First Look: Offense 2014 Comment Count

Brian December 31st, 2013 at 1:20 PM

DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.

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  1. LT Taylor Lewan. Four year starter took all kinds of heat for performance of Michigan OL as if he was able to play four positions at once or he had some sort of deficiency in his Leadership Aura and was not communicating enough Leadership to the rag-tag interior line. Was in fact the same player he was as a junior—a great one—and NFL draft slot in the first round will reflect this.
  2. WR Jeremy Gallon. Michigan's all-time single season receiving yards record is now his, so at least I was right about one thing in the preseason. Short, but good at fades; eviscerated Notre Dame; eviscerated Indiana; eviscerated Ohio State; best pound for pound WR in country not named Lockett.
  3. RT Michael Schofield. Overshadowed by Lewan his entire career but emerged into a complete run/pass tackle as a senior. I know there was so much pressure up the middle that there were fewer opportunities than normal for tackles to biff, but when's the last time you remember Schofield getting beat by a pass rusher? That one time he miscommunicated with Toussaint doesn't count. I mean straight-up beat. It's hard to remember. Will be missed; will be drafted.
  4. WR Drew Dileo. Sticky-fingered Louisiana gnome sort of epitomized 2013 with ill-time drops, but was a reliable chain-mover and special teams tool. Will miss calling him "sticky-fingered Louisiana gnome" because obviously.
  5. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Final game saw him receive two carries; entire career one long comedown from explosive junior season; horrible, horrible pass blocker. Had mostly been replaced by end of year.
  6. WRs Jeremy Jackson and Joe Reynolds. Little-used backups were good program guys but should be replaceable.

WHAT'S LEFT

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I may have reused these pictures. The numbers may be a give away.

  1. QB Devin Gardner. Chaos machine seemed to reduce interceptions as season went along, but how much that perception changes if some guys catch some passes in their guts is up for debate. Excellent YPA despite having most of his body ground into paste by year's end. Should take step forward as senior; still major X-factor.
  2. WR Devin Funchess. For the love of God, world, stop pretending this man is a tight end. Looking at you, Big Ten awards committee. Michigan's second-leading receiver with 49 catches for 748 yards and six TDs; works just fine as a jumbo WR, thanks. Hands issues late after fine start to career. Go-to WR next year.
  3. OL Graham Glasgow. Only returning OL to have and hold a job all year; had some struggles after move to center; has the size and athleticism for the major college level of competition, as ESPN is wont to say; will play somewhere but Michigan probably hoping Patrick Kugler bounces him out to guard.
  4. TE Jake Butt. Site tagline does not refer to him. Productive freshman season saw him add 45 pounds and catch 20 balls for 235 yards; was probably M's best blocker at the spot; 15 more pounds and he is the dual threat Borges has wanted from day one.
  5. OL Erik Magnuson. Entered on second line shuffle of year and stuck; now obviously moving out to tackle and must be quality, because options other than him are scanty indeed.
  6. OL Kyle Kalis. Recruiting sheen severely reduced after painful redshirt freshman season saw him benched, supposedly for an undisclosed ankle injury. Performance even before that was middling at best. But was FR OL.
  7. OL Kyle Bosch. True freshman showed some promise; showed a lot of true freshman business. Momentarily replaced Kalis but then lost his job to Kalis once again. Tentatively penciled in as a starter
  8. WR Jehu Chesson. Nominal starter hardly targeted in first few games and then saw Funchess eat his job; did grab 15 balls for 221 yards and crushed a few dudes, whether it was on special teams or after the catch. Probably still the #3 WR with Amara Darboh's return but a promising freshman year should see him eat up some of Gallon's targets.
  9. TE AJ Williams. Blocking TE seemed to regress after freshman year; could not block. Major issue needs repairing STAT.
  10. FB Joe Kerridge. Your primary blocking back. May be drafted as pass protector again, but hopefully not.

WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY

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Kugler and Braden may step in

One or two or three guys on the offensive line. At this instant your leaders on the offensive line are probably Magnuson-Bosch-Glasgow-Kalis mentioned above and Ben Braden at RT, but that is the shakiest depth chart in the history of the concept. Magnuson is the only certainty, as Michigan isn't going to trust anyone else to be their left tackle a year after Braden went from sure starter to ghost because he didn't have the foot quickness to hack it at guard. Glasgow is also pretty safe, as he didn't get pulled from the lineup last year and can play any of the three interior spots.

Everyone else is 50/50 at best with Michigan getting five guys off redshirts and having a few veterans also competing. Will Patrick Kugler be the man from day one at center? Will Chris Bryant get it together? Will David Dawson beat someone out whether it's at guard or right tackle, where I've heard they expect him to compete? The answers to these questions will start trickling in during spring and not have a full resolution until Michigan's first offensive snap… if then.

A dang running back who can run the dang ball, again. I'm lumping Michigan's four returning tailbacks into the "new" category for reasons both obvious and hopeful:

  • Drake Johnson tore his ACL covering a kick after two carries.
  • Justice Hayes had two carries last year; De'Veon Smith had 26.
  • Derrick Green did get 83 carries, normally enough to put him into the returning category, but with so many of those doomed by the OL in front of him and the hope that he goes from kind of plodding to the lean brute that impressed recruiting analysts, those 83 carries don't mean much.

For the third straight year Michigan will be looking for anything that works on the ground other than Denard Robinson, and what Michigan can expect from its tailbacks is still in doubt.

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"The single greatest catch I've ever seen in person" –Devin Gardner

African refugee wide receivers, again. Amara Darboh's debut was delayed by a foot injury suffered late in fall camp; this year he should debut as something between an uninspiring chain mover and Jason Avant (but fast)! Darboh had buckets of practice hype after a series of spectacular catches put him on everyone's lips in press conferences. He was clearly ahead of Chesson at the time and probably still is after Chesson had a decent but not paradigm-shifting debut.

And we can throw in Chesson here, too: he figures to absorb a lot of snaps not just from Gallon but Dileo, Jackson, and Reynolds. With Gallon's targets spreading across the offense he'll get a shot to be an impact player he didn't this year.

Dennis Norfleet, for pants' sake. I swear on this bible factory that if Michigan can't find a productive role for Dennis Norfleet in this offense I am going to break every rule in the factory of bibles I have just sworn upon. This does not mean bringing him in motion every time he's on the field. It means looking at him as a slot receiver instead of a tiny bouncy freak show, which okay yeah he is but seriously people just imagine what West Virginia would do with the guy and do it.

More TE-ish guys. Khalid Hill and Wyatt Shallman come off redshirts and should bring blocky/catchy/runny aspects to the guys on the field who aren't WRs or RBs, whatever you'd like to call them. With Butt and Williams aging and hopefully improving, Michigan might have some options here to do tricky things, particularly in the redzone. If any of them can block.

WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1972

Gardner to Funchess. This was Gardner to Gallon last year. This year it is pretty obvious what replaces that: Devin Funchess blew up after his move to WR, taking end-arounds and leaping over people both before and after he acquired the ball. They even threw him a couple fades late in the year when it occurred to them that maybe that was a good idea.

Unfortunately, after a very strong start to his career in the catching department drops became an issue around the Michigan State game. The overall picture is still a guy with very good hands and a huge catching radius, though.

He's already the Big Ten's second-leading returning receiver, behind only Hoosier Cody Latimer, and Latimer plays in a light-speed offense that inflates basic counting stats. With a full season at WR and Gallon off to the NFL, a thousand-yard season is a certainty. The only question is at what point television accepts the fact that he's a wideout.

What happens if Gardner gets injured, at least relative to usual. Michigan seems to have itself a legit backup QB in Shane Morris for the first time in forever.

Passing weapons writ large. There is some projection in saying this, but it doesn't seem like Gallon's departure is going to leave Gardner bereft of options. He's got a #1 guy ready to step into that role and then you've got Darboh, Chesson, Butt, Norfleet, and possibly contributors from either the three-man 2013 class or Drake Harris/Moe Ways/Freddy Canteen in 2014. Five veterans plus six young options looks like a lot of options to me.

WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2013

Pass protection. This was horrendous and doesn't figure to get a lot better with both tackles out the door. Magnuson still needs to add 15-20 pounds to hold up against bull rushes and the question mark at right tackle is highly ominous. Maybe I'm making too much of Braden's swift disappearance from the two deep in fall, but… man, to swiftly disappear from that two-deep would seem to bode unwell. If it's not Braden then it seems like Michigan is trying to shoehorn a guy who would be better at guard into the RT spot, whether it's Dan Samuelson or David Dawson or even Bosch. Add to that continuing uncertainty on the interior and it's easy to see Michigan QBs get harassed as much as they were this year.

The seeming certainty that there will be three (or more!) brutal clunkers from this unit. Three years in and Borges's crew has thrown up at least three horrendous games a year, every year, as whatever mad scientist stuff Borges throws at the wall backfires spectacularly when his team can't execute the new stuff and can't execute anything else because the offense is a chameleon from game to game with the exception of throwback screens.

How far they have to go and how much time they have to do it in. Discussed more in the next section, but it seems like the best case scenario next year is improvement by default that gives us little insight into what Michigan should do going forward. Regression to the mean should see Michigan uptick in many categories in which they set dubious records. Hooray,  but if Michigan is 70th in TFLs allowed in year four that just puts us in an uncertain netherworld. Your options here:

  • Michigan has a near repeat of last year. PRO: No uncertainty here as everyone is put on a donkey and ridden out of town. CON: Michigan has a near repeat of last year.
  • Michigan is below mediocre on the line, but not a completely unwatchable tire fire. PRO: Manage to avoid stabbing other eye out. CON: No idea whether to stay the course and hope for further improvement in year five or move on after third consecutive mediocre at best season.
  • Michigan is good! PRO: Michigan is good. CON: Drugs are expensive.

It's hard to see anything definitively good happening next year.

WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY

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The offensive line can't be worse, right? This is a repeat from last year, because the offensive line was worse and now the offensive line is losing two NFL tackles. This year… they literally cannot be worse. Michigan finished 123rd of 123 in tackles for loss allowed and turned Devin Gardner into hamburger. So we've got that going for us. The offensive line can't be worse, because they're already at the bottom.

Okay but can they be massively better? That is the real question here. Michigan has to be vastly better on the offensive line next year or it's firing time: for Funk definitely, for Borges definitely, and after (hypothetically) three straight years of non-Denard utter incompetence on the ground probably Hoke.

And… yikes. Frankly, writing this bit makes me think they should just throw everyone over right now because how can you go from that to average in one year while losing your two best guys? These kind of reclamation projects are two-year deals, usually, and that's if they get reclaimed at all.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN ANYONE OTHER THAN DENARD ROBINSON PICK UP THREE FEET ON THE GROUND? This is also a repeat from last year, because the answer was NO FOR THE LOVE OF GOD NO. For perspective, Michigan rushed for 3.9 yards a carry in 2008, with Brandon Minor leading the way at 5.2 yards a pop. Last year, Michigan had 3.3. This rushing offense was tons worse than the 2008 outfit despite having some very threatening weapons on the outside. No offense to Nick Sheridan, Steven Threet, Greg Mathews or Martavious Odoms, but in terms of loosening up a defense… uh… does this sentence need to continue? Nope. It ended right there.

Michigan must have a function running back for the first time in three years or it's head-lopping time.

Can Gardner get his interceptions down to a reasonable rate? You'd think this would improve what with experience and not getting annihilated all the time, but 1) he might get annihilated all the time, and 2) we saw with Denard that sometimes guys just don't get better at taking care of the ball as they acquire experience. This is pretty much another do or die here for Borges: have one of your quarterback show major improvement or GTFO.

MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS

Oh hell, I don't know. Things should get better on the ground and the pass protection won't be great… could be just as bad. Gardner's experience and a lot of options in the passing game should result in something more tolerable than 2013. How much and how much impact that has on the wins and losses I just don't know anymore man.

Comments

JimBobTressel

December 31st, 2013 at 2:37 PM ^

I can only hope Brandon goes into the season-ending evaluation meetings with this coaching staff out for murder. Honeymoon era is over. For all the flak Brandon takes, he cares deeply about the success of the team.

TheNema

December 31st, 2013 at 2:46 PM ^

Remember last time Brandon employed a third year coach? No one was wondering if he was going to give a personnel evaluation. He flat out advertised that he was going to do that during all of 2010. 

As for his caring deeply about the team, how can we say that anymore if they keep Borges? No person in their right mind could look at the evidence in front of them over the last couple years as well as Borges' career as a whole and feel that things are going to end well for him here. 

snarling wolverine

December 31st, 2013 at 3:28 PM ^

Obviously, you've made up your mind about Borges, but not everyone else has.  We were wildly inconsistent this year, no doubt, with some very low lows, but also some high peak performances (ND, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio).  It's not impossible to believe that with improved personnel, our offense can be better.  In his three years as OC, we've averaged 33, 30 and 32 points per game, which is respectable, and that's come with paper-thin OL depth, not a whole lot at RB and QBs that aren't a perfect fit for his philosophy.  

 

MGoUltimate

December 31st, 2013 at 2:38 PM ^

I was really disappointed by this season, but I think Hoke is still the right coach for the program at least through the end of the 2015 season. Unlike RichRod's tenure, the wheels have not fallen off on the recruiting front.  I think Borges/Funk should probably be replaced now if we can get someone good to replace them, and if not, I am OK with giving them another season.  Replacing Hoke would be a rough transition, and I don't know who would want come here (at least of the coaches who would do a significantly better job than Hoke).

I think that, as long as recruiting stays strong and we win 8+ games, we should keep Hoke.  The 2012 class will only be juniors/redshirt sophomores next year.  If we suck in 2015, then by all means, fire everyone.

TheNema

December 31st, 2013 at 2:51 PM ^

While I respect that these prognostications are based in some logic, it has become utterly fatiguing to keep throwing yourself behind it as a fan. People want to see a team play with a "Screw waiting, this is OUR year" chip on their shoulder. 

Remember that old MGoShirt that said "Notre Dame: Returning to Glory Since 1993"? I wouldn't blame someone if they made a shirt right now that said "Michigan: Two Years Away From Awesomeness Since 2008."

nofunforfu

December 31st, 2013 at 2:46 PM ^

I had something longer typed out, but it got lost in the nether regions of the internet. Here is the abridged version:

I am quite optimistic about the offense next season, largely because of the WR depth. Michigan will have more talent at WR next year than they have had since 2007. I look for Funchess/Darboh/Chesson/Harris to be the top 4 WR's and to perform admirably, with a potential quality player coming from York/Dukes/Jones/Canteen/Ways.

Borges will be under heavy pressure to perform so he either A) can run the ball next season making the offense much more effective or B) knows he can't run early in the year and goes to a heavy passing attack to save his job. This has been successful when they have turned to it in the last 1 1/2 years and should be even more so with the WR corp Michigan will have next year.

pearlw

December 31st, 2013 at 4:22 PM ^

I think there is too much optimism about WR as there is little experience and so much of the optimism is based on hype about guys who havent seen a football field since 2012. Outside of Funchess and the small production from Chesson, all this optimism is about Darboh who sat out the season with a foot injury , a high school player (Harris) who sat out his entire season, and guys who redshirted so thus couldnt beat out Joe Reynolds or Jeremy Jackson.

nofunforfu

December 31st, 2013 at 8:47 PM ^

I can admit to maybe being overly optimistic, but I think the potential is there. Next year's WR group is the most talented group since 2007 and while you can't be sure there is a Mario Manningham in the bunch, it's not unrealistic for there to be a Jason Avant (earlier time, I know) or Adrian Arrington. What I like is the fact that there should be greater competition next year for the receiver spots, especially with Harris and Canteen enrolling in the spring.

While we have to rely on hype and recruiting rankings for most of the WR's, it's not like we are replacing several hugely impactful players. Gallon will be tough to replace, but an improved Funchess, Chesson and the return of Darboh should help as passes are spread out more among the receivers. And I don't think it is crazy to think that Dukes/York/Jones/Harris/Canteen/Ways can provide at least two contributors equal to what Dileo and Jackson/Reynolds provided this past year (26 receptions 314 yds 2 tds).

maize-blue

December 31st, 2013 at 2:57 PM ^

I think the RB and WR/TE positions are solid. If you mix in Norfleet, Peppers, Darboh, Bunting, there should be options and weapons everywhere. Between those two groups, Michigan should be one of the deepest teams maybe in the country.

At QB, Devin will look alot better with a more solid line. The good news is Morris looks good so I'm pretty happy with the QB situation.

Everything rests on the O line once again. A run game is of utmost importance. No run game = dissapointing 2014 season, maybe Hoke firing.

Ty Butterfield

December 31st, 2013 at 3:22 PM ^

We will all probably be on here discussing the same shortcomings next season and wondering what the hell the offensive game plan is. For whatever reason Hoke seems content to ride or die with Borges.

PeteM

December 31st, 2013 at 3:29 PM ^

I hear what Brian is saying, but here's my faint hope for optimism.  WIth the highly-ranked, albeit young, O line players we have I still think that there's a chance for improvement even with the obviously huge losses of Lewan and Schofield.

Assuming the line provides something approximately protection I think we can expect an excellent passing game.  While Devin was inconsistent, he was also banged up most of the year.  It seems clear from this past summer that Devin is dedicated to get better.  If we can get anything close to ND, Indiana or Ohio State Devin, with the additional targets of Darboh and Harris along with a hopefully improving Chesson and the return of Funchess and Butt, there will a lot ways to move the ball through the air.  Likewise, there's enough depth at running back that if the offensive line improves to semi-competent in the interiorI would imagine we'd see at least the ability to gain a few yards inside.

 

 

switch26

December 31st, 2013 at 4:26 PM ^

Laughed at the post about Scholfield..  When was the last time he got straight up beat by a pass rusher? 

 

How about NW game where he stood completely up and the rush end just blew right past him and Scholfield did literally nothing against him..  Gardner was then sacked again because scholfield blew it..  I remember other instances this year, but that one really blew my top

Manxman21

December 31st, 2013 at 4:38 PM ^

So UM was 123 in tfl during the season. Insert a freshmen for the KSU game and the team cuts the tfl loss average in half. So is the offensive line to blame or.......wait for it......DEVIN. I believe Devin is responsible for Devin becoming hamburger meat. I believe Shane was responsible for eliminating at least 4 tfl's.

I went through the same thing with my pro team in Phili. Early in the season a running QB with a great arm is getting hammered and the team must have a bad o line. The Eagles put in a quarterback who doesn't really have the option to run and he begins to go through his progressions, the team stops throwing interceptions, the team develops the top running attack in the NFL, the tfl's disappear, and the o line suddenly becomes great.

Is it the system? No, it's the same system when Vick was QB. Is the line different in Philly? No. So the primary change that led to improvement was the quarterback. The same thing was true for at least one game against KSU.

Maybe the answer is a quarterback that can go through a read progression, read a defense, and make adjustments on the fly. Put in Shane coach.

switch26

December 31st, 2013 at 5:19 PM ^

This is a good point..  Garnder had prob 30-40 TFL because he held onto the ball WAY too long during the year trying to make a play, then he just got sacked everytime looking stupid..

 

He needs to quit doing this next year or he won't be the QB mid season

Magnum P.I.

January 1st, 2014 at 12:36 AM ^

Maybe. I've heard Gardner criticized for being far too slow in handing the ball off. This may be a factor. However, in the bowl game we simply did not run up the middle. I credit Borges for this. He had two drive-killing runs up the middle on the first two series (which I think went for TFLs), but I can't remember many other between tackle runs.

funkywolve

January 1st, 2014 at 1:09 AM ^

but at the same time, the vast majority of throws they asked Morris to execute were quick throws that didn't require him to sit in the pocket very long.  It wasn't until late in the game when they started calling plays that required Morris to throw throw the ball 15, 20+ yds down the field.

west2

December 31st, 2013 at 4:40 PM ^

With the seasoning of QB Morris possibly Gardner can be given more frequent relief and not get as beat up through the year.  I know this post is about the offense but if the D can show some life the offense may only have to be incrementally better.  The schedule features only 3 probable quality opponents albeit all 3 games are away games.  Games against Iowa and Nebraska are replaced with games against Rutgers and Maryland, plus it appears that PSU will have a new coach, all circumstances that appear to be favorable for M.   

 

Funny about the comment that the offense cannot get any worse than this year, I remember saying that about the M defense after the 2009 season when the defense was 90th nationally in yards allowed per game and the next year the D was 109th out of 120.  So yes it can get worse unfortunately as we well know.

StephenRKass

December 31st, 2013 at 5:01 PM ^

Michigan is going to improve in 2014, and be significantly improved by 2015. If there is anything the last 6 years have proven, to me, it is how critical line play is, both for defense and offense.

Even though Michigan's offensive line will be young in 2014, it will, across the board, be more experienced than 2013. On the line, in doesn't "average out." The lack of experience on the interior largely mitigated the experience of Lewan and Schofield. With 5 guys having been in the program more than 2 full years, it will make a huge difference.

  • 3 years in program:  Bryant, Glasgow. (And I have some hopes for Bryant's emergence.)
  • 2 years in program:  Magnuson, Braden, Kalis, Bosch, Bars.
  • 1 year in program:  Fox, Tuley-Tillman, Dawson, Samuelson, Kugler.

Admittedly, I'm a glass half full kind of guy, but best case scenario, Bryant and Glasgow do a great job, as do Kalis and Magnuson, and Kugler steps up as well, with seven guys pushing hard to make the field, along with two true freshmen redshirting, and two more guys for depth.

I believe that with the improvement of line play, this will open things up for the RB corps. I believe with a full year of experience under his belt, Gardner will improve. I believe that with eleven solid receiving options, things will only get much, much better in the passing game.

You can ask, what kind of koolaid are you drinking, Kass? Well, we'll know by this time next year.

One other thing that bugs me just a bit. It seems like everyone piles on Borges, and Funk, and Hoke because he is over them. But Mattison, and Hoke (with the DL) and Mallory (with the secondary) get a pass. I've heard very, very slight criticism of the defense at this blog. As far as I could tell from the bowl game, the defense stunk. Was it on the DL, for not getting pressure? Not keeping contain? Was it on the seconary for not covering their receivers better?

The answer, to me, is similar to the offense:  we need more experience, and more of the right players in place. I think we will see a significant upgrade in the DL next year, with the return of Pipkins, along with Poggi, Henry, Stroebel, Hurst, and even Glasgow. I think that we see significant improvement in the secondary, with Countess, Stribling, & Peppers, Wilson & Thomas.

TL,DR - To sum up:  I believe there will be significant improvement next year at Michigan on both sides of the ball, with even more improvement by 2015.

switch26

December 31st, 2013 at 5:47 PM ^

This is how i feel when i watched michigan play this year, and after sitting down and talking with my friend who use to play for NW a few years ago he wasn't surprised at the way the O-line struggled..  Sure they could of been marginally better, but he explained a lot of things in detail about all the stuff the O-line players have to know and account for and whenever one of them screws up a certain called play it blows up the whole play.  

Anyway, also sitting there watching mich play KSU it was painfully obvious we don't have many very good players..  Sure we had a decent amount of upperclassmen, but quite a few of them were RR recruits and lets be honest he didn't recruit great defensive players..

I sit and watch Taylor consistently get beat, Morgan being out of position, Jarrod Wilson finally playing again and looking incredibly rusty.  We just need to upgrade players/talent in every area.  

 

 

Bodogblog

December 31st, 2013 at 9:00 PM ^

Time after time this year, both Lewan and Schofield left DEs for running backs, in order to help the guards. By design, they often didn't even look at the DE. This to me was madness, given our RBs were worse than terrible at pass pro, but the coaches saw it as the lesser of two weevils. But the fact remains, in those frequent scenarios, the OTs abilities were irrelevant.
Next year everyone has to be better, including and maybe especially the RBs. It really was a perfect storm in 2013, because if Vincent Smith were on the roster, Gardner probably avoids something like 25% of those hits.

Magnum P.I.

December 31st, 2013 at 4:59 PM ^

Never before have I had such little hope for U-M football. The Rodriguez offseasons were all hopeful. Under Carr, I expected us to compete for the MNC going into every season. Next year, I expect us to be the same or worse.

This bowl game was a killer. Hoke had a month and made no improvements. None. Shit, he had whole season and showed virtually no improvements. Yeah, we're young, but it's young guys who (should) show the most development from August to January. Not seeing it. No evidence to believe a full offseason will bring great improvement.

alum96

January 1st, 2014 at 5:00 PM ^

This was what was damning about 2013.  The schedule was set up perfectly for a young team - a young team should improve the most between early Sep and late Nov, as they gain the game experience.   But this team improved the least among many I watched on and off.  I wont bring up MSU much but my gosh the Cook and Langford kids looked like completely diff players in Nov vs Sept.  They rotated 8 kids at the OL with no dropoff.  And then Hoke had ANOTHER month for this YOUNG team to learn and you saw a worse product this week.  Just makes you lose much hope for this staff.

Jinkin Mongol

December 31st, 2013 at 5:34 PM ^

I have degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Idaho.  Perhaps I should enroll at MSU and OSU and see what happens with their TFL numbers?  Also, my wife just tackled me for a loss in the kitchen. 

dragonchild

December 31st, 2013 at 5:54 PM ^

"We MUST see improvement or fire EVERYONE!!!ELEVENTY!11!!!"

For pants' sake, you guys sound just like the bosses none of us here would ever want to work for.  The above is. . . well, actually it's a given -- the team MUST improve -- but it sounds more like everyone's not really hoping for better so much as polishing the guilloutine.

Let me get one thing out of the way, if only because people want to see blood & passion:  I am NOT taking the coaches off the hook.  The thing is, I think the talk about firing them after 2014 is nonsense because they were NEVER off the hook in my book.  But I also remember how Mattison took a tire fire of a defense and turned it around in one year.  The guy who saw this defense regress as the season wore on is the same guy.  Think very, VERY carefully when you call for someone's head (it looks like the ONLY lesson learned from the RichRod hiring is bitterness), because the replacement just can't be some new face on yet another honeymoon.  Not to mention, the sort of coach you guys so desperately want -- a proven winner, one of the five best in the country -- has absolutely no goddamn incentive to leave their successful jobs to work for a politically toxic university.  Frankly, recruits don't either.

As for 2014?  I dunno.  I don't think anyone does, because it's up to the players and coaches to figure it out.  This sort of mess usually either stays a mess or gets sorted right quick.  However, I will say for once that I thoroughly disagree with Brian.  The whole idea about our young line getting younger = disaster has two possible upsides dismissed by two very glaring assumptions:

1) That Lewan and Schofield mattered.  This sounds like a damning statement but it isn't.  First off, frankly, no sane DC was doing to scheme to beat two of the best tackles in the B1G.  The whole point of attacking the interior was to avoid the NFL guys.  The interior was so gooey-soft that Lewan's skill and experience might as well not have been there, because it was the same result either way -- the RBs were tackled behind the LoS and Gardner had about one second to get the ball off before getting swarmed.  That's not the tackles' fault; but it's also something they really couldn't do anything about.  This is also why evaluating O-line experience is not as simple as adding up the starts.  That's stupid!  I remember the last time I played pick-up basketball, I ran up to the top of the key and set a pick for my teammate. . . and both my teammate and the guy guarding him stared at me like I was dry-humping.  Playing next to a rookie is a hell of an experience neutralizer, and that applies no more strongly than offensive line.  Lewan and Schofield couldn't use their fifth-year combo-blocking wizzazz because the guys they were next to could barely handle slide protections.  So you had basically NFL linemen playing like they were high schoolers.  The line is NOT as good as some composite average of experience; it's only as good as THE WORST player and we played a true freshman last season.  That is NOT comparable to having 3 RS sophomores!  What's going to kill the O-line in 2014, if it dies, is the exact same thing that killed the O-line in 2013 -- DCs are going to find the weak link and attack it until it crumbles.  Let's just hope it's not as easy because 2013 was as easy as it got.

2) That young players mature like some 12-step program.  Sometimes they do.  Sometimes they don't.  They tend to mature in fits and starts, much more inconsistently than adding muscle in the weight room.  It happens when it happens.  You cannot force this.  Firing the coach won't do it.  Screaming obscenities won't do it.  Not that I think Borges did anything better than a terrible job at developing his young line, but while he should answer for his miserable failure of 2013, it's equally stupid to expect him or his hypothetical replacement to work miracles in a single offseason.  How much the offensive line improves depends entirely on whether they're ready to take a big leap forward, and each player will, but the inability to control that will be by far the most aggravating thing to watch next season, and it won't be Borges fault.  If you want to fire him, do it because of his gawdawful schemes and inconsistent game planning.

Well, I guess I might as well make a prediction:  The team will finish 8-5, but regardless of whether that's a hard-fought 8-5 with a few tough losses and bad luck harbinging a great 2015 or a joke of an 8-5 padded by cupcake wins and complete debacles (whereupon I'll advocate everyone's firing as much as anyone here), everyone will finally lose their shit, clean house, cause a giant recruit exodus and the next incoming coach can plan on having three years again, and our success in 2015 will depend entirely on the developments of 2014 team the incoming coach had nothing to do with.  And after tasting a 10-win season based on these youngsters finally becoming and playing like seniors, everyone will have to sit through another 3-4 years of rebuilding pain from the recruiting exodus of 2014.

west2

January 1st, 2014 at 11:53 AM ^

Thanks for the laugh: “you guys sound like the bosses none of us here would want to work for” A couple of sobering thoughts: Watching the Texas A & M vs Duke game, it struck me that these players were playing their hearts out with passion and drive. After Tex fell behind 21-3 and it looked like they couldn’t stop a Mack truck, they managed to claw back into the game. For Dukes effort-they apparently didn’t read the press clippings that they were supposed to get pummeled by the mighty SEC team. What was remarkable about this game? They were playing in the Chik fil a bowl and it looked like they were playing for the National Championship! It struck me that this was the passion that we used to see when Michigan played. Teams knew when you played Michigan you better bring your A game. What do we have now? The Frank Clark and James Ross tweets, not to pick on these 2 players as they are clearly echoing the sentiments of the players at this particular time, buuuttt…"I think a lot of guys lost the will to play as a family. That's one thing you can't do in football. In football, you've got to stick in there and stay together as a family.” "It was our mindset from the jump, we weren't totally into it I would say. We didn't come out with a lot of energy." Wow some damning statements and definite red flags that’s somethins amiss. These rumblings scream lack of leadership, lack of discipline, lack of direction. When the boat starts leaking you need to have leadership with a clear plan that can fix the leaks otherwise everyone is in peril because when the bow slips under waves it’s too late. We are seeing some definite leaks here and somebody needs to have an idea how to fix it and unfortunately this looks like a lack of leadership that starts at the top with the head coach.

gwkrlghl

December 31st, 2013 at 6:24 PM ^

The offensive line can't be worse, because they're already at the bottom.

Uhhh...well I don't want to be a Debbie Downer but they could get really good at being the worst.

Same coaches + (Same players - 2 NFL tackles) = ??

Honestly, I struggle with seeing how it can possibly get better barring terrific progression from at least 3 guys on the line

Michigan Arrogance

December 31st, 2013 at 8:39 PM ^

This program took the current lineman (excluding the tackles who developed partly under the previous coaches) over the last 2.5 years and taught them how to play backgammon instead of football, apparently. They were atrocious. Is there any evidence to suggest that these coaches will magically teach them how to play football in the next 9 month significantly better than they did for the previous 2 years?

it's pretty clear that we didn't see much decent play from RS FR and RS So OLs, as developed under this staff for the past 2 years. Unfortunately for everyone associated with Michigan, that's exactly what we have next year, even moreso than this year.

No one is expecting 4 All Americans out of this youthful OL, but christ can we at least get moderate competance? This is NOT a rhetorical question, and unfortunately the answer is most likely: no.

Reader71

January 1st, 2014 at 12:38 AM ^

This blog thought Andy Moeller was a bad line coach. He never had a line this bad. His lines were generally pretty damn good, and he even developed a few All-B1G, All-American, and NFL players. So, even bad coaching can, in fact, lead to decent results. We'd like to be great, but we've gotta get to decent first.

One thing Moeller's lines had was experienced starters, or barring that, youngsters like Long and Krause that beat out more experienced players.

CarrIsMyHomeboy

January 1st, 2014 at 12:38 AM ^

Of course things can always get worse. Aside from the fact that it exists in words "It can't get any worse" doesn't exist. Is impossible. Thinking being 123rd out of 123 is proof of something is borderline lazy. That Michigan is 123rd out of 123 can never act as proof that it can't get any worse because being last isn't like standing on the basement floor with everyone else standing on top of you. It's more like being suspended somewhere in the middle of an infinitely deep sink hole, unfathomable emptyness below you, with everyone else suspended above you.

No matter what, seriously no matter what, it can always get worse.

 

 

NOTE: I think we can and will improve next year at OL, but that's because my favored theory favors interior-OL experience/talent as more valuable than exterior-OL experience/talent. I typed this because believing things can't get worse is logical fallacious and also one of my pet peeves.

Magnum P.I.

January 1st, 2014 at 7:58 AM ^

Here's a thought experiment that makes me cry.

Let's say we had the worst OL in college football this season, which could be argued based on our TFLs allowed and our inability to run the ball at all.

Outside of Lewan and Schofield, Jack Miller was the most experienced lineman going into the season.

Jack Miller was not good enough to play on the worst OL in the country.

The player who has spent the most time with Funk (three years) was essentially worse than every starting OL in college football.

I don't believe that Miller is a worse football player than the dead weight OL starter for Akron or Georgia State, but our coaches couldn't get him to help make our line as functional as those teams. One hundred or more FBS teams would've taken Miller in a heartbeat, plugged him in, and run the ball for four yards per carry.

Drbogue

January 1st, 2014 at 10:23 AM ^

I must be getting old (not MGrowOld of course) but I usually pass over the headers without thinking about them, but the Rod Stewart 1972 representing "the good" and the Rod Stweart 2013 as "the bad" had me laughing out loud. Especially having to listen to Rod Stweart sing "A few of my favorite things" on the Xmas radio for the wife this year. I hope our defensive pass rush is not as bad as that suicide inducing rendition

Procumbo

January 1st, 2014 at 11:33 AM ^

We're losing the only two competent players and they were both great players. I know there's a theory in circulation that great tackles don't help without a solid interior, but it's silly to think losing two great players won't make any difference. Great tackles alone don't make a good offensive line, but they certainly help. Losing those guys is going to hurt. Meanwhile, our staff has shown no ability to teach these guys how to play. In the bowl game they were so pessimistic about the line's ability to run block that they just never ran behind them. I just can't find anything in our O-line situation to feel good about. This is college football though, so sometimes unpredictable things happen for no apparent reason. Basically, we're hoping for a miracle.

Truxter

January 1st, 2014 at 11:45 AM ^

As long as Al Borges is the OC and Darrell Funk remains the OL coach the offense will move one step forward and three steps to the rear.    We will continue hear excuses about how young they are and the diffuculty of replacing the offensive tackles... yadda yadda yadda.