Superficial Spring Bullets

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


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.


Blue in Yarmouth

April 22nd, 2010 at 9:28 AM ^

This isn't the first time I have heard this question, but I always wonder why the answer isn't evident to the one posing it?

Tate Forcier is 6' tall. What are the heights of the linemen in front of him? Staying in the pocket to throw when you can't see over the heads of the people in front of you seems rather bizarre to me.

Tate doesn't do this to give fans myocardial infarctions, he does it out of necessity, and has shown that when on the run he is far more productive and accurate than when he is sitting in a pocket he can't see out of.

This is my uneducated opinion, but is the answer I always come up with when the question is posed.


April 17th, 2010 at 8:38 PM ^

I'm pretty sure that there is nothing in Title IX that requires equal time on TV for male vs. female sports.

I really hope the BTN advertisers go crazy on them for this ... amateur hour, big time.


April 17th, 2010 at 8:36 PM ^

Denard seems to be such a happy-go-lucky guy, I really like that about him. I'm sure he is a great teammate and he seems to be developing into a pretty solid quarterback as well. His upside is very exciting.


April 17th, 2010 at 8:41 PM ^

From my perspective, the defensive line, apart from a couple of nice plays, showed an absence of strong pressure most of the scrimmage. They did a nice job against the run, and had a couple of strong pressures. Now with Martin coming back, and further development and work, perhaps this won't be an issue, as most believe the D-line will be our strength. But while Tate and Denard definitely had to scramble, it didn't look to me like the D-line put tons of pressure on. But since I haven't seen that comment yet, maybe I have an opposite take to the consensus?


April 17th, 2010 at 10:29 PM ^

Here's why I'm not worried about the DL. First, whenever you have a 3 man unit that is missing their best player, they aren't going to look as good, period. Especially with the DL, which is a unit that rotates a lot. The other big reason I'm not worried is named Will Campbell. Because he's still so young, he will likely improve a lot more in the next 5-6 months than your average player. The third starter is RVB who has impressed for a while now.

Don't fret, the DL will be the strength of our defense.

Double Nickel BG

April 18th, 2010 at 1:26 PM ^

Mike Martin at DE will amp up the pressure from the DL considerably. While Banks/Saggesse are good backups/minute eaters, they can't create the same pressure as Martin will. Martin should really benifit from the scheme change allowing him to penetrate.

I also noticed on 3rd and long, Gerg took out Will and put RVB at Nose, slid Roh to DE.

Maybe in the fall when Martins back we'll be able to take out Will, slide Martin to NT, and move Roh to DE. Should be interesting to see.

Bronco Joe

April 17th, 2010 at 10:18 PM ^

MAYBE Denard starts. 1st offense against 2nd defense is HUGE. We are talking 1st offense against, at best, worst defense in the BT. More like MAC defense. Defense is just not good enough to have two deep BT talent. And Tate with the 2nd O vs. 1st D - again huge. (although Tate's fumble looked very familiar.)

When Tate and Denard are both going with and against the 1st defense and against UConn and ND, THEN we'll know if Denard has stepped up his game. Improved, yes. As good as Forcier and a year of starting - not certain yet. I am not looking forward to a season of Denard or Gardner in the starting position.


April 18th, 2010 at 5:59 AM ^

You heard RR compare Denard's development to that of Pat White as a redshirt freshman, didn't you?

Here are Pat White's stats as a RS Frosh:

65/114, 828 yards.

131 rushes for 952 yards and 7 TDs.

Would you accept those statistics from Denard this year?

Most importantly, would you accept this statistic:


That was West Virginia's record in Pat White's redshirt freshman year. Not saying it will happen, but I don't know why you'd worry about Denard when it looks like he's going to average 8 yards per rush this year.


April 18th, 2010 at 11:13 AM ^

Though I don't know their stats, I doubt West Virginia's defense that year was similar to ours. If Denard starts and has similar stats to what White's were, I think we'll be in trouble, because IME we will be passing a lot this year. That's why I hope for a leap forward for Tate, with Denard playing meaningful minutes at QB as well.


April 18th, 2010 at 12:21 PM ^

I think people tend to forget that while White had a great year as a redshirt frosh, it wasn't Pat White and nobody else on the offense.

White had the luxury of a freshman named Steve Slaton as his running back. Slaton ran for 1,128 yds, 5.5 yds/carry and 17 td's that year. That's a devastating tandem for defensive coaches to worry about.

I'm not saying Denard can't be successful, but rather I think a lot of White's success, as well as Slaton's, early in their careers was because of each other.


April 17th, 2010 at 10:30 PM ^

Tate didn't look real happy leaving the locker room after the game today. His girlfriend couldn't keep up with him walking across the parking lot. He got on his cell phone as soon as he got out the door. Denard had a swag about him today, Tate not so much. Tate and Denard didn't seem to be the chummy team mates they were a year ago. I noticed it as soon as they came out to warm up, it was Denard and Devin on one side of the field and Tate on another. Anyone else have the same feel.


April 17th, 2010 at 11:59 PM ^

I don't think Tate was so bad. I don't have stats, but I'm guessing he completed most of his passes. He also had a run that should have allowed for a long gainer, and led the team to a touchdown. Denard looked great, but if you had to ask me now I'd still start Tate.


April 18th, 2010 at 12:23 AM ^

I wish that they would get Stonum involved in their passing game more. A lot of people around me, myself included could see that maybe it was wearing on him a little bit. He seemed a little frustrated and would go sit by himself a lot.I felt bad for the kid. He is too talented of a player to not be involved somehow.


April 18th, 2010 at 9:20 AM ^

I was sitting pretty close to the field right by the tunnel and regarding Justin Turner he just looks huge for a corner, definitely should move to safety. Also I did see Tate walking in the parking lot and he looked absolutely pissed. I thought he looked ok today but he had some bad moments. Concerning Denard Robinson, he looked awesome. I saw him hang in the pocket and put throws right in the numbers. Was very impressed with him.

Maize and Blue…

April 18th, 2010 at 1:02 PM ^

Most of the time he could have took a cat nap woke up and had a snack and then found an open man. It's not like our #1 secondary could cover everyone for as long as DRob had yet alone the backups.
It's nice to see Denard's improvement, but I believe the staff is doind a disservice to both Denard and Tate. I would prefer to see both go against the #1 D with the #1 O so we got an actual feel of how much DRob has actually progressed.


April 18th, 2010 at 10:11 AM ^

I do recall at least a couple of times when Denard had just about all day to throw, while Tate seemed like he was constantly under pressure.

Having said that it's pretty obvious that Denard is much improved. We'll have some genuine competition at QB and hopefully therefore two viable QB's. Gardner impressed with his physical tools but let's face it he's still just getting started. He won't play unless he has to.

It's looking like the offense will be just fine in the fall. Now if they can just get the defense going....

True Blue In Ohio

April 18th, 2010 at 10:59 AM ^

The players looked slightly bigger to me, which is a good sign. The speed of Robinson at QB is very similiar to Pat White, no wonder RR made that analogy. Still a lot of work to do on the Defense. Hard to tell with Ones vs. Twos, very big difference in talent level between the groups. I really hope Tate takes being a number two QB like a man because Robinson has really closed the gap with his improved reads and passing.

If the team can remain healthy and not have crippling injuries at key positions this team can win 9 games this coming year. Go Blue!

c williams

April 18th, 2010 at 2:23 PM ^

1. Forcier relies too much on improvising. I think this may be one downside to starting as true freshman. He got thrown out there and had to resort to what he knows/does best, but he could have used some more coaching first. It's got to wear on receivers who come out of breaks to see Forcier running in circles in the backfield and on linemen who have to block for 10sec while he runs back and forth past them.

2. This offense could be very potent with Denard if he continues to improve. As we know, he's lethal running with the ball. If he can execute the read option, the running game as a whole will be very tough to stop assuming the offensive line is improved as reasonably expected. His passing looked much improved at the spring game, so I'm believing (for the first time) that he can make the passing game work. Also, he seemed to be patient with the pass and very decisive when he decided to tuck it and run.


April 18th, 2010 at 8:19 PM ^

Before everyone goes all ape on me, here's what I mean: the famous Chinese proverb (curse, actually) is "May you live in interesting times."

"Interesting" implies that you don't know the outcome, are going to be holding on for dear life from time to time, and are just hoping to get through it all. That's what I have going through my mind when I see Tate start to scramble. He's either going to score a touchdown, or get sacked for a 10+ yd loss. There is rarely any middle ground.

I really thought that Tate would have settled a bit after his year of experience, but he still looks like he's making it up as he goes along.

It makes for an "interesting" game.