"I love it that Ivy League coaches are coming to our camp and Big Ten coaches are coming to our camp. South Florida is coming. We've got about 70 schools that are coming to our camp."
I am a sinner who’s probably gonna sin again. Lord, forgive me. Lord forgive me things I don’t understand.
I confess: I care about the national championship more than orthodox Michigan dogma allows by, like, a lot. I think I understand what Bo may have meant; 1973 must have been a bitter pill to swallow. The split baby in ‘97 was crap, too. Actually bringing home the hardware often requires a bunch of rhetoric just to get the opportunity. Less so recently than in Bo’s day but there still some arguing that is needed. And, If people still need to be convinced with words that you’re worthy after all the games are over, how good are you really? Relying on the scruples of seemingly unscrupulous individuals is a bad idea so a “to hell with them” mentality is totally understandable. I believe that Coach Schembechler would have won one if he cared to do so. Define your own worth and all that but there is another way, isn’t there? Make it your goal to kick everyone’s ass and you’ll accomplish all viable goals anyway. Am I wrong? /WalterSobchack.
Times they are a changin’, amen, but I think the current system actually benefitted Michigan (and others) in many “just ‘cause” ways. For too many teams winning all of your games, though difficult and unlikely, still isn't enough to get a shot at a national title. Teams in the Hegemony don’t have to worry about that and can often afford to lose a game if its to the right opponent. The playoff system improves the situation but I suspect that there will still be some jostling to get a golden ticket. What does a team need to do to maximize its control of its own destiny?
To the Stat Cave!
The preceding chart is the basis of the revised Blue Moon Model, discussed and applied in my last diary. Hollow red circles (right axis) represent how many teams fell into each bin used in the lumping process. Scan this dusty diary for discussion of the lumping maneuver. The solid blue diamonds is the average win percentage (left axis) for each bin. See how the blue diamonds start getting out of line when the binned sample size drops into the muck? That’s the “low sample size” criticism we are all so familiar with. But note that it doesn’t take that many samples to get a reasonably well behaved average—getting 10 is usually enough but more is always better. The hollow blue triangles are the focus of this diary. Those are all of the teams that have played in the BCS title game since 2000. In terms of Net Yardage Differential, there is quite a spread ranging from 45 to 275 ypg.
In pre-school most of us learned that a good way to identify differences is to ask ourselves “which of these things are not like the others?” We also learned to mock the weirdoes because why else would you go through the trouble of identifying them in the first place? The preceding charts make the MNC and B1G contending weirdoes stand out pretty well. Go forth and mock them.
Championship game losers are included because they had destiny by the bit. The mountains meet the sea at least 130. The typical team showed up with a yardage differential of about 165.
In the B1G, the Mendoza line is 100 ypg in yardage differential. What’s interesting to me is that it looks like there was a sea change in the B1G around 2005 with most of the teams underwater showing up before then. The only Michigan team that could pass muster as a national champion is the 2003 squad. Season summary:
- Lost @ Oregon by 4 with a net turnover margin of –3; ‘nuff said.
- Lost @ Iowa by 3 with a net turnover margin of 0 but: punted from the Iowa 35 in the first quarter, failed to score a TD after 1st @ Goal from the Iowa 8 in the second quarter, had a punt blocked in the third quarter leading to a 3 and out FG for the Hawkeyes.
Ah, memories / light the corners of my mind / misty watercolor memories / of the way we were … Memories / may be beautiful an yet / what’s too painful to remember / we simply choose to forget. Tell ‘em, Babs.
With the playoff system coming winning a National Championship is now harder for most. By most I mean everybody except for Nick Saban. Saban built a monster at LSU, handed off to Les Miles to terrorize for a while until he could get all three rings installed for his clown show, then came back to build an even badder monster at Alabama. Now Saban can be ranked as low as 5 and have the rhetorical juice to jump some teams. If he gets in, chances are, he will win. ‘Sall good though, dude is mortal…right? Um…maybe Kirby Smart is the real master mind??? Oh shit, do they have a succession plan in place?!? Madre de dios!!!
(Sorry about that. I actually think I’m doing well this time.)
Sure, Justice will be served more often because being undefeated and winning 1 game you have 6 weeks to prepare for aren’t enough to claim the throne anymore; now you have to beat two more teams that are pretty damn good and doing that is, like, hard. I support the cause for sure, but I recognize how much steeper that mountain is about to get. But, but, but, over signing! Look, man, you can’t blame a shark for being the baddest mofo in the ocean; you’ve got to blame the ocean. The whole over signing phenomenon that we’re seeing in the SEC may be distasteful to some but so are fried insects. I’ll walk this back: scout’s honor.
That’s a real picture of what is considered yummy street food in Cambodia.Also, I once ate Chapulines on a business trip to Mexico because I knew I wouldn’t die and it was a reeeally nice restaurant and I didn’t order it and “we’re closing this deal one way or the other, fellas” and “Yes, I’m this crazy, ese”. Also: tequila and yolo. Chapulines are fried grasshoppers and they don’t taste bad (wouldn’t say they taste good either) but its the texture and mouth feel that get you. Crunchy, gritty, all the moisture in your mouth runs for the hills…just all around nasty. I stayed cool and chewed them like a man but at a certain point I was all like “fuck this I’m swallowing” just to get that shit out of my mouth in the least ridiculous way possible and, after all, I had done this to my self. The legs, man, the legs. Those tiny little barbs aren’t meant for swallowing. Don’t judge me, man, I have lived. Thank God for Dos Equis.
Football, yes. Check it out: obviously, over signing isn’t against the rules. We don’t have to like it and we don't have to do it, but if you can choke it down -- or maybe you think its yummy with barbeque sauce -- NCAA enforcement says “bon appetit. Besides, top notch recruiting isn’t enough -- we know that first hand here at Michigan (also see Les Miles) -- you need to turn those recruits into great players and support them with great game plans and great play calling and great-never-ever-punting-on-the-opponent’s-35. Take away over signing from Alabama and Saban & Co will still kick everyone’s ass, probably.
To be a team the can get to the playoff and win the damn thing -- to be a champion’s champion -- you need to be “free to roam the plains, your majestic rippling muscles trampling over mascots that dare oppose you” as Brian once said. You must leave a barbaric path of destruction in your wake. You must leave only the lamentations of their bloggers to tell your tale. Being above 130 in NYDS since 2000 has meant you were, on average, in the top 8 nationally in that category.
There is a limit to how good your defense can be: the number 1 team in NYDS averages out with a Defensive YPG of about 270. The best team in the country in DYDS averages 230 ypg allowed. The best defense I have on record is Alabama 2011 at 183 (jeepers). Seriously, there are typically 13-ish possessions per game so you could score at TD every time and allow 107 ypg and still not get cored on. I guess you could try for onside kicks too but … what an asshole! The typical team “worthy” of a national championship has a defense that yields 315 ypg.
If you read my last entry, you should be encouraged to see that championship defense isn’t much better than what Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison have been able to field since their arrival on campus, even with all those roster issues we’ve come to know so well. Today, the roster is better and improving. It’s not easy to have great defense, but these guys know what they’re doing.
The mantra of defense wins championships isn’t [baloney], it’s just not enough. See, defensive performance is so hard to predict. With offense you have a reasonable shot at summing up the parts to get to OYDS. No such luck on defense. Proxy analysis can give us an idea of how good our defense could be but you will never know what you’ve got until you see it perform.
Football is not a math test.
I think I can see how Michigan can get to 100 NYPG this year….130 isn’t that far away.
For awhile now, after camp, I call up a buddy who's been around the program (full time support position) for quite a few years (since late-Carr era). The past couple of years, I've made a thread to share some of that summary on here for those who care. It's straight word of mouth, so a disclaimer there. And unfortunately much of this year's info has become common knowledge. In fact, we joked because we (MGoCommunity) know more about the team this year (without seeing one practice) than we ever have. It's just the information age that we live in. So hats off to MGoBlog, because much of the stuff you read here that comes off as opinion is very close to accurate. That said, nothing too ground breaking. Also, there just hasn’t been much debate this year.
QB – Gardner is as good as the hype. He’s gotten “twice as good” over the summer and has really taken charge of the offense. Still presses a bit under pressure and makes the “oh no” throws that he needs to eliminate (I believe we saw one in a scrimmage video). Plays like Kapernick or a thin Cam Newton. Was told that if he has a big year, he’s talented enough to go to the NFL. But if he has a big year and stays, he could very well win the Heisman next year. I specifically asked about Morris. He looks good, and NO DECISION has been made on his status. Redshirt could be an option if all he'd get is mop up duty. He's not that far ahead of Cleary that Cleary can't take those snaps in a blowout. Probably won't make that call until the situation presents itself...and that's going off of what Hoke's done in the past. (Why say he is or isn't going to play when you don't know if you even will have the opp? What if we don't get up big until late in the 4th when it's best to just hand the ball off and run the clock out?)
RB – Fitz has his job and it’s HIS job. More dedicated and determined. A lot of people don’t know, but he played with a lot of pressure last year...wanted to play well and go pro to provide for his family. Tried to hit a homerun on every single play. More determined now and extremely motivated by the Green hype. Not even close most days. Green plays overweight and could very well redshirt this year. However, he’s the most improved RB over the fall camp period. Still worried that he’s Grady part II, but it’s WAAAY too early to say that Smith also motivated by the Green hype. The other returners are all better than last year, but so is the OLine.
WR – Gallon is the favorite target, but Gardner is starting to spread the ball around a lot more. Chesson and Reynolds look to replace Darboh who was the clear #2 WR. Darboh was also a great blocker. That said, expect Jackson to be used in running situations. Dileo is the “Novak” of the team. Freshman WRs have potential, but still learning the offense and how to run routes and/or block. None can be trusted right now, but at least 1 may play special teams because he could help in the 2nd half of the season (on offense).
TE – No real news...Butt is better than people realize, we could have the best TE group in the conference.
OL – Better than we’ve had since the Carr-era. Already better than last year and not even close. Here’s the C debate, same as last year. Miller is the better snapper, Glasgow is the better blocker. Expect Miller to win as Mealer (who was the better snapper) won last year. Glasgow and Bryant are in a dead heat for the LG spot. Coaches seem to want Bryant to win so Braden can be first tackle off the bench and Glasgow can be first interior OL (regardless of position) off the bench. Bryant doesn’t play C. If Glasgow is ever in at C, look for us to go under Center more than Pistol or from the Gun.
DL – Most DL depth charts that have been reported are true...Clark was working inside for the Dime package. We do have a situation package where Ojemudia, Clark and Charlton all play on the DL. I guess it’s our version of the NASCAR package the NY Giants have. Still trying to “earn the right to rush 4.” Better, but not there yet. Then again, it’s harder when Lewan and Schofield are on the other side.
LB – Ross may be the best player on the defense. He’s also improved over the summer. Morgan is the MLB despite rumors of Bolden. Gordon will be the SLB. RJS-Bolden-Beyer are in the 2nd group and expect Bolden and Beyer to play close to starter’s snaps. GMat is rotating this year more than he has at any point in the last 2 years.
DB – Still sorting out CB. Countess is the only lock. (personal thought – can we get a question to GMat to provide clarity on the depth chart at CB?). Avery is playing both (CB and S), it’s not even a big deal...it stems from the SCar game where we didn’t have guys ready that knew multiple positions. So when Floyd was out and guys went down...we had Wilson running around trying to learn on the fly. We gave up too many big plays in the secondary and coaches felt like it was because we we’re playing 10.5 on 11 because there wasn’t enough flexibility. Remember, the guys that we did have were ALL young. So they were focusing on learning THEIR position before expanding their roles. THAT is why Avery is the one bouncing around, because he’s got the most experience and knows the CB and Nickel spots. There is less separation here than anywhere else on the team. Need more consistency from the “up-and-comers.”
K/P – We’re going to be A-okay.
One of the best things I got was that all of the young guys are truly good character people. By Lewan's example, Tom Brady's story, etc. they're learning what a special place Michigan is and they aren't in a hurry like most freshman are. They're fighting to truly get better, knowing that it may be a couple of years before they're called on. I was told in "3-4 years this team could be SCARY" because you're going to have guys that truly know the system and they're going to be starving to show what they can do...and for once, they're going to be TALENTED! I personally think this next 5 year period, starting this year, could be one of the best 5 years periods any of us have ever seen at Michigan. Hope I'm right!
Wow, it's been an eternity in MGoBlog time since I posted a wallpaper. I've had a busier schedule than I could have ever imagined. My wife and I welcomed our 2nd child, a beautiful baby girl named Norah. I've also had to adapt to being a parent to children, not just a child. Let me tell you, that is a much different beast.
All of that to say this - I'm sorry that it's been so long. I'm hopeful that too much hasn't changed in my favorite corner of the internet. I haven't missed much other than 12 or so "redshirt" threads, it seems.
This wallpaper is going to be hit or miss with you all, I'm sure. When trying to decide what type of wallpaper I'd go with for the Chippewas, I came up with several non-PC options (indian casino, putting Brady Hoke's face on a Chief, etc.) and then landed on the dreamcatcher design. Believe it or not, I like to incorporate some depth/history into my wallpapers (HEY, that Zombie Toussaint wallpaper was totally cerebral..get it? Brains?...anyway...), so I did some research on the Chippewa people. One big cultural/artistic piece I came across being attributed to them was the dreamcatcher. Now, I'd made one back in elementary school and it was cool then, but I was stoked to make a 2013 Michigan Football theme for my new catcher of dreams. I used that as my base and threw in a picture of a random Michigan field for good measure.
I wanted the wallpaper to have the schedule on it, so that's why it's there. I did add a texture to the overall wallpaper to give it an interesting feel, so it's not as clean-cut as some in the past, but I like it (and in the end that's really all that matters, right?).
Anyway, I hope you enjoy it and will use it or perhaps my Scenic Michigan Stadium wallpaper until Notre Dame week arrives. One week, ladies and gentleman! Let's Go BLUE!!!
Enjoy and GO BLUE!
Just got back from our annual week up at Camp Michigania.
For those of you who don't know, Camp Michigania is the U of M Alumni Association's family camp...located on the beautiful shores of Walloon Lake.
We've been going since our kids were very young...and, even though they are now both tweens, it remains our favorite week of the year. I'd recommend it to any MGoParents!
At any rate, the faculty forums are one of the highlights of each session. The faculty forums feature presentations by U of M professors...followed the next morning by an informal conversation with the previous evening's speaker.
I was very excited when I found out that one of the featured faculty members during our week was going to be Lloyd Carr.
He covered a lot of ground during his presentations...and during the Q & A that followed.
Mike Hart was singled out as a player who exceeded expectations and played with a tremendous amount of heart. Tom Brady received multiple mentions as being both tough and and an incredible leader.
Coach Carr obviously greatly admired Bo and shared many of Bo's leadership philosophies with us. Bo clearly eschewed a "win at all costs" approach in favor of doing things "the right way." Bo felt that a Michigan Man always does things the right way and doesn't break the rules.
Coach Carr indicated that the best-performing players have a mental toughness and a love of the game. This accounts for the differing level of success among players with similar measurables...and for some players outperforming expectations and others failing to live up to them.
An interesting tidbit: Coach Carr's contract gave him final say over which ball was used, uniforms, etc. I'm guessing that the whole "uniformz" meme would not have arisen had Coach Hoke been given this same power.
Many of the expected questions were asked and discussed...cheating in recruiting, SEC dominance, influence of $$ on the game, conference size/alignment, Kordell, MSU 2001, the Horror, RichRod, Manziel, 1997, why he retired when he did, etc. This post would get too long if I shared all of this comments...and I also feel as thought there's a little bit of a "what's said at Michigania stays at Michigania" expectation that should be honored. This wasn't an on-the-record press or media event.
I will say that he answered the RichRod questions vaguely/carefully...and that the question re: the Horror was about how he handled the post-game lockerroom rather than what happened during the game. He expressed great pride in how that team recovered to play well during the remainder of 2007. He said, though, that he felt that the 1994 team never totally recovered from Kordell's hail mary.
A great story re: Charles Woodson. Coach Carr had a policy in place that you didn't play in a game if you didn't practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. On the Tuesday before The Game in 1996, Woodson showed up to practice in street clothes and did not participate. Coach Carr told Woodson to show up in his office the next morning at 8AM. At the meeting, Woodson indicated he was hurt and wasn't going to be able to practice that day either. Coach Carr reminded him of the policy, and Woodson indicated he understood it. Knowing that he couldn't make an exception for Woodson, but also knowing that Woodson was key to our success, he did what we all would've done. He called Woodson's mother. Needless to say, Woodson showed up for practice on Wednesday...and played in The Game.
EDIT: A few addtional items...
Tom Brady very seriously considered transferring when he was stuck at third on the depth chart. Everyone in the room gasped a bit at the thought.
The 1997 championship team was invited to the White House. When Coach Carr asked Bo (a staunch Republican) if he wanted to attend, Bo said "no, and you shouldn't go either!"
Bo gathered his assistants to discuss the possibility of going to Texas A & M. He asked all of them their thoughts, and many advised him to take the opportunity. One of them highlighted the additional income for Bo and ability to take care of his family. Bo's response was something along the lines of..."But you're not the one who's going to have to stand up in front of the 120 men that you recruited and tell them that you're leaving them."
A sign that hung in the locker room during Coach Carr's tenure..."Blame no one. Expect nothing. Do something."
Went to the Mott thing today. After last year's relatively interesting scrimmage they went back to a no-pads situational walkthrough that was a lot of punting and field goals. Irritating. They did do a couple of two-minute drills on which they went full offense and defense that were illuminating.
Things I gathered:
1. Gibbons was automatic until the field goals got out to 54 yards, at which point he and Wile took turns missing. Had range out to 49 easy.
2. Kenny Allen keeps booming punts. Wile is so consistent though that I think it'll be hard to take the job away. Both kicking spots are in very good hands.
3. They showed a spread punt, then would motion into a conventional punt. Trolling Brian? They did kick from the spread a couple times but the personal protectors didn't close ranks after the snap went through... looked dangerous.
4. Stribling and De'Veon Smith were heavily involved in kick coverage teams to the point where it seems unlikely they'll redshirt. Gedeon got on the field in special teams but only late, seemingly as a third-teamer. I think both LBs will redshirt.
5. Shallman, Avery, and Gant were off to the side doing rehab-type exercises with Wellman. Shallman had a big brace and was walking with a limp. That's a boo-boo that seemed like it would take some time to heal. Redshirt likely. Avery has his chronic back thing, so I assume that's just the usual with him. They had Shallman drag a rather large cart in with a big rope.
6. In the two minute drill the line was Lewan-Glasgow-Miller-Kalis-Schofield. When the second team came in it was Braden-Bryant-Burzynski-Gunderson-Magnunson. Looks like all the freshman OL are headed for redshirts, and that Braden is no longer a serious consideration at guard. I think Miller will win the C job even if Bryant comes through because they can't trust his health yet.
7. Gardner was awesome. He fired balls in inch-perfect, hit a lovely fade over the top to a diving Chesson, and just looked killer. Morris alternated excellent throws with horrible stuff, including a pick way wide of his intended target and a crazy sidearm panicked hurl that was reminiscent of freshman Mallett. But he also threw some beautiful balls, a couple on the run.
Gardner was *awesome*.
8. Butt had a great catch and run, but bobbled and dropped an easier one. Reynolds made a nice leaping catch on Gardner's only iffy throw of the day, a short hitch that sailed on him.
9. They held Gordon and Avery out. It was Furman and Wilson with the first team and Clark and Hill with the second at S. Assume that's because Avery and Gordon have won jobs.
10. They ran mostly nickel, which featured Clark-ROTATING-Black-Beyer on the line, with Glasgow and Wormley rotating through there amongst a couple others. Countess folded inside to nickel with Hollowell and Channing Stribling at the corners. Taylor was second team with Jourdan Lewis and Thomas at nickel. It really looks like Stribling's going to play.
11. Holowell looked good. Hard to get separation from him.
12. Gardner was awesome.
13. Norfleet and Dileo were the only punt returners, looks like Gallon has retired there. Norfleet didn't screw up any catches or decisions not to catch in a half-dozen chances. FWIW.
14. Wormley got some good pressure when he was in. No pads, so tough to tell if that's meaningful.
15. Ryan didn't do anything but was walking around without a brace or limp.
16. Both Smith and Green are very impressive physically. Green's arms are the size of legs. Hard to tell anything about them in passing drills. Toussaint got one carry on which he made a really quick cut upfield; Morgan was right there, though.
17. They drilled pistol snaps and shotgun as much as under center, and from the shotgun they ran veer handoffs on which a GA would come upfield or not, thus determining who would keep the ball. So the inverted veer lives and the pistol is happening.
Pull up the NCAA official stats and Michigan’s red zone efficiency looks great, ranking third with scores on 93% of trips. Brendan Gibbons had a lot to do with that as Michigan connected on 14 field goals in 46 trips. But as tends to happen in these situations, the truth is much more complicated the NCAA would have you believe.
After the concept of fumble luck, 3 <> 7 may be the second statistical pillar of MGoBlog. The NCAA’s stat does not believe what we believe. Their rankings are based on a simple equation:
[Times scoring in the Red Zone]
[Trips to the Red Zone]
For the NCAA 3=7. An equally simple measure that has been strangely ignored is Points Per Trip (PPT). By that measure (and taking out meaningless second half trips and games against FCS teams), Michigan drops to 44th at 5.2 PPT in 36 qualifying trips.
Red zone Efficiency is a very easy stat to overreact to. The sample size is small and a couple of fluky plays can swing the ranking either way. When you expand the study beyond the end result of the trip and look at the 110 individual plays that comprised Michigan’s 2012 red zone offense, there is at least a little more sturdy basis for evaluation, although the smaller the sample set, the more likely there is a large piece of luck involved in any outputs, whether positive or negative.
Second Down was not our Down, and Other Findings
To evaluate each play I looked at the touchdown percentage for drives at each possible possible down, distance and yardline from inside the 20. Every play either makes the offense more or less likely to score a touchdown on the drive. A first and goal from the 1 yard line results in a touchdown on the drive 91.4% of the time, therefore a touchdown is worth 8.6%. Second and goal from the 1 results in a touchdown 87.3% of the time so getting stopped on first down is worth –4.1%. Each play is evaluated based on its impact to Michigan’s chances of scoring a touchdown on the drive. Even though the odds of a field goal dropped slightly as you move back within the 20, for this study I just wanted to focus on the effect on potential touchdowns.
Michigan ran 43 first down plays on their qualifying red zone trips last season and put themselves in a situation more likely to result in a touchdown on 47% of them. Even though their plays were slightly more likely to be negative than positive, the positive plays had a higher magnitude, resulting in a net positive of about 52%, or half of a touchdown.
Second down was where the problems started. Michigan ran 39 qualifying second down plays in the red zone and only 14 of them bettered their chances of reaching the end zone. Michigan finished at –221% on second down, a loss of over two touchdowns due to poor second down performance.
Michigan actually held up well on second down rushes, improving their odds on 12 of 23 second down rushes. The problems were centered around second down passing. After the Robinson to Gardner touchdown on the first 2nd down red zone pass of the season, Michigan went 0-9 with 2 sacks on the next 11 pass plays. Michigan quarterbacks locked into Devin Funchess and Jeremy Gallon in these ill-fated situations as the were targeted on 7 of the 9 incompletions. The incredibly surprising play action was not the only issue, only 2 plays were noted as play action in the UFR’s and another 3 were listed as waggle or rollout, but one of those was the initial touchdown.
Where Michigan struggled on second down they excelled on third down. Michigan got a first down or touchdown on 16 of 28 third down plays and reversed their second down loss with a +324% change in their touchdown odds on third and fourth down. Michigan’s binary down success was largely driven via the pass but the situation greatly changed when Devin Gardner came on for Denard Robinson. Denard was 1-5 with a sack on third down while Devin Gardner went 5-5 (all for first downs or touchdowns) with a sack. Where the second down plays were focused on two different players, Gardner third down passes were to 4 different players on the five completions.
Gardner’s third down prowess continued on the ground with a +122% rating on five third down red zone carries. The lack of confidence in the traditional running game around the goal line was evident as only 4 of 13 red zone carries on third and fourth downs were taken by running backs. Toussaint and Vincent Smith both went 1/2 on their attempts.
Devin Gardner Devin Gardner Devin Gardner
So Devin Gardner was pretty good in the red zone. Over all plays he was +432%, or over 4 touchdowns added over the course of the season. In fact, Gardner’s success was probably unsustainably good. I don’t have touchdown’s added for all players, but if you look at pure points added in the red zone, Gardner’s five game red zone average was the second best season ever to Tim Tebow’s 2007 Heisman season. Gardner is really good in the red zone but it is going to be very tough to sustain this level for a full season, only one player ever has.
But what about the other Wolverines?
The only other Michigan player to finish with a positive number was Justice Hayes, by a hair. Hayes’ singular red zone carry against South Carolina netted him a 2% increase. Among the other running backs, Thomas Rawls was –12%, Vincent Smith was –66% (although he was actually the most valuable receiver) and Fitzgerald Toussaint was –117%. All three were making positive plays less than 50% of the time.
Denard finished with a slightly negative red zone contribution for the season, with –39% but on a team low 39% positive ratio. As mimicked by his career, Denard showcased a lot of valuable game changing plays in the red zone, but struggled with consistency. In the end, his 2012 red zone negatives outweighed his positives.
On the receiving side, targets of Vincent Smith, Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo and Devin Funchess all finished on the positive side while Roy Roundtree was the sole receiving target to end with a negative rating with pair of 3rd and Goal targets from the 7 falling incomplete.
What It Could Mean for 2013
As noted above, red zone efficiency is fickle stat and can easily swing. With that said, based on small sample size splits, here are some pros and cons heading into the season.
- Keep taking care of the ball, no QB interceptions or RB fumbles in the red zone is a great streak to keep up
- Even with rocket-shoes Gallon and The Funchise, Michigan was at their best when spreading the ball around
- Devin Gardner will probably not be as good in the red zone as he was last year but his success was strong enough that it was more than just sample size
- Stay aggressive and hopefully the third down success can hold, but hopefully more trips can be resolved before then
- Fix second down passing, 1-10 with 2 sacks, was really ugly
- Need contributions from the running backs in the run game. Too many trips were dependent on Gardner/Robinson bailing the offense out.
The two biggest things that seem like more than just fluky outcomes of limited play counts are the success of Devin Gardner in the red zone in both running and passing and the failures passing the ball on 2nd down. Some of this is due to the incredibly surprising play action, 5 of the 12 UFR’d plays where listed as PA, rollout or waggle, but the other six plays weren’t any better.
At this point I have no clue how to keep my expectations for Devin Gardner on earth. There are lots of sample size issues with only five games under his belt but those were five pretty spectacular five games from him and he was at his best in the highest leverage situations. I don’t think he can do it for a whole season and hopefully the defense and running game mean he doesn’t have to, but man, that guy made a lot of plays last year.