tailback questions for 2010 / pass game wishlist & predictions.

Submitted by griesecheeks on December 29th, 2009 at 8:07 AM

so, a couple of questions for all you guys, and then some ideas/thoughts for next season.

(1) What's the consensus in these parts on Mike Shaw as a go-to guy in the run game? I know he's shown some flashes in his first 2 seasons, but he's also looked a bit fragile and careless at times. With Vince Smith's knee injury and unknown timeline for recovery, it would seem Shaw's the guy for now.

(2) Who else do we expect to vie for playing time next fall? Mike Cox? Fitz Toussaint? Who else? Any of these guys have particular hype or immediate impact-potential?

(3) have we heard any hype/intel on the progress or potential impact of Je'Ron Stokes? Did he work as a slot or outside guy in practice?

(4) I know we've beaten this horse well into the ground, but what the hell do we do w/ denard?

=> I'll address this last question first with an idea... With a lot of unproven guys fighting for playing time in the backfield, I see D-Rob continuing to make a lot of appearances in the running game, whether it be as a 'wildcat' QB or on the field w/ Tate. We KNOW Denard can gain yards on the ground, even when the defense expects it, and he's our top returning rusher. With all the talk about how to handle the QB situation, it's funny to me that, IMO, nothing will change in how these guys are rotated in and out. Unless Denard magically connects his brain to his arm, he's not beating out Tate as the starting QB. On the other hand, unless Shaw has a monster off-season or Vince recovers unusually quickly, Denard will easily be our best returning run threat. In short, I think Rich has eeked out another year of dangling the QB carrot in front of Denard's nose before a real decision has to be made. This isn't to say that i think Denard won't be more effective. I could see him producing 1000 yards between running, throwing and maybe even receiving/returning.

=> IMO, this spring is the time for Rich Rod to get the pass game online. He's got a solid returning thrower in Tate, a 3rd year burner in Stonum who still has a lot of unrealized potential, a dependable minion slot guy in Odoms, a 3rd year receiving tight end in Koger, and the hot handed Roy Roundtree. These guys are going to have to produce early and often next year while we figure out who's going to step up in the running game. It's pretty exciting, actually, and I can only hope Rich really tries to build a scheme around the abilities of all these guys. I'm looking for a 50+ catch season from Roundtree, which you wouldn't think would be a stretch considering that's less than 5 catches a game.

some (potentially wishful) predictions:

*Tate shows some improvement, is handed the keys a little more often (especially early in the season), and throws for around 2500 yards, 21 TDs, 14 ints. he wins us a couple of games, and loses a couple as well.

*Denard, Shaw and Vince rush for nearly identical amounts of yardage (400-500 yards)

*Roundtree grabs 50+ balls for 600-800 yards and 6-8 touchdowns.

*Stonum has a breakthrough of sorts, catching 30-40 balls at over 15 ypc.

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I actually think we are on the cusp of an explosive offensive year that should be enough to comfortably get us into the bowl season. Turnovers and the defense will keep us out of BCS contention, however.

Comments

goody

December 29th, 2009 at 8:49 AM ^

--> V. Smith showed the last few games that he should be the starting RB next year. But that being said, all the other RB should see a considerable amount of carries. With Shaw and Fitz acting as big play backs and Cox (or maybe even Hopkins) being the teams short yardage back.

--> With Denard, it depends alot on Gardner and Denard's work this off-season. Does Gardner enroll early and how quick does he understand the offense? But also, can Denard make huge strides on understanding the offense and becoming a more mature passer. Denard is a great athlete and deserves his shot at QB but every player wants to get on the field and if that's at slot/rb position than he probably will except that.

Best Case Scenario:

- V. Smith is healthy and becomes a lesser but faster version of Mike Hart. Shaw becomes a big play back and Cox is a short yardage tank.

- Denard makes huge strides this offseason and solidifies his spot as the back-up because Tate has also improved enough to be the unquestioned leader of this offense. Gardner becomes the emergency QB and ends up redshirting next year.

Bryantdet

December 29th, 2009 at 8:56 AM ^

D-Rob is our most explosive player and the X-factor in this equation. He is also one of the most talented guys in the country. Sooner or later he will have to make a move to a flanker/rb/slot type. It should not be hard to sell him on the idea because his only chance of playing on Sundays hinges on him being able to play those positions. I would also like to see him become active in the return game. This development, combined with the natural progresion of Tate and the boys, will lead to Michigan being one of the most dangerous teams in the country!!!

ImSoBlue

December 29th, 2009 at 9:09 AM ^

The coaches say he is a quarterback, but to everyone else, he seems to be a Percy Harvin type. With our slot already staffed with very good, potentially great players, and pending that Devon Gardener shows up uninjured, I actually would love to see what he could do as a DB.

You didn't mention TEs in the passing game, but I still think Kroger could be a beast. He needs to hang on to the ball. Failing that, move him to DE.

BTW, Thanks for not using the phrase "SNAKE OIL" anywhere in your post.

Bryantdet

December 29th, 2009 at 12:09 PM ^

I know that Florida recruited him to be a DB. I have also read a lot of post on this subject. Fact is, he is the most dangerous ball carrier on the team and he could potentialy extend that "best of label" to the Big 10 and possibly the country.

I believe that he would succeed at DB but he can achieve greatness on the other side of the ball. He would also be one hell of a return man.

trueblue1997

December 29th, 2009 at 9:19 AM ^

they have disapointed me so far. shaw has been nothing special, while koger got off to a good start last year, he couldn't hold on to any passes down the stretch. stonum should be our next big play returner.

msoccer10

December 29th, 2009 at 9:59 AM ^

I have been singing his praises ever since I saw his highlight film from high school. If Smith is not 100% healed by the fall, I expect him to be our best running back next year. I like Shaw's potential, but I don't know if he will ever be healthy enough or "get it". I don't see Cox as being anything other than situational.

jbibiza

December 29th, 2009 at 10:50 AM ^

1) Shaw is the number one SB by default with V. Smith out. We would all love to see him live up to the potential that he has fleetingly displayed and to have him turn that blazing speed upfield early and often. However, he has not as yet shown the all-important vision/instinct to hit the hole at the right time.... and the clock is ticking. On the plus side he has exhibited great athleticism as a receiver out of the backfield.
2) Fitz Toussaint is the wild card. I think that he has all of the tools to become a great running back and am very anxious to see if that translates into game performance. If he runs like I think he can then the others will have to stand in line for PT.
Mike Cox looks like a career backup. I would not be surprised to see Teric Jones moved back to his natural position at running back. He is tough with good size (5'9" but 190+) and has a great burst. If these options fail to excite and V. Smith is slow to recover, then the freshmen White or Hopkins will be given a shot. I still see Drake as a running back, but with the need to redshirt (if he qualifies).
3) Stokes is a wideout and I expect him to get alot of PT this year. I hope that they did not waste his redshirt or can have it reinstated; he is a solid talent. I also see Roundtree moving outside with Tay and Gallon manning the slot. Ricardo may also get PT on the outside.
4) Denard remains our second QB option and I agree with your entire analysis of his situation. Even if DG comes in early I would still hope that he can redshirt to learn the system and improve his technique; not to mention giving him one more year of distance from Tate's eligibility. That said I fully expect D-Rob to be much better at making his reads both in the running and passing game. If that comes to pass then we will have the perfect Wildcat QB (one with a real passing option)and he could get up to 30% of the snaps.
I'll pass on individual predictions. Just give me 9 wins and some solid defense any which way that you can.

AC1997

December 29th, 2009 at 11:19 AM ^

Here are my thoughts on this topic:

(1) I'm really down on Shaw. I've seen nothing that impresses me so far. I think he's fast but has no moves, instincts, or power. Obviously he's the default starter for now, but I'm not optimistic that he'll ever turn out to be anything special. I think it is Smith's job when he comes back and you're going to see a new face get a lot of carries.

(2) I've heard a lot of good things about Mike Cox the past two years, but he was buried last year even with all of the injuries to the other guys. We'll see. I think the one benefit of Smith's injury is that the coaches can spend all spring giving everyone else an equal chance. I don't see Teric Jones moving back or if he does he'll never have an impact with all the other guys in front of him.

(3) My preferred starting lineup for the receiving game would be Koger (TE), Odoms (Slot), Roundtree (Outside), and then Hemmingway/Stonum (Outside). I realize that Roundtree has mostly played slot, but I think he's good enough to run deep/medium routes from the outside. I see Stokes being the top back-up and getting a chance to compete for reps since Roundtree is versatile and neither Stonum or Hemmingway have distinguished themselves.

(4) I think Denard is still going to essentially be a QB next year. But I do think he's going to be used as a RB option in a slash type of role. I think this is the critical challenge for the coaches next year - finding a way to use Denard effectively. I think he was mostly useless this season except when he turned his first broken play into a TD or in his one good drive against Iowa. How can they get him into the game as a weapon without disrupting the flow of the offense or without telegraphing to the defense what he's going to do?

StephenRKass

December 29th, 2009 at 11:55 AM ^

It's all speculation. However, the ball is in Denard's court. I think that Denard needs to hear from someone strong enough to tell him he won't make it as QB at the highest level.

The other issue is backup protection for Tate. For the good of the team, the coaches either need to resign themselves to burning Gardner's redshirt, and moving DR now, or they need to give Gardner a redshirt next year, and keep DR out of a full RB/WR role, so as to preserve his health as the No. 1 backup.

jblaze

December 29th, 2009 at 12:01 PM ^

but I don't think we have seen enough of Denard at QB to say that he cannot make it (he did come in the Summer, and threw the ball like 10 times).

Thankfully, Michigan has enough QBs in the NFL to at least talk to Denard about his chances of playing QB in the NFL, after seeing him practice/ scrimmage.

Bryantdet

December 29th, 2009 at 12:22 PM ^

That Michigan offense will be at it's best when the two best offensive players (tate,d-rob) are on the field together on a consistent basis. Sooner or later D-Rob will have to make a switch.

I am also interested in seeing how the coaching staff deals with this situation. Do you drive your offense in 6th gear and jepordize DG's red shirt (injury to tate) or do you keep D-Rob as your security blanket and give him sperodic carries until Gardner is a r.frosh?? My hunch is that it will take care of itself during spring ball.

JC3

December 29th, 2009 at 12:07 PM ^

Another interesting note at the running back position - Kelvin Grady will be playing there in the spring. He's wanted to try his hand there and with the depth at slot, he's getting a chance to play his natural position. It will be interesting to see how he does, Grady was a hell of a back in high school.

jbibiza

December 29th, 2009 at 12:18 PM ^

Another piece to the puzzle of how to improve our depth at RB. Grady did not impress me as tough enough to be a solid tailback, but perhaps after a year of Barwis and football mentality he will surprise us. Still counting on Fitz to be the man with V. Smith as the other option when he returns to full strength.