Things to think about this week+small PSU preview

Submitted by tasnyder01 on October 24th, 2010 at 11:34 PM

Preface: I’m bored. I have a lot of time on my hands. If there are ideas for future betterments please post them and I shall learn. The PSU thing is just a small preview to hold you over for the real PSU stuff.

Did you know: Nathaniel Joseph "Nate" Montana, born in 1989, is the second member of his family to be backup quarterback at Notre Dame (his father, Joe, played there from 1974-78)


  • Denard was injured for the 5th in 7 games. Someone’s gotta say it , say it , and say it some more...I’m not debating on his touches, but this is something to keep an eye on.
  • Molk:  Nothing new on him. He should be back.
  • Martin:  Ditto Molk
  • Shaw: Should be back this week.
  • Fitz is still questionable.  However, he is practicing.

Analysis:  the team should have 4/5 returning. Beware the false returns though (they occurred to Tate last year, and will hopefully occur to Tacopants). Often players come back to play, but play injured, and are incapable of fulfilling their duties.

PSU Injuries

  • Boldin: questionable
  • Bani Gbadyu: questionable
  • Gerald Hodges: questionable
  • Michael Mauti: Back
  • Eric Latimore: doubtful
  • Jack Crawford: doubtful

Analysis: They will be playing with lots of injuries. Really, not much to say here besides things like that. I also believe that I missed a few injuries to the OL, but I can’t find links.

Denard’s improvement on passing:

Big thing to watch for as games come. Denard’s passing currently is doing things like this. He’s still on pace for 1879 Rushing Yards and 2276 passing, however teams are starting to key in on his lack of a long range passing game.

They are doing the right thing: in two games he’s got 4 interceptions and only rushing 191 yards on 4.9 YPC. He had topped 191 in the ND (258) and Indiana (217) games so yes, that is slowing him down. Let’s see how well he does this week. It’s important because:

  1. We will know more about if he can throw it well enough to keep D’s honest.
  2. This is a big step to make us a BTC contender for next year; we need that deep ball threat.

Denard is already a proven runner. My goal for his passing stats at the end of this year would be:

  • One 35-yard completion each game (not including YAC). This would prove the kid can throw the ball downfield.
  • Completion percentage of 65-70% When defenses are keying on his running, the receivers are open and Denard puts up ludicrous completion rates. But his INs have gone way up recently. Hopefully a week off has settled him back down.
  • Less than 1 sack/game. This will mean that he's not taking all day thinking back there, and understands the routes better. Also, with his speed, this shouldn't be happening anyway.

Campbell’s move to OG

This week we will likely hear about how Campbell will/won’t be moved. RR said in a presser that it will be decided over the week. I haven’t read anything about it during the bye so I’d assume we’ll hear about it soon. This will again stir up a lot of debate. My take: We need the DL more than OL. Why?

  1. After Khoury’s showing, we have more depth at OL than at DL.
  2. We had more even before Khoury’s showing.
  3. Who would the back-ups at DL be for next year? Ash and Talbott, the planet and the stick. Both would be a huge step down from Martin. This position needs a real blue chip (*waves hand like Obi wan* at Jernigan: "You want to come.  Yes.")
  4. Even if Quinton Washington is moving to the "dark side," our DL needs bodies. This is a position where the 2-deep guys get a lot of playing time, and we're going to lose at least three (Banks, Patterson, Sagesse) at the end of the year, if not a crushing fourth (Martin). I, for one, am not yet ready to give up on having an upperclassman 5-star on the DL depth chart next year.

PSU/time to get happy

(you see what I did there? [Ed-M: Actually, no.])

PSU's Passing Game:

Penn State's offense truly is offensive.

  • 18.2 PPG gets them dead last in the Big Ten.
  • Boldin (or back-up) can not throw.  (209 YPG, 8th best after week 7.)
  • 8 INTs is second to ILL’s 9.
  • Royster averages 64 YPG.
  • Injuries to Boldin spell trouble for an already.  

After facing a gauntlet of capable upperclassman (Chappell, Cousins, Stanzi), our secondary gets to take a major breather against Penn State's three-headed fail. Michigan will face one of these guys:

  1. True freshman returning from injury who has been pretty bad all year
  2. Sophomore who lost job to above freshman
  3. Paul and Kathy McGloin run a flower business in Scranton, Pa. They are very proud of their son Matthew, a redshirt sophomore who walked on the Pennsylvania State football team and accomplished what neither high-profile recruit above him could: throw two touchdowns against the only secondary in the Big Ten that might be worse than Michigan's. Unfortunately Paul and Kathy could not make it to Minneapolis to see their son play. Such is the flower business.

Did you know: Former Michigan starting quarterback Nick Sheridan is the son of Miami Dolphins linebackers coach Bill Sheridan.

Moving on...

Martin was not Martin against Iowa, but he was Martin enough that he was cleared to play, which means his injury (thanks MSU cheap shot) could very well be all healed. With less to worry about from the passing game, expect Michigan to use a 4-man rush more often, allowing us to generate some...what's it called again? oh yes, pressure.

Pressure+freshman/backup/walk-on QB=int (see ND game).

PSU's Running Game.

Our run D has DEMENS!!!! I have written ad nauseam about this kid, suffice it so say our run D should be good (against the "TURRIBLE" that is PSU).

Here I'm hoping that the bye week will help Michigan as well, mostly so the freshmen can work on tackling, but also because it gives the coaching staff some time to make/solidify some roster moves (Demens practicing with the ones may convince Mouton he doesn't have to do everything by himself). Add the Bye Week Advantage and you get a better D. Add in Royster and Boldin/back-up and you get a good D. Add in Vinopal  (possible switch to starter)  [Edit: Cam is still the starter]  as the second white DB and you get a lot of questions, but hopefully more answers.

Prediction: we let up less than 350 against Penn State.  I know that sounds high, but I just see them getting yards somehow.

Offensive stuffs:

  • 1.) We have DENARD
  • 2.) They have INJURRRRRED

Not really much to say here. They lost their 2 DEs (who are questionable or doubtful).  They have a hodge-podge in their LBs that is about as bad as our secondary stuff.  We also have Shaw and Molk coming back.

The only interesting part will be what the new DEs do. I’m assuming you’ll see them just sit down on EVERY zone-read (Mid-line please!!!). Their scoring D is ranked 4th in the Big Ten, but #1 is Iowa and #2 in MSU (#3s and 5 are still on our schedule, of course). We gained 899 against those two teams combined.

The thing to take away is that we can score on them, but we need to convert (like we failed to do against Iowa and MSU.)  BUT WAIT. They are LAST in the Big Ten in red-zone D. You remember the Red Zone, where we lost the last two games with turnovers? Hope emerges. Also, hope that Hopkins gets playing time. I'm with Brian in that Smith's "just a guy" [Ed-M: albeit one who can run a killer route from the slot]. Hopefully this is the week that Michael "Don't call me Carlos Brown" Shaw and Stephan "Rhymes with Chiffon" Hopkins are the two for me after Iowa.

Prediction: 500+ yards of offense. 400 to Denard. Smith plays more than Hopkins and I cry inside.


True Blue in CO

October 24th, 2010 at 11:53 PM ^

We need to move the ball with running plays or shorter passing plays with yards after the catch. Will be very happy to see DRob throw one out of bounds if he gets pressured. Will be a good sign of lessons learned in the week off. His early successes in the preseason and conference opener made him feel too invincible. Hopefully any over the middle passes are into single coverage versus the Iowa and MSU double coverages.


October 25th, 2010 at 12:20 AM ^

IMO, we will have plenty of depth on the DL, even without Campbell playing on D. I think Ash comes down to a mean 300lbs for next season, and Talbott will be plenty serviceable. We still will have Martin and RVB, and Black, Paskorz and Wilkins. If we can add someone like Jernigan(who I think can get decent PT as a Freshman), then Campbell on the OL won't be a big loss. Remember, typically when he comes in he doesn't do anything positive anyway, so a loss there won't be missed.

Blue in sec country

October 25th, 2010 at 12:22 AM ^

Has anyone seen Hopkins catch pass in practice or a game? I've thought about it, like most of us, and that's the only thing I can come up with for lack of playing time. I'm not saying he can't I just don't remember seeing it. With this offense he has to be able to catch coming out of the backfield or it's limiting the offensive play calling.

Captain Obvious

October 25th, 2010 at 12:49 AM ^

  1. A 67% completion percentage by year-end is the target?  Are you high?  The Michigan record (minimum 100 attempts) is 65.3% by Todd Collins, followed by Harbaugh at 65%.  But hey, this sophomore has to break Michigan records set by legends by a full 2% in his first year starting to meet expectations.  Makes perfect sense.  And now you will say something like "but the spread inflates completion percentages!!11!"  Tate's completion percentage last year was 58%, running the same offense.  So no.
  2. He has to throw a 35 yard completion on a fly every single game to please you?  I don't care if it's a 1 yard bubble screen that goes for 90 yards and a score, it all counts the same.  That's just weird.  Arbitrary as hell, too.
  3. Denard has to take less than 1 sack per game to be a good quarterback?  This may may the strangest of the 3.  First, that's a crazy low number - we face a number of great DLines in the Big10.  Second, sacks are pretty much always on the OLine, not the QB.  Are you going to credit the fact that we have given up very, very few sacks this year to the fact that we have good QBs?  Personally, I'm going to credit the OLine for having done an amazing job so far this year.


October 25th, 2010 at 2:06 AM ^

Denard's completion percentage through seven games is 67.8%. He has a very legitimate shot to set the U-M single-season record this year.

  1. A 67% completion percentage by year-end is the target?  Are you high?  The Michigan record (minimum 100 attempts) is 65.3% by Todd Collins, followed by Harbaugh at 65%.  But hey, this sophomore has to break Michigan records set by legends by a full 2% in his first year starting to meet expectations.  Makes perfect sense.  And now you will say something like "but the spread inflates completion percentages!!11!"  Tate's completion percentage last year was 58%, running the same offense.  So no.


October 25th, 2010 at 9:45 AM ^

I think he's right on the money with a 67% CP. First of all, he's going to throw a lot more long handoffs than Collins, because the bubble screen is the C option in the spread 'n shred. That pass should be completed 100% of the time. Also, Denard's running threat should be opening up lanes and making his receivers much more open. If his CP is falling back down to pedestrian levels, it means one or more of the following:

  1. Robinson is turfing/winging easy throws. The inaccuracy thing showed up against Michigan State and continued through Iowa. This is kind of usual for fist-time starters, and all QBs actually. But we know Denard can do better because he went five games without a whiff of chronic inaccuracy.
  2. The opponents are getting by leaving 6 or 7 in the box. Denard as a major running threat mean that with 5 offensive linemen, a TE, an RB and a QB, we have 8 guys involved in the running game. If the opponent puts 8 in the box to match up, this should open up a lot of room to pass (since there's only 3 DBs left to cover 3 WRs spread all over the field). Iowa was putting 6 in the box, as their DT was absorbing doubles. This means more safeties high, and more linebackers in coverage, and thus harder-to-complete passes.
  3. Wide receivers are running bad routes, not getting open, or dropping passes (more of a 2008 concern than a 2010 one).

This offense is made for high completion percentages. You can't compare it to Todd Collins or Chad Henne, because they were throwing different passes. Henne had to zing balls stop routes all over the field, his effectiveness based on having such a cannon that defensive players wouldn't have time to react to the ball before it arrived. This necessarily creates a higher risk of incompletions.

Captain Obvious

October 25th, 2010 at 10:35 AM ^

I didn't hear anyone requiring Tate to set a Michigan record for completion percentage last year in order to be considered effective, and accuracy is his forte.  Denard's in his first year starting and is held to this ridiculous standard.  I will keep beating this drum every time someone requires Denard to set all-time Michigan and NCAA records to be considered average. 


October 25th, 2010 at 10:54 AM ^

...of his ridiculously gaudy stats during the first 5 games and all of the HE16MAN hype.  He'll continue to be compared to Cam Newton and Taylor Martinez for the rest of his career and that will mean expectations will be outsized.

Ultimately, the only metric that should matter is W-L record.  Ask Trent Dilfer about that.


October 25th, 2010 at 3:19 PM ^

I wasn't clear enough. Sorry. What I mean is that an effective Denard doing his thing should have a higher completion percentage AND a lower Yards per Pass AND fewer passes altogether. This is because of his run game, which forces the WLB to get back in the box and leave too much space between himself and a screen to the slot receiver.

If the opponents are leaving that linebacker out there, we aren't throwing that screen. If the SNS is working, that LB is closing in and those screens are a good 30 percent of all pass plays.

If Denard is fitting balls into tight coverage using his arm speed - a la Henne/Navarre/Brady et al., we've been forced off of our game. Our game is to run QB ISO and the Read-Option until the defense starts leaving WRs wide open to stop all the running. Passing is then only used when the defense has sold out against the run, and thus should necessarily see higher completion percentages.


October 25th, 2010 at 12:50 AM ^

While Bolden is a freshman (assuming he plays) he has a great arm and won the starting job for a reason (presumably) which suggests that even he can have a good day throwing against our secondary unless we make him uncomfortable. We need to get to him early because PSU will be able to feed off that environment if we come out in a prevent type defense.

Roger Mexico

October 25th, 2010 at 9:45 AM ^

Against Minnesota (who are admittedly terrible), his stat line was 11/13 for 130 yds, 1 td, 0 int.  I've watched every snap he's taken this year, and I'm going to submit that he's one of the strongest pieces of our offense.  He is surrounded by linemen who do not block, receivers who do not catch, and total liabilities at tight end.  He makes ~3 very freshman decisions per game, and all of this adds up to a 50% or so completion rate for the year.

Also, in the OP I didn't see any reference to Silas Redd (9 carries for 71 yards = 7.9 ypc agains Minnesota).  Royster is getting tons of flak this year (maybe justifiably, but probably not, viz. the linemen above), but Redd is finding ways to get yards on the ground.  I am willing to bet that UM sees 10 carries out of Redd on Saturday.

Wolverine In Exile

October 25th, 2010 at 8:24 AM ^

yes. Hopkins as spread read option back, No. Shaw needs those carries and Smith needs those that Shaw isn't getting. I have no problem with running Hopkins-as-beer-truck strategy or having him clear paths for Denard on QB sweeps. If we see a 15 carry for Shaw, 10 for Smith and 5-10 for Hopkins type spread of workload I will be excited.


October 25th, 2010 at 8:58 AM ^

I think the coaches know that Michigan has more depth on OL than on DL. If they are considering this move, it can only mean one thing: they do not think he can be a functional defensive lineman in FBS football.

In that case, they might as well put him somewhere that he could contribute usefully in his two remaining years of eligibility, rather than being an “if-disaster-strikes” backup on defense.

The best scenario is that he redshirts next year and makes the two-deep (or even starts) as a RS Jr. and Sr.


October 25th, 2010 at 9:33 AM ^

That great FCS division power UMass, who put up 439 yards and 37 points on us. We were all assured that this was a result of them being one of the best teams in that division, that they had former D1A players on their OL, and therefore the defensive horror show we watched wasn't as bad as it seemed at the time.

Currently, UMass is sitting at a very gaudy 4-3 overall, and has been held to 10 points and 13 points in its last two games by 4-3 Richmond and 5-3 New Hampshire. In all UMass games, the team they scored the most points against was Michigan.

Regardless, the large majority of MGoBloggers seem to be convinced that PSU can't hang with us, that Purdue doesn't have a chance, and we're sure to beat Illinois because hey, Ron Zook. I really hope that Demens has that dramatic of an effect on our defense.


October 25th, 2010 at 10:46 AM ^

...are much appreciated.  Readability counts.

BTW, I believe he's referring to Happy Valley here:

PSU/time to get happy

(you see what I did there? [Ed-M: Actually, no.])

Additional use of your editorial license, perhaps?

Add in Vinopal (possible switch to starter) as the second white DB and you get a lot of questions, but hopefully more answers.

M_Born M_Believer

October 25th, 2010 at 9:34 AM ^

Key to victory for the rest of the season (and in general) is running the ball (and hanging onto the ball).  IT sets everything else up.

I know this is football 101, but i very applicable here.  As Brian noted, Iowa sat is a 2 deep coverage with 6 in the box and dared us to march down the field.  With 6 in the box the mid line read (with Hopkins) should be deadly.  Body blows to the belly of the defenses eventually will draw up the defense.  Then a nice PA allows our receivers to get deep in one on one coverage.

To use Brian's line..

I will kackel in glee if I see the following rushing breakdown:

Denard: 15 Rushes

Shaw: 15 Rushes

Hopkins: 10 Rushes

Smith: 5-7 Rushes

And just for fun: 1-2 reverses

That is close to 50 rushes, that means 250+ rushing yards (I see closer to 300) and the PA would be wide open.

Finally, as I have been stating over and over again.  No turnovers.....

oriental andrew

October 25th, 2010 at 10:02 AM ^

The thing that worries me about Penn State is that whichever QB they field will go all Juice on the Michigan D.  Juice Williams' seasons always seemed to go:

  • game 1 - good
  • game 2 - decent
  • games 3-7 - SUCK
  • Michigan - Superman
  • games 9-12 - SUCK


October 25th, 2010 at 12:45 PM ^

...this was reported from the RichRod Monday presser:

PeterCBigelow All Michigan's injured guys, Mike Martin, David Molk, Fitz Toussaint, Michael Shaw, they're all good to go this weekend.

mikerothstein Rodriguez said he expects Fitzgerald Toussaint back this week ... Whether he can contribute "is up to him and the other running backs"


October 25th, 2010 at 5:29 PM ^

We could use a difference-making RB to take some of the pressure off of Denard, but I don't think it's going to be the fragile Toussaint.