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

denard-postgame-smilestoussaint-um[1]

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

ccdevi

January 10th, 2012 at 3:44 PM ^

you could be right, he did say DL, but I sorta think he means Jordan Paskorz, 246 pound LB.

We've heard some encouraging words about Heitzman and he's also a year younger.  Paskorz, based on the depth chart, what we heard about him as a recruit, and that he wasn't able to sniff the field as a RS frosh, seems like a complete non-contributor at LB or DE, in fact he seems very much in the Steve Watson mold, a guy that you move over and hope he can do something to contribute.

lbpeley

January 10th, 2012 at 3:45 PM ^

preferred Misopogon to Seth. In fact, it took me a while to stop cursing this Seth guy for stealing Misopogon's avatar. I finally grudgingly accepted the fact that they were one in the same. I fear change.

MGoNukeE

January 10th, 2012 at 3:52 PM ^

Seth will always be Misopogon in my heart, for the same reason that Lloyd Brady will never be able to live up to the legend if his identity is revealed.

GoWings2008

January 11th, 2012 at 10:43 AM ^

a very good choice, however "Poopsblue" would certainly leave no doubt to the level of commitment and love you have to the program and the school. 

I mean....can you IMAGINE the things you'd have to eat to get your poop to be blue?  Luckily, my dog has provided some valuable insight....a deck of Uno cards does the trick quite nicely.

denardogasm

January 10th, 2012 at 4:11 PM ^

Wasn't the news during the season that Stonum was looking real good in practice?  If he can run routes better than our guys this year (assuming he's still around) I'll be very pleased.

go16blue

January 10th, 2012 at 4:17 PM ^

That was the news only because that's the only thing Hoke could say when he was asked about Stonum. "How's Stonum dealing with his redshirt year?" "He's a great scout team WR," etc. I don't expect him to be a better route runner than Roundtree or Gallon, but there's no reason to think he would be worse, either. His speed could be a big plus for the team, too, but he's really a mystery.

michgoblue

January 10th, 2012 at 4:48 PM ^

A bit less detailed than Brian's but here we go.

QB - Denard will be very good.  I expect a drop in the turnovers as he becomes more comfortble in the offense.  He will always struggle a bit when teams force him to throw a bunch, but I think that the level of his struggles will decrease.  Also, Devin in his 3rd year will be a good back-up if Denard is injured.  Second also - I expect that Al Borges will use the Ace set more often, once he has a full off-season to play around with it.

RB - obviously, its Fitz, and he is going to be very good in his second year as a starter.  V. Smith will likely be relegated to 3rd down back only, as I expect that Rawls or Hayes will emerge as the back-up / give-Fitz-a-breather back.  Rawks seems to get a ton of F. Jackson love, and Hayes' recruiting hype was too high to ignore.  Before anyone says that Hayes doesn't really fit the Borges RB mold, look at SDSU's RB during Hoke / Borges' last year there.

WR - I actually think that we are fine here.  I really like Gallon's potential.  He has great hands and very good YAC ability.  He could be the break-out short-medium range receiver.  Also, don't underestimate Stonum.  Sure, he hasn't done much to date, but his first three years were with (1) Sheridan-Threet, (2) true freshman Tate, in an offense that doesn't lend itself to deep passes, and (3) soph. Denard, who has a ton of accuracy issues.  I think that if Denard makes a step forward, Stonum could be in for a huge year.  Also, Roy Roundtree may not be as well suited for this offense, but I expect him to play a much bigger role in the offense this coming year, as the lack of true TE may force an increases reliance upon the slot receivers.  This should also benefit Dileo.

OL - Despite losing Molk, we will have a very solid O-line.  I expect Chris Bryant to lost the weight necessary and come in as a hulk monster up front next year.  Sure, depth will be the issue, as injuries up front are inevitable, but hopefully by the time one of our true freshman are pressed into action, they will have a few games under their belt.  Also, Kalis is a monster. 

TE - to me, this is our only weakness on offense.  It is a big one, but hopefully Ricardo can put on the necessary weight to play the position, as he looks to be our best option as a play-maker. 

 

Retnep

January 11th, 2012 at 12:52 PM ^

I don't know how anyone can have confidence in Roundtree. The kid is too small to play wideout. He consistently gets thrown off of his routes when he is jammed at the line. If Roundtree is to be successful at all, it will have to be in the slot where he can get a free release. The reason why he didn't have more catches this year is because he couldn't get open.

griff32

January 10th, 2012 at 6:25 PM ^

I like this guys for a 3rd possession's. Seemed to have good hands and know where to go to get the first down. I think he should evolve in the offense for a specialty receiver.

GoWings2008

January 11th, 2012 at 10:52 AM ^

Dileo's first TD...he was so amped up, as UM was his dream school, always wanted to be a Wolverine and finally achieved his goal to score a TD for the Maize and Blue.  As the year went on, his awe-struck air dwindled and he developed into a solid, go-to guy.  I think that time in Spring ball and an off season of development...he'll be much better and an underrated member of the WR corps.  I love this kid's work ethic and attitude.

ForeverVoyaging

January 10th, 2012 at 8:29 PM ^

Why is everyone assuming that Denard's interceptions will drop a lot? He was basically the same player against VTech that he was against ND. How will the offseason change this if an entire season of actually playing games didn't?

j.o.s.e maizenblue

January 11th, 2012 at 12:31 AM ^

You're making it sound like its a problem that will never be fixed. I look at it like a WR missing his assignment, which is something that can be fixed through practice and coaching. If Denard practices and becomes more comfortable in this "new" offense, I don't see why it wouldn't drop (especially after this year). 

GoWings2008

January 11th, 2012 at 11:01 AM ^

I think Denard's development will be two fold leading up to next year...like you said, becoming more comfortable in the new offense, and most importantly, working on his mechanics.  We've all seen how bad things happen when he throws off his back foot when trying to lead a receiver.  When he steps in and throws properly, we've seen some well executed passes.  Denard HAS the capability, but needs to work on having his throwing motion become second nature. 

GoWings2008

January 11th, 2012 at 12:56 PM ^

Just saying that a lot of time he would be spending, during the season, like watching film or working on a game plan for the next opponent or what have you aren't distractions.  The off season, particularly THIS off season, is a great time to reinforce the things he learned this past season, work on some mechanics, work with the rest of the offense (both team and play book) to be better prepared than he was 9 months ago.  I relate it to the weight lifting that an OL or DL would do in the off season...the time where a lot of gains are made. 

I wasn't really arguing, just pointing out the opportunity before him and how I think he'll spend his time and improve. 

delmarblue

January 10th, 2012 at 9:21 PM ^

Rod Stewart, best titty bar composer/songwriter ever. Junior best jump baller since Braylon. Scary thought, bama's 2012 linebackers versus M's 2012 linebackers.

zander

January 10th, 2012 at 9:37 PM ^

seems to me to be a bit like oversigning.....the Michael Coxes, Mealers, Khourys & TRob........I would hope they would have a place.........they also stayed, gutted it out and are part of the team.

Before we cast them off for ' not remembering the right endzone'  ( and which of us hasn't run off in the wrong direction once or twice) maybe its time to reread 'If' by Kipling.

j.o.s.e maizenblue

January 11th, 2012 at 12:12 AM ^

My guess (based on scouting reports) would be Heitzman. He was ranked no.63 TE in his class by scout.com. FYI, Beyer can catch the ball. I'm sure that's not even an option at this point, but the kid has serious offensive skills (just saying)!

tvaduva

January 11th, 2012 at 2:34 PM ^

...but I'm a little bit less optimistic about the offense next year. Molk's has some big shoes to fill. And D coordinators will more time to review tape on M's offense; so we won't be able to surprise too many of them.