"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Congrats to the MBB team for a great run and positioning themselves well for the NCAA tourney! After I post this, I'll go back to rooting for college basketball and Michigan in particular. But I wanted to take a moment, during a break in the MBB action, to mention the top 10 things I am looking forward to seeing during the course of Spring Ball:
10. Stokes’ play at WR. We have an outstanding group of receivers set to graduate after this year. Will Stokes prove to us he’ll be there to compliment Roundtree as a starter in 2012? Or will another young gun step up at this year and overtake him?
9. Who our returners will be. Will the return of a special teams coach bring about a change in our returners? My hope, based purely on last year, is for Stonum to be the primary KR and Dileo to be the primary PR. But I’d love to see some improvement across the board this spring with a dedicated coach.
8. Will we see Pace? As the MGoBoard-anointed eventual heir to Molk, I have a special rooting interest in seeing this guy do well. With the unfortunate rumors out there that not only may he have injured his knee, but hurt it pretty badly, I’m hoping to hear what’s really going on. Hoping for the best for Pace, and if the rumors are true, then hoping for a full recovery.
7. How, and where, will Furman and M. Robinson play? The MGoBoard probably knows where these two will play already, but I do not. I’m curious to hear how these two perform in practice, as their athleticism makes them a couple of other personal favorites on the team.
6. Which of our RBs will be The Guy(s) this year? I love how diverse our RB pool is. I can see Hopkins and Shaw (if healthy, knock on wood for this guy this year) to be our thunder and lightning in a two back set, but how can I discount two-year starter Smith who will be another year removed from his ACL injury (and who not only has great hands but can block), or Cox, Toussaint, or heck, even the incoming freshman? It will be fun to watch, as it is every year, to see which of our backs is/are best suited for this offense, and see if anyone emerges this spring.
5. Where will Woolfolk play? Our best DB can help us significantly at CB and FS. Will he be healthy enough to go 100%? Where will he play primarily during Spring Ball?
4. WLB play. Demens and Cam Gordon likely have the MLB and WLB spots, respectively. But who will play WLB? Will any of our seniors at the position make an impact, or will we go with youth?
3. Interior D-line. RVB and Martin are known commodities. But how will Big Will and Q do? Will Ash or Talbott challenge, or even surpass them?
2. Young CB improvement. I applaud our youngsters at CB last year for doing a remarkable job, all things considering. They showed a lot of potential and were put in a very, very, very tough situation. Avery in particular looks like he can be a starter this year. I’m very interested to see not only how he does this spring, but also how much improvement our other true sophomores show.
1. Denard’s progression as a drop-back QB. He16man amazed us last year with his dazzling play as a spread QB. He was surprisingly accurate in the early part of the season to complement a very strong arm. But as the season progressed, his accuracy declined significantly. Was that primarily due to injury, to poor mechanics, to defensive schemes, or to a lack of confidence? And how will the coaches use him, particularly in terms of limiting his reads (or not), in this his first year as a drop-back QB in the college ranks? And please correct me if I am mistaken, but it seems as though last year he had a higher than normal number of batted balls – will this increase or decrease as a drop-back QB? Will he be significantly challenged by DG? Denard has already shown us he has an incredible work ethic and can be a great spread QB, but I’m looking to see what he can do, and exactly how he will be used, in this new offense.
The way I see it, having Tate practice with the second string Offense is definitely a good move. Whether he is playing there because Denard Robinson is playing better or not, I do not know.
This I do know: Last year all Denard could throw were picks and incomplete lasers (with a few nice completions mixed in). I'm not saying Denard is incapable of drastically improving since then... just that Tate was the better passer.
Since Tate is the QB playing against the 1st string defense in yesterday's Inside Michigan Football "Play of the Day":
... and is also mentioned in Brian's "Spring Stuff" post, this brings the following thoughts to mind:
1.) The guy that passed the ball better last year is throwing against the best competition during practice, which in theory should improve his game
2.) The defense is going against a QB that has already shown competence in getting the ball to open receivers, with decent accuracy. This will help them improve their coverage skills.
3.) If Denard is now able to run and pass, I may have to rethink how many games Michigan might be able to win this year!
4.) If Tate can learn to take better care of the ball while moving around the pocket, I might actually start thinking about a possible win against Ohio State in 2010!
I don't have a problem with both QBs getting on the field every game. Denard is just too darn fast not to have out there, and Tate just seems to have that game winning 'moxie' that a lot of QBs just don't have. Can't wait to see what this season brings.
I'll update with tweets as they roll in.
Feel free to share hopes, dreams, fantasies (stop) etc.
Here's one to kick it off:
Varsity Blue: RR:Denard and tate competing at qb, but denard will play some wr at other times.
... I'll update in the comments.
The article is behind a paywall at rivals, but there are a few players moving around.
Mike Jones - Weakside Linebacker
Teric Jones - Strong Safety
Cam Gordon - Free Safety
Mike Williams - "Spur" (think spinner).
I'm in pretty fair agreement with all of these. Thoughts?