in town for free camps
Ohio LB Joe Bolden (6'2", 225 lbs) was in Ann Arbor a few weeks ago with his dad and his uncle, who also happens to be his coach. He decided to take another trip back up, but this time with his mom and dad. Here's his highlight film and his thoughts on the visit.
TOM: You were just in Ann Arbor a few weeks ago, so what prompted this visit?
JOE: I didn't see as much as I wanted to last time. This time we got to drive through campus, see the classrooms, and we just got to see a lot more than last time. We go the grand tour of everything. I didn't get to see a dorm because there weren't any vacant, but I got to see the building that I would be living in.
TOM: I know you went up with your dad and uncle last time, who went with you this time?
JOE: Just my mom and dad.
TOM: What did they think of the visit. Your dad has seen campus before, but this was the first time for mom. How did she like it?
JOE: She really liked it. She really liked Coach Hoke, and Mrs. Hoke and Mrs. Mattison were actually up there so she got to talk to them for awhile too. To me she seemed pretty impressed.
TOM: Did they have questions for the coaches that they, as parents, wanted answered? I know moms can be protective sometimes.
JOE: Not really any more questions, they pretty much answered everything before I asked them. Coach Hoke without my parents even asking answered everything. We sat down for about 45 minutes and just talked about me living up there. He talked about her being a mom and obviously she's protective. He told her that if I were to choose Michigan that I'd be safe and taken care of.
TOM: So where are you at right now with the process? I know you told me last time that you think you're getting close, but what does that mean?
JOE: Right now I have it narrowed down to a couple schools that I'm very serious about, but I want to keep those quiet so I don't give anyone the wrong impression. I'm getting as much information on them as I can, and talking to as many good resources as I can.
TOM: How will you know when you're ready to decide?
JOE: I still haven't gotten the chance to sit down with my mother, father, and uncle and weigh out the pro's and con's of everything. My uncle wasn't at school today, but we'll probably sit down in the next couple days. I really don't have a timeline, it could happen tomorrow or it could happen in February. I'm not sure yet.
TOM: When you say weigh everything out, what are you thinking about with regards to each school?
JOE: Academics has always been a big part of my life. My parents have stressed school work comes before the game of football, so that's number one. If I fit into the program, if I like the coaches, and if the university has tradition, a good winning tradition.
Notes from Brady Hoke's final press conference before the Spring Game. Photo from file.
Spring game - not enough depth to have a draft "and that would be what we'd wanna do, have the seniors draft." 1s will go against 1s, 2s against 2s. "We'll keep a score of some sort, but there's no scoreboard anyway." Winners get steaks, loser get hot dogs. The teams tied last Saturday. Scrimmage - "It will go until I think we've done enough plays."
Offense and defense will both be on the field the whole time. Al will coach the offense, Greg defense. "So that they can get the mechanics of gameday and getting the plays and personnel in and all that," Borges has been away from the field in the last couple practices.
Alumni returning - "It's great to have all these guys back. I think they've got close to 85 for the flag game they're gonna play. We've got over 300 coming in Friday night for a team meeting."
Team meeting: "We're gonna have a conversation. You know. We're just gonna talk about Michigan football." Introduce the new staff to the former players, and talk about how they're accountable. Current players will not be present.
Held out Saturday - Woolfolk, Floyd, Lewan, Demens, that's about it. Shaw and Molk are both back. Woolfolk has done very little. "He's done some individual drills and stuff like that. He maybe has taken a few snaps in 1-on-1 and a few snaps in 7-on-7." Floyd is behind in his recovery compared to where Woolfolk is.
Hoke always participates in hands-on coaching "I couldn't just walk around and watch stuff."
"We're heading down the home stretch of spring, obviously. We've got two days left to keep evaluating." Mindset, mentality, etc. will still be evaluated in the final two days. "We've made some progress in some of those areas but we're a long way from being the football team we want to be in the fall."
Koger, Herron, RVB leaders. Hard for Molk to assert himself since he's been out so much. "Your definition of a leader can vary. It doesn't have to be a vocal guy."
There's better communication, especially on defense, at this point than there was at the beginning of spring. It starts with communicating changed fronts. "I think that there's a pride that those guys are starting to feel as a defense." Defensive communication - "I think Ryan [Van Bergen] has done a really good job. I think he gets it." Cam Gordon and JB Fitzgerald, Kovacs, Carvin Johnson have been vocal out there.
Defensive coaching chemistry: "It's great. It's like they've coached together forever... As soon as recruiting was over, we started those meetings, how you wanna coach it, how you coach it."
"I think we're OK" with how much they've gotten done this spring. Really depends on how the next two practice days go. "I usually like to compete in 2 minute offense/defense] 3 or 4 times throughout the spring." They'll work that in earlier in fall camp to make sure they get it done.
Individual evaluations with every player, with Hoke and their coordinator and their position coach. "Expectations, where they're at, what they need to do. Where their weight needs to be when they report. What their role right now will be in the fall... The evaluations at the end, believe me, they'll be very specific."
Freshmen contributing this fall: "Really haven't thought about it much yet." Depth concern at OL and DL might provide some opportunities, but it's too early to say. Corner? "Maybe. We'll see. Greg Brown's really, in the last week and a half he's really stepped up." Courtney Avery has stepped up as well.
Lloyd Carr - "He's been over. Hasn't been to a practice, but he's been in and we've talked a little bit. Coach Moeller has been around a little bit, and Coach Hanlon is here every day [laughing]."
Denard and Devin: "I think Devin is a very talented guy and I think he's learned the offense well. I think he's got a good handle on it. There's some consistency we've gotta coach better with." QBs will organize 7-on-7s in the summer. What will Denard take into the summer to work on? Footwork issues, ball mechanics, play action game. He needs to settle his feet on dropbacks. "The mental aspect of getting you in the right plays" based on safety alingment, defensive fronts, etc.
Running back - "I think Hop's had a pretty good spring... Toussaint's been pretty steady." Mike Cox hasn't practiced as much because he has a class during Tuesday practice time "so that doesn't help him." Smith has played well. Incoming freshmen will have a chance to step in. "Hopkins is a guy right now who has been probably the most consistent." He can also line up at FB and do some things there.
Tight ends - they have the guys to run what they want. Koger was out early in spring "but he didn't miss much." He's been good on the line, Ricardo's more of a "move guy" right now. "I think the 4 guys you mentioned [Moore and Watson] all have done a good job in the offense, and that will be an important part of what we do offensively."
Molk - "He's been doing some individual, and then yesterday he did more of some of the team stuff." With Lewan out, Huyge has played both tackle positions, Schofield has been good, Ricky Barnum has been kicked out to tackle a few times. "You have 7 or 8 guys who will form kinda the nucleus of the group."
Rocko Khoury has gotten a lot of good snaps. Omameh has taken most RG snaps, played a little bit at RT. "A guy like David who's played a lot of football, sometimes you need to give snaps to more of those other guys."
Barnum: "I tell ya, Ricky's a good football player. He's a tough kid, he's a smart kid, he plays with good technique. That's why he's a good football player." He's been as consistent as any player up front this spring.
Defensive Linemen: Mike Martin - "He's done a good job. We're doing a couple different things with him." "I think think Will Campbell has made strides, but the consistency has to be there. You know Quinton, I think he's going to be a good football payer here at Michigan."Jibreel Black "Jibreel is a guy that, as his body composition changes a little bit, he's gonna be a good football player. I think him and Craig at the rush have had pretty good springs." Roh has progressed better than they thought this spring.
Linebackers - "Marell's done a pretty good job. We moved Brandon Herron back to a Mike." Mike Jones and Brandin Hawthorne at Will. "Cam Gordon's getting better, and I think Cam will have a very good summer." Jake Ryan also at Sam. Those six plus JB Fitzgerlad who "has started to come along a little bit."
Safety situation is fluid. "Carvin Jonhson, I would say of anybody, and Kovacs" know the defense best. Marvin Robinson has also come in and made plays, along with Thomas Gordon.
Kicking game: "I think it's a work in progress." Everything from snapping, to punting, etc. needs to continue improving. Long snappers are competing. Placekicking is a "huge competition with 4 guys in there." Seth Broekhuizen, Kris Pauloski, Jeremy Ross, and Brendan Gibbons. They kicked 14 or 15 times during last week's competition at the stadium. "They haven't been there probably as much as we'd like for them to." The field is the same indoors, the elements are the only difference. "We've got a lot of work to do in that area of it." Wile will get a chance to compete when he comes in. [Author's note: those two statements weren't said back-to-back, so don't read too much into it. Hoke said every freshman has a chance to compete for playing time].
Yesterday we hit the offense; this is the other side of the ball.
Campbell Or Someone Else, Except There Isn't Anyone Else
All eyes not locked on Denard Robinson Saturday will be interpreting any signs of life from Will Campbell as prophecy of opposing offensive lines' impending doom. The facts are these: Michigan has three lock starters on the line, a big hole at three-technique, and a very big man who was a very big former recruit on his way to being a very big bust who is getting personal attention from no fewer than three Michigan coaches.
Michigan has put all their eggs in Campbell's basket. Quinton Washington is backing up Mike Martin—and doing so unevenly—and the only other options there are redshirt freshmen like Richard Ash (also probably an NT if he's anything) and Terry Talbott (probably another year away from being physically ready).
There's almost no way he's not going to start. This makes me nervous because it makes me think about Pat Massey. Massey was 6'8" and never should have been anywhere near DT, but he had a good amount of starting experience when he was inadvisably thrust inside after Michigan ended their one-year experiment with the 3-4. He still ended most plays in a crumpled mess several yards downfield. He was the three-tech next to Gabe Watson; hopefully Campbell doesn't go down as Martin's Massey.
Looking for: my skepticism about Campbell ever performing well is established. If the guy just holds his own and doesn't get blown up on the regular that will be major progress.
Fearing: The third string center getting under his pads and depositing him in Kovacs's lap.
Will only believe three games into the season: That Michigan's previous defensive coaches were even more incompetent than we already believe them to be.
Edge Terror: Yes, Please
Craig Roh is entering his junior year, and the clock has started ticking faster. As a freshman he was incredibly undersized; as a sophomore he was incredibly miscast. Now he's in an upperclassman in an under front as the weakside defensive end—this is his time and place. On a defense wholly devoid of established playmakers other than Martin he is the player most likely to blow up. Michigan needs him to or it's going to be another year in which opposing quarterbacks can finish their crumpets in the pocket before leisurely surveying to see which receiver is open by yards.
Here Michigan actually seems to have a decent second option: Jibreel Black was a complete disaster against the run as a true freshman but flashed disruptive ability when teams didn't run right at him. Like virtually everyone else on the team he should have redshirted; if he had everyone would be talking him up as the next coming because they hadn't seen his shortcomings. As it is a big post-frosh bump in performance can be expected.
Looking for: one-on-one pass rush from Roh against Schofield/Huyge/walk-on. He has to be able to beat those guys if he's going to take on the Big Ten this fall.
Fearing: Here I don't think we'll be too disappointed. There are two good options.
Will only believe three games into the season: That they can't get production out of this spot.
Michigan's veteran linebackers have shuffled off to their futures. Since Obi Ezeh was replaced at midseason by immediately obvious upgrade Kenny Demens, middle linebacker is set. Ready or not, Cam Gordon will be the strongside LB. That leaves Jonas Mouton's old spot as the only other in the front seven up for grabs. Despite collecting all manner of safety/LB tweeners answers are few. Candidates:
- Mike Jones. Jones was the primary backup to Mouton last spring and was getting hyped up as a playmaker; one season-ending injury later there are grumbles he is too small and does not fit the position in a 4-3 under.
- Brandin Hawthorne. Yeah… so… Brandin Hawthorne hasn't seen the field in any capacity other than special teams yet and seemed destined for a Darnell Hood sort of career and now he's kind of the only option other than Jones because all the rest of the guys are participating in a pitched battle elsewhere. Speaking of…
- Safety war losers. Carvin Johnson, Marvin Robinson, and Josh Furman all spent part of last year at linebacker and part at safety; this spring they're all trying to fill Michigan's perpetually gaping hole next to Jordan Kovacs. While they won't be playing WLB saturday, if someone establishes themselves as the guy they will probably throw one of these three back in the linebacker pool.
- Oh, and Thomas Gordon. Some reports put Gordon in the WLB battle while others think he's in a distinctly separate boat of guys playing a dedicated nickelback spot. Gordon was a pleasant surprise as the starting spur earlier in the year and if there are few other options at WLB he might inherit that spot by default, flexing out into the nickel when other teams go spread. That would have some obvious downsides—dude is not linebacker-sized—but Larry Foote is not walking through that door.
- Oh, and… um… Marell Evans? Apparently he's back on the team after not playing at Hampton, and while he's getting some practice buzz that's so far-fetched I'm not even going to list it under things I don't believe because obviously.
Hypothetically, the WLB is the best-protected linebacker in an under front and can be a little fast guy who pursues guys all over the field. More realistically you can shield him a bit but offenses will find ways to make your tiny guy go facemask to facemask with much larger folks, especially if the three-tech spot supposed to shield him is iffy.
Looking for: A weakside linebacker that does not blow outside contain constantly. If I had to guess right now I would say Gordon gets virtually all of the time against spread teams and eventually ends up dragged into the lineup against the coaches' better judgment simply because he can play.
Fearing: A major downgrade—Mouton also turned in his fair share of great individual plays.
Will only believe three games into the season: That having Hawthorne in the two-deep is not an ominous sign.
Squinting In The General Direction Of Safety
Well… at least they've got some athlete type substances. They're weakside linebackers mostly but they'd be really fast WLBs. As mentioned, Johnson, Robinson, and Furman are all fighting to be Michigan's scapegoat this fall; there is no clarity as to who will come out on top. Johnson has the initial edge since he's seen the field, but most of that was at linebacker and last year when he moved to safety he ended up behind the leetle tiny Vinopal despite his tendency to look like Jerry attempting to tackle Tom.
As per usual, brace yourselves.
Looking for: Johnson to be as reputed: a bit slow but reliable and an excellent tackler. Basically a scholarship version of Kovacs.
Fearing: Fear? There is no fear, only the cold hard certainty Michigan's safeties will suck.
Will only believe three games into the season: There are no hopes out there to deflate, so we can take a pass on this one.
Oh And Bonus
Looking for: Ball through uprights; more realistically, the matriculation of Matt Wile.
Fearing: Not through uprights.
Will only believe three games into the season: that I can watch a field goal attempt without throwing up.
Keep track of Michigan's offers on the 2012 Offer Board.
In the World of Poorly-Kept Secrets...
OH LB Kaleb Ringer has made it pretty darn obvious for a couple weeks now that he plans to commit to Michigan on Friday. HOWEVA, reporter from the Dayton Daily News, that does not mean it's OK to publicly out the kid against his wishes. Epic douche move, bro.
Hello: Kaleb Ringer post will be ready to go at 6 PM Friday, when Kaleb announces his decision at a local restaurant.
In other potential commitment news, it seems like MI TE/Ath Ron Thompson's on-again, off-again announcement this week is off again as he hunts for more offers. Things change almost daily, so keep an eye on this one.
Visits galore, as is expected with the spring game:
- MI TE Ron Thompson
- MI TE Devin Funchess
- IN TE Pierre Aka
- OH OL Commit Caleb Stacey
- IL OL Jordan Diamond
- IL DT Vontrell Williams
- MI LB Royce Jenkins-Stone
- MI LB James Ross
There are also several "maybe"s out there, including OH DE Chris Wormley and OH OL Benny McGowan. Tom will update that post as he gets more confirmations are removals, so keep checking it out.
PA OL JJ Denman is visiting soon ($, info in header). He's a "maybe" for the spring game.
MGoHero TomVH was busy over the past week or so, interviewing a number of top prospects or their coaches.
A brief interview with IA WR Amara Darboh, who has been a little under-the-radar despite offers from Florida and Notre Dame.
Tom spoke with CO TE Evan Baylis, who recently visited Ann Arbor.
I was there for two days and got some good time with the coaches. We missed practice, but we got to see everything else. We met with all the coaches, saw campus, and talked to the academic advisors. The next day we went on some more tours and more personal meetings with the coaches.
Evan talked about his game:
I'm kind of intense, and I really like to get after it. I play hard for pretty much the entire game. I think I have good footwork and good speed. I like getting passed to a lot, but I also like blocking a lot too.
He says he'd like to make a decision by the end of the summer.
Here's what the head coach of WA OL Zach Banner had to say:
"He's a very good student, I see him as a business man or sports reporter. He's very charismatic, he's the student body president and he could be the President of the United States someday, he's that type of kid."
We'll hold off on discussion of how awesome it would be to have a president nearing 7 feet tall to get into the substance:
"I think he's really interested in Michigan, they'll definitely factor in. I think he's interested in them because his style of play as an offensive tackle is similar to some of the tackles that Michigan has had before. He's familiar with their history and tradition... I've encouraged him to look around, and I'd be surprised, I'd be real surprised, if he didn't take one of his official visits out to Michigan."
He plans to narrow to a top 8 by August, and announce a decision at the Army Game or on Signing Day.
PA DE Noah Spence told Tom he'll visit this summer.
I've always liked Michigan since I was younger, it definitely interests me. I like them a lot, the coaching staff seems real down to earth. We talk about everything, grades, football, and how everything's going. Not everything is football with them.
He wants to major in Kinesiology, so Michigan's excellent programs in that Division will be a plus.
Michigan is tied at the top with Rutgers for NY CB Wayne Morgan.
OH LB Joe Bolden is a Michigan lean, according to what he told ESPN:
"I'm probably a Michigan lean right now, I really like everything Michigan has to offer," Bolden said. "I like the coaches, and the academics are tremendous there. Coach Mattison is installing a new defense; it's a lot of the stuff that he did with Florida and the Baltimore Ravens. It's a good fit for me as a [middle] linebacker. Coach looked at me and said I had a pretty good chance of playing my freshman year if I worked my butt off."
He visited for practice yesterday (photo by yours truly on the practice field). He told Tom that Michigan commit Caleb Stacey is in his ear about the Wolverines.
"The first thing that stood out to me about Simmons was his skinny ankles,'' said Tom Luginbill, ESPN.com's national director of scouting. "He is nimble-footed and very athletic, given his size. But he is not a tackle, strictly a guard. For a 300-pounder, he moves around nicely and showed a bit of a competitive streak as well.''
"Jordan is physically gifted. He's the total package," Crespi coach Jon Mack said. "I'm just glad he's on our side and we don't have to play against him on a weekly basis. He's a tremendous drive blocker, gets off the ball great in pass protection, he can do it all.
He'll cut to a top 10 in September.
IL DT Vontrell Williams will visit this weekend for the spring game ($, info in header). Don't be surprised if the Wolverines are that "second Big Ten offer" he's nearing.
NC RB Keith Marshall has cut his list to a top 12, and Michigan has made the cut.
Michigan – Great Tradition and good school
(He's not kidding about "great school" - he apparently holds a 4.25 GPA). Also on the list are Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, North Carolina, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Stanford, and USC. Having a good season would be a big help in landing this kid, though Georgia sounds like a heavy favorite.
The offer train has slowed to a reasonable pace, but that didn't stop GA CB Geno Smith from receiving one on Monday. Alabama leads now (with Tennessee hot on their heels), but he won't even cut to a top 10 for a couple months.
The recruiting world jumped all over KY QB Zeke Pike after he was ejected from a 7-on-7 Tournament over the weekend, but Tom talked to him for some clarification. It doesn't sounds like as big a deal as it was made out to be.
NJ QB Brandon Napoleon will visit Michigan soon ($, info in header). OH RB Alden Hill will visit Michigan ($, info in header). Michigan is recruiting MI DE Mario Ojemudia the hardest ($, info in header). FL S Deon Bush will decide at the Army game ($, info in header). MI CB Terry Richardson will have a top 7 in July ($, info in header).
I'll keep 2013 updates brief until the 2012 class is a little more filled-out, but MI QB Shane Morris was the subject of Sam Webb's recruiting column in last week's Detroit News:
"Shane, for a young kid, has a really great arm," said Scout.com Midwest regional manager Allen Trieu. "I saw him as a freshman and that ball came out of his hand with great spin and velocity then. He's started since that first season, so now he has the experience too... He'll be a kid that gets attention from all over, not just the schools within a close proximity."
With national interest bound to come in, it's good for Michigan to get on him early. He plans to commit before his senior season (which, I should note, is like 16 months away).
Elsewhere in 2013 news, keep an eye on Craig Roh's little brother, a standout WR/TE Jake Roh.
From reader Shane Styles, the gym at Minnesota's Rochester Community and Technical College:
Those who stay will in fact be runners-up at the JUCO division III golf national championships, Joel Swisher. Also don't ever set foot in Michigan because you will spontaneously combust due to ambient coach-rage.
Nothing will ever bring home how bizarrely intense people get about spring football than Orson's annual in-depth review of Florida's spring game. It's the closest he gets to being a conventional team blogger, a straightforward piece of analysis long enough to be a Marky Mark Mangino post livened up by Orson's tendency to call things a "boiled bag of rat innards". Orson is writing about defensive tackles. It is April and college football is bored.
Michigan's got one of those this weekend and these are the things I'll be extrapolating answers from the tiniest filaments of evidence about:
Is Can Have Tailback
Michigan's tailback last year was Denard Robinson and when it wasn't Denard Robinson it was people being enraged that Vincent Smith wasn't really fast or falling down past the line of scrimmage. This year some variety of pro-style offense will be deployed; having a tailback becomes significantly less optional.
- Vincent Smith, the 5'6" Pahokeean who was the leading non-Robinson rusher last year with 601 yards. He took 136 carries to get those—4.4 per—and struggled badly against anything approximating a good defense.
- Michael Shaw. Carlos Brown 2.0 averaged a full yard per carry more than Smith mostly because he got hurt after the Bowling Green game.
- Michael Cox. The Loch Ness Monster is reputed to be a stallion of a man capable of great feats. Unfortunately he is 50-50 to run towards the correct endzone on any given play.
- Stephen Hopkins. Hopkins had some fumbling issues and only ended up with 37 carries last year but his size made him an effective lead blocker for Robinson and his rushes promised a Minor-like downhill moose down the road. We're a bit further down the road and Hopkins's new head coach loves him some moose.
- Fitzgerald Toussaint. Toussaint has been vaporware in his first two years. Maybe he can stay healthy for the next twenty seconds.
There is also The Greatest Player In The History Of The World According To Two Jacksons. Thomas Rawls enters with the sort of hype you can only get by being a generic late-rising three star coached by Fred Jackson's son and recruited by Fred Jackson. Since he didn't enroll early we won't get to test the Jacksons' theory that Thomas Rawls encompasses the power of the sun and gently warms the earth each morning.
Looking for: A somewhat lighter, faster Hopkins with a grasp of what he should do. He's probably going to be the best back on the roster and he's now in a system that loves/needs a guy like him.
Fearing: Vincent Smith looks pretty much the same and still has a lock on the top TB spot. It's plausible that Smith's injury lingered into last season—remember he tore that ACL during the OSU game, so he had well under a year to get ready—and that he'll display a lot more speed and agility two years removed from it. If that's the case then maybe he can be a decent Big Ten starter. If he's still the same guy he was last year and he's still at the top of the depth chart and he's getting a lot of carries from the I when Denard could be doing something, guh.
Will only believe three games into the season: Cox as Herschel Walker. That guy is never going to play. He's a redshirt junior and couldn't get a carry last year even when half the tailback corps was injured and the rest was Smith and freshman Hopkins. And this is at tailback, the position where you can leap into the starting lineup on day one if, say, you're a human battering ram who runs like a gazelle. The only RB in recent Michigan history to get noticeably better late in his career was Chris Perry. Everyone else was the same guy they always were.
The Roundtree Question
What do you do with the Big Ten's second leading receiver when his production was predicated on the threat of Denard Robinson running and his position only sort of exists in the platonic ideal of a MANBALL offense?
The answer to this is probably "nothing." Borges said something about running a ton of three and four wide this season. Even if that's forced it sounds like Borges is going to roll with it, especially because his best wideout seems most comfortable in the slot—kinda need to have three WRs to have a slot—and the tight ends are sparse and stone-handed. Late-era Carr teams based out of three wide even after Steve Breaston had moved on to the NFL. Borges is more of a bomber than Carrbord and just spent a couple years running one of those "West Coast" offenses that throws damn near everything out there. So… yeah, expect three wideouts.
Okay, then, but the further question is: what will Borges do with the guy? Roundtree went nuts last year when the threat of Denard Robinson sucked safeties up and saw him stunningly wide open against Notre Dame and Indiana and Illinois and several other times besides. Can Borges run what he wants to run and surround Roundtree with nothing but grass?
Looking for: Michigan safeties to fail spectacularly because they can't decide whether to take Denard or stay back. If you can't do it to Michigan safeties you can't do it to anyone.
Fearing: Borges can't evolve the system to keep ahead of defenses and get those almost free touchdowns. I'm sure he can emulate QB Lead Oh Noes but Michigan had to keep re-arranging it to prevent safeties from showing up in the wrong place at the critical moment. Borges is a smart guy but his knowledge is in another arena. I'm not sure he'll be able to create as many opportunities with Denard's legs.
Will only believe three games into the season: Jeremy Gallon on the field.
Okay, You Run Power, But How?
Michigan ran POWER last year. They didn't run it much, but they did use it as a counter to the constant stretch action. It was fairly successful as a changeup. That move was part of the shift in Michigan's offense away from a true zone read to an odd QB-as-TB thing people called "QB iso" and didn't know what to do with—the AP put him on their All-America team as a "back." Like Rodriguez coming into DeBord's already extant stretch offense, Hoke is walking into a situation where his guys have some clue about what the new stuff is.
Unfortunately, we've seen bits and pieces of power plays run from under center in the practice videos that have invariably been stuffed. This is rock hard evidence it is not a good idea. So, like, what I'm saying is that if you've got Denard Robinson and you want to run power you might as well line up in the shotgun and run it with Denard Robinson, right?
A secondary question: how serious is Hoke about his distaste for zone running? He seems like a pretty hands-off guy when it comes to the offense, but if there's one thing he's stressed on that side of the ball it's that the team "will run power" and fullbacks will have their spine compressed and whatnot. This is something of a problem because Michigan has just completed the transition away from hampeople. Mike DeBord installed a zone stretch running game in 2006 and Michigan started recruiting to it. That first class was David Molk and Mark Huyge, now redshirt seniors.
Everyone recruited since has been either a relatively light and mobile spread OL or a prototypical left tackle. The prototype will be fine in any system; guys like Molk and Omameh and Ricky Barnum might not be. If Michigan spends the offseason putting beef on the interior line it might work out… or it might give them a bunch of tweeners not particularly good at anything.
Looking for: QB power.
Fearing: RB power.
Will only believe three games into the season: Michigan guards as effective drive blockers.
It was at last year's spring game that Robinson went from a freak show who should be moved to tailback to a freak show who should be in the Heisman running. He can't improve that much again without melting anyone who watches him, Ark of the Covenant style, but he was still pretty raw last year. He had bouts of drive- and game-crippling inaccuracy; he occasionally joined the Rex Grossman "f*** it, I'm going deep" club; he was restricted to a set of limited routes that teams adapted to as the leaves turned. He should progress. How much?
Looking for: Incremental improvement.
Fearing: Uncomfortable on drops and still prone to chucking slants well behind his receivers.
Will only believe three games into the season: hopefully that Denard Robinson can do anything.