I have to admit that I was chomping at the bit to see what this Michigan team can do. After all of the turmoil and debate over coaching changes, the time has finally come to see what we can expect from Brady Hoke and the Wolverines. My anticipation of the upcoming Wolverines season has been greater than any time I could remember during the RichRod era.
I am happy to say that I am pleased, with what I saw against Western Michigan.
The Wolverines were inconsistent early in the game while Western Michigan was playing on adrenaline. After the heat and rain washed away the Bronco's intensity, Michigan started having their way with them. I slowly transitioned from dismay in the apparent ease with which Western Michigan was moving the football, to excited glee over the opportunistic way the defense made plays to turn around the game.
It is clear that the Michigan defense remains a work in progress. There are still question marks in how well some players will respond to the complexity of the defense that is being installed by Greg Mattison. What I discovered is that this edition of the Michigan defense already makes me proud of them. My largest disappointment with the defense under RichRod was a general lack of confidence and inability to enforce their will upon the opposition offense in any way. This defense is different.
While they might not be a statistically great defense at the end of the season, they compete hard. They do not get into a funk and confusion over difficulties. They keep plugging away and find opportunities to make a positive impact on the game. The momentum of the game was changed in favor of Michigan by the defense. How often have we been able to say that about a Michigan team in the recent past?
I feel that the Michigan defense will get better as the season progresses and the players gain comfort and confidence in what Greg Mattison is asking them to do. Eventually the Michigan defense will become so complex that other college teams will struggle mightily to understand what Michigan is doing. When the Wolverines reach that point we will see them at the top of the national defensive rankings again. It is just a matter of time and coaching.
Well, adding a few blue chip players wouldn't hurt either. Having a defensive coordinator like Mattison will be huge in the effort to get them. As recruits realize that coming to Michigan means they will learn a legitimate NFL defensive scheme and be more prepared for life in the professional ranks, Michigan will get some of those big names. To some extent they already are. The recruiting has been much more effective under Hoke than it ever was under RichRod.
The offense looks interesting. I was hugely disappointed that the game was cut short just as the offense seemed to be hitting their stride. I can easily imagine the Wolverines putting another three or four touchdowns on the board by the end of the game based on how the running game had started ripping off huge chunks of yardage. Maybe the most important factor is just losing the opportunity to fine tune what the offense was doing prior to facing Notre Dame.
While the Wolverines have plenty of work to do in order to get the team performing at the level that Brady Hoke expects from them, there is reason for encouragement. We saw glimpses of how dominant this team could be, and they did it against a pretty decent Western Michigan football team. I am looking forward to seeing the Wolverines take another step forward against the Fighting Irish.