In all the time spent discussing parity in major sports, there have always been certain teams and programs associated with winning and being successful. America has several leading sports franchises that have been steeped in culture as strongholds of success, such as the LA Lakers, Boston Celtics, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Yankees, Alabama Crimson Tide and more.
One program that would like to think of themselves as belonging to these superpowers in their respective sports is the University of Michigan football team. The Wolverines, who claim the banner as the most successful college football team of all time, have long held a prominent status as one of the nation’s top college football programs in terms of recruiting and product lineup. in the field.
However, since 2000, the Wolverines have been ranked 22nd among FBS programs in the record for wins and losses, behind conference rivals such as No.20 Nebraska, No.18 Wisconsin and No.4 ‘State of Ohio. The program that was once one of college football’s most popular starring dynamic players such as Heisman winners Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson has had a bad patch compared to its previous success in the 1900s. However, this season, the Wolverines are 4-0, featuring one of the strongest running games in the country behind a significantly revised staff led by former Michigan quarterback and head coach Jim Harbaugh.
To learn more about the status of this Michigan Wolverines team ahead of their clash against Wisconsin at Camp Randall, we at The Daily Cardinal reached out to Daniel Dash, Michigan Daily editor, specializing in communications and media as well as economics. Dash is the Football Pace Writer for The Daily this season and will travel to Madison this Saturday to cover the game from the press box.
“The biggest story after the Michigan Wolverines this season is the staff overhaul with ten new assistant coaches,” Dash said. “Aside from defensive line coach Shaun Nua, there is a whole new defensive staff with former Ravens linebacker coach Mike Macdonald as the new defensive coordinator.”
Dash noted that these defensive staff are also extremely young, with defensive coordinator Macdonald only 34 years old. “I think the players really appreciate that aspect of the staff,” Dash said. “It’s more of a conversation than a lecture when they interact with their coaches.”
Dash noted how important this was to a trend breaker for Jim Harbaugh, who has traditionally favored staff with great experience. “He really branched out and stepped outside of his usual hiring field,” Dash noted. “If you look at the old staff assistants like [former defensive coordinator] Don Brown who was 66, had dinosaurs on his football team and that’s a major change from his past.
Dash also noted that there appears to be a lot of friendly staff and “cross-pollination” exchanges between Michigan and the Baltimore Ravens, which are led by head coach John Harbaugh – Jim’s older brother. Dash explained that there are innate similarities between the programs, with both football teams featuring powerful passer and productive running games.
“Offensively, this Michigan team is led by a two-headed backfield in [Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum] who nicknamed themselves “Thunder and Lightning”. Haskins is the more physical of the two, the kind of back that goes through tackles. Corum is “lightning” because he is very quick on the line of scrimmage, does a lot of jumps and sideways, much more likely to miss the tackle in the open field.
Dash noted that Corum’s ability to go vertical in the racing game is something that hasn’t been seen in Michigan since Karan Higdon’s 2018 season.
As for the quarterback’s play, Dash explained that starting quarterback Cade McNamara had “three and a half consistent football games before he really fell apart in the game against Rutgers in the second half.” Dash noted that they started the second half against Rutgers with “four straight three-and-outs. They couldn’t move the ball at all [on the ground] and McNamara did some very poor readings.
“A lot of times he doesn’t keep the ball on RPOS at all which really takes PO out of the game, which I think McNamara and the staff are increasingly aware of. He feels the pressure well, but gets a little nervous and throws the ball a lot on his back foot. Dash added that because Michigan has a smaller receiving core, McNamara’s inconsistent accuracy often leads to errors and incompleteness when squeezed into the pocket.
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Defensively, Dash noted the solid play from defensive end Aiden Hutchinson. “He’s a monster,” Dash said. “Before the season he was discussed as a marginal choice in the first round, but he is now considered a top ten player.”
Dash explained that since their opponents have sent out a lot of doubles and triples in their own way, Michigan really needs another passer to get to the opposite side to get the defense one step closer. Another player who has had a great start to the season is safety back Daxton Hill, who has turned more to a hybrid safety back this season. “[Hill] has done a really good job as a slot machine corner, and Michigan has had good success when the ball is thrown at them.
The Wolverines have gone this season from aggressive men’s cover and lightning-fast defense to a more traditional 3-4 base, “which has opened up a lot of doors for this team,” Dash said. But to get into an elite level of college football defense, MacDdonald and Wolverine’s defense will need to find a more consistent pass against Hutchinson, Dash noted.
When it comes to expectations for the season, Dash explained that most didn’t expect Michigan to look as strong as they did in the first four games of the 2021 season. Although Jim Harbaugh did signed an extension this offseason, “It was a five-year extension but sort of in name only. It was really a case of proof as contract buyouts are pretty insignificant and decrease throughout the contract.”
However, to establish this season as a rebound after a few years of decline, Michigan will need to find a way to overtake Wisconsin, Dash noted. “With Jim Leonhard’s defense primed and ready to stop Michigan’s running game, the Wolverines will need to look to McNamara to win at Camp Randall.” Given McNamara’s inconsistent play this year, Dash believes the Badgers will win a close game against the Wolverines due to Wisconsin’s experience in high school, which is packed with senior fifth and sixth graders, as well as their strengths on along the defensive line.
Dash ended the conversation by noting, “I think this is a Michigan team that could win a New Years Six Bowl, and I didn’t really think that was possible a month ago.”
This game will begin at 11 a.m. Fox Central Time, as Big Noon Kickoff returns to Madison to cover the Big Ten game between the Wolverines and the Badgers, where the Wolverines will look to win at Camp Randall for the first time since 2001.
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