Monday, October 13, 2008

Michigan Football - Midterm Analysis

Well, so far this blog has been suspiciously silent on the ongoing debacle that is the 2008 Michigan Football program (a couple work trips and the painful reality of the season have gotten in the way). So I guess it's about time we addressed it, as difficult as it might be. I was on record saying the team would win nine games this year, and that prediction is already shot. The ineptitude is astounding. There are a lot of reasons for the poor results:

1. QB
This is the most obvious, as the QB is the most visible player on the field. Threet has been decent at times, and has even shown that he's capable of running the ball on occasions where it's needed. However, he makes bad decisions, is inaccurate throwing the ball, and has shown a propensity for fumbling. At least twice already this season, Threet has fumbled the ball while just cocking his arm to make a throw. His backup and nominal "co-starter" for the first couple games, Nick Sheridan, has shown nothing to make anyone wonder why he was a walk-on. Michigan's pass offense is 102nd in the nation (108th in pass efficiency). Sheesh.

2. Offensive line
The O-line has one returning starter from last year. The blocking has been downright dreadful. They have been unable to open significant holes for the running game, and have not shown any consistency in their pass blocking. Sheesh.

3. Safeties
There have been several big plays that could have been averted if only the safeties had taken a better angle on the play. Both Steve Brown and Charles Stewart have been atrocious at times. Brandon Harrison has been pretty good, but he's had his share of miscues as well.

4. Hold on to the damn ball!
In just six games, the Wolverines have fumbled 20 times already, and lost 11 of those. As a comparison, for the 13-game 2007 season, Michigan fumbled 29 times and lost just 13. Although time of possession is somewhat of a misleading stat overall, it's indicative of turnover impact and offensive ineptitude. Michigan is averaging just 26 minutes of possession this year. Michigan is 114th in the country in turnover margin. Sheesh.

5. Coaching

Okay, I'll admit the coaching has been lacking so far, but I'm gonna revisit this topic later, so don't panic. I place a lot of the blame for the shoddy tackling and the poor blocking on the shoulders of the coaching staff. While I understand that it's a new staff, a new system, yadda yadda yadda, I still expected the talent on the team to be able to adjust to the new schemes with not a whole lot of drop-off. I was wrong. Perhaps the talent level is lower than I thought.

So, at the risk of sounding like a total homer, I'd like to say a few words about what I think are the positives about the season as we hit the season's midpoint.

1. Sam McGuffie
Despite the lack of blocking by the O-line, McGuffie has managed to eke out some good gains on a regular basis. In addition, he's shown that he is capable of being a good receiver out of the backfield. And he does not fumble often, unlike Minor and Grady.

2. Martavious Odoms
When he gets the ball, it feels like he can go all the way. He's lightning quick and has good hands. Unfortunately, too many times the ball is thrown inaccurately or his blockers whiff and he's hung out to dry. He has a chance to be a great one.

3. Zoltan
Okay, I'm reaching here, but Zoltan has been spectacular. The punt team is second in the nation in net punting average. Zoltan is the man.

Here's what I'm hanging my hat on: I have confidence in the system. Despite the shortcomings of this year's team, I don't think the spread offense is to blame. Lot's of teams run the spread, and most of them copied it from RichRod. Did anyone catch the Okla-Texas game last weekend? Oklahoma runs the spread offense, and theirs works because they have a great QB and their linemen can block. I think that once we get a good QB to Ann Arbor (hopefully next year with Forcier and Beaver on the way) and the linemen learn how to block, the offense will start to click.

In this age of instant analysis and feedback and blogs, don't fall into the trap of giving up on the team and the new staff just because of a slow start. I think it's too early to panic and bail out on the system because the players are unable to execute it. I think we have a good coaching staff that needs more time to teach the new offensive and defensive systems to the players. Once they have more experience under their belt, I think the offense will flourish. This year is gonna be painful though. It's already surpassed what I thought the pain level would be for this season. I was not anticipating this. Anyway, as always...

Go Blue!

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