Honest Analysis - University of Michigan v. Western Michigan University

Submitted by socalblue on September 6th, 2009 at 12:33 AM
Wanted to throw out some wise words for those who were worried about the way Michigan looked towards the end of the first half and most of the second.

Disclaimer: I am a very realistic Michigan fan. I do understand this was against Western Michigan, but last year, 13-10 Toledo.

First of all, I think it's pretty apparent Michigan's incompetence last year was due to their ineptness at the quarterback position. Michigan's options at quarterback were a walk-on who couldn't hit wide open receivers and a QB they never recruited who never really fit the system. They had skill players who made plays when the ball was thrown to them, but that was a rare feat to accomplish. Anyways, I digress.

Let's be honest; Michigan moved the ball at will in the first half. Tate looked like a young Colt McCoy while Denard showed flashes of Pat White/Steve Slaton (more on this in a bit). The linemen looked great; athletic, strong, and fast. Did you see Moosman make those two pancake blocks on the same play in the first half? The defense was playing aggressive and most importantly, hard. They converged on the ball and there were at least 3 blue jerseys around every tackle. I think Stevie Brown has finally found his position. Not athletic enough to be the last resort guy, but talented enough to be on the field. Outside of the last drive of the first half, the Michigan D held WMU to three-and-outs on six of their first seven possessions. Overall, a pretty perfect first half compared to anything Michigan produced last year.

Ok, now to some people's concerns. Short offensive possessions in the first half. The defense allowed a long, sustained drive in the last WMU possession of the first half. The offense looked inept at times in the second half.

The short offensive possessions in the first half I think were attributed to the talent/execution advantage Michigan had over WMU. By that I mean Michigan has superior talent (simple fact) and better coaching (most likely fact, but talent makes them look good). Michigan simply overpowered WMU; rare negative plays/no gains, rushing plays of 5-6 yard gains as opposed to 3-4 yard gains (yes, it matters), offensive linemen driving their men back instead of getting stood up or themselves being pushed into the offensive backfield, quarterbacks able to hit open receivers...

The last WMU possession of the first half was not worrisome to me as it was to others. I think at that point (UM - 31, WMU - 0), Rodriguez just wanted to go into the half up 31-3 at the worst and pretty much was willing to give up short underneath routes (curls, outs, slants). Essentially, they were calling off the dogs on Hiller for the last drive of the half. 31-7 is a three possession game, 31-3 is four.

Michigan's offense in the second half was not stunning, but it was without their apparent leader for most of it. When Tate was in the game, the offense had a particular rhthym and flow to it. This is not to say that when Denard was in there wasn't, but it was pretty clear to me that Denard is still a raw QB in terms of throwing mechanics/defensive reads. [Editor's note: Forgot to mention that I think Denard might at some point be converted to running back if Tate really establishes himself as the season goes on. Denard has too much speed and athleticism not to be on the field and think he could turn into a Slaton type of back. Also, looking down the road with Devin Gardner coming in, that could be a vicious backfield one day.]

My personal opinion is that the offense and defense were not as spectacular in the second half because of the mere fact that Michigan was up 31-0 at the half. I am of the opinion that Rodriguez doesn't want to expose his whole hand the first week of the season (no pun intended, all-in for Michigan) and has a few things waiting for Notre Dame next week on both sides of the ball. In the second half, by running the same offensive plays that were run in the first half and a pretty much base defense, Michigan did not give Notre Dame anything new to game plan for which I think is a strategic, and IMO genius.

I think next week we see a few (lots of) wrinkles to both the offense and defense. Hopefully Notre Dame has a full house and Michigan shows four of a kind (sorry, had to do it).



September 6th, 2009 at 12:37 AM ^

In some ways I think it was a near perfect situation. Great start. Confidence booster, byt plenty to work on, so that the players still realize that there is a lot of work left to do.


September 6th, 2009 at 12:38 AM ^

good take...I thought that once RR knew the game was in hand, he had Tate move the ball down in to scoring position, but neither Denard, Sheridan or Coner could put it in... if that had happened (or if RR had just left Tate in) it could have easily been a 40 burger...

but I like the fact that RR got those other QBs some work...

as you said though: the offense really has a rhythm when Tate is in there...the kid has a nack for the game.

As for the defense...pretty good all day...most defenses give up some points, even to Mac teams...tackling was crisp and they have a bit of work to do on coverage skills for next week


September 6th, 2009 at 1:09 AM ^

Exactly. I thought that with Tate in the game, Michigan could have scored at will (yes, still understand it was only Western Michigan). Thought it was kinda cool after Tate drove the team down late in the second half that Rodriguez pulled him to let Cone try and get in the box score. Big confidence boost from his coach. Rodriguez probably told him something along the lines of "We know you can get us in. 100%. Let's see if Cone/Sheridan can finish it off. Good work today kid. See you for 18 hours tomorrow."


September 6th, 2009 at 1:30 AM ^

I think its way too early to start talking about using Denard in any way other than as QB. Sheridan and Cone are not primary backup material. RR needs to keep developing Robinson as a QB in case Tate is injured or has a bad game. Even next year with Gardner it will take a while to get him used to College Ball although with his skill it may not take long. Once Devin is up to speed I think it may be time to consider using Denards obvious speed in other ways but I am one who thinks he may still be the main man at QB one day.


September 6th, 2009 at 12:58 AM ^

I believe that ND will give a much better gauge of where Michigan stands this year. Also, it will be important to see how much DR develops. Sure, he has speed. His touchdown was awesome. As the commentators on ABC said, you can't teach speed, and you can't really defend against it. But he needs to use his receiving corps, and he needs to let plays develop. Otherwise, every defense in the world will just stuff the box. I'll assume DR will work to incorporate more balance, and that this will happen over the next few games.

Should the ND game be tight, I'll be very interested to see what the QB rotation for UM is. I found it very interesting that RR actually had both Tate & DR in on the same set of downs. It also will be great to see what Minor will bring to the game. To the best of my knowledge, there were no significant injuries, thankfully.

While Koger & Hemingway seem solid talents, I was impressed by how much Tate spread the ball around to diff receivers. This is great, because it will reduce the chance of the opposing team keying on a particular receiver.

My greatest concern is the Michigan secondary. Warren was not necessarily a bright spot. I don't know if the issue is how much pressure is put on the QB, or the receivers getting open. I especially didn't like receivers getting open beyond our safeties and corners.


September 6th, 2009 at 1:05 AM ^

What do you think about eventually moving Denard to running back or running back/quarterback? I really think Michigan could use Denard like the Eagles are gonna use Vick minus the dog murdering. You could have him in the same backfield as Tate and even after giving up the option to Denard, Denard could still throw it as long as Tate gives him a lateral. I'm pretty sure that is still a legit play as long as the linemen don't go past the line of scrimmage. Someone prove me wrong?


September 6th, 2009 at 2:24 AM ^

DR needs time to either succeed or fail as qb. Over this season, especially under pressure, we'll see if he becomes a complete qb, or just resorts to using happy feet. Also, this year, I want him as a backup to Tate. Now, next year, if it should become clear that he is number two to Tate, the equation changes. Presumably, DR would see that Tate is a better field mgr (if, in fact, this is the case.) If Tate is going to get the majority of snaps, and Devin Gardner is equal to DR or better, then I could see DR moving to RB, etc.

Magnum P.I.

September 6th, 2009 at 1:12 AM ^

Warren was solid all game, despite his two PI penalties. He was a leader out there, played very physical, made sure tackles, and was all over his man (to a fault on the two aforementioned occassions). He played fantastic corner.

Somebody who we need to make sure we're giving due love to is Jonas Mouton. I think he's our strongest second-level defender. Don't overlook him; he's a killer. He's all over the field and doesn't miss tackles. Obi was stout, but Mouton is our star in the LB core. (Fitzgerald looked good, too, in limited action: did anyone notice the play when he jumped over a blocker and almost got to Hiller before he released?).


September 6th, 2009 at 1:04 AM ^

If anything, the QB experimentation with Tate setting up scoring opportunities proved one thing: that Sheridan is still Sheridan. And since the INT didn't cost us a score, maybe it wasn't such a bad thing. We still won the turnover battle today, after all. He may have progressed, but after today it will be harder to justify trying him out if things get tough for Tate or Denard.


September 6th, 2009 at 1:19 AM ^

Nick wasn't mentioned in the analysis. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to his playing time over the next 11? The only thing "safe" is the bet that he'll throw a pick - which today was 50/50. Sayonara Sheridan.

MMB 82

September 6th, 2009 at 1:30 AM ^

Tate needs a backup, and I prefer it isn't Sheridan- the fall off appears to be too great. And who is to say that as Denard learns the offense and matures, that he wouldn't actually be able to beat out Tate for the starting job?

Double Nickel BG

September 6th, 2009 at 1:46 AM ^

I just dont see it for a few years. What makes him so special is having that kind of homerun threat at QB.

He seems to run a straight up with little forward lean, meaning hes a little too 1 dimensional of a runner to be a every down back. He can make people miss in space because hes one hell of an athlete, but running up the middle today saw him get wrapped up while standing straight up and popped hard. Most running backs lean forward to pick up that extra 1-2 yards a play and avoid massive shots.

Can you teach DR to be a tougher runner? Sure, but it will take time working on technique that ATM, would be better spent on learning the offense/reads and being a game changer at the QB position.

All in all, I think when we get good QB depth in a few years, we may see Denard Robinson take a Percy Harvin type role in the offense. But hes too valuable as a QB right now.


September 6th, 2009 at 2:02 AM ^

Good call. I've changed my opinion. We need him for quarterback depth at least through next season. Sheridan and Cone showed today they are incapable of making plays as the number two. Maybe as a junior Denard could be used in the spot I'm talking about. I just think this because realistically he doesn't project to a QB in the NFL, but he definitely IMO has NFL talent. I think Denard would be better suited, and Michigan as well would be better suited (in the future), to convert to a skill position at some point. With Devin Gardner coming in and possibly redshirting his freshman year (but probably not because Rodriguez wants the competition), if he is all that he's hyped up to be, he can learn under Tate for a year (Tate's junior year/Devin's redshirt freshman year). Denard could possibly become the starting running back or a back who can also have the option to throw the ball (nobody has proven to me that you can't do this as long as the linemen stay at the LOS). I just think that this could take the offense to a whole new level. (Maybe I'm just dreaming but legitimately I think you could do this. It's like a run-pass option squared, mathematically speaking. Both the quarterback and running back have the option to run-pass. The QB actually also has the option to pitch to the back, which leads to the second run-pass. Sorry, overanalyzing. Just want it to be clear.)

But yes, after all that, I agree with you that he is too valuable as a quarterback at this point.


September 6th, 2009 at 2:12 AM ^

There is no way that Denard will be anything but a QB for the next 2 years. If for no reason other than Tate is likely to get dinged sooner or later and a solid backup will be needed.

I do see the possibility of seeing a few packages where Denard and Tate play at the same time just to drive defensive coordinators crazy with the need to defend Denard as a Receiver, Runner, or Thrower. Lots of possibilities for some crazy plays if you think about the plays the Dolphins run in the wildcat with the QB split wide. Having two true QBs, just adds to the possibilities.


September 6th, 2009 at 8:00 AM ^

my prediction is this; Tate will be locked in as starter with DR getting work here and there for about 6 games. Perhaps for the Del State game we will see a lot of DR and by the end of the year we will know which one of these guys will be the starter next year. Dev G will come in and redshirt leaving us with only 2 real options at QB like we have this year. Ladies and gentlemen I have to say we are really getting into a situation where we have a really good problem, too many very capable QBs each with their beautiful set of skills.

Transatlantic Flight

September 6th, 2009 at 8:53 AM ^

The Coner took snaps, and the starting defense was rotated out more and more. Is it really that surprising that things didn't start going better for Western? I assumed RR was channeling Carr in the second half.


September 6th, 2009 at 9:13 AM ^

sheridan did score a TD that was called back BEFORE the pick. Also, RR did say he would play all 3...its humorous when the crowd chants 'rich rodriguez' in support and then moans an groans when he puts sheridan in when we're up 31 pts. I mean i guess since when he came out of HS sheridan was a big recruit- oh wait, hes a former walk-on, give him a break. just because he doesnt have the same talent as tate or DR, he has a lot more than you or me, and hes workin just as hard as everyone else on the team. worst case scenario, if he HAS to come in and play for whatever reason, would you rather him have no playing time or some time when the game is comfortably in hand?


September 6th, 2009 at 9:19 AM ^

A couple things about your points.

*The Western drive at the end of the half where the almost scored. Cissoko was out most of that drive and Hiller was picking on the replacement JT Floyd. You could almost say it was abusive. Eventually it became 3rd and 9 close to the red zone and Cissoko came right in for him. Just some perspective on what was going on in that drive.

*Michigan was set to score on their first drive of the second half when Forcier lost his shoe and Sheridan went into the game for him.

*Totally agree with the notion that Michigan all but closed shop in that second half. Lot of depth got to play throughout the second half. Frankly, that was great to see as its sometimes used to be the best part of beating tomato cans, seeing the backups in.