Mike Lantry, 1972
During the week after the MSU loss and in the days since the Iowa loss, there were countless threads and comments attempting to analyze what is wrong with Denard or with the Al Borges Denard fusion. I think that there are some valid arguments, but there is so much noise surrounding the issue. My attempt to address each of these arguments and consolidate the discussion into a single thread:
1. Al Borges has turned Denard into a "caged animal" by prohibiting Denard to take off.
There are several plays against Iowa where Denard had an oen running lane, but didn't take it, electing instead to throw the ball. Frustrating, I agree, given his speed (and relative lack of success through the air. I saw a few posters claim that Denard did not take off because Borges has beat it into his head that he shouldn't run. To me, this is nonsensical.
Borges has said on numerous occasions that he wants to Denard to look throw, but to also use his legs to punish defenses. When Borges and Hoke have talked about limiting Denard's runs, it is clear that they were talking about designed QB runs or spread option read runs. If we want to look for the true answer to Denard's lack of scramble, look to Denard's own words from the presser when asked about this. He said something to the effect of, "I didn't see the open lane because I was looking down field." One of Denard's biggest problems (discussed below) is his lack of vision.
2. The QB Lead - where has it gone.
It has largely gone away. There is a 50/50 divide on this blog about whether this is good or bad. My personal view is that it is a good thing that we do this less. While it was effective to some extent during the first half of last season, its effectiveness lessened considerably over the second half, and Denard took too much of a beating. By 9 games in last season, Denard had missed significant time in several games, and he played injured for most of the second half. At least this year, his punishment has been lessened, and he has stayed in most games.
3. Denard's effectiveness has gone down because there is now tape on him.
I saw a poster make this point in one of the other threads, and I think that this is a great point. During the first half of last season, Denard was a new player with no tape - no way to scout his tendencies, and therefore his natural abilities were able to take over (also caveat about weak first 1/2 competition). By the second half of 2010, MSU had tape and came up with a great way to stop Denard. Future opponents had this tape and since then, have been able to come up with ways to limit his effectiveness. This doesn't mean that Denard is no longer effective, but that during the first 1/2 of 2010, his effectiveness was artificially inflated.
A great example of this. I recall the announcers during a game in mid-2010 calling Denard's pump fake followed by a run "one of the greatest weapons in cfb." Look at this year - defenders don't even bite on the pump fake because now they have figured out that if he actually throws, it is unlikely to hurt them. Not a criticism of Denard - this is a normal thing, players have tendencies and once those tendencies are understood by others, they are easier to defend.
4. Denard's vision issues - what's the deal? Does he need to go to Stonum and Rountree's eye doctor?
Denard lacks field vision. This is becomming increasingly clear. He consistently throws into tight or double coverage when there are receivers arm wavingly open or running lanes that you could drive a bus through. This has not improves. For many quarterbacks this is a problem until one day, they suddenly make the jump. Denard, please make this jump soon.
Is some of this on coaching? Perhaps, although he has exhibited this flaw under two entirely different coaches. Is some of this on the change in system? Sure, he may have finally clicked at this point in the season had the system stayed identical. More likely, however, is that Denard is simply not a good decision makes.
Many QBs have a single flaw that really brings down their overall game. Henne, for example, never felt pressure coming until it was too late. (the jury is still out for Henne as to whether this will impact his career). But, this lack of vision is getting to be a real problem as we are not only leaving points on the board, but we are giving up points off of turnovers.
5. Denard in the new system - can it work?
I personally think yes. I know that many are down on Denard, but I thought he played his best true QB game. He stayed in the pocket (ok, sometimes too much), and even moves the pocket on plays. He also made nice short throws, and essentially marched us down the field 80 yards on the last drive, even with receivers dropping balls all day. To me, he looked like a QB today - once he makes the next step forward, I actually think that criticism of his vision aside, he is starting to get better in this offense. That said, his deap ball sucks, but that is what it is.
6. Devin - should he be playing more?
No. I loved the 2-QB set when it debuted. Now I agree with the announcers that it is causing Denard to lose rhythem. I think that Devin has potential, but he is currently a lesser Denard. Can't run as well, worse decision makes RIGHT NOW (inexperienced, not a criticism), and doesn't look all that much better theowing it RIGHT NOW. I would stick wiht Denard, and maybe work in the 2-QB set when we are either leading or really struggling. Caveat: if we break it out against OSU with all new wrinkles (such as Mike Martin as RB or V. Smith as TE or Denard as left tackle) and success, I reserve the right to change my opinion.
7. Has Denard lost a step.
Yes. He is noticably slower. If you remove the hype, had never watched him play before and jsut watched the last few games, you would not say, "OMG he is faster than a cheetah strapped to a jet pack." You would say "that QB can move pretty well." On his few runs, even his 2 longish ones, he looked good, but not great. He is definitely missing his burst. Is he injured? Fatigued? Not sure, but he is not as explosive as in the past.
That's it. I hope this leads to some good discussion.
One of the reasons I did not fear the coaching change slowing down the offenses progress from last year was the fact that(I think everyone would agree) our best play was not even a spread option play last year. It was simply Denard taking the handoff, rb blocks and Denard reads the blocking and hits a hole. This was a simple numbers advantage that allowed Denard to use his athleticism. This was the play that allowed the "QB Oh Noes" to happen.
This play has disappeared from the offense and for that to happen is pretty surprising/disappointing. If they were trying to save him from abuse that's fine, but with 3 games left it's time to take the car out of the garage and let her go.
I took a look at last years tapes. Look at some of last years offense ever snap videos. Does denard look like a differnt guy running? Everyone is looking at Denard's passing which is valid, but he looks very undecisive running.
Nice job Brian, with all your smart ass remarks and statistical analysis. Who else was raging at the TV set when Ferentz started going all Romer on us and going for every 4th down? I guess it's the price of being Michigan that everyone despite our struggles gets up for us with extra game planning and intensity.
All year we've heard about the "puntosaur", but when Mich comes to town they throw caution to the wind.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin just decided to not go for FG or 1st down on 4th and 5 from the Ravens' 29. He takes the delay, punts from the 34, then his D gives up the losing TD w/8 seconds left. Coaching fail.
I know I posted about him before the high school season started, and then toward the end of the season .... but when are we going to make an offer to the kid right across the street ... Drake Johnson? I love Fitz Toussaint, but he has an injury history, and outside of him, we have no real proven depth after this season. Now, I know Brionte Dunn is a possibility ... who knows how likely at this point .. but a possibilty. Outside of that I am not hearing a lot out of the RB position in terms of recruiting.
Drake Johnson has good size .. 6'1 205, good speed ... listed at 4.4 probably more around 4.5 to 4.6, and is one of the best hurdlers in the nation. On the season he has nearly 3,000 yards (counting the 2 playoff games) and 40 touchdowns. Yes, that's correct, in 11 games he has nearly 3,000 yards and 40 Touchdowns. He has been a machine during the playoffs ... first round against Monroe he had 230 yards and 4 touchdowns, and then in the second round against Bedford he finished with 350 yards and 4 touchdowns. This kid carries his team squarely on his shoulders. Regardless of the opponent, Johnson amasses most of his teams offensive output. Warren De La Salle has a legitimate shot at a state championship this year, and he went for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns against them. Against the Brother Rice team that just eliminated Farmington Hills Harrison, Drake Johnson went for 125 yards and a TD. Last year against a Cass Tech Team that featured Delonte Hollowell, Terry Richardson and Royce Jenkins Stone ..... Drake Johnson went for 276 yards and 6 touchdowns .. as a junior.
I mean .. I am not in any way a recruiter, but this kids numbers are phenomenal. I don't know Brionte's numbers from this year, but he is listed on Scout as finishing last season with 2,020 yards and 22 TD's .. Johnson has 3,000 yards and 40 TD's. What a combination those 2 kids would make .. Brionte has the power and Drake has the speed and jumping ability. What baffles me even more is we showed interest in Juwan Lewis from Muskegon. I have watched both Drake and Juwan play, and from what I saw ... Drake is on a whole different level.
I'm gonna start a sign Drake Johnson rally .... hopefully one of the coaches will read this, and take a much harder look at the kid. I would hate to see him slip away ... Anyone who has watched him person this year ... back me up on this kid!!
Well with Iowa in our rear view, and the "Game of the Century" (cough) over, the BCS picture is clearer... The main points:
- LSU is in the drivers seat for the Nat'l championship game. They can probably even absorb a defeat vs Arkansas and still make it in so long as they beat the SEC East rep in the SEC champ game.
- LSU's opponent is likely Ok St or Stanford in that order if they both go undefeated. Ok St has one more chance to impress voters big time with a win over OU, and if Stanford beats Oregon, they will likely leapfrog Alabama.
- Your at larges at this point (in order) are probably Alabama, Boise St, and maybe Oklahoma??
- The Big East is only getting one team in the BCS.
- The projections for the BCS are (based on Fiesta-Sugar-Orange order for this year):
BCS championship: LSU vs. Ok St.
Rose (B1G v Pac12): B1G champ vs. Stanford
Fiesta (Big 12 v at large): Oklahoma (2-loss, 1st choice at large) v. Boise St (3rd at-large)
Orange (ACC v. at large): Clemson v. Houston/Oregon/B1G runner up
Sugar (SEC v at large): Ala (2nd choice at-large) v. West Virginia (4th at-large)
The biggest factor here is the order of the bowl selections. That will make a HUGE difference as you'll see:
- First the locks by contract: LSU & OkSt in the Nat'l Champ Game, aka the Les Miles Bowl; B1G champ (we'll say MSU for argument sake) and Stanford in the Rose; Clemson (ACC champ) in the Orange. That's it.
- The Fiest goes first to replace OkSt... Alabama isn't as attractive to them as a Big 12 team, so they take a Big 12 team eligible and even with two losses, a sure draw. they take Oklahoma.
- Next, the Sugar goes, and they take another SEC team to replace LSU. Alabama.
- Now we get back to the regular bowl selection order for this year, meaning the Fiesta goes first. they chose between the Big East champ (probably West Va), Boise who gets the non-AQ autoqualify slot, and a bunch of unattractive teams with 2 losses or more from power conferences or Houston. I think the Fiesta goes for undefeated Boise in a BSU v OU rematch.
- Next the Sugar gets an at-large pick, they get their choice of West Va, the same 2-loss teams as before or an undefeated Houston. Since an SEC team just played Oregon last year in the BCS, and teh Sugar doesn't want to take a flyer on Houston, it basically comes down to West Va, a 2nd B1G team (Wiscy? Penn St? Nebraska?), or an ACC at large, the highest ranking would be Va Tech. I think the Sugar goes West Va, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's Wisconsin if the Badgers win out from here on and lose tiebreakers to Penn St to get into the B1G champ game.
- Finally the Orange gets to select their at-large team. Basically, they can't take an ACC team since Clemson is already there. So they chose between Oregon, 2nd B1G, undefeated Houston. Probably they take a Wisconsin or Penn St (JoePa's last game?) over the non-AQ Houston or the cross country traveling Oregon.
- If a 1-loss MSU gets to the B1G champ game and loses to Penn St or Wiscy, they probably become a good Orange at-large team... not Sugar since Saban blew their doors off last year.
- If Penn St gets to the B1G game and loses with the Sandusky cloud hanging over them, they might not be a good at-large candidate... this could cause a B1G trickle down with no 2nd B1G team in the BCS and everybody getting slotted one game lower.
- LSU can probably absorb an Arkansas loss, but an Arkansas loss with a loss to Georgia in the SEC title game??? Would the voters keep Alabama or LSU in the #2 slot knnowing that Boise blew out Georgia in the Georgia Dome to open the season? This will be the litmus test for SEC backlash.
- If Stanford gets to the BCS title game via a Ok St stumble against OU, look for Oregon to be the Rose fill-in for Stanford and no 2nd B1G team in the Orange or Sugar.
Could Michigan stil get in?
- Probably not but maybe.... it would take
1) us winning out including convincingly against Neb and OSU.
2) Wisconsin dropping another game, probably to Penn St
3) Penn St to lose in the B1G champ game in a blow out and have turmoil in the coaching / AD as a result of the Sandusky scandal.
At that point, we're a 2-loss team competing with a 2nd ACC team and the Big East champ for the right to go to the Sugar against Alabama. We might be prettier than West Va or Va Tech to the Sugar, although with the 2012 season game against Alabama, we're probably a better bet as an at-large to the Orange vs Clemson with West Va facing Alabama in an SEC sacrifice game.
- for chaos and death to the BCS: Stanford, Ok St, and Boise to win out with an embarassing LSU loss to Georgia in the SEC champ game.
- Michigan in the BCS: us to win out, Penn St to beat Wisconsin but lose another game