Michigan Looks Past Tumultuous 2008 Season

By Lafferty, Tricia | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 21, 2009 | Go to article overview

Michigan Looks Past Tumultuous 2008 Season


Lafferty, Tricia, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


After posting one of the worst records in Michigan history last season, the Wolverines are on their way back.

It seems second-year coach Rich Rodriguez could help Michigan return to prominence.

The Wolverines are 5-2 overall, have appeared in The Associated Press Top 25 and are unbeaten at home, where they'll host Penn State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

By typical Michigan standards, that's average.

But considering the transition the Wolverines went through last season - a 3-9 record, which broke Michigan's streak of 33 consecutive bowl game appearances - when Rodriguez replaced Lloyd Carr, Michigan has made vast improvements.

"I think the difference between this year and last year, Coach Rod uses the phrase 'All in,'" Michigan senior offensive lineman Mark Ortmann said. "I think that is the biggest difference. I think last year we had some fourth-year and fifth-year seniors who were thinking more of personal gains. They were not as much focused on the team and maybe the leadership that needed to be displayed and the transition that we were going through."

In Rodriguez's first year, he had to overcome more than the typical coaching adjustments. He brought in a run-first spread offense but didn't have the right personnel to excel in that offense. His first year was as tough as they are for most first- year coaches at a new program.

"My first year people wanted to get rid of me; I lost five games the first year I coached," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "The next year we only lost two. I think it takes a while sometimes for kids to get adjusted to a different style, different interpretation of certain situations that arrive in a game or in practice and so forth."

This isn't the first time Rodriguez has tried to transform a program. In his first year at West Virginia in 2001, the Mountaineers went 3-8. However, Rodriguez's work with the 2002 team, which posted a 9-4 record, is the greatest turnaround in Big East history. West Virginia began reaping the benefits of the new system and finished in first place or tied for first in the conference in four of the next five seasons.

The Mountaineers also finished ranked No. 11 or higher in three of those seasons.

That first season, though, things looked grim, just like it did at Michigan last year.

"We wanted to make the best of that season and things just didn't go our way," Michigan linebacker Obi Ezeh said. "I think we were just off by a very small margin. …

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