Friday, July 3, 2009

Spot the Ball and Play Like Your Hair Is On Fiyaaah!

I've already posted several articles on this blog outlining what I consider to be rather striking similarities between Rich Rodriguez's gradual transition at West Virginia, including a new strength and conditioning program and a new offense (spread read option formation from a multiple I formation) compared with how the 2009 football season is shaping up for Rodriguez at Michigan.

I uncovered some very interesting reading in the following 2002 preseason articles for West Virginia fotball (Rodriguez's 2nd year) from the Daily Athenaeum, which is West Virginia University's daily newspaper.

Check out these articles from the 2002 preseason:

Spring football 2002 by Chuck McGill, Sports Editor

Rodriguez impressed with Spring Game Performance by Matt Gatewood, Associate Sports Editor

2002 Gridiron Gear Up by Chuck McGill, Sports Editor

So just what "startling similarities" are there between WVU in 2002 and UM in 2009?

1. Second Year of RichRod Program
WVU went 3-8 in 2001 (year 1) to 9-3 in 2002. Michigan went 3-9 in 2008.

2. New defensive coordinators
Todd Graham replaced Phil Elmassian for WVU DC in 2002. Greg Robinson replaces Scott Schafer as DC for UM in 2009.

3. Upgrade at QB position from drop back statue to wireless mobile device.
Brad Lewis to Rasheed Marshall for WVU in 2002. Steven Threet to Tate Forcier/Denard Robinson for UM in 2009 (Yeah, I know. Sheridan will get a shot to compete).

4. Return of a "superback" and better overall team depth at running back
Avon Cobourne for WVU in 2002. Brandon Minor for UM in 2009.

5. Return of more experienced offensive line
In 2001 WVU had one returning starter (Brad Nell). In 2008 Michigan had one returning starter (Steve Schilling) . In RR's second year WVU had 4 returning starters along the OL. Michigan returns all 5 OL starters 2009.

6. Return of a stud defensive end
David Upchurch for WVU in 2002, led the team in tackles and sacks. Brandon Graham for UM in 2009. Led the Wolverines in sacks in 2008.

7. Return of two lead linebackers
In 2002 WVU returned experienced linebackers Grant Wiley and James Davis. Michigan returns experienced LBs Jonas Mounton and Obi Ezeh.

8. Total Returning Starters
WVU returned 14 starters (6 offense and 8 defense) from the 3-8 2001 season and improved to 9-3 in 2002. Michigan returns approximately 16 starters (10 offense, 6 defense).

So yeah, some interesting connections there. But some key areas do not align all that well:

1. Quarterback position
In 2002, West Virginia had Rasheed Marshall returning with game experience. Marshall also had an experienced backup in Charles Hales. In 2009, Michigan returns Nick Sheridan as the sole quarterback with any game experience at all. While 2 freshman quarterbacks, Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson, are well-suited to the offense, both have zero Division 1 game experience.

2. Defensive Returning Starters
Michigan does not have 8 starters returning on defense as West Virginia did in 2002. Instead, Michigan has about 6 starters back this fall and the depth at virtually every position is insufficient. Michigan does return one of it's leading tacklers, however, in LB Jonas Mouton.

3. Defensive Secondary
In my view, there's no comparison between 2002 WVU and 2009 UM with respect to the defensive secondary. WVU's situation was far better, with considerable talent and experience in the starting 5 defensive backs, plus some talented freshmen competing for time. For 2009 it would appear that Michigan has comparatively less experience and depth.

Should history repeat itself in 2009, how nice would it be to read an article like this one at season's end in a Michigan newspaper?


Rysdad said...

I hope you are right about this. I have a feeling that the degree of national disappointment last year will be equaled by the degree of national surprise this year. We'll be better that people expect.

Art said...

While I've only been following Michigan football since 1998, this is the most excited and anxious I have felt in a long time. I really like RR and his approach to the game. While all of us have our fingers crossed, I believe this is the beginning of a new Michigan "dynasty".

KG said...

This sentence from one of the linked articles sure seems to strengthen the "Rodriguez adjusts his offense to fit his players' skills" argument:

"West Virginia’s passing offense ranked 96th in the country in 2001 despite Rodriguez’s penchant for the pass."

It's been a while since his reputation was of a coach with a "penchange for the pass..."

Bob said...

Very creative and interesting work. Nice Job.

-Bob at BigHouse Blog