this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
After watching the film of both of these guys, I was totally impressed with their skills at the HS level and I wouldn't be surprised if Robinson really pushes Forcier for the starter's spot. Robinson really has great passing skills and his mechanics are excellent for someone billed as a dual threat QB, but recruited by some to play defense. Forcier is no slouch in his mechanics nor his accuracy either.
If you watch the film on Robinson and focus on his footwork and mechanics when he's not running the ball, his release reminds me of Peyton Manning. Seriously, he has a high snap release just like Manning and their footwork is similar. Robinson almost always sets his feet and squares his shoulders to his target and then delivers the ball with that high release point. If you compare his film to T Pryor, Robinson is a much better passer and much more polished. You can tell Robinson has been coached well. If you factor in his speed and running ability, he's more of the QB that RR has had success with in recent years. I can't say enough how impressive his skills are as a passer. Watch the film again for yourself and watch the footwork and the release.
Tate is a little more of a scrambler than a runner, but he definitely a very accurate passer both standing in the pocket and on the run. He also has good fundamentals, but Robinson was more disciplined in his delivery and set up than Tate, but the end result was the same. It ain't broke don't fix it. I think Tate can kill you with his arm and he can also extend plays with his legs, which in a spread offense really puts pressure on the defense to cover longer. I would give an edge to Tate in his accuracy but arm strength was not noticeably different between the two. Both of them forced the ball at times in the face of pressure, but show me a QB that doesn't do that to some degree at that level.
I think we have two great QBs in these recruits and the future looks really bright. Threet has the experience, but I just don't see how he can keep these two guys off the field. Tate will get 19-20 practices in the spring so he'll have a leg up on Robinson, but by the mid point of the season he should see some snaps if he can digest the offense and adapt to the speed of the game. Both of these young guys will see the blitz early and often IMO. If Forcier can be enough of a running threat and can take the pounding of the Big Ten then we'll see more of RR's offense than we have to this point.
I still think we're a .500 team +/- a game due to the other questions on the team, but if these guys can come in and make a difference and the OL can show continued improvement; that number could jump to 7-5 or 8-4. You have to take into account that these guys are true freshman and the team overall will be pretty young, but the future is oh so bright on the offensive side of the ball. I can't remember the last time we had so many exciting guys on the offensive side of the ball. All of the little slot ninjas, minor's power run, brown's speed, big physical receivers, and QBs who have to be accounted for will really open up the field. The biggest wild card on offense is the line, but I've got to think that we've got some depth and some guys who can add to the unit and make a positive contribution. I'm a defensive coach, so I would be very worried having to scout this many play makers and an offense with so many weapons.
Thank god this season is over. It has been a long season and very disappointing for those of us who have become spoiled by the 9-3 seasons we took for granted. I'm sure some are still angry about the game and the season, but just like the team and the coaches, we as fans need to put it behind us and start asking the questions about what is going to happen as this program moves forward.
For those who like to blame the coaches for everything under the sun, I really think they were frustrated all year as well. They could never take advantage of their system because the QBs did not offfer a true running threat and when they were called upon to pass, they were less than effective even on the simplest of routes. Multiply that problem with the number of true freshman playing (and fumbling) on offense and it's not hard to see why we were 3-9 this year and it's not that the coaches are idiots and can't teach guys not to fumble or to teach guys not to chuck the ball to tacopants. There were instances were the coaches made tactical errors (3-3-5 against Purdue) but ultimately the games were always won or lost on execution of the plays being called.
Going forward, we'll need to address the problems of this years season through recruiting and coaching. Unless we have a rash of injuries, Mr. Sheridan has seen his last snaps at QB for Michigan and that's not being negative, but the truth is that the kid does not possess the physical tools to be an effective Div 1 QB. I would bet that Threet gets some more snaps, but he'll be on a very short leash if either of the true freshman can show the coaches they can handle the job and make the reads and make the throws. The hardest part for a freshman or young QB is the ability to make good decisions quickly in the pass game. I think we've got a couple new tackles on the O-line next year and more depth to do something at the LG spot. The RBs are fine; even if we lose one or two in the offseason, we'll still have enough depth there. The receivers are not the focal point of this offense and as long as we can have some guys that can offer a vertical threat and guys that can be good blokers on the perimeter, we'll be fine there too.
On defense, we've got a lot of work to do. We lose MFT, Harrison, TT, WJ, Jamo, and Charles Stewart from starting positions and maybe BG if he leaves early, which I hope he does not happen as he has been the best player on this team at any position. The defense has been suprisingly porous this year and part of it is because they lacked confidence in each other and did not operate as a cohesive unit. You have great individual efforts at times, but then the unit would have a breakdown and they'd give up a big play. The schemes and play-calling was sound most of the time, but the poor tackling and poor play of the LBs and the DBs really has me concerned. I think, as a coach, you cannot put in any sophisticated packages or blitzes until you can tackle effectively and that is one area we never improved upon over the course of the year. The safeties have gotten a ton of blame this year; some they earned and some they did not; but they will need to be better next year. I think Micheal Williams and Brandon Smith see a large amount of time next year. Cissoko is going to be better next year and he'll make a nice compliment to Donovan Warren who had a rough Sophmore campaign. The defensive line is going to be a major question mark even if BG stays. We have seen good things from some of the backups this year, but they weill need to be able to perform on a consistent basis. If Campbell commits to Moichigan, expect him to get significant playing time along side Mike Martin. The Lbs need to be better next year. Mouton has shown that he is a playmaker on defense. Ezeh has shown that he's got a lot of work to do to get better IMO. I think Ezeh reacts too slowly and let himself get blocked too easily. I would like to see Fitzgerald or even Demens push for some starting time next year. The problem is that we need a true Middle LB and righ now, Ezeh is that guy.
I never think that a true freshman will have a huge impact on your team in a positive manner, but next year we'll need one of these two freshman to really make an impact on this team. I think it is going to be Forcier just because he's the more polished passer at this time, but Beaver has some intagibles that you can't coach when it comes to having a dual threat QB. For next year, I think the reasonable expectation for the team is going to be somewhere around .500; maybe plus or minus a game. You're almost in year 1.5 of the transition insomuch as the coaches have to start over again in teaching the system to true freshman and the freshman who played this year are going to be sophmores.
I think the offseason is going to be interesting insomuch as we'll lose some guys we didn't anticipate losing, but I think we'll gain a few guys that weren't on the radar. I think we might get a little shuffle in the coaches, but nothing major. I think RR will understand the Big Ten a little better and he'll have an entire off season to work on this team, his offense, and his staff. I think that means we're more competitve in 09, but we're really looking at '10 or '11 before we can talk about being at the top of the big ten.
If you thought last year's offseason was intersting, I think this year's offseason will be just as interesting insomuch as the program is at an interesting crossroads. Either we get this issues resolved with personnel and we move towards becoming a top 10 team, or we move towards becoming Northwestern. History has old us that year one of RR is ugly, but that year 2 is respectable, but year 3+ is something special. So for those of you who are writing diaries or posting on message boards comdemning the coaching staff please start working on your retractions for the next few seasons.
These has been the longest of seasons for us diehard Michigan fans. The news today of additional players opting to leave the program comes at strange time in that we're in the last week of the season and usually players don't make the decision to leave mid-year or this late in the year. Some people choose to see this as a further indictment of the current staff, but I think it's just a continuation of the process required to build a program.
Many say that the program was decent shape after last season and the outcome of this season is more attributable to the new staff and their perceived shortcomings, but I think it goes much deeper than that. What is changing about the program more than the offesive and defensive philosophies is the mental make up of the players in the program itself. If one had the pleasure to know both Bo and Lloyd, they would know that Bo and Lloyd were as different as two people can be. Bo was as tenacious and demanding as any football coach I have ever known, but after he left coaching, he was potrayed as this lovable grandfather figure who had a snappy wit and penchant for telling great stories. The man was as intense as any person ever was on the football field and he recruited his type of players. Lloyd was fiery and he was competitive, but he was more reserved and introspective than most men you'd think coached college football. His demeanor was that of a banker more than a football coach at times. There is no right or wrong to their personalities or their style of coaching, but there was a distinct difference. When Bo recruited a kid to play for Michigan, he cared less about 40 times and squat numbers than he did about the fire in the person and the mentality of the player. The culmination of the recruiting process with Bo was the one on one with him in his office where he fired off questions that would make the toughest HR person in the world squirm in their seats. He basically threw Chris Spielman out of his office in disgust after Spielman showed up with torn jeans and snuff in his lip and acting like it was Bo who should be in awe of him. Lloyd was effective in recruiting, but his approach was much different in that he sold Michigan to recruits and their parents whereas Bo sold greatness and there is a difference. People who relentlessly strive for greatness have a certain mental make-up and that is what Bo sought. In today's game with the limited number of scholarships, Lloyd had a tougher road to travel and may not have had the luxury of evaluating the mental aspect of all of his recruits that way Bo did.
With that said, I think the process that Rich Rod has embarked on is one to restore the mental toughness of the players who play for Michigan. There is a process of building a program at all levels of football and the process is virtually the same. Rich Rod has to find the type of players that fit his philosophy, which has less to do with the workings of a spread offense than it does with their mental make-up. Rich Rod from what I can tell is an intense coach and he wants a certain type of athlete in his program. If you've seen the images of the facilities lately, you'll notice every wall has a sign hanging. Every sign is a challenge to the players to be great. "Those Who Stay..." is about striving for greatness and I think these new signs are also a call for people to strive for greatness. Look at Owen Schmitt for example, here is a guy who looks more like the guy driving the Budweiser truck than a football player. A guy who played Divsion III football beause he did not have the athletic pedigree to warrant offers from bigger schools, but the one thing not recorded on any film or any scouting report is the person's willingness to defy the measurables due to their desire to be great. Owen Schmitt was not afraid to strive for greatness and he found a coach who wasn't afraid to let him try. Yes, we've had some great players like Mike Hart that did the same, but Mike Hart was more the exception than the rule, IMO.
Sam McGuffie is an excellent athlete and with more experience, he'll be a good RB, but if he doesn't want to be at Michigan for whatever the reason, then it's better that he leaves the program. I don't like anyone leaving Michigan, but I certainly understand all of the factors that can affect a young man. I wish him well. Rich Rod has to find men that want to be here and want to be great. He has yet to have that opportunity here at Michigan except for the last few weeks of last year's recruiting class. I think RR will need at least 3 years to get this program built the way he wants it to be built with the type of players that he wants. Let's give him that time and keep our expectations realistic going forward.
I am not happy about the season, but it is easier for me to understand because I have played and coached football for almost 20 years and I understand to some small degree what RR faces. He needs to stay the course and keep building his program despite all the criticism and second-guessing that we as fans tend to offer. I am not giving him a free pass, which is currently the most popular accusation on the message boards, but rather I am tempering my expectations of him due to the state of the program. Once he gets two of his recruiting classes into the program(last's years was the continuation of LCs class) then my expectations will be raised back to the level of greatness. I think mental toughness will again be a focal point of the program. I think Rich Rod will recruit his players and you'll see the attrition curbed greatly as his players will have the same mental make-up as their head coach. There aren't guru ratings that measures those sort of things in recruits, so you'll have to trust that RR knows what he's looking for; how else does a school with the occassional 4 star player beat a team always in the top 5 of recruting in a BCS game?
I will not discredit the nay-sayers as they have the right to be upset and disgruntled about the season. They have the right to voice their opinions about the coaches, players, and sky falling, but don't count me amongst them insomuch as I see the process unfolding before me. At this point, people are saying we should be seeing the improvement on the field, so these coaches must be terrible, but I don't think that is where we are in the process. We are still in the infantile stages of the process. We have yet to get to the point where we can get RR's players on the field to compete. By this time next year, the nay-sayers will have pitchfork in hand as I think we're still in the .500 range give or take a lucky break or two. The process takes time and there are no shortcuts to do it right. For every player that leaves, there is another opportunity to fill that scholarship with a player with the attributes RR wants and that's not a bad thing; even if that person cannot leap over tall safeties in a single bound.
Have faith my friends and understand that greatness is not something one achieves in 10 months no matter how much we wish it to happen.
To continually do the same things, in the same manner and expects different results has to be the definition of insanity. That is what our defense has become to me; an exercise in insanity. We have been cocnsistently awful in 3rd and long situations were we almost concede first down yardage through this awful soft zone that we have not been able to execute all year, but yet we still go to it every time we've got 3rd and forever and it seldom works. How many times are we going to reach for that hot pot handle before we learn that it burns our hand? The next time I see a safety covering a slot receiver in any situation, I'm gonna loose my mind.
I don't like criticizing student athletes as I understand how difficult it is to play football at this level and how demanding it is, but I have to question the coaches at this point because if these guys are still not able to excute the defense by the 8th game of the year, irregardless of any transitions, then there is a major problem with the installation of the defense. For the kids to play fast, they need to be able to read and react almost without having to think and this is not happening, nor is it getting better. If you do not have the personel to run certain schemes then you don't shove the square peg into the round hole. You evaluate your players and put them in a position to be succesful. If the kids don't know where there are supposed to be our have any doubts as to what their assignments are, that causes hesitation and hesitation causes breakdowns in the defense.
Admittedly, I am old school and I love to question GSimmons about his love of the 3 man front, but there is nothing wrong with playing simple fundamentally sound defense. You don't have to disguise everything and get all fancy with your blitz packages, especially if the kids cannot execute them properly. One of my favorite stories from Bo was the one about the coach out of california that thought he had this new fangled way to be innovative in his playcalling and he goes through this big presentation with diagrams and slides, but while he's talking Bo notices that his defense was giving up like 400 yards a game. When the coach finishes his presentation, Bo raised his hand and asked the coach about the opposition's 400 yards per game and the guy responds with something about having problems tackling. The moral of that story is that no matter how fancy or innovative or diverse your schemes or your playcalling may be, if you do not execute the basic fundamentals of football, such as tackling, all the rest of it doesn't matter and it won't work. I believe that is what we are seeing now. We are seeing the fundamentals go by the wayside and the results are ugly.
If the players we have now cannot execute the defense, then how are new players or freshman going to have success in the defense? Every week these message board idiots call out the DBs, especially Brown, and rake them over the coals for making the same mistakes, but as genuine as their anger may be, why aren't they asking why our safety continues to take bad angles and use poor fundamentals 8 games into the year? These are correctable issues and there are two ways to correct it. You can either drill them to death and coach them to be fundamentally sound or you can replace them with someone who can execute the fundamentals consistently. Not that I advocate benching players, but before you can install any offense or defense you need to have the fundamentals installed and drilled. I know of this site, the idea of "out executing" the opponet gets a lot of flack, but there is something to be said for being more fundamentally sound than your opponent. This will continue to show up on the field if not corrected.
It killed me to see Dumb-tonio with that shit-eaters grin on the sideline towards the final moments of the game as if he'd really accomplished something great in beating and 2-5 team that lost to Toledo at home. But we let that game get away as we continued to give up big plays and play that ridiculous defense with the safety over the slot on 3rd and long and we go into a soft zone on the snap. A mediocre QB like Hoyer looked like Tom Brady today because of our playcalling and even when we had the right defense on the field we couldn't get guys on the ground or we lost people in our zones due to poor read and reaction, IMO. I am not someone who calls for the coaches job or starts websites about firing coaches, but I am not encouraged by what I've seen so far. My suggestion for the rest of this year would be to simplfy the defense, trash the 3 man front and play 3 Corners on 3 receiver sets and 4 corners on 4 receiver sets, and to start getting the new guys some snaps as we'll need them next year to have some experience. Otherwise, we'll be talking about this next year. Shafer may very well be a good coach and he's got two other guys on the staff with coordinator experience, so it's not like they don't have more knowledge that the entirety of the message board idiots combined, but sometimes it's good to dumb it down and do it well before you build it bigger as no house built on a bad foundation has ever stood for long.
Lastly, I just want to single out Brandon Graham as being the best player on this team on any side of the ball and claims that he takes plays off are completely ridiculous as some plays are designed for him to contain and spy and not rush the passer or blow up the backfield. For the past two years, BG has consistently provided game changing plays and today he was the lone bright spot on this defense.