Weak Links And The Destruction Of Everything

Submitted by Brian on January 20th, 2010 at 3:00 PM

Pro Football Reference has a post up that's the flipside of an equilibrium concept that Chris Brown of Smart Football has pushed a couple times. Brown's idea is that you should pitch your playcalling so that you are gaining the same number of yards whether you pass or run*. If you've got a powerful run offense and a crappy pass offense, "balance" is running enough for your passing game to be an effective freak occurrence. Think Georgia Tech of late.

On defense, though, you aren't given the option of what to run. The equilibrium is forced on you by the opponent, and if you're just terrible at one thing you don't have the option of usually calling the other thing. This is most clear when teams have just terrible rush defenses, like Stanford a few years ago. This is interesting but not directly relevant until this section:

Defenses are like chains: they're only as strong as their weakest links (for the flip side to this argument, see Brian Burke's article that offenses are like chains). Picture an unbelievable run-D teamed with an awful pass defense. That defense isn't going to be very good, as almost every team in the league could pass on them all day long. Flip the script, and nearly every team could control the game with power football against a defense that can't stop the run. On defense, if you have a weakness, almost every opponent can exploit it.

What's this offensive flipside, then? There is math integral to the post that doesn't need to be repeated here, but let me reassure you that there was consideration and multiplication before Burke arrived at this point:

So, in a very simple way, a passing play is like two chains under strain. One chain is the pass protection, and the other is the pass defense. Each link is a player vs. player match-up, and it has its own probability of breaking based on the abilities of the respective players. The first chain to break loses.

Can you imagine a football team with a starting player who is a point-failure in nearly every play? He'd be a lineman who always gets beat by a pass-rusher or a defensive back who always gets beat by a receiver. It would be ugly. …

So far, I’ve left out the most important player. The quarterback has to see open receivers and throw accurately to make big plays. He has maneuver in the pocket, and scramble from pass rushers. The QB is a big wildcard in my chain analogy.

Sweet hot Jesus in a pickle bun.

jordan-kovacs-vs-michigan-state nick-sheridan

While the above-pictured players are fine young men headed for productive lives, they share two traits: they were starters at Michigan and they were underclass walk-ons at the time. Sheridan was honorable mention all-conference in high school.  Kovacs had just rolled in from an open tryout and the defensive coordinator thought he was another anonymous walk-on. And the thing about Kovacs is that I'm not sure he's the guy pictured here if he's got a scholarship. If we cast away notions of who's going to school for free and who isn't, Mike Williams or JT Floyd or Boubacar Cissoko could just as easily been featured in the uncomplimentary photo.

The crotchety variety of Michigan fan—correction, all Michigan fans are crotchety these days: the crotchety and impatient variety of Michigan fan—likes to point to the recruiting classes under Carr as evidence that Rodriguez should be on the first trash barge out of town. What ho, a graph!

2009bargraph_medium

There is also a table in that post in which various teams finish a lot better than you'd expect based on their recruiting rankings because Illinois is five spots lower than they should be and Michigan is eight. Last year they were nine back. The charts strongly support the idea that recruiting rankings matter. This is a strong surface-level case for strapping Rodriguez to a donkey, putting the donkey in a catapult, putting the catapult into a rocket, putting the rocket into another really unbelievably large catapult, and firing the whole mess into the sun.

Anyone who's read this blog since the wheels fell off in the Utah game can probably recite counter-arguments to the whole catapult nesting doll idea in their sleep. Hell, MGoBaseballCorrespondent Formerlyanonymous provides a link to Misopogon's definitive study of Michigan attrition in the very comments of that post. If you were to revise the recruiting rankings by hacking out everyone who is no longer on the team and weighting the remaining players by age, Michigan would plummet.

Your personal agony is reminding you that they wouldn't dip to Indiana's level or explain the terrible in-conference numbers the past two years, and it's correct. Even a hypothetical attrition-and-youth adjusted recruiting ranking probably wouldn't see Michigan dip much farther than the middle of the pack. So Rodriguez should still be strapped to a donkey, catapult, etc, even accounting for the raw hand he's been dealt? Maybe, but Michigan had four to seven reasonable receivers last year. They had a decent backup or two on the offensive line. They went four to five deep at running back. A lot of the reason Michigan would be in the middle can't get on the field without other bits of it coming off.

Meanwhile in the secondary, they had two players who were anywhere near competent. This was because the roster had exactly four scholarship defensive backs who weren't freshmen after Boubacar Cissoko got the boot. Unless every single one of those players was good—and at least two were run of the mill three stars—Michigan was going to be facing down trouble. Since two of the scholarship players were really, really bad, Michigan had the mother of all weak links, and the defense collapsed. The year before Michigan had the mother of all weak links at quarterback, and the offense collapsed.

What pockets of hope still exist in the Michigan fanbase mostly rely on Rodriguez's stellar performance at West Virginia and struggle to understand how a guy who was so brilliant there can be so stupid here. By no measure has Rodriguez met even the modest tasks his supporters retroactively set after it was clear how ugly it was. And it's hard to see the defense improving when its three best players are off to the NFL.

This is the hope: last year's weak link was a disaster and 2008's weak link was a disaster and Rodriguez is bringing in three cornerbacks and three safeties and getting two redshirt freshman at his disposal and there's no spot on the roster that looks as utterly bereft of hope as quarterback in '08 or the secondary in '09. When Tate Forcier came in and played like an average freshman—which is to say not very well at all—the offense went from worst ever to passable.

Football is a game of weak links, and Michigan has had downright vaporous links at position groups the last two years. This is the tenuous hope: that no walk-ons play and no group is a white-hot nuclear Chernobyl. If that comes to pass Michigan will be at least mediocre; if it doesn't then it'll be an offseason of knives.

*(Passing gets a risk adjustment built in because turnovers are more common on passing plays, so you're actually aiming for a point where your YPA is about a yard or so better than your YPC.)

Comments

dnak438

January 20th, 2010 at 3:27 PM ^

...except that defenses CAN force the issue. If you line up showing cover zero, for example, don't you basically force the other team to pass? Alternatively, if you play a dime with a 3-man line, you are basically asking for the run. Most defenses aren't good against the run or against the pass, but have talent distributed in certain places. A team that has an excellent defensive front and a mediocre secondary may still be good against the pass simply because they get pressure on the quarterback with four and drop 7 into coverage. Certain defenses are built to play with a lead but are not so good when playing from behind. I don't think that you can really talk about the defense in isolation; talent distribution is a better way of thinking about it. That being said, I agree with Brian's analysis as it relates to Michigan.

DoubleB

January 20th, 2010 at 3:27 PM ^

Here's my question. For Rodriguez supporters, why is next year THE YEAR? Everyone believes that he needs to win 7 or 8 games to continue coaching here, or at least have the support of most of this fanbase. What has he done in the last 2 years to make you believe he can't win at Michigan and what's going to dramatically change in this 3rd year? The team is still young. He's really just completing his 2nd full recruiting season. The team will still probably be in rebuilding mode.

I guess I'm just surprised that other than a complete collapse, there isn't more support from even his supporters to give him a full 5 years and let him get his entire program fully installed.

mooseman

January 20th, 2010 at 3:58 PM ^

I look for the type of offensive improvement that comes from a qb with a year of experience and hopefully more Molkitude on the line. Defensively, at best we will be more talented but that new talent will be young.

We will start the season with a good UConn team coming off a bowl victory and ND on the road even with a new coach could be a loss. We could start 0 and 2 and have to hear "OMG the season is shot, RR can't coach...".

I want to win now as much as anyone else, but this is a four year project. I truly believe the people who hire and fire feel that it is a four year project as well. All "the sky is falling" stuff only makes it tougher on the coach, the team, recruiting--in a nutshell, tougher to succeed.

We need to be more like a bunch of Fonzies. And what was Fonzie like?

Cool.

Correctamundo.

champswest

January 20th, 2010 at 4:18 PM ^

Based on UM history of not having a quick hook, I fully expect RR to get 4 or more years even in the event of a 6 win or less 2010 season. And I support that. I don't like not having 8+ win seasons, but if you believe that he is likely to get us there in year 4 or 5, why not give him the chance instead of the program having to start all over again?
Also, keep in mind that message boards tend to bring out the negative more than the positive ("I am surprised there isn't more support from his supporters").

Kilgore Trout

January 20th, 2010 at 6:18 PM ^

"if you believe that he is likely to get us there in year 4 or 5, why not give him the chance instead of the program having to start all over again?"

I realize this is kind of my go to point in all of this, but you basically just said that the acceptable goal is to get to 8+ wins in year 4 and 5. My response to that is, we already had that and took it for granted, now we've been awful for two years and we're just trying to get back to the low end of our previous expectations. So what was the point of overhauling the entire system? The only defense for that can be that we really thought (not hindsight, but thought at the time) that allowing the previous regime (under Hoke, English, Loeffler, whoever...) to continue was going to drop our level of accomplishment below the bottom end of what Carr's teams had done.

I thought Rodriguez was a great hire because he could take our program past the Carr level of expectation to a point of playing in and occasionally winning BCS titles, not just getting back to 8-4, 9-3 and playing on New Years Day. Objective, tangible results say he has failed almost completely up to this point.

Basically, what I'm saying is that if you think Rodriguez can get us to a BCS Championship level, say it loud and stand behind it. Don't cop out and say you think he can get us back to 8+ wins and be happy with that. That wasn't the task that was set forth in December of 2007. I personally think that with the resources UM has, any decent coach can get us to 8+ wins when they have their system in place, I just don't think that's what we all were asking for when we soured on Carr and we shouldn't change our expectations. If you think that 8+ wins is the ceiling for Rodriguez, I say give someone else a chance who can go for 10+.

UMaD

January 20th, 2010 at 8:35 PM ^

I don't think anyone is arguing that 8 win seasons are the ultimate objective. If RR sticks around for 10 years and the best we ever see is a bunch of 8 or 9 win season I think everyone will be disappointed. But looking at the short term, 4 or 5 years will mean 1 or 2 seasons of RR fully implementing his system with his guys. If we have not reached 10 wins by then, that doesn't mean RR failed to many of us. If he hasn't reached 10 wins by year 8, 9 and onward, no one will be happy...well, except Buckeye fans. If you expected the RR turnaround was going to happen in one or two years you were wrong and it was probably unfair to expect the same turnaround he acheived at WVU in the same timeframe.

clarkiefromcanada

January 20th, 2010 at 9:27 PM ^

"Carr level of expectation"

Lloyd Carr won a National Championship in 1997; that was the level of expectation that I was having while he was coaching.

"when we soured on Carr"

Isn't that exactly what happened. It's not like he became a bad coach any more than RichRod is a bad coach.

"any decent coach can get us to 8+ wins when they have their resources in place"

One look at the secondary last year tells us that RichRod has not had his "resources in place".

I am supportive of giving RichRod enough time to get his Seniors in place and if he can't win at that point then it is a new regime.

Kilgore Trout

January 20th, 2010 at 10:44 PM ^

I think I agree with your points.

The point I was trying to make with the Carr Level of Expectations was that an 8-4 or 9-3 season were not thought of as successful. So if we have actually lowered our expectations which I inferred from the poster I was replying to, that makes this whole painful makeover seem insanely unnecessary.

Souring on Carr is a tough one. One part of my mind says, "hey, Michigan played in a virtual BCS Championship semi-final in just three years ago." The other part of my mind hated sitting in the Rose Bowl in '07 watching UM continue to run up the middle, wasting a good defensive effort and made my mouth yell, "Get the eff out of here Lloyd" as the App State guy was streaking for the end zone after the blocked field goal.

I also agree that Rodriguez doesn't have his whole system / resources in place at this point. BUT, if 8+ wins is all we're expecting when he does, that just seems stupid to me because we jumped ship on a culture and concept where 8+ wins was the absoulte bottom of the expectation spectrum.

Let it be known that I was pretty solidly fed up with Carr and was very excited about the innovation and everything that Rodriguez had to offer. I was pumped when I saw us go no huddle and Sheridan hit Shaw for a TD on the first drive in '08. I've just been beaten down and shell shocked since then. I keep thinking of Cinderella... "Don't know what you've got, til it's gone."

Durham Blue

January 21st, 2010 at 3:16 AM ^

but I would like to pass final judgment after year 4.

When I see this roster, I see a TON of athleticism and speed. They're being conditioned properly. Unfortunately, they're still young. And young players make mistakes. I think RR is making all the right recruiting moves. The 4- and 5-star blue chippers will come with a couple more wins and bowl appearance. And then we're off to the races. I FIRMLY believe that RR will take Michigan to BCS glory.

Section 1

January 20th, 2010 at 7:54 PM ^

Setting some arbitrary number of wins is ridiculous. It is what they do on sportstalk radio. It is like a form of fantasy callege football. It is the kind of thing that Drew Sharp might write, although it is almost too embarassing even for Drew Sharp.

What has to happen this coming year is that David Brandon has to either get comfortable with the notion that Rich Rodriguez is his football coach, or not. If I were David Brandon, that wouldn't depend on a set number of wins, or even some range of numbers.

What would matter is what I saw; is the program getting better? Are the kids growing, improving, distinguishing themselves? Is the future bright, or not? Is the outward appearance of the program what you want, for purposes of the greater prestige of the University? What do donors think? Does it appear reasonable, that under Rich Rodriguez, Michigan will be securely in the top tier of Big Ten teams?

If it all can be answered in the affirmative, you give Rich Rodriguez a contract extension, next year. But all that could happen with a 5-win team; and it might not happen, even with a 10-win team.

Myself, I am confident that it will happen, and that Rich Rodriguez will be our coach for a long time.

matty blue

January 20th, 2010 at 3:28 PM ^

you can make a similar argument in most other sports, as well. how many baseball playoff spots have been squandered because of lousy relief pitching? or stanley cups because of lousy goaltending?

it's something i've been telling my state buddies - yes, we lost our best defensive players, but our defense may actually improve if we can just put put out the fires (hell, forget 'put out' - let's just go for 'control') in the secondary. a rising tide raises all boats, or some such.

Seth

January 20th, 2010 at 3:31 PM ^

I have a follow-up coming on the answer to your nightmares*

I put it together then realized the 2010 class was likely to change dramatically. And it did already, so this is out of date. But, the thing will still look kind of the same.

Good news:

Overall talent distribution in 2010 will start to resemble basically "A slightly poorer Ohio State," as opposed to 2009's "Ain't nobody home."

The bad news, they're all kids:

The silver lining: They don't have anyone over 21 to buy beer for them.

* The answer to your nightmare is a very long allegory to Titanic. Is est hodie, Michigan Football.

jlvanals

January 20th, 2010 at 3:41 PM ^

These posts are unnecessary at this point. Anyone who believes this is entirely
rr's fault already believes that and anyone who wants to blame ambivalent fate is similarly convinced (despite the seemingly obvious fact that the truth lies somewhere in between). There is no point in rehashing this because if rr does not produce next year he is gone. It really is that
simple, no matter how I or anyone else feels about it. So let's just hope he pulls this out and then, if he doesn't, bid him adieu without asinine malice or bullshit apologistic analysis. A plague on both your houses for allowing this stupid debate go on this long.

jlvanals

January 20th, 2010 at 4:03 PM ^

And obviously I love reading this stuff, but at some point an apologist actually focuses more attention on the person he's apologizing for than that person would otherwise get if the issue was just dropped. Personally, I think this just stirs anti-rr factions up and gives them another reason to spout off mindlessly. We all know that we had walk ons playing last year. We all know the team was young. The idea that football is a team sport (1 weak link in the chain, etc.) is not a particularly unique idea and, as I remember, was beaten into my head by every football coach I ever had. Anyway, Im not trying to be a jerk, I'm just saying that apologizing for rr right now might not be the best move, especially when there is no new information to analyze. This is just a different angle on a topic that has been discussed ad nauseum here and elsewhere and it has been toxic thus far and I expect it to continue in that vein.

blueheron

January 20th, 2010 at 4:59 PM ^

"Anyone who believes this is entirely rr's fault already believes that and anyone who wants to blame ambivalent fate is similarly convinced (despite the seemingly obvious fact that the truth lies somewhere in between). There is no point in rehashing this..."

OK so far...

"... because if rr does not produce next year he is gone. It really is that simple."

?! Do you and Dave Brandon play golf? Do you have access to privileged information, or are you expressing an opinion? If so, you should be more open and honest about that.

---

To your later point: I'm not convinced that Rodriguez will ever get Michigan to the 9- and 10-win years. But, I think he deserves more than three years.

Why bother stating (and pushing) that opinion repeatedly? Because the motley Michigan fan base (Old Blues, Burgundy Blues, fans of Les Miles, fans of Lloyd Carr, inbred Ann Arbor townies) has, unfortunately, lived up to its reputation as a bunch of arrogant whiners. Without any deep thought, they've bought into every dumb idea out there (RR didn't use Threet and Sheridan properly, RR is an immoral hillbilly that scared away Boren, etc.).

Were nature allowed to take its course, the donkey and Rodriguez would already be headed toward the sun. To put that another way, the unreasonable fan base would have installed Brady Hoke or Ron English as the coach. I'm of the *opinion* that this blog and people like Bill Martin (to varying degrees, obviously) are the only responsible parties on this issue.

M-Wolverine

January 20th, 2010 at 8:22 PM ^

But you don't have to golf with anybody to know that if we plop out a 3rd straight losing season, we'll be looking for a new football coach. Because none of the "reasonable people" you mention are being asked to fill expensive luxury boxes. And we can't afford to have a Stadium with declining attendance.

And don't be surprised if this blog isn't leading the charge for his ouster (barring some ridiculous injury happenstance...which never seemed to be an effective excuse for Michigan teams), if the collapse continues. If you want to debate the gray areas of success fine.

What the poster was correctly saying was that if we've reasonably agreed that it's pointless to say "argh, fire Rich Rod" because it's not happening, it's equally pointless to rehash all of the reasons/excuses/happenings that defend Rich Rod, because not only is it equally pointless (and a bit disingenuous), it's not going to have any effect on saving him IF HE CAN'T WIN. I agree with Brian's (old?) view that it's tired, and let the season play out. He wins he stays, he loses he doesn't.

And however reasoned you may think it is, not only are you not changing the opinion of anybody, all these pretty graphs, as accurate as they may be, are having an equally zero influence on the people who make the decisions.

You can't beg to let the talk die and then keep bringing it back up. It's like saying you don't want to hear how (insert political party) is doing a horrible job, but then bring up why (opposing party) is doing a fine job. It's lime trolling your own site. Can't kill it till September, but you don't have to feed it either.

blueheron

January 20th, 2010 at 9:13 PM ^

* I agree that, if they wind up with a losing record next year, there's a good chance he'll be jettisoned. Is that fair? Honestly, I'm still not sure when the (age) make-up of the team is considered. Whatever... I'll accept that I'm crazy to think that. jlvanals wasn't specific, though -- he just said "produce." Out of curiosity, do you have a threshold (wins) above which you'd keep RR?

* Speculation on attendance patterns with a losing team is interesting, but I'm convinced that they wouldn't change materially for at least a few years. Your point about the luxury boxes seems reasonable.

* No -- I won't be surprised if the blog leads the charge. If RR is *clearly* @#$%ing up, I'd expect that.

* I don't agree that it's pointless to refute all the ridiculous charges (e.g. "DUH! RICHROD NOT HAVE FAMILY VALUES! DUH!). What else should I do when some idiot with no critical-thinking skills mouths off in a room full of Michigan followers?

* I'm also not begging for the talk to die.

That's all...

M-Wolverine

January 21st, 2010 at 4:06 PM ^

We may have had different interpretations of "produce". To your points-

I'm of the wait and see crowd. And while I think 7 or 8 wins should be a minimum, there are too many variables to take a hard line on that. Does that include a bowl or not? If he was 6-6, but 3 of the wins were ND, MSU & OSU, would anyone be in a hurry to throw him out (does those 3 wins mean he had to lose to U-Mass or someone?)? Is 8-4 glorious if we lose to the above 3 and PSU? That's why I think anyone setting an arbitrary number and you're out/in is flawed. I can see winning seasons that undercut my hope in him (yay! We won 9...but half the team was arrested...), or bad season that aren't so bad (had a losing record again?? Oh, it was after Tate AND Devin were out for the season with injuries...? And you say our secondary and LB's got a lot better...?).

I think Brian's 50-50 comment today shows the Blog's waning confidence.

True, I see the need for refutation of idiotic posts, when they appear. But Brian's post wasn't really in answer to anything, just piling onto a point. Having said that, you are obviously correct, YOU never said to let it lie till next season. I'm taking Brian's plea from multiple sources and erroneously making it a blanket statement.

UMaD

January 20th, 2010 at 3:44 PM ^

but having just watched Brandon Graham for a season, we can see that, on some plays at least, a difference-maker like that trumps the weakest-link factor. Perhaps in totality we'll be better off with a strengthening of the weak links, but the "you're only as strong as your weakest link" concept is a limited one.

Furthermore, we have no real reason to think the weak link (whether its safety, cornerback, or LB) will be significantly better than last year. Its either the same people coming back for more or more inexperienced ones. We can HOPE they are better, but theres not a lot of evidence to suggest it.

zlionsfan

January 21st, 2010 at 9:42 PM ^

just means that any play that successfully targets the link gets added to that pile of plays that you wish you could unsee.

If you have a single terrible link and a good coordinator, you might end up with a decent offense/defense ... the idea would be that you would do whatever you could to prevent the opponent from focusing on your link. But without a good coordinator, opponents are more likely to find and feast upon said link, and if you have multiple weaknesses, you're pretty much screwed.

If you have both a strong player and a weak player on the same unit, then it becomes interesting, because you have to decide whether to shoot for balance (dropping more players into coverage in the hope that they block the QB's view of receivers long enough for Graham to crush him) or all-or-nothing (bring enough pressure that you bet the QB can't release the ball in 3 seconds).

So now I think I am leaning toward what I think you're saying. The weakest-link theory is a nice starting point, but it's too general to be accurate in all cases.

jamiemac

January 20th, 2010 at 4:08 PM ^

in retrospect, that last 2-3 classes of Lloyd were small in numbers and smaller in terms of return.

The 2007 class, for example, never should have been ranked as high as it was. It seems to carry a high ranking based on the guuru approval of 2 players--Mallet and Warren.

And, as i've said before, we were the worst team in the league in recruting and devleoping recruits from the state of Ohio towards the tailend of Carr's tenure, the most talent rich state in the Big 10 footprint.

markusr2007

January 20th, 2010 at 4:09 PM ^

Ezeh, Fitz and Mouton will be interesting to watch in 2010 with Hopson gone and a new guy coaching them.

I really can't see the secondary showing leaps of improvement next fall, but the DL could be decent even with Graham departing. Martin, DeathRoh, RVBergen and Will Campbell plus dudes like Lalota, etc. could present a pleasantly surprising front four for the Wolverines.

qwatkins

January 20th, 2010 at 4:13 PM ^

Good analysis. The lack of inside linebackers killed us. In the 3-4 they are so important. We won't win for the next 2-3 years unless we get some guys who can play that position.

markusr2007

January 20th, 2010 at 4:23 PM ^

There should be 3 or 4 decent contributors in there somewhere.

Already seen action:

JB Fitzgerald, Junior
Obi Ezeh, RS Senior
Jonas Mouton, RS Senior
Brandon Herron, RS Junior
Kevin Leach, RS Junior

Redshirts and Backups:

Brandin Hawthorne, Sophomore
Kenny Demens, RS Sophomore
Isaiha Bell, RS Freshman
Mike Jones, RS Freshman
Rusheed Fuhra, RS Junior
Paul Gyarmati, RS Sophomore

True Frosh:

Davion Rogers, Freshman
Jake Ryan, Freshman

There's also the DE/OLB types of Antonio Kinard, Kenny Wilkins and Jordan Paskorz joining in 2010.

J.Swift

January 20th, 2010 at 5:39 PM ^

We've won 3 conference games under RR in two years. One of those wins was a fluke (Wisconsin 2008), several 2009 losses were close.

Getting to 7 or 8 wins this year won't mean much if 4 of the wins are against non-conference teams.

The best measure of 2010--and or RR's future--will be to see conference wins jump to 6 or more. Six conference wins would go a long, long way to validating RR to the fan base and the new AD.

funkywolve

January 20th, 2010 at 6:39 PM ^

but just talking about next year, I don't see UM winning going 6-2 in the conference. I think if they could get to .500 in the conference next year (4-4) that would be good, especially considering they've only won 3 conference games the last two years.

8-4 with wins over ND and MSU wouldn't be bad imo. I definitely wouldn't be jumping for joy and pounding my chest, but imo, it would at least show the program seems to moving in the right direction.

redfirelx

January 20th, 2010 at 6:16 PM ^

I take one exception to Brian's post...

"When Tate Forcier came in and played like an average freshman—which is to say not very well at all—the offense went from worst ever to passable."

This seems a bit too harsh to raise expectations for the future. Tate played a lot better than an average freshmen and a lot better than not very well at all. He played great against non-conference teams including a big win vs. ND and IU (ug, big win vs. IU)... and was super human in tying that game vs. MSU. There were also bright spots the rest of the way. IMHO, Tate played like a very talented freshmen... lots of freshmen moments (ug), but lots of reasons to believe that as a year 2 starter things will be improved.

My two cents...

michfan4borw

January 20th, 2010 at 8:07 PM ^

BG(to the Michigan Daily): “(Barwis) knows what it takes to get it done,” Graham said of Barwis’s ability to mold NFL-caliber bodies. “That’s why I really chose to stay here and work out with him. My agent thought it was a great idea, because Mike Barwis is the best. I appreciate everything he does for me.”

PurpleStuff

January 20th, 2010 at 8:20 PM ^

I just wanted to add a thought or two on a subject I think gets overlooked in the decimated roster analysis and that has to do with practice/preparation for games. While I'm not a close follower of RichRod's practice methods, most teams tend to spend the bulk of their prep-time (especially during the season) running the first team against a third/scout team. Presumably, the better guys you play against, the better you will get.

With that in mind, next year's third/scout team on defense will essentially be stocked with the incoming recruiting class. A d-line of Wilkins, Paskorz, Talbott, and Ash sounds a lot more formidable than Watson, Lalota, and a couple of lower level walk-ons. A linebacking corps with Kinard, Furman, Robinson(?), and Ryan looks like a big improvement. And best of all, Tate and the gang will actually get to go up against a real secondary this year with guys like Talbott, Avery, Vinopal, Johnson and possibly a few others, whereas last year's scout team consisted of me, a pair of Brian Cook groupies (not so hot, but great at play recognition), and an old tackling dummy Magnus had lying around his backyard.

On the other side of the ball, it can't hurt to have the first team D face Devin Gardner in practice every week instead of (God love him) Nick Sheridan.

Anyway, just another factor (of many) to explain why I expect this to be a really good football team within the next year or two.