Like this, but in a suit. And at a podium. And with other Big Ten coaches and players as well. So basically not like this at all. Sorry.
Since yours truly will be at Big Ten Media Days on Thursday and Friday, time to crowdsource some questions. Those of Michigan players (Denard Robinson, Kevin Koger, and Mike Martin), and coach Brady Hoke are most likely to be asked, but if you have things for other players/coaches that are interesting enough, I may get a chance to ask them at Friday's roundtables.
So, if you have a pressing question (WHEN U SCORED TOUCHDOWN HOW U FEEL?), drop it in the comments here, and I'll ask some of the best ones. You have a couple days to give it your best shot.
This game means a lot to the seniors, but also the last couple classes that never got the chance to beat OSU. "If we could put a stop to that streak too, maybe start our own streak of beating them" would be a big deal to the team. "It's not really a rivalry when one team wins every year. We've gotta get back in the win column."
"These last few years have been a little different Michigan, I guess, than the previous years." This win would be huge. "In a way, it could help rectify the four losses we've had. Obviously, it doesn't make up for them."
Never played in Columbus - he was injured 2 years ago. "It seems like a fun place to play." Jealous he didn't play last time.
Shown progression last three years, doesn't think about playing for Coach Rod's job this season.
The team has been trying to play catch-up in all four losses. Want to try for an early lead, maybe run some clock "especially in Columbus."
"We definitely think we have the ability to play with anybody when we're playing at our best."
Different intensity in Schembechler this week. "Put some band-aids on your wounds and get after it. Leave it all out there this Saturday."
The many good DL they've faced lately bring different skills to the table. "Arguably the top 4 defensive ends in the country play in our league." Heyward's great, played since he was a freshman. He has the whole package, and will be a big-time NFL prospect.
Don't want to see turnovers, protection from the OL has to help avoid it.
Denard has played well, set some records, but the team has struggled at times. Schilling doesn't worry about whether Denard is B10 player of the year. Denard's always got a positive attitude, no matter what's going on in the game. He loves playing football, always smiling. "You can tell he loves to play the game, and it's exciting to be able to block for a guy like that."
"Obviously my blood always ran Blue. My dad walked on here." Exciting rivalry, surreal to be a part of it. He was at the game the last time Michigan beat OSU. Sitting in section 27 with his parents and brother. Been to several games in Columbus, 2002 Game. Several M-OSU games. Didn't go to 2006, but that was the first one he missed.
Converted a couple buddies to M fans, some of them are still diehard Buckeye fans. "I do have some friends who go to Ohio State, and we're excited to go down there." Expects to hear from his buddies, win or lose. "Hopefully I can shut them up for a year, but we'll see."
Thrown in the mix early last year, gradually has become more comfortable with the defense. One of the more veteran guys on the defense already. Excited about the development of the young guys.
Pryor - "He's very versatile. He's a big guy... he can run and throw." The offense has a lot of different packages. They should be a great challenge.
"Anytime that you can make an offense one-dimensional, you've got a good chance of playing some good defense. If we can stop them on first and second down and put them in third-and-long, obviously we can create turnovers that way. But that's much easier said than done, and we've struggled with that so far."
Lost to Dane Sanzenbacher both times they played in HS. "I'm still looking for my first victory against him." He's not a big-name guy, but makes huge plays for the Buckeyes. "I wouldn't say that he does anything great, but he does a lot of things very well."
"We know we're going to have to play a flawless game." Guys are looking forward to getting into the film room. "We're confident. We're excited about this challenge."
"I'm playing this week, no matter what." Had "a little head trauma," wasn't cleared to play in the second half. "It doesn't matter for this week, because I'm going to be playing."
Defensive players draw confidence from each other, looking at each other's work ethic, etc. Defensive struggles are a mixture of several factors, but everyone on D is working as hard as they can to fix what they can contorl.
"Our defensive goals each week are six 3-and-outs, three turnovers." If they can pull that off, the team will have a pretty good chance of winning.
Didn't know too much about Michigan or Ohio State in 2003. "I was just in Arizona, you know, chillin'." Can't take M-OSU rivalry away from college football. Glad they'll still play when the B10 goes to divisions.
The mentality of each guy on the team shows how important the OSU week is. Everything encompassed into one is what makes this game so important.
Has only heard about going into Columbus from a fan's perspective "I'm expecting the worst, and it's going to be exciting."
On the stuffed whatever: "Are you saying there's an animal on the sidelines? Next question."
Playing for RR's job? "No. We're playing for each other... It would be a great win for Rich Rod, for the team in general."
"I love Rich Rod as a coach. He's just a tough working guy." Has a positive attitude, despite what he's been through. That positivity wears off on guys.
Ryan Van Bergen
"I don't remember that one. I would have been 14." Probably just playing BBall and chasing girls in 8th grade. Charles Woodson with the Rose in his mouth is one of his first Michigan memories.
From the West side of the state, his mom is always heckled by MSU fans. This week, people are coming in to offer her encouragement. She's now realizing their ulterior motives, as Michigan can help send State to the Rose Bowl.
"A lot of the guys in my class, it's their last year. One of the big things for seniors is you never want to leave this program without beating Ohio State." Guys who have left say there's a feeling of emptiness. When you come to Michigan, you know your performances against Ohio State will make your reputation. "If you come out against Ohio State and have your best game, a lot can be forgiven."
Some criticism of the team is unjustified: they've been able to play with some of the top teams in the league. "For some reason, we haven't gotten that attitude to come out on the first play." Need to be able to come together and do that throughout the full game. Older guys, RVB included, need to help motivate everyone.
The defense's performance against Wisconsin - "Most of it was schematic. I mean, They schemed us really well. They had a play where they pull the tackle and a guard and the tight end blocks down. They scored 2 or 3 touchdowns on that one play. All of those were explosive plays." It's not a good thing, but there were positives to take from it, some guys played with a physical edge. "We can adjust our scheme and be ready for Ohio State X-and-O-wise. I think we can definitely play with them."
Terrelle Pryor, canon for an arm, fast, big, has a bunch of talented, fundamental WRs, good running backs. "They're a very dangerous and explosive offense, but I wouldn't want it any other way."
Team and program are making some big strides. "I think that next year, the guys we return, there's definitely going to be a chance that we're gonna be big-time contenders."
Mike Martin - Aggressive, relentless. Off the field, he's... "cuddly."
"Lot of time in the training room and rehab. I've been struggling a lot with my ankles this season, which is a pain." Trying to play through it, doing as much as he can. Tough to push off with his ankles. Big mental thing, trying to play through it. "Hopefully that adrenaline kicks in, you know?" Only one of them is a problem at this point. Trying to be a leader when he's been unable to make an impact on the field. Adam Patterson has stepped up well in Mike's absence.
"It's tough, obviously, being on the team and being a fan. Any fan doesn't like that." Doing whatever they can to reverse OSU's dominance. No matter what each team's season is like, they'll both fight hard.
Has talked to guys who played in the 50s and 60s about the game. "We're just gonna play as hard as we can and make those guys proud."
Would feel really good to stop he streak. Overcome a lot this season, trying to improve each week. Anything is possible. "It's not about Ohio State, it's about us and what we do." Not looking to be spoilers, looking to win for themselves. "We're gonna control what we can control."
"It's gonna start with us down in the trenches." Need to force Pryor to move his feet, get him off-rhythm. Need to get pressure, wreak some havoc.
"I think they hate us, we hate them. That's just how it is, that's what it is." That leads to getting each team's best shot, no matter what. Different sense of intensity in the air this week. "You don't really need a motivational speech to get excited for it."
"We're not gonna get ran off the field. That's not gonna happen." They'll play hard to the final whistle. "That's not us, that's not our team, and we won't allow that to happen at all."
OSU might have a couple tricks up their sleeve, but this game is more about going straight at each other.
Not worried about what their impact is on MSU, just want to win for themselves.
Stuffed animal - "That's the defense's thing. We're not gonna talk about that."
"I don't really remember the game" last time M beat Ohio State.
Gave OSU a serious look in high school, but felt right in Ann Arbor. Talks to Roundtree about it. OSU wanted him on either side of the ball. His dad was a Michigan fan, that played a role in his decision.
Split in Toledo between OSU and M fans among his friends. Hears "I'm an Ohio State fan but I'm also a Kevin Koger fan" from most people he knows.
Have to take care of the ball to have a chance to win. Can't turn it over 5 times against OSU and still win. Need to pay attention to details. "It's not anything the coaches can do. It's definitely on us."
"It'd definitely mean a lot to us. Every game means a lot but this one means a little more."
Rivalry hasn't lost its luster even though OSU has won a lot. Streak is a bit embarrassing "It's on us to stop it."
"Hate? That's such a strong word." Respects, but does not like them.
"I guess I have to agree with Koger. Got respect for them, but don't like them." Wasn't aware of the rivalry that much in HS. Looked at the FSU-Miami rivalry, and heard that M-OSU was a bigger deal. "You expect a physical team, a great coached team, and a great team." against OSU. You have to be even more prepared than past games.
Knew last year's game would be intense when he saw Shaw's altercation with an OSU player going into the tunnel. He's also seen video of the famous Woodson/Boston battle. "It's a big game. It's still a football game. Still a game."
1500 rush yards: "That's a great accomplishment, but I don't know what to say about it."
It would be a big deal to get invited to NY for the Heisman ceemony, but can't worry about it while there are still games to play.
"We can't come out flat like we did against Wisconsin. We've gotta perform all four quarters." Need to protect "the program" the ball. They've been making a few more mistakes lately, and that can't continue.
"I think our defense is one of the best defenses in the nation. I don't care what nobody say. We face them every day, and they just help us get better."
Pryor reminds Denard of Devin Gardner. Big, and he can run and pass.
He's going to ask Falk about the 'Shoe once he gets the chance. Iowa and Penn State were also tough environments.
Felt fairly healthy the past month. "90%, pretty good." Doesn't know when he got dinged up, but he's healthy enough to be as fast now as he was in the first few games. "I thought I was gonna break a couple of them, and I just fell" against Wisconsin.
I THINK I MIGHT BE EXCITED THIS IS 9000 WORDS
NEW! So I've finally decided I'm going to try to hand out +/- for run blocking, which has been a sore spot when it comes to numbers since UFR started. With Michigan running 75% of the time against UConn, I can't just go by gut feel anymore. I've got enough of a handle on it to at least give it a try. I'm adopting the same sort of +/- format Genuinely Sarcastic uses, because that seems like a good idea, and hope he continues doing his version since different eyes will see different things.
Also, Denard Robinson demands some changes to the way UFR does passing. I'm adding a new SCR indicator for a scramble that is clearly a good idea given Robinson's speed and the down and distance situation. A four yard run on third and fifteen is still a TA.
Formation note: UConn didn't seem to do much, if any substitution. By the end of the game it was clear that they essentially had two defenses, a one-high formation…
…and a two high formation…
…and that the only thing that changed other than that was the alignment of the linebackers based on the position of the WRs—when Michigan went to trips a linebacker lined up over the #2 WR. There was a slight variant of the one-high defense deployed when Michigan went to two TE sets that saw one of the linebackers drop down to the line and the others slide over; I called that "Base 5-3," FWIW. As always, nomenclature is an attempt to be clear about what I'm talking about, not a guarantee of fidelity.
Michigan didn't do anything too exciting except debut this formation I called "Shotgun H-back":
Here Martell Webb is lined up as a quasi fullback; usually he would pull to the backside and block the crashing DE, who always crashed on a… wait for it… scrape exchange.
Substitution note: Nothing you don't already know. No substitution on the OL except for Molk's momentary cramp. Robinson and Grady were rotating in at slot frequently even before Roundtree went out, with Robinson seemingly ahead of Grady when it came to PT. Koger and Webb rotated, with Webb more of a blocker and Koger a receiver. Jeremy Jackson got in some spot duty; Je'Ron Stokes did not see the field.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M4||1||10||I-Form Twins||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Run||Off tackle||Shaw||6|
|Basically an iso designed to go just outside the TE; Koger and Dorrestein double and drive back the playside DE, with Koger popping off on the linebacker scraping over the top. McColgan has the short side corner; all these blocks are very well done. Unfortunately Omameh(-1) is overpowered by the DT and lets him into the backfield, forcing Shaw to bounce it outside. This robs Koger of the angle on the MLB and he has a free shot at Shaw for about one; Shaw(+1) spins through the tackle and gets six.|
|RUN+||Koger, Dorrestein, Shaw||RUN-||Omameh(2)|
|M10||2||4||I-Form Twins||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout hitch||Stonum||7|
|UConn walks down the strong safety, so the corner on Stonum gives him an eight yard cushion. The quick hitch is open and Robinson hits him in the numbers. Pass was late and from the stands this looked a little dodgy--there will be a couple additional plays like this--but you can't ask for more when it comes to accuracy and velocity. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M17||1||10||Shotgun Trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run?||Scramble||Robinson||9 - 13 Pen|
|Michigan fakes a belly handoff to Shaw, doubling both DTs and hypothetically leaving Shaw one on one with the unblocked MLB. Not a convincing fake. it's supposed to go to a short bubble, but Robinson pulls it down and takes off, zipping by the MLB and scurrying around a safety, finally getting hacked down near the first down marker. Was the bubble open? Eh, probably, but not for 9 yards. Should Forcier have thrown this? Yes. Robinson? Run, jackrabbit, run. (SCR, --, protection NA) Omameh gets a personal foul for a hit well after the whistle.|
|M13||2||14||Shotgun Trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||22|
|UConn's nickel 4-3 is a 4-3 with one of the LBs lined up over the #2 WR outside. There are also two safeties about ten yards downfield. Molk(+1) and Schilling(+1) execute a classic scoop block, springing Schilling out on the the MLB, who he blocks out of hte play. Shaw(+1) takes out the other LB. Roundtree(+1) cuts a safety. Dorrestein(+1) gets a free release and has no one to block so he just runs downfield walling off the short side corner. A charging safety forces Robinson outside, where the corner manages to make a desperate lunging tackle, preventing an 85-yard touchdown. BWS picture-paged this play.|
|RUN+||Schilling, Molk, Roundtree, Shaw, Robinson||RUN-|
|M35||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Belly keeper||Robinson||10|
|This is a variant on the zone read but I'm not entirely sure what it's supposed to be yet or who Robinson reads. I think it's the WLB, actually, as Koger kicks out the DE and all the linemen get blocked. Here Huyge(-1) and Schilling(-1) get split by an active DT and Shaw would be dead but Denard(ZR +1) pulls it out. He's now past the slanting DT and Schilling has released downfield along with Molk. Molk(+1) clocks Lloyd. Omameh(+1) controls the other DT and drives him two yards downfield, allowing Robinson to cut back behind when the LB avoid Schilling and Shaw. Dorrestein is again walling off a guy downfield; Robinson cuts behind; Stonum(+1) nails a corner, giving Robinson room to the sideline.|
|RUN+||Omameh, Molk, Stonum, Robinson(2)||RUN-||Schilling, Dorrestein|
|M45||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone stretch||Shaw||5|
|Michigan blocking the backside DE; they are going to be reading LBs all game. With the WLB crashing down on the stretch, this is a missed read by Denard(ZR-1). Still hypothetically has a shot at succeeding but Omameh's guy has gotten a bit of push and is set up in the B gap; he absorbs Smith's block. Shaw(+1) has nowhere to go and cuts behind blocks into the wide open gap Denard should have taken, managing to fall forward after barely avoiding the guy Schilling was blocking.|
|RUN+||Shaw, Schilling||RUN-||Omameh, Robinson|
|50||2||5||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||4|
|Double the playside DT and contain him, run right at the MLB, with Shaw getting a decent block; Robinson runs decisively, taking a hit from said MLB as he bounces off Shaw's block.|
|O46||3||1||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Bear 5-3||Run||Iso||Shaw||2|
|Do isos just go in a gap or can that change based on the D? Because UConn slants into this gap, leaving a big hole between Schilling and Omameh that has two linebackers, Molk, and could have McColgan if they went there. Instead it's just straight ahead at because Omameh(-1) and Dorrstein(-1) have lost out on blocks there are two tacklers and nowhere for Shaw to go; Shaw(+1) manages to fall forward for the first.|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Belly handoff||Shaw||4|
|Not sure if this is the right read or not; DE is sliding down the line but maintaining some contain; definitely a handoff if Forcier, but Robinson? Benefit of the doubt since the DE did hesitate on Robinson. ZR+1. Omameh(-1) blocks down on the DT from an advantageous position and sees his block spun off of, forcing a cut outside where the backside DE is; the delay allows him to tackle. Crashing safety also there, but one-on-one that could have been a play.|
|O40||2||6||Shotgun 3-Wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||PA TE cross||Koger||16|
|Zone stretch fake with Schilling pulling around to provide pass protection on the unblocked backside DE. Linebackers suck up like whoah (RPS+2), leaving Koger wide open as the guy who should be covering the zone he's entering is actually trying to tackle Robinson. Dart hits him between the numbers 15 yards downfield, caught, first down. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O24||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone stretch||Shaw||-1|
|Frustrating, as UConn has six in the box and literally not enough guys to tackle if they run another draw. This is a stretch, and Robison makes the correct handoff decision (ZR+1) since the WLB is charging right at him. Omameh's(-1) DT does get a little penetration and closes off the frontside B gap, forcing Shaw to cut back; Molk(-1) and Schilling double team the NT and eventually pancake him but don't block anyone else. Blitzing WLB makes the play. (RPS-1) Run minus: Omameh, Schilling.|
|O25||2||11||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||10|
|This is just too easy, as UConn does the exact same thing. With two deep safeties and six in the box they literally have no one to tackle the QB. WLB runs into a frontside crease, leaving no one for Shaw to even block until he's ten yards downfield. Molk(+1) controlled and pancaked the playside DT; Robinson and Shaw banged a safety, leaving the slot LB to come from behind and tackle. RPS+2.|
|O15||3||1||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||3|
|SIX GUYS IN BOX ON THIRD AND ONE AT THE 15. Edsall derp. A slightly short yardage variation as Molk and Schilling double and crush the playside DT. Weakside LB reacts quickly and defeats Smith's block but has no chance to keep this under three yards, let alone one. RPS+1. Millen's praising Lloyd, and praising him correctly, and this had no chance.|
|O12||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Belly handoff||Smith||12|
|Almost all Smith. Schilling(-1) gets driven back and thrown almost into the path of Smith; he ends up with his back to the DT looking at him. On the frontside, Molk and Omameh just manage to wall off the playside DT; Omameh pops off on the charging SLB. Smith manages to slip through this mess into a totally unblocked safety, who misses, at which point he can cut behind Roundtree(+1) and get into the endzone.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 7 min 1st Q. 108 yard drive with two passes. Bo, man. Bo.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M23||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Belly handoff||Shaw||4|
|This is on Denard because the unblocked DE was hauling ass after the RB and he needs to pull it out (ZR -1). If he does he has Webb as a lead blocker, Huyge on Lloyd, and the slot LB between him and the safeties--first down probably, touchdown maybe. As it is Shaw(+1) does well to hop around the DE and pick up a few yards.|
|Watching Rice-Texas instead of this play, come back just as Stonum's catching a zinger from Denard. (CA, 3, ?)|
|M32||3||1||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||3|
|Corner rolled down into the box as a WLB, allowing the LBs to slide over. This lets them send two guys into the hole the draw has gone into already, forcing Robinson behind the ineffective Molk/Schilling double and into the path of the backside DT, who has shucked Omameh; SLB comes up unblocked to fill but not before Robinson's quickness picks up the first. (RPS -1)|
|M35||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||Belly lead keeper||Robinson||12|
|Same play as the first snap on this drive and Denard has learned (or just been told to pull the damn ball, getting a ZR+1). He yoinks the ball out as the DE against crashes down and finds himself in plenty of space with Webb as a lead blocker. Huyge(+2) gets a great pancake block on MLB Lloyd and Robinson jets past the first down; would like to see him try to set up the safety inside and hop outside in an effort to get a touchdown. Also Odoms does a great, if ultimately irrelevant, job on the outside.|
|RUN+||Robinson, Huyge(2), Odoms||RUN-|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Flare screen||Shaw||16|
|Seven guys in the box now and UConn sends a safety-type player on a blitz. Four men are in a deep umbrella, leaving just two guys underneath, and they don't know where to go because Michigan is sending two OL each way. Michigan hits the flare. Odoms and Dorrestein get cuts downfield; Grady gets a decent block that springs Shaw through, leaving him one on one with a safety for six. Off balance, he can't put a move on and gets tackled. (CA,3, screen, RPS +1)|
|O37||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||Belly handoff||Shaw||5|
|Essentially an identical play to the first one on the drive, where DE hauls ass after Shaw, Denard makes a bad read (ZR-1), Shaw(+1) evades the DE and hits the backside of the play. This time Denard actually gets out to block, Webb totally walls off the slot LB, Huyge gets another good block on Lloyd, and it's still six yards.|
|RUN+||Shaw, Webb, Huyge||RUN-||Robinson|
|O32||2||5||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||32|
|You cannot draw up a scoop block better than this. Molk(+1) and Omameh(+1) drive the playside DT back and then Omameh pops out on the MLB. A pulling Webb(+1) wipes Lloyd out, Shaw(+1) takes out the weakside safety type thing and Millen drops "that's six" as Robinson crosses the LOS. He really is a fantastic broadcaster. Replay.|
|RUN+||Molk, Omameh(2), Smith, Robinson, Webb||RUN-|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-0, 1 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Off tackle||Shaw||15|
|Variant on the belly series from the last drive. On this one Webb pulls to clock the backside DE and Omameh(+1) blocks down on the playside DT; both linebackers have sucked to the backside because they're worried about Denard and not expecting this to go so far off tackle the other way since Shaw is lined up in the belly spot behind his QB. Ton of space; Shaw just runs by the SLB until he's forced inside by the corner. SLB tackles. RPS+1. Don't think this is a read, think this a called play, so no ZR.|
|O29||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||-3|
|UConn adjusting to this by slanting the DE into the gap instead of letting the OT kick him out. This creates a mess. Denard slows up and tries to cut back, but Omameh(-1) has been driven back and he still tries to go around, eventually getting tackled for a loss. Should have just cut it outside. The evolution of dance here is for Tebow-style play-action fakes that consist of a single step forward. RPS-1. Run Minus: Omameh, Robinson|
|O32||2||13||Shotgun 3-Wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Jailbreak screen||Grady||3|
|Fake the flare screen to Shawn and come back with the jailbreak on the other side of the field. This has sucked a lot of people out of position, leaving three blockers and three defenders before Grady is jetting for the endzone. Koger(+1) picks off the slot LB. Molk(+1) blocks MLB Lloyd. Schilling(-1) totally overruns the safety, who tackles unmolested. (CA, 3, protection NA)|
|O29||3||10||Shotgun empty||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||TE cross||Koger||4|
|Not sure how restricted Robinson's read is here, but M is hoping for man and gets zone so Koger gets nailed as soon as he catches it. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(42), 14-0, 13 min 2nd Q. Shankapotamus punt sets M up with good field position on the next drive.|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4-||Run||Reverse||Grady||-3|
|PEDANTRY NOTE: Since the action of the play goes one way with what looks like a QB sweep and then has a pitch to the WR, I'm calling this a reverse instead of an end around. The play: Michigan runs QB sweep action and pitches it to Grady as Koger takes out the backside DE. Problem: this 4-4 has a weakside alley defender like a Kovacs and no one is doing the thing where they run with Stonum on a fly route for 20 yards. This guy bites but is so far to the backside that he can easily recover in time to hit Grady. Grady, for his part, just runs right into the guy when he could have cut it inside and gotten some yards, possibly lots, and then he fumbles. Not a great play for Grady.|
|O41||2||13||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4-||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||6|
|Best block of the day for Omameh, who gets under the DT and pushes him back a couple yards. LB is flowing downhill at this very fast so Robinson decides to cut back rather than chance a pileup with that guy and Webb at the LOS. Omameh's guy pops off to try to tackle but falls over backwards thanks to Omameh and Denard runs through it; MLB ate Molk(+1) and Denard can fall forward, stiffarming as he falls.|
|Smith runs the flare screen route, Roundtree heads straight downfield, and Odoms slants inside. Denard throws what looks like a dangerous pass, but the safety coming down isn't even looking at Odoms, he's trying to get out for the screen, only realizing his error as the ball arrives. Odoms catches and quicks his way past the safety, picking up the first down and considerably more. With Odoms coming to a stop and a guy in Denard's face he can't wait any longer to make this throw; it is on rhythm. (CA, 3, protection 1/2, Omameh -1)|
|O19||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||Inside zone||Smith||4|
|Backside blitzer makes this a correct read (ZR+1) Omameh and Schilling(+1 each) successfully crease the DTs, leaving Molk one on one with SLB, who beats him(-1). Smith is tackled by that guy.|
|O15||2||6||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4-||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||-2|
|This one also appears designed to go right up the middle, but Omameh(-1) is beaten by the slanting DT and there's nothing. Robinson has a chance to hop outside and maybe beat the backside DE but slips and is tackled for a loss. RPS -1; this slant killed the play. Run minus: Omameh, Dorrestein|
|O17||3||8||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||10|
|UConn stunting, which takes the playside DE inside. He's walled off by Huyge(+1); Schilling(+1) absolutely blasts the playside DT, erasing him; Smith shifts outside the DE when he sees the way the play is developing; Smith and Roundtree get blocks downfield and it's first and goal.|
|RUN+||Schilling(2), Huyge, Smith, Roundtree||RUN-|
|O7||1||G||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Shaw||3|
|Correct read with a backside blitz. Schilling kicks out his DT; Molk plows the MLB; Omameh cannot handle his DT, who comes off him to make a play a few yards downfield. Not minus-worthy but I was thinking about it.|
|O4||2||G||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Goal line||Run||Inside zone||Shaw||4|
|Basically the same play; Schilling(+1) again does a great job of kicking out the DT; Molk(+1) gets out on the MLB, and Omameh does enough on the other guy, falling to the ground but getting in the way of him.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-0, 9 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O8||1||10||Shotgun Trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||8|
|Robinson correctly reads the crash (ZR+1) and pulls it out, finding himself in open space. Huyge can't maintain his block on the outside but he's blocking the handoff so not his fault. Robinson jets for eight.|
|O16||2||2||Shotgun Trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||6|
|They do get the intended crease this time (no slant from the DE) but the MLB fills immediately, bashing Smith close to the LOS. Robinson(+1) darts around Molk and has the acceleration to dart up into the crease behind him before Omameh's guy can come off and grab him. He does manage to reach out an arm and spin him down.|
|O22||1||10||Shotgun Trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Belly handoff||Smith||0|
|The read here should be keep but this might not actually be a read since he just ran twice. I have to assume it is, though, so: ZR-1. Smith has no hole because Omameh(-1) did not seal his man; that delay is enough for the backside DE to tackle for nothing. Run minus: Omameh, Robinson|
|O22||2||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Pass||PA throwaway||Roundtree(?)||Inc|
|UConn blitzes right into this, getting an unblocked guy in Robinson's face before he even has a chance; a slanting player has slashed past the fake run blocks and is also in the backfield. Robinson avoids one guy, then the other guy, in a remarkable Houdini act. With another couple guys coming in to crush him he just chucks the ball hard, deep, and on a line well past Roundtree. Was he trying to complete this? Does he just throw everything like this and has no deep ball? I don't know, but the benefit of the doubt goes to the guy who just escaped two defenders and is chucking the ball away. (TA, 0, protection 0/2, team, RPS-1)|
|O22||3||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Jailbreak screen||Stonum||4|
|UConn prepared for this, with the SLB in a position where there's no way anyone is going to be able to block him. Stonum(+1) does well to run through his tackle but he can't make the second guy miss. (CA, 3, screen)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-3, 1 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M19||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||ZR Bubble||Roundtree||-1|
|Denard pulls it out with the DE crashing (ZR+1) but Huyge(-1) and Webb(-1) both have ineffectual blocks so DR goes to his safety valve; Odoms(-1) can handle his guy and it's a loss. (CA, 3, screen) Run minus: Huyge, Webb, Odoms|
|M18||2||11||Shotgun 3-Wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Quick out||Roundtree||Inc|
|This is a quick rollout with the two guys running an out and a fly to test the cornerback in a presumed zone; Denard throws the quick out before the play develops, allowing the corner to come up and crush Roundtree, separating him from the ball and knocking him out for the game. Another beat and he would have probably had Stonum, or the corner would have backed off Roundtree. (BR, 1, protection 1/1)|
|M18||3||11||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Deep hitch||Grady||16|
|Great protection leaves Robinson all kinds of time, and there's a fifth guy spying. Robinson waits for Grady to clear the linebacker level and sit down in the hole in the zone, then zips one in a decent window right on the numbers for a first down. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M34||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||Belly handoff||Smith||4|
|Same as previous plays; Webb(-1) just runs by the backside DE; Omameh(-1) cannot contain his man, and both of these guys get arms on Smith at the LOS. He does a good job of running through those tackles and getting a decent gain anyway. Schilling got his guy sealed again.|
|RUN+||Schilling, Smith||RUN-||Omameh, Webb|
|M38||2||6||Shotgun 3-Wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB stretch||Robinson||3|
|Molk(+1) gets a seal on the stretch block against that DT Omameh's been struggling with as Omameh heads to the second level, where the LB heads outside of him; Dorrestein(+1) pancakes the DE. Robinson should cut it up in between the C and T but heads outside, where Smith manages to wall off the SLB Omameh had no angle on. This leaves an unblocked safety to fill.|
|M41||3||3||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Slant||Odoms||9|
|Smith runs the flare again, drawing up the WLB and opening a window in which Robinson zings a first down completion. Slightly high, but ok. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M49||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||Belly handoff||Smith||1|
|Correct handoff with a S waiting for him and Webb going to block the crashing DE. Story is again the same: Omameh(-1), even with help from Dorrestein, cannot contain DT99, who forces himself over into the hole, leaving nothing for Smith to do except run up the back of his OL. If I was grading the UConn D he'd be en route to +10 or better. ZR+1. Run minus: Omameh|
|50||2||9||Shotgun 3-Wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Belly handoff||Smith||4|
|No crash; correct handoff(ZR+1). Omameh(+1) does seal and kick the DT this time; they're running it to the opposite side. Unfortunately, Schilling(-1) can't get any drive or seal and Smith has to cut it back; Huyge(-1) whiffed on the SLB. Smith meets two guys two yards downfield and burrows for two more.|
|RUN+||Omameh, Robinson||RUN-||Schilling, Huyge|
|O46||3||5||Shotgun 3-Wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Slant||Stonum||11|
|The flare again sucks a linebacker up to it, leaving Stonum in a big hole in the zone. Zing, bobble, catch, first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun Trips TE||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Grady||4|
|Safety walks down. This bubble is the short bubble where the receiver does not run the full route in the hopes of finding space between the freakin' out LB over the slot and the interior defense. This not so much. Odoms does manage to cut his guy but a safety charges up as soon as it looks like a bubble and snuffs it out. Michigan will use this later. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O31||2||6||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB stretch||Robinson||5|
|Dorrestein(+1) cuts the backside DT to the ground, removing him totally. Molk(-1) gets pushed back and Robinson has to cut behind; this open because of the Dorrestein chop. Omameh releases into the second level but ends up blocking no one, which is unfortunate because Denard squeezes through arm tackles only to take his first real shot of the day from a safety a yard short of the sticks.|
|RUN+||Robinson, Dorrestein||RUN-||Omameh, Molk|
|O26||3||1||?||?||?||?||?||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||3|
|TV misses this play.|
|O23||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Belly handoff||Smith||4|
|This again. Omameh(+1) does get enough of the DT for the RB to skip by; Schilling seals his guy out. Unfortunately Molk(-1) has a really weird whiff where he just runs away from the MLB, the only person he can reasonably expect to block, and that guy tackles.|
|O19||2||6||Shotgun 3-Wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Flare||Smith||-1|
|Incorrect read by Robinson as the LB is flying out of the zone and Michigan again has the slant they've worked for a bunch of first downs. He instead throws the flare, getting Smith whacked by the corner. (BR, 3, protection NA)|
|O20||3||7||Shotgun 3-Wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Scramble||Robinson||11|
|UConn in zone and does a great job of covering a slant/wheel to the top of the screen Denard is looking at. Same thing on the bottom, same coverage. No one open, he takes off, darting past outstretched hands for the first down. Bonus: Smith's wicked blitz pickup. (SCR, --, protection 2/2)|
|O9||1||G||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Base 4-3||Run||QB stretch||Robinson||5|
|Playside DT just surges forward and falls, almost cut-blocking Molk. A charging LB darts past Webb, leaving two guys for Smith to block on the outside; the DT's fall has provided a cutback lane. Dorrestein(-1) could not cut the backside DT at all so he's there, but Robinson's hesitation move gets him to delay in case he cuts back around him, opening up a hole to dart into.|
|O4||2||G||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Base 4-3||Run||Belly Keeper||Robinson||-3|
|DR seems en route to endzone when he bobbles and drops the ball. Never really had it after the exchange.|
|O7||3||G||Shotgun 3-Wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB stretch||Robinson||0|
|Blitz into the play cuts off the outside and gives UConn another guy on the inside to snuff this play out. RPS -1. Michigan will use this later, too.|
|Drive Notes: FG(24), 24-10, 7 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M11||1||10||Ace 4-wide||1||1||4||Base 4-3||Run||Dive||Shaw||5|
|End around fake from Odoms; this is just a straight handoff up the middle. Omameh(+1) and Schilling(+1) crease the DTs and Molk(+1) nails the MLB; OLBs converge to tackle.|
|RUN+||Omameh, Schilling, Molk||RUN-|
|M16||2||5||I-Form Twins||2||1||2||Base 4-4||Run||Off tackle||Shaw||-10|
|Omameh(-2) completely pwned by the DT, who I will name for you at this point: Kendall Reyes. Shaw(-2) compounds matters by dancing backwards instead of just trying to cut behind the mess and get back to the LOS, getting shoved and tackled for a huge loss. Run minus: Omameh(2), Shaw(2)|
|M6||3||15||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Run||QB draw||Robinson||15|
|A give up and punt play, which is reasonable given the game situation and your sophomore QB. Except, uh? first down. UConn rushes four and has three LBs in the middle of the field. Smith(+1) gets enough of the MLB; Grady and Robinson get in the way, and the other Robinson(+1) gives a tiny hip fake that causes one of the LBs to hop outside the blocker; he continues upfield, getting submarined, flying for the first down, and giving his hip an owie.|
|RUN+||Robinson, Smith, T. Robinson, Grady||RUN-|
|M21||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read keeper||Gardner||-4|
|Correct read (ZR+1) as the DE crashes but a terrible decision by Gardner(-2) to attempt to go outside of Koger and his man when the interior line was crushing that side of the line downfield. Koger(-1) also should have done better.|
|RUN+||Omameh, Dorrestein||RUN-||Gardner(2), Koger|
|M17||2||14||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||Zone read belly||Smith||13|
|Another good read (ZR+1) with an outside blitzer and the fake is good enough to suck two guys outside and give Smith a big cutback lane he takes. Omameh(+1) crushed Reyes on this play; Dorrestein(+1) sealed off the SLB.|
|RUN+||Gardner, Omameh, Dorrestein||RUN-|
|M30||3||1||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Base 4-4||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||4|
|Surprise. LBs flying downhill at this, filling the hole, but Koger(+1) and Dorrestein(+1) have doubled the playside DE, driving him well back and giving Robinson a lane outside he takes for the first down. Robinson is too quick for the alley guy. (RPS-1)|
|RUN+||Koger, Dorrestein, Robinson||RUN-|
|M34||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Flare||Smith||8|
|Fourth or fifth time they've run this; this time the LB sticks in the middle of the zone and Robinson nails Smith with a perfectly placed touch pass that he can ramble up the sidelines with. (CA+, 3, screen)|
|M42||2||2||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||PA Bubble Post||T. Robinson||43|
|Dorrestein(-1) completely whiffs his cut block as Michigan goes for a fake handoff, then a fake bubble that sucks the UConn linebacker corps to the LOS in a fashion I've never seen before. Robinson has two guys running wide open and picks Robinson's post because it's probably the primary read; he does this with a guy in his face so it's kind of a tough throw. It's on the money 20 yards downfield, providing Robinson the ability to run after the catch, so it gets a DO. (DO, 3, protection 0/1, Dorrestein, RPS+3)|
|O15||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||Belly handoff||Smith||5|
|Eighth guy in the box is coming down hard in the G-T gap so Smith has to squeeze between the two guards; both have maintained good blocks. At this point the backside DE is crashing in and the eighth guy has adjusted, so the tackle. Smith does a good job of getting some YAC. RPS-1.|
|RUN+||Omameh, Schilling, Smith||RUN-|
|O10||2||5||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Sack||--||-1|
|PA rollout finds no one open for Robinson so he tries to run it; this is well defensed. Good D by Uconn, correct decision by Denard. (TA, --, protection NA)|
|O11||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Flare screen||Smith||11|
|UConn blitzes right into this, and gets DOOM'D for their trouble; you can hear Michigan Stadium go "yeeeeeah" as soon as they see what the playcalls are. RPS+2. There are only two guys to the same side of the field as Smith and four blockers; Huyge(+1) and Odoms(+1) do excellent jobs and Smith can walk it in. (CA, 3, screen)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown (missed XP), 30-10, 13 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M23||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||Belly handoff||Shaw||3|
|UConn is pouring downhill at these so I won't judge too harshly on a drive when Michigan's just trying to put a game that's already put away fully underground. Omameh(+1) gets a good block; Molk's angle out of the line does not take him through defenders, and the crashing DE is crashing so hard Shaw again has to go behind a guy and get what he can, which is three since there are linebackers everywhere. I'm not going to ZR this either because the game's done and Robinson doesn't need more carries.|
|M26||2||7||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Base 5-3||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||9|
|Okay, I will. UConn pulls an LB down to the line to combat the second TE, Webb(+1) kicks him out. DE crashes, Robinson pulls (ZR+1), Huyge wipes out Lloyd (easy), and Robinson shoots up in the gap provided by Schilling and Webb, cutting behind the SLB after five yards to pick up nine.|
|RUN+||Webb, Huyge, Schilling, Robinson||RUN-|
|M35||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Base 5-3||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||8|
|Basically same thing as M finally starts testing a UConn D intent on shooting the DE down the line. Here MLB Lloyd is the scrape guy and starts hauling ass after Denard immediately, but Denard just outruns him to the corner easy. Koger got a block on the playside DE. (ZR+1)|
|M43||2||2||I-Form Twins||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Run||Iso||Shaw||3|
|Reyes submarines Omameh and falls; Schilling(+1) seals his DT; Molk(-1) whiffs on Lloyd, who meets Shaw a yard past the LOS thanks to the excellent Schilling block; Shaw just blows him and gets the pile to fall the right direction.|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||1||2||Base 4-4-||Run||Broken play||Shaw||-1|
|Shaw and Smith bump into each other, almost certainly because Smith gets the wrong playcall. Not going to bother with the blocking because who knows?|
|M45||2||11||Ace||1||2||2||Base 5-3||Pass||Waggle TE flat||Koger||10|
|This sucks the WLB to the fake and gets Koger open in the flat. Robinson gives him a soft toss and he turns it up to get near the first down marker. (CA, 3, protection NA)|
|O45||3||1||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Base 5-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||6|
|Dorrestein(+1) and Koger(+1) totally obliterate the playside DE, catching the linebackers up in the wash and letting Robinson just run up their backs for five. This is a variant of the regular draw where they're doubling one particular member of the DL on short yardage.|
|O39||1||10||Ace||1||2||2||Base 5-3||Run||Inside zone||Smith||0|
|At this point I'm not really interested. WOOOOO. Omameh gets the main demerit, but I'm not sure what Molk is doing either? at this point whatever.|
|O39||2||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||Belly handoff||Smith||3|
|I understand this blocking so I'll chart it: again with the inside zone; Omameh(+1) gets a goot block; Schilling a bleah but acceptable one; Molk(-1) gets the ole job by Lloyd. Kind of disappointed in Molk's downfield blocking this game.|
|O36||3||7||Shotgun 3-Wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Stonum||7|
|Simple pitch and catch, well timed if a tiny bit upfield. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O29||4||1||Ace||1||1||3||Base 5-3||Run||QB sneak||Robinson||2|
|They get it.|
|This is Omameh(-2) getting smoked. Run minus: Omameh(2)|
|Playside DT submarines Molk, taking himself and Molk out and opening a frontside crease. McColgan(-1) makes a really weird decision by hitting one of the contain guys instead of going right upfield and putting his facemask on the MLB's chest. Dorrestein can't cut said MLB and he tackles Smith near the LOS.|
|O26||3||9||I-Form Twins||2||1||2||Base 5-3||Run||Iso||Smith||0|
|Seriously, at this point whatever.|
|O26||4||9||I-Form Twins||2||1||2||Base 5-3||Pass||Waggle hitch||Grady||Inc|
|Can't see this from the tape but I had a good line on this in the stadium and it was open but Denard did not get the ball out fast enough. You can see that Stonum was open on the outside, too. I usually go with IN for balls that aren't bad ideas but are thrown too early/late but with Stonum sitting out there it's BR time. (BR, 0, protection NA)|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 30-10, 2 min 4th Q. EOG.|
I'm dizzy because I keep running around in circles screaming "wheeeeeeeeeeee!" I know it's Thursday, I don't care.
Yeah, let's just get right to the—
Chart. I've included our Denard Robinson All of 2009 chart for comparison:
[Hennechart legend, or hover over the table headers]
|2009, All Of It||1||7||6(2)||3(1)||4||4||-||-||?|
Downfield success rate: 68%.
I know. There has never been a UFR passing chart devoid of MAs and INs. The full dossier of things Robinson was dinged for:
- Chucking the ball away deep after escaping two unblocked rushers.
- Running out of bounds for a one-yard sack on a waggle play.
- Throwing a flare instead of a slant and getting Vincent Smith hit for a one yard loss.
- Getting Roundtree killed on an out that he caught until it was violently separated from him.
- Throwing a waggle hitch late on the last offensive play Michigan had.
That's it. The first is a good play. The second was a good decision since he had nowhere else to go and is Denard Robinson approaching the line of scrimmage. The other three were passes as deadly accurate as his other 18 but weren't the best options; only on the last was their any chance of a turnover. Everyone's worried about Tate Forcier transferring because of a lack of playing time… but what about Tacopants? He got zero balls.
UConn's secondary has to be terrible.
Yeah… UConn's secondary is probably terrible. They were starting a bunch of freshmen and failed to take advantage of a couple moments where it looked like Robinson was late on hitches. Also all that other stuff happened. Here is the avalanche of caveats and stern looks designed to keep your pants on—
—or put them back on—
TMI—and put Robinson's performance in perspective. Many of his downfield throws were either simple hitches or the slant/flare combo they ran about eight times where Smith would run a flare route, the linebacker to that side would start charging it down, and Robinson would zing a wide-open slant in the vacated space. Once the linebacker charged it down and Robinson threw the flare for no yardage; once he stayed home and Robinson threw the flare for good yardage. Michigan didn't show a whole lot, and for the most part avoided plays that could be risky.
The only play I gave the hallowed DO other than the wide open TRob (apologies for the use of that annoying shorthand but I'm not going to distinguish between the two Robinsons with full names for the next three years) post was this:
And while that's wicked sweet it's the only time he really fit it in a window. Not that I'm worried about his accuracy anymore*. It's more about what happens when his receivers are covered. Can he come off a primary read? Can he consistently recognize when guys are covered? Can he process information fast enough to get the passes out on time? Answers:
- Don't know, as both times UConn covered the primary read they covered everyone and Robinson ran.
- Don't know. He made three bad reads, but didn't throw anywhere truly dangerous.
- Not consistently yet. Some of the CAs above were late but he got away with them, and the last incompletion was very late.
Notre Dame and their veteran secondary will be another test.
On the other hand, how many times did you see Pat White zinging balls to hopelessly, almost unbelievably wide open receivers? Part of the magic of the offense is that when you can run 70% of the time and still put up first downs and string together long plays, things like that Robinson-to-Robinson pass where there isn't a defender in the same time zone as the receiver happen. The burden on Robinson to read defenses is going to be so much lower than it would be for a Henne or Tate because it's impossible to leave two high safeties against him (or at least a terrible idea) and taking a step forward is the best play-fake in the world.
Also, on third and 11 up 11 with this guy who wasn't even a quarterback last year, Rodriguez let 'er rip. They have some level of confidence there.
More charts! Receiverchart:
An exceptionally unchallenging day, but one on which they made no mistakes. Having Koger go 3/3 is encouraging. The only hypothetically catchable pass that wasn't was the one on which Roundtree got blown up. Hard to blame a guy for that.
PROTECTION METRIC: 12/16, Dorrestein –1, Omameh –1, Team –2.
Low sample size makes it tough to get a read but since the Dorrestein –1 was a failed chop block on the TRob post and the team minus was getting overwhelmed by a blitz into play action the initial returns are pretty good. No minuses from the tackles when they're actually setting up to pass block is win.
Rock-paper-scissors: +13, –7, TOTAL +6.
This may even be pessimistic since I started dinging Michigan points for running the same stuff over and over again when they probably put away the tricks because they didn't need them and I think I even RPS-1ed a successful QB lead draw on third and one because UConn was all over it. Is it really a bad decision if they leap all over it and still can't stop it?
It'll be interesting to watch this over the course of the season—Robinson's promise is that he can drop more RPS+3 plays this year than Michigan has in the last two seasons combined.
All right, now… the run game, which was the bulk of the offense?
Right, so this is the first time I'd ever systematically done this and it could end up being totally whack but here it is anyway:
|Huyge||7||2||5||No pass rush minuses, too. Excellent day.|
|Schilling||13||6||7||Clearly the best interior OL on the day.|
|Molk||10||5||5||Had some downfield whiffs.|
|Omameh||15||16||-1||Major issues with Kendall Reyes.|
|Dorrestein||9||4||5||Couple of pancakes.|
|Gardner||1||2||-1||Should have cut his loss upfield for a big gain.|
|Shaw||7||2||5||Lot of hopping on bad ZR decisions.|
|Grady||1||3||-2||Negs on the bad reverse.|
|Zone Read||10||3||7||Just Robinson. Gardner also had a 2-0-2.|
I have no idea what the context is here and think I should separated out carrying and blocking +/- for the RBs, since the former seems more important than the latter but it essentially bears out what I thought when watching the game. The tackles were surprisingly good but not that involved on a day when Michigan did almost all of its damage up the middle. Schilling took a major step forward, something that's echoed by NFL draft types:
Steve Schilling/G/Michigan: Schilling, who looked liked a star in the making as a freshman, has struggled the past few seasons adjusting to Michigan's motion offense. On Saturday, he showed signs of major improvement in his ability to block on the move and annihilate opponents at the point.
Molk was good but did not execute many of his patented reach blocks because of the interior focus and whiffed on MLBs a bit too often for my tastes.
And Patrick Omameh struggled. He didn't exactly lose out, but as the only guy on the line anywhere near even he stood out as a sophomore. UConn's Kendall Reyes was a problem all day, bursting into the backfield on the Shaw ten-yard loss and causing most of the bounce-outs. Sometimes this just happens. I remember Eastern Michigan's Jason Jones doing a lot of damage, pointing out how good he was, and hoping this was true both for credibility and what it said about Michigan's offensive line. Jones eventually went in the second round of the NFL draft. I both think and hope Reyes is really good, headed for All Big East recognition. If not, Omameh has a lot of work to do.
What if Robinson explodes or something?
Well, we're in trouble. This might happen. Quarterbacks get injured frequently. But it doesn't appear that they get injured any more frequently when they run a lot, as MCalibur's diaries have shown. There is a slight increase in injury rate that does not rise to the level of statistical significance, which is to say that the numbers suggest there might be a slight uptick, but the rate at which this happens is low enough that we can't be sure. In any case, an extra 2-3% chance your QB goes down is so worth the added explosiveness a guy like Robinson brings.
Almost everyone to some extent but special mention goes to Robinson (obviously) and Schilling.
The only person who even remotely qualifies is Omameh and even he did all right.
What does it mean for Notre Dame and beyond?
Next week's game is going to be interesting on the interior of the line since ND is running a 3-4. Omameh won't have a DT lined up directly over him; that will fall to Molk, who will endeavor to put Ian Williams on rollerskates for the third straight year. Williams has supposedly bulked up and didn't spend most of the last year rehabbing a knee so that matchup should be more even. If Molk can win it consistently, Schilling and Omameh will spend most of their time trying to stay in front of Carlo Calebrese and Manti Te'o, ND's MLBs. Those three matchups will go a long way towards determining the outcome of the game. I expect considerably more variation in the run game, with a lot more stretch plays to test the historically immobile Williams.
In the passing game… well, if Notre Dame leaves primary reads open Robinson will hit them. They will probably have an answer to the slant/flare combo that worked so well for Michigan against UConn, but with so few tricks pulled out of the bag in the first game they'll have to deal with a larger than usual set of plays they have not seen before. That combined with Robinson's legs demanding attention should set him up with a large number of makeable throws as long as he's not stuck with long-yardage situations. That goes back to the interior line, then.
We don't know much, but we'll know a lot more after Saturday.
Following Rich Rodriguez's time with the media yesterday, we also talked to TE Kevin Koger, RB Mike Shaw, LB Obi Ezeh, and DL Ryan Van Bergen.
"I think a couple people were shocked, because not a lot of people picked us to win." He was pleased with the team's performance.
Denard's performance - "I know he was doing what the coaches were coaching him to do." With his speed, if he doesn't need to stop his feet nobody will catch him. When Denard came in last year, teams knew it was a run. Now, they can't expect that. "He did take a lot of hits on Saturday, he did get hurt once."
"If it ain't broke don't fix it." The run worked well on Saturday, no need to worry about chucking the ball downfield more often. Teams have put 8 men in the box to stop the run. They might put more DBs in the box. "You really can't tell until you watch film." When they do that, you'll see more passing.
The big focus for WRs and TEs in offseason was dropped passes. They needed to work on their focus, ad it's paying off.
Everybody wants to make their blocks on every play, so it's not their guy that makes a tackle. Big play ability is always there with Michigan's team speed. Have to make your blocks "that could be the difference, so you never know." Downfield blocking "all comes down to effort. If you want to block, you block. If you don't [want to], you don't."
Kevin could notice a difference in crowd noise with the new boxes. You can hear the echoes off the boxes. "I think 113,000+ had a lot to do with it also."
Kevin traveled but didn't play a couple years ago at Notre Dame. He's ready to experience it for the first time. Players talk about "how loud it was and how tall the grass was."
"It was a good game. Coming out with a packed crowd like that, it was a lot of nerves, but we got through it and had a good showing against UConn."
"So far, so good" for Denard. "You never expect anybody to go out and have the game that he did." When he pulls the ball down, he's as good as a running back. If he stays healthy and everyone keeps blocking for him, it'll be all good. "Anybody can get a big run in this offense. It's so spread out." UConn wasn't ready for Denard's speed. Once teams key on Denard, it'll open up lanes for others. "As of September 4th, it was Denard's show." It's hard to compare Denard's command of the offense from last year. "What the coaches asked him to do, he did well - more than well."
Coaches look for stability and consistency in RBs. Shaw and Smith didn't fumble, etc. in camp, which put them ahead. There was no discussion of who was going to go in "when our numbers were called, we just went in there and did our thing." He's always hard on himself after a game. "I feel that I have a lot of room for improvement," especially in blocking and hitting creases harder.
He's talked to Roundtree, and they watched the play on which he got injured. Roundtree was thrilled to be involved in a big hit - he likes to be in on the action.
The O-line was a huge plus - even more than Denard. They've made big strides over the past couple years. They'll lead to a lot of big plays this year.
As for his academic situation in fall camp: "I am a student-athlete, and to not be eligible is not something I think the University of Michigan would stand for."
It's always a rowdy crowd at ND. Both teams have a lot to prove. "A lot of attention in the national spotlight."
The first three-and-out "that was nice" UConn's hurry-up didn't work out to start the game. "Our coaches got us really prepared for that game."
Fumble recovery - "In the right place at the right time, and kinda had my wits about me.... Kinda reminded me of the Michigan State game last year, when I had a fumble recovery and got smacked in the face."
The D-line was amazing. "A lot of people don't really hear about the efforts those guys put out." Hopes Martin knows that he appreciates the effort.
"I'm my worst critic," but Jonas played awesome. He was getting in the backfield, wreaking havoc, reading his keys, everything gelling well. "I felt comfortable out there too." Everyone makes mistakes - not perfect but a good game.
"Obviously things didn't go the way you wanted or you planned last year," and Obi used that for motivation. "I just want to win." All the seniors want to leave a legacy. There are more important things than last year.
The time of possession helped the defense. "It's fun when you don't have to play like 80-some plays a game." There will be times that Mich doesn't dominate possession, and the D is in good enough shape to handle that.
ND - Big game, big stage. Want to make a statement. "With that all being said, it's still a game, and just like last week you need to prepare, focus in, and practice hard." Everybody has a different version of the spread, so you have to prepare for ND differently. ND has explosive players at their disposal. "Our coaches are gonna come in with a gameplan obviously and we're just gonna focus in and execute to the best of our abilities."
Ryan Van Bergen
Did the team make a statement on opening day? "I think we did a pretty good job. I wouldn't say we had a performance that was perfect." There's a long season to progress, and young guys will come along during the season.
"I probably thought that in spring ball, probably first or second week" that Denard had really come along as a passer. He's accurate, which he struggled with last year. Completing passes will open up the run for him.
DL Coach Bruce Tall tries to rotate guys in and out along the line, to give the starters a rest. Even with the defense out there a long time, they can have depth and stay fresh. Mike Barwis has done a fantastic job with conditioning. Everybody on DL is leaps ahead of last year - which means a lot because they were in great shape last year too.
Position change "My role hasn't changed that much. It's a little bit nicer that I don't have to worry about a double team every play." BG gave him a lot of help.
He's "absolutely" happy to see somebody else have to chase Denard around.
Pressure on the QB. "Obviously I don't think we recorded a sack. We did a good job of putting pressure on the quarterback and forcing some bad throws." UConn went heavy protect a lot of times, but they're hungry to get some sacks.
Obi - "He just really resilient. He's gonna come back just as hard if not harder if he makes a mistake." Always a leader. He and jonas both motivated. Rubs off on the rest of the d.
Secondary - "I they played well." Don't have a veteran back there who's a bigtime leader. Those guys played well, weren't deer-in-headlights. Bounced back if they gave up any big plays.
|Darryl Stonum||Jr.||Martavious Odoms||Jr.||Roy Roundtree||So.*||Kevin Koger||Jr.|
|Junior Hemingway||Jr.*||Je'Ron Stokes||So.||Kelvin Grady||Jr.*||Martell Webb||Sr.|
|Jeremy Jackson||Fr.||Jerald Robinson||Fr.||Terrance Robinson||So.*||Brandon Moore||So.*|
The situation here is similar to tailback, where Michigan doesn't exactly have a proven star but they do have a ton of options. Outside, Darryl Stonum could blow up, Junior Hemingway could stay healthy, and Martavious Odoms could be a quick blockin' bugger that springs other guys to big gains. In the slot, Roy Roundtree will act as team safety blanket and any of the three guys behind him could provide the woop-gone YAC Darius Reynaud gave West Virginia. At tight end, if Kevin Koger can catch the easy ones he'll be a lethal complement to the zone read.
The bottom here isn't bad, as it consists of a ton of throws to Roundtree and decent contributions all around. The top is enticing, with silly yards per catch possible on the outside and chain-moving consistency on the inside.
Greg Mathews has graduated, a couple kids left the program over the past couple years, and Junior Hemingway is destined to be hit by a meteor in week three, so Michigan's getting creative at outside receiver by moving slot-sized slot Martavious Odoms outside. Despite Odoms' diminutive stature, this makes sense given the situation. Below you can see Odoms doing some catching and all that, but you can also see him chop much bigger guys to the ground time and again. When my Florida recruiting source said Odoms was a "tough SOB" he was not kidding:
|WILL HEADBUTT YOU|
|a precious thing forever|
|fantastic block on the nickelback|
|NOT BREASTON BUT WHO IS|
|squeezes up the sideline|
|avoids the tackle|
|digs this out w/ guy on his back|
|lays it in there|
|lays it in beautifully|
|Odoms reels it in|
Last year everyone was down on Odoms despite his productive freshman year (he was Michigan's leading receiver) because of a series of fumbles late, when it was cold and he was wondering how many limbs he had because he certainly couldn't feel more than two. There was a pretty terrible diary around these parts that met with a strong response. People got strained. Futures were question. It was tense.
For my part, I was "skeptical any slot would beat him out" and "bet on a lot of hurried backtracking" after the year; one half out of two ain't bad. Odoms didn't exactly get beat out but no one's wresting Roy Roundtree's job from him after he blew up in the last third of the year, and while people claiming Odoms sucks are thin on the ground these days any backtracking was steady, possibly even languorous. Fumbles were reduced but not erased as Odoms lost his punt return job to Junior Hemingway. He faded into Bolivian at the end of the year.
So he's at a crossroads. The question is how effective will Odoms be on the outside. No one really knows since all we have to go on are some vanilla scrimmages from spring and fall during which deep passes were anomalies. Things we do know:
- Odoms was 16/17 on easy catches last year (presumably these were a lot of bubble screens), 4/6 on moderately tough ones, and 1/3 on very tough ones.
- He was a receiver for five(!) years at Pahokee after signing up in eighth grade and has played inside and out since.
- He is really short.
We don't have a lot of information about his routes, but he did smoke Indiana safety Nick Polk on that game-winning touchdown. Limited touches after were probably not his fault. He certainly had decent enough hands, though a double-clutch here and there led to frustrating incompletions on the wheel routes he ran frequently.
By moving outside, Odoms has ceded most of the screens to Kelvin Grady and Roy Roundtree and will see his per-game production drop. He'll still be involved, though how much depends more on Roundtree, Stonum, the tight ends, and the tailbacks, all of whom seem to offer either more big-play ability or reliability than a 5'8" outside receiver. Odoms is likely to finish in the middle of the Michigan receiver pack with between 20 and 30 catches.
|in between levels in the zone|
|bursts open 20 yards downfield|
|Mike Floyd catches this, right?|
Darryl Stonum has been something of a disappointment his first couple years. Last year the conversation in re: Stonum was largely about pages and the benefits of getting on the same one with the coaches. When it wasn't, it was about dropped balls. When the season rolled around Stonum started every game but came up with such a paucity of highlights that I've got more on Patrick Omameh, an offensive lineman who played in three games, than him. HIs stats boggle the mind: 13 catches for 199 yards, one fewer catch than he managed as a freshman. End of stats.
As a result, Stonum came up for repeated psychoanalysis in UFR, most of it focusing on his inability to adjust to balls thrown downfield. Against Eastern this happened:
This occasioned a long section about how Forcier left this short but this was the week after ND, when 1) Stonum turned a very makeable deep catch into something almost impossible by turning inside when he had five yards of room to the sideline and 2) Mike Floyd turned Michigan cornerbacks into roadkill. The resulting consternation:
I'm grabbing this just so people can maybe talk about Stonum's adjustment to this. I think it's poor. He misjudges the ball and doesn't slow up enough and turn, which would probably have led to the DB running him over and a PI call. Mike Floyd [or Braylon Edwards] catches this, right?
This persisted; after the Wisconsin game I launched the "same old complaint" when Stonum failed to adjust to a poorly-thrown deep ball and allowed it to get intercepted when he really should have been able to at least bat it down.
Receivers often take time to break out, but the really amazing ones often get there their sophomore years (Braylon, Manningham, and Howard all blew up in year two), so expectations were busily being scaled back when… my gawd, that's Rick Vaughn's music!
Yes, for the second consecutive year Michigan has discovered one of their wideout needs glasses. You'd think that after the coaches discovered one of their wideouts was secretly blind as a bat they would have declared mandatory eye exams for all, but they didn't, so the above clips happened and everyone was very sad. Now? Well, Stonum's reportedly had an outstanding fall camp:
"This is the most consistent we've had Darryl on a day-to-day basis. He's going to be a big factor for us. He's a very talented guy that has a renewed sense of hunger."
As his recruiting profile suggested and kick returns showed, he has electric speed. The coaches seem to be on the same page with him. The quarterbacks are not going to be freshmen. He can now see the damn ball. He could totally blow up, or he could rack up 20 catches and have a version of that year Steve Breaston had after Edwards graduated where it became clear to all that he just didn't have it downfield. I have no idea what it will be, which makes Stonum the offense's #1 X factor going into the season. He can swing games by himself if he lives up to the chatter. A real live deep threat in an offense helmed by Denard Robinson can be preposterous: Chris Henry averaged 25 yards a catch(!!!) his freshman year at West Virginia.
That's Stonum's best case: not that many catches, but a lot of long ones and some game-swinging touchdowns. The worst case is more of the same.
|other end of Forcier improv|
|one little shimmy and is then by|
|caught from behind on bomb|
|big punt return.|
|leaping catch in traffic|
Odoms's move outside pushes Angry Michigan BLANK Hating God's favorite target to the bench, at least nominally. After Junior Hemingway missed spring ball to go along with missing most of 2008 and spending 2009 at half-speed with an array of Minor-like injuries that were just tolerable enough for him to play, it seems like the Michigan coaches finally decided they couldn't rely on him to be around long term and placed him on the bench. Since receiver's a spot at which rotation is incessant he'll get his share of time, leaving the move mostly symbolic, but it is a symbol.
Surprisingly for a guy who barely outpaced Stonum last year with 16 catches, he's got a substantial highlight reel you can see at right. He was also named "first among equals" after the Western game. It's mostly deep stuff: burning Western Michigan, exploiting Illinois over-reacting to a play, burning Illinois and then getting caught from behind, etc. As recruit his rep was an explosive leaper who lacked top-end speed—I compared him to Marquise Walker—and that has been borne out. It's tough to tell if his meh career to date is underperformance or just three years of terrible luck. If he can stay on the field he should be a solid, useful addition to the receiving corps. He's 225 pounds, which makes him a slant threat not duplicated elsewhere on the roster, and last year he was 10/10 on easy catches and 2/3 on moderate ones. His hands are good.
He should have a role and improve on his 16 catches of a year ago, although possibly not by much.
The single other outside wide receiver with any experience is sophomore Je'Ron Stokes, a six-foot guy with excellent athleticism who could have played in the slot if that wasn't already being fought over by four or five guys. Stokes was just outside of top 100 lists as a recruit. Michigan snatched him away from Tennessee after their coach implosion. The takeaway from the recruiting profile:
An electrifying game breaker with excellent speed, Stokes could use more size on his current 6’1” and 180 pound frame. He has great hands, knows how to get open, makes a lot of acrobatic catches and is terrific after the catch.
He's got a bit more size now, checking in at 193 at last report. He was another guy who blew his redshirt last year; his single highlight last year was digging out a low ball dubbed CONESTRAVAGANZA I in the late stages of the Baby Seal U game. He was injured in the spring and only came on late, but he was also pretty much absent from the fall scrimmage; another year mostly on the bench seems likely.
The third string is all freshmen. The only one to appear on the official fall depth chart was Jeremy Jackson (profile), the "lumbering" son of running backs coach Fred Jackson. Lumbering he may be but he's also the son of a coach and has the route running skills and hands you'd expect from such a gritty gritterson of a player. He'll play, likely sparingly. That should mean that classmates Ricardo Miller (profile) and Jerald Robinson (profile) are headed for redshirts.
Roy Roundtree's second catch as a Michigan Wolverine was a game-tying touchdown in the pouring rain against Michigan State. This was a good omen. Over the next few games his playing time increased, though his catches remained infrequent because he was seemingly targeted only when it was a terrible idea to do so. Then Odoms got injured. Roundtree announced his presence with that 77-yard catch-and-run against Illinois about which we will speak no more, then showed Purdue the true power of snake oil:
A good day from the receivers, and by "receivers" we mean "Roy Roundtree." The one drop didn't hurt much since it was on a screen that was going to get blown up anyway. Minor could have helped out by pulling in a low throw by Forcier, too. Other than that: Roundtree, Roundtree, Roundtree. The 1 he pulled in prevented an interception on Michigan's first drive of the day, converted a first down, and lead to a touchdown.
Plus he did this:
Martavious Odoms just saw his job come under howitzer fire. Odoms has been valuable, too, so he won't just go away, but Kelvin Grady's time just got eaten up and I think Roundtree is the starter even when Odoms is healthy. This might also presage some dual-slot formations that have been absent so far in Rodriguez's tenure at Michigan. Kid's pretty good, and quicker than you'd think given the Hawthorne incident last week.
|catching in the rain|
|trucks a safety|
|great, great block|
|inverting an interception|
|20-yard dart downfield|
|pitch and catch|
|dig it out, dig it out|
Did I mention that Roundtree was last year's Rick Vaughn? All hail occasionally checking your receivers' vision. Someone check Denard Robinson right freakin' now.
Roundtree continued his rampage over the last two weeks of the season against Wisconsin and Ohio State, yielding this season breakdown:
- First eight games: two catches, 44 yards.
- Last four games: 30 catches, 390 yards.
Project the last four games over the course of a season and you get 90 catches, 1200 yards, and a season second only to Braylon Edwards's 2004 campaign in the annals of Michigan lore. So… yeah. That's probably not going to happen. But it would be pretty cool i it did, huh? More realistically, Roundtree should double his output from last year, ending up Michigan's leading receiver with 700-800 yards.
For the record, last year Roundtree was 16/16 on easy catches, 4/8 on moderately difficult ones, and brought in his only super-tough attempt of the year by wresting away a sure interception from a Purdue linebacker. He's not that big. He's pretty fast but not that fast. He's not that shifty after the catch. But he's open and he's where he's supposed to be, which is right in front of the quarterback, and he'll catch the ball. So they throw it, and he catches it, and yeah he's basically the apotheosis of the Purdue receiver.
EXCESSIVELY DRAMATIC KELVIN GRADY WALLPAPER FTW
Basketball refugee Kelvin Grady's found himself in an impressive position on the depth chart by warranting an OR with Roundtree. This represents progress; Grady's 2009 was cut short by frequent dropped balls. By Iowa one was enough to yank him or the game. Late in the year UFR noted that nine of the twelve flat drops on the year had been turned in by the tight ends and Grady. After the Illinois game, Roundtree was contrasted with Grady because when Roundtree "is thrown a ball that hits him in the hands it does not fall to the ground." You get the idea: hands not so good.
That's perhaps understandable after Grady thought he'd left football behind for good when he signed up to play point guard for Tommy Amaker. After two years on the basketball team he found himself behind walk-on, read the writing on the wall, and picked up the cleats again. The rust was evident.
But Grady just keeps making plays in practice. That was the reason he was given the opportunity to drop those balls early in the year even with Odoms in front of him and Roundtree nipping at his heels, and the reason he's listed as a co-starter on the depth chart despite Roundtree's stunning end of year breakout. He featured in more "Countdown to Kickoff" highlights than any other non-quarterback; in the fall scrimmage he certainly looked like a top-level option, once taking a reverse from Robinson to score on a one-play, 30-yard drive. A review of his high school highlights reveals the sort of explosive agility that Michigan's other slots seem to lack:
As a bonus, since he was a high school running back he'll be better suited to those spread 'n' shred plays where a slot receiver motions into the backfield to become a second running back. It's hard to imagine Roy Roundtree doing that, so adding Grady to the rotation adds pages to the playbook. He'll see time, and could even supplant Roundtree as the preferred destination for quick screens… if the hands come around.
The backup story remains the same, except older. Terrence Robinson's first two seasons at Michigan have resulted in an injury redshirt and one catch for 13 yards against Baby Seal U. He was fairly prominent in spring and fall, though not nearly as much as Grady was, and is in competition for the punt return job. His problem has always been hands—he was mostly a QB/RB in high school—and that's prevented him from seeing the field. With two guys in front of him it seems like it will be another season spent watching. He'll probably get some real playing time when Grady is tired and Michigan is looking for their slot to be one of those RB/WR flex guys in the mold of Dorrell Jalloh.
Freshman Jeremy Gallon (profile) took a redshirt last year after arriving late because of some academic issues. He should find the field some this year but reports from practice suggest that Gallon did not put in the same sort work some of the other wideouts did and that this will hamper his playing time. Also an issue is a foot issue that isn't severe enough to keep him out of practice but does warrant walking around campus in a boot.
Gallon was a (figuratively) big recruit from a couple years ago, a one-time member of the Rivals 100 and solid performer at the Army Bowl who is by far the most guru-approved of any Michigan slot receiver. With two older and more established options in front of him, his best chance for playing time will be taking return duties away from Odoms.
Also, here is your annual reminder that he is a dead ringer for Snoop from The Wire:
Finally, freshman Drew Dileo (profile) looked pretty smooth this fall but is a very tiny true freshman. If he finds a role this fall it will be on punt returns.
Kevin Koger started the year off in Braylon Edwards fashion by reeling in 3/4 passes rated 2 (difficult but makeable) and 3/4 rated 1 (great googly moogly). He then finished the year off in Braylon Edwards fashion by dropping every routine ball that came his way. The result was schizophrenic: by the end of the year Koger was 7/10 on tough catches… and 7/11 on easy ones. Matters came to a head against Penn State:
Koger's great start came to a clunky halt with an 0/3 day, and no one really helped out except for the running backs. Forcier's day wasn't good, but it wasn't as bad as the numbers suggest.
He added another "bad drop" against Illinois. That and backup Martell Webb's similarly frustrating hands is part of the reason Roy Roundtree blew up in the last three games.
Koger did not exactly bounce back from this over the offseason, dropping a couple passes in the fall scrimmage and being conspicuously absent from offseason chatter both above- and underground. With depth at slot looking healthy, the entire tight end position could see itself minimized if they don't perform.
There's a good chance they will, though, with all three players returning. Koger himself is entering his true junior season; as a highly sought recruit with a year and a half of starting experience under his belt he should improve considerably. The downers from last season do consist of four dropped passes, after all. Two fewer and everyone's talking about how it will be pick your poison underneath. Small sample size disclaimers apply. When you look at the stuff at right it's hard to envision a guy with that much talent finding himself minimized, especially when Denard-related freakouts see him hand-wavingly wide open frequently.
|Webb's great block|
|picks the playside DT up|
|crushing downfield block|
|Kicks out LB|
|in a sea of green wondering where everyone else is.|
Senior Martell Webb has seen the most playing time to date. He was an infrequent target a year ago. The quarterbacks threw him six passes, one of which was uncatchable and the rest routine. He was only 3/5 on those routine balls, possibly explaining why he wasn't targeted on them more often. He put on 12 pounds from last fall to spring, then took a couple off during the summer and is now a solid 255.
Koger's blocking has been iffy, and while Webb didn't stick out in my memory as a crusher all but one of the clips at left are positive run blocks: he's likely to be the choice when Michigan goes to its I package. Unless he has an epiphany about having the ball in his hands (and Koger doesn't) his receiving stats are going to look a lot like they did last year. Throwing it to him is plan G when you've got three receivers, guys like Vincent Smith coming out of the backfield, and a considerably more dynamic starter at tight end. Webb's a fullback, basically.
The third and final scholarship tight end on the roster is redshirt sophomore Brandon Moore. He was a highly touted recruit with loads of offers when he committed to Michigan early in the hybrid Carr/Rodriguez class, but then dropped off with an indifferent senior year. Since his arrival he's been locked behind Koger and Webb—the only clip I have of him is a catch against Baby Seal U. Without any buzz otherwise, that will likely continue this year.
Rich Rodriguez addressed the media for 20 minutes or so after yesterday's spring game, then a number of players spoke to small groups. Notes:
- Won't answer questions about a resolution to the quarterback situation, and they won't be available to the media. Pleased that the QBs have gotten better. It's nice to have competition, and not have one guy seize the job this early. Denard and Tate have both improved, but they still have more work to do. Devin has learned well, considering he's only been around for 15 practices. The #1 guy may not emerge until after the first game.
- The quarterbacks had a poor day compared to how they've been practicing the rest of the spring. It's OK for the QBs to scramble around, but the coaches don't want them to do that until the initial play breaks down. Still, their offensive creativity and explosion shouldn't be hampered.
- Having a QB competition will continue to elevate those guys. If multiple guys are ready to play in the fall, they'll play. The goal is for the whole team to get better, so the improvement by the quarterbacks is important to that. Denard got the first rep of the game because he's been more consistent over the course of the spring.
- Denard Robinson's grasp of the offense, and recognition of defenses has improved markedly since last year. Understanding the offense is important, but both Denard and Tate Forcier need to get better at reading the defense, now that they are able to execute the offensive plays. Denard's always been able to throw, it's just a matter of making sure his mechanics and reads are consistent. He's still learning the offense, because he's still just a first-year guy. Pat White redshirted his first season, and in that first spring, he was probably about at the same point in his development that Denard is now. He continued progressing, and hopefully all of Michigan's quarterbacks can do that as well. Pat and Denard are similar players, but it's unfair to compare them, because Pat was so good for a while, you can't expect that out of a young guy.
- Today was the first day of the spring that the quarterbacks weren't live. That changes the way they play a bit, and the defense might let up on them a little bit more.
- One of the emphases this spring was limiting turnovers and negative-yardage plays. The spring game was somewhat disappointing in that regard.
- Running backs: There will be more competition in August when everyone is healthy. More than one running back will play in the fall. Mike Shaw and Mike Cox, Stephen Hopkins, and Fitzgerald Toussaint will all be in the mix. Spring has given some new guys a chance to emerge.
- Jeremy Gallon's redshirt year helped him get into good shape. Right now, he's the leader at punt return and kick return, and he'll play in the slot as well as maybe some other places.
- They have more guys who are ready to play at the offensive skills positions. Some of the QBs have a bit of experience, which raises expectations.
- Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield have played pretty well. With Perry Dorrestein injured, they've have opportunities to progress. There are now two additional guys who can get in the rotation, and the coaches want to have more guys ready to play.
- The team wasn't as physical and good at tackling today as they were in other practices, maybe because they couldn't hit the QBs. The scheme was simple today, but fundamentals need to continue improving.
- Troy Woolfolk broke his finger on Thursday, but he'll be fine by fall camp.
- Mike Martin will play noseguard when he returns healthy, but he'll also play other spots on the defensive line. Adam Patterson and Will Campbell will also play "both nose and tackle."
- The kicking game was very uneven today. The situation is still wide open. Brendan Gibbons kicked well today, but Will Hagerup will have the opportunity to win the punting job in the fall. Tate had a good punt, and he's pretty good at it. The other guys practice it a lot more, because Tate has other things to worry about.
- The coaches got some answers this spring, mostly positive. They'd like to have more answers than they got, but most of what they see right now is positive. No negative surprises. Cam Gordon and Mark Moundros were positive surprises after position changes, as was the level of play at cornerback.
- The early enrollees provided some good moments as well. Jerald Robinson and Stephen Hopkins are probably going to get some playing time in the fall. The early enrollees were a little nervous playing in the Big House. It's nice to get those nerves out of the way early. Some of Devin's mistakes may have been due to nerves.
- Team chemistry is really good, and still improving. Players get closer together each day they work.
- The coaches have a week to look back on spring, then they'll hit the road for the Evaluation Period in the recruiting cycle.
- Hopefully in the future, the spring game will continue to grow. The weather wasn't great, but fans still came out. Maybe weather will be better and more fans will come out. Players appreciate the support from the crowd.
- The team has three spring scrimmages, and the Spring Game might not be the most useful for teaching, it does give players the chance to get in front of a crowd, and to adjust what they're doing without the coaches telling them exactly what to do after each play.
Notes from the players after the jump.