Michigan Wolverines 2017 Season Review
The Michigan Wolverine’s 2017 football season is somewhat difficult to assess. A number of depth chart changes make the picture murky. Whether the Wolverines had a successful season or not largely depends on who you ask. To the fans who started the season with visions of a trip to the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis and potentially a playoff appears, the 8-5 finish was a tough pill to swallow. Yet to others, the Wolverines were not ready for such a feat and the season ended about as expected.
There is Always Next Season
Expectations aside, it is hard not to categorize Michigan’s 2017 season as a letdown. The Wolverines started out hot, winning their first four games. However, after an injury at quarterback the wheels fell off the wagon. Despite strong defensive play, Michigan could not do better than a .500 winning percentage, including a frustrating loss in the Outback Bowl. Luckily, the Wolverines have a number of talented starters returning and with a key transfer which could mean 2018 success.
Starting Out Hot
Regardless of what preseason lens one viewed Michigan’s chances through, they undeniably started out hot. The Wolverines won their first four games, starting out with a neutral site victory over then #17 Florida and finishing on the road against a decent Purdue team. During this stretch, Michigan outscored its opponents 126-54 and looked to be worthy of their #8 ranking. Unfortunately, the final game against Purdue also spelled doom for the Wolverines. In the first quarter of the game starting quarterback Wilton Speight went out with a spinal injury. Quarterback play then on was Michigan’s Achilles’ Heel.
The Wolverines began struggling in October. The narrative of October, which would become the narrative of the season, the defense excelled while the offense could not pull its weight. With backup quarterback John O’Korn under center, the Michigan only won two of their four games. And the Wolverines need two overtimes to put away an Indiana team that won two conference games and went 5-7 overall. Both loses were two fellow Big Ten East schools Michigan State and Penn State, largely icing the Wolverines out of the conference championship game.
The Wolverines fans were optimistic going into November. Third-string quarterback Brandon Peters replaced a struggling O’Korn early in the final game of October against Rutgers. The offense looked as good as it had under Speight in September. Unfortunately, the good times did not last. After winning their first two games against Minnesota and Maryland, the Wolverines dropped their final two at Wisconsin and against Ohio State.
The 2018 Citrus Bowl was an opportunity for Michigan to round out the season with a win and show glimpses of what the offense could be fully under Peters’ control. Many thought with a month off to heal and allow the offense to work on timing would lead to a bowl victory when combined with Michigan’s stout defense. Unfortunately, things did not go the Wolverines’ way. They jumped out to a 19-3 lead over the South Carolina Gamecocks. However, the as with the regular season, the offense struggled and continually put the defense in tough positions that eventually led to Gamecock points. The Wolverines gave up 23 unanswered points, losing 19-26.
Coaching Staff Changes
With the season over, many expect to see a number of changes on the coaching staff. The most obvious place to make changes is the on the offense. Many have speculated about the future of offensive coordinator Tim Drevno. However, Drevno has worked with head coach Jim Harbaugh for over a decade when they both coached at San Diego University. This coupled with the fact that the change hasn’t happened yet, it increasingly seems like Drevno will stay.
At the assistant-level, Michigan’s off-season began in an unusual manner. Dan Enos, the former Central Michigan head coach and Arkansas offensive coordinator, became Michigan’s wide receivers coach in mid December. Former Central Michigan tight-ends coach Sherrone Moore, an assistant under Enos, followed him a few weeks later. Both men were to help fill the void left Greg Frey who joined Willie Taggert’s staff at Florida State. Frey coached Michigan’s tight-ends, tackles, and was the run-game coordinator. However, Enos accepted the quarterbacks coach and associate head coach position under Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa. The departure robs Michigan of a potential coordinator-in-waiting and will need to be filled soon.
So far, the Wolverines have put together a strong recruiting class though they dropped slightly in the national rankings compared to last year. As of the early signing period, Michigan’s recruiting class rankings 12th nationally but, potentially concerning, third in the Big Ten. Eight of Michigan’s 19 commitments thus far are 4-star recruits. A number of 5-star recruits remain on Michigan’s radar. However, they just lost 5-star defensive tackle Tyler Friday to arch-rival Ohio State.
Jim Harbaugh likely began to feel his seat warm over the course of the 2017 season. Despite fielding a top ten defense, the offense never recovered from Speight’s injury and struggled to put points on the board. Luckily for the Wolverines, unlike last year, many of starters on both sides of the ball return. With Michigan’s top pass rusher, Chase Winovich, returning for his senior season, expect the Wolverines to field yet another elite defense. Coupled with Shea Patterson’s transfer from Ole’ Miss, Michigan could play in Indianapolis. Though there is much work to do in the off season.