Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez’s first year has been especially tough on the Wolverines’ seniors, who won’t be playing for Michigan if their coach turns the team around in coming years.

Rodrigo Gaya/Daily
Morgan Trent (14) Jamar Adams (22) and Brandent Englemon (31) during Michigan’s 28-16 win over Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, IL on September 29, 2007.

“We’re not going to be here next year, so we don’t want to hear that it’s a transition year, and this year we’re going to struggle, but next year we’ll be fine,” fifth-year senior cornerback Morgan Trent said. “We don’t have that time to enjoy next year, so it’s tough for us, because we want it right now.”

Like every Wolverine class, this group has had its special moments on the field: a win over an otherwise-undefeated Penn State in 2005, a Rose Bowl berth after the 2006 season and a win over double-digit favorite Florida in the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day to send former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr out with a victory.

But this senior class, due in large part to this year, also has 18 losses — tied for most of any class in program history with the group that played from 1934-36 (before freshmen were eligible).

“I feel for those guys more than anybody else,” redshirt junior right guard David Moosman. “I almost feel it’s unfortunate that I have another year that they don’t have.”

The Wolverines will honor their 16 seniors before Saturday’s noon game against the Wildcats.

But Rodriguez may have gotten in the way of Michigan extending its five-game winning streak over Northwestern (3-3, 7-3) and claiming a victory on Senior Day — and not just because it’s another game in the Wolverines’ transition to their new coach.

After former Northwestern coach Randy Walker went 3-8 in his first year with the Wildcats in 1999, he took his offensive staff to meet with Clemson coaches for a week and learn their spread offense. Rodriguez was the Tigers’ offensive coordinator at the time.

The next year, the Wildcats went 8-4 and beat Michigan, 54-51, scoring the most points the Wolverines have allowed since 1958. Rodriguez had a message after the game for then-Northwestern offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who now holds the same position at Oklahoma.

“I said, ‘Kevin, at least you could have used your own signals and terminology,’ ” Rodriguez told the Charleston Daily Mail at the time.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is now in charge in Evanston, and the Wildcats’ scheme has evolved since 2000, but its roots still lie with Rodriguez.

But even if Saturday’s game becomes another loss in Rodriguez’s disappointing first season, which would clinch Michigan’s first season since 1962 that it didn’t win back-to-back games, the seniors aren’t showing any bitterness.

“You know, these are the cards we were dealt,” fifth-year senior tight end Mike Massey said. “Some senior class had to be that first senior class, and somebody had to be seniors in that first year. Yeah, I’ll look back on it, and we’ll all look back someday and say, ‘You know, that was a foundation.’

“But you know what? We’re just as much a part as a team four years from now or five years from now, whatever, that wins a Big Ten title or wins a national championship, does whatever. I’ll feel just as much a part of that team as those guys that are on it.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *