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.
-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.
MEECH HOOPS = HOPE!!