lloyd Carr a lot. In hind-sight, Lloyd was a seemingly bitter old man...always guarded and very short with the media...but he was a great football coach. Off the field, when the camera's were off, Lloyd was a very calm and downright humble man who cared deeply about his players and loved Michigan. Replacing him was not going to be easy, but it was his time to go.
Rich Rodriguez was not the #1 guy on the list. That man is still coaching LSU. Heck, RR might not have even been #2? I really don't know. But what I do know is, when he was hired, and all the drama that ensued from leaving Morgantown...I really wasn't fully on-board with him.
After he got here, and all of the attrition that ensued with players leaving to go everywhere from Rice to tOSU to Arkansas...it was as if Bill Martin took the Michigan program and shook it up like a snow-globe. At the time, it was a gamble that Martin hoped would pay off.
But RR came in and promised to take the Michigan program and modernize it to compete with the likes of the best programs in the country. He talked of the spread offense which he had been so instrumental in creating. Michigan fans knew the process would not be easy, but that it would be worth it. We'd been shredded by the spread so much over the years, it was an easy sell to the Michigan faithful.
After 8 wins and 13 losses, most of those Michigan fans are done waiting.
But honestly, how long do you think it takes to take stogy old Michigan's "3-yards and a cloud of dust" offense and make it one of the fastest and most high-powered in the nation? OR, even an offense that can run efficiently? Any level-headed college football fan would tell you 3 years at the least. Just two weeks ago, before the OMG! FIRE RICHROD!!!! fiasco, Michigan was ranked #1 in the Big Ten in overall offense. No one wants to remember that though.
RR has been under fire the second he took the job. Do you really think this guy wanted to leave the state in which he was a God in order to come to Ann Arbor and drive Michigan's program into the ground - and his career in the process?
It makes zero sense to fire Rodriguez. To do anything like that would set this program back 5...maybe 10 years. And can you imagine trying to hire a top tier coach when we just fired one of the best in country only two years after coming here? The best coaches in the country wouldn't touch Michigan with a 10-foot pole. Neither would recruits. Oh yeah...and we'd have our 4th DC in 4 years! Yeah, great idea...lets do that!
Lloyd's Empty Cupboards
When Lloyd left, he left Rodriguez no one to run his offense. Well, to be fair, Lloyd never had anyone to run RR's offense in the first place. Ryan Mallett was not going to cut it...and he knew it, so he waved goodbye right away. That left us with Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan. Justin Feagin was never really an option...as he was too busy dealing coke out of his dorm room.
Threet was probably the best of the 3 terrible options RR had. And the 3-9 record in 2008 reflects just how bad our QB's were. But also, the line was terribly young and inexperienced. True freshman Sam McGuffie was called on way too often because of injuries to Minor and Brown. And we really only had one decent WR carried over from Lloyd's offense and that was 2007's 3rd option receiver, Greg Matthews.
After Lloyd left, so did all his offensive firepower: Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Jake Long, Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington, Adam Kraus, Justin Boren.
No one can argue...those are some bare cupboards.
Defensively, we were not all that bad. Actually, if not for Morgan Trent, 2008's defense might be heads and shoulders above 2009's. We had a better and deeper interior line, better linebackers and a better secondary. The only problem was we had Scott Shafer as the DC. His schemes did not mesh with Rodriguez...and it showed on the field (3-3-5 anyone???). But the biggest problem with the defense was not their ability or the schemes, but the fact that they spent way too much time on the field due to an inept offense.
You can call me an apologist, but I'll stand behind my statement. RR had no awesome play makers on offense in which to start building his program. He really had to start from scratch.
Three Defensive Coordinators in Three Years
If you want to attribute our 3-9 record last year and the 4 losses this year to two main factors, they are 1) Youthful and inexperienced offense turning the ball over like crazy, and 2) 3 different DC's in 3 years.
Fans like to just heap criticism on the offense when we lose. And while a lot of that criticism is warranted...a great deal of the reason's we've struggled so much is because we just can't stop the other team from scoring.
If you look at this year's defense, it may be the youngest, thinnest and most untested defense we've ever had. If you take away Brandon Graham and Donovan Warren, all you have left are 2 freshman, 3 sophomores, 3 juniors and 1 senior. Two of those guys are walk-ons. Those are our starters! There were TWO walk-ons starting on our defense last week.
Now Greg Robinson is a very good defensive coordinator...maybe one of the best coordinators in the country. His hire at Michigan should be a huge warning to the rest of the Big Ten that in a couple years, Michigan's going to have a very awesome defense. Once he gets a few more play makers (depth) and we get a secondary that's not pieced together with scotch tape, we will be able to stop some teams from lighting up the scoreboard.
I've said from the start, give him at least 3 years to make things happen. I knew 2008 would be bad. I thought 2009 would be a little better. But I've always thought 2010 was going to be the year when things clicked. All it takes is time and repetition. This is a very complex system to get used to. You can't just pick it up in 6 months and expect to run it to perfection. Basically, freshman...especially freshman QB's are just not expected to drop into the starting role and go set all kinds of records.
Patience is not easy...especially not when you see all the potential that this team has. We've moved the ball well, we've shown that it's possible for us to score points. We've done all this with a roster of players that is 80% freshmen and sophomores.
To me it's scary to think about this team two years from now. If we can average 33 points a game with all the problems this team is having...imagine down the road when things finally click into place and we're no longer thinking...just reacting...and scoring...at will.
Better days are ahead for this program. Just give it time. Support these young players, because in one or two years, you'll be glad you did.
And to the rest of the Big Ten...enjoy getting your shots in on Michigan now...because it's not going to last.
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|Date||Opponent||Time - TV||Result|
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|11/5||MARYLAND||3:30 - ESPN
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|11/19||INDIANA||3:30 - ESPN
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|12/30||#11 Florida St||8:00 - ESPN||32-33|
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