One of many critiques of Rich Rodriguez was how inflexible he was when it came to his offense in his first year. People maintained that he should have tried to adapt his offense to the players that he had on his team. I thought this was completely ridiculous, but only because of the players that were actually on that team. It didn’t make any sense to run an offense that Michigan wasn’t going to use in year two just because it fit someone like Steven Threet and, maybe, Greg Matthews a little better. Everyone else on the offense, mostly freshmen and sophomores, would surely benefit in the long run from having the chance to be in the spread offense for an extra year. Had Rich Rod been able to keep players like Ryan Mallett, Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington, and Justin Boren then maybe the critique makes some sense,* but he didn’t keep them. Would Michigan have won more than three games if they had run a system more suited to Threet’s ability? Yes, probably, but that number would have been four or five. In the long run, that painful season probably would have been worth it if the defense hadn’t been such an abomination.
Now, fast forward to this year, and you’ve got a junior Denard Robinson, tiny slot receivers all over the field including Roy Roundtree, Kelvin Grady, and Jeremy Gallon, and a bunch of undersized offensive linemen designed for the spread. Michigan had the number eight offense (in terms of total yardage) in the country last year and managed to do that with a first year starting quarterback and not a single senior playing a skill position on offense. When Brady Hoke brought in Al Borges there was a lot of talk about understanding the players Michigan had and adapting his system to those players. Unfortunately for Michigan fans, Borges’ adapting of his system sounds like it’s about the same as Rich Rod’s. Rich Rod threw the ball a little bit more from the spread with Threet, but he still very much ran a spread offense. Borges’ adapting of his pro-style offense seems to include running a couple more quarterback draws, and including a slot receiver instead of a second tight end in his base offense, but it is still very much a pro-style offense.
I didn’t watch a single second of spring practice or the spring game, so it might be a little early to start critiquing the new offense, but it’s tough to get excited about the upcoming season when you had a chance to have the best offense in the country and instead you’re going to watch a complete transformation for the second time in four years. I’ll reserve my hate-filled rants until I see the new offense in action, but I’ll leave you with a thought. We saw what Denard looked like as a pocket passer last year having to make actual reads that didn’t include hitting the wide open receiver streaking down the middle of the field. It happened every time Michigan was faced with third or fourth and long. If I had to guess I would say Denard was something like 15-57 for 230 yards, 1 td, and 9 ints in these situations. Hopefully, the pro-style at least includes teaching your quarterback to throw the ball away.
*The fact that he didn’t keep any of them is an entirely different critique.