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Michigan Needs Soul Searching, Better Coaching to Get Back to B1G's Elite

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Michigan Needs Soul Searching, Better Coaching to Get Back to B1G's Elite
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Did anyone get the number of the truck that ran over Michigan in its 31-14 loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl? 

If so, please report it to Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon and head coach Brady Hoke, because they sure didn't have a clue on Saturday night. 

That was just a microcosm of the issues the Wolverines faced all season long; and as Michigan goes through assessments and self-evaluations in the offseason, they need to go further and do some serious soul-searching after limping to a 7-6 finish this year. 

That soul-searching needs to start with the coaching staff and continue right down to man No. 125 on the roster, because from top to bottom this team wasn't very good in 2013. 

Michigan Team Stat Rankings
Category Stat Big Ten Rank
Scoring Offense 32.2 5th
Scoring Defense 26.8 8th
Total Offense 373.5 10th
Total Defene 371.5 6th
Rushing Offense 125.7 11th
Rushing Defense 140.2 5th
Passing Offense 247.8 4th
Passing Defense 231.3 7th
Sacks By 25 tie-6th
Sacks Against 36 tie-10th

bigten.org

Surprisingly, Devin Gardner's season may have been the highlight of 2013 for the Wolverines. He finished the year completing 60.3 percent of his passes for 2,960 yards and had 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. 

While Gardner's performances weren't always rock solid, it is a foundation for this team to build off of. 

Up front, well that's a whole different story, and it's where the soul-searching and better coaching need to happen. 

Some of what happened in the run game and with Gardner's struggles can be placed on a young interior of the offensive line, but by season's end Michigan was still tinkering with its lineup and none of the youngsters had really stepped up to the plate. 

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Michigan's run game never got going in 2013 and it ended with a whimper as well, going for just 65 yards in the loss to K-State on Saturday. 

The bad news is that after three weeks of practice, the players felt confident heading into the game and believed they had worked out any issues up front. 

Following the game, running back Derrick Green was at a loss for answers, according to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com

I don't have an answer. ... (Offensive coordinator Al) Borges was calling plays that he felt would be the most productive. And if it wasn't plays for me, then it wasn't (to be). I felt like he had some good play calling.

The good news is the Wolverine players acknowledge what took place and expect more out of themselves, according to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com

"At Michigan, running the ball's a big part of it," Green said. "I hope (we can fix it). Me and De'Veon are going to come back next year real strong and we'll get it done."

As much as it's on the players, it also speaks to the lack of development that took place from Week 1 to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. 

Youth can only be an excuse for so long, and by season's end that excuse doesn't hold water. Either there's improvement or not and in Michigan's case there was none in 2013.

Unless the offensive line and the coaching staff figure some things out in the next eight months, it won't matter what kind of talent is behind them—this team will continue to struggle. 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Ever since Brady Hoke's first year, where the Wolverines won 11 games and the Sugar Bowl, we've heard the talk of how Michigan was back. 

Instead, Michigan have failed to live up to expectations of fans or their preseason rankings for two years in a row. 

Before the 2012 season, Michigan was ranked No. 8 in the country, only to finish the year as the No. 24 team with a modest 8-5 record.

This season was more of the same, as the Wolverines started the year ranked No. 17 in the country and wound up with that 7-6 record and unranked in the latest polls.

With results like that, it's time to ask an important question about just where this Michigan program really is.

Has Michigan become just another program in the Big Ten?

A string of less-than-stellar records would suggest that the Wolverines are in danger of becoming just that, if they weren't already. 

Consider this tough fact for a moment: 

Bo Schembechler version 2.0 isn't likely to walk through the Michigan locker room doors any time soon—he's a once in a lifetime type of a coach, but the recent string of results should have many longing for the days of Lloyd Carr.

You know, the man who was fired because he failed to get to a Rose Bowl for three years in a row and went a horrible 27-11 in his final three years in Ann Arbor. 

Those seem like the good old days considering where the program is right now. Through the first three years of Hoke's regime, the Wolverines have a 26-12 record and haven't sniffed a Big Ten championship.

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If 27-11 wasn't good enough for Lloyd Carr, Hoke and Co. better come up with something better than average next season or it could be trouble for him in Ann Arbor. 

The coaches need to look in the mirror and start figuring out how to get the most out of all the talent coming aboard this program. There's certainly no lack of highly touted recruits coming to Michigan.

After three straight years of top-20 recruiting classes (according to 247sports) its time to see that talent produce on the field and that's where coaching comes in. 

Talent only gets you so far and in big time college football its coaching and putting players in positions to be successful that makes all the difference. 

Michigan's coaching staff would be wise to figure out its identity quickly heading into next season, something it never did in 2013, otherwise 2014 could be another long, painful season in Ann Arbor. 

 

*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.

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