2012 First Look: Offense

Submitted by Brian on January 10th, 2012 at 2:33 PM

DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.

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Molk, Huyge, Koger

  1. C David Molk. Rimington winner, four year starter, epic team glue guy, man whose body does not narrow in its transition from shoulders to neck.
  2. RT Mark Huyge. Not great but consistently unkillable long-term starter who graded out well as a senior and must be replaced by exactly one person.
  3. TE Kevin Koger. Did not see production increase significantly from RR years; capable of circus catches and routine drops; decent but not spectacular blocker; zero depth behind him.

    [serious worry stops here]

  4. WR Junior Hemingway. Fairly ponderous leaper with inexplicable YAC knack; decent hands; should be replaceable if Darryl Stonum makes it back. Given the lack of swift action to boot after Stonum got pulled over, I assume that is the case. In the event Stonum is dismissed Hemingway moves up to #2.
  5. WR Martavious Odoms. The very first slot ninja; missed big chunks of the season due to injury and lack of trust from the coaching staff but came on late; mountain goat with arms; Jeremy Gallon is basically Odoms except quicker.
  6. TE Steve Watson. Used mostly as a blocker. Was okay at it.

    [slight worry stops here]

  7. RB Michael Shaw. BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE
  8. WR Kelvin Grady. Infrequently targeted slot receiver will be ably replaced by an expanded role for Drew Dileo.
  9. FB John McColgan. Lost his job to Hopkins mid-year.
  10. WR Terrance Robinson (maybe). Has a fifth year available but will have to earn it as a gunner on punts.
  11. RB Michael Cox (in all probability). Fifth year available, but highly unlikely to get it since he can't remember which endzone to run at.

WHAT'S LEFT

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Robinson, Lewan, Fitzgerald

  1. QB Denard Robinson. Oh my gawd.
  2. LT Taylor Lewan. Should be the first of two first-team All Big Ten years.
  3. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Will put himself in the conversation for best back in the league.
  4. RT (presumably) Michael Schofield. Established himself a quality Big Ten OL despite playing out of position at guard. Will likely shift over to tackle, his natural position, because there ain't no one else to play it.
  5. WR Roy Roundtree. Converted to outside WR and saw production collapse as Worst Waldo plays on which he acquired free 50 yard touchdowns evaporated; still managed some deep balls; should be reliable B+ option as a senior.
  6. WR Jeremy Gallon. Diminutive guy with extensive quicks; throwback screen merchant; seemingly good hands; cloaking device available.
  7. OG Patrick Omameh. Struggled early and still too light for Michigan's long term desires; improved his ability to pull by the end of the year.
  8. OG(?) Ricky Barnum. Won the left guard job over Schofield, who proved an able contributor once Barnum went down with injury; graded out decently before that; may move to center.
  9. RB Vincent Smith. Uninspiring runner; fantastic pass blocker; also a throwback screen merchant. Third down back.
  10. FB Stephen Hopkins. Fumble issues threatened to bury him on the bench before midseason shift to FB; tailback-ish agility serves him well; quality option; may have extensive role next year thanks to lack of TEs.

WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY

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Barnum, Kalis, Bryant

One Of Three Guys On The Interior Line. The world assumes Schofield is the heir apparent at right tackle. This is a good assumption since the list of scholarship non-freshman, non-Lewan tackles on the roster reads "Michael Schofield." That paves the way for one and a half new starters on the interior.

The half is all but certainly Barnum, who had a few starts early in the season before ankle issues took him out of the lineup. He will start at center or guard, in all likelihood. Candidates for the one include:

  • Redshirt freshman Chris Bryant, a 350-pound mauler who needs to trim down if he's going to get on the field.
  • Redshirt freshman Jack Miller, a 260-pound dancer who needs to bulk up if he's going to get on the field.
  • True freshman Kyle Kalis, a five star reputed to be college-ready like a mofo. Moved to guard at the Army game and seems to acknowledge his long term future is on the inside.
  • Redshirt senior Rocko Khoury, the long-presumed replacement for Molk who snapped some balls not so well when suddenly pressed into service against VT. Khoury has a start against Iowa in 2010 to his credit but the buzz is he is not a preferable option.
  • Redshirt senior Elliot Mealer. Mealer was a utility guy deployed after Barnum's exit whenever Taylor Lewan needed a limb reattached. He is useful depth but seems likely to be passed by one of the above on the depth chart.

Losing Molk is brutal but finding a serviceable replacement from one of the above three seems likely.

Someone at tight end. With two departures and a bad gamble in last year's recruiting class the only tight ends on the roster are redshirt senior Brandon Moore and redshirt sophomore Ricardo Miller. Moore supposedly has stone hands; his main contribution to last year was blowing his assignment on Michigan's ill-fated fourth and one attempt versus Michigan State. Miller is a converted WR who needs to add 20 pounds if he's going to press for playing time.

Reinforcements will come from two or three freshmen; 280 pound AJ Williams is probably the most pret a porter. He's big, you see, and Devin Funchess is not. Williams spent his senior year of high school impressing people at tackle and is likely to be more of a sixth offensive lineman than a dynamic receiver.

stonum-wild-thing

Stonum being indie

Sort of Darryl Stonum, maybe. The WR corps gets a one for one replacement on both of its departed slots and may/should/could return Darryl Stonum, who was suspended for the 2011 season after his second DUI. His latest legal trouble consists of driving to a probation meeting, which may or may not move Hoke's needle.

If he's back, Michigan gets its most physically gifted WR, someone who can beat you over the top and could have an explosive final season on the end of Al Borges's copious deep balls. Or he could be another version of what he's been most of his career: an athlete who doesn't really know how to play WR. Stonum's availability and play is the biggest wildcard on the 2012 offense.

WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1972

Senior Denard, you'd think. Robinson panicked and reverted against the swarming VT defense; before that he'd put together a solid second half as he began to understand the offense and maybe possibly got healthy. With another year in the system he should improve on his throwing numbers.

Tailback, probably. Fitzgerald Toussaint is for real as long as he's healthy and Vincent Smith is a quality third down back. Depth still looks hairy.

The starting tackles. Lewan was impenetrable this year and Schofield had a strong debut at guard. Dollars to donuts they're the best bookends in the conference.

Going from year one to year two with the same coaches. Everyone was a freshman last year. Now they've got some sophomores.

WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2012

Tight end. After a couple years playing with Koger and Martell Webb it appeared that Rodriguez had come around on the idea of tight ends, as he recruited a half-dozen over the course of his last year at Michigan. Unfortunately, he struck out on all of them. When Hoke came in he grabbed Arkansas decommit Chris Barnett without checking into the guy; he was gone before his first fall camp ended.

With Koger and Watson out the door, this leaves very little at a position Borges loves. Fifth-year-senior-to-be Brandon Moore's most significant contribution to the 2011 season was busting his assignment on Michigan's ill-fated fourth and one against Michigan State; he's the only tight end on the roster now. To bolster that depth Michigan will bring in two or three in the fall and I bet you a dollar a defensive lineman with a Z in his last name finds himself on the other side of the ball this spring.

This does not mean things can be expected to go well here.

Offensive line depth. Rodriguez's 0-fer on the OL two years ago really begins to squeeze in 2012. The interior will probably be fine, with three of Khoury/Mealer/Bryant/Miller available to spot any starters that go out. Five-star freshman Kyle Kalis turns out to be 6'4" and is talking about how much he likes guard; plugging him in there will probably not be a disaster.

It's at tackle where there is a terrifying cliff after the starters. Past a couple of guys who could end up bookending the All Big Ten OL there is nothing but walk-ons and true freshmen. Michigan's best bet in the event of an injury to Lewan or Schofield is probably flipping Barnum or Omameh outside.

Gamebreakers at WR. Stonum, Roundtree, and Gallon isn't the worst unit Michigan's run out at WR in the past decade or so but it's no Edwards, Avant, and Breaston. Stonum's breakout junior year was only a breakout relative to his underclass performance: 49 catches for 633 yards.

WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY

Will Borges go with the flow? This blog spent most of the summer demanding a shotgun-exclusive offense that incorporated Borges's passing trees with some of the power blocking Hoke could not stop talking about. By the end of the year that's basically what we got en route to what was probably Michigan's best-ever offensive performance against the Indianapolis-Fort Wayne Mad Antz. The numbers, helpfully recompiled by Seth* after that game, are stark:

Formation Pass YPA Run YPA Total YPA
I-Form 8.1 3.9 5.1
Shotgun 8.1 6.7 7.2
Ace 10.6 7.4 9.1
Denard Jet 4.0 3.3 3.4
Fritz 9.4 7.3 8.6
Total 8.3 6.1 6.9

The Ace numbers are a small sample and are heavily dependent on Fitzgerald Toussaint's long jet in the Purdue game, FWIW.

When Michigan runs from the shotgun, holy pants. Downshifting into the I-Form may be appropriate for short yardage situations and as a change of pace, but that's all it's good for, especially when you consider that Michigan's ripped their tough closing slate for 5.5, 4.5**, and 6.4 yards a carry without dropping into the I for much more than goal line duty. As I said in the OSU game recap, by the end of the year it kind of seemed like the transition costs of moving from Rodriguez to Borges were zero.

So that worked better than anyone expected it to after Michigan learned a couple of harsh lessons. Q: will they accept that verdict in 2012 or try to change it? Despite the clear advantages of running from the shotgun in 2011, it's clear where Borges wants to take the offense long-term. With a lot more BEEFCAKE on the interior line it could work better… but…

[thousand word rant about removing Denard's legs from the equation]

…in the EYE with a FORKING FORK.

How much will Denard progress? It became less about accuracy late in the year and more about just knowing where to go with the ball. His default action when he doesn't know what to do should be take off; instead it's unleashing the deep-ball dragon. Michigan has to find a way to not completely bog down against elite defenses, because a quick glance on the schedule shows quite a few that promise to approach that level.

Will the real Toussaint injury vulnerability please stand up? Brionte Dunn has cast his lot with Test Drive U, leaving Michigan with a non-obvious answer to "what happens if Toussaint is injured?" It could be Vincent Smith but Toussaint's emergence has reminded us all of what a nice bonus it is to have a playmaker at tailback. Thomas Rawls comes Fred Jackson approved, for what that's worth. Justice Hayes is coming off a redshirt year with a lot of recruiting hype… that said he was a great fit for a spread.

MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS

Static yardage-wise, more under center stuff I'll loathe, significantly reduced interceptions from Denard, about the same with less tendency to get totally shut down by top tier Ds. A slight upgrade overall.

*[Is it as much of a relief to everyone else that you no longer have to figure out how to pronounce "Misopogon"?]

**[Nebraska; these totals were depressed by a lot of predictable Michigan plods into the line in the fourth Q. Seth's numbers only include the first three quarters in games closer than 18 points, FWIW, which slashes out big chunks of Minnesota.]

Comments

Erik_in_Dayton

January 10th, 2012 at 2:41 PM ^

Stonum doesn't play the ball in the air like Junior does.  Junior was sort of Denard's security blanket - and I don't mean that as an insult to Denard.  Michigan doesn't win the ND game or the VT game without him.  I think Junior's season stats don't do justice at all to what he meant to the offense. 

I think the team will miss Odoms more than the above reflects too, for his approach to the game more than anything. 

MaizeAndBlueWahoo

January 10th, 2012 at 4:06 PM ^

This is my thought too.  The following line...

 His default action when he doesn't know what to do should be take off; instead it's unleashing the deep-ball dragon.

...makes it fact. Hemingway slays the dragon.  Is there anyone else we can depend on like we could with Hemingway to do that?  I doubt it.  I am not kidding when I say Hemingway was probably worth three or four wins this year in his ability to rescue Denard from trouble, preserve drives, and score touchdowns simply by being really fucking good at catching jump balls.  Maybe add another win if the review guy had made the right call against Iowa.

go16blue

January 10th, 2012 at 4:14 PM ^

I think you underestimate Stonum's speed as something that we didn't have at all this past year. Let's say it was Hemmingway who was suspended for the year, not Stonum, and all else remains the same. Where Hemmingway deep throws were jump balls often into double coverage, Stonum deep throws would be lead throws to a WR with seperation (which Hemmingway could never get), or at the very least a 1-on-1 with a safety. Much of Denard's "unleashing the dragon" was based off of Hemmingway's skillset which, while different than Stonum's, isn't necessarily better. I would actually say that a legitimate deep threat like Stonum is just what Borges' offense missed this year, and a Stonum for Hemmingway trade could very well be a net gain.

MaizeAndBlueWahoo

January 10th, 2012 at 4:22 PM ^

It's not just deep balls where it's Hemingway one on one with someone, consider a throw like the first touchdown in the Sugar Bowl where Hemingway beat both a safety and a corner to the ball.  I don't think that's a play where Stonum's speed would come in any handier than Hemingway's hands, and red-zone plays are the same way.

BrewCityBlue

January 10th, 2012 at 5:18 PM ^

the number of times Denard has shown the ability to lead a receiver on a deep ball properly on one hand, maybe because I don't remember any. 

This is nothing against Denard, but to this point, accuarcy in the deep passing game has not been a strength of his. 

What he has done "well" is chuck it up into a crowd of people and have Hemingway/Gallon/Roundtree come down with it, either luckily, or thankfully, due to Jr's mad-skillz in this area. 

Unless Denard's ability to throw an accurately timed and well placed deep ball improves, we'll need Stonum to do EXACTLY what Junior has done this entire season. 

uncleFred

January 10th, 2012 at 7:33 PM ^

The goal is to reduce the set of situations where he "doesn't know what to do" to asymptotically close to zero so that he knows what to do. Be it throw to an outlet, throw deep, run up field, or scramnble to buy time. 

As for Hemingway - what a gift to our team this year. But that is what a top receiver is supposed to do. When the play goes wrong, come back get open and give your QB a target. A great player. I hope he has a great pro career. 

El Jeffe

January 10th, 2012 at 3:41 PM ^

I would have gone with 1971, year of the release of Every Picture Tells a Story, which is a preposterously good record. In addition to Maggie May, it has the title track and Mandolin Wind, whose only sin is being appropriated by that incubus of suck, Bruce Hornsby, who didn't even have the decency to cover it, only bastardize it.

Also, the Faces' record A Nod Is as Good as a Wink... came out in 1971, including Stay with Me, which is a great song.

  1. In conclusion, Rod Stewart 1971 is the shiz.
  2. Fuck Bruce Hornsby.

 

InterM

January 10th, 2012 at 4:30 PM ^

In fairness to the young whippersnappers, though, if you've heard any of the crap he has produced since then, it's hard to conceive that he ever did anything worthwhile.  That's why Brian's use of Rod Stewart is so appropriate -- it's like aliens came down and took the 1971 model away, leaving a thoroughly non-musical copy in his place.

But, hey, as for Bruce Hornsby -- even accepting that he's nothing special, I'd have to work my way through a list of thousands of other, much more worthy candidates before I'd label him the "incubus of suck."  Ease off -- he's harmless!

GunnersApe

January 10th, 2012 at 2:58 PM ^

"His default action when he doesn't know what to do should be take off; instead it's unleashing the deep-ball dragon. "

May it never rear it's ugly head next season.

 

markusr2007

January 10th, 2012 at 2:59 PM ^

while the sun shines with his star quarterback.

Michigan football has Denard Robinson for, Loki willing, 14 games next year.  

Then it's done. Forever.

For the next 7 to 10 years it's highly unlikely that MIchigan football fans will ever see a quarterback again with a "forkin" Pratt & Whitney jet engine attached to his body like Denard Robinson.    

So yes, it'll be back to Abraham Lincoln-like, statuesque quarterbacks with 6.8 speed and Howitzer arms from 2013 on out.  hoo-ray.

Here's to hoping that Al Borges instructs Denard Robinson to put on a thunder and lightning show that the Big House and the Big Ten will never forget in 2012.  

 

joeyb

January 10th, 2012 at 3:16 PM ^

While I agree with your general thoughts, the coaches have shown no intent on recruiting statues at QB. Bellomy and Morris both are listed with 4.63 40s on Rivals. They might not be Denard-fast, but they definitely aren't statues. If anything, they are probably looking for pocket passers with some quickness so they can get away from pressure and extend plays.

bluewave720

January 11th, 2012 at 10:39 AM ^

I mean, I know you didn't invent the construct of "impermanence."  But reading it made me realize how I've only got one more season to watch Denard do his thing.  One more season to hear my daughter yell "Go Denawd Robinson!"  I guess, though, next year it will likely be a clearly annunciated "Denard."

I feel this way towards the end of every season in re: to the seniors.  But, I'm getting that feeling way too early right now.  I feel like Mikey in "The Goonies" right before he convinces the gang not to escape up through the well.

joeyb

January 10th, 2012 at 3:20 PM ^

I remember going to the Miami (NTM) game in 2008 with my dad and telling him how excited I was for Odoms, McGuffie, and Shaw. Then, I saw Odoms on Bourbon Street, realized this could be the last time that I ever hear about him, and thanked him for everything he's done for Michigan. I just couldn't believe that some of these players are already leaving. Then, you look at the year that the recruits were born and you really start to feel old.

JeepinBen

January 10th, 2012 at 3:05 PM ^

But I love all the creative names that this site (and Brian in particular) has come up with for Ohio State. "Test Drive U" had me laughing at my desk, as did "the Indianapolis-Fort Wayne Mad Antz"

uncleFred

January 10th, 2012 at 3:22 PM ^

Which is, to the degree team talent allows, more toward his pro style offense. Because of Molk's injury*, I really want to discount Denard's erratic performance in the Sugar Bowl and to expect that he will continue his maturation in Borges's system. Al has demonstrated that he is quite willing to tailor his schemes to the available skill set, so I'm sure he'll make good use of Denard. 

The opener against Alabama should tell us a lot about what 2012 will be like. They are going to lose some folks, but it is a safe bet that they will bring a very tough defense.

 

*I have neither the knowledge nor ability to assess the actual impact on the play of the OL, and the offense as a whole, of Molk's injury. He played heroically all game, but our OL production seemed pretty feeble. I wonder if VT would have been able to dominate the offense had Molk been 100%.  Clearly the knowledge and ability to answer that question can be found among the analysts here. Would one of you be willing to analyze our OL play specifically in terms of Molk's injury and render an opinion? 

Thanks!

Go Blue!