I did not make this headline up
The tumultuous recent years of Michigan football have spawned some truly boggling "this hasn't happened since" statistics. Most prominent was the OSU streak, of course, but this year Michigan enters a year running the same defense it did a year ago since 2007. Next year they'll have guys with a third year in a single system for the first time since 2003—remember Jim Herrmann's one-year experiment with the 3-4 in 2004. I'm just wow, man.
Even more remarkable is that if Denard Robinson remains healthy they'll get a season's worth of starting from a senior quarterback* for the first time since John Navarre 2003 almost a decade ago. If I hadn't used the Grosse Point Blank "TEN YEARS!" joke for basketball's 2009 tourney bid, I'd deploy it now. I'll still use this:
Yeah, Piven, I feel you.
If you don't remember, senior quarterbacks are good to have. They're generally efficient, even when they aren't escapees from a top-secret government experiment attempting to breed a new race of Sonic The Hedgehog soldiers. They change plays at the line and don't throw interceptions and sometimes pilot the kind of offense that can sing your baby to sleep with its metronomic precision.
Is that happening? Uh… probably not. But the Sonic thing gives you a lot of room for error.
*[Chad Henne's '07 season does not qualify, as he missed games against ND, Penn State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (basically—he threw five passes) and was wounded most of the rest of the year, most painfully when he was throwing up Sheridan-esque moonballs en route to 68 yards passing against OSU. That space station was not fully operational until the bittersweet Citrus win over Florida.]
|QB drawin'||Hopkins floater|
|juke in out in out in .||holds up Hemingway|
|drop snap deadly||ZIPPY ARM|
|bursts outside||no pressure == good|
|patience FTW||can zip it|
|damn Lavonte David||no pressure again|
|VEER ME BABY||no pressure rollout|
|gashing Purdue||UNLEASH THE DRAGON|
|woop woop||bombs it deep to Hemingway|
|zooooooom||chuckin' it up|
|shortie vs OSU||fires deep anyway|
|seeya Shazier||deep corner|
|SCRAMBLE MORE||back foot bomb|
|you never do this||bumpy bumps|
|hate you David||Odoms back of EZ|
|WTF READS||UNLEASH THE D'OHGON|
|looks open on the corner||this is more Smith's fault|
|again misses a keep read||PLAIN IMPRESSIVE|
|pitch the ball!||sets feet on roll|
|refuses to pull||nails Dileo|
The comedown was predictable, and a little sad. Denard Robinson's electrifying 2010 season saw him garner Heisman votes and All-American nods like they were rushing yards. He shoved a rainbow down Notre Dame's throat and made them pop out of your head. He shattered records, big records, NCAA-wide records for rushing quarterbacks, and if he hadn't been saddled with the Worst Defense Ever on the other side of the ball, he might have continued doing so ad infinitum.
But he was, so he didn't. Enter Al Borges, a guy who has about as much experience with running quarterbacks as Rich Rodriguez did with intricate West Coast passing games. Enter Brady Hoke, who declared that POWER would be run powerfully. Exit the Denard-iso-based offense that disguised for Robinson's many shortcomings as a passer by getting guys flabbergastingly wide open.
Down went many of the stats. Denard's rushing yards dropped from 1702 to 1176. His yards per carry went from 6.6 to 5.3. Passing yards dropped by about 400, yards per attempt went from 8.8 to 8.4, and Denard's already high interception rate ballooned from 3.7% to 5.8%.
There wasn't much compensation in terms of keeping Denard hale. His carries scarcely dipped (256 in 2010, 221 in 2011) and he got knocked out of games against Michigan State and Illinois. It just did not work as well.
That said, the offense didn't fall off too much. Buoyed by a tough schedule, Michigan's offense didn't slide much in advanced metrics (FEI went from 2nd to 9th) and had barely budged after the regular season. They put up more points against Ohio State than any Michigan team since Fritz friggin' Crisler. They return eight or nine starters depending on how you want to configure the offense and how you feel about tagging Ricky Barnum a starter. If they can refine things…
Denard just wasn't very good at reading defenses (or wasn't allowed to be) in any phase of the game. There's no reason he would be good at the passing stuff given the Rodriguez offense. He'd stare down guys, like when Kevin Koger ended up wide open in the flat against Purdue. If he got a little pressure he'd chuck balls off his back foot, like he did three times against Northwestern.
It didn't seem like the coaches had a whole lot of faith in Denard's decision-making on the ground either. While they showed various option looks, these were basically run plays on which opponents had to respect the RB. Denard pitched once, and that was a fumble. In the Nebraska game I became increasingly more perplexed at Denard's refusal to pull the ball, eventually giving him an epic negative score for not doing zone reads at all properly. In retrospect it seems clear that those weren't reads at all if they were being so consistently missed—they were called keeps or handoffs and if the defense did something unsound, oh well. Here's a paradigmatic screenshot:
That speed option was a keep for a loss of three, and Denard's not even looking at a potential pitch.
After arghing arghing I came to this conclusion…
The one time he did pull the backside tackle blocked the end inside and nobody scraped, which makes me wonder if I am putting all of this on his shoulders when Michigan has abandoned the zone read in favor of making it look like the zone read but not actually giving Denard the option.
…and after several months remove that still seems like the most likely explanation.
Hypothesis: you choose to rep one thing hard to be an expert. Previously, it was zone stuff that forced defenses to be wrong with certain players and get players wide open. Under Borges, it was West Coast passing. The read skills atrophied to the point where they were not reliable enough to use regularly, Denard was always coming from a thousand miles behind in the air, and the results were a step back all around.
Borges hasn't turned into someone else, so the way forward is obvious… but might not be achievable.
Denard's season trajectory told a story of real progress culminating in that brilliant Ohio State performance:
So… we have a pattern now. In the beginning of the year Denard had no idea what to do with this passing offense and his lack of comfort screwed up his mechanics. As he progressed and Borges adapted to his strengths the comfort level rose and he hit a plateau of totally acceptable performances before lighting up OSU. The progress is undeniable. He'll regress a bit against VT but if he nudges his DSR above 70% it's time to quietly hope he can have a ridiculous career capping year in 2012.
The best part of going 14/17 for ten YPA? Three QB draws for 10, 10, and 16 yards. Run and tell that, homeboy. If Denard is the QB he became after the trash tornado game, look out: 59% completions, 7-4 TD-INT, 8.4 YPA against Purdue/Iowa/Illinois/Nebraska/OSU translates into… I don't even know what.
Here's his UFR chart for the year:
[Hover over column headers for explanation of abbreviation. Screens are in parens.]
[I went back and did a passing chart for the Sugar Bowl FWIW.]
After the dismal Michigan State trash-tornado-and-double-A gap game, something clicked. Or he stopped being bothered by an abscess on his elbow (or "boo boo" in Hokespeak). Either way, the uptick was dramatic.
This is hard to see in the traditional stats for two reasons: Gary Gray and weak opponents early. Denard's YPA actually dipped by a yard (Sugar Bowl included). The closer look UFR provides shows progress, and a lot of it. After racking up 17 BRs in the first seven games, Denard had just one per game in the last five before the bowl. His interception rate plummeted from an insane 7.1% to a still-very-bad 4.2%. His downfield success rate leapt up into the same approximate range he spent his sophomore year in, and he even scrambled a little against Nebraska.
The Main Thing
This is not going to be news, but my God, the interceptions. Last year when Football Study Hall took the top 100 I-A QBs by passing yardage per game and ordered them by interception rate, Denard was 84th. His 2011 number (5.8%) would have been 99th(!) on the list. Worse than Jacory Harris, BJ Daniels, Stephen Garcia, and everyone else except Boo Jackson of OHIO.
Virginia Tech is of course the great raspberry in the narrative of progress here. Since I am the worst (seriously: I apologize profusely for not doing that UFR, I really am the worst) I'm more hand-wavy than usual about what went on but I did go back and chart all of Denard's throws. I found an MSU-like game in which he responded very poorly to pressure, and since VT pressures a lot and got Michigan behind the sticks all the time, he was often put in positions to fail.
I noticed a similar trend when I went back through my Denard clips from last year. Most of the throws filed under "zippy arm" are ones in which Denard can set up in the pocket and chuck it without having to re-set his feet. Por ejemplo:
It's when he has to move around and re-set that we get most of the erratic throws, and it didn't take much for him to revert to bad habits last year, as the first half of that Northwestern game showed. He backfooted a bunch of throws that he didn't have to:
Stepping into those gets them off accurately without getting you sacked.
It's no coincidence that Denard's by-far-worst outings of the year were against the two teams that got in his face over and over. All quarterbacks see their performance decline when they get pressure; few have as an abrupt a cliff as Denard did last year.
Rodriguez's solution to this problem—if he ever had to consider it—was to make the offense so heavily run-based that passes were rarely met with heavy pressure. Straight dropbacks were rare, and defenses were hesitant to blitz in case they got a constraint play in their face or blitzed up the wrong gap. Borges probably won't and probably can't assemble an offense where the parts move just so, and anyway Denard threw a bunch of interceptions as a sophomore.
There's only one thing that can fix this, and that's Denard not deviating from his mechanics as much and knowing where to go more. At the Glazier Clinic, Al Borges talked about the "backside cuts" that are built into Michigan's passing game. Those are deep routes that are supposed to be aborted to whenever the guy away from the main thrust of the play gets one on one coverage. Borges said Denard was "very aware" of these backside cuts, "very aware," and visions of double-covered WTF bombs danced in my head.
He should be more aware of the other guys running those routes (e.g., safeties) this time around, and have better timing on some of the underneath stuff that was an issue. He will get pressure, and I don't think his issues are the kind of thing you can fix in an offseason. There was a groaningly inaccurate pass at the open scrimmage in which Denard had to move around and he made a leaping heave across the middle that was yards behind a crossing route. That's just never going to go well.
Improvement should be expected, though. Denard was still super raw a year ago, he is entering year two, and you know he worked at it all offseason. How much will be the tale of the season.
A Couple Other Things
1. FOR THE EVER-LOVING SAKE OF SNEEZY JESUS WOULD YOU JUST TAKE OFF WITH THE BALL WHEN NO ONE IS OPEN?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
Sorry. Sorry. I just don't get it, man. The ratio of ridiculous athleticism to passing skillz dictates that whenever Denard gets past read two he should be thinking about an exit strategy. But Denard all but refuses to run. He scrambled more than once in exactly one game last year, Nebraska.
It's almost as if he wants to prove he's a quarterback so badly that he refuses to use his legs when not required to. This combines with the feet-setting thing in a toxic cocktail. I'd prefer it if Denard either set up and threw without moving his feet or ran, with nothing in-between.
Survey says: unlikely.
2. Shorten the passing game.
The trend in the ND game—bombz—was one that lasted throughout the season. That trend:
Hoping for the fluke explanation, but there seems to be some merit to Door B. He's a breakdown of passes in last year's Notre Dame game:
- Hitch: 9
- Flat, seam, bubble: 6 (one waggle FB flat!)
- Deep curl, flare: 3
- Tunnel screen: 2
- Post, corner, fly: 1
- Throwaway: 1
- Run around like Tate: 2
This is a dedicated short passing game that ran a ton of curl/flat. Denard completes 60% for 1 TD and no INTs, averaging 6.1 YPA. This year we've got the eight downfield chucks, two throws behind the line (8% of attempts) instead of 11 (over 28%), and a total lack of free touchdowns in the seam or hitches to stationary targets that worked well last year when Roundtree wasn't dropping them.
Some sort of perimeter stretch would help Michigan a great deal. Those flats and quick hitches and bubbles are not only highly effective quasi-run plays but drag linebackers away from Denard in the middle of the field. Borges is still thinking like a guy who has a quarterback who happens to be the fastest kid in the country instead of a guy who has the fastest kid in the country at quarterback.
3. I-form snaps are inherently dumb with Denard.
Short yardage, whatever, fine, but any other I-form snap is burning money.
What to expect
I don't actually know, man. He's not going to do that Cade McNown thing. He should get a lot better. Extrapolate the back-half of his season out across a full year, add in a year of experience, and pray for health, and you've got a Heisman contender.
This is the worst thing I've ever said, but I don't think he'll get there. Thus the 4.5 above instead of last year's 5-plus-exclamation-point. There will be a game or two against elite defenses in which Denard's limitations are made plain, and that will keep him out of the running. His interception rate can end up halved and still be really bad. There's just too far to go in one offseason.
The projection in numbers: YPA remains static. Completion percentage jumps up a few points, scrambles are a little more common, and interceptions drop to around eight. Rushing is about the same as last year.
Devin Gardner spent last year making cameo appearances in the two-QB package Al Borges calls "deuce" but should by all rights be called "Fritz" and running the base offense when Denard was inevitably banged up. Neither of these things went that well except on that one pass in the Illinois game. Gardner rushed for 3.5 YPC even if you exclude the Michigan State game and its yakety sack, completed fewer than half his passes, missed a blitheringly wide open Hopkins against MSU and threw a fugly interception against Purdue.
Then spring practice hit and rumors leaked out that Gardner was not only playing wide receiver but playing it ridiculously well. Gardner has spent every waking moment since deflecting questions about his position; 42% of all sports content on the internet since has speculated about a potential position switch, its costs, and its benefits.
This site's been on Team WR from the beginning and became even moreso after an alarmingly poor performance in the spring game that caused me to survey the Gardner oeuvre with a suspicious eye:
In three consecutive spring games he's looked bad. You may remember Jake Ryan bursting onto the scene last year with a pick six thrown directly at his dome by Gardner. Yeah. … [The year before that] Gardner got safetied and intercepted on the same play and still probably had a better overall outing than he did yesterday.
When fall practice started up Hoke offered up the only piece of solid information he's provided in months by admitting that yes, Gardner was practicing at WR. His potential impact there will be covered in that position preview.
Gardner will have an opportunity to play at both spots. He's getting the same load of QB reps and moonlights at WR when other quarterbacks are taking snaps, and Borges pointedly defended Fritz from a reporter's question despite the thing seeming to run out of gas after the Denard end-around package was adequately scouted. He may not be the first guy off the bench if Denard needs to come off for a play, but any long-term issue will likely see Gardner ascend to the starting spot, where his performance is anyone's guess. He needs to get a lot better to be plausible; raw athletes going into their second year in the same system do that sometimes, but maybe not often when they're spending at least half their time at another position.
Redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy [recruiting profile] is the third(?) stringer and only other QB on the roster. He was clearly more effective than Gardner in the spring game, but had the luxury of going against backups and was a checkdown-heavy dink-and-dunker. He went six of nine, sure, but he averaged six yards a completion. He displays some athleticism, though not anything in the same stratosphere as either of the veterans. Tate Forcier was his YMRMFSPA; former Purdue quarterback Brandon Kirsch is also a decent comparable.
The coaches have been talking him up some. When Tom Dienhart hit up a practice he returned back with this news about Bellomy:
…the guy to watch is Russell Bellomy. Brady Hoke told me he is faster than you think. I also asked him if he’d be comfortable if Bellomy had to play, and Hoke said he would.
It's hard to tell whether Bellomy's development allows Gardner to play wide receiver or the crying need at wide receiver forces people to play up Bellomy's progress. Either way the downgrade from Denard to Bellomy would be severe. A few plays here and there for dings will be fine.
Several weeks ago Brian sent me an e-mail to say we're going to have a fantasy draft of Big Ten players called "The Draft Where Whoever Picks Denard Wins," and that I was on the clock. (Parts II, III, and IV)
People of the Earth: this is how you recruit for a fantasy league. Actually this is how if you're a college sports site editor you motivate your hypercompetitive (Michigan grads, remember?) staff to become insane experts on the rest of the conference right before football season begins. For that reason, despite quarterbacks chosen out of position and so so much snark, right now we feel as competent as anyone at putting out one of those All-Such-and-Such list things.
The draft is still going on and some of the picks we've made have yet to be revealed, however we have tagged enough positions at this point to post an official-ish pre-season All Big Ten team. There's a few specialists I'll include but won't reveal who drafted them. I'll also follow up either next week or later on this week with a "what we learned about the Big Ten" post that breaks down all the picks by team. This one's about the best by position.
Site note: We're bringing back jumps again so we can fit more content on the front page for you during the season. You see the "Read more" thing below this? CLICK THAT to get to the good stuff.
Liveblog update. I think we've found a much more reasonably-priced liveblog solution. We're taking a test drive at around noon Monday if you want to stop in, check it out, and ask a question about Will Campbell I can't really answer.
Hopefully this works out better than the last one. Denard is one of SI's 62 regional covers:
Hey, I wonder how Michigan did the last time they featured on one of SI's 64 regional covers?
Yipes. At least if they lose their opener this time no one is going to set the world on fire.
The Burzynski hypothesis. Joey Burzynski on his developing all-time beard:
"Facial hair goes in 150-year cycles," he says. "This was popular in the Civil War, and it should be coming back right about now I think."
And Mealer talking about… well, I'm going to pretend he's talking about their beard rivalry instead of their competition for starting LG:
"Joey's great," Mealer said. "He pushes me to get better and I hope I push him to get better."
Yeah, man, yeah. Follicles.
Wormley ACL bits. Chris Wormley's torn ACL is suboptimal but I don't think it'll be much of an issue either this year or down the road. Wormley was behind definitely Roh and probably Nate Brink, and Tom Strobel is a pretty big dude himself. If Wormley ended up being the #2 three-tech—vaguely possible—then Michigan has picked up a downgrade, but again, Matt Godin is already big enough to be an okay rotation player if Washington or Wilkins don't step up.
As for the injury itself, it's reportedly just a plain ACL tear with none of the assorted meniscus/PCL issues that are not fun. It just so happens I had a plain ol' ACL tear and am coming through rehab as we speak. Wormley will be on crutches for a month and then will start rebuilding his strength; he'll probably be limited or out for spring practice but by this time next year he should be good as new.
Meanwhile in Lansing injuries. Aaron Burbridge's rumored knee thing is now just a knee thing; he's out six weeks and will likely redshirt as a result. Meanwhile, starting LG Blake Treadwell has a stress fracture and will be out four or five weeks at least—hairline leg fractures can linger, especially when you're an unnaturally large human.
Hype that Bellomy. Russell Bellomy is coming in for a wide sampling of hype now, which makes sense what with Devin Gardner looking more and more like a wide receiver. Do you buy it? I dunno, man. Bellomy looked better than Gardner in the spring game but he was mostly dinking and dunking.
It doesn't really matter, does it? I mean, we're boned if Robinson goes down for an extended period of time either way. Carry on.
How did this happen? Tom Crean pulled a Les Miles yesterday as Indiana told 2012 recruit Ron Patterson that he wouldn't actually be enrolling at Indiana… after he had already enrolled at Indiana. He is eligible to transfer to another four year school immediately—he's eligible in the NCAA's eyes. Indiana had 14 players for 13 scholarships.
Q: isn't that against Big Ten rules? IIRC, if you don't have a spot for a player you have to explain where you're getting it before the Big Ten will allow you to go over. That reason could not have been "we will let this guy take some classes and then tell him to talk to the hand halfway through August despite being through the NCAA clearinghouse." How did Crean get this through?
Anyway, that's some dirt Indiana just did. They took a guy who was eligible, put him in classes, and then dumped him two weeks before fall classes start most places. Dwight Schrute, I am disappoint.
Etc.: Yahoo ranks Michigan #6; Pre-Snap Read goes with #18. I like reading previews just to see how many fanciful assertions each makes as someone with only a passing familiarity with the team in question tries to say stuff about guys on the line. Steve Sapardanis on Billy Taylor's shoes. Yeah, Pro Combat's a pretty dumb name for amateur non-combat. Maize and Go Blue breaks down some of Denard's mechanical issues.
Rival fans are having their lol over this Denard Robinson statement from media day:
"I've watched him run, and I'm pretty sure I can beat him in a 40-yard dash," Robinson said at Michigan's media day on Sunday. "I'd get a better start, and I could take him.
"At 60 yards, I'd be in trouble, and at 100 meters, he'd be gone, but I could get him in a 40."
But this sort of thing has come up before. Two years ago, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Bolt would race Titans running back Chris Johnson, who ran a 4.24 40 at the NFL draft combine. That turned out to be total fiction, but it got people thinking.
It's complicated. Most 40 times are bunk. Combine times like Johnson's are not directly comparable to track sprints since the NFL uses a system that eliminates reaction time, doesn't use starting blocks, and is on FieldTurf in cleats. Also, yards are not meters and converting between the two requires integration and stuff since 100 meter athletes are accelerating until about the 65 meter mark.
Benchmarks are available. Robinson dabbled in track early in his career, winning some dual meets in the 60-meter dash indoors:
That was a 6.81 60. When Bolt set the 100 M world record in Germany in 2009, he crossed 60 meters at 6.29 Denard would get smoked at 60 meters, but it's worth noting that he'd get smoked by less than he would in the 100, where Bolt's world record time is a full second faster than Denard's best high school effort. Bolt's second 50 meters is where he makes his money.
So what about the 40? In his world-record run, Bolt hit 40 meters at 4.64. Meters are longer than yards, so that time translates to the exact same 4.24 Johnson ran at the NFL combine, give or take tenth given the fact that 40s are not track sprints. Chris Johnson's lifetime best 60m is… 6.83*. So… plausible for Denard to be in Bolt's stratsophere?
No. Johnson's best time at 60 meters was good for third place. In a semifinal. At a regional collegiate track meet. Denard's fast. He's not Usain Bolt.
*[According to a guy on the internet. Milestat confirms the time, FWIW.]
Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-6-12: Will Campbell, Roy Roundtree, Denard Robinson, and Jordan Kovacs
We'll miss you, big guy.
What did you see out of your guys from Day one?
“I thought everyone out there was excited to play … We’ve been training all summer …”
Are you coming in more confident this time around?
“I mean, it was not more confidence. I just had to step up and this was the time to do it. This is my last go-around, and I owe Michigan and these fans a lot.”
When did that sink in?
“I mean, I had to change a lot. I was talking to a lot of guys who left. It’s just been a lot going on this summer and a lot of hard work.”
What do you mean by “owing the fans”?
“Well I came in with big expectations and I didn’t live up to them. And now it’s time to play.”
Can you tell the difference between guys who prepared well and guys who didn’t?
“I think everybody prepared the same because we all owe each other to play for each other. I mean I go out there to work hard every day for the guy next to me. Craig Roh. I work hard to go out there every day even for the freshmen. I work hard every day for Willie Henry, Peewee, everybody.”
(F-bomb after the jump)
Brian Cook (email@example.com)
to Ace, Heiko, Seth
Subject: Re: the draft in which whoever drafts denard wins
I've been enraged by the weird six-round BTN draft that makes no sense and want to do it for our site as a sort of All Big Ten preseason preview gimmick post.
Rules: Inverse snake. Everyone drafts a full team of 11 offensive/defensive players, two kickers, a FB/HB type (assuming 3 WR), and a nickelback. You can move people around within reason (OL, DL, LB) but those moves will be looked upon skeptically by your fellow drafters and viciously attacked when it comes to make a case for your teams. Once the three other players have drafted a position, the last to go must pick the last player at that position within two rounds*.
When we are done we put the thing to a user vote after making our case. Whoever has Denard wins.
*[to prevent QBs going 1st, 2nd, third, and dead last. Example: third tailback off the board is the second pick of the third round. Fourth player does not have to draft a tailback until the fifth round, but must do so.]
I used random.org to set the draft order, which is:
SETH, who will win since he will get Denard
ACE, who does not get Denard
HEIKO, who also does not get Denard
BRIAN, who also does not get Denard
Wait don't I get time to think...?
PICK: Denard Robinson, quarterback, MEEEEESHIGAN
CURRENT O: Denard Robinson (QB, M)
CURRENT D: [players TBA]
BRIEF EXPLANATION: He can run. He can throw. And you can all eat crow. Not that this requires an explanation but I'll give one anyway: Robinson is a senior quarterback who might also be the Big Ten's best rusher. His passing game has suffered through growing pains of learning various offenses, which is to say the piper's bill has been paid and I get to reap the rewards of a more polished passer who understands many different concepts. The threat of him running opens up everything else, and now he has the experience to exploit everything else. He's a zero academic and personality risk, and the kind of guy you can build everything else upon.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: I'm gonna go giggle for awhile while you guys fight over Rex Burkhead or something.
PICK: Montee Ball, running back, Wisconsin
BRIEF EXPLANATION: For starters, Ball tied a record set by Barry Sanders (39 TDs in a season), which doesn't happen every day/year/decade. Everybody knows that Wisconsin is going to line up and hand the ball to, er, Ball, but he still managed to average 6.26 yards per carry last season. He's remarkably consistent: his 109 total yards against South Dakota represented his lowest total in the 2011 season. Also, has not lost a fumble in 617 career touches. If I can't have Denard (*shakes fist in Seth's general direction*), I'll take being able to hand it off to this guy 25 times a game.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Ha, good one.
Current O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU)
Current D: Offense.
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Braxton Miller should approach the production of 2010 Denard Robinson. OSU RB Jordan Hall will be iffy the first few games coming off a foot laceration, so Miller is going to have to account for a lot of the ground game because he is the team's other most effective rusher. He's also a quarterback (Dear Jim Bollman:
Surprise!). When he was actually allowed to throw during the most recent spring game, he went 24/31 for 258 yards. That's pretty good for having just a month to learn Urban Meyer's offense. With another fall camp's worth of practice and the luxury of a real defense, staying healthy will be Miller's only obstacle to having a monster season.
Yes I lifted this from 11W.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Shotty Zach Boren.
CURRENT O: Taylor Lewan (LT, M)
CURRENT D: John Simon (DE, OSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: With spread quarterbacks I actually want gone I'll go the Tony Gonzalez route and draft the guy with the most relative value left on the board. That's Lewan, the Big Ten's only elite pass protector this year. He also doubles as a donkey-mauling run blocker. He's deflecting NFL draft speculation before his junior year even happens, and he's an offensive lineman. Whoever I get at QB will have a clean blindside all day. And will suck. But whatever.
With the first pick of the second round, I'll grab John Simon, the muscle-bound OSU SDE who's the 2012 version of Mike Martin in terms of interior-ish defensive linemen who will not stay blocked. 17 TFLs a year ago and seven sacks, and he's poised to increase those numbers to the 20 TFL level as he moves from "LEO"—OSU's label for WDE—to the strongside position that's a better fit for him. He doesn't have NFL size but he does show up to work out at approximately the time I'm going to sleep.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Montee Ball is a product of the Wisconsin offensive line and is liable to have five unknown assailants tackle him for loss on any given play. GAMES ARE WON IN THE TRENCHES AAAAAAAAHHHHH.
PICK: Taylor Martinez, quarterback, Nebraska.
CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QRB, Nebraska)
CURRENT D: Just you wait.
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Whoa whoa whoa WHOA. Did I just draft two quarterbacks? [Pause for effect] Yes I did. But that's not allowed! Yes it is. You said we could move offensive players around within reason, so I'm drafting Martinez as a running back. So what if he had fewer than 1,000 yards as a rusher last season? He's clearly masteredthe art of the halfback pass. 3,000 yards of total offense? Yes, please.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: BWAHAHAHA bet you didn't see that coming.
CURRENT O: James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Montee Ball (RB, UW)
CURRENT D: [Functional equivalent of 2009-10 GERG outfits]
BRIEF EXPLANATION: I planned on going defense with my second pick, but after Heiko's one-man run on quarterbacks I wasn't willing to risk getting stuck with, like, Caleb TerBush. So, the pick is Vandenberg, the B1G's winner by default in the "best pocket passer" category. Aside from Denard, Vandenberg is the conference's returning leader in total offense and passing efficiency, and he also takes care of the football, throwing just seven interceptions in 404 attempts last year. With Ball in the backfield to take care of all the running, that's all I need from a quarterback.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Heiko's next pick will be Matt McGloin, cornerback, Penn State.
Holy hell guys, way to leave me dudes I never planned on getting, thus forcing me to re-think my entire draft strategy for all of three minutes before doing what I meant to do anyway.
CURRENT O: Denard Robinson (QB, M)
CURRENT D: Kawann Short (DT, PU), Johnathan Hankins (DT, OSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Running backs and running quarterbacks are flying off the board and I'm leaving the last Big Ten Heisman hopeful in order to make sure none of this so-called "rushing" goes down the middle of my defense. What I've won are the two most likely guys in the conference after John Simon to go in the NFL's first round to be my three-tech and nose tackle, respectively.
Kawaan Short is a Ndamukong Suh-like hell-raiser in the interior who sometimes lines up at end and is only limited by having to suck up doubles all the time. To that end I have given him Johnathan Hankins (damn Archie Collins to a special ring of hell), a true nose tackle who forced Ohio State's opponents to run outside all season. My defensive line is already up to 120 tackles, 27 TFLs, and 8.5 sacks (2011 stats), and I haven't even drafted the ends yet!!!
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Hey boss, I want you to know that I had nothing to do with this conspiracy to make you choose Nathan Scheelhaase as your 4th round pick (you made the rule!). Meanwhile Heiko has selected a QB controversy between two guys I wouldn't want, and Ace seems to be building something that has 4 tight ends.
CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA)
CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Well, I had planned on taking a defensive tackle here, but Seth appears determined to recreate Michigan's 2010 offense of Denard left, Denard right, Denard up the middle. Instead, I'll happily settle for Borland, who amassed 143 tackles—19 of them for a loss—from the middle linebacker position in 2011. If my team ends up being comprised mostly of Wisconsin players, I like my chances at winning this thing, if there is indeed any way of winning besides "draft Denard, win" (I'm guessing not).
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Seriously, Heiko, I hear Nathan Scheelhaase is a beast at defensive end.
CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QRB, UNL), Kyle Prater(WR, NU)
CURRENT D: yawn.
BRIEF EXPLANATION: I'm at lab, so I don't have a whole lot of time to carefully mull over a decision, but I do know one thing: the B1G doesn't have receivers this season. While Prater is a completely unproven commodity, he is likely to immediately become the most dominant receiver in the conference. Given Northwestern's pass-happy spread (perhaps a little less pass-happy with the departure of Dan Persa), Prater's immediate debut at the No. 1 spot on the depth chart, and his 5-star ranking (which, according to the Mathlete, matters for receivers), what's not to like? Sometimes you have to invest in potential, and this penny stock is about to go Apple on all y'all.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Wisconsin's run defense was crap last year. Also, more than half of Borland's 143 tackles were assisted. They call him a "throwback" because pudgy 5'11 linebackers were last effective circa the Reagan administration. But I hear he's a beast at fullback, which is what you drafted him to be, right?
CURRENT O: Nathan Scheelhaase (QB, Ill), Taylor Lewan (LT, M)
CURRENT D: DE John Simon (DE, OSU), Denicos Allen (LB, MSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Ace, what is going on, man? You could have had your QB on the way back since I'm the only one without one and not forced me to take... ugh... Nathan Scheelhaase in round 4/5. We could have merrily played chicken for round after round. Anyway: I am not that broken up about taking Scheelhaase since he's got good legs and completed 62% of his passes last year and is a third-year starter and... aw, damn my rules DAMN THEM ALL TO HELL.
Obligatory QB out of the way, I'm taking the actual best pass rusher on Michigan State's defense, LB/missile Denicos Allen. Unlike Borland, my 5'11" LB is fast as hell and has the eyepopping stats to prove it: 11 sacks, 18.5 TFLs, multiple frustrating forays directly past the center of the Michigan offensive line. This guy is Larry Foote again, and he was just a sophomore last year.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: I have no snark because I'm shaking my ragefist at Heiko for taking Kyle Prater, who was going to be my secret weapon six rounds from now. And Ace, for forcing me to take Scheelhaase this early, and Seth for getting Denard. I am a defeated man. GAMES ARE WON IN THE TRENCHES AND AT WLB AAAAAAAAAH.
To be continued whenever Heiko figures out where he's going to put Rob Henry, Kain Colter, and Devin Gardner, Brian stops screaming "NO THROW IT FORWARD" at Scheelhaase, Ace gets the slightest grasp on game theory, and Seth decides his entire team will be fat guys from Ice Hockey.