|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.