Michigan Wolverines' End of Season Grades and Awards
Michigan Wolverines 3-9, 2-6 Big Ten
Well, if that wasn't the worst season in Michigan history as some have argued, it certainly was the most depressing.
A lot of records were broken in all the wrong ways, and the Wolverines play was beyond dismal throughout most of the season with the exception of the Minnesota game and the fourth quarter of the Wisconsin game.
Outside of those five quarters of football, Michigan never looked like it could compete in the Mid-American Conference, let alone the Big Ten.
Still, I have to support my team and hand out some grades and awards.
From the very start of the season against Utah, this offense looked like it was going to have trouble moving the ball.
Having two redshirt freshmen to choose from didn't leave Rich Rodriguez a lot of options either. Nick Sheridan, a former walk on, and Steven Threet, a transfer from Georgia Tech, never found a rhythm in RichRod's offense.
That and neither could throw the ball more than five yards downfield.
Threet, an Adrian native, improved each week, but then he got the injury bug and suffered a concussion against Purdue and then again in the loss to Northwestern.
He was obviously the better choice to run the offense over Nick Sheridan and that was apparent in the second half of the Utah game.
Threet has a season ending passing efficiency rating of 105.26, compared to Sheridan's 81.09.
But Sheridan still saw playing time and will be forever remembered for managing the team well enough to hold onto the Little Brown Jug (golf clap).
Now I guess total blame for Michigan's offense ranking 111th in the country averaging just 290.75 yards per game isn't on Threet or Sheridan's shoulders.
Michigan had freshmen wide receivers like Martavious Odoms, Darryl Stonum and tight end Kevin Koger see a lot of playing time. The offensive line was a makeshift unit week to week with John Ferrara converting from defensive tackle. There was enough inexperience on the offensive side of the ball to fill an abstinence camp for virgins.
The one bright spot on offense was the running backs. Brandon Minor was a horse but for reasons unknown he didn't see a lot of carries early in the season. Some say it was injuries others say it was because he wasn't a RichRod guy.
Minor finished the season with 533 yards and 5.2 yards per carry along with nine touchdowns.
Those aren't great numbers but consider that Sam McGuffie got 118 carries compared to 103 for Minor. McGuffie showed some flash early in the season, particularly the Notre Dame game, and gained 486 yards and three touchdowns.
My big knock on McGuffie is that he goes down too often on first contact. Minor just runs people over.
Michael Shaw showed some ability, and I'd love to see more of him and Carlos Brown came back from the dead in the Northwestern game.
Michigan rushed for over 1,700 yards this season and averaged more yards per rush this season than they did last year.
Final Offensive Grade: C-
Offensive MVP: Brandon Minor
This was my biggest disappointment of the season.
Here comes a unit that was a top 25 defense a year ago, returned eight starters and had arguably the best defensive line in Big Ten if not the country.
That and add in a bunch of hype about how Mike Barwis has whipped these guys into shape before the season and you get the 69th ranked defense in the country.
Thanks. Way to show up.
The defensive line was great but it couldn't make up for the linebackers and secondary giving up big play after big play.
There was only so much Terrance Taylor, Will Johnson, Brandon Graham, and Tim Jamison could do. And those guys did a lot. Graham had 10 sacks, 20 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles along with 46 tackles to earn second-team Big Ten.
Unfortunately they had guys like Stevie Brown, Charles Stewart, Brandon Harrison, John Thompson and Obi Ezeh watching their backs.
Ezeh's 98 tackles are impressive but he really needs to step up in his junior season next year to get me off his back. But right now he takes on too many blockers, doesn't hit the gaps and gets run over by Beanie Wells on a yearly basis.
I don't want to discuss the passing defense inefficiencies or Stevie Brown ever again. I just want to drill them out of my memory.
Donovan Warren was solid but I want to see why he got a five star rating out of high school. Right now he just reminds me of Jeremy LaSueur, a solid defensive back who doesn't make many mistakes.
Goodbye Morgan Trent. That's all, just goodbye.
One guy though that fans need to be watching is Jonas Mouton. He really came on strong at the end of the season and will be a force next year. He gives me hope that Michigan's linebacking corps will be alright.
But Michigan got dominated so many times and by bad to mediocre teams. Illinois ran all over the Wolverines, Justin Siller and Purdue embarrassed them then there's Toledo.
A lot could be blamed on the offense for not converting third downs (27.3 percent on third down) and putting the defense on the field too much.
But at some point that argument has to be thrown out, especially when the defense is giving up 500+ yards to a really bad Purdue team.
That and the fact that Michigan ranks 60th in third-down defense. They can complain about the offense not being able to stay on the field but they can't complain about not being able to get off the field on third down.
Final Defensive Grade: D-
Defensive MVP: Brandon Graham
Oh, the ups and downs that special teams provided this season was truly epic. Well the downs anyway.
The only ups I can speak of is Zoltan Mesko's punt fakes and his general ability to hang a ball in the air for 45 minutes.
The bads were many and often.
Martavious Odoms should never, never return punts again, unless that is all he is practicing from today to the beginning of the season.
Why Greg Matthews wasn't back there more often just to have a better chance of possessing the ball is beyond me.
Odoms' fumbles could be called on cue by the end of the season. When he did it against Ohio State I barely flinched. I just knew it was going to happen and accepted it.
K.C. Lopata is on the Philip Brabbs level and he put himself there after missing a chip shot against Toledo.
Lopata ended the season 10-for-15 and missed from less than 30 yards out twice.
Mesko is the lone Michigan player on the All Big Ten first team.
Final Special Teams Grade: C
Special Teams MVP: Zoltan Mesko (obviously)
Rich Rodriguez was dealt a bad hand this season, and I'm not blaming him for the worst season in 129 years of Michigan football.
Everyone likes to argue that he could've adapted and run a pro-style offense but seriously Michigan might of won one or two more games.
The inexperience on offense really killed Michigan this year and RichRod did the best thing he could and that was teach these kids the offense this year to be ready for next year.
Now, the system is in place and the players know what to do and what to expect next season.
Fred Jackson did great as running backs coach and maybe RichRod should've looked into keeping some more of Lloyd Carr's former assistants.
In particular, Ron English.
Scott Schafer has been a disaster thus far and if RichRod was going to bring in a guy he hadn't coached with before why not just keep the guy already there.
Final Coaching Grade: C
Coaching MVP: Fred Jackson
Final Grade and Awards
I can't judge RichRod after one season and be able to justify firing him. It's one year and those out there screaming this are insane.
My big hope is that this season rooted out some bandwagon/ fair-weather Michigan fans.
Was a bad season? Without a doubt. Was it the worst ever? Possibly. Is Michigan as bad as Notre Dame was last year? No.
Michigan will turn around and be back on top of the Big Ten where it belongs.
This season was a massive disappointment but things will only get better and these young guys learned a valuable lesson.
Final Grade for 2008 Season: D
Team MVP: Brandon Graham
Comeback Player: Carlos Brown
Leadership Award: Brandon Minor
Freshman of the Year: Sam McGuffie
Most Improved: Jonas Mouton
Most Likely to be Killed by Barwis: Stevie Brown
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