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Wednesday, November 11, 2009
RichRod facing unique Year 2 obstacles at U-M

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan fans had a good reason to be optimistic entering the season despite the team's 3-9 disaster in 2008.

 
 AP Photo/Tony Ding
 Michigan hasn't made the leap many were expecting in coach Rich Rodriguez's second year.
Rich Rodriguez's track record as a head coach usually featured first-year struggles followed by second-year rebounds. He went 3-8 in his first year at West Virginia but improved to 9-4 in Year 2. Clemson went from 6-6 in Rodriguez's first year as offensive coordinator to 9-3 in his second go-round. Tulane went from 7-4 to 12-0 with Rodriguez calling the plays in Year 2.

In a sense, the pattern has continued, as Michigan already owns two more victories (5) than it did all of last season. But the jump many expected the program to take isn't happening. The Wolverines are in danger of finishing with a worse Big Ten record than they did a year ago (1-7 vs. 2-6), and the defense is performing just as poorly as last year, if not worse.

Did Michigan present greater challenges in Year 2 than Rodriguez's other coaching stops?

"I think every situation is a little different," Rodriguez said. "There's always a lot of factors that go into each season, whether it's the second season, the first, the fourth or what have you. We've certainly have had some different challenges this season from the beginning of August camp all the way until now, but as a coach and as players, you expect you're going to face adversity."

Rodriguez acknowledged that youth remains a problem for the Wolverines, particularly at key positions. Everyone knows about freshmen quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson, but Michigan could start six freshmen or sophomores on defense against No. 20 Wisconsin if sophomore Kevin Leach once again gets the nod over senior Obi Ezeh at middle linebacker.

Several veterans haven't progressed this fall, but there weren't that many in the mix for serious playing time to begin with.

"We have to make sure we know what our problems are and we try to fix them as quickly as we can but not sacrifice anything for the future," Rodriguez said. "We've got to make sure we're building the program the right way, so when we get it right, it stays right."