Former Michigan players unhappy with losing, hoping for a turnaround in 2010
Marlin Jackson has taken some ribbing from his NFL teammates over Michigan’s 8-16 record the last two years. It’s been good-natured and fun-loving, but hard to swallow nonetheless.
“I don’t know where we’re headed,” Jackson said. “I don’t want to say, but I just don’t know where we’re headed. What it looks like right now, don’t like it, I just can say that.”
Jackson was one of about 40 former Michigan football players and coaches who took part in the Champions for Children’s Hearts golf outing Sunday.
The charity event helped raise more than $1 million for Mott Hospital and has become Michigan’s unofficial football reunion.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
With the Wolverines coming off their first back-to-back losing seasons since 1962-63, Jackson wasn’t alone in expressing trepidation about the direction of the program under third-year coach Rich Rodriguez.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s tough,” said Brian Griese, the quarterback of Michigan’s 1997 national championship team. “For any Michigan person, when you’re down, we’re all down and that’s the thing about this place is, at least from my standpoint, I’m not going to talk bad about anybody. It’s a family and we win together, we lose together and I’m going to support them ‘til the end.”
Griese, an analyst for ESPN, said he’s hopeful better days are ahead and pointed to a handful of positives, including the play of quarterback Denard Robinson this spring.
“I think he’s a great kid,” Griese said. “I think he has all the talent in the world. I think he throws the ball better than people give him credit for. I expect a lot of growth. There’s a lot of youth on the team and it can only go up.”
Former Michigan running back Tim Biakabutuka predicted “tradition (will) prevail” and the Wolverines will return to their winning ways.
“You’re hoping for the best,” Biakabutuka said. “There’s been a lot of positives. We’ve got a great facility, the stadium has been upgraded. All of those things are going to recruit good players.
“Coach Rodriguez came in from the Big East and it’s a different style of football in the Big Ten. The adjustment he has to go through, I think that’s maybe the growing pain of the Big Ten. It’s a more physical game.”
Like Biakabutuka, kicker Jay Feely said he’s followed Michigan’s struggles from afar the last two years.
“I think everybody who went here does that because they love Michigan, and we want to see it get back to its rightful place being in competition for the national championship every year,” Feely said. “I’m hopeful that they can take the steps this year. The time is now to perform. This is the third year in Rich Rodriguez’s tenure and they should know the systems and they should be able to have recruited the right players and now they should be able to get back to winning.”
Does Feely foresee that happening this fall?
“I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody knows,” he said. “I don’t think (athletic director) Dave Brandon knows. They have 12 seniors and that’s going to hurt them not having that leadership from a strong senior class, but there’s no excuses now.”
Mike Rothstein contributed to this report.
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.