A Thing About Denard And Tate
The new official picture of "Denard Robinson is made of dilithium." Via MVictors.
Yet more on the quarterback situation because that's all anyone is talking about: it seems to me like the correct stance to take in the aftermath of Denard going 9/11 for 191 yards and three touchdowns in the air is to declare Game On. But only that.
I've seen a ton about how Denard is just a better fit for Michigan's offense and Rodriguez has wanted Pat White 2.0 since he got here and Tate is doomed because of the zone read and basically disintegrated over the course of the season and is probably going to transfer as he is destined to by his genetic heritage. I've also seen a lot of people saying "now wait just a minute" to the Forcier doomsayers, and I'm with them:
- Forcier had a midseason lull but two of his best games of the season came against Purdue and Wisconsin. Against UW he was 20 for 26; against Purdue he was a lot closer to 50% but suffered a ton of drops. His trajectory is not straight down. He even looked good against Ohio State when not offering up one of his hair-pulling, soul-destroying turnovers.
- Forcier's main problem on the zone read was making good decisions or fakes. These were made more difficult by the defense focusing on the run game because Forcier's ability to make decisions in the pocket was limited. He pulled the ball way too much, didn't let the fake "ride" a la Juice Williams, and faced down a defensive end as a result. He then juked this guy 80% of the time and picked up positive yardage. If the defense is sufficiently focused on the tailback and Forcier develops his fakes as much as Denard develops his passing, he can be an effective zone read alternative.
- Last year's offensive line was very shaky on the right side, which led to a lot of justified scrambles.
Tate is not out of it by any means, and since the two quarterbacks are so different it looks like the backup will get a large number of snaps anyway.
What the spring game (and spring in general) did was stand the horse race on its nose. Robinson looked better on Saturday. He looked better in the clinic scrimmage, when he was live and splitting first team reps with Forcier. He looked better over the entirety of spring, which is the reason he was afforded the easy matchup Saturday. One 97-yard touchdown to Roy Roundtree might not mean much, but 15 practices does.
The ones-vs-twos is a big deal, but maybe not as big a deal as the few remaining Denard skeptics—still clinging tight to that Betamax stock—have made it. Last year Robinson was having a Man vs Himself battle. Seeing him develop to the point where you need to see a Man vs Man conflict is immense. Hopefully by this time next year we're sending him off to fight Icelandic volcanoes.
Running Backs Are Indeterminate
Another source of persistent unexpressed disagreement in the last couple days: a steady pessimism about Michigan's tailback situation. I haven't seen anyone say "hey how about that run defense"; the assumption is a lack of big runs from the tailbacks means Michigan is going to be putting out some crappy tailbacks next year. I don't think that's necessarily true. Vincent Smith had a tantalizing cameo last year, and he did nothing of note in the spring game. A few carries here or there isn't a whole lot to draw conclusions about, and even so there were a couple of nice runs from Cox.
Michigan isn't going to have the best back in the conference or anything but they've got enough of a stable to have a good running game. And what would a discussion of the tailbacks be without Fred Jackson proclaiming something the best ever?
“I think I’ve got the best blocking tandem, I didn’t say running back tandem, but best blocking tandem I’ve had,” Jackson said. “I’ve got three or four guys that based on the pictures and movies, how you want to see it done. It’s more than I’ve ever had at one time.”
Never change, Fred.
Hell I if know. I'm planning something resembling a UFR and will be able to tell you more after that, but probably not that much with Martin and Woolfolk out and the first-teamers going up against second-string offensive lineman and not blitzing and etc. etc. etc. It's clear this isn't going to be a vintage unit. Latest hint from Woolfolk:
"We're mostly just focusing on zones, which is easier than playing man," said Woolfolk. "But I would like to go back to doing more man coverage and stuff. It's easier, but pertaining to the players we have on defense, that probably makes it easier for us to play. Keeping it simple allows us to play more instead of thinking too much and slowing down. It allows us to react and get to the ball faster."
My hope for the defense is something relatively stout against the run and functional enough in the secondary to force opponents into long drives if they want to score. Average would be fine.
Video Of All Varieties
Highlights and errata:
Here's an ebullient Denard Robinson in the locker room:
"Ebullient" as defined by answers.com: "zestfully enthusiastic." There's plenty more in a diary from Boyz in the Pahokee. TYT has posted an SD torrent; MGoVideo is planning an HD one tomorrow. There is also a browser-crippling version of the latest Inside Michigan Football.
A zillion photographs
If you want more photographs than are crammed into this post, boy howdy are you in luck. AnnArbor.com has a flickr set, as does the Daily. MVictors and Maize and Blue Nation also file photoposts. MnBN found the letters from the top of the press box:
They're outside sections 2 and 44. It's too bad they couldn't find someplace a little more prominent, but at least they're still around. Also… isn't the S the wrong way?
Quarterback Stuff From Teammates
"He’s really been working on his technique," Roundtree said. "All the quarterbacks have, but Denard has really been working on his technique, his touch on the ball instead of throwing it so hard. And this year it shows so far what he did."
More Roundtreee on Robinson:
Roundtree said Saturday actually was Robinson's "second-best" practice of the spring.
"Last scrimmage (a week ago), he did really well," Roundtree said.
Thus both clinic observers giving the starting QB nod to Denard after that scrimmage. Of note: that was not a strictly ones-vs-twos setup like the spring game. In that scrimmage both Tate and Denard got extensive reps with the first team against various first and second team defenses, and Roundtree thought he did better than he did on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Van Bergen's full LAZERZ quote:
"I think Denard has probably made the most progression. I think he's developed a whole new aspect of his game as far as making great reads and making great throws.
"His throws are on lasers now. He's not throwing balls up for grabs. He's putting them right on receivers, and I think the fact he can scramble while looking downfield is really something that's helped him because last year when he pulled it down, he was going to run. But this year, he's got his eyes downfield, and they're making even bigger plays. He's dangerous. I think he's probably made the most progression, but I think they've all done really good things."
In the future, Denard Robinson will still be made of dilithium; his arm will be made of lasers.
There were plenty of folks who sat out Saturday with injuries of some varieties, including five or six possible starters. The good news is that only walk-on DE Will Heininger will see his injury last into the season. There had been some uncertainty about Vincent Smith but the latest on him is that he should be "fully recovered by preseason camp." If that holds up he's probably your opening-day starter barring a summer renaissance from the rest of the depth chart.
The rest of the injuries range from minor dings to stuff that happened a long time ago horrific bone breaks that just provide an opportunity to work on your standup. Troy Woolfolk's comedic alter-ego:
"I’m going to introduce you all to something," Woolfolk said. "Y’all know me, myself, Troy, but I have a split personality named T-Wolf. When I’m on the field, T-Wolf comes out. T-Wolf doesn’t know how to cry, that’s only a trait that Troy does. Right now, this is Troy. T-Wolf, he’s crazy and I can’t bring him out all the time, I only let him come out on the field. T-Wolf doesn’t have that ability to cry, so that would never happen."
Knock on wood and all that but sounds like everyone should be ready to go for summer conditioning. The most damaged Wolverine may actually be RB coach Fred Jackson, who got stepped on by Kevin Koger. Maybe:
"Supposedly, I'm the one who broke his foot - supposedly, though," Koger said. "It was a 86 on film, but there's no name on the back (of the jersey). So it could have been any 86."
Purdue's spring game saw the Boiler debut of Miami transfer and presumptive starting quarterback Robert Marve. Marve was meh:
Robert Marve talked about "putting on a show" for the fans. Quite simply, he didn't...But how could he with this format? He threw a couple of good balls (for instance, a long pump and go to Cortez Smith for the longest TD of the game), showed the burst of speed that Hope had bragged about...but never got into rhythm for multiple reasons...and just plain missed on quite a few throws. But, he does have an arm.
Iowa's spring game was a Carr special: sparsely attended and no different than a usual practice. Ohio State offensive line is in flux and Pryor didn't have a great day statistically but Buckeye Football Analysis is pretty sanguine about things.
A poster attempted to ferret out what's going on with UConn but didn't come up with much outside of the usual "is this good or bad" stuff.
As always: exploit your kid for youtube fame and I post.
New feature. Profile pages now contain a table with the user's most recent comments presented in reverse chronological order. This is mostly useful for mods, but now you can track the progress of your favorite (or "favorite") mgousers. Before you get any funny ideas, the main reason I implemented this was so that we could better judge a poster's body of work when we're considering a banhammer. Applications unrelated to totalitarianism are just a bonus.
Victors. Congratulations to the men's gymnastics team and their shiny national title:
Michigan beat out usual suspect Stanford by three-tenths of a point for its fourth national title and Michigan's first (varsity) title since 2005. You'll see them at the UConn game, no doubt.
One of these things is extremely similar to the other. Ohio State recruit Jamel Turner just got shot. According to his facebook feed he's as fine as you can be after getting shot, but getting lit up is the latest and scariest development in a tumultuous couple years for the blue-chip defensive end. Turner was kicked off Ursuline's team and was declared academically ineligible as a senior. He headed to Fork Union for a post-grad year and was asked to leave. Eleven Warriors calls him "troubled," which… yeah, seems about right.
I don't even have to tell you the local media's reaction to all this, do I? I don't but here you go anyway:
Suddenly, many of the dozens of schools that had once recruited Turner started getting back in touch. But just as Ohio State never pulled its scholarship offer when he got into trouble, Turner would not be swayed from his original choice.
"(Coach Jim) Tressel is a good man, and he stands by his word," Turner said. "So I'm going to stand by my word, and we're going to get it done."
Not that it should be any different. If Turner manages to keep himself on the straight and narrow at Ohio State that will be a win for both parties. If Ohio State decided to cut ties with him he'd be headed for a place with far fewer resources at his disposal and would have a much greater chance of hanging around the sorts of places where you get shot.
Turner hasn't gotten into any problems with the law, but it's not like that matters in the media environment Michigan is facing these days. Drew Sharp is running around saying "we don't know" about the trouble that Dorsey obviously got in after he was diverted from serious legal consequences two years ago. If Dorsey doesn't qualify there will be another round of clucking about how Rodriguez shouldn't have "taken a chance" on the kid. If Turner washes out there will be sad panda columns about today's society.
It is in this fashion—pretending it's not about wins—that the media proves it's all about wins.
(Side note: Turner is from Youngstown, as is Fitzgerald Toussaint. Toussaint's dad got locked up for stabbing his mom's new beau… at a football game Toussaint was playing in. I am moving Youngstown below Somalia on my list of potential vacation destinations.)
Everyone's 6'6". Michigan offered 2012 Flint Powers wing Javonte Hawkins over the weekend:
Hawkins was told by the UM staff he is their "#1 sophomore wing recruit". Hawkins definitely has outstanding upside and potential. Baylor, South Carolina, Notre Dame are the newest schools to his recruitment.
Best of the Best also throws some names out for Michigan's assistant coach job: Dan Fife (not Dane, Dan), the head coach at Clarkson, Oakland assistant Saadi Washington, Bakari Alexander, and Oronde Taliaferro.
Update: Maybe it's Dane after all.
By way of podcast explanation. WH posted up a vintage Michigan Replay intro. It is fantastic. As a bonus, it answers the question "why you using that funky music for the podcast?"
God, remember when Michigan Replay was the only way to see highlights of the previous week's game? I remember installing crazy netscape plugins to download the tiny grainy video of Charles Woodson's punt return on CNNSI in '97, thinking that if I didn't get it right then I'd never be able to watch it whenever it occurred to me. Yeah. Not so much.
Google launched a thing where it will automatically caption youtube videos based on speech recognition software. It's slightly beta. It appears the corpus it was trained on was Donald Rumsfeld poorly translated back and fourth from Japanese six to seven times. It opened a wormhole into an alternate universe where Rodriguez is an important political analyst.
Mr. Rodriguez, what is your opinion on international terrorism?
THE SHOCKING CONCLUSION AFTER THE JUMP!
Rich Rodriguez addressed the media for 20 minutes or so after yesterday's spring game, then a number of players spoke to small groups. Notes:
- Won't answer questions about a resolution to the quarterback situation, and they won't be available to the media. Pleased that the QBs have gotten better. It's nice to have competition, and not have one guy seize the job this early. Denard and Tate have both improved, but they still have more work to do. Devin has learned well, considering he's only been around for 15 practices. The #1 guy may not emerge until after the first game.
- The quarterbacks had a poor day compared to how they've been practicing the rest of the spring. It's OK for the QBs to scramble around, but the coaches don't want them to do that until the initial play breaks down. Still, their offensive creativity and explosion shouldn't be hampered.
- Having a QB competition will continue to elevate those guys. If multiple guys are ready to play in the fall, they'll play. The goal is for the whole team to get better, so the improvement by the quarterbacks is important to that. Denard got the first rep of the game because he's been more consistent over the course of the spring.
- Denard Robinson's grasp of the offense, and recognition of defenses has improved markedly since last year. Understanding the offense is important, but both Denard and Tate Forcier need to get better at reading the defense, now that they are able to execute the offensive plays. Denard's always been able to throw, it's just a matter of making sure his mechanics and reads are consistent. He's still learning the offense, because he's still just a first-year guy. Pat White redshirted his first season, and in that first spring, he was probably about at the same point in his development that Denard is now. He continued progressing, and hopefully all of Michigan's quarterbacks can do that as well. Pat and Denard are similar players, but it's unfair to compare them, because Pat was so good for a while, you can't expect that out of a young guy.
- Today was the first day of the spring that the quarterbacks weren't live. That changes the way they play a bit, and the defense might let up on them a little bit more.
- One of the emphases this spring was limiting turnovers and negative-yardage plays. The spring game was somewhat disappointing in that regard.
- Running backs: There will be more competition in August when everyone is healthy. More than one running back will play in the fall. Mike Shaw and Mike Cox, Stephen Hopkins, and Fitzgerald Toussaint will all be in the mix. Spring has given some new guys a chance to emerge.
- Jeremy Gallon's redshirt year helped him get into good shape. Right now, he's the leader at punt return and kick return, and he'll play in the slot as well as maybe some other places.
- They have more guys who are ready to play at the offensive skills positions. Some of the QBs have a bit of experience, which raises expectations.
- Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield have played pretty well. With Perry Dorrestein injured, they've have opportunities to progress. There are now two additional guys who can get in the rotation, and the coaches want to have more guys ready to play.
- The team wasn't as physical and good at tackling today as they were in other practices, maybe because they couldn't hit the QBs. The scheme was simple today, but fundamentals need to continue improving.
- Troy Woolfolk broke his finger on Thursday, but he'll be fine by fall camp.
- Mike Martin will play noseguard when he returns healthy, but he'll also play other spots on the defensive line. Adam Patterson and Will Campbell will also play "both nose and tackle."
- The kicking game was very uneven today. The situation is still wide open. Brendan Gibbons kicked well today, but Will Hagerup will have the opportunity to win the punting job in the fall. Tate had a good punt, and he's pretty good at it. The other guys practice it a lot more, because Tate has other things to worry about.
- The coaches got some answers this spring, mostly positive. They'd like to have more answers than they got, but most of what they see right now is positive. No negative surprises. Cam Gordon and Mark Moundros were positive surprises after position changes, as was the level of play at cornerback.
- The early enrollees provided some good moments as well. Jerald Robinson and Stephen Hopkins are probably going to get some playing time in the fall. The early enrollees were a little nervous playing in the Big House. It's nice to get those nerves out of the way early. Some of Devin's mistakes may have been due to nerves.
- Team chemistry is really good, and still improving. Players get closer together each day they work.
- The coaches have a week to look back on spring, then they'll hit the road for the Evaluation Period in the recruiting cycle.
- Hopefully in the future, the spring game will continue to grow. The weather wasn't great, but fans still came out. Maybe weather will be better and more fans will come out. Players appreciate the support from the crowd.
- The team has three spring scrimmages, and the Spring Game might not be the most useful for teaching, it does give players the chance to get in front of a crowd, and to adjust what they're doing without the coaches telling them exactly what to do after each play.
Notes from the players after the jump.
FL RB Demetrius Hart is making his second trip to Ann Arbor this weekend for the annual (and just completed) spring game. The difference this time, is that his mother* is a long side him to take in Ann Arbor. With the recent NCAA allegations, Mrs. Hart had some questions for the coaching staff and concerns for her son. I spoke with her about the visit. Here's what she had to say.
TOM: How’s the trip going so far?
MRS HART: The amount of support from everyone, the coaches, academics, and fans is amazing. The environment, everything that Michigan has to offer has been really great. Michigan seems to be the total package in my mind. This is my first time at Michigan, so I was overwhelmed. I’m looking for the total package for my son, and that seems to be here.
TOM: Has it been nice to see Ricardo’s family? How close are you with them?
MRS HART: Yes, we’re very close. His mom and I are very close. Demetrius calls Ricardo’s mom, mom, and her children call me Aunt. I know if he comes to Michigan, I’d know he’d have a family away from home. It’s a good feeling to have that here.
TOM: How does this visit compare to other schools you’ve been to?
MRS HART: I haven’t been to any other schools yet, but we’re planning on some official visits. Demetrius has gone on a lot of visits. He is a very humble child, and he wants to feel loved and wanted, and that’s what we’re looking for. We’re a close family, and we won’t steer him in the wrong direction, and he knows that. We also respect and trust the decisions he makes, too, so we just want what’s best for him. Whatever school he’s interested in we want to check in to. I honestly feel very good about Michigan after this visit, I really do.
TOM: Did you have your meeting with Rich Rodriguez, or the coaches yet?
MRS HART: I sat down with Fred Jackson, and I’m going to be talking to Rich Rodriguez tomorrow. We’re going to talk about some things as a whole. I respect him as a person, and he [Rodriguez] seems very genuine. He has made very good decisions with recruiting, which impressed me. All the kids that were visiting were very polite. How they conducted themselves was very impressive. It reminded me a lot of Demetrius. They expect a lot of out the athletes, and we need that for our child. The distance is a problem, but if I know he’s ok, then I’m comfortable with that. That speaks very highly of Michigan, if I feel that very comfortable.
TOM: What will you be discussing with Rich Rodriguez?
MRS HART: I basically want to know about the future of the coaching staff, where everything is headed, how my child would play a part in their goals, and also about the NCAA issues. With everything that’s been going on, I want some reassurance, because who am I to judge them based on what I’ve read. Apparently they’re doing something right, so I want see what really happened.
I take everything with a grain of salt. I’m not moved by reports, and you need to find your own results. So, I want to hear everything from them, and figure out what’s really going on. We had some issues with Demetrius, and the school zones in Florida, so I understand that everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes you need mistakes to learn from, and grow from.
TOM: Does this visit change anything with Demetrius, as far as his top schools?
MRS HART: I’ll say this, I would say that they received a whole lot of brownie points with this visit. And, we’ll be back soon. You have to go somewhere you feel loved and supported, and I know he would get that here.
TOM: Will he be deciding anytime soon?
MRS HART: It’s going to be soon. Within a month.
*[Ed. note: There's been some confusion as to whether Hart's mom or aunt was accompanying him on his visit. The answer is "both": Hart was adopted by his aunt.]
Get used to it, Denard?
I'll try to figure out some more stuff after the replay at 8 but for now, things I noticed. They are mostly about offensive skill position players, because I'm a person.
Denard! Denard! Denard! Disclaimer: It was all ones versus twos and whatnot, so Denard took the starting offense against a motley collection of walk-ons and Tate took a bunch of freshmen up against the first team defense. The playing field was far from level.
That said, holy crap. Robinson looks like a quarterback now. A running quarterback with rudimentary passing abilities, but a quarterback. There were zone reads and screens and rollout passes and a number of zippy seams that hit players between the numbers. When the offense broke down, Robinson made the concept of "pursuit angles" humorous. Putting him on the edge, as suggested by the coaches' clinic tea leaves, puts the defense in a bind. His throws were all on a line but they were accurate aside from a couple mediocre bubble screens. There were multiple times where I was thinking "just run why don't youuuu runnnnn" and he zipped a pass in for a first down or touchdown.
How close to Forcier's passing does Robinson have to get if he's going to start? If Forcier can't set up in the pocket and throw on rhythm, how far apart are they now? It'll be an interesting summer for both guys. Right now it looks like edge Denard.
As for Forcier: Hemingway's absence and the sparing use of Stokes saddled Tate with a couple of true freshmen at wideout, so it's hard to tell whether or not the helter-skelter offense Tate was running was just Tate doing what he does or the receivers screwing up the rhythm of the offense. Wild guess: some of both. Tate also fumbled (again) and chucked a pass that Mike Jones should have picked off. Robinson didn't have anything close to a turnover.
Meanwhile, Devin Gardner looked raw as hell, fumbling snaps, scrambling into trouble, and reverting to that ugly shotput motion whenever he was forced to throw on the run. He looked like a freshman, which is okay because he is a freshman. However, the torrent of spring hype that suggested Gardner would probably not redshirt because he would be Michigan's best quarterback by UConn… eh, not so much. Maybe it was just a bad day. Even if it was an off day, Robinson showed enough to relegate Gardner to the bench for the first couple games and hopefully his whole freshman year.
Gardner did show the his deep touch on a third and long seam to Odoms that was laid in perfectly. Odoms dropped it.
Flipside of all those seams. The concerns about things like four verticals expressed in the Coaches' Clinic Tea Leaves were amply demonstrated. Virtually all of Michigan's big yardage plays that weren't Robinson teleporting from place to place came on seams right up the hashes. Michigan's got to get that fixed.
Vlad… em? Vlad Emilien was wearing a knee brace of some sort so it's likely he's not 100%, but he got dusted by Roy Roundtree (who we last saw getting tracked down on a similar play) on Robinson's 97-yard touchdown. Roundtree tacked on five yards by the time they hit the endzone. Meanwhile, Teric Jones made up most of the ground. Thankfully, not all of it. Roundtree getting tackled at the one on that would have been a dark omen.
Further adventures in Justin Turner worry. It's one thing to be behind JT Floyd, who did look considerably more confident on the short stuff Michigan was trying to his side, but with Woolfolk out with a minor injury it was James Rogers who moved up to the ones. A position move beckons.
Tailback clarity. Nil. There weren't a whole lot of big plays from the tailbacks. Mike Cox had a nice touchdown and Stephen Hopkins lived up to his rep as a thunderous runner who should find himself staring down third and short most of the year. Austin White is headed for a redshirt. Cox, Toussaint, and Shaw are all in a blender.
Defense thoughts. I did what everyone does and watched the ball more than anything, so I don't have a ton of useful stuff on the D yet. I thought Van Bergen looked like he'll be a pretty good defensive end, maybe all conference level. When Floyd came up on the short stuff he tackled solidly. Most of the stuff in the middle happened against the second team defense.
I did notice the bandit playing deep off the LOS frequently when Michigan went to the spread; Kovacs in deep coverage is going to be a scary issue all year.
We have field goal problems? I expected the placekicking to be a circus given the grim reports from spring, but other than a couple of misfires off of poor snaps from the backup longsnapper the two guys at the top of the depth chart looked solid.
Punter, meanwhile… it's Hagerup's job. If Hagerup tears an ACL it might be Tate Forcier's job. Spring started with speculation of a Robinson position move, but now it seems that Forcier moving (or, rather, pulling double duty) is a more realistic possibility. Not that either are particularly realistic.