Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Spring Cleaning Comes Early In Ann Arbor

I'm not sure what the expectations are for the Michigan Fanbase and boosters that wanted Lloyd Carr out, and celebrated when Rich Rodriguez came in, but Kickoff 2008 isn't painting a pretty picture, and we're only in January. Spring cleaning has come early, and there won't be many recognizable names and faces on the Wolverine spring roster.

With Carr stepping down, which is a nicer way of saying "forced out", it didn't take long for the incoming coach to fire the rest of the Michigan staff and replace them with a more qualified group (friends of Rodriguez). This comes as Senior stars Jake Long, Mike Hart, and Chad Henne are saying goodbye to the Wolverines and hello to the NFL. Any hopes of salvaging the remainder of the team was flushed on Wednsday, when Juniors Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington announced their declaration for the NFL draft, and Freshman Ryan Mallett announced his transfer.

In a matter of months, Michigan has gone from a team that bounced back from an opening day loss to Appalachian State and finished the season with an impressive bowl win over Florida, to a team that is questionable to beat Utah in the 2008 kickoff. If you look at the losses on the roster, you have a Michigan team that dropped just 3 games, and a had a top 25 finish in 2007, that may be battling next season to just be bowl eligible.

With Mallet's transfer, it's obvious the Wolverines won't be undergoing a transitional change in offense, slowly moving from pro style to the spread, as Belotti did in Oregon. It's a sudden impact switch, with 2 months to recruit players to run it, after spending many years of handing out scholarships to players that can't. The recent departures may have freed up some needed scholarships for an incoming spread class, but what about all those pro style scholarships that are locked in for more years?

When people came screaming for Lloyd Carr's head, were they also accepting of the program's decline before rising again? Unless Rich Rodriguez is a miracle worker, that seems to be the direction they're heading in. I feel every coach deserves ample time to turn a program around, but unlike some of the others, Michigan wasn't exactly dead in the water. Michigan wants victories over Ohio State, BCS bowl appearances, and a shot at the national title. With the cupboards now bare, I wouldn't be expecting any of those achievements to be reached very soon.

Carr leaves Michigan with the bar set at 1 national championship and 5 Big 10 titles. His teams appeared in 5 BCS bowl games, and had 5 top 10 AP finishes in his 12 years as head coach. The sooner Rodriguez can beat Tressel, the sooner Ann Arbor can stop the groaning. But whatever happens next year, If Rodriguez loses to Notre Dame in that third game next season, the headlines will either read "Notre Dame is Back" or "Michigan Stinks". I would choose the latter.
2008 Michigan Football Schedule

Aug. 30 Utah
Sept. 6 Miami (OH.)
Sept. 13 at Notre Dame
Sept. 27 Wisconsin*
Oct. 4 Illinois*
Oct. 11 Toledo
Oct. 18 at Penn State* (HC)
Oct. 25 Michigan State
Nov. 1 at Purdue*
Nov. 8 at Minnesota*
Nov. 15 Northwestern*
Nov. 22 at Ohio State*

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