Spring Practice Thoughts and Rumors – Offense

Spring Practice Thoughts and Rumors – Offense


April 3, 2012
Denard Robinson will need to be great again in 2012

A couple weeks into spring practices, here are some thoughts on the videos we’ve seen (here and here) and the buzz from practices:

Quarterback: Denard Robinson’s athleticism is a given asset.  Some people say he looks faster this spring, and that might make sense, because I thought he looked a little slower in 2011 than he had in 2009 and 2010.  I’m not sure if it was conditioning, an injury, or a figment of my imagination, but he didn’t seem to have the same acceleration.  His mechanics don’t seem to have improved, but after three years of playing quarterback in college, I’m resolved to the fact that he will be throwing off his back foot until he’s no longer playing the position.  Meanwhile, Devin Gardner has looked excellent in his limited highlight exposure.  He’s in no danger of beating out Robinson, of course, but rumors suggest that he looks like a pretty good successor.  Practice rumors about Bellomy have suggested that he looks like a solid quarterback who lacks a little bit of arm strength, but the general buzz on him is that Michigan did a good job grabbing him as a sleeper.

Running back and fullback: Fitzgerald Toussaint seems to have the starting job locked down, and he has reportedly been getting a lot of time off during practices to a) rest, b) avoid injury, and c) let the backups develop.  That hasn’t stopped MGoBlue.com from showing several nice runs of his.  The “every down backup” appears to be Thomas Rawls, which seems like a default, since Vincent Smith is a third-down back and Hayes probably is, too, at least for now.  Smith has looked good catching the ball out of the backfield, as always.  Meanwhile, Hayes has received a bit of practice buzz for his speed to the outside, but we have yet to see him on film.  There’s not much depth for the spring, but keep in mind that two tailbacks and a fullback will be arriving on campus this summer.  Speaking of the fullback position, Stephen Hopkins is fitting in pretty nicely.  Coach Hoke said that he might have put on some bad weight in the off-season, but it doesn’t seem to be too egregious.  “Insiders” have suggested that the fullback position will be used more frequently in the passing game this year.  Walk-on Joey Kerridge has also received some praise from the coaches, so he might be a backup option while incoming freshman Sione Houma redshirts/develops.

Wide receiver: We’ve known since the end of the 2011 season that this position group would be a question mark, and that has been corroborated by several people who have seen practices.  There’s not one go-to guy, just a couple #2 or #3 guys.  Roy Roundtree has moved to flanker from split end, which puts him in a position to get the ball a little more.  At the flanker position, there are more route combinations to get him open and he is more likely to be the primary target.  (For those who don’t know the difference, the split end is on the line of scrimmage and usually the single receiver to a side.  The flanker, on the other hand, is usually paired with a tight end, a slot guy, or some combination of those players in a trips formation.)  Jeremy Gallon has made some nice plays on film and is the odds-on favorite to start at split end, despite being only 5’8″.  He doesn’t have great speed, but he is shifty enough to make people miss if Denard Robinson can get him the ball in open space.  Jerald Robinson has continued to earn practice buzz and was picked by several outgoing seniors to be a breakout player this season, but he’s a redshirt sophomore who has yet to make a catch; he’s more of a jump ball guy than Roundtree or Gallon and could be a valuable asset to replace leaper extraordinaire Junior Hemingway.  Jeremy Jackson is what he is – slow but reliable.  Drew Dileo hasn’t received any practice fanfare, really, but he’s another kid who’s probably going to be solid but unspectacular.  He proved to be valuable last year, kind of a glue guy who comes up with some important plays but won’t knock your socks off.  There’s definitely going to be a chance for the two freshmen to contribute this fall.  I still wish Michigan would have taken Devin Lucien, who is expected to be the #2 at UCLA, when they had a chance in the class of 2011.

Tight end: Brandon Moore seems to be “the guy” as much as an unspectacular fifth year senior who hasn’t played/contributed much can be “the guy,” but as I’ve warned before, keep an eye on walk-on Mike Kwiatkowski.  He might be the #2 guy when the season starts and might even steal some snaps from Moore.  We’ve also seen some clips of former linebacker Jordan Paskorz and former defensive end Chris Eddins, another walk-on, catching the ball.  None of the tight ends has been shown doing anything but catching the ball and getting tackled immediately.  Ricardo Miller, who will mostly play the H-back role, seems to be the “starter” at his position and has received some praise for being able to beat linebackers and the occasional safety.

Offensive line: This is a very solid starting group . . . and after that, we need to cross our fingers.  The starters seem to be Taylor Lewan, Elliott Mealer, Ricky Barnum, Patrick Omameh, and Michael Schofield (from left to right).  Jack Miller is the backup center, Chris Bryant is the backup guard, and Schofield is the backup at left tackle, in case anything happens to Lewan.  Bryant is a mauler in the running game who struggles a little bit against the pass, and Miller also has done fairly well, but neither one appears to be ready at this point.  The other backups are walk-ons, and the #2 offensive line has not been impressive as a unit, as one might expect.  A freshman or two will probably have a chance to nab a backup role in the fall.

16 comments

  1. Comments: 21381
    David
    Apr 03, 2012 at 3:41 PM

    There does exist a clip or two of Miller catching the ball and running right by a couple of dudes, but the camera angle is terrible and it's only a few seconds.

  2. Comments: 21381
    Painter Smurf
    Apr 03, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    Boy, the TE spot really looks brutal. I wonder if Funchess and Williams both don't pass up the upperclassmen for serious playing time in 2012. They will probably be the best receiver and best blocker at the position the moment they step on campus.

    Also looks to me like two FR OL are guaranteed to play with this lack of depth. For sure a back-up OT will play. Bryant really needs to earn the coaches' trust this spring. He has a window to solidify himself as a top back-up but solid competition is on the way.

    I forgot what it is like to go into a season with a somewhat proven commodity at RB. UM has not had that since Hart graduated. It's nice.

    Obviously, the coaches are looking for better receivers. But at least in this offense, Denard neutralizes that shortcoming a little. These guys will get open at times solely because of defenses fearing Denard's legs. With Denard's suspect accuracy, good hands and good jump-ball capabilities are probably more valuable than separation speed for the 2012 season. 3rd and long could be ugly, though.

  3. Comments: 21381
    Anonymous
    Apr 03, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    For those of us less versed in wide receiver parlance, can you please explain the difference between Flanker and the Slot role that Roundtree previously played in Rodriguez's offense? My limited understanding is that both positions are off the line of scrimmage but closer to the formation than a split end would be. Thanks.

    • Comments: 21381
      Apr 03, 2012 at 9:50 PM

      The slot receiver is between a split end and the offensive line. The flanker is an outside receiver but generally off the line of scrimmage. He's not necessarily closer to the formation; that just depends on which side of the formation is the wide side.

    • Comments: 21381
      Anonymous
      Apr 04, 2012 at 4:56 AM

      Thanks.

  4. Comments: 21381
    Anonymous
    Apr 03, 2012 at 8:43 PM

    Very good write up Magnus..My only question to you is why you think Jerald Robinson might be a more jump ball threat compared to the other receivers? I know he is a tiny tiny bit taller than tree' and has about 5 inches or so on gallon, but I watched his old highlight tape and he never really goes up and gets the ball..like ever. I also remember one of the outgoing seniors saying they could see him filling out real well in the slot position..which really isn't the jump ball position to my understanding. IMO i think our only real option for the jump ball would be Jackson, or an incoming freshman. Wondering if you could help shed a little more light on this. Thanks.

    Man I can't wait until we no longer need to worry about if we have a guy that can get a jump ball..it has turned into an actual play call for us which is depressing. We should only need to worry about it if were throwing a hail mary.

    • Comments: 21381
      Apr 03, 2012 at 9:48 PM

      I agree that Robinson was more of a body catcher in high school. That was one of the things that I didn't like about him when he was recruited. But he has apparently done a good job with jump balls in the past year or so, and practice reports have suggested that he can be that physical downfield receiver.

      Jackson is too slow to be a threat downfield, even with his good height. He's a decent red zone guy, but probably not the type who can go catch the ball 40 or 50 yards downfield.

    • Comments: 21381
      Lankownia
      Apr 04, 2012 at 3:57 AM

      Last year, the coaches said that Gallon was as good on jump balls as anyone. It may have had an unstated 'for his height' element, but the praise was there. Roundtree also got some of it. Those 2 and Hemingway were considered the guys who 'go and get the ball'.

      It's like rebounding. Sure, it helps to be tall and athletic, but awareness, desire, and positioning are more important than raw physical skills.

      Roundtree and Gallon are going to make plays.

  5. Comments: 21381
    Nick.
    Apr 03, 2012 at 9:35 PM

    Do you see Jeremy Gallon more as a poor man's Wes Welker role since his height seems to be the main thing holding him back from being a big playmaker? Where does Hayes fit into the slot ninja role on this team?

    • Comments: 21381
      Apr 03, 2012 at 9:46 PM

      Not really…I see Jeremy Gallon as a Marquis Maze, the Alabama wideout. Gallon is probably going to play on the outside rather than in the slot.

      Hayes is only playing running back so far.

    • Comments: 21381
      Lankownia
      Apr 04, 2012 at 3:58 AM

      Dileo is Welker duh!

    • Comments: 21381
      Lankownia
      Apr 04, 2012 at 4:00 AM

      I agree with your cautious outlook on Jerald Robinson. He's been behind good players, but he's also been behind people like Jackson. If he was as good as some seem to be saying, he'd be playing by now. The practice hype is encouraging though…he seems like a guy who could put it all together by his senior year.

      Lucien is the new Mike Cox. He'll have to transfer to UMass before you give up on him.

    • Comments: 21381
      Lankownia
      Apr 04, 2012 at 4:01 AM

      I really hope Borges is less stubborn about using TEs this year.

    • Comments: 21381
      Apr 04, 2012 at 4:33 AM

      Jerald Robinson had some maturity/off-field issues going on last year. I don't think his lack of playing time was entirely a function of his on-field talent.

  6. Comments: 21381
    Lankownia
    Apr 04, 2012 at 4:02 AM

    Nice post! It was a good read.

  7. Comments: 21381
    Alex
    Apr 05, 2012 at 2:46 AM

    What ever happened to DG playing at WR? Still happening?

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