The media has made a big deal about the 12 freshmen that have already played this season, mainly viewing it as a sign that the team is in bad shape. I think it's mainly because the 2012 recruiting class was so good, not because the returning players are performing poorly.
Guys like Funchess, Norfleet and James Ross would find some playing time on most teams. I don't see many Ray Vinopals out there - players only burning a redshirt because the depth chart at the position is a tire fire. Yet another interpretation is that it is a reflection of Brady Hoke's philosophy which differs from past coaches. I recall that you didn't expect so many to play. How did you interpret the situation?
Class of 2005
The twelve who have seen the field grouped into categories:
JUST THAT GOOD: Norfleet (at least in the context of KR), Funchess.
STANDARD-ISSUE GROOMING: Darboh, Wilson, Pipkins
GROOMING TOO BUT PROMINENCE IS WORRYING: Bolden, Ross
BAD SIGNS: Williams, Ojemudia, Richardson.
WTF: Jenkins-Stone, Houma.
Ideally you wouldn't have Demens's job under threat in his third year as a starter, wouldn't be playing a true freshman blocking TE who was a tackle last year, and would tell Ojemudia and Richardson to eat a bunch of lard and talk to me when you've put on 30 pounds. Everyone else is about what you'd expect.
I'm not surprised most of these guys are all seeing time. I thought Ojemudia would be forced onto the field because of Clark's issues; those turned out to be less severe than they might have been but Beyer's injury still forced M's hand there. After I predicted a redshirt in Richardson's recruiting profile, Michigan saw two corners leave the team and a third go down for the year, plus Avery has/had back issues. They need to have him out there. With four corners in the next recruiting class they don't absolutely need to have him get that fifth year.
The two real surprises are RJS and Houma, but while they're irritatingly burning redshirts so they can watch Matt Wile pound kickoffs into the endzone their presence on special teams doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things.
[after the jump: more redshirts! sexy packaged plays! A dinosaur!]
Redshirts, IMPORTANT NOMENCLATURE.
1) Redshirts. What was the worst redshirt burned on Saturday? I'm thinking Darboh, but I also think he may have played before UMASS? But the point remains that it seems a little odd to burn his redshirt this year. The wide receivers are clearly Gardner, Roundtree, and Gallon, backed up by Dileo, JRobinson, and Jackson. I think we've seen Reynolds quite a bit already.
To burn his redshirt, the staff must think he will contribute/be in the rotation at some point this year, yes? Is it really worth it to see if he can replace Jackson by season's midpoint? Does he figure into the top 4/5 by the end of the year? Maybe they are not happy with either Robinson or Jackson and therefore the only "big" receiver is Gardner, so he needs a backup?
I don't get it. I don't think you burn redshirts for depth. JRob is already depth. All the other Freshman that have appeared seem to be playing real time, but not Darboh.
Hey, hot topic. No one new played against UMass; all of the "he's not redshirting?!" guys had already gotten on the field on special teams in the first couple games.
But no question it's Royce Jenkins-Stone. Stone isn't in the two-deep at any of the three linebacker spots, needs weight, comes from a program that doesn't have a lot of resources to coach their kids up, and is only playing special teams. I think he may only be on kickoffs, too, which are now opportunities to get a nice jog in as Wile boots it into the endzone. Argh argh argh argh.
Darboh may end up forcing his way into playing time later this year and it's sensible to groom him when you are definitely losing Roundtree and may lose Gardner (to QB) after the season. He's already college-sized. He's probably not that far behind Robinson and Jackson as third tall guy option. He is likely to surpass them by next year and start, so you should groom him. I get it.
Houma's the other inexplicable one, but as a fullback I don't think it's going to be hugely important to get a fifth year out of him.
2) QB Oh Noes. So was the Funchess touchdown a QB Oh No? I couldn't tell from your comments, but I think it wasn't. A QB Oh No, or Denard self play-action, seemed to feature Denard actually running with the ball then stopping to throw. What happened against UMass seemed almost to be a read-option where Denard was reading hand-off/pass (and possibly keep?). Regardless, Denard faked the handoff, then set up to throw immediately after. He didn't start to run, so I think that makes it a good old PA, not a QB Oh No. Thoughts?
Correct, not that it's hugely important. But the aspect of the Oh Noes that was so devastating is that it goes directly upfield right away, thus demanding an equally quick response from defenders. Since the QB is going upfield, you usually need to involve a safety as well.
The more traditional mesh-point-into-pass play action is obviously not awful, but to date it has not gotten a guy over the top. It's good for those 20 yard seams but does not seem to be quite as good at getting a safety to watch a 70 yard touchdown sail over his head.
FWIW, I don't think Michigan is reading anything when they run that play action. You can always tell if it's run or pass by watching the WRs either run routes or block. The only reads in the offense are at the mesh point on called running plays.
Packaged plays. Not about UMass running backs.
Packaged plays are all the rage because Oklahoma State and WVU are annihilating people with them and Smart Football is explaining them. In short they're combo run/pass plays on which a defender—usually a linebacker—is read. Is he coming up to stop your iso? Toss a seam over his head. Is he staying on the seam? Run where he just vacated. Etc.
I don't know if you've seen this article on Air Raid disciples and how they are doing in Week 2. I was drawn to it by a tweet (maybe by Smart Football, maybe EDSBS) that cited it as evidence for Zook's comment during the LA Tech broadcast that “They’re going so fast there’s no time to explain what’s happening” – which captures Zook perfectly.
But in the article there are some actual plays drawn up that just look
super nasty, especially if Borges were ever to run them with the
players we have now -- although this is of course a pipe dream. Take a
gander, for instance, at this play, which packages a stretch zone read with a built-in option WR screen:
I know this is the kind of stuff that Smart Football has been talking
about for ages -- packaging runs with throws, although usually he's
not talking about screens -- but it did make me giddy just thinking
about Denard running it.
Rodriguez did dabble in something like the above by combining the zone read with a bubble on the outside. It never quite came off because they hadn't inverted that bubble to making the inside defender choose like the above play shows, and after a few attempts Michigan shelved it. They may have brought it back if they'd ever had a returning QB they felt was ready to move beyond the basics of the offense. They never got the chance.
As for Borges, I think Michigan may have taken a packaged concept for a test drive against MSU last year. This play features Michigan's line blocking the run and the slot receiver looking back for a potential pass. You can see Denard abort run, think about the pass, and then abort pass:
In that instance the package read may not be there there since the LB sucks in to defend run pre-snap and the safety is taking the slot guy in man to man coverage. In the ideal world that LB is supposed to cover the slot unless its' a run. Even so, it's kind of there. Once that LB comes in the seam is open for decent yardage or better with a broken tackle.
(While Molk ends up blocking downfield, we've seen this year that refs just aren't calling that. Until that becomes a point of emphasis, it's open season on these sorts of plays.)
Will we see this kind of stuff on Saturday or beyond? I don't know, but I hope so. This is a pretty simple read that I don't think anyone on the schedule has had occasion to develop countermeasures for. In the Big 12, Oklahoma State and West Virginia are running these plays incessantly and defensive coordinators are racking their brains in an effort to keep up; the initial deployment of packaged plays in the Big Ten will be like bringing smallpox to the Americas.
Borges is a tinkerer so I wouldn't put it past him, but Denard still has a ton on his plate. Do you want to slow down his development on those forward pass things so he can try this out? Can he reliably make the read here that he didn't against MSU?
I give it 30-70 against we see something like this as a surprise in a big game, unless we do, in which case I knew it all along.