chance of bowl: 13.6%
I've been a Michigan football fan all my life. I attended my first game at the age of 8, celebrated in the stands after AC pulled out a victory over Indiana in '79, remember when the Rose Bowl MVP went to the entire O line, and still haven't gotten over the loss to the unmentionables in 2006. But I've had my greatest doubts (in the same sense as in the movie with Meryl Streep) as a fan in the past year. And it's not because of the losing. It's an identity crisis.
Until Lloyd Carr retired in 2008, Michigan football had been led by exactly three head coaches in my lifetime. And I'm no spring chicken. These three coaches were undeniably related - not by blood, but by football family. Gary Moeller had spent more than a decade under Bo, and likewise, Lloyd Carr spent more than a decade under Bo and then Mo. It was like nepotism, at its best. When coaches changed, it was seemless - there was no "clearing house", no radical change in style, no player exodus, and certainly no head coach who had to read a book to find out what Michigan football is all about!
When Carr retired, I had my heart set on Les Miles as his successor. Why? Because Les Miles was a Michigan man as I understood it - he'd played for Bo and coached under Bo and Mo. But, Rich Rodriguez was hired, and brought Morgantown to Ann Arbor. For the first time ever, I recognized almost none of the coaches (thank goodness for Fred Jackson...), had to come to grips with a complete change in style (there was no "spread" in those three dusty yards), and watched players who really shouldn't have, leave before their eligibility was expired. Understanding the significance of the Rose Bowl or the Brown jug etc. doesn't and can't come from reading - as RichRod and his staff reportedly did. I suppose Rodriguez understands the urgency of beating the round, hard-headed rival. At least, I assume so since coaches have been fired over that game.
It's "spread offense day" over on ESPN's college football section. Each of the bloggers interviewed a number of spread coordinators (Herb Hand- Tulsa, Sonny Dykes- Arizona, Matt Canada- Indiana (WTF?))
Then they also interview a number of defensive coordinators as well. A great read if your bored.
Dis-claimer: I wrote this as a reponse to all the pessimism that was coming out in the last week or so and finally decided to post it. Well, I also had to wait until I had enough points to post as well. We'll see if I still do later.
Is it possible that we, not all of us, but some of us, are so consumed with what has passed that we cannot see the forest for the trees? Could the incredible, unimaginable, almost unthinkable things that happened last season, in the fading shadows of the beginning of the 2007 season, scar the landscape that is Michigan Football, so much so that we can no longer see what “can be” and only see what is otherwise referred to as “the worst-case scenario”?
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Before the Appalachian State disaster and the Oregon shellacking, to the fanbase, Michigan was a perennial top-5-10 team. After that season, a little hope still flickered as Lloyd Carr’s swan song was a gigantic victory over the mighty SEC. But then came the retirement, coaching search that seemingly went awry. And with it, another thunderous stone fell from the foundation of the greatest program in the country.
A new coach, a new philosophy and a new direction tried to brighten the landscape as they tried to burn off the haze left over from what had gone on for decades. There was hope, enthusiasm and an age-old trust in what had always been there, a defense that could be counted to keep the team in the game, give the offense a chance to learn, grow and hopefully by the end of the season regain some if not all of the respect tarnished by the opening of the previous season.
But, as we all know, football is a game of four quarters, and offense, defense and special teams. In 2008, our Wolverines never gained control over any one of those pieces, much less all of them together. As the season went on, more stones from the foundation seemed to crumble, if not the first quarter, the second quarter was the downfall. If not the first half, it was the second half. If the offense played well, the defense struggled or the defense kept us in the game and the offense couldn’t get out of its own way. And in some cases, the offense shined through the murky waters of repeated special teams disasters only to come up short because the defense never seemed to get off the field.
The cupboard was bare. Make no mistake, it was. Not because no one recruited. Not because “everyone” left. Not because the …………………
In 2007 the unbelievable happened and in 2008 the unthinkable happened. Now as the 2009 season is coming around the corner, we are trying to find reasons to be optimistic, but the damage done over the last two seasons has almost everyone believing that Michigan will have to be lucky to win, rather than making its own luck and controlling its destiny, by doing what Michigan has always done…playing Michigan Football. Yes, we will have a true freshman quarterback playing this season regardless of the name and number he will be a freshman. And yes, the DC is new for the second season in a row. And the defense is not chock full of household names that make you tingle with excitement or salivate over the number of sacks or INTs that they would undoubtedly rack up.
Despite what has happened in the past, and it IS the past, the 2009 version of the Michigan Wolverines has the same opportunity as so many other Michigan squads, to play with the passion, heart and strength that every other great Michigan team had. There will be some disappointments this season I’m sure, but the potential and the possibilities for this season are maybe greater than any in recent memory.
Don’t let the slow, methodical ways of the past cloud your vision. Our coach is the father of the modern spread. If there is anyone who can get these young men ready to execute and unleash the power of this offense on the Big11Ten conference it’s Rich Rodriguez.
Consider these factors in a bubble for just a moment; the entire offensive line is coming back, the running backs are healthy and in their second year under the new system The defense is young, but very hungry led by a proven leader. The defense WILL be faster! We have the greatest punter on the planet, the defensive coordinator actually has many years of experience building championship defenses. And possibly the best news of all, the QB knows how to run the spread AND he can throw. On top of all that, the offense is built and run by the guys who know it better than anyone else and have made it work EVERYWHERE they go.
Now if you take those factors and insert them into the history, tradition and bigger-than-life spectacle that is Michigan Football. Combine that with the largest crowd anywhere that will be MUCH LOUDER than every before, thanks to the new additions and more enthusiasm, with eight home games, three of them against huge rivals, and leave out what has happened in the past, that has no real bearing on the future, and this could be a great season.
Now, I know this all sounds like I have stolen all the kool-aid and downed it like a freshman who has never seen a beer-bong before, but in my 44 years on this planet and season ticket holder, I have seen many incredible things happen inside the hole “that Yost dug, Schembechler filled and Canham paid for”. There is promise, opportunity and an awful lot of desire being crafted by RichRod and company. I for one, think great things will happen and many of us will be very, very surprised this season.
As a footnote, I understand the concern, and even pessimism going into this season, but I just can’t believe that this program will struggle the way Nebraska, Notre Dame and others have.
The offseason is too long and Sept. 5 is too far away.
I was asked to repost this from the MGoBoard. I added a few things (in Bold) so enjoy the read.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Having had breakfast with Coach Frey and "BIG" Dusty earlier in the year he wrapped up the Boren situation in a very easy way.
1. Boren wanted to go home whenever he need to help his dad with his snow plow business. He abused that excuse.
2. He had always wanted to go to Ohio State to be closer to home and his dad bribed him to go to Michigan, hoping he would grow to love it.
3. He wanted to do "his workout not Mike's"
4. He just simply "hated to run". Coach Frey jokingly told the linemen they had to run sprints at the end of practice before a holiday break (I think Easter Break). The intent was to have them line up and then surprise them with "I'm just kidding you don't have to run any sprints today". Instead of lining up Boren walked out of practice.
5. Even with all of that the staff wanted to make it work and get him on board...there is no doubt he is a talented player. After he left practice before the sprints Coach Frey confronted him about his actions. Even though he hated running he admitted that he was in the best shape of his life from Barwis "forcing" him to workout. Why the staff finally quit on him was when he talked about the new guys being "scrubs". By "new guys" I mean the current linemen not the new recruits.
If this is all true and I believe every word of it...then it really gives me a new level of respect for the way the staff handled it in the media...they could have trashed this kid but decided to concentrate on the players they were working with currently...can you imagine Lane Kiffen taking the high road like this?
Players like Boren are not good for a program no matter what culture it is...I'm glad the coaches now weed out these guys that would have coasted during the Carr years.
I'm not saying Wermers or O'niell is that guy but having talked to most of the staff and having watched a half dozen practices up close I will tell you this...Coach Frey is a really nice guy to sit and talk with socially, he will talk to you about anything in the papers about the program, he is straight forward and will give you "real answers". That being said he does not even begin to take one ounce of shit from his players. He teaches very aggressively and that’s just his style. I can see why guys who don't want to work or don't fit in want to leave on the offensive line. He is much more vocal and demanding then a guy like Coach Jackson...you could probably go four years without him ever taking your head off the way Coach Frey will.
In football no matter the level you have to build a foundation. Sometimes the best laid foundations come from subtracting materials instead of adding them. I truly believe Boren is a good player, I also believe that if we would of had a strong senior class last season he would have straightened out over time and been a strong player. Since we had little senior leadership a guy like Boren...or O'neill...or Wermers can become a cancer to young a team and effect them for years. That attitude must be wiped out from a team that is struggling. It’s hard enough to turnaround a struggling program without having to pull guys who don't want to go. Coach Rodriguez has said many times before that when you lose you have two options...New Players or New Coaches. I'm glad to see its the players that are going (besides Shafer) and not this staff. I really believe these are the guys to take UofM to the next level.
"Hold the Rope"
This is painfully obvious, but it is cathartic for me to spell this out. It appears the rough start for RR at both WVU and UM has little to do with player fit and everything to do with culture shock. Sure, many players didn't fit, but I am guessing that if RR wanted to be a players' coach and keep English and work with what he inherited, he would have made a bowl game last year.
Instead, our coach obliterates all traces of anything not done his way. I am cool with this, because his way is the Way of the Bull. The collateral damage of his uncompromised vision is three win seasons. The central success is that he can take zealots like Owen Schmitt and make fearsome football warriors out of them and go Oklahoma on people.
Thoughts? Doesn't 3-9 have everything to do with a house not yet cleaned, and little to do with maximizing wins with talent that doesn't fit? Is that even coherent?
Hey, something positive and new about the program!
U-M has confirmed that last year's team grade-point average is the highest in the past 20 years. It's also one of the best ever by the men who pull on the winged helmets.
"I know that Rich's football team made really significant strides in their team GPA," noted U-M Athletic Director Bill Martin. "It either is, or is very close to, the highest GPA in the recorded history of the football team. I'm very proud of that."
I wonder what Rodriguez's critics who talk shit about him being a coach with low class who wants thugs on his team are going to say about this. The article states that the new staff are putting more emphasis on grades than the previous one.