2011 Spring Game Statistics

Tag: Vincent Smith

10May 2011
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2011 Spring Game Statistics

I haven’t seen these posted anywhere and struggled to find them through a Google search, so here are the statistics from Michigan’s spring game on April 16, as tallied by The Wolverine:

Denard Robinson: 5/14, 71 yards
Devin Gardner: 5/10, 99 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
Steve Wilson: 0/2
Jack Kennedy: 1/2, 10 yards

Michael Cox: 4 carries, 82 yards, 1 TD
Denard Robinson: 6 carries, 48 yards
Michael Shaw: 3 carries, 39 yards
Stephen Hopkins: 6 carries, 17 yards
Fitzgerald Toussaint: 7 carries, 14 yards
Jihad Rasheed: 3 carries, 10 yards
O’Neil Swanson: 3 carries, 5 yards
Steve Wilson: 1 carry, 1 yard
Vincent Smith: 1 carry, 0 yards
Jack Kennedy: 1 carry, -3 yards
Devin Gardner: 4 carries, -9 yards

Jordan Barpal: 1 catch, 50 yards
Je’ron Stokes: 2 catches, 34 yards, 1 TD
Vincent Smith: 1 catch, 33 yards
Kelvin Grady: 1 catch, 10 yards
O’Neil Swanson: 1 catch, 10 yards
Kevin Koger: 1 catch, 7 yards

Jake Ryan: 2
Carvin Johnson: 1
Craig Roh: 1

Carvin Johnson: 2
Marell Evans: 1
Jake Ryan: 1 (returned for a TD)

Seth Broekhuizen: 0/1 (missed from 30 yards)
Brendan Gibbons: 0/1 (missed from 48 yards)

Will Hagerup: 2 punts, 79 yards

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13Apr 2011
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Five Questions for the Spring Game

Michigan fans should keep a close eye on sophomore safety
Carvin Johnson (#13) this Saturday

Everybody else is doing it, so I might as well join.  These are the five things I’m most interested to see on Saturday.

1. Who will play free safety?  And will they be any good at it?
I am on the record as thinking Ray Vinopal should be the starting free safety in 2011.  Of course, Vinopal transferred to Pitt a few weeks ago, and now there will be another brand new starter at FS this year.  Nobody appears to want the starting job; the punishment for earning the job is a broken ankle (Troy Woolfolk), transferring to a Big East school (Vinopal, Ryan Mundy), or public embarrassment and a forced position change to linebacker (Cam Gordon, Steve Brown).

Sophomore Carvin Johnson will be the likely starter at FS on Saturday.  He hasn’t quite earned the hype that Gordon earned in spring last year, but that didn’t turn out so well for Michigan, so maybe practice observers are showing some restraint when evaluating the safety position this year.  I have some questions about Johnson’s long-term viability at the FS position – he’s more of a strong safety, in my opinion – because of his speed.  But Brandent Englemon wasn’t particularly fast, either, and I would be ecstatic if Johnson played as well as Englemon did in 2007.

2. Which of the running backs emerges from the pile?
I’m also on the Michael Cox bandwagon, which you probably know if you’ve ever visited the site before.  Last year Cox was the most impressive runner in the spring game (unofficially, he had 6 carries, 38 yards, and a 22-yard TD run).  For some reason unbeknownst to me, the number of carries he got in the spring game matched his entire 2010 regular season total, too (6 carries, 56 yards).  In competitive situations, that gives Cox approximately 25 carries, 207 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 3 rushes of 20+ yards (I don’t have stats for the 2009 spring game).

But I’ve been touting Cox as the team’s best runner since late 2009, so my opinion clearly doesn’t carry much weight with the coaching staff.  Other options include Stephen Hopkins, who has reportedly shared first team duties this spring with Cox; Michael Shaw, who’s really fast and not much else; and Vincent Smith, who’s average at everything except height.  I don’t really know which one will come out of the spring looking the best, and the coaches have essentially stated that nobody has separated himself from the pack.  For now I’m expecting to see Cox have the most impressive day, but I’m trying to have an open mind.

3. Who’s going to play WILL?
Maybe I’m the only one, but I’m pretty nervous about the weakside linebacker position going into the 2011 season.  For all the criticism of Jonas Mouton the past couple seasons, I think he would have been perfect as an inside linebacker in this defense.  Unfortunately, he’s graduating just as a suitable defense and coaching staff gets installed.  Meanwhile, his potential replacements include converted safeties, a transfer, and a guy poking his head out of the doghouse.

The starting WILL seems to be redshirt sophomore Mike Jones, a 208-pounder who looks like a safety walked up to the line of scrimmage.  But no, really, he’s a linebacker.  In case you’re wondering, that’s approximately seven pounds lighter than Steve Brown was back in 2009 when he was an undersized outside linebacker.  Brandin Hawthorne, another converted safety, has seen some time at WILL but is even smaller at 203 lbs.  Marell Evans transferred back to Michigan from Hampton and has one year of eligibility left.  And finally, redshirt sophomore Isaiah Bell has seen a bit of playing time on the weakside, but he doesn’t seem to be like a viable option.

Evans might be your starting WILL in September, but with incumbent MIKE starter Kenny Demens out this spring with a shoulder injury, the Hampton transfer has reportedly been the #1 middle ‘backer.  I’ll be curious to see how Jones and the others stand up to linemen and fullbacks, but hopefully they can channel some Ian Gold and Larry Foote action.

4. Will we see any positive signs from William Campbell?
In all honesty, Campbell ought to have been a redshirt freshman in 2010.  If that were the case, it wouldn’t be quite so concerning that he hadn’t done much on the field yet.  But now he’s going to be a junior, and he had better start producing soon if it’s going to happen.  I really can’t think of a better staff in college football to get the most out of Campbell, so if it’s going to happen for the big guy, this is his chance.  I’m not that familiar with defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, but head coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison both have outstanding track records with defensive linemen.

I mean no offense to Ricky Barnum – or whoever’s lined up opposite of Campbell – but if there’s anyone I hope to see get destroyed on Saturday, it’s him.  If Campbell can turn into a playmaker at the 3-tech DT position, that takes some of the pressure off Michigan’s rush ends and undersized weakside linebackers.  I have a hard time seeing someone with Campbell’s outsized body and personality fade into obscurity, so let’s hope his play matches his gusto.

5. Will Denard tie his shoelaces?  How close will the quarterback competition be?
I have no doubts that Denard Robinson will be the starting quarterback on Saturday.  You don’t bench a Heisman candidate that quickly, no matter how good the backup plays.  I didn’t believe the Devin Gardner hype in spring 2010 because true freshmen simply aren’t very good, but now . . . I might put some stock in it. Gardner has always seemed to be a better fit in a pro-style offense than the spread, so I think this offense suits him more than Robinson.  Denard’s decision-making and accuracy scare me a little bit, although I admit his improvement from 2009 to 2010 was pretty incredible.  There’s a possibility that he will make a similar leap in 2011, but last year’s spring practice reports about Denard were glowing.  This year’s . . . not so much.

Gardner has the stature, the arm, and the poise to be a franchise quarterback.  In the long run, I fully expect him to be a better signal caller than Robinson.  Whether that happens in 2011, 2012, or beyond, I think #7 will carry on the tradition of great Michigan quarterbacks.  The problem with the QB situation is that even if Gardner proves to be the best quarterback on Saturday (and in August practices), Michigan doesn’t have the depth at the position to move Robinson to running back or wide receiver.  Perhaps the two best athletes on the team are Michigan’s only two quarterbacks.  I can think of worse problems.

1Mar 2011
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Am I expecting too much from Michigan’s running backs?

Brandon Minor was Michigan’s most successful running back of the Rich Rodriguez era.

If you’re a frequent reader, I’m sure you’re aware that I’ve been unhappy with the performance of some of the running backs over the past few seasons.  Due to some recent conversations with fellow fans, I started to wonder: am I expecting too much from Michigan running backs? 

So I thought I’d do some research.  Below you’ll find a listing of the explosive runs (20+ yards) by each starting running back for the last couple decades.  I don’t have access to each and every run, so what I used was a player’s longest explosive play from each particular game.  The weakness here is that a player with two 20+ yard runs in one game (say, a 50-yarder and a 25-yarder) only has the 50-yarder listed.  Additionally, the maximum number of plays to be listed is 13 (the most games Michigan has played in any given season) and the minimum is 0.
NOTE: I listed each of the team’s top few rushers in the Rodriguez years just for recent comparison’s sake.  However, the player with the most carries is highlighted in yellow.
Denard Robinson 2010 (256 carries): 87, 72, 47, 32, 32, 29, 24, 20, 20

Michael Cox 2010 (6 carries): 35
Michael Shaw 2010 (75 carries): 50, 39, 21
Vincent Smith 2010 (136 carries): 56
Carlos Brown 2009 (81 carries): 90, 41
Michael Cox 2009 (13 carries): 57, 24
Brandon Minor 2009 (96 carries): 55, 32
Denard Robinson 2009 (31 carries): 38, 36
Michael Shaw 2009 (42 carries): 22
Vincent Smith 2009 (48 carries): 37
Sam McGuffie 2008 (118 carries): 29, 26, 21
Brandon Minor 2008 (109 carries): 45, 40, 36, 34, 32, 21, 20
Michael Shaw 2008 (41 carries): 48, 30
Mike Hart 2007 (265 carries): 61, 54, 37, 23, 23
Mike Hart 2006 (318 carries): 54, 42, 33, 23, 23, 22, 21
Mike Hart 2005 (150 carries): 64, 20
Mike Hart 2004 (282 carries): 34, 33, 32, 26
Chris Perry 2003 (338 carries): 63, 41, 30, 27, 25, 21
Chris Perry 2002 (267 carries): 57, 43, 34, 23
B.J. Askew 2001 (199 carries): 30, 30, 25, 20
Anthony Thomas 2000 (319 carries): 68, 61, 54, 35, 32, 28, 25, 21

Anthony Thomas 1999 (301 carries): 60, 39, 31, 26, 23, 20
Anthony Thomas 1998 (166 carries): 80, 69, 59, 36, 24

Chris Howard 1997 (199 carries): 51, 30, 29, 28, 28, 27
Clarence Williams 1996 (202 carries): 32, 30, 26, 21
Tim Biakabutuka 1995 (303 carries): 60, 47, 47, 44, 37, 35, 34, 20, 20

Tyrone Wheatley 1994 (210 carries): 67, 36, 34, 24, 24, 22, 21, 20
Tyrone Wheatley 1993 (207 carries): 59, 47, 45, 43, 26, 25, 25
Tyrone Wheatley 1992 (185 carries): 88, 82, 54, 30, 23, 22
Ricky Powers 1991 (240 carries): 48, 39, 36, 33, 21
Next you’ll see a chart of the top running back’s rushing average for each of the past 20 seasons.  You’ll notice that after Tyrone Wheatley and Tshimanga Biakabutuka departed, the running backs usually alternated one or two good years with one or two poor years.

Do those numbers have anything to do with wins?  Probably not.  The same chart as above, overlaid with the wins for each year:


1. Denard Robinson is awesome, as if you didn’t already know.  He had a 20+ yard run in nine out of the thirteen games he played in 2010.  In the last twenty years, that number has been matched only by Tshimanga Biakabutuka in 1995.

2. Anthony Thomas was more of a big play guy than I thought.  He had at least seven rushes of 50+ yards in his career.

3. The number of carries for Michigan running backs dwindled greatly in the Rodriguez years.  From 1991 to 2007, eight running backs had 250+ carries in a season.  From 2008-2010, the highest number of carries for a running back was Vincent Smith’s 136 in 2010.  Even if you combine the top two running backs from the past three seasons, the highest total is McGuffie/Minor’s 227 back in 2008.

4. As far as Michigan running backs go, Vincent Smith falls at the bottom of the heap when it comes to explosive plays.  In his two seasons at Michigan, he has two 20+ yard runs.  The closest one to Smith is the 2005 version of Mike Hart, who missed several games due to injury and got only 150 carries.  Hart’s 64-yarder and 20-yarder in that year are actually pretty close to Smith’s longest two runs from 2010 – a 56-yard touchdown and a 19-yard run.

5. For being an offensive genius, Rich Rodriguez sure didn’t have a great effect on Michigan’s running backs.  I don’t think there’s any question that Michigan’s best running back during his tenure was Brandon Minor, but Minor (109) split carries pretty evenly with Sam McGuffie (118) in 2008.  That was followed by a 2009 in which no running back carried the ball more than 100 times.  Injuries played a big part in the production (or lack thereof) from Minor, Carlos Brown, McGuffie, Shaw, etc.

6. I’m probably overreacting a little bit to yards per carry.  There are certainly more important aspects to winning football games than simple yards per carry, like turnovers, defense, quarterback play, etc.  For example, Michigan didn’t lose 13 games over the past two seasons just because Vincent Smith has been a mediocre running back – the horrible defense played the biggest role in losing most of those games.  But at the same time, the only players with the same or worse rushing averages than Smith were:

a) the often forgotten Clarence Williams in ’96 on an eight-win team
b) Anthony Thomas in ’99, whose 4.3 yards a carry was a full yard below each of his surrounding seasons
c) Chris Perry’s subpar junior season in ’02
d) Mike Hart’s injury-plagued ’05 year
e) Sam McGuffie’s freshman year in ’08, when he suffered from concussions and a horrible unit around him


Well, I do. 

But so do defenses.  When teams don’t respect your running back’s ability to make big plays, they can concentrate on stopping the pass.  Or, in the case of Denard Robinson-led teams, they can concentrate on stopping the quarterback.  The lack of a big-play threat to play alongside Robinson in the backfield limits his abilities to be as effective a runner as possible.  Imagine a zone read option offense with Tim Biakabutuka or Tyrone Wheatley standing next to Denard Robinson in the backfield.  Which one do you defend?  Or do you curl up into a fetal position and pretend you pulled a hamstring?

Furthermore, big plays take away the opportunity for a team to bog down going from Point A to Point B.  Long runs aren’t just fun to watch – they serve a purpose.  A guy who moves the ball in small chunks might be a fine running back, but at some point his short gains might force a few punts when the offense fails to get a first down. 

Clearly, a guy like Biakabutuka doesn’t guarantee you a big play every time he starts a new series.  But he can move the ball in large chunks, and his presence opens up the play action passing game and keeps the defense off balance.


Better running back play.  That’s the bottom line.  Over the last twenty years, Michigan’s running backs have alternated good years with mediocre ones.  On the heels of a poor year from the Wolverines’ backs, it seems Michigan is ready for an upswing in running back production.  Hoke seems committed to running the ball like Michigan used to do, and unlike a season such as 2008, the offensive line should be decent, despite losing a couple senior starters in Steve Schilling and Perry Dorrestein.  Whether it’s Michael Shaw, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Stephen Hopkins, or someone else, the starting running back in 2011 should be better than in 2010.

18Feb 2011
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Review of 2010 Season Predictions

Denard Robinson was the star of the show in 2010

One of the reasons I started this blog a couple years ago was to record my thoughts and predictions in order to go back, see what I said, and see if I was right.  With the 2010 season completed, I thought I would go back and check out what I said prior to the year beginning.

First of all, here were my 2010 Season Predictions.

And here’s a rundown of how accurate those were:

Prediction: I said Denard Robinson would start the opener but that Tate Forcier would have an opportunity to take most of the snaps by the end of the season.
Actual: Denard Robinson started the entire season.
Accuracy: 50%

Prediction: Denard Robinson with approximately 800 yards.
Actual: Well, I was right on the player, but wrong on the yardage.  Way wrong.  Robinson ended up wtih 1,702 yards on the ground.
Accuracy: 100%
Prediction: Roy Roundtree with 60 catches for 900 yards
Actual: Roundtree had 72 catches for 935 yards.
Accuracy: 100%

Prediction: Jonas Mouton
Actual: Mouton led the team with 117 tackles, beating out safety Jordan Kovacs by a slim margin.
Accuracy: 100%

Prediction: Ryan Van Bergen with 7.5 sacks
Actual: Van Bergen led the team in sacks, but it was a down year in that category – he ended up with only 4.
Accuracy: 100%

Prediction: J.T. Floyd
Actual: Cornerback James Rogers and safety/linebacker Cam Gordon each had 3.  Floyd only had 1, but he missed half the season with a broken ankle.
Accuracy: Incomplete due to Floyd’s injury

Prediction: Center David Molk and kick returner Darryl Stonum
Actual: Molk was the right choice.  However, the coaches decided to save Stonum for his offensive duties, giving the job to a couple mediocre returners instead.  With a surprisingly good season, Denard Robinson was also named to the first team by the media.
Accuracy: 33%

Prediction: Roy Roundtree
Actual: Running back Michael Shaw scored 9 touchdowns to lead this category.  Roundtree and running back Vincent Smith were second with 7 touchdowns each.
Accuracy: 0%

Prediction: Denard Robinson
Actual: Robinson was definitely the breakout player of the year on offense.  He was in the discussion for the Heisman, was the Big Ten Player of the Year, and generally wowed Michigan fans and college football fans in general.
Accuracy: 100%

Prediction: Ryan Van Bergen
Actual: Well, nobody really expected much from the defense, and that’s what they got – not much.  Van Bergen had a decent season with 37 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 4 sacks.  But I think the real breakout star was middle linebacker Kenny Demens, who surpassed incumbent Obi Ezeh and finished third on the team with 82 tackles.
Accuracy: 0%

Prediction: Vincent Smith
Actual: I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Smith was somewhat less effective than is expected from a starting tailback at Michigan.  He finished the year averaging 4.4 yards per carry and – other than a long run against Indiana – was generally ineffective as a complementary runner to quarterback Denard Robinson.  Roundtree might be an option here because of his play in the final few games of the season, but Smith was ineffective for the majority of the season.
Accuracy: 100%

Prediction: Cameron Gordon
Actual: While Gordon was a disappointment after all the hype he received in the spring and summer, he wasn’t a complete failure.  He actually made some plays from the free safety position (3 interceptions), but he didn’t have the speed or awareness to stay there and moved to outside linebacker.  But the bigger disappointment was Obi Ezeh, the fifth-year senior middle linebacker who lost his job mid-season to redshirt sophomore Kenny Demens.  Ezeh ended the year with 58 tackles, which is exactly 24 fewer than Demens . . . and 8 fewer than J.T. Floyd, the cornerback who missed half the season with a broken ankle.
Accuracy: 0%

Win against UConn
Loss to Notre Dame
Win against UMass
Win against Bowling Green
Loss to Indiana
Loss to Michigan State
Win against Iowa
Win against Penn State
Win against Illinois
Win against Purdue
Loss to Wisconsin
Loss to Ohio State