but just to be sure: there really isn't much reason to predict even average performance from our quarterback this year, if any.
"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
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.
but just to be sure: there really isn't much reason to predict even average performance from our quarterback this year, if any.
1. I have no idea how the "The Spread minimizes the importance of the offensive line" meme ever got started, and less of an idea why it's continually repeated as accepted truth. Did you see the WVU/Pitt game? WVU lost because their O-Line was 100%, completely, owned. No matter how fast our little dudes are, or how deceptively we get them the ball, we still need people to keep the defensive line off their ass.
2. "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." It's not as if this is a matter of Barwis voluntarily having the line be awesome, or suck. He's doing his best - but if they are just not good players (I'm not saying this is the case), all the Barwis in the world won't matter. He's not a magician. He has a similar training program to something like 70% of the schools out there - he just has a sand-papery voice, fought MMA, and yells alot. Don't confuse those things with being a shaman-like S&C coach. Barwis porn makes me want to hulk-smash.
The best argument for why this line will succeed is that they do have a solid amount of actual, raw talent:
Schilling was 5-star, #26 player in the class. It's very rare for five-stars to turn into useless players.
Zirbel was 4-star, and a top 100 player, Moosman was a 4-star. There definitely is raw talent.
Chitown - I didn't see any of the Pitt-WVU game, but did read BlueSeoul's UFR (he definitely deserves credit for the huge effort). According to BlueSeoul, it was a combination of bad performances by the kicker and Slaton, turnovers, an injury to QB White and, yes, an excellent DL scheme by Pitt. This, WVU did adjust to after the half. The perfect storm; shit does happen sometime.
But hey, in an alternative universe, WVU wins, goes to the championship game, and we're here still looking for a head coach.
Your point is well taken, that shitty OL + inexperienced QB = big trouble. But I suspect that the OL, based on Michigan line play from the past, will be OK (not dominant, but OK). Not an ideal situation, though.
I agree with that argument, but like I said, it's not a lock that they're going to be good. All I said is that you have to admit that this offensive line is more motivated and more physically mature under Mike Barwis. He may run a training program similar to 70% of the programs out there, but it is not similar to the one that our players were used to. The former S&C coach essentially fell in love with the Chuck Norris bowflex commercial and the movie "Heavyweights." You can't underestimate the importance of excellent weight training. I've been lifting for 2 years, but I only recently started working with a trainer. The progression I've made the past 2 months is incredible. Could I block an on-coming defensive linemen? Probably not, but my body can do things it has never done before. I had a friend who went to the open try-outs. He has serious asthma and while they were running sprints, he refused to go get a puff out of his inhaler in fear of being singled out by Barwis. Yes my friend does live in the glory days of when he used to be an excellent Junior Varsity prospect, but he knows that he will never have any glory on the Michigan Grid Iron. I can't imagine how much more commitment the actual players have had pounded into them.
vdiddy - very detailed analysis. I agree with your sentiments both about the less than optimistic view of the team on the board as well as Michigan's prospects for the season. My reasons (which may only be a re-wording of what you have written) are as follows:
I've said it before, I am not a delusional domer type that thinks the team will go undefeated into the USC game. But Michigan aint going 6-6 either.
Pete Carroll went 6-6 in his first year at USC.
Jim Tressel went 7-5 in his first year at OSU (with a 3-year starter at QB, no less).
Bob Stoops went 7-5 in his first year at OU.
Nick Saban went 7-6 in his first year at Bama.
Heck, RR went 3-8 his first year at WVU. You can be a fantastic coach and still struggle in your first year if the team you inherit just isn't very good for your system.
Hat - point well taken. Particularyl with Tressel at OSU. Cooper always had very good talent, but just couldn't beat UM or Illinois for that matter. [Hey, maybe Cooper's own players didn't fit Cooper's system!]
I am not sure, but but as I recall, Pete Carroll came into USC when it was really down, and not for just 1 season but for quite a few. Ditto for Alabama and Oklahoma or worse for RR at WVU.
The talent situation at Michigan is better than most of these cases cited, and, even with all of the injuries and problems last year, Michigan is coming off a 9-4 season. I don't know what the prior year's record was for USC, LSU, Alabama, WVU were before these coaches arrived, but I would guess that only OSU had a winning record.
Particularly, lets look at everyone's number one concern QB. Last year Michigan had a true freshman (I don't recall, did Mallett attend spring practice?) play half the time, and the other half Henne who had no arm except against Appalachian State (a lot of good that did), first half of Oregon (ditto) and Florida in the bowl.
I do not think that there is a great fit between what RR wants to do and the present make-up of the team. But I do still think he will do what is necessary to get the most out of the talents of the players on the team, and not demand what a player cannot deliver. Unlike Charlie Weis, who mistaked a freshman Emu for Tom Brady.
Warning: Obnoxious bold coming for emphasis
Finally, to the extent that there is a mismatch between RR's system and the present team, there is an a complimentarity (?) between the team's past physical condition and the new S/C program. There will be considerable offset here. This will have an effect across the board (particularly on defense) this year; and there will be a number of players who did not impress last year who will this year.
Oh, and I expect better strategery from RR than past regimes.
Blue Durham wrote:
RR is has been a successful coach and is no dummy. He is going to make the most of the players he has, and not call plays for Pat White. He is not going to try to jam a square peg into a round hole.
I think a lot of people across the country are really overlooking this statement and thought process (a process that I happen to agree with 100%, BTW). I find it very hard to believe that if Rodriguez thinks that Threet/Sheridan have serious mobility issues, that he's going to be calling options and quaterback draws left and right. He's going to take what the QB in question can do with this offense and tailor the offense to play to their strengths.
The sky is not going to fall in Ann Arbor this year. All holy hell isn't going to break loose with this team, but I also have no delusions about getting to the national title game. I think we're looking at somewhere around an 8-5 season, no worse than 7-6, but I'd be stunned if we're any better than 9-4, either.
To be fair, Tressell returned Steve Bellesari at QB, so to list that as an "advantage" is a pretty loose interpretation.
of teams before current coaches arrived:
USC (Carroll since 2001)
1998 8 - 5, beat ND, lost to UCLA
1999 6 - 6, lost to ND, beat UCLA
2000 5 - 7, lost to ND, beat UCLA
OSU (Tressel since 2001)
1998 11 - 1, beat Michigan (upset by MSU 28-24)
1999 6 - 6, beat Michigan
2000 8 - 4, lost to Michigan
Oklahoma (Stoops since 1999)
1996 3 - 8*, beat Texas
1997 4 - 8, lost to Texas
1998 5 - 6, lost to Texas
Alabama (Saban since 2007)
2004 6 - 6, lost to Tennessee and Auburn
2005 10 - 2, beat Tennessee, lost to Auburn
2006 6 - 7, lost to Tennessee and Auburn
Pete Carroll's 6-6 first year was about par. Jim Tressel's 7-5 first year was par for the previous two years, but included a key victory over Michigan that kept the plebes happy. Bob Stoops' 7-5 first year was actually an improvement at Oklahoma. Nick Saban's first year at Alabama was more or less on par, but included a displeasing loss at Auburn.
Conclusions? If the weak trends seen in these four (somewhat arbitrarily chosen) coaches suggest anything, it's that Michigan will go 7-5 this year, and that RichRod will win us a National Title within the next 3 years. I'll take that.
* Oklahoma's loss to Texas Tech in 1996 now counts as a win, as Tech started 7 ineligible players all year in 1996 and had to retroactively forfeit the season. Oklahoma's "official" record for 1996 is thus 4-7.