Michigan vs. UMass Awards

Michigan vs. UMass Awards

September 20, 2010
Michael Shaw

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Taylor Lewan.  Lewan entered the game in the second half, filling in at left tackle for Mark Huyge.  Lewan played extremely well and had a few pancake blocks.  The thing I liked most about him coming out of high school was that he blocks through the echo of the whistle, and that was evident on Saturday.  I didn’t see a single missed blocking assignment, unless you count a sweep to the offense’s right and the OLB blitzed around the edge.  Lewan didn’t touch him, but the blitz took the defender out of the play, anyway.  This is Michigan’s left tackle of the future, and the future might not be too distant.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . Vincent Smith.  He’s averaging 3.4 yards per carry, and that’s including his 11 carries for 42 yards (3.8 ypc) against an overmatched UMass defense.  Despite the fact that Michael Shaw had runs of 34 and 50 yards (Smith’s season long is 13), the diminutive Smith got only one less carry (11) than Shaw (12).  I honestly don’t understand Rich Rodriguez’s insistence on getting Smith so many snaps.  He’s not a productive running back.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . an edge pass rusher.  Michigan is not adjusting well to the 3-3-5 defense.  Despite having two potentially solid replacements for Brandon Graham at the 5-tech defensive end spot (Ryan Van Bergen, Craig Roh), Rich Rodriguez and his staff have been employing a 3-3-5 stack most of the time.  The Wolverines have two sacks this season (one from Thomas Gordon, one from Mike Martin) against teams that have thrown the ball a great deal (111 pass attempts in 3 games, an average of 37 per game).  The competition level will only get better once Michigan reaches the Big Ten season, and I’m guessing Big Ten quarterbacks are licking their chops.  Big yards without getting pressured?  Yes, please!

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . Jordan Kovacs.  Before you get bent out of shape, read the rest of the entry.  It’s not that Kovacs is doing a bad job, and I don’t want him benched permanently.  But if Marvin Robinson is healthy this week against Bowling Green (he missed the UMass game due to a shoulder injury), then I’d like to see what Robinson can do on defense.  I don’t think Kovacs is the long-term answer at Bandit, although he’s probably the best guy for the position right now.  Kovacs could be part of a decent defense, but if Michigan’s going to be an elite team in the next couple years, I think he needs to be replaced.

MVP of the UMass game . . . Michael Shaw.  One reason that Shaw was able to run for 126 yards on 12 carries and score 3 touchdowns was because of the threat of Denard Robinson.  So while it’s tempting to pick Robinson again, Shaw was the most explosive player on the field Saturday.  He had a 34-yard touchdown run and added a 50-yarder.  Even if you take those two big runs out of the equation, Shaw had 42 yards on 10 carries, which is still a solid average of 4.2 yards per carry.

Unsung Hero of the UMass game . . . Kelvin Grady.  He earned a lot of hype during fall practices, but he hadn’t done much this year until Saturday.  Grady had a nice over-the-shoulder catch of 43 yards and a 15-yard run on an end around.  Grady’s not going to get the ball a ton, but he has the ability to make big plays because of all the other homerun threats around him.


  1. Comments: 21388
    Sep 20, 2010 at 1:21 PM

    Is it possible that Vincent Smith is to RichRod as Pat Massey was to Lloyd (that is, the ultimate "Michigan Man" / team player who the coaches just can't ignore)? His playing time seems to be at odds with the at least vaguely meritocratic RichRod regime.

  2. Comments: 21388
    Sep 20, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    @ Anonymous

    That is possible. Although, like you said, all other jobs seem to be open for competition. I don't know why this one wouldn't be. For example, Michael Cox supposedly goes to the wrong hole at times, but I'd rather have a guy run for -2 yards and bust the next one for a long gain than a guy who runs for 3 yards a pop.

  3. Comments: 21388
    Sep 20, 2010 at 5:12 PM

    "Let's see more of this guy"…

    What about Toussaint or Cox? I couldn't believe that neither of them saw the field Saturday when the tailbacks were averaging 2 ypc after the first half. Smith is purely a 3rd down back and he has no speed or power. Shaw came alive in the 2nd half but I doubt he'll carry that over to a decent team.

  4. Comments: 21388
    Sep 20, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    @ Anonymous 1:12 p.m.

    I've been asking for Michael Cox to play since last season. I don't understand why he's not playing, unless he's injured. He's been a more productive back than Smith at every turn, whether it was last year or in the spring game.

  5. Comments: 21388
    Michael S
    Sep 20, 2010 at 7:04 PM

    Maybe Cox is terrible at picking up blitzes and fumbles a lot?

    I imagine that Fitz needed another week to heal, and we'll see him against BG.

  6. Comments: 21388
    Sep 20, 2010 at 8:03 PM

    I'm on board with giving Cox a shot, but maybe the concern is less about -2 yards and more about turnovers and sacks.

    I realize Shaw had a nice game, but he seems to fall down easily and makes poor reads at times. He broke tackles against UMass, but that's to be expected given his talent and athleticism.

    Right now, I like Shaw on 1st down, and on 3rd and long…but I have more trust in Smith to gain 4 or 5 yards when called upon. This offense doesn't lack for homerun hitters. Having a low risk/high percentage guy is nice too.

    It'd be interesting to see a distribution of yards gained. I'd guess Smith falls in the 4 to 8 yard gain category far more often than Shaw, and in the 1 to 3 yard gain less often.

  7. Comments: 21388
    Sep 20, 2010 at 8:43 PM

    I'd just like to point out Stonum's game, not that i didn't enjoy this post,but I think Stonum had a great game and is worthy of an honorable mention as player of the game at least.

  8. Comments: 21388
    Sep 21, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    @ Lankownia 4:03 p.m.

    "I have more trust in Smith to gain 4 or 5 yards when called upon."

    If you had said "3.4" instead of "4 or 5" then I might agree. I do agree that Shaw isn't very decisive, but right now, Shaw is averaging 2.4 yards MORE per carry than Vincent Smith. Shaw has more touchdowns, and he's averaging more yards per catch (10.2 for Shaw, 5.3 for for Smith).

    Virtually every single statistic tilts in the favor of Michael Shaw or Michael Cox.

  9. Comments: 21388
    Sep 21, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    @ Anonymous 4:43 p.m.

    Stonum did have a great game. I considered him for MVP. But since he only touched the ball 3 times on offense, I had a hard time making a case for him over Shaw or even Denard.

  10. Comments: 21388
    Sep 21, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    Virtually every single statistic tilts in the favor of Michael Shaw or Michael Cox.

    No argument regarding Shaw, but what stats weigh in favor of Cox? I'd certainly like to see him get some playing time, but are you referring to last year's numbers to suggest that he'd be more effective than Smith?

  11. Comments: 21388
    Sep 21, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    @ Anonymous 9;47 a.m.

    Last year's stats and the stats from the spring game suggest that Cox is a better runner than Smith.

  12. Comments: 21388
    Sep 21, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    "Shaw is averaging 2.4 yards MORE per carry than Vincent Smith"

    Shaw's average, like any other average stat, doesn't tell us the whole story. I'm not arguing that Smith is a better big play threat, its pretty clear Shaw is. But Shaw's big gainers skew the average. What does Shaw's production look like without those? Whats the median gain? If we're talking about reliability, we need to throw out the outliers.

    Barry Sanders vs Emmit Smith is a quintessential exhibit for this debate. I believe their ypc where around the same, or maybe Barry's was a bit better. But many people though Smith was better because he was far less likely to have a gain under 2 yards. There wasn't much consensus on who the better back was, despite many of Barry's superior stats.

    If you had both guys, you wouldn't bench one for the other, you'd use them situationaly: Emmit when you wanted a sure thing, Barry when you needed a big play.

    I'm hypothesizing that V.Smith might be the more reliable back (like E.Smith). The average doesn't tell us much about that. Smith seems to break tackles and get extra yards. That has value too, just like Shaw's big play capabilities have value.

  13. Comments: 21388
    Sep 21, 2010 at 4:44 PM

    Regarding Cox stats…

    while I agree that we want to see more of Cox, the stats argument is pretty weak given the difference in competition and role.

  14. Comments: 21388
    Sep 21, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    @ Lankownia 12:43 p.m.

    I believe I mentioned this in another comment, but if you take out the 50- and 34-yard runs by Shaw, he STILL averaged 4.2 yards per carry (10 for 42 yards) compared to Smith's 3.8 overall.

  15. Comments: 21388
    Sep 21, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    @ Lankownia 12:44 p.m.

    The stats argument is pretty weak, but it's evidence that Cox offers more than Smith. Furthermore, what's NOT weak is the consistently mediocre performance of Smith. He hasn't looked like a good RB in any game except DSU 2009. It's time to give someone else a chance.

  16. Comments: 21388
    Sep 21, 2010 at 6:43 PM

    I think that Smith has lost a step since last year. He was never fast or big, but he showed some shiftiness against OSU and Wisconsin last year. We haven't seen him dodge anyone or change direction as quickly this year. He is an excellent blocker though.

  17. Comments: 21388
    Sep 21, 2010 at 8:23 PM

    Your sample selection is arbitrary. Heres some other stats looking at something outside of the last game against UMass or the 3 games in total including UMass.

    Last year Shaw averaged 1.4 yards LESS than Smith's 5.8. In that same time, Smith averaged 8.2 yard per catch and had 2 TDs, while Shaw averaged 2.5 and had none. (and yes, the sample size makes this an irrelevant stat, I'm just illustrating a point)

    Shaw averaged 3.2 ypc against UConn, less than Smith (3.6 ypc). Shaw averaged 2.4 ypc against ND (same for Smith). So that 1-1-1 on the season in Smith vs. Shaw YPC… With Smith better against better competition.

    Last year, against OSU, Smith averged 4.0 ypc to Shaw's 1.0. Against Wisconsin, again it was Smith running for 3.5 ypc, while Shaw ran for -2.5. Again, Smith does better against better competition.

    In both Cox and Shaw's cases your statistical argument is based entirely on their performance against FCS teams. I think you might be giving this way too much weight.

    Now that I've looked into the numbers it seems pretty clear that Smith is the guy you want against tough competition and Shaw is the guy you want to make your highlight reel against FCS opponents.

    I think you might be dissing our best RB.

  18. Comments: 21388
    Sep 22, 2010 at 12:57 AM

    @ Lankownia 4:23 p.m.

    If Smith is our best running back, we're screwed.

    I'm really not that enamored with Shaw. I think he's better than Smith, but Shaw isn't exactly special. But the person I REALLY think is better than Smith is Michael Cox. Cox is bigger, faster, and stronger than Smith.

    There's a reason that Michigan's coaching staff is selling out to get Demetrius Hart this year – they need a game-changing RB, and Smith isn't getting it done.

  19. Comments: 21388
    Sep 22, 2010 at 3:47 AM

    On that we can agree. None of the RB we have are impact players.

    On Cox, I'm torn. On one hand, I trust the coaches to make the best decision. If Cox's mental lapses really are holding him back then a good dose of bench is probably what he needs. Plus, his performance against Delaware State doesn't prove much… OTOH, I remember the decision to start Sheridan over Threet,the decision to move Teric Jones to CB, the multitude of scholarships at the slot WR position, and various other decisions that seemed counter-intuitive and doomed for the start. My hope is that the coaches are doing the right thing and that Cox will figure things out in time to have an excellent Junior and Senior season – realizing the potential that Shaw referenced when he called him most talented RB on the roster.

    It seems like Cox deserves a shot given the meh performance of Shaw and Smith so far in their careers.

  20. Comments: 21388
    Sep 22, 2010 at 3:50 AM

    I think the problem is alot of people see Vincent Smith, a little guy, and think "Mike Hart." I'm sorry folks, Smith is not even close to Hart. Shaw is not a good running back either. If we want to have any success in conference play, we need to see what we have in Cox and Hopkins. Shaw and Smith are not getting the primary job of a running back, running the football, done at all.

  21. Comments: 21388
    Sep 22, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    Players have been saying that Cox is physically the most talented RB on the team yet Cox hasn't found any significant time on the field as a RB. He is doing a lot of things wrong at the RB position for the coaches not to play him. Currently, 3 RBs are ahead of Cox and that is not counting Fitzgerald Toussaint who is supposedly a starter until his injury. Basically Cox is buried in the depth chart until there's garbage time where Cox looked good against scrubs like EMU game for example.

  22. Comments: 21388
    Sep 22, 2010 at 10:23 PM

    I'm excited about at the potential of Hopkins and Toussaint. I'm really surprised Hopkins hasn't been getting many touches. The fact that everyone is dropping this many names as potential starters speaks volume of M's depth at the RB Position. I hope…

  23. Comments: 21388
    Sep 23, 2010 at 2:38 AM


    or the lack of a solid starting option

  24. Comments: 21388
    Sep 23, 2010 at 2:41 AM

    @Lankownia 11:47, Sept. 21:

    I'm torn on Cox as well. I generally like his size, but his tendency to hit the wrong hole can be painful.

  25. Comments: 21388
    Sep 24, 2010 at 2:50 AM

    Magnus, why don't you send an email to the coaches proclaiming that Cox is the best running back on the team, and you know this because you saw him play in 2 games last year and the spring game this year. Forget that they see him everyday in practice yet he's still 4th string, I think they may listen to you. Just tell them you have your own blog and your a varsity assistant.


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