Michigan Daily Sports Editor Kyle O’Neill is not a
collegiate athlete, nor is he a collegiate coach. But he was a
starting wide receiver for his winless team at Garber High School,
was third in Bay County in receptions his senior year and claims to
know something about the game of football. So each game,
we’ll let him and his 5-foot-10, 158-pound frame break down
why Michigan either succeeded or failed.
1. Most importantly this was a team loss. Fans who want to
berate an individual person or position were not watching the
entire game. All aspects of the game belonged to Southern Cal. This
was surprising since the Trojans hardly put a complete game
together like this against lesser opponents from the Pac-10. The
only part of the game where Michigan had an edge was against the
secondary of Southern Cal. Unfortunately, John Navarre hardly had
enough time to make his first read, let alone go through his
2. Marlin Jackson is right in making his claim that he should be
moved back to cornerback. Should he have declared it so blatantly
to the media? Probably not. It may have been more of a surprise
tactic for next season. But he is right. He obviously feels —
and looks — out of place at the safety position. The only
time he looked at home during the second half of the season was
when he was playing the nickel back, but even at that position he
was useless guarding a No. 2 or 3 receiver that would be avoided.
This is not to say that Markus Curry couldn’t handle the No.
1 spot in 2004, it’s just that the safety spot has shown it
has depth — Jacob Stewart and Willis Barringer — and
Marlin is the best cornerback on the team.
3. Braylon Edwards is ready for the NFL. Should he go? No.
He’d be relying on his combine too much in a wide
receiver-stocked draft. Right now he’s a second-rounder in my
mind, and a first-rounder next season.
There was hardly a reason to break down one specific play as for
why Michigan lost to Southern Cal., as the Wolverines were
outmatched when the first Trojans’ War Chant played. But
despite the loss, Michigan’s season grades are still good
enough for my Dean’s List.
There is no change on the grade here, as John Navarre proved to
the Michigan Nation that he is a high-quality quarterback in his
win over Ohio State. Navarre even earned due praise from Southern
Cal. coach Pete Carroll, who rightfully stated that had Navarre not
scrambled as well as he did, he would have been sacked even more
than the nine times he was. Though Navarre was at no fault for the
Rose Bowl loss, he is not any higher than a ‘B’ because
of his inability to be the difference-maker in leading his team to
Running backs: A
Make no mistake about it, Chris Perry was the mythical
‘A+++’ this season, and this is only a grade of an
‘A’ because of the lack of a consistent No. 2 back.
From his 51 carries against Michigan State to his 154 yards on the
ground against the Buckeyes, Perry has looked like the best back in
the nation. His blocking and receiving contributions were fullback
and wideout-esque throughout the season and more than made up for
his disappearance (stats-wise) from the Oregon, Iowa and Southern
Wide receivers: Inc.
It’s easy to scratch your head as to why this group is
incomplete, as it produced so much during the season. By stats and
game-breaking plays alone, the trio of Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant
and Steve Breaston should be an ‘A.’ But in the end,
they were unable to make the final difference as they should have
done in the Rose Bowl. That alone should have dropped them to a
‘B+’. But all three are eligible to return next season.
Assuming all three do, their grade will be determined by what they
do as an experienced trio and not a first-year group.
Offensive line: B-
Before their performance in the Rose Bowl is addressed, what
Michigan’s offensive line did in the final six weeks of the
regular season was nothing short of spectacular. Allowing Perry so
much success in the final weeks and keeping Navarre protected from
dangerous Ohio State, Michigan State and Purdue defenses should not
be overlooked — and was reason enough to improve their
midterm grade of a ‘C+’ about 20 percent.
Unfortunately, in the game that mattered the most, their
performance was a nightmare for such a talented line.
Defensive front seven: B+
Aside from being out of their element against Southern Cal.
— the Trojans ran the ball effectively in the second half
— Michigan’s front seven turned in a relatively
consistent performance game in and game out. The only exceptions
were the Minnesota and Central Michigan games. Other than that,
these Wolverines were more than dominant. But like John Navarre,
they did not make the one game-changing play when they were needed
most to do so. This is a young front seven, though, and will return
most of its depth, sans veteran captain Carl Diggs.
Defensive secondary: C+
They will be judged primarily by one game and one game alone:
the Rose Bowl. Matt Leinart threw at will, and the Wolverines had
no response. Blame the lack of pressure on the Southern Cal.
quarterback if you want, but the secondary looked much more lost
than the front seven and obviously benefited from Big Ten passing
games that were not as fast as Southern Cal.
Special teams: C
Replacing Adam Finley will be more crucial than replacing
Navarre, as he was the only thing keeping that debacle called a
punt team respectable. Garrett Rivas has to develop a long ball in
his arsenal, but was consistent nonetheless. A kick returner needs
to be found for next season as well, as Steve Breaston is a natural
punt returner and is out of his element of making people juke when
he returns kicks.
Make no mistake about it, this team was on course to be 6-6 and
face Bowling Green in the Motor City Bowl. Give credit to the
coaching staff for coming up with untouchable gameplans after the
third quarter of the Minnesota game. There was no better team in
the nation during that month of November. But, like many other
positions on this team, the coaching staff was taken to school by
Carroll and Norm Chow. Any play or set that Michigan had was
outdone by Southern Cal. While some of that was player performance,
there was noticable difference in who outprepared who.