Well, what an off season the Michigan football program has had. Rich Rod's first few months on the job have been nothing but full of drama and intrigue.
He has had a nasty dispute with his "beloved" alma mater, started recruiting a gigantic haul for the '09 season, and has chased away numerous players carried over from the Lloyd Carr era, even pushing one to (gasp) Ohio State, and this all before he has stepped on the field.
You cannot say you've had a pretty summer as a Michigan fan so far. The new regime is the talk of the Big Ten town, and most of the time, not in a good way. That being said, there is some light at the end of the tunnel, and quite a bit if I might add.
First, let's start with the negatives heading into the season. The team is decimated, I mean DECIMATED.
They have lost their starting QB, RB, both starting WR's, and at least two starting O-lineman, one being the number one pick in the NFL draft and the other transferring to Ohio State after he believed the famous Michigan family values had eroded overnight when Rodriguez came on board, and that's only on offense.
O, happy day. The defense also lost two starting LB's and both starting safeties. A new system is being implemented, and it's not even close to what the returning players have seen. Rodriguez's spread option is oil to the traditonal Michigan power running game's water.
Ok, now that I've gotten over that last paragraph and stopped crying, what are the positives? Well, more than you think.
First off, recruiting wise, Michigan never has trouble with talent and bringing in new blood, especially on defense this year. The spots that have been vacated will be filled by more-than-able bodies, guys who probably could've started last year for any other team in the nation.
There is also great talent returning to the offense, and other than at quarterback, guys who can fill in spots that the spread option demands, including a deep receiving unit that can fill the slot positions vital to the spread-option like Junior Hemingway and Toney Clemons and fast running backs like Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor.
There is still hope at quarterback, as Rich Rod has adapted his offense to more pass-oriented quarterbacks like Shaun King, who only set the passing efficiency record in 1998 at a 183.3 clip in a pass heavy offense. Recruits Justin Feagin and Sam McGuffie, at QB and RB, respectively, have the potential to fit into Rodriguez's scheme he used with guys like Pat White and Steve Slaton at West Virginia.
Rodriguez has had time to analyze what he has at Michigan, and what he has is talent way above what he had at West Virginia, Tulane, Glenville State, and anywhere else he has coached. All he has done at those places is accumulate a record of 104-62-2, and and a make little known prospect named Pat White into a Heisman contender this year.
Imagine what we can do when he inevitably corrals a blue-chip dual threat QB recruit. He might have already done it for next year with Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver, both four-star recruits and Top 100 prospects.
While this season might be a little bumpy, there is hope on the horizon. Look at what Illinois did to the Big Ten last year using a spread offense with substandard talent compared to traditional Big Ten powers.
The possibilities for Rodriguez's recruiting potential plus the problems Big Ten defenses have with fast players in the spread could equal huge results in the near future, and could rescue the team this year while they are in a period of transition. If it all works out, Rodriguez might just re-shape how the Big Ten works.
It's going to be a fun season, that's for sure.