Michigan Football: Summary of the Spring and Outlook to Fall
Spring football season is over and even the renown trip to Rome is now in the rearview mirror. Several articles of analysis have been offered and now it is time for a summation. The summation will include the known, the unknown, and the future.
The Known- Michigan has momentum, even after the brutally tough and somewhat self-inflicted close losses to Ohio State and Florida State. These two teams have a high chance of being top five throughout the 2017 season. Both teams are absolutely loaded with young, NFL prep talent. Both teams have superior overall speed and athletes.
Youngsters have moved on, some to the NFL and some have just moved on mentally to the upcoming season. That is a benefit of youthful athletes.
Michigan has accomplished a high level of positive public relations, through the singing day, the big games, the trip to Rome, and the NFL draft. Attempts to sling mud by talking heads have yielded very little. The average fans perception is that Harbaugh is simply smarter than the mudders.Michigan has a coaching staff that is knowledgeable, likable, and challenging. The players appear to understand how well they have it, and as one coach asks- “Who has it better…?” The coaches publicly support the players but do not put forward a phony narrative, either in private or public. The developmental aspect of the program may not rival a couple of football factories, but that may simply be because the three current factories have more talent. This may always happen, the Michigan kid and the Michigan way is different and will draw some recruits more so than others: witness those who came and those who migrated to another program.
Michigan has enough dynamic coaching to prevent players form regressing or falling into a comfort zone. Any player who regresses or stays static is probably two and done at Michigan. The defensive staff has a nice mix from the aggressive and effective Partridge to the Flanagan figure Mattison.
The classes of 2016 and 2017 have talent, but not yet a collective level that can just walk on the field as college ready plug and play. Those with little patience or understanding of where Michigan is concerning strengths, talent, and playing experience may have a rough level of anxiety this season. This team, while on the upswing, is fragile enough to lose plenty of close games.
The defense has reloaded and should show a nice progression throughout the year. There are probably at least ten defensive guys on the roster sprinkled throughout the classes that have a good chance of getting drafted.The offense is not in a state such as that described above. The quarterback situation would not be a situation if one guy gets his playing level to where it needs to be to run a controlling offense. The quarterback is not the only problem/concern/question. The line, as is the annual case, has a couple of positions that are safe, barring injury. The other spots still are in doubt. The shining light is that even being less talented than the previous bunch, at least there appears to be quicker learning curve.
The backs have promise, but their performance is locked into the improvement of the offensive line.
The wideouts are loaded with potential. But this group needs leadership, even if the supplier is ridiculously young.
The kicking group is deep, with potential and in need of experience, all at once.
The Unknown- Michigan has key positions to recruit this season including offensive line, linebackers, and safety.
Michigan still does not have a dominating running back. Will that continue and will that be by design?
The quality of the back-ups is a true unknown and the young need to have a quick “performance birthday.”The future- Michigan is poised to enjoy another good season, it likely may not be a premium season. This team is in all probability not in the same class as Ohio State, Clemson, and Alabama. It is probably not even in the class of Southern California and maybe teams like Penn State, Florida, and can lose to any decent top 25 type team. Physical defenses will give the receivers some fits unless progress is made and defenses will zero in on the quarterback, making the running game critical.
Even with some dire news this group should be representative and competitive. Beware those who speak of failure if instant national level (playoff) ascendancy is not accomplished. The program is fine, maybe not Alabama fine, maybe not Ohio State fine, maybe not yet: the future will yield some answers. This tam could surprise by winning more or less than many predict. There really is no safe number, the weaknesses, depth, and other factors make forecasting this fall a little difficult.
One thing for certain, Harbaugh does not want second best and he will display urgency. Urgency does not guarantee quick and shocking improvement. But it is a good start.