While it may be a little bit of "all of the above," I think the biggest issue is that the playcalling has been predictable. Fitz is getting handoffs on a limited number of plays, and almost always on 1st down. Give him some space to run, and I think he's doing fine.
So what's the deal with Fitz?
I think you raise a great point. I really think a few more passes on first down to confuse the D would benefit the offense, including Fitz who has to run when the D is expecting it.
But, but, but...if Borges calls more passes on first downs, what will the "Borges isn't using Denard properly" crowd say?!? They're likely to riot in the MGoStreets!
The plays where he's hit in the backfield right as or after he gets the handoff are some combination of poor blocking and poor play calling. But even aside from these, his long run yesterday was only 6 yards. He gained 19 yards on 17 carries. Now granted, two of those were for short touchdowns, and Purdue does have one of the top D-lines in the B1G, but still, he has to be able to get more yardage than that.
Why don't you put any of the onus upon Fitz? I am not saying the Borges and the OL aren't at least part of the fact that he's struggling. But, from what I am seeing and hearing, he's the one dancing and not going north-south. He did the same thing last year until something clicked and he started running better. Did Borges suddenly forget how to call effective running plays? I think it's a combination of Fitz and the OL. I think he's regressed for some reason, and it is likely because the OL isn't getting the same kind of push that they were getting last season. But that doesn't mitigate Fitz's shared responsibility.
The biggest issue is that he'll see a linebacker lingering on the other side of the hole and scoot sideways to the next hole hoping for a free lane. There were definitely a couple times yesterday that if he's just gone for it he would've had 3-5 yards. Maybe more if he juked the guy in the hole, which was something Fitz was pretty adept at doing last year and I hope he can get back to asap.
Some of it is scheme (veer rather than inside zone) and some of it is also the predicability of when we've been running. But against Purdue I think the playcalling was predicable as a reaction to Notre Dame. Borges decided to stop being so damn cute with his playcalling and just run the ball and Purdue keyed in on Fitz after getting burned keying on Denard last year. The coverage on the outside wasn't as fluffy as it was against ND either so getting the ball ouside on screens wasn't going to be the most useful. Borges called an excellent game, as evidenced by the score and time of possession. Was it predicable? Yes. So what? If we have to get cute to keep moving the chains then I certainly hope that we will. No one wants to see us going 100% Lloydball again, but when that's working there's no reason to shift away from it.
We need to figure out the defensive plan by running a little bit of everything at them and seeing what they're up to. If they're keying on taking Denard out set up misdirection that gives the ball to Fitz; if they're shutting down the RB let Robinson run wild. If we're churning out 300 yards on the ground every game you'll never see me complaining.
Simply isn't Running with a purpose. He has no attitude when he runs like he did at the end of last year. I don't think the line is as good as last year, but they aren't that bad. A lot of times he is getting tackled by the first guy and seems to stutterstep too much in the backfield. This is on Fitz...plain and simple. I too was very impressed with Rawls on that last touchdown drive of the game. I also concede it was mop up duty, but he probably broke more tackles on his four carries than Fitz did all game. The offense of line did not suddenly start blocking for Rawls.
Stupid voice recognition
He looks completely unconfident. I'm lost. I'ma dance! Must be a nervous thing, I pace back and forth when I'm nervous too...
This is what I was seeing as well. In the Purdue game, he'd get to the line and if it wasn't a gaping hole, he'd stutter, and get caught. Rawls doesn't hesitate. He runs through guys.
I just re watched that final drive where Rawls got in the endzone, but I couldn't see who Purdue had in. Does anybody know if their starters were still in?
Fitz didn't come on until a few games in to the year last year, when teams started to key on Denard. If Denard can go off for over 200 on the ground we should be in good shape. If teams want to limit Denard and take him out of the game Fitz will probably get more yardage up the middle on the option read plays.
Not sure if any team remaining can stop them both. So far it seems like they want to shut down Fitz...which is fine with me. As long as someone is going off for over 100 I'm good with that.
Playcalling? They're running the same plays that Fitz was successful with last year. It's like Borges decided to just start calling garbage after figuring out exactly what worked for Fitz last year.
To me, it seems obvious that he has lost a step. Watch highlights of him last year. He looks considerably quicker, and a bit thinner. I'm not sure that we can put the weight gain on Fitz; it's entirely possible that they asked him to bulk-up and that he just doesn't carry the weight well. Althought I will agree that it doesn't appear to be all "good" weight. I think this is the biggest factor, along with his stubborn commitment to bouncing outside. Even watching the spring game, he didn't dance nearly as much.
It's a bit of B as well, IMO. Purdue definitely chose to key on him more than they did last year. He didn't play against 'Bama, and there really wasn't any blocking to be had against Air Force. He did better against ND this year than he did last year. We'll see how he does against teams that focus more on Denard, like MSU.
The O-Line, IMO, is still coming together. I think we look younger on the O-Line, but not necessarily worse. Let's not forget that last year's O-Line wasn't exactly beast against our tought opponents: MSU, VaTech, and Iowa all made our rushing game look pretty soft, and I believe that 'Bama and ND's defenses are on their level. We just didn't face strong competition early last year.
We have a long way to go, and some teams will focus on Denard even on the read plays, and we'll have to see what Fitz does in those games.
If you read between the lines in the press conference, Hoke seemed pretty impressed with the pro offense and Rawls. I would not be surprised to see more I-form against Illinois and perhaps we'll get to see Fitz run some plays that don't allow for dancing.
While Hoke is a master of not letting you know exactly what he's thinking about individual players, I believe he's pretty disappointed in Fitz at this point and is losing patience.
I think Thomas Rawls should start instead of Fitz. Fitz looks to tentative