Hokepoints is On Notice

Submitted by Seth on November 12th, 2013 at 10:51 AM


Incompetence on a level that Michigan unlocked against Michigan State and Nebraska cannot be achieved by one man or even one team (MSU is good at defense, and hey, Nebraska did some good things). There's still the possibility that Borges and his charges  are sabotaging themselves, but since that's impossible to prove let's permit that they do in fact wish to progress the ball forward, and parse out how much responsibility lies in the various inadvertent factors.

I thought I'd take us back through a timeline of the events that led to the state of the offensive roster, picking up blame on the way.

I wish we could blame this whole thing on the old coach. Wouldn't it be the most ironic thing if the great guru of offense was really at fault for Michigan's offensive woes? There are really three things I think we can lay at his feet, in order of importance:

  1. Hired DCs he couldn't work with and made them run defenses they didn't understand, thus dooming Michigan to another coaching transition.
  2. Recruited just one OL in the 2010 class.
  3. Didn't recruit a single tight end or fullback, nor a running back who can block except Smith, whom he didn't redshirt.
    Michigan's 2009-2011 tight end recruits.

Tight End, Briefly

We've had #1 out, and #3 is debatable: Y U NO RECRUIT THE BREAD AND BUTTER OF BORGES'S OFFENSE, GUY WHO INVENTED THE OFFENSE THAT MADE BORGES'S OFFENSE OBSOLETE? I can't blame him for skipping fullbacks or running backs who can block since he had a track record of developing fullbacks from the walk-on program, while his backs, e.g. Toussaint, were recruited to operate in space. I wish he'd redshirted Vincent Smith, or gotten a medical for him.

But I do think he could have seen the need for tight ends even before the abilities of Koger and Webb opened his eyes to that. Rodriguez ignored the position for two years, and when he started looking again it was for the 2011 class that was devastated by Rosenberg and The Process: Hoke and Borges went on the hunt for last-minute TEs in 2011 and came back with Chris Barnett, a vagabond of the type that Michigan typically stays away from. Barnett transferred almost right away; I put that on having just a few weeks.

Tight end is another position that typically requires a lot of development, but Michigan knew by mid-2011 that its 2013 starters would be, at most, true sophomores, and knew a year later that neither of their 2012 recruits were much for blocking. At this point any sane human would not have made the ability of their tight ends to block a key component of their offense.

Offensive Line, Longly

Rodriguez put all of his eggs in the 2011 OL recruiting basket, and Michigan ended up with all their eggs in a project recruit's basket.

As for the OL, the failure to recruit just one offensive lineman in 2010 is the centerpiece of modern bitching. Is that fair? Here's a line from Brian in Mike Schofield's recruiting post, dated June 2009:

"Michigan didn't need a huge offensive line class one year after taking six big uglies and graduating zero, but you never want fewer than three and you always want quality."

So yes it is established MGoPrecedent that fewer than three OL in a class no matter how much meat you have stacked for the meat god is not cutting it.

Offensive line recruiting happens a bit earlier than most other positions. Since they're unlikely to be starting for several years (even redshirt freshmen are pretty rare) OL recruits rightly look for coaching stability more than early opportunity. The 2009 class was narrowing down their lists before the 2008 season, and so on. With that said here's a timeline of Michigan offensive line recruiting:

2009 (recruited in early 2008): Tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, and guard Quinton Washington. This despite a huge/mixed haul from 2008, when RR added Barnum and Omameh to Carr's class of O'Neill, Mealer, Wermers and Khoury. For the record O'Neill left the team in June 2009, and Wermers was gone in July (though his World of Warcraft account was presumably active), so the coaches wouldn't have adjusted to either of those departures at that time. Meat for 2013 Meat God: three redshirt seniors, one a potential Jake Long 2.0, can't do more because there's still six guys from the previous class.

[Fail leaps atop fail, after the jump]

2010 (recruited in 2008-'09): Center Christian Pace and air. Of all Michigan's injuries over the last four years the one to Pace is probably the least talked about yet the most damaging—yes even more than Molk's knee and Denard's elbow, and there's a case to be made for Woolfolk's ankle. The coaches wound up with a proto-Molk who went from zero to ludicrous off the ball. And…nobody. NOBODY! The feeling at the time, just so we're not deluding ourselves into thinking we were content then to rest on the 2008 class and get the 2013 kids in 2011:

Needs: Moderate. Michigan will have nine freshmen on campus this fall, but Moosman, Ortmann, and McAvoy graduate and Michigan should endeavor to keep the numbers on the line at about the current level. Two or three are likely; only one tackle is needed so there might be a slight emphasis on the interior.

Translation: need three, got one. That the one lost his career to injury is the No. 1 reason that center has been Mealer/Miller-or-Bust the last two years. Note that QWash didn't make the move to DL until 2010 but Meat for 2013 Meat God: just four dudes—Lewan, Schofield, Washington and Pace. Even if they all work out you're expecting the 2011 haul to net you the starting guard and all of your depth.

Michael Rosenberg and The Process Murdered the 2011 Class

Having pulled in just four players in the last two classes, Michigan was expected to get a good five quality options, the carrot being a clear path to a starting job by 2012 or '13, when the RR machine should be humming. Here's where that gamble met the instability of the program to produce a black hole.

Ultimately the biggest effect of Rosenberg's vendetta was a year of negative publicity for Michigan, and a recruiting down year that stemmed from it.

Few schools can point to an alum in the media who did so much damage to their program with so little. Practicegate calculatedly began with the 2009 season, and the threat of "major violations" atop the mounting losses as the year progressed helped to kill off the Rodriguez program's momentum.

Its most tangible effect was on recruiting the 2010 and 2011 classes, since it made sure the phrase "major violations" could be tacked on to any mention of Michigan to a recruit for that whole year. Recruiting is a world where kids are shown 10-30 different heavens and end up choosing one on factors as marginal as the color of the angels' (or helmets') wings, so a little thing like "their coach is under investigation" can matter a great deal, no matter how tiny the a molehill it started with.

Before that, Rich Rod was in on several 5-star types who'd wind up in the SEC, as well as Aundrey Walker (four-star from Glenville), James Elliott (went to Kentucky), and Andre Yruretagoyena, a spread-tastic OL from Roh/Lewan's school. They were also recruiting Zettel as a guard, and looked in good position for Tony Posada, provided Miami (YTM) didn't get too involved. Jordan Walsh was that year's annual Chicago-Guy-Who-Likes-Michigan-Then-Commits-Elsewhere except he chose Iowa instead of Michigan or OSU or ND. At least in-state spread-tackle Jake Fisher was in the fold, and they reeled in Ohio developmental project Jake Miller, who was rated by everybody as a DE at the time.

Other than Fisher, Practicegate killed off any chance of any Plan A targets coming this way. By this point they were also looking at Tyler Moore (went to Nebraska), Ryan Nowicki (went to Penn State), and various other names that would pop up in TomVH posts then disappear as quickly. Chris Bryant first showed up on radar as a guy fishing for an offer.

By the time the investigation concluded in fall 2010 there were only a few months left to 2011 signing day, and the appearance of program instability was replaced with the real program instability of the 2010 win-or-die-and-oh-yeah-do-it-without-a-defensive-backfield season. During the season Pace's career was lost to injury and Washington was swapped with Will Campbell—no they couldn't tack a redshirt on him then so hypothetical Will Campbell: 2013 guard was never going to happen.

The Process finished the job, since nobody was going to commit to Rodriguez if he could be fired, and Michigan spent the last few crucial months of the 2011 recruiting cycle leaving that completely in the air. The final firing chased Fisher off to Oregon. Bryant got his offer from the new staff and committed, and Posada committed but lasted all of a few months. The new staff focused their few weeks of recruiting on a few defensive prospects—the more immediate fire—and didn't add any last-minute Omameh-types. Meat for the 2013 Meat God: Schofield and Lewan, and two fliers in Miller and Bryant.

The Lizard Brain Strikes

You have to give tremendous credit to Hoke and Borges and Funk for the offensive line recruiting they pulled off in 2012 and 2013. They inherited a major problem and addressed it on the recruiting trail exactly as well as you could hope for. Imagine if Rich Rod had brought in ten four-star-or-better defensive backs in the 2009 and 2010 classes, and held on to all of them. Most programs would have supplemented that with some JUCOs but Michigan's transfer requirements make that not an option in Ann Arbor. Anyway as long as they can get these guys to stick around (hardly guaranteed) Michigan ought to have five good linemen going into 2015 and '16.

With those guys so young it's hard to evaluate their development. They've had Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden and Erik Magnusson and Blake Bars for a year and change, and you'd expect only Kalis, probably, to be better at this point than we've seen. Jack Miller's lack of development under this staff is more worrisome, but it's hardly unheard of for a project recruit to not pan out. I give Bryant a total pass since he was a project and he's been too injured to practice. And while we're we're hardly the only school to be starting a true freshman mid-way through the season (Notre Dame is already playing onetime Michigan target Steve Elmer) I treat any contribution from 2013 guys as a bonus.

Where I find Hoke and Borges and Funk culpable is:

1. Changing up/not knowing their personnel. Schools do this, but it comes with a cost. When you see players missing assignments and doing a terrible job on combo blocks this year, a big part of that I bet is they're not used to playing with each other. Brian wishes they'd just kept rolling with Miller, whatever his problems with blocking, because Glasgow's snapping deficiency is costing them a drive per game, and you're not getting much better blocking out of the guard replacements, and meanwhile you've thrown out any experience they gained by playing together since spring. I tend to agree, with the caveat that I completely understand at least one shuffle after Akron and UConn.

We did see plenty of problems with Miller and Kalis early on, and there's little guarantee that they would have fared any better than their replacements. But OL do tend to improve the more time they spend next to one another.

This goes doubly for the non-OL positions. It took them half the season to stop pretending Funchess is a TE on most plays, and they still go back to that at times. They also keep going back to A.J. Williams as a key blocker. And Toussaint or Green. It's unfortunate that the backs can't block, but neither should their coaches be making their blocks the only thing between Denicos Allen and Devin Gardner's midsection. Sacks caused by non-OL still make the OL look bad.

2. Changing up/not knowing their offense. We still don't know who they are or what they're trying to accomplish. They burned a bye week on the tackle-over gimmick that's so dead now the fans boo it when they see it, and so scouted that opponents immediately jam nine in the box when they do. They went to an almost Tiller-level passing spread for Notre Dame, and they broke out the run-from-the-gun/PA max protect passing offense against Indiana which worked against Indiana, but once that was scouted and opponents realized how much this puts on the backs and young OL to pick up complex blocking assignments we went two games in a row with negative rushing yards. No matter what they're good at, they won't commit to anything long enough to get good at it.

3. Giving up the offense's advantages. You've heard the complaints about how the play-calling isn't cohesive, and the last two games have demonstrated just how much of an easy scout this makes them. The one thing offense has on defense is they get to dictate the play. Defenses will do unsound things to mitigate that—for example Michigan State's deep coverage was weak by alignment—but when Michigan's only got one or two plays they run from a given look, they just hand this right over.

The result is the offense practices a lot of plays but gets good at none of them, and few things are ever simple, even for the guys you need to make things simple for.

4. WTF. Schofield is a 5th year senior and three-year starter who missed a slide protection. On an offense that's doing well that could be chalked up as a fluke, but people are talking about it because it's not the only time this year that one of the offense's working parts inexplicably broke down. Here's Space Coyote in that thread:

Those two plays were the most angry I've been at the OL this year, FWIW. So that explains how bad both missed assignments were. Michigan's staff is simplifying the pass protectin scheme to a high school level and the players still aren't executing. That screams coaching issue at the position level to me, because you can't dumb down the pass pro anymore.




November 13th, 2013 at 2:03 AM ^

That is a very insightful comment.  The lack of WR depth has been palpable. and with Bellomy's injury, we've got nothing in reserve at qb.  Gardner is tentative.  He got that way, perhaps, from being pressured so often, but he also did a lot of it last year (though to be fair you can't blame him for that last after being thrown into the cauldron mid-season).   I like Chesson, a lot, but losing Darboh (a position that can be played as a freshman) and no other depth recruited by Rodriguez is a real problem. 


November 12th, 2013 at 11:37 AM ^

  • The blocking TE can't block. Williams has not been a good blocker except against terrible DEs.
  • The 5th year tailback was recruited to be good at running in space and for his breakaway speed--the offense can't get him in space, nor does it put him in position to use his speed, except on the inverted veer that opponents finally managed to shut down because Michigan rarely brings out a counter to protect it. When they run their zone read (or fake zone read that's really just a handoff) they're asking Toussaint to be the guy running through the tackles.
  • That receiver barely got any targets in most games. He's been critically underused. Also Indiana's defense is just a tire fire--hard to extrapolate things from that.
  • I do put a lot on the staff. But I agree with Space Coyote that it's not just them. They're trying to dumb down the offense and that means a lot of things can go wrong that normally wouldn't. There's got to be some positional coaching problems though since even after things are dumbed down there's horrible technical mistakes being made.

Michigan has enough talent to cover for some mistakes, but a combination of them is killing the offense and the season.

Space Coyote

November 12th, 2013 at 11:41 AM ^

And while I have some minor disagreements with some of the OP, I always appreciate that your points are well thought out and have a basis behind them. Two people can disagree on things and still try to see the other's POV. You make it easy to see that POV with reason and thought.

Much appreciated, as always.


November 12th, 2013 at 12:26 PM ^

this is just ugly, and firing Borges won't help things for this season...but i gotta believe a new OC is more than justifiable in the off-season...2 weeks in a row of negative yards on the ground and the play-calling remains the same: predicatble to a fault/loss....granted, the oline is bad, but the play-calling is worse...time for a change at the end of the year unless things drastically turn around, but i just don't see it happening


November 12th, 2013 at 11:54 AM ^

That's basically where I'm at. I don't think you can build an elite offense given our OL and TE youth, but they should peak above "awful tire fire shitshow against some of the worst defenses in the league".

Anyone who thinks this staff is making the most of what they have is insane. And if they can't make the most of what they have, why do they deserve to keep their jobs? I mean, yeah, once they have 4 and 5 star juniors and seniors across the board they'll look pretty good, but so would just about any coach at this level.

Brian made a good point a couple podcasts ago: what's relevant is not whether Borges or Funk or whoever knows more about football than Brian. Of course they do. What's relevant is whether they know more (and apply that knowledge more effectively) than their counterparts at MSU and OSU (let alone Alabama). Is anyone here really confident in that?

Section 1

November 12th, 2013 at 12:49 PM ^

I found a remarkable consistency. This is coming from guys who poured their hearts and souls and guts into Michigan. All-conference players. Team leaders.

And virtually all of them repeated two points, and confirmed for me a third point.

The first point was that they all suspected that Rodriguez would be in for a rough start, based on the dearth of skill position personnel and the big change in systems. But what they all told me was that they didn't think the team's record should ever have been as bad as it was. Not three- or five-win seasons' bad.

The second point was that while they were pissed about losing, what they thought was intolerable was the notion of a cheating program. Major violations blah blah blah blah. They really hated the thought that the new regime was lowering standards and treating the kids badly. Which is what the Freep intended.

Third; when I then discussed with them the gulf between the Free Press reporting and the truth as revealed in the NCAA investigation, and the real malevolence on the part of Rosenberg and Snyder, they almost all said that they were unaware of the vast majority of the details. Many of them have learned a lot since then, thanks mostly to this blog and John U. Bacon's writing.

Now I expect that the football alumni will be just as demanding of Brady Hoke and his staff to produce not just winning teams, but dominant ones. The big difference will be the lack of the toxic "major violations" scandal.

Let's also not forget that in addition to the recruiting handicap, the NCAA investigation was a huge source of staff distraction and time-eating for as long as it went on.

Kudos on a very brilliant post, Seth.


November 12th, 2013 at 4:31 PM ^

Since PSU beat us, I would say only Purdue is a worse team then our own. Kind of sad to be back in this place after '08 and '09. I know Brady is DB coach and he will probably get through the '16 or '17. I really don't see this team winning any more games this season. They play awful on the road and OSU is far superior in talent and coaching. I guess we will just have to keep supporting Brady and hope that he can turn the program around in the next couple years. I'm not really sure if next year will be much better, may be a few more wins! We may have to wait until Morris is a senior, his 2nd year, before we are a decent team again but still OSU will probably beat us!  This year has made me feel quite depressed. I knew we would lose 4 games but I thought we would be a middle of the pack B1G team, now we are in the cellar again with the likes of Purdue and PSU! This 6-6 season feels like a losing season.


November 12th, 2013 at 2:02 PM ^

I recently realized something, though. . . is it really all that valuable having two fifth-year seniors?  This class is devoid -- as in, ZERO -- playing middleclassmen, which is surely an unusual deal.  It's not unheard of for teams to play underclassmen with some success, but where's the redshirt junior?  We have like, what, one redshirt sophomore?

The point is that our two tackles are basically playing at the NFL level alongside guys who can barely execute high school schemes at college speed.  For skill positions it's OK if Gallon runs a tricky route as long as Gardner can hit him, that doesn't directly impact what Toussaint does in the backfield.  But Lewan can't execute a combo block unless the LG finishes the block.  Offensive linemen HAVE to work together, and not only are there freshmen on the line, there aren't any middleclassmen to serve as liaisons if the freshmen get overwhelmed.  Our seniors, our leaders, our offensive captain. . . is basically an NFL player in waiting working next to a guy fresh out of high school.

I've never played football competitively but I can relate to the frustration of a vast experience gap.  In soccer as a defender or GK I'll pass ahead of a wing to start a counterattack and the guy just stands there because he thinks people only pass to where they're standing.  The thought never occurs that I wanted him to trap the ball in stride.  In basketball I'll set a high pick and not only the defender but the ball handler gapes at me like I'm dry-humping the guy.  WTF, if you can't recognize a simple pick-and-roll, I don't want to hear your commentary on NBA play, EVER.

Well, imagine how Schofield and Lewan must feel when they're forced to play down to the level of college freshmen.  Much of what they know beyond one-on-one technique is just going to sit on the shelf.  We don't have three underclassmen and two seniors; we effectively have five underclassmen.  Lewan might as well be a freshman out there for all the blocking experience he has that's not doing any good.

Mind you, I could be WAY off here.  But FWIW, I'm not trying to exonerate the coaches.  If anything, it's an indictment.  This may be an unusual situation but it's something they're paid the big bucks to notice.


November 12th, 2013 at 11:29 AM ^

Like most, I think we will be good when all the talented recruits develop.  However, this year especially has exposed some of the staff's weaknesses, which is why I feel we will dominate most of the shitty B1G but lose more often than not to Urbz.  All this time to get back to 2nd best in B1G and watch squandered talent like in the second half of Lloyd's tenure kind of sucks.


November 12th, 2013 at 11:38 AM ^

Shuffling of the OL has certainly cost us cohesion, but on the other hand toying around with the line-up late in Fall Camp, and then the 180 on Braden should have been a giant flashing bad omen. If you really want cohesiveness, you need the starters named and practicing as a unit going into camp, not into the season. It's pretty clear the coaches knew that wasn't an option given the roster and opted to give everyone up to the last second to improve and emerge as the starter. As it turns out the guys plugged in to start against Central probably were plugged in because time was up, not because someone clearly emerged as ready.

Kevin Holtsberry

November 12th, 2013 at 11:39 AM ^

if incredibly depressing post. It is hard to acknowledge that we are still digging out of a hole. Would love to see an x and O breakdown of the kind of offense we should be running give our current players.  

Sac Fly

November 12th, 2013 at 11:47 AM ^

It's frustrating because it's obvious this is coaching, not just the players. Funk turned Mark Huyge into a pretty decent right tackle, Schofield can be an All Big Ten tackle. Lewan is an All-American

Then we have a revolving door at guard and center, no matter how talented we can't get production inside. Is it wrong to think Funk can't coach interior linemen?


November 12th, 2013 at 12:12 PM ^

' A functional offense is completely reliant upon its O-line. The O-line must be entirely 5th year 5 stars. They must be able to coach themselves.'

                                                                                          intergalactic dingo



November 12th, 2013 at 12:22 PM ^

I'd love a more educated take on this, but I think Borges complicates all of the issues above in an additional way - his playbook puts MORE stress on the OL as compared to alternates.  Here's what I mean:

  • Run Play - we rarely option off a first-level defender, so the line must get all of those blocks right and maybe one guy gets out on a second-level defender.  If we could correctly option a DL, then maybe you handle the other three and have guys at the second level for a bigger gain.  While either method CAN work, the margin for error or ability to get a huge gain is worse in our current scheme - thus putting a big burden on the OL.
  • Pass Play - I feel like we run almost all of our routes deep and nothing happens quickly.  We never throw long-handoff passes, we rarely use screens (bubble or otherwise), we rarely throw to backs, and I can't remember the last simple slant pass we've run.  So all of our drops are deeper and the OL must sustain blocks for longer.
  • Tempo - This isn't a 'solution', but our slow pace allows the defense to adjust personnel to ours and thus any schematic advantage is partially neutered by the D being able to adjust.  

Am I wrong?  Seth or Space Coyote or Magnus?  

I don't know man....while the interior is a mess the poster who said we have Lewan, Schofield, Gardner, Fitz, Funchess, and Gallon yet can't field a functioning offense sure paints a bleak picture.  This isn't the 2008 offense that lacked functioning warm bodies to run it.  If nothing else, maybe a change just for the sake of change is needed on the staff.


November 12th, 2013 at 12:32 PM ^

1. I sorta agree with this and Brian laments this exact thing in the picture pages just posted. At the same time, you can't criticize someone for lack of identity and then bash them for not incorporating all these disjointed elements from different systems. If M wants to be a downhill running team like the Stanfords of the world, at some point you gotta do just that even if it's not effective right away.

2. I feel like a lot of this goes back to OL play. We're in max protect all the time so there aren't more than 2 routes being run on a lot of plays. It's pretty easy to bracket coverage and take away the quick hitters while still having deep coverage (if it's even needed since the QB gets sacked so fast). Borges did throw some short stuff against State with limited success because of this. I do agree we that we should have done more of this in against Nebraska.

The backs are also not getting out of the backfield for passes for the same reason, and when they do the screen gets sniffed out pretty quickly.

3. Again, I think given the youth problems, getting up to the line and snapping right away before they have a chance to call protection/blocking assignments is a recipe for disaster. I do think we need to get out of the huddle much faster though so Gardner can audible. We have been slightly better in this respect the last few games, or at least I didn't really notice any plays that almost didn't get off in time.



November 12th, 2013 at 3:17 PM ^

"Again, I think given the youth problems, getting up to the line and snapping right away before they have a chance to call protection/blocking assignments is a recipe for disaster."


So my son plays youth football. 10-11 year olds.


They were playing in the conference championship this weekend, and the team they were playing (Grosse Ile) was killing them in the middle of the line.


What did they do? They went to 11 personnel and no huddle.


10 and 11 year olds.




November 12th, 2013 at 12:40 PM ^

Thought I'd throw some gasoline around.  Here are Fitz's numbers in the three losses:

44 carries for 55 yards

Average: 1.25

Mode: 0

Median: 0.5


Borrowing from bronxblue here...

Best: Fitz's effort against MSU.  Averaging 2.5 ypc with only two carries for zero or negative yardage.


Worst: An 11 carry stretch against PSU good for -1 yards




November 12th, 2013 at 2:29 PM ^

For a pro-style offense it is probably true, but for Rodriguez's spread this was not as big of an issue. The size prerequisite isn't there, and the scheme is far more consistent/simplified.

Also worth acknowleding that by the '10 recruiting season Rodriguez had Lewan, Schofield, Washington on campus, red-shirting, practicing.  He knew what he had - he knew he needed a center in '12, but otherwise was pretty set for the next couple years. Even had some depth in Mealer, Khoury, Huyge.

Plus, of the guys he brought in (Omameh, Barnum, Washington, Lewan, Schofield) - all of them looked good at the time (and all became college starters.)

Yes, under normal circumstances you always want to take at least 3.  But Rodriguez had proven he could get people playing functionally quickly and a bounty of young depth.  He had the '11, '12, and even '13 classes to fill in whatever gaps might arise on the interior between 2010 and 2012.  The defense was a more pressing problem and needed to be addressed.

I actually think Hoke not taking more than 4 in 2012 was a bigger sin.  At that point, you knew you needed to find 2 or 3 starters from that recruiting class.  Taking 4 kids isn't likely to deliver 3, probably not even 2.  They aimed for 5, should have taken 6, but got only 4 when Caleb Stacey's decommit (replaced by Norfleet) went down.


November 12th, 2013 at 2:44 PM ^

Look at the 2008 offensive line. It was a mess, and a lot of those guys were upperclassmen and very bright individuals. Without Molk they couldn't move the ball, really. That was on the absence of a quarterback of course. And they did manage to get rushing yards. But it wasn't such a smooth transition as all that. Remember Moosman and his snapping problems at center when Molk got hurt? Remember John Ferrara? Remember all the wailing and gnashing of teeth at the painfully long time it took Steve Schilling to settle in somewhere and be effective despite his 5-star rating?

That offensive line didn't start performing in the plus margins until about mid-way through 2009, when Omameh came in at guard, and the line settled into Ortmann/Schilling/Molk/Omameh/Huyge, but we were not very happy with it at that point. They could never get Mealer or Khoury to be an effective player; the backup situation was always pretty dire. We always wanted Huyge replaced by somebody.



November 12th, 2013 at 4:03 PM ^

The 2008 OL was the worst, I remember it well.  But it tells you nothing about Rodriguez's OL recruiting and very little about his OL development.  He did not play any of his RS Freshman because they were still true freshman.  Moreover, there was a huge scheme change going down and terrible QB play exacerbating the problems. 

The 2009 and 2010 lines did tell you something, and there were dramatic improvements, thanks in large part to the red-shirt freshman starters.

I covered this elsewhere but here is what Rodriguez had heading into the 2010 season (i.e. what is relevant for OL recruiting)


  • 4 more years of Taylor Lewan
  • 4 more years of Mike Schofield  (1 of them learning under Dorrestein, if needed)
  • 3 more years of Patrick Omameh
  • 3 more years of Ricky Barnum  (1 of them learning under Schilling)
  • 2 more years of Molk


  • 4 years of Washington (who they LOVED at the time)
  • 3 years of Mealer
  • 3 years of Khoury
  • 2 years of Huyge

That's 16/20 (80%) of your starter needs through this 2013 season, assuming no attrition, but also not counting on the '10, '11, '12, or '13 classes at all.

I think when you take a class of 6 that you really like, followed by a class of 3 that you think is a knockout, and ALL THESE GUYS ARE ON CAMPUS ALREADY, you can afford to go light at the position.  The one big need was center with Molk being the lone upperclassmen -- that's why they got Pace.  Even without Pace, you had Mealer and Khoury as probably functional under a program that was consistent in scheme and technique and playcalling.

Rodriguez had to feel comfortable and confident given how OL recruiting had gone for him at Michigan.  He pretty much nailed every guy with the possible exception of Q, who still became a quite good player, only on defense.

Rodriguez put Hoke/Borgess in a bad position, but he was not doing that to himself. 


November 13th, 2013 at 12:58 PM ^

Attrition does happen, only it really didn't for the guys Rodriguez recruited.

Again, if he was still here, the OL would be in great shape.  Lewan-Schofield-Miller-?-Fisher is a pretty great starting point for a spread offense.  The ? at guard is easily filled by someone in the '11 or '12 classes.  Rodriguez proved that.


November 13th, 2013 at 1:37 AM ^

Please.  Stop.  Making excuses for Rodriguez woeful failure to properly recruit a major conference team. let alone the Big 10, let alone the University of Michigan!  He left our defense with no depth -- fortunately it's a bit easier to play young guys earlier there.  He left our O-line empty!  He left our running backs empty (save for Fitz)!  He left us with zero qb depth!  He left us with mini wideouts, and no other depth at receiver!  Why, why is this so difficult to understand?

I wrote earlier this year that two weeks ago would be Rodriguez' last loss to MSU for Michigan.  Let's hope so.  I thoght then this staff can probably coach up our redshirt freshman lineman enough to be competitive against a weaker MSU defense next year.  I still believe that.  They won't be world beaters, but the young kids will be a lot better.  What happens at tackle, I've no idea, though.  It's also likely that Green will learn how to pass block by next year as well. 

All is not lost, as bad as it may look while watching Devin eat the ball against a poor Nebraska Defense.  Even if the go 6-6,which I'd be very surprised by, next year holds more promise, with a more refined qb (or a replacement if he's not more refined). 


November 13th, 2013 at 1:02 PM ^

It's really annoying that we have NFL players like Lewan, Gallon, Schofield, Gardner, and Toussaint on this team.  It's a shame we can't run guys like Rawls and Green out there, or Bellomy and Morris.

If you're going to blame Rodriguez for a loss in 2013, then give him credit for beating MSU in 2012 and OSU in 2011. 

There are many many things to blame Rodriguez for - had had many failings at Michigan, but his OL recruiting and player development was stellar.  He deserves blame, because he is to blame for the current circumstances, but that was not a deficiency or problem on HIS part.


November 12th, 2013 at 2:31 PM ^

Let's do a whole lot of mental contortions to avoid the obvious conclusion: Hoke isn't the right coach for the job. All the smoke screens about the OL etc. don't explain why the team has gotten worse as the year has progressed. If they were playing well, but getting beat, fine I'd accept that. But they are playing "lost." It's embarrassing.

It's time to move on and get coach who knows what he's doing.


November 12th, 2013 at 5:21 PM ^

Lets get rid of Hoke! It can't be worse, right? We can't end up with a guy taking us sub-.500 instead of over .700 for 3 years, right? We can't find ourselves in an even bigger hole, right?!?

This is how REAL transitions go. Coach comes in, fixes obvious flaws of previous (loser) coach, wins. Recruiting must change - opponents start adapting - things get worse. New coach who isn't a moron starts building. Good things happen.

If you're too short-sighted to understand that, then you're never going to be happy - stop reading fan sites, they will only make you angrier. Better, just go hide in a cave until Shane brings us a crystal ball in '17


November 12th, 2013 at 3:25 PM ^

Sometimes stability is underrated. We had instability for pretty much four years. I think the staff needs to be given until 2015. The whole staff. I mean, if Hoke doesn't think Borges or Funk or whomever is cutting it, then fine, but if he does, then I'm okay with the whole staff staying. When the entire interior of the OL has no clue, what do you do? I guess you can redesign things on the fly, and they did that to a small extent, but if you want them to MANBALL in 2015, punting on it in 2013 isn't going to help them learn any more quickly. It stinks, but we knew going in that the interior OL was a huge problem. Heck, we knew that was something to be frightened of last year, when Miller and Bryant couldn't crack the lineup. Next year won't be any prettier with two new tackles and Kugler. Hopefully Kalis gets it figures out.

I hope Brandon continues to be patient. His patience served us well with Beilein, who made the tournament in year 2 only to have a losing record in year 3. Year 4 started out like year 3, and then the team got hot and made the tourney, and now look where we are. Two largely empty recruiting classes (not filled with three-stars, just not filled) is tough to manage back-to-back. We need the effects of that to be almost completely passed before making a true judgment. In the meanwhile, root for the kids to do the best they can.

The FannMan

November 12th, 2013 at 5:22 PM ^

For all the "Fire Al" posts on this blog, I have yet to see the name of one OC who anyone is actually suggesting as a replacement.  On another thread, I threw out Loeffler.  Didn't recommend him, just mentioned him as a current OC who had connections to the school.  I had my head taken off in about 30 seconds.  (Fine, he isn't a good OC, let's never mention him again ever.)  I still didn't see anyone suggest a single name to replace Al "He Who Must Be Fired" Borgess.

So, who then?