“The player development is the main thing I like (about Michigan),” Williams said. “You can see that they develop their players. They get them in the gym and they work them hard. And their hard work pays off.”
I was on vacation for both the AFA and UMass games and had forgotten I hadn't cut highlight reels from them. Air Force first; UMass probably tomorrow.
ESPN story on the recruitment of Denard Robinson:
Now that the regular season is over and we can now say for certain that our season came down to Denard’s ulnar nerve and a maddening loss to the Huskers, I wanted to take a retrospective look at what proved to be the key personnel decision on offense for Michigan this season; moving Devin Gardner from quarterback to wide receiver. Of course, there’s been numerous threads debating the wisdom of having Bellomy as the back-up to Denard over Gardner, but what really hasn’t been looked at is where we would’ve been in the first 8 games without Devin at wideout. This is my rudimentary, George Bailey analysis of such a scenario. I apologize up front for not having the Mathlete’s ability to take statistics and convert them into revelatory truths, but here we go.
Alabama -Devin had only the one reception in this game, but it was a 44 yard touchdown, so that’s nice. Of course, it didn’t matter because, oh yeah, we’re playing Alabama. Why the BLEEP are we playing this game? Impact: NEGLIGIBLE
Air Force - This is easily Gardner’s best game at WR. He had 5 receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. Ironically his performance gets overshadowed by the debut of Funchess. Still of his 5 catches, 1 of them converts a third down which is followed by a 30 yard touchdown pass to Funchess, another is his TD catch and his final reception is a 20 grab on first down on a drive that ultimately yields a field goal. Of all the games where Gardner appeared at receiver, this game sticks out as the one where he made a difference between Michigan winning and losing. Impact: MAJOR
UMass – Gardner snagged 2 receptions for 48 yards including a touchdown, which doesn’t really matter because Michigan is playing UMass and it’s not 2010. Impact: NEGLIGIBLE
Notre Dame – Devin hauled in 3 receptions for 40 yards, which was 2 less than the Notre Dame defense hauled in on what was probably Denard’s worst game as a starter at Michigan. Two of his receptions came on a drive that ended with an interception, with the other converting a 3rdand 10 that lead to Michigan’s 2ndfield goal. His biggest play in this game, though was probably the 40 yard bomb he dropped late in the 4thquarter with Michigan still trailing by 10. Of course, after this game, Borges begins to adjust the offense to emphasize the run more than the pass. Impact: MINOR
Purdue – Gardner had 2 catches for 31 yards and another touchdown, which is a lot considering that Denard threw only 16 times in this game. Still Michigan blew out Purdue the old-fashioned way in this game, by running the football. Impact: MINOR
Illinois – Gardner only got one catch for 17 yards in a game where Michigan didn’t have to do much to whip the Illini. His grab converted a 3rdand 10 on a drive that ultimately resulted in a punt. The only thing of note in this game is that Denard leaves the game with an injury to his throwing arm in the third quarter. Bellomy comes in at QB and hands off a lot until Denard returns. Impact: NEGLIGIBLE
Michigan State - Gardner tallies a single catch for 13 yards on a drive that ends with Michigan punting. Devin actually has a pretty poor game here running some sloppy routes and not making some big catches due to some poor footwork. Still, Michigan wins despite his lackluster performance because Drew Dileo is the mother-fucking threat. Impact: NEGLIGIBLE
Nebraska - Devin had no receptions from Denard before DOOM. His sole reception for 15 yards from Bellomy is described by Brian as “Inexplicable Laser to Devin Gardner”. Once Denard is out, the only way Devin can help Michigan in this game is by going back in time and prepping to be the back-up for this game…argh. Impact: NEGLIGIBLE
So….what does this tell us? Well, I guess if the hope of the coaching staff was for Gardner to come in and become Hemingway 2.0; ummm… that didn’t happen. It’s pretty easy to argue that Gardner only played a decisive factor in just one game as a receiver. I don’t think any of us at this point would hesitate to trade a loss to Air Force for a win over Nebraska and a spot in the B1G CG. Granted, without the benefit of hindsight back in September, under this scenario, the board meltdown after an Air Force loss and 0-2 start would’ve been epic.
Still I believe the decision to move Gardner to wide receiver is pretty defensible because getting your 11 best athletes on the field at the same time is usually a pretty good idea. The decision in my mind becomes a little less defensible after the ND game only because Borges seemed to shy away from a balanced passing attack with Denard helming the offense. Of course, the Denard-lead offense and the Devin-lead offense were two completely different things, which may explain why Devin was never really considered for moving back to QB until absolutely necessary. In the end, Borges and Hoke pushed all their chips in on Denard staying healthy and crapped out.
The takeaway from all this for me is to follow the advice espoused by Magnus. You take a QB in every recruiting class. Make sure you have a viable alternative at the QB spot because you never know when you’ll need that guy. Hoke and company learned that lesson the hard way this year.
Denard Robinson on BTN in "The Journey"
K-State vs. Delaware in the other NIT Semi
M vs. Pitt
Also, drinking thread for those of us not heading out or heading out later:
An ice cold Labatt Blue for me.
If there is one thing we've learned from following Team 133 this season, it's - everybody say it with me - "there's an expectation for the position." This is not unique to Michigan football. For example, the expectation for the Iowa running back position is that you will be struck down at some point in the season by AIRBHG*. The expectation for the Iowa wide receiver position is that you will have a hypenated name. With a new offensive coordinator at Iowa, a new expectation for that position has developed. He will now wander the field aimlessly while the Iowa QB goes through his progressions, which start and end with tight ends. There is also an expectation for Iowa's safety position, that he be a fair complected walk-on, who develops into the leader of the defense. Hmmm, seems we co-opted that expectation.
I bring this up because it's pretty clear that the expectations for the QB position at the University of Michigan have been raised this season. We will now expect our backup QB to be a first string WR, and if our starting QB gets hurt, we will expect him to become a 100 yard per game running back. Shane, you might want to work on your route running and learn how to read your blockers.
* After what happened to Fitz, that will be the last time I mention AIRBHG. I suggest we all retire that meme.
Burst of Impetus
* Did Iowa ever really have a chance in this game? They kicked a FG to make it 14-10 in the 2nd quarter, but I never got the sense they would challenge us. There are only so many times you can throw to a tight end before Mattison adjusts, and you sort of need to be able to stop a team from scoring touchdowns every single time they get the ball.
* Brady did go for it twice on 4th down. I guess those were big plays. He has shown a propensity to try to break the will of the opponent early in games, especially when playing an opponent that doesn't match up with us.
* 21 players recorded defensive stats, led by JR3 with 12 tackles. I would guess that most of those were after Iowa tight end receptions. Bolden and Ryan each had 6 tackles. Yay! three linebackers led us in tackles. That, of course, will happen when Iowa averages 9.5 yards per pass attempt. Michigan was at 17.4 by way of comparison.
* We tallied 8 TFLs, 2 sacks and broke up 2 passes, but were again shut out in QHs.
* The last two names listed were Brandin Hawthorne and Floyd Simmons. Each had an assisted tackle. I think Brady Hoke mentioned them earlier this week when he was being asked repeatedly about Denard's last home game. I would guess that Hawthorne and Simmons had larger dreams than being special teams contributors, but in keeping with, "The Team, The Team, The Team" theme, those two guys took on their roles and were every bit a part of the team as the two Ermahgerd guys.
* Devin Gardner was 18 of 23 passing for 314 yards. His first half would have made for a nice game - 204 yards, 2 TDs running, 2 TDs passing. He passed and ran for two more TDs in the second half for a total of 6.
* Denard Robinson became the #1 back after Fitz' injury, and probably got more carries than Brady wanted as a result. He ended up with 98 yards on 13 carries for a 7.5 yard average.
Bunches of Funchess
* I don't know if our receivers were that good, or Iowa's DBs were that bad, but it seemed like our guys were always a step or two away from the Iowa DBs, except for those few times our guys were open by 10 or 20 steps.
* Gallon caught a 51 yard bomb and tallied 133 yards on 5 catches.
* Roundtree also caught 5 for 83 yards and a TD.
* Funchess caught another TD, and Vincent Smith scored a TD on his patented throwback screen play, that was assisted greatly by Denard's being on the field.
And Justice for Rawls
* Fitz had 31 yards on 3 carries before his injury. I'm sure we all wish him a speedy recovery.
* Rawls' running plays was the one area we struggled. He ended up with 2.8 ypc on 8 carries. A lot of his runs were short yardage situation things, but we'll need more than 2.8 ypc in the shoe.
Norf and Souf
* We only punted once, and as a result, special teams weren't much of a factor this week.
* Iowa's punter is named Kornbrath. I'm not making that up.
* Two of the officials were named "Carr." I don't know if they were related to Lloyd. The Field judge was Ed Rohan, which seems fitting considering the Vincent Smith mini-Balrog YOU SHALL NOT PASS haiku from earlier this week.
* L. Trinca-Pasat had 4 tackles. Apparently, Iowa's hypenated name thing is spreading to their DL.
* When he was awake, Collin Sleeper had 4 tackles, and when he wasn't hyding from our WRs, Micah Hyde had 8 tackles and an INT.
* Steve Bigach had 3 tackles. I bring this up because his name is a perfect metaphor for the BIGGG TENNNNN this year. BIG ACK! (Hey, bonus points for me for working in a cat photo.)
Outside the Boxscore
We're nearing the end of another season, and I've started to reflect on the meaning of all this. It's just a game, right? And should big-time athletics really be associated with academic instutions of higher learning? Well, I'd answer no and yes, respectively. Back yard football on Thanksgiving is just a game. Preparing year round to go out in front of 110,000+ fans and a national TV audience, risking your health, while reporters and bloggers track every play, suggests that it's not just a game. There is something larger at stake, and I don't mean the millions awaiting some of the players upon graduation. There are life lessons to be learned along the way, that are completely in line with the goals of an academic institution. Let's look at Devin and Denard. Devin's dream was and is to play QB. When he found himself playing behind Denard, he didn't sulk or limit himself to being the backup. He found a way onto the field to help the team. When it was his turn to play QB, he prepared and performed incredibly well considering the circumstances. When Denard was injured and couldn't throw the ball anymore, did he sulk? Did he leave the team? No, he found another way to help the team, first as a mentor to Devin, and then as a contributor on the field. There will be situations those two individuals face later in life, where they will have to decide between doing what is best for themselves individually, versus what is best for the business they are working for or the family they are part of. I'm pretty sure I know how they will choose. Every now and then, sports teach us some pretty important life lessons, if we are willing to pay attention.
If Denard Robinson plays this weekend and in what would likely be the remaining two games of his collegiate career beyond Saturday, then this will definitely get updated (in this diary, to save space). I wanted to take a moment, however, to show folks graphically what Denard’s production on the field has looked like at a high level. What I have done is taken his game-by-game rushing and passing totals as well as rushing and passing touchdowns (data courtesy of MGoBlue’s archive) and charted them below.
One thing that should be pointed out is that what you see here, even if Robinson does not play again, is the production of the Wolverines’ 5thall-time rusher regardless of offensive position, and among quarterbacks, the 4thbest in terms of total passing yards, as well as the 4thbest in passing touchdowns and yards per pass attempt. Even at this juncture, certainly it is a storied career based on these numbers, forgetting how exciting he is to watch for just one second.
Indeed, if we see him out there on Saturday against Iowa, not only will it add to this data, but it will be one of the more poignant moments in Michigan football as it will be his last game in Ann Arbor. In looking at these numbers, it gave me a very clear perspective on just how electrifying he has been on the field. Of course, it is not just the numbers that will be missed, or the sheer athleticism, but the leadership and the personality and the fact that he has been the face of our University even to people who have never watched a snap of Wolverine football in their lives.