Re: the first paragraph...no, you were certainly not the only one. Watching Denard last year was awesome yet horrifiying. Let's hope, like you said, he improves to the point that we only have quasi-heart attacks once or twice a game instead of 10+ times. Then again, I wouldn't exactly mind if Tate was the guy either. Either way, we are SO far ahead of where we were in 2008, which isn't saying much, I know, but still...it's something.
I am not a man. I began as one, but now I am becoming more than a man, as you will witness.
– Francis Dolarhyde, Red Dragon
After the Iowa game last year, my nervous system instantaneously rushed to the precipice of meltdown every time Denard Robinson stepped onto the field. Mixing equal parts of anxiety and exhilaration yields a volatile cocktail. There were times when I couldn’t stand up because I was so nervous; only once or twice but, regardless of frequency, that ain’t right. Trembling calves, bated breath, dilated pupils, thumping heart. Then, a money Chewbacca impression; happy or sad, the reaction was the same. I can’t have been the only one.
There was good reason for such a strong pavlovian response. It seemed as though the outcome of a play with Robinson under center was the random result of the flip of a coin—tails: utter disaster, heads: spectacular success, on edge: just another play. Denard threw interceptions at a nauseating 13% rate on 31 passes. However, he also scored touchdowns 7% of the time on 100 total touches. Forcier only produced TDs a little over 3% of the time. Think about that for a second, Forcier had 399 touches last year and scored 13 TDs…Denard, theoretically, could’ve had 28. Those numbers are ridiculous to quote because Denard touched the ball so infrequently last year, but it isn’t fair to quote his turnovers without also quoting his TDs.
Anyway, eight months later we are faced with another batch of the cocktail, this time with a twist. A full offseason and a spring practice session have apparently yielded a thrilling prospect, Denard can throw. Maybe we can actually stomach the elixir and keep it down. That prospect sparks at least two questions. The first, how much could he have realistically improved? I mean, there’s improvement, and then there’s being good; the latter is not guaranteed. The second question is, who do you play, Tate or Denard? In this diary I hope to rigorously estimate an answer to the first question and hopelessly flail at the second.
Method to the Madness
My previous work with quarterback stats has provided some averages for first year starters that account for a lot of influences on their level of play . Most averages, though, have a funny trait—they don’t actually exist. For example, in a country with an average of 2.3 kids per household, you will never find an actual household with 2.3 kids in it. This is the type of fallacy that arises from the reckless application of statistics and leads many reasonable people to view the valuable information reported by statistics with a jaundiced eye. It is absolutely critical to understand what a statistic tells you and what it doesn’t. There’s a saying that says “guns don’t kill people,
LaMarr Woodley kills people kill people.” Similarly, statistics don’t lie, people do.
If you want to know about a specific case, you need to study that case and only that case. Thing is, we can’t study Denard directly because, you know, we can’t see the future…balls! Thankfully, we have the transitive property, if you believe in such things. If A = B and B = C, then A = C. Flashing back to football, if we want to know about how a guy like Denard develops as a passer from a dismal first year to the very next year, you need to study the second seasons of players that had dismal first years as passers. Find as many as you can and you have something you can work with.
- Include only players from BCS teams in order to provide some reasonable controls for supporting cast and opposing competition.
- First season as starter was first, second or third year after high school with a passer rating under 100 on at least 50 pass attempts.
- The player ‘stuck’ in the next season, meaning they showed enough improvement or benefit to not be replaced.
That last one is crucial. Presumably, Robinson cannot overtake/match Forcier in passing ability this year (perhaps never) so, in order to stick, Denard must be a significantly better passer than he was in 2009 thus allowing the rushing advantage he brings to the running game into play as a reasonable offset for the gap between his passing ability and Forcier’s. Otherwise, he won’t siphon off many snaps away from Tate. So, after picking rotten fruit, I rejected the ones that didn’t represent the case we’re interested: a meaningfully improved passer. In the transitive reduction picture shown above (right side), this is looking at the a-b-d-e chain and ignoring the a-c-d-e chain.
Meet The Proxies
|Name||Team||Year||Stars||QBRat||PaAtt||PaPct||PaY/A||TD %||INT %|
|Brady Quinn||Notre Dame||2003||4||93.5||332||47.3%||5.5||2.7%||4.5%|
|Matt Ryan||Boston Coll.||2004||3||91.5||71||49.3%||4.9||2.8%||4.2%|
|Stephen McGee||Texas A&M||2005||4||98.8||53||45.3%||5.3||3.8%||1.9%|
|Lyle Moevao||Oregon St.||2007||0||98.8||147||52.4%||6.0||1.4%||4.1%|
|Josh Nesbitt||Georgia Tech.||2008||4||96.3||123||43.9%||6.6||1.6%||4.1%|
Denard put up one of the lower passer ratings in the cohort primarily because of his extremely high interception rate. However, he also had the highest TD rate in the group and his YPA was third highest in the group. The high ratings in the playmaker categories suggest that D-Rob can improve his rating drastically by improving his accuracy and coverage recognition.
The following table shows how the proxies improved in the very next season.
|Name||Team||Year||Stars||QBRat||PaAtt||PaPct||PaY/A||TD %||INT %|
|Brady Quinn||Notre Dame||2004||4||125.9||353||54.1%||7.3||4.8%||2.8%|
|Matt Ryan||Boston Coll.||2005||3||135.7||195||62.1%||7.8||4.1%||2.6%|
|Stephen McGee||Texas A&M||2006||4||134.9||313||62.0%||7.3||3.8%||0.6%|
|Lyle Moevao||Oregon St.||2008||0||128.4||361||59.3%||7.0||5.3%||3.6%|
|Josh Nesbitt||Georgia Tech.||2009||4||148.7||162||46.3%||10.5||6.2%||3.1%|
|Name||QBRat||PaPct||PaY/A||TD %||INT %|
|2nd. Yr Prism||126.0||57.6%||7.1||4.7%||3.4%|
Un-wholly crap. The average player in this cohort went from being off-the-charts bad to exactly average; not only did the group get out of the hole, they caught up to the pack. In the prism categories, about half of the players met or exceeded the 2nd Yr threshold for completion percentage, yard per attempt, and interception rate; the touchdown rate threshold was met or exceeded less often. IF HE STICKS, there is a good chance that Denard improves to a point where he’s as good this year as Tate Forcier was last year; if he sticks. That plus Dilithium. Anyone else have goose bumps?
The Sticking Point
That is all very encouraging, but it hinges on the huge assumption that Denard will improve enough to displace Tate as starting QB; that’s not a gimme. In actuality, there are 25 players that meet all of the criteria except for the last (improved enough). Of those, 9 did not play in the following year (benched or transferred), and 5 were “Forcier blocked”. So really, there’s a 14 in 25 chance that Denard won’t improve enough to be the regular starter. HOWEVA, we already know that Denard has, in fact improved enough to be a challenger albeit in practice settings. So, focusing on only those players who stuck makes sense until we have more information (i.e. actual game observations).
I can’t imagine why things would be different for Denard than for the group selected above. Michigan has a veteran and finally deep offensive line, playmakers with experience in the receiving corps, a diverse stable of versatile and talented running backs, and an offensive scheme that has been proven to be effective and is now familiar to everyone on the two-deep.
Will it be different this time? Maybe. But, given what we’ve heard from spring practice and witnessed in the spring game, what reason is there to think that it will be?
Here I’ve written over 1800 words meticulously explaining why I think that Denard should not only be better, but he should be much, much better. After all that, I still don’t know.
See, Tate Forcier was as good as advertised and he wasn’t even at his best in 2009. His prism numbers were that of a 2nd year starter, just like we hoped they would be. But, when he went all six-million-dollar man on that diving touchdown in the fourth quarter against Indiana, the cape came off. Balls that smoothly soared 40 or 50 yards to hit a streaking receiver in stride in September, fluttered and sailed for easy interceptions in October and November. Yeah, the level of the competition had something to do with it, but so did his injury.
Now Tate stands to play like a 3rd year starter and with the offensive line and skill position talent Michigan has, Forcier could very well surpass the long term good passer rating of 139.2 and head for the 150’s or higher; quarterbacks do it every year. So the real question is, who would you rather have a mature Drew Stanton / Drew Tate or an immature but faster (!) Pat White? Either of those sounds great to me.
The best part about all of this is that this is not a typical quarterback competition. Tate and Denard have complimentary strengths and with a simple play call, they execute very different offenses. It is impossible to prepare to stop them both in 20 hours of practice time. Coach Rodriguez and his staff have the luxury of choosing the player they think gives them the best chance to win at that moment and actually believe it.
You are privy to a great becoming, but you recognize nothing. To me, you are a slug in the sun. You are an ant in the afterbirth. It is your nature to do one thing correctly. Before me, you rightly tremble. But, fear is not what you owe me. You owe me awe.
– Francis Dolarhyde, Red Dragon
There’s a song that has stuck with me for a while now that seems appropriate to share after writing this. I like because it is soothing and assuring, and because even video games come back to Michigan Football with me. Maybe it’s the happy anger. Maybe its the fact that, when I hear this song, I hear an angel choir singing Pachelbel’s Cannon in D in my mind, both literally and figuratively. Maybe it’s just the hook, bringing me back. Whatever the reason, I like it, and maybe you will, too.
Let’s Go, Blue.
It's speculation, but speculation backed up by cold, hard facts is the absolute best we can do until the season rolls around. Thanks for the hard work, and I look forward to discovering all of the truth in your words in a couple months!
Excellent work as always.
You are one of the main reasons I check this site 10 times a day for new content. This Diary was worth every second I spent re-reading it! I admire the effort you put into your writings! In this cynical world we live in, I feel like I'm a better person after having spent 20 minutes reading this.
I +1'd you before I read Cox Rage! Good thing. haha
I am excited about having either of them playing, I am also glad that each is now a year older and has a year more in the system as that almost always translates to better QB play. I think we will reasonably see both QB's with playing time, making it very hard on the opposition. If our Defense steps up, I think we can have a good season.
I think this was my favorite analytical diary yet. Well written on all accounts, with some great things to think about. Thank you good sir!
Really I'm stunned how good content becomes on this site
I like that the analysis focused on Robinson, but you haven't summarily dismissed Forcier. He played extraordinarily well most of the year for a true freshman, behind a mistake-prone OL and without a running game when Minor was out. He has tremendous upside as a QB (read: eliminate TO's, mature in the pocket, build physicality) - it seems quite silly to me that some talk about Tate and a "ceiling" after one year
The only thing I'll add (this morning) to the Tate/Denard combo - both of these guys can come in cold. Neither seems like they need to warm up or get into a flow. Dilithium and Moxie: give me the ball and let me attack
Without knowing what fall practices will bring, my preference is to start D-Rob becasue he has the most upside. T-Force would be the better of the two coming off the bench in a "come from behind" mode.
In this case, I think a two-headed beast is best.
Reality is DRob completed less than 50% of his passes his Sr. year in HS. He may become an adequate passer, but until he proves he can against real competion in a real game I'll stick with Tate. Denard is a superior threat running the ball yet until he is a passing threat he'll be facing a D loading up the box.
The 7% of his touches resulting in TD's is really skewed because of who he had them against. Didn't almost half of them come against Deleware State? Both of his passing TDs in that game would have been picks as they were late and the WR had to wait for the ball. I'm just trying to be realistic here. DRob showed tremendous improvement in the spring game going against a totally overmatched D (think how scared you would have been last year going into a real game without BG, DW, and Stevie then take away the rest of the starters).
it's great to watch highlights of Robinson running that TD against Western when he dropped the ball, but that is not something that happens frequently.
The fan response to the Spring Game just demonstrates Coach Rod's genius in marketing to recruits. Robinson understood most of the playbook by the spring game, and matching the first string offense against the second string defense is a guaranteed highlight reel allowing each recruit to visualize themselves doing that.
But I do think that MCalibur hit the conclusion perfectly. Overall it is not likely that Denard Skills will outweigh the Tate skills, but having both in a playbook experienced "swappable" mode (meaning the defense will have to plan for more than 4 plays from Denard) the combination is very powerful.
At first I thought MCalibur was using the Red Dragon quotes as if Denard was speaking, but by the end, it is clearly Coach Rodriguez speaking.
And I agree with the sentiment, we are about to witness a becoming.
A two headed monster can be a good thing. If our opponent for the week has a week secondary and a stout run defense, Tate gets the call, and Denard comes in as change of pace. If we're playing a week run defense team, Denard gets the call and Tate comes in as change of pace (particularly second or third and long).
I'm not saying we have the defense to do this yet, but Leak and Tebow were complimentary, and Meyer leveraged that two headed monster right to a national championship. (Past the Buckeyes defense I might add.)
There is no quarterback controversy. We have battlefield redundancy, and the ability to shift the plane of attack from play to play, and opponent to opponent.
Imagine the fun Sun Tzu would have with such a position.
Can you really make any legit statistical assumptions based on D-Rob's season last year. I mean, he barely played. Many of the guys you listed were fulltime starters.
I just dont know if these are apt comparisons. Good read, though. I too was always an emotional cauldron when he was in the game.
...your sentiments. Moreover, quickly realizing last year that there was at least an eighty percent chance he was going to run with the ball, I became frustrated with the play-call folly. Defenses must have been grinning beneath those helmets.
Let's hope Denard's successful Spring against the 2's translates to equal success against real opposing defenses. IMHO, if he can exhibit control and touch in the passing zones of up to 20 yards or so downfield, he'll be quite effective.
My only concern is that he may not be seasoned enough to make the snap decision between taking off or making the throw. I would think his default is to take off and run, and with his speed this is arguably justifiable. If this default position becomes a predictable pattern, defenses will catch on quickly and shut down the lanes.
That said, the prospects for an exciting and successful year truly exist. Compared to '09, I have a little less apprehension and a lot more expectation.
Once again the user generated content (the staff stuff rocks too) on this site shows why it is the #1 team specific sports blog in the galaxy and is ruled by a space emperor from space.
Love seeing quality content like this. I have a lot of hope for these guys. I think one of our RB's will be able to step up and prove to be a viable threat. As our qb's take a little pressure off the runningbacks game that should be a facet that improves also. I know some were concerned about the ceiling on T-force but he flashed some moments of brilliance last year and if he can get those much more consistently with a reduction of errors I will be excited no matter who the starter is on offense.
It would be great to see Tate perform like a 3rd year starter and have Denard be an immature but faster Pat White. Not sure any defense could prep for that monster. I would be even more amazed if they could both play like that while splitting time. My guess is that would be hard, but if they could Michigan would be fun to watch (at least on offense)
was created during the Iowa game. Denard will start.
Denard started all those games after the Iowa game?
arm and shoulder socket occured in the 4th quarter of the Indiana game. Tate will be fine.
Great work as always!
and Thank You, MCalibur. I will read and re-read.
Very interesting. Good work. I will re-read this for sure multiple times.
I agree that pieces like this are what Mgoblog is all about... This year has been a rollercoaster for me. I started the offseason thinking it's all about Tate. He's got more experience, and he can lead a team to a last second victory in a tough game. He's proved that even though he needs some help shifting and sliding in the pocket vs. breaking out and scrambling all over the place before he needs to - he gives us a balanced attack that will be tough to stop.
Then I go to the spring game and Tate is horrible. What was up with that? I know that he was behind a second string O-line and competing against our #1 Defense, but if he starts he will face several defenses light years better than ours. Denard, on the other hand, looked like a QB, stood tall, checked down his recievers, and threw some nice accurate passes. Driving 5 hours back home from the spring game, I'm thinking, "Denard is the man, and this guy will be the starter for the entire year..."
Fast forward to now, when I've had months to cool off from the show in the spring. I think I've come to the conclusion that both QB's should get time. I have been a "If you have 2 QB's you have none" kind of guy for as long as I can remember. I've always thought that a team needs one guy to be the leader, and that if you have a couple of QB's out there they will feel the extra pressure of getting yanked at a moments notice. This situation has changed my mind. The coaches need to do whatever will give us the best chance of scoring the most points possible. You can't do this without using each of the unique skill sets these two have to offer. Go with both of them! Go Blue!!!
michiganfanforlife post startled me into a identifying a glaring inconsistency in the way I view the quarterback position. Like said blogger, I've subscribed to the 2 QBs = 0 mostly becasue I swallowed the same pill as most fans that funnels me into automatically crowning the quarterback as the "leader" of the offense. I'm ripe for a paradigm shift. Every, and I mean EVERY, other player on the feild plays with the presure that comes with the realization that , "If I suck I'm coming out. I have to play like a champion today." Why do we asign QBs a fragile psyche that does not allow them to simultaneously play football and deal with intersquad competition. It can be done and I'm excited to see both these young men thrive this season. I just hope one of them doesn't decide to transfer 'cause they're both so damn talented.
Whoever can run the zone read better will get the majority of the snaps this coming year. I agree with almost all of what you said but I think the thing that will determine what is more valuable, Tate's passing or Denard's running, comes down to who is better at reading the defensive end in our base run package. Last year, Tate wasn't particularly good at it and got away with poor reads by athleticism. Denard wasn't even allowed to run it at all. That is the really exciting part about Denard's game to me. He still led that TD drive against Iowa when all he could do was run straight ahead. If the defense has to choose between Denard and a running back going in opposite directions, I love our chances to have monster explosive plays.
we have seen how a terrifically athletic QB could make the old Michigan look sick.....I still wake up screaming from visions of Dennis Dixon and Oregon..........now we have one those "speed kills" kind of guys.
I cant wait.
for me in this, oddly--despite Denard's very positive prospects, ably demonstrated here--is that there's a strong chance Tate spends a great deal, even more of the time, taking snaps.
But--we have to keep reminding our Manichean selves--this just isn't an either/or proposition. I have long felt that a confident coach (take LSU recently) plays two good QBs and doesn't give a hang about the public's hunger for a clear choice. If the players are confident when both are over center, get the best guy in for every play.
Michigan has three (four now?) dandy QBs. Barring injury, two of them are ready this year. And I won't be at all surprised if Devin Gardner comes in every now and then and just blows straight past some startled defenses, either.
I think that the one thing that this doesn't take into account - by no fault of MCalibur - is the "coaching up" factor. Yes, many of these guys showed real improvement in their passing game, but most of these guys were, you know, passers, already. So, yes, them improved their passing games, but I do not think that the comparison to Denard is apt.
I think that Denard could see an even greater passing improvement. In high school, his game - and likely much of his practice time - was devoted to running. With a full year working with BCS level coaching, and being forced to focus somewhat on his throwing, we might see a massive improvement in DRob's passing game. If that occurs, and if his running game stays on par with last year, he could be a game changer.
Please God, please be right.
is that if Denard becomes as good at passing as Tate was last year then he will start. I don't think I needed statistics to figure that out.
I really like the stats that back up a decent thought. I mean lots of times I think I know the answer and turns out I could be way off base. It is nice to see some checking of the stats that supports what may or may not be that simple an answer.
Hopefully we have to choose between a "3rd year starter" in Tate, who should be like a mobile version of Chad Henne (this gives me goosebumps too) or a "2nd year starter" in Denard who should be like Pat White in his breakout year.
Can we get both of these guys on the field at the same time?
Putting on the Devil's advocate hat for a minute...What if Tate has a sophomore slump (like Henne did)? I don't think that this will happen. There is actually competition in the QB spot. Henne basically had the job all wrapped up by his sophomore year (Hadn't Gutierrez transferred by then or was he still recovering from surgery?) Any way you slice it, Henne was the man, and everyone knew it. He then proceeded to have a down year (in part due to Mike Hart's injury). If Tate has a down quarter, he'll get pulled...and he knows it. "As iron sharpens iron..."
but he is no Henne. Henne had a down sophomore year not only because Hart was injured, but so was Jake Long for a lot of the season and Braylon left for the NFL. That being said, Henne has 10 times the arm strength Forcier does. Forcier is obviously the better runner, but I don't think he will ever be the passer Henne was. If Forcier can run this offense well and be accurate, he will be a great qb for us.
Did you take out Flash's statistics from the scrimmage against Baby Seal U?
The comparisons of Flash's numbers to anyone else is really misleading if you leave in his gaugy gimme's against the Baby Seals. Given his very, very low number of throws and total plays, a great many came against BSU (Not THAT BSU), so that scrimmage completely throws off the meaning of his statistics. I doubt most QBs in D-I get to play opponents as bad as BSU (NTBSU), but even if they do, one such game gets watered down over a 10- to 12-game season against normal opponents. Flash's stats are heavily weighted by his performance against BSU (NTBSU), so it makes him look way better than he actually performed against normal opponents.
Just my two cents.
Adding some stats:
Only 4 of Flash's 31 attempts (13%) came against Delaware State, but those 4 attempts counted for 85 of his 188 passing yards (45%) and both passing TDs (100%). Take those out, and his numbers are 11 for 27, 103 yards, 0 TD, 4 int.
Now that's a tiny sample size, so it's dangerous to infer too much from it, but 41% completions, 0% TD, 3.8 YPA, and 15% int are even below Sheridan-esque. All these numbers except completion percentage would be the worst in every category on the original list of young starters by a mile, and completion percentage is close.
I think Denard will improve substantially, and his running ability might make him worth starting even if his passing is merely below-average, but keep in mind that we're really starting from the absolute bottom of QB performance here.
That that the nickname "Flash" be reserved for guys named Gordon. It's been overused.
"Shoelace" and "Dilithium" are more original.
Dilithium gets my vote. Shoelace is slightly more inventive than a hockey player's nickname.
Without Baby Seal U, Denard's passer rating was 41.2.
Depressing for sure, but I suppose it's to be expected for a kid who had 3 weeks to prepare for the season. He's looked incredible this spring, so hopefully it was just a matter of not having any reps.
Let's keep in mind that the two TDs against Baby Seal U could have been completed by most of us posting here. They were completions to wide, wide open receivers.
In 2003 against us, Brady Quinn looked like a passer that needed some experience/seasoning in reading college defenses. In 2009, passes thrown downfield by Denard looked like they were directed by a random number generator.
Anyway, there's reason to hope for improvement in both Denard's and Tate's games. Remember the Tate for Heisman talk last Sept.
Perhaps the answer is to play Tate with 10 other players on the field on some downs, while on other downs play Tate with 9 players and then scratch our heads wondering how the micro-second ticked off the clock and where the extra six points came from while we're lining up to kick the PAT.
Or maybe Tate becomes the dangerous change-up.
I liked how you came to your conlusion about Denard's expected progress from year 1 to year 2 and I especially liked how you acknowledged that Tate will see some improvement in his game too. People are justifiably getting exited about Denard's upside but it doesn't mean that Tate isn't progressing too. It's nice to have two capable qb's returning and I hope the competition brings out the best in both of them.
Illustrates the hopes for this season, that it will show the strengths of the QBs as being complementary.
Also second all the complimentary remarks re the post itself.
Nicely done. And give me the "two-headed monster" at QB. I definitely agree with your conclusion about two QB's with complimentary skills being very difficult to prepare for. I am a proponent of doing what Bo used to do with his RB's: let both play and go with whoever the defense has the most trouble stopping.
I know the old cliche about rotating QB's not working, and I know the "reasoning" behind it, but I feel that this situation is truly unique. In a situation like this, "convention" is rendered questionable at best. Luckily, when you have the "Godfather of the Spread Option" running your football team, one thing you can probably count on is that your coach isn't afraid to defy convention, having already done it on a regular basis for most of his career.
I think Forcier starts the first game because of his experience and because it usually takes more than a "1A and 1B" situation to unseat an established starter. After the first series, though, I hope it's "anything goes." Having both QB's in every game would be a lot like having a "flamethrower" and a knuckleballer pitch in the same game, but being able to bring them in and out whenever you want.
Considering that both QB's are smallish and a bit young, allowing both to play should limit reps and keep both healthy, especially for that game in November. Also, keeping defenses off balance should keep either from sustaining a lot of direct hits, because the defenses won't be able to "time" their hits as well as they would if either played the entire game.
At any rate, the team will be in good hands with either.
That is all.
might work nicely -
I have been looking for a good name for;
The act of chasing my kids around the playground until I run my forehead directly into a lower-than-it-should-be beam of some sort, consistently ending up on the ground trying to convince my kids that yes, while there is blood flowing, Daddy will eventually be just fine.
I think I will call this act and my swollen, bruised forehead my Dilithium Bloom.
Fun to read, and overall, I see this "problem" as a positive. Neither are big kids and this year, instead of playing an injured starting QB, we'll have a viable option to turn to if someone goes superman and lands on a throwing shoulder.
I would expect Denard's rating to improve the most dramatically, because if memory serves, he never had a QB coach in H.S., never had anyone teach him mechanics, how to read a D, and so on. It's like adopting a kid from Somalia and expecting him to be familiar with which fork is for the salad the first time you sit him down at a fancy dinner table. Tate, on the other hand, was being taught the equivalent of Emily Post's Etiquette since he exited the womb (if Emily Post coached quarterbacking).
The one thing I would heavily discount, though, is the spring game. Whenever someone brings up the respective performances of Tate vs. Denard in the spring game, there's the customary hand-waving acknowledgement of the "1 vs. 2" problem, followed by the inevitable "...but, Denard was just so much better." It's true, he was better. He looked good. I'm excited and grateful that it was so. But if Denard and Tate swap places that day, Tate goes home with big, fat, gleaming numbers, Denard goes home with "meh" stats, and this conversation probably doesn't take place.
I'm not a fan of scrimmaging 1-O vs. 2-D and 2-O vs. 1-D. I only played football through high school (and a tiny little private school at that), but even since Pop Warner days, the difference in talent between a 1st team and a 2nd team in ANY sport, at any level, is usually dramatic. On a all-star or dream team, you might have a case where it ain't so. There may be a few rare exceptions on storied teams packed with NFLers who had to wait on the bench for 2-3 years before showing their mettle (recent examples might be Slick Pete's USC squads or Jimmah J's marauding professional Miami teams of the 80s.
My point here is that I while I see a tacit acknowledgement of the 1 vs. 2 impact on the spring game QB stats, I still feel it is significantly underestimated. Not having confidence in your overmatched line, your inexperienced receivers, might just make everything you do look a little shaky. I thought he actually performed reasonably well under the circumstances; my expectation was the the 2-O wouldn't move the ball at all.
The real conclusion to draw from the spring game, in my opinion, isn't Denard's stats vs. Tate's stats or how the highlight film looked. The real story was who started, period. The coaches, consistent with independent reports we were reading all spring, thought Denard had improved enough to warrant the nod. He played better over weeks. That pulls him even with Tate going into summer practice. Who starts on September 4? Whoever stands out in August. The other guy gets his time on the field anyway.
If it's me, sitting here today, I go Tate vs. UConn on a "proven commodity" basis. In my mind we absolutely, positively need to win that opener, and the consensus opinion is that they have hideously inadquate defensive backs. Denard gets 2-3 series to see what happens, and all our hearts will beat faster when he's in, for better and for worse.
What Denard did in the spring game would have impressed me whether the defense on the field was the first team, second team, or rocks with scary faces painted on them.
He demonstrated in that game something of utmost importance: that he can hit a receiver whose legs were moving very rapidly in the opposite direction.
that Denard outplayed Tate in practice scrimmage before spring game in which he played against 1st team defense.
Not just reports; that was the cited reason for promoting Denard to the first team offense for the spring game.
This was my takeaway too. Regardless of whether or not he was playing against the #1 D, he was finding and hitting the open receivers in a way that he appeared unable to do last year. That alone is already a sign of significant improvement.
concur on the spring game. Well said.