After week 7, Michigan total offense is ranked 8th in the league (396 yards/game) and 8th in rushing (1,039 yards). Michigan's rushing performance is not quite 100 yards better than pass-happy Indiana. Let that idea detonate in your brain for an hour.
What? Hurray! The three best total defenses are yet to play on the schedule!!! (MSU, Iowa and Ohio State)
This is not meant to be a deeply researched post. This is just a discussion. (The post may come later in a diary. We'll see). Anyhow, I'm just wondering, after watching a bunch of recruit's highlight videos, how we come down, as a forum, on the issue of Open Field runners vs Between the Tackle guys.
Obviously, you want both. But lets say you can't have both. You have to chose one. I'm wondering, specifically, this:
Do you feel a, shifty, open field runner who breaks ankles is more or less valuable to a football team than a bowling ball made of knives who is the living embodiment of Leroy Hoard?
Personally, I love, love LOVE watching an open field runner freeze a linebacker like SubZero, BUT, I ascribe to the notion that there's only one way to score on the 50 yard line, and it's not possible on gamedays.
We all got excited when Mike Hart did show the ability to shift in the open field, but that wasn't what made him great. It was his ability to be indistinguishable from a tiny bulldozer on many occasions.
*Mike Hart in his natural habitat
If you made me choose, I would have to go with Between the Tackles. That is NOT to say a guy can't do both. Just if you have to choose one.
On a positive note, Denard finished the game with 122 yards today including that explosive 67 yarder that was incredible to see in person. This brings his career total to 4,395 yards--just 85 yards short of Pat White's 4,480 with a bowl game left to play. I know a few weeks ago it looked like a lost cause, but I now think he has a great shot of doing it.
Anyways, just trying to bring some happiness to the board and I didn't see this posted yet.
As a side note, chill out people. Please. Yell at your cat or punch a pillow instead. Don't give these guys any more satisfaction than they already have.
Well, after the mini-horror last night, I was checking stats. Denard again leads the country in rushing.
|1. Denard Robinson, MICH||1287|
|2. LaMichael James, ORE||1210|
|3. Kendall Hunter, OKST||1174|
|4. Cameron Newton, AUB||1122|
|5. Bilal Powell, LOU||1067|
Denard Robinson is the most spectacularly explosive quarterback in college football today; I think few would disagree with that. Dilithium, Shoelace, Judge Dreads, Sonic, or whatever you want to call him-- the kid has got moves. Given the impressive results of the season so far (875 yds. of offense in TWO games!), critics seem to have only one refrain left to fall back on--
Yeah, you have a great QB, but with 28 carries a game he'll never survive through the Big Ten portion of the schedule. [side note: the Wall Street Journal wrote a textbook article summing up this objection today]
The point of this diary isn't necessarily to refute this argument, though it's relevant to the main question at hand, which is this: Is our offense incomplete without a home-run-hit running back?
ON THE QUESTION OF CARRIES:
Last year we had a 4-headed rushing attack (Minor, Brown, Smith, Shaw), of whom only two rushers returned, Shaw and Smith. Although they split carries, it is worth noting that in the entirety of the 2009 season, neither Shaw (42 attempts) nor Smith (48 attempts) had as many carries as Denard has had in two GAMES, a total of 57.
While Denard is not the first incredible dual-threat quarterback in recent years to rack up yards on the ground and through the air, his carries are pretty far out there. Vince Young and Pat White both never averaged more than 16.5 carries a season while playing for Texas or WVU, respectively. Tim Tebow did manage to net an impressive 18 carries a game during his senior season, often in battering-ram, short-yardage plays, but even then, a pretty far cry from 28.5. Again, this isn't to say "ZOMG INJURIES" but more so to note that even the most successful dual-threat quarterbacks of the past decade have had far more balanced offenses that relied on fewer QB rushes than Michigan has thus far.
These numbers should come with the caveat that Denard will be getting far fewer touches against UMass, Indiana, and Bowling Green. Furthermore, with regard to risk for injury, he is being tackled mostly be second-level defenders, as opposed to getting gang-tackled by linemen, as is more often the case with dedicated running backs. That being said, as before, this is not a question of risk of injury (though that is relevant), but rather:
Why Are We Not Relying More On Running Backs?
Well, the answer isn't too difficult to see at the moment. Thus far this season, the numbers are underwhelming for both Shaw and Smith:
In the Notre Dame game, our non-Denard rushing attack was a paltry 30 yards. On the season, both RBs are averaging 3 yards per carry for about 10 attempts a game. These are underwhelming numbers.
Yet that's pretty surprising that for an offense as capable as Michigan's of producing jaw-dropping 87-yard rushing touchdowns on any given play when Denard touches the ball. And it is also puzzing that behind a very competent senior-laden O-Line, the longest play for scrimmage for a running back thus far this season is 15 yards.
I submit to you that this doesn't mean that we should rely on Denard more, but rather, that Rodriguez needs to dial up more run plays to establish a rhythm and determine where our RB attack is going to come from this year, because right now, that's pretty unclear.
Obviously these numbers can be expected to go up, and yes it is only 2 games, but at the moment, the Michigan offensive identity is basically all Denard Robinson, all the time. If he can't get the ball into Roundtree's hands or seems stymied on the ground at some point in a close game, what are our other options? Is it balanced to put that much weight on one player's shoulders? How successful have we been in establishing a rhyhthm running the ball with our RBs, or even discovering reliable homerun-threat running plays? Even Pat White could hand off to Steve Slaton every once in awhile when the pressure was on:
If past history is any precedent, a balanced offense and healthy QB play necessitate fewer carries by Denard and higher-level RB play. People keep saying "Rodriguez has finally found his Pat White-style quarterback," but they forget that effective Rodriguez offenses also had unbelievable stud running backs like Steve Slaton and Noel Devine lining up in the backfield, too. Amazing as our offense is, I really don't think we're that close to the ceiling, yet.
As we are only seeing the beginning of the Denard Robinson era, hopefully the current offensive balance is just a part of the growing pains and we'll be able to keep terrified opposing D-Coordinators up at night fearing runs, throws, or QB keeps equally.
Not to poop on the parade, but is anyone else worried about whether at 193 pounds, Denard Robinson can take the physical beating of thirty rushes every week (plus any hits when he's dropping back to pass). Most feature back are heavier than that and often don't run as often. I'm worried both for his long-term health and, more immediately, whether he can make it through the season unscathed. If not, can we can be the team we want to be if he misses a couple, or several, games.