That's right folks, with winter conditioning underway spring football is right around the corner, which means the season is soon to follow.
After a dismal 3-9 season, Rich Rodriguez and his players will look to right their wrongs from last season and show the rest of the country they are on their way up.
But as they do so there will be many objectives they will need to complete in order to return to glory, or at least, a respectable record.
Michigan Keys to Success- 2009 Edition
1. Establish the Offense- Last year fans watched as the young Wolverines struggled to learn the new spread-option offense Rodriguez and his staff began to install. By the end of the year, the running game was starting to put up massive numbers, and with decent quarterback play, Michigan may have been better.
With Steven Threet, Nick Sheridan, and freshmen Tate Forcier in the mix, the QB position will be yet another battle before the season starts. But Michigan returns 10, that's right, 10 players on offense, including 11 offensive linemen from last years roster.
With an influx of freshmen talent like Fitzgerald Toussaint, Vincent Smith, and others, and the return of Terrence Robinson, Martavious Odoms, and Greg Mathews, the offense will be poised to be much improved. The question is, how much?
2. Find a consistent QB- Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan return after a very up-and-down 2008 campaign, with much of Michigan nation also watching QB-phenom Tate Forcier.
Whoever earns the starting job must be a game manager for the offense. Limit turnovers, run and pass well, and be consistent enough to help the other players on the team. The QB play should be much improved, but we'll have to see.
3. Limit Big Plays on Defense- Poor stats aside, Michigan's defense was most susceptible to the big play. With only five returning starters, the defense will be younger, but the youth will have a chance to step up and prove they are ready to re-establish Michigan as a strong defensive team.
Greg Robinson as defensive coordinator brings a wealth of knowledge and X's and O's and should help teach these players how to tackle well and limit open field opportunities.
4. Improve Special Teams- Michigan fans lamented the days of Steve Breaston, where he caught and fielded every punt and kick, and returned them well.
While a half-dozen players were featured at different times on special teams last season, the coaching staff needs to find solid, reliable returners to help the team out. A good return game will help improve the offenses chances late in the game.
5. Learn to Win, and Finish- With one of the youngest teams in the country, Michigan had chances to win games, and either collapsed, or gave in. There were instances where the team was close, but would lose due to youth, poor execution, etc.
This team does not have Chad Henne or Mario Manningham, so players will have to step up, and leaders on both sides of the football must come forth.
The old coaching adage says "the most improvement is made between years one and two." This will hold true for the Wolverines. The defense should take a step back, but increased turnovers will help put the offense in better position to score.
There will be more experience and playmakers on the field, and Rodriguez and his staff are still learning about the Big Ten and their rivals.
Final Record- 6-6 or 7-5. Bowl Appearance.