It's been a turbulent few months for the Maize and Blue faithful, but this fan has high hopes.
Granted, we have to face an Ohio State team that seems poised to not only make their third straight National Championship game, but to finally win one. We also have to replace senior leaders on offense and defense, and the quarterback position is bad enough to drive fans to drinking.
Enter Rich Rodriguez. Yes, the snake-oil salesman that has taken the Big Ten and turned it against him by "poaching" other school commits. (Note: Jim Tressel would never, ever, EVER do something like that.)
When he first arrived, I, like many other fans, was skeptical. Could he be the guy to turn things around and bring a fresh change to how we gameplan? Could he not only maintain the strong recruiting history but build upon and improve it?
Well, the first question will be answered in the fall, but the second question is resounding "YES!" Generally, most schools' recruiting classes tend to suffer when a coaching change happens. Michigan's did not. Not only did RR manage to hold together the class that Lloyd Carr put together, but he actually built upon it and added to it.
He's also off to a tremendous start for the Class of 2009, netting three top 70 players, although those rankings will likely plummet because that's what happens when guys even show interest in Michigan.
Coach RichRod also has several other top 250 guys on tap and could have a potential Leak/Tebow combo on his hands if he can add QB Tate Forcier with recent commit Kevin Newsome. RichRod also has a few under the radar guys who are looking to be 4* backs in Fitzgerald Toussaint and Tetric (pronounced "Tetris"; yeah this guy is a favorite of mine already) Jones. Speed, speed, speed is what RichRod is all about and it's about time someone at Michigan went that way.
As far as guys quitting the team goes, I say great. Since he's the most famous case of a player leaving under the new regime, I'll go with Justin Boren as my example. Boren cited deteriorating family values as his reason for leaving. However, like fellow lineman Alex Mitchell, Boren couldn't cut it in new S&C coach Mike Barwis' routine. Barwis does not accept butterballs and Boren and Mitchell undoubtedly couldn't cut it. That's fine, just don't bash the program on your way out if you can't cut it.
Back to Barwis; the guy is a machine. Seriously. He makes anyone that follows the program sound like school children. A certain fan would call it "EEEEEEEEE BARWIS!" syndrome. Simply put: he's the man who is going to turn this team into machines for four straight quarters. No more wearing down. This alone has me excited for guys like Tim Jamison and Brandon Graham, who could become the best DE tandem in the nation. Watch out Big Ten linemen.
So while things might not be wonderful at the moment, we're not the same old Michigan. We're on the upswing. Speedy, talented recruits are coming in and out of shape players are being whipped into lean, mean, Barwis machines.
There is always the potential to disappoint and end up 6-6 this coming season, but I think that 9-3 or higher is more likely. Honestly, this reeks of OSU in 2002. We could run the table if other teams aren't careful. But again, 9-3 is the bench mark for this year.
After that, RichRod will have his recruits in the system (watch out honest recruiters of the Big Ten, the snake-oil salesman is coming for your recruits!) and will be able to execute the spread offense more to his liking. Then the fun begins.
So watch out Big Ten. These aren't your grandfather's Wolverines.