Michigan football mailbag

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
9:00
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Michigan football is at a crucial point right now. With two consecutive losing weekends (and three losses in four games), the Wolverines hit the road for two games. There is plenty to talk about, so let's do that.

Anytime you have some questions, send them my way via Twitter (@chanteljennings) or email (jenningsESPN@gmail.com).

Dan Bellinger via Twitter: How do the coaches respond to other teams knowing plays with how Michigan's lines up in formation?

[+] EnlargeDevin Gardner
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsTeams know that pressuring Devin Gardner and clogging the middle vs. the run will stifle Michigan.
A: On Monday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he doesn't think teams actually know what they're doing. Yes, they might be able to have an idea of what's going on (and let's be serious, if a team is in third-and-long every drive, everyone and their mother knows that team is going to throw), but Hoke doesn't think teams have Michigan completely figured out. I agree with that to a point. I don't think opponents know exact play calls, but I think it's fair to say that opponents have figured out the following: A) The interior offensive line is the weakest part of the line. B) Michigan tries to run up the middle -- see A. C) Putting pressure on Devin Gardner is a sure fire way to give the Michigan offense distress.

If those three points are taken into account, then teams don't need to know the exact plays, per se. They just need to know what to do to make nearly any play call ineffective, which is what Michigan State and Nebraska were able to do.


Matt Burns, Connecticut: any consideration for Shane Morris getting reps at QB?

A: People keep bringing this up, and I completely understand why. However, I believe there's a certain threshold in college sports. For the first 60-65 percent of the season, tinkering with stuff and moving personnel doesn't necessarily put a team too far behind the eight ball. But after that, making a personnel change generally will set a team back further than sticking with what's happening, even if it's not progressing as quickly. Early in the season, a personnel change might be a "two steps forward, one back" deal, but after that it's "many steps backward, and maybe some forward movement eventually," especially when we're talking about the quarterback position -- Michigan is going to stick with Gardner.


Gifford Cappellini, Port St. Lucie, Florida: Will Michigan ever win a Big Ten title again in our lifetime?

A: This is a toughie, because not only are you asking me to make assumptions about the improvements of the football team, but you're also asking me to make assumptions about your life expectancy. These are dangerous games.

However, assuming you're not really, really old or find yourself enjoying skydiving/picking fights with giants/playing real-life Frogger in traffic, then I think you have a solid chance to see another Big Ten championship in your lifetime. I believe that as the talent on the lines picks up -- as Hoke works in more and more of his recruits and they get older/more physically ready for the game -- the offense and defense will improve exponentially. But, unfortunately for Michigan fans, I think Ohio State might own the Big Ten for the next few years. Until the Wolverines can compete up front with any team in the conference, they won't be able to compete for the title. That's at least two years off.


Joshua Friedman, NYC: Is there any hope left to be had for the season, or should I just cash in what I have and turn to basketball and Mitch McGary's balky back?

A: Well, basketball is never a poor choice, and the Michigan basketball team this year is going to be an exciting one to watch. However, I think there is some hope left for the season. I don't think the Wolverines will beat Ohio State, but perhaps they could pull out wins on the road against Northwestern and Iowa, and then they'd finish the season 8-4, which isn't too shabby. And I do believe that with a month to prepare for a bowl game, Michigan could work out several of the struggles it's having right now. That'd be an extra month of working together and finding chemistry for the offensive line. It'd give each guy time to heal up their bodies. And it would give coaches and players much more time to get in the film room together, and with younger players, that's so important in their growth. Not all is lost.


Harry, Ann Arbor: If you were putting together a musical playlist of how you believe fans feel right now, what three songs would be on it?

A: Well, with the recent performances and the reactions that I've seen from fans, I'd probably start with Avicii's "Wake Me Up" ... "Wake me up when it's all over." I'd imagine some fans feel that way right now. But even with that, Michigan fans are also extremely loyal, so I'd put on the Pretenders' "I'll Stand by You." Lyrics: "Oh, why you look so sad?/ Tears are in your eyes/ Come on and come to me now/ Don't be ashamed to cry/ Let me see you through/ 'Cause I've seen the dark side too. ... I'll stand by you." And I'd finish the three-song set with "Carry On" by Fun. Because at this point in the season (and really, always), there's nothing to do but go forward.

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