2010 Michigan Preview
Michigan OG Stephen Schilling
Michigan fans, what are you hoping for? Do you want to take a step back to try to take a leap forward with a new head coach next season, or do you want to see Rich Rodriguez to start to produce? It's going to be an interesting year no matter how things shake out. Check out the 2010 CFN Michigan Preview.
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Excerpt taken from the 2011 CFN Michigan Preview: It was a failed experiment that got off to a bad start, never got a chance to gain any legs, and was marred by controversy, bad luck, worse PR, and zero patience whatsoever. The Big House might have expanded to become the largest stadium in the football, but it needed to double its size to meet the expectations for Rich Rodriguez to win and win yesterday, even though his style of play was going to require time. Everyone said the right things about the program needing to rebuild with a bit of a facelift, but no one actually believed that or allowed it to happen. Lloyd Carr suffered from Ohio State turning into a superpower, Rodriguez suffered from trying to turn IBM into Apple, and now it'll be up to Les Miles to get the superpower back on track with about ten minutes worth of grace period.
Head coach: Rich Rodriguez
3rd year: 8-16
10th year overall: 68-42
Off. 25, Def. 27, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best Michigan Players
1. OG Stephen Schilling, Sr.
2. C David Molk, Jr.
3. WR Roy Roundtree, Soph.
4. DE Ryan Van Bergen, Jr.
5. CB Troy Woolfolk, Sr.
6. QB Tate Forcier, Soph.
7. QB Denard Robinson, Soph.
8. FS Jordan Kovacks, Soph.
9. LB Obi Ezeh, Soph.
10. LB Craig Roh, Soph.
Sept. 4 Connecticut
Sept. 11 at Notre Dame
Sept. 18 UMass
Sept. 25 Bowling Green
Oct. 2 at Indiana
Oct. 9 Michigan St
Oct. 16 Iowa
Oct. 23 OPEN DATE
Oct. 30 at Penn State
Nov. 6 Illinois
Nov. 13 at Purdue
Nov. 20 Wisconsin
Nov. 27 at Ohio State
Alright, so RichRod hasn't been canned quite yet, but he's hanging by the slimmest of threads meaning Michigan fans will have to answer a very important question throughout this season.
What do you really want?
Do you want Rodriguez to succeed and take another step forward, so there becomes a reasonable hope that Year Four will bring about the results a program of Michigan's caliber should achieve, or do you deep down want another dud so you can scuttle the ship and start anew taking the proverbial one step back to take a giant leap forward?
What would it take for you to want Rodriguez to continue to be the head coach? Does 7-5 with a bowl game get it done? How about 7-5 with a win over Ohio State? What about 6-6, but with the offense humming on all cylinders over the final month of the year to show that everything has kicked into place?
After just two uninspiring years, Michigan has to prepare for several situations that aren't all that cut and dry with the potential drama leading to a season-long storyline one way or another. Rodriguez is obviously gone with a losing season, and .500 probably doesn't get it done (with a cold start leading to weeks of speculations and millions of words written about his possible replacement). He's back with nine wins or more, and 8-4 will 95% assure a fourth season (with the Ohio State game serving as an X factor in all the possibilities). Unfortunately for Rodriguez, any grey area will probably mean it'll be résumé updating time, and this year's team is full of murky prospects.
There's a ton of experience returning on both sides of the ball, but is there any talent? Michigan has about 20 players who could be on the list of the team's ten best players, but none, with the possible exception of guard Stephen Schilling and center David Molk (if healthy), appear to be certain preseason all-stars. There isn't a sure-thing star of the defense, but there are plenty of decent veterans and promising risers, and there isn't a sure-thing signature playmaker for the offense (at least until the quarterback situation is settled).
Realistically, if Rodriguez was settled and secure in the gig this would be seen as a stepping-stone season with big things expected for 2011. By next year the quarterbacks will be fully developed, the running backs and receivers will all be back, and the secondary is just one of the areas that will be a major strength. The goal for Rodriguez will be to get the chance to coach all the matured talent, but anything less than eight wins won't give him the opportunity.
What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. On the plus side, Denard Robinson upped his game in a big way and might end up being the starter if he can show improved passing efficiency in fall practices. On the down side, there's going to be a year-long controversy no matter who wins the starting job. Tate Forcier was on the list of fringe Heisman candidates early last year, and while he has a certain magical quality, he needs to be consistent. Robinson is too fast to not have on the field in some way, and the dream would be for him to be a Pat White-like playmaker under center. Throw in super-frosh Devin Gardner in the mix, and this could be a mess that kills the team's consistency.
What to watch for on defense: The 3-3-5 alignment. Considering the team's personnel, the change in schemes appears to be a good move. There isn't a sure-thing pass rushing end to count on with Brandon Graham gone, but there are several 3-4 ends and a decent pair of tackles in Mike Martin and William Campbell to work in a rotation. There are several promising safeties, so a five man defensive backfield should allow the coaching staff to get most of the best players on the field at once. This only works if linebackers Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton rebound from shockingly disappointing 2009 campaigns, and it'll be a must for the hybrid positions (even if the stats don't show it), with Craig Roh working as a DE/LB and Thomas Gordon likely working as the S/LB Spur, to put up big numbers.
The team will be far better if … it wins the turnover battle. It's not like being in the plus column would've bailed the Wolverines out over the second half of the season, but for a still emerging team that will feast off of any positive momentum, coming up with takeaways is a must after recovering a mere five fumbles and pick off 11 passes. Michigan forced just 16 turnovers while giving it away 28 times. The season will likely be far different if those numbers can be reversed.
The schedule: A dominant Michigan team would blow through this schedule without much of a problem. This isn't going to be a dominant team and it could struggle mightily with a good Connecticut squad in the opener before dealing with a trip to Notre Dame. UMass, Bowling Green, and at Indiana should assure a decent start if the Wolverines don't blow it against both the Huskies and the Irish. Going on the road to face Penn State and Ohio State should be enough to kill any Big Ten title dreams before they start, but Wisconsin and Iowa have to come to Ann Arbor.
Best offensive player: Senior OG Stephen Schilling. It might not be sexy for the best player to be a left guard, but for a Michigan line that was underwhelming two years ago and spent last year trying to find the right fit, having a talented anchor like Schilling is a big deal. The 6-5, 303-pound veteran was rough as a tackle, found his groove as a guard, and now he's the one the offense will work behind.
Best defensive player: Junior DE Ryan Van Bergen … or senior CB Troy Woolfolk … or sophomore FS Jordan Kovacs … or … ? The Wolverines have several decent players who could quickly make a turn into the star of the show. Van Bergen should be a natural as a 3-4 defensive end, Woolfolk has the tools to be a shut down corner, and Kouvacs will be an all-star if he can cover someone. LB Obi Ezeh was a burgeoning star a few years ago, but he struggled last year, linebacker Craig Roh should be a terror of a pass rusher, and nose tackle William Campbell might be the team's best pro prospect because of his size. Either it means the defense has the potential to be great with so many above-average players, or it could struggle with no obvious Brandon Graham-like stars to count on.
Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Tate Forcier or Denard Robinson. Robinson might end up starting the season when all is said and done after fall practices, but the jury is still out on whether or not he can be consistent enough in all phases to lead the team to wins over the first part of the season. If Forcier can stay healthy and keep the turnovers to a minimum, he's the one who can add more of a passing element to the mix while Robinson would come in here and there to add more flash. In any event, if Devin Gardner is playing, something has likely gone wrong.
The season will be a success if … the Wolverines win eight games and go bowling. Beating Ohio State, or at least coming close, would be a plus, but to take a step forward, and for RichRod to keep his job, eight wins is likely the cutoff point. To do this, going 5-1 in the first six games is a must, beating Illinois and Purdue will likely have to be part of the mix, and there will need to be an upset or two at home against Iowa and/or Wisconsin.
Key game: Sept. 4 vs. Connecticut. Of course the Ohio State game is the biggest one of the bunch, and of course beating Iowa or Wisconsin would be nice and getting by Michigan State would be a huge help, but the first step is to get by a very, very good Connecticut team in the home opener. It's not going to get a whole slew of national attention or respect if the Wolverines win, but it's a game they could easily lose if they're not jelled out of the gate. A loss before the trip to Notre Dame could doom Rodriguez before the season gets rolling.
2009 Fun Stats:
- Michigan First Half Scoring: 229 – Michigan Second Half Scoring: 125
- Fumbles: Michigan 29 (lost 13) – Opponents 14 (lost 5)
- Time of Possession: Opponents 33:35 – Michigan 26:25
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