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The State of Michigan Football
Sunday, 2008 October 26 - 10:38 am
I haven't been keeping up with my football recaps. When Michigan is sitting at 2-6, and looking at the real possibility of ending up 2-10 for the year, it's hard to sit down and write about them week after week.

What's wrong with this team? I think there's plenty of blame to go around. Here are my midterm grades...

Quarterback: D.. The situation is as bad as we'd feared entering the season, maybe worse. Steven Threet is doing the best he can, and he's competing very hard. But in the passing game, he's inaccurate and his passes lack velocity. He locks onto his primary receiver, and fails to see all the defenders. As a result, we see plenty of interceptions. As a runner, he's barely adequate; he understands the scheme, but he's neither fast nor elusive.

Rich Rodriguez may be used to coaching teams with inferior talent, sure. But his schemes rely heavily on having superior talent at least one position, and that's quarterback. With a couple of years of coaching and conditioning, Threet could develop into a dangerous quarterback in this offense. But he's just not there yet.

As for backup Nick Sheridan, well, he's got a lot of work to do too. It's hard to evaluate all his physical abilities because most of his mistakes are mental: when he's on the field, it almost looks like he's in a state of panic. Of course, this isn't entirely his fault, as I'll discuss shortly.

Offensive Line: F. I don't get what it is with these guys. They were a bunch of middling recruits, and there's only one starting returner in the bunch, yes. But doesn't explain why they're getting completely destroyed by the defensive lines that they face, even from teams like Toledo. Is it strength, speed, or technique that they lack? Or all of the above? They're missing assignments in both run-blocking and pass-blocking, and that's led to a lot of pressure on the quarterbacks (and Nick Shedidan's panic).

I'd expected this group to start badly, but I also expected rapid improvement from them from week to week. I haven't seen a lot of improvement on the field yet.

Receivers: C. There's been an obvious drop-off from having lost Manningham and Arrington last year. Michigan lacks a legitimate outside threat; Greg Mathews is solid but doesn't have breakaway speed. And all the other receivers are fast but don't seem to have the ability to get open consistently. And there's been a troubling number of dropped passes.

One bright spot, though: freshman Kevin Koger seems to be developing into a real star. Keep an eye on him as the year progresses.

Running Backs: B. This is one area where the team has some talent. Brandon Minor, now that he's learned to hold on to the football, is strong and fast. Freshman Sam McGuffie is quick and elusive, though he doesn't have the Mike-Hart-like ability to gain yards after contact.

Mike Moundros has been a capable blocking fullback. I just wish the play call wasn't quite so obvious when he's in the lineup; all we've seen from him is the I-formation iso play.

Offensive Coaching: C. This is not the well-disciplined Michigan offense that we're used to. The fumbles and the mental errors aren't simply random; the players haven't been drilled enough. Much of that is because they're young. But it's like Rodriguez made a Charlie-Weis-like mistake: he thought his schemes would be enough to carry the team, when in fact, he needed to focus 80% of his time teaching them fundamentals. But then again, how do you do that when you're also trying to teach a completely new offensive style? I don't know.

Defensive Line: A. This has been the strength of the team. Terrance Taylor, Tim Jamison, and Brandon Graham have made heroic efforts. But when the other team knows that, it's easy to double-team the defensive linemen and take your chances against a suspect secondary.

Linebackers: D. This is a group that's been hurt by poor recruiting over the last couple of years. Obi Ezeh has made some strides, but like the offensive line, this is a pretty rag-tag group. WTF, guys?

One thing a linebacker should be able to do: make a tackle. The linebackers are unable to wrap up, and that turns a two-yard play into a six-yard play.

Also, they don't recognize passing plays and fail to get depth, leading to seam routes and slants being wide open. And when the other team hits a seam route and you sprinkle in a couple of missed tackles, say goodbye: it's a touchdown.

Cornerbacks: C. We'd heard lots of great things about Morgan Trent. Donovan Warren and Boubacar Cissoko were five-star recruits. And sometimes, these guys have looked brilliant. But they also make mental coverage errors, biting on fakes and leaving their receiver when they see the quarterback rolling out. They also rely too much on hand-checking; when they get caught, they get flagged for infuriating pass interference penalties.

Safeties: F. What can you say about these guys? Out of position on coverage. Unable to make tackles. Rodriguez had high praise for Stevie Brown at the start of the year; it's not likely you'll ever hear that again.

Defensive Coaching: C. Some of the blame for poor techniques and mental breakdowns has to lie at the feet of the coaches. But that's not my biggest complaint.

My biggest complaint is the lack of aggression on defense. I know, we get burned on big plays a bunch, and it's hard to call for man coverage when your safeties are almost certain to get smoked. But when we sit in a 3-3-5 zone for much of the game, even in short-yardage situations, we get eaten alive; all the defensive linemen get double-teamed, and the secondary can't support them. Scott Shafer was supposed to bring an aggressive blitz-happy style to this defense. Where has that been?

I don't see that Shafer has been all that different from Ron English or Jim Hermann. I always though defensive coordinators under Carr were unfairly criticized. I'll give Shafer some slack for working with a porous secondary... we'll see what he can do when he's got more talent to work with.

This has been a tough year. Amy suggested I find a new team to root for this year. But I just can't. I'm still a Michigan guy. I'm still proud of my school and my team. I just didn't think that rooting for Michigan would ever be as hard as rooting for the Detroit Lions.

Go blue.
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Posted by Ken in: sports


Comment #1 from Jon (olafandyjon)
2008 Oct 28 - 11:28 am : #
If you switch allegiances, I'm never coming back here again.

Go Blue!!!

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