I haven’t had the chance to re-watch the entire spring game yet, so my thoughts here are somewhat incomplete, but here is what I took away from Saturday’s scrimmage, as well as more opinions from around the Michigan blogosphere:
- I didn’t believe it before, but I will say it now, when it has lost all its profundity: Yes, we have a real quarterback competition on our hands. Denard Robinson is light-years ahead of where he was last season, and finally looks comfortable throwing the ball. He still isn’t the pure passer that Tate Forcier can be, but Denard’s ridiculous athleticism makes up for a lot of his deficiencies, and when he throws the ball like he did on Saturday he is very tough to stop. One play in particular swung my opinion of Denard: his second touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree, when he took advantage of having time in the pocket and, instead of taking off, stayed calm and found a seam between a couple defenders before hitting Roundtree with a laser. That’s simply a play Robinson didn’t have in his arsenal last season. I don’t want to put too much stock in one scrimmage, especially when Robinson was most running with the first-team against the second-string defense, and Forcier vice-versa, but when combined with the positive accounts from spring practice, it now looks like Robinson is the guy to beat (in a very close race, still) at quarterback.
- In other quarterback news, we can all stop clamoring for Devin Gardner to see the field. Not only did Robinson look like a real quarterback out there, giving Michigan two very solid options at QB, but Gardner looked like a true freshman out there. That’s not a knock against (hey!) a true freshman, but I’ve just about had my fill of guys stepping on campus and starting immediately — the pick Gardner threw when backed up against his goal line screamed “I need a redshirt,” and Michigan is now in a position to give him one.
- Michigan is pretty banged up at receiver right now, but for the most part I liked what I saw from the guys who should see the field in the fall. Roundtree was obviously the big standout, but Martavious Odoms looked good (besides one bad drop), and Jeremy Gallon appears to be a guy who could break a big play any time he touches the ball. I also like Gallon’s toughness — he was taking on tackles against much bigger defenders and falling forward.
- The running back battle was tight going into the spring, and I don’t think we got a lot of answers after Saturday. Mike Cox, to me, was the back who showed the greatest potential, but he still mental breakdowns on the field that could keep him from being a reliable option — there was one play where Forcier was screaming at Cox and had to physically move him to the right position on the field, which isn’t a great sign for a redshirt sophomore at the end of spring practice. Michael Shaw and Fitzgerald Toussaint both had their moments, but nobody really stood out to me. In fact, the only role that we do know among the running backs is that of the short-yardage back: Stephen Hopkins is the guy there. Other than that, the position is wide open.
- I’ll have more clarity on the offensive line and defense when I take a look at the game again, but there were a couple guys who stood out, for good or for bad. Ryan Van Bergen was getting very nice pressure on the defensive line, and Will Campbell looks like he could be a force of nature at nose tackle. The linebackers looked solid, which is a big step up from “disaster” — Ezeh and Mouton are both fighting hard to prove they belong out there. With Troy Woolfolk out, James Rogers played across from J.T. Floyd at corner for the ones — not a good sign for Justin Turner, who looked big and slow playing with the twos and could be ticketed for a switch to safety in the near future.
That’s all I’ve got for now — I’ll have more on the game after I get a chance to watch the tape again. Meanwhile, the rest of the Michigan blogosphere appears to have published their thoughts before I did, so here are some links if you haven’t had your fill of spring game coverage:
MGoBlog has you covered for RichRod’s post-game presser, both in normal form and in completely-bizarre Google caption form, which is totally useless for learning anything about Michigan football but may answer some questions you have about Iraq. Brian has also posted his initial thoughts, and Denard earns a lot of praise for his performance:
That said, holy crap. Robinson looks like a quarterback now. A running quarterback with rudimentary passing abilities, but a quarterback. There were zone reads and screens and rollout passes and a number of zippy seams that hit players between the numbers. When the offense broke down, Robinson made the concept of “pursuit angles” humorous. Putting him on the edge, as suggested by the coaches’ clinic tea leaves, puts the defense in a bind. His throws were all on a line but they were accurate aside from a couple mediocre bubble screens. There were multiple times where I was thinking “just run why don’t youuuu runnnnn” and he zipped a pass in for a first down or touchdown.
How close to Forcier’s passing does Robinson have to get if he’s going to start? If Forcier can’t set up in the pocket and throw on rhythm, how far apart are they now? It’ll be an interesting summer for both guys. Right now it looks like edge Denard.
Other blogs that have given their thoughts on the game: Maize n Brew, where Dave think Cox has positioned himself to split carries with Vincent Smith in the fall; Maize & Blue Nation, which has some nice video from the stands; The Fifth Quarter, where JC comes away impressed with the linebackers; and Burgeoning Wolverine Star, which has the most pessimistic take I’ve seen on the game. Touch the Banner has a full list of the recruiting visitors as well.