Many factors have played into the Michigan Wolverines slipping the last two seasons under Brady Hoke after an 11-2 season and a Sugar Bowl win in 2011.
He has to be better. His staff has to be better. His players need to be better.
But there are still some aspects of the last regime that have hindered Michigan’s growth as a program under Hoke.
In an article by MLive’s Nick Baumgartner early Tuesday morning, he talks about the attrition that Michigan has had to deal with coming out of the Rich Rodriguez era. In 2010, Rodriguez’s last full class with the Wolverines, they brought in 27 players. Of those 27, only seven have or will have used up their eligibility after the 2014 season.
One out of every four players in that 2010 class will have made it out of Ann Arbor using up their eligibility. Just over 25 percent. That is crazy.
Four of those players graduated in 2013: Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, Jibreel Black, and Courtney Avery. The other three will graduate after this season (Devin Gardner, Jake Ryan, Will Hagerup).
What was wrong with the Wolverines last season? They were a group that lacked experience, poise and leadership.
Yes, they have talent, but sometimes talent does not matter. They need leaders. It’s in the lyrics to their fight song, fergodsakes.
It is no coincidence that Gardner and Ryan are the two most important players on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, respectively, this season. Those two guys will have to lead the way, but they alone can’t help the Wolverines right the ship in 2014.
The 2011 recruiting class, which Rodriguez started and Hoke finished, has retained 10-of-19 players, which still isn’t great, but there are guys there that have the ability to lead for this team in 2014.
Guys that need to become more active leaders on and off the field for Michigan are Frank Clark, Desmond Morgan, Blake Countess, and Raymon Taylor. All have the playing experience, but it is now their time to step up, seize their jobs, and lead by example. All played a role in an underwhelming defense in 2013. Time to learn and lead.
Giving credit where credit is due, in Hoke’s first two full recruiting classes in 2012-13, he has been able to retain 51-of-52 players, losing only Kaleb Ringer to injury.
The 2012 class will be in their third year with the program, as well. These players were a part of Hoke’s first full recruiting class, and with the guy that brought them in on the hot seat, they have as much growth to make as the players mentioned above.
We know the names. Devin Funchess, Kyle Kalis, Ondre Pipkins, etc. There are plenty of guys in that class that came in highly regarded. To this point, some have been underwhelming. Some have performed nicely. Some have just kind of been okay.
This is a team that has lost 11 games over the last two seasons, many of which could have been altered by single play here-and-there.
Is that a product of coaching? You bet it is. Those guys do not go blameless, either. As a coach, you need to be putting your players in the best possible position to succeed at all times. Michigan has not done much of that recently under Hoke, but that’s all in the past.
The 2014 Michigan Wolverines have seen it all. Been through it all. They’ve been called soft, entitled, dumb, etc. The simple fact of the matter is that they need to compete for a Big Ten Championship this year, or face another coaching transition. Period.
Outside of Jabrill Peppers, Freddy Canteen, and maybe Mason Cole, there aren’t really any players coming in that are expecting to be playing huge roles in 2014, so the youth excuse is one that needs to be put to rest for this year. Michigan has experienced players, and while they haven’t always had good experiences, they do have them, and they can learn from them.
So yes, the RichRod era of Michigan football still casts a large shadow over the program, but it is no excuse for them not to succeed in 2014. Everyone’s job is on the line.