Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Daaaaamn Tate

Who knew Tate had a 132.84 QB rating? Not this guy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Give Rich Rod Time

One win in the Big Ten? Does that sound eerily familiar? To many Wolverine fans, this season does not appear to be a great improvement over the last. After a hot start defeating a now-pitiful ND team, and with another squeaker comeback win over 1-win IU, we're since winless against quality opponents. Our defense is one of the worst in the Big Ten, our offense can't seem to get into a rhythm, and for some reason we're bleeding points in the third quarter. The big question I keep on getting is, is this season an improvement over the last?

The answer is a resounding and thunderous YES! Follow up question, should Rich Rod be canned if we look similarly bad next year? The answer is a resounding and thunderous NO!

This season is a vast, vast improvement over the last one. Every game we've lost this year, we have had a shot at winning (save #10-ranked Penn State, where we got completely killed), but have fallen prey to the same issues. Those issues are freshman mistakes from our freshman quarterback, turnovers, penalties and a shallow (opposite of deep, right?) defense that is unable to buttress a sometimes dynamic, but oft inconsistent offense.

These are issues that RR cannot fix in one season. Let's start with the D, shall we? The D is playing poorly for several reasons. One is that we are severely lacking talent at key spots on D. Obi Ezeh our middle linebacker (the QB of the defense), simply isn't good enough. He constantly makes the wrong reads, has terrible instincts, and takes poor drops back into pass coverage. It is no surprise that this former 3-star running back recruit was benched for Kevin Leach (a walk on...) in the Purdue game. A walk on?!?! At MLB?!?! That's gotta say something. Speaking of walk-ons, we're starting another one, Jordan Kovacs, at safety. Kid plays hard and has great fundamentals, but he clearly has a lack of elite athleticism. He's starting because there is nobody else. Brandon Graham is obviously a monster, and will wipe his tears with his signing bonus. So he's an outlier. Don't even get me started on the horror that has been Mike Williams this season.

We do have talent though, the problem is that they are young and inexperienced. Craig Roh is playing phenomenally well for a freshman, and RVB and Mike Martin, who are only sophomores, have shown flashes of talent but are struggling to execute consistently. Big Will Campbell, 5-star freshman stud DL out of Detroit, clearly has a ways to go. These guys are all starting. Sheeeeeeesh. Talk about your bare cupboard! At least D Warren won't be leaving anytime soon, and we've got some help on the way at CB (though our latest 5-star CB to see the field is no longer on the team... whoops!). Always next year, right?

So let's see: lack of talent, lack of depth, loads of inexperience at key positions... ah wait, one more thing. Since our offense is so inconsistent and so prone to those gut wrenching 3 and outs, the defense is forced to be on the field for the entire game. No defense can play well when they're on the field that long. I'm actually amazed at how well our D has been playing after being forced to compensate for our shoddy O.

Also, people calling for GRob's head are completely nuts. The dude is a proven winner at multiple levels, just give him the tools. Besides, do you really want 4 D Coordinators in 4 years? Neither do I.

That's quite a hefty post already. Let me just touch on the offense briefly. It comes down to this: freshman QB's will make freshman mistakes, and that is exactly what is happening with Tate. Holding onto the ball too long is his key issue (as well as ball security, or lack thereof in Tate's case) but he will learn. Best thing about freshmen? They become sophomores. It's frustrating, yes, but you knew this day would come. Molk getting injured was also HUGE, as our O line didn't look like they had it together really with Moosman at center until the Purdue game.

Biggest problems for our O: inconsistent play, lack of execution, and PENALTIES and TURNOVERS. We've improved on all these issues as the season has gone along, but it is clear that our O is young and that they make mistakes. These issues too have their roots in inexperience, and should improve with time.

In summary: Be patient. Give RR time to bring in his players and develop them. This will take more time than we previously thought, but it will come. To put it plainly, winning will silence all the doubters. All RR needs to do is win, and all the boo-birds will fade into the crowd. If he can't get it done in a few years, then we can start talking about canning him. For now, just be patient.

Some Bullets:
-What has taken so long to get Roundtree out on the field? After a spectacular spring game, he disappeared. And people are surprised now that he's making plays. Sheeeeeeesh coaches!! Roundtree > Odoms.
-VINCENT SMITH!!!! (for anybody who hasn't watched a game with me, I have absolutely loved this kid since I saw his high school film)
-I like seeing that RR (or is it GRob?) is rotating some bodies in on D to try a few things. We've seen brief appearances from Kenny Demens and JB Fitzgerald (!!! Big fan of this kid too), and we even saw the journeyman Brandon Smith (#4) play a pretty big role on D in the Wisconsin game. He played well, I thought, for being new to the position just this year.
-I'm glad that Patrick Omameh beat out Dorrenstein. Kid is an absolute beast (and an engineer, to boot!), and we're seeing it on the field. Just wait til RS RG Q Washington sees the field next year, and you will see him DESTROY.
-What happened to Kevin Koger? It looks like he's regressed since the beginning of the season.


Friday, November 13, 2009

The Badgers Will Crush Michigan (Jinx!)

On the road at Camp Randall in mid-November against a bruising top 25 team surely means a beat-down for Big Blue, right?

Well, probably.

And now in Week 11 this team seems to be in full-blown disarray. Coach Rodriguez is planning on rotating more heavily on defense this Saturday (get ready for prime time, JT Floyd) and there are rumors being kicked around that Denard Robinson will get his first start.

The coaches pulled the plug on the Kevin Leach/JB Fitzgerald switcheroo that put starting LB's Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton on the bench against Purdue by the fourth quarter. Now it sounds like all four will be rotating in. For whatever reason none of the LB's seems capable of cementing themselves as THE starter. Leach looks quicker than Ezeh and puts himself into better position but Ezeh is bigger and better at shedding the big uglies that Wisconsin specializes in. Fitzgerald's emergence last week was surprising because I think Mouton has been a good performer this season. On the one hand I credit the coaches for not being complacent and continuing to search for the right combination on defense. On the other hand, did it take until Week 10 to realize our defense needed some kind of change?

Our safety play seems erratic at best. Mike Williams comes up with a nice play every once in a while, but he often seems to be involved in every play that you groan "Who missed that tackle?!" Jordan Kovacs looks like a good find but I think the novelty of a walk-on-turned starter is wearing off and he's being exposed a little bit more in recent weeks. Donovan Warren and Troy Woolfolk often look like the defensive secondary's most sure tacklers but the only backup in the secondary the coaches seem to want to use is Floyd, so if we see him this Saturday, does that mean Woolfolk plays a some safety?

The defensive line is generally a bright spot. Bright in that it looks better than the LB's or secondary. This is the only unit that sees plenty of rotating and it features our two best defensive players, Brandon Graham and Stevie Brown (I'm counting Brown as a D-lineman because he's been too good to lump him in the LB's and secondary). But if Brandon Graham doesn't get pressure on the QB, do you really believe someone else on the line will? I hope during practice this week Greg Robinson focused his young D-line on getting to the quarterback (let's try a few stunts!).

It's distressing that in Week 11 we're still searching answers on defense.

It's distressing that in Week 11 we're also still searching for answers on offense.

I think generally our offense "gets" RichRod's schemes. M scores a lot of points and often puts together scorched-earth drives, moving the ball at will. But in Week 11, who is our "go-to" receiver? Greg Mathews either seems the centerpiece of the passing game or the forgotten man. Martavious Odoms missed the last few weeks with a hurt knee. Junior Hemingway started off hot then missed a chunk of the middle season nursing an injury. Kelvin Grady appears to be off the depth chart. Roy Roundtree has emerged in recent weeks do we want the fate of our passing game in the hands of a redshirt freshman?

Speaking of "go-to" receiver, who do you trust to get us four yards on the ground in a crucial third down? Brandon Minor of course, but he's on an every-other week playing schedule with a chronically gimpy ankle. Is Carlos Brown the man? Sometimes. What about Michael Shaw or Vincent Smith? Despite occassional heavy doses of playing time they still look they're learning on the job. How about QB's Tate Forcier or Denard Robinson? If they hold onto the ball, maybe.

Scary that after so many weeks of play, we have lots of weapons but not any that an opposing defense should fear. Maybe that's partly out of design so other teams can't key on one or two playmakers, or maybe it's that none of our skill players are truly exceptional.

This brings me to the Denard Robinson conundrum. The talk is that he'll play a lot on Saturday, possibly even starting. That sound you hear is Michigan nation saying, "Huh?"

Robinson was a non-factor against Purdue or Illinois and hasn't played well since Delaware State...and even I played well against Delaware State. If he's showing lots of growth in practice, why didn't we see it during the last two games? His feet are still electric, but if the coaches expect him to come in and throw 15 times on Saturday, they should really think about how they've only called 22 passing plays for him the previous 10 weeks. This potential switch seems to be less about rewarding Robinson and more about punishing Forcier.

Why not put them both in the game at the same time?? By my count it's happened twice this season and everyone in the stadium (and a few people just passing by outside) knew the ball would be handed off to Robinson. Let's use our weapons to be creative. A reverse? A double pass? A flea flicker? I just came up with three awesome ideas if I do say so myself.

You'll notice I haven't said anything about Wisconsin yet. That's by design. There is too much about M to discuss. Everything we need to know about Wisconsin came in the first line of this blog: they are playing at home, they are in the top-25 and they are still a big, bruising Wisconsin team.

But maybe, just maybe Michigan will put out a shocking win (at this point, it would be a shocking win) on the road. Or maybe not. Or most certainly not.

Wisconsin 28-Michigan 17...but let's just hope I'm wrong like I've been consistently wrong for the last month.