How to better use Denard

Submitted by rbgoblue on September 28th, 2009 at 1:34 AM

I recently posted this under a different topic, but think that it might merit a thread of its own. What do you think? Can this work?

The spread is all about putting your best athletes on the field and letting them make people miss in space. Denard is, without a doubt, our most dangerous player with the ball in his hands (tho Brown has given him a run for his money the last 2 weeks). He can make anyone miss, and can take it to the house at any time. I think we must see more from him in the coming weeks. No point keeping your most dangerous weapon on the bench 70% of the game.

My personal thoughts on how Denard could be used to better exploit defenses. Line him up in the slot 10 plays a game(I see this as his eventual position after Devin Gardner arrives on campus). Still let him have his snaps. Still let him learn the QB position. However, when you put him behind center, defenses are crowding the box and basically selling out 8 defenders on 1 di-lithium qb. Instead, consider putting him in the slot and run the triple option.

1) If the defense commits multiple defenders to Denard, the RB has a clear cut numbers advantage running away from Denard's side of the field. I will take this all day. Denard the Decoy.
2) If the defense plays straight, let Tate keep it and swing it out to Denard who is 1 on 1 in space. Engage rockets for liftoff. Touchdown!

At QB, Denard has 8 defenders on him and a lot of traffic to navigate through. Out in space, he has a 1 on 1 matchup with a DB. One cut and he's gone. Defenses will have to adjust by committing more attention to Denard, enhancing our success in the running game through option 1.

Does anyone know where this breaks down? ND put a DB permanently on the slot. This should open better running room for Tate. Scrape Counterpunch anyone?



September 28th, 2009 at 1:43 AM ^

I'll reply the same way I did in your previous thread:

rb, I like the idea, but I'm still concerned with using DR as a wide receiver for 2 reasons:

1) He's a QB and (historically) has little to no hands. Taking a chance and throwing to Robinson in the hopes that he'll catch it AND have the awareness to know where he is in space in comparison to his defender is not one that would warrant a high % of success (or a TD at least).

2) There is always the chance that Tate (who is still a freshman and vulnerable to "Oh No! Freshman!" moments) leaves Denard hanging out there Kurt Warner style with a lofty pass and he gets tagged hardcore by one of the Big Ten's hulking LBs or a DB. Now you've got Sheridan as 2nd on your depth chart and one less playmaker to use on the field.

I'm not trying to destroy the idea. As I said, I would love to see Robinson make fools out of chumps in the opposing secondary, but the risks outweigh the benefits IME.


September 28th, 2009 at 2:05 AM ^

Very fair criticism, and I appreciate the feedback. My response:

1a) The hands thing I have no idea on. I dont know if there has been evidence to suggest if he has good or bad hands. If I recall correctly, Florida wanted to use him as a DB or a slot. DB means he probably had poor hands. Slot means there might be something there.

1b) From what I have seen, Denard has an uncanny awareness of where defenders are in relation to him. Like some great RBs, he seems to feel when there is pressure behind him, and sidestep tackles from all angles. Whether this translates from a QB running the ball to a WR catching it, I dont know.

2a) As an injury concern, I would be more worried about Denard getting planted by a DL or LB navingating through the trenches than him getting clocked by a DB.

2b) I am fine reserving Denard in a specialized receiving role until we have established QB Depth. As I stated above, I believe this type of role is where we will see him 2 years from now after DG arrives on campus (and hopefully red shirts). It just kills me to see someone so dangerous watching the game from the bench.


September 28th, 2009 at 10:18 AM ^

I agree that he doesn't need to be converted to a WR, at least not yet, but for different reasons. He is absolutely dangerous when he has the ball in his hands and is rushing, but not passing. His passer ratting is 45.33, he is 4 for 11 with 2 picks. And as everyone probably knows his 3 TDs came on runs.

It is blatantly obvious he is better rusher than passer. Whenever he is getting the snap it is to a RB. If your going to snap to a RB why not take full advantage of it and use a wildcat formation. Gain that extra man advantage by putting Tate out as a WR and make the defense account for him. You could even use sheridan out there. UM has the RB depth to do this and Oline to execute it. Am I totally off base with this? because it seems like a no brainer to me.


September 28th, 2009 at 1:46 AM ^

would stop.

Look Denard is a tremendous athlete with special skills and ability. He's also our ONLY viable backup QB. QB is the only position he should see untill UM has adequete depth to use him elsewhere. Thats at least a year away.

I wouldn't be shocked if Michigan had a package or two when he lines up at slot for a reverse or something....but I would cringe at the thought of putting that much risk on the only player suitable to run this offense outside of Tate Forcier.

In short, lets get through this season before we start turning him in Percy Harvin. Its simply not worth the overall risk to the season


September 28th, 2009 at 1:57 AM ^

Denard is averaging 6.2 YPC as a QB. Even if opponents are keying on the run, they haven't been effective at stopping him. Why do we need to use him any better than that?


September 28th, 2009 at 2:08 AM ^

My main point was that even as a decoy, with 2 touches a game he would demand defensive attention, drawing defenders away from the running lanes on the opposite side of the field, creating mismatches for Brown and Minor.

Why not use him better if you can? He averages 0 yards when he is sitting on the bench watching Tate direct the offense. I want Denard to continue getting his snaps at QB too.


September 28th, 2009 at 9:28 AM ^

So do you think we could just 'put him in the slot' and he would magically know what to do? Learning a new position takes time. As it is right now, he is drinking from a fire hydrant learning the QB position. Your idea is moronic, especially with Tate questionable for next weekend.


September 28th, 2009 at 3:04 AM ^

Rather than a slot receiver, I'd like to see Denard lined up next to Tate as a RB. Imagine a zone read where Tate has the option to run it, throw it, or hand off to Denard. Hell, you could even give Denard the option to throw it as well.

I believe that gets Denard on the field and handoffs are easier to take than catches. Also, he wouldn't take any shots harder than when he's a QB scrambling around (unlike a slot WR).

With a hand off and Tate going one way and Denard the other...some beautiful chaos could ensue.


September 28th, 2009 at 8:43 AM ^

I don't like the idea of lining him up as a RB and running a read option. With defenses committing their DE to crash the RB everytime, we'd be merely setting Denard up to take a crushing blow. Minor and Brown can absorb those better than Denard, and we have far better depth at RB than QB.

Denard needs to be protected because Tate is obviously fragile and hurting. Denard is the only thing keeping Sheridan off the field when Tate gets dinged up.


September 28th, 2009 at 3:43 AM ^

Put DR in the slot and run a bubble screen to him 2-3 times. Then, hit them with the double pass... food for thought.

But yeah I agree it is just too big of a risk having your only competent backup QB running across the middle.

Brother Mouzone

September 28th, 2009 at 8:51 AM ^

If our kicker were a great athlete, would you put him in the backfield or in at slot?

Risk/reward ratio too high, also the kicker probably came to kick.

Denard is a great FRESHMAN talent. The more he learns about HIS position the more we will benefit from that talent.

I understand the excitement about what he may be able to do - Let him do it at QB when he's ready.


September 28th, 2009 at 8:32 AM ^

Michigan does not have enough QB depth to mess around with putting Robinson at other positions. He needs to spend every waking moment (that he's not studying) mastering the QB position.

Once he is a dependable downfield passing threat, the running game will open up for him. It is actually much better to have him in a position where he could pass the ball, than as a RB or WR, where he could do only one thing.

I suspect that Rodriguez will want to redshirt the two QBs that are coming in next year, so you'll probably see Robinson as a QB until at least 2011. If it becomes apparent that he's never going to be more than a backup, then perhaps they'll start figuring out different ways to get him into the offense. But for now he simply has to be a QB.


September 28th, 2009 at 8:32 AM ^

I mean, Tate's health status going into the MSU game is, IME, the most convincing reason why Denard shouldn't be used in this fashion - he's our 2nd quarterback. Tate may not be able to go Saturday. I don't think we'd prefer for Robinson to slow his learning process at the QB position - where we clearly need him - to learn slot/RB/whatever. It's entirely possible that he plays the vast majority of the snaps at QB Saturday - that's why he needs to be left to be NOTHING but a Quarterback right now - so he is best prepared to do that when we need him.

OP, I realize you're not advocating a full withdrawal of Robinson from QB, but many others have. I think people need to realize that Rodriguez has clearly not given up on the thought of Robinson being a starting Quarterback in this offense. He told the announcing team last week that right now, Robinson is where Tate was in the fall - he clearly thinks Robinson has the skills to be a starting QB in this offense, and he's going to train Robinson until he reaches that goal, or proves him wrong.


September 28th, 2009 at 9:23 AM ^

I, personally, really like our "two-headed monster" at QB. Yes, due to depth right now, it's imperative that Denard stays at QB only. He showed, this weekend, with his throw downfield to Koger, that he has some passing skills. As those skills develop, he'll become a more rounded quarterback, and our "two-headed monster" will become a combo of Drew Brees (small guy, great accuracy) and Pat White (Jr./Sr. year). Unlike other two-QB systems, where it's usually obvious that the "other guy" is coming to run 95% of the time (Leak/Tebow), defenses will not be able to assume DRob is coming in to just run, like it pretty much was against Western and ND. This could be a nightmarish scenario for opposing teams to prepare for.

Maybe I've been drinking too much MGoKoolaid. We don't know what the future holds. Injuries happen. But if Tate and Denard both stay reasonably healthy, we could be in for one of the greatest 4-year rides Michigan Football has ever had. Remember, these guys are just FRESHMAN! Potential for this tandem for the next four years is CRAZY! This offense is going to be a lot of fun to watch! Go Blue!


September 28th, 2009 at 9:34 AM ^

Why rush it? Denard will be here for four years. No reason to go for broke by making him learn two or three other things besides being our QB. He'll have time for that next spring or the one after that if need be.


September 28th, 2009 at 9:37 AM ^

I think you will see him "best served" by the extra snaps he will get with the first team.

Denard is getting better every week. Please remember that he hasn't been on campus very long, and that the playbook takes a little bit of time to learn. I think his TD drive in the first half might turn out to be extremely important, considering that he may be THE QB up in EL this week.

It sounds like people are writing him off as a QB already, simply because he is eight months behind Forcier. That would be wrong. Hopefully, though, coaches and players up in EL are making the same mistake this week.


September 28th, 2009 at 9:42 AM ^

The problem with Denard so far is that teams are lining up at the LOS assuming HE'S going to run the ball. But if there were truly options, such as the option-read, or pitch outs to RBs, the defenses at least won't focus on him. I'm not saying he should be in the wildcat, but if he runs just as often as Minor and Brown, then that takes away the predictability. You won't know who's running.

As far as the pass, deep throws and over the middle throws should be out of the question now given his early development. He needs sure hands such as Matthews and Koger. These are guys who can wrestle a ball that's not necessarily thrown accurately. Throwing to those guys would at least provide him with confidence to go deep in the long run.