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Friday, January 02, 2004

The Wolverine Learning Curve = Flatline.

Yep. Sat through every last down of the embarrassment (make no mistake--it was embarrassing) last night. Another New Year's ruined.

BTW, Braylon Edwards--you are not ready to play on Sundays. Unless you really crave a third-rounder's paycheck and signing bonus. Stay another year and study how Jason Avant catches a football. Every. Single. Time.

It reminded me of most Rose Bowls I watched during the 70s and 80s: a well-regarded Big 10 team comes in and watches as the Pac-10 champ runs rings around it.

It's very, very simple: Speed kills.

Every time the Wolverines have been embarrassed--Florida State, Miami, Tennessee, Washington and now, S.C., they've been outmatched by team speed. Yes, you can compensate for it with certain schemes, but it only goes so far. When they won the shared (fume) championship in 1997, they had dazzling speed, which they added to punishing physical play. What Michigan did to Penn State that year is Exhibit A--I don't think the Nittany Lions have really recovered from that annihilating loss.

True, Michigan did beat a speedier team in the 1999 Orange Bowl against 'Bama--but even then, the speed disparity was not so great, and Michigan's size and schemes gradually wore the Tide down.

Not here.

You can only recruit speed--you can't develop it. The program should know this by now, but it has to relearn it every three years or so. I have two proposals:

(1) Recruit, recruit, recruit. If he's got speed, you can bulk him up later. Champions are fast. Also-rans are a half-step slower.

(2) The Modest Proposal: Tear up the frigging field turf at the Big House. To quote Jim Rome: "Artificial turf is the devil." Romey's referring to the physical toll it exacts--and having played on it twice during my glory days in high school, I agree. I'd have preferred playing on asphalt, all other things being equal.

But more importantly, putting fake turf on your home field is a real disadvantage speed-wise when you play on the real stuff. You are slower because the running habits you develop on artificial turf are bad ones for the real thing. Cuts, planting, etc. are much different. Chris Perry slipped two or three times yesterday in Pasadena where he wouldn't have back in Ann Arbor. Yes, I know there are drainage problems because the Big House is stuck in the ground. But this is supposed to be Michigan, for pete's sake. You know--the half-million alumni, the big brains, the brilliant research--figure it out. It's all a matter of making unwanted water go away--start brainstorming, Melvin.

Finally, I was wrong in my prediction: it didn't come down to Navarre, ultimately. Yes, the ball started sailing near the end, but it helps when your skill players are not running scared with a bad case of the Dropsies, and your line is using something besides the Matador blocking method. Whatever else can be said, you can't lay this on his shoulders. With coaching and development, he'll be a decent backup in the NFL.

Let the Matt Guiterrez Era now begin.

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