Is the Rodriguez offense evolving?

Is the Rodriguez offense evolving?

May 7, 2009

Michigan message boards have been roaring lately about the commitment of Drew Dileo, a lightly recruited slot receiver from Louisiana. Nine months before signing day 2010, Michigan fans are wondering why Rich Rodriguez would offer – let alone accept a commitment from – a player whose next best offers come from Stanford and Northwestern. Fellow Michigan commits Antonio Kinard and Tony Drake still don’t have any FBS offers besides Michigan.

Watching these message boards flutter with activity about Dileo, I began to wonder what Rodriguez might have in store for Michigan’s offense. My mind took a not-so-huge intellectual leap from Rodriguez’s spread offense to those of his good friend Urban Meyer at Florida and Mike Leach at Texas Tech.

Looking at Meyer’s roster for 2009, I made an interesting (to me) discovery:

Going into the 2009 season, Florida has only two scholarship running backs (Chris Rainey and Emmanuel Moody) on the roster. Fellow “backfield mates” Jeff Demps and Brandon James are both listed as “athletes” on their official roster, and both are 5’8″ or smaller and about 185 lbs. The class of 2009 adds only Mike Gillislee to the running back stable, which means a total of three designated running backs. Meanwhile, Florida has nine scholarship receivers and one incoming (Andre Debose) to give them a total of 10 receivers.

In 2008, Florida threw the ball 329 times (37.7%) and ran the ball 545 times (62.3%).

Meanwhile, Texas Tech has 15 returning scholarship receivers and four freshmen joining the team in 2009 to give them a total of 19 receivers. They threw the ball 465 times (59.5%) and ran the ball 317 times (40.5%).

Both are spread offenses, but they’re vastly different.

Michigan currently has eight receivers. Two will graduate after this season, but four are incoming this year and six more will arive in 2010. Hypothetically, this gives Michigan a total of 16 scholarship receivers for three spots on the field in 2010 (assuming no position changes, for sanity’s sake):

Cameron Gordon, Je’ron Stokes, Jeremy Gallon, Teric Jones, Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, Jerald Robinson, D.J. Williamson, Tony Drake, Junior Hemingway, Martavious Odoms, Terrance Robinson, Roy Roundtree, James Rogers, Darryl Stonum

With the entrance of Tate Forcier to the fold (a polished passer with a slight build), I think it’s safe to say that Rodriguez’s offense might be evolving into a pass-first spread. I sincerely doubt it will turn into Texas Tech and their standard of four- and five-wide sets, but I think it’s clear that he’s trying to develop the depth at the wide receiver position to throw the ball at will. Not only does a bloated number of receivers increase the chances of finding impact players at the position, but it allows the coaches to rotate players in and keep them fresh for running downfield and blocking. I would not be surprised to see more sets with four wide receivers in the next two or three years, but I think three will remain the norm.

I’m excited to see what the Michigan offense will look like in the next couple years. I’m fairly certain that Michigan’s offense will not replicate that of West Virginia circa 2005-2008. Forcier and, arguably, 2010 recruit Devin Gardner are better passers than Pat White was coming out of high school. Therefore, It would seem counterintuitive for Rodriguez to bring in an accurate, polished quarterback and 16 receivers to run the ball 60% of the time like Meyer is doing in Florida. Once Rodriguez gets his offense going at Michigan, I would expect that the Wolverines will be throwing the ball 50 to 55% of the time.


  1. Comments: 21379
    May 08, 2009 at 1:15 AM

    Solid, insightful post.

  2. Comments: 21379
    May 08, 2009 at 2:02 AM


  3. Comments: 21379
    May 08, 2009 at 1:45 PM

    that is a very likely prediction and it would be awesome

  4. Comments: 21379
    May 08, 2009 at 4:12 PM

    This might also imply guys like Percy Harvin who are wr’s but spend some time in the backfield as well…?

  5. Comments: 21379
    May 08, 2009 at 8:56 PM

    Wow very interesting, limiting the hits the QB takes makes much sense. WV had big probs when PW was hurt.

  6. Comments: 21379
    May 09, 2009 at 12:27 PM

    Excellent analysis. Now that you have brought this to light it seems quite obvious. Bodes well for the exciting RR Offense of the future – and the future is NOW!
    You are moving to a new level in the hierarchy of blogs that are required reading for Michigan Football addicts. Thank you.

  7. Comments: 21379
    May 09, 2009 at 4:50 PM

    Thanks, Jerry. I appreciate the compliment.

  8. Comments: 21379
    May 11, 2009 at 2:38 AM

    the thing that skews uf’s running numbers is that they have a fullback at qb who runs their option read and “qb dive” plays…and when they get close its either 3 qb isos or 2 and a jump pass…

  9. Comments: 21379
    May 11, 2009 at 4:06 AM

    It’s possible, but I still see them running the ball more than passing, as is consistent with Rodriguez’s history. It is important to the success of the offense that the passing game be a threat so that the defense has to defend every area of the field. Neither Sheridan or Threet could pass the ball accurately with consistency so defenses could commit more players to defending the run. Hopefully, Forcier/Robinson/Gardner can utilize these receivers, which will open up holes for the run game as the defense has to spread thin. Go Blue!

  10. Comments: 21379
    May 11, 2009 at 2:00 PM

    For what it’s worth, Texas Tech plays the way they do because they can’t outrecruit the big boys for major league talent. They use a gimmick offense because they have no options.

    Is that what Michigan’s offense is to become?

  11. Comments: 21379
    May 11, 2009 at 3:27 PM

    @Anonymous (10 am):

    Texas Tech’s offense works. Who cares if it’s gimmicky?

    And remember: Stoops hired Leach (as OC). That started Oklahoma’s evolution to its current offense. Is OU’s offense gimmicky?

  12. Comments: 21379
    dancing spoons
    May 11, 2009 at 3:42 PM

    rich will have the fastest team in the b10
    soon,comparable to any sec team as of late,
    not to mention the talent.He will use whatever his talent and speed will alow,on offense.
    DEFENSE is key, lets not forget,i hope rich understands this now.

  13. Comments: 21379
    May 11, 2009 at 7:37 PM

    Living in Big 12 country I would agree and dis-agree with previous comments. Texas Tech does have to do something outside the box because they can’t recruit with the big boys in the conference. Thus, their offense (which I wouldn’t call a gimmick offense) is built around putting pressure on the the defense to cover receivers all over the field, nearly every play. Question is can you run the ball when you really need to? RR’s offense will make the rest of the B10 react, that’s for sure.

  14. Comments: 21379
    May 11, 2009 at 7:50 PM

    Have to admit Thunder, this is a good write up.

  15. Comments: 21379
    May 11, 2009 at 9:19 PM

    @ Anonymous at 12:06 a.m.

    It depends on what part of Rodriguez’s history you inspect. When he was at Tulane, Shaun King had 363 and 364 pass attempts in those two years. That averages out to about 30 pass attempts a game, which is a decent number.

  16. Comments: 21379
    May 11, 2009 at 9:21 PM

    @ Anonymous at 10:00 a.m.

    You asked if Michigan’s offense is going to turn into Texas Tech’s. In the post above, I said I don’t think so. TT passed the ball 60% of the time. I think Michigan is aiming to throw it just over 50% for a pretty balanced attack.

  17. Comments: 21379
    May 11, 2009 at 9:21 PM

    @ Anonymous at 3:50 p.m.


  18. Comments: 21379
    May 17, 2009 at 6:16 AM

    With the best Running back crop maybe in the entire NCAA, im pretty sure they will run about 55-60% of the time, but after this year when all 17 recievers come in the ball will be flying

  19. Comments: 21379
    May 17, 2009 at 10:55 PM

    Yeah, I don’t think we’ll be pass-happy this year. It just makes sense to run the ball with a freshman QB and lots of experience on the OL and in the backfield. But in the next few years, I think things will change.

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