Or maybe he found the holes or waited for them. There were definitely a couple plays where he slowed down, waiting for the hole to open, rather than just run straight into the pile like Fitz.
there would have to be some to wash away
9/17/2011 – Michigan 31, Eastern Michigan 3 – 3-0
The first quarter is a stupid quarter. It eats American cheese still in the wrapper and sits down for reality TV marathons. I suggest that in the future all first quarters will be abolished in favor of other, better quarters, like the second, third, and fourth.
That is the future, though, when Michigan's depth on both lines isn't horrifying and the quarterbacks have returned to their baseline state—enormous, ponderous, NFLerous. Right now we have to endure first quarters and run Denard Robinson 26 times for 198 yards against Eastern Michigan because first quarters are stupid.
They leave us so spooked that Borges sends Denard out to add three carries to his total in a 28-3 game with ten minutes left, and in doing so explodes the idea that this offense is not Denard, Denard, Denard. Next Saturday the real lyrics to Varsity* will be
"Robinson… Robinson. Robinson, oh Robinson /
Robinson Robinson oh Robinson!"
The Saturday after that he will take all 110,000 tickets. By October he will have evolved an organic superstructure that slowly replaces the metal and concrete of Michigan Stadium with rainbow rows and gently whinnying unicorn hand-warmers.
Is this sustainable? Almost certainly not. Will an exhausted Denard evaporate mid-season as the demands on his existence become too much to even contemplate, let alone bear? Almost definitely.
Does Michigan have a choice? No.
We may be reading way too much into these two drives:
One of those started at the Michigan one and the other was a victim of Denard's early-season inability to throw. But they did not move the ball against Eastern. This blog's prediction that Michigan would manage to exceed Eastern's terrible YPC yielded from under center was nowhere close to true. Combined with a bunch of two-yard runs against Notre Dame the overall effect is to look at a run out of the I-form as a wasted down.
Michigan ditched any semblance of a pro-style offense at that point, whereupon the drives ended like so: TD, three and out, TD, TD, TD, 21-yard field goal. That is what life is supposed to look like against Eastern Michigan, and if we have to wear Denard Robinson into a beaming nub by God that's what we'll do.
Maybe those two drives are flukes. That would be odd since it seems pretty hard to go from five years of primarily zone blocking to primarily power, from an offense that is based on being faster and smarter than an opponent to one based on being bigger and stronger. Remember the theory that stated Michigan's linemen not adding any weight over the offseason was clever gamesmanship? Yeah, not so much: that's just how big they are. That's big for humans, but not beef machines.
Once you add the above into the two-yards-and-cloud-of-despair ND under center runs you've found a dataset nearing significance. It says Shotgun Forever, for the next two years.
Borges flipped his script immediately after, and that's great. Long term projections that these coordinators are the best in a long time remain on track. Getting Denard on a similar track is a lot more pressing, unfortunately.
I keep bringing this up in the UFRs but it's worth repeating: this is a regression. Why it's a regression is unknown, but the legions of people declaring Denard a "terrible" passer are reacting to the most recent data only. Before that he was not Chad Henne but he was not awful, either. I mean, sweet hotpants in a pickle bun, I have him for 15 good throws downfield, 2 meh ones, and 2 poor ones against Wisconsin(!) last year. These are throws past the LOS, not screens. Wisconsin! I take these numbers specifically to reduce the noise you get from drops and completion percentage and the numbers say he's not Chad Henne but when you put him in last year's offense he's not that far off.
So… last year's offense. Borges's next step is trying out the snag, all-hitch, and curl/flat routes that Denard had gotten comfortable with last year to see if his persistent inaccuracy is purely mechanical or an artifact of nerves that come with unfamiliarity with the offense. (Also, can we get bubble screen action up in here?)
If he's not the relentlessly accurate guy it seemed in the first half of last year, neither is he the guy who can't seem to complete anything this year. There is a ridiculously good offense lurking somewhere in Michigan's personnel. It's up to Borges to find it. Declaring the offensive line average and blaming Denard Robinson is faintly ridiculous. They managed to muddle through with those anchors last year.
Michigan wins games down the road by making Denard the focus and exploiting how opponents react to that.
If it doesn't work, okay. It's all you've got, for a given, incredibly sexy version of "all you've got."
*[Do not be fooled by the words on the video board. The only words in "Varsity" are "oh" and "Varsity." Try it.]
Edge issues. I'm not enormously concerned about the defense because most of the issues seemed to have one very obvious cause: freshman DE/SLB types losing the edge on jet sweeps. Jake Ryan in particular was exploited to the point where they threw Brennen Beyer on the field, who we've seen have major edge issues. I'd rather have one obvious coaching point to work on than a wholesale breakdown. Michigan seemed to adjust in-game and showed better edge contain before the day was over.
BONUS: Frank Clark had one of the day's most impressive plays on a late jet sweep where he set up in a good spot, baited the WR inside, popped outside his blocker, and forced the guy back into pursuit. Mental +2 there.
Changes. Thomas Gordon got an entire game as a deep safety and made a spectacular interception; in his stead the nickelback was Raymon Taylor. Taylor's main contribution was picking up a personal foul on EMU's long drive that got stuffed at the one; after that Michigan realized EMU was about as likely to throw as they were and took him off the field. The non Black/Roh DE spot was a jumble of Clark, Beyer, and Ryan.
Q: was the Gordon move a permanent thing or a reflection of EMU's non-spread offense? I'm hoping it's the former. I've been high on him since early last year and the coverage on his INT was another tick in a positive direction.
Annual exposure to Vincent Smith zealots. Man, I'm all like… yeah. No offense to Vincent Smith's quality day against the Eagles, but it's still Toussaint. There is a common theme in the long Smith runs against Eastern: the ability for grandma shotgunning a beer to run about that far.
He's a great guy to have on your team and he's going to be a major part of the offense because he's a B+ in many aspects and an A+ at blitz pickups, but Toussaint is faster, more agile, and has at least equal vision.
Meanwhile, Rawls looked exactly like Kevin Grady on two short runs. First impressions there are meh. This is surprising to people named Fred Jackson but not many others.
Redshirt status. A game against Eastern that manages to get a couple of garbage time drives in gives us some hints as to who's getting a redshirt and who isn't:
Pick a random day three weeks into any football season and you'll probably find me railing against inexplicably burned redshirts, but I don't have an issues with the guys above getting in the game. All the guys on defense save Countess could develop into starters as early as this year, and Rawls is another option at a tailback spot that needs them.
Recruiting numbers. It's three weeks into the season and we haven't seen Mike Cox even get his ceremonial long run against crappy competition. Terrance Robinson made a brief cameo at the end of the EMU game. Neither should be expecting fifth years at this point; if they don't receive them Michigan will be at the 26 number they've been projecting for a while. That's if they don't lose anyone between now and Signing Day, which is possible but unlikely. With four stars knocking down the door I can see this class getting to 28.
The main issue getting there won't be the scholarship limit but the cap on enrolled signees. That's 25, but you can dodge it by enrolling kids early. Michigan has just one EE committed right now. That's not something they can change since early enrollees acquire the status by taking a lot of summer school. I haven't heard that anyone Michigan is pursuing is planning on an early enrollment, so they might end up with a couple empty slots on Signing Day.
The early enrollee exception is OSU commit-type substance Bri'onte Dunn. The rumblings on him have oscillated between 100% OSU and 100% undecided, and of late it's pushed more towards the latter. He took a visit to Penn State last weekend and declared himself "confused," and after that Miami game it looks like he'll have a very brief window to get acquainted with whoever OSU's new coach is before he's on campus somewhere. Dunn is a touted player at a major position of need who Michigan would yank away from OSU; he would also allow them to take a 27th player. He's kind of important.
StephenRKass asks if defense and special teams are "becoming a positive." D is wait until later. Special teams do seem better but they aren't championship level yet. Kickoffs both ways are terrible, punt coverage has been weak, and I'd like to see the kickers hit an actual field goal instead of a glorified extra point before I stop panicking about them. Once Hagerup gets back the punting and Jeremy Gallon's sudden ability to field and return punts probably make it average.
Media: I should have been linking these all along, but Mike DeSimone's database is always key. Mikoyan shot from the sidelines. He's got pregame, in-game and postgame posts plus a bonus shot of an MGoBlue barn.
There is also a torrent of saner size up.
The Wolverines' special teams, at times, looked ugly in the 31-3 rout. Michigan's squib kick with 39 seconds left in the first half is a perfect example. The stratagem can work sometimes, but this was not one of them.
The call was especially egregious against a team such as the Eagles, who passed just six times the whole game. Could they have traversed a long field in such a short time?
But the squib gave the Eagles the ball at their own 47-yard line, and they needed just four plays — all runs — to get into position for a 50-yard field goal. That's just too easy.
Squibs are way over-used. Unless there are fewer than 20 seconds left in a half they're a bad idea, but coaches tend to prioritize risk aversion over expected value.
Meinke also suggests Vincent Smith is not the right guy for kick returns due to his lack of speed. I agree with that, too. If Shaw is third-string-ish on the tailback depth chart wouldn't this be a spot for him?
Blog stuff: BWS has his frown on:
After a 7/18, 95 yard (5.3 YPA) day against a MAC bottom dweller, it's difficult to see Denard Robinson as a sustainable option at quarterback in Borges' offense. It may sound reactionary, but after another game riddled with poor decisions (chucking the ball into double coverage) and spotty accuracy, and against competition that shouldn't be able to compete with Michigan's athletes, it's clear that Denard's struggles in the passing game last year, his uninspiring spring game, and his poor passing performances against Notre Dame and Western Michigan are no flukes. He locks onto receivers, struggles with his accuracy, and frequently makes near backbreaking decisions.
This is true so far and made up for by Denard's other talents. We are almost an old-school option offense that needs to stay in front of the chains. He's real mad about burning Rawls's redshirt, though. I'm all like whatever: Rawls may be needed this year since Hopkins is full of doghouse and the starters are fragile. And I'm betting that by the time Rawls would have been a fifth year senior there's someone better on the roster anyway.
Is it just me or does our offense look like the one that that one friend--the friend that everybody has--always runs against you in Madden/NCAA...you know the friend. He's usually the guy who says things like "watch these 4 verts bro" before throwing a bomb on first, second, and third down (he also goes for it on fourth down regardless of field position). Another hallmark of this friend's offensive strategy is a running game that involves picking a team with a fast quarterback and running outside every time that he doesn't throw deep (which is every pass).
UPDATE: So I wondered which 80s-era estrogen rock band was responsible for the title reference and googled it. The result: REO Speedwagon. REO Speedwagon's mindblowing video for the thing, which has almost as many ridiculous haircuts as profiles of me do and obviates the need to actually do LSD:
Good Lord. I'm just going to float off into the sky now.
Or maybe he found the holes or waited for them. There were definitely a couple plays where he slowed down, waiting for the hole to open, rather than just run straight into the pile like Fitz.
Hard to shake the feeling that Toussaint or Shaw turns those long gains that Smith had into even longer ones just because they are faster. The only way you get to be a full time back with his size and speed is if you also pick up the tough yards like Mike Hart used to do by moving piles. He's never shown that ability, I still think he's the 3rd down back due to his blocking and a good reciever out of the backfield but that is the extent of his skills, IMO.
...I haven't seen Cox or Hayes to add them. But to me through 3 games that's your order.
Fitz seems like the most complete back, he has the vision and the speed the position needs. Smith is tough and wiggles his way for yards other guys don't, he also blocks. IMO he's the CLEAR 3rd down back, but he's also my backup RB on 1st and 2nd if Fitz is out.
Shaw has no vision and little balance, just speed. I'd use him out of the spread only and I'd definitely like to see him used more in the passing game. In fact, I'd make him more of a Reggie Bush type 50/50 RB/WR...and I'd have Hayes "back him up" and learn that role for future years.
Hopkins seemed like the short yardage guy, but he fumbled. Fitz has some "pop" to him and Smith might be the toughest guy on the team...I'm not sure you need him.
Rawls only got a couple runs...so he's #5 by defauly. However, in those 2 runs he did look very Kevin Grady-eqse.
He was the only RB to show any sign of life vs ND
He had one carry for three yards in that game. He made an awesome play in the passing game, but as a runner the jury's still out on him.
was he not the running back on that play? Jus' sayin....
Oh shit, I am that guy that Holding the Rope is talking about.
Verts, bra. Oh shit, scramble.
Denard is not a passer. the only reason his numbers were decent last year is because the offense (and his ability to run) made it possible for guys to get WIDE open.
Denard can throw, but he can't hit a small window. It just isn't something he is able to do.
As I said before the season our offense will be worse and our defense will be slightly better. I am not sure this is a good thing or not for success this season.
be in this year's offense any longer--the combination of Denard as decent passer and world beating runner can beat almost any team in the country given a decent defense. But Denard as a poor passer, which IMO is exclusively because this year's offense is asking him to do things he can't do, will not beat the best teams. The way to take him from poor passer to decent passer if to go back to last year's passing design.
We fired the godfather of last years passing design and all of his coaches, friends, pets and people who thought he was a reasonable man.
If all Denard could do last year was complete passes to uncovered receivers, his completion percentage would have been terrible. The offense didn't generate anywhere near the number of wide-open receivers people are now claiming it did, especially after the start of conference play. Our passing game was not that complex and defenders were jumping routes by midseason. Denard regularly had to thread the needle in coverage, and he was reasonably successful. The problem this year, quite simply, is that he isn't as accurate as he was. I'm wondering if he has some kind of minor injury to his throwing hard, because his passes are sailing on him (usually a sign of poor grip on the football).
Did Roundtree go for 8,000 yards in one game in conference play? I think he did.
I guess I'm not really sure about the point of this post. I mean, I get the point of it. Denard:square peg::Borges's offense:round hole. But unless we don't grant Borges at least 51% of the leeway we (and when I say "we" I mean Brian, me, and perhaps a narrow majority of the Michigan fan base) granted RR, then we're just giantic flaming hypocrites, aren't we?
I mean, my argument about RR all along was that he is a spread coach who knows how to coach the spread. Delaying the implementation of it by a year or two so we could (possibly but not likely) limp to 6-6 in 2008 made no sense because (1) RR teaches the spread a fuckton of a lot better than he teaches anything else, and (2) was the deployment of Threet/Sheridan in a jury-rigged pro-style offense really going to work anyway?
I see the same argument here. Borges has done a fantastic job of learning some aspects of the spread and allowing Denard to be Denard. But should he go full spread when that's not really what he wants to do ultimately and knows how to do best? I think not. On the other hand, Denard ~= Threet/Sheridan, so I dunno. It's a tough problem.
I still think the soundest critique of Borges is that he does not seem to be articulating the passing game all that well with the running game. Right now the offense seems to be a bunch of mismatched parts, some of which work better than others on their own. I still have confidence that he will synthesize the two approaches ('cause I bet he might be spending some time on the issue), but they don't seem to be meshing quite yet.
offense was what, maybe 1 or 2 more wins? (4-8 instead of 3-9). Whereas, Denard in an offense that better suits him, could turn a 7-5 season into a 9-3 (especially with an improving defense).
If you are going to force the issue with a power game pro set, then I would put Denard as a running back in a 2 back set with Devin under center. That gives you the threat of DR running or catching the ball and a better passing attack with Devin throwing (not to mention, you will still have Devin around for another 2 years after this season). You might also be doing Denard a favor if he has any hopes of playing at the next level.
like your saying the upside to Threet/Sheridan in a pro style offense was maybe 1-2 more wins and that this year the upshot for Denard in an offense that shoots him better is maybe 1-2 more wins.
is turning a crappy 3-9 season into a crappy 4-8 season versus turning an okay 7-5 season into a very good 9-3 season.
Glad to see you still understand subtlety and ambivalence in discussions, Bouje.
Also, FYI: "~=" means "does not equal."
Having Threet in a pro-style would have been better that first year under RR. First, the hurry up pace only put our defense on the field that much quicker, where they got wore down faster. Second, Threet was capable of short play action passes, like the passes MSU successfully used in the 2nd quarter against MSU. Would the offense have been great, no, but it would have been better and given the defense some more rest.
Why people say this is one of the abiding mysteries of the last three years. Two years later Threet averaged 7.5 YPA (slightly above average) and had a 18-16 TD-INT ratio. Was anything Rodriguez could have done going to make a freshman version of that guy average? Meanwhile, the run game was actually above average for the last decade.
I mean, we were throwing away Mike DeBord's offense. Mike DeBord! How could this be a bad idea?
While I do feel somewhat embarrassed to criticize a move away from Debord's offense (which I hated more than even a prevent defense), I think you are underestimating the effect that those 30 second three and outs had on our defense.
I think you are missing the point. With Threet under center, we would have had just as many 30 second three-and-outs. Putting Threet under center doesn't make our offense better or even more effective at keeping the defense off the field. If the defense wanted to stay off the field, they should have stopped the other offense in 3 plays like their defense did to our offense. If we put Threet under center, does that make him unthrow the pick 6 that lead to our loss against Toledo? Don't think so. Threet was an awful redshirt freshman in the spread and not much better 2 years later in a pro set. I think everyone needs to just come to terms with the fact that Threet was just not a good QB, especially not as a redshirt freshman. When your offense returns 1 player and in the following 3 years, that 1 player is the only one to be drafted, you have major, major problems.
Personally, I think we had some major problems on the OL as well - our RB's could simply not run the ball (shotgun, I, spread, tight, whatever) until Denard had gotten a few scampers under his belt. Once the defense had to concentrate on him, our RB's started getting yards. And this was EMU.
The issue, I guess is this: this is an OL that seems incapable of making holes for any back other than the most dynamic ball carrier in football (Denard). Until we find an OL or a RB that can succeed without depending on Denard, Denard for 26 carries is what we're going to get.
this isn't a problem that just surfaced this year. The rb's last year did almost nothing on the ground too. The inability of the line, rb's, combo of the two to generate much of anything on the ground has been a problem for a while.
Denard's successful runs appear to be either sweep right or left, or a broken pass play scramble. When the line tries to make a hole between the tackles, nada. Same for the RBs.
They're still running the QB sweeps, but also calling a ton more zone read than last year. Despite what people think, Denard almost never ran the zone read last year. This year, his runs look to be a combination of QB power and pulling the ball on the zone-read play (watch his big run from the three, the DE crashes like whoa and Denard pulls the ball and takes off). Those also accounted for most of his big runs vs. ND.
I think the reason they stopped running it last year was once they got into big ten play the opponents DE's were coached to stay home and force Denard to hand off. My memory could be wrong but it seemed like the opponents last year turned the zone read into a play where Denard was handing off the vast majority of the time. Thus, in order for Denard to get his carries RR abandoned the zone read.
Actually there was a stat that showed Tate Forcier was much better running the read-option than Denard was.
Denard's best carries were QB sweeps, iso's and blasts.
However, I've been surprised at his ability to run the read-option this year. He's gotten a lot better. A couple times he's held that ball in the RB's belly for a split second longer than most could ever do, then rip it out and take it for the first down. Last year it's like he made his read before the snap.
Question...do we have any speed option? power option? ANY option? I'm not even a fan of the play too much, but hell...with Denard, why not?
Every defense brings their safeties up to stop Denard from running. Sometimes you can get yards by running Denard one way and your RB the other, but most times, it's just an extra man in the box which limits what the RB can do.
Denard's legs can only do so much for opening up the running game for the RBs. Until Denard can be a consistent threat as a passer, teams will cheat against the running game. Denard's awesome enough that even against most teams who cheat he can get 7-8 YPC. But the RBs aren't that awesome, so they struggle unless you're talking about a defense that is MAC-caliber (looking at you 2010 Indiana).
This makes Denard like everyone else - he has to be able to pass CONSISTENTLY to open up the run game.
The challenge for Borges is finding a way where Denard can be consistently productive in the passing game. The QB oh-noes are a HUGE step in the right direction IMO.
Yeah, I'd kinda hope to go for guys who are bigger, stronger, and smarter. I'm not sure how spread linemen are "smarter" than MANBALL linemen, or whatever. But I think there has been some overhype at the position. You have one guy who's really good, and yes, may live up to the idea that he might be better suited for a spread; and another guy who got pontential to be great, and shows flashes of it...but is only really playing his second year. The rest are guys who maybe haven't lived up to the hype or promise given them, or they didn't have it in the first place. They're good, and maybe a strength of the team, but maybe that's in indictment. Because no one is going to confuse this with the great lines all the way across of yore.
The truth is, from weak recruiting classes hurting senior depth, to not replacing them with top notch young guys, to outright ignoring some position, and all the weird attrition inbetween, the talent level on this squad is a lot more like pretty good MSU years, +Denard. Where you're solid, have a couple of all Big Ten type guys at certain spots, and not a whole lot of good depth. And it's especially so up front on both sides of the ball. It may not be Bobby Williams bad, but it's certainly more like George Perles levels of talent than Bo Schembechler. There are limits to what we can do, because we're just not good enough. We just need to be good enough to not scare off the recruiting class, and then build on it so that class isn't a one time event, and becomes more regular. Top ten recruiting classes, with top 5 every few years. And going back to Lloyd's last days, we've been striving for the bottom of the top ten, and more often in the teens...or even lower. That's not going to make you Big Ten champs. Particularly not anymore.
grandma if she can catch a screen pass, juke 2 ND defenders and break another 2 tackles en route to scoring a late go-ahead touchdown.
Everyone always says he can't carry the load but until we give him a shot in this offense we will never know. Give him 15-20 carries against SDSU or its equivalent and see what happens. He's certainly earned the right in the opportunities he's been given so far.
Smith should be the starter.
I think he is a great third down back in a pro style offense, but he's too small and too slow to be an everydown MANBALL feature back. Great agility tho.
Denard as a true sophmore did this.
18 TD, 11 Int, 62.5 Completion% 20th ranked in passer rating.
18th Kirk Cousins
19th Colin Kapernick
20th Denard Robinson
Is he a perfect passer? No. With his combination of running ability and the accuaracy he has already shown could he be the best qb in the country this year. Yes. The Valentis of the world calling him the worst passer are ridiculous.
Borges needs to find a comfort zone for Denard between short throws/big plays and runs. It's not hopeless. They can figure this out.
We have no idea what Borges wants Denard to do in terms of progression on his throws. He is going deep a ton. Deep does not equal efficient.
Going from a burning tire fire to a smoldering tire fire is progress, I guess.
Good to see QB Oh Noes return, everso briefly.
That video is absurd, sort of like an audio-visual representation of Les Miles's soul.
Anyway, I like Jake Ryan but I think we can all agree that hopefully Cam Gordon comes back this week. Hillman is a pretty darn good player so hopefully we are a little more edge-conscious this Saturday otherwise things could get ugly (not saying that we'll lose, but it could be David-Letterman-finger-under-collar uncomfortable).
We have easy games until MSU and MSU looks very beatable - they have no OL. Purdue and Iowa look bad too. OSU looks as bad as MSU.
I think we will have 10 wins regardless how we digest al borges denard fusion cuisine.
I can't be quite as optimistic as you. since this 3-0 start seems pretty similar to the past 2 years and we know how fast those went down hill.
Because mid-season evaporation and beaming nubs were never part of your unending pleas to forsake MANBALL and stay with the Spread (nor were they part of your defense of last year's offense).
Now you can't always get what you want, but you've gotten it here and still seem dour. I get that doomsday is your thing, but the soul of your offensive play calling gremlins should be seeing muppets here.
Brian is saying that unless Borges gets a clue about the passing nuances of the spread offense - the short passes that are open because the threat of the run freezes defenses - he will end up running Denard MORE than he would have run last year, because he can't think of any other way to get the yards. The magic of RR's system was not that Denard generated all the yards; it was the threat that he could generate those yards opened up other parts of the game.
So no, I wouldn't say Brian was happy. Borges is relying on Denard's raw talent and playmaking abilities in ways that are much tougher on him than what he was doing last year. The telling case in point were the bone-crunching collisions at the LOS with backs and DEs that we saw in this game. I can't think of many times that happened last year, because they would have been passes.
"I can't think of many times that happened last year, because they would have been passes."
That is putting one hell of a nostalgic glow on last year's offense.
What I'm saying is that EMU backs got clear shots at Denard as he reached the holes, as opposed to grabbing him on the way past. That image of him being "stood up" in a hole after a collision was what made me wince. I think a lot of those are going to be shown in UFR as missed blocks by the running backs - touissant in particular did a terrible job as a lead blocker - but it also felt like they were forcing the issue in ways that I didn't see last year.
He got blown up in this game. A lot. that didn't happen last year.
I hope it's not reflective of Brian's point
This could take a while couldn't? Gerg was forced to run a defense that he wasn't familiar and over the course of 2 years it seemed he never really picked up the nuances of the 3-3-5. Considering Borges might have no experience with RR's passing game for the spread, it might be a while before we see that implented.
He seems to be learning almost play by play, and he's had to coach a LOT of different kinds of offenses. I'm hopeful.
when he's reacting, rather than thinking and lining up his shot.
my guess is what Brian posits above: tentative given the new Offense. He probably has too much in his head right now, which is exactly what I expected at this point.
Was it the injury fairy making him go out of games so often? It certainly can be said that we need more short passes to get him into a groove and help open up other things. To say that this was a flawless passing offense ignores that we had a lot of the same problems passing last year, we just off set it by having to pass A LOT coming from behind in multiple games. I think he was pointing out you can't spend a week saying you want Denard left, Denard right, because that's what works and what he can do, then say when you get it...eh, work it around more. Everyone is living in some fantasy world where "Denard oh noes" happened six times a game, instead of like 6 times all season (and maybe not that much to really big effect) and are thinking you can do that 20 times a game. Look at the passes we're missing...and yes, now from the gun. They're not all heaves downfield. We're missing the screen and intermediate tosses. I'm not sure if a few bubble screens are going to fix that.
Denard is just missing them. He's thinking too much and aiming, which he also did last year at times. Another year in the same offense (RR's), and he's likely much more comfortable. But that wasn't in the cards.
Borges kept Denard in with 10 minutes precisely bc he's still feeling out (Hoke isn't the only one who gets to feel his players) how he performs in games. It's practice, bc Borges knows they need it.
Going to the Spread when the game requires it was the first step, focusing in on what Denard does best is the second. It's up to Denard to take the third: hit the deep ball on a more consistent basis. I saw it Spring videos, but so far this year they've been off (sans jump balls, which I promote as perfectly valid playcalling strategies, BTW)
Borges hasn't been very clever on first down, that's about the limit of criticism I've got. From the first snap thus season he's demonstrated flexibility in adapting his style to this team's strengths. I expect that continues.
I think we're all missing the core argument here, which is that there is a difference between running spread formations like we are doing now, and running an offense that is philisophically a spread offense.
We are running some of the plays we were running last year, with much different results. A big reason, as has been pointed out here, is that we are not running enough of the plays from last year to act as constraint plays on the ones that we are. The slants, screens, hitches, ends around, etc. that Brian is hoping make an appearance are so far missing, and the entire offense is paying dearly.
This is compounded by the fact that we are apparently too manly to primarily zone block, despite the relative success we have had doing so. Asking these linemen to drive people off the ball as the primary scheme is NOT playing to their strengths, and results in the wasted downs.
What we are left with is a shell of what we were doing last year (run by a coach who is simply NOT in his comfort zone in doing so), combined with a shell of what the coaches want to be doing, which is a west coast-style offense. We are therefore "lost" in terms of an offensive identity. It's a tragedy if you consider we're returning 9-10 starters from last year's offense.
that for the first few games last year, Denard Robinson was an absolute revelation - no one had seen him play for any extended period. Hell I thought Tate was going to win the job.
Later on some teams put together game plans that were more effective against him. I'm no expert, but those seemed to revolve around selling out to stop the run and daring us to throw deep (no safeties deep). But the Offense was still spectacular, or could have been, provided we could hit some of those deep throws or otherwise make defenses pay for committing so many bodies to the run.
In my mind we're still in the same spot - how many open deep receivers has Denard missed this year, a la Wisconsin in 2010? Hitches and bubble screens - they may just be holding back on those until the B1G season. They'll get it worked out fine.
My point: Brian's been harping on the need for Shotgun Forever for what, 9 months? He's got it now (as I and many others thought), and still complaining. In fact he's now arguing that Denard will 1) get beat up, and 2) be less effective by mid-season because he's so beat up. Which, what the hell would have been different if we were still in RR's offense*?
*which we are now in
I think this is exactly the point that people are missing. People also forget that 2010s offense had the same deficiencies and wasn't all that great when they played good competition. It is also crazy to expect Borges to run a carbon copy of RRs offense. It is not what he knows and I would rather take some growing pains right now and have a good pro style offense down the road.
I think at this point you and I are entering the realm of a "heated agreement," because I really do agree with most of what you have said. The point that I want to make is that if we are really going to be in the shotgun this much, then we need to use more of the playbook from last year for it to be effective. Last year, even with Denard's injuries and the struggles we had against good defenses (which ANY offense will have), we were still amazingly productive.
Even when our offense was "bad" last year, we were at least functional. It seems we are relying on the jump ball significantly more than we were last year, and I believe this is because we have abandoned much of the short passing game we were using in favor of intermediate routes.