David Molk: MVP? Let's hope so.
There were several possible candidates for the pre season MVP: So RB Vincent Smith, Jr DT Mike Martin, So DE Craig Roh and So QB Tate Forcier to name a few. But with the criterion as: the member of team that a) is most responsible and essential for the success of the team by his superb playing abilities; b) the best player on the team, c) exhibits outstanding leadership qualities, the answer was clear: RS Jr. C David Molk is the guy.
Offensive line is not the most glamorous of positions. Like all offensive linemen, what David Molk contributes to the team can't be measured statistically (literally, there are no statistics). However, when Molk went down last season on the third game of the season against Easter Michigan, the impact of his absence for the remainder of the season was very sorely felt. Our downward spiral seemed to remarkably coincide with Molk's absence: as soon as he became injured, we basically stopped winning. Coincidence? Hardly.
The traditional philosophy is that the success of any offense hinges on the ability to run the football. Michigan's spread option offense, though a relatively recent development in college football, is no exception to that rule. At times in this offense, when our running game gels, it is truly a thing of beauty. We are a very tough team to stop when we're running the ball well. Exhibit A: against the heavily favored Penn State in 2008, a punishing Brandon Minor-led rushing attack in the first half simply stunned the Nittany Lions. At the beginning of the 2009 season, the offense was just beginning to fire on all cylinders, offering reprieve from the ineptitude of most of 2008. Post Molk-dom, though, the resurgence was all-too-premature as his substitutes struggled mightily to assume his duties. Even the most seemingly elementary of tasks, such as the center-QB snap exchange, was a major source of tension every play for Wolverines fans, players and coaches alike. If a major success for your offense is just getting the ball to the QB to start the play, you've got problems. Allow me to illustrate.
First of all, when you're focusing more on the snap, you're less focused on the play. Furthermore, without Molk's ability to make the proper reads, and assignments, our blocking schemes were uncoordinated and haphazard for both the rush and the pass. No rushing attack + increased pressure on a freshman QB + anemic defense = losses. You get the picture.
This season, though, the offensive line should be a great strength for the Wolverines. Molk anchors the most experienced unit on the team with 3 returning starters (2 of whom are seniors. A rare occurrence for the Wolverines this season), with a bevy of talented underclassmen waiting in the wings. As one of the best centers in the conference, Molk is also a preseason candidate for All Big Ten. If you'd like to see just how good he is, take a look at those PSU clips, and you'll see a perfect block by Molk behind every one of those large gains. At 6-2, 270 lbs, Molk is in the ideal mold for a center: built like a bulldog, quick and compact, with a nasty mauler attitude to match. He's the leader of the offensive line, and, as a RS Junior, is one of the most senior members on the team.
The key for Molk this season is can he stay healthy? Molk is out for spring practice still recovering from his knee injury he sustained during his brief (1 series) return against Penn State. Wolverines fans are holding their collective breath, as snaps again appear to be an issue again in his absence in spring camp.
With the experience across the offensive line, and a stable of talented RB's, our running game this season holds much promise. If the Wolverines can run the ball well this season and protect a young and fragile Forcier, they will win games. With this year being a critical one for Rich Rodriguez's future at Michigan, Molk's play (and health) is the key not only to the success of the Wolverines this season, but also to the long-term success and direction of the program. Without Molk, though, things could get very ugly again.