The Story 2013: All Together Now Comment Count

Brian August 26th, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Previously: The Story 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008. Preview 2012.

Also Previously: Podcast 5.0.


I had this thing I was always going to write about Denard, and I said I'd put it in Hail To The Victors, and Seth really, really wanted it because we really, really had to send everything to the printer, and I sat in front of my keyboard and could not do it. As you're about to find out this week, putting words into a computer is something I do quite frequently. My problem is usually keeping those words relatively concise. This time I sat there, and the thing I'd had in my head for years sat there too.

We stared at each other. Nobody moved.


This is a program that has been in flux for nearly a decade now. The first indication was Jim Herrmann's one-year experiment with the 3-4 in 2004. Like everything in the Late Herrmann period, it worked just enough to make you crazy when it didn't. A year later, Michigan was running a 4-3 again, had a 9-point lead against Ohio State with 7:49 on the clock, and blew it.

Herrmann was given the NFL position coach gold watch, and because any motion towards the future must be paired with an equal and opposite motion towards the past a year later Mike DeBord was re-installed as the offensive coordinator. He completely overhauled the offense, dumping pulling linemen for a zone-stretch running game. Two years later, Rodriguez came in, overhauling everything except David Molk. Three years later, Hoke came in, overhauling everything except David Molk.

All along, the panic grew. Michigan started casting about for anyone they thought could help, whether it was mentally unbalanced defensive linemen or guys with no offers who showed at camp or defensive backs who hadn't ever played a varsity game. Or Mike DeBord. The decisions being made became increasingly unmoored from reality in the late aughts. Something named Appalachian State beat Michigan. At some point Greg Robinson was hired.

Here is a Hieronymus Bosch painting, because nothing else can represent the thought process that ended with that decision.


Chaos descended on Michigan gradually, until a bird-man and spiky monkey and plague dude and bird-hippo-thing murdered it and its magnificent beard. You can assign the various actors their roles based on your preferences, except the plague guy has to be GERG.

This is still a team in flux. Rodriguez got axed just in time for Michigan to complete its transition to spread personnel, echoes of which are still on the team today: a right tackle who was high school hurdler, a #1 receiver standing 5'8", a quarterback who's probably going to jet for 60 yards at some point this year. There are two (two!) upperclass offensive linemen.

This will be the first time since 2003 that anyone at Michigan has entered his third year—let alone fourth—in the same defense, under the same coordinator. Even as the defense settles in, the offense prepares for a drastic change in its nature. The Hoke recruiting classes are just blooding themselves in the two deep; the disastrous 2010 recruiting class looms in holes across the roster.

But for the first time in a long, long time, you can see the trajectory. No one's clamoring for the defensive coordinator's head; no one's looming over the shoulder of the offensive coordinator, ready to pull the plug on anything that looks remotely dangerous. For the next half-dozen years, Michigan is going to be an aggressive 4-3 under defense paired with an offense of titanic humans who will make safeties choose between pounding on the ground and long-range aerial bombardment. The coaches will be the coaches with the exception of a position coach or two who will probably be replaced by a Michigan legend.

On fourth down, they're going.


Deadlines are deadlines, so I wrote the thing eventually. It wasn't what I wanted. It was supposed to have turrets and buttresses and run a 4.1 40. Instead it was… okay. It's not the worst thing I've written. None of that mattered. Time was up. It was done.

In the aftermath a peculiar feeling descended on me. If I spoke German, I would crush together several contradictory words into a multi-syllabic monstrosity that would not quite entirely fail to communicate it. It was over, and that was terrible. It was over, and that was necessary. I wanted to go back, and wanted to go forward.

The thing that was keeping Michigan between states of being had dreadlocks and could outrun a photon. Denard could not do the things Al Borges wanted him to do, and Al Borges could not figure out other things to ask. And yet there he was, so we kept banging that square peg against the round hole. To do otherwise was incomprehensible.

Regrets, I've got 'em. Everyone's got 'em. But there's no going back. Finally, it's in the past. Finally, everyone can focus their efforts on refining what is there instead of throwing it all away and starting over, and then throwing it away next year and starting over again.

This is Michigan, a guy said once. What does that mean? Now we find out.




August 26th, 2013 at 11:13 AM ^

I am so fucking happy that Brady Hoke is our head coach. The future is bright and fluffy and wonderful. No more painful longing reminisces about the good old days. These are the good old days.


August 26th, 2013 at 11:15 AM ^

This team has a chance to do great things and set a foundation for the future. It really feels like they're one year away from greatness but if they start to "get it" midseason they could be destined for great things at the end of this year.

Go Blue.


August 26th, 2013 at 11:27 AM ^

one year away  thing.  What is the OL going to look like next year?  Michigan has the best tackle tandem I can remember this year.  Michigan has an experienced RB, a sort-of experienced QB with promise, and a potential all league receiver, not to mention a TE with a ton of potential.  The defense feels like it will be better.


I see lots of potential question marks for next year.


August 26th, 2013 at 11:39 AM ^

Ty Butterfield, are you this pessimistic about things not related to UM football?  You are right in that this season "could" be a disappointment, but it could also be a huge sucess.  Honest question for you, what makes you so worried about this particular UM team?  Is it the youth and inexperience?  Becuase OSU has almost as much youth and inexperience (especially on defense) but no one seems to question them.  Is it the schedule?  Becuase the way I view the schedule is there are only 2 teams that can field as much talent as UM, and we play both of them at home (ND and OSU).  If people are expecting a 14-0 season that results in a National Championship, then you are right in that "this season could very well be a disappointment".  I see no reason why THIS Michigan team cannot win 10+ games and make a BCS bowl, and in my opinion, that would be a very sucessful season.

Ty Butterfield

August 26th, 2013 at 3:31 PM ^


You are not the first person on the board to call me out as being pessimistic and I doubt you will be last. I understand. As far as areas of the team that concern me: the interior of the O-line and the secondary. Also, with the official depth chart just released it looks like there are a decent number of true freshman that will see playing time. I am sure these are talented kids, and I don't mind seeing one or two freshman contribute. However, there is a difference with a true freshman playing becasue he is too talented to keep off the field or having a true freshman play becasue there are not really any other options. The depth on the team is becoming better but I still think that some freshman who may normally redshirt are being pressed into service. So if the O-line plays very well and the secondary is not a mess things could turn out very well. I will be at the game on Saturday and I am intrigued to see how the offense runs now that Gardner has had a full off season to pratice as the starter.


August 26th, 2013 at 11:27 AM ^

Game  WEEK!!!!

[edit]: I guess I should finally read that Denard piece in the HTTV. I've been putting it off, but like Brian said, it's kinda time to move on. Not seeing Denard on the banner = another slap in the face. I do like the new one though. 


August 26th, 2013 at 11:21 AM ^

My favorite week of the season is here.  I am giddy looking forward to the season and all the mgo content this week.  I can't wait to see how the program moves forward.

Another sign the season is upon us?  New banner - I like it.


August 26th, 2013 at 11:21 AM ^


Finally, everyone can focus their efforts on refining what is there instead of throwing it all away and starting over, and then throwing it away next year and starting over again.

Stability. We can finally haz it.


August 26th, 2013 at 11:24 AM ^

"This will be the first time since 2003 that anyone at Michigan has entered his third year—let alone fourth—in the same defense, under the same coordinator."

It took awhile for this to sink in.  That's a pretty damning statement for a program that was known for decades more for its stout defense than anything else.


August 26th, 2013 at 11:25 AM ^

that when I walk into the Stadium, I know M will be in the game to the end and actually expect them to win. The same feeling I always used to have.  I no longer worry about recruiting or coaches or schemes or any of that. It sure beats walking into the stadium knowing M was going to be beaten. For certain, Brady is our new Bo. 


August 26th, 2013 at 12:39 PM ^

to Bo's record. I was referring to Brady's coaching attitude, and  approach, a return to toughness and physicality, defense and M traditions to say nothing of recruiting. You cannot help but believe that all will be well.

Nonetheless, if you want to compare the talent on Bo's first team to that of Brady's; there is none. Off the top of my head Bo had 2 lineman that were All Conference, All American, College and NFL HOF. The entire defensive backfield was nearly the same. Bo had 2 great tailbacks, a 240 pound bruiser at fullback, and an accomplished QB who could throw.

To be fair, just not the same.  Was not what I was trying to say in any event. Brady for the record dismisses any comparison to Bo. So there's that. But it IS still there.


August 26th, 2013 at 12:47 PM ^

Is that it is never a good idea to compare a current coach or player to a past legend, because they can never live up to it. Not that they can't do better, but we always will remember legends successes much more than our legends faults. Lloyd had as successful run as most coaches, but his personality and approach to the game could never compare to Bo's larger than life persona.

I think you are right though to believe that future coaches will have a hard time in the future, because I think they will have to be compared to Hoke, and I think he will be a hard act to follow.


August 26th, 2013 at 11:30 AM ^

Now that's why I come to MGoBlog every day.

Although I don't think Plague Guy is GERG. Somewhere in a Bosch painting there is a grotesque little creature with a trumpet sticking out of its butt rubbing a stuffed beaver in some poor tortured saint's face.

An Angelo's Addict

August 26th, 2013 at 11:30 AM ^

Didn't realize the new banner for a couple minutes, and I like it... but that picture sorta gives me hives that its the PI no-call with Roundtree from the Iowa game. Although I really can't tell who the receiver is


August 26th, 2013 at 12:40 PM ^

That feeling I used to get as a kid on Christmas eve is now the feeling I get around this time each year. Brady is my Santa Claus bringing presents of TD's, and Mattison as his #1 assistant bringing a bag full of sacks! Or is it a sack full of bags....not sure, need mor Footbaaaw!


August 26th, 2013 at 12:43 PM ^

Brian - I understand that you may not be totally satisfied with that piece, but it was really damn good.  I read it on a plane, and immediately had to take off my glasses to wipe my eyes - all the while looking around and praying nobody thought I was crying over a football player.

Hail Denard.


August 26th, 2013 at 12:47 PM ^


Like all great writers I think you are far more critical of your prose than others will ever be.  I think you've accurately, sucinctly and passionately captured what was, is and is yet to be with Michigan football.  Nicely done.

By the way your good stuff (and this is defintely in that category) ALWAYS gives me chills when I read it.  This piece?  7 chills out of 10.


August 26th, 2013 at 12:57 PM ^

That's true, but if our offense sputters against ND and/or the first part of the BIG, there will be large numbers of people here on MGoBlog clamoring for the offensive coordinator's head.


August 26th, 2013 at 1:12 PM ^

As he said, 'The best laid shemes.......oft go awry'

The future is now and this team needs to win. I'm a bit tired of hearing about transition, how the team is almost ready. Hoke has been great at recruiting and has one good season coaching.

This team has talent. It's time to see if Hoke's game management equals his recruiting ability. The last two Ohio coaches had early success following a regime change. I know, I know...I can hear the yelling all the way from Michigan in my quiet home in PA. But it's true.

I love the Wolverines and am ready for the season to start. This will be an excruciatingly long week. So let's get it started, no excuses or talk about the future, and put up a 10 win season. The future is now.

Go Blue!




August 26th, 2013 at 1:12 PM ^

Constructive Criticism?:  Its funny because no matter what anyone writes about Denard it never seems good enough.  And I now realize its because its impossible to write/think about Denard without involving one's own emotions.  That's pretty amazing, when you really think about it.  A teenage-early 20s smiling, althetic kid having such a profound effect on thousands.

If I may try, the only way to summarize Denard is that he is everything that college football fans can ever expect out of a player for their favorite school.  He always seemed to love being part of the program and made people stand a little taller to see what he was going to do when he was on the field.  It felt like we were about to witness a historic play every time we anticipated him touching the ball.  What an amazing person he was and will continue to be, I suspect.  And I fear that we won't see the likes of him for a long, long time.


August 26th, 2013 at 1:16 PM ^

as per usual, my freeze dried brain drifted off to a setting where I heard those words once before.

Star Wars Return of the Jedi.

While travelling in the stolen Imperial transport ship Princess Leia makes a flippant remark about  the "code" and "now we find out" whether it was "worth the price we paid".........

Well, no matter how many people got offed in the proces, the code worked because it turns out that the Imperials rarely update their access codes, and the Death Star blew up spectacularly despite hapless allies, ridiculous odds and thanks to horrible Stormtrooper marksmanship.

What I learned was at the end was that a lot of independent contractors died on the Death Star that day for no reason man.

As for "Now we find out", I really hope now we find out that Al Borges changes the series of codes (plays) and it all works brilliantly.











August 26th, 2013 at 1:17 PM ^

I wouldn't rule the transition to be quite over yet.  One more year.  The catastrophic recruiting/retention on the defensive side of the ball from 2009 and 2010 is probably going to manifest itself for one more year.  Maybe even two, since the terrible recruiting in the trenches in '09 and '10 is going to show with the distinct lack of fifth year seniors on the offensive and defensive line next year.  Maybe transition isn't the right word, but the remnants of the darkness are not completely behind us yet. 


August 26th, 2013 at 2:23 PM ^

I love how Brian captures his thoughts and turns them loose in intelligent, mature, and entertaining prose, with downright hilarious high brow metaphors.  I too REALLy appreciate the stability and vision that Brady et al have positioned the program in, with enough short term success, more than enough long potential, and doing it eminently likeable characters (Michigan Men).

For a glimpse of what I consider the opposite this, watch a replay of ESPN's "Sunday Conversation" from yesterday.  Chris Fowler interviewed Urban Meyer.

Ohio can have him.  If that is what it takes to win... no thanks.