A few days ago, I put up a post about the difference in attitude Defensive Coordinator Ron English had towards his "D" because of the loss of key players from the 2006 squad. Now it is time to take a look at the situation of Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord. He is in a much better position than Coach "E" is with the defense because many of the offensive stars (Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Jake Long, Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington to name a few) are coming back in 2007. The big question for 2007 is "How will the offense be used?" Even though the offense had many "weapons" in 2006, the offense often took a backseat to the defense last season. Coach Carr's overriding philosophy was to get out to an early lead and let the defense protect it. The offense's job then became one of ball control (Michigan was #2 in the nation in time of possession heading into the bowl game last year) and minimizing mistakes. Coach Carr's mantra is "PROTECT THE LEAD AND PROTECT THE BALL!" Henne's passing yards were down in 2006 as the Wolverines played a more conservative ball control offense once they grabbed an early lead. Let's take a look back at 2006:
Michigan scored first in eleven of the twelve regular season games. The Wolverines were 10-1 in 2006 in games they scored first. The only game they lost, of course, was to the Ohio State University Buckeyes. Over the course of his 12 year tenure as Head Coach of the Wolverines, Coach Carr has won 84% of the games that the Wolverines scored first. In 2006, Michigan scored a touchdown on its opening possession in 8 games (rushing tds: Vanderbilt, CMU, Ball State, & OSU; passing tds. from Henne to Arrington: Minnesota, MSU, Iowa, & Indiana). Michigan outscored its opponents in the first quarter by a margin of 93-30 during the regular season.
Michigan made a concerted effort in 2006 to get back to the ground game despite the fact that it had an accomplished QB in Chad Henne (a junior last season) and two outstanding wide receivers in Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington. The 2006 Wolverines amassed over 2,000 rushing yards for the season for the first time since 2003. Michigan lead the Big Ten with 508 rushing attempts for 2,270 yards and 21 touchdowns during the regular season. All that time on the ground helped chew up the clock as the Wolverines were #2 in the nation in time of possession (a mere 2 seconds per game less than #1 Wisconsin) during the 2006 regular season. The offense not only worked the clock (protect the lead) it also protected the ball. The Wolverines led the nation during the regular season in the category of fewest turnovers allowed (10: 7 interceptions, 3 fumbles). Michigan was tied for #2 in the nation in turnover margin on the strength of the performance of the offense in yielding so few turnovers during the course of the season (less than one per game).
Everything Michigan did last season was geared to Coach Carr's philosophy of "Protect the lead, protect the ball." That philosophy has worked, more or less, for 12 seasons. Coach Carr is not about to change now. Thus, in 2007 expect the offensive fireworks to be shelved as soon as Michigan takes an early lead in a game just as it always has done under Coach Carr. Some things never change. It is a Michigan Tradition. Like winning. Go Blue!