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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – 2010 Preview

September 3, 2010

As we kick-off the 2010 season, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at what I consider the potential Good, Bad and Ugly as head into Game 1.  I’m sure by tomorrow night this will all have changed, but for now, its my take on what to look out for tomorrow, and at least for the first few games of the year. 

The Good

  • Three Headed QB – We’ve come a long way since 2008, when our QB options were walk-on Nick Sheridan and redshirt freshman Steve Threet, a pro-style QB in a spread offense.  I’m excited about the QB situation for a variety of reasons, including most importantly, the fact that we have 3 potential starting QBs.  Denard, Tate and Devin are all listed as potential starters by Rich Rod, and I think its because they all bring something different to the table.  Tate is the “veteran” in this case, the guy who showed flashes of brilliance last year, but was hampered by freshman mistakes.  Denard is the X factor, the fastest guy on any field, and has worked his butt off this off-season to try and take the starting  job.  Devin is the future, and is so good, the future may have to start now – what he lacks in experience he makes up for in raw ability and natural fit for the read option offense.  Its not unrealistic to think that at some point, all 3 will play, and make significant contributions this fall.  Studbolt (Tate), Shoelace (Denard) and The Future (Devin) are all capable of starting and leading us to victories.  Given our bad luck the last couple of years, I won’t be surprised if we need all 3 this year. 

 

  • Big Uglies – Offense – As I outlined in the position preview, I expect big things from this offensive line.  David Molk, Steve Schilling, and Patrick Omameh will be as good of an interior line as anyone in the Big Ten.  And for good measure, Schilling has an excellent beard.  On the outside, we have 4 tackles battling out for 2 spots.  2 guys are vets, and 2 guys are up and coming freshmen.  No matter who gets the job, its a win, and there’s depth there just in case.  Quick, agile, strong offensive linemen are what make this type of offense go, and in year 3, we finally have that. 

 

  • Big Uglies – Defense – While defense has been and will continue to be a concern, the one spot I’m comfortable with, and in fact excited about, is the defensive line.  It starts in the middle with Mike Martin, who is freakishly strong.  How strong is freakishly strong?  He bench presses 505 pounds and squats 700 pounds!  For the bench press, thats five 45 pound plates on each side!  For the squat, thats seven 45 pound plates on each side!  Ryan Van Bergen and Greg Banks will be solid as well.  But again, Mike Martin can bench a quarter ton.  He can take William Campbell, who weighs 330 lbs, clone him, and then squat he and his clone together!  Needless to say, I have big expectations for the workout warrior. 

 

  • Speed, Speed, Speed – Rich Rodriguez’s mantra has always been, he wants fast players, playing fast.  While its taken some time to get the roster headed in that direction, between the training program of Mike Barwis and the recruiting the last couple of years, those who have seen practice are confident that this is easily the fastest Michigan team they can remember.  Certain guys, like Denard Robinson, we all know about.  But Daryl Stonum, Kelvin Grady, and newcomer Carvin Johnson are all exceptionally fast guys who should stand out, even among this group.  Rich Rodriguez’s MO has always been that you win by being faster than the other guy.  In 2010, we finally have a team that can test that theory. 

The Bad

  • Pick a QB! – I know I just spent a paragraph praising the QBs, and pointing out that they all bring something different to the table, which is why they all will play.  And I still stand by that.  But sooner rather than later, we need to know who the “best” QB is, or at least know the rotation.  I’m 100% okay with rotating QBs, but only if it serves a purpose based on their physical capabilities.  If we’re shuffling guys in and out just to see who is the best player, or who can find a rhythm, we’ll have nervous QBs playing to save their job, and QBs who never find a rhythm at all because of the lack of consistency.  I want to give all 3 a chance, and if one guy is having a dud of a game, by all means, try someone else.  But the sooner we figure out who we want on the field when we need to score, the better off we’ll be.  Despite the fact that Shoelace and The Future may have more upside, I’m hoping Studbolt is the guy with the ball in his hands with the game on the line. 

 

  • Fullbacks playing Linebacker – As I mentioned in my position preview, former fullback Mark Moundros may very well be the starter at middle linebacker tomorrow.  While that speaks volumes about Mark’s dedication to football and his knack for picking up the position quickly, it also says a lot about everybody’s favorite punching bag, Obi Ezeh.  As you’ll recall from last year, Obi took over for Stevie Brown as the guy I blamed the most for the bad defense.  His inability to shed blocks earned him the moniker Shamwow, as all he did was absorb blocks.  Obi started both his sophomore and junior years, and although he struggled, the hope was that he would make the leap as a senior and be the MIKE linebacker we needed.  Instead, he’s been passed by a converted fullback.  Unless Moundros is a diamond in the rough that we just discovered, this means Obi didn’t take the leap, and we will be weaker at MIKE than we should be.  Here’s hoping I’m wrong – that Moundros is just that good, or that Obi gets it by tomorrow.  But this will be a position to watch all year. 

 

The Ugly

  • The Secondary – Something tells me we’re going to see a lot of “The Ugly” followed directly by “The Secondary” this year. I’m going to do my best not to be too hard on them, given their relative inexperience and lack of athleticism.  What I’m hopeful about is that Greg Robinson, who has now had a couple of years to work with some of these guys, can “coach em up” so to speak.  Its a tall order, but Robinson did manage to take a guy who was best known for YASB (Yards after Stevie Brown) and turn him into a guy capable of making an NFL roster.  There are going to plays, and probably complete games where the secondary looks like a disaster, but if we can minimize the number of times The Secondary is listed under The Ugly, this team will be in much better shape.  My promise to the secondary is to not pick on them too much, provided they don’t blow assignments or miss tackles.  I can handle the guy being faster/stronger/quicker, but if it just about effort and/or making the right read, I expect us to get it right.  Do that, and we are at least headed in the right direction. 

 

  • The Noise – It started last year, shortly after the OSU game, and it hasn’t stopped.  The Noise you hear is every fan, critic, journalist, recruit, and analyst wondering the same thing – how many games does Rich Rod need to win to save his job?  Some say 9, some say 7.  Others say he needs to beat OSU, and others think and win over MSU will do.  What I believe is that Dave Brandon will honestly evaluate the season as a whole at the end, and decide whether or not the path of least resistance back to the top is with Rich Rodriguez, or with another coach, who may take another year or two to get his guys in place.  If Rich goes 9-3, its a much easier decision than if we’re 7-5.  And of course anything below that, and its tough to justify keeping Rich around.  But for the next 13 weeks, we’ll still hear the question of “does Rich need to win this game to save his job?”  But no matter what, the Noise will be there, and it will annoy me.  In my opinion, its not a week to week thing, its a year to year thing.  My predictions for the season, which will be posted shortly, is that this will be a moot point by November. 
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