I’ll get this out of the way right now: In no way should Troy Woolfolk’s devastating leg injury — and the resulting nightmare of a depth chart — have any bearing on Rich Rodriguez’s job status at Michigan. To say Rodriguez has had horrible luck with cornerbacks during his tenure in Ann Arbor would do a disservice to the term ‘horrible.’ AnnArbor.com has a brief rundown of how Michigan got so thin at the position, and it isn’t pretty:
In addition to [Justin] Turner’s untimely departure, Donovan Warren left school early after the 2009 season to enter the NFL Draft, expecting to be a mid-round draft pick. Instead, he signed an unrestricted free-agent deal with the New York Jets.
This spring, the Wolverines signed highly touted recruit Demar Dorsey. He could have played safety or cornerback, but the university denied his admission.
Boubacar Cissoko started the first four games of the season at right cornerback last year, but was kicked off the team for violating internal rules, and subsequently pled guilty to four robbery charges.
Adrian Witty was a highly touted 2009 cornerback recruit, but never made it to campus as a non-qualifier.
You could argue that Rodriguez brought some of this upon himself: Witty and Dorsey were both his recruits and neither met Michigan’s academic standards (Witty wasn’t admitted by the school in 2010 after meeting NCAA eligibility requirements one year after being recruited), but few were complaining when the Wolverines added Dorsey on signing day to a strong crop of 2010 corners, and nobody could have foreseen just how desperately the Wolverines would need instant-impact corners at the time.
As for the others, Warren was a Lloyd Carr recruit — and Michigan’s top corner — who didn’t wait for his NFL draft evaluation before declaring early, and Cissoko was another Carr holdover who let off-field demons get the best of his career in Ann Arbor. Rodriguez can hardly be blamed for either departure. And Turner? Having one of the nation’s top 50 prospects decide he doesn’t want to work hard enough to play Division I football came as a surprise to everyone — he was a can’t-miss prospect who missed, and nothing in his recruiting profile raised any red flags until he showed up late and out of shape for his freshman season. Even then, fans expected Turner would turn it around and compete for a starting role this fall, but Turner never fully committed himself to football, and now he’s gone.
Rich Rodriguez has done everything he could to hold together the cornerback position. In 2008, with former five-star Warren and the talented Woolfolk already on the roster, he added Cissoko (a four-star and Rivals.com’s No. 4 corner) and three-star J.T. Floyd (unlike Cissoko, not a Carr holdover, as he committed after the coaching change). In the class of 2009, he locked up Turner, Scout.com’s No. 3 corner, and added Witty for depth. When Witty didn’t qualify and Warren departed early for the NFL, Rodriguez loaded up on 2010 corners with Army All-American Cullen Christian and three-star prospects Courtney Avery and Terrence Talbott, and pulled a recruiting coup when he landed Dorsey on signing day. Of those players, only Floyd and the three freshmen (excluding Dorsey, of course) remain healthy and on the team. The last thing this team could afford was a serious injury to the only experienced corner, and that’s exactly what happened yesterday.
Until we see what Greg Robinson and the defense can make out of Michigan’s depleted secondary, we won’t know just how large of an impact Woolfolk’s injury will have on the defense. At this point, however, it’s tough not to measure that impact in losses — multiple ones at that — and I only hope that Dave Brandon, as well as the Michigan fans, take that into account in what has been billed as a make-or-break year for Rich Rodriguez.