I am still trying to answer why I was optimistic about the 2008 season. Reading this blog optimisim rings eternal..just skip the Magnus posts.
...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
This is just going to be fairly brief, but I really feel optimistic about the outlook for this season. First, a few brief thoughts about last season. Michigan was about 6 inches away from 6-6 (Illinois), and a few "bad bounces" away from 8-4 (MSU and Iowa). With this view, we should all be thinking that 8-4 is certainly reachable.
Let's start at the very beginning. (A very good place to start!) Back at Center, we will see David Molk, who should be fully healed from his injury. Molk is potentially an all-conference center who can anchor the line. As far as the rest of the O-line goes, I'll let people smarter than me about these things tell you more, but from what I understand, it seems like signs are good that the team will be as good or better than last season on the offensive line.
I'm not going to weigh in on Denard vs. Tate at this time. (So what if that makes me chicken!) But at the very least, we should have a QB that is better than last season's QB. Tate is healthy, and with one more year of experience and work should be better than he was last year. Denard is beginning to look like a real QB, and not just a TB who occasionally throws the ball. By all accounts the sophomore version of Shoelace should be better than the freshman version of Forcier. So barring the double gut-punch injury to BOTH QBs, we should have a better QB than last year. Also, the competition this season between the two seems more active, which should make the current starter (whomever that may be) have to work harder to stay in that role. This means that the starting QB should be improving even more than last season. In the doomsday scenario, both of the best options get injured and we have (OMG) yet another true freshman playing QB in Devin Gardner, which--let's face it--is still better than a walk-on. In all liklihood, the starting QB at Michigan should be better than last season (and doesn't that make you feel better too?)\
Ok, so Minor and Brown (and Grady) graduated...and this is maybe a little sad. But Minor or Brown was hurt almost every week and Grady rarely saw the field. It seems like the important thing to have here is depth. And this Michigan has, perhaps even in abundance. There is some experience in this system for guys like Shaw and Smith (who should be healthy again). And this gives me hope that the status quo will be maintained and this group is at least as good as last season.
This year, Michigan has lost Matthews and Savoy (who I fondly remember for those catches against Notre Dame...happy thoughts!) But Hemmingway and Stonum are back on the outside. And Odoms and Roundtree will be awesome in the slot. Maybe Koger gives us a decent middle of the field threat, you know, the one we hoped he would be last season. There is plenty of reason to be optimistic with this skill group as well.
So to summarize, the offense should be better, in just about every phase of play this season. This might even make up for not having a space emperor (of space) winning the field position battle so often. We can always hope, right?
There can be hope with this group too. Briefly, can it really be worse than last season?
You don't lose Brandon Graham and get better. But Martin, VanBergen, Roh, Campbell, and Segasse make a good nucleus for DL depth. Who will step up? It is possible that the DL is still the strength of the defense this season.
Ok seriously. It can't get worse. Right? Please? If I close my eyes and wish really hard, does that make it so? Maybe this change in scheme we heard about is really about simplifying life for the LBs...and this can be a group that doesn't kill us on Defense. It's still the off-season, so I can be optimistic. Just ask any Lions fan you know (for whom the off-season, and sometimes, the preseason, are the best times to be a Lions fan).
Again, it can't get worse, can it? The big questions to answer. Will we have a reliable deep safety that doesn't get burned at least once per game? Will we have the athletes at corner to play adequate coverage? I think that there are enough hands on deck in that position group to be effective.
So in summary, the defense might even be adequate this season. Nobody will mistake them for one of the stellar defenses of the past (see 1997) but they should make do.
I think we can all crawl back from the ledge. I can't wait for September 4th to come!...And not just because it will be my 6th anniversary! ;)
I am still trying to answer why I was optimistic about the 2008 season. Reading this blog optimisim rings eternal..just skip the Magnus posts.
This Diary is cutting edge, I tell you. Full of strong assessments. No spelling errors in naming current Michigan players (EDIT: you mispelled a former player's name as well). Detailed breakdowns of the roster.
Well done Wolfman.
and +1 to you sir!
This seems to be the a key theme by the OP and by others as the one thing Michigan has improved upon since last year. Even where we had our greatest losses (DL, CB, and RB), we now SEEM to have increased the depth level. So, here's the question in my head. Are we truly deeper at those (and other) spots, or is depth just a claim used when there isn't much else positive to say about a certain position? Without enough talent, depth doesn't really mean much. So, do we have enough talented depth? I feel we do, but I could see people making arguments to the contrary.
Feels good to think about football and not sanctions for once this week. Oops, I said it. Sorry. Forget I even spoke of the word.
Well, let's turn this "flyover" analysis by the OP into something a little more useful.
Pick a position group, and I'll explain to you why depth will make the position better in 2010. Go ahead, pick any one.
Running Back. No clear starter. Will RB by committee work? I think the running game is more dependent on the OL which I feel will be pretty strong, so I think it can work. May not be a strength, but will work. thoughts?
First off, look at the options from last year:
Minor (hurt in August, never truly recovered); Brown (hurt, uh, intermittently), Shaw (hamstring issues?), Cox (still learning), Toussaint (broken shoulder blade) , Vinny Smith (did well, then hurt). Kevin Grady (well, yeah, learn how to block a LB and Michigan beats Illinois).
Now, let's compare it to this year.
Running back options: RS Soph Michael Cox and true frosh Hopkins at Superback (big back), Shaw, Toussaint as the speed backs. Moundros and McColgan (or just McColgan) at FB. Vinny Smith, ? I'd prefer he redshirt to be completely healthy for 2011 - he might not get that luxury. Oh yeah, one last guy will probably get some carries - Denard.
Look at those options. Can they run through tackles, unlike C. Brown? If so, the running game improves. Can they get one yard at the one-yard line? We'll see.
My opinion is that by committee will work, better than last year, for the last reason you stated. The O-line will be much better than last year, and thus, the running backs will have better cutback lanes and ability to get into space.
Furthermore, if there is an injury on the line this year, a like-for-like replacement will be made. Last year, Molk's injury meant Moosman to the C, Huyge/Dorrestein/eventually Omameh on the right side.
This year, a Molk injury would mean....Khoury in. An Omameh injury would mean ..... Barnum or Mealer in. A Huyge (at T) injury would mean........Dorrestein or Schofield in. There is a true, proper two-deep on the line now. There wasn't last year, and the running game suffered as a result.
So, while I think the collection of RB talent might not be as great as it was in 2009, if it can stay healthy, which with a group of 5 options, it should, I think it'll perform better than last year.
Just a little nervous at the lack of proven talent. Some great recruits in there. I can't wait to see what they can do. Would like to continue, but I'm goin' to lunch.
Oh yeah, one last guy will probably get some carries - Denard.
Yes. Yes. Yes. No doubt about it. I don't see how this one factor alone doesn't completely change the dynamic of the running game this year. Denard is going to get the ball a lot. RR is hanging himself if he doesn't. Denard may not always have the ball in his hands as a QB, but he's going to be vtal part of this offense because he's the most dynamic player on the team (and perhaps the entire league outside of Pryor). He's the only real game changer Michigan has that I can see. Not to diss other players. There are some nices pieces on offense like Roundtree and Odoms and Shaw, but Denard is different.
depth, yes, we're starting to get there. Not coachspeak to spin positive news. The roster had significant deficits for multiple reasons, many of which have been discussed at length here.
At this point, however, the depth we do have is young and inexperienced, with a few exceptions. RR has said it himself many times (and most coaches would agree:) you want your starters to be chiefly experienced upper classmen, and even most of your back ups to have been in the system for 2-3 years. But for the third year in a row, out of necessity, RS freshman and true freshman will see significant time on the field this year. So I suspect we'll see some talented kids making some mistakes that they won't be making down the road.
I think that the only time that depth doesn't help too much is when there is a huge talent gap. Consider this, if you are #2 on the depth chart, and the #1 guy is extremely better than you, then you cannot push the #1 guy. And you aren't extremely motivated to work hard to earn more playing time, because, let's face it, you are in for a play or two to give the #1 a quick rest, and then he is back out there. So the #1 guy can coast too. However, if you and the #1 guy are in a tight race, then you work harder in hopes of winning the starting job or, at least, earning more playing time. Also, he must work to stay in front of you...
I think in most respects, the depth argument can surpass the talent arguement. Nearly all of these players were recruited to be D1 football players...and are talented enough to succeed at that. (Now do they have the discipline to succeed is another question.)
Just one man's opinion.
The offense should be better, but the defense is still a question mark. It is easy to say that the LB play will be better, but how do we really know? Also, the secondary needs to improve greatly. If both of these positions on defense improve, I see a 8 win season in the fall.
A few reasons I think the LB corps will improve:
Coaching. With Gerg handling this group, I think they have a much better chance at being successful.
Experience. Rarely do returning starters play worse than they did the previous year. It happens, but most of the time a returning starter is better than the year before. This seems obvious, but both of our ILB's will be in their 3rd year as starters.
Depth. Last year we didn't have much backing up Mouton and Ezeh, so they weren't pushed too hard. This fall, guys like Demens, Fitzgerald (unless he's backing up Roh) Bell and Mike Jones will be pushing the starters for PT. And who knows, a guy like Demens might pass Ezeh and start. Either way, this group will be stronger because of it.
Shaw and Smith really need to be healthy during the season, that is my only worry about the o
I can see it now: "Happy anniversary, dear: hope you don't mind celebrating it at the Big House."
"Happy anniversary, dear; I'll see you tonight after I get home from the game".
I'm not sure that I buy the argument that Michigan was "about 6 inches" away from beating Illinois last year. You realize that they lost that game by 25 points, right? It was the biggest deficit of the season.
I understand all of the arguments about momentum and those sorts of things, but c'mon, it was 25 points! I don't think that really qualifies as a near-win. Just saying....
Jacob Charest was going to enter the game if Michigan went up 20-7. Illinois was on the verge of quitting and benching their four-year, senior starter.
Yes, Michigan was 6 inches from winning that game.
watched the game, we were 6 inches away. After not getting it on 4th down, the team just looked depressed - I mean really sad. I think Illinois then had a long TD, an onside recovery and another long TD. That 3 TD swing was the game.
No onsides recoveries against Illinois. After LeShoure scored that long TD run, Michigan went three and out, then Illinois scored again.
The onsides kick breakdown was against Purdue the following week.
I watched the 2008 game, too (also lost by 25 points). Illinois has had four TD plays of 50+ yards in the past two years (three of those were 70+ yards). For whatever reason, those particular Illinois teams matched up effectively against those particular Michigan teams. They could score from anywhere on the field (and did repeatedly).
This is a new year and I agree with most of what the OP said. Experience will be improved on offense. Depth will be improved on defense. There are reasons to be optimistic going into this season.
The defense that had just held Illinois in the 1st half to 120 yards of offense, 7 points, and had most recently subjected them to 3 consecutive 3 and outs was "depressed" about getting to play with Illinois backed up to their own 1 yard line and thought the game was over. Had the defense been able to stop a 3rd and 3 from the 8 on the subsequent Illini drive, how much of that would be remembered?
Not scoring there was big, but it was a lot bigger in RETROSPECT as Illinois preceded to score 31 points. Who's to say the Illini couldn't have done that even if Michigan had scored to go up 13. And frankly, if the team is truly "depressed" up 6 on the road in the middle of the 3rd quarter against a conference team because they couldn't punch it in on one play, then this program has a hell of a lot more problems than we know.
Breakdowns like the one against Illinois are what happens when you have youth all over the field and very little senior leadership. Youth doesn't know how to respond to adversity the same as experienced seniors do. If you want to see what senior leadership really is, go back and watch the 2007 MSU game. Down 10 with 7 minutes to play. Henne puts the team on his back with one busted ass knee. That lack of leadership is why 3-9 and 5-7 happen.
The lack of talent and/or coaching is why 3-9 and 5-7 happen.
As everyone saw with UK basketball this past year, talent can only get you so far. You need senior leadership in the most important positions that can rise to the occasion and take over a game. The greatest coach in the world isn't gonna win shit without any talent.
"As everyone saw with UK basketball this past year, talent can only get you so far."
I'm not sure that your analogy with UK basketball was very good. In the case of UK basketball, it got them all the way to the freakin' Final Four. I'm my book, talent took them pretty far (like the top 2% of college basketball teams). It's pretty hard to look down on that.
If you are going to bust someone's balls, at least get your facts straight. Kentucky lost in the elite eight.
You're right., it was the Elite Eight......but the same principle applies. That's still around the top 3% of college basketball.
This is exactly what I meant.
Michigan scores, and Illinois brings in their freshman wunderkind. (He was warming up on the sideline...) And BG and the DL have a freshman snack. Instead, they send Juice back in and they have that incredible drive...
[Late...just saw the post below...Thanks jg2112.]
There were a few close games last year that went our direction (those two Indiana schools) so let's not forget those when looking at the close losses too.
That being said, I beleive the O will score 4 - 7 points a game more than last year and the D will allow 2 - 4 points fewer per game than last year. Why? I believe in the general opinions above (and the kool aid is good!). So, a 6 to 11 point positive swing should account for at least 3 more wins... 8-4. That's my bench mark for this year's team. A 5-0 start though is a must!!
I believe and hope that Coach Robinson has the sense to stay out of the 3-3 as much as possible. Here's why:
It seems to me that playing the 3-3 is not playing to the strengths of the personnel. There are situations where the 3-3 is very effective, and I am hopeful that Coach Robinson will limit his use of the 3-3 to those situations. If not, expect track meets (i.e., high-scoring contests with a lot of running up and down the field).
After your critique of Mouton's performance in the spring game, I went back and watched the play you referred to and I just don't get Mouton's thought process. I am not a football coach, but see no reason why a linebacker would double team an offensive lineman, which is what Mouton basically did on the play, while the RB ran through an unmanned gap. Tell me why? Please, of course.
But as usual, I digress, I am optimistic about 2010 because I think Coach Robinson (a proven commodity as a DC) will have the D, well schooled and capable of executing his game plan. I expect the D to get better as the season goes along. If Coach Robinson, as I expect, has this D looking like a well coached group, I see no reason we shouldn't win at least 8 games
Our schedule is not overly difficult. Michigan State, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin at home, these are all games we are capable of winning and should win. At Purdue and Indiana these are games we should win. It is time for RR and Co. to make a statement. Us fans are a little shell-shocked after the last 2 seasons but damn, this is doable, The 4 non conference games? If we don't win 3 of those it will be a long long season, we should win all 4.
I can't help but drink it myself.
2- 0: confidence followed by two more wins and 8-4 is possible.
1-1: Acceptable and off to 3-1. Big Ten season start could dictate the season.
0-2: Heads hang and doubt enters.
That puts the season on the fans. If the home crowd creates a chaotic atmosphere and the team rides the energy, 8-4 is doable.
QB: Soph, Soph (I know, they were in every game, but still, am I the only one that would like to see 1 junior there at least?)
RB: 103 carries in 2009 (V. Smith with 48 of those, Shaw with 42, Cox 13)
WR: Really...our only dependable guys are the slots. Without the Outside guys being a threat, our YAC offense isn't going to be very prolific
OL: Much better depth and experience, but that RS Freshman LT haunts me
DL: Disagree with OP. I think they will be better without Graham because all positions are bigger, stronger and deeper than they were a year ago
LB: never heard of this position. Next...
Secondary: Why parce this into CB and Safety when that just means 2 separate chances of a mild stroke? Let's just have 1 collective "hummana hummana" situation...
I agree with Brian's assessment. Throw away 2008. Year 1 was really last year and this is year 2. Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio State are all better than they were a year ago, especially on defense. I see us on the low end of 6-6 and high end of 8-4.
103 carries is not big, but it's not negligible either, especially since all of those 103 carries were from underclassmen who should improve. Add guys like Toussaint and Hopkins who were either redshirting or playing HS football last fall, and the RB corps does not look bad. We don't have one proven guy, but we have a lot of guys who could get the job done, and at least one of them will step up.
I expect we have one guy we call our starter, and 2 or 3 more who we are comfortable giving carries to, or throwing to out of the backfield. Cox and Hopkins are both a load, and Smith, Shaw and Toussaint have all shown that they can be electric with the ball in their hands. We'll be OK there once it all settles out.
I think RR has always done a RB rotation, even when he had Slaton. I think that Chris Perry's single game carries record (51) will be safe with this coach.
Its Michigan, we are always optomistic. The last two years I was optomistic (two not so wonderful seasons) and this year is no different Im optomistic again!
10-2 Penn State and Iowa take us down, Ohio State falls to us in a close one.
Most who were optimistic about the 08 team was banking on the QB's doing just enough to get by, not turn the ball over etc. Figured Mesko would pin teams back and I thought that no team was going to drive the long field on that D. As it played out, many teams didn't have to drive more than 50 yards.
I'm sold on depth at OL, QB, RB, DL and slot.
Not sold on LB depth - we have heard about Demens but haven't seen it. JB and Leech are the only other options we saw last year. Haven't heard much about Jones or Bell so that's still a question mark for me.
DB as well. Until Dorsey makes it in and Turner makes one play in a game I'll be a little scared. I'm not comfortable with JT Floyd at that 2nd CB spot but hey maybe he'll have an Andre Weathers type year and suprise me.
FG's scare me as well but they always will and a Freshmen punter isn't the greatest situation either.
There is going to be a couple guys step up on this team and there are going to be a couple freshmen that get in and show some promise as well.
I agree, I think we will get at least 7 wins and realistically could get 8. The first two games will be a good barometer to show how good ouR team will be. I just can't wait until September 4th!!!
The offense of course will be dynamic, Defense will do it's part and will improve. We'll see on the UConn game. Kinda funny thou how so many Big East fans are syaing that UM is looking ast Uconn, and also sayn that Um's defense will be failure without BG. They will be in for a rude awakening sept. 4. Like the Big East fans know anything about Michigan. =P Go Blue.
I think the key to the 2010 team will be the linebackers. Michigan's been blessed with very good linebacker play in the past, so it CAN be done! As long as those guys stay hungry and keep breaking down game film with the coaches, we should be able to stop most of the running games out there. The only player out there that really scares me is Pryor. Either Pryor can magically make defensive secondaries forget how to cover holes in a defensive line, or Michigan's linebackers need to step it up against him in the Horseshoe. He's good at avoiding tackles too, I think that's his real secret. As for the safeties...well...if our defensive line sans Brandon Graham is actually better at pressuring the quarterback with more weight and experience, then hopefully we won't get torched on 40-yard play-action passes.
As for the offense, a healthy David Molk will be key. He'd better wrap his bum leg up in bubble wrap when he's sitting on the beach, because our team was so much better when he was on the field. Forcier and Robinson both looked OK at the spring game, but given that the opponent was also Michigan, those weren't exactly 'ZOMG SHOELACE!' moments. But Robinson definitely looked pretty good out there. I can't wait for the day when both of those guys can play on the field at the same time. Heck, we might even see Robinson at deep safety on some key downs...You never know...
especially homerific optimism.
keep on fighting the good fight, my lad. And don't let them hook any electrodes up to your brain.
I don't know why but I'm feelin 9-3 this year. BTW Sept 4th will be my 11th aniv. so hopefully we can both celebrate with a win. GO Blue!
is of course the UM defense (not to mention the schedule).
I have few doubts that Michigan is going to run, move the ball well, and score points this fall. So they lose two gimpy tailbacks in Minor and C. Brown who were tough and fast respectively, but never at 100% health in their careers. They can be replaced. The offensive line will be better than last year. I'm not really worried about Michigan's offensive output.
However, what could kick Michigan out of bowl contention again this year is iffy play at linebacker and the defensive secondary. I Michigan doesn't need a great secondary for pass defense in order to get bowl eligible (See exhibit Michigan State passing defense 2009). But Michigan must field a defensive secondary that is fast enough and tackles well enough to provide good support against the run. If the GERG achieves this somehow, then I think Michigan can win enough games to go bowling.
Got to stop the run.
Barkeep, set me up with another shot of Kool Aid!
I don't see any argument trying to prop up our "defense" as defensible, but for the first time, our offense may very well be able to outshine our defense's weaknesses.
I look forward to a seven or eight win season, and I hope to be able to watch a bowl game Christmas Eveish.
At least there's some room on the bandwagon now...
+1 for any Sound of Music reference.