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Posted on Sat, Jul 25, 2009 : 2:43 p.m.

ESPN's Shaun King says Rich Rodriguez can do his usual second-year magic at Michigan

By Dave Birkett

Shaun King has seen Rich Rodriguez’s second-year magic first hand. A former NFL quarterback turned ESPN analyst, King led Tulane to a perfect season in 1998, his second year with Rodriguez as his position coach and offensive coordinator.

In Rodriguez’s first season - Tommy Bowden was the head coach - the Green Wave were a surprising 7-5, but failed to make the postseason. That’s not the depths to which Michigan sunk last year. At 3-9, the Wolverines are coming off the most losses in program history. But King said Rodriguez, who followed a 3-8 first season at West Virginia with a 9-4 record in Year 2, is on his way to turning things around at Michigan. “I’ve been around a lot of coaches in my tenure; I mean some good ones, too,” King said. “(Tony) Dungy, Denny Green. I was with (Rod) Marinelli. I was with Tommy Bowden. Some really good coaches. “They’re going to love Rich. When they start winning, they’re going to love Rich because he does the one thing that as an athlete you want. He’ll allow you to showcase your ability.” With the addition of freshmen quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson, King said Michigan’s offense this year should more closely resemble the high-powered one he ran at Tulane a decade ago and the one Pat White made a BCS contender more recently at West Virginia. Last year, with Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet under center, Michigan scored the fewest points in the Big Ten (243) and averaged its fewest yards per game (290.8) in 45 years. “What was surprising to me was the lack of talent that he inherited,” King said. “It wasn’t like he inherited Big Ten championship-caliber talent. Not only is he changing the system, but he’s really trying to rebuild the talent level there.” That’s not an overnight process, of course, which is why Michigan won’t appear in any preseason top 25 or be anyone’s pick to win the conference. King predicted Michigan will win six or seven games and make a bowl this year, but said a quick start and a victory in their road opener at Michigan State could have the Wolverines “competing for the Big Ten championship.” “When you’re dealing with 18- or 19- or 20-year-olds, momentum plays such a big factor,” King said. “If they can get that confidence going early in the season - by that time the quarterback will have had four games of experience under his belt, the defense will have had four games in (coordinator Greg) Robinson’s system, maybe some of those incoming freshmen, Justin Turner or some of those guys will start to make an impact - you never know what could happen. You got to get through those first four games with not more than one loss and see where it goes from there.” Still, King said Rodriguez’s goals are bigger than that. “It’s one thing to be successful, it’s another thing to get the type of players in there where you can compete for national championships,” he said. “That’s what Rich is doing at Michigan. He’s going to get the type of talent that can compete in the Sugar Bowl or the Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, against a Florida, against an Oklahoma, against a Texas.”

Dave Birkett covers the University of Michigan football team for He can be reached at



Mon, Jul 27, 2009 : 7:57 a.m.

I partially agree with King that RR had a lack of talent on offense. A lot of "internet fanz" will quickly point to how many stars Rivals and Scout gave these previous recruiting classes, as if scouting services are always right (rolleyes). The problem, in my opinion, was that the offense had to replace a lot of skill positions with players who were totally inexperienced. Steven Threet had never started a game. Ditto Nick Sheridan, who had perhaps the weakest arm of any QB I've ever seen. Sure we had talent at WR, but how many actually played before? Greg Mathews. That's about it. Savoy, Hemingway, Clemons had probably seen a handful of end of the game "garbage downs." The offensive line, well, we all are aware of that issue. Lloyd Carr still recruited good players. The problem is that he had it so easy with guys like Long, Henne, Hart, Mario, and Arrington being every down players for four years that he never spent much time giving the backups meaningful playing experience, and that showed last season. With Tate and Denard here now and guys having a year in this system under their belts, I feel much more confident about this season and seeing some improvement. I'll be happy with a.500 record and anything above that is icing. We're still a few years away, but RR has a lot good players heading this way and I'm excited to see what they can do.


Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 3:40 p.m.

For all you praising Kings comments remember you all thought he was crazy when he referred to Pryor as the Lebron James of College Football.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 2:57 p.m.

Dave, what did you think of that horrendous Toledo game, when RichRod absolutely refused to adjust his game plan, even though his RichSpread just wasn't working that day? Just threw away a win out of sheer stubbornness. The defense had some talent. The under-reported story was how badly it performed, and how much the coaching staff was to blame. Absolutely collapses against mediocre opposition. The Purdue game was winnable. Illinois and Penn State were close games that quickly got out of hand. Northwestern had no business winning that game. Those results were all on the defense. We focus on the offense, because it was young, untalented and RichRod was so stubborn he refused to adjust. There's a bigger picture here that includes the defense, and I'm afraid we're going to learn more about in another 3-9 season.

Dave Birkett

Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 1:19 p.m.

I watched games from afar last year as I was covering the Lions, but from what I saw Michigan had no QB to run the offense and not much of an offensive line (especially early). The defense underachieved, no doubt, but not many of those guys are going to make NFL teams this year so I'm not sure they were as good as advertised. That said, there's no excuse for 3-9 and I'm a believer that coaches have to make the most with the hand their dealt even if they're trying to input a new system.

Dick Freeman

Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 1:18 p.m.

I grew up on South State Street, parked cars in the front yard and walked to games by cutting through the UM golf course. I am now over 70. Maize and Blue runs in my veins. I have seen many cycles. I well remember Bo when he came in. He did a great job, built on our tradition. Inherited a stable full of - well less than outstanding talent. His motto "Those who stay will be champions" was fullfilled. I think if RR has the time he should read about Bo and our tradition and "get it." Winning season first, conference championship next yearbut beat the useless nuts from Columbus and you will be rewarded RR,

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 11:47 a.m.

What shocked me last season was the way the team quit in the second half of so many games. If you look at first-half performance alone, Michigan was an eight-win team, easily. The talent was there. The conditioning and heart was not there. RichRod has never coached at this level before, and blind faith in his ability to win given time seems ill-advised.


Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 10:20 a.m.

UM had no major college QB, the OL was terrible the first half of the year, and the "talent" returning on defense was terrible. It was a good news, bad news situation: the good news was that most of the defense was coming back, but the bad news was that they were one of the worst defenses in UM history. Carr slipped, both in recruiting and conditioning, the last five years of his tenure at UM. Proof of this was having five NFL draft picks, including the first overall pick, and playing in the Cap One Bowl. He had five NFL picks on offense, but the defense couldn't stop anyone. And, though it couldn't be said that Carr "slipped" in playcalling, it could be said that the rest of college football had passed him by the last few years. UM lost most of their best players when RR got there. He was saddled with a team that lacked experience and conditioning. When players found out they wouldn't be practicing at "Barton Hills County Club South" anymore, many refused to buy into the system. Some, like the Human Twinkie, cried on the way out. Some, like Momma's boy Ryan Mallett, lied on the way out. Some just hung their heads and left. They may have affected the 2008 season by a couple of games, but the best UM was going to do last year was 7-5. Other than the streak, there really isn't much difference between 3-9 and 7-5 at UM. At UM, the expectations are to compete for the Big Ten title and the National Championship. A 3-9 season that moves them closer to the NC game is a lot better to me than a 7-5 season that delays that progression. I hated most of last season, but am glad that the younger players got valuable experience, the malcontents and wannabes are gone, and the team is now pointed in the right direction. I fully expect to see a 9-3 season. The future is bright at the Big House. Now, Annarbordotcom: how about allowing us a little "white space" in our posts? Paragraphs are a lot easier on the eyes with spaces between them.


Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 10:13 a.m.

Feagin, Threet, or Sheridan Goodbye to all. Tate, Denard, or Carlos (theo) will take UM back to a bowl this year. Question is 7,8,9 wins? I say 8 one voice, one name Richagain 2009


Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 10:07 a.m.



Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 9:57 a.m.

Not sure I'd agree with King's assessment of the talent level RichRod inherited...other than quarterback, which was partly victimized by the transition to the spread, and partly by the loss of Mallett to the prospect of the spread, there was talent here. Receivers, running backs, defense all had talent...the o-line was inexperienced, but that in itself may have exacerbated the problems of learning an entirely new system, and adapting "on the run" to real-game situations during the season. Other than that, I'd generally have to agree with Shaun. Go Blue!!


Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 8:25 a.m.

Michigan should win the Big Ten this year. I'm certain my Wolverines will get a nice win in E. Lansing this year. Go Blue!!!


Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 7:25 a.m.

With Justin Feagin running the spread, the Wolverines should be on the rise.


Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 6:24 a.m.

King isnt sayin anything that true blue fans havent had faith in since rr came to ann arbor. We all knew what he was coming in to. We knew the well was running dry. We knew guys would leave. That comes with the territory. Just makes more room for guys thatll fit his system. We go to Lansing 4-0, we leave 5-0. Then we go 3-4 (realism) with a win on Nov 21 to close the regular season (optimism)


Sun, Jul 26, 2009 : 3:51 a.m.

This is what I have been saying all along. King nailed it here, with the exception of his win total being a bit conservative.


Sat, Jul 25, 2009 : 8:47 p.m.

I agree with Uminks - 7-5 is probably realistic. But ya never know. They should get better as the season progresses. If they can start 4-0, then 8 or even 9 wins are possible. Maybe. I envision them as well ranked in 2010, and NC contenders in 2011. We'll see.


Sat, Jul 25, 2009 : 2:53 p.m.

Shawn sounds like a UM fan now! I agree, if we win our first four games, not impossible since ND is not a good road team, we'll have a chance of going up to E.Lansing and pulling that game out...then with all the momentum a few more upsets are likely and we could go 9-3. I'll be happy with 7-5 given the defense will have many young players and the rebuilding process has just begun!