During the week after the MSU loss and in the days since the Iowa loss, there were countless threads and comments attempting to analyze what is wrong with Denard or with the Al Borges Denard fusion. I think that there are some valid arguments, but there is so much noise surrounding the issue. My attempt to address each of these arguments and consolidate the discussion into a single thread:
1. Al Borges has turned Denard into a "caged animal" by prohibiting Denard to take off.
There are several plays against Iowa where Denard had an oen running lane, but didn't take it, electing instead to throw the ball. Frustrating, I agree, given his speed (and relative lack of success through the air. I saw a few posters claim that Denard did not take off because Borges has beat it into his head that he shouldn't run. To me, this is nonsensical.
Borges has said on numerous occasions that he wants to Denard to look throw, but to also use his legs to punish defenses. When Borges and Hoke have talked about limiting Denard's runs, it is clear that they were talking about designed QB runs or spread option read runs. If we want to look for the true answer to Denard's lack of scramble, look to Denard's own words from the presser when asked about this. He said something to the effect of, "I didn't see the open lane because I was looking down field." One of Denard's biggest problems (discussed below) is his lack of vision.
2. The QB Lead - where has it gone.
It has largely gone away. There is a 50/50 divide on this blog about whether this is good or bad. My personal view is that it is a good thing that we do this less. While it was effective to some extent during the first half of last season, its effectiveness lessened considerably over the second half, and Denard took too much of a beating. By 9 games in last season, Denard had missed significant time in several games, and he played injured for most of the second half. At least this year, his punishment has been lessened, and he has stayed in most games.
3. Denard's effectiveness has gone down because there is now tape on him.
I saw a poster make this point in one of the other threads, and I think that this is a great point. During the first half of last season, Denard was a new player with no tape - no way to scout his tendencies, and therefore his natural abilities were able to take over (also caveat about weak first 1/2 competition). By the second half of 2010, MSU had tape and came up with a great way to stop Denard. Future opponents had this tape and since then, have been able to come up with ways to limit his effectiveness. This doesn't mean that Denard is no longer effective, but that during the first 1/2 of 2010, his effectiveness was artificially inflated.
A great example of this. I recall the announcers during a game in mid-2010 calling Denard's pump fake followed by a run "one of the greatest weapons in cfb." Look at this year - defenders don't even bite on the pump fake because now they have figured out that if he actually throws, it is unlikely to hurt them. Not a criticism of Denard - this is a normal thing, players have tendencies and once those tendencies are understood by others, they are easier to defend.
4. Denard's vision issues - what's the deal? Does he need to go to Stonum and Rountree's eye doctor?
Denard lacks field vision. This is becomming increasingly clear. He consistently throws into tight or double coverage when there are receivers arm wavingly open or running lanes that you could drive a bus through. This has not improves. For many quarterbacks this is a problem until one day, they suddenly make the jump. Denard, please make this jump soon.
Is some of this on coaching? Perhaps, although he has exhibited this flaw under two entirely different coaches. Is some of this on the change in system? Sure, he may have finally clicked at this point in the season had the system stayed identical. More likely, however, is that Denard is simply not a good decision makes.
Many QBs have a single flaw that really brings down their overall game. Henne, for example, never felt pressure coming until it was too late. (the jury is still out for Henne as to whether this will impact his career). But, this lack of vision is getting to be a real problem as we are not only leaving points on the board, but we are giving up points off of turnovers.
5. Denard in the new system - can it work?
I personally think yes. I know that many are down on Denard, but I thought he played his best true QB game. He stayed in the pocket (ok, sometimes too much), and even moves the pocket on plays. He also made nice short throws, and essentially marched us down the field 80 yards on the last drive, even with receivers dropping balls all day. To me, he looked like a QB today - once he makes the next step forward, I actually think that criticism of his vision aside, he is starting to get better in this offense. That said, his deap ball sucks, but that is what it is.
6. Devin - should he be playing more?
No. I loved the 2-QB set when it debuted. Now I agree with the announcers that it is causing Denard to lose rhythem. I think that Devin has potential, but he is currently a lesser Denard. Can't run as well, worse decision makes RIGHT NOW (inexperienced, not a criticism), and doesn't look all that much better theowing it RIGHT NOW. I would stick wiht Denard, and maybe work in the 2-QB set when we are either leading or really struggling. Caveat: if we break it out against OSU with all new wrinkles (such as Mike Martin as RB or V. Smith as TE or Denard as left tackle) and success, I reserve the right to change my opinion.
7. Has Denard lost a step.
Yes. He is noticably slower. If you remove the hype, had never watched him play before and jsut watched the last few games, you would not say, "OMG he is faster than a cheetah strapped to a jet pack." You would say "that QB can move pretty well." On his few runs, even his 2 longish ones, he looked good, but not great. He is definitely missing his burst. Is he injured? Fatigued? Not sure, but he is not as explosive as in the past.
That's it. I hope this leads to some good discussion.