First Look: 2013 Offense Comment Count

Brian January 3rd, 2013 at 3:14 PM

DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.

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goodnight sweet prince

  1. QB Denard Robinson. Michigan's career leader for yards per carry (6.3, tied with Jon Vaughn, would best it if sacks were accounted for properly). All-time national record-holder for most rushing yards by a quarterback. Three-year starter. Only player who could run for more than two inches per carry behind last year's offensive line. Kind of a big deal. Did not start last five games at QB, which mitigates blow significantly since Gardner was a revelation.
  2. LT Taylor Lewan [assumed]. Future first-round pick was near flawless in pass pro his last two years. Penalties returned after refinement as a sophomore; got beat painfully against OSU, but nearly shut out Clowney in the bowl game.
  3. WR Roy Roundtree. Never really recovered his prominence after rampant 2010. Did bounce up to 31 catches as a senior at a nice YPC clip. Had clearly become the #2 option by the end of the year.
  4. OG Patrick Omameh. Four year starter was probably Michigan's best interior OL. Lacked desired power for manball run game. Pass protection was solid. Probably replaceable. Probably not getting drafted.
  5. TE Mike Kwiatkowski. Don't-call-him-a-walk-on tight end was Michigan's most effective blocker at the spot; not targeted much in the pass game.
  6. OC Elliott Mealer. Last minute switch to center didn't smooth over issues; seemed to mess up a bunch of line calls starting in the Nebraska game; graded out as an extensive downgrade from Molk.
  7. OG Ricky Barnum. Not very good. Got run over a lot.
  8. RB Vincent Smith. Throwback screen merchant and pass-protector extraordinaire was never a great runner but leaves a hole at third down back. Admirably managed to not dissolve into component atoms after Clowney hit.
    [end contributors]
  9. FB Stephen Hopkins. Seemed to lose his job to Joe Kerridge and left the team after the OSU game.
  10. TE Brandon Moore. Barely played.

WHAT'S LEFT

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we gon' throw

  1. QB Devin Gardner. Blew in from wide receiver after Nebraska debacle to start final five games of the season, completing nearly 60% of his passes for 9.7 yards a pop with 11 TDs and 5 INTs. Added a couple hundred yards on the ground, sacks excluded. Those were mostly on scrambles. Fluctuating accuracy a concern.
  2. WR Jeremy Gallon. Gardner's favorite target was on pace for 80 catches and 1300 yards once Denard hurt his elbow. Diminutive but capable of leaping past defensive backs; quick enough to get open against almost anyone.
  3. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Gruesome break of both bones in his leg should actually be healed by fall. If available, Michigan needs the 2011 version of him badly.
  4. LT (presumably) Michael Schofield. Early struggles as he transitioned back to tackle did not last; established himself a good pass protector and adequate run blocker. With freshmen populating the depth chart everywhere on the OL, will likely move over to Gardner's blindside, allowing a burlier kid to play RT.
  5. TE Devin Funchess. After breakout Air Force game use steadily declined; he finished with only 15 catches for 234 yards. Did lead the team in receiving TDs with five. Passing game priority one needs to be getting the Devins on the same page.
  6. WR Drew Dileo. Sticky-fingered Louisiana gnome should have been targeted more. Catches quickly, gets upfield, small target but extremely reliable.
  7. TE AJ Williams. High school tackle was supposed to be Michigan's blocking TE but displayed horrendous technique and probably would have redshirted if Michigan had any options. Needs a big step forward with Kwiatkowski out the door.
  8. FB Joe Kerridge. Thumping fullback of the walk-on variety will be frequently used as Michigan transitions back to pro-style.
  9. RB Thomas Rawls. Flashed some tackle-breaking power in garbage time against Purdue and Illinois; proceeded to average under two yards a carry once forced into the lineup late in the year. Passed by Justice Hayes in bowl game and will likely fall behind freshmen when they arrive on campus.
  10. WR Jeremy Jackson. Lumbering possession receiver can't get separation from DBs.

WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY

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Kalis, Bryant, COME ON DOWN DERRICK GREEN

The offensive line. With Lewan taking his twosie to the next level, Michigan is left with Michael Schofield and a bunch of guys who haven't seen the field. Two fellows seem like locks to start:

  • Redshirt sophomore Jack Miller at center. It's possible Blake Bars moves over to challenge, and vaguely possible that Patrick Kugler—son of former Steelers OL coach and new UTEP head coach Sean—enters ready to play on day one. Miller has to be considered the heavy favorite. The coaches love his nasty, Molk-like disposition; they may not love his Molk-like size. He does have the asset of being a center from the get go, unlike the candidates in 2012.
  • Redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis at guard. I bet if Michigan had to do it over they would have put Kalis in the mix to start from day one. Instead they preserved a year of eligibility for him, which will benefit them down the road. If Kalis, a proverbially nasty road grader, doesn't win a job with ease, it's time to start worrying about living up to the hype.

A third is not quite a lock but has a healthy lead in my head:

  • Redshirt freshman Ben Braden at right tackle. Braden is a mountain of a man better suited to crubberate people off the ball than classmate Erik Magnuson, who's more of a left tackle type. Scuttlebutt reaching my ears is that the coaches are extremely high on him. Magnuson does have a shot.

The fourth is up in the air between these folk:

  • Redshirt sophomore Chris Bryant, who remains a 320, 330-pound mauler. He missed the season with a leg fracture. Availability in spring will be key.
  • Redshirt freshman Blake Bars, who's a lot smaller than Bryant and will probably have to wait a bit longer for a shot at the starting job. He was a 3/4 star borderline kid.
  • True freshman Kyle Bosch, this year's edition of Kalis. While he's not quite as hyped, he's enrolling early and should find himself on the two-deep immediately. He could push through.
  • Redshirt junior Joey Burzynski. I'd be surprised if a 6'1" kid can move past the aforementioned trio and into the starting lineup. That said, he's got the most on-field experience in this grouping.

Breaking in four new OL, three of them likely to be freshmen, is scary. On the other hand, it's not like they can be worse at run blocking.

A dang running back who can run the dang ball. Maybe this is Toussaint. It seems more likely it's either DeVeon Smith or Derrick Green, particularly the latter guy if he does indeed end up in Ann Arbor like it seems the world expects him to. Running backs don't need a lot of seasoning, and Green is college-sized and then some.

Also here's my candle for Dennis Norfleet, third down back kthx. Get some Muck in you, kid, and there's a job waiting.

African refugee wide receivers. Amarah Darboh pointlessly burned a redshirt; Jehu Chesson kept his. With no immediate help from this WR class likely, last year's folk will have to break in. I was pretty high on both those dudes, with Chesson a co-MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year with Braden. They both provide relatively big targets, and Chesson might have deep speed.

WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1972

Gardner to Gallon. As mentioned above, that connection was red-hot over the last five games of the season, and not just against tomato cans. Gallon's best game of the year was the nine-catch, 145-yard, two-TD outing against a top-shelf SEC defense in the bowl game. Those guys are in tune.

Just running one offense, thanks. No longer will Michigan be at war with itself about what it wants to do. A section a bit later in this post hopes they'll run the QB some; this should not detract from the fact that Michigan moves from a system Borges never quite got the hang of to his bread and butter. Gallon's performance once Michigan had a quarterback who could stand in the pocket and deliver entices.

Presumably large improvement from the tight ends. Devin Funchess and AJ Williams got thrown into the fire a year too early; now they can add 20 pounds each and learn how to block and add a couple new guys in the hopes of Stanfordizing this offense.

Funchess seemed like a matchup issue last year, but if you were a defensive coordinator considering him a wide receiver, how wrong would you have been? Not very. Getting him to a point where he is a credible blocker is what'll get him open on seams and whatnot.

WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2013

Offensive line depth x2. This isn't quite as bad as it was last year, when there were essentially no backups—the sixth OL was a walk-on. It is still not good. If you make the reasonable assumptions that the freshman class redshirts and Bryant wins the other guard job, Michigan has Burzynski, Bars, and Magnuson available. Freshmen and that walk-on. Suboptimal.

But hey at least next year this problem goes away: Schofield's gone; everyone else returns.

Offensive line starters, probably. Four new ones; asking a lot for all of them to be good from day one.

WR depth? I'm not entirely sure this is a huge problem with Gallon stepping up and Dileo presumably establishing himself an excellent slot option. But they need some other guys; the incoming class provides little immediate help, so then it's down to Darboh and Chesson. Either or both could break out—Michigan needs one to.

QB depth. Bellomy or a true freshman.

WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY

The offensive line can't be worse, right? The running backs didn't help sure but when you return a thousand-yard rusher and his YPC average dips almost two yards a carry, the finger points squarely at the blocking. Lewan will be missed. The other guys are replaceable.

But replacing them is not a great thing. Michigan needs an upgrade.

How accurate is Devin really, and how much progress can he make in one offseason as the man? The overall numbers are good; his last two games left a bit to be desired. Hopefully he can refine down those misses by 20-30%, at which point Michigan is in the proverbial business.

How hard are we jamming the pro-style pedal down? Petrified at the prospect of having Gardner go down when it seemed like the alternative was Jack Kennedy, Michigan all but dumped quarterback runs from its playbook once Gardner entered the game. Was that circumstance or preference? And if it was the former, how comfortable will Michigan be incorporating Gardner's legs as an intentional part of the gameplan if the alternative is Shane Morris?

We won't know that until fall. I'm hoping Michigan keeps the inverted veer around, because that's a pretty good play.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN ANYONE OTHER THAN DENARD ROBINSON PICK UP THREE FEET ON THE GROUND? Freshmen will get opportunities, yes. Toussaint may be back. The youngsters will be a bit older, and at least Hayes and Norfleet came with some scatback hype—though I wouldn't be entirely surprised to see Hayes move to slot receiver since there's no one on the roster who won't be a senior next year. Only the seeming likelihood that Michigan acquires Derrick Green prevents this from going in the Rod Stewart 2013 category.

MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS

Improvement as long as Gardner stays on the field. This edition of Michigan limped to middling numbers everywhere. Next year's offense figures to have a better fit with the offensive coordinator, a better offensive line if only because of reversion to the mean and having non-walk-on options outside of the starters, and at least equivalent playmakers at the skill positions with an outside shot at much better if the running back situation gets an injection of talent.

So then, how are you feeling about Denard Robinson's legs versus Devin Gardner's arm+legs? I'm thinking that's a push once turnovers are accounted for and we bake in an offseason of Gardner improvement. Guy was the #1 dual threat QB of his class, after all, and displayed some excellent potential on the ground in his tenure as a starter. And in a Borges offense, there's no comparison in the passing game*.

A lot rides on Jack Miller and the tackles; I figure the guards will be an upgrade. I'd guess we see an improvement—not that it'll take much to get that with Alabama sliding off the schedule and hopefully not having a half against Nebraska where the offense goes to die. Gardner bails Michigan out from some tough times.

*[Let's say we had that argument about the spread 'n' shred and not have it, okay?]

Comments

Erik_in_Dayton

January 3rd, 2013 at 3:20 PM ^

It's very rare that I have any real qualm with the blog, but the Rod Stewart thing is something that I find almost morally offensive.  Can't we use the Rolling Stones?  

Needs

January 3rd, 2013 at 3:35 PM ^

I agree on the Rod Stewart thing but on different grounds. The 'What's Rod Stewart 2013' section seemed to at least imply hopes toward quality, while actual Rod Stewart 2013 contains no such hope. (Rod Stewart 1972 is, however, totally awesome).

The Rolling Stones might be a better comparison, in that I might listen to a new stones song with faint hope, even though I know it will probably suck.

BornInAA

January 3rd, 2013 at 3:43 PM ^

I like next year - no double offense package - we should be more productive on offense.

Easier schedule. No Alabama. Weaker ND at home (new coach?) Neb and Ohio at home.

MSU obviously weaker after today.

trueblue262

January 3rd, 2013 at 3:52 PM ^

He's using them as a "step ladder", and the ladder might be shorter because of the fact that 7 NFL coaches got canned. The hottest name is Saban, so if Kelly comes close at all to hanging with Bama, I think Kelly gets some serious coaching offers from the league

SalvatoreQuattro

January 3rd, 2013 at 3:51 PM ^

It is often expressed by those in the know that young linemen pick up run blocking much quicker than pass blocking. Add to this the fact that these linemen were specifically recruited for The Gorgeous Borges System of Touchdowns and Other Wonderful Things, my expectations for this offense are higher than most fans.

UMaD

January 3rd, 2013 at 4:05 PM ^

JB was closer to starting than Bryant (before he got hurt) and played more than Miller (who easily COULD have been used, by sliding Mealer over to guard.)  It's not impossible that he'll get passed over, but I'd guess it's likely Burzynski is one of the top subs if not a starter -- Especially given how unstable/fresh the rest of the line is going to be.

I'd consider him one of the top options at either center (where he has practiced before) or guard (if either Bryant or Kalis aren't playing up to the coaches expectations.)

It's hard for me to imagine an OL made up of 4 freshman (or close to it).

Mich1993

January 3rd, 2013 at 9:27 PM ^

I see Burzynski as the safe option. I think he'd be at least as good as the guys who played this year (less power but fewer times blocking the wrong guy or air). I'm glad that if he doesn't start that whoever beats him out showed something rather than being the only option.
I think the line will struggle early but improve ton throughout the year and be pretty good later in the year.

Buck Killer

January 3rd, 2013 at 4:03 PM ^

He was a blast to watch. He was not good at securing the ball or making good passing decisions. Gardner will be a huge plus at QB. We will miss Denards big run plays. I will cry when Lewan leaves. I am extremely optimistic for the first time in many years! We have a great foundation set and growing! Go Blue!

SF Wolverine

January 3rd, 2013 at 4:08 PM ^

For the first time in the careers of every single guy on this offense, they will be able to focus on a system that they know, and only on that system.  That means lots more reps doing what you are going to do on Saturdays.  I'm hoping that moves the needle a fair piece.  We also have a meaningful number of redshirts and early enrollees for the first time in a while.  Here's hoping that moves the needle as well.

All in all, I expect the offense to start the year somewhat better than what we saw this year, and to progressively get better. 

The defense has already had the advantage of consistency in approach/system, and we saw real results from that fact this year.  Year 2 of Hoke's vastly improved recruiting classes also makes me hopeful that one or two of his kids will come in and impress, a la Funchess.

profitgoblue

January 3rd, 2013 at 4:12 PM ^

Denard will be sorely missed.  Who will pick up and take over producing all the "ooohhh" and "aaahhh" moments on offense?  I don't see any of that on next year's roster except maybe if Gardner has a long leash with respect to scrambling/running.

UMaD

January 3rd, 2013 at 4:18 PM ^

I wouldn't necessarily assume that none of the '13 recruits will contribute at WR.  It is a position where freshman can play immediately.  They haven't done it much at Michigan (though Martevious Odoms led the team in '08) but it's common at other schools.

Darboh and Chesson didn't do much in '12, and might not be better players than Dukes, York, Jones and maybe even Lewis.

Regardless, with the amount of FB, H-back, and 2-TE sets, WR depth shouldn't be a big problem.  Gallon and Dileo can be an effective pair in 2 WR sets, especially in unbalanced formations..

UMaD

January 3rd, 2013 at 6:59 PM ^

I'm not encouraged by WR recruiting under Hoke, but the simple fact that they've brough in 5 WRs, 3 TEs, and a handful of H-backs in the last 2 classes tells me there's a decent chance that a quality pass-catching threat emerges.

Also think they might try to use Norfleet on some screen passes to supplement the play-making ability.

UMaD

January 3rd, 2013 at 7:36 PM ^

But even after many weeks of bowl practices the coaches used Reynolds and Jackson instead of Darboh, and before that Jerald Robinson.  Maybe Chesson gets the benefit of the doubt due to the RS, but early in the year Darboh was apparently the better player and there's a good chance that won't have changed by Fall.

I don't think that highly of any of our recruits (though Butt sounds like a good long-term prospect) but I'll take 6 lottery tickets over 2.

With all of THREE upperclassmen returning at WR, the young guys are going to get a lot of practice reps and opportunities to show the coaches what they can do.

Magnus

January 4th, 2013 at 6:40 AM ^

Chesson was very thin to start the year.  Jackson is not a starter-quality player.  They targeted Reynolds just once or twice this year.

I agree that an underclassman is likely going to step up.  And I'm not saying the freshmen won't be given a chance.  But if Darboh and Chesson couldn't see the field this year on offense, then I don't know why you'd expect someone like Dukes or York to do it, either.

UMaD

January 4th, 2013 at 5:28 PM ^

So was Roundtree.  If Chesson could have made an impact, he would have played.

Not all freshman are the same - that's why I think a 2013 kid could play right away.  I just don't think Chesson or Darboh are that good yet, and they may never be.  I'm more open-minded about the kids who haven't set foot on campus yet, dispite whatever their recruiting rankings are. Or, at the very least, I'm more open to them being immediatly helpful.

Re: Reynalds - that's once or twice too many.  I know he probably played because of his blocking, but if either 2012 freshman was at all capable they would have played ahead of him.

Again, I won't claim any '13 kid will definitely make an impact, but given the numbers coming in there's a decent chance one will.

 

Magnus

January 5th, 2013 at 8:57 AM ^

I'm not saying that the ONLY reason Chesson didn't play was being thin.  All I'm saying is that his chances would have been better if he were 205 or 210.  Expecting a tiny AND inexperienced receiver to play is a little odd.  It's also odd that you have more confidence in a few low-rated true freshmen playing than a couple second-year players who have had a year of weightlifting, route running practice, etc.

You're right that Roundtree was thin.  He turned out to be pretty good.  Did he play as a true freshman?  No.  Did Gallon?  No.  In most cases, you have to be an outstanding athlete or physically developed to play as a true freshman.  

M-Wolverine

January 3rd, 2013 at 4:19 PM ^

on both sides of the ball says something.

Frankly, the guys leaving would seem a lot more managable if they weren't almost all from one position group. 

And we shouldn't be dodging people, but it's amazing the difference between toughest OOC schedule in the world vs. cupcake city. Take off the Bama loss that made no sense to schedule and things look brighter, even with the bowl result. Play a bunch of easy wins like a lot of programs do (or when Notre Dame ditches us) and we're probably losing in a BCS bowl game rather than in Tampa. Or maybe we're drawing a team from the state of Florida that looked completely disinterested in being there; say what you will, but South Carolina didn't act like they were too good for the Outback Bowl.  And they probably had a better claim to that than someone complaining they were in the Sugar Bowl.

Blarvey

January 3rd, 2013 at 10:30 PM ^

I am with you to a certain point. If everything had aligned and there was more depth in a few different places this year and some games were called differently then UM could have beaten ND, OSU, Nebraska and possibly won the Rose Bowl and we would be talking about how great the team was because it beat so many good teams. 9-4 or 10-3 look prettier than 8-5 but I have to believe the team and coaches got better playing Alabama and ND (except losing Countess) instead of EMU and Rice.

AC1997

January 3rd, 2013 at 4:24 PM ^

Here are my thoughts on the 2012 vs. 2013 OL:

  • LT - Schofield can't match Lewan, but he'll be solid. 
  • LG - Barnum was awful, Kalis should be better
  • C - When they had Molk I feel like Borges called plays to use his talents.  This year I felt like he called plays to avoid Mealer's weaknesses.  If Miller falls between those two he's a slight upgrade at least.
  • RG - Omameh was miscast in this offense, but he was still a long-tenured starter that was excellent in pass protection.  I'm not convinced Bryant, Bars, Burzinski or a freshman will have the combo of technique and size to be better than Omameh.  The good news is that they can rotate bodies and find the best one. 
  • RT - Having Braden and Magnussen fight it out to see who wins the spot is a nice perk, with the loser being the obvious swing tackle in case of emergency.  But after a rough start Schofield was pretty solid. 

In my opinion the biggest POTENTIAL advantage for next year besides the system fitting the personnel is depth.  Maybe all of our depth is young, but at least there are options.  In 2012 we didn't make any changes on the line because there weren't options (though this could be a possible indictment to Miller). 

In 2013 we have four solid players/recruits that could play tackle (Schofield, Braden, Magnussen, Fox).  We have two viable centers (Miller, Kugler).  And we have three viable players at guard (Kalis, Bryant, Bars).  That also doesn't even take into account that we could move someone from tackle to guard or vice versa if we needed to get the five best guys on the field. 

Maybe they start out shaky, but by the end of the year I expect them to be good.

UMaD

January 3rd, 2013 at 6:15 PM ^

LT - agree Schofield should be solid, if not very good: proven to be a decent player at OG and RT already.

LG - it seems unlikely that Kalis will be better than Barnum.  Caveats about being a freshman apply, but Kalis didn't even sniff at winning a job while Barnum was considered a lock. Mealer struggled to win a job, Burzynski was clearly ahead of Bryant before he got hurt, and none of the freshman were even getting consideration for what was clearly a team weakness.  Certainly there is potential for improvement with Kalis, but he'd have to make a significant leap to match a 5th year Barnum's ability level as a RS freshman.

OC - Miller doesn't have the excuse of being a freshman and he didn't play.  They moved Mealer to OC last minute rather than play Miller.  Burzynski came in before Miller did if anyone got hurt, when it would have been just as easy to slide Mealer over to OG and insert Miller.  The coaches did not trust him to play over a 6'1 walkon.  That's bad.  A year of development could help, but Miller has not shown he can play yet.  He'll have to improve dramatically to be better than Mealer, who wasn't very good.  The Molk mentions are purely wishful thinking.

RG - agree that whoever plays this spot will be a downgrade from Omameh.  Bryant did get some positive praise and could fit the scheme better, so perhaps it won't be a massive problem - but still a downgrade of some sort.

RT - TBD.  I'd like to buy into the hype on Braden but it's impossible to know until he has to make plays in game situations.  Between him and Magnuson it's possible that one of the freshman perform at a level that comes close to what Schofield did as a Junior, but not likely.  Schofield is a good player.

In my opinion, all 5 positions are going to be downgraded, with the possible exception of LG, where Kalis has a good deal of talent and could be a much better fit for the playcalling.

I don't think depth factored much into this year's team, which rarely had to use Burzynski or any other backup.  For the second straight season, Michigan was fortunate with OL health (besides losing Bryant for the year.)  Depth next year looks better on paper right now, but there's a lot of months to go and a lot of injuries that could happen between now and November.

I do agree the OL is likely to stabilize as the season progresses.  The learning curve for freshman should be high as they see their first game action.  It could be very ugly early in the year though - ND will be a challenge.

Section 1

January 3rd, 2013 at 4:26 PM ^

I hope that's true, but a more realistic notion would be Toussaint "might be ready."

I am honestly not counting on him in 2013.  He will not play spring football.  Mabye that's a good thing for pro-set downhill runner.  But I question how much summer and fall football he will be able to play.

I'd love to see Fitz Toussaint get healthy, and win an NFL contract to support himself and his family.  I just wonder what year that might be.

We need a couple of great freshman runners.

Needs

January 3rd, 2013 at 4:43 PM ^

Yep. Derrick Sherrod, the Packers swing tackle had a similar injury (if reports about Fitz's injury are accurate) last season at a similar time in the season and he's missed this entire season. Now a tackle has to bear more weight than a RB but it's far from given that Fitz is back next year.

Blakk

January 4th, 2013 at 1:07 PM ^

Drake Johnson RS freshman next year is getting a lot of buzz, and he was a beast in HS. Now in the system for a year, seems ready to carry the rock. Im surprised he seems to be always overlooked on the blogs. Everyone can only speak on DG, who hasnt even committed, and will not be in Spring workouts.  He will have very short window to learn the offense even if he does committ. The kids on the roster have a much better chance of becoming the starter. I think the only reason Drake didnt play this year, is because they wanted to save his eligibility. Now has 4 years and is now up to 6'1 and 213 lbs.  Reports by Sam Webb from florida say the coaches really like his growth and his ability in the open field.  Apparently they havent discounted him, as the blogs have, preferring to go straight to the 5 star "maybe" recruit.  Will Campbell was a 5 star recruit. Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes were 4 stars. Stars dont mean anything when you get on the field. Kyle Kalis is a 5 star, and he also RS this year.  This kid is hungry, and has moved up the depth chart the hard way, by working on scout team and impressing the  coaches going up against Michigans starting Defense.  I would not count him out of the mix...

Just my opinion. 

AC1997

January 3rd, 2013 at 4:28 PM ^

I'm not smart enough to know how much this played into our struggles with the running game, so I'll throw it out to more educated readers.

I felt like opposing defenses designed their scheme to stop Denard.  In a true spread this would have burned them with WR running open down the hash or bubble screens churning out 7 yards repeatedly.  But with Borges' design and Denard's accuracy we were never able to victimize defenses for over-playing the run. 

Could this defensive game plan be partially responsible for our inability to run the ball?  Did we see against USC what is possible when a defense has to play you straight up and keep safeties deep since Denard got his yards playing 10-man football? 

I guess what I'm hoping is that Fitz+freshmen will have more opportunity to get to the second level when the defense has to respect Gardner's arm rather than Denard's legs. 

UMaD

January 3rd, 2013 at 4:29 PM ^

This is one of the most beffudling arguments I've seen.  Of course the OL can be worse.  It's a unit with a top 10 NFL pick, an NFL-bound Junior bookend, and 3 seniors on the interior.  The run-blocking wasn't great, yet the team ran for nearly 2,400 yards (about what LSU, Stanford, and Texas did.)  Denard was a big part of that, but even he can't get production without SOME holes being opened up.  And that's not even touching on the bigger issue of pass protection - which was very good.

Gardner's going to be running for his life next year, and teams may not even need blitzes to make it happen.

Blocking from TEs and FBs should be better, but Smith will be missed and the 4 newbies on the OL are going to make their share of mistakes.

Furthermore, there's almost 9 months left until the season starts. It's not a given that no attrition takes place between now and Fall.

Needs

January 3rd, 2013 at 5:02 PM ^

This is where I think next year's schedule proves a benefit. I expect things to be pretty rough early on. Nix from ND is likely going to tear things up pretty badly inside and I think that game's going to be very difficult given the oline. But I also expect pretty consistent improvement throughout the year, and we dont face another good D line until after the 2nd bye (maybe PSU but I think they lose their entire line apart from the freshman whose name escapes me). By the time we hit the meat of the conference schedule, the new line will have 7 games under their belt along with 2 bye weeks to work o. correcting issues that come up.

Ron Utah

January 3rd, 2013 at 5:35 PM ^

Wait...what?

The interior O-line (Mealer and Barnum) could not block on running or passing plays, and I'm not sure how you can call our pass pro "very good."  Denard threw most of his picks under heavy pressure, DG dodged pressure for scrambles, and we ran sprint outs to avoid the inevitable up-the-gut pressure on about 50% of our pass plays once we went to pro style.  The blocking was very, very bad.

The trouble here is that this is not an opinion-based argument; the blocking was factually bad.  Ask coaches, scouts, grocery clerks or anyone who knows anything about football.  Our offensive line was offensive.

Denard's yards were mostly his, and even our own O-Line seemed to apologize after every game for their run-blocking.

This unit will be more talented next year, and will be better at run-blocking.  Pass pro will be an adventure for the young guys, but I seriously doubt that by mid-season it is any worse than this year's version.

UMaD

January 3rd, 2013 at 6:26 PM ^

Denard wasn't pressured that often, but when he was it was because teams felt comfortable leaving their DBs in single coverage.  Some sat back and waited for him to run, but most felt comfortable sending blitzes at him, especially in obvious passing situations.

I don't think Mealer or Barnum had great years, but the freshman didn't seem to come close to challenging them in the preseason practices.  Maybe they got better as the year progressed but that's pure conjecture.  Guys like Burzynski, Miller and Bryant were ahead of the freshman - and the coaches clearly don't trust Miller to play yet.  So that should tell you something about where the freshman are at.

Could the freshman get better? of course.  But it's pure speculation to assume they'll be better than the guys they couldn't even compete with in 2012.

Regarding Denard - there were a lot of games where he got nothing.  Those were against good defenses who our line couldn't open up holes against.

Talent is important for the OL, but so is experience.  Omameh and Barnum and Lewan all had good talent and were viewed as starter-caliber for 4 years (in Barnum's case 3, though he was hindered by injuries).  Mealer didn't have much ability, but there's a decent chance Burzynski starts next year, so I'm not sure the overall talent will be better.  I KNOW there will be less experience.

I'd love for Michigan's OL to be better next year, but it's extremely rare to replace 4 guys who were 4th or 5th year veterans with freshman and improve.  I admit it's POSSIBLE the run blocking could be better because of scheme stuff, but there is no way in the world the pass protection will be better and Borges likes long-developing pass plays.  It's going to be a big problem.