2010 Football, Injuries, & freshmen

Submitted by StephenRKass on March 22nd, 2010 at 10:54 AM

I have read a good part of the posts and threads on being dead right and dead wrong on 2010 football. Interesting, and some good points.

I believe we will have a winning season. The experience, seasoning, and continuity with Gerg as the DC will make a difference.

However, there are at least two variable factors that make it impossible to predict whether we have six wins or nine.

First, it is impossible to predict injuries. As we saw with Molk last year, and with the running backs to some degree, critical injuries are especially bad for Michigan, because of our lack of depth. If we largely remain healthy through the season, I believe we will be on the upper end (eight or nine wins.) On the other hand, if we have significant line injuries, if Tate & Denard go down, if our fastest receivers go down, we could be sunk. Of course, our opponents will have to deal with their own injuries, another variable affecting the W-L column.

Second, it is impossible to predict the ability of the incoming freshman class, and even to some degree the red-shirt freshman and early enrollees now going through Spring Practice. We will have a clue after the next month of practice, but only a clue. You just don't know for sure until guys are on the field. For instance, I remember criticism when Mike Hart was recruited and given a scholarship. He definitely proved the naysayers wrong.

If we can survive this year, each subsequent year should improve. The reason is that our depth will improve, and we will be able to bring solid players in off the bench. In fact, even this coming season, if we can make it to at least the half-way point with few injuries, the incoming freshman will be better prepared to step in and contribute. In our secondary last year, the lack of depth was disastrous.

My best guess is 7 or 8 wins. However, if we stay healthy at all the critical positions, if we have a higher success rate among freshman then is typical, if turnovers go down, if one or two of our critical rivals have a devastating injury (or crime spree, etc.) we could go as high as 9 wins, even 10 with miracles. If we have terrible injuries ourself, we could go down to six wins. My hope, even if this happens, is that RR still gets another year. I have felt consistently that 2011 will be the critical year.

After two years with RR, I believe more strongly that the program was not in good health when he arrived. I think it is comparing apples to oranges to compare RR's record at WVa and Tulane to UofM. Because those programs didn't have the high expectations present at Michigan, he was able to make a much larger impact in a shorter amount of time.



March 22nd, 2010 at 11:04 AM ^

Because those programs didn't have the high expectations present at Michigan, he was able to make a much larger impact in a shorter amount of time.

I like this post and agree with most of it, except the quote above. I don't think high expectations have prohibited RR to have a larger impact in a shorter amount of time. That should never be the case, IMO.


March 22nd, 2010 at 11:36 AM ^

Perhaps more competition from rivals makes the fine line between a win and a loss more apparent at Michigan. RR has to take this Michigan program further than he did his others to be dominant in a deep Big Ten. We were a few points away from a successful season last year; at his other stops having a powerhouse defense wasn't as necessary (at least earlier on in his West Virginia career... later on having a great D helped bring the program success on a national level).

Just my opinion. Not necessarily the spoken word but I think this is a valid distinction. He has more performance-based responsibilities at Michigan than he had previously.


March 22nd, 2010 at 11:30 AM ^

I feel more cautious. I see a likely six wins but find it hard to get past eight unless this young team just explodes. Even just five is no shocker from a cold-blooded p.o.v. (Mass., Bowling Green, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois.) A weakened but always dangeroud MSU is my number 6.

If I were Brandon I would privately tell RichRod that with six wins and avoidance of a late-season nosedive he has got his back for another year. But I do fear that six might not do it, and that six it could easily be.

Get back Purdue and maybe Illinois last year and there is far less trepidation, obviously. Wisconsin and OSU are hard sells late this year, but we will desperately need to get a win @ Purdue. A first-game win at CT and I am feeling much better 'bout the whole thing.


March 22nd, 2010 at 1:38 PM ^

what does March spell backwards? Hcram. And what other month starts with H? July when said in Spain, as Julio (pronounced Hulio). And we all know that July is the last month before Fall workouts, and Rich Rodriguez of course is descended from Spaniards. Therefore, it is okay to talk about Michigan Football in March.


March 22nd, 2010 at 12:05 PM ^

I don't see a single game either that this team can not win. Given the D has a DC for the second straight year, they are simplifying things for the younger guys to learn and the older guys to go back to where they left off. The O with all the leadership back from a year ago. This team could possibly shock the CFB world this year and MAYBE even go undefeated. This will all depend on earlier posts about injuries in the program and other injuries from opponents. Either way September can't get here fast enough. LETS GO BLUE

Durham Blue

March 22nd, 2010 at 12:23 PM ^

hit the nail on the head. If our critical injuries are minimal, Tate takes care of the ball and is relatively efficient and the D minimizes big plays and forces turnovers, then the sky is the limit this season.

The litmus test this season is the ND game. Aside from Minnesota in 2008, for two straight years we've looked downright horrible on the road. We'll turn a lot of heads if we look good against ND.


March 22nd, 2010 at 12:39 PM ^

So...in other words...Michigan will have a good season if:

- There are no/few injuries to star players.
- They don't turn the ball over.
- The defense isn't a sieve.

Wow. This is good stuff.


March 22nd, 2010 at 1:05 PM ^

Seriously, isn't it the case that some teams can weather injuries better than others? (this is a real question, given your coaching background.) My point was that we still don't have sufficient depth to survive injuries well. In past years, when we had an injury, well, the drop off to the bench wasn't that severe. Unfortunately, the dropoff is still significant, in my humble epinion.

And your comments on turnovers and the defense not being a sieve are obvious. That's why the focus of my OP was first on injuries (& lack of depth,) and second, on freshman production. My one small comment on turnovers was a throwaway . . . iirc, Brian has referred in the past to the capricious and cruel way turnovers happen, and can throw games with no seeming rhyme or reason.


March 22nd, 2010 at 1:20 PM ^

My comment was aimed more at the above poster, not your OP.

But yes, some teams can weather injuries better than others. Iowa did pretty well despite having an extremely thin running back corps in 2009. Michigan did well back in 2000 when Drew Henson broke his leg and missed the first four games. I do agree that injuries to guys like Woolfolk, Forcier, and Molk could be disastrous for us, considering the lack of depth and experience behind each of them.


March 22nd, 2010 at 8:26 PM ^

Michigan did well back in 2000 when Drew Henson broke his leg and missed the first four games.

Huh? That was far from the case in 2000. We beat two cupcakes (Bowling Green and Rice), then lost to UCLA and fell down by 2 TDs to a crappy Illinois team before Henson came off the bench to save the day. That team was headed for utter disaster if Henson hadn't returned. Navarre, as a redshirt freshman, wasn't remotely ready to start. His numbers against UCLA and Illinois were Sheridanesque.


March 23rd, 2010 at 6:00 AM ^

Well, let's see here...

We went 3-1 with Navarre as the starter. We went 6-2 with Henson back.

Navarre threw 8 touchdowns and 1 interception. Henson's TD to interception ratio was approximately 3.5 to 1.

So...uhhh...yeah, I'd say we weathered the injury pretty well. We also lost to Purdue and Northwestern that year, so it's not like we were national championship caliber in the first place.


March 23rd, 2010 at 8:14 AM ^

OK, you seem not to remember that season very well. We destroyed the two cupcakes and Navarre looked great, throwing seven TDs. Then came UCLA. Navarre went 8-28 passing and we lost despite a great day from Anthony Thomas. Then against Illinois, Navarre started out 4-11 and we fell behind 2 TDs to a team that wouldn't go to a bowl. Thankfully, Henson had recovered and Carr inserted him into the game just before halftime, whereupon we rallied for an exciting (and ref-aided) win. Henson played the rest of the season.

There is no way we would have won the Illinois game with Navarre going the distance. He was awful. And that was one of the weakest Big Ten opponents we faced. In two starts against major-conference competition, Navarre completed 31% of his passes (12-39) and averaged 3.9 YPA (142 yards/39 attempts). He was Sheridanesque in those games. That team would have been headed for disaster if Henson hadn't recovered in time.


March 23rd, 2010 at 8:26 AM ^

That's not the point. The question isn't "Did Navarre play well?"

The other poster and I were discussing whether Michigan weathered the injuries well. In other words, did we win games without starters (in this case Henson) playing?

We won games at EXACTLY the same clip (75%) with Navarre as the starter as we did with Henson. Sure, Navarre had a bad game against UCLA. But he was only 4/11 against Illinois; while that's obviously not good, you have no idea (and neither do I) whether he would have played well in the second half. There are plenty of quarterbacks who start off 4/11 (or similarly) and then get on a hot streak.


March 23rd, 2010 at 1:18 PM ^

It's not tap-dancing.

The discussion is about "weathering injuries." That doesn't mean that the backup makes a seamless transition into the starting role. That means that the team - as a whole - picks up the slack and plays well, anyway.

3-1 with Navarre as starter. 6-2 with Henson. Exact same winning percentage. The point of college football is to win games, and we won at the same rate.


March 24th, 2010 at 8:29 AM ^

Regardless of level of competition, if you tell me that my starting quarterback is injured and I'm going to have to play a redshirt freshman, I'll take a 3-1 record every time.

Can anybody here say that they would expect a 4-0 record every time the starting quarterback went down?

Do you think Michigan would have gone 4-0 in 2009 with Denard Robinson or Nick Sheridan starting? How about in 2008 with Threet or Sheridan (whichever one you count as the backup)? How about 2007 with Mallett starting? How about 2006 with Jason Forcier?


March 24th, 2010 at 9:21 AM ^

You're too smart for this. Nobody said they expect a 4-0 record "every time" the starting qb goes down. Also, although Navarre started the Illinois game and we ended up winning, when he exited we were losing- if the point at issue is how we weathered Henson's injury then what happened in the second half isn't relevant.


March 24th, 2010 at 9:27 AM ^

So they went 2-1 with him playing the entire game. And he goes on record as the "starter" for the Illinois game. There are no "saves" in football. Besides that, if Henson wasn't healthy enough to start, then he wasn't healthy miraculously cured in the second half, either. And if he wasn't healthy, he was injured, right? So Michigan won the game, therefore weathering the injury well: 3-1.

Look, I never said they were great in his absence. I said they "weathered the injury well." You cannot tell me that a 2-1 or 3-1 record is a bad record with a redshirt freshman QB, and since they won 75% of their games regardless of who started the game, well...yeah...there's no other conclusion to reach.


March 24th, 2010 at 9:34 AM ^

The "no saves" comment is just too rich. In baseball you don't get a save if you come into the game when your team losing and guide them to victory- you get a win.

Depending on the supporting cast and who the opposition is a 2-1 record can either be classified as disappointing or commendable.


March 24th, 2010 at 9:38 AM ^

I was trying to make an analogy - albeit imperfect - that there are no stats kept for taking over the QB position partway through the game. When you see a quarterback's record, it's as a "starter" not as some form of reliever.

Also...this is a dumb argument. It's about a definition of the phrase "weathering an injury well." So I'm done with it.


March 22nd, 2010 at 12:03 PM ^

that our downfall was due to injuries in positions where we just didn't have quality depth. I liked this recruiting class a lot because we filled spots...a lot of spots, with kids who will get a lot of experience this year and next. My concern for this team is the defense, and the fact that an injury on defense could spell doom the same way that injuries on offense spelled doom last year. It doesn't help that a not a single defensive recruit enrolled early this year.


March 22nd, 2010 at 3:38 PM ^

ami with you with that one. i have long watched games and wondered all over the country and even in the pros now because several generations seem to have not been taught how to tackle. i remember (i was linebacker in highschool) putting my head down just slightly, as to protect my neck, but keeping my eyes open and moving through the stiff arms to wrap up! no one is 100% on tackling but that method was much better than the occasional huge hit and the more occassional missed tackle because no arms were used just shoulder pads. and why do the feet not keep moving while driving the number through the turf?


March 22nd, 2010 at 12:09 PM ^

I think this is a vital component perhaps understated by the OP. Some turnovers are ghastly and obvious, and are correctable. E.g. - Denard's INT to seal the Iowa game. Easily seen, easy coaching point (hey, try not to just chuck it down the field when d-backs way outnumber receivers), some work on the field and with film, and the problem is less likely to recur. Others are as pivotal, I think, but are more a factor of chance. Tate's "ball slips from my hand directly do a d-lineman" fumble earlier in the Iowa game, for example.

Molk's injury also played a vital role in a couple of turnovers/drive killing losses; injuries to a QB's throwing shoulder are huge, but an injury to the guy getting him the ball in the first place can be just as impactful on the offense.

The bounce of the ball and the whistle of the official may be critical components in the determination of 3 or 4 games this year. Let's all say our prayers every night - it can't hurt.


March 22nd, 2010 at 12:20 PM ^

is one of the reasons why I'm most excited for this team's future. After he threw that one away, he was about to start crying, apparently because all he wanted to do was win for the seniors. I forget which OL came over to him (I think it was Moosman), but the OL just came over and hugged him and patted him on the head. That combination of desire to win and ability to forgive/pick up the freshman after a game-ending miscue is part of the team chemistry that is necessary for a team to be great.