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Michigan has added its 21st commitment in the class of 2012 at the BBQ at the Big House today, as Scout’s Allen Trieu is reporting that Toledo (OH) Whitmer defensive end Chris Wormley has pledged to the Wolverines. With several Michigan commitments in attendance at the barbeque today, it appears Wormley — who has long been considered a Michigan lock — got caught up in the excitement and was finally convinced that it was time to end his recruitment:

Wormley has a very solid recruiting profile, ranked as high as No. 57 in the country by 247Sports, with only Rivals not giving him a four-star ranking. According to Scout, Wormley racked up 59 tackles and 12 sacks as a junior last season, and here’s Trieu’s scouting report on Wormley:

Tremendous size and ability. Likely a strongside end, but could also play inside. Ideal five-tech. Turned it up another notch in terms of motor and consistent effort as a junior. When we saw him as a sophomore, he just overpowered his opposition. Last year, because I think he saw a few top prospects and, he started to turn up the intensity. He’s a naturally massive kid and moves well for that size. – Allen Trieu

“Naturally massive” is a pretty fair assessment, as the consensus on Wormley is that he stands around 6-5, 250 pounds, making him an ideal candidate for that strongside DE spot. According to Rivals, Wormley held offers from Ohio State, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Toledo, and Cincinnati, and both Scout and 247 report interest but no offer from Penn State. That list likely would have been larger had Wormley’s recruitment not been so clearly focused on the Midwest and, specifically, Michigan.

Much more on Wormley’s commitment, including the ramifications for the rest of the 2012 class, will be coming in the near future from Jack Slice.

Remember this little guy?

No, I’m not going way off topic and discussing terrorist threat levels today — instead, I’m talking position threat levels. I did this last year, and since it’s Friday I’ll just copy and paste the explanation here:

Well, I decided — in a desperate attempt to figure out what type of content to post during the slow summer months — to apply these threat levels (minus the whole, you know, terrorist thing) to Michigan’s position groups. In other words, which groups are the Wolverines comfortably stocked at, and which ones have you buying mass quantities of bottled water and canned foods to prepare for the football apocalypse? I’ll be placing each of the position groups into one of the above categories. Today, I start with the spots that Michigan fans have the least to worry about — the “Low” threat category.

Hey, that worked pretty well. On with the show:

Wide Receiver (Last Year: Low/High — separated slots and outside receivers): Even with the status of senior returning starter Darryl Stonum still very much up in the air, Michigan fans should have little concern about the depth and quality of the wide receivers. Redshirt junior Roy Roundtree turned into Denard Robinson’s favorite target last season, hauling in 72 catches for 935 yards and seven touchdowns, and if he can eliminate the occasional dropped pass from his game he should be one of the Big Ten’s best at the position. Redshirt senior Junior Hemingway also has that type of potential after posting a team-leading 18.53 yards per catch on 35 receptions, but once again he’ll have to shake his reputation for injury if he wants to live up to the hype. From the sound of things at Media Day, it appears Stonum is on the right track to get reinstated, and if he sees the field this fall — at whatever point that might come — he should provide Robinson with another solid deep threat and consistent producer on the outside. If Stonum doesn’t earn his way back onto the field, senior Martavious Odoms can line up outside or in the slot and can provide a bit of everything for this team — lest we forget, he led the team in receiving as a freshman in 2008 (okay, I don’t blame you if you tried to forget that year), and Odoms has shown an impressive ability to block downfield given his 5-8, 175-pound frame. Though we haven’t had a chance to see him on the field, redshirt freshman Jerald Robinson earned praise from Brady Hoke at yesterday’s press conference, and he should at least provide solid depth along with classmate Jeremy Jackson, junior (and former top-100 recruit) Je’Ron Stokes, and redshirt senior slot receiver Kelvin Grady. That’s a solid seven-man rotation of receivers even without Stonum, and that doesn’t include potential contributors like Jeremy Gallon, Terrence Robinson, and Drew Dileo, a trio of smaller receivers who likely would have pushed for playing time under Rich Rodriguez but may be squeezed out of the rotation in the new offense. That’s a ton of depth, and with the talent among the starters to match, this is perhaps the team’s most rock-solid position group.

Defensive End (LY: Guarded): The defensive line should be the strength of the defense, and while DT Mike Martin is clearly the unit’s best player, the depth situation is a lot more palatable at end. Ryan Van Bergen returns for his redshirt senior season after posting a team-leading 8.5 tackles for loss in 2010 — Van Bergen showed he can be a very solid player against both the run and the pass when he was back full-time at his natural DE spot after spending a year mostly playing inside. The player everyone is looking to for increased production is junior Craig Roh, who spent most of his first two seasons horribly miscast as a hybrid outside linebacker, often forced to drop into coverage instead of playing to his strengths and rushing the passer. Roh now weighs over 250 pounds and will finally get the opportunity to play DE, where he was an Under Armour All-American coming out of high school — I expect big things from him this season. Backing up Roh and Van Bergen will be sophomore Jibreel Black, who flashed the potential to be a very good pass rusher last season but will have to improve his ability to hold up against the run. Luckily, with two strong returning starters, the team can afford to use Black situationally, and he should see an uptick in production as his frame fills out and he learns the nuances of the college game. Michigan will also get a boost with the return of redshirt senior Will Heininger, who missed the first ten games of 2010 due to a knee injury, and the 6-6, 283-pound Ann Arbor native has the size and strength to fill in for Van Bergen or even see time at tackle. Redshirt freshman Kenny Wilkins was a highly-touted recruit who many thought would step in and compete for time at end, and he could do just that, although for now he’s listed at defensive tackle on the roster — we’ll see what happens there. The Wolverines also have talent incoming in true freshmen Brennen Beyer, Chris Rock, and Keith Heitzman, though it would be surprising if any of the new blood saw the field this fall — Beyer has the most talent, but is also quite small at 6-3, 225. This is another position group with a good set of starters and nice depth at backup, and end should be a definite strength for Greg Mattison’s reclamation project on defense.

Obligatory "Hoke points at things" picture.

The Big Ten held its Media Day today in Chicago, and while I watched the presser from home instead of making the trip, I’ll highlight a few key quotes from Brady Hoke’s presser (with a big assist from the Big Ten Network website, which has transcripts for each coach from today).

ON THE TEAM

Our players at this point have done a nice job handling the transition of a new staff, new system on defense, new system on offense, and how they’re being coached, what they’re being asked to do. We are a long way from where we need to be.

I can say that this fall camp is as important a time for all of us as anybody, but it also, when you’re new to a program, new to a staff, like our players are, I think how you go through your fall camp, the attitude that you have every day, the toughness that you have to have to play this great game, the discipline, the accountability, I think that will say a lot about how we end up as a football team.

Hoke can sure construct one hell of a run-on sentence, right? Also, don’t freak out about the team having a long way to go — I’m pretty sure every coach says that at this time of year, especially if they’re implementing a new system, so anyone expecting a statement to the contrary needs a severe readjustment of their expectations.

ON OHIO STATE

You know, we’re really fortunate at Michigan. We have a national rivalry. We play Notre Dame. We have an in-state rivalry with Michigan State, obviously. Then the rivalry with Ohio is as big a rivalry as there is in sport. It never has been who the coach is. It’s always about those two great institutions.

We have an utmost respect. It’s fun. I mean, if you can’t get geared up for that and get goosebumps and all those things for that game, then you may not be human.

Good, I pass the Brady Hoke Human Test, which has got to count for something. Also, his continued insistence on never saying the words “Ohio” and “State” consecutively is, as Hoke himself would say, tremendous.

That’s a tremendous program with tremendous tradition, just like we have. We have 42 championships in the Big Ten. When you have schools that have that quality about them, have those legacies, I don’t see anybody as wounded.

Hoke provides the standard party line about the Buckeyes and their issues with the NCAA, and also utters the word “tremendous” twice in a four-word span. Get used to this, if you haven’t already.

ON DENARD ROBINSON AND THE NEW OFFENSE

He’s done a tremendous job. I can tell you, he ran the same offense in high school, which is a plus. One of the big differences is the mechanics of taking the snap from center, the footwork, the run game, the foot patterns, the play-action game. He was ahead of the curve a little bit. I think Al Borges has done a tremendous job with him.

We are smart enough, which I would — people usually don’t say that about me — but we’re smart enough to have elements he does well from what he did in the past in the spread in our offense.

This falls in line with what Al Borges has been saying all offseason about adjusting the offense to fit personnel, especially Robinson, but it’s always nice to hear it straight from the head coach. The fact that Shoelace has some experience in the drop-back passing game is a definite plus as well.

There’s two sides of the ball in the game of football. I can tell you, and I’m a defensive coach, that when your defense plays against a pro-style offense all spring long, they play against a pro-style offense all fall camp, you build a toughness and an edge because the schemes themselves are different.

This is a physical football league, physical offenses, people that run the football. We think we can play better defense by the fact of how we do things on the offensive side of the ball because they feed off each other.

This was his answer to a question asking why the team would change what was such a prolific offense. I’m sure this quote will be picked apart up, down, and sideways, but this is clear coach-speak in place of an obvious answer to a kinda dumb question: You run what you know, period. Al Borges is not Rich Rodriguez. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, but it is going to bring change.

ON GREG MATTISON

Greg, he brings so much to the table. I can tell you, it’s not what he brings just in the X’s and O’s and schemes of football. His relationship with our players, the knowledge and the fundamentals and teaching that all the guys have on our staff, that’s first and foremost. The fundamentals and techniques to how you play are really going to determine where you’re at at the end of the year and the improvement you make each week.

Obviously there’s a scheme knowledge that we feel very comfortable with we like. But I think his relationships that he builds with kids, 18- to 23-year-olds, motivation skills, are tremendous.

Tremendous. And he didn’t even mention the recruiting.

ON REBUILDING AFTER THE RICHROD ERA

Well, I don’t think we’re rebuilding, period. I mean, we’re Michigan. We’ve got kids who understand that they’re Michigan. I don’t put any stock into that.

On a scale of one to tremendous, I’d have to put that answer at “tremendous”.

ON DARRYL STONUM’S STATUS WITH THE TEAM

I really haven’t made that decision yet, where he’s going to end up. That’s something I’ll work through with Darryl.

So no news on that front yet. Hoke did have nice things to say about Junior Hemingway, Martavious Odoms, and Jerald Robinson when talking about the receiving corps, and that’s without mentioning the team’s leading returning receiver in Roy Roundtree. No matter what direction this goes — and I hope Stonum can earn his way back onto the team, provided that he handles his off-field issuess — Denard Robinson should have no shortage of capable targets.

ON HIS SUCCESS ON THE RECRUITING TRAIL

Prepare for the greatest quote ever [emphasis mine]:

This might sound arrogant, and if it is, it is. We’re Michigan. We have a global education. We’re the winningest program in the history of college football. We have a tremendous staff of guys. The lifeblood for all of us, no doubt, is the guys you bring in your program. We’ve really tried to focus on the guys that fit the mold of Michigan with the integrity and character that we want to have. We want guys who will play with a toughness, play with an accountability and on a team for each other.

Those guys out on the road, they work it and they do a tremendous job. But first and foremost, it’s Michigan.

F*** yes. If Hoke’s recruiting pitch is half that good, I can see why he’s currently pulling in a top-two class in the country. We’re arrogant, and damn proud of it.

For the record, the final “tremendous” count for Hoke’s presser: A solid 11, plus one uttered by a media member when describing Denard Robinson. Nice.

For more from people who, you know, actually bothered to attend and take part in further Q&A sessions, check out MGoBlog and SBNation Detroit.

After a summer full of scandal in college football — oh hey, another coach down! — it’s nice to remind ourselves that programs and players can provide a very positive impact off the field. The athletic department sent out this release yesterday, and I’d be remiss to not pass it on:

Omameh Nominated for Prestigious Allstate AFCA Good Works Team

July 27, 2011

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — University of Michigan senior/junior offensive guard Patrick Omameh (Columbus, Ohio/St. Francis De Sales) has been nominated as one of 132 candidates for the 2011 Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team, which recognizes the selfless contributions to volunteerism and community service made by college football student-athletes across the nation.

From these nominees, a special voting panel consisting of former Good Works Team members and prominent college football media members will be responsible for selecting two 11-player Good Works teams — one composed of players from the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and another combined team representing players from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Divisions II and III, and the NAIA.

Omameh, who was named Academic All-Big Ten Conference in 2010, is double majoring in communications and sociology with a concentration in business administration in U-M’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts. Omameh is dedicated to helping others through various organizations year-round. Through his work with From the Heart, Omameh makes weekly visits to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. He also makes regular trips to the Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Other charity events that Omameh participates in are Victors Day, an annual event for more than 500 special-needs students from around the community to interact and learn from Michigan student-athletes, and local fundraising events such as Heroes for Kids and the David Mealer Memorial Golf Classic. He is also a member of the Order of Angell, which is comprised of 25 seniors from across the U-M campus who promote and initiate positive change by discussing university issues.

Omameh is a two-time varsity letterwinner who has made 16 consecutive starts at right guard for the Maize and Blue. He is one of three starting offensive linemen returning for the Wolverines in 2011.

Joining Omameh on the list for the 20th annual award are six other Big Ten players: Leon Beckum (Indiana), Jared Crick (Nebraska), Eric Guthrie (Iowa), Rob Henry (Purdue), Alexander Netter (Northwestern) and Donald Wilhite (Minnesota).

Let’s take a step back and acknowledge the remarkable efforts of Omameh, who not only is an academic all-conference double-major who starts on the football team, which is impressive (and time-consuming) enough on its own, but a member of the exclusive Order of Angell who volunteers for several charitable organizations. I’ll just say that his collegiate accomplishments blow mine out of the water before you can even discuss his football exploits. Congratulations to Patrick for the honor, and our thanks should go out to him for the great off-field work he has done and the way he represents the University and the football program.

Mike Cox has produced against lesser competition but has yet to earn major playing time in his U-M career.

It’s nearly August, which means it’s about time to kick the football season preview content into full gear. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a look at the 2011 Wolverines position-by-position. Today, the position previews continue with a look at Michigan’s running backs:

Previously: Quarterback

Returning: Mike Cox (RS Jr.), Stephen Hopkins (Soph.), Michael Shaw (Sr.), Vincent Smith (Jr.), Fitzgerald Toussaint (RS Soph.)
Departing:
Teric Jones (medical)
Incoming: Justice Hayes, Thomas Rawls

Returning Player Stats:

[table id=152 /]

Overview: Leading up to the 2011 season, the discussion surrounding Michigan seems to be focused on two specific topics (not including more general topics like ‘We have a defense?’ and ‘Can we kick field goals yet?’): Denard Robinson, and the running back situation. The Wolverines return a bevy of backs from last year’s team, but unfortunately for Al Borges and his desire to find a consistent feature back, that group was disappointing last season and no player has emerged so far this year as the clear-cut starter.

Your nominal returning starter is the lilliputian Vincent Smith, but his size (5-6, 180 pounds) combined with a lack of explosiveness may in fact make him the least likely returning back to grab the starting spot. Smith is a well-rounded back who can catch the ball out of the backfield and block quite well for a player his size, but as Alex pointed out when looking at last year’s numbers, he just isn’t very productive when it comes to running the football, especially in short-yardage situations. There’s a chance we see more out of Smith this year now that he should be 100% recovered from a torn ACL suffered against Ohio State in 2009, an injury that may have hampered his performance last season, but in all likelihood he’ll take on the role of third-down back while another player steps into the starting job.

Senior Michael Shaw is the other tailback who saw major action last season, and he was actually relatively productive when healthy — the issue, as it has been his whole collegiate career, was that he was rarely healthy. Shaw came to Michigan as a highly-regarded speed back in the mold of Carlos Brown, and that comparison — right down to the injury-marred seasons and disappointing production — has been eerily accurate. At 6-1, 187 pounds, Shaw has the size and skill set to start and be a productive player this season, but he’ll have to overcome a strong push from the younger players on the roster while proving that he can buck the trend and stay on the field.

Perhaps the offseason favorite to step up and win the starting job is sophomore Stephen Hopkins, who saw limited action last year as a short-yardage back but has the potential to be much more in the new offense. At 6-0, 227 pounds, Hopkins has the size to carry the pile, and while he won’t win many sprints, he has adequate speed and surprising shiftiness for a player with his bulk. Unfortunately, Hopkins also displayed a troubling propensity for fumbling the football last season, an issue he must correct if he wants to see a greatly expanded role this season. If I was a betting man, I’d say Hopkins is the starter when the Wolverines open against Western Michigan, but it will be interesting to see if he can hold on to the job all year.

Depending on whom you ask, redshirt junior Mike Cox is either an all-conference caliber back who’s been unfairly sidelined by the previous staff or a player with tons of physical ability who just doesn’t have the football acumen to be a productive player in real-game situations. The truth likely lies somewhere in between, but Cox is certainly a player to keep an eye on as the season approaches — he’s the most athletically-gifted running back on the roster, in my opinion, and at 6-0, 211 pounds has great size for a college tailback. On the flip side, Cox has a reputation for struggling with the playbook and being unreliable to execute his assignment — an issue that may only be exacerbated in a new system — and his only collegiate production has come against the dregs of Michigan’s schedule. Cox is the very definition of ‘wild card’, and I honestly won’t be shocked either way if he runs for 1,000 yards or never sees the field this season.

Redshirt sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint is another player who came to Ann Arbor with high expectations but has had his career marred by injury. Nothing captured this better than last year’s game against Bowling Green, when Toussaint ripped off a 61-yard run on his first collegiate snap, only to see the former track star caught from behind due to a lingering leg injury; when Toussaint capped off the drive with a five-yard touchdown run, he injured his shoulder and missed the next five games. I really liked Toussaint coming out of high school, but right now he’s a less-experienced version of Michael Shaw, and I have a hard time seeing him leap to the top of the depth chart this year, though I wouldn’t rule out him becoming a key contributor down the road.

Of the two incoming freshmen, it appears Flint’s own Thomas Rawls has the best chance of seeing the field in 2011. I’ve been on the record predicting he’ll take the starting job this season, in large part because the veterans in front of him have done little to take hold of the top spot on the depth chart. Rawls is a well-built, compact back at 5-10, 214 pounds, and while he doesn’t have great breakaway speed, he exhibits very good power and an ability to get to the second level quickly — he reminds me of a less shifty, but bigger, Mike Hart. That’s obviously a lofty comparison around these parts, but I really believe Rawls has a decent shot to come in and make a similar impact as a freshman.

Grand Blanc’s Justice Hayes is the other true freshman at tailback, and while he was the higher-rated of the two, he seems a much greater candidate for a redshirt season. That’s not to say Hayes isn’t good, but his skill set fits much better with a spread offense, and Michigan already has a reliable receiver out of the backfield in Smith. Hayes could be one heck of a third-down/change-of-pace back in the future, but he’ll have a hard time climbing up the depth chart enough to justify burning a year of eligibility this season.

Recruiting/The Future: With Michigan’s class of 2012 quickly filling up, especially with this week’s commitment of fullback Sione Houma (more on him when I preview the tight ends and fullbacks), it appears less and less likely that Brady Hoke will use a precious spot on a running back. The one possibility that exists right now is for blue-chip Ohio State commit Bri’onte Dunn — who will visit Ann Arbor for this weekend’s BBQ at the Big House — to flip his commitment, but that scenario appears less likely now that it looks like the Buckeyes will avoid the most severe potential sanctions from the NCAA. The Wolverines would only take an elite running back, and four-star Pennsylvania RB Greg Garmon recently dropped Michigan from his list, so it’s Dunn or bust right now. I expect Dunn will stick with OSU, barring a major shift in the tenor of the NCAA’s investigation, and Hoke will wait to grab his feature back of the future until the class of ’13.

The Last Word: I’m get the strong sense I’m going to feel very stupid no matter what I predict out of the running backs this season, but I’m going to stick by my guns and say that Thomas Rawls emerges as the starter by the end of the season and has a pleasantly productive year. Stephen Hopkins, Michael Shaw, and Vincent Smith should all see decent playing time in one capacity or another, but I’m not ready to trust Mike Cox until he shows that he can master a playbook — if he does, this entire situation could change. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to this position group, and the hope is that — among a talented group of players who each have their flaws — at least one back emerges who can take much of the pressure off of Denard Robinson.

Previously: Breakout Player, Impact Freshman, Big Ten Favorite, The Running Back Situation, National Champion

We’re back with another 2011 preview roundtable, in which each of the site’s three writers debate key topics for the upcoming season. Today, we look at Denard Robinson’s fit in the new offense and predict his statistical output for the 2011 season.

Ace: Let’s just get this out of the way now, for those of you worried that Michigan’s offense will try to be an exact replica of the 1985 San Francisco 49ers:

That, my friends, is the first snap of Michigan’s 2011 spring game, and you’ll notice that the formation, at least, strongly resembles what the Wolverines ran last year under Rich Rodriguez. Some of the plays will be familiar as well. The money quotes, straight from the mouth of offensive coordinator Al Borges [emphasis mine]:

“Our offense is not zone read or spread,” offensive coordinator Al Borges said, “but we’ll do some of that stuff.

Borges envisions Michigan’s quarterbacks lining up under center about half the time, perhaps a little more than half. The rest of the time, they’ll line up in the shotgun. In the shotgun, Michigan will use two running backs about half the time and one back or no backs the other half the time.

But before you think you have it all figured out, read this.

“Schematically, we’re blowing everything up and starting over again,” Borges said. “We’re still going to gear everything we do offensively to the skills of the people that are doing it, in particular the quarterback. Are we going to look just like we did at San Diego State? Probably not.

“We may in three or four years. We’ll see how this thing evolves.”

So, while we probably won’t see an offense predicated on Denard right, Denard left, Denard middle, and surprise(!) Denard pass — which could be a very good thing, especially when it comes to Robinson’s durability — there will still be plenty of opportunity for Robinson to work his magic on the ground, especially if he becomes comfortable taking off when a passing play breaks down, something he didn’t do at all last year. The zone read might not be the centerpiece of the offense, but it will still be implemented, and I expect it will be effective.

Al Borges may not be the perfect offensive coordinator for taking advantage of Denard Robinson’s skill set, but he’s also not an idiot, and only an idiot wouldn’t find a way to utilize Shoelace’s prodigious running talents. So far, Borges has said everything I’ve wanted to hear in that regard (see above), so the question for me isn’t as much how Robinson will fare as a runner — if I had to place a wager, I’d still bet on Denard leading the team in rushing this season — but how much he’ll develop as a passer in an offense with more complicated route schemes and reads.

Lest us forget, Robinson improved dramatically as a quarterback from his freshman to sophomore seasons, going from one-dimensional runner with a scattershot-at-best arm to a true dual-threat quarterback, raising his efficiency rating from a paltry 91.59 to 149.58, good for 20th in the country. Obviously, an equal improvement is out of the question — the best rating in the country last year was Kellen Moore’s 182.64, and Robinson’s rating was helped greatly by those unstoppable play-action passes where he’d take a step forward and the entire defense would abandon their assignments and leave gaping holes in the secondary — but I expect Robinson to become a more accurate passer. This improvement may not show up in the stats, but I think Robinson’s passing numbers will look similar to last year’s, just with more attempts.

Last year, Robinson completed 182 of 291 attempts (62.5%) for 2570 yards, 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while rushing for 1702 yards and 14 touchdowns on 256 carries (6.6 yards per carry). My guess for this year is something along these lines: 240 completions on 380 attempts (63.2%) for 3230 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, with 1100 yards rushing on 170 carries (6.5 yards per carry) and another 10 touchdowns on the ground.

Yes, this is a rosy outlook, even if the interception number is still a tad high, but I truly believe that the concerns over Robinson’s ability to adapt to this offense are overblown, and we’ll once again see a potential Heisman contender at quarterback for the Wolverines this season.

Alex: There has been a ton of hand-wringing over the offense for this upcoming season, and at the center of this consternation is the potentially problematic combination of Denard Robinson and Al Borges. The fear that Robinson will be handcuffed is a legitimate one; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that a guy who’s a generous 6-0, 190 lbs is probably not well-suited to hand off the ball thirty times per game from under center and try to function as a guy who takes most of his pass attempts on play actions and three- or five-step drops. Fortunately for Michigan, Borges wasn’t born yesterday and I’m very confident that he’ll tailor the offense to fit Denard’s skill set. I have a feeling that a lot of this rhetoric about toughness, “manball”, and a power running game is just to say what Michigan fans want to hear — either the coaches have figured out that the personnel on the team isn’t suited for a downhill running game already, or they’ll find out quickly once Michigan starts competing against good defenses that they shouldn’t run a Wisconsin-like offense.  To their credit, I think they’ll make sure that Denard’s talents are used correctly, but that still doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll do very well.

The biggest problems I foresee with Denard’s game are his passing abilities and decision making. He was virtually unprepared for college, the offense, and pretty much everything when he set foot on campus three weeks before his first game, and last year he had a season of game experience, tons of time spent on the practice field and film room, and synergy and confidence wit his teammates. Statistically, Denard was phenomenal, and his running ability was pretty awesome any way you slice it. His passing ability however, was less impressive. Since so much time has passed since the end of last season, it’s easy to remember the Denard Robinson that was in total command of the offense, was confident, dangerous, and garnered all the early hype. It’s easy to forget the Denard Robinson that through two interceptions into the endzone against Michigan State, was replaced by Tate Forcier against Iowa (and Tate played better than Denard), and was benched in favor of Forcier midway through the Purdue game that was admittedly played in a monsoon. All of those highlight runs throughout the season are now coloring our judgment of Denard as a passer — he was certainly above average as a first year starter — seeing as how he didn’t perform at even an All-Big Ten level when he threw the ball. I realize that he was dinged up throughout the season, and yes, a lingering injury to his shoulder affected his arm a lot, but it’s not like he was a great passer even when he was healthy. He’s a Heisman-level ball-carrier and a decent passer. Fortunately, there’s a ton of room for improvement.

Improvement is a given when a quarterback is in his second year of an offensive system, but Al Borges is bringing a more complex West Coast passing attack to Ann Arbor. It’s an entirely new system for Denard, and he struggled mightily during the Spring Game (the usual caveats about the fallacies of drawing conclusions from spring scrimmages, but let’s be honest, a Heisman contender — like many Michigan fans feel that Denard is — shouldn’t do that badly). Another learning curve will be presented to Denard, and I don’t doubt that he’ll succeed, but it might take some time. Last year, he threw lots of bubble screens off of quick reads, lots of easy slant or curl routes, and frequently hit wide-open receivers after showing run. This year, he’ll be forced to make way more complex reads with his wide receivers and throw with NFL-type passing routes and combinations. Yes, he’ll have a year of experience as a starter which does definitely help, but still, the learning curve is steep. If he can handle a brand new system that’s more difficult than the old one, it would be tremendous for Michigan football. I wouldn’t count on it though: these things take time.

Last year’s stats:

182 completions on 291 attempts (62.5%) for 2570 yards, 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. 256 rushing attempts for 1702 yards (6.6 yards per carry), 14 touchdowns.

My rough guess:

200 completions on 325 attempts (57.1%) for 2700 yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. 150 rushing attempts for 900 yards (6 yards per carry), 8 touchdowns.

Jack: When this recruiting cycle started off, my overly hopeful dreams were not the usual, of Michigan snagging the top players at each position, stealing away the likes of Andrus Peat and Dorial Green-Beckham, as they might be in any normal year. No, this year, I wanted quarterbacks. Lots and lots (meaning 2) of high profile QBs. Ideally, of course, that would mean landing some combination of Zeke Pike, Gunner Kiel, Wes Lunt (big fan of his), or Tyler O’Connor. Why so many, you ask yourself? Quite simply, I wanted Denard as a running back in this offense. A really fast, lightning quick, dreadlock-rocking, eye-popping tailback. And quite simply, we don’t have the depth to do that. Leaving the QB position right now would cripple our depth, leaving a (should-be redshirt freshman?) sophomore cannon-armed gun-slinger, and a true freshman recent-Purdue-defector. If that doesn’t scare you, perhaps you’d be interested in a job as an alligator wrestler (all kidding aside, that was my dream job for at least 6 years of my life…during my 20s..)?

But the move wasn’t just to benefit the running back position. I’m having a great deal of difficulty seeing Denard as the answer at QB, even if it is just for two years. Unless ‘Borges-Style-West-Coast’ means a heavy deal of shotgun/option plays, where we still spread the defense, Robinson will struggle, and mightily. His arm looked erratic at best during the Spring Game, and the latest scuttlebutt from sources here and there is that Robinson’s having a hard time getting a good grip on the offense. Do I think he’ll work hard to get it all down? Of course, he’s one of the hardest, most humble workers on the team. But sometimes it’s just not a good fit. I can’t help but see a vastly slashed statline from last year. Will interceptions go down? I think that’s a reasonable expectation. That more depends on the chemistry he’s developed with his receivers and a grown maturity as a passer. But will his number of touchdowns thrown go down? I’m almost sure of it. For one, when the formation is spread, it’s likely we’ll be seeing a lot more TEs than we used to. So, instead of wily slot ninjas, the goal will be to out-size the opponent. Why’s that a bad thing? Well let’s take a gander at the TE depth chart shall we? This year, it should look something like this:

Experienced Veteran
Highly Touted TE Who’s Failed to Impress Thus Far, Very Little Experience
Fifth Year Senior Who’s Made a Career Switching Between Offense and Defense
Undersized Former WR
True Freshman [Ed: And one coming off major knee surgery, at that.]
DOOOOM

While there’s a good chance one of them could break out, Koger looks like the only reliable target in the group. And even he had a case of the dropsies at times last year, losing his occasional starting role to Martell Webb. All in all, I’m a little concerned at the moment, but almost all of my judgment is based on rumors and conjecture, so maybe the staff will prove me entirely wrong and show me how foolish my skepticism was. Statline?
MOAR pass attempts, FEWER runs, BETTER (?) efficiency. 232/351 passing, 15 TDs, 8 INTs. 153 attempts, 1009 yards rushing.