First Look: Offense 2014 Comment Count

Brian December 31st, 2013 at 1:20 PM

DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.

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  1. LT Taylor Lewan. Four year starter took all kinds of heat for performance of Michigan OL as if he was able to play four positions at once or he had some sort of deficiency in his Leadership Aura and was not communicating enough Leadership to the rag-tag interior line. Was in fact the same player he was as a junior—a great one—and NFL draft slot in the first round will reflect this.
  2. WR Jeremy Gallon. Michigan's all-time single season receiving yards record is now his, so at least I was right about one thing in the preseason. Short, but good at fades; eviscerated Notre Dame; eviscerated Indiana; eviscerated Ohio State; best pound for pound WR in country not named Lockett.
  3. RT Michael Schofield. Overshadowed by Lewan his entire career but emerged into a complete run/pass tackle as a senior. I know there was so much pressure up the middle that there were fewer opportunities than normal for tackles to biff, but when's the last time you remember Schofield getting beat by a pass rusher? That one time he miscommunicated with Toussaint doesn't count. I mean straight-up beat. It's hard to remember. Will be missed; will be drafted.
  4. WR Drew Dileo. Sticky-fingered Louisiana gnome sort of epitomized 2013 with ill-time drops, but was a reliable chain-mover and special teams tool. Will miss calling him "sticky-fingered Louisiana gnome" because obviously.
  5. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Final game saw him receive two carries; entire career one long comedown from explosive junior season; horrible, horrible pass blocker. Had mostly been replaced by end of year.
  6. WRs Jeremy Jackson and Joe Reynolds. Little-used backups were good program guys but should be replaceable.

WHAT'S LEFT

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I may have reused these pictures. The numbers may be a give away.

  1. QB Devin Gardner. Chaos machine seemed to reduce interceptions as season went along, but how much that perception changes if some guys catch some passes in their guts is up for debate. Excellent YPA despite having most of his body ground into paste by year's end. Should take step forward as senior; still major X-factor.
  2. WR Devin Funchess. For the love of God, world, stop pretending this man is a tight end. Looking at you, Big Ten awards committee. Michigan's second-leading receiver with 49 catches for 748 yards and six TDs; works just fine as a jumbo WR, thanks. Hands issues late after fine start to career. Go-to WR next year.
  3. OL Graham Glasgow. Only returning OL to have and hold a job all year; had some struggles after move to center; has the size and athleticism for the major college level of competition, as ESPN is wont to say; will play somewhere but Michigan probably hoping Patrick Kugler bounces him out to guard.
  4. TE Jake Butt. Site tagline does not refer to him. Productive freshman season saw him add 45 pounds and catch 20 balls for 235 yards; was probably M's best blocker at the spot; 15 more pounds and he is the dual threat Borges has wanted from day one.
  5. OL Erik Magnuson. Entered on second line shuffle of year and stuck; now obviously moving out to tackle and must be quality, because options other than him are scanty indeed.
  6. OL Kyle Kalis. Recruiting sheen severely reduced after painful redshirt freshman season saw him benched, supposedly for an undisclosed ankle injury. Performance even before that was middling at best. But was FR OL.
  7. OL Kyle Bosch. True freshman showed some promise; showed a lot of true freshman business. Momentarily replaced Kalis but then lost his job to Kalis once again. Tentatively penciled in as a starter
  8. WR Jehu Chesson. Nominal starter hardly targeted in first few games and then saw Funchess eat his job; did grab 15 balls for 221 yards and crushed a few dudes, whether it was on special teams or after the catch. Probably still the #3 WR with Amara Darboh's return but a promising freshman year should see him eat up some of Gallon's targets.
  9. TE AJ Williams. Blocking TE seemed to regress after freshman year; could not block. Major issue needs repairing STAT.
  10. FB Joe Kerridge. Your primary blocking back. May be drafted as pass protector again, but hopefully not.

WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY

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Kugler and Braden may step in

One or two or three guys on the offensive line. At this instant your leaders on the offensive line are probably Magnuson-Bosch-Glasgow-Kalis mentioned above and Ben Braden at RT, but that is the shakiest depth chart in the history of the concept. Magnuson is the only certainty, as Michigan isn't going to trust anyone else to be their left tackle a year after Braden went from sure starter to ghost because he didn't have the foot quickness to hack it at guard. Glasgow is also pretty safe, as he didn't get pulled from the lineup last year and can play any of the three interior spots.

Everyone else is 50/50 at best with Michigan getting five guys off redshirts and having a few veterans also competing. Will Patrick Kugler be the man from day one at center? Will Chris Bryant get it together? Will David Dawson beat someone out whether it's at guard or right tackle, where I've heard they expect him to compete? The answers to these questions will start trickling in during spring and not have a full resolution until Michigan's first offensive snap… if then.

A dang running back who can run the dang ball, again. I'm lumping Michigan's four returning tailbacks into the "new" category for reasons both obvious and hopeful:

  • Drake Johnson tore his ACL covering a kick after two carries.
  • Justice Hayes had two carries last year; De'Veon Smith had 26.
  • Derrick Green did get 83 carries, normally enough to put him into the returning category, but with so many of those doomed by the OL in front of him and the hope that he goes from kind of plodding to the lean brute that impressed recruiting analysts, those 83 carries don't mean much.

For the third straight year Michigan will be looking for anything that works on the ground other than Denard Robinson, and what Michigan can expect from its tailbacks is still in doubt.

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"The single greatest catch I've ever seen in person" –Devin Gardner

African refugee wide receivers, again. Amara Darboh's debut was delayed by a foot injury suffered late in fall camp; this year he should debut as something between an uninspiring chain mover and Jason Avant (but fast)! Darboh had buckets of practice hype after a series of spectacular catches put him on everyone's lips in press conferences. He was clearly ahead of Chesson at the time and probably still is after Chesson had a decent but not paradigm-shifting debut.

And we can throw in Chesson here, too: he figures to absorb a lot of snaps not just from Gallon but Dileo, Jackson, and Reynolds. With Gallon's targets spreading across the offense he'll get a shot to be an impact player he didn't this year.

Dennis Norfleet, for pants' sake. I swear on this bible factory that if Michigan can't find a productive role for Dennis Norfleet in this offense I am going to break every rule in the factory of bibles I have just sworn upon. This does not mean bringing him in motion every time he's on the field. It means looking at him as a slot receiver instead of a tiny bouncy freak show, which okay yeah he is but seriously people just imagine what West Virginia would do with the guy and do it.

More TE-ish guys. Khalid Hill and Wyatt Shallman come off redshirts and should bring blocky/catchy/runny aspects to the guys on the field who aren't WRs or RBs, whatever you'd like to call them. With Butt and Williams aging and hopefully improving, Michigan might have some options here to do tricky things, particularly in the redzone. If any of them can block.

WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1972

Gardner to Funchess. This was Gardner to Gallon last year. This year it is pretty obvious what replaces that: Devin Funchess blew up after his move to WR, taking end-arounds and leaping over people both before and after he acquired the ball. They even threw him a couple fades late in the year when it occurred to them that maybe that was a good idea.

Unfortunately, after a very strong start to his career in the catching department drops became an issue around the Michigan State game. The overall picture is still a guy with very good hands and a huge catching radius, though.

He's already the Big Ten's second-leading returning receiver, behind only Hoosier Cody Latimer, and Latimer plays in a light-speed offense that inflates basic counting stats. With a full season at WR and Gallon off to the NFL, a thousand-yard season is a certainty. The only question is at what point television accepts the fact that he's a wideout.

What happens if Gardner gets injured, at least relative to usual. Michigan seems to have itself a legit backup QB in Shane Morris for the first time in forever.

Passing weapons writ large. There is some projection in saying this, but it doesn't seem like Gallon's departure is going to leave Gardner bereft of options. He's got a #1 guy ready to step into that role and then you've got Darboh, Chesson, Butt, Norfleet, and possibly contributors from either the three-man 2013 class or Drake Harris/Moe Ways/Freddy Canteen in 2014. Five veterans plus six young options looks like a lot of options to me.

WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2013

Pass protection. This was horrendous and doesn't figure to get a lot better with both tackles out the door. Magnuson still needs to add 15-20 pounds to hold up against bull rushes and the question mark at right tackle is highly ominous. Maybe I'm making too much of Braden's swift disappearance from the two deep in fall, but… man, to swiftly disappear from that two-deep would seem to bode unwell. If it's not Braden then it seems like Michigan is trying to shoehorn a guy who would be better at guard into the RT spot, whether it's Dan Samuelson or David Dawson or even Bosch. Add to that continuing uncertainty on the interior and it's easy to see Michigan QBs get harassed as much as they were this year.

The seeming certainty that there will be three (or more!) brutal clunkers from this unit. Three years in and Borges's crew has thrown up at least three horrendous games a year, every year, as whatever mad scientist stuff Borges throws at the wall backfires spectacularly when his team can't execute the new stuff and can't execute anything else because the offense is a chameleon from game to game with the exception of throwback screens.

How far they have to go and how much time they have to do it in. Discussed more in the next section, but it seems like the best case scenario next year is improvement by default that gives us little insight into what Michigan should do going forward. Regression to the mean should see Michigan uptick in many categories in which they set dubious records. Hooray,  but if Michigan is 70th in TFLs allowed in year four that just puts us in an uncertain netherworld. Your options here:

  • Michigan has a near repeat of last year. PRO: No uncertainty here as everyone is put on a donkey and ridden out of town. CON: Michigan has a near repeat of last year.
  • Michigan is below mediocre on the line, but not a completely unwatchable tire fire. PRO: Manage to avoid stabbing other eye out. CON: No idea whether to stay the course and hope for further improvement in year five or move on after third consecutive mediocre at best season.
  • Michigan is good! PRO: Michigan is good. CON: Drugs are expensive.

It's hard to see anything definitively good happening next year.

WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY

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The offensive line can't be worse, right? This is a repeat from last year, because the offensive line was worse and now the offensive line is losing two NFL tackles. This year… they literally cannot be worse. Michigan finished 123rd of 123 in tackles for loss allowed and turned Devin Gardner into hamburger. So we've got that going for us. The offensive line can't be worse, because they're already at the bottom.

Okay but can they be massively better? That is the real question here. Michigan has to be vastly better on the offensive line next year or it's firing time: for Funk definitely, for Borges definitely, and after (hypothetically) three straight years of non-Denard utter incompetence on the ground probably Hoke.

And… yikes. Frankly, writing this bit makes me think they should just throw everyone over right now because how can you go from that to average in one year while losing your two best guys? These kind of reclamation projects are two-year deals, usually, and that's if they get reclaimed at all.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN ANYONE OTHER THAN DENARD ROBINSON PICK UP THREE FEET ON THE GROUND? This is also a repeat from last year, because the answer was NO FOR THE LOVE OF GOD NO. For perspective, Michigan rushed for 3.9 yards a carry in 2008, with Brandon Minor leading the way at 5.2 yards a pop. Last year, Michigan had 3.3. This rushing offense was tons worse than the 2008 outfit despite having some very threatening weapons on the outside. No offense to Nick Sheridan, Steven Threet, Greg Mathews or Martavious Odoms, but in terms of loosening up a defense… uh… does this sentence need to continue? Nope. It ended right there.

Michigan must have a function running back for the first time in three years or it's head-lopping time.

Can Gardner get his interceptions down to a reasonable rate? You'd think this would improve what with experience and not getting annihilated all the time, but 1) he might get annihilated all the time, and 2) we saw with Denard that sometimes guys just don't get better at taking care of the ball as they acquire experience. This is pretty much another do or die here for Borges: have one of your quarterback show major improvement or GTFO.

MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS

Oh hell, I don't know. Things should get better on the ground and the pass protection won't be great… could be just as bad. Gardner's experience and a lot of options in the passing game should result in something more tolerable than 2013. How much and how much impact that has on the wins and losses I just don't know anymore man.

Comments

Ron Utah

December 31st, 2013 at 1:37 PM ^

To all of this.  2014 has become a do-or-die year in some respects, and it doesn't look good.  The O-line is still laughably inexperienced, and the defense doesn't appear poised to pick-up the slack after the last two games of 2013.

We need Miracle Max to hook Brady up.

bluebrains98

December 31st, 2013 at 1:40 PM ^

What is his deal? He was very hyped, and while I sat in my "expensive" seats at the BWW Bowl, the only thing that brought me any joy was marveling at the size of that dude.

stephenrjking

December 31st, 2013 at 1:56 PM ^

Garbage.

Not because it isn't do-or-die time, but because your scale is too small.

It looks like Hoke will be permitted to keep whomever he wants, and I'm fine with that. Because 2014 rests on him.

If the offense is this bad next year and the defense doesn't step up and win games, leaving us with a mediocre record, Funk is the least of the issues.

If Michigan flails next year Hoke is the one that needs to be fired. Probably the rest of the staff too, but that is secondary.

No more excuses. No more "learning." The guys on the OL are their guys and they need to win or DB needs to find someone else who will.

MichiganStephen

December 31st, 2013 at 2:06 PM ^

My point was the coach who gets the offense in 2015 will inherit an experienced line. Be it Borges/Funk or another combo. It has been shown on this site that upperclassmen-led offensive lines generally out performs those that are not.

FWIW, I think a disappointing season (8 regular season wins or less) puts Hoke squarely on the hot seat.

SC Wolverine

December 31st, 2013 at 4:08 PM ^

There is a world of difference between Hoke being on our hot seat as fans and being on Brandon's hot seat.  I do not think that Hoke is on a hot seat with Brandon.  Our AD seems to believe that it is simply a matter of time, like Saban at LSU (as he said).  So I think a couch fire of a season in 2014 (which, let's admit, is possible), will not cause Hoke to be fired but will put him on a hot seat with Brandon.  In other words, Hoke is scot free until 2015.  I sincerely hope Brandon is right with the "just needs time" argument, because our lives are going to be miserable if he is wrong.  Does anyone want a coaching transition after 2014 or 15?  We are stuck in the bad position of hoping that the data is simply misleading, despite knowing that it seldom is.  MGoBummer.

MichiganStephen

December 31st, 2013 at 2:33 PM ^

Stephen -

What do you see as the maximum potential wins for this team? In other words, based on your statement, do you expect Hoke not to meet your 9-win threshold for next season?

Personally, I feel 10 wins is the max with the road games. I will also gladly take that.  I also feel 7-6 is a possibility.  The latter would be a large disappointment and would almost require Brandon fire Hoke.

991GT3

December 31st, 2013 at 4:47 PM ^

that Michigan will win seven games based on the fairly weak opponents they will be beating. Should he beat one more team but lose to MSU and OSU and not be in the B1G division chase is that enough for Brandon to dismiss him? Very doubtful.

He will give him another year, save several million dollars and dismiss him should the 2015 season be a replete of the 2112-13-14 seasons. If however in 2015 Hoke has a season like 2011 then Brandon looks like a genius by demonstrating his perceptive patience. 

uminks

December 31st, 2013 at 7:45 PM ^

Hoke could even finish 6-6 and he will still get a 5th season. Hoke is DB guy.  For Borges and Funk to survive 2014, I think Hoke will have to win 9 games. Hoke will have to win 10 games and get a BCS bowl bid for a contract extension after 2015. I think it will be 50/50 chance that Hoke will be coaching in 2016. I often wonder if DB should just cut his losses now and hire us an exceptional coach even if it would cost $$. I just did not get a good vibe on player development this season, so I'm seriously doubting if the Hoke experiment will work out. So in 2016 the new coach is going to have to have a 5 year rebuilding plan

TheNema

December 31st, 2013 at 2:37 PM ^

The line is young, but this staff (wisely) double-downed on OL recruiting to hedge their bets that they could get five young guys out of a dozen who would prove themselves talented and precocious enough to make a serviceable line as underclassmen. 

The chances that Hoke, Borges and Funk can make this work look grim when an only partly young line allows the most TFLs in the country.

 

 

 

[email protected]

January 2nd, 2014 at 4:26 PM ^

I am very torn on this. I can totally understand saying bag it and restart the next year even if next year's offense isn't good. 

But it seems like Hoke has been trying to rebuild the O line from nearly scratch. And I'd like to see him get another two years if only because one more year is likely to be shaky due to inexperience and the following year should have everyone in place. 

Throwing the coaching staff over at the end of next year risks having a bunch of guys leave or bringing in a coach who can't use the guys Brady has recruited. 

So I guess my default position would be: Next year we better see solid improvement. Fewer mistakes. Less getting run over. The interior line should be substantially improved. The tackles should be the new week points. If we don't see this, if we see the same mess, then Funk goes. 

If we see the same mess and Borgess is still all over the place, then he and Funk go. Let Brady have that final year. If that final year isn't working, try to find a guy who is at least schematically similar to Brady to reduce the loss of recruits/bleeding of current players. 

 

 

AeonBlue

January 2nd, 2014 at 12:56 AM ^

I'm with you. His playcalling seems to be a set of hotkeys he sets after a play goes for 4+ yards the previous game with "QB DO SOMETHING" and "ISO INTO 8-MAN BOXES" permanently bound so he can always deploy those in the 4th quarter when he feels the need to.

Fifth-Stringer

December 31st, 2013 at 1:55 PM ^

There are some things that can be done in year one of a two-year reclamation project to make Borges / Funk more likely to keep their jobs, you'd think. The biggest one for me would be not having those three clunkers a year. That combined with defining a base running play and getting good at it should allow us to move up to (dare I say it?) maybe 100th in tackles for loss, at least, even if the offensive line is still a year away.

West Texas Blue

December 31st, 2013 at 1:55 PM ^

Our line next year:

Magnuson - Redshirt Sophomore

Kalis - Redshirt Sophomore

Glasgow - Redshirt Sophomore

Bosch - Sophomore

Braden - Redshirt Sophomore

This has to be the youngest line ever in Michigan history. Zero of them have won any accolades (Big Ten or All-American). This line has never played together. 2014 is going to be ugly.

bluebrains98

December 31st, 2013 at 2:39 PM ^

As scary as this is (and it is!), this is the best argument to divert blame from the coaches. I am no apologist and feel like I'm pretty much on the same page as everyone else with respect to the staff's job status, but Hoke & Co. have zero control over the lack of experience on this depth chart. Seniors next year would have been recruited long before their tenure began. All that being said, we have a line filled with 4-5 star talent that, I would think, should be coachable into a serviceable (at least) line.

ESNY

December 31st, 2013 at 2:49 PM ^

The youth excuse pisses me off to no end.  Sure, it can explain why were aren't as succesfful as 2012 Bama line but give me a fucking break.  We were completely inept.  I'm sure there are plenty of teams that dealt with youthful lines or dealt with injuries that had players much smaller and less athletic player that weren't a complete tire fire on offense. 

When over half your running plays are met behind the line of scrimmage, its a lot more than just youth.   just another in a long line of excuses.  First it was Denard and spread team.   Now its youthful line.  I'm sure when nothing changes next year, it will be losing two NFL tackles.  Then it will be Shane is in his first year starting.  Then it will be, Speight is our savior and we just have to wait for him....

Magnum P.I.

December 31st, 2013 at 4:48 PM ^

I've been arguing this all season, since Notre Dame. There're youthful mistakes, which is fine, and then there's the total embarrassing shitshow that we've wheeled out there all season. Akron, UConn, everyone else in college football managed to look vastly more competent than us.

Logan88

January 1st, 2014 at 6:07 AM ^

And THIS is why I finally pulled the plug on my Michigan fandom before the start of the season (this is my first post since late August)...

I never had an legitimate reason to root for Michigan: I was born and grew up in Columbus, Ohio (I still live near Columbus) to an OSU grad father and I chose to root for Michigan just to be "different." When I was younger (I am currently 41 y/o), Michigan was a good program but that simply hasn't been the case for nearly a decade now.

All Michigan fans have experienced for the past 9 years is humiliation (losses to App State and Toledo, 3-9 season in 2008) or heartbreak (losing to OSU in 2006) with nary a B1G championship during that period to salve the wounds.

Before I decided to bail on UM in the offseason, I found myself constantly arguing with other UM fans online about the state of the Michigan football program. I don't believe (and never did) that Hoke was a Michigan caliber HC. I think he will hang on for another two "bleh" seasons and then get axed. I think OSU will continue to be the consistently dominant program in the conference and win the conference title about 2/3 of the time. I said all of these things before the season and was routinely crucified by my fellow UM fans.

I realize that the term "fair-weather fan" applies here, but I am not from Michigan and never attended UM. There are no rewards for being a "true fan." I just can't put up with the mediocrity that is UM football any longer. I want to ENJOY watching my team on Saturdays again as I have not for many long years. I did not root for any team this past season but I had made a vow to myself before the season that IF OSU went undefeated again in the regular season, I would bow to the inevitable and adopt OSU as my new team.

So...I am pulling a Justin Boren. I hope UM finds its way again and returns to a level of quality that you all are anticipating/hoping for. I look forward to great battles between OSU and Michigan but I will be cheering for the "other side" now.

Good Night, Good Bye and Good Luck, UM fans

robpollard

December 31st, 2013 at 2:48 PM ^

As Brian noted, my guess is they hope Kugler (who'd be a RS Freshman) will take over at center. But we'll see. A nice thing is there should be some depth beyond those starters (again, mostly young, but perhaps Glasgow, Miller and/or Bryant will be able to contribute).

In any case, they still need to better. No one is expecting '90s Michigan or recent Wisconsin -- OLs that can grind a defense up and mash pretty much anyone. What we need for 2014 is well beneath those type of elite lines - just be a bit below the avg for all BCS programs, instead of one of literally the worst around. That would be a huge step up, and it's reasonable to expect with the amount of talent everyone says Hoke has brought in, and that will now be in their 3rd year in Hoke's/Funk's/Borges' system. Time for the coaches to earn their money and the players to start showing their recruiting stars were not misplaced.

 

Yinka Double Dare

December 31st, 2013 at 2:50 PM ^

I won't be at all surprised to see Kugler force himself into the lineup at center.  Molk started as a redshirt freshman and was pretty good already.  Kugler is bigger than Molk and had access to technique coaching in high school that few guys do, what with his dad having been a NFL OL coach and all.  Glasgow was better at guard than center I thought.

AZBlue

December 31st, 2013 at 2:56 PM ^

Based on some quick research, M had 56 career starts entering 2013 on the line but 3 players that never started. (34 for Lewan and 23 for Schofield).

By my numbers (3x13 = 39 interior starts - 3 Miller and -2 Bryant) next year M will have 34 career starts - assuming Kalis, Bosch, Glasgow, and Mags are starters - but only 1 player with no starting experience. This isn't great; but it isn't doom and gloom barring a major injury.

snarling wolverine

December 31st, 2013 at 3:18 PM ^

That's definitely a young group in terms of eligibility, but every player except Bosch will be in his third or fourth year in the program (Glasgow will be a RS Jr), and Bosch saw game action this year.  I don't think it's impossible for that group to be functional.  If it isn't, I think you'd have to let Funk go.

 

 

 

evenyoubrutus

December 31st, 2013 at 1:56 PM ^

You were right on the money in your game column when you talked about how insanely complicated Borges made the blocking scheme this year.  This staff HAS to learn from this moving forward, right?  They simplified things in the last quarter of the season and it seemed to help,and I would think a full offseason of simplified blocking practice and not treating their o-line like it's a freaking baseball batting order (keep switching it up until you find something that works!) could go a long way to improving the consistency and efficiency of this offense.  They have so many weapons, it is going to be such a damn shame if they can't make it happen next year.

TwoFiveAD

December 31st, 2013 at 2:01 PM ^

I love that Norfleet is still considered an option as being a threat.

I'm still trying to figure out what this guy has done to receive so much hype? 

Is it his kickoff returns to the 28?

Maybe it's the fact that he was finger tackeld on all 7 of his career touches?

Perhaps it's the fact that he is not big enough to get on rides at Cedar Point which seems to be a requirement in order to receive praise/hype on this site?

Norfleet, like Dileo, should receive no more than 3 touches a game.  

Get the ball to the grown ups please.