Man was that a roller coaster of a season. Starting 4-0. Finishing 1-7. Awful in the Big Ten. The collapse of the defense. The relative flat-lining of the offense. Just how disappointing was it? According to our fan poll, which closed a few weeks ago on Oct. 29, only two percent of us thought that the Wolverines would finish 5-7.
Forty-seven percent thought we'd finish 7-5 and 25 percent thought we'd finish 8-4. Ugh. The excitement. The disappointment. Goodbye 2009.
The good news is Rich Rodriguez will be back for 2010 (barring some crazy NCAA finding). That's good for team unity, stability, and recruiting. We'll need a great class this year, and we know Rodriguez can recruit (except DTs). It looks like we're well on the way to getting a really good class. We obviously need to continue focusing on defensive players.
Assuming Donovan Warren stays at Michigan, we return the most starters of any school in the Big Ten. 18 out of 22 return. That's huge. But the biggest factor for our success, in my opinion, is how the development of this year's freshmen goes heading into 2010.
Sure, a few guys from the 2010 class will make an impact next Fall, but the biggest impact will be shoring up our 2-3 deep. As Coach has said, we need quality competition at every position. We won't get that unless the frosh develop properly this offseason.
Everyone says the biggest jump occurs between your first and second year. Tate needs to reduce his turnovers and improve ball security. Justin Turner needs to be in a position to compete for a starting corner spot next year. Teric Jones and J.T. Floyd need to be right there. Mike Jones and/or Brandon Hawthorne need to put on some bulk and step up their level of play.
As do Vladimir Emilien and Thomas Gordon. We absolutely must have more quality competition at LB and Safety, our two weakest positions in 2009. Anthony LaLota needs to push for the other DE spot (assuming he's not OL).
Taylor Lewan, Mike Schoefield, and Quinton Washington also have to have great off-seasons, put on the necessary size/muscle, and push for playing time.
The progression of this year's frosh will be the most important factor in my mind heading into 2010. The vast majority of our 18 starters will improve. But without quality competition behind them, the team will have new weaknesses in 2010. We need quality competition and we need it now.
Returning 18 guys is huge, but even more important is making sure that the guys underneath them will be pushing for playing time (and not the kind that occurs by default).