Looking back at the 2005 football season ... in a word, the story of this season was injuries. Safety Ryan Mundy, considered to be the spiritual leader of the '05 defense, was lost for the season before the first snap. Running back Mike Hart suffered a preseason hamstring injury which kept him out till the Michigan State game, then two games later he suffered an achilles injury which severely hobbled him to the point of near-ineffectiveness for the rest of the season. Offensive tackle Jake Long suffered a severe ankle sprain which kept him off the field until November; then after one semi-healthy game he injured ligaments in the other ankle and hobbled through the Ohio State game before having surgery. In addition, Steve Breaston had yet another season (two in a row now) where he wasn't healthy until November.
Injuries of course are part of football – but these were four preseason All Big Ten caliber players, and arguably four of the top seven guys on the team (along with wide receiver Jason Avant, nose tackle Gabe Watson and defensive end Lamarr Woodley). At any rate, the Wolverines could not overcome this spate of injuries, especially on the offensive side of the ball where the Wolverine finished the regular season in the bottom third of the Big Ten in all offensive categories: scoring offense (9th), passing offense (7th), rushing offense (8th), total offense (8th), pass efficiency (8th), red zone offense (7th), third down conversions (8th), and giving up sacks (7th). The Wolverine defense fared better, finishing 3rd or 4th in all categories (behind Ohio State and Penn Stats, and, in a few categories, Iowa) except, notably, red zone defense in which they finished 9th. The one category in which the 2005 Wolverines led the Big Ten: avoiding penalties.
The season-result, as one would expect with the above stats: a 7-4 regular season and a non-BCS bowl game.
Will things improve for Michigan football in 2006? There have been rumors here and there of some assistant coaches moving on to coordinator or head coaching positions – but the main thing to look at is players leaving and coming back. And in this regard there is both concern and hope.
It is assumed that all this year's ‘walking and non-walking wounded' will return: OT Jake Long and RB Mike Hart on offense, S Ryan Mundy for a 5th season on defense. And one can only hope that Steve Breaston is blessed with one healthy season in his Michigan career. Quarterback Chad Henne returns of course, as does Mario Manningham at wideout, Tyler Ecker at tight end and Adam Kraus, Ruben Riley, Alex Mitchell along with Long on the offensive line. However – Jason Avant graduates, as do starting O-linemen Adam Stenavich, Matt Lentz and Leo Henige, and tight end Tim Massaquoi. So there will be some serious rebuilding to do on the offensive line.
On the Michigan defense, nose tackle Gabriel Watson graduates, but virtually everyone else returns.
As always, the success of the Michigan football season starts in two places: on the defense and on the offensive line. One should be solid, the other a question mark.
U-M Football: Rear View Mirror, Crystal Ball
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