Over the past couple weeks there have been quite a few articles written on this website about how the Michigan Wolverines next year will be just as bad or improve little at all. Now while I do believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion, these articles were obviously written by someone who doesn't follow the Wolverines regularly and not surprisingly were by fans that despise Michigan—Buckeyes.
Now as the Wolverines pulled off a pitiful 3-9 record this year, marking their worst season ever, their program appears to the naked eye like it is taking a turn for the worst. The future to those who know the program better looks bright.
The 2009 Wolverines are going to improve greatly from their pitiful 2008 campaign, and there are a couple reasons for it.
1. Experience on offense and running the spread.
Michigan's offense was probably the most disappointing aspect of their play this year, as Rodriguez's spread-option offense only averaged 290 ypg this year compared to the 297 rushing ypg his West Virginia offense averaged in 2007. This poor play can be attributed some to growing pains, but also the fact that Michigan had only one returning starter on offense, RT junior Stephen Schilling.
Next year the Wolverines will return eight starters on their offense, including all their wide receivers, running backs, and half of their offensive line. They will also return their two quarterbacks Stephen Threet and Nick Sheridan, although they will have to compete with incoming freshmen Tate Forcier and Shavodrick Beaver for the starting position.
The offense has gotten their growing pains done and should be in full force next year.
2. Rodriguez will now have "his players."
Rodriguez's offense requires a different type of player than the traditional pro-style player Michigan has always recruited. Michigan's number one priority in recruiting this year was to pick up a dual-threat quarterback, and they did just that—in fact, they picked up two.
Late spring Michigan picked up their first QB when Shavodrick Beaver pledged his services. After the first game of the season, Michigan picked up their second QB when Tate Forcier committed to the Maize & Blue. Forcier is a premier dual-threat QB who not only runs a 4.4 40-yard dash but is also ranked as the most accurate QB in his class with a completion percentage of 77 percent in high school.
Rodriguez also got the defenders he needed. Although big, bruising linebackers are the normal stereotype for the Big Ten, Rodriguez, like on offense, requires something different.
For his defense Rodriguez needed small, quick linebackers, and he got that with Brandin Hawthorne and Jordan Barnes. Isaiah Bell is projected as a safety by many recruiting websites but will most likely make the switch to linebacker next year.
3. Defensive problems will be fixed.
Now I will normally be the first one to tell you that when a defense doesn't perform well no one should be singled out, but this year might've totally changed my philosophy on that. The Wolverines have had some safety problems the past couple years, but none could match the horrid play this year.
I came into this year thinking Morgan Trent would be our worst secondary player. I left knowing Stevie Brown and Brandon Harrison were the worst. These two together blew deep coverage continually throughout the season and missed tackles time and time again that resulted in big plays. I will highlight just one.
Our first game against Utah, Michigan scored on their first drive. We followed that up by forcing Utah into a 3rd-and-19. On the third and long, Brian Johnson connected with Jereme Brooks for a 55-yard gain. This play didn't only include blown coverage by Stevie Brown, but also a missed tackle by Brandon Harrison. Utah scored on their next play.
If you would like to see more of these, look no further than last Saturday, where Brown was again blowing coverage and Harrison continued to miss tackles. These plays continued throughout the season and thankfully will be fixed next year.
Brandon Harrison graduates this year and will be replaced by sophomore Brandon Smith, a hard-hitting safety that isn't afraid to tackle. Meanwhile, Brown will be a senior but should be replaced by star freshman Justin Turner, who bears a striking resemblance to Michigan great Charles Woodson, or Vladimir Emilien, a speedy safety from Florida.
Michigan fans can look forward to a more successful season next year. Although we will not contend for a national title, a trip to the Capital One Bowl may be in order.
A word to the Buckeyes writers out there: You keep writing about Buckeye football, and we will keep writing about Michigan.