rundown of Michigan's riser
Dear Diary Ain't Oh-Eight No More
(LONG … LEWAN)
Last October, in an effort to get a better handle on what our starting defense looked like compared to past defenses, I put together a depth chart-long “You Might Remember Our Starters from Such Players As…” comparison…thingy. At the time people requested a second version for the offense, but I figured what’s the point? The active period I was pulling YMRMFSPAs was ’96 to ’07, when the offense was substantially different that that of 2010.
Well now that’s changed, and other than talk about the Class of ’11 recruits (about which among the MGoTeam I’m the least qualified) we’re in a dead period where there’s not a lot to muse upon. On the other hand, finding comparisons among the DeBord/Malone band of Daves (Pearson, Baas, Petruziello) for a roster generated in three years of heavy Rodriguization is going to lead to some very non apple-y conclusions. I’m going to need some help in the comments for nominees before I put that together. For now, here’s a projected depth chart:
(Returning starters in bold, * means redshirt, all images courtesy of MGoBlue.com.)
|Quarterback||Tailback (Speed)||Tailback (Rage)||Fullback|
Denard Robinson (Jr)
Vincent Smith (Jr)
Stephen Hopkins (So)
John McColgan (Sr*)
|Devin Gardner (Fr*)||
or M. Shaw (Sr),
F. Toussaint (So*)
|Mike Cox (Jr*)||Joey Kerridge (Fr)|
|Left Tackle||Left Guard||Center||Right Guard||Right Tackle|
Taylor Lewan (So*)
Ricky Barnum (Jr*)
David Molk (Sr*)
Patrick Omameh (Jr*)
Mark Huyge (Sr*)
|Mike Schofield (So*)||Rocko Khoury (Jr*)||Christian Pace (Fr*)||/||/|
Note on O-Line: The backup situation is anybody’s guess. This blogger’s guess is that Barnum replaces Schilling, but Khoury is in the mix as well. An injury to either tackle could mean Schofield replaces them or Omameh slides over and a guard moves in. Khoury is probably the first guy in at any guard or center position, and has been a center thus far, but I slid him over only so we could mention Pace.
|X||Y||Z (Slot)||Tight End|
Darryl Stonum (Sr)
Martavious Odoms (Sr)
Roy Roundtree (Jr*)
Kevin Koger (Sr)
|Junior Hemingway (Sr*)||Jeremy Jackson (So), et al.||JeRon Stokes (Jr)||Brandon Moore (Jr*)|
Note on Receivers: I wouldn’t know where to begin if I ran everybody here. Hemingway might as well be a starter too. I’m basing this off of the concept of the 2003-’07 three-wide offense but chances of this being the depth chart are slim. Left out are Kelvin Grady, Terrence Robinson, Ricardo Miller, Jerald Robinson, D.J. Williamson, Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo, any of whom could play this year.
We’ll get to candidates in a moment. Before that, though, let’s just sit back and enjoy something here: this is the best-looking offensive depth chart we have seen since 2000. Better than 2007, since there aren’t any Mitchells, Ciullas, or freshman Borens and Schillings anywhere to be found. Not to sound too Jacksonian, but the best way to describe this depth chart is 2003, only faster.
…and a hell of a lot smaller.
This roster is pretty much the exact opposite of the 2010 defensive depth chart, and likewise the exact opposite of the 2008 offensive depth chart, and likewise the exact opposite that day your favorite pet died. There are longtime returning starters and upperclassmen who have played at a high level all over the place, from the stocked receiver corps to the junior quarterback who spent the first half of his first year starting as the presumptive Heisman frontrunner.
The Possibly Depressing Thing: Rich Rodriguez and Calvin Magee spent three years finding all of these round pegs to fit his offense’s round holes. The stupid but ultimately irrepressible meme of the 2008 offense was that Rich Rod was trying to play an offense that didn’t match the talent. That was true for the Loeffler-ish quarterbacks* but nobody else – we are talking about a team playing a total of one guy (Greg Mathews) at the same position he had occupied the previous year.
* That means Threet and Cone; I really don’t want to get into Mallett again here.
Let’s examine those round pegs, and the concerns they present:
The O-Line Are a Bunch of Zone Pansies
Borges says he plans to run an offense that best fits the talent on hand. On the other hand, Brady Hoke seems to favor man blocking over zone (a meme based mostly on a San Diego columnist that (the meme) makes user S.G. Rice go “ARRRRRRRRRRRRRGH”). Hoke’s disdain for the spread is probably overblown (and the suggestion he means to make us into Wisconsin even more so), but neither does anyone think he’s planning to run the spread ’n shred. Which means that to a degree, these players may have some edges exposed when they’re inserted into square-ier holes. That starts on the offensive line, where the last transition didn’t go so well.
The story of the 2008 offensive line was the coaching staff being so desperate to sit McAvoy they inserted a fall position switch DT at guard, and Angry Michigan Offensive Line Hating God parrying with successive injuries to Zirbel, Huyge, Schilling, Dorrestein, Molk, and several lawn chairs before Rodriguez/Magee/Frey finally cried uncle.
Brian said this in the 2008 preview when the position’s Angry Hating God was just getting underway:
“The line took a hit it could not afford to sustain when certain starter and once upon a time touted recruit Cory Zirbel went down with a knee injury, forcing either David Molk or hastily converted defensive lineman John Ferrara into the starting lineup. Michigan is now one injury away from serious issues indeed.”
…penned a ‘Decline and Fall’ declamation after just one game:
“Blame goes to Carr, who recruited so erratically, Andy Moeller, who was the line coach, Rodriguez, who has no family values, and whoever was identifying linemen to go after. To me this list goes “miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, Schilling maybe, miss, miss, miss, miss, guys Moeller couldn’t destroy.”
…and in the position’s post-mortem, gave a positive review to all of one guy on the entire unit: redshirt freshman David Molk. That’s the same David Molk who will be your 5th year senior, 4th year starting center this year. The other guy who showed promise on the field in ’08: Huyge, who four years later (and with no discernible regression) is projected to be either our worst offensive lineman, or backup to a hyped redshirt sophomore whose time has come.
Molk and Huyge were the first two guys recruited when Carr took us to zone blocking. Molk especially turned out to be great at using his agility to open up the Spread ‘n Shred. He has come a long way from the time Penn State linemen were picking him up and depositing him in the backfield. Huyge at tackle has been just a guy. To them have been added Omameh, who struggled inside at times as a redshirt sophomore but has a true knack for knocking defenders’ heads together on the 2nd level; and Taylor Lewan, now entering his (RS) sophomore season, who claims to be a clone of Jake Long and just might be. Ricky Barnum, who saw some playing time last year, is probably the guy who most looks like a typical Hoke blocker, but his recruiting pedigree said agility. The staff kept after Rod’s similar recruits. Guys, I don’t think this is becoming the Wisconsin line, or at least it isn’t this year.
The Wisconsin game last year might be instructive, since RR ran a more “nose to nose” blocking. If you’ve suppressed that game from memory, here’s how the blocking turned out:
|Huyge||2.5||0||2.5||Run game seemed to tilt the other way.|
|Molk||7||1||6||No reaches but some good blocks otherwise.|
|Omameh||10.5||3||7.5||Surprisingly the focus of the run game. Executed a lot of grinding double teams.|
|Koger||2||2||0||Also the usual.|
|TOTAL||33.5||23||20.5||Solid blocking day.|
You can open your eyes now. Look up…yeah, see? “Solid blocking day.” The worst guy was Dorrestein, who’s now gone. Lewan didn’t play, and this we said was bad. Note Omameh’s “executed a lot of grinding double teams” and Molk’s “7-1-6” day without any of his signature reaches.
Denard Isn’t Built for This Offense
The tea leaves (important: at this point all we have to go on is tea leaves, which are nearer in predictive accuracy to banana peels than facts) suggest the plan to deploy Denard is something between Frank Beamer’s use of Michael Vick, and “run around and stuff.” The upside might be something akin to 2006 Ohio State, when diminutive Troy Smith won the Heisman on lucky, back-shoulder tosses to guys better than Junior Hemingway but not that much better. Among the weaker points in Denard’s game:
- Accuracy? I went back to the formula I used for Data-Mining the HenneChart, an early 2009 “Wow Tate” piece that might give some perspective. I didn’t want to go over the whole thing again, but I plugged Denard’s 2010 season through Wisconsin (last game UFR-ed) and tried to pull some useful things out of it. Results:
Per 100 Attempts:
|Quarterback (Year)||Dead-On||Catchable||Marginal||Incomplete||Bad Read|
Sorry I didn’t include 2009 – I only have partial info for that. The star is because Brian didn’t chart marginals before 2008. The thing to notice is that out of 100 throws, the Incompletes for Denard were really low – closer to Henne’s best year. Those are given out for winging uncatchable passes. Also the bad reads are spectacularly low, almost as good as Henne’s senior year. At this point, however, you are screaming at me because “threw two steps behind his receivers in end-zone to cue Day of the Jugalos.” From that UFR:
That success rate has to be wrong.
It's not wrong, it just doesn't weight passes based on how damaging the particular inaccurate ball is. Against MSU, Denard threw the following balls not to his receiver:
- Endzone interception #1 on route Roundtree had two steps on. [Zero points]
- Wide open Stonum on fly route about 20 yards downfield that's airmailed. [Three points]
- Hitch to Odoms on second and nine from the 11 that would have been first and goal. [Zero points]
- Endzone interception #2 on slant that Hemingway was open on. [Zero points]
- Covered slant zinged over Grady [Zero points]
- Bubble too far in front of Roundtree. [Seven points]
- Other interception on route where Grady had plenty of room to the inside of the field but the ball was way, way too far outside, allowing sinking corner to react and intercept. [Zero points]
How big of a deal is it to throw a bubble screen a step in front of a receiver? One unit of big deal. How big of a deal is it to throw a makeable 20 yard touchdown over someone's head on third and three? Two, three units of big deal. How big of a deal is it to throw endzone interceptions when you have open receivers? Five units of big deal.
The reason the rate is the rate is because a bad pass is a bad pass; in reviewing a performance we're trying to strip out the emotion from the game and use it as a predictive measure. If Robinson had thrown those balls out of the endzone instead of behind the receivers Michigan would have had maybe seven more points but the QB play would have been equivalent.
- So continuing with this bullet, there isn’t evidence that Denard is inaccurate. On the contrary, he’s among the most accurate passers we have had in the UFR era. I would suggest that fear of Denard’s legs make his reads a lot easier, but then again, they’re his legs. When I run the rest of the metrics from ‘Data-Mining’ Denard jumps out as Michigan’s best passing quarterback by far, with attempts comparable to a full Henne year. That threat isn’t taken away unless Borges trains him to sit in the pocket with timer like Henne – and no, he’s not going to do that.
- Scrambling. Through Wisconsin Denard had four charted scrambles. Most of the time he kept the play alive and looked downfield. Often this led to bouts of, to paraphrase something I’m sure Brian wrote, “Run! Run! Run Damn You!” [Faerie Magic] “YAY!” It’s hard to complain too much when this ends with Junior Hemingway dipsying around four Illinois defenders at the sideline for an unlikely touchdown, but maddening nonetheless. Perhaps if he’s not counted on to run the ball as much, plus with another year of experience, Denard will take greater advantage of his speed when the holes are there.
- Size. Yes. I ended up talking myself out of the first two pretty handily but that ends here. This is Denard’s problem, and it will be more of Denard’s problem in a West Coast offense, because he starts his sidearm-y throws a good foot below where the tropospheric statues of yore released the ball. This is why passes zinged over wide open Stonum 20 yards downfield when pressure broke through. It’s also probably why Robinson’s dilithium seemed to get diluted later in the year, as his small frame took pounding after pounding. He’s a tough sonofabitch, but also took a lot of shots to his throwing shoulder from other tough sonsofbitches.
The Receivers Are Too Small
A few years ago, I suggested Rodriguez’s secret plot to develop a vertical game. A lot of attrition followed, but then were replaced by plenty of targets, meaning whatever Rich Rod was up to, he didn’t just stock the cupboard, but filled an entire larder. The concern, of course, is that he stocked it with lots of smurfs on jetpacks, or slot ninjas, or midgets on rollerskates, or pick your trochee-containing metaphor. Let me show you something:
The right side is Michigan’s projected 2011 depth chart:
As for the left side, it’s the Top 13 receivers in FCS last year by total yards:
|6'1||207||Greg Salas, Hawaii|
|6'1||205||Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma St.|
|5'11||183||Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma|
|6'4||233||Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina|
|6'1||215||Jordan White, Western Mich.|
|6'0||195||Vincent Brown, San Diego St.|
|5'11||205||Kealoha Pilares, Hawaii|
|5'10||178||Aldrick Robinson, SMU|
|6'4||210||Juron Criner, Arizona|
|6'2||205||DeMarco Sampson, San Diego St.|
|5'11||170||Titus Young, Boise St.|
|6'3||205||Leonard Hankerson, Miami (FL)|
|5'10||186||Cody Wilson, Central Mich.|
They’re a bit bigger and taller than our depth chart, especially as you get lower, but remember most of them are upperclassmen, and they were the most productive receivers in the game – our freshmen and their 2010 weights shouldn’t even be that close. And in case you’re wondering if these guys are the results of wily Air Raid systems, two I’ve highlighted played for Brady Hoke and Al Borges at S.D. State last year, and might as well have been less heralded versions of Stonum and Hemingway (except smaller, and not as fast, and against WAC corners).
The tall guys like Jackson, Ricardo Miller and Hemingway should do just fine. As for the tweeners -Stonum, Roundtree, Stokes, D.J. Williamson and J.Robinson – they’re certainly within the size range of successful NCAA receivers at any school.
Among our roster players, only the bugs recruited for slot ninja will lose some value because they “don’t fit the scheme.” That means Gallon, Dileo, Kelvin Grady and Terrence Robinson won’t be as effective in an offense not designed to get them in space, unless, say Gallon, can become the kind of deep threat that forces corners into giving ground for the West Coast’s beloved stop and out routes (Grady and Robinson probably are what they are now). Odoms could be in that group too, but his effectiveness last year as an outside receiver makes me think he can thrive as that rare small guy (obvious analogue not mentioned due to Ohio State connection) in a red light/green light possession role – his downfield blocking is an unquestionable asset.
All told, this looks like a great offense no matter the scheme. Obviously they’re used to the spread ’n shred, but it’s not like taking Northwestern and suddenly asking them to play Bielema Ball. This is the opposite of 2008: If they can’t score next year, it’s on the coaching staff.
The good folks are still coming out of their holes after the site attack: there are four over the last two weeks and they’re all still on the sidebar, and as I’m writing this I’ve already missed most of a half of the Superbowl. Read all of them. I’m going to roll those into the next one for “of the week” purposes.
See You in Washington, Mr. President.
Congratulations on your Superbowl ring, Heisman Winner, Champion, Wolverine.