Fall Scrimmage Roundup: Yes, Denard

Submitted by Brian on August 23rd, 2010 at 4:05 PM

So I find myself in an extremely bizarre position: Michigan had a semi-public scrimmage on Saturday that I and a few hundred others attended after donating to Motts or buying the big baller seats. If you've been on the internet since Saturday you've noticed probably dozens of reports on message boards, the diaries here, other blogs, and one local radio host's (pretty inaccurate) tweets. Also there's a highlight video from the official site:

But they specifically told myself, MVictors, Scout, Rivals, and Craig Ross that "nothing was to be reported" from the scrimmage. This worked as well as you might imagine, leaving us on the sidelines as everyone with a username throws vague information around. So here's a bizarre roundup of things other people said on the internets and in my inbox that doesn't involve personal reporting. This lion is caged.

Quarterbacks

DenardRobinsonWMU

Popular sentiment holds that Denard is the man:

looks comfortable, made some nice throws, seems in charge of the O.  Wouldn't want to have to tackle him.

The man:

Unless something crazy happens between now and September 4, Denard Robinson is your clear starter at quarterback. The quarterbacks weren’t live today, but Robinson still managed to carve up the second-team defense (running the first-team offense, of course) with his legs and his arm. His made good decisions with the ball and his passes were on the money, and he took a QB draw 40+ yards to the house — only Denard makes that play, and he made it look easy.

The man:

He will absolutely start as he is clearly the leader on the team. He had the most energy during warm-ups, was the first one and the fastest one doing stretch drills, and was clearly the first-team QB of the day during the 'scrimmage'. He hit a nice 23-ish yard pass on a WICKED play fake to Grady. And then ran it in for another 25 or so on a QB draw, juking a DB as he went. Enough to even get the sidelines "ooh-ing".

The man:

Prior to seeing this scrimmage I was a fan of Tate and would tell anyone who asked, that Tate would be the starter. After watching the scrimmage, D-Rob will be the starter. He was much better in the pocket, made good decisions when faced with getting rid of the ball or being sacked with loss of yards, and his exchanges were very good. Think about some of the ball fakes that Juice Williams had. D-Rob isn't there yet, but he will be.

That longish pass was the a half-roll at about 2:00 in the highlights on which Robinson pulled up and nailed Terrance Robinson between the numbers and between levels in the zone. An emailer suggested that he wouldn't have believed it possible without the spring game. Also, at the end of practice they had the team run a lap around the field four times. It's "a little tough to tell" because each position group starts from a different place on the field, but 3 of the 4 times Denard was the first player on the team to finish. (Ray Vinopal seemed to win the last one.) That's "more a measure of endurance than speed."

Robinson actually got a lot less run than the other two quarterbacks, finding himself on the bench as Forcier and Gardner (and Jack Kennedy) alternated series late; when he did get on the offense would score quickly, further depressing his reps. To me that reads like the decision is already made and they are being somewhat cautious.

Conflicting reports on Gardner and Forcier. Ace's take:

Devin Gardner, running mostly with the twos, looked at times like a seasoned veteran, but he had a couple throws — including an ugly interception to Marvin Robinson — that reminded everyone he is just a freshman. His natural ability could lead to him seeing the field this year, but I think it’s safe to say he’s probably a year away from really pushing for the starting job. Really like his poise in the pocked and running ability, however, and it would have been interesting to see what he could have done if the quarterbacks were live. Tate Forcier started with the threes but saw snaps with the ones and twos as well — he looked solid throwing the ball, but made a couple poor reads on zone running plays.

Gardner came in for a lot of praise but a trusted observer in the inbox says "Gardner made a number of bad decisions under pressure." There that Marvin Robinson interception reminiscent of the slo-mo-nooooo plays last year; observer also cited a strong tendency for Gardner to panic and chuck off his back foot when blitzers got through. He suggested that in a scrimmage with more blitzing—it was exceedingly rare—Forcier would have probably looked clearly better than Gardner. While a few folk are saying there is "NO WAY" Gardner redshirts, TO thought he was at best even with Forcier and given that should watch from the sidelines. He made more big errors than anyone else.

In drills, Tate looked best, FWIW.

Running Backs

Hopkins was the name on everyone's tongue after a day spent running through arm tackles and showing surprising shiftiness. He "hit the holes and was a load to take down." Trusted Observer said he had a hard time picking out Hopkins before the scrimmage, as he looked like PJ Hill in the spring but after losing ten pounds and reshaping maybe a dozen others into muscle "now looks like a tailback" instead of a moonlighting fullback.

One negative note:

I didn't think Hopkins looked as great as everyone else did.  Not a diss on his play - he ran very hard - but I didn't see the world beater others did.  Much like the other scrimmages, all the RBs looked good, but none really stood out.  We have options in Cox and Shaw.  Though V. Smith, as reported, looks great - no noticeable effects from the injury.

Vincent Smith Ace and others also noted that Vincent Smith seems 100% healthy; you can see him dance his way down to the two in the highlights above on one of his better runs on the day. TO said it looked like he was tentatively first team with Mike Shaw second but "both those guys fumbled and I wouldn't put much stock in that."

Mike Cox continued to show that he might be the best athlete amongst the running backs, but on two separate instances he caused Rodriguez to "lose it" by cutting way back against the grain, turning a modest gain into nothing by dancing at the line of scrimmage. On one "there was a gap on the frontside but he cut all the way behind the backside tackle," losing yardage and causing RR to chew him out; on the second "RR just dropped his headset in disgust."

Toussaint did not play due to an injury.

Wide Receiver

If you're looking at playing time in this scrimmage as a signal as to which freshmen wideouts will play, your "leaders in order" are Jerald Robinson, Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, and finally DJ Williamson. Yeah, Dileo, who looked "natural fielding punts and catching the ball in drills" despite being "fricking tiny." Robinson got a lot of playing time but "dropped everything."

As for the veterans, the nominal first team was the same it was in spring with Martavious Odoms spending a lot of time outside with Darryl Stonum; Roy Roundtree was in the slot but "did not play much" probably because "they know he's the guy." In his stead Robinson and Grady got most of the playing time, with Gallon around but "not doing much." Hemingway was on the second team with Stokes.

At TE, Koger, Webb, and Moore "seemed even," with Koger suffering a frustrating drop. Robinson added one, but otherwise the starting WRs caught everything that came their way. It was mostly underneath stuff, probably because of the open nature of the scrimmage.

Offensive Line

Not much here. Molk was in a green shirt and played only sparingly (this was "precautionary"); Khoury was his backup and there were several poor snaps, two or three of which led to drive-killing fumbles. Huyge (left) and Dorrestein (right) were tackles on the first team OL. Lewan was on the second team and played beyond the whistle to the point where he got a personal foul. TO noticed Quinton Washington struggling badly in the post-practice runs, finishing last. Someone, possibly Elliot Mealer, spent practice on the bike with a red jersey. Barnum was a second-team guard and the third-team center.

Coaches kept yelling at Schofield to keep his pad level down.

Defensive Line

TO says he spent most of the scrimmage watching the offense and didn't have much on the D. He did note that Mike Martin finished first easily in the DL group on the runs with Will Campbell lagging behind. Ace highlighted Jibreel Black, who looks like a quick contributor. Another emailer said "Martin is a beast" and didn't get much playing time for precautionary reasons:

“Defensively, Mike Martin has had a tremendous camp. We limited him yesterday because we know what he can do, but he’s been really good and probably our most consistent defensive player since camp started.”

Campbell seemed to be on the third team. Sagesse sat out with an injury, though he was in green, not red.

It does not seem like Martin is moving, so everyone figure out who Greg Banks's backup is.

Linebackers

That stuff about Moundros possibly starting looks accurate:

Moundros starts in the middle, looks like he's been playing there for a while.  A run stuffer certainly.  Middle zone coverage?  Not enough data.  Ezeh also stuffed the run and took on blocks at Mouton's spot.  Roh will be a beast, but given almost all of the throws were short, his pass rush didn't have time to get home.

Not much else here. Ezeh played WLB with Mouton in green. Davion Rogers is "a twig."

Secondary

Ack. Cam Gordon, from reports ranging from some guy…

Vlad will hit you, but we all knew that.  Cam Gordon is going to be very good, I think.  Big boy.  He was in position to make two great tackles, but unfortunately didn't wrapup and was pulled off the field.  Later returned with the 1's.  Going to take some time

…to the coach

“Yesterday probably wasn’t his best day practice-wise, but other than that he’s had a really good camp,” Rodriguez noted.

…to Cam Gordon's royal we

“We were in position to make plays - I was in position - but we didn’t wrap up,” Gordon said. “I think we were all a little excited, especially us young guys to show what we could do and we had a breakdown in fundamentals. But those are easily correctable mistakes.

“Something Coach [Tony] Gibson said to me after our scrimmage was, ‘Cam, every hit doesn’t have to be a big hit.’ That’s a key for me and for all the guys. Any tackle is a good tackle. I don’t have to level somebody because in the stat book they all count the same way. I’ll get better and we’ll get better.”

…did not have a good day. Corners… not much detail. There's this:

JT Floyd looks good, Rogers looks big.  Teric Jones and Christian are your 2's.  Talbott and Avery don't look undersized, and don't look overwhelmed.  Again, hard to judge corner play given the nature of the throws.  But Christian has a way of moving that reminds one of Woodson.

If only. Floyd was pulled early, again likely as a precaution. Robinson looks good, a "big hitter and good tackler."  Mike Williams spent a lot of time playing spur, not doing much of note. A push for a job or a sure starter (Thomas Gordon) getting held out of a high-contact scrimmage?

Special Teams

No worries at punter, where Hagerup's warmups were "just like Zoltan." The section of the practice dedicated to the punt team saw the punts "go straight" and were actually returnable. All were fielded cleanly except one fumble from Terrence Robinson. Here, too, Dileo "looked like a natural," executing a fair catch with aplomb and fielding an array of kickoffs and punts cleanly.

Field goal kicking was limited, with just two attempts. Meram missed from around 40, Gibbons hit from around 35. Kickoffs landed from the 2 to 10, which is about average these days. Kickoff coverage must be run at half speed because every one was returned to about midfield and then blown dead.

Comments

Kolesar40

August 23rd, 2010 at 5:11 PM ^

looked so promising for Hemingway last year. I hope he can return to form and be a presence on the outside. Is Odoms fast/physical  enough to play outside? I think of him as a prototypical slot guy in this offense, but I could be wrond.

 

Lastly, is it reasonable to expect Moundrous to play against "down hill" teams and Ezeh against teams with mobile QBs? Just hard for me to imagine Moundrous will be able to do much in space. Again, hope I am wrong.

Blue in Yarmouth

August 24th, 2010 at 7:45 AM ^

Odoms is shifty and "quick" but he is by no means the fastest player on the team not by a long shot. He isn't even the fastest receiver on the team. This isn't a knock on him, just a fact. I am not even saying he couldn't be good on the outside because I haven't seen him there to pass any judgement. All I am saying is you are way off when you say he could be the fastest on the team.

msoccer10

August 24th, 2010 at 11:04 AM ^

As one already pointed out, Odoms might be the fastest over 20-40 yards from zero to top speed. That allows him to get separation at the end of a route. Denard and maybe Stonum are faster in a straight line over a longer stretch.

Wolvmarine

August 23rd, 2010 at 4:31 PM ^

does this mean Ricardo Miller is more likely to Redshirt this season?  I am just hoping the Christian moves a bit like Woodson statement is atleast half-true. 

VAWolverine

August 23rd, 2010 at 4:18 PM ^

with Denard starting. He has the tools and added experience to lead the offense. Tate should be the next QB in since you cannot take the experience he gained last year and bury it on the bench. DG should be #3 and red shirt if he does not play other than early on. Hopefully we can think a little long term with him.

Enjoy Life

August 23rd, 2010 at 4:18 PM ^

Another year with an inexperienced QB. Not what I want to see. I had hoped Tate would be improved and a clear choice. Well, there are still a few days left. I still think Tate is our best bet.

joeyb

August 23rd, 2010 at 4:38 PM ^

If Tate is much improved over last year and Denard is better than Tate, wouldn't you want to have Denard on the field regardless of experience? He might throw a few extra interceptions here or there, but I am guessing he will make up for it with 1-2 extra TDs per game.

Enjoy Life

August 23rd, 2010 at 4:52 PM ^

So far, all we have are statements by the coaches that Denard has improved his passing. Not sure anyone has said he is faster than last year. And, we all know DR just was not very good last year.

And, all this has never been in the real world (Practice, we're takin about Practice!)

I will be thrilled if DR is the starter and leads M to victory in the UConn game. Only time will tell.

joeyb

August 23rd, 2010 at 5:05 PM ^

 

I think you are missing my point. If Denard and Tate are neck-and-neck in practice, you would have to assume Tate would start due to experience from last year. But, as far as anyone can tell from reports, the spring game, and this scrimmage, Denard is head and shoulders above Tate. If the coaches feel that Denard is without a doubt the starter, wouldn't you want the much better player on the field?

I just think that what we saw from Tate last year is about what we will get from him. That would be great if we wanted every game to be a close win or close loss. Putting Denard in might cost us a drive from a mental error once a game, but if he can get us an extra first down on all of the other drives, isn't that a worthwhile investment? (especially considering our depth on defense)

J. Lichty

August 23rd, 2010 at 5:09 PM ^

So far, all we have are statements by the coaches that Denard has improved his passing.

Well, that and the public performance in the spring game and Saturday's scrimmage, the observations of observers at practice including from the Big Ten Network and Former Wolverine, the common sense and logic that a limited passer might improve between freshman and sophmore years.  But yeah, apart from that all we have is the coache's word

BrnAWlrne

August 23rd, 2010 at 10:30 PM ^

I think people keep forgetting that Denard, though not as much as Tate, did get reps last year in actual games.

Stop treating him like he's a redshirt freshman.  He didn't redshirt last year, made freshman mistakes, and clearly wasn't fully comfortable with the offense.  Don't sit at the computer and act like he didn't show us flashes of a great talent.  That TD run during the Western game was just plain sick.  The TD drive in the Iowa game also showed that Denard can make the throws (he made some good passes during that drive and made a freshman mistake to seal our fate).

A statement like "Not sure anyone has said he (Denard) is faster than last year" is absurd

Bodogblog

August 23rd, 2010 at 5:06 PM ^

I love me some Tate, especially now that he has a year of experience.  But Denard has clearly put in the work, and if the coaches trust his improvement, who the hell am I?

But this thing isn't over.  I have a feeling Tate will get plenty of PT, and won't take it for granted this time.  He can't make up in 4 weeks what Denard's been putting out for 8 months, but he's committed.  This is a 4 year deal with these two, and now add DG

Some thought Denard would move to slot, he said 'nah, I'm going to start that sumbitch at QB'.  Some may think Tate's been passed over for good... but I guarantee he doesn't.  Throw DG into that mix with the same attitude, and this could be a pretty special deal

Now do they fist bump as they pass each other continuously on the way to getting better (and burning their legends across college football), or do they throw hand grenades?  I think RR will make sure it's the former

SC Wolverine

August 23rd, 2010 at 7:13 PM ^

Let's not forget that our coach is Rich Rodriguez, and that the best kind of QB for his mold is the Pat White kind.  Let's see, is there anyone on our roster who is like that...?  So we should be thrilled that Denard is leading the competition (which means he is playing best right now), since he has far and away the most upside for this particular offense.  I think we would all benefit from looking at some of the Pat White - Steve Slaten offense video.  That was an awesome college offense.  Denard can be even more dynamic that Pat White, given his speed, if he can master the zone read.  So go Denard!  (No offense to Tate, mind you.)

msoccer10

August 24th, 2010 at 11:43 AM ^

Ok, Pat White was a great qb with Rodriguez. However, I totally disagree that he is the "best kind of qb" for this offense. The "ideal" would be someone with that running ability who could also take advantage of the mismatches that threat would provide through the air. Pat White is not the type of passer I want for this team. I believe Gardner has the potential to be the "ideal". Not quite the runner of either Pat White or Denard Robinson, but a much better passer who can use the entire offensive playbook.

But even Pat White could pass well enough to keep the defense honest. I hope Denard can too, but I am not sure yet.

I think Rodriguez would be just fine with an excellent passer with adequate running ability if it meant he was scoring and moving the ball through the air. That is Forcier's game and would work just fine with this offense, imhe.

Blue in Yarmouth

August 24th, 2010 at 8:01 AM ^

I think that you and most likely Tate have overestimated the value of his ability and the experience he gained last year.

I haven't seen anyone here say anything like "Tate sucks" or "Tate is no good and will never play again". From everything I have read it is simply people saying right now Denard looks better and has put in a lot of work to get where he is right now (the assumed starter by many).

You, on the other hand, are ignoring everything being reported and clinging to the idea that since Tate started last year and got valued experience he should start this year regardless who is actually functioning better at the position. That is far more absurd than people taking in all the reports we are getting and forming the conclusion that Denard is the better option at this point.

The reason I threw Tate in with you in my opening sentence is not to be a dick at all, but I think perhaps he may have had the same opinion you hold now while he was going through the offseason. I was the starter last year and got a lot of experience so I can relax a bit because I am the starter next year, no question.

Noboady here is a Tate hater (or no one that I have seen). We all love Michigan football and want the QB that gives us the best chance to win to be on the field. At this point that appears to be DR, don't be offended by that, just sit back and enjoy the ride. Also don't forget DR actually got experience last year too for the record.

mgowin

August 23rd, 2010 at 5:19 PM ^

I remember some of the scouting services ranking WC as an offensive lineman instead of a defensive lineman. I don't really have anything to base this on, maybe someone like Magnus can comment, but he looks more like an O-line guy to me. I wonder if there is a chance we could see him on the O-line before his eligibility is out.

duffman is thr…

August 24th, 2010 at 2:41 AM ^

Ya I was thinking the same thing. Eyeball test says offensive tackle, maybe he is dead set on playing DL.  I am actually kind of surprised there hasn't been any chatter from the coaches of him possibly switching the last two years. Also, I am in no way an expert, especially when it comes to offensive line. I would also be interested in what Magnus has to say about this.

Logan88

August 24th, 2010 at 8:16 AM ^

about the Cass Tech "pipeline". Is it really even worth keeping open?

Boubacar (before he completely lost his mind) was not exactly lighting it up at CB, in fact he was getting lit up most of the time, while Big Will, another highly rated CT guy, is looking to be vastly overrated at this point.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me...

 

At this point, of the 4 Cass Tech guys we have taken under RR, only T. Gordon looks like he will be a significant contributor this season...and we haven't even seen what he can do on gamedays yet.

LudaChristian

August 23rd, 2010 at 4:39 PM ^

You gotta think Gardner will get a RS, with Tate/Denard seemingly the guys at QB. Can't think of a situation where DG would be needed over the other two at this stage in the game. I'd hate to waste a year of his eligibility just so he can play a few snaps -- I'd rather he redshirt, and be on the sidelines ready to go if one of the other two got nicked*.

*Knock on wood.

MGauxBleu

August 23rd, 2010 at 4:46 PM ^

All the 'quotes from people' reminded me of Carles.

Do u 'h8 the offseason'?
Do u think some1 will be the starting RB? [via 'standing out']
Is Brian gonna get 'so sued' for talking abt a semi-public scrimmage?
Is Steven Hopkins/Marvin Robinson/Mike Martin going to 'truck bros'?
Do those alts from UCONN 'stand a chance' on Sept 4?

JT4104

August 23rd, 2010 at 4:48 PM ^

Well, if Moundros is looking like the starter at MLB does this put Ezeh on the 2nd team?/

I cant imagine a scenario where Ezeh beats out Mouton for an outside spot and Roh is probably the only given as a starter since day 1.

I guess if Ezeh does end up on 2nd team at least he knows all the LB positions and can hopefully be a solid leader by keeping the other guys on their toes and working hard.