2007 Michigan Wolverines: Light at the End of a Very Dark Tunnel

John StepnickCorrespondent INovember 27, 2007

Icon8-4. Bowl Eligible. Second Place in the conference.

Most schools would be encouraged by results like these, especially after replacing seven defensive starters from the previous season.

But most schools aren't Michigan.

Most schools didn't have realistic national championship aspirations.

And most schools didn't lose the Big Ten to archrival Ohio State.

Everyone that follows college football knows about the Wolverines' disastrous start and disappointing regular-season finish, culminating in their fourth consecutive loss to the Buckeyes. Their tumultuous season was capped off by the expected resignation of head coach Lloyd Carr.

Considering Michigan is most likely going to lose their top five players on offense, as well as another four multiple-year starters from this year's defense, what hope does the future of Michigan football hold for its fans?

For starters, eight wins and a second place conference finish may seem like a dismal year, but it is still more successful than over half the teams in the country.

Second, a bowl berth is no light accomplishment, whether it happens to be the Rose Bowl, or the Capital One or Outback Bowl (Michigan's likely destinations this year).

Speaking of this year's bowl game, the Wolverines will be facing an SEC opponent, most likely Auburn or Florida. Obviously, both the Wolverines and the Gators are very different teams compared to last year, but I would bet money on a "coincidental" Florida–Michigan showdown following the controversy surrounding the final BCS standings a year ago. Just a hunch.

Another overlooked positive from this season is the amount of experience gained by underclassmen such as QB Ryan Mallett, RBs Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown, and defensive players Donovan Warren and Stevie Brown, due to injuries and ineffective play from upperclassmen.

Add in the return of injured former five-star RB Kevin Grady, and the offense has the potential to put up some big numbers next season, while the defense has the pieces in place to shore up the weakest part of their unit.

While he was one of the better coaches for many years, it was evident that Lloyd Carr had simply lost the knack for recruiting, strategizing, and motivating his players. While a significant change at the head coaching position is never easy, it appears to be to Michigan's benefit to move on, and solidify their program for the nextIcon decade or longer.

It is clear the recruiting must get better and the coaching philosophy must adapt to current trends if the Wolverines are to compete with Ohio State and rapidly rising Illinois (thanks to Ron Zook's great recruiting) in the Big Ten—not to mention the speed and finesse game of the national front runners the past couple seasons (Missouri, West Virginia, Florida).

Speaking of WVU, head coach Rich Rodriguez's name has been floated around as a possible successor to LLoyd Carr. I, for one, do not think he would be a good fit (primarily because he is not a great recruiter—with the exception of White, Slaton, and Devine), but if he is interviewed and offered the job, I think his decision will hinge on the return of White and Slaton to Morgantown for their senior years.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher and assistant coaches from the Panthers and Bengals have also been rumored as possibilities, but none of these NFL names have any experience recruiting—a crucial quality the next coach must possess.

Finally, we come to LSU head coach Les Miles. Miles has done a phenomenal job with the Tigers, is a great recruiter, and has ties to the Michigan family. Therefore, he's the perfect fit for the position, right?

The answer is yes—except for the fact that he and Lloyd Carr, who is taking an associate AD position at Michigan, had a falling out when Carr was hired over Miles years ago.

However, if these two men can put their differences behind them for the good of the program, Michigan has the ability to return to national prominence for years to come.