Michigan vs. Illinois Awards

Michigan vs. Illinois Awards


November 14, 2011
Ryan Van Bergen (#53) was a force to be reckoned with all night.
(image via MGoBlue.com)



Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Martavious Odoms.  Odoms was struggling to see the field earlier in the year, partly because he was recovering from a broken bone in his forearm.  It was frustrating to see a key player from the past few seasons end his career by barely seeing the field.  Luckily, that trend appears to be ending.  He got what seemed to be the most playing time of the season against the Illini, when he had 2 receptions for 46 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown reception from Devin Gardner to go up 24-7.  Odoms was also wide open in the endzone early in the game, but Denard Robinson overthrew him.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . umm . . . Denard Robinson at quarterback.  Bring on the anger.  Robinson has clearly regressed this season, and I’m not going to blame it entirely on offensive coordinator Al Borges.  Borges hasn’t made the same playcalls that allowed Robinson to put up good numbers last season, but much of that is on Robinson’s shoulders, too.  He was unable to hit wide open receivers early in the year, and his inability to hit the deep ball has been extremely maddening.  I described Robinson last year as “wildly accurate” because of his throws that would be catchable but wouldn’t allow receivers to run after the catch.  There was another fine example on Saturday evening when Robinson hit tight end Kevin Koger down the left sideline, and Koger was so wide open that he had time to stop, catch the ball, get started again . . . and get dragged down at the 2-yard line.  If that’s even a decent throw, it’s an easy touchdown.  Devin Gardner at least deserves a prolonged look if Robinson isn’t getting it done, because Robinson is turnover-prone and his rushing has been disappointing for the last several weeks.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Thomas Gordon.  Gordon has been a turnover machine with 1 interception, 4 fumble recoveries, and 2 forced fumbles on the season.  He’s also the team’s second-leading tackler, despite coming off the bench for the past two games.  Meanwhile, senior Troy Woolfolk has been inserted at safety despite clearly being unhealthy; Woolfolk has yet to create a turnover in his career.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . Troy Woolfolk.  This is obvious, considering the above paragraph.  Woolfolk is hurting the team by playing such significant minutes.  I wish he would have been allowed to get healthier earlier in the season, but he wasn’t.  It’s pretty apparent that he won’t be healthy during the regular season, although hopefully he can get his body right by the bowl game.

Play of the game . . . Jordan Kovacs’ forced fumble and Gordon’s recovery.  Illinois had just stopped Michigan on the goal line and had some emotional momentum.  Running back Jason Ford popped free for 8 yards up the middle when Kovacs put his facemask on the ball, which fell to the ground while Gordon jumped on it.  If it hadn’t been obvious previously, it seemed to me right there that this day just wasn’t going to go well for the Illini.

MVP of the game . . . Ryan Van Bergen.  The defensive tackle/end had 7 tackles, 3 tackles for loss (for 28 yards), and 2.5 sacks.  Mike Martin (9 tackles, 1/2 a sack) would be a decent choice, and so would Fitzgerald Toussaint (27 carries, 192 yards, 1 touchdown).  But on a night when Illinois couldn’t do anything consistently on defense, in large part because quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was under pressure, I have to give it to the guy who took him to the ground a few times.

48 comments

  1. Comments: 21628
    Rob Pollard
    Nov 14, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    I think your (understandable) disappointment in how the QB position has performed this year has clouded you to the fact: if not Denard, who? Devin Gardner, who is 11-22 (50%) and has also thrown his share of WTF passes and fumbled the ball multiple times? And except for one game (Minn) he hasn't run the ball well at all either (19 rushes for 54 yards).

    This suggests that this is on Borges. Both QBs look unsure of what they are supposed to be doing. Borges has taken the Big 10 Offensive player of the year and had his stats to drop, sometimes dramatically, in every category and taken the #1 QB recruit from two years ago (who in theory, should be a good, if not perfect, fit for a pro set offense) and made him mediocre, at best.

    Dwelling on the QB this much is a waste of time this year. They just didn't figure it out this off-season and hopefully some big plays w/ few turnovers on offense, along with some good defense against some blah offensive opponents, can carry us through against Neb and OSU. Hopefully with another off-season, Borges and co. can figure it out.

  2. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    @ Rob Pollard 8:22 a.m.

    Like I said, I think Gardner deserves a look. I'm not saying Denard shoould be benched and never see the light of day again. But without getting starter's reps, Devin has completed a slightly lower percentage of passes (50% compared to 52%) and has an equal TD-to-INT ratio (1:1). Devin hasn't lit the world on fire, but he's been just about on par with Denard when it comes to moving the ball. I have always thought that Gardner was better suited to a pro-style offense than the spread option that Rodriguez ran, so it comes as no surprise to me that he's not tearing it up on the ground. He's elusive and big/strong enough to break a tackle here or there, but he's not Vince Young.

    Devin is only a sophomore (redshirt freshman?) whose playing time has been severely limited up to this point, so I don't think Borges has "made him mediocre, at best." This is what young quarterbacks look like.

  3. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    Rob how has he made Devin mediocre at best? We have seen nothing from him to make us believe he is above average at this point. Yes he has great potential but potential is only one piece of the pie.

    This is exactly why I want a QB in this class. We really don't know if Gardner is going to pan out to be what we think he will be. And if he doesn't then everything rides on the shoulders of RS SOPH Bellomy or Freshman Morris after next year.

    I know Michigan fans think Morris is Steve Young combined with Brady and Montana with some Manning sprinkled in on top just because you can and its free at the QB buffet, but damn, QB is too important of a position to not have depth. See US the past 3 years and tOSU this year.

  4. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    Many years ago while coaching kid basketball, we had a kid that could just flat out play. Because we were geniuses and also because we were sincerely interested in teaching a little basketball, we put in a little motion offense designed to get this kid some shots.

    It worked great except the kid missed shot after open shot and was just killing us missing.

    We couldn't figure it out until my buddy asked the kid some questions about "Where do you like to shoot from?

    Turned out the kid could shoot it from any spot within his range, what he couldn't do was shoot from a right hand dribble even though he was right handed. Our offense mostly ran counter clockwise (right handed genius coaches) and although the kid was right handed, his body liked stabbing the floor off his left foot, lifting off with his right and picking up the ball and shooting off a left hand dribble.

    We continued to practice shooting going right but we also reversed our little deal so the kid was mostly getting his looks going left.

    Simple. He started killing people other than us.

    I like Borgis a lot and think he's the real deal, but at least for the next three games, if I were him I'd be asking Denard what he likes to do best.

  5. Comments: 21628
    guanxi
    Nov 14, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    We're scoring over 30 points per game, so whatever Borges is doing, it's working pretty well.

    Devin Gardner is young and has barely played. Nobody knows (besides the coaches) how good he is. Let's be careful of picking off our own guys in the crossfire, as you try to make arguments for your favorite player.

    It's a good thing DG got playing time earlier this year, or what would we have done in the 2nd half?

  6. Comments: 21628
    Rob Pollard
    Nov 14, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    Thunder, when I say "made mediocre" I am talking about this year. I certainly agree a young QB typically looks rough, but it's not beyond the pale to expect a 2nd-year QB to look better than Devin has in this offense, which should fit his skill set reasonably well. I'm not saying he should be Tajh Boyd (another 2nd-year player in a new offense), but he should be better than this. He looks indecisive as runner and a passer, and Borges and co. did not get him the necessary reps in games like EMU or Minn, which is inexplicable. Against Neb. or OSU is not the time, unless absolutely necessary, to see how he can do for a quarter or two. Devin already was unimpressive against MSU and Iowa, Michigan's two toughest opponents so far (besides ND, whom he didn't play against).

    That's why I think, at this point, "seeing less of Denard" is a waste of time – Borges had the opportunity to develop an alternative for this year and didn't. At 10 games in, it's too late. Even this year's version of Denard gives us the best chance to win.

    William – see above re Devin. Re depth at QB – I agree, but my guess is that when you have a 5-star like Morris, it will be challenging to get another very good QB one class earlier.

  7. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    @ guanxi 10:04 a.m.

    I still wish Gardner had played more against EMU. It seemed pretty silly that Denard carried the ball so much in that game and stayed in it so long.

  8. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    @ Rob Pollard 10:09 a.m.

    I somewhat disagree that Gardner should look better. He changed offenses (just like Denard) and hasn't received starter's reps either last year or this year. I mean, there are a couple things he should do better (such as taking the sack against MSU, stuff like that), but I think his lack of decisiveness in the passing and running areas are somewhat an experience issue.

    I can see your point that "it's too late" to switch QB's at this point in the year. I mean, it's not an easy decision to make, and not every coach would make it. But if Denard goes into the Nebraska game and stinks up the joint for 2 or 3 quarters, then I think it's reasonable to give the backup a shot.

  9. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    @ William 9:23 a.m.

    I completely agree that Michigan should try to take a QB in this class, whether he's a blue-chipper or not. Michigan has taken a QB in 14 straight classes, and it seems odd that they would choose this year to break that trend – a year in which no quarterback has really established himself as a future star. I do think that Gardner will be good in another year or two, but he's far from a certainty.

  10. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Nov 14, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    Look, I get the thought that "Devin deserves a look." But now? With two games against Nebraska and OSU when he hasn't been that impressive himself in limited action?

    Further – while it's easy to separate "Denard the passer" from "Denard the runner" for purposes of the blog analysis – Denard the runner's effectiveness comes from the fact that the two are one in the same. Fitz the runner's effectiveness also comes from Denard the runner/passer's threat, in a way that "Denard the Jet Sweep guy" does not.

  11. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    I believe the following assertions/assumptions to be incorrect about Devin Gardner: a) he is young and b) he is a good fit for pro-style.

    To me, Gardner's a Vince Young clone and also reminiscent of Terrell Pryor. He looks like Young, he throws like Young, he plays like Young. He seems to have a better head on his shoulders, luckily. Point is: both Pryor and Young were terrible fits for pro style offenses. If Gardner is similar to those guys (and I've seen nothing to tell me he isn't) he will be as well.

    As for him being young… Devin is only a year younger than Denard. Didn't Devin also enroll early? More importantly, they've had equal time under Borges. Yes, Denard has more in-game experience obviously, but he clearly won the job and earned those snaps. This isn't an age/experience thing, it's a 'qualified to do the job' thing.

    @Thunder

    The segment about Denard, after the initial call to, at least partially, bench him (which, LOL), has nothing that I take issue with. Even though I don't fully agree, the statements made are fair. I think your points are better made without adding a bunch of dubious stats.

    As for starting Gardner – even if you make the debatable case that Gardner is just as good at passing, Denard clearly is the superior runner, even after a few bad weeks. Yet you say he's "on par with Denard when it comes to moving the ball". All stats I've seen say otherwise. Did you mean to say through the air or do you think QB running is worthless?

    @William

    I agree. We need a QB recruit, especially if the coaches are going to keep moving the offense towards pro-style. Neither Gardner nor Morris are sure things. Can't take the chance. I'd rather have a 3rd or 4th option at QB than a 5th or 6th option at RB. He doesn't have to be a blue-chipper.

  12. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 6:13 PM

    Isn't it nice to have so many choices for MVP!

    Martin and RVB both put up huge lines. So did Fitz. Floyd, Morgan, and a bunch of others seemed to do good things and not mess up much. Great to see so many people play well.

  13. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 6:16 PM

    For the record. I support Devin getting some series here and there, if the situation permits it. I think Denard can handle it. I do think Devin has a different (though similar) skill set to Denard. I'd like to see him run a different set of plays to keep the defense on guard. I also think he puts better touch on the ball. I'm working on the hypothesis that he might be a better red-zone QB than Denard.

  14. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Nov 14, 2011 at 6:28 PM

    I agree with Thunder and disagree with all the Devin bashers. I think Denard is a GREAT athlete but as far as a QB he is sub-par. His inaccuracy on deep balls, erratic throwing, at times poor decision making (throwing into major coverage hoping that your receiver beats out the three other players from the opposing team), has continued throughout the season. All the talk about "well, he is changing to a new system….he does not have good receivers" is baloney. You are either an accurate passer or your are not. Many supporters are quick to say "Denard is the only reason why we are 8-2". First of all, Denard is not the ONLY reason why we are 8-2. The much improved D under Mattison is a major factor why we are 8-2. I can't praise the D enough. Even in the losses to MSU and Iowa, the D actually kept us in the game. These were not blowouts like last year. Second of all, we should be lucky that we are 8-2 given Denard's INTs/fumbles. His interception late in the MSU game was the icing on the cake for MSU's victory. A few games which we should have won handily, we eeked out, because of costly turnovers. Don't get me wrong, (A) I think Denard is a terrific kid (his love for Michigan and the game of football is obvious) and (B) he is a terrific ATHLETE and has definitely contributed in helping Michigan win, but he is also a liability as a quarterback (see MSU game). Echoing Thunder, I am not saying he should be axed/replaced, but I would not mind seeing Devin getting a bit more playing time. For all those Devin haters, citing stats (See Pollard above "Devin Gardner, who is 11-22 (50%) and has also thrown his share of WTF passes and fumbled the ball multiple times?"), those numbers are statistically not significant. The dude has had like a total of, I don't know, five minutes of play time in the past two years. How can you legitimately evaluate the in-game potential of a player based on a few minutes here and a few minutes there over the course of a few games? Citing those stats in support of an argument to limit Devin's playing time is the opposite of intelligent, I am sorry. Devin is a superb athlete (Remember, he was the #1 or #2 dual threat QB coming out of high school). He clearly has a big presence in the pocket. He is pretty accurate on his deep throws and he can run. He may not be as fast as Denard, and take off for 50 yards, but he is pretty mobile. As for his "poor decisions" and "WTF passes", what do you expect? The guy has taken very few in-game snaps. He has very little in-game experience, which is exactly why he should be getting more. Average wise, Denard has a lot more "WTF passes" than Denard, if you want to use statistics. Honestly, I am a little surprised that Devin has not transferred, and would not be surprised if he decides to at some point in the future. He is a solid athlete warming the bench. He seems like a bright kid, and Michigan to him is most likely much more than football, which is why he is sticking around, but if his goal to develop as a player, and potentially go to the NFL, he needs to start getting a lot more in-game experience. If Denard sticks around for another year or two, I am not sure if Devin will get that opportunity. I think he certainly deserves it.

  15. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    @Anon 1:28

    Good point about sample sizes wrt Gardner. However, all stats aside, the bigger issue is that Denard's won the QB job over the last two seasons, with 2 different coaching staffs. That there's a pretty firm reason to think Denard's the better QB.

  16. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 7:47 PM

    I totally agree with Woolfork not starting. Woolfork is ok to have back there if we are playing a speed passing team but these next two weeks we play NO passing game at all. Gordon is much better against the run and thats why we has to play the next two weeks.

  17. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    @ Lankownia 1:11 p.m.

    So…you're arguing that Devin ISN'T young? He played in a few games back in 2010, but was done playing in time to at least plausibly preserve a redshirt. Regardless, he played only against BGSU, Notre Dame (for like one snap), and UConn (for a few snaps). That's not a great deal of experience. Meanwhile, Denard played in every single game in 2009 and has now started 23 games in a row at QB. That's 35 games of experience (23 as a starter) for Denard and about 8 games of experence (0 as a starter) for Devin. Experience/age comparisons do not apply.

    Denard has been moving the ball just fine…it's just that he sometimes moves the ball for the other team. He's had 13 interceptions (on pace to tie the all-time Michigan record) and several fumbles lost. Denard is the better runner and perhaps slightly quicker at making decisions, but he's also very careless with the football.

  18. Comments: 21628
    Aaron
    Nov 14, 2011 at 8:15 PM

    Devin made the two key passes to clinch that game: 20 yard pass on 3rd and 7 to setup the FG to get to 17 pts (winning margin) and the 27 yard TD pass on 3rd and very long to get to 24 pts (feeling comfortable). If either of those passes had been incomplete, it would have been 4th and long from about the 25–probable result, missed FG. We would have been sitting at 14-7. I don't have much faith that Denard would have completed those passes. But, I agree that it is mostly too late. We need Denard as a decoy and/or picking up big yards. This off-season and spring game will be interesting…

  19. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 8:53 PM

    Denard arrived on campus in August of 2009; Devin in January of 2010. Denard arrived 4 months earlier. During those 4 months, he ran 69 times and had all of 31 pass attempts in 12 games played. Gardner already has more in his first 8 games. Those 2009 games (many of which Gardner attended, standing only a few feet away from Denard's usual position on the bench) are the extent of the difference. As a passer, Denard had a 31 attempt head-start – in a Rich Rodriguez offense no less, where even the OC admits QBs don't really grow in some traditional respects.

    Since January 2010, the two have been given equal opportunity, equal exposure to the playbook, equal workouts, etc. They even live together. Especially considering the new system, new coaches, new playbook – the difference in experience is not very significant.

    In-game experience is not the only factor. Pretending so is being obstinate. By that logic, Desmond Morgan is 'older' than some 5th year seniors who haven't played much (e.g., Brandon Herron). JB Fitzgerald, Mike Cox, Terrence Robinson and Elliot Mealer aren't young because they're backups. Neither are Mike Jones or Isiah Bell. These guys ARE inexperienced, but it's only because they've been beaten out. That's ability, not youth.

    Devin's been on campus for almost 2 years while Denard's been on campus for just over 2 years. Their age and class difference is a year. One's in his 3rd season and the other in his 2nd.

    How does the phrase go? "The most popular player on the team is the backup QB." So true.

  20. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 9:02 PM

    @ Lankownia 3:53 p.m.

    It's funny that you use the word "obstinate" in your post, because you're clearly familiar with that word. You know – and everyone else does, too – that a redshirt freshman/true sophomore quarterback with zero starts and only about eight games of mop-up duty is a "young" player. I apologize for not using the word "inexperienced" but those two words are essentially interchangeable.

    Denard is an upperclassman who has started 23 straight games. Devin is an underclassman who has started zero. The difference in game experience – not to mention practice snaps – is stark. I'm not going to argue that any further.

    Besides that, you're clearly misconstruing what I'm saying here, which is not a surprise. I stressed above that I'm not calling for Denard to be benched and never see the field. I'm calling for Devin to see the field if and when Denard isn't getting the job done. That doesn't mean Devin is "the most popular player on the team"; it means the most popular player on the team isn't getting the job done.

    If putting Denard in the "Let's see this guy less…" category somehow makes Devin the most popular guy on the team, then there are about 24 "most popular guys on the team" because I go through this exercise every single week. By your rationale, Martavious Odoms and Thomas Gordon are also "the most popular guy on the team" since they're both mentioned in the post as guys I want to see on the field more.

    Stop blowing things out of proportion.

  21. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 9:30 PM

    A partial benching is still a benching. Unless you want to see more of the jet-sweep package, it means Denard sitting on the bench more than he is now, and I think you've criticized that package as well. I don't think when you say "lets see less of" one guy and called for a "prolonged look" at the backup, that calling it a benching is an exaggeration. To me that doesn't have to mean the entire game.

    I didn't necessarily mean you when I said the "most popular" thing. A lot of fans seem to be clamoring for Gardner and a lot of people are criticizing Denard. I don't think he's the most popular player within the over-attentive blogosphere – that honor goes to Fitz on offense, I think. Anyway, it's a general quote, not one I originated. I could have said 'the grass is always greener' too. It seems to me that people are seeing what they want to see in Gardner and focusing on Denard's weaknesses.

    I recognize that Denard has more experience. A year is a year after all, but the difference in expectations is out of whack. It seems to me, you're saying "It's OK, he's young and this is a new offense for Devin" while for Denard you're very critical and almost never mention the new playbook, weekly changes, or his lack of experience in a new system. It would have been nice if Denard could have afforded the luxury of a red-shirt or even a pseudo-red-shirt.

    I won't lie – I like both of these guys a lot. As players and as people (from the bits I read about). I think they're struggling to fit in an offense that doesn't suit them. I wouldn't fault either one (or both) for transferring after the season, but I hope neither one does.

  22. Comments: 21628
    BML
    Nov 14, 2011 at 9:32 PM

    I'm probably a Keep Denard at QB guy when it comes down to it, in that I believe there IS a system in which his skills can be effective from the QB position – he was able to move the ball last year in every game except OSU and the bowl. (And even then he ran for 100 yards v. OSU and had 300 yards of offense w/two TDs and only one INT against Miss St.) As MGoBrian is fond of pointing out, we didn't lose to MSU and Wisconsin because the offense wasn't moving the ball. I also think he'll be better next year as he continues to work, Borges gets a better read on his skills, and Stonum and hopefully a blue-chip freshman bolster the receving corps. To me, his inaccuracy would be tolerable if the system exploited his running as much as possible–and if someone could get into his head to stop heaving the ball in the air 500-style on every third down. That's on him, not the system (see his third interception gainst State last year, or his horrendous INT against Purdue, for which he got pulled).

    That all said, it's not like the defense would be ignoring him if he were getting 15-20 touches a game on jet sweeps, handoffs, short passes, and some QB packages. He'd still be drawing attention and opening things up for Devin throwing and Fitz running out of the tailback spot, right?

  23. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Nov 14, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    @ Lankownia. Based on the statements made by the coaches, it seems that Devin is actually not that far off from Denard in terms of his ability to start. No offense to you Lankwnia and to Mike Cox, but to compare a 5-star QB – the No. 1 rated high school quarterback in the United States by Rivals.com, No. 4 quarterback nationally by Scout.com, and the No. 5 quarterback by ESPNU – to Cox, a 3-star recruit with offers from Maryland, Duke, UConn, and BC (in addition to Michigan), is silly. Devin clearly has great talent and upside. Not saying Mike Cox does/did not, but when you have all the experts across the board in agreement about a recruit, the talent/ability is usually there.

    Speaking of recruiting experts, Denard was given a 4-star ranking by Rivals but as an athlete. Most recruiting gurus were in agreement that Denard would not be a great QB at the college level and most pegged him at the receiver spot. Quite frankly, they were all right because Denard is not a great QB. He is not even a good QB. He is, dare I say it, a bad QB. 52.4% completion rating, 13 INTs, 7 fumbles…enough said. Don't get me wrong, he is a great athlete but not a great QB. He is very fast, he can be electric, and has pretty good instincts running the ball against so so defenses (Against good/decent defenses not so much…. MSU 18 att 42 yds 2.3avg, Illinois 12 att 30 yds 2.5avg…also see last year: Wisconsin, MSU, OSU, Mississippi State) but throw he can not.

    I personally think the coaches stuck with Denard because: (a) he started last year (has more in-game experience), (b) he can make things happen with his legs, (c) because they have been relatively successful with him this year, and (d) because Devin has not had much in-game experience and is therefore a bit more of a liability.

    I think the coaches should have played Devin a lot more, especially in the Western, Eastern and Minnesota games to give him some in-game experience and start building his confidence. I don't know if they are trying to avoid some sort of a controversy, but it does not make sense to let a 5-star QB continue to warm the bench (especially in games like Minnesota where the opponent's fate was sealed from the start). What if Denard goes down with an injury? your options are an inexperienced freshman in Bellamy and an inexperienced sophmore in Devin.

  24. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Nov 14, 2011 at 9:40 PM

    Lank's point is a fair one though – Denard has much more game experience because for the past two years, he's beaten out Gardner (and everyone else) for the starting QB spot. Denard is, eligibility-wise, a year ahead of Gardner, but he's only been on campus something like 6 months longer, and that was during the 2009 season, when he rarely, if, ever, threw the ball.

    It's sort of chicken-and-egg. Argument 1: Denard's only the better QB because he's had more game experience. Argument 2: Denard's had more game experience because he's the better QB.

    Don't get me wrong – I'm a huge Denard fan, but I'm well-aware of his significant liabilities. That being said, we're 8-2 with an outside chance at a BCS bowl. Now does not seem like the time to be giving Devin a shot, especially since he's done very little thus far to suggest that he's an upgrade from our current QB (his TD pass against Illinois notwithstanding; that was a thing of beauty).

    Ideally Devin beats Denard out for the starting spot next year, and we're able to have both of them on the field at all times. It just doesn't look like Devin is there yet.

  25. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 9:59 PM

    @ Lankownia 4:30 p.m.

    The reason I point out Denard's weaknesses is that they're weakness he has shown since he was a freshman. Throwing into coverage? Saw it in 2009. Poor mechanics? Yep, seen that for three years now, too. Fumbling the ball? Same old story.

    Even with his super-awesome 2010 season that saw him contending for the Heisman (at least for half a season), his career TD-to-INT rate is 32 to 28. He shows these flaws no matter what system he's running, whether he's a Wildcat quarterback (2009), a spread quarterback (2010), or a pro-style quarterback (2011).

  26. Comments: 21628
    Nov 14, 2011 at 10:01 PM

    @ BML 4:32 p.m.

    Denard could be successful in Rodriguez's offense. He was (kind of), and I fully believe that a better defense would have contributed to a more effective offense. He still would have had weaknesses, but his ability to run the ball and the receivers' ability to make plays in the spread would have made this team very good…if Mattison were the DC then. Unfortunately, Rich Rodriguez couldn't get the O and D balanced.

  27. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Nov 14, 2011 at 11:24 PM

    Thunder,

    Curious where you stand on the strength of our offense last year. I've seen you say multiple times that Denard is simply not a good quarterback, however you seem to concede here that given the right system (Rich Rod's) he can be a great player. If this is the case, then doesn't Borges deserve more blame then you seem to let on? I understand Borges is not a spread coordinator, however the majority of the plays we utilized last year were not extremely complex.

    Admittedly I am still extremely frustrated then we never saw last years offense with a capable field goal kicker/explosive running back. Factor in Gibbons improvement and the addition of Fitz to last years offense and I think we win 2 more games, and Rich Rod is still here. Sadly we'll never know.

  28. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Nov 14, 2011 at 11:31 PM

    "Robinson is turnover-prone and his rushing has been disappointing for the last several weeks."

    I think that comment is a little unfair. They've been trying to hand the ball off to RB's more, deliberately. If Toussaint gets 27 carries does that mean that DRob's rushing is bad? Under RR people complained that Denard would get hurt carrying the ball as much as he did. Now he's not carrying the ball that much and people are still bitching. And he hurt his hand – again – while dropping back trying to throw.

  29. Comments: 21628
    Nov 15, 2011 at 1:13 AM

    @ Anonymous 6:24 p.m.

    As you said, Borges is not a spread coordinator. He's doing what he and Hoke are comfortable with. I'm not going to "blame" Borges for running his offense, just like I never "blamed" Rodriguez for running the spread option with Threet/Sheridan. If it's a square peg in a round hole, that's more on Dave Brandon than Borges.

    Denard's not a good quarterback. Neither was Pat White, for that matter. But Denard was successful under Rodriguez because of the simple passing routes and the heavy dependence on the run. Roll-out hitch, bubble screen, pop pass, repeat. That's all Rodriguez/Magee did in the passing game.

  30. Comments: 21628
    Nov 15, 2011 at 1:13 AM

    This is a pretty good offense. Right? By many metrics, it's a top 20 offense. By others only top 50, but that's still pretty good. So, why is this a good offense? Is it the line? Lewan and Molk are pretty good but the unit has struggled according to coaches and pundits of all kinds. Is it the WR? Deep, but no consistent threat to the defense is there. Is it the RB? Toussaint's had some nice games but has been a non-factor in the four or five hardest.

    You can tell where I'm going with this right? Denard is clearly the biggest reason why this offense functions. There are no other special players other than maybe a couple of OL. So things are going quite well despite Denard's obvious issues with accuracy. I know Devin's got talent, but so does Denard. Devin may (I said, MAY) be able to improve upon some of those areas that are Denard's weaknesses, but he's not NEARLY the runner that Denard is and never will be. So…tradeoffs. The coaches have made a decision and I'm not real sure why some fans want to mess with the success based on recruiting rankings.

    @Anon 4:39

    What about the rushing stats? Part of being a QB, in this offense at least, is running. Can't just ignore those. It's like criticizing Steve Breaston as a player for his YPC. Yeah, he has his limitations at his position, but man did he make up for with what he did when he got the ball in his hands.

    @Thunder

    Denard has 64 TDs and 28 INTs in his career. I'm not going to ignore his rushing stats, sorry. Running is part of the game and it's part of the position.

    Devin's mechanics aren't very good either. His decision-making and accuracy haven't been anything to get excited about either. His production has been inferior from almost any angle you try to look at it. If Tom Brady was sitting on that bench, I might agree with you.

    I agree about the turnover and accuracy concerns. Denard's got to get better there. What I'm saying is that I don't think it makes sense to give up. Not when you see him sitting in the pocket and progressing through his reads against Iowa. Not when you see him start the game 6-6 against Illinois. Not when he completed 62% of passes last year. And again, not when at any point the guy can run for 200 yards and at EVERY point, both safeties and the entire DL is focused on stopping him. That should count for something IMO.

  31. Comments: 21628
    Nov 15, 2011 at 1:14 AM

    @ Anonymous 6:31 p.m.

    Denard's rushing has been disappointing because he's not making big plays in the running game…or he is making big plays, but there are too many minimal gains. As I mentioned in one of the above responses, he's averaging less than 4 yards a carry over the last three weeks. It's not the number of carries – it's that he's not doing much with them.

  32. Comments: 21628
    Nov 15, 2011 at 1:17 AM

    How in the world was Pat White not a good QB? He was extremely successful on the college level, a Heisman candidate, and drafted in the NFL. Compare him to someone like John Navarre. Yeah, he had better PASSING stats, but he didn't have the team success, overall yardage, and he had even less NFL success…yet, Navarre was a good QB.

    Pat White was a good QB because he could run the ball. That's part of being a good QB.

  33. Comments: 21628
    Nov 15, 2011 at 1:18 AM

    @Thunder 8:14

    I agree with you that Denard's running the last few weeks has been disappointing.

    If that's what Denard is hanging his hat on (and obviously he is), then he's got to produce more.

  34. Comments: 21628
    Nov 15, 2011 at 1:42 AM

    Just seems like most QBs these days are expected to run and pass. Look at the Big10; the teams that have pure pro-style passer are Iowa and MSU. You can maybe include Penn State (though that's been a time-share), and probably Wisc (Russel can run but rarely does) and, if you want to stretch it – Northwestern (since Persa can't really run this year.) Still, the bulk of the rest of the league has 'dual-threat' QBs. This is the new normal. We can't keep evaluating QBs based on obsolete measures.

    Not that pass completion percentage, INTs, and all the old numbers don't matter, just that we, as savvy football fans, have to look at the whole picture.

  35. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Nov 15, 2011 at 3:06 AM

    We should take into account that the mere presence of Denard the runner makes Fitz much better. We now have a difference-making RB that can take advantage of Denard's running threat. Over the same 3 weeks, Fitz has gained 170, 58* and 192. As for the passing, I agree with Lank that the overall positive of the known threat, Denard, outweighs the unknown potential of the under-tested Devin. Keep working Devin in but Denard has shown up when he's needed to (until recently it seems).

    *in 3 quarters

  36. Comments: 21628
    Nov 15, 2011 at 6:12 AM

    Hate to say it, but it seems the way to handle this is the same way coaches have handled Newton. Last year Denard had what most would describe as a "simple" offense. Last year they put the ball in his hands, put the call in his hands, and let him make plays. This year Borges has called one of every single type of offensive play that has ever been designed and both qbs seem to be a little bit, or completely lost out there. One of the things RVB credits to todays success is the level of trust the coaches put in him and Roh letting them call the defensive plays at the line of scrimmage and just going with their own instincts. They took the reigns off of them and they responded very well. It seems obvious that with Denard and Devin that the reigns are fully in place and they're struggling. I wouldn't think this if we all hadn't seen DRob set a record in rushing last year.

  37. Comments: 21628
    Nov 15, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    @ Lankownia 8:13 p.m.

    You're right that Denard is a "special" player. Well, at least a runner.

    But he's nothing without a solid offensive line; put him behind 2008's OL and see how long he lasts. And his wide receivers have bailed him out on countless occasions; just imagine how horrible his numbers would be if Hemingway, Roundtree, and Gallon didn't snatch almost impossible catches away from well positioned defenders. I think it was you who recently mentioned in regard to J.T. Floyd that I was taking credit away from Floyd by praising the defensive line for part of Floyd's success. Don't turn around now and say that Denard is the reason for Michigan's success. If Hemingway/Roundtree/Gallon don't bail him out against Notre Dame, we're in a much different situation. If his offensive line wasn't good last year, he wouldn't have been in the Heisman discussion for the first half of the year.

    If you're going to tout Denard's rushing prowess and say that he has 64 TD's, then perhaps you should add all of Denard's fumbles to his INT/turnover total. Saying he has 64 TD's and 28 INT's is very misleading. I don't know how many times he's fumbled, but he's lost 3 in the past couple games. That takes him to 31 turnovers right there, not including the 33 games prior to that.

    I'm all for progressing through reads against Iowa…but it doesn't really matter that much when you finished 17-for-37. He can look like Einstein back there and do differential equations with his left hand, but if the ball's hitting the ground or being intercepted, not much else matters.

    Like I said, if he's such a good runner, then he ought to be in a position where that's going to be a strength. I'm not suggesting that he switch positions because we don't have the depth to do that, but arguing that he's a good quarterback by touting his running skills in a pro-style offense is just kind of silly, in my opinion.

  38. Comments: 21628
    Nov 15, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    @ Lanownia 8:17 p.m.

    Pat White made it to the NFL as a wide receiver, which shows his talents as a quarterback. Yes, he was a successful QB in college. I'm referencing next-level talent when I say that Denard isn't a good quarterback. And beyond that, Pat White never had a season as bad as Denard's having right now. White was a more accurate passer and turned the ball over less. If he couldn't make it in the NFL, then it's pretty clear Denard has even less of a chance.

    Personally, I don't consider John Navarre a good quarterback. He set some records, sure. That doesn't mean he was good.

  39. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Nov 15, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    Last year: BT MVP, BT Offensive POY, redefined the All-American team.

    This year: mediocre.

    Yeah, it's not the play-calling, it's Denard's accuracy.

  40. Comments: 21628
    Nov 15, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    Using the blanket statement of "Denard is not a good quarterback" is inaccurate and unfair. Denard is CLEARLY struggling!!! What position did he play last year? Quarterback! But it was in a spread and when he had a pass over 15 yards he still overthrew his target. The difference is Roundtree in the slot was always so wide open that an inaccurate pass fell to the ground or if it was accurate Roundtree went 70+ with it. Is Roundtree a terrible WR? His numbers have fallen off the map? No, he just like Denard (and Gardner) are players that fit RichRod's spread perfectly. Robinson is the best option we have to run this offense (which is still a hybrid). Denard has got to take better care of the ball without a doubt, but his "instincts" tell him make a play. Will he ever play in the NFL at QB? No way, but last time I checked U of M was still in the NCAA and that has no relevance to us winning on Saturday. Andre Ware and Jason White won Heismans! Awesome college quarterbacks, not so much in the NFL. Pat White was in the SAME system all four years at WVU that argument is garbage too. The bottom line is Hoke clearly has not played favorites at any other position this year, why would he be making an exception for Denard? Maybe Devin Gardner (who I think will be fantastic, btw) isn't better than Denard??? Maybe he doesn't practice better, possess the leadership skills or even understand the playbook as well as Denard? Mostly, we are ALL frustrated with Denard because of how freakin' high he set the bar last year and we want offensive expolsion! Hoke believes that offense and defense work hand in hand. A good offense can be explosive, but it also must be able to do the ugly work and let a good defense rest. A rested UM defense is a very good defense. We are 8-2 and playing very well on defense. The offense will come along, but to end the post, Denard isn't a good passer, but he is the best we have. Support him and the team and quit calling for his head.

  41. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Nov 15, 2011 at 6:44 PM

    Hasn't Denard only lost 3 fumbles all year?

  42. Comments: 21628
    Nov 15, 2011 at 8:16 PM

    @Thunder

    No runner (RB or QB) is good w/o an OL. But the special ones can make some lemons occasionally. The '09 line was still pretty meh and Denard put up a respectable 5ypc.

    You're right that ultimately it's a team effort. So any exercise of assigning individual credit/blame has to be taken with a grain of salt. That includes UFR evalatuations but it also includes INTS, TDS, and Yards per whatever.

    I think the OL is decent but not great. I think the WR are inconsistent. I think the RB isn't reliably productive (that's mostly on the OL though.) Denard's the one impact player that regularly makes something out of nothing – maybe Hemingway too, but he doesn't get enough touches to be considered a driving force. Denard's the reason the WR never see double coverage. I agree that you can chalk up the ND win to great WR play, but beyond that – it's been all about Denard and the effectiveness of the OL.

    —————————-

    This IS NOT a pro-style offense. This is a hybrid offense that leans more towards spread. Furthermore, the more spread it runs the better it seems to do. (Maybe I'm letting mgoblog influence me on this but it seems to be true.) The times when it WAS a pro-style offense was the first 3 quarters of Iowa and Notre Dame and MSU. The times when it was almost exclusively spread was Illinois and Northwestern. Whatever the offense is – it's not conventional.

    I don't understand how you can say QB is a position where running is not a strength. Especially in comparison to WR, where it's completely secondary to route running, catching, and blocking.

    ——————

    Pat White was not a receiver. He was drafted as a QB and attempted 21 career passes. He never had any receptions.

    ———————————-

    "I'm referencing next-level talent when I say that Denard isn't a good quarterback."

    Wow, I was not getting that at all. I mean, I know you think that, but when you say "Denard is a bad QB" I don't think people automatically assume you mean as an NFL prospect. This is a college football blog. It's worth clarifying.

  43. Comments: 21628
    Nov 15, 2011 at 8:22 PM

    Can someone explain how Denard is bad or mediocre this year?

    His team is 8-2. His offense is ranked as top 20 or (at worst) top 50. He has 63% of the team's yards and 68% of the TDs. He has 2,400 yards and 25 TDs. While he's not considered a Heisman contender anymore, his production isn't far off people like Barkley, Moore, and Wilson who are.

    The downside is the turnover, but 16 (INTs plus fumbles lost) isn't horrendous. It's not enough to offset how much credit he deserves for what this offense has been…particularly when you consider the system and coaching change.

  44. Comments: 21628
    Nov 15, 2011 at 8:25 PM

    @Caleb

    Good point about White. He got to red-shirt and stay in the same system for 5 years. If Denard had red-shirted and Rodriguez had stuck around, he'd be a Sophomore with 4,000 yards and no one would be calling him a 'bad quarterback'.

  45. Comments: 21628
    Nov 15, 2011 at 8:29 PM

    @Thunder

    Your standards are ridiculously high. If a guy takes his team to BCS bowls, is a multi-year starter, and performs well enough to get drafted in the NFL at his position – that's a pretty good player.

    That goes for Navarre and White both.

    The list of good quarterbacks isn't exclusive to those with statues in Canton.

  46. Comments: 21628
    Nov 15, 2011 at 8:33 PM

    One last thing about Denard – he takes sacks relatively rarely. Some of that is system, but he's also proven very elusive and his running ability discourages some teams from pressuring him.

    Another thing that won't get included in his completion percentage or turnovers-to-touchdown ratio, but nonetheless matters.

  47. Comments: 21628
    BML
    Nov 16, 2011 at 4:33 AM

    I think I'm with Lankownia on this last round of debate here. The guys I watch the games with are all die-hard Michigan homers and I've never heard any of them say they think Denard will make a good pro QB. But I think you're going too far in being skeptical of his overall contribution. Sure, he gets help from his teammates–who doesn't? But when a guy touches the ball more than anyone else on the team by far, rushes for 3,000 yards in two years and repeatedly/demonstrably opens up his teammates for big gains and TDs because of the threat of his running, it seems over the top for you to be all like, "I don't know. It could be anything, really. It could just be Kelvin Grady." Let's use Occam's Razor here. Is Michigan's offense good IN SPITE of the guy with record-setting running totals who often looks spectacular and handles the ball on every single play? Probably not, right? That would have to be one of the most improbable outcomes in the history of football.

    Magnus, you're a good debater and you clearly know much more about football than I do, but on this one you're like an expert biologist trying to argue that the forest (Michigan's offense) is actually dying because he found one tree (Denard's accuracy) that looks unhealthy. (I have a Ph.D in Metaphors.) I wouldn't deign to tell you that you're wrong about the particular tree, but the forest is about to finish in the top 20 in FEI for the second-straight year.

    You're saying we shouldn't even CALL him a good QB unless he can hit 60% accuracy and have minimal interceptions throwing pro-style routes. But what you're describing is not "a good quarterback." A quarterback that could run like Denard and throw 60+% with very few INTs in a pro-style offense would be on the short list to be the greatest football player of all time. That's a pretty high bar.

  48. Comments: 21628
    Lankownia
    Nov 17, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    I think we have 2 guys there with substantial talent, who are both pretty raw as passers. Some of that is innate ability, but most of it is experience and coaching (IMO). They're both going to get more comfortable, familiar and overall better in a system that wants to have an accurate passer who can make reads and quick decisions.

    Denard's ceiling as a passer obviously isn't what, say, John Navarre's is. You saw him improve dramatically from his 2nd year on campus (RS FR) to his 5th. Denard won't have 5 years and he won't have the benefit of coaching stability. Maybe he also doesn't have the arm-strength or accuracy to improve in the same way – who knows. Maybe Devin is more attractive because he has 3 years or, potentially at least, 4 years under Borges. Plus, he's taller – which does help.

    Despite (because of?) the limitations above, Borges seems willing to adjust the system to some degree. That's good. That mitigates the transition costs.

    How much better can they get by next year? No one knows, but it's clear that some people have seen enough from Denard to give up on him and not seen enough of Devin to do the same. Ultimately it's a matter of opinion.

    Heres mine: I expect this offense to be a lot better next year, primarily because of QB. If it's Denard or Devin – no one knows for sure, but given how the coaches have stuck with and worked with Denard so far, I trust their judgment. I think that, clearly, it's Denard that is the better overall player by a long-shot and they'll stick with him for another year. But it could be a Henson/Brady thing where both guys are too good to keep either off the field. Just saying…the older guy with proven production proved to be the right choice there.

    …Next year.
    We'll miss Molk, but almost every other position will be back – more experienced and stronger than this year. Even WR, despite losing Hemingway, Odoms, and Grady shouldn't miss a beat with all the returning talent (Stonum, Roundtree, Gallon, etc.)

    Things look good on offense. And, besides the DL, things look promising for defense as well. The present ain't so terrible either, as long as we…BEAT OHIO!

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