Friday, July 8, 2011

Egregiously early football primer: offense

Spring practice stirs up many questions and answers none of them definitively, but it is still fun to speculate on what spring observations indicate about the team going forward. In addition, those speculating on spring ball are generally hardcore enough to pick up minor changes in players and have sufficient football knowledge to back it up. I'll give you an overview of the current thoughts the michigan football blogosphere has about this upcoming season. Visit mgoblog for more info on team news.

The biggest question going into the spring is Denard Robinson's ability to adjust to a new offensive scheme, fit for a more conventional pocket passer, from RR spread. Offensive Coordinator Al Borges said that he would adapt more QB runs for Denard, but he has said that he wont run as much as last year. The biggest concern for most is Denard's adjustment to playing under center and improving on some of the deep throws which he was not that accurate with last year. Reports have said that he is struggling, but improving. In addition Devin Gardner, Michigan's super recruit from last year, has shown signs of being a great fit for this offense in the future. He has innate pocket presence, great touch on his throws, and a ideal 6'4-5" QB frame to go along with his athleticism. It will be interesting to see how this QB battle plays out in the fall. Neither looked great up to this point, but both show flashes. It's early in the learning process for a new system, and its hardest for the QBs. I would say this will be a test of Al Borges' ability to adapt to the players he has. Denard Robinson is always going to be a threat with his feet. If you limit his ability to run him too much by pushing him under center and not utilizing his legs from the shotgun, I think we're in trouble.

Running backs have satisfied but not wowed anyone. Michael Cox and Stephen Hopkins, two of the bigger backs that are a better fit for Borges' running scheme, took most of the reps with the first and second team. Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes will have a chance to come in a compete for playing time, but its still wide open. It would be nice to see Fitz Touissant live up to the hype he came in with but he continues to battle back from injury.

Wide Receiver position is stocked for Michigan. We return 4 guys who have demonstrated big play potential, although inconsistently, in Hemingway, Roundtree (on blitnikoff watch list for best WR), Odoms and Stonum (now in trouble for DUI/drving on suspended license). I am excited to see one or more of these four really break out this season, if the quarterbacks get them the ball. Behind them, there is a solid stable of guys with experience and potential. This is the position group I (and most everyone else) is the least worried about.

I haven't heard much about the lineman other than most of them are playing undersized for this scheme because zone running requires slightly leaner Oline guys who can make blocks on second level guys (lbs and safties) faster. Rocko Khoury has gotten a lot of reps at center for the injured david molk and, apparently, Molk will have is hands full because Khoury has been solid at center.

Although most of what you have heard is negative, and a lot of people keep saying 'hmmm..complete scheme change that isn't adapted for the players on the roster..this sounds like 2008!! OH GOD NOOOOO!!!." My advice to you is to calm down. There are some significant differences between then and now.
THEN: We were breaking in underclassmen who had never seen the field at many positions including quarter back.

NOW: We have an offense of upperclassmen who played together on a good but not great offense last year. It will not be as bad as 2008. I am a perpetual pessimist and even I believe this is not 2008 rehashed. There will be some growing pains but we will have a descent offense by the start of the season.

While I am sure the defense will struggle this year, the offense is sort of the wild card in this case. We have all the talent to be an explosive offense, but it will depend on how the players adjust to the new Borges schemes and, more importantly, how well Borges can utilize the talent he has at his disposal. It will be exciting to watch. GO BLUE!!


  1. It's hard to say what will happen. Actually, I think traditional offenses give more flexibility than the spread.

  2. I think they can too when you have a quarterback who can spread the field with his arms not his legs. Spread and traditional offenses are reverse of each other in that way.