According to Rivals.com, the University of Michigan has the 20th best recruiting class in the nation. This isn’t a big surprise-Michigan has had stellar recruiting classes for a number of years and this year is no exception.
Since coming to Michigan in 2008, head coach Rich Rodriguez has finished with top-10 recruiting classes each of the past two years. This year’s batch of recruits at present includes five four-star recruits including Inkster H.S. quarterback Devin Gardner.
But for all the excitement and new talent that comes with National Signing Day one thing is for sure: this year Michigan must show significant improvement under Rodriguez.
Rodriguez’s struggles at Michigan are well documented. He’s got an 8-16 record in two years and hasn’t led the Wolverines to a bowl berth. His biggest win in two years was against then No. 9 Wisconsin in 2008. This year the expectations are high for Michigan and understandably so. The Michigan faithful is tired of waiting.
For being such a heralded coach, it seems like Rodriguez has only dug an ever-growing hole during his time in Ann Arbor. Alumni seem to be split in their opinion of him. People question his commitment to Michigan and his understanding of its traditions. Not to mention there’s the whole controversy with his practices.
The general consensus seems to be that should Rodriguez fail again this year, he’s out for sure. I think that’s a fair assumption, but the expectations shouldn’t be too unreasonable. Eight to ten wins and a bowl win seem reasonable. Going to a BCS game would be nice, but I don’t see Michigan making that leap yet. But Rodriguez has players that fit his system and he’s had time to implement it.
The time for excuses is over. Rodriguez must prove he can win against quality opponents and show the Michigan faithful that the Wolverines are on the right track. Wins last year against Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, and the blowout of Delaware State were good confidence builders, but once U-M hit the Big Ten schedule, it were done for.
If not for last second heroics against Indiana and Notre Dame, Michigan would’ve been 3-9 again.
The time for real results is now.
Among those eight to ten wins, a couple of rivalry wins would definitely help Rodriguez. Notre Dame will be in its first season under Brian Kelly but you can bet the Fighting Irish won’t be taken lightly. A win against Michigan State is going to be hard to come by but it can be done. And it’s about time Jim Tressel stopped imposing his will on the Wolverines year after year.
Michigan can easily go 3-1 in non conference games and then see what happens in the Big Ten part of their schedule, but they have to beat the weak Big Ten teams and also show that they can hold their own in the conference.
For all the criticism of former head coach Lloyd Carr, at least his teams were consistent. His recruiting classes were always highly ranked, his teams usually beat the teams they were supposed to beat and they earned bowl berths.
True, Michigan had quite a few disappointments in Carr’s final years like the loss to Appalachian State and three straight Rose Bowl losses, but I’d bet there are at least a few Michigan fans who would give anything for Carr to come back, especially with the way things have gone the last two years.
I’ve never bought the argument that Rodriguez struggled his first year because he didn’t have enough talent. Upon Carr’s departure, there was plenty of talent (assuming players stayed), but Rodriguez was adamant about installing the spread offense immediately instead of maybe transitioning slowly from pro-style offense into the spread and many players left as a result.
Rodriguez could’ve had Ryan Mallett at quarterback, who last I checked was doing a heck of a job at Arkansas, though I think Mallett made a good move by transferring. Adrian Arrington and Mario Manningham would’ve provided depth at wide receiver and I’m sure someone (perhaps Sam McGuffie) would have filled the void at running back left by Mike Hart.
There were also some key departures on the offensive line, but Michigan has continually produced linemen and it’s certain that new players would have eventually stepped up.
If Rodriguez is fired, I’ll be interested to see who Michigan tries to court. As much as Michigan holds to the idea of Michigan men coaching Michigan, I don’t know how lucky they’ll be. Michigan’s courtship of Les Miles a few years ago seemed ill-fated from the beginning.
Miles was headed to the national title game and really had no reason to leave LSU. The chances could be more favorable this time with Miles’ teams having rough seasons the past few years, but who knows? New Michigan AD David Brandon might have his own ideas on who he wants to coach Michigan.
Another name tossed around is Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. As an alumnus who’s been openly critical of Michigan, I don’t know what sort of relationship he has with the school and how seriously he would be considered.
Rodriguez has the pedigree and talks constantly of how his team is moving in the right direction.
Now we’ll see if he can deliver.