if we succeed, it's skill/talent? And if we make mistakes, it's bad luck?
further adventures in Jed York being unsuited for his position
Around suppertime Monday my synapses kicked in again, and I could think about anything from that game other that GURGLE GURGLE, BAWWHHHH, and 'WHHAAAAT?'. The first thing that came back was the 77-yard pass to Hemingway while wearing Kapron Lewis-Moore as an ankle bracelet. Then the rest of the memories returned, and I remembered I was getting aggravated earlier about how ridiculous it was to be using Denard Robinson like John Navarre. Chris Brown's Twitter feed wasn't helping:
…and neither was watching Henne and Brady demolish each others' defenses from under center on Monday. Of course Denard is Denard and makes magical unicorn rainbows, so hell why not have the best rushing QB in history sit in the pocket then lob an end-zone fade to a 5'9 receiver? I'm not being totally sarcastic: the guy may be 6'0 but he can also stand outside the pocket with a 300-pound defender hanging on his legs like your sister's kids after dessert, then chuck a perfect zinger from his back shoulder to a receiver behind the coverage. By this point any other QB would be eating turf; Ben Roethlisberger would be eating turf.
Magical Denard is magical and is actually capable of throwing perfect spirals with a rusher in his face from a 7-step drop if you ask him to, and he is getting better at doing so. He's obviously still learning the technique—Hoke in the Monday presser:
He was the first one to come off the field after one [bad play] and say, ‘My footwork was bad.’ So that’s good to see.
I think we can safely extrapolate this was after the first interception. To actually say the I-form is responsible for any more than that (and that flimsy) we're gonna need to dig a bit deeper. And since memory of formation beyond that and the "Shades of Aaron Shea" fullback pass betrays, let's just look at all the plays run under center vs Notre Dame (mega thanks to Boyz n da Pahokee, who gets a long overdue points bump for his Every Snap Videos):
"DRV" = which play in that drive, so 3 is 3rd play, etc.
|1||3||M33||1st||10||RUSH||Hopkins, S.||2||MANBALL 1|
|2||1||N45||1st||10||RUSH||Hopkins, S.||2||MANBALL 2|
|3||2||M29||2nd||10||RUSH||Hopkins, S.||3||MANBALL 3|
|3||4||M43||1st||10||PASS||INTERCEPTION||0||Footwork was bad.|
|4||2||N45||2nd||15||PASS||McColgan, J||15||1st Down|
|4||3||N26||1st||10||PASS||INTERCEPTION||0||Why? Why did you throw this?|
That's 8 plays where bad things happened (<4 yards to turnover) from under center, and 7 where good things happened (counting Hopkins getting stuffed and fumbling as a "good thing"), and accounts for about 35% of the offensive plays yet 100% of Michigan's scoring plays on the day (WHHAAAAAAT?). Those six in microcosm:
Let me know when your synapses are functioning again. Actually, don't. Watch that a few more times.
When you've woken up and convinced yourself all over again that this is indeed real life and the score will be like that forever, I see 15 plays run under center of which eight did nothing and at least four or five only did something only because a fumble bounced right to Denard or Gary Gray can't cover. The touchdowns are red herrings. Wonderful, magical, sapphire herrings.
Not counting goal line, kneel downs, 3rd and long/short, and times when we needed to get 80 yards in 30 seconds or whatnot (i.e. the last two drives), Michigan ran 61.76% of its plays out of the shotgun. So this is still a 60% spread offense. When you break out the yardage on the remaining plays, it's easy to see why:
|Formation||PASS YPA||RUSH YPA||TOTAL YPA|
(the one sack was from the shotgun, and counted as passing yards)
It's early in the season and Denard is still learning how to run this offense and by "this offense" I mean like 40% of the offense, with the rest being the stuff mostly similar to what he did last year. It does seem his recurring accuracy problems are related re-learning dropback QB footwork but except for when he says so directly it's hard to see how that affects the efficacy of formations.
The big thing is the rushing! Small sample and all but against our first real competition (and ND is a good rush defense) Michigan put up better-than-Rich-Rod numbers out of the gun and was broken-Hart-vs.-mid-aughts OSU out of the I. The staggering difference in rushing yardage out of the I versus shotgun may be as simple as Denard's rushing ability versus that of the RBs: had Hopkins found the cutback lanes in his two rushes under center perhaps that I-Form rush YPA is up around a Lloydball-ian 3.5. That's still a huge difference. Denard in the gun means Denard as a rushing threat. Notre Dame mostly chose to play the rushing threat and force him to pass (and this worked pretty well), and yet he still got 7.46 YPA because one guy in the hole is never enough.
Two games into a new staff, got the W, very limited sample, receivers are the receivers, his legs are his legs, not likely to face a better MLB than Te'o, caveat caveat caveat caveat, but at this point (caveat caveat) I don't think lining up under center is working.
* It was watching this play that I realized I had seen enough of Denard running that I can recognize his unique style…like you know how you could pick out a Mike Hart moving silhouette with no other clues? I think I could do that with Denard now.
if we succeed, it's skill/talent? And if we make mistakes, it's bad luck?
I don't disagree with what you've written here, the 2008 comparison was for effect rather than "I think this is like 2008".
Yes, I think we'll have a better offense operating out of the spread, but the coaching staff is taking us in another direction long term. Borges does use multiple formations, but his mandate is to score points while keeping the ball out of the other team's hands, whereas the RR offense was created to score as much as possible as fast as possible.
I agree with your main points and I hope they keep the ratio at around 70/30 or hopefully 80/20 so while the games are competitive and while Denard is our QB.
Where I disagree with you is that I think it's unreasonable to expect a coaching staff hired on a mandate to change the offensive approach to a more "old school" offense, to completely shelf this transition because we have a unique talent at QB. Hopefully our offense will gradually become more capable of running the ball with Denard under center, so we won't lose any games because of the ratio under center/shotgun being suboptimal. Denard becoming a capable passer from under center will both be the key to the running game improving and the key to him getting a look as a QB on the next level (though I'm pretty sure he'll end up playing a different position in the pros if he makes it there).
if we succeed, it's most likely a mixture of some luck, skill, talent, and coaching. Similarly, if we fail, it's most likely a mixture of lack of skill, bad luck, bad execution, lack of athleticism.
You can have a fullback and a halfback in a shotgun formation. Christ, use a modified pistol formation with denard, a fullback, and a tailback all in a line. Call it the Super-I.
The only results based charting you need to look at here is yards per carry. We get a lot more out of the shotgun. I felt it was obvious to everyone watching the game that our offense was struggling. We don't need play action from the I when we have Denard. Just having the ball in his hand with him as a running threat (ie shotgun) holds the linebackers the way play action is supposed to. So if you aren't getting the running back production out of the I it doesn't make sense to use it. Now every team needs to switch up the looks once in a while but I agree with some of the posters above that I would rather it be like 80% shotgun.
I would be interested in seeing what the breakdown is for yards per carry for our running backs out of shotgun vs. the I. I am guessing (small sample size caveats apply) that the non-Denard average is also better out of the shotgun, because a defender has to account for Denard's legs even when he doesn't run it. In most circumstances, Denard's legs are less of a threat when he's under center.
1. A lot of people have said that. I re-watched again (after several times last night while writing) and, well, what can I say? It was an excellent playcall and excellently executed and I guess it plays to the strengths of the players we have, and... I give up: this is the type of under-center play that when executed like this the personnel we have is perfect because they need to respect Denard's legs and that made ND overcommit to the play action, and it also works because Smith jet-bugged away from a tackle that probably catches A-Train or Perry.
2. Again, you got me. I went beyond the scope of my article there. The point was only to assess formations. The statement is true (even under center they use 3- and 4-receiver sets) but I didn't show that in this article.
3. I don't disagree that Denard can run a pro form offense. Vick's the closest thing in the NFL to Denard and he's mighty effective. Denard is a B+ pocket QB who can probably get to A- if given enough time to get comfortable with the footwork and knowing where everyone's gonna be so he can find McColgan open, etc. However he's an A+ spread QB. Either way he is more effective running pro concepts out of the shotgun than from under center.
Check out BWS's picture pages showing how well the read option worked.
I think Denard from shotgun gives us the best chance at winning. But I do think we need some under center. I agree with this "anyone who wants to play quarterback should know how to operate under center, even if its for only 15% of the plays."
It was a wonderful playcall, and almost perfectly executed except for Lewan messing up by missing a block. Smith made up for Lewan by making a guy miss. Then he outran a guy who was behind him - so that second guy he "made miss" was out of position because of the wonderful play call. And the third guy was blocked by Roundtree - I guess you can say that's individual effort if you want . But that was ten yards downfield - at that point the difference between a big gain and a TD is always the downfield blocking. But the first ten yards weren't lucky.
I've struggled with this since the awful 2008 campaign. Having Threet run the read option and having to keep it on occasion to keep the defenses honest just seemed crazy. Painful as a fan and I am sure painful for Threet. Guy (as was Sheridan) was a real player for sticking with it.
The I-form, as you point out has always been at least a small part of our offense. These same players have been practicing it for years, and when it comes to game time, under two different offensive coordinators, we have been terrible at gaining yardage with our running backs. At what point is it being inflexible to continue to do something (even if only a handful of times a game) if it's unsuccesful?
I disagree with your Oregon example. That was a team that over-achieved in terms of offensive line performance. Over the last few years, when they've run into great d-lines they've struggled, not only in the red-zone but in all areas of the field. The true pinnacle of the spread offense was Florida (or Auburn last year), neither team struggled in the red zone, of course having huge battering rams for QB's was helpful.
If Smith evading tacklers is "lucky" then aren't all of Denard's runs out of the shotgun "lucky?" After all, he's evading tacklers.
The Smith TD wasn't luck because it was a good play call and mostly well executed less one really big missed block. You could say we got "lucky" with the three guys Smith dodged but I could say we got "unlucky" that Lewan missed his guy.
Having your Quarterback go 1-on-5 with every closing in on him and still get 7 yards is lucky even for Denard.
I thought the play action out of the I actually worked pretty well, just wasn't executed. If you watch one of the rollout pass where Denard decides to keep it and gets zero yards, he had a TE absolutely wide open right in front of his face and didn't throw it. That play only failed because of a lack of execution, it was drawn up very well. I think that Denard will get more comfortable with the additions to the playbook and begin to run them more efficiently with time. I wouldn't just scrap it simply because it wasn't executed very will the first time it was used in a game.
We have to run it now because this is training for everyone, including all the backups on the 2 & 3 deep squads, who will become future starters. This is critical for the OL as they are most responsible for creating success in the I formation running game ... not just the running backs or QB.
Just a learning curve, that is obviously more apparent when playing a good defensive front 7 such as nd. This will imprive over the season. In the meantime, I thought Borges made the right adjustments in the clutch.
It seems at this point that the I-formation should really only be used as a small mix-up to our shotgun spread. What I would like to see is less drawn-out waggle plays forcing Denard to stay in the pocket and throw over big defenders and more sprint-out plays that move the pocket and give Denard a throw-run option. The throwback screen is a part of this package. Forcing Denard to sit in the pocket and make three reads is not the way this offense will succeed and fully utilize the dilithium.
That's the big thing, isn't it? There's this whole narrative of "spread doesn't work" and "Hoke's coming in to go back to MICHIGAN offense." But then there's the real story which was that RR was a one-trick pony who built an awesome offense and was an unmitigated disaster almost everywhere else. The Drew Sharps of the world are the ones toting a mandate for offensive change as the defining characteristic of the coaching change. On the opposite end there's Smart Football saying using Denard like he's Brian Griese is downright criminal.
The "Spread" is such a misnomer now anyway. Michigan this year has actually been devastating from a Shotgun max protect formation (two flanking backs and a tight end).
Really what this is about is shotgun versus under-center. Putting a QB under center, unless you're going to put all the backs there with him and run a Triple-Option, is how you protect him from having to move around so much. Do that with an effective running game and the defense has to cheat on play action and then you are free to unload your Tom Brady upon them. "Old School" offense didn't become so popular because there's an inherent rightness to it; it's awesome because it found a way to minimize the necessity for your quarterback to be a great running back too, allowing teams that could run it effectively (ie recruit an entire offense to compliment) to unleash Howitzer QBs upon defenses. You couldn't do that from the Wishbone, is why the great offenses of the '70s and '80s went with Triple-Option attacks. The I-Form specifically is a run formation that gives you mass going forward like the Wishbone but it's easier to pass from once you've forced the defense to cheat against the run. It's a particularly bad fit for Denard because it limits the very things he's best at. The only worse formation would be the Pro Set (used extensively by Carr in the Griese/Brady/Navarre/Henne years).
This shotgun's major weakness is you can't run out of it very well unless a) Your passing is so effective it makes the D susceptible to draws, or b) Your QB is so mobile (and O-line so agile) that if the D leaves its running lanes to pass protect he's liable to break a huge gain.
With Denard they have to respect the run every time he has the ball in his hands. So everything you accomplish by running ISOs and Dives out of the I-form you already get by putting Denard in the Shotgun.
Word. Individual effort =/= luck. Plays are drawn up to take advantage of a player's "individual effort." No OC draws up plays thinking they will earn 4.79 yards if executed properly. Creating the opportunity for big plays is a part of the OC's job.
People including Brian were defending the move to the spread before it was clear there was no talent. Most people had us pegged to go 8-4 in 2008.
Well, gaining yards with running backs is a pretty important part of football. As I note above, I'm of the "if it's not working, fix it" mindset, rather than give up on it altogether. To answer your question "at what point is it being inflexible to continue doing something . . . if it's unsuccessful," the answer certainly isn't "two games into a new coordinator's tenure."
If Borges was trying to force-feed the ball to RBs 20 times a game, I'd agree with you. But it seems right now that he's trying to find something that works without forgetting the Denard's legs are the real meal-ticket, which I think is the right way to go about it.
This is what happens when you sit down at the computer and say "let's write a post discrediting the I form. Let's take a gander at the data."
If you're going to describe the Vinny Smiff TD as lucky then there's no contrary data point you are not capable of ignoring.
The fact that every Michigan score came out of the I form is the kind of data that bears further examination. Waving it away as lucky strikes me as closed minded.
matrix of every shotgun snap before I have an opinion.
That's fine. I'm not bitching about the playcalling right now so much as saying I think there's a clear difference at this point in efficacy between shotgun and under-center. Improving the latter comes at the cost of efficiency. I'm willing to do that against Western and Eastern but wasting three snaps on trying to establish Hopkins as a run threat out of the I-form is a little unproductive when you're running against Nix and Te'o.
I have that -- did that at the same time. I'll post on Google docs tonight and you can take a look.
Confirmation bias is what you're saying, but that's not at all what I did. This came together pretty unorganized: I spent most of my evening getting the data organized then watching the game again to chart which plays were which. Only then did I think to post just the under-center plays instead of the whole chart. And only after screwing around in Pivot Tables did I stumble across the big disparity in rush yardage between the two sets.
This isn't an indictment of the I-form as a concept, or even as something Michigan can run. It's saying that results-based charting isn't giving a full picture of the efficacy of the two sets.
A big thing I noticed that ended up not being part of the scope of the final article was how they tweaked the shotgun plays. On the first (and only) Hopkins run from the gun there's a DT who beats (Barnum? Molk? couldn't see) and Hopkins doesn't bounce far enough from him to get into the otherwise pretty big hole. If he gets past that great play by the DL, the play basically puts Hopkins one-on-one with momentum against a linebacker 3 yards downfield. Later Michigan ran this same play except Denard had a loooooong mesh and then pulled the ball and FOLLOWED the RB. Sure enough the same hole was there except Denard got past the DL better than Hopkins can and instead of one-on-one with that LB there was a lead blocker to spring Denard for big gains. They did this at least twice for 20+ yards.
If you're looking for evidence of how Borges is tweaking the Spread 'n Shred positively, that's a great example of something RR's teams only ever did by accident after a QB should have handed off and instead pulled and had to follow his RB.
I'm REALLY excited to see what else Borges can do with these guys from the Gun. RR was all about getting a waterbug one-on-one with a guy in space but getting Denard 2-on-1 with a lead blocker is a recipe for being like dang. Meanwhile I'm fine with using some plays here and there (especially against Eastern) to continue refining Pro concepts, especially the way they use receivers and timing. I just don't see that as being Denard's forte -- he's the opposite of a robot out there and seems to resort to his instincts faster than trusting a rote.
But this doesn't look anywhere near as bad for Denard in the I as I thought it would given all the handwringing there has been.
First, I really struggle with discounting the small fact that we scored all of our touchdowns out of the I. I know many people around hete know more about football than I do, but aren't touchdowns kinda important?
Second, in comparing all f the plays under the I to allof the plays in the shotgun, you are not just comparing how Denard performs under center, you are also comparing how our running backs performed from the I. A big part of the reason that our numbers under the I look worse is that our running game other than Denard kinda sucked.
I see ten plays where Denard was throwing
Sack - 0
Incmplete - 0
Touchdown - 43
Interception - 0
Scramble - 7
First down - 15
Touchdown - 14
Interception - 0
Touchdown - 21
Touchdown - 16
Good plays 6, bad plays 4
Note - did not go back to see if penalty was on pass play or run play.
I also didn't do all the work you've done to break out plays in the shotgun, so I don't have a new avearage for that, since the shotgun plays aren't broken out, we also don't know how the good/bad play percentages compare.
I also have some quibbles with the subjective part of your analysis. While there is clearly healthy debate about whether the jumpball strategy is a good one, Borges said in his interview that it was an intentional strategy. Therefore it seems that Denard was able to effectively run the play he was asked.
I haven't gone back to look at the total number of plays run in each quarter, but looking quickly, it doesn't seem that Borges significantly changed his gameplan with regards to use of the I - it just seems Denard became more comfortable. Imagine that, as you do more of something, yoy get more comfortable with it.
I agreed with you up to the guy out of position part. The guy he "outran" was actually a DT who read the play pretty well and actually got a hand on Smith because Smith was forced to juke the first guy inside. If the first guy gets any more of Smith, the DT makes the play. Anything but a poor play by the guy Lewan missed makes this a one yard gain.
Great play design, poor execution, and thankfully saved by Smith.
It's okay that shotgun/spreadish gets more YPP than under center if under center/pro-stylish got us the TDs. That's THE WHOLE POINT. Diversity in the playbook gives us the ability to confound defenses and disrupt schematic advantages.
Did those spread-option plays score us a lot of points? NO. They did get us a lot of yards, something we also excelled at in 2010. But for most of this game, as for most of 2010, we couldn't get the damned ball in the damned endzone against good defenses. This is where the 40% comes in, and in fact, where it came in during the 4th quarter of the game.
So let's re-examine it:
When we were under center, ND brought guys up, to pressure Denard into bad throws and stuff the run. For 3 quarters, it worked. Then it didn't, because Denard started finding the WRs in single coverage...WHO WERE ACTUALLY OPEN THROUGHOUT THE GAME, but who Denard either missed or who dropped catchable balls. Most of these were nerves issues, as Molk said in the post-game interview. The only conclusion you can draw from this is that it's NOT A PROBLEM OF SCHEME, but of execution...something that can be improved by practice. As it happens, we executed well when it counted.
Also, as others have pointed out, the VS TD and Gallon TD were not luck..they were DESIGNED to be like that. I'd also say the broken plays were not entirely luck either...in order to get pressure and contain Denard, ND had to give its CBs single coverage on the WRs. They were doing this all night (in both shotgun and i-form packages), and without aforementioned nerves issues, we would have taken more advantage of this.
So please be more open-minded and qualitative about the i-form stuff. My only concern is that the Hopkins-up-the-middle-on-1st-downs ploy didn't work. So maybe it's time for Borges to add some more pure West Coast stuff: checkdowns to the halfback and short drag routes to the TE on 1st downs, draw plays on 2nd, etc.
Sample size too small to know yet whether UM was lucky because they worked so hard and made good calls or whether, as it looked to me, Denard connected on a string of highly improbable passes no matter how skilled he is.
That said, great win, but man I wish that had been Ufer calling the game. I got chills listening to that call. I still miss him (being old enough to do so).
Also, I just decided that when I get my Denard Fathead I want it to be just a silhouette of him running, slightly tilted forward, ball tucked tight in his arm, head up, with that incredible and powerful stride in full gear. No one else looks anything like him.
Wouldn't it be better to rate the success of each play as a positive or negative rather than look at total yards per play? This way a successful third and one conversion from the I formation would be considered better than an eight yard rush gain on third and ten from the shotgun. It would be interesting to use this system to look at all the plays and then look at the percentage of successful plays in terms of the I and shotgun. I am not saying that it would disprove your theory but rather that yardage by itself can be misleading.
That's pretty rough criticism for 1200 words. Would you care to elaborate, or, you know, offer something productive?
UPDATE: if you thought that was long, I urge you to skip Dear Diary this week because it's Looooooong. This is entirely the fault of too many good diaries. Why am I telling you this anyway? Sorry I killed your cat.
In shotgun he was 6-17, averaging 13.7 per attempt with 0 TDs and 2 INTs. Under Center he was 5-7, averaging 15.6 per attempt with 4 TDs and 1 INT. I realize numbers on a page are just that, but while I don't dislike Denard in shotgun, I don't think Denard under center is a bad thing. Eventually he is going to start hitting creases and scrambling.
the concept of this column. Shouldn't it be called "Misopogon Museday?" Every single post on the blog is about Michigan already.
In this game the play action was very successful. The long passes were mostly out of I form play action. But I think Denard will always have time to throw because teams rarely do an all out blitz on him because if you get out of your lane he is gone. And if that's the case, the play action doesn't add a whole lot. I think he could have chucked the ball up to a receiver from the shotgun or play action and the footwork would have been better from him in shotgun.
And I totally agree that the problems with the offense so far are not because the scheme is bad. I just think, for now, Denard is much more effective in the shotgun. By the end of the year or next year, who knows.
the coaches to put our players in the best position to succeed. We all said this last year as well. We didn't think the coaches were putting players in a position to succeed and it seems to be happening again (at least at he moment).
I think you gave a nice rundown of the position groups and what they are best suited for. It is clear that the players we have (not just Denard, but the entire team) are better suited for a spread style offense, or shotgun offense at the very least.
What I think (hope I should say) is that Borges is trying this I form stuff out in the OOC schedule to see if it will be viable come time for the B1G schedule. Hopefully they have learned to run it effectively by that time, and if not I hope they give it the boot entirely. When it is clear that one thing works better than another I think it only makes sense to use that.
Again, I just want Borges to put our players in the best position to succeed and the limited sample size we have currently suggests that's the shotgun. I don't like to say this, but for the first three quarters it looked a lot like a coach stubbornly trying to do the same tiing over and over even though it wasn't working. Thankfully that stopped in the fourth.
I though this was the most useful in terms of actually introducing facts into the debate
With Mallet, Manningham, Arrington, Mitchell and Boren?
or with what we started with?
Because if it was what we started the season with, they were clearly basing their predictions on the helmet and not the players.
You say 1 in spread. Mispogottn says 2. Any idea why?
Best part of the passing offense this season is no more bubble screens, get those little shifty guys downfield and in space and they will make plays.
It skews the yardage gained a bit too. If every 3rd and 1 or 2 you run out of the I, where the goal is to get one or two yards, it can be very successful, but doesn't give you a big yardage output. (Yeah you could break it...but that's not really what the blocking is designed to do. You don't instruct the player to bounce outside so he can go to the house when he's more likely to lose yards and not get the 1st). And A shotgun play isn't going to be a run play out of short yardage situations, but only long ones. So there's no skewing it down.
Which ties into why the sack in the shotgun was put as a passing loss, rather than a running one. Beyond going against old school statistics, in the modern sense, can you really say when Denard is running or not? I mean, you can tell the designed plays, sure...but for that to be fair, any time (from any formation) Denard took a pass play and took off with it, breaking it big, you'd have to count that as passing yards. You can't just take out the negative from the shotgun because it suits the meme, but leave the positives in.
Actually I had the sack sitting alone and then decided it's a passing loss. That was a drop in the bucket and only made the Shotgun passing stats look a tiny bit worse.
I took out all the 3rd and shorts, and also all the 3rd and longs. What you see there are stats from 1st and 2nd downs, plus 3rd and 5 or 6, nothing from the goal line (except I counted Denard's I-form rollout-to-run from the 8-yard line and that helped the I-form rushing) and nothing from the last two plays.
Seriously I tried to take as many unfair outliers out of it as I could.
I disagree. The best part about the passing offense is that Borges is a passing master and while it'll take some time to learn them all, his routes will end up being way more effective than RR's. Rodriguez used mesh routes from time to time but mostly his passing game was right out of high school -- flags and posts and outs and bubbles/stuff out of the backfield against single coverage that work because opponents sell out to stop the run. The few teams (Iowa, OSU, MSU) who could passively defend against the run made passing difficult but they'll have a harder time once the WRs learn the Borges way of exploiting zone coverage.
I would not say they were lucky. But I would say that you can't count on them being replicated. They caught a stone-footed ND DB by surprise.
They are 50/50 jump balls to whoever goes up and gets them. B1G defenses will have guys that can get up there. Nobody will be surprised anymore.
I really disagree about the philosophy that we need to scrap what Denard is good at and immediately get to a new system because that's "the future".
This year and next year are not waste years that we might as well use for training. With a D that is starting to gain a pulse and with some down opponents, we can be in the B1G hunt if we let Denard be Denard.
I'm all for investing for the future, but you've got to have some victories along the way to get there (ask RR). If the past 3 years have taught us anything, it's that the Michigan faithful have the patience of a 2 year old. So feed the beast enough to keep it at bay and live to fight another day.
So what if Shane Morris is the first "real" QB student of the new system? If I'm fresh off the glow of competing for the B1G the previous year, I can live with that.
I loves me some Denard. And this clouds my judgement. But if you catch me with my guard down, I would have to admit that my innermost fear is that Denard is not even a B+ pocket QB, and that he will not ever be even a B+ pocket QB.
I feel like I'm calling one of my own ugly, but he is not a pure passer. He is short and has small hands for a pocket QB. That's OK, he is what he is. Tom Brady is never going to run for 1000 yards either.
Denards magic starts with his legs out in open space. Once he's there all things open up. Denard in the pocket may never be more than just a change of pace look.
This may wind up having less to do with Denard's ability under center, and more to do with the O line's and RB's ability under center.
It may turn out that we just do not yet have the O line and RB's to run an under-center based offense. If that part is not working (and it's not at this point), then Denard's comfort level and ability are beside the point.
We will be able to operate successfully with Denard in an under-center oriented offense when we are able to operate successfully with our O line and RBs in an under-center oriented offense.
What happens if we are not there yet and won't be until we get different personnel? Then we go shopping for something that works in the interim.
When Bo lost Jim Harbaugh in 1984, he tried to run the Harbaugh offense with backups Russ Reid and Chris Zurbugg. It was not working. So Bo, old supposedly inflexible Bo, dusted off the playbook and ran the '70s option. That they could run. He picked up a few more wins because of it. When Harbaugh came back the next year, he reinstituted the "new" offense.
If the under-center oriented offense is not in the cards (and we'll know by MSU), then we need to go with what we have in our back pocket . . . Denard in the open.
I'm talking right before the season. Remember, Michigan was ranked. We had higher expectations for that team than we do for this one.
Every Michigan TD was scored with Robinson under center. I think the take away form this chart is that Denard should be under center for every snap.