Rodriguez sees chemistry build, entitlement vanish

July, 27, 2009
7/27/09
6:16
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- The days are long gone when simply putting on the winged helmet automatically meant 10-14 points on the scoreboard.

Michigan learned that lesson the hard way last fall.

As the Wolverines regroup for the 2009 campaign, head coach Rich Rodriguez has urged his players not to expect success without earning it the hard way, just like everybody else. Any reminder of the team's 3-9 season hammers home the point.  

"Are you hungry to prove yourself and not have a sense of entitlement? We talked quite a bit about not having the sense of entitlement," Rodriguez said. "It's good to have pride, but when that pride becomes too much, you're going to get humbled pretty quick. I think, in a sense, that happened to us."   

Rodriguez thinks the pain Michigan players endured on the field last season has served them well during the summer months. The players are also more accustomed to the demanding workouts that have generated both positive and negative attention for the Wolverines' program.

"Last year, they did it, but they were probably doing it because you were telling them to, [strength and conditioning coach] Mike Barwis was telling them to," Rodriguez said. "This year, they did it because they know they need to and they want you. And there's a difference."

Much of the discussion Monday at Big Ten media days centered on how to fix a league that has dropped six consecutive BCS bowl games and struggled in marquee nonconference matchups. All agreed that having Michigan be Michigan again was a critical step in the process. 

But it won't happen automatically. 

"The fortunate thing about Michigan is you have a national name brand, and you want to use that," Rodriguez said. "But outside of helping you in recruiting and helping you maybe get your program established quicker, you've still got to put the same kind of work in, you've got to do the same kind of things you would anywhere else ... to build a program the right way.

"The name will only carry you so far. I knew that coming in, but it was a hard lesson."

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