Why 2009 Reminds Me of 2005

Submitted by swarwick33 on October 27th, 2009 at 5:23 PM
After the lose to Penn State on Saturday, I had a feeling that I have been through a Michigan season that was very similar to this one before. 

It was not long ago that Michigan went through a season of close wins that left you with lasting memories, and close losses where you were left wondering "what if."  It was not long ago that we were going through a transition on the defensive side of the football that included inconsistent Safety play.  It surely was not too long ago when our best RB was battling injuries all year, and the backs that were used were forced to rush behind an always changing offensive line.  My friends, we have been here before, and it was only four years ago in 2005.

The Parallels

Close Wins and Losses and the Overall Record
In 2005 Michigan had three wins by a FG or less (Penn State, Michigan State, and Iowa.) They also had four regular season (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Notre Dame and Ohio State) and one bowl game lose (Nebraska), none of these by more than 7 points.  It was a VERY frustrating season.  The highlight of all of these being the the last second win against Penn State when Henne found Manningham for the TD to win with only seconds left.  Michigan finished the season 7-5, and it could have easily been anywhere from 5-6 to 10-2 or 11-1

This is paralleled by the two already close wins, and the two excruciating losses this year.  There are surely more close games to come this year, but it will be tough to top the Forcier pass to win the ND game.  When this season finishes we will almost surely be looking at a team with a record anywhere from 7-6 to 9-4, but it could have easily been anywhere from 5-7 to 11-2.

-Note: In 2005 the team was still only playing 11 regular season games so to get to the 12th game you had to make a bowl game. Now, as we all know, we play 12 regular season games and to get a 13th we need a bowl birth.

Injuries in the Backfield
2005 saw the injury to Mike Hart limit him 662 yards on 150 carriers.  This was extremely detrimental to the team as Kelvin Grady, Jerome Jackson, and Max Martin all had over 50 carriers on the year.  In 2006 Hart returned at full health and his impact was felt.

This year we have seen both Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor battle injuries all year.  We have yet to see both of them healthy for the same game.  They are a great combo of size and power (Minor) and speed on the edge (Brown).  Neither of them is Hart, but the combo could be effective if they ever got on the field at the same time.  Next year both will be gone but the depth is there with Michael Shaw ready to pick up the load.

Defensive Transition
2005 was Jim Herrmann's last year as the DC, with the transfer of power then going to Ron English.  English took advantage the next year of a more experienced defense, and Michigan was one of the best defenses in the country.  One of the reasons for this was Jamar Adams solidifying the SS position.  The year prior Adams was locked in a rotation at the position with Englemon, Barringer, and Harrison.  2006 saw him start 12 games, and be completely unleashed by Ron English in both the passing game and as a run stopper.

2009 is Greg Robinson's first with the team, and his safety situation is worse that Herrmann's.  The Williams, Kovacs, Woolfolk combo has not impressed anybody on a consistent basis.  Kovacs was a beast in the State game, but looked really bad against Indiana when forced to contain the option.  Woolfolk has been forced over to CB by the lack of production there, and Williams looks lost at least twice a game.

Offensive Line Injuries
2005 saw a revolving door at RT and at Center.  Jake Long only played 4 games.  The next year Long, Kraus, and Bihl all started 13 games while Alex Mitchell and Rueben Riley started 12 games.  This solidified the line and led them to being one of the best units in recent memory.

This year David Molk's injury was a killer up front.  Moosman has not adjusted well at center, and the line has struggled without Molk's presence.  That being said, there is time for this unit to gel if everyone can stay healthy.

Now you may ask why do I bring this up.  Well, in 2006 Michigan went on to start 11-0.  They had continuity on the offensive line and in the secondary.  They were healthy at the RB position, and were more aggressive on defense because they had the right personnel.  In 2005 the team learned how to PLAY close games, and it helped them in 2006 when they went on the WIN close games.  In my mind I am looking at the rest of this season as a season fro our young players to not only learn the system, but to learn how to play competitive football.  So I am preaching patients and optimism, and provide you with a reason to look beyond the fact that this is not the old Michigan offense, but it is a Michigan season that we have seen before.

Comments

bronxblue

October 27th, 2009 at 5:32 PM ^

Good post. I agree with some of the parallels. The key difference I see between the teams, though, is that in 2006 the defense featured a number of NFL-caliber players at key positions. In 2010, the three best defenders from this year's team will be gone, replaced by players who have yet to emerge. While I share your optimism for next year and beyond, I think that it will hinge more on the maturation of the offense than improvements by the defense. If GERG is able to put out a unit ranking in the top 3rd of the NCAA in total D (currently UM is 72nd, and that includes DSU), then I think next year will see a similar jump in wins like 2005-2006.

gkat90

October 27th, 2009 at 6:31 PM ^

I also like some of the parallels. But, the seniors we will be losing are the ones contributing the most this year - on both sides of the ball!

Offense
RB - Brown
RB - Minor
OL - Ortmann
OL - Moosman
WR - Matthews - seemingly, our most "dependable" hands

Defense
DL - Graham
LB - Stevie Brown - possible, maybe probably
K - Zoltan the Magnificent - is Hagerup going to fill the "Magnificent" role as a frosh?

These are a lot of key contributors. And, I am not sure if we have seen enough of the younger potential replacements to have that warm-fuzzy feeling that 2010 will be another +3 to 4 win-improvement season.

bronxblue

October 27th, 2009 at 8:07 PM ^

I agree about some of the offensive players being big losses, but Brown remains a bundle of infuriating inconsistency, alternately running for 60+ yard TDs and falling down on first contact. Minor has been limited all year with injuries, so I'm not sure how much his loss with be felt on the field because of his limited productivity. Plus, RB is one of the few areas where this team has some depth - Shaw, Vincent Smith, and some of the incoming guys should be better next year, and this offense will always be able to run. Losing Moosman and Schilling will be hard (I'm actually not that high on Ortmann), but this team has a number of decent OL prospects and should be okay. Mathews is a nice possession receiver, but he seems to be marginalized in the offense over the past few games, and his inability to get open against good DBs has limited his impact in this offense. Plus, WR-palooza in this recruiting class will help.

I agree with the defense. Brown should be gone, and Warren will probably leave. And even if he comes back, the secondary is basically the same as it is this year unless Turner is significantly better than Cissoko and/or Wolfolk, which I doubt.

gkat90

October 27th, 2009 at 8:53 PM ^

I agree with you completely on the RB situation. I feel good about the looks the younger guys have received.

But the OL scares me. And that was before I forgot/overlooked the loss of Schilling!! I just remember too many years of:

New OL = crappy season

While we SHOULD be okay....too many times that is not the case with brand new OLs.

With you on the WRs.

Keep our fingers crossed for the D.

Tha Stunna

October 27th, 2009 at 6:32 PM ^

Three best defenders will be gone? Brandon Graham is leaving, but who else is guaranteed to go? Warren doesn't have to leave, and he may stick around due to school loyalty or because he needs to prove that 2008 was a fluke. It's wrong to state that he's leaving as a fact, since you have no proof.

bronxblue

October 27th, 2009 at 7:51 PM ^

Brown is sure to go, and he is one of the top defenders on this team as a hybrid LB. Maybe you move Martin ahead of him. As for Warren, I would be amazed if he came back. He'll likely be a top-15 draft pick, and I don't think he'll see a big reason to come back, especially in light of what happened to Sam Bradford hurting his stock by coming back.

Trust the Process

October 27th, 2009 at 8:53 PM ^

While he may end of leaving after this year, I am curious to see where the 'experts' put Warren in the 2010 draft. I did a quick google search for 2010 mock drafts and the first one I saw did not show Warren in the first three rounds and had BG in the second round. I understand that a lot of underclassmen are leaving early this year, but I don't know if Warren is a 1st round lock, or even 2nd round for that matter. Anyone have any good 2010 draft info that ranks some of these UM players?

bronxblue

October 27th, 2009 at 9:10 PM ^

This site seems to think he'll be a 1-2 round draft pick.

http://www.nfldraftscout.com/ratings/dsprofile.php?pyid=72317&draftyear=2011&genpos=CB.

I just don't think Warren will have a reason to come back. Don't get me wrong - I would love to see him come back for one more year and help the transition. But at this point, I don't think his production in college will go up noticeably, and his raw numbers are good enough to get him drafted. That's the thing I always noticed with CBs - since it is a position that relies so heavily on pure athleticism and just having "it", I'm not sure how he'd get better with another year of college.

Trust the Process

October 28th, 2009 at 12:02 AM ^

Thanks for the link, bronx. I could be wrong, but I think it is projecting him to go in the 1-2 round in the 2011 draft, not 2010. It shows he is the #4 jr. cb at this point. cbssports.com actually gives him the same 2011 ranking as well. Not that it really matters, but I still wonder where exactly he will project for this years draft.

I agree with your logic, especially for the position he plays on the field. I guess the only 'benefit' he may get from staying another year is receiving individual accolades and being a four-year starter.

Maybe I am just searching for a reason for him to stay...we could really use him.

SirJack

October 27th, 2009 at 5:36 PM ^

We never lost a game by 25 points in 2005.

We're still susceptible to being blown out and can barely beat one of the worst teams in the Big Ten. We have a long way to go.

Slinginsam

October 27th, 2009 at 6:50 PM ^

Leon Hall, Alan Branch, Lamar Woodley, Prescot Burgess, David Harris,Shawn Crable, Jamar Adams on D; Jake Long, Mike Hart, Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington, and Chad Henne on O. That's 12 guys going to play on NFL rosters.

I count exactly TWO from the current 22: Graham and Warren(Mesko will go, too). At the moment, the depth of "go-to" players on this squad ain't looking so great. Especially when these two leave for the draft.

Eventually, your analogy may prove correct. I think we are perhaps a year or two away. Maybe some of the young guys will step up.

Tater

October 27th, 2009 at 7:30 PM ^

I hope you are correct. I think we will see a lot of improvement in the offense next year, particularly with depth in the OL and at QB. I also think UM has enough WR's, RB's, and slot guys to more than replace Minor, Brown, and Matthews.

As for the D, you just never know. They will definitely be the difference as to whether or not UM can compete with the elite teams, or just TCB against the bottom-feeders and middle of the pack. Once again, though, I see them improving with experience and growing a year older physically.

What's great about the Big Ten still being a little weak is that UM doesn't really have to quite be elite to get elite results. With a little more improvement, they should be better than everyone on their schecdule except PSU and OSU. ND and MSU are rivalry games, but should be winnable. I'm still not convinced that Iowa will consistently be an elite team.

If they simply stay healthy in 2010, beat who they should, and split with PSU and OSU, that would work out to 11-1. I know things usually don't work out that way, but it is possible. And I agree that, like in 2006, they could go into the Big Game at 11-0.

But I haven't given up on this year yet.

NJWolverine

October 27th, 2009 at 8:21 PM ^

I don't think any comparison is appropriate now because we're in a transition but the PSU game reminded me a lot of the 39-7 Oregon loss. The players had high expectations and were pressing. After that, they settled down. I think we might see a similar trend. Now that S. Brown is not talking Rose anymore, perhaps the players can just play to their capabilities as opposed to trying too hard and having that result in horrible performances.

claire

October 27th, 2009 at 9:52 PM ^

The comparison is a difficult one to make. With that being said, the Penn State loss was difficult because of our great start compounded by our inability to continue with the power running game and short pass plays. This game was no where near the Oregon game. The Oregon game was on the same vein as the Syracuse game in 1998. Penn State had/has a chip when it comes to Ann Arbor and they'll be out for revenge for a long time. Plus Darryl Clark still has headaches from 3 years ago in HV. Exclusive of the first 5 minutes we had a bad game. Accept it, learn from it and get on with it.

M-Wolverine

October 27th, 2009 at 9:53 PM ^

So far, at least, the teams you list that we beat/lost to were good teams. Or at least respectable. Right now we've beat one good team and a bunch of cupcakes, and lost to the good teams. Need a couple more good wins and no bad losses to really match that. Hmmm...but with two more good teams left, it could be done...

tybert

October 27th, 2009 at 11:45 PM ^

Two of the good losses (MSU and Iowa) were on the road in places where we usually get all that we can handle. The PSU game was ugly indeed. We're really beating the teams that we should beat and losing to the ones that are either better than us (Iowa and PSU) or to the ones who live 12 months for one 60 minute game (MSU).

We'll see the next two weeks if we can win, no matter how ugly, and get to 7 wins. If not, this will end as one ugly season. Probably around the same time that the NCAA announces what it found. Yikes!

swarwick33

October 28th, 2009 at 3:16 PM ^

No where in here do I say anything about the losing to MSU, this was strictly an observation on the two season. It has nothing to do with Michigan State.

By the way, taking your cheap shots about the Freep article is fine, but to say that the wins are going to be vacated is completely stupid and a typical Sparty thing to say!

TIMMMAAY

October 28th, 2009 at 7:34 PM ^

Your handle, it really fits you. Goddamn Sparties, you guys are unreal, man. You all spout off at the mouth about anything you can, and don't care if you're wrong, sound fucking weeeetawdid, or wha....

Seriously, like, get a grip, man.

Edit: Fuck, I accidentally upvoted you, and I can't change it now. Not that it matters, but still.

tybert

October 27th, 2009 at 11:49 PM ^

That team had the right schedule (7 home games, with ND, PSU, and OSU at home). Plus the returning B10 champs. I was far more disappointed in 7-5 from that team than I will be if this team ends up 7-5. IMHO, the 2005 was Carr's worst year/performance as coach. Underachieved even though the injuries clearly hurt. Losing Jake Long was like losing Molk. We still had three quality WRs. But the loss of Hart hurt us in the UW and OSU games.

tybert

October 27th, 2009 at 11:17 PM ^

The turnovers are really coming in bunches, that was the case in 1987. We broke in two untested QBs (Michael Taylor and D. Brown). We got blown out at home by ND (similar to the PSU game). Lost close games at ND and Indiana. Lost at home to OSU. Barely beat a weak Illinois team on the road. Mopped up on crappy teams (Long Beach St, a really bad Wisky team, etc.). Finished 7-4 but could have been 9-2 or 10-1. Also, could have lost 1-2 more games and ended 5-6 or 6-5.

We had a great Jamie Morris, who probably helped with at least 1-2 wins. We don't have anyone like him now.

Agreed that the NFL talent is lacking on the 2009 team. But I don't think it's fair to evaluate guys like Roh, Shaw, Odoms, etc. just yet. Too young.

tybert

October 28th, 2009 at 8:45 PM ^

The 1987 MSU game was a school record game. Hard to believe that even with 6 picks we had a chance to win, down only 17-11. Brown's last pick was underthrown but could have been a TD to Greg McMurtry if on the money.

At least Brown had a good finish to the '88 season, with a win at OSU and then a RB win over USC.

tybert

October 27th, 2009 at 11:42 PM ^

Going into the PSU game, I felt pretty good about the progress. 5-2, realistic chance for 8 wins, maybe 9 if we were lucky.

Funny how ONE really crappy performance changes the mood of most of us. That and more NCAA news this week adds to the gloom.

Ok, I've had a few days to dry out from the wet stadium and, after few beers at the Parthenon after the game, reflect back on what happened.

Let me start by saying...PSU is a really, really good FB team. They could beat a lot of teams right now. Think Boise St would beat them? How about Cincy w/o their starting QB? They will finish 11-1 and get an invite to a BCS game. And a GREAT defense, especially with Bowman healthy and Sean Lee back.

As for us, QBs are young and erratic (which we expected before the season), RBs have been pretty good overall (~200 yds at Iowa says something), WRs are very mediocre (except for Odoms who is a playmaker), OL is better than last year but well below what Navarre had. TEs...stone hands, but we haven't had a good TE since Bennie Joppru.

DL is thin, but Graham is playing great. Three guys are Fr or Soph, These guys will get better. LBs, well Ezeh is no David Harris. Brown is OK as long as he doesn't get stuck covering WRs on out routes in the EZ. Secondary...bad but not that bad if we let Warren and Woolfolk press and go with Kovacs as a run stopper. Williams needs to be 20 yds back looking for bombs on every play. We won't get burned on 3rd and 24 again. I'd rather we try bringing in a more athletic LB and use more blitzes and let Ezeh play in running downs only.

Special teams, expect for PR, we have been pretty good.

Overall, knowing what I know now, my HOPE in August of 7-5 with the Champs Bowl may be a reality. Seriously, there were people who thought we'd go 3-9 or 4-8.

The Claw

October 28th, 2009 at 2:43 PM ^

I took a buddy to that game. After PSU scored he wanted to leave. I said, hold on, if Breaston gets it to the 50 on the return, we have a chance. Well Breaston did and the rest is history. I still like that as my favorite UM win I've seen live. A close second was at the shoe in 1997 when Tai Streets go 80 yards for the games only touchdown. Loved seeing that from C Deck! And this year's ND game was pretty special too.

markusr2007

October 28th, 2009 at 3:34 PM ^

That really sucked. Kind of reminded me of Cory Zirbel not being available this year (or last year).

Kolodziej's untimely departure to injury allowed Jake Long to get in and make an impact.

I find it interesting to note that Carr's recruiting class of 2005 was ranked No. 2 in the land behind Tennessee's.

It would be successfully blown apart with injuries, flame outs and transfers in about a year in a half.