Superficial Spring Bullets

Submitted by Brian on April 17th, 2010 at 4:29 PM

denard-robinson-signs-forehead

Get used to it, Denard?

I'll try to figure out some more stuff after the replay at 8 but for now, things I noticed. They are mostly about offensive skill position players, because I'm a person.

Denard! Denard! Denard! Disclaimer: It was all ones versus twos and whatnot, so Denard took the starting offense against a motley collection of walk-ons and Tate took a bunch of freshmen up against the first team defense. The playing field was far from level.

That said, holy crap. Robinson looks like a quarterback now. A running quarterback with rudimentary passing abilities, but a quarterback. There were zone reads and screens and rollout passes and a number of zippy seams that hit players between the numbers. When the offense broke down, Robinson made the concept of "pursuit angles" humorous. Putting him on the edge, as suggested by the coaches' clinic tea leaves, puts the defense in a bind. His throws were all on a line but they were accurate aside from a couple mediocre bubble screens. There were multiple times where I was thinking "just run why don't youuuu runnnnn" and he zipped a pass in for a first down or touchdown.

How close to Forcier's passing does Robinson have to get if he's going to start? If Forcier can't set up in the pocket and throw on rhythm, how far apart are they now? It'll be an interesting summer for both guys. Right now it looks like edge Denard.

As for Forcier: Hemingway's absence and the sparing use of Stokes saddled Tate with a couple of true freshmen at wideout, so it's hard to tell whether or not the helter-skelter offense Tate was running was just Tate doing what he does or the receivers screwing up the rhythm of the offense. Wild guess: some of both. Tate also fumbled (again) and chucked a pass that Mike Jones should have picked off. Robinson didn't have anything close to a turnover.

Meanwhile, Devin Gardner looked raw as hell, fumbling snaps, scrambling into trouble, and reverting to that ugly shotput motion whenever he was forced to throw on the run. He looked like a freshman, which is okay because he is a freshman. However, the torrent of spring hype that suggested Gardner would probably not redshirt because he would be Michigan's best quarterback by UConn… eh, not so much. Maybe it was just a bad day. Even if it was an off day, Robinson showed enough to relegate Gardner to the bench for the first couple games and hopefully his whole freshman year.

Gardner did show the his deep touch on a third and long seam to Odoms that was laid in perfectly. Odoms dropped it.

Flipside of all those seams. The concerns about things like four verticals expressed in the Coaches' Clinic Tea Leaves were amply demonstrated. Virtually all of Michigan's big yardage plays that weren't Robinson teleporting from place to place came on seams right up the hashes. Michigan's got to get that fixed.

Vlad… em? Vlad Emilien was wearing a knee brace of some sort so it's likely he's not 100%, but he got dusted by Roy Roundtree (who we last saw getting tracked down on a similar play) on Robinson's 97-yard touchdown. Roundtree tacked on five yards by the time they hit the endzone. Meanwhile, Teric Jones made up most of the ground. Thankfully, not all of it. Roundtree getting tackled at the one on that would have been a dark omen.

Further adventures in Justin Turner worry. It's one thing to be behind JT Floyd, who did look considerably more confident on the short stuff Michigan was trying to his side, but with Woolfolk out with a minor injury it was James Rogers who moved up to the ones. A position move beckons.

Tailback clarity. Nil. There weren't a whole lot of big plays from the tailbacks. Mike Cox had a nice touchdown and Stephen Hopkins lived up to his rep as a thunderous runner who should find himself staring down third and short most of the  year. Austin White is headed for a redshirt. Cox, Toussaint, and Shaw are all in a blender.

Defense thoughts. I did what everyone does and watched the ball more than anything, so I don't have a ton of useful stuff on the D yet. I thought Van Bergen looked like he'll be a pretty good defensive end, maybe all conference level. When Floyd came up on the short stuff he tackled solidly. Most of the stuff in the middle happened against the second team defense.

I did notice the bandit playing deep off the LOS frequently when Michigan went to the spread; Kovacs in deep coverage is going to be a scary issue all year.

We have field goal problems? I expected the placekicking to be a circus given the grim reports from spring, but other than a couple of misfires off of poor snaps from the backup longsnapper the two guys at the top of the depth chart looked solid.

Punter, meanwhile… it's Hagerup's job. If Hagerup tears an ACL it might be Tate Forcier's job. Spring started with speculation of a Robinson position move, but now it seems that Forcier moving (or, rather, pulling double duty) is a more realistic possibility. Not that either are particularly realistic.

Comments

goblue232

April 17th, 2010 at 4:40 PM ^

In the Presser Rich Rod said that "Pat White in his Redshirt Freshman year (2nd year) was right about where Denard is right now"...Rich Rod said this with a big smile at first and then took a couple steps back with his praise, but it seems Rich Rod is really liking the direction Denard is going in.

colin

April 17th, 2010 at 4:46 PM ^

is an issue, but not exactly unexpected. The vanilla versions of the O and D probably meant a lot of Cover 1/3 vs. Rich Rod's base pass package. I'm pretty sure that's the first pass concept he installs.

Also Im pretty sure Denard's pass to Roundtree for the TD came off a fire zone blitz that th line picked up beautifully. Left Roundtree running across the defense that was flowing the other way.

MGoValiant

April 17th, 2010 at 4:56 PM ^

So, the first team offense went against the second team defense and the second team offense went against the first team defense? Why? I don't understand. Did the first teams scrimmage each other at all today?

kman23

April 17th, 2010 at 7:53 PM ^

This is just my guess but I think the ideal Michigan secondary has Turner replacing Kocavs as the weak side safety (is that the bandit or spur?). That weak side safety needs to be able to drop into a deep zone (Turner is faster than Kovacs), cover a TE/WR running a seam route (he was a 5 star CB), and contain the weak side (he is a big guy with decent speed). To me Turner is perfect for this position.

The deep safety needs to fly and if Floyd is going to win the 2nd corner spot why not put Dorsey there? I know having a true freshman as the last line of defense is scary but would you rather have a RS Freshman who isn't all that fast (Emilien), a recent WR convert (Gordon), or a natural DB that can catch almost any Big 10 WR? Also, if the front 10 do there job then Dorsey can just read and react to the quarterback. Dorsey can probably cover 80% of the field (sideline to sideline) on deep throws. No QB without a cannon is going to risk a deep throw near him.

The really question to me is what happens to the strong side safety. Does it go to Marvin Robinson (like it probably should) or Emilien (if he's moved), Gordon, Kovacs, Williams, Furman or someone else? This position is similar to Stevie Brown's position last year (LB/S mix) and Robinson has the ideal size and speed for this position. I know having 3 young safeties is terrifying but I'd rather have talent on the field that makes freshman mistakes over veterans that just don't have enough talent for the Big 10 (Williams & Kovacs).

So I guess my ideal secondary would have Woolfolk and Floyd start at CB (Christian can be the third string CB), Dorsey at FS, Turner at the weak safety spot, and Robinson in the strong safety spot. That secondary would be big, fast, and talented. Then next year the only adjustment you'd have to make is replacing Woolfolk, but then you just bump Floyd and Christian up one spot.

Gustavo Fring

April 17th, 2010 at 8:26 PM ^

I think I'd rather have Gordon at deep safety. Though Floyd looked good, I'm still not sold on his ability to run with speedy receivers.

I thought both Gordons looked good today, as Thomas had a couple of nice plays.

I think Dorsey should play corner. He's got great speed and if he makes freshman mistakes, at least he's not the last line of defense. As for the safeties, I'd be happy with a starting trio of the Gordons and Turner, or Cam Gordon, Turner, and Emilien.

jg2112

April 17th, 2010 at 5:16 PM ^

Regarding the running backs, their performance today should not be unexpected. They got a normal distribution of rushing outcomes against a solid defensive front, one that has been practicing against them for a month (and of course, all previous years too) and knows all their plays pretty well.

It should have been much more concerning had the defense not made as many solid tackles as they did today. I was very happy with the rushing defense. Ezeh, Mouton, Roh and C. Gordon, in particular, seemed very effective.

jg2112

April 17th, 2010 at 5:17 PM ^

And........

Denard's gonna rush for 1,000 yards this year. I'm not sure how anyone will contain him to his 2009 rushing average (5.1 ypr) when he is able to run this many parts of RR's offense with competence.

maizenbluenation

April 17th, 2010 at 6:38 PM ^

Yes. I went into the stadium today expecting to see an improved Denard but not to the degree that I saw today. The way he can run the ball combined with his closing the gap passing wise with Tate, I would peg him as your likely starter for UConn. (I can't believe I'm even writing this based on my mindset coming into the day)

TIMMMAAY

April 17th, 2010 at 6:57 PM ^

I definitely like what I saw out of Denard today, but I'm still not convinced he's going to be our starter. I think a lot of it will depend on our receiving corps and how they look after fall camp. In my mind Tate is still the tentative starter, the heat is on for sure, but I still have faith.

JD_UofM_90

April 17th, 2010 at 7:11 PM ^

There is no way I thought Denard would/could be our starter on opening day. After today's game performance, I would be(and scared to even say) comfortable (gulp) if they said Denard was our starting QB. Denard played WAY above expectations. Tate played like Tate (hints of brilliance broken up by some absolutly terrible decisions) and Devon, played like a Freshman who had enough positive plays to show off his tons of future potential....

beantownwolve

April 17th, 2010 at 5:36 PM ^

Seems like some combination of Turner, Cam Gordon, Marvin, Thomas Gordon, and Kovacs should fill the spots currently occupied by the Gordons and Kovacs. Then, Dorsey would start out at corner along with Christian and others filling out the depth behind Floyd and Woolfolk.

Appears that there is some semblance of depth being created.

Maize n Blue

April 17th, 2010 at 5:51 PM ^

I was deeply saddened today when I was unable to throw up the Zoltan-Z today on 4th down and it got me looking to the future.

I move that we turn the Zoltan-Z 90 degrees creating somewhat of an H. If there is stern opposition to this, we could always just put our thumbs together creating a W, but I'm one for maintaining tradition.

Maize and Blue…

April 18th, 2010 at 1:16 PM ^

is he can definitely find the ball carrier, but is not very good in coverage. The 3-3-5 will basically take away coverage responsibility (in most cases) from the MIKE which is where Kenny was playing.
I've heard good things about Mouton this spring. Maybe a carry over from the OSU game last year.

msoccer10

April 19th, 2010 at 11:28 AM ^

but I expect both Mouton and Ezeh to have great years. I think Demens and Fitzgerald will play in a rotation with those two, but they won't replace them. Depth and keeping the d fresh are two things the coaches keep harping on, so I don't expect any player to lock down a position and never come off the field. And I don't think the two linebackers will be dropping into coverage much except to cover shallow crossing routes. That is one of the points of the 3-3-5.

West Texas Blue

April 17th, 2010 at 6:05 PM ^

The five minutes of punting was "OMG My Eyes!!!!!" Seriously, kids in the NFL Punt, Pass, and Kick competiton could have punted for us today.

Front seven was pretty solid, IMO. The secondary, though, is still a mess. Hoepfully the incoming freshmen and fall camp can help iron out some of the issues or otherwise it's bombs away on our D.

joeyb

April 18th, 2010 at 12:38 PM ^

That's probably a game-time decision and depends on the situation and who was better in practice that week. If it's inside the 40, I would say Pauloski because he is the more accurate of the two. If it's longer than 45, it's probably Gibbons because he has the stronger leg.

KBLOW

April 17th, 2010 at 6:05 PM ^

If Robinson can continue his development then things bode well even if Forcier plays just like he did last year. However, by next Sept. I expect both will be even better than they are now. YAY! Now just get that D improved...

maizenbluenation

April 17th, 2010 at 6:42 PM ^

Brian, do you think you could UFR the game? I know the results won't be crazy accurate as it was first team vs. second team for both offense and defense (so the first team grades should be inflated) but it would still be cool to see the breakdown as well as some desperately needed charts around these parts.

Blazefire

April 17th, 2010 at 6:57 PM ^

I need to see more of him with the ones, but my feeling now is, "I will not be worried about one or the other starting. They both can." And truly, edge Denard, but again, ones vs. twos. I mean, really, that freshman collection against a defense of RVB, Campbell and the like? That was unfair.

That said, Tate got screwed out of one 60 yard TD run. He made an ankle breaking juke of the only defender anywhere near him, but the defender got about two fingers on him, so the judge whistled it dead.

That said, on a subsequent play, RVB got screwed out of a solid tackle when he had a pretty good hand on Tate and it DIDN'T get whistled dead.

Seth

April 18th, 2010 at 9:27 AM ^

The play you were referring to was one of several where I saw Anthony LaLota uselessly chasing a quarterback, kind of like a smaller Pat Massey. I know he's the Taylor Lewan of the defense, but at this point he is not ready (or else our QBs make all DEs look like fools).

Speaking of Taylor Lewan, anyone else notice he was out there on both the 1st and 2nd teams? And was doing really well? Injuries or no injuries, I get the feeling that RR was getting this guy as much practice as possible in anticipation of him being the guy at LT come fall.

Magnus

April 18th, 2010 at 2:23 PM ^

With Dorrestein out, there aren't a whole lot of options at tackle. Lewan, Schofield, and Huyge are about it. Barnum and Omameh can play tackle, but they're more guards than anything.

The offensive line is pretty thin on numbers, especially with a few guys out due to injury. By my count, the only scholarship linemen available for the spring game were: Lewan, Schofield, Huyge, Khoury, Mealer, Pace, Ferrara, Schilling, Barnum, and Omameh. Am I missing anyone?

Coldwater

April 17th, 2010 at 7:32 PM ^

I just don't see why Tate rarely takes his 3 step drop and flings the ball to a receiver. Why does he always! scramble and turn every pass play into a backyard helter skelter free for all?

I know that's his style and his skill set allows him to do that, but come on man, pull the trigger.