So Brian referred to our new Special teams/tight ends coaching position as esoteric. I don't know about tight ends but I am extremely happy we have special teams coach right now.
Rodriguez was accused of ignoring the defense to devote more attention to the offense. If that is true I believe it is doubly so for the special teams. I don't know what else he could have done given the limitations of the athletes he had at his disposal, but having a dedicated coach seems like a reasonable place to start.
Now let's look at some statistics (all courtesy of ESPN)
We had the 8th most yards per game on offense. Pretty good especially considering some of our tough competition. But the complaint from most people is that we didn't score enough points. We tied for 24th most points per game. Why?
Well, a large part of that has to do with field goals. To start, we were dead last in both field goals made and field goal percentage. We were 4/14 and that was without attempting a single kick beyond 50 yards. Because of our inability to kick, we passed on what should have been a guaranteed 3 points in several situations, once or twice a game, to go for it on fourth down. We succeeded a few times but failed to score on most of those attempts.
So, we never kicked a long field goal, should have made most of the ones we took and skipped out on attempting easy ones a little more than once a game. I estimate we could have scored 6 more points per game. That puts us at 38.6 ppg and 11th overall in scoring. That looks much better and explains a big portion of the discrepancy between points and yards.
Punting was also not great, finishing 87th in average yards per punt. I couldn't find statistics on kickoffs (like touchbacks) but ancecdotally we sucked. We were middle of the pack in return yards per kickoff (67th) and return yards per punt (also 67th, weird). We had a punt blocked and didn't manage to return a single kick for a touchdown.
So in summary, if having a dedicated special teams coach makes a difference, improvement in special teams performance is another reason to be optimistic about 2011 and beyond. It is also an indication that Brady Hoke gets it and is addressing the needs of the football team. I am cautiously optimistic.
There have been numerous excellent diaries on the subject of recruiting prior to Rodriguez. I am not trying to replicate that work. However, I read a couple comments to the effect that, to paraphrase, "this is Rodriguez's team now, its year three and the Carr years should have little or no part in the discussion about how the team performs this year".
I agree that Rodriguez has to do the most with what he has. Also, I will stipulate that there have been some seriously questionable recruiting moves, like pursuing Demar Dorsey, that look terrible in hind sight.
That being said, I fear the reason we will go 7-5 this year is because of the defense. I was predicting 9-3 in the spring but I had Emelien, Woolfolk, Turner and Dorsey as our starting defensive backfield. Hell, last fall I expected us to be 10-2 or 11-1 in 2010 because I thought our starting backfied would be Turner, Woolfolk, Warren and Cissoko.
But I digress. The stat I wanted to highlight is starting 4th and 5th year players. The majority of excellent teams in the country are heavily weighted toward older starters. On defense, Michigan has four-Ezeh or Moundros, Mouton, VanBergen and Banks. (I expect Rogers to get beat out.). You can't blame the loss of Woolfolk or Warren on either Carr or Rodriguez, but I do blame Carr a little for not having any other 4th and 5th year guys to replace them.
Want to know what our competition looks like? On defense, 4th and 5th year players
We are still at a competative disadvantage on defense due to a lot of things that are out of Rodriguez's control. As Brian has argued in the past, a coach should probably get 4 years at least to get his program together so you can see what his seniors can do. Also, don't forget that Rodriguez's 3rd year players are mostly Carr's. So far only Martin has proven to be an impact player from that class on defense.
I don't start many topics, but I am so sick of recruiting and troll bashing that I wanted to try to get some discussion going about the season.
I read a rivals article about the MSU game this year and I was thinking about what would be the "most important" (define that as you wish) game of the year.
My pick is MSU. I know OSU has beaten us 5 years in a row and that sucks, but I don't expect to beat them this year and I think the year can still be considered a success if we lose.
I am not as concerned about the recruiting battle between us and MSU as much as some, but I don't want to see a trend and we haven't lost to them two years in a row since the sixties.
But the reason I think it will be the most important is because it is a rivalry game that could be a turning point in the season.
Looking at the schedule:
It is our first road game and against a rival. It is a winnable game with MSU replacing their qb and rb. The game was closer last year than the score indicated and hopefully we will have our snap count better prepared. With a win, we very likely could be 5-0 or 4-1, eclipsing the previous win total. People will be all aboard the UM band wagon if we win. This helps recruiting and my sanity. The rest of the season is rough but there are two very winnable games with Delaware State and Purdue at home, so MSU could be the difference between bowling or not. That is why I think win at MSU, we have a good season, lose there, and I don't think we make a bowl and more people get on the fire Rodriguez pitchfork squad. I also think that winning his first road game will help the team's confidence and may lead to a surprise win or two in the remaining road games.
So what do you think? Is there a make or break game for the team next year? If so, which one?
I am not a coach, just an avid fan. If you don't want to read a long winded evaluation of our season by a lamen, please just skip it and don't bother slamming me
I think many people get on here and make extreme statements like "we will win 10 national championships in the next few years" or "Rodriguez is terrible and we would have won 9 or 10 games with Les Miles".
Of course, there are a number of people who try to be reasonable. I will try to make my case for what has been good or bad this year.
I think a 6-6 year would have been a good year. By that I mean, the team would be outperforming reasonable expectations based on all the factors going into the season. Those factors are the same ones Brian laid out for us in the summer. If you have followed college football closely and this blog before the season, you know how hard it would be to get a team as inexperienced as this one and make it a big time winner.
Let's look at our schedule.
Utah-a possible BCS buster with a running senior QB. They should beat us on paper. The only reason they didn't get more press preseason is that they were supposed to lose to us in their first game and that would have killed their BCS hopes. I don't think they are a great team and if we lined the same teams up against them next year, i think we would win. But not this year with only one returning starter on offense. (I don't count Butler)
Miami-we should never lose to a MAC team. Just my opinion but the recruiting difference is so vast. The only time it should maybe happen is when we are having a really down year and its the best MAC team in the conference with a bunch of seniors.
Notre Dame-They are a young team with an overated coach, but they still have a bunch of sophomores with more experience than us who were part of a great recruiting class. We played in South Bend. I thought they should beat us on paper.
Wisconsin-should have killed us on paper. Of course, they ended up being worse than we thought, but still, they have a better team than us this year.
Illinois- they are better than us this year. Juice Williams alone put this game in their favor. (I did however incorrectly pick an upset here in my preseason predictions)
Toledo- see above about MAC teams.
Penn State- We knew they'd have a decent team this year. No way we should beat them on paper.
MSU- On paper we're closer to these guys but its a rivalry we've been winning a lot. We needed a great comback last year. MSU was due and they have a pretty good runner in Ringer. MSU should win this.
Purdue- Sadly, we are close to this team on paper but by now inexperience isn't as much of a factor as the year goes on. I thought we should win this.
Minnesota- I didn't predict the turn around for them, but we should beat them. We just have more talent.
Northwestern- Tough one to predict preseason because they played us tough last year. However, its at home and we have had a season to work out the kinks. I think this is a game we should win.
OSU-Preseason these guys destroy us on paper.
Looking at that, it seemed like, imho, if we played at our players potential:
wins- Miami, Toledo, Purdue, Minnesota, Northwestern.
Loses-Utah, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Illinois, MSU, PSU, OSU
I hoped we'd win in an upset and not get upset ourselves making a "good" season 6-6.
Now the reality.
Early in the year, things went approximately how I expected. Our offense was more inept than I had imagined and the defense not quite as good as I had hoped, but there were moments and our offense looked like it had potential if you squinted just right.
But we beat Miami like we were supposed to and even got our upset against Wisconsin. We had a two point conversion to tie Utah and outplayed Notre Dame in every department except turnovers and points. We went up by 14 over Illinois and all sorts of unrealistic ideas floated through my head. Then Juice sliced us up and we were at 2-2.
Then, Toledo happened. I blame a lot of the game on Threet being out in the second half, but I think our team should have won anyway. I don't blame our coaches as much as the players. The scheme wasn't enough of an issue that I can ignore the lack of playmaking.
MSU- Our D and our offense let us down this game. We scored 21 points but had a lot of three and outs. Either way, MSU was just a better team than us this year, imo.
Purdue- First major complaint against Rodriguez starts here. I think the 3-3-5 was a mistake. As Brian and a lot of other people on this site have stated, we need our best 4 players on the field. Also, putting Harrson or Cissoko at db/linebacker puts another better defender out there instead of Thompson. I think Rodriguez took a chance and was wrong.
Minnesota- good game for us but don't forget we had a really hard time getting in the end zone and Sheridan got lucky on a couple passes.
Northwestern- Really depressing. Also, typical for the season.
Our defense hasn't improved throughout the year the way you would hope. D played well for most of the game but gave up touchdowns on three long passes. They also gave up a lot of short passes in the second half. Our secondary is a huge disappointment and I do blame our coaches for not getting them to play better as the year went on.
Our offense looked terrible. Against NW we had our worst offensive performance since Toledo. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was the Threet-Sheridan tango. Maybe it was missing Minor. Whatever it was, the offense took a step back and its too late in the year to completely blame it on inexperience. There is some lack of talent this year compared to years past, but we still have more than NW. Imho, Rodriguez has to share blame for NW.
Our special teams has also been the same all year. Half it is great, the other disaster. We scored on a punt block, but gave them great field position on the Odoms blunder and missed a field goal.
So, how much of this season can we blame on Rodriguez? Not much, but some. I think our players significantly underperformed in a few games. Our defensive and special teams coaching are a bigger issue right now I think. Our season has gone a lot worse than I thought possible. At the beggining of the season, I would not have been surprised with a 4-8 finish, but that really was my absolute bottom.
In the end, beating OSU will be the only thing to redeem this season. Otherwise, it will be a long cold winter waiting for our team to start playing to its potential again, and hopefully, exceeding it.
This is my first diary post, so be gentle. Sorry its so long.
I have been responding with predictions for this year a little bit in some other posts. I thought I was pretty smart when I predicted a 1-3 start. I felt we would improve and end the year 6-6 but barely miss a bowl. Now, everything has changed. I don't know if I have ever been happier about being wrong in my life. I just wanted to tell my saturday story.
I woke up and watched gameday. We were of course picked to lose. I was being optomistic though and thought if it was close I would be happy. My wife and our two kids had moved to Ann Arbor in April for just this sort of weekend. We graduated in 1997 (missing the NC by a year, although I went to the 98 Rose Bowl, story for another time) and have always loved UM. I had a friend in town and was taking my daughter to tailgate with him. Right before the game, my wife was going to pick her up and I was going to the game, my first this year.
At about 12 I get a call from an optometrist I work with in Toledo. I have never gotten called in for an emergency since I joined this practice, but wouldn't it happen today. I was pissed off. A person got hit in the eye with a softball and had blood in his eye. The optom. couldn't get a good view of his retina and needed me to come look. On top of that, the guy went back to the hospital for a CT and I had to wait for it before I could see the guy. I calculated my likely wait, drive time, exam time and realized that my day was shot. Best case, I would miss part of the game and I didn't even have my ticket in hand yet.
As I was driving to Toledo I listened to big ten football on XM and cursed silently to myself. When the patient sees me, he notices I'm in shorts and a michigan shirt and he says "are you going to the game?" "I was," I say. The patient was fine and I got back on the road as soon as I finished checking his eye. I am a superstitious believer in my behavior effecting the outcome of the game so I thought, this has to be good karma and now we are going to win.
I was DVRing the game and I got back halfway through the first quarter (DVR is one of the greatest inventions of all time and essential for anyone with kids) Watched the craptastic display and felt crappy. At least I wasn't watching this in person, I thought. I am not down on our team. I think RR is brilliant and I know we will be awesome soon. I still couldn't believe the turnovers from veterans though.
My buddy, the one who I was tailgating with calls me and says he left the game and meet him at Good Time Charley's. I start to get ready but a funny thing happens. We start moving the ball. I text him and tell him I will be there in a little while, but I wait and see us score at touchdown. We're only down 12 and Wisconsin can't do anything on offense. I quickly drive over to GTC's and find my friend ON THE PATIO! I thought he would be watching still at least. Through the glass I see Minor break a long one for a TD. "We have to go inside and watch this!"
At this point, like 12 cute girls dressed in Wisconsin gear with little wisconsin Ws on their cheeks come in and sit right next to us. They are shocked. What happened? they say. Then, bam! John Thompson time. I am freaking out! Greatest feeling ever and why we care about sports. These moments are forever.
Then Threet goes all Vince Young on Wisconsin and the whole place is freaking out. McGuffie TD. Lots of time left. We get ball back and should ice it, but shit! Great punt. Stop them please. Shit! Double Shit!!!! PENALTY! We WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Everyone kept commenting on how tired Wisconsin looked. Immediately this is in my top 10 games I have watched. Others, in no particular order
1. Rose Bowl 98
2. Biakabatuka running all over an undefeated OSU team.
3. Driesback Virginia comeback.
4. Beating ND that same year and marching down South U afterward.
5. Minnesota comeback from Navarre
6. 2004 MSU comeback watching on a beach in Belieze during my honeymoon.
7. 2007 MSU comeback
8. 1997 Woodson beats OSU almost single handedly
9. Desmond doing the heisman pose in the endzone against OSU in my first game in the big house