March 14, 2010

Rodriguez running out of time at Michigan

Technically, Michigan improved in Year Two under Rich Rodriguez, going from 3-9 in 2008 to 5-7 last season. But the Wolverines won just one Big Ten game to finish tied for 10th in the league after a ninth-place finish (2-6) in 2008.

The offense showed signs of life last fall, ranking seventh in the Big Ten (384.5 ypg) and third in scoring (29.5 ppg). In 2008, Michigan had the worst offense in the league (290.8 ypg) and also finished last in scoring (20.3 ppg).

To take the next step, Michigan must improve its defense and add the finishing touches - i.e., finding a running back - to what should be a productive offense.

Here's a look at the Wolverines as they prepare to begin spring ball.

MICHIGAN AT-A-GLANCE
Sophomore Tate Forcier returns at QB, but there are a lot of holes to fill.
THE BASICS
COACH: Rich Rodriguez
LAST SEASON: 5-7 overall, 1-7 in Big Ten
SPRING DATES: March 14-April 17.
RETURNING STARTERS
OFFENSE (7): T Perry Dorrestein, QB Tate Forcier, WR Junior Hemingway, T/G Mark Huyge, TE Kevin Koger, WR Martavious Odoms, G Stephen Schilling.
DEFENSE (8): LB Obi Ezeh, SS Jordan Kovacs, NT Mike Martin, LB Jonas Mouton, LB Craig Roh, T Ryan Van Bergen, FS Mike Williams, CB/S Troy Woolfolk.
SPECIAL TEAMS: None.
POSITIONS OF STRENGTH

This will be a veteran offense that finally should be fully in tune with what Rich Rodriguez wants to do in his spread-option scheme. While the running back corps will be young, sophomore Tate Forcier has shown promise at quarterback. The line lost two starters, but there is good talent there. It's vital that junior C David Molk returns from a season-ending knee injury suffered vs. Penn State.

HELP IS NEEDED

A defense that ranked ninth in the Big Ten (393.3 ypg) has to get better under embattled coordinator Greg Robinson. The success of the defense hinges on the development of the secondary. The unit is filled with youth and inexperience, as freshmen and sophomores will have to contribute heavily. CB Donovan Warren declaring early for the draft really hurt, and star DE Brandon Graham is gone. Senior LB Obi Ezeh must regain his 2008 form after an inconsistent effort last season for a unit that struggled to stop the run (171.9 ypg, 10th in the Big Ten).

THREE GUYS TO WATCH

DT Greg Banks: He was expected to play a big role in 2009, but notched just five tackles. He has bulked up to 275 pounds and has the versatility to play tackle or end. With a big spring, Banks finally may secure a starting job as a senior and help stop the bleeding vs. the run.

LB Mike Jones: Among the five players who enrolled at mid-term last year, Jones looks the closest to earning a starting gig. Jones, a sophomore, is competing to replace Steve Brown at "spinner," a hybrid safety/linebacker. Observers say Jones is a mean, tough and nasty player who loves to hit-traits this defense lacks.

RB Michael Shaw: With Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown gone, the Wolverines need a back to emerge. Shaw, a junior, has the most experience. But he will be pushed by sophomore Michael Cox, diminutive redshirt freshman Fitzgerald Toussaint and true freshmen Stephen Hopkins and Austin White, who enrolled in January. Junior Kelvin Grady also could figure in the mix.

THE PRESSURE IS ON

QB Tate Forcier: Yes, he showed flashes as a true freshman, when he started 12 games. But Forcier needs to take the next step as a decision-maker in the passing and running game. If he struggles, Forcier will be pushed by fellow sophomore Denard Robinson as well as true freshman Devin Gardner, who enrolled early and brings loads of potential.

THE BUZZ

It's an understatement to say Rodriguez must win this year. He has a two-year record of 8-16 and the school is facing NCAA sanctions. Oh, and RichRod also has a new boss in A.D. David Brandon. Suffice to say, Rodriguez needs to get the Wolverines into a bowl as he enters the 2010 season on perhaps the hottest seat in America. Spring practice is going to be big in terms of revamping the defense. Finding a feature back is important, as well.

Tom Dienhart is the national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.


twitter / rivalsdotcom



FEATURED PRODUCT


 

Rivals.com is your source for: College Football | Football Recruiting | College Basketball | Basketball Recruiting | College Baseball | High School | College Merchandise
Site-specific editorial/photos Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved. This website is an officially and independently operated source of news and information not affiliated with any school or team.
About | Advertise with Us | Contact | Privacy Policy | About our Ads | Terms of Service | Copyright/IP policy | Yahoo! Sports - NBC Sports Network

Statistical information 2007 STATS LLC All Rights Reserved.