Scout analysis on Denard, with Comments from Henne and Griese

Submitted by maizenbluenc on June 6th, 2011 at 11:15 AM

An interesting read on Denard and what it takes in the transition from the spread on Scout.

I think I have read Brian Griese's comments somewhere before, but this bit:

The benefit is if they develop that running game and give him an opportunity to hand the ball off more, they’ll throw the ball from the pocket with the linebackers and safeties reacting to a real running game.  Then they can have the naked game off of that, where he has run/pass options.  He has plenty of talent to throw the football to.  You could see guys wide open in that kind of an offense because did you fake the ball or did you give it?  The linebackers have got to make that read.  ‘If he keeps the ball, we’ve got to get back into pass coverage to defend the pass.’  But the third aspect of it is, okay, they did a good job on the run and they did a good job on the pass, so now I’m just going to tuck it and run it myself.  That is a dynamic that in that offense as a third read can be so dangerous.

is how I was feeling last year: basically if we had a viable run threat other than Denard, then the three way level of uncertainty that a defense would have to account for, would undo them. (i.e., they wouldn't just have to defend against Denard)

The article says we'll have to be patient in the transition, but both Chad and Brian think Denard will get through it (albeit Chad hasn't met Denard personally). This is in line with my feeling that next year is Denard's year for serious Heisman contention.



June 6th, 2011 at 11:23 AM ^

I don't think he'll contend for the Heisman because the time it will take to adapt to the new system. That and the fact that he struggles throwing the ball with touch and reading coverages. His passing stats won't be high enough to contend with others that will have very high td to pick ratios. But if he can win games I won't complain.


June 6th, 2011 at 3:04 PM ^

however, if you "prorate" based on offensive styles, Denard's numbers will become much closer to Tebow's in terms of passing. Notwithstanding a lesser passing ability, of course.

But that wasn't my point I guess. Tim Tebow as compared to, say, Sam Bradford, Matt Leinart, or any recent "primarily pass" QB Heisman winner, is not an exceptional passer. My point being, a QB does not HAVE to be a prolific passer to win the Heisman. He needs to be an outstanding player who stands above the rest in his abilities. THAT is something Denard is very capable of doing.

Louie C

June 6th, 2011 at 8:28 PM ^

He also needs to be a winning QB. History shows that vast majority of Heisman winners were on teams that were NC contenders. If we had a double digit win season last year, he would have been a finalist at the very least.


June 7th, 2011 at 10:27 AM ^

The year Tim Tebow won the Heisman, Florida was only 9-3 before we took them down in the Capitol One Bowl. Double digit win column not required, either.

Florida was out the of NC discussion before half that season was even done. Two consecutive losses to LSU and Auburn killed that.


June 6th, 2011 at 11:30 AM ^

I hope people are ready to support Denard even when he looks all-too-human... I won't be surprised if Michigan struggles to crack thirty points against Western in the first game.


June 6th, 2011 at 11:32 AM ^

Although I don't forsee him having the similar numbers to last year I wouldn't be shocked to see him in the heisman debate again. All he has to have is that 1 huge play a game with his legs and be descent throwing the ball and hes in that discussion. I've got to believe Borges is going to put him in situations to be sucessful and if he does, watch out.


June 6th, 2011 at 11:37 AM ^

I don't understand where all this Heisman talk is coming from.

You're talking about one of the - if not THE - greatest running quarterbacks in the history of college football, and you're putting him [more of a] pro-style offense.  His production is bound to go down, and he's going to have a rough transition period.

Denard's Heisman hopes are gone.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but 2010 was his best chance.  He might still be a decent quarterback and have good games once in awhile, but he's not going to be the country's most dominant player.


June 6th, 2011 at 11:52 AM ^

I sort of agree, and at the same time hope you are wrong Magnus. Remember a year and a half ago, when the debate was moving Denard to slot, because we were underwhelmed with his Freshman performances?

Yes, he will struggle this year (probably have too many interceptions, and less running yardage). That said, he ground out an amazing progression between Freshman and Sophomore year. That showed me he can learn a system, and is driven to compete for the job. I realize that almost all spread QBs have struggled in this transition, and the odds are way against him. I am hopeful he surprises, and is Michael Vick (less the off field issues of course), not Pat White or Troy Smith (less those off field issues as well).

I would seem that Denard is a fighter, so we'll see.


June 6th, 2011 at 11:56 AM ^

As I said above, I expect him to struggle this year too.  I also think that Heisman talk for next year is likely misguided.  I am holding out a small flicker of hope that Borges comes up with some as-yet-unseen fusion offense that takes advantage of Denard's talents more than a typical pro-style attack would. 


June 6th, 2011 at 12:17 PM ^

Magnus, your various absolute statements are misplaced. You agree that he is amazingly talented, right? Then wait and see what he does with a bit of time. I know that Denard is A. incredibly talented B. willing to learn C. has a ridiculous work ethic. Regardless of system, a player with those attributes will always have a chance to be special.

Saying that he will "have good games once in a while" is selling him wayyyy short. I'm not saying he's going to be senior year Vince Young, but give the kid some credit.


June 6th, 2011 at 12:44 PM ^

Yes, he is amazingly talented . . . at running the ball.  He's not a very good thrower.  Players tend to make the biggest leap between their freshman and sophomore years, which means that he won't necessarily make a big gain from now until the time he's a senior.

Robinson was successful last year because Rodriguez used him as a running back.  He rarely ran the zone read option (Rodriguez's staple) because he made poor reads.  He didn't do a good job of throwing the ball downfield or in the middle of the field, which is why he threw all kinds of bubble screens and hitches.

If he contends for the Heisman this year, feel free to rub these statements in my face.


June 6th, 2011 at 3:30 PM ^

VY also had much better physical tools and better receivers around him. Denard can't put a variety of touches on the ball, but VY learned to do so. He was also five inches taller, making it that much easier to find someone while standing in the pocket.

I think Borges is going to adapt his offense enough to put Denard in contention, but those expecting Denard to make Vince Young type strides are dreaming.


June 6th, 2011 at 1:16 PM ^

Magnus, I actually agree with your comments about his poor reads and his limitations (so far) with respect to throwing the ball.  My one point of disagreement is with your statement that "Players tend to make the biggest leap between their freshman and sophomore years, which means that he won't necessarily make a big gain from now until the time he's a senior."

For all practical purposes, last year was Denard's freshman year.  I know he played a few snaps in 2009, but he didn't even know much of the play book.  He could be in for another big leap once he gets all of the new technique.


June 6th, 2011 at 1:28 PM ^

I beg to differ.  For all practical purposes, last year was Denard's sophomore year.  Just because he "didn't even know much of the play book" or didn't start doesn't mean that his freshman year was any different than any other freshman.  In fact, he played MORE than most true freshman quarterbacks do, so he should have been MORE prepared for the college game in 2010.  Most freshman quarterbacks redshirt or see a couple snaps in garbage time.  He played in every game (or almost every game) in 2009.

He was a freshman and, in general, freshmen aren't very good.  They're still sophomores the next year.


June 6th, 2011 at 12:44 PM ^

Riiiight, Magnus.

For everyone out there dismissing DR's Heisman chances, I'd like to remind you that Denard's not even halfway through his starts at Michigan.  No need to go all negative Nancy on us.

It's not like Hoke's planning on tying Denard's shoes or anything...


June 6th, 2011 at 1:14 PM ^

If our coaching staff doesn't put in the right plays for our best player something is wrong. Denard is not Henne , Brady etc. He is a dual threat qb and they need to be more creative for his talents.

If pro style isn't working I really hope Hoke and company at least try the spread for some parts of the game to ease the transition if we are struggling against Western or anyone.


June 6th, 2011 at 11:42 AM ^

Michigan really hasn't had a game breaking running back since 2007 and even that one (Mike Hart) was too slow and easily dragged down from behind.  Michigan is loaded at RB this fall, but I don't know that Michigan has someone who just explodes and is suddenly in the secondary.  Someone has to emerge there.

But if Michigan ever finds a really dangerous back or set of backs, they could be a really dangerous team with Denard's many options.


June 6th, 2011 at 11:42 AM ^

I feel like it's always those guys that can both run and pass that are almost impossible to defend.  They can drop back in a passing situation and the defense has to defend for the pass, but if nothing's there they can tuck it and run.  That is so difficult to defend.  That is why Michael Vick, Troy Smith, Cam Newton, etc. are almost impossible to defend.


June 6th, 2011 at 11:49 AM ^

but that doesn't mean he can't be a great QB.  Winning the Heisman is the end-all, be-all.  I'll take a B1G Championship this season and a MNC next season.

Don't under-estimate Denard's threat of running for the passing game.  He can freeze LBs and safeties with one step or a head fake.  If Borges teaches that properly and DR executes, the middle of the field could be open a lot for medium length passes. 

If Denard works as hard on his passing skills this off season as he did last offseason, I thnk we will all be pleasantly surprised.  I, for one, have faith in DR and coaches to utilize the skills on the field to be successful right away.

If the tenacity these coaches have for recruiting is an indication, they will put together a strong gameplan and give this team the best chance to win that they can.


June 6th, 2011 at 11:56 AM ^

Agreed.  And as was stated, if they can get a good running game going then he should hopefully just have to hit open targets most of the time.  He proved he could last year, obviously needed a little work on the deep ball but he'll get that.  Also- developing the mentality that scrambling for yards is a good thing will help him too.  Last year he was reluctant to scramble unless it was a designed run but if he can scramble when he drops back for a pass he should be deadly again this year.  I happen to think the running game will be WAY better this year- Hoke obviously has a commitment to it and I think we have some backs that will flourish in this system.


June 6th, 2011 at 12:00 PM ^

*Maybe not Heisman Trophy "deadly"- but I happen to think a Heisman trophy is the cherry on top of a great season anyway and it's not really something you go into a season gunning for.  If you're in contention for a title, chances are you'll get some Heisman looks.  Even if Denard maintained his pace last year and ended with Heisman caliber numbers I think it still would've been tough for him to have beaten out Cam Newton seeing as Auburn was undefeated.