We're five games into a 12-game schedule, so it's not quite midseason, but I need to get some things off my chest about my Michigan Wolverines. I still haven't gotten used to seeing my team lose—it doesn't (read: didn't) happen often—but some things have at least been a little easier to accept.
Here's the breakdown of how I've seen the season so far.
Boy, where to start? I guess I'll begin with the passing game.
It's been a Jekyll and Hyde season for the Michigan passing game, mainly because they started out the season with both Jekyll and Hyde at quarterback—I'll leave it to you to decide which one is which. If there was anything that could help the offense it would have been stability at quarterback.
On paper there were two different guys to choose from: the runner who can't pass, or the passer who can't run. The first couple games it was whoever started, if they began to fail, put the other guy in, change the style of play to suit the QB, and confuse the heck out of everyone on offense—or so it seemed.
Finally Steven Threet began to emerge as the more dominant of the two, and RR decided to name him the "starter." I would love to say I love Threet at QB, but I can't bring myself to do it. My biggest criticisms are the obvious lack of ball skills (more on that later), lack of touch, and inconsistencies.
I really like how Threet has grown to be more comfortable in the pocket, stepping up when he needs to and feeling the pressure around him. He's shown some decent moves for a big tall white boy, but I get a little nervous when he takes hits like he did last week against Illinois.
If Threet can get into a rhythm, realize that he doesn't have to zing every ball he throws, and please please PLEASE protect the ball, he might just be the starter next year as well.
On the running side of the ball, I only have a couple of issues.
I really like Sam McGuffie. He has the potential to be a walking highlight reel. He seems to be the only ball carrier on the team that doesn't make me have to close my eyes and pray every time he gets a touch.
I think he does need to be a little more patient and let the holes develop before he decides to shift into fifth gear. I like his tenacity and speed, but he needs to be a little more patient. His biggest issues, to me, are dictated by powers beyond his control. Again, I'll elaborate later.
The receiving corps is young, inexperienced, and looks confused about 80 percent of the time. These guys need to work on their route running first and foremost. I can't accurately state how many incompletions have been due to bad routes, but I would like to say that at least one-fourth of the bad throws have been to where the receiver was supposed to be.
Mathews and Odoms appear to be the best things to happen to this group. When the balls are thrown to them, they generally come down with it and make good attempts at yards after catch.
The thing this group lacks is the go-to guy. There's no Manningham, Braylon, Avant, whoever to get things done down the field.
Overall, the offense is a roller coaster that seems to have more drops (no pun intended) than it does rises. There are brief flashes of brilliance that give Michigan fans hope to carry on the rest of the season, but those are few and far between.
This is a group of guys that have the ability to carry the team. At the beginning of the year I remember reading an article that said, "The defense is good enough to keep Michigan in most games," and they demonstrated that against Utah, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin especially.
As of Week Four, they were ranked the No. 12 rush defense in the country, and that's what Michigan fans have grown to expect. Unfortunately, Michigan fans have also grown to expect the defense getting picked apart by an athletic QB running the spread option—and so far, they haven't been proved wrong.
To say that Juice Williams embarrassed Michigan in their house would be...well...true. The secondary left gaps that even Nick Sheridan could throw through. The line was able to penetrate a few times and hand Illinois some lost yardage, and Obi Ezeh was all over the field, leading the team with 15 tackles, one for loss.
Unfortunately, all of the "sacks" the defense had were considered tackles for loss officially, saying that Williams was running the ball when it happened. There were times that the linebackers especially were made to look like fools in the backfield though, standing there trying to decide whether or not to go for Williams or the pitch.
If the defensive backs can hold it together and not allow so many big plays down the field, this will be the defense to beat in the second half of the season.
An oft-overlooked aspect of a game is the special teams battle, and for Michigan, it has proven to be one of the biggest game breakers. Notre Dame exploited Michigan's inability to hold on to the ball and earned a couple of free possessions that should have been a Michigan 1st-and-10.
Odoms has looked the best so far this year, and just when I thought we had finally found a guy that can return a ball decently enough, he fumbles and loses the return job. If even just the special teams turnovers were erased from the game, I think there would be a couple of different outcomes this year, namely at South Bend.
The field goal business is a little shaky but hasn't been bad enough to make me worry. The shanks that we've seen thus far could happen to anyone and haven't been often enough to cause me bother.
I would like to see a little bit more distance on kickoffs though. The opposition has been consistently returning the ball from their 10 or farther out.
Zoltan has been doing his thing, which is good by me. The only thing I'd like to see from him is fewer punts, but that's not really his fault.
I don't necessarily agree with the people calling for Rich Rod's head. I think they should have known that this season was going to be bad, and it would have been bad under any head coach we got, even Carr. I also think that it'll be better when he gets his players on the roster.
I would say, however, that he could be doing a better job with the personnel he has. As a for-instance, where oh where is Kevin Grady inside the 10-yard line? Where is Brandon Minor on 3rd-and-2?
Why do you keep running stretch plays across the line when McGuffie is getting smoked in the backfield? Why do you keep running him, a smaller back, up the middle?
Why are you shooting long on 3rd-and-3 or 4 when you haven't yet established the run game—and for that matter, why does it seem like certain drives are pass-only drives and certain drives are rush-only drives? Why do your ball carriers have the inability to move the ball to the outside hand when they are running?
These are questions that I believe need immediate answers. I'm not a football coach, but it just seems like common football sense to me to do (or not do) certain things on the field.
I think the problem isn't that Rich Rod is adamant about running the spread. I think it's that he's adamant about NOT running old-school Michigan ball.
There's a lot of work to be done, but I think it's possible to at least have a .500 season. There are some teams on the schedule that should beat Michigan, but Wisconsin should have beaten Michigan as well.
If people can start hanging onto the ball and the offense can click like it did in the two-and-a-half quarters between the Wisconsin game and the Illinois game, Michigan should be able to contend with anyone on their schedule—and that includes Ohio State.
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