Hey guys, I appreciate the feedback on my diary entry. First, I want to re-iterated that I didn't say we are a lock to roll through teams like the Texas 06 team or the Oklahoma 07 team. I just wanted to provide an optimistic outlook because I have not seen one yet. I feel that the comparisons are very similar. I knew there would be questions regarding the offensive line. I didn't forget to account for them, I was actually just late for a work out and didn't have time to finish. Every time I'm late for a workout I get yelled at by the imaginary Mike Barwis in my head that I use to motivate myself. It's always something along the lines of...
Imaginary Mike Barwis: "Hey thanks for finally bringing your little baby nuts to the work out. I'm sure you have a lot of important things to do in your free time, all I do is breed wild wolves in my free time. No big Fucking deal or anything."
In terms of the differentiation between offensive lines, Texas' 06 team did return 3 starters, one of whom was an all-big 12 selection (Justin Blaylock). Meanwhile Oklahoma's team also returned 3 starters, one being all-worldy guard Duke Robinson. This is a huge discrepancy between the talent of our offensive line and theirs. I agree 100%, but I will explain to you why it is still a valid comparison in my mind.
Given our personnel, I believe when people talk about how bad and inexperienced our offensive line is, they are expecting a Notre Dame-esque collapse. No doubt, an offensive line performance similar to theirs would be disastrous. The Notre Dame offensive line frequently allowed opposing defenders to throw parties at Jimmy Clausen's house. Clausen even managed to become the first quarterback in the history of football to get sacked while attempting to take a knee (Just kidding... but seriously). Let me explain why this will not happen. First, I truly in my heart believe Mike Barwis would never allow his players to be pushed around and physically abused like the ND offensive line. Yes this line is inexperienced and yes this line has played very poorly when given the opportunity, but wouldn't you be slacking if you were a sophomore linemen playing behind Jake Long? I understand that Justin Boren and Stephen Schilling were able to leap frog this class of linemen, but it wasn't seniors getting beaten out by freshmen, it was a red-shirt freshmen and a true sophomore beating out red-shirt sophomores. And Boren (as much as I hate his guts) was a freak of athletic nature who was already the strongest person on the team, meanwhile Schilling was a 5 star recruit believed to have the best footwork of any linemen in the 06 class. Now that these linemen have the motivation (or had the motivation beaten into them), I believe you will see them perform at a much higher level than before.
So what if this new level still isn't that good? Well, fortunately that can also be accounted for. The spread offense preaches.... spreading. Before you stop reading, here me out. Although this offensive line is not as good as the last years, the funny thing is, they really don't have to be. Notre Dame's offensive line was ill- equipped to protect Clausen in pro-style sets with 5-7 step drops. Michigan's current offensive line is also ill-equipped to protect Threet in pro-style sets as well. However, Threet will be working out of the shotgun spread where the ball is delivered much quicker and where defenders will have to travel a farther distance to get to the quarterback. The emphasis on bubble and flanker screens will keep blitzers and defensive linemen honest (so would the zone read, to an extent, but I'm hoping you don't see Threet running that very often). Also, blitzers are easier to account for in the spread, as corners often have to start their blitz before the snap of the ball. Also, although the talent of Michigan's current offensive line is much weaker than previous years, the athleticism is not. Therefore, they will also be more capable of protecting Threet when defenders get tired from the no huddle hurry-up offense. Case in point, this past West Virginia team had only one linemen who was a first team all-big east selection (remember we're talking about the big-east) and yet they were still able to put up 48 points on Oklahoma, who many believed to be a top 5 defense. Obviously, Pat White/Steve Slaton/Noel Devine had a lot to do with that, but come on, I'm just saying. A dominant offensive line is not a pre-requisite for a successful spread offense. Do you want another example, how bout Florida, who's offensive line featured two true freshmen and a converted defensive linemen at the end of the year. They still managed to score a lot of points against very good defenses.
I understand that the discrepancy in offensive lines may seem to crack my comparison between Texas 06 and Oklahoma 07, but I just want to state that I believe the spread offense lightens the necessity for an absolutely dominant offensive line. I think people will be surprised at how good this team performs. I'm not saying 10 wins, but I'm sure we will get to a bowl. It seems silly, but a lot of people seem worried about our consecutive bowl streak.
Addressing other comments that I thought were interesting:
How will the line cope with the blitzing of Tenuta?
The answer is not very well. But what teams do handle the blitzes of Tenuta? No matter who they play, Tenuta will game plan a way to get to the quarterback.
The coaching change is also a big differentiation between Michigan and Texas 06 and Oklahoma 07:
This is also very true, but I just want to re-state that the Capital One Bowl proved we can run a spread. Yes, it is a new scheme, but so was the one we used in the Capital One Bowl. If you tell me that that is the offense we had all year, then you're wrong. They put together an offensive game plan in one month and could have used it the rest of the year if we would have played more games. There will be struggles adapting, but we're not going from a veer offense to a throwing spread. I don't remember anyone looking loss or confused during the bowl game. Even Carson Butler knew what he was doing, and we're talking about Carson Butler (Don't get it twisted though, I actually love Carson Butler, he's my wolverine and my tiger). Someone pointed out the even more drastic change in offensive schemes implemented at Cincinnati and the success that they had. In terms of personnel, we do recruit talent that can play in a spread. Tony Clemons, Daryl Stonum, and Junior Hemmingway have the speed to play in the slot. They may not have the wiggle to shake their way to 50 yard touchdowns off bubble screens, but they can get 10-15 yards. Also, a majority of high school players that we recruited come from offenses where they line up all over the field. Some play quarterback, running back, slot, flanker, and corner, so the adjustment from a 3 receiver set to a 3 receiver shotgun spread isn't too overwhelming for them. In fact, for players like Carlos Brown, it's all too familiar. There will be mistakes as the Michigan players learn the new scheme but the beauty is, opposing defenders have to learn our new scheme too.
With everyone searching for a silver lining or a comparable success story, the most optimistic comparison for Michigan's current situation would have to be Oklahoma's 2007 team and the 2006 Texas team. Both teams started Red-shirt Freshmen Quarterbacks (Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford) in spread offenses. Both teams had young, but outstanding skill positions and defenses that were suppose to support their young struggling quarterbacks. However, both quarterbacks ended up putting up cartoonish numbers as first year starters. Bradford threw for 3,121 yards with a 69.5% completion percentage and a ridiculous 36 touchdowns against only 8 interceptions. Meanwhile, Colt McCoy threw for a less but still stellar total of 2,570 yards with a 68.2% completion percentage and a 29-7 touchdown to interception ratio.
This is far and away the most optimistic outlook, but it is also the most comparable. The pre-season build up and quarterback spotlight was exactly the same for both teams. Texas had to replace the great Vince Young (no offense to Chad Henne, but a much more daunting task) and Oklahoma was left with a “bare cupboard” after the dismissal of former 5 star Rhett “I thought everyone at the car dealership got paid $1000 an hour” Bomar (similar to the departure of 5 star quarterback Ryan Mallet). The running back situation at Texas was also very comparable, as Texas implemented a running back-by-committee approach with Jamal Charles and Selvin Young splitting nearly the identical amount of carries (156 to 137) over the course of the season. Neither eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark and both had 7 touchdowns. Behind Charles and Young was a host of younger running backs whose carries ranged from 12-45. This is most likely to be the same case for Michigan this year, with Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor splitting a bulk of the carries while Mcguffie, Grady, Horn, and Shaw will likley receive carries somewhere between the 12-45 range. Texas’ top returning receiver, Limas Sweed, only had 36 receptions the year before (compared to Greg Matthews who had 39 receptions this past year). As you can see, the differences between Michigan’s team and Texas’ 2006 team are minimal if not completely non-existent. Oklahoma on the other hand had did have a returning running back, but also implemented a running back-by-committee approach with three running backs (Allen Patrick, Demarco Murray, and Chris Brown) getting over 100 carries. Oklahoma also brought back its two top receivers, but Juaquin Iglesias 2006 numbers were nearly the same as Matthews 2007 totals making both of them a wash comparably. Therefore Michigan’s only real difference with Oklahoma’s 2007 squad is a less talented but more experienced running back and one more returning receiver (you can put as much weight as you want into how significant an impact this could have played).
In terms of different offensive philosophies, you could argue that both Texas and Oklahoma implement more pass-heavy spreads, with Oklahoma also employing a jumbo pro-set with double tight ends. However, I totally believe Rich Rodriguez will adapt the schemes to the personnel. Who doesn’t? Even Jim Tressel (who we all criticized for winning the ugliest football games on earth) opened up his offense when he had Ted Ginn and Troy Smith. So why does everyone assume Rodriguez will attempt to stymie teams with a run heavy attack? He wasn’t considered an offensive genius because his spread ran 80% of the time; he was considered an offensive genius because he invented a system that allowed for his athletes to best excel in space. Therefore, you won’t see Threet pounding it up the middle 50 times this year. You’ll instead (hopefully) see an offensive style similar to Texas and Oklahoma’s offense. And you can’t argue that we don’t have the personnel to run a spread. Sure, ideally a more natural athlete at quarterback would be optimal, but we showed in the Capital One Bowl that we do recruit the personnel to run a successful spread. Rodriguez has also stated that he would like to get multiple tight ends on the field at the same time. It may not be in a similar Oklahoma pro-style jumbo set, but it shows his willingness to adapt to his personnel. In terms of talent, Threet was a 4 star quarterback (the #9 best quarterback in his class) while McCoy and Bradford were only a 3 star quarterbacks (the 15th and 12th best quarterbacks their years respectively).
I realize that this argument is more a collaboration of jumbled thoughts and I’m also not saying we will have the same 10 win success of Texas’ 06 team or Oklahoma’s 07 team. But I will dismiss people’s concern that we will lose our longstanding consecutive bowl streak. There is a precedent of teams with red-shirt freshmen quarterbacks leading their teams to respectable seasons. I believe we will surprise a lot of people, but not myself. Keep the faith.