Returning Offensive Production for 2019

Submitted by OwenGoBlue on December 14th, 2018 at 3:02 PM

A lack of college football has me thinking ahead to 2019. It quite obviously makes more sense to do this after the bowl, signing day, spring practice, etc. but I'm an impatient man with a free Friday afternoon. 

The offensive personnel is easier to project with fewer early entry decisions. For the purposes of this silly exercise I'm assuming Shea and Gentry return and Peters does not. 

Here's where the roster sits in terms of returning experience, stats and honors among major 2017/18 contributors:

  • 169 starts/366 games played by returners
    • 16 players with 10+ games played, 10 with 20+
  • Career stats: 
    • 5503 passing yds, 44 TD 17 INT
    • 2502 rushing yds, 26 TD
    • 3694 receiving yds, 30 TD
  • 10 players selected for All-B1G teams
    • Runyan and Bredeson have made 2nd team or better, the rest are 3rd or HM
    • 4 multi-year All-B1G (Bredeson, Gentry, McKeon, DPJ)


It seems like this crazy blog community would have prior year info somewhere to compare this to for the purposes of projection, anyone know where that is?

Individual player info below for posterity with all info from the Michigan roster pages except Ole Miss. A few notes:

  • "Major Contributors" is subjective but I'm going with guys who got a lot of time with starters as a rough standard. Anyone not listed below doesn't have stats in the totals. 
  • Starts are a little confusing given obviously more than 11 guys play a lot. FWIW it looks like Michigan was generally listing two TEs as starters this year, other than the 2 they gave Mason
  • OL games played in this are games played on the OL, which have been helpfully separated from total games player on the roster pages
  • We all know the context for Shea's Ole Miss stats so take those with a grain of salt but still think they're useful in terms of looking at total experience returning
  • All-B1G: Some people only look at the 1st-3rd teams but Honorable Mention seems particularly relevant for projecting returners. Honorable Mention by my approximation is about the equivalent of being a top 1/3 starter at a given position in this giant league. 

Shea Patterson 

  • 22 starts (12 UM)
  • All-B1G 2018: 3rd Coaches, HM Media
  • Michigan passing: 188/289 2364 yds 21 TD 5 INT
    • Ole Miss: 238/392 3139 yds 23 TD 12 INT
  • Michigan rushing: 66/268/2 (sacks included because that's a pain)
    • I'm not including his Ole Miss rushing totals in the above because separating out sacks is a pain and it doesn't seem terribly relevant) 

Chris Evans

  • 4 starts (35 games)
  • All-B1G 2017: HM Coaches
  • 297/1702/14
  • 39 rec 386 2 TD

Tru Wilson

  • 17 games
  • 60/356/1
  • 4 rec 28 yds

Ben Mason

  • 2 starts (26 games)
  • 34/84/9 
  • 1 rec 15 yards, hurdle
  • 4 tackles, 1 2 pt, buncha murders

Zach Gentry

  • 23 starts (32 games)
  • All B1G 2018: 3rd Coaches, HM Media
  • All B1G 2017: 3rd Coaches, HM Media
  • 47/778/4


  • 6 starts (29 games played)
  • All-B1G 2018: HM, Coaches and Media
  • All B1G 2017: HM, Coaches and Media
  • 47/433/4
  • 1 fateful carry that was either chalked up to Peters or erased from the record books. I'm not going to look at that box score you go look at that box score. 


  • 3 starts (17 games)
  • 10/218/1


  • 15 starts (24 games)
  • All B1G 2018: 3rd Coaches/HM media as WR, 3rd Coaches and Media at PR
  • All B1G 2017: HM Media as PR
  • 61/818/7
  • 7 rushes 94 yds
  • 64 PR/563/2


  • 10 starts (15 games)
  • All B1G 2018: HM Coaches
  • 36/579/6

Oliver Martin

  • 12 games
  • 11/125/1

Tarik Black

  • 3 starts (8 games - roster has a lower number but I did some 2018 counting)
  • 13/169/3

Ronnie Bell

  • 12 games
  • 8/145/2
  • 5 rushes, -2 yds (plz give these carries to 2019 slots and/or DPJ)

Ben Bredeson

  • 30 starts (35 games)
  • All-B1G 2018: 2nd Coaches and Media
  • All B1G 2017: 2nd Coaches and Media

Michael "Grapes" Onwenu

  • 19 starts (25 games)
  • All-B1G 2018: 3rd Coaches, HM Media

Cesar Ruiz

  • 17 starts (22 games)
  • All-B1G 2018: 3rd Coaches, HM Media

Jon Runyan

  • 14 starts (22 games)
  • All-B1G 2018: 1st Coaches, 2nd Media

Stephen Spanellis: 12 games

Stueber: 1 start (6 games)



December 14th, 2018 at 3:11 PM ^

Had a few takeaways after looking through these stats. I didn't want to bury these in the already far too long post:

  • Throw the ball a lot next year (duh)
  • Let's give DPJ some damn carries! Guessing the Bell jet stuff goes to a '19 slot but he's been real good with the few opportunities he's had
  • There's a growing "throw it to Evans don't run him inside" sentiment. I agree with the first part but dude has a lot of ground production so let's do both - the ability to set a guy up and go to a different gap is so useful
  • My eyes glazed over so if I messed up some math feel free to correct 

Ron Utah

December 14th, 2018 at 3:57 PM ^

Thank you for the diary and takeaways. 

  • We should definitely be closer to 55% (it was 63% this year) run next year, or even lower.  The passing game is loaded, with or without Shea.  Personally, I'd love to see our ratio at about 50/50.  There's just too much pass-catching talent to ignore.
  • I'd rather see Giles Jackson, Chris Evans, Michael Barett, etc. get the WR carries and throw to DPJ more, and keep letting him return punts.  Those sweeps can break big but can also be a huge hit--would rather not see DPJ doing too much of that.
  • Agree on Evans--he's being underrated as a runner.  He's not just a slot and he'll prove that (again) next year if he stays healthy.  He's not the bowling ball that Higdon is, but he has great vision and balance, and plus strength.  It's up to the staff to find the best running plays, but Evans is a complete back, even though he's not a bruiser.
  • The OL should set the tone.  If Warinner is back, I expect next year to be ridiculously good offensively.




December 14th, 2018 at 4:04 PM ^

50/50 pass (or more) is usually a terrible sign for a team. Look at all the best teams - none of them are passing even particularly close to 50% of the time. You're not ahead late in games much if you're at 50/50. Personally, I would like to see us between 40 and 45% pass.

Edit: For comparison, Oklahoma passed 42% of the time this year, and Alabama passed 43% of the time. Just below 45% seems like the right amount of aggressive passing if you have the weapons.

Ghost of Fritz…

December 16th, 2018 at 6:16 PM ^

Maybe not.

Anecdotally, I do not recall Michigan throwing a lot in 1st halfs either.  IOW Michigan was not throwing a lot in the first half and then running a lot once the game was the lead has huge.

Several of Michigan's blowouts were not blowouts until later in the 3rd or even the 4th quarter.

Finally, top ten teams that were closer to 55% run (Clemson, OSU) than Michigan's 63% run would also have lots of blow out wins. 


December 14th, 2018 at 4:44 PM ^

The pass percentages are tricky given so much game time is spent grinding out games with comfortable leads when you're good. Bama, lauded for opening it up this year and running a modern pass-first offense, was 57% run for reference in perhaps an extreme example of that given the number of blowouts they had. 

I'd bet Michigan was closer to 55% run in competitive time but I just don't know that for sure. Would be great if we could see run/pass splits based on factors like score and quarter. 

On DPJ I agree new guys should get the bulk of the work I just mean give him maybe 12-15 combined carries vs ND/OSU/MSU/Penn State/Wisconsin/postseason. If Giles or someone is awesome at it then no need, but Donovan really needs to get the ball more next year and that's one way you can do that where he's been really effective in a small sample. 


December 17th, 2018 at 2:29 PM ^

I just did some quick calculations on 4 games that were either competitive to the end or Michigan was behind and/or lost. A run percentage in the mid 60s appears legit for the competitive portions of games.

ND 61% run and they were very much behind for basically the entire game.

MSU 68% run. Ugly grinding game. Like the bowl likely will be.

NW 64% run. Behind, by a lot, for most of the game.

OSU 51% run. At that point, even Harbz and Pep realized they needed to pass.

I would expect more passing next season but am not sure recent evidence supports that hope. In 2018, Michigan only opened up the offense, and not even every time, when they were way behind and clearly could not stop the opponent. At other times, they were fine to keep grinding even when they were behind by several scores. To me, that suggests there is no "open up the offense" option. They will only pass first  when they are desperate and time is a major factor.


December 14th, 2018 at 7:58 PM ^

Ever heard that famous comment on who was the only person to ever keep Michael Jordan from scoring 30ppg? 


It wasn't no player. It was his college coach Dean Smith.


A solid O-line under another year of Ed Warinner coaching + arguable the top WR and TE corps in the Big Ten coming back + a seasoned Shea Patterson (or Dylan Mccaffrey should Shea leave) + some solid running play from Chris Evans/Christian Turner/Zach Charbonnet...there is no reason we can have an explosive offense.

The outstanding question of course is, will Harbaugh and Co be creative enough in the offense to unlock it?

If all come back, I'd expect the following:

QB: 3,000+ yards + 25+td's

WR's: At least one WR with at least 1,000 yards (we haven't had one in a long time) and few others with at least 700+ yards or more

RB's: I don't see a RB who can break 1K yards next year like Higdon did. But I expect our production to be similar to that of the 2016 and 2017 years where we did a RB by committee.



December 14th, 2018 at 8:20 PM ^

A tweak that should be made next year is to have only 1 TE on most snaps and 3 WR's (DPJ, Collins, Black) on the field on nearly every standard down. 

This should be a top 10 offense next year in the country.


December 14th, 2018 at 11:35 PM ^

Shea should come back next season. The offense will be more geared then ever for the passing game. I think Shea will be a first rounder after next season (hopefully you are back to reading the blog MK). Even if Shea were to enter the NFL as a 2nd or 3rd round pick, we will have Dylan, who has a good arm. I hope Peters can get his act together and will stay to provide more competition and keep our depth good.  Hopefully, Harbaugh will get the talent he has and we will become air wolverine next season. The defense will not be as good, so when we play the good teams we will need to out score them.


December 15th, 2018 at 1:17 AM ^

Unfortunately, I don't think you will ever see 'Air Wolverine' as long as Harbaugh is here.  He will continue to insist that we dominate on the ground first and then also shut things down when ahead at the end of games.  Also will limit showing his hand before future competitive games and also limit the injury exposure to key players. Except for OSU, I don't see much change from this year.


December 15th, 2018 at 8:27 AM ^

We have so many weapons it's hard to say what to do.  If we go 3wr all the time Mason and the TE we have spent years carefully cultivating go to waste.  

If we go jumbo the WR are wasted.  It's a good problem, but the coaches really have difficult decisions.  The ND game was a perfect example.  We tried everything and the team wasn't ready to execute the empty formations well enough.  If they had that game to do over again they would have probably ran a game plan more similar to Wisconsin.  

One other thought is that this oline is returning 4 starters.  There is no doubt that this should be our best oline since at least Denards junior year and I would say it should  be better.

The question for Dr and Utah is that if you have your best line in over a decade and the lines clear strength is run blocking over pass blocking how should you set up your offense in the off season with all this talent?

Defenses are already starting to catch up and it's a trendy thing to say so I hesitate to endorse this so fully but this is the kind of team that relying more on RPO may be the answer.  Our personnel creates match up issues across the board.  Let's let the defense decide how they want to die.  If we have a talent  advantage and a numbers advantage we should see big plays from everybody. 


December 15th, 2018 at 12:28 PM ^

Totally agree with this take and great diary info.  I tend to think about it this way ... yards per play.  If you average 8 yards per pass attempt and 5 yards per run, that isn't a ton of additional production per game from the pass game.  But I hope we do get the pass game closer to 40-45% with all of the additional attempts going to DPJ, Nico and Black ... more mesh, crossing patterns and RPO.  Keep teams off balance and then watch Evans production sky-rocket to average 7+ yards per carry. I think we could average nearly 500 yards per game next year and push the scoring average above 40 points per game.  One caveat - need Shea to come back for his senior season.  He could really flourish under that kind of offensive mix with more passing and RPO.

But with this massive veteran OL, we can't go completely away from the power run game.  Would like to get Ben Mason more involved and used as the battering ram as a power-I back instead of Evans taking those hits.  Keep Chris fresh for the spread option sets.

UofM Die Hard …

December 15th, 2018 at 1:08 PM ^

the offense has the potential to be deadly next year. Either with Shae back or DM.  


Like you guys are saying, open it up a bit more...we can do that on top of the eat clock style we play.  


Go for two

December 15th, 2018 at 3:53 PM ^

Potential to sCore 40 points per game and ice the game in the 4th quarter by running it down their throat. Excited about next year

Reserving hotel the first Saturday of December for Indy


December 16th, 2018 at 8:07 PM ^

2018 M defense (sans OSU) with 2019 offense would be a final four team.  If 2019 Michigan D can be top 5, Michigan will win B1G and play in playoff.  I think Michigan will average over 40 pts a game next year.