Monday, November 16, 2009

Shiny New Racing Wheels On Your Offense? So what.

I think Rich Rodriguez and Calvin Magee have done the right things offensively this year. The pieces appear to be in place for the Michigan offense to take off in the future: three talented mobile quarterbacks (Forcier, Robinson and incoming frosh Gardner), experienced and quick slot receivers (Odoms, Roundtree and Grady), talented wide receivers (Stonum, Hemingway), an improved offensive line (Molk, Omameh, Schilling, Huyge and Dorrestein) and a deep stable of promising running backs (V. Smith, M. Shaw, M. Cox). Yes, the Michigan pass blocking still stinks to high heaven, but the quarterbacks in place at least have the skills to try and escape. You heard it here first, but I think Michigan is going to be a 450+ ypg offense in 2010 and will again be ranked highly nationally in rushing offense.

Obviously, more attention will be applied to the defensive side of the ball and recruiting going forward. Michigan is giving up a ridiculous 400 yards per game ON AVERAGE, and 28 points per game ON AVERAGE. I think Rodriguez understands the gravity of the situation. Yet, at other times, I seriously wonder. The horrendous Michigan defense of 2008 just got a whole lot worse in 2009.

The thing is, Michigan doesn't need just a good defense, or a good enough defense or a passable defense. If Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl invitiations are even remotely important to Michigan's football program anymore, then the defense needs tons of attention: Better coaching, better football players and, after back to back losing seasons, Herculean efforts on the recruiting trail.

Michigan football is basically a 1972 Chevy Nova beater. Rodriguez is the 17 year old owner, who had 400 bucks cash back, and decided the priority was to get the mag wheels and racing tires first, then renovate the engine and the exhaust much later. This is OK. But it's still a Chevy Nova beater that he doesn't dare take to the drag race competitions. Unfortunately, it's already "later" for Rodriguez.

Michigan will never compete for a Big Ten championship again, let a lone a .500 football season, unless it starts playing some semblance of Division I defense. I don't have to take readers on an excursion to Obvioustown here, but OK, why not?

Let's consider for one moment, just who in the hell has been winning all these Big Ten titles the last 10 years and how there defenses have, you know, performed.

Rich Rodriguez and staff might be surprised to learn that it's not a fucking coincidence that the Big Ten champion fields not just a "good defense", or a "passable defense".

No. They field the BEST defenses in the conference full stop! Penn State and Ohio State, for example, have been demonstrating rather consistently the best team in total defense and often the best scoring defense as well. For Michigan it can be no different.

You either have this feature, or you don't. Sure, those mag wheels may be shiny and bright. They might even look cool too. But until the engine gets ported and the exhaust gets modified, that vee-hicle of yours isn't going to win races.

Big Ten Defensive Leaders
Yrds/GmPts. GameBig Ten Champion
2009Ohio State - 258Penn State - 11.6Ohio State
2008Penn State - 263.9Penn State - 12.4Ohio State, Penn State
2007Ohio State - 225.3Ohio State - 10.7Ohio State
2006Wisconsin - 243.5Ohio State - 10.4Ohio State
2005Ohio State - 275.3Ohio State - 14.8Ohio State, Penn State
2004Wisconsin - 275.9Wisconsin - 14.6Iowa, Michigan
2003Michigan - 287.3Michigan - 15.9Michigan
2002Purdue - 317.5Ohio State 13.1Iowa, Ohio State
2001Michigan - 301.64Michigan - 17.5Illinois
2000Michigan State - 318.3Ohio State - 18.0Michigan, Northwestern, Purdue

There are very good reasons for Michigan's defensive ineptitude at linebacker and the secondary, most of them having nothing at all to do with Rich Rodriguez. Some of the issues are so serious, that Rodriguez's and Greg Robinson's options are also limited in what they can do in the time they have.

After last year's 3-9 debacle, there's been almost too much emphasis on rectifying the offensive side of the ledger that Michigan. Rodriguez must now pay much closer attention in the off-season to the defensive side of the game (defensive staff coaching efforts, player development, and defensive recruiting), or this grand but brief experiment at Michigan will close out not just poorly, but with non-conclusive results as well.

There. The excursion to Obvioustown is over.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Good points here, Markus.
I haven't had any reason to doubt RR on the offensive side, but I agree with you that more attention needs to be given to the defense. And I think he gets this. Apparently he just mentioned recently that only five spots were remaining in this class. Hopefully, this is a tactic to get some defensive recruits who are visiting this weekend to commit after, or during, their visit.
I love what RR is building on the offensive side of the ball. I know that some things on the defensive side have been beyond his control, but I just hope (and believe) that he'll start to understand how more important defense is in the Big Ten than in the Big East.
Go Blue!