Unverified Voracity Bears No Ill Will Towards Bears

Unverified Voracity Bears No Ill Will Towards Bears

Submitted by Brian on May 31st, 2012 at 12:43 PM

Pro combat. I have not linked any of the brilliant Pro Combat uniforms being proposed by BHGP yet. Let me correct that error now with the MSU edition:

procombat_msu2_medium[1]

I'll be on the floor over here trying to breathe for the next twenty minutes. Here's the Michigan edition, which is terrifying in its plausibility.

Down that path we should not tread… RossWB of BHGP takes down the 6-1-1 model currently on offer from the bigger and worser SEC:

There may be reasons to expand -- money, exposure, money, prestige, money -- but short of a radical transformation of college football scheduling (i.e., more conference games, fewer games with money-spinning non-conference patsies) the end result is going to be fewer games against the teams that (for the most part) we've been playing against for a century. Fewer games against the teams that we know, against the teams that we love to hate. The overall advantages of adding Nebraska (probably) outweighed the costs (although I'm still bitter about the damage it's wrought on the Iowa-Wisconsin rivalry), but expanding past 12 teams would effectively be splitting the league in two. We'd be two leagues under one roof, with a rich, intertwined, and shared history... but a future that would share little but revenue statements and logos.

I'm done caring about money. No one gets the money. It does not go to players, it mostly comes from fans who are finding out exactly how much they will spend on this stuff, and it's not helping the league in its effort to compete nationally.

Take your annual story about the 26 million dollars that's being distributed, which is up X percent from Y dollars last year, roll it up, and use it to spank yourself. You've been naughty, droid putting out story about X million dollars. None of that money goes to anything other than an ever-expanding cadre of athletic department marketers and facilities for minor sports I'm indifferent to. I don't care if the TV contract is bigger. I do care that they've taken the OSU game and made it a cross-division game because they think maybe they'll get lucky once a decade and get a little more money. Football programs are not publicly traded corporations.

…but Brady says we will anyway. Hoke's opinion of where it's going:

“I think really in about three years you’ll see four super conferences, and I think the Big East will go away and maybe the ACC. But look, I’m just a coach. I don’t know all of it.”

The Big East has essentially already gone away, but I'm not sure how you get to the superconferences in the west. The Pac-12 would need to add Boise State and… then who? It seems like the best shot was annihilating the Big 12, leaving the SEC to pick up some pieces. Now you're talking about truly ludicrous geographic fits or extreme reaches on the part of the Big 12 and Pac-12.

[HT: M&B]

Organizational side note. In the above post, Ross steals a Dawg Sports idea and suggests the Big Ten toss divisions entirely and instead play a schedule featuring three permanent rivalry opponents (Michigan's are MSU, OSU, and Minnesota) and rotate the other five games annually. The obvious problem with that is the NCAA's purposeless regulation dictating that championship games can only occur when your conference has two divisions in which everyone plays a round-robin.

If the Big Ten can work around that, it's interesting. The permanent opponents are not quite equitable—Minnesota's permanent rivals are Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan; Northwestern's are Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue—but it would mean Michigan would see the other opponents 5/8ths of the time (3/4ths if there was a ninth game) instead of the current system of playing some of the teams all of the time and others 40% of the time.

In the end, you cannot solve the problem without more games, as the SEC is finding out now

So this is what things have come to.

@schadjoe LSU AD Joe Alleva said if Alabama wants to play Tennessee every year it could schedule a non-conference game

I wonder if Missouri’s AD still has the same rosy thoughts about how everyone in the SEC operates with the mindset of what’s in the best interest of the league.

I can’t speak for him, but if I still give a shit about college football in five years, I’ll be amazed.

…your choices are not playing the games, not playing the cupcakes, or coming up with a weird dynamic scheduling system. The guys in charge are going with door #1 because their brains are wired to believe they've got a quarterly report due Tuesday.

"That's mighty big of Jim Tressel" …is the perfect Get The Picture response to this:

A year later, Jim Tressel has no ill will toward Ohio State

In other news, Mike Leach has no ill will towards bears.

This is not fluff? I really thought this article on Michigan's drop-in with the Navy SEALs was going to be fluffy fluff fluff but it's actually a detailed look at what went on that is worth a read. Example:

"Are you a better leader today than you were a year ago?" Harden asked.

About halfway through the players' answers, Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson offered a surprising response.

"I feel like I haven't grown," Robinson said. "For me to be the quarterback at the University of Michigan, I feel like I have to grow up a lot and be a lot more accountable."

Also it seems like Michigan is taking advantage of a soon-to-be-closed loophole here, as Schlabach adds in a sidebar that

Michigan football officials told ESPN.com that Big Ten Conference compliance officials cleared their football team's recent senior trip to California because it involved leadership and life skills, which is permissible under NCAA rules. The Wolverines paid for the trip through a special fund in the athletics department's operating budget.

…so okay at least some of the money is going towards life skilling the players.

BONUS! The ND series has taken a turn, hasn't it?

Crane, who is from Arizona and served three deployments to Iraq, admitted to the Wolverines that he's a Notre Dame fan.

"Unfortunately, my team is Notre Dame," Crane said. "You guys have hammered them over the years. I'll try not to take it out on you on Friday morning."

foster-contact[1]

should have sent… a poet

You 14-year-olds have no idea how good you have it in re: ND. Not so much with the MSU. There's going to be a point four or five years in the future when the student body has an inexplicably strong hatred of MSU.

UPDATE! I still don't care about 2014 football recruiting.

Wat. Via Midnight Maize, you can own this:

ihadthis[1]

Whatever it is.

Chesson! I'm totally spoiling the surprise on the MGoSleeper of the year by constantly talking about Jehu Chesson, but oh well. Meinke follows up with Chesson in the aftermath of his impressive track performances and gets this quote out of him:

"It could just be a placebo effect, but I feel I can break tackles better because I have a stronger core," he said.

This is an impressive level of introspection from a high school kid, one the other quotes reinforce. Fast, tall, smart, and wears cool shades: good package. 

Etc.: The USA took it on the chin from Brazil last night but at least Clint Dempsey's bitch please face is operating at full capacity. A national treasure, Clint Dempsey. Buckeye fan tweets at LTT collected. Nick Saban gets snippy. Graham Watson wonders if bidding out the title game is a bad idea because it's tradition to get ripped off by useless dudes. Les Miles rages against the LSU-Florida crossover game.

The latest edition of NCAA lets you put Desmond Howard in an OSU uniform. In related news, this will be the fourth straight year I don't buy it. Derrick Walton highlights.

Michigan Museday Has a Senior QB

Michigan Museday Has a Senior QB

Submitted by Seth on May 9th, 2012 at 8:11 AM

UMBrady7078545131_8b7c2bb53d_oLurch

MGoArchives/Upchurch/MGoArchives

Michigan goes into 2012 with the rarest of all birds (recently at least): a senior returning starter at quarterback. Since we can't count half a season from an injured Henne, the last time we saw this senior-type thing under center was the last time a QB wore 16: Navarre. It's been nine years!

History too has been a bit rough on senior QBs. Brady shared much of his last season with Henson. Todd Collins played almost as much as senior Grbac, who took away half of Michael Taylor's seminal season, who nabbed the bulk of Demetrius Brown's last year.

Since Bo's first year Denard is the 14th senior starter at Michigan. The other 13, by stats:

Season Name Comp Att % Comp TD Int Yds Efficiency
2007 Chad Henne 162 278 58.3% 17 9 1938 130.5
2003 John Navarre 270 456 59.2% 24 10 3331 133.6
1999 Tom Brady 214 341 62.8% 20 6 2586 142.3
1997 Brian Griese 193 307 62.9% 17 6 2293 140.0
1994 Todd Collins 186 288 64.6% 13 10 2518 146.0
1992 Elvis Grbac 129 199 64.8% 17 12 1640 150.2
1989 Michael Taylor 74 121 61.2% 11 3 1081 161.2
1986 Jim Harbaugh 180 277 65.0% 10 11 2729 151.7
1983 Steve Smith 106 205 51.7% 13 8 1420 123.0
1980 John Wangler 117 212 55.2% 16 9 1522 131.9
1978 Rick Leach 78 158 49.4% 17 6 1283 145.5
1974 Dennis Franklin 58 104 55.8% 8 5 933 146.9
1970 Don Moorhead 87 190 45.8% 8 6 1167 105.0

I'll save you some of the suspense: those are good efficiencies. And when that starter wasn't dinged it made for awesome seasons. Even counting '07, over these 13 seasons Michigan went 127-26-3, went to Pasadena 7 times (plus an Orange and Sugar and no bowl one year when Michigan finished 3rd overall), finished in the Top 10 of the Associated Press 11 times (avg finish: 7th), and won a National Championship. Small sample size and whatnot, but special years do seem to follow the seniors around.

Let's all shake our fists at: Chad Henne shoulder-hating god. Three shakes!

images50414_390376945601_322051_nangry-fist-shake2_871

You also probably already figured that since players generally improve year to year, that senior quarterbacks are best. What I'm looking at here is whether there's maybe something about being a senior, whether its age, or whether that mythical senior tag has some weight. To the charts!

Senior Quarterbacks-age

Click embiggens. The mythical senior tag didn't seem to do anything except as a function of experience. When broken up by age it wasn't any different than when broken up by how many passes he threw before coming. What age does seem to do is reduce variance. Look at the grouping of 5th year seniors (light blue). There's not enough data here to make a conclusion but I am intrigued by this concept of 5th year players producing no worse than a rating

A better way to decide if age or class means anything at all would be to use the Mathlete's database. Mathlete: you should do this some day: chart year to year improvement of quarterbacks and see what the progression curve looks like. What I'm doing here is just working with Bentley numbers for Michigan quarterbacks, since at least for these guys I can trust we know most of the exigent circumstances behind IMG_4709different swings. Just pulling returning starters and major contributors. In: John Navarre's 77 attempts in 2000, Tate Forcier's 84 attempts in 2010. Out: Drew Henson's 47 attempts in 1998. Show things:

Year Avg. Eff Change Denard
Senior +1.4 ?
Junior +16.6 -9.8
Sophomore +7.3 +58.0 (!)

<----Upchurch

Denard's freshman to sophomore leap was high, not unheard of. Rick Leach leapt a ludicrous 76.1 points in efficiency between his freshman and sophomore years, a matter of going from 32% completions and 3 TDs to 12 interceptions to 47.6% completion rating and a 13/8 TD/INT ratio. Michael Taylor made a leap similar to Denard's between his Junior and Senior seasons (first and second as at least a part-time starter). Drew Henson, Jim Harbaugh and Demetrius Brown also had huge leaps forward as juniors. If you're smelling a trend, these were all guys who to varying degrees considered "mobile" quarterbacks.

Visualized:

Senior Quarterbacks

The way efficiency is wired, a shift in TD/INT ratio, a shift in completion %, and a shift in yards per attempt. Big chart of returning passers (either starters or guys who got a significant amount of playing time the year before) so we can see if any one of these factors might stand out. Bolding numbers that I think made the difference:

Season Name Att Att-DIF Comp% DIF INT/TD
DIF
Avg-DIF Efficiency Eff-D
1976 Rick Leach, So 105 +5 +15.6% +10/-4 +2.5 151.1 +76.1
2000 Drew Henson, Jr 237 +147 +9.4% +15/+2 +3.0 159.4 +49.6
1985 Jim Harbaugh, Jr* 227 +116 +9.8% +15/+1 +2.2 157.9 +49.6
1988 Demetrius Brown, Jr* 84 -84 +9.5% -5/-16 +1.8 158.2 +45.5
1991 Elvis Grbac, Jr* 254 -12 +6.7% +4/-4 +1.0 161.7 +24.5
1989 Michael Taylor, Sr* 121 -1 -1.1% +6/-1 +1.1 161.2 +22.8
1974 Dennis Franklin, Sr 104 +37 +2.0% +4/0 +1.0 146.9 +21.4
1996 Brian Griese, Jr* 61 -177 +4.0% -10/-8 +1.8 137.7 +19.0
2006 Chad Henne, Jr 328 -54 +3.5% -1/0 +1.0 143.4 +13.8
2003 John Navarre, Sr* 456 +8 +3.9% +3/+3 +0.8 133.6 +11.4
1999 Tom Brady, Sr* 341 -9 +1.6% +5/-6 +0.1 142.3 +10.6
1978 Rick Leach, Sr 158 -16 -2.4% +2/-3 +0.4 145.5 +10.6
1993 Todd Collins, Jr* 296 +195 -1.5% +10/+4 +1.6 149.3 +9.4
1973 Dennis Franklin, Jr 67 -56 +5.8% -2/+3 +1.3 125.5 +8.8
2002 John Navarre, Jr* 448 +63 +1.6% +2/-6 +0.2 122.2 +5.7
1970 Don Moorhead, Sr 190 -20 -1.4% +2/-1 +0.1 105.0 +4.6
1996 Scott Dreisbach, So* 269 +163 +2.6% +9/-6 -0.5 126.7 +2.8
1997 Brian Griese, Sr* 307 +246 +5.5% +14/+4 -0.9 140.0 +2.3
2010 Tate Forcier, So 84 -197 +5.6% -9/-6 -0.2 130.2 +2.0
1982 Steve Smith, Jr 227 +17 +5.8% -1/+2 -0.3 125.1 -0.6
1983 Steve Smith, Sr 205 -22 -0.3% -1/-5 -0.7 123.0 -2.1
2005 Chad Henne, So 382 -17 -1.8% -2/-4 -0.3 129.6 -3.0
1990 Elvis Grbac, So* 266 +150 -4.7% -8/+6 +0.1 137.2 -3.0
1994 Todd Collins, Sr* 288 -8 +0.7% -3/+4 +0.3 146.0 -3.3
1986 Jim Harbaugh, Sr* 277 +50 +1.1% -8/+5 +1.1 151.7 -6.2
2011 Denard Robinson, Jr 258 -33 -7.5% +2/+4 -0.4 139.7 -9.8
1992 Elvis Grbac, Sr* 199 -55 -0.1% -8/+6 +0.0 150.2 -11.5
2007 Chad Henne, Sr 278 -50 -3.6% -5/+1 -0.7 130.5 -12.8
1977 Rick Leach, Jr 174 +69 +4.1% +2/+1 -1.5 134.9 -16.2
1980 John Wangler, Sr* 212 +82 -4.8% +8/+2 -3.8 131.9 -30.1
2001 John Navarre, So* 385 +308 +1.8% +11/+12 -1.2 116.4 -30.8

Bolded things of note: If I bolded the name or the amount of attempts you can just discount that guy since his year to year stats are thrown off by a huge difference in his role, e.g. John Navarre went from a guy who murdered MAC teams to full-time Big Ten passer who chucked things in the direction of Marquise Walker. Rick Leach basically learned how to pass a football (to his teammates). Henson and Harbaugh had matching junior leaps as they grew from leggy guy who might throw to polished passers.

jwanglerDemetrius Brown had his numbers saved by Bo halving the amount of pass plays and going full-tilt option. Tom Brady stopped had a major turnaround in TD/INT as a senior, while Todd Collins and Jim Harbaugh went the other way. Johnny Wangler looks to have suffered (EDIT: was this when Carter injured? This is before my time.) his senior season, as YPA dropped terribly and completion suffered a little. I'm not sure Grbac's TD-INT ration can be explained by the similar loss of Desmond Howard—it's possible Dez's Heisman campaign simply separated itself from two similar yet pedestrian seasons.

What does this all mean for Denard? Most of the seniors touched up their games. Most had their big leaps as juniors, but I should point out of the 13 guys to make the biggest one-year leaps, 8 of them were redshirt juniors or seniors, i.e. Denard's age. Also working for him is running the same offense that he did last year. The transition ultimately came more to him than the other way around, though, so don't expect miracles. Working against him will be the loss of his favorite target, and the effective replacement of a tight end for a second back, which isn't always great for the passing game. Unless a deep threat emerges from the unknowns in the receiver corps, expect his YPA avg. to dip again, with a corresponding rise in completion % (something most seniors seemed to have done). I'd also venture Denard will cut down further on his interception and probably get his TDs up the same as Michigan's mite-y backs and receivers score more with screens. +4/-4 would be excellent. Meanwhile the team will win 10 games, place in the Top 10, and end the season in Pasadena, because that's what Michigan senior quarterbacks do.

2011 Preview Review: Offense

2011 Preview Review: Offense

Submitted by Ace on April 19th, 2012 at 12:37 PM


Molk as Rimington finalist: check, plus. Kelvin Grady's 30 catches: not so much.

Spring football is over, meaning we're entering the darkest days of the offseason, the times when college football bloggers must get creative (aigh!) and come up with something, anything, to post while hoping nobody on the team gets arrested (usually as a product of being as bored with the offseason as us).

This is one of those posts.

Last year, Brian went HAM with his football preview, churning out so much content that I ended up previewing Western lest the first game pass without comment. Now I get to look back on all of Brian's hard work, use hindsight as a crutch to make me look intelligent, and critique his predictions. It's up to you to decide whether it's coincidence that I'm doing this while he's rather incapacitated.

This review will be posted in three parts. Today, I'll look at the offensive personnel. Later, I'll tackle the defense (ooh, role reversal), then finally look at special teams and Brian's "stupid predictions," (his term, not mine). This first post was less fun than I expected; outside of some inflated projections for the wide receivers, Brian kinda nailed it when it came to the offense. BOO.

Greatest Hits

Koger's role will be up to him. He'll be somewhere between a B- and B+ blocker and will have opportunities to establish himself a major part of the passing game. Our sample size on his hands is still very small and the bad part is now two years removed and he's quite an athlete—his upside is high. I can't help but think he's been held back by things other than Rich Rodriguez's preferences, though. I'm betting on a good but unmemorable senior year.

I have a difficult time coming up with a better description for Kevin Koger's final Michigan season. He was a solid, but unspectacular, blocker who recorded 23 catches for 244 yards and four touchdowns. That was more production than he'd had under Rodriguez, but I had to check MGoBlue to see if he even earned All-Big Ten honorable mention (he did). My lasting memories of Koger will remain the insane catch against Western in 2009 and his battles with the dropsies the next year, along with his "KogerNotKroger" Twitter handle.

The Mouton comparison is ominous since we just watched that guy start for three years without getting any better, but Lewan hasn't suffered at the hands of poor coaching yet and won't in the future. This should be the year he drops the crazy hot girl act and establishes himself as an All Big Ten left tackle. He'll still be a little penalty-prone but it will be worth it.

Taylor Lewan earned second-team All-B1G honors from the coaches, honorable mention from the media, and generally was the team's best non-Molk offensive lineman. He still took a few dumb penalties, but not as many as he did in 2010. Again, spot on, old chap.

That is admittedly me trying to find a concern. David Molk is great. You can never tell which interior linemen are going to be up for postseason awards but I'll be incensed if he's not All Big Ten after a healthy year. I think he'll be a Rimington finalist.

See: picture at top of post.

Al Borges is going to do his damndest to keep Denard productive, upright, and beaming.

Check, check, and of course, check.

He'll give Denard a more sophisticated offense that he won't execute as well as Borges needs him to; he'll use Denard's legs but not quite as effectively as Rodriguez would have. These guys are good because they've spent a lot of time specializing in ways that make them successful. There is a necessary lack of efficiency once they get outside their comfort zones.

It was a near-impossible task for Denard to replicate his 2010 rushing production under Borges, especially since the coaches explicitly stated that wasn't at all the goal. He still finished as the team's leading rusher, broke the 1,000-yard barrier, scored 16 rushing touchdowns, and averaged over five yards per carry. As for the execution of the offense as a whole: yup, there were some efficiency issues. Yards/attempt, completion percentage, and passing efficiency all dropped, while interceptions rose to an unsightly 15. This prediction didn't exactly go out on a limb, but that didn't make it any less right.

Yards per carry drop quite a bit but nose above 5.

2010 YPC: 5.58.
2011 YPC: 5.15.

Close Enough

If [Junior Hemingway] can manage [to stay healthy] through the season he's going to end the year with a ton of catches. Even if the Michigan offense doesn't go full MANBALL right away continued development from Denard Robinson will make difficult pro-style throws that frequently target outside wide receivers more feasible; Borges's offense will make them more frequent. Combine that with Hemingway's main skill and there will be jump balls for the taking.

ALL OF THE JUMP BALLS. This piece of prognostication would've made it into the above category if not for this next bit:

If he can maintain his 18.5 YPC he'll challenge Roundtree for the most receiving yards on the team. Expect a bit under 1,000 yards from him.

Hemingway actually averaged a tic above 20 YPC and still led the team in receptions, but leading the team meant catching 34 passes for 699 yards. Junior did manage to stay healthy, which was nice, and then stole all of our hearts during (and after) the Sugar Bowl. Y U NO PREDICT HE STEAL OUR HEARTS, BRIAN?

Huyge's flexibility will allow Michigan to flip Schofield onto the field if anyone other than Molk goes down. He's likely to start a few games in preparation for a full time role in 2011… unless he rips the job away from Huyge right now.

Given the way Huyge's career has gone and the general vibe coming from camp chatter and Funk's public statements, that's a strong possibility. Huyge's never been much of a pass blocker and Michigan's offense is going to require quite a bit more of that as Robinson starts making more and more five and seven step drops.

This was right on in that a non-Molk OL (Ricky Barnum) went down with an injury, and Michael Schofield was the man to replace him. What Brian didn't see coming—and I don't think anyone predicted this—is that Huyge would remain at tackle while Schofield filled in admirably at left guard, keeping the job even after Barnum returned.

Tousssaint [extra 's' there, boss] seems to have that jittery short-range quickness that allows little guys to survive, even thrive, as they pick their way through the chaos.

I'm hoping he emerges as the guy. If he beats out a healthy Shaw he'll be well on his way to translating that tape to college, and I could get used to a jump-cutting Houdini with sprinter's speed. Toussaint is the offense's Roh: the wildcard. Anything from Mike Hart (except crappy :( ) to Mike Hart (except fast!) is possible.

No full credit here what with the significant hedging and the fact that Brian had Michael Shaw listed as the (tenuous) starter, even though that's because Brady Hoke flat-out said so before the season. Instead, Toussaint was the man all year, rushing for 1,041 yards on 5.6 YPC and surpassing all reasonable expectations in the process. Fitz's speed turned out to be more of the sprinter's variety than what he showed in his previous, injury-plagued season, and the jump-cuts were plentiful. He wasn't quite Mike Hart (except fast!); Michigan didn't need that with Denard playing quarterback. The potential is there, however.

Michigan finishes around 15th in FEI and other advance metrics. By yardage they drop to about the same spot; scoring offense increases from 25th to match.

Brian actually underestimated the offense in terms of the advanced metrics—9th in FEI—though successfully predicted that it wouldn't quite match the #2 rank of the previous year. Yardage fell to 42nd in the country, and scoring offense was 26th. The larger point remained true—the offense was quite efficient, but not quite at the level of 2010's spread-and-shred—but the raw numbers didn't quite match up.

Not So Much

Roundtree's production will drop this year as Michigan tries to get Hemingway and Koger more involved. He can't expect set the single-game receiving record every year. He'll still run neck and neck with Hemingway fro [sic] the most receiving yards on the team. [Ed-S: hey, I remember that vacation--it was nice]

Roundtree's production did drop, just more significantly than expected. With QB OH NOES mostly gone from the offense (and Roundtree flat-out dropping the one such opportunity I recall), he finished with just 19 catches for 355 yards, well behind both Hemingway and Jeremy Gallon on the stat sheet. Speaking of Gallon...

Entering his final season [Kelvin] Grady's best shot at extensive playing time is based on 1) a lot of three wide and 2) Roundtree playing mostly on the outside. In that situation he's the established veteran. He'd get a crack at screens and seams and whatnot en route to a breakout mini-'Tree year. More likely is a moderately increased role as Roundtree bounces inside and out with around 30 catches.

First, a sadface— :( —for the lack of screens, not to mention blitheringly wide-open seams. Now, Grady's final stat line: five catches, 75 yards. Brian did recover with a nice hedge—"It could go sour for Grady if Jeremy Gallon translates chatter into playing time"—especially since Gallon produced Grady's projected stat line: 31 catches netting 453 yards. Still, swing and a miss on which player would produce said stat line, and I'm really reaching for stuff to critique here

Denard rushes for 1200 yards. His interception rate falls significantly but is still not great.

Shaw claims the starting job to himself in week four, gets injured shortly after, and Toussaint takes over. Both are much better than Smith at making extra yards. At the end of the year they've all got somewhere between 400 and 800 yards.

Toussaint's rapid rise wasn't foreseen by Brian, who expected more of a backfield-by-committee, especially in the early going. Shaw never captured the starting job, appeared in nine games, and finished with 199 yards on 31 carries. That made Shaw a more effective runner than Smith, who had 298 yards on 50 carries, but both were surprisingly effective (6.42 YPC for Shaw, 5.96 for Smith, though obviously in limited action for both).

Hopkins creates windows other backs don't. When three yards and a cloud of dust is a win, he'll be in there.

Or he'll continue putting the ball on the ground—see: Denard's immaculate rushing TD against Notre Dame—and get relegated to fullback.

Three Headed Quarterback Film Reprise

Three Headed Quarterback Film Reprise

Submitted by Brian on April 17th, 2012 at 3:45 PM

There will be no Lincoln-Douglass debates about who the starter should be but MGoVideo has helpfully boiled down each quarterback's performance into individual video clips.

Denard:

Gardner:

Lost in the fretting about Gardner's passing is that he looked very dangerous as a runner. That pop outside on the inverted veer he kept on was worthy of Denard. Kid is a big-time athlete.

And Bellomy:

Spring Game Presser Transcript: Denard Robinson, Roy Roundtree, Will Campbell, and Desmond Howard

Spring Game Presser Transcript: Denard Robinson, Roy Roundtree, Will Campbell, and Desmond Howard

Submitted by Heiko on April 14th, 2012 at 4:57 PM

Denard Robinson

Hoke said you broke a sweat in warmups.

“Oh yeah, oh yeah. I broke a sweat in warmups, but it was swell [Ed: I'm 90% sure Denard said 'swell'] watching the guys play. A lot of people say we weren’t going to get started playing the game because the rain and the weather were bad, but we actually got to play and [I] watched them play, and it was fun.”

Were you frustrated at all you didn’t get a chance to play during the scrimmage?

“Uh, it was kind of frustrating, but I love watching other people be succesfull, and talking to the guys making sure they do well, it’s all good. We had fun.”

What did you see from Russell and Devin?

“They were eager to make plays, and they were making plays, but we have to just stay focused and stop with all the three-and-outs.”

Were there things you were telling them as they were coming off?

“Certain things, like make sure you throw the ball faster, [do] a certain step -- three-step or five-step -- some of that stuff.”

Would you be interested in wearing the No. 1 jersey?

“Oh man, that’s an off-the-wall question. I don’t think about it. That’s for the receivers. The 1 is for the receivers. I’m not a receiver at all. I’m a quarterback. I’m supposed to be the best quarterback for the University of Michigan …  You can ask Roy that question, not me.”

So you wouldn’t wear it?

“No. I feel like it’s a receiver thing, but if they want to give it to me, I don’t know what I’d do with it.”

(more after the jump)

Let's Overreact To: Spring Scrimmage #2

Let's Overreact To: Spring Scrimmage #2

Submitted by Brian on April 2nd, 2012 at 10:19 AM

Via MGoVideo:

The king of tight camera angles was really feeling it this time around, so we don't get a whole lot of detail, but it's April. Events are not thick on the ground.

Play 1: Denard fires a TE out to Brandon Moore, immediate tackle by Kenny Demens and Jake Ryan. Ricardo Miller comes into the frame late: 2TE set from the shotgun, or Miller's splitting his time between TE and WR.

Play 2: What looks like an inside zone from the shotgun breaks big. Ryan is coming around the backside and gets butt-blocked by Lewan, and that's all she wrote. Where is the SDE?

Play 3: Similar but Toussaint hits his gap closer to the frontside between Omameh and Barnum. Black gets handled one-on-one by Barnum and Toussaint jukes a filling safety I can't identify to dance into the endzone. I think that was probably Marvin Robinson since he was not a white guy and Gordon comes into the frame at the end of the play. Bolden and Talbott are also in with what seems like the first unit.

Play 4: Denard zips a deep slant just over the outstretched hand of Brennen Beyer that Jeremy Gallon snags impressively:

image

That's Countess to the left. He's concentrating on the interception instead of the tackle and gives up a bunch of YAC as a result.

Play 5: Marvin Robinson clubs a quick TE out for little gain. Second unit there: Ringer and Mike Jones are on the field.

Play 6: More 2-on-2s action as an inside zone to Rawls is well defended on the front side; Rawls cuts back behind Quinton Washington for a big gain. Washington is a three-tech next to NT Ash, so it's not really his fault. Where is the WDE?

Play 7: Denard under center. Iso handoff to Toussaint goes nowhere as Ryan makes a nice play. Campbell beat Barnum and forced Toussaint behind the A-gap where Hopkins was leading into; Morgan thumped the FB at the LOS. Bolden now running with the first team. probably because this is after Demens did this:

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He took the opportunity to claim he'd be out for the season as an April Fools joke before revising that down to a few weeks and then a couple days.

Play 8: Vincent Smith power from under center goes nowhere. Bolden ends up tackling near the LOS. He does not bring his feet, causing someone to cry out "bring your feet!"

Play 9: Gardner launches a deep fly to Gallon; Countess is all over it, knocking it away.

Play 10: Under center power is pretty much stuffed until Ryan can't quite make a tackle on Toussaint as he breaks outside containment. He did a good enough job of stringing him out and slowing him down that Countess and other members can rally and hold it down. Michigan still can't run power from under center.

It is possible that Toussaint had a decent gain if he slammed it up in the hole.

Play 11: Denard sits in the pocket, getting no pressure, then runs around being all fast and stuff.

Play 12: Gardner waggle does not meet pressure on the edge. Gardner lofts a nice touch pass over Frank Clark to walk-on former DE Chris Eddins.

Interlude: Man, is Elliot Mealer's forehead red.

image

Also he has a great mountain man beard going on. Some potential here for Mealer to be Mike Hart's Pet Viking down the road.

Play 13: Another under center run should be consumed until Toussaint makes it into a decent gain. Toussaint has to dodge Beyer in the backfield. Campbell is stunting behind this and overruns the play a little bit; he's got help to the frontside and lets Fitz behind him. He gets enough of Toussaint to put him to the ground but not before the play gets six or seven.

Play 14: Denard hangs in the pocket and zings it to Gallon; ball is well behind him and Gallon has to make a moderately difficult catch. I don't think this is that bad of a throw—at the coaches' clinic Borges said he wants his QBs to hold the receiver up when throwing against zone, which this is. He doesn't want the QB to lead the WR into a defender. So this is somewhat intentional.

Talbott still out there with the first team.

Play 15: Another TE out, this one from Gardner to Jordan Paskorz and a bit deeper. Jarrod Wilson appears for the first time.

Play 16: Denard zings a TE in to Moore for a first down. Gordon tackles.

Play 17: Taylor Lewan blocks Ryan. We don't see the ball.

Play 18: Unidentifiable leaping guy (probably Ryan or Beyer) dissuades Denard from throwing the throwback screen. Instead he takes off and is fast and stuff.

------------------------------------------

Any takeaways here? It feels like the offensive line depth chart is approaching ink: Barnum has won the center job and Mealer is the guy at left guard. We haven't seen a snap that would suggest otherwise yet. Things can change when the cavalry arrives in fall; for now it looks like the veterans have the edge.

There are a lot of plays featuring tight ends, which is kind of odd since everyone's claiming their tight ends are a major issue and won't feature much during the year. Eddins, Moore, and Paskorz all feature. This may be the Johnny Sears move where you promote the weakest link on the team in an effort to keep spirits buoyed.

Other bits: Bolden passed Mike Jones the minute he showed up. Terrence Talbott could be a viable option at corner and may be pressing for some time. Also he has six arms and an FTL drive. /BOOM FredJackson'd. Campbell isn't getting blown up by Barnum. They've got some edge issues. Big ones, issues where you wonder if they weren't playing with ten guys on the field.

Denard is fast. Their under center running game is still poor. Jeremy Gallon is making some nice downfield catches, and Toussaint is on another level from Rawls and Smith. You can see the difference immediately in these tight-frame closeups.

Sometimes You Eat The Turnover Bar

Sometimes You Eat The Turnover Bar

Submitted by Brian on March 28th, 2012 at 1:24 PM

Turnover margin is a notoriously jittery stat that does not often repeat year to year. Turnovers are infrequent and hugely impactful, so they tend to wander all over the place without much rhyme or reason, slaying or rescuing seasons. Yes, there are obvious repeatable factors that correlate with good or bad turnover margin on a macro level. Get to the quarterback and he will explode in a confetti of bad decisions; allow the opponent to get to yours and watch the same thing occur.

On a micro level, sometimes you eat the bear… sometimes the bear eats you.

Michigan ate the bear last year, recovering around 75% of available fumbles. I know people want to believe there is a narrative that supports this model of football. When I returned from the Mattison coaching clinic presentation, one of the items I mentioned was that Michigan treats all incompletions as live balls in practice. I didn't think that was much of an explanation but a lot of commenters seized on it.

There does not have to be a reason that events transpire. It's not an Eastern thing. Sometimes you eat the bear. Sometimes the bear eats you.

Michigan ate the bear last year, and how. SBN's Bill Connolly put together a stat called "adjusted turnover margin" that assumes an NCAA-average fumble recovery rate (50.3% for the D) and NCAA-average PBU-to-INT ratio (21.9%), compares it to your actual turnovers gained, and calculates a points per game figure Connolly figures is just the bounce of the ball. Drum roll…

Five Teams Who Benefited Most From Turnovers Luck
1. Michigan (+3.97 points/game)
2. Maryland (+3.97)
3. N.C. State (+3.61)
4. South Carolina (+3.61)
5. Oklahoma State (+3.40)

I am Jack's utter lack of surprise. Michigan's overall fumble recovery rate of 75% was first in the nation by a whopping eight percent! (Maryland was #2 at 67%.) They were three standard deviations above the mean! They were a full standard deviation above the #2 team in the country! This aggression against regression to the mean will not stand!

------------------------------------

This is the point where I talk about how lucky Michigan got last year and a lot of people say "nuh-uh." This gets a little frustrating on both ends. I get frustrated that something like that Sugar Bowl doesn't bring the point home; people who disagree with me get frustrated that I'm downplaying Michigan's success or being grim about next year.

They're not entirely wrong. I do think that if you replayed the 2011 season 1,000 times Michigan ends up 11-2 in relatively few of them. They were only sort of close in one of their losses*, won two-and-a-half nailbiters** and acquired 10 more turnovers than Connolly's model expects. Michigan also had the benefit of a soft schedule (no Wisconsin or Penn State) in a down Big Ten and an Ohio State team in shambles after tatgate. It was pretty uninspiring in terms of 11-2 years featuring wins over ND, OSU, and a BCS opponent despite undergoing massive transition costs and operating with a slap-dash, attrition-ravaged roster.

Which is to say: WOOOOOOOOOOO. Yes. Score.

But once we get past the woo and start talking about setting expectations for year two we should not base it off what Michigan did last year but what they should have done, what they lost to graduation and attrition, who they return and add, and who they play. We should start with the premise that Michigan was super lucky last year and probably won't be this year.

This doesn't mean their turnover margin is doomed. It just means their turnover margin is doomed unless Denard Robinson becomes a lot more responsible with the ball. Michigan got away with being –7 in interceptions because of the fumble surplus. That covered up a lot of blemishes last year.

What should we expect Michigan's turnover margin to be next year?

 

Happy Arguments

I am arguing it will be worse. I made similar arguments for much of the Rich Rodriguez era when Michigan was hugely negative every year and dammit it never changed. 

Experience at quarterback. This is a double whammy to the good for Michigan: they've got a senior starter entering his third year and—even more important—his second year in Al Borges's system. A number of Michigan's turrible interceptions a year ago came paired with hand-wavingly-open receivers Michigan's quarterbacks just missed, like this one Gardner chucked against Purdue:

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The ball is in the air here, but it's going to the double-covered Gallon instead of the hand-wavingly open Junior Hemingway. This wasn't pressure—Gardner had all day—it was a huge coverage misread. In year two these things should significantly diminish.

Fitzgerald Toussaint could be Mike Hart-like. IIRC Toussaint has not fumbled as a Michigan ballcarrier. As carries move to him from other sources—largely the fumble-prone Denard—Michigan should reduce the number of fumbles that can go against them. Fumble prevention/extraction is a skill.

The defense should be sack happy. Michigan finished 29th last year without getting great production out of its three-tech or weakside defensive end. Will Heininger had one sack last year; Craig Roh and Jibreel Black combined for 5.5. If the moves of Roh and Black inside upgrade the pass rush at three positions, the blitz-mad Mattison D will be in QBs' faces even more than they were last year.

Complicating factor: Mike Martin only had 3.5 sacks last year but his disruption opened things up for other people.

Protection should be good if the line is healthy. Lewan is an all Big Ten left tackle (at least) and Schofield is a touted recruit with a year of quality playing time under his belt with all the tools to pass protect on the edge. Wicked blind-side hits on Denard should be rare.

Sad Arguments

Denard is just turnover-prone. This has been a fact by air and ground ever since he hit the field. While he's going to improve with experience, sometimes players never have that light bulb pop on. Toussaint will shift some carries to his five points of contact but Denard will still get a bunch of carries, and he'll cough the ball up some.

Chucking sure interceptions up to Hemingway will result in interceptions because Hemingway is gone. Unless these are going to Gardner.

Hello massive reversion to the mean on fumble recoveries. If Michigan recovers over 70% of available fumbles this year I'll eat a lemon. Probably at the Rose Bowl.

If a tackle goes down, yeesh. Everyone's assumption is that this would see Kyle Kalis step in at right tackle. Mega-hyped recruit… and a true freshman.

Seriously, Denard is walking variance. I think Michigan will preserve its fairly positive TO margin. If they don't, we will all be sad about Denard's inability to shake the turnover bug. I can't predict he'll be better or worse until we see him play.

There's a reason a couple departing seniors picked Robinson—who was an All-American as a sophomore, remember—as a "breakout player" in that Rothstein article from yesterday($). He could break out. He could run in place, and not know which it will be makes predictions here even more useless than they have been in the past.

You may now return to thinking about Taylor Lewan on a tandem bike.

*[Even if Michigan does score against Iowa they have to get a two-point conversion and then win in OT, which is like a 20% shot.]

**[OSU should not have been since there was no reason to overturn the Toussaint TD that would have ended it.]

Spring Practice Presser Transcript 3-22-12: Players

Spring Practice Presser Transcript 3-22-12: Players

Submitted by Heiko on March 23rd, 2012 at 5:23 PM

Denard Robinson

from file

How does it feel to be a senior?

“Man, college goes by fast, and right now I’m taking on a leadership role and trying to be the best quarterback I can be for the team and be the best leader I can be for the team. Right now just trying to get better at everything I can get better at: watching film, going in with teammates and throwing extra routes, whoever’s around me, if we’re lifting, trying to tell them ‘get better at this’ and ‘get better at that.’ These are the things that I’m trying to do as a leader and as the quarterback on the team.”

Borges said you’re holding more people accountable. Is that the next step of development for you as a leader?

“Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I wasn’t an outspoken person. I didn’t do a lot of yelling and telling people, patting them on the butt and doing stuff like that. That’s one of the things I need to start doing, and that’s what I’m taking on this spring. For practice right now, I’ve been pretty well lately and talking to people and telling them what they need to do. Russ [Bellomy] was with me yesterday when we had practice. I told him if he took his time he’d make a better, more accurate throw. Those were some things that I did.”

Do you have to be the bad guy sometimes?

“Oh yeah, sometimes you have to get up in them. Help them out, give them their encouragement, but you can’t always be nice to them. I can’t always have a smile on my face.”

Is that possible?

“Oh yeah that’s possible. It’s possible.”

What was this offseason like for you?

“Learning. I mean --”

I don’t even mean football. I mean the enormity of, kind of, everything.

“Oh. Everything. I am a student. I am a student-athlete. Student first. Being part of that student body was one of the best experiences I’ve ever experienced on this campus. I’ve been in the Maize Rage at the basketball games, I’ve been at a hockey game watching them play, I’ve been to track watching the girls run. That’s one of the things I could never stay away from. I love watching sports. I love watching people that I know do better.”

How many sporting events do you think you went to?

“Oh man.”

You were on TV for every single one of them.

“I don’t know. I just try to go to all of them. If I had the chance, if I had the time, I’d try to go.”

Are you trying to do anything different with your body in terms of weight and strength?

“Trying to gain weight … whatever happens happens with that. Hopefully I gain a little weight.”

Does Hoke want you to gain weight?

“No. They never tell me about gaining weight. I have to take it into my own hands to gain weight.”

How is it taking snaps from Ricky?

“I’ve been snapping with Ricky since Rich Rod was here. My freshman year I was snapping with Ricky. Ricky’s one of the guys from Florida, so we can relate to each other. When he makes a mistake I’m right on him and telling him, ‘Let’s go. I’m right behind you 100-percent.’ He stayed competing and all of us are competing right now and trying to get better at everything. We’ve got some growing to do.”

He speaks Florida?

“Oh yeah. He does speak it. He helps me a lot in the huddle. Sometimes he tells the other offensive linemen what the play is. When Molk and Patrick used to get on me all the time, Ricky would help me out.”

Has anything changed for you over the offseason with the Obama stuff, etc.?

“No, because I enjoy interacting with people. That’s one of the things that I always enjoy. I come from a big family. Meeting new people is not a problem for me. I would love to meet everybody. If I see anybody on the street, I want to say hi to you. My goal is to make somebody’s day everyday. Hopefully I can do that.”

Borges said one of the keys for you is to cut down on interceptions. What is the most important part of being able to accomplish that?

“I’m going to tell you this. I play quarterback, and the number one thing about the quarterback is always take care of the ball. That’s one of the things that I need to stop doing. Turnovers. I had 15 interceptions. That’s not acceptable as a quarterback and something that I need to work on. I was throwing off my back foot -- that’s one of the things that kind of got me in a lot of trouble and I need to stay away from that. Making the right reads is one of the things I need to work on, too. All offseason I’ve been watching film and seeing the reads I should have made and how many touchdowns I missed. This year hopefully I don’t have that many mistakes.”

Is Devin athletic enough to catch the ball?

“Right now … both of us just have the same mindset. Whatever it takes for the team to win, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

How are his hands?

“Both of us have good hands.”

What was meeting Obama like?

“Oh man. That’s one of the days that I’m going to sit down and tell my grandkids. I met the president. That’s one of the things I’ll always cherish. As soon as I got done meeting him I called my mom, my dad, my brothers, and I was just telling them, ‘I just met the president. I just met the president of the United States.”

Did it catch you off guard at all?

“Me and Patrick were just like, ‘What?’ Patrick was right next to me and he was like, ‘Oh my gosh, he just called your name.’ ”

Have you thought about what the expectations are going to be this fall?

“We already know our expectations. We’ve been working on that all offseason. We’re trying to get better. It starts now. Get prepared for September 1st. Our goal is to win the Big Ten every year. That’s one of the things we already said that’s set in stone. We just have to be ready to work for it and all offseason just keep working for it and working at it. Holding each other accountable. It’s right there. We have to take care of it.”

How does it change your mentality to actually know who your running back is this year?

“We don’t know anything. We don’t know who the quarterback’s going to be. I’m going to tell you this. We have to come out and compete every day. Every day. Nothing’s handed to you. And that’s better that you know that you have to compete every day.”

You really don’t think you’re going to be the quarterback this fall?

“We have to compete every day.”

-----

Roy Roundtree

from file

Hoke has said you had a great attitude last year despite not getting as many catches or numbers. Can you talk about how you dealt with that and what you’re looking forward to this year moving outside?

“I was buying in, just listening to what the coaches were saying. I wasn’t going out there and looking at the numbers and stats each game. I was just going out there and competing. It played out well, going to the Sugar Bowl and winning it. That was a great season for us.”

Was it hard at all going through that transition?

“No, not at all, because any point in the game we can get the ball in and see the seniors doing well last year and leading this team. I was just looking up to them. Even though I probably had one catch a game, that one catch was made effective.”

Did you ever get frustrated not getting footballs thrown your way?

“No. Our goal during the season was knockdowns. Every game we were just trying to have more knockdowns than one another. We really weren’t worried about the ball because the quarterback is the one with the ball in his hand and he’s the one making the right decisions.”

Is there a transition in moving to flanker?

“More motion. We’ve been doing this since January. We always rotated Y’s in different formations last year. It’s something I’m used to now because the extra [work] that we’ve been putting in trying to learn new plays and new positions that everyone’s at. I’m getting comfortable with it. More motions and really have to stay in shape.”

Why is that?

“Oh man, because you’re moving around all the time. Lining up in the slot or lining up outside. Just something I’m taking in and learning through spring ball.”

Do you see any differences in Denard this spring?

“Yeah, yeah I do. The timing is there. He’s making better reads. Staying composed back there. Now he knows the offense. It’s fluid. Practice goes smoother. I don’t see him frustrated or anything. I really see that he’s composed.”

Is he more decisive?

“Yeah he’s reading the defenses well out there. Just taking his time. You can actually heard the play fluent in the huddle again. I talk about him all the time saying he’s so country you can barely hear him, but now we’ve been in the offense for a year, we like listening to him better.”

Last year he often threw balls that put you in a position to get crushed. Has there been less of that these days?

“I mean, he’s the quarterback. They’re going to have their ups and downs. The wide receivers, just know our time to make the plays. If it’s a low ball, go get the low ball. You can’t just blame everything on the quarterback because they might be getting rushed half the time while we’re coming out of our routes. You never know until you watch it on film. He’s really been fluid in his passing. Getting better. Seeing him healthy, seeing him composed back there just making things right.”

How has Brandon Moore been?

“Yeah, Brandon Moore’s my roommate. I just talk to him everyday and see how practice went because I’m only with them during skelly and team, not individually. Him being a senior. Leadership -- we always say that seniors have leadership. He’s been doing well. Catching the ball good and running great routes and blocking. This is his year, I feel like. If you go out there and practice and show the coaches you can be trusted out there, it’s really going to be an impact this season.”

What’s Brandon like off the field?

“Shy. Calm. Smart. He doesn’t really do anything. Half the time he’s playing with his dog. Big Doberman that he has.”

What’s its name?

“Kane. I don’t mess with dogs.”

Why’s that?

“I got bit when I was younger, so I don’t mess with them.”

How has Denard progressed off the field?

“Oh, just speaking. He’s been outgoing this year. Being a quarterback, that’s what it takes because everybody’s looking up to the quarterback. Just seeing him become a senior. Now he just said, man this went by so fast. Now everybody’s going to be looking up to him. All our seniors. We take real great impact in being a senior and having leadership, just like Team 132 seniors did, trying to accomplish something better.”

Denard hasn’t always been a real vocal guy. How has that transition been for him?

“He was a shy kid coming in, but now he’s mature more. Just taking it day by day, like how we work out. We’d be partners half the time just pushing each other. Just seeing that from ‘Lace. That’s giving him extra points because he wasn’t like that at first.”

Does it get the receivers fired up when you hear things like ‘What is Michigan going to do without Junior Hemingway’?

“(Roundtree talked about something that sounded like “croop thick” or “group think.” I have no idea, so I’m not going to transcribe it) … It doesn’t matter who’s out there. Being blessed to play here, playing for Michigan. Coach Heck always said that we lost some great wide receivers, but being a senior -- I’m the only senior up here going through the ups and downs and learning from each class -- most of them look at me because I’ve played the most. But I feel like we have a nice group of kids now. Everybody you haven’t heard about, but most of them you will.”

Have you taken to mentoring any of the younger receivers?

“Oh yeah. Half the time they ask me questions it’s like I’m a teacher out there. It’s weird because I did the same thing when I was a freshman, asking the upperclassmen. But now I’m just schooling them.”

What kinds of things do they ask you?

“Just like how you read the coverage on this route, how to get off press coverage. Just simple stuff because coach Heck does a great job coaching us in different steps in the offense.”

Any of the younger guys impress you?

“I know Joe Reynolds, I know J.J. (Jeremy Jackson). I see a lot of them and go like, wow made a great catch or did something. That’s what I expect to hear, so it’s not like I haven’t seen it before.”

Do you talk to Junior about playing his position?

“Yeah I talk to Junior all the time. Me and Junior are still close friends. He just said stay in shape, you’re going to have a lot of motions and reading the defense. Something I was already used to, reading it from the slot position. I feel like I’m not back at slot, but it seems like I am because of all the motions and getting closer to the inside and whatnot. He just said just stay in shape.”

-----

Jordan Kovacs

from file

Does being a leader come naturally now for you?

“After being four years in the defense and on this team, I think it’s something that’s starting to come naturally. I think we have a lot of seniors that are stepping into that role, and that’s going to be huge for us this fall. Our senior leadership is going to be huge.”

Have you seen more consistency out of Will Campbell?

“Yeah, no doubt. It’s not just on the field. It’s off the field. He’s holding meetings for the defensive linemen to get in and watch film. He’s helping them out. We’ve got a lot of young guys on the defensive line, and he understands that and he understands he’s a senior and he has to be a leader. He’s really stepping into that role and filling that role nicely for us.”

How does Jarrod Wilson look?

“Good. I think he’s going to be a good ball player. At the same time, we’re only four practices in, only two in pads. He’s been impressive so far as have the other underclassmen. We’re going to need those guys to continue to get better.”

How does he compare with how you remember other freshman safeties playing in the past?

“He’s made quite a few plays so far. He’s had the opportunity because we’ve been somewhat thin at safety, so he’s been getting a good look and he’s been taking advantage of it. Like I said, he still has a ways to go. He’s still young. He’s got a bright future here. He’s going to get better in the spring and in the fall I look forward to how he can play.”

Is it weird returning so many guys in the secondary? That’s never happened for you before.

“Well I think what’s weird is I’m going to have the same defense for two years in a row. I don’t think I’ve ever had that in my four years here. I think that that’s something that’s going to help us a lot. We’re getting comfortable with the playcalling and with the different plays. We bring a lot of defensive players back. We bring a lot of seniors back. That’s going to be huge for us. It’s nice to be comfortable with the guys you’re out there with and the plays.”

Have you been able to sit back and marvel at how much better the defense got between 2010 and 2011?

“A little bit, but at the same time we’re already on to the next year and we’re looking forward to getting even better.”

Hoke talked about ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in practice. Is that new to this spring or has he done that before?

“We’ve been competing since he’s gotten here in everything that we do. That’s something he brought with him, whether it’s in the weight room or out on the practice field in spring practice or even in fall camp. There’s winners and losers. Competition’s important and we thrive in that. That environment is important for us to be successful.”

What happens when you lose?

“Gassers or some sort of punishment.”

Devin Gardner to Receiver: Good Idea

Devin Gardner to Receiver: Good Idea

Submitted by Ace on March 22nd, 2012 at 2:05 PM


Walker, Gardner, Avant (L to R)

After yesterday's one-two gut punch of basketball news, let's talk football, shall we? The story that will likely dominate the spring is the potential move of quarterback Devin Gardner to wide receiver, at least part-time. Gardner, in case you didn't see Brian's UV yesterday, showed some pretty serious skills at receiver when camping as a high schooler. He's also 6'5", athletic, blessed with hands large enough to make the catch above, and familiar with the offense. Meanwhile, Michigan's two known quantities at receiver are Roy Roundtree, whose production plummeted last year when QB OH NOES wasn't a regular part of the playbook, and Jeremy Gallon, who looks quite promising but is also listed at 5'8".

Gardner taking some snaps at receiver is a good idea then, right? I certainly think so, but I've heard several arguments to the contrary. Allow me to present them, then do my best to crush them.

Argument 1—Gardner shouldn't play receiver because if he's hurt at wideout and Denard gets inevitably dinged (or hurt himself, God forbid) we're totally screwed.

This is the argument I've seen the most, and the mentality behind it is one I absolutely hate. Yes, I'm aware that Michigan has just three scholarship QBs on the roster. That is the reality for this year and it's not an optimal one. Denard Robinson has been known to get knocked around on occasion, sometimes requiring a backup cameo. He's a running quarterback. Injuries happen.

But it takes a large leap from "Michigan is thin at QB" to "Gardner can't play wideout because injury doomsday scenario." First of all, if Denard gets hurt, that's a doomsday scenario in and of itself. If Gardner is hurt at the same time, well, the football gods hate Michigan. Does the slim chance of this worst-case scenario happening mean Michigan shouldn't play one of their best athletes at a position in dire need of help when he otherwise wouldn't see the field? No.

Simply put, college coaches cannot operate under the assumption that the worst will happen. That's the same line of thinking that made coaches doubt the viability of the forward pass (remember, only three things can happen when you throw, and two of them are bad) and causes the Zooks of the coaching world to punt on 4th-and-3 from the opponent's 38. Brady Hoke has proven that he's got some serious cajones, and that's generally regarded as a fantastic trait in a head coach. This is not how he operates.

Also, redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy may very well be an equally viable backup option as Gardner, or at least at the point where the dropoff between the two backups isn't large enough to justify keeping Gardner on the bench when he could be contributing at wideout. Which brings me to the next argument...

Argument 2—Gardner shouldn't play receiver because it'll take away from his practice reps at quarterback and he won't develop.

This one holds more water than the first argument, but I still don't agree with it. Gardner is already splitting backup reps at QB with Bellomy, and unless you think Gardner needs a ton of "mental reps," I don't think it hurts to have him spending his non-throwing practice time running routes and catching passes.

It's not like Gardner is switching sides of the ball. In fact, playing receiver can help with his quarterback play; running routes can hone timing, understanding of schemes, and keep him sharp and ready to see the field.

This year's NFL draft will provide a great example of a player who went through a very similar mid-career situation. Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill was a three-star dual-threat QB in the 2007 class, redshirting in his first season. As a redshirt freshman, he battled for the starting QB job but ultimately fell behind two other players. At 6'4", 220 pounds, Tannehill was moved to receiver in fall camp by head coach Mike Sherman. All he did was catch 55 passes for 844 yards and five TDs.

The next year, Tannehill again competed to start at quarterback, but lost out to Jerrod Johnson. As the primary backup, A&M could've handed him a headset, but instead they threw him back out there at receiver. Tannehill had 46 receptions for 609 yards and four TDs while also appearing in three games at QB in mop-up duty. As a junior, Tannehill started the season as a receiver but earned the starting nod as a quarterback partway through the year, completing 65% of his passes and throwing 13 TDs to just six interceptions. After a strong senior season as the full-time starter at QB, Tannehill is expected to go in the top 12 in this year's NFL draft. If playing receiver stunted his development as a quarterback, it wasn't enough to merit keeping the team's best receiver off the field.

Argument 3—The dumbest argument ever.

Sorry to put you on blast, Eric Lloyd, but I can't let this just slide on by:

Just no. If I seriously have to argue this point, and I hope I don't for 99.9% of you out there, I'll keep it short. Denard Robinson is about to be a senior in his second year under the current system, coming off an All-Big Ten season that followed up one of the most productive years by a quarterback in the history of college football. Whether or not he's going to be a quarterback at the next level, it's by far the most optimal position to play him at in college.

Devin Gardner has attempted 17 career passes—10 against Bowling Green in a 2010 curb-stomping—and has spent his entire career as a backup quarterback. If he's better at this point in his career than Denard, he hasn't made that apparent to anyone who would have the best idea about whether or not that was the case. End of argument that hopefully never needed to be made.

Michigan can explore the opportunity of sticking a 6'5" playmaker on the field at a position of huge need, or they can keep Devin Gardner on the bench for fear that the worst thing ever will happen. Unless you're the type to keep a fully-stocked bunker in case of the nuclear holocaust, the choice here is rather apparent.