Almost every discussion of this year's team leaves out one important factor that may greatly change the fortunes of the team. I am talking about the change in leadership and cohesion. Comparing the 2009 OL to the 2010 OL or the 2009 DBs to the 2010 DBs is interesting and important, but it is hardly a full analysis.
ASIDE from the change in the personnel in those units.... and ASIDE from the team understanding schemes/terminology better.... the difference in leadership should be mentioned in season previews.
I think Michigan had talent last year, but things fell apart after a couple tough losses. There were some leaders on the team, but not enough to lead all the young guys and the train came off the tracks.
We all know college football is an emotional game played by very young adults. I think leadership and cohesion are a HUGE factor and the reason why there are so many upsets in recent years. (Plus, look at teams like Iowa with 2-star players who can have great Ds. Teams like Stanford who can beat USC. 5-star talent laden teams like ND with a widely-regarded failure as a motivator/leader (Weis) wasting huge talent.)
Heart is just as important as talent.
Here are the reasons to be excited about this team's leadership/cohesion:
1. Unwavering and repeated references to the outstanding commitment of the small group of seniors over the summer.
2. The seniors stepping up to RR and asking for permanent leaders (capitans) to be named this year.
3. Reports of Denard taking control of the offense.
4. Press favorite QB and returning starter Tate accepting a humbling symbol everyday in front of his peers, and rising above it.
5. The hard work mention about the defense. They seem motivated.
6. Purging of those not willing to give it their all (although that happens most years).
7. The team possibly finding motivation in the hard work done by Brock Mealer.
There is a difference in the tone of these comments from this year compared to the first 2 under RR. It has not been his standard practice to repeatedly mention these things, but now he does so without prompting. (Gone are the days of "well, we're not going to forfeit games.") And, we did not see this level of leadership on the field last year.
The leadership and cohesion that seems to have developed on this team may be the biggest difference between being 6-6 (which a pure unit by unti analysis might predict) and 9-3.