Warning: Not for the faint of logic. Rich Rodriguez has had a colorful tenure at Michigan thus far, and there is no reason to believe that it won't become even more colorful and eventful in the years and seasons to come. In fact, the only thing I'm more certain of than the East Lansing Free Press and their lap dogs Rosenberg and Sharp will continue to hunt for ways to get Rich Rodriguez fired, is that they won't succeed.
It's no secret that Denard Robinson has stepped it up this offseason. In fact, one need look no further than his spring game performance. In fact, I don't think it is a stretch to call him our most complete and well-rounded QB.
Tate "QB Force" Forcier was usually a reliable quarterback in 2009; he was able to pass when he wanted to and run when he needed to, but his biggest asset, by far, was his ability to create. Forcier however, suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder mid-last season, which effected his play, and has spent a good portion of this spring on crutches. However, his grit and tenacity to go out and play in the spring game regardless, is exactly what he brings to the table every game.
Devin Gardner has generated quite a bit of buzz. He is a phenomenal athlete who has gathered comparisons to Vince Young, Darryl Clarke, and Terrelle Pryor, more the latter than anyone else. Gardner is not quite as fast or big as Terrelle Pryor, but he is undoubtedly a better passer. The best plan with him is to keep him active in the QB competition until late August before redshirting him to save a precious year of eligibility.
Denard Robinson - Spring Game Highlights
For the first time in the Rich Rodriguez era, Michigan has a returning defensive coordinator. And of the last three, he is certainly the most qualified. Considering that the last two were Ron English and Scott Schafer, that may not be saying a whole lot; however, Greg Robinson has one of the best resumes I've seen in a college coordinator. After all, there aren't too many college defensive coordinators with two Super Bowl rings.
Rich Rodriguez has a history of improving around his third year at a program. At Glenville State, he took the pioneers from 1-7 his first year to 10-3 and NAIA National runners-up in 1993. He struck a chord early at West Virginia, improving in just one year. And there's absolutely no reason to believe he can't do it again at Michigan, especially with the talent he has there already.
Michigan Football returns with one of the deepest corps of receivers it's had in years. Last year Roy Roundtree stole the show late in the season with 32 receptions for 434 yards. Yet throughout the season, Michigan saw production from receivers Darryl Stonum, Junior Hemmingway, Martavious Odoms, and young guys like J'Ron Stokes, Richardo Miller, Jerald Robinson, and many more. Each is capable of earning a starting position on most teams. Michigan's wide receiver depth is tremendously talented, and better, yet...they're young.
Rich Rodriguez's spread, while it does focus primarily on the running game, is adaptable. Rodriguez and company even met with Bob Stoops at Oklahoma to learn more about implementing the passing game into this version of the spread, which runs about 70% of the time. Although Rich Rodriguez has adapted his offense before, namely while offensive coordinator at Tulane where the Green Wave threw the ball around 46% of the time. Given the depth of the receiving corps and the adaptability of Rodriguez's spread offense, he's opened things up to both the run and the pass.
Thus far, no one running back has stepped up, yet that is not to say that they aren't playing well. Mike Shaw, Mike Cox, and Fitzgerald Toussaint are reportedly having excellent springs, as is freshman Stephen Hopkins, who is more of a Brandon Minor, power-type runner.
While I personally would prefer it if one of them stepped up (especially if that one were Toussaint), having two, three, or even four or five (Vincent Smith is still in the mix despite having to miss all of spring ball) running backs will definitely open things up for the passing game as well.
I don't think anyone will separate themselves much until September, and then we'll see more of what we were supposed to see last year with Minor and Brown.
While the 2010 Michigan Football schedule isn't exactly a "walk-in-the-park," it isn't the most difficult schedule in the country. Key games to watch will be UConn, @ Notre Dame, Iowa, @PSU, Wisconsin, and @ OSU. I'd look for Michigan to be a much improved team, especially on offense, and to some extent on defense. Each one of those games is winnable, but we'll see just how many are won.
The offensive line, which is reported to be the strongest point on this team, should be much improved from 2009. David Molk returns, along with key upperclassman Stephen Schilling and redshirt freshman Taylor Lewan.
A few years in Mike Barwis' gym seems to have done everyone plenty of good and has added plenty of good weight onto each lineman.
Yes that's right, I said it: Michigan's defense will be improved in 2010. Before you naysayers start chiming about Michigan losing Graham, which is a huge loss but not insurmountable, let me say this: Michigan returns with greater depth at most defensive positions which will prove invaluable during the season.
Don't get me wrong, this still will not be the Michigan defense we're used to seeing, but they will be better than last year despite losing All-Universe Defensive End Brandon Graham. Unlike last year, this defense should be passable; not good, not great, but passable meaning that with the improvement on offense, they won't dig us into any holes the offense can't get us out of.
Michigan has also added the 3-3-5 scheme to their defense and has simplified their defense as a whole. This should result in a much better defense in practice at least, and we'll see how well that translates onto the field. My guess is that we won't see a whole lot of the 3-3-5, unless its 3rd and long, or they're playing a team with virtually no running attack.
"We've got a chip on our shoulders," Rodriguez said about his 2010 team. "We should have a chip on our shoulders because we've got a lot to prove. I've got a lot to prove, I can assure you I'm all in. I'm completely invested to do all the things you want a coach to do at the University of Michigan. Our players are all in and you are all in -- our fans are all in. And, everybody else who is not all in, the hell with them." (nbcsports.com).
On top of that, this team appears to be pretty underestimated, especially by fans of other Big Ten teams, and there is nothing more dangerous than an underestimated team on the rise.
But it is not just Rich Rod who has this attitude, it's the whole team, as evidenced by the words of Tate Forcier: "This offseason, I'm going to make sure myself and every single person on this team works the hardest we have ever worked. Were going to come back a new team. I'm not going to let this happen again."
Anybody who watched Michigan play Notre Dame can testify to this fact: the term the quietest 100,000 is no longer applicable. With the new concourses added onto Michigan Stadium, The Big House is able to hold sound in much better than it ever has before, mainly due to the fact that they lean inwards. But the stadium renovation also added new seats, so rather than having an official capacity of 106,501 (pre-renovation), The Big House will be able to pack in over 108,000 maize clad football fans.
It is still fairly early for a season prediction, but whatever, ESPN is predicting preseason polls.
Given their production last year, as well as their reported improvement over the course of this offseason, I firmly believe that this team has the capacity to be a thorn in the flesh of teams like Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio St.
After the release of the NCAA's findings on "Practice Gate," Rich Rodriguez should be able to save himself the trouble of typing up a new resume with a 7-5 regular season. I'd say this team has a ceiling of about 9-10 wins, but I see this team going 8-4 (4-4).