The return of Denard Robinson. Hoke has mentioned several times now that he understands what a player of Denard's caliber can do for a team, despite also believing that the zone-read is some horse pucky. I have my doubts about both Hoke's willingness to maximize Denard's talents as well as Denard's effectiveness in a more traditional pro-style offense. To the former, best case scenario is either a gradual waning of the zone-read a la West Virginia in Rodriguez's wake or an Ohio State-like multiple front offense that incorporates bits and pieces of the option attack in a primarily pro-based system.
Below is a chart of the run/pass breakdown for West Virginia during Rodriguez's final two years and the three he was at Michigan. Also included is Michigan's stats this year:
|WVU 2010||WVU 2009||WVU 2008||WVU 2007||WVU 2006||Mich 2010|
|% rushes by QB||20%||27%||44%||39%||34%||51%|
As you can see, Bill Stewart has taken a pretty linear path away from the spread offense that Rodriguez ran. At this point, West Virginia runs basically a passing spread with very little in the way of quarterback carries, at least insofar as the offense was originally conceived. This year, Michigan hovered somewhere around Rodriguez's final year at WVU and the Mountaineers' offense during his first year at Michigan.
I don't doubt that Hoke will try and incorporate Denard into the offense, but seeing something resembling the transition at WVU is probably unlikely: Hoke and his staff have no experience running--or being a part of a team than ran--the spread'n'shred, so his ability to utilize it is probably limited. Therefore, I'd guess that the Michigan offense will more closely resemble the Pryor-run Ohio State teams that base most of their offense out of pro formations but are willing to unleash hellfire on teams when they're desperate or just want to show off.
Frankly, I believe that Denard will get the first look at the starting position, but it'll eventually fall to redshirt freshman Devin Gardner with wildcatty bits of Denard sprinkled in. Gardner has the size to be a prototypical pro quarterback and, as we saw in the spring game, has more touch and accuracy on long passes than Denard has. If Gardner has corrected his throwing motion and proves himself to be the more accurate passer, I wouldn't be surprised to see him start the season under center. (Also, if Forcier is able to rejoin the team, don't be surprised if he gets a more serious look at the starting role.) Denard's concerning trend of consistently throwing behind receivers and overthrowing deep passes may be his undoing in a system that largely relegates his running ability to intermittent plays and QB scrambles. We'll see what happens, though.
Defensive coordinator. MGoBlog stole my thunder today (well, not really because it was obvious) about who Michigan should hire as it's next defensive coordinator: Randy Shannon. To wit:
Michigan has a lot of money left over since they're paying Hoke twenty dollars and some donuts and is competing with San Diego State for the bulk of its staff. There is a guy out there with crazy recent college credentials that also comes with a reputation as a fierce recruiter. He runs the Big Ten default defense, a basic 4-3 cover two. He turned Miami—Miami!—into an APR-obliterating, arrest-avoiding team. That's Randy Shannon, kids, and we know two things:As I outlined yesterday, Hoke's track record on the defensive side of the ball is less than stellar, and turning around a bottom-tier defense is going to take more than one of his buddies from San Diego State. Randy Shannon defenses are fierce, and he also brings a great recruiting profile and an "in" to the Florida high schools. Unfortunately, Michigan would have to pay him about as much as they're paying Hoke, and the chances of Shannon taking a Head Coach at Miami to DC at Michigan demotion are unlikely. This should be Michigan's prime candidate. Beyond him, it's about as barren as the head coaching position.
- If David Brandon was serious about getting assistant pay up into the area of Michigan's peer group he's the guy who Michigan should be going after with an oversized novelty check.
- The chance Randy Shannon comes to Michigan is extraordinarily slim.