Brady Hoke Responsible for Michigan Identity Crisis on Offense

Phil CallihanContributor IOctober 3, 2013

September 15, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke on the sideline during the game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

When Brady Hoke succeeded Rich Rodriguez as head coach three seasons ago, the Wolverine defense was a disaster. Rodriguez, considered an offensive genius for his revolutionary spread-option offense, was never able to build a competent defense to compete in the Big Ten.

Now, four games into Brady Hoke's third season, the situation is reversed; the defense is solid, but the offense is struggling.

Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges inherited a high-powered offense led by quarterback Denard Robinson. Bolstered by a great defense, the Wolverines had an amazing season capped with a BCS Sugar Bowl victory. 

But since then, the offense has struggled to consistently score points and establish an identity.

Last season, the problem was attributed to Denard Robinson not meshing as more of the new offense was incorporated into the game plan. It seemed that moving Robinson under center limited his production, and he was further hampered by injuries.

But fans believed that the offense would take flight when Borges had a quarterback who could throw the ball with more consistency. And when Devin Gardner was pressed into service late last season, the future appeared bright.

Heading into this season, Hoke teased a return to power football.

The Wolverines would run downhill while imposing their will on opponents.

It's a good plan, but it didn't happen. 

#61 Graham Glasgow
#61 Graham GlasgowRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive line has struggled and failed against Akron and UConn defenders. The victory over Notre Dame that seemed to herald a championship season now appears tarnished as the Irish have dropped out of the national polls.

In a move to jump-start the offense, Brady Hoke has announced a shakeup on the offensive line, with Graham Glasgow replacing center Jack Miller and Chris Bryant entering the lineup at guard.

The bye week is an ideal time to make these changes, but a more important question lingers: What kind of offensive team does Michigan want to be?

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Lloyd Carr of the Michigan Wolverines yells toward his players during their victory over the Florida Gators in the Capital One Bowl at Florida Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2008 in Orlando, Florida. Michigan defeated Flor
Doug Benc/Getty Images

During the Lloyd Carr era, Michigan quarterbacks were game managers tasked with not losing the game, while methodically moving the ball downfield to control the clock. Fans were critical of an approach that seemed to avoid aggressively attacking opponents. It was boring to watch, even if it was successful.

The Rich Rodriguez era delivered plenty of offensive highlights but not enough wins to save his job.

The third year under this offense is a mixed bag of formations with no clear running or passing tendencies. 

Good teams start with a base offense and add wrinkles throughout the season. The Wolverines have tons of wrinkles but no consistency. They neither have the talent up front to run the ball or protect Gardner long enough for the passing game to be effective.

Michigan State has the No.1-ranked defense in the country.
Michigan State has the No.1-ranked defense in the country.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Big Ten season starts against Minnesota. There are some really good defenses ahead of the Wolverines on the schedule. Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa and Ohio State are lot better defensively than Akron and UConn.

Maybe the Wolverines have been playing possum. Maybe the offense will ignite and roll through the schedule.

If the Wolverines don't pull things together offensively, it might be time some to ask some serious questions about why the offense lacks a clear direction.