Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
Nothing I say here is in any way intended to disrespect our defense - I think it's fairly well established that we have some significant challenges there and this has been more than adequately covered elsewhere.
That said, I think we saw today who our most important defensive player is, and I think it is Denard Robinson.
14/19 3rd down conversions? 36 minutes of possession? Nearly 200 rushing yds? 19/22 passing for 188 yds and a score? No pics?
All of that adds up to our D being on the field less, reducing their error opportunity and keeping them fresh. If our offense continues to click like this I think that we will see a lot fewer 2nd half collapses. Defensive coordinators all over the B10 are in for some sleepless nights trying to game plan for Michigan this year.
What a great day for Michigan - I know we all got excited last year only to crash when the B10 season started but I do think this is different. UConn is not Western Michigan, and Denard is deadly not just for his speed, but for the way he's grown into the system.
And he's still just a baby!
Life is good - very, very good. Sure, the B10 season will bring tougher challenges - but Denard is the goods. This really doesn't seem like last year. THIS is the electricity we were hoping for when we brought in RichRod. When the talent on the defensive side catches up...
Last spring I wrote a diary called "Please God, Let me be Dead Wrong About Michigan Football 2010". Part of my concern at the time was Michigan's lack of upperclassmen in the secondary. Like most other Michigan fans, when T-Wolf was injured I felt my whole world collapsing in on top of me.
Having had some time to think it over, I'm much more hopeful than I thought I would be.
Two main reasons:
1. Our offense could be on the verge of a breakout year.
*Denard really sparkled in the spring game. I know, I know, it's just a scrimmage, and he wore a red jersey. However, more encouraging than his accuracy on the short routes and the long TD to Roundtree was the understanding he showed of the offense and his role in it. He sold the pass and THEN ran.
*If Denard is not the starter, I still feel very confident in Tate. Wingless helmet or no, he's added 20 lbs, will have a much better line, and showed a lot in his freshman year.
*Devin is apparently the goods. This means that while our QB's are young, we are in VERY good position for this year and beyond.
*O-line looks good, with upperclassman starters and solid redshirt underclassmen for depth.
*Receiver core is experienced.
*Sure, RB is an open question - but the talent seems to be there, and with a solid O-line we could see a breakthrough (especially if our top 2 RB's are not injured off and on thru the whole season)
*RR's offense has succeeded everywhere he's ever been. At Michigan he hasn't had the personnel he's needed on the field - until now.
*Conclusion: yes, the D will be a weak spot, and yes, we can safely assume that our secondary will be awful. BUT in contrast to 2008 and 2009, one of the two units should be solid, and possibly dominant. Only when BOTH units are bad can we say there is no hope. If one is spectacular, as our O could be, we should be at least .500 and possibly better.
2. Contrary to the what pundits are saying, I do not believe that RR has to win 8 or 9 games to save his job
*What if Michigan wins only 6 games and loses to OSU again, BUT the offense makes major strides, averages 25-30 pts per game, and Denard looks like Pat White? What if Demetrius Hart sees that and says, "Huh, they only won 6 games but the offense is finally up and running, I want to be a part of that"?
*The defense will get better as the talent we already have ages. Defensive recruits could see our progress on the offensive side of the ball and think, "Hmm, their D stinks, so I can step in right away, but their O is dominating, so I know their program is moving in the right direction..."
I am much more hopeful than I thought I would be. We should be much better this year than last, at least on one side of the ball. This should diminish the number of plays we have on defense, and thus reduce the error opportunity of our D-backs. B10 title? Not this year. Victory over The Hideous Minions of Evil? Not likely. But don't be surprised if we surprise. I trust RichRod, and I think that after this season a lot more of the doubters will as well.
I was recently looking at Bo's career numbers and just had to marvel anew at his dominance of the B10, and his consistently successful teams. A few things I noticed about Bo's 20-year tenure at Michigan:
*Bo never lost more than one game in the B10 until his 11th season at Michigan
*Bo only lost multiple games in the B10 four times in 20 seasons
*He finished outside the Top 20 only once
*He finished outside the Top 10 only 4 times
*He finished in the Top 5 seven times
*He finished lower than 2nd place in the B10 only 4 times
*Of course, there is the well known and very rare winning record against Woody Hayes
Here is a question though: does anyone know Bo's record against Top Ten teams?
I have tried to find this info via Google and have come up empty. However, I seem to remember that Bo's record against Top Tens was not very good, even apart from his well-known failures in bowl games (5-12 overrall record).
Searching for Bo's record vs. Top Tens, I stumbled across this article regarding OSU's chronic and long-standing difficulties against Top Tens, going all the way back to Woody:
This made me wonder...given that Bo is part of Woody's coaching tree, is there a reason that both men struggled against the best competition? Is it possible that both of them were master recruiters who got the best talent, then prepared and drilled relentlessly, then overwhelmed teams with inferior talent by sheer, brute force?
Hey, no complaints about sheer, brute force here. This is football, after all. However, you can't typically go to the Rose Bowl and overwhelm USC with your superior level of talent. When talent and preparation are equal, creativity, game planning, and adjustments come into play.
If this is true, then perhaps Rich Rod is the perfect man to lead Michigan football over the top, making it into more than a very good and storied program that wins significantly more than it loses. Maybe it is under a coach like him that Michigan becomes feared again, for this simple reason: over time, the challenge of facing Michigan won't be simply that their players are more talented and better prepared. It will be that, plus that fact that opposing D coordinators won't have any idea what Michigan is about to do next.
Imagine facing all that frightening talent, channeled through an unpredictable system with virtually limitless options. Will the QB run? Will he throw short? Will he throw long? Will he hand it to a slot receiver? Who do we double cover? How can I prepare my defense to react effectively to all the deception, counters, reverses, etc.?
This team's offense is frightening right now. Imagine what it will be when Tate has more experience, when true game-breakers are recruited at RB and WR, and when the system is fully, 100% installed. Can you imagine it when all the starters on both sides of the ball are juniors and seniors?
This isn't going to be merely a pretty good team with a storied tradition and cool uniforms. This is going to be an aggressive threshing machine that rips off people's arms and legs. People are going to fear Michigan again, not just respect them--all the way down to Columbus, the lair of the Hideous Minions of Evil and their Supreme Commander, The Sweater-Vested One.
As it should be!