For hundreds of Michigan fans across the country, this year has been nothing short of disastrous. A 2-4 record, including losses to Notre Dame and lowly Toledo have made fans scratch their heads in wonder and curse the wizard known as Rich Rodriguez.
The question is where does the blame truly lie? It's obvious when watching the post-game interviews that Rodriguez is clearly flustered and is struggling as much as his players are.
But remember this. 95 percent of Michigan's players were recruited by Lloyd Carr to run the pro-style offense that has been Ann Arbor's signature since the 80's. Rodriguez needs more Sam McGuffie and Martavious Odoms-type players to run his offense. And you think he misses Pat White this season?
Michigan's defense, laden with NFL caliber talent, has been a huge disappointment. While Scott Schafer may be to blame for some of their problems, many players seem to struggle for no apparent reason. Morgan Trent, Charles Stewart, and Stevie Brown have been dismal in the secondary.
Obi Ezeh has been a stud but Jonas Moutan and John Thompson have been mediocre counterparts in the linebacking corps. The defensive line has been brilliant at times and terribly average at others.
The offense is an another matter entirely. Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan are not equipped to run this offense. The offense line has been moved and switched so often consistency has been extremely difficult to find.
Martavious Odoms has been an excellent vertical threat so far, and Greg Matthews has shown that he can be the go-to guy for the receivers. Toney Clemons, Zion Babb, and freshman stud Daryll Stonum have been, well, bad.
Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown have basically done nothing. Minor is averaging a fumble a game and Brown has been injured too often to see the field. Michael Shaw shown talent at times, but like so many other Wolverine players, fumbles often and seems to be in Rodriguez's doghouse. Only youtube phenomenon Sam McGuffie has proved that he belongs in the spread, and he's a freshman.
Michigan fans have clamored at the losses and asked, "Why not run a pro-style offense?" or "Why are we running a spread that doesn't work?". While running a few more pro-style sets wouldn't be detrimental to team growth, the coaching staff wants every player to become more comfortable and learned with the spread offense. It's not a simple offense.
For wide receivers, it involves more than just simple passing routes, but certain designed runs and screens, and to be blunt, Michigan doesn't have the type of players they need at the receiver position.
The offensive line has always had simple blocking schemes,and now they are pulling and zone-blocking when they have never done so in the past. That, and they lost three NFL caliber linemen to the draft/graduation.
So what does this mean for Michigan fans? Next years recruiting class features two of the countries best dual-threat quarterbacks in Tate Forcier and Shavodrick Beaver. The rest of the class includes four running backs, two wide receivers, one athlete, and those are only the current commitments.
As Rodriguez builds his team to fit his offensive strategies fans will see a drastic improvement in production, points, and ultimately victories. This is the time where Michigan haters will be having their fun, but it will not be for long. Rodriguez is a proven winner, and with one of the premiere schools in the nation as a recruiting base, he will surely do better.
For Michigan fans, now is not a time to give up, but take your licks, and be patient. Success may just be on the horizon, and closer than you think.