It's very rare that I have any real qualm with the blog, but the Rod Stewart thing is something that I find almost morally offensive. Can't we use the Rolling Stones?
I did not make this headline up
goodnight sweet prince
we gon' throw
The offensive line. With Lewan taking his twosie to the next level, Michigan is left with Michael Schofield and a bunch of guys who haven't seen the field. Two fellows seem like locks to start:
A third is not quite a lock but has a healthy lead in my head:
The fourth is up in the air between these folk:
Breaking in four new OL, three of them likely to be freshmen, is scary. On the other hand, it's not like they can be worse at run blocking.
A dang running back who can run the dang ball. Maybe this is Toussaint. It seems more likely it's either DeVeon Smith or Derrick Green, particularly the latter guy if he does indeed end up in Ann Arbor like it seems the world expects him to. Running backs don't need a lot of seasoning, and Green is college-sized and then some.
Also here's my candle for Dennis Norfleet, third down back kthx. Get some Muck in you, kid, and there's a job waiting.
African refugee wide receivers. Amarah Darboh pointlessly burned a redshirt; Jehu Chesson kept his. With no immediate help from this WR class likely, last year's folk will have to break in. I was pretty high on both those dudes, with Chesson a co-MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year with Braden. They both provide relatively big targets, and Chesson might have deep speed.
Gardner to Gallon. As mentioned above, that connection was red-hot over the last five games of the season, and not just against tomato cans. Gallon's best game of the year was the nine-catch, 145-yard, two-TD outing against a top-shelf SEC defense in the bowl game. Those guys are in tune.
Just running one offense, thanks. No longer will Michigan be at war with itself about what it wants to do. A section a bit later in this post hopes they'll run the QB some; this should not detract from the fact that Michigan moves from a system Borges never quite got the hang of to his bread and butter. Gallon's performance once Michigan had a quarterback who could stand in the pocket and deliver entices.
Presumably large improvement from the tight ends. Devin Funchess and AJ Williams got thrown into the fire a year too early; now they can add 20 pounds each and learn how to block and add a couple new guys in the hopes of Stanfordizing this offense.
Funchess seemed like a matchup issue last year, but if you were a defensive coordinator considering him a wide receiver, how wrong would you have been? Not very. Getting him to a point where he is a credible blocker is what'll get him open on seams and whatnot.
Offensive line depth x2. This isn't quite as bad as it was last year, when there were essentially no backups—the sixth OL was a walk-on. It is still not good. If you make the reasonable assumptions that the freshman class redshirts and Bryant wins the other guard job, Michigan has Burzynski, Bars, and Magnuson available. Freshmen and that walk-on. Suboptimal.
But hey at least next year this problem goes away: Schofield's gone; everyone else returns.
Offensive line starters, probably. Four new ones; asking a lot for all of them to be good from day one.
WR depth? I'm not entirely sure this is a huge problem with Gallon stepping up and Dileo presumably establishing himself an excellent slot option. But they need some other guys; the incoming class provides little immediate help, so then it's down to Darboh and Chesson. Either or both could break out—Michigan needs one to.
QB depth. Bellomy or a true freshman.
The offensive line can't be worse, right? The running backs didn't help sure but when you return a thousand-yard rusher and his YPC average dips almost two yards a carry, the finger points squarely at the blocking. Lewan will be missed. The other guys are replaceable.
But replacing them is not a great thing. Michigan needs an upgrade.
How accurate is Devin really, and how much progress can he make in one offseason as the man? The overall numbers are good; his last two games left a bit to be desired. Hopefully he can refine down those misses by 20-30%, at which point Michigan is in the proverbial business.
How hard are we jamming the pro-style pedal down? Petrified at the prospect of having Gardner go down when it seemed like the alternative was Jack Kennedy, Michigan all but dumped quarterback runs from its playbook once Gardner entered the game. Was that circumstance or preference? And if it was the former, how comfortable will Michigan be incorporating Gardner's legs as an intentional part of the gameplan if the alternative is Shane Morris?
We won't know that until fall. I'm hoping Michigan keeps the inverted veer around, because that's a pretty good play.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN ANYONE OTHER THAN DENARD ROBINSON PICK UP THREE FEET ON THE GROUND? Freshmen will get opportunities, yes. Toussaint may be back. The youngsters will be a bit older, and at least Hayes and Norfleet came with some scatback hype—though I wouldn't be entirely surprised to see Hayes move to slot receiver since there's no one on the roster who won't be a senior next year. Only the seeming likelihood that Michigan acquires Derrick Green prevents this from going in the Rod Stewart 2013 category.
Improvement as long as Gardner stays on the field. This edition of Michigan limped to middling numbers everywhere. Next year's offense figures to have a better fit with the offensive coordinator, a better offensive line if only because of reversion to the mean and having non-walk-on options outside of the starters, and at least equivalent playmakers at the skill positions with an outside shot at much better if the running back situation gets an injection of talent.
So then, how are you feeling about Denard Robinson's legs versus Devin Gardner's arm+legs? I'm thinking that's a push once turnovers are accounted for and we bake in an offseason of Gardner improvement. Guy was the #1 dual threat QB of his class, after all, and displayed some excellent potential on the ground in his tenure as a starter. And in a Borges offense, there's no comparison in the passing game*.
A lot rides on Jack Miller and the tackles; I figure the guards will be an upgrade. I'd guess we see an improvement—not that it'll take much to get that with Alabama sliding off the schedule and hopefully not having a half against Nebraska where the offense goes to die. Gardner bails Michigan out from some tough times.
*[Let's say we had that argument about the spread 'n' shred and not have it, okay?]
It's very rare that I have any real qualm with the blog, but the Rod Stewart thing is something that I find almost morally offensive. Can't we use the Rolling Stones?
Go redshirts! And Bryant. Don't be Rod Stewart!
I agree on the Rod Stewart thing but on different grounds. The 'What's Rod Stewart 2013' section seemed to at least imply hopes toward quality, while actual Rod Stewart 2013 contains no such hope. (Rod Stewart 1972 is, however, totally awesome).
The Rolling Stones might be a better comparison, in that I might listen to a new stones song with faint hope, even though I know it will probably suck.
(Leaves to consult Google.)
I suggest Ride the Lightning and St. Anger
i'm just happy that there is Never A Dull Moment on this blog
I like next year - no double offense package - we should be more productive on offense.
Easier schedule. No Alabama. Weaker ND at home (new coach?) Neb and Ohio at home.
MSU obviously weaker after today.
How do you figure there's a chance ND will have a new coach in 2013? Even ND alums aren't so delusional as to fire Kelly for getting blown out by Alabama.
He's using them as a "step ladder", and the ladder might be shorter because of the fact that 7 NFL coaches got canned. The hottest name is Saban, so if Kelly comes close at all to hanging with Bama, I think Kelly gets some serious coaching offers from the league
Both Chip and Brian are in the talks.
Saban saying "no" now, but we know abouts his past "no"s.
May not have the size yet, but his can-can form is impeccable.
It is often expressed by those in the know that young linemen pick up run blocking much quicker than pass blocking. Add to this the fact that these linemen were specifically recruited for The Gorgeous Borges System of Touchdowns and Other Wonderful Things, my expectations for this offense are higher than most fans.
We want AJ WIlliams to gain 20 pounds?
I see Burzynski as the safe option. I think he'd be at least as good as the guys who played this year (less power but fewer times blocking the wrong guy or air). I'm glad that if he doesn't start that whoever beats him out showed something rather than being the only option.
I think the line will struggle early but improve ton throughout the year and be pretty good later in the year.
For the first time in the careers of every single guy on this offense, they will be able to focus on a system that they know, and only on that system. That means lots more reps doing what you are going to do on Saturdays. I'm hoping that moves the needle a fair piece. We also have a meaningful number of redshirts and early enrollees for the first time in a while. Here's hoping that moves the needle as well.
All in all, I expect the offense to start the year somewhat better than what we saw this year, and to progressively get better.
The defense has already had the advantage of consistency in approach/system, and we saw real results from that fact this year. Year 2 of Hoke's vastly improved recruiting classes also makes me hopeful that one or two of his kids will come in and impress, a la Funchess.
Denard will be sorely missed. Who will pick up and take over producing all the "ooohhh" and "aaahhh" moments on offense? I don't see any of that on next year's roster except maybe if Gardner has a long leash with respect to scrambling/running.
I'll gladly take fewer "ooohhhs" and "aaahhhs" if it goes along with fewer "for the love of god! WHY?!"-s. May next season not take such a toll on my sanity.
The problem is that the '13 wide receivers aren't very good.
I think another pass catching threat might appear, too, but I don't think it will be any of the true freshmen in 2013. It will likely be Darboh or Chesson.
Chesson was very thin to start the year. Jackson is not a starter-quality player. They targeted Reynolds just once or twice this year.
I agree that an underclassman is likely going to step up. And I'm not saying the freshmen won't be given a chance. But if Darboh and Chesson couldn't see the field this year on offense, then I don't know why you'd expect someone like Dukes or York to do it, either.
I'm not saying that the ONLY reason Chesson didn't play was being thin. All I'm saying is that his chances would have been better if he were 205 or 210. Expecting a tiny AND inexperienced receiver to play is a little odd. It's also odd that you have more confidence in a few low-rated true freshmen playing than a couple second-year players who have had a year of weightlifting, route running practice, etc.
You're right that Roundtree was thin. He turned out to be pretty good. Did he play as a true freshman? No. Did Gallon? No. In most cases, you have to be an outstanding athlete or physically developed to play as a true freshman.
on both sides of the ball says something.
Frankly, the guys leaving would seem a lot more managable if they weren't almost all from one position group.
And we shouldn't be dodging people, but it's amazing the difference between toughest OOC schedule in the world vs. cupcake city. Take off the Bama loss that made no sense to schedule and things look brighter, even with the bowl result. Play a bunch of easy wins like a lot of programs do (or when Notre Dame ditches us) and we're probably losing in a BCS bowl game rather than in Tampa. Or maybe we're drawing a team from the state of Florida that looked completely disinterested in being there; say what you will, but South Carolina didn't act like they were too good for the Outback Bowl. And they probably had a better claim to that than someone complaining they were in the Sugar Bowl.
I am with you to a certain point. If everything had aligned and there was more depth in a few different places this year and some games were called differently then UM could have beaten ND, OSU, Nebraska and possibly won the Rose Bowl and we would be talking about how great the team was because it beat so many good teams. 9-4 or 10-3 look prettier than 8-5 but I have to believe the team and coaches got better playing Alabama and ND (except losing Countess) instead of EMU and Rice.
Here are my thoughts on the 2012 vs. 2013 OL:
In my opinion the biggest POTENTIAL advantage for next year besides the system fitting the personnel is depth. Maybe all of our depth is young, but at least there are options. In 2012 we didn't make any changes on the line because there weren't options (though this could be a possible indictment to Miller).
In 2013 we have four solid players/recruits that could play tackle (Schofield, Braden, Magnussen, Fox). We have two viable centers (Miller, Kugler). And we have three viable players at guard (Kalis, Bryant, Bars). That also doesn't even take into account that we could move someone from tackle to guard or vice versa if we needed to get the five best guys on the field.
Maybe they start out shaky, but by the end of the year I expect them to be good.
I hope that's true, but a more realistic notion would be Toussaint "might be ready."
I am honestly not counting on him in 2013. He will not play spring football. Mabye that's a good thing for pro-set downhill runner. But I question how much summer and fall football he will be able to play.
I'd love to see Fitz Toussaint get healthy, and win an NFL contract to support himself and his family. I just wonder what year that might be.
We need a couple of great freshman runners.
Yep. Derrick Sherrod, the Packers swing tackle had a similar injury (if reports about Fitz's injury are accurate) last season at a similar time in the season and he's missed this entire season. Now a tackle has to bear more weight than a RB but it's far from given that Fitz is back next year.
If he steps foot on a football field again, this year or next, then he's a braver man than I. Having my foot almost ripped off probably would have been it for me.
Drake Johnson RS freshman next year is getting a lot of buzz, and he was a beast in HS. Now in the system for a year, seems ready to carry the rock. Im surprised he seems to be always overlooked on the blogs. Everyone can only speak on DG, who hasnt even committed, and will not be in Spring workouts. He will have very short window to learn the offense even if he does committ. The kids on the roster have a much better chance of becoming the starter. I think the only reason Drake didnt play this year, is because they wanted to save his eligibility. Now has 4 years and is now up to 6'1 and 213 lbs. Reports by Sam Webb from florida say the coaches really like his growth and his ability in the open field. Apparently they havent discounted him, as the blogs have, preferring to go straight to the 5 star "maybe" recruit. Will Campbell was a 5 star recruit. Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes were 4 stars. Stars dont mean anything when you get on the field. Kyle Kalis is a 5 star, and he also RS this year. This kid is hungry, and has moved up the depth chart the hard way, by working on scout team and impressing the coaches going up against Michigans starting Defense. I would not count him out of the mix...
Just my opinion.
I'm not smart enough to know how much this played into our struggles with the running game, so I'll throw it out to more educated readers.
I felt like opposing defenses designed their scheme to stop Denard. In a true spread this would have burned them with WR running open down the hash or bubble screens churning out 7 yards repeatedly. But with Borges' design and Denard's accuracy we were never able to victimize defenses for over-playing the run.
Could this defensive game plan be partially responsible for our inability to run the ball? Did we see against USC what is possible when a defense has to play you straight up and keep safeties deep since Denard got his yards playing 10-man football?
I guess what I'm hoping is that Fitz+freshmen will have more opportunity to get to the second level when the defense has to respect Gardner's arm rather than Denard's legs.
"Borges's design" didn't seem to hurt the offense in 2011.
This is where I think next year's schedule proves a benefit. I expect things to be pretty rough early on. Nix from ND is likely going to tear things up pretty badly inside and I think that game's going to be very difficult given the oline. But I also expect pretty consistent improvement throughout the year, and we dont face another good D line until after the 2nd bye (maybe PSU but I think they lose their entire line apart from the freshman whose name escapes me). By the time we hit the meat of the conference schedule, the new line will have 7 games under their belt along with 2 bye weeks to work o. correcting issues that come up.
The interior O-line (Mealer and Barnum) could not block on running or passing plays, and I'm not sure how you can call our pass pro "very good." Denard threw most of his picks under heavy pressure, DG dodged pressure for scrambles, and we ran sprint outs to avoid the inevitable up-the-gut pressure on about 50% of our pass plays once we went to pro style. The blocking was very, very bad.
The trouble here is that this is not an opinion-based argument; the blocking was factually bad. Ask coaches, scouts, grocery clerks or anyone who knows anything about football. Our offensive line was offensive.
Denard's yards were mostly his, and even our own O-Line seemed to apologize after every game for their run-blocking.
This unit will be more talented next year, and will be better at run-blocking. Pass pro will be an adventure for the young guys, but I seriously doubt that by mid-season it is any worse than this year's version.
I'm not sure who broke Bryant's leg?
But I'd put one of his arms high on my suspects list.
Lets hope this kid had mono.....or floaters in his eyes during the Nebraska game. He was a complete 'deer in the headlights'. I have a feeling we will need him at some point.
I think he'll be a tolerable back-up by next year. He was clearly frazzled early and hurt by the blitzing, not open receivers and dropped passes. After the mess, he looked decent on his last drive. He'll have another year of practice to get better. I do see an issue in that I see him more as a game manager than a playmaker. Given our lack of difference makers, we need a playmaker at qb in 2013. By 2014, the Oline is probably good enough he could hand off and make enough plays in the passing game in a pinch.
What makes you so sure this is in the cards? Aside from a power run game, what does the Gulf Coast Offense share with Harbaugh/Shaw/Hamilton's multi-tight end pro-style looks?
In case this sounds snarky, I'm asking because I honestly don't know.
I think "Stanfordizing" in this context means having players at a position who compliment one another to exploit mismatches on the defense. At TE the example is Funchess as pass catcher (but needs to learn to block) and AJ Williams as mauler (who hopefully can catch from the H-back spot). Tough to defend a pair of 6-6 TEs when one is 240 and the other is 290, especially if they can competently fill the opposite role.
Another example cited by Brian in a recruiting profile was Dennis Norfleet:
Dennis Norfleet is another guy who Michigan can plug into their offense to jar opponents out of comfort zones and exploit weaknesses. Whipsaw, Swiss army knife, etc., the null offense, whatever you want to call it, Norfleet is a guy who fulfills a role. He is a specialist.
From that class, one complimentary counterpoint to Norfleet's electricity will be Sione Houma's power. Again, to cite the recruiting profile:
...I can understand this one as part of Michigan assembling a Swiss Army Knife roster for Borges to do diabolical things with.
Bottom line is that the personnel needs to bring a variety of skill sets to allow the offense to bring diverse formations and packages.
How much of a difference is there between a redshirt freshman starting and a true freshman? My assumption is that is a fairly major difference. Does someone have any ideas/know? A redshirt freshman will have been through 2 fall practices and a spring. If they were an early enrollee they would have 2 springs in the system. So they may not have game experience, but they do have experience in the system. And the true freshman will only have a fall's worth of practice in te system. Personally I feel that the O-line will be better than last year. There will be growing pains early, but I feel that at the start of the conference games it will be clicking. Hoke and his staff seem to "get" line recruiting and appear to evaluate prospects very well, in my opinion from the praise we read online about some of our players as recruits. Obviously this fall will be the first time they will see game time, and we'll find out how good the coaches actually did.
Weight training and technique. Skill guys can enter college with speed and moves, but OL players need strength that, as a teenager, they still haven't fully developed yet. And they need technique to cope with their first real challenge: competition against players whom they no longer exceed in size in strength.
Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows:
Devin Gardner is now the man, and will have a full offseason and spring to develop his technique and improve as a passer. While Denard's numbers didn't show it, I felt like he actually made strides in the passing game this year (Brian, at times, did as well) and I think Devin has more potential to do so. Having an offense engineered for Devin's strengths will be a plus, too.
Young OLs can work. Insert obligatory 1997 comparison here, but youth doesn't mean that there isn't potential for the unit to gel.
Jeremy Gallon's ability to get open and Devin's ability to get him the ball make me feel a bit better about our receivers for next year. Roy was a good player but without RR running things his production just isn't a significant blow.
Funchess, with a year of practice, could really emerge as an every-down passing threat, and he plays a position Borges likes to use properly.
Talk me down from the Ledge:
Devin Gardner has had three years of instruction, two of it under Al Borges, and still makes headscratchingly bad throws. And while he's a good scrambler, I am pessimistic that Al will incorporate the burgeoning number of packages used in college in the NFL that take advantage of a quarterback's speed. There will be two teams in Maryland playing an NFL playoff game with read option plays in their playbook--seems silly for Michigan to shelve a play that creates such great space for its offense.
All these young offensive linemen we are counting on were on the bench this year when Michigan could barely gain a yard with a running back. I know, blahblahblah Kalis Redshirt and all, but you'd think some of these guys could get on the field at least. The interior line this season was a disaster, and as Mat darkly noted, it's quite possible that they could be worse next year.
Recruiting has done a good job of stockpiling OL prospects and defensive players; offensive skill position players have yet to make an appearance. This is a recipe for disaster in today's college game, where even neanderthal offenses like LSU and Alabama have NFL talent available to make their plays work. OSU will continue to be our measuring stick for success, and Michigan is going to need to score points to beat them, and without skill players at RB or WR it's going to be tough sledding.
I'm not convinced Al Borges can cut it. I hope I'm wrong, and he's not useless, but I'm not convinced.
It all hangs on Devin. If he is as good as he has shown he has the potential to be, he can make throws that are caught by our undertalented receivers, make first downs by scrambling, and score enough points for our defense to win the game. And Michigan could have two shots at Pasadena.
If he can't, it's going to be a long year.
Devin Gardner has had three years of instruction, two of it under Al Borges, and still makes headscratchingly bad throws. And while he's a good scrambler, I am pessimistic that Al will incorporate the burgeoning number of packages used in college in the NFL that take advantage of a quarterback's speed.
Yeah, but there is no substitute for game experience, especially experience against a future top 10 NFL DE (Clowney). I think he got a little jumpy at times and rushed some of his passes, but this was true of many QBs that faced SCar this year. Even so, he made many clutch plays (including that beautiful throw in a tight window on 3rd and 13 to give us the lead). He has it in him. He'll settle down with experience.
As for Borges taking advantage of his speed, that remains to be seen, but we will hopefully have actual QB depth next year, in the form of a more experienced Bellomy and Morris. This year, after Denard went down, we had no alternatives to Gardner, so we really didn't want him taking many hits.
Fair enough. The problem I saw was that Gardner had a handful of open outs that would have sustained drives that he just whiffed on. I don't know if SC's pressure added to that or not, but they seem like pretty basic throws. He's made some good ones, too, but the inaccuracy hurt us at key times.
I think we all agree that it's just as well that Gardner wasn't exposed as a runner this year; Jack Kennedy was taking backup snaps in warmups for several games. As you say, next year is a questionmark.
I'd like to hope you're right. The problem with great defense/meh offense teams is that they play a lot of close games that can easily go against them. The ceiling is OSU 2002 or ND this year; but the floor is MSU.
Is less significant than Brandon Moore?
Roh didn't play on offense (check the title of the post again).
Edit: If only there was a center for kids who need to read good...