Friday, November 28, 2008

Long and painful and done with

Wow, that was sure a bad season. Didn't quite it see it coming. Everything individual thing I was concerned about this year ended up being a major weakness. The inexperience and lack of talent on the OL, the lack of a QB suited to run the offense, the horrible play of safeties and LBs in coverage, etc. It all stunk and so did the team.

Kinda glad I was quite busy this fall and didn't have much time to peruse the internet much and certainly no time to do any blogging.

But the year of pain is over with and Michigan heads to the offseason with hope for 2009. Here's a quick preview of the offense for next year.


Quarterbacks

Steven Threet (RS Sophomore) - the 2008 de facto starter who split time with Nick Sheridan. He's long and lanky and has a strong arm. In fact, he's the spitting image of a Lloyd Carr-era Michigan quarterback. Unfortunately, he's got a long release and lacks quickness in the ground game and is woefully inaccurate on timing routes. He made some improvements as the season went along and had glimpses of good play in several games. He just couldn't put it together for long stretches. You have to think that he'll be better next season, but he'll also face a huge increase in competition.

Nick Sheridan (RS Junior) - opening day starter and Ohio State game starter in 2008. Former walkon who gave it his all and actually had a very good game at Minnesota. He just doesn't have the arm strength to threaten a defense vertically and he'll have a hard time seeing the field.

Shavodrick Beaver (Freshman) - He's 6'3" and 180 lbs and a 4 star recruit according to Rivals that Texas wanted as a WR. He is more talented as a runner than a passer and will add a new dimension to the offense. How advanced his passing is and how quickly he picks up the offense will be the primary determinants in how much PT he gets. UPDATE - scratch that idea, he decided to go to Tulsa instead.

Tate Forcier (Freshman) - He's 6'0" and 185 lbs and also a 4 star recruit by Rivals. You might remember one of his older brothers Jason as a former UM QB that transferred to Stanford. In contrast to Beaver, Forcier is more advanced as a passer but has some rushing skills. If he picks up the offense, he is probably the favorite to be the starter next season with his accurate passing.

That's a heck of a lot more talent and depth at QB than Michigan had in 2008. I'd venture a guess that Steven Threet is the opening game starter, but Forcier and Beaver will both get snaps. By the middle of the season I'd imagine Forcier will have picked up enough of the offense to be the starter.


Running Backs

Brandon Minor (Senior) - Finished 2008 as Michigan's leading rusher, which is where many people predicted him to be entering the season. He's big and strong and runs hard. Not the shiftiest back in the world, he is hard to stop at the point of attack. I look for big things from Brandon as a senior and he is definitely a candidate to crack 1000 yards in a much improved offense. He will, however, have to fight off a ton of competition to tote the rock.

Carlos Brown (Senior) - It seems that Carlos is always fighting injuries, but when he's healthy he is a solid back with good speed. I'm not sure if 2009 will be his chance to shine given the level of competition, but he does provide Michigan with another solid option.

Sam McGuffie (Sophomore) - Internet sensation and early season starter, McGuffie got his bell rung a few times and didn't see much action the 2nd half of the season. When healthy, he is an explosive runner in the open field that can make people miss. I imagine he will continue to earn snaps as part of a rotation next year. UPDATE - he decided to transfer for personal/family reasons

Michael Shaw (Sophomore) - A blazer in the open field, Shaw is probably Michigan's fastest player on offense. He still needs to improve his vision, but he's a home run threat every time he touches the ball. It's hard to keep that kind of speed off the field in this offense that generates so many gaps to run through.

Mike Cox (RS Freshman) - more of a big bruiser, he might earn some PT at fullback or short yardage situations next year.

Fitzgerald Touissant (Freshman) - a big play threat from Youngstown, Ohio, he has put up big numbers in HS. As you can see there is a ton of players ahead of him already, but he is definitely a threat to not redshirt.

Teric Jones (Freshman) - pint sized speedster from Cass Tech HS in Detroit, he will be hard pressed to beat out the players ahead of him as a true frosh.

Vincent Smith (Freshman) - pint sized speedster from Florida, who will be sitting alongside Jones working on his redshirt next year.

Quite a deep and talented group. Brandon Minor figures to lead the team in rushes and yards, but he'll be far from a workhorse as Rodriguez figures to rotate in guys like Brown, Shaw, McGuffie, and perhaps Touissant. It'll be a deep group that figures to push each individual to improve as the fight for more carries.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends


Greg Mathews (Senior) - easily Michigan's best true WR, he'll be their big target on the outside and counted on to provide big plays. Tied for the team lead in TD catches with 2 (!?!?!) last season, a total that will hopefully go up quite a bit with improved play at QB.

Martavious Odoms (Sophomore) - lead Michigan in catches and receiving yards last year as a true freshman, showcasing good hands and great moves in the open field. He's the prototype for what Rich Rodriguez wants in a slot WR and expect to see him have an outstanding career. He just needs to work on handling the cold weather a bit better.

Darryl Stonum (Sophomore) - coming off somewhat of a disappointing season as a highly touted recruit out of Texas. He only had 14 catches on the season and dropped a few easy ones. He's got good size and speed, though, and is dangerous after the catch. Look for big strides as a sophomore and Michigan's biggest deep threat.

Junior Hemingway (Junior) - hurt by injuries this year, he might actually have a shot at a redshirt. Regardless, he'll be in the mix for PT at outside WR in 2009 with his combination of size (6'1" 215 lbs) and speed.

Kevin Koger (Sophomore) - A big target at 6'4" and with good speed for a TE, he can produce some mismatches for the defense. TE isn't a big target in this offense, but he'll be a solid pass catching option.

Terrence Robinson (RS Freshman) - he was supposed to be a nice compliment to Martavious Odoms in the slot as a true frosh, but a knee injury lead to his redshirting. If healthy, look for him to provide another lightning quick smurf in the open field to play the slot opposite Odoms in 2009.

Roy Roundtree (RS Freshman) - tall and skinny, he'll fight for PT at outside WR.

James Rogers (Junior) - tall, skinny, and great speed. Not a natural at WR, but has the physical abilities to outmatch just about any DB he'll face.

Jeremy Gallon (Freshman) - another in the long line of smurf sized phenomenal athletes that Rodriguez will likely be recruiting to Michigan. He figures to fight for PT in the slot WR rotation with Odoms and Robinson.

Not quite as deep and talented as the RBs, there is still plenty of talent at WR. That's a good thing because they will be playing 3 or 4 per play most of the time. Mathews and Odoms are a quality pair of returning players, but youngsters like Darryl Stonum and Terrence Robinson will be fighting to get their own numbers called more often and it should help everyone.

Offensive Line


Stephen Schilling (RS Junior) - former 5 star recruit and two year starter at RT. Michigan will need him to be a force. He has always been more advanced as a run blocker than a pass blocker, and his improvement against speed rushers will be key to a strong passing game.

Mark Ortmann (RS Senior) - part-time starter at LT this year will be fighting for PT next year with the addition of loads of RS freshmen.

Perry Dorrenstein (RS Junior) - the other part-time starter at LT this year will also be fighting for PT next year.

David Molk (RS Sophomore) - surprisingly good as a freshman in the Big Ten. Center is a key spot in this spread offense and he held his own. I actually think he could be a pretty good player for quite some time in this system.

David Moosman (RS Senior) - full time starter at RG this past year. He had some decent moments, but far from a great player. He'll be fighting for PT next year.

John Ferrara (RS Junior) - he was a DT until this fall when he got pushed to the OL because of injuries. At first he just looked like he wanted to hit somebody, but as the season went along he seemed a bit more comfortable blocking. I can't wait to see what an entire offseason working with the OL can do for his technique.

Tim McAvoy (RS Senior) - former TE and part-time starter at LG, he will be hard pressed to beat out some of the youngsters for PT next year. Still not sure if he will come back for a 5th year or not.

Patrick Omameh (RS Freshman) - now entering the extremely bright future of the OL section of things with this freshman from Columbus, Ohio. He's got plenty of buzz from practice this year and should weigh heavily into the competition for PT next season. Entered Michigan at 6'4" and only 260 lbs, I think a season of Barwis-izing will have him up closer to 275 or 280.

Ricky Barnum (RS Freshman) - a highly regarded interior OL prospect from Florida who also has a lot of buzz surrounding his play in practice this fall. He also started on the small size at 6'2", 265 lbs, but should be stronger next year. He might be hard to keep off the field.

Dann O'Neill (RS Freshman) - the star of Michigan's OL recruiting last year, he's a future OT but is still learning the finer points of blocking. Not sure if he'll be polished enough to start next year over some very experienced competition, but should be a very good one long term.

Rocko Khoury (RS Freshman) - gotta love a kid named Rocko. He has a big frame at 6'5" and 280 lbs and will be fighting for PT alongside everybody else.

Kurt Wermers (RS Freshman) - another solid interior OL prospect that will fight for PT. Starting to get the sense that Michigan might have a better OL next year????

The OL struggled mightily at times in 2008, but in 2009 they should be infinitely better. For one thing, the entire line basically returns intact. They also add a boatload of redshirt freshman that spent the year doing what true freshmen linemen do (getting bigger). I imagine maybe 1 or 2 of the freshman will become starters and everybody else should be better than they were this year. If nothing else, the competition will at least give the coaches choices of who to play instead of dragging players over from the DL to fill spots.


On the whole, I think we will see major improvements on offense in 2009. And considering the sad state of affairs in 2008 that is a good thing. The QB and OL positions in particular figure to see major improvements from a combination of maturing of last year's starters combined with a massive influx of talent to the positions. When you add in an extra year of familiarity with the new offense and it won't be a stretch to see them scoring 30+ points with regularity. At the bare minimum, they should have an average offense in the conference and not be fighting for dead last in most categories.


On a more personal note, Goalline Blitz is damn addictive.

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