Despite being passive, Michigan was 23rd in INTs last year [Eric Upchurch]
Since Hoke has taken over, it seems the expectation / criticism has been largely focused on the offense. Since rich rod left the defense in shambles, hoke & mattison seem to have taken a bend don't break approach and largely been given a pass while they accumulate talent and experience. With most of the experience and talent on the defensive side of the ball this year, does the pressure to get it done and carry the team to victory shift?
I balk at the idea that someone needs to be "given a pass" after turning what was literally the worst defense in Michigan history into the #17 total defense in a year and improving to 13th the next year before dipping to 41st. FWIW, in yards per play terms the Mattison defenses are 46th, 25th, and 41st—a narrative of drastic improvement in year one, another step forward in year two, and then a step back.
I wish that step back hadn't happened, too, but the defense ended up collapsing once it was putting Richard Ash and Nose Tackle Jibreel Black on the field against the top rushing team in the country and then facing Tyler Lockett in a dismal who-cares bowl game they had approximately zero chance of winning once Gardner was ruled out.
Against the rest of the schedule, the defense was good enough to win. They could have carried Michigan to victories against Penn State (1.9 yards a rush, 6.8 per pass), Nebraska (under 300 yards total O), and maybe even MSU (16 points through 3 Q) if the offense was extant. People jumping on the D are a lot like people saying SHANE MORRIS COULD START YOU GUYS: they're letting the unprecedentedly terrible running game color their perceptions of the rest of the team.
That said, yes, last year's D was frustratingly passive and with Michigan returning almost everybody of note (departures from the two deep are limited to Black, the underutilized Quinton Washington, and both Gordons) it is time to take a step forward from passable to very good or great. The offense is not going to get where it needs to be in one year, so if Michigan wants to have the kind of season that makes people think Hoke should be back it's up to the defense to hulk up.
The rivals. We must beat them. Or not.
Can you talk me into a scenario where Michigan loses to both at MSU and at OSU this year and we call the season a success?
Let's step back for a second. There was a thread on the board about the recent Angelique Chengelis article in which she predicted a 10-2 record with losses to MSU and OSU. As always, the thread was split between people going "lol more like 2-10" and people responding to folks that say "I'll be happy with 9-3" with:
Is this what we are now? A program with fans that are "pleased" with mediocrity.
YES! YES, THIS IS WHAT WE ARE NOW. I mean… Michigan had that one 11-2 year that they acquired by shooting the moon six times. Aside from that, Michigan's gone 3-9, 5-7, 7-6, 8-5, and 7-6. And that last 7-6 doesn't really encompass the true face-crippling misery that was last season.
So, yeah, there are a ton of seasons that include road losses to the two teams that met in the B10 championship game last year that seem like a success. 10-2 is obvious. 9-3… sheeeeeeit, I would take any 9-3 record any way any how right now, no questions.
Would it suck to lose yet again to OSU and MSU? Yes! Yes, it would be a kick right in the plaster of Paris. But we're not in a place where we can turn up our nose at anything resembling a fun season. Just getting to a place where I can think "hey, this offensive line might be good next season" is a success. That necessarily comes with some wins, but except in pissy fan ways I'm not sweating who they come against.
Updated minutes for basketball.
It's go time for Derrick Walton [Bryan Fuller]
Can I get a prediction on next year's starting five?
Three and a half of the spots are pretty obvious. The three:
PG: Derrick Walton
SG: Caris LeVert
SF: Zak Irvin
C: Mark Donnal/Ricky Doyle
Michigan might be able to spare some minutes for Donnal at the 4 depending on how foul prone those gentlemen are. Freshmen bigs ten to be very foul prone, so… yeah.
Even PF is not that confusing: it'll be split between Kam Chatman and DJ Wilson. Chatman will also get minutes filling in for LeVert and Irvin; Spike will get 10-15 minutes; Bielfeldt will be in the 0-15 range depending on how the other guys perform and if he can actually hit some of those threes that Beilein says are unstoppable in practice.
My guess at the minute breakdown now:
PG: Walton (30) / Spike (10)
SG: LeVert (35) / MAAR (5)
SF: Irvin (30) / Chatman (10)
PF: Chatman (15) / Wilson (25)
C: Donnal (25) / Doyle (10) / Bielfeldt (5)
MAAR over Dawkins is just a guess. I do think it'll be one or the other by crunch time since Beilein favors short rotations. It is possible that one of the two redshirts.
That's very young and skinny up front—four freshman and Bielfeldt is your frontcourt—but I'd put Michigan's backcourt up against anyone in the conference no problem.
But what about The Process?
I've seen a few stories about how young Team 135 will be. They all highlight the small senior class, but never get into The Process's impact on the class. In my opinion, the 2011 recruiting class was a mess largely because Dave Brandon waited until January to fire Rich Rod (and then spent a couple of days actually firing him). By the time Hoke was hired, there wasn't much time to put together a class. In your opinion, how big of a factor was The Process on this year's senior class?
Don't forget the song-and-dance with the planes and four or five days spent in an apparent effort to throw people off the scent of the most Michigan Man choice available.
We'll never know for sure whether or not Rodriguez was a dead man walking going into the bowl game, but I've heard from multiple people on that disastrous trip that everyone thought he was. This led to a widespread breakdown in order and the performance-type substance Michigan put out there. If there was any chance he'd be back before it, there was zero after. Brandon didn't hang the man swiftly or extinguish the idea he'd be gone, so Michigan got a month and a half of limbo during which Blake Countess inexplicably signed up and nothing else happened in recruiting. Hoke walked into the following recruiting class:
- DEFENSE: DE Chris Rock, DE Brennen Beyer, CB Delonte Holowell, CB Blake Countess, CB Greg Brown, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Kellen Jones
- OFFENSE: OL Tony Posada, OL Jack Miller, OL Chris Bryant (Bryant did commit after Hoke was hired but had been favoring Michigan for months beforehand.)
To this he added in the two or three weeks available to him:
- DEFENSE: DE Frank Clark, DE Keith Heitzman, CB Tamani Carter, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole
- OFFENSE: TE Chris Barnett, RB Thomas Rawls, RB Justice Hayes, QB Russell Bellomy, K Matt Wile.
Both ends of that class are equally subpar. Hoke's ten late adds produced Taylor, Clark, and Wile. There's a possibility that Hayes or Heitzman will contribute at a decent level this year; that is meh.
Given what we've seen from Hoke since, especially before Michigan's offense descended into awful unwatchability, you have to figure he would have done much better with the extra five weeks. He almost certainly would have found a tackle to replace Jake Fisher—he may have in fact held on to Jake Fisher—and found a tight end who was capable of staying on a college campus for more than three weeks. They may have found a better fit at QB than Bellomy, whose main asset was his mobility. And they would have gotten a better idea about a few guys who weren't likely to stick—I'm thinking about Posada mostly, by the time signing day rolled around some people were skeptical about his commitment level—and grabbed a guy to fill out the OL numbers.
So… it was significant. There is a reason schools don't wait until January to throw guys overboard, and Michigan is suffering through that this year.