What's on Michigan's Christmas wish list? Quite a few things, actually
Based on their performance in 2020, the Michigan Wolverines probably deserve a few lumps of coal in their stockings in Schembechler Hall (assuming the have stocking hanging in the facility).
But today, it’s time to be a little bit lighter – a little more empathetic and understanding.
Look, it was a rough year for UM, which finished 2-4 and was railroaded by Indiana and Wisconsin, stunned by Michigan State and pushed to the limit by Big Ten bottom-dweller Rutgers.
Anything negative that could happen, happened for Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines, who were injured at key positions nearly the entire season. DE Aidan Hutchinson, RT Jalen Mayfield, the COVID opt-out of Ambry Thomas – it seems as if the Wolverines never had a legitimate chance to do much of anything during the shortened 6-game season.
Let’s take a look at some things that could help turn around the fortunes of Michigan. Instead of dwelling on the past, let’s look to the future. Sure, the past influences the future, but this piece is about what Michigan needs in order to contend – not necessarily a piece meant to dissect and insult.
A final answer on Harbaugh
Talking about – and writing about, actually – Harbaugh’s status at Michigan has become redundant. He wants to stay there. He’s talked with AD Warde Manuel about an extension – but it’s a shorter-term, incentive-laden deal – not some mega lifetime contract that was entertained in the past.
During the two prior seasons to 2020, Manuel had gone on record saying that he wanted Harbaugh to retire at Michigan. So we’re talking some longevity, right? Michigan signed all of its 2021 recruits, except for a pair of flips. Things look good on future fronts as well … so that must mean that Harbaugh is staying, right?
Michigan fans need a definitive answer to make their holiday season go a little smoother and to give them peace of mind heading into the 2021 season.
Oh, Saint Nick, please deliver a star quarterback to Ann Arbor. Scale down that chimney and leave it right under the tree, next to some other goodies that you hopefully have in that oversized gift pouch. Tell Rudolph to high-tail and make it happen!
Michigan hasn’t had anything close to a “star” QB since 2016, when Wilton Speight commanded a ship that was headed toward the College Football Playoff – if not for a bad call against Ohio State and a bad road loss at Iowa.
Joe Milton, the starter for the first 5 games of 2020, just isn’t the right guy for the job. After throwing a pair of picks vs. Rutgers, the redshirt sophomore was relieved by redshirt freshman Cade McNamara, who dug the Wolverines out of a 17-0 hole and led them to a 48-42 triple-OT victory.
Will it be McNamara, or hot-shot 5-star 2021 recruit J.J. McCarthy, the No. 2 pro-styler of his class and No. 22 overall recruit of the cycle. Chances are that it will be one them and not Milton, who completed just 56.7 percent of his passes to accompany 4 touchdown tosses and 4 picks.
New QB coach?
OK, so Shea Patterson became just the 3rd Michigan QB to eclipse the 3,000-yard mark in 2019, the first year Ben McDaniels was the full-time QB coach. That was an accomplishment, right? But where is the next step toward greatness? Players play, coaches coach – so if the players aren’t performing well, that must mean that the coach isn’t doing his job.
Two years might not be enough to fully evaluate McDaniels. Honestly, he probably deserves another year to see how he can develop McNamara, McCarthy and maybe even Milton.
But if we’re judging on the past 2 years, it’s clear that something is wrong with QBs in Ann Arbor. If a guy – Milton, specifically – can’t lead the way after having 3 years in the system, something needs to change – and right away.
From top-10 to No. 80 – all within a couple of years. The Don Brown defense just hasn’t ascended like anticipated. Dr. Blitz’s defense allowed nearly 6 yards per play in 2020 and was routinely torched on the long ball. Michigan’s secondary hasn’t been that bad since 2013 and 2014.
The use of talent can also be questioned. Dax Hill is Michigan’s best cover man, yet he plays safety. The former 5-star recruit would probably be better suited for the cornerback spot. So flipping positions for Hill might be a gift that UM fans can appreciate.
True featured RB – Haskins?
Entering 2020, Zach Charbonnet was thought to be the leading man in the backfield. Then, all of the sudden, carries shifted toward Hassan Haskins, who led the Wolverines in rushing with 375 yards and 6 touchdowns – the yardage total was good enough for No. 12 in the Big Ten and the 6 TDs were good enough to tie for 4th overall in the conference.
The writing is on the wall: Haskins appears to be that guy for the Wolverines. But will sophomore-to-be Blake Corum take up some carries in 2021? He’s not built as an every-down back like Haskins, but he could become the featured weapon out of the backfield if he continues to develop at his current pace.
Ability to compete for B1G title … finally
Oh, Santa, please do something – anything – to make the Wolverines competitive next season. Following a 2-4 season with embarrassing losses, any sort of improvement would help remedy the situation – right?
If Michigan isn’t competing for a Big Ten title in 2021, it’s probably time to wrap up the Harbaugh experiment and start from scratch.
Michigan hasn’t contended for a Big Ten title since 2016, Harbaugh’s second season.
Oh, and win a bowl game, too. That would help. Harbaugh is 1-4 in bowl games at UM. His team was so inconsistent this season, that it wasn’t even invited to a bowl game. Had UM been invited, the invitation would have been declined, per sources close to the situation.