Spring Roundup The Second

Submitted by Brian on April 19th, 2010 at 1:47 PM

A Thing About Denard And Tate

denard-robinson-is-made-of-dilithium The new official picture of "Denard Robinson is made of dilithium." Via MVictors.

Yet more on the quarterback situation because that's all anyone is talking about: it seems to me like the correct stance to take in the aftermath of Denard going 9/11 for 191 yards and three touchdowns in the air is to declare Game On. But only that.

I've seen a ton about how Denard is just a better fit for Michigan's offense and Rodriguez has wanted Pat White 2.0 since he got here and Tate is doomed because of the zone read and basically disintegrated over the course of the season and is probably going to transfer as he is destined to by his genetic heritage. I've also seen a lot of people saying "now wait just a minute" to the Forcier doomsayers, and I'm with them:

  • Forcier had a midseason lull but two of his best games of the season came against Purdue and Wisconsin. Against UW he was 20 for 26; against Purdue he was a lot closer to 50% but suffered a ton of drops. His trajectory is not straight down. He even looked good against Ohio State when not offering up one of his hair-pulling, soul-destroying turnovers.
  • Forcier's main problem on the zone read was making good decisions or fakes. These were made more difficult by the defense focusing on the run game because Forcier's ability to make decisions in the pocket was limited. He pulled the ball way too much, didn't let the fake "ride" a la Juice Williams, and faced down a defensive end as a result. He then juked this guy 80% of the time and picked up positive yardage. If the defense is sufficiently focused on the tailback and Forcier develops his fakes as much as Denard develops his passing, he can be an effective zone read alternative.
  • Last year's offensive line was very shaky on the right side, which led to a lot of justified scrambles.

Tate is not out of it by any means, and since the two quarterbacks are so different it looks like the backup will get a large number of snaps anyway.

What the spring game (and spring in general) did was stand the horse race on its nose. Robinson looked better on Saturday. He looked better in the clinic scrimmage, when he was live and splitting first team reps with Forcier. He looked better over the entirety of spring, which is the reason he was afforded the easy matchup Saturday. One 97-yard touchdown to Roy Roundtree might not mean much, but 15 practices does.

The ones-vs-twos is a big deal, but maybe not as big a deal as the few remaining Denard skeptics—still clinging tight to that Betamax stock—have made it. Last year Robinson was having a Man vs Himself battle. Seeing him develop to the point where you need to see a Man vs Man conflict is immense. Hopefully by this time next year we're sending him off to fight Icelandic volcanoes.

Running Backs Are Indeterminate

Another source of persistent unexpressed disagreement in the last couple days: a steady pessimism about Michigan's tailback situation. I haven't seen anyone say "hey how about that run defense"; the assumption is a lack of big runs from the tailbacks means Michigan is going to be putting out some crappy tailbacks next year. I don't think that's necessarily true.  Vincent Smith had a tantalizing cameo last year, and he did nothing of note in the spring game. A few carries here or there isn't a whole lot to draw conclusions about, and even so there were a couple of nice runs from Cox.

Michigan isn't going to have the best back in the conference or anything but they've got enough of a stable to have a good running game. And what would a discussion of the tailbacks be without Fred Jackson proclaiming something the best ever?

“I think I’ve got the best blocking tandem, I didn’t say running back tandem, but best blocking tandem I’ve had,” Jackson said. “I’ve got three or four guys that based on the pictures and movies, how you want to see it done. It’s more than I’ve ever had at one time.”

Never change, Fred.

Defense

Hell I if know. I'm planning something resembling a UFR and will be able to tell you more after that, but probably not that much with Martin and Woolfolk out and the first-teamers going up against second-string offensive lineman and not blitzing and etc. etc. etc. It's clear this isn't going to be a vintage unit. Latest hint from Woolfolk:

"We're mostly just focusing on zones, which is easier than playing man," said Woolfolk. "But I would like to go back to doing more man coverage and stuff. It's easier, but pertaining to the players we have on defense, that probably makes it easier for us to play. Keeping it simple allows us to play more instead of thinking too much and slowing down. It allows us to react and get to the ball faster."

My hope for the defense is something relatively stout against the run and functional enough in the secondary to force opponents into long drives if they want to score. Average would be fine.

Video Of All Varieties

Highlights and errata:

Here's an ebullient Denard Robinson in the locker room:

"Ebullient" as defined by answers.com: "zestfully enthusiastic." There's plenty more in a diary from Boyz in the Pahokee. TYT has posted an SD torrent; MGoVideo is planning an HD one tomorrow. There is also a browser-crippling version of the latest Inside Michigan Football.

A zillion photographs

If you want more photographs than are crammed into this post, boy howdy are you in luck. AnnArbor.com has a flickr set, as does the Daily. MVictors and Maize and Blue Nation also file photoposts. MnBN found the letters from the top of the press box:

michigan-stadium-lettering-1 michigan-stadium-lettering-2

They're outside sections 2 and 44. It's too bad they couldn't find someplace a little more prominent, but at least they're still around. Also… isn't the S the wrong way?

Quarterback Stuff From Teammates

Tim paraphrased Roy Roundtree's take on the guys throwing it to him earlier, but here's a fuller quote that we can read too much into:

"He’s really been working on his technique," Roundtree said. "All the quarterbacks have, but Denard has really been working on his technique, his touch on the ball instead of throwing it so hard. And this year it shows so far what he did."

More Roundtreee on Robinson:

Roundtree said Saturday actually was Robinson's "second-best" practice of the spring.

"Last scrimmage (a week ago), he did really well," Roundtree said.

Thus both clinic observers giving the starting QB nod to Denard after that scrimmage. Of note: that was not a strictly ones-vs-twos setup like the spring game. In that scrimmage both Tate and Denard got extensive reps with the first team against various first and second team defenses, and Roundtree thought he did better than he did on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Van Bergen's full LAZERZ quote:

"I think Denard has probably made the most progression. I think he's developed a whole new aspect of his game as far as making great reads and making great throws.

"His throws are on lasers now. He's not throwing balls up for grabs. He's putting them right on receivers, and I think the fact he can scramble while looking downfield is really something that's helped him because last year when he pulled it down, he was going to run. But this year, he's got his eyes downfield, and they're making even bigger plays. He's dangerous. I think he's probably made the most progression, but I think they've all done really good things."

In the future, Denard Robinson will still be made of dilithium; his arm will be made of lasers.

Injuries

There were plenty of folks who sat out Saturday with injuries of some varieties, including five or six possible starters. The good news is that only walk-on DE Will Heininger will see his injury last into the season. There had been some uncertainty about Vincent Smith but the latest on him is that he should be "fully recovered by preseason camp." If that holds up he's probably your opening-day starter barring a summer renaissance from the rest of the depth chart.

The rest of the injuries range from minor dings to stuff that happened a long time ago horrific bone breaks that just provide an opportunity to work on your standup. Troy Woolfolk's comedic alter-ego:

"I’m going to introduce you all to something," Woolfolk said. "Y’all know me, myself, Troy, but I have a split personality named T-Wolf. When I’m on the field, T-Wolf comes out. T-Wolf doesn’t know how to cry, that’s only a trait that Troy does. Right now, this is Troy. T-Wolf, he’s crazy and I can’t bring him out all the time, I only let him come out on the field. T-Wolf doesn’t have that ability to cry, so that would never happen."

Knock on wood and all that but sounds like everyone should be ready to go for summer conditioning. The most damaged Wolverine may actually be RB coach Fred Jackson, who got stepped on by Kevin Koger. Maybe:

"Supposedly, I'm the one who broke his foot - supposedly, though," Koger said. "It was a 86 on film, but there's no name on the back (of the jersey). So it could have been any 86."

Opponents

Purdue's spring game saw the Boiler debut of Miami transfer and presumptive starting quarterback Robert Marve.  Marve was meh:

Robert Marve talked about "putting on a show" for the fans. Quite simply, he didn't...But how could he with this format? He threw a couple of good balls (for instance, a long pump and go to Cortez Smith for the longest TD of the game), showed the burst of speed that Hope had bragged about...but never got into rhythm for multiple reasons...and just plain missed on quite a few throws. But, he does have an arm.

Iowa's spring game was a Carr special: sparsely attended and no different than a usual practice. Ohio State offensive line is in flux and Pryor didn't have a great day statistically but Buckeye Football Analysis is pretty sanguine about things.

A poster attempted to ferret out what's going on with UConn but didn't come up with much outside of the usual "is this good or bad" stuff.

Errata

As always: exploit your kid for youtube fame and I post.

Also, MVictors talks to Jimmy King and '64 captain Jim Conley about their performances in the alumni game. DocSat on Denard.  Game recaps from Maize n Brew and Maize and Go Blue. Daily on Cam Gordon.

Comments

Wendyk5

April 19th, 2010 at 1:56 PM ^

I think the S is the right way in that Stadium sign. If you look at some of the other letters, like the "H" in Michigan, the crossbar is towards the bottom between the two uprights. That gives credence to the weight of the "S" or the loop being bottom heavy. What can I say? I'm a type nerd.

dahblue

April 19th, 2010 at 2:53 PM ^

I'm hoping that the maize letters are still in storage, awaiting prominent placement on the field-facing facade of the luxury boxes. I think (might be wrong) that the blue letters were from the outside of the stadium. It'd be a shame not to see the same letters back inside the stadium. They did such a good job meshing the luxury boxes with the existing stadium...I'm a traditionalist and think the expansion fits perfectly. Good work...but please bring the maize letters back inside.

Six Zero

April 19th, 2010 at 3:02 PM ^

Technically speaking, it's a classic Art Deco typeface (forgive me for not being able to identify it, I'm not a true font specialist), and not uncommonly the X-height horizontal bars are dropped considerably near the baseline. If you look at the horizontal bars on the A, G, and H characters in Michigan, they're at the same height as that of the "S".

I'd hoped they would continue to use it prominently as the typeface, as a clear indication of the history and tradition of a stadium that was built when all men wore hats, all kids wanted to be Superman, and architecture was a source of American pride.

TrppWlbrnID

April 19th, 2010 at 5:27 PM ^

i am gonna have to disagree with the art deco issue, which might catch hell, since it seems pretty common around here. i will say that those letters are more Art Moderne, than Art Deco. (Moderne is pronounced moe-d-air-n)you will want to think of raymond loewy's trains, early steam irons and appliances and jazz music when you think of art moderne - slick, stylish and cool, 30's. Art Deco is more boisterous, angular and exuberant - think the guardian building in detroit, big band (swing swing swing), 1920's.

its pretty semantic and really there is no absolute PURE style of anything

deco

moderne

i would get better examples, but i am at work.

Don

April 19th, 2010 at 5:29 PM ^

I think it's likely the case that the stadium letters are not an exact replica of any individual typeface. Unless they were obtained off the shelf, which is pretty unlikely, they were all custom-fabricated, and the fabricators are going to customize/simplify things as much as they can for ease of fabrication, with respect to whatever typeface was the original inspiration.

The letterforms are somewhat similar to Huxley Vertical, which you can see here if you're interested

http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/bitstream/huxley-vertical/

Obviously the main difference is the relative thickness of the strokes is vastily different, but there are some other differences too. My reference books don't come any closer so, nor do my online type sources.

ptmac

April 19th, 2010 at 3:08 PM ^

Sorry, but those letters are yellow. The pic Brian put up has blue letters. Take another look if you don't believe me.

Don't you see what is going on here? That is not an 'S' it is a '5'. Coach Rodriguez is planting very subtle signs about the identity of the starting quarterback this fall. It is hidden in plain sight for anyone to see.

Argyle

April 19th, 2010 at 4:39 PM ^

It is definitely the correct placement of the letter. It's clear from the horizontal lines presented in the font--such as those present in the letters A, H, and G--that the horizontal part of the S is at the correct height (i.e. it matches the others). If the S were turned upside down, the horizontals would be off; with the S horizontal being higher than those of the other letters mentioned.

Sven_Da_M

April 19th, 2010 at 2:11 PM ^

... that you can't teach dilithium.

A few things are clear to me about Denard Xavier Robinson:

1. The "Shoelace" nickname does not do him justice.

2. Therefore, he needs a new one, with a T-Shirt to boot.

3. DXR has about the most likable, infectious personality I have seen in a long time.

4. He is almost certainly the fastest QB in the FCS.

5. Did we mention that you can't teach dilithium or coach speed?

6. And as to the sprinters @ tOSU: 6.81, bitches. 6.81.

STW P. Brabbs

April 19th, 2010 at 6:14 PM ^

I think Shoelace is a fantastic nickname. If the fan base tries to invent a new one, it's probably going to either be in the realm of Pun or otherwise sound contrived. Shoelace has a clear reference to a particular trait, and it has connotations of kind of an improvisational, schoolyard style. Also seems to suggest, vaguely, that he's too fast for shoelaces or something.

Viva Shoelace!

mejunglechop

April 19th, 2010 at 2:18 PM ^

We really need an Mgomarketplace so we can bet on stuff like who our starting qb will be opening day. I think right now I'd give 5-7 odds on Denard. Does that sounds about right?

UMWest22

April 19th, 2010 at 2:19 PM ^

"...did nothing of note in the spring game." ? You mean other than sport street clothes? I don't think he played at all...
Unless, or course, that's what you're getting at, but I'm not sure.

Jeff

April 19th, 2010 at 2:48 PM ^

He means that Vincent Smith did nothing of note in last year's spring game. Then during the fall season he was a pretty good running back. Therefore, don't panic about the running backs not being impressive in this year's spring game.

mikefromaa

April 19th, 2010 at 2:25 PM ^

My knowledge of physics and photo development may be lacking, but shouldn't hethatismadeofdilithium be blurry while the Earth Bound Humans remain in focus? Is that camera traveling backwards at or near the speed of light?

Laveranues

April 19th, 2010 at 2:39 PM ^

Of all the quarterbacks that have taken snaps since RR got here, I think Threet has been the best at running the zone read. Hopefully DRob can change that.

joeburner82

April 19th, 2010 at 2:56 PM ^

Threet would still be at Michigan if he could run the zone read worth a damn. Threet had the nice run against Wisconsin, but Sheridan ran the zone read better than Threet during that season. Threet was a better passer than Sheridan.

J. Lichty

April 19th, 2010 at 2:58 PM ^

threet made the proper reads far more than tate he just lacked the physical tools to execute it. As Brian states, even when Tate was making a poor read, he was still picking up positive yardage due to his physical skills. Threet not so much.

I think that UFR will bear that out, and that was my general take on Threet when he was here. Smart QB, but physically ill-suited for the system.

Will make a great coach someday.

joeburner82

April 19th, 2010 at 3:38 PM ^

Michigan's best game across the board in '08 was the Minnesota game. Sheridan was the starting quarterback that day and not Threet. Furthermore, Sheridan had even less of the physical tools than Threet, but he was the starter for the opening game because of his ability to understand the offense and run the zone read. As Rudy T would say, Sheridan has the heart of a champion!

Understandably, all of the quarterbacks that have played the last two years made poor reads due to their inexperiance. I don't think that Threet showed anything to say that he could run the zone read (from an intellectual standpoint) better than Forcier or Sheridan.

J. Lichty

April 19th, 2010 at 4:18 PM ^

but how in name of logic does sheridan having a good game against Minnesota lead you to conclude that Threet did not make the proper reads in the zone read option.

It is true that Sheridan was better at the short passes, which Threet usually airmailed, but that does not mean that Threet could not make the reads. I can't count the number of times when Threet would make a good read only to have the ball dropped or to have him throw it to Tacopants.

Please go back and read the UFR's. Threet's mental game was not the problem.

maizenbluenc

April 20th, 2010 at 11:39 AM ^

at concealing the handoff or fake and confusing the defense. Denard is moving in that direction, but not there yet. The photo of Tate in the Flicker link just after the handoff shows his arms down at his side (i.e., no deception forcing the defense to cover both options ala Juice).

If Denard gets as effective as Threet in the read, and the deception, then Tate is really in trouble.

Of course, we are seeing what they want us to see, and this whole QB / Tate not developing thing may be one bog deception anyway ...

Magnus

April 19th, 2010 at 2:47 PM ^

I continue to fail in understanding the confidence in/hype surrounding Vincent Smith. Statistically, he is Michigan's WORST rusher out of Grady, Minor, Brown, Shaw, Cox, and even Moundros when you remove Baby Seal University from the equation. Not only that, but he's coming off a serious knee injury and subsequent surgery.

I know the other running backs have their faults, too, but 3.55 yards per carry and zero touchdowns doesn't show me that he's a gimme for being at the top of the depth chart.

Brian

April 19th, 2010 at 3:10 PM ^

Those numbers are even less representative than the numbers with Delaware State: half the remaining carries are against Wisconsin (#7 rush D) and Ohio State (#5), a few of which were executed with a torn ACL. It also leaves out 10 catches for 82 yards and two TDs against those opponents.

I am excited about Smith because I saw him play and think he is good.

Magnus

April 19th, 2010 at 3:37 PM ^

I agree that Smith is a threat out of the backfield, but still, we can get by without throwing the ball to our running back. But we're not going to be that great if our starting RB is getting 3.55 yards per rush.

If we take out DSU, Wisconsin, and OSU, Smith had 15 carries for 50 yards. That's 3.3 yards per carry. Any way you slice it (unless you slice it to include DSU), Smith's numbers were forgettable.

Magnus

April 19th, 2010 at 4:09 PM ^

a) DSU was a horrible team and inflated everyone's numbers.

b) Michael Cox still had better numbers than Smith if you include DSU.

c) Minor and Brown didn't play in the DSU game. If they had, their numbers probably would have been off the charts.

M Go Blue

April 19th, 2010 at 4:18 PM ^

A) Agreed
B) I'm missing something here....*
C) Agreed

*Cox only had 13 rushes last year.

2 against EMU, and 11 against DSU. He had 13 rushes for a total of 113 yards (and one of those was a 57 yarder) against two of the worst teams on our schedule.

V. Smith had 48 carries for 276 yards.

If we take out the DSU game we are only left with 2 carries for Mike Cox against WMU. That's it.

I guess I just don't see a case for Cox being so much more impressive last year.

Magnus

April 19th, 2010 at 4:35 PM ^

It's a small sample size, but nobody got enough carries to make it a perfect sample size. Therefore, Cox's two carries aren't conclusive, but they were impressive (if you remember them).

Vincent Smith had 166 yards (and a 37-yarder, I believe) against that same horrible team in DSU. That's why I'm ignoring DSU for the most part. They were atrocious.

It's not that Cox was MUCH more impressive. It's that Smith was decidedly not impressive as a running back. Other than catching the ball well, he did nothing to earn the status of "#1 returning back." Brandon Minor didn't catch many passes, but he averaged about 5.1 yards per carry under Rodriguez. I'll take a running back who can run over a running back who can just catch passes any day of the week.

The point isn't that Smith sucks or that Cox is great. For all I know, Toussaint or Shaw could end up being better than both. But I saw nothing last year that warrants Smith leaping back up to the top of the depth chart, especially coming off a torn ACL.

Oaktown Wolverine

April 19th, 2010 at 4:10 PM ^

By that logic somebody who hasn't played a game in college football, therefore averaging 0 ypc, should never start a game.

I'm worried about Vincent Smiths knee injury, but I think he showed the most near the end of the season last year, and I think he will be a great starting rb for us, regardless of the ypc stat he had last year.