We are at the unofficial halfway point of Michigan Football's 2015 season with the bye week, so now seems as good a time as any to take a step back and look at how the team has graded out so far.
Jake Rudock was brought in from Iowa as a stop-gap. There's no need to sugarcoat that. He is a known commodity that is not going to win you games with his arm. After a few turnover-prone weeks to start the year, he has cleaned up mistakes in that regard, but still has been very vanilla as a passer.
In Michigan's two losses, there were more than a few times where shots were there for the taking downfield and he just could not convert on the throws. At this point, it does not seem like that is really all that fixable, so it is what it is.
Do not take this as piling on Rudock, because he's brought poise and leadership to a position that has been lacking the last few seasons. His job this season is to do his job and win football games, and he has done just that so far. There are more than a few "what ifs" in his performances, though.
There's not a whole lot of depth here this season with multiple redshirts at the position. Wilton Speight is the only other signal-caller to have seen time, but it has been in either garbage time or kneel-down situations
Running Backs: B
Michigan is fortunate to have quite a few options at running back, though De'Veon Smith has emerged as the number-one guy.
Ty Isaac, Drake Johnson and Derrick Green have all had their moments this season, but it has been an up and down year. Isaac has had fumbling problems, Johnson is "working through something," and Green cannot seem to find consistent playing time. The Wolverines have been keeping their options open here, which is why they were willing to burn Karan Higdon's redshirt.
The production has not always been great across the board, but the run game has been vastly improved from last season and Smith especially has taken a leap forward. His vision has increased and he runs as hard as any back in the nation
Wide Receivers: B
Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson have been reliable, but not spectacular. Regardless, they have provided a nice one-two punch for the Wolverines in the passing game and have made memorable plays to keep drives going throughout the season.
Grant Perry, Freddy Canteen, Drake Harris and Moe Ways are a few other players who have been in the wide receiver rotation, but none have really stuck out. Michigan is not a pass-happy offense, obviously, meaning opportunities are in rare supply. All are young and promising, though. We will see if a third, reliable wide receiver develops down the stretch here.
Fullbacks/Tight Ends: B+
Getting these players involved just might be Jim Harbaugh's biggest strength as an offensive mind. Joe Kerridge and Sione Houma have been splitting time at fullback and have equally done a nice job when called upon. It seems like at least once a game they are able to run for a significant chunk of yardage on a given play.
With the tight ends, Jake Butt was expected to have a bit more of a role, but has made plays even as his targets have gone down throughout the season. Ian Bunting has earned playing time and AJ Williams has even become a factor in the passing game in recent weeks.
Just about everyone has touched the ball on offense, but it has been impressive to see the staff get these guys going and be a big part of the offense.
Offensive Line: B
Arguably Michigan's biggest question mark coming into this season was the development of the offensive line, which was unable to get any sort of consistent push under the old coaching staff.
Tim Drevno has done an excellent job of continuing to improve the guys up front and not only are they getting better, but they have been pretty darn competent, as well. Running the football has been a struggle at times against teams like Utah and Michigan State, but the pass protection has been extremely solid and nobody can say Rudock has not had time to diagnose and make plays.
Michigan faces three consecutive so-so opponents in Minnesota, Rutgers and Indiana before they finish the season against Penn State and Ohio State, who both boast strong fronts on defense. We will see what kind of progress they continue to make as we head down the stretch of this football season.
Offensive Coaching: A-
Harbaugh, Drevno and Jedd Fisch have combined to make Michigan have a pulse offensively, which is more than can be said for the last few years prior to this. While the offense is not without its fair share of deficiencies, they have managed to clean things up and play mistake free football for the most part this season.
It is a work in progress, but at least the Wolverines now have an offense that can put just enough points on the board while the defense goes to work.
Speaking of the defense, those mid-season grades will be up on Thursday. Meanwhile, sound off with your thoughts and grades in the comments below!