RichRod's debut at Michigan was a loss, but it wasn't all bad
For about 90 percent of the nation's major football schools, opening weekend went off without a hitch. The fans of those few that didn't wasted no time going into full-out panic mode.
Thus, I must put on my therapist's cap and do my part to help our more troubled patients cope with these difficult times. Let's start with our friends in Maize and Blue.
Michigan looked pretty darn bad during the Utah game. Do you think Rich Rodriguez could have made his transition smoother by maintaining the more traditional pro-style offense that was already in place when he arrived for his first year? He could have begun implementing his spread offense more gradually as better talent arrived at Michigan.
Michigan's play this past Saturday was not great, but is there anything you saw that should give Wolverine fans hope for this season? Many of us are willing to be patient (what choice do we have?), but it would be nice to center our delusions on something.
You may find this hard to believe, but Michigan's offense actually fared better than I had anticipated. Seriously. Based on what I saw there in the spring and from some of Rich Rodriguez's quotes in the preseason, I was fully prepared for a repeat of Notre Dame's complete ineptitude in last year's opener against Georgia Tech. That Michigan's offense scored three touchdowns in its first game puts the Wolverines eons ahead of my expectations. (Their defense is another story.)
As for Johnny's question, asking Rodriguez to go with a pro-style offense would be like asking me to become an art critic: Neither of us has any experience at it. He's been running the spread nearly his entire coaching career, dating to the early 1990s at Glenville State.
Besides, I'm not sure schemes would make much of a difference considering the lack of talent on hand. Rodriguez is dealing with a pair of quarterbacks -- neither of whom is ready to start in the Big Ten -- a gutted offensive line and a very average receiving corps. It's possible Ryan Mallet and/or some of those linemen might have stayed if not for the new system, but that would have set Rodriguez behind considerably in terms of his long-term goals. How would he recruit? Don't worry, fellas, we're going to run the offense you like -- in 2010.
Michigan also suffered a recruiting drop-off during Lloyd Carr's latter years due in large part to the uncertainty surrounding his future. Two years ago, nine of the top 10 prospects in the state of Michigan signed elsewhere. Chief among them: Current USC receiver Ronald Johnson, who caught a 49-yard touchdown against Virginia last weekend. Think Michigan couldn't use him right now?
It's no coincidence that the two biggest sources of encouragement I saw Saturday were the Wolverines' freshman running backs, Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw. They showed the kind of speed and elusiveness that leads me to believe they'll be significant contributors once Rodriguez gets the spread cranking. Also, amidst an otherwise uninspiring performance, QB Steven Threet made a big-time throw on his 33-yard touchdown pass to Junior Hemingway. If he starts showing consistency, I'll scratch my original, doomsday prediction for the 2008 Wolverines, whom I had pegged to finish below .500.
Stewart, after watching Virginia Tech blow another win, do you see the beginning of the end for the Hokies, a la Florida State? The parallels: No offensive continuity, questionable play-calling, poor offensive line play, Sean Glennon equals Drew Weatherford and bad special teams play. Meanwhile, Frank Beamer still stands there with the "How did that happen?" look on his face. I swear I'm watching Florida State from about five to six years ago and we know how that is turning out.
Easy there, David. First of all, with all due respect to Virginia Tech, how can you possibly compare the Hokies' recent success -- four straight 10-win seasons and two ACC titles -- with that of a program that once won nine straight conference titles and finished in the top four of the AP poll for 14 straight seasons? The Seminoles had a lot further to fall.
Secondly, while I'm sure losing to East Carolina was not the way you would have liked the season to start, how is it any more galling than last year's annihilation at LSU? That team went on to win 11 games and a conference title. While those kinds of expectations were never realistic for this squad, losing to a respectable mid-major (or even losing at Nebraska in a few weeks) won't necessarily preclude the Hokies from a successful season. If you haven't noticed, there aren't a whole lot of other contenders screaming out as potential threats in Tech's division.
That said, it does appear the Hokies are well on their way to a third straight year of offensive mediocrity. While Sean Glennon is a convenient punching bag, it's not like he has a lot of help at receiver or tailback. Either Frank Beamer and his staff have done a poor job recruiting offensive talent or they're not properly developing it. (It didn't take long for them to lift Tyrod Taylor's redshirt, did it?) Beamer may have some tough decisions to make this coming offseason if Tech bumbles its way to another 100-something ranking in total offense. Coordinator Bryan Stinespring would seem to be the likely fall guy, but he's been a part of Beamer's staff for 16 seasons. That would be an extremely difficult cut to make.