Does the I-Form Experimentation End in B1G Play?

Submitted by Suavdaddy on September 25th, 2011 at 11:37 AM

It seems like  we are putting in the I later in the games and having Denard work on his game.  Obviously, the results are less than stellar.  It seems like the idea is to try and get Denard as much game time as possible in the new offense, regardless of whether it works or not (we are up, so why not?).  

The question for the board is, do you believe, like I do, that if things aren't working come sparty that the O coordinators will abandon the experiment to win games?  I sure hope so.



September 25th, 2011 at 11:44 AM ^

I understand where you're coming from, but personally I hope it doesn't end.  I'd love for the offense to remain multiple because as we've seen over the past few years, Michigan's shotgun heavy offense becomes easier to stop as we enter this portion of our schedule. 


September 25th, 2011 at 11:45 AM ^

Because the I-formation is rather fundamental to what they  would like to eventually do with the offense, I doubt it would completely go away. However, do I think they'll go spread option if other things aren't working? Yes, because they have the best spread QB in the NCAA. They haven't  forgotten what Denard can do when he's at his best. 


September 25th, 2011 at 11:46 AM ^

Borges offense is west coast passing with power run game.  Eventually the offense will go that route, but most qb's struggle with west coast passing and take 2 or 3yrs to learn.  Denard will have to continue working on this as will the other qb's. 

This will pay big next yr ............though you don't see it now, next yr is when the benefit comes. 

Maize and Blue…

September 25th, 2011 at 12:35 PM ^

It takes to long to master for it to be constantly effective at the college level.  Bill Walsh, the creator of the West Coast, said it takes three to four years to master.  That goes for both QBs and WRs because both must read the same thing out of the D.  Very seldom in college do you have that 3-4 year window with the same QB and WRs.

Much like Borges' results as an O coordinator (IMO) the results of this offense vary greatly.  When players are together a long time time such as Montana and Young w/ Rice the results can be tremendous.

I would gladly bet you a pop of your choice on this not paying off next year for many reasons, but primarily Denard is not a pro style QB and our O line is not suited for man blocking.  32 yards against EMU in the first quarter playing under center was all I needed to see.  What happened in the 3rd quarter against SDSU when we went mostly under center?  As long as Denard is our QB abandoning the spread is a stupid idea.


September 25th, 2011 at 5:02 PM ^

I have one question:

If the WCO is so difficult to master at the college level, how come LaVell Edwards was so successful with his version of it at BYU?  

Once again, I refuse to second-guess Borges.  He is giving us a very nice hybrid style, and striking a balance between enabling Denard to perform to the best of his abilities and installing what will eventually be "the" offense.  As we saw against ND, Borges knows exactly when to loosen the reins on Denard.  

At this point, the more looks the team gives opponents, the more they have to prepare for.  That's pretty cool in my book.


September 25th, 2011 at 11:46 AM ^

I understand where you're coming from, but personally I hope it doesn't end.  I'd love for the offense to remain multiple because as we've seen over the past few years, Michigan's shotgun heavy offense becomes easier to stop as we enter this portion of our schedule. 


September 25th, 2011 at 2:51 PM ^

I think LSU would disagree with that, after WVU torched their defense operating exclusively from the shotgun.

This isn't hard to understand.  Our offense will be good when we have a good offensive line.  It has been a weakness for several years now.  It pretty much solves the mystery of why we are unable to run the ball with anyone besides Denard.


September 25th, 2011 at 11:53 AM ^

Why would we allow opponents to better focus in on Denard (in the shotgun even more than they already do) by reducing the number of formations that we run, and how would that help us win games?


Just wondering.


September 25th, 2011 at 11:59 AM ^

Is that he runs worse, passes worse and turns over more out of the I.  Not sure that the old I formation is some big secret that defenses cant crack given that 80% of teams run it and we cant do squat out of it.  So, if I were an opposing coordinator I would be pleading for more I form.


September 25th, 2011 at 12:05 PM ^

I don't think this is true. He had plenty of terrible throws out of the gun yesterday too. He also had all 4 passing tds against notre dame from the I. They've clearly increased snaps from shotgun but they will not do away with the i


September 25th, 2011 at 12:17 PM ^

.....he's just as good as last year, and in others, mariginally better. Completion percentage aside for a second, he's averaging 8.7 yards per pass right now compared to 8.8 last year. He's averaging 7.8 yards per carry versus 6.6 last year. He passed for 18 TDs last year and rushed for 14 TD - he's on track to have comparable statistics this year if the trend holds. 

Putting numbers behind it says the I-formation stays AND Denard is allowed to be Denard.


September 25th, 2011 at 1:51 PM ^

I don't think that you can expect the trend to hold because as we've seen the past two years, the competition gets much stiffer after the first four weeks (well, after Minnesota) .

I also don't think that you can really put completion percentage aside.  It's an important statistic.  Yes, Michigan will probably hit some big pass plays along the way this year to help skew the stats but you can't really count on them.  The key is to consistently hit the high percentage pass plays and that's not happening right now.


September 25th, 2011 at 2:34 PM ^

I didn't put it aside to  ignore it - I put it aside because it's a totally different discussion (as shown over the past  24 hours repeatedly on this board). Quick math favors shorter passing routes if we're going to use him extensively (key word) like that - that's my basic position. As always, he is his own ultimate weapon and there is always, well, warp drive for a touchdown. 

It is a problem - a big one. Last  year, Robinson completed 182 of 291 for a percentage of 62.5%. Right now, he is 35 of 72, which is 48.6%. For simplicity of discussion, say he were to match that statistic this year  exactly - he would have to go 147 of 219 the rest of the way, which is a 67.1% completion percentage. I say that doesn't happen, however....

...say they switch to the short passing plays, as have been effective in the past, and he could do that. His passing game, in my estimation, is going to have to evolve from these plays.


September 25th, 2011 at 4:01 PM ^

Run I can buy. Some of our play action passes were his best throws though. And I don't have season stats, but against ND we threw more TDs, and we didn't turn the ball over more. Not saying the I is better. Just that you can't really back up that everything is worse.


September 25th, 2011 at 12:01 PM ^

Even if Denard never becomes proficient from the I, it makes sense to give the rest of the team a chance to gain experience for the future with Gardner and Morris


September 25th, 2011 at 12:17 PM ^

I thought that the I was somewhat more successful yesterday than it's been.  We'll have to wait for the UFR (or someone else with access to the tape and a lot of time) to be sure, but that was my impression.


September 25th, 2011 at 1:56 PM ^

Leaving aside the pointlessly inflammatory nature of your staement, I'm pretty damn sure that this coaching staff is MORE stubborn than Rich Rod's.

Had RR stubbornly clung to Shafer (and let him run a defense) after his first year instead of panicing, he and the team would probably have been better off.

I think Hoke & staff are supremely confident (at this point at least), and they are more than willing to be stubborn about the decisions they've made.  The team respects this, and so far the coachs are pretty rock solid walking the walk.

Wait, you didn't actually mean to suggest the laughable argument that Nick Sheridan was somehow going to be Tom Brady reborn if RR hadn't installed a spead offense were you?

That horse was beaten to dust 2 years before you joined.


September 25th, 2011 at 2:44 PM ^

I'm not sure what Hoke's staff has done to demonstrate "stubbornness," but regarding RR, I don't agree at all with the Shafer example.  Shafer was an outsider, not part of the WVU staff.  He was brought in when the preferred inside candidate (Casteel) wouldn't come.  By midseason, RR decided that the insiders (Tall and Gibson) would win out over the outsider, Shafer.  I don't see that as an example of flexibility.  When you revert back to your old ways at the first sign of trouble, that's a pretty stubborn thing to do.  Keeping Shafer onboard - and telling the postiion coaches to shut up and accept him - would have been the flexible thing. 


September 25th, 2011 at 5:38 PM ^

What is it about Hoke running a large number of spread plays for Denard strikes you as "stubborn"?  Hoke and Co. are bending their preferred offense to fit the talent available.  Stubborn (aka "RichRodesque") would be lining up under center and handing off to the RB play after play after play.  If "stubborn", Hoke would've run that cloud of dust through a loss to EMU and continued it throughout the season before complaining that he needs "his players" to win.

Solar Bob

September 25th, 2011 at 12:24 PM ^

If you can't move the ball on eastern out of the I, no one is going to panic trying to prepare for it.  Look at the game yesterday.  Michigan ran primarily out of the shotgun until they were up by three touchdowns, and after SDSU scored, they went back to the shotgun for the 4th TD.   If they can get more than 2 ypc out of the I and if Denard can make effective throws out of the I, then we might start seeing more of it.  


September 25th, 2011 at 12:37 PM ^

are we gonna ever see them?

It's kinda disapointing how Shaw was projected (competing again Fitz and hopkinds) to be the starting RB before the season started and i dont remember seeing him at all yesterday.

and how is evans eligibility issue going?


September 25th, 2011 at 12:50 PM ^

People don't want to say it because they are SO emotionally attached to the kid, but Denard's horrendous accuracy is on Denard. It's not the evil I-form's fault.

Independent of the formations, routes or protection, he is currently inducing a lot of cringe on throws that the vast majority of college football quarterbacks don't have much trouble with.

I just have to believe he is having more problems with gameday nerves than he has in the past. There is no way he got the A-1 no-questions-asked starting position if that was how his passing looked in practice.




Nick Sparks

September 25th, 2011 at 1:47 PM ^

I rarely ever post, but I'm so sick of the "Denard can't throw" crowd around here I gave in to my worse judgement.

This is the first time Denard has ever been coached on being a pro-style passer. Relatively speaking, I think he's doing a great job.

Also, Borges and his staff, who have a bit more experience at coaching qb's than the folks on this board, believe that he has all the potential in the world to be a solid pro-style passer.

To all those saying, "Denard's arm sux", please stop acting like you have any idea what you're talking about.

Edit: Not that either of you did that, this just seemed like as good a place as any to express these feelings


September 25th, 2011 at 2:35 PM ^

Beat me to it. "He's doing a great job." I mean, what do you even say to that? And those stats are actually kind. His completion percentage on passes at least five yards beyond the LOS has to be much lower and even a lot of the completions look shaky.

Listen, I'm never going to rip into Denard or any of our players like they are pro athletes. I know he is trying hard in spite of his struggles and I hope he gets over them soon. But to not only whitewash those struggles but insist he's doing a great job in the offense is the kind of soccer mom "A for Effort!" crap I don't think anybody needs around here.


Nick Sparks

September 25th, 2011 at 3:13 PM ^

Relative to anyone doing anything for the first time, pitted against the very best at a given activity for a given age range.

I could be wrong, but it would appear that every other coach Denard's ever had has said, who gives a shit about his throwing motion, it's good enough given his legs. Borges is the first coach not doing that.

Have you ever tried to change your throwing motion (with footwork), or your basketball shot, or your golf swing? How long did it take you to become competent with your new motion after breaking down what you've done for most of your life?

Now let's say that while you were working on changing said motion, you were also competing against division one athletes?

Tiger Woods got to lay low and not compete in majors while he reworked his stroke, (Tiger Woods jokes most applicable) - he wasn't facing top-tier competion and scrutinized by a national audience while he did it.

All due respect Magnus, as I've enjoyed your posts on the board for quite some time, but I think you should listen to coaches who have more experience developing nfl level qbs than you and exercise a bit more patience before declaring Denard's arm to be a bust.


September 25th, 2011 at 3:30 PM ^

Well, as soon as I see a coach suggest that he CAN indeed play quarterback in the NFL, then I'll just assume that his arm is a detriment to him and the team right now.  But I'm not suggesting that he should play another position, so I'm not exactly calling him a bust.  All I'm saying is that the majority of the evidence so far suggests that he's not a capable passer.  I believe he's thrown 25 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in his career so far.

By the way, I have changed my basketball shot and my pitching motion...and while I'm still not a great shooter and never turned into a great pitcher, it wasn't an extremely difficult task.  Those things CAN be changed at his age.

(I'm not suggesting that Denard doesn't want to change.  I have no idea how much his coaches want him to change, whether they work on it much, how much he believes he can play QB at the next level, etc.)

Nick Sparks

September 25th, 2011 at 3:48 PM ^

"Well, as soon as I see a coach suggest that he CAN indeed play quarterback in the NFL, then I'll just assume that his arm is a detriment to him and the team right now."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but according to the above statement, you feel that if a college qb isn't NFL caliber than his arm is necessarily a detriment to him and the team.

I'm pretty sure there are college qbs who no coach ever suggested "CAN indeed play QB in the NFL" whose arms weren't detriments.


"All I'm saying is that the majority of the evidence so far suggests that he's not a capable passer."

I agree on the evidence so far part, but a little suspicious of this being all you were trying to say.

You seem to imply that you also believe he's not going to improve much, based on what I would agree is compelling evidence. I seem to imply he will improve, based on what I stated above and the glimmer of capable passing he's shown when he does set his feet.

Who's right? No one knows. 

I just felt you were holding your point a bit firmly because you made that assumption about his passing in your scouting repots years ago and some part of you (like every human being) wants to be proven right.

Similarly, I'm holding on to my point a bit firmly because I'm a Michigan homer.



September 26th, 2011 at 8:21 AM ^

You are mostly correct.  If a quarterback in the Big Ten isn't an NFL-caliber quarterback, he probably won't be successful in college.  There's too much talent in the Big Ten for mediocre quarterbacks to be good.  Now there are going to be exceptions for teams that run a great deal of option (Nebraska, Northwestern, etc.) or teams who hand off the ball 50 times a game (Wisconsin).  Right now you'd be lying if you said that Denard's poor accuracy and decision making weren't hurting this team.  His legs have made up for some of those deficiencies, but he won't hold up carrying the ball 20 times a game and at some point, a team (Nebraska, Ohio State, someone) is going to dominate us up front and he's going to have to beat somebody with his arm.  He hasn't really shown he can do that yet.

You're correct that I want my "scouting report" to be right, but I would also be thrilled if he turned into a solid passer and became the best quarterback in the history of college football.  Imagine a kid who could run for 200 yards a game and still be an awesome throwing quarterback.  He would be unstoppable!  Unfortunately, that's just not the reality...and some people saw that coming years ago.  That's why only a couple teams offered him as a quarterback, and that's why he's completed less than 50% of his passes in all but one season since high school.


September 25th, 2011 at 2:27 PM ^

If his arm is what it is (and this is it), we are screwed.

I just can't believe this is the real him. As a passer right now, he reminds me of a tragically slumping hitter in baseball, where the ball (in Denard's case, the passing window) looks increasingly smaller as the confidence level continues to dip.



September 25th, 2011 at 6:05 PM ^

His arm is fine.  It's his head that's the issue at this point.  

There is a lot for him to absorb under fire in the new system.  You can almost see the wheels turning when he steps back to pass, he is not natural at this point.  

When the light goes on and he picks it up he will be fine.  When will that be?  Unfortunately, it may not be until after this season, similar to how he improved from 2009 to 2010.


September 25th, 2011 at 2:39 PM ^

So your explanation for the fact that Denard has clearly regressed as a passer from last year to this is that "he has more gameday nerves than he has in the past." I mean, really?? Which is a more likely explanation for his regression from decent (not claiming good or very good) passer last year to poor passer this year? Your explanation of "nerves" or the simple fact that 1- he is making reads that he never was asked to make last year, 2- his receivers are running routes and making adjustments that are different from the last two years, and 3- he is being asked to read more progessions, make different decisions and use different footwork due to this year's passing scheme and I-Form? I  mean really? Why do some people not see that there is only one explanation that makes sense for his regression, going into the year that most QB's make their greatest improvement?


September 25th, 2011 at 2:52 PM ^

Which add to new coordinator and new passing scheme. Would you like more? As a coach, you know full well that his passing scheme is totally different, along with what is asked of Denard. That is the only variable that is different. Another example: every press conference includes talk about Denard's footwork. How often was that a topic last year? Yet you and others simply say Denard has always been always inaccurate. What is your explanation for his clear regression just when he should be improving? He's just regressed and that's that?