Extrapolating Team Gardner

Submitted by Brian on November 29th, 2012 at 12:53 PM


ahhhhhh berlerve ir can fler (Upchurch)

Michigan sits at the end of the regular season with a lot better idea of what they'll do without Denard Robinson than they did before he got injured at Nebraska. This is what they call a silver lining. Yeah, the Cornspiracy is playing a 7-5 team they already beat to go to the Rose Bowl, but what are they doing at quarterback next year?

[offstage whisper]

It seems they are still playing Taylor Martinez. Screw them!

Anyway, Michigan's offense before and after the Gardner injury was vastly different, so let's take a look at some rough outlines.

Schedule Check

Gardner played games against Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa, and Ohio State. These were the 5th, 7th, 8th, and 9th defenses in the Big Ten in terms of yardage. In terms of pass efficiency D they were 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 10th. (Oddly, Minnesota is the top team in both those categories.) This is a slightly worse sample than a random one, but if we're projecting overall stats to next year that's fair-ish since Michigan will play three non-BCS teams in their four nonconference games. It's ballpark, but the ballpark should be in the ballpark.

Obviously this is all very rough. We're projecting season to date, so aiming for 12 games.

Hypothetical Individual Stats

Hypothetical Gardner:

171 completions on 270 attempts, 63% completions, 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 3015 yards, 11.1 YPA(!). This would place him first in the Big Ten in passer efficiency by a mile and would in fact be #1 nationally. That's not happening, but if he can be in the top 20 that would be awesome.

Also he would have 105 rushes for 231 yards, which is depressed by sack yardage and Michigan avoiding called runs with him since the alternative seemed to be Jack Kennedy.

Hypothetical Receivers:

  • Gallon: 66 catches for 1098 yards(!)
  • Roundtree: 45 catches for 1134 yards(!)
  • Drew Dileo: remains criminally underused
  • Devin Funchess: 9 catches for 132 yards. Hmm, bad.

That seems swell. Except…

Hypothetical Tailbacks:

  • Fitzgerald Toussaint: 34 carries for 191 yards, 5.6 YPC
  • Thomas Rawls: 32 carries for 68 yards, 2.1 YPC.
  • Vincent Smith: 8 carries for 21 yards, 2.6 YPC
  • TOTAL: 3.8 YPC.

Denard is of course the wildcard, as he averaged 8.2 yards a carry in conference and 7.6(!) overall, which is the best YPC season at Michigan since at least 1949 (minimum 100 carries). I mean:

Runner Att Yards YPC
Denard 154 1166 7.6
Et Al 303 1082 3.6

I left sacks on both QBs in, FWIW. Not that it matters. Denard averaged 9.3 YPC on 23 carries against Iowa and OSU but we don't really need to extrapolate with him, we have all the data. He was four yards per carry better than any other option available. Stupid elbow.

Hypothetical Team Stats

These are difficult to parse out because of the Denard complication. But, yeah, #1 in passer efficiency. In yards, an even 400, which would be 64th. Rush offense slides to 148 a game, which puts them below Michigan state, well into the 70s. Pass offense goes from 95th to 49th.

Michigan going so slow all the time hurts them in these raw stats, of course. The efficiency is extremely promising as long as they can run block at all. Which, maybe?



November 29th, 2012 at 4:10 PM ^

They guy has displayed that he is the real deal, i dont care the talent of the opponent, he has great arm strength and good accuracy that will only improve. What i was most impressed with was the decision making and how smart of a QB he is. Im so excited for this guy especially if he gets that extra season. You can say that #1 passer efficiancy wont happen or w.e but i think thats what this kid will strive for. He will be one of the best Quarterbacks in College football his remaining years.


November 29th, 2012 at 1:21 PM ^

Here's hoping they practice that run block thingy before the bowl game.

Run Defense Texas A&M 39th Georgia 67th -- Iowa 64th

We should be able to run against probable bowl opponents.


November 29th, 2012 at 1:24 PM ^

1.  Teams hadn't really had to a chance to scout Gardner and also had to prepare for the possibility of Denard at QB.  Level of difficulty will be higher when coaches focus all their efforts on making Gardner's life difficult (and have had a chance to see his weaknesses exposed.)

2.  The OL couldn't run block very well, but they did a pretty good job of pass blocking.  When Gardner got rushed, it was usually after sitting in the pocket for a bit.  Next year - with 4 starters with zero to no experience, the pass rush is going to be far less competant AND, going back to point 1, at lot more inclined to send blitzers.

3.  Roundtree really stepped up his play for Gardner, he'll be gone without a replacement apparent.  That may be offset by better pass-catching threats at TE (if Butt is ready or Funchess becomes an actual TE and not just a WR who lines up there.)


November 29th, 2012 at 1:37 PM ^

Here's another way to look at the interesting points you mentioned:

1.  Good point.  The Denard option probably made defenses more hesitant, except for Ohio who figured out that Denard wasn't going to throw and got lucky that we didn't roll out Devin on 3rd/4th and short.  That said, I think the advantage of Devin actually practicing the position for more than 3-4 weeks will more than offset the surprise element.

2.  Also a good point, but (maybe stats tell a different story) it looked like Devin didn't have much time against Ohio, facing constant pressure.  The young 2013 line is a big concern and Devin will likely need to use his legs to minimize the threat of constant blitzing.  He's no Denard, but he's a lot closer to Denard than Brady and I expect to see some good (though not RB-like) rushing numbers from him in 2013.

3.  I think you might have this one backwards.  Roundtree didn't necessarily step his play up for Devin; it just seemed like Roundtree finally had a QB who could deliver the ball where it's supposed to go on a fairly consistent basis.  In that manner, Devin stepped up the QB position for Roy.  

MI Expat NY

November 29th, 2012 at 1:58 PM ^

Two of your three counterpoints point to the Ohio State game where he went 11/20 for 171 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.  If those are the conditions that are to be more expected next year then it's hard not to think that Brian's hypothetical stats are wildly optimistic.  

I don't think you can take into account four games played, one against a mediocre trending towards good defense and three against bad to very bad defenses (I don't care where Minnesota ranks in the Big Ten, you have to be bad to give up 31 to Iowa and 44 to Purdue), and then extrapolate to even come remotely close to what to expect next season.  Gardner didn't play the best three defenses we faced this year.  Saying that he also didn't face the non-conference cupcakes doesn't balance it out as you typically don't air it out against those types of teams where everything in your arsenal works.  Gardner also didn't face a team that wasn't at the same time preparing for what Denard brings to the table, something that had to be a significant part of the prep work.  These are advantages that won't be there for the entirety of next season.  

Gardner showed promise, and I'm a lot more hopeful about the QB situation then I was after the Nebraska game, but lets not get ahead of ourself based on three games against bad defenses where a lot of things went right (hello, NW hail mary).  I don't think being top 20 in passer efficiency is a proper baseline to be happy, I'd say top 40 and we will be generally happy with the performance of our QBs.  Anything better than that and we'll be thrilled.


November 29th, 2012 at 3:24 PM ^

He's also still young (a RS sophomore if he gets the redshirt), was playing extensively for the first time in his career, and playing in an offense that was a bit of a clusterfuck between traditional WCO plays and stuff to let Denard run. 

Next year the offense will be way more coherent (the line will practice the traditional run blocking stuff all the time instead of probably less than half), Gardner will have a whole offseason of practice/prep, and the schedule gets significantly easier. 

With what should be a very good defense getting him the ball back, it also isn't like there will be ridiculous demands on the offense.  Things should be okay enough to win a lot of games as is.  If we can find another receiver to go with Gallon/Dileo/Funchess and maybe a second back to pair with a (hopefully) healthy Fitz things look downright fantastic.

MI Expat NY

November 29th, 2012 at 3:32 PM ^

I'm not discounting any of that.  I just don't think we should take three good games against bad teams who were also busy preparing for Denard and set "top 20 national passer" as the barometer for what would make us happy.  


November 29th, 2012 at 3:53 PM ^

I think that you've got to also take into account his skill that you've now had multiple games to watch (not just guess at), and try to think of another Michigan QB with that much talent at the position.  Henne? Brady?  Navarre?  Griese?  Grbac?  I don't know the answer, but watching him play and make many good QB decisions (against only a couple mistakes), makes a top-20 standard seem very achievable.  

MI Expat NY

November 29th, 2012 at 4:07 PM ^

Really?  You're comparing Gardner after 4 starts to a group that collectively has over 300 career NFL starts?  That is asinine.

Look, he can make all the throws.  He was more accurate than I expected based on his previous play.  But this was a guy, who in his third year as a college QB, didn't look very good when a team knew he was going to pass.  Touting him with those types of accolades is absurd.  He has the potential to be good.  He could be very good.  But again, extrapolating from stats produced in three good games against bad teams (plus one very bad safety play from OSU) isn't indicative of what we should expect.


November 29th, 2012 at 4:46 PM ^

Yes.  That's exactly what I'm doing.  When he throws the ball and leads the team, he looks like one of our past, talented QB's.  That's not something that could have been said of Nick Sheridan, Steven Threet or Denard.  He had offers (to play QB) from ND, LSU and Michigan - all schools that put QBs in the NFL.  By the way, John Navarre says thanks for being the rare person to compliment his skills.

If you thought that Devin didn't look good throwing the ball, then you seem to disagree with the vast majority of people who watched him play (and the coaching staff).  It's weird, on the one hand, you say we can't compare him to past Michigan QBs because of his inexperience, and then, on the other hand, you want to judge his performance by calling him a third year college QB???  His freshman year was the RR waste-the-redshirt attempt, his soph season he was a gimmick play option and, until the last 4 games this year, he was a WR.  So, yeah, based on the last 4 games this year, I'd say his performance was remarkable and he deserves to be compared to Michigan QBs of the past.

MI Expat NY

November 29th, 2012 at 5:05 PM ^

I did watch him.  He played well.  I just think you have a little recency bias if you look at him and immediately think of all those great QBs that have played here before (excepting Navarre if you feel so inclined, though he did get at least one start in the NFL).  

There is no inconsistency with my statement.  We haven't seen him enough to say he's as skilled as those guys.  At the same time, what we have seen is a guy who is in his third year as a QB, the point being he's not Chad Henne in games 1-4.  Even if he spent one year in Rich Rod's offense and one year where he only saw the field in hybrid packages, he's still getting work in practice.  He was a guy who at that point in his career, you should feel comfortable with as your starting QB.  He'll obviously get better, but you shouldn't expect the vast improvements that you would expect out of a true freshman who spot started four games.  

I think he can be good.  He obviously is talented.  But can we please dial back the expectations just a little bit?  Looking at the offense next year there are questions at pretty much every position save Funchess and Gallon.  Expecting him to be a top 20 QB, especially with all the Ok. State style offenses out there is unfairly setting him up to dissapoint, in my opinion.  If he meets your expectations I'll be more than happy, I'll be thrilled.  


November 29th, 2012 at 7:44 PM ^

We're on the same page with hoping for the best and I'm all for keep expectations low and being happy when they're surpassed, but Devin has given reason for excitement.  Keeping fairness in mind, however, he isn't a 3-year QB, he's a 2 year QB and 1 year WR, going back to QB without having practiced the position for a long time.

And, let's take a look at Henne's first 4 games:
66-114 (58%)
6 TD
-48 rushing yards

And, Devin's first 4 games:
57-90 (63%)
8 TD
77 rushing yards

So, I think he stacks up pretty well to Chad Henne games 1-4.

MI Expat NY

November 29th, 2012 at 10:20 PM ^

I meant he's not Chad Henne in games 1-4 to mean that he's not a true freshman playing after being in college football for all of three weeks.  I would expect a 3rd year QB (fine 2.5 year QB to be able to step in and do better than the true freshman in the first four games of the season.


November 30th, 2012 at 9:25 AM ^


That's fair.  Would you expect Devin to do better than (now NFL starter) Chad Henne in his first four starts of year 3?  Because he did.  Here's Henne's games 1-4 of his third year:

52-88 (59%)
7 TD
-1 yrd rushing

So, again, Devin has better stats if we're calling them both 3rd year QBs.  Of course that doesn't mean he'll be an NFL starter (or that he's as good as Henne at any point), but it continues to affirm the notion that Devin has talent similar to Michigan QBs of the past.  It used to be the norm that we had NFL level QBs; now we're just getting back to that.


November 29th, 2012 at 5:08 PM ^

But also exceedingly raw.  He ran a spread in high school, then Rodriguez unique brand of spread, then changed coaches, then changed positions, and now, even under Borges, is running an awkward fusion of many offensive systems.

In other words - in some ways he will still be like a freshman version of those NFL QBs, even though he'll be classified as a Junior.  It took a while for those guys to get good, even with consistent coaching in the same offense.

He seems like a great leader and a smart player, my hopes are high - but he's far from being the polished passer he looked like he was against Northwestern,etc.


November 29th, 2012 at 5:02 PM ^

Regarding the offense being more coherent - we'll see.  It depends on them being successful with something which depends on the OL that is frightfully inexperienced.  Furthermore, Borges may be a "traditional WCO" playcaller, but Devin isn't a traditional WCO QB by any stretch.  He's a better passer than Denard but his accuracy is still suspect and his legs may be his biggest asset.  There's a chance he is better served (like Pryor and Young) in a shotgun-spread attack.  We may still see a lot of figuring-it-out-as-we-go next season.

I do agree the D will get much better, but that doesn't help the 'extrapolation' thing.  The O may want to pound ahead more often, but that doesn't mean it will be successful in doing so.


November 29th, 2012 at 1:35 PM ^

Here's the problem. As of now I have no faith Borges will make the offense work, at least on the short term. We have weapons on our offense that Borges has seemed content to ignore in several games. As evidenced by his own quote after the MSU game, he has no interest in trying to out-scheme opponents. So basically this offense is going to have a ceiling we will encounter often until our WRs turn into Braylon or Manningham, and more importantly, our road-grading linemen mature with our RBs turning into Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown. But as you say, at least the QB position seems to be pretty well taken care of for next year and the year after hopefully.


November 29th, 2012 at 2:01 PM ^

"Borges has no interest in trying to outscheme the opponents."

I had to re-write that just to get my head around the statement a bit.  I know it's true but to me it would be like if Mattison said "I have no interest in trying to stop the opponents from scoring".

I'm sorry but isnt "outscheming" exactly what A FUCKING OFFENSIVE FUCKING COORDINATOR IS PAID TO FUCKING DO??????????????



November 29th, 2012 at 2:07 PM ^

yeah it is, borges is pretty good at it though he seems hesitant to make drastic in game changes (MSU/IOWA last year). everybody is just still butthurt about ohio and all those inside runs that didnt work even though we played well in the first half. sometimes you get outschemed by the D coordinator.


November 29th, 2012 at 1:36 PM ^

I remain extremely (probably overly so) optimistic about Gardner next year. He's a former high 4 star recruit who is going into his 3rd year into a system with some experience under his belt. He has displayed the accuracy and arm strength to make almost every throw a college QB needs to make.  The key to his development is improving in reading defenses. He has been slightly late on a good portion of his throws so far and while that worked fine against mediocre talent (Minneosta, Iowa), it was stifled a bit by OSU. I think he'll improve a lot in this area with an offseason/1st team reps and challenge Martinez/Miller for best QB in the B1G next year. 


November 29th, 2012 at 1:53 PM ^

He was a 5* to Scout, but only a 4*(5.9) to Rivals, though he was ranked as the #1 Dual Threat QB there. He was also a 4* on ESPN and the #5 overall QB there. So I consider that a consensus high 4*. EIther way, if eveything breaks right for him, he's got the talent to not need that RS because he blows up next year. If that's en route to a Big Ten title, then I look forward to that and RS Fr/So Shane Morris in 2014.


November 29th, 2012 at 4:54 PM ^

Sure, Gardner will be better next year getting the majority of the snaps in bowl and spring practice.  The problem next year is the offensive line.  There will be 4 guys gone from this year's group, and this year was somwhat of a struggle as it was.  I'm predicting Gardner running for his life all too often and being forced into throwing while pressured, thus causing unneeded INTs.  It all starts with the big guys up front.


November 29th, 2012 at 1:53 PM ^

in looking at Gardner's stats for those games, is that none of those defenses (with the possible exception of OSU) had much of a chance to scout Gardner or prepare for him and whatever the offensive scheme would be with him as the only/primary QB. I would expect that as the season progresses next year there will be less mystery about his capabilities and weaknesses, as well as an increasing body of work to review when determining scheme and such that might make his stats trend downward.

That said, he will also be improving and gaining on the field experience and be working in a scheme more specifically designed around what he does best, so perhaps they offset?


EDIT: someone beat me to that comment above, carry on....

His Dudeness

November 29th, 2012 at 2:21 PM ^

  • Fitzgerald Toussaint: 34 carries for 191 yards, 5.6 YPC

    Those stats are an extrapolation of what we had THIS season from those three?

    That is downright pathetic. No offense to those guys, obvious running QB attempts taking away their attempts are obvious, but even still. Wow just wow, man. I hope D. Green is seeing this.

    • Thomas Rawls: 32 carries for 68 yards, 2.1 YPC
    • Vincent Smith: 8 carries for 21 yards, 2.6 YPC


    November 29th, 2012 at 2:39 PM ^

    I for one am looking forward to having a more pro-style QB that can run when necessary in charge of the offense next year. Finally having a QB that has a throw first mentality. Not taking anything away from Denard (who I want to be returning kicks and/or punts in the bowl game), but it was ALWAYS easier for him to run than to throw. Now Michigan has a Dennis Dixon type QB (although not as fast), that can actually give legit teams fits because opposing defenses will have to respect his ability to throw an accurate deep pass. I was there when Dixon shredded our D, Devin can do the same! My biggest fear about next year is the O-line, not only will Michigan be young, we will also be w/o decent depth. I'm sure we all noticed what happened to Sparty when their lineman all got hurt.....


    November 29th, 2012 at 3:28 PM ^

    The 5.6 YPC for Toussaint isn't bad considering how bad the blocking for him was. I know we expected him to de better than last year, instead of worse, but 34 carries and 191 yards at 5.6 per are pretty good ground-and-pound wear the opponent down numbers for a game.

    Fitz yards and TDs were slashed in half from 2011, but his carries were also cut by a third, he played against some tough DLines like ND, Sparty, Nebraska, and Purdue, had terrible blocking from the line, and honestly had a pretty poor passing threat to help the run game out. He took a step back, but he had alot of help getting there, too.

    I also think that the OLine can only get better. Going from seniors to a few underclassmen we automatically imagine a step back, and possibly losing Lewan can easily fill fans with dread, but the 2013 line won't be overly young, and our interior was playing at or below an underclassmen level already. Schofield will be a 5th year senior playing Tackle, and Bryant and Miller will have been practicing at their positions for 2 1/2 years by the time they take the field. Kalis and Bryant should easily be an improvement in run blocking, and Miller has been a dedicated Center from the beginning. The only question mark is who the other tackle will be, and either choice is already a size mismatch for opponents with a ton of upside, and both are better runblockers than pass blockers. With FBs and 2 TE sets up front, plus a pass-first mobile qb scheme next year, things should be a bit more conventional, and open things up for the line and the backs.

    Regardless we could have 2 of the top 10 Linemen in the country from 2012 stepping in next year, surrounded by upperclassmen, and Fitz could easily go off all over again.


    November 29th, 2012 at 3:28 PM ^

    Teams also played us very differently.  When Denard's rushing production shoots up (2 ypc better than 2011) and Fitz's has a corresponding drop (1.8 ypc less), just saying "the line sucks" doesn't really explain things (like them blocking way better somehow when Denard keeps the ball). 

    Fitz was as much a victim of an enhanced reputation (defense's knew who he was this year) and an offense that could never develop an effective counter to the one read play we ever really ran (inverted veer) as anything.


    November 29th, 2012 at 3:53 PM ^

    Umm....I didn't just say "the line sucks" the end, I took into account quite a few factors, like our passing game taking a huge step back so our offense was one dimensional at times, our offensive line taking a huge step back, and our opponents defensive fronts improving. Not to mention not gameplanning to take advantage of defenses selling out against the run this year, and inexplicably running right at them instead. Just saying "fitz sucks" doesn't really counter any of that either. Saying Denard rushed for 2 more ypc this year because the line blocked way better means that this years line made improvements in run blocking over last years, and I just don't know what to say to that. Last year it was dominant at times, this year they got no push at all, and got manhandled up front regularly. All the running backs took big steps back this year. That's pretty much exclusively on the line, and on the scheme. Denard is just Denard.


    November 29th, 2012 at 3:38 PM ^

    While it's a little unfair to take out his best runs, consider Fitz's games against Minnesota and Northwestern if his longest run was capped at 20 yards:

    Minnesota: 13 carries for 70 yards (long 41) becomes 13 carries for 49 yards
    Northwestern: 18 carries for 92 yards (long 50) becomes 18 carries for 62 yards
    Total: 31 carries for 162 yards (5.2 ypc) becomes 31 carries for 111 yards (3.6 ypc)

    My interpretation of that is that Fitz was merely serviceable in those games. Considering the quality of defense, serviceable isn't very reassuring.


    November 29th, 2012 at 4:08 PM ^

    That's across the board, though, and shouldn't just be on Fitz. All the backs had pretty dismal years with defenses unconcerned about our passing threat, no push at the L.O.S., and occasional predictable playcalling. It was the same for LeVeon Bell at Staee. In his games where he had long runs of 40 yards or so his ypc was upp over 4, when he didn't have a breakaway run he had an average around or under 3, and while he's not the Heisman candidate people hyped him to be, he's still a good back. He only gained 4.2 against Northwestern, 3.9 against Central, and 3.3 against Indiana without adjusting. Only way he broke even 100 yards in a game was by getting around 30 carries, or having long breakaway runs. His bad games I wouldn't say were really his fault, but on the poor offensive line, and one dimensional offense allowing defenses to key on him. Just like with Fitz  and co.




    November 29th, 2012 at 3:26 PM ^

    I am not too worried about Gardner next year.   He has shown enough that he will be an impact player at QB.  The bigger problem will be the entire world focusing their defense on stopping him.   As pointed out there is big uncertainty with the Oline and RB.   If Lewan goes your posibly looking at a very young Oline.  We also have question marks at WR as our top two in terms of experience are slot size.

    So to run the Borges offense you need a massive talented offensive line, one or two super talented RB's, a great QB, and one or two talented big receivers.   We have the QB covered.   But everything else is a question mark.  Ahh, if only Borges could add a wheelbarrow and a mourners cowl to mix.   There is nothing he could not do.  I for one would have him don it and have one of those big linemen trundle him about in the wheelbarrow.  Just have him make priestly pronouncments of the advent of the Gulf Coast offense and defensive coordinators would run fleeing in abject terror before the game even began.  :)

    steve sharik

    November 29th, 2012 at 11:10 PM ^

    1. TO margin
    2. Total defense
    3. Pass efficiency

    Pass efficiency is also strongly correlated with rush yards per carry and 3rd down conversions.

    Usually, if teams have two of the three and aren't horrendous at the third, they win most of their games.

    So, if Gardner is top 10 in pass efficiency, Mattison continues to do his thing with a deeper, more talented roster, and we can get back to the plus side in TO margin, I believe this team is a sleeper for the BCS title game.

    The key is going to be the OL being able to generate a good ypc and protect him in the pass game to put Devin in a higher probability of success.