It’s fitting that the University of Michigan football program is part of the “Legends” division in the Big Ten Conference. Because they are no longer a leader in the college football world, the school’s football program is no longer brought up in conversation when talking about championship contenders each year. And it won’t ever be brought up again if something isn’t done to turn around the program, they will soon drift to being something of the past. Only brought up in conversation when talking about once great teams.
So what is the reason for the programs lack of success over the past few seasons. Lets start at the top with head coach Brady Hoke. Hoke took over in 2011, after the disastrous Rich Rodriguez experiment. Since taking over in 2011 Hoke is (24-8), and undefeated at home in the Big House (lets hope that streak doesn’t end). Some might say that is a decent start for a coach in his first two and a half years at a school, but not at the winningest program in college football, where you are expected to win championships. Lets look back at Hoke’s previous coaching experience. Before coming to Michigan Hoke was the head coach at San Diego State, where he was Mountain West Conference (MWC) Coach of the Year in 2011. Before that he won a conference championship with Ball State, and was the defensive line coach at the University of Michigan. One would think that he would have learned a thing or two under the tutelage of Lloyd Carr.
Lets move on to the defensive coordinator, Greg Mattison, who came on in 2011 with Hoke. Before accepting the job Mattison was the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens from (2008-2010). In his first year Mattison defense ranked 85th, the defense only had one touchdown all season. In 2012 his defense ranked even worse at 100th, with less sacks and interceptions. Currently about halfway through his third season Mattison’s defense is ranked 17th. Already with the same number of team interceptions (9) as he had total in his first season, and almost the same amount of total sacks as the previous year. It seems as if the defense could be turning around and coming together.
The offensive coordinator, Al Borges was brought over from San Diego State with Brady Hoke. In his first year the Wolverines went (11-2) with their first BCS bowl game since 2006, which they won. You may be thinking thats amazing in his first year as the OC, the program might finally be back on track. But not so fast in his second year the team went (8-5), which is a sub par record with a bowl loss. During the second season Borges was criticized for bad play calling. Now currently in 2013 Michigan is (5-1), this record may be very deceiving. Once again Borges is being criticized for bad play calling almost losing to two below mediocre programs and losing a heartbreaker to Penn State in four overtimes.
How has Michigan been doing in the recruiting department, trying to build a program for the future. In 2012 Michigan had the 7th best recruiting class. With twenty-five commitments, eleven of which were four-star recruits; unfortunately zero 5-star recruits. In 2013 Michigan was once again among the top recruiting classes at 6th, where they were able to sign a 5-star quarter back. Recruiting for the 2014 class they are ranked 6th once again. It would seem that the players are not to blame necessarily, since Michigan has repeatedly been recruiting some of the top talent in the country.
Where should the blame lie for the lack of success at Michigan? I wouldn’t say with coach Hoke, at least not yet. He is a Michigan man through and through, and has been a great leader for these student athletes; and has vastly turned the program around since Rodriguez.. I would say the best improvement has been with the defense and the job Mattison has done. He is real aggressive and creative with his play calling. During this current season his defense has been the shining point of this team, at least for me. They may look extremely underrated on paper, but that has been to a major lack of offensive production. When their backs are up against a wall this defense can make some big plays. Onto Al Borges, this is the major hole in the program. Borges may not be cut out to be a OC at a big time college program, where you’re expected to win immediately. If he can’t fix his horrible play calling this season, he needs to be given the boot, because he would be holding the program back. Head coach Brady Hoke does need to be held responsible for some things. The biggest thing position changes on offense, he has great offensive weapons but isn’t utilizing them in the right ways. First he had Denard Robinson, who is arguably one of the most athletic football players who steps onto the field, but is no quarterback. That is why he went into the NFL draft as a receiver/running back. Now Hoke has a similar quarterback Gardner. Once again isn’t using him like he should, Gardner is a tremendous athlete with a decent arm but gets rattled under pressure to easily. Hoke needs to move Gardner to slot receiver and start giving one of the two very talented back up’s a chance to take over the position. Also if Borges can’t get the job done Hoke need’s to start calling a majority of the plays.
This program has great potential to be great once again, the talent is there. It’s time for the coaches to step up and lead this program back to the promise land.