As I mentioned in my UConn game column, one of Michigan's more effective plays on Saturday was the oft-lamented Totally Surprising Quarterback Draw that Michigan used Denard Robinson for last year to middling effect. The offensive line came in for a lot of praise on Saturday and you can look no further than this play to see why. I did a little digging and found comparable plays from 2009 and early in the game against UConn to see the differences. In short, they're drastic, and you can now see why Rodriguez wanted to run this play so much last year. Simply put, the running backs and offensive line just didn't have the play down last year to run it effectively. So without further ado:
This play was on Denard's touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Michigan is set up in a 4-receiver set (trips to Denard's left) with Brandon Minor in the backfield. Iowa is essentially playing a 4-3, cover-1 with one of their linebackers shaded over Michigan's slot receiver.
This exact same play worked significantly better against UConn on Saturday--say what you will about the relative level of competition, you can see Michigan's linemen and skill players doing a much better job executing the play.
There are a few slight changes in the presnap alignment, but not many that drastically change the outcome. First, instead of the fourth receiver to the weakside of the play, Michigan instead inserted a tight end on the weak side of the play. UConn's corner is shaded over the tight end. Otherwise, UConn is playing in a 4-man front with two linebackers in the middle of the field. All of the receivers are covered up (and each will once again be responsible for their man downfield) and there's one deep safety.
I hadn't taken notice of it, but my brother said to me before the UConn game, "In the past, Rodriquez has been really honest about how the team wasn't performing like he wanted them to. His confidence gives me a little bit of hope." (Or something to that effect.) The point is well made: It looks like Rodriguez finally has the pieces in place that he wants and we've seen tangible evidence of it in week one. It will be interesting to see how the team progresses as the season goes on, but this is nothing short of a windfall for the offense.