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Don’t give up on Greg Frey just yet

Frey didn’t have a great first year at Indiana either, but grew into one of the top O-Line coaches in the country

Air Force v Michigan Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

A loss is always frustrating. A loss at home in a winnable game is even more frustrating. But seeing the unwarranted skeptics aimed at Michigan offensive tackles, tight ends and run game coach Greg Frey was a little strange to me.

Let’s clear the air a bit here: Greg Frey was recommended by Jim Harbaugh to brother John Harbaugh and Oregon’s Willie Taggart last offseason (both were looking for a new coach). Harbaugh then ended up hiring Frey for his own staff while the coaching shuffle in Ann Arbor was in full swing.

We all know Michigan’s offensive line, particularly the right side, has provided Wilton Speight and John O’Korn very little time to get the ball to a receiver. It’s been a clear issue, but something that is not impossible to fix with experience and time.

The offensive line was a huge question mark coming into the season — with three starters gone and a new coach in the mix — so many fans expectations for Greg Frey to come in and get everything instantly fixed in his first year were much too high. As Axl Rose once sang: “You just need a little patience.”

Frey did wonders with Indiana’s O-Line last year, but what about in 2011, his first year at Indiana? Let’s take a look.

2011 Indiana vs. 2016 Indiana vs. 2017 Michigan

Big 10 Stats 2011 Indiana 2016 Indiana 2017 Michigan (Through Five Games)
Big 10 Stats 2011 Indiana 2016 Indiana 2017 Michigan (Through Five Games)
Scoring offense 21.4 PPG 25.8 PPG 27.2 PPG
Total offense 360.4 YPG 426 YPG 385.8 YPG
Rushing offense 161.0 YPG 152.2 YPG 167.8 YPG
Passing offense 199.4 YPG 273.8 YPG 218.0 YPG
Pass efficiency 111.9 Pass efficiency 130.5 Pass efficiency 120 Pass efficiency
Sacks allowed 31 total 29 total 16 total
Time of possession 28:05 on average (Worst in Big 10) 28:07 on average 32:49 on average
Turnover margin -2 (7 fumbles, 11 INTs) -6 (11 fumbles, 18 INTs) -5 (6 fumbles, 6 INTs)
Red zone offense 28/37 (worst in Big 10) 35/49 14/15, fewest red zone TDs (5), most FGs (9)

One thing that sticks out to me immediately are the passing stats. It jumped nearly 100 yards per game from 2011 to 2016 for Frey’s Indiana team. The pass efficiency also went up despite 18 interceptions, but I’m sure that came with the slightly lower sacks allowed total and getting the ball to the red zone.

More opportunities in the red zone also led to more points scored for Indiana in 2016 compared to 2011. For trips to the red zone, Michigan is on pace for somewhere close to 2011 Indiana.

Michigan’s rushing offense right now is better than both the 2011 and 2016 Indiana teams, which also results in the time of possession being higher for the Wolverines. We all know Harbaugh loves the ground and pound, old school way of playing football.

This stat doesn’t shock me as much, given the stable of backs U-M has. It’s just a matter of running the ball effectively and making those rushing yards count for something. The concern right now with the rushing offense isn’t the yardage, but instead the turnovers. Six fumbles through five games is...not ideal, especially when those two fumbles against MSU led to points for the Spartans and a stalled drive before halftime.

In other words: game-altering fumbles.

I’m not saying things will be horrible from here on out on offense, particularly on the offensive line, but I wouldn’t expect things to change overnight either. What we have seen so far is more or less what we’re likely to see through the rest of the season. With experience and time comes results, and Greg Frey is a good example of this from his first and final years with the Hoosiers.

Remember: Patience is a virtue, Wolverine fans.