Monday, January 17, 2011

Denard to stay, spread offense all but gone

This video has been all around the Internets today, but I'll post it for posterity:

In my heart of hearts, I was convinced that Denard was gone, not necessarily because he wanted to play in a spread system, but because, as he says in the video, Rich Rodriguez was one of the few coaches in the country that believed he could play quarterback. While Denard is clearly loyal to Michigan, I thought that his loyalty to Rodriguez might've trumped that and seen him transfer to another school. Thankfully he seems like a tried-and-true Wolverine, the likes of which this program was founded on.

All of the rumblings about what the offense will be next year continue to concern me, though. When asked about what Hoke has told him about the offense, Denard responded with,
It's going to be something to learn. It's going to take time. It's gonna be fun.
That sounds like we're going to see very few spread schemes, despite the assertion that the coaches will do their best to scheme for the talent they have. And when TomVH at MGoBlue talked with offensive lineman Chris Bryant, the prospect gave a troubling (to me at least) response to a question about next year's offense:
Coach Hoke was telling me about the new pro style offense, a lot of schools run that and Michigan used to run it.
This sounds explicitly like Hoke is telling recruits that Michigan is returning to the Lloyd Carr years of I-formation zone-left runs. The more I hear about Al Borges' prospective offense, the more concerned I become for next year's team and the success of Denard under center.

This year, Michigan went 7-6 almost solely on the strength of its explosive offense. Next year, the offense will take a noticeable step back and, given Hoke's teams' defensive track record, it's not beyond reason to expect Michigan to drop to 6-6 or worse on the scoresheet. If Hoke is able to turn Michigan's defense into something respectable--which he should be able to do with a talented and deep group of players now--I'll curse the heavens that Rodriguez was fired instead of being allowed to revamp his defensive staff again. But a regression from the offense is ominous.

There's also a video floating around of Hoke talking about the transition and the offense next year:

Hoke mentions Mike Vick as a successful running quarterback in a pro scheme, as well as the fact that Denard played under center a lot in high school. My biggest concern here is that Denard's throwing ability isn't sharp enough to carry a West Coast-style offense. His timing and accuracy will need to significantly improve if he's going to succeed in this system next year. Regardless, the utilization of Denard next year will likely amount to roll outs with a run/pass option, and scrambling out of the pocket, something he was hesitant to do for the majority of this year.

I am cautiously optimistic about next year. Denard has the arm to make the throws that will be asked of him, but I'm not sure if he has the accuracy. Not to mention, it sounds more and more like any sort of spread running attack will be abandoned with the implementation of Borges' offense. I'm confident that whoever Hoke hires as the defensive coordinator will be able to turn that unit into something respectable. My biggest concern for next year is going to be just how far the offense falls from its epic highs this year.

If you need me, I'll be in the corner telling myself, "It's only January" over and over again.


Anonymous said...

"If Hoke is able to turn Michigan's defense into something respectable--which he should be able to do with a talented and deep group of players now-"

Are you serious? There are basically no 4-stars in the secondary with any meaningful experience. There are two LBs leaving, with no obvious replacements, and whoever replaces them will have almost no experience.

Players don't turn from terrible and experienced as freshmen to "respectable" just because the clock rolls forward by one year.

And not having GERG doesn't suddenly make the team respectable either. You have to find a suitable replacement.

Let's stop pretending that Hoke should have a "respectable" D next year no matter what. It was no slam dunk no matter who was/is coaching.

Anyone who was not happy with the Hoke hire is pretending that 9-3 is the baseline for doing an OK job. RR was likely not going to win 9 next year, and its doubtful that Hoke wins 8. The future on D may (or may not) look bright, but lets not pretend that RR left a competent D locked and loaded for next year - they were near the bottom in the NCAA. And incremental improvement does not turn an OSU beat-down into a win.

Chris Gaerig said...

You may be overestimating how good Greg Robinson's schemes were. Many of the problems with Michigan's defense last year were scheme oriented and you can infer that the coaching wasn't similarly poor.

The defensive line doesn't lose anyone. The linebackers next year will be some combination of Cam Gordon, Mike Jones, Davion Rogers, J.B. Fitzgerald, Marvin Robinson, or Brandon Herron surrounding Kenny Demens. And the secondary will have Troy Woolfolk, Cullen Christian, and Carvin Johnson at FS; Jordan Kovacs/Thomas Gordan/Josh Furman at strong safety; and Avery, Floyd, Talbott, Greg Brown, Delonte Hollowell, and Blake Countess at CB. (I'm sure I'm missing players too, and some in the secondary will probably shift around here.)

The defense now has a lot of depth at each position, all with ample playing time and several as proven contributors. This isn't going to be the Michigan defense of 2006, but with good coaching, it'll be a middle-of-the-road Big Ten defense with nowhere to go but up.

Anonymous said...

My understanding of football playcalling and blocking is pretty rudimentary, so correct me if I'm wrong:

Hoke made public comments about zone blocking being a bad thing for defensive preparation. Would going back to "I-formation zone-left runs" fall into exactly what he said he didn't believe in? Or is a "zone-left run" a misnomer?

The irony here is that low expectations like 6-6 will make Hoke look good, while the unfair expectation on Rodriguez made him look like a failure.

"His timing and accuracy will need to significantly improve if he's going to succeed in this system next year." I feel like I was reading the same thing about Denard 1 year ago.

Anonymous said...

Regarding defensive improvement:

If other teams lose players and you don't you improve. One year of practice and development does make people better, so yes, you improve just because "the clock rolls forward by one year".

The Michigan defense has plenty of 4 stars. The talent is there.

There is no reason for it not to improve substantially, other than having to learn a new system from a new staff.

Chris Gaerig said...

The "I-formation zone-left run" is a zone run, but it's also something that's been widely adopted by most pro-style systems (it was Carr's go-to play for his final few years).

Hoke's comments are interesting in that he complains about doing exclusively zone blocking schemes. My guess is that he'll adopt one or two of these plays and use them intermittently. However, I'd expect that zone-left runs to be one of the primary running plays that the team uses next year.

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