Why Michigan is better this year

Submitted by Blazefire on September 14th, 2010 at 8:18 AM
Why is Michigan better this year than last year? And no, I don't mean because of any one player's amazing ability or development, exactly. No, I mean it's because our coach is finally molding this team into what it is supposed to be, and how it is supposed to work. Tate Forcier's touchdown run versus ND was a thing of beauty, yes? We will love it forever. And the reason it was so beautiful is because it was probably the closest we came to a Zone Read all last year. Tate goes to hand off, sees the defense slanting towards the hand off and pulls it out. Now, this is not a Zone Read, I don't believe, but it has some of the same basic principles. Once pulled out, Tate has some options of what to do with it. And it works. Now watch the rest of that video. Obvious passing drops, scrambling everywhere, directing traffic. These are great things to behold, but they are NOT our offense, and when we got to the cream of the crop, they fell flat. Now watch this. Yes, friends, Denard Robinson is truly awesome, but if we were still in last year's offense, he would be awesome in a very Tate Forcier way. Nothing wrong with that. Forcier rocks my socks. But if you want to put up blindingly huge numbers and leave our opponents as smoking ruins on the field, then you owe gratitude to just one man.



September 14th, 2010 at 8:32 AM ^

...don't you know that RichRod has it easy because he has DRob?  All he has to do now is sit back and watch the fireworks. No coaching is involved in the team's success whatsoever.


September 14th, 2010 at 8:47 AM ^

Some conventional wisdom also held that his success at West Virginia was based solely on the presence of Pat White.  Just a stupid hillbilly that lucked out.  WTF?

I wonder if Purdue's hillbilly will be treated as unfairly if he has success?

J. Lichty

September 14th, 2010 at 10:05 AM ^

RR just drools on the sideline while Robinson runs around in a game of sandlot football.

Of course Tressel never had to apologize for Troy Smith.  Mack Brown never had to apologize for Vince Young nor Les Miles for Jamarcus Russell.  They got credit for being great coaches.

RR will never credit for his success, but certainly not until there is a more "balanced" win over a quality opponent.

That is what was so refreshing about the Rittenberg article in the sidebar.  He acknowledges that Robinson's success is not improvisation, but what this offense is designed to do.

Flying Dutchman

September 14th, 2010 at 8:32 AM ^

Oh Blazefire, you rascal.   You're my favorite MGoPoster, by far, and from the looks of it, a lot of people agree with me.

Why Michigan is better this year?   Experience.  Practice (within the allowable hours, of course).   Maturity.   And yet another healthy dose of Moxie.    And because this is what Rich Rodriguez does, and he loves it.    And Speeeeeeeeeeeeed.

Keep bein' Blazefire, baby.


September 14th, 2010 at 8:35 AM ^

I agree.  The difference in our offense this year so far has been execution, thanks in large part to the play of the offensive line. (pun intended)

If Forcier had this kind of blocking last year, a few things might have been different.


September 14th, 2010 at 8:42 AM ^

But then I remembered that this team is just as good as last year's, as they were both 2-0 after two games.

I'm not trying to downplay their success, because this team's victories are awesome and I am so stoked about Michigan football and I love Denard and OMG, but I want to win a couple of Big Ten games this year before I say this team is that much better.


September 14th, 2010 at 9:01 AM ^

this is the lifeblood of RR's offense--big, mobile OL's able to get to the 2nd and 3rd levels; WR that can block and run flares and slants as well as the occasional long route; and a mobile QB that can also distribute the ball when the D gives him the openings. I can't stand the people saying its just one player doing it all. The blocks DR is getting from the OL, WR, and Shaw/Smith have been crucial to him breaking all those long runs

Maize and Blue…

September 14th, 2010 at 9:23 AM ^

if Tate and Molk don't get injured.  For good measure, lets add in the almost always injured senior RBs who were expected to take pressure off of the inexperienced QBs.  Then there's that third D coordinator in three years thing.  Tay and Jr. both spent time out w/ injuries.  Absolutely no depth on the defensive side of the ball. Don't forget the general youth and inexperience of the team which is still there this season, but is getting better.

RR has run many different variations of the spread as an OC and HC.  Led the nation in passing w/ Shawn King @ Tulane, balanced w/ Woody Danzler @ Clemson, and the Pat White version @ WVU.  I think this version will end up being a mix of the last two as DRob seems to be a Pat White type with much better passing skills (at least so far this year).


September 14th, 2010 at 4:09 PM ^

Everyone seems to forget that Minor had a big game against ND. We don't win that game without him.  Unfortunately, he didn't play much down the stretch (save Purdue) - and we didn't win.  This offense needs a top-notch running threat to thrive.  (Actually, that can be said of most offenses.)  We can win with Tate in there if he's got a great tailback to hand off to.  If we don't, we need Denard. 


September 14th, 2010 at 10:24 AM ^

I agree with the general sentiment that Denard is better at running the Zone Read than Tate and that is a major component of RR's offense, but the differences between the two teams are so significant that it is hard to say that it is just a Denard-for-Tate swap. 

As others have noted, Tate basically had Greg Mathews and a late-emerging Roundtree as WRs, no RBs who could stay healthy, and a patchwork offensive line that, while better than 2008, was still light-years behind this line.  Then it lost Molk, probably the most consistent performer as well as its leader at center, midway through the year. 

After two games last year, Tate had a little over 400 yards passing and a 5:1 TD:INT ratio, another 100 yards on the ground and a TD, and looked pretty good doing it.  In fact, Tate had accounted for more TDs overall compared to Denard (6 to 5), though clearly Denard has added a wrinkle to the offense that Tate simply could not provide.

I think Denard has been a revelation at QB and is the best fit for this system right now.  But at the same time, he still has work to do throwing the ball vertically against good coverage, and running 20+ times as a QB is a recipe for a breakdown while also minimizing the growth of your RB core.  Tate was a very good starter last year, and while I am still high on Denard, let's not get too carried away attaching last season's struggles, or this year's improvement, on the QB.


September 14th, 2010 at 11:01 AM ^

Forcier was great before his multiple injuries, and he basically had the keys to a VW last year while Denard has the keys to a Ferrari this year.  That being said, I agree a hundred percent with one of the statements in the Denard 2.0 article; if the opposing team has to treat the QB as a runner, the matchup is 11 on 11 instead of 11 vs 10 favoring the defense.  When the QB is quick and savvy enough to "read" one player out of the play, it's now 11 vs 10 in favor of the offense. 

It certainly appears that RR would prefer the "elite athlete at QB" version of his offense over the standard version.  It also appears that it works a lot better that way.  But I think a healthy, one year older Forcier could do a great job running this offense, too. 

Either way, it's a great "problem" to have.


September 14th, 2010 at 12:30 PM ^

I almost forgot how fast Forcier was. The problem is that forcier wasn't fast enough to be a huge threat against good defenses, while denard is.


September 14th, 2010 at 8:19 PM ^

Oh that is very much the case. But for some reason I had got it into my head that he almost wasn't very mobile...after watching that i remember that he still way ahead of threet/sheridan with mobility.....but denard is light years above them all with mobility. 


September 14th, 2010 at 4:13 PM ^

Everyone is gaga over Denard, and rightly so. 

But....isn't Richrod the king maker?

Remember, he made Pat White something special, too.

Denard would not be nearly as successful in any other system.  RichRod's coaching has made him the hero.  And I think RR is very happy to have his quarterback get all the glory. 

Well done, RR.


September 14th, 2010 at 8:23 PM ^

We ran the ZRO a ton of times last year, though never with Denard.  The play Tate scored on was not a ZRO.  It actually wasn't even supposed to be a run play.  It was a rollout pass and Tate improvised when he saw no one in the deep middle.

Here's what the ZRO is.  First, the "zone" part refers to the blocking scheme.  The offensive linemen block anyone in a given area, as opposed to blocking a specific defender.  In this particular case, by design they do not block one of the two defensive ends.    

At the beginning of the play, the QB and RB stand next to each other and the QB appears to be making a handoff - but he is watching the unblocked defensive end to see where he goes (the "read").  If the DE takes a step inside, the QB will pull the ball away and run outside himself.  If the DE takes a step outside, the QB will complete the handoff to the RB, who runs inside.  Hence the "option."

We ran the ZRO multiple times during our final drive in regulation against MSU.  It was basically the only running play that worked that day.  Overall, though, it didn't work that well with Tate.  Denard is better at getting that step around the corner.