With a new coach for Michigan for the 2011 season, so like any reasonable Michigan fan (who am I kidding; we all are unreasonable), I had to figure out my expectations for Hoke's first year. Although our situation is still fluid (might have some transfers and still don't know DC and some position coaches), I think there is enough data for us to build a benchmark for Hoke to reach in his first year. Looking at where we stand, I think the perfect benchmark for our 2011 season will be Notre Dame's 2010 season. Let's breakdown the comparisions:
1) New coaches with different offensive philosophies - ND in 2009 was a pro-style offense with Weis, and ND in 2010 switched to a spread offense with Kelley. Michigan in 2010 was a spread offense with Rod, and it looks we'll be switching to a West Coast offense with a power run game. So both teams within first year of new coach had/will have radical change in the offense and philosophy.
2) Different defensive philosphies - ND in 2009 ran a 4-3 defense under Tenuta, and ND in 2010 ran a 3-4 defense under Diaco. Michigan in 2010 ran a 3-3-5 defense under GERG, and it looks like we'll be switching to a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. This is an assumption, but with the style of play common in the Big 10, I doubt Hoke will have a 3-3-5 defense and most likely will run a 4-3 or 3-4 (my guess is 4-3 since our DL is much better than our LBs).
3) Returning number of starters. In 2009, ND had 17 returning starters. In 2010, they had 15 returning starters. The key loss for them was Jimmy Clausen; Dayne Christ had minimal experience while playing garbage time in 2008. In 2010, Michigan had 15 returning starters, and barring any attrition, Michigan will have 20 returning starters for 2011. Michigan won't have a key loss if Denard stays. Michigan should benefit with so many starters and experience returning.
So comparing the situations, both teams had/will have completely different offensive and defensive philosphies, and the number of returning starters decreased a little for ND but increased quite a bit for Michigan. So next I thought I'd look at stats.
Total Offense - 8
Scoring Offense - 32
Total Defense - 86
Scoring Defense - 63
Total Offense - 61
Scoring Offense - 67
Total Defense - 50
Scoring Defense - 23
Analyzing the situation, the offense clearly dropped quite a bit but the defense actually improved quite well. Kelly lost Crist for most of the season and had to play an assortment of freshmen QBs, and plus with a new offensive system, it was reasonable to see a drop off in offensive production. On the D side of the ball, the switch to the 3-4 really paid off for ND as they really improved over the course of the season. Let's look at Michigan this year and analyze from there:
Total Offense - 8
Scoring Offense - 25
Total Defense - 110
Scoring Defense - 108
With the offense, I'm sure everyone is expecting a drop since we'll be implementing a new system that's more conservative than the spread-n-shred. For the D (ouch it hurts looking at those numbers), Hoke is defense first coach and will be focusing the most here, and plus a switch to a more conventional 4-3 (or possible 3-4) defense should help but we're still 2 years away from being an above average defense. Aiming for 60-70s range is reasonable.
In 2009, ND finished 6-6 despite a highly prolific offense. The defense was beyond terrible and ended Weis' career at ND. In 2010, ND finished 8-5, beating a decent Miami team in the Sun Bowl. ND started slowly in 2010 but finished off very strong. The offense dropped off but within another year or two I expect Kelly to have the offense humming at a very high level. Diaco did a good job with ND's defense in 2010 and should do well in the future. Looking at ND's recruiting class, their first year under Kelly is pretty good. Rivals has them ranked #18 in the nation; ND has done well in addressing their needs, especially in the trenches (ND was ranked #14 by Rivals in 2009). They lost some good commitments during their mid season swoon but have recovered nicely.
Benchmark for 2011 for Michigan:
Record = 8-5
Recruiting class = Top 20
With the amount of starters and experience that we have coming back, a losing season will be a huge disappointment. Yes, there will be changes in offensive and defensive philosophy, but ND underwent similiar changes as us and produced a solid season in 2010. Kelly was also able to maintain good recruiting and I expect it to improve in the following years to come. Michigan's 2010 class is decimated and Hoke will have to work hard to maintain our current commits and add a few, but in 2011 the Midwest will have a very strong talent pool (especially in the trenches), and if Hoke is to live up to his billing of an excellent recruiter, he must pull in a top 20 class that addresses needs for QB, RBs, LBs, DL, and OL. ND 2010 set the mark for us in 2011, and it's upto to Hoke to reach this benchmark. If he fails to do so, I fear Michigan is going to be in bad shape for many years to come.