The 2020 Michigan Wolverines offense could look a little different

Embed from Getty Images One year ago Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines football team’s offense was stale, and did not have the firepower to win in the schools biggest games. Harbaugh went outside the box and brought in Josh Gattis to run his offense. Gattis arrived in Ann Arbor and said his offense is based on “speed in space.”

“Speed in space,” is based on spreading the ball around and getting it to the best play makers. It sounded like a good theory. Michigan had some players needed to become a bit more explosive offensively.

Yet, Gattis and the Wolverines did not have enough play makers to move the meter much. Jim Harbaugh and Josh Gattis watched as the Wolverines struggled to grasp the offense early in the 2019 season.

Then it began to click, Michigan went on a mini tear, amassing points and yardage in the second half of the season. throw out a combined point total of 43 against Ohio State and Alabama, it goes without saying that is bad, Michigan did gain a combined 791 yards against the two national powerhouses.

The Michigan Wolverines offense clearly showed signs of growth. Enough growth to suggest the Wolverines look set to be a dangerous offensive team next season.

Cutting down on turnovers and finding a running game opened things up for the Gattis lead offense. Hammering Notre Dame for 45 points and hanging in against both Ohio State and Alabama, albeit for only the first half are positive steps.

The real question for Harbaugh, Gattis and the Michigan offense is what’s next? The team must replace quarterback Shea Patterson, who both struggled and played well sometimes within the same game. Michigan has an outstanding offensive line, but need to replace four starters as well as wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones who declared for the NFL draft.

While that is a lot to replace, Michigan, thanks in large part to solid recruiting have the depth for a smooth transition. It is not difficult to see improvement for the 2020 Big Ten season.

Jim Harbaugh knew this would be a bumpy step-back season as his team went in a new direction offensively. If the team can find it’s way through the non-conference games with new starters, Michigan’s offense looks prepared to take the next step.

Ohio State stomps Michigan again, as the Wolverines look for answers

Embed from Getty Images Jim Harbaugh was brought to Michigan to close the gap on Ohio State. Talent, coaching, recruits scores and wins. He has not delivered on that yet. In fact one might say it has worsened. The Michigan Wolverines lost on their own field 56-27. This on the heals of losing last season in Columbus, Ohio 62-39.

Two schools headed in different directions. Ohio State to the Big Ten title game, with a shot at the College Football Playoffs, Michigan will head to a bowl game with it’s psyche shattered again. It is a yearly broken record.

To examine why Ohio State has beaten Michigan over and over, the first place to look is in the coaching. Be it Jim Tressel, Urban Meyer, or Ryan Day for Ohio State or Rich Rodriguez, Brady Hoke or Jim Harbaugh for Michigan. Ohio State has been better prepared for this game, “The Game” over the years.

Sure the Michigan fan base and media has heard how serious the Wolverines take this game, but the on-field production does not match the empty words spoken. It takes more than words and players walking around in T-shirts with last seasons score on it to get ready to play.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields put it as plainly as could be “I just think we take it more serious than they do.” TRUTH! Michigan has regained dominance over Michigan State. Ohio State does not seem that important to the Wolverines based on the play they have shown on the field for a while now.

Michigan defensive end Aiden Hutchinson said “I didn’t see this coming.” That is telling. He thought his team was ready to compete. Everyone thought Michigan was ready to compete. Instead fans chose to believe the hollow words and not the facts.

The Ohio State coaching staff made some very good in-game adjustments and were very disciplined. Michigan made no in-game adjustments and were not as disciplined. That did not hurt the Wolverines as much as poor execution. 9 dropped passed, as well as turnovers killed Wolverines offensive drives.

Still Michigan has beaten Notre Dame and the Spartans this season. For people who say Harbaugh can not beat his rivals, he beat two of them. To beat Ohio State changes need to be made starting with the approach.

Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines look to crack the Buckeyes

Embed from Getty Images Ohio State has won 14 of the past 15 meetings, that is well documented within the Michigan Wolverines football team and fan base. Yet, Jim Harbaugh made a tough, yet honest assessment of his offense, and he brought in first-time coordinator Josh Gattis. Harbaugh, made it clear Monday he knows the rules. Until he wins this game, his record is partly hollow.

Jim Harbaugh told a sideline reporter for ESPN that his Wolverines were “about to have their finest hour.” A very daring statement to make considering the Wolverines trailed Penn State by 14 at the time.

The Michigan fan base sounded off. Jim Harbaugh, doesn’t worry about such noise he never has. He was not a mad scientist,crazy or delusional the Michigan Head coach had seen something in his team three games after losing badly at Wisconsin. Harbaugh also had seen something in his team during practices. That his team was close to finding itself.

Now looking back Harbaugh was clearly was on to something, and he knew it.  On Monday Jim Harbaugh was asked about his team, he used his favorite word to describe it. “Ascending.”

The smooth play of quarterback Shea Patterson as well as the Wolverines wide receivers have given the offense a lift. Will it be enough against Ohio State? That is a good question.

The Buckeyes have one of the best defenses in college football.  Yet,  Ohio State has not seen an offense as good as Michigan’s. They also have not seen a defense playing as well as the Wolverines. Something that was unthinkable four or five weeks ago, But Michigan should be able to compete with the mighty Buckeyes.

Jim Harbaugh was not hired to take Ohio State into the fourth quarter and compete. He was hired to beat Michigan State and the Buckeyes and get to the Big Ten title game and take Michigan to the College Football Playoff.

While the team will not hit those two goals this season, a win over the Buckeyes is critical. A changed offense and defense and Michigan is right where it’s head coach said they would be.

Harbaugh’s Wolverines, are playing it’s best football of the season, as ready as it they ever been heading toward Ohio State. Harbaugh told everyone this was coming. This Saturday at noon in Ann Arbor, Jim Harbaugh gets his chance to make good on that statement.

Michigan, Ohio State week

Embed from Getty Images 62-39, you do not have to tell anyone associated with the Michigan Wolverines football program. 62-39, players, coaches, media, fans all know it. 62-39, it was put up in the Wolverines locker room by head coach Jim Harbaugh as a means of inspiring his team to get to the next level. For those who do not know, or may have forgotten, last season in Columbus Ohio, the Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Michigan Wolverines 62-39.

In what could have very well been a “trap game”, the Michigan Wolverines went into Indiana and beat the Hoosiers soundly, 39-14. That was refreshing to see. Jim Harbaugh had his team locked to the task at hand.

Next Saturday, unbeaten Ohio State pays a visit to Ann Arbor with a lot on the line. Sure the Buckeyes have secured a spot in the Big Ten title game. The team had a close game at home to Penn State. Penn State kept in close by running the ball up the middle and quick outs to the receivers.

The Michigan Wolverines quarterback Shea Patterson has thrown for 750 the past two weeks. He returned to Michigan for his senior year because of 62-39. “There is no way in hell I’m leaving this place on that note.” Patterson last December.

Jim Harbaugh is winless against in four tries against one of the schools rivals. They have not beaten Ohio State since 2011 when Luke Fickell was named head coach for the fired Jim Tressel.

This seasons game promises to be another hard fought game. If Michigan can run the ball like Penn State right at the heart of the Buckeyes defense and get the ball to the outside to the playmakers, it should be a close game.

One thing to watch for is Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who has had a very good season to date. There is one small glitch in his game though. Fields takes too many sacks. That is not just me saying it. Ohio State coaches have been saying it. Ohio State fans have said it is frustrating at times and he should throw the ball away.

The Michigan Wolverines, use different defensive formations to hide the blitz. It is something to watch for.

62-39, can Michigan wash the bad taste out of their mouth? We will soon find out.

Michigan Wolverines vs Michigan State Spartans a nasty, bitter rivalry

Embed from Getty Images Michigan vs Michigan State is a bitter rivalry. It is a week in the state of Michigan where friends and neighbors stop talking to each other if they are on opposite sides of who they root for. Tomorrow, the two schools will square off again. One school headed in the right direction, one school is not.

The Michigan State downfall is and has been well documented. That is out the window. In a game like the one that kicks off tomorrow at 12:00 pm, Mark Dantonio will try to rally his team.

For Michigan, Jim Harbaugh is 2-2 against Dantonio but 0-2 in Ann Arbor, he is taking this years game very, very seriously. There have been a flurry of indications Dantonio might hang up his Spartan pullover and move on after this season. Harbaugh would like to be the one to sends him on his way.

All the pressure is on the Michigan Wolverines,  they have generally handled big game pressure with the poise of a student driver driving on the freeway for the first time.

Last season you may recall the Spartans were met by the solitary resistance  of Devin Bush, that game is now remembered as “StompGate.” As Bush dug his cleats into the midfield logo in Spartan Stadium and tore up the sod, forcing Michigan State to quickly call out the ground crew.

For better or worse the Devin Bush feet scrape defines the Wolverines, Spartans rivalry. Bitter, nasty and a genuine dislike for the opposition. Until last year’s 21-7 victory, Michigan had not covered the spread against Michigan State in 10 straight meetings.

This season, the Wolverines are playing some of the teams best football heading into the big game. Michigan State has dropped three in a row. Expect the Spartans to try to give it one last heroic shot.

One problem, Michigan is more talented and has much more riding on the season. I like Michigan to win comfortably.

Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Mike Sainristil coming into his own

Embed from Getty Images Freshmen wide receiver Mike Sainristil was poised to play a big role in the Wolverines offense after spring practice ended for the Michigan football team. Back in  April, Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh named Sainristil a star and his teammates and coaching staff raved about him.

When the Wolverines entered fall practice Mike  Sainristil did not hold onto the starting position. That went new starting slot receiver, Ronnie Bell. Bell was injured Saturday night, enter Sainristil.

All Mike Sainristil did was  lead the Wolverines with three catches for 73 yards and a score, displaying the potential that had everyone praising him in the spring, against  Notre Dame.

Sainristil, plays with a high motor. He also blocks well, and is always hustling around. Harbaugh said  last four weeks especially in practice, that he is seeing a lot of growth from Mike.

Mike Sainristil,  always been really good route-running, but he went through a short period there he wasn’t catching the ball great. But now his confidence is back and surging.

The Wolverines offense is is now armed with Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins, Ronnie Bell and Sainristil making it much more difficult for defenses to double one of them.

At 5 foot 10 inches and 183 pounds, Sainristil is short but makes up for that with his speed and athleticism which adds a new wrinkle to Michigan’s new offense.

Mike Sainristil, a three-star athlete coming out of high school who played cornerback and wide receiver, has the ability to make a big impact from here on out. Given his break-away speed, he showed Saturday night against a very good Noter Dame secondary he can shred right through it.

The Michigan Wolverines seem to have found their groove on offense and defense. They will be a tough match up for teams coming down the stretch. That includes Ohio State.

 

The Michigan Wolverines look like a totally different football team

Embed from Getty Images What can happen in nine days? If you are the Michigan Wolverines football team a lot. Nine days ago the Wolverines suffered the teams second loss on the football season in Happy Valley to Penn State.  That loss proved to be a blessing, it seems to have given Michigan a spark.

Saturday night, in front of a sold out Big House on national t.v. Michigan went out on a rain soaked field and hammered the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, earning its second top 10 win of the Jim Harbaugh era. It was a complete team effort.

The game was played in a non stop downpour, the Michigan Wolverines went back to a tried and true gameplan, a solid run game and a relentless defense, set the tone early for Michigan.

The Wolverines chalked up 167  rushing yards before halftime and scored on three consecutive possessions. The offensive line had their best game of the season. Running backs Hassan Haskins and Zach Charbonnet had big holes and a lot of room to run and show off their talent.

With new starters and new coach’s, the adjustment for Michigan has been long and painful at times. Saturday night they seemed to get over that hump and the entire team looked like fans and media thought they would before the season kicked off.

Until this week, Michigan’s season was trending downward. Two weeks ago, the Wolverines gave up 25 consecutive points to Illinois. It scraped  an ugly 10-3 win over Iowa in Ann Arbor. It was throttled by  Wisconsin, also Michigan had a tough time defeating Army in overtime and could not stop turning the ball over against Middle Tennessee State.

After the game Jim Harbaugh praised his teams ability to “keep working, keep growing.” It appears the Michigan Wolverines worst football is behind them. Michigan has four regular season games remaining, including rivals Michigan State and Ohio State at Michigan Stadium. If they continue to put effort like the team displayed Saturday night. Those games will be interesting.

While it is too late to save this season for the Wolverines, if this is the true direction of Michigan football, head coach Jim Harbaugh might have finally found his winning formula at Michigan.

 

 

Michigan Wolverines football and head coach Jim Harbaugh appear to be at the crossroads

Embed from Getty Images It was a Rich Rodriguez coached performance the Michigan Wolverines football team put on Saturday afternoon in Madison Wisconsin. Certainly Brady Hoke would have had his team somewhat better prepared. Not too mention, Jim Harbaugh had two weeks to get his troops ready. It looked like he took two minutes.

Out- played, out- prepared, out-coached. On offense and on defense. Why? During the offseason fans and media were told over and over, this would be a new brand of Michigan football. After all they were the Big Ten favorites, on paper.

Saturday was 60-minutes of a comprehensive failure, that has seen Jim Harbaugh hit rock bottom at the school he played at in the 1980’s. 55 games into his coaching tenure Jim Harbaugh has little to show for his efforts.

Harbaugh, brought in Josh Gattis to run the offense. Gattis promised “speed in space.” In two games Michigan’s offense had serious issues. With and extra week to get ready for the Badgers, the Wolverines offense did not improve.

Michigan was consistently blown off the ball on both sides by Wisconsin, something in Jim Harbaugh’s fifth season that simply should not happen. Harbaugh’s failure to win a marquee game is indisputable.

While Saturday’s loss will not get Harbaugh fired, he can not be trusted to build a championship team.  After the game Harbaugh said it was “gut-check” time for his team. Someone in the Michigan athletic administration needs to tell the head football coach it is gut-check time.

Jim Harbaugh has lost his fire. Slamming clipboards, throwing headsets and screaming whenever he saw on-field injustices have given way to hands on knees bent over not saying much.

What is a deathblow for any coach, Jim Harbaugh appears to be uncertain, his  team is reflecting that during games. Jim Harbaugh needs to find that inner fire again. His team is suffering and will not recover until he does.

Preseason Big Ten favorites on paper. But, paper does not play games, motivate players or wins championships. It  does however crumble.

With right tackle Andrew Steueber injured the Michigan Wolverines are shuffling the offensive line

Embed from Getty Images Michigan Wolverines right tackle, Andrew Stueber has suffered a significant injury to his knee. The injury could have Stueber  out for an indefinite amount of time. The Wolverines are now shuffling the offensive line around to find the right combination.

Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner spoke to the media on Monday afternoon saying,  “We moved Joel (Honigford),” Warinner said, via The Michigan Insider. “He had been playing right guard. With (Andrew) Vastardis playing so well at guard/center, we felt very comfortable having Andrew Vastardis as a right guard and then bumping Joel out. Joel has only been there a couple of days but he’s looking real comfortable. That may be a better position for him. A year ago when I first got here I tried him out there, he struggled in the pass protection. Now, he’s over a year working that and some of his fundamentals we were able to develop with him, he’s really looked good out there in terms of that. That was the piece that kept him from playing tackle a year ago. Now, I feel real comfortable in his pass protection, he knows what’s going on and I think it’s going to be a good move for him. Vastardis is a solid guy inside.”

Injuries are never fun and can be difficult to overcome. The Michigan Wolverines are in good shape to man maneuver through some of the offensive line injuries due to very good recruiting and depth.

To lose a starter on the offensive line so close to the start of the 2019-20 College Football Season has made the Michigan coach’s and players adjust. The offensive line was going to be a really good unit for the football team this season and I believe it still will be.

More will be known about how fast the line can gel when on August 31 Michigan hosts Middle Tennessee for the season opener.

Players to watch for the Michigan Wolverines football team

Embed from Getty Images College football 2019-20 is officially here, with the Michigan Wolverines having kicked off fall camp on Friday, August 2. While it is too early in fall camp to get a feel for who is standing out. There are some Wolverines who’s names have not been brought up. It is those players I think are ready to take the next step.

Freshman defensive tackle Chris Hinton. When it comes to incoming freshman hype, it starts with Hinton. Hinton has the size and ability to be a solid player on the inside of the defensive line. This was a trouble spot on last seasons defense. Mazi Smith has stolen most of the hype out of the freshmen, Hinton is a name to remember as he can make a big impact.

Sophomore linebacker Jordan Anthony, he can play middle linebacker. Red shirted last season Anthony is looking to earn more playing time. In is his third year in the system, and he should get more playing time, even if it is in a backup role.

Five star linebacker Cam McGrone might be the least hyped five star the Michigan football team has had. It did not help that McGrone was dealing early with an injury last year. His sideline to sideline ability, coupled with his willingness to hit, will remind the Michigan fan base of Devin Bush Jr.  Now healthy, Michigan coaches will look to find ways to get his speed and athleticism on the field.

With last seasons defensive departures that is where I wanted to focus. This is a unit that has some playmakers with big abilities. The 2019-20 Michigan Wolverines defense should not drop off a lot. There will be an initial dip when the season begins. As players learn their rolls and rotations.

That should be both cleared up and cleaned up by the time the Big Ten play starts.