Friday, January 14, 2011

Random Hoke notes

With everyone's rage or excitement regarding the Brady Hoke hire beginning to return to the mean, I had a few thoughts floating around that I wanted to discuss.

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
Passing 382 347 305 265 233 385
Rushing 526 509 517 628 590 556
QB rushes 107
(2.0 YPC)
(3.37 YPC)
(5.03 YPC)
(6.72 YPC)
(7.07 YPC)
(6.22 YPC)
% rushes by QB 20% 27% 44% 39% 34% 51%
Rush % 57.90% 59.40% 62.89% 70% 71% 59.08%

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:
  1. 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.
  2. The chance Randy Shannon comes to Michigan is extraordinarily slim.
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.


Nick said...

"I'd guess that the Michigan offense will more closely resemble the Pryor-run Ohio State teams"

Honestly, I'd be fine with that. Tressel's ability to adapt to the times is what supplanted Carr in the rivalry. If Hoke can show this same ability, then I'm happy.

Lankownia said...

"everyone's rage or excitement regarding the Brady Hoke hire beginning to return to the mean,"

Everyone meaning you? Return meaning arriving?

Good analysis on Hoke and Denard in the spread. I suspect you could be right about the gradual shift away from spread, but that seems maybe slightly optimistic. It could be much faster, as you said, with more of an OSU offense -- which would be fine by me. Stewart was an internal promotion, while none of RR's staff was retained at Michigan so they'll have a hard time being effective at the zone read stuff. It'll perhaps be mostly used as a change of pace from the more conventional stuff. I'd guess that the formations will remain spread out, with a lot of shotgun retained, but the plays and blocking schemes will be quite different.

Gardner has a more accurate long ball but he's far from a prototype pro-style QB. Denards been more accurate on intermediate stuff it seems like and Borges has ran a lot of short passing in his history. I really wish people would stop talking about Denard being moved until it happens. Yes, there are questions about the transition but we're still talking about an elite QB who is proven. Its very presumptuous to think he can't be successful just because of a change in scheme. Its not like Gardner is the only one capable of improving or that he's immune from the difficulties of transitioning to a new (undermined) scheme, just because he's tall.


Shannon seems like a pipe dream (a la Gruden, Patterson, John Harbaugh, etc.). I agree though - he'd be an asset in the program. Vance Bedford is being rumored -- any thoughts on him?

Chris Gaerig said...

I never said Gardner was a prototypical pro-style QB. I said he has the size of one, which is a big deal.

I guess I still don't fee like Denard is an elite QB re: throwing. Rarely this year was I confident that in third-and-long situations, Denard would make the right, accurate throw. That doesn't mean he never did or is unable to, but doubts remain in my mind.

Furthermore, Denard was incredible last year, but I'd argue that about 60% of that was scheme-based. If Hoke can find a way to scheme around Denard, then yes, he could continue being an elite QB. But in the traditional pro-style offense, I think it's hard to call him elite.

Lankownia said...

I think its reasonable to say Denard isn't an elite passer. However, assuming Gardner will be enough of a better passer to make up for significant impact that Denard has as a special running threat from QB seems like a stretch right now. Its possible, but the staff is saying they want Denard at QB. I don't think they want to do that in order to have him sit the bench behind Gardner.

I hear you about doubts regarding Denard in a different scheme, but scheme or not, he was an elite QB. Theres value in that, even in a different scheme, even if he isn't elite. Gardner is even more unproven. Borges has made it clear that he'll still use Denards greatest asset - his legs. He just won't use them as much as 2010.

Denard has proved doubters wrong about staying at QB before. I believe he can do it again. Borges' Vick comparison seems appropriate in terms of public perception and conjecture.

Chris Gaerig said...

It'll come down to what Borges does ultimately. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Randy said...

For the sake of playing devils advocate (I love denard) I ask this. Does anyone believe that part of the problem with denards throwing issues was a result of rich rod's offense and the pure amount of times the kid was asked to carry the rock? Denard is not and will NEVER be physically capable of carrying the ball that much for 12-13 games. Could this coaching change not result in denard still carrying the ball often but not being exposed to the brutal hits and provide denard with the opportunity to stay much healthier and in turn more accurate and consistent? Denard can not be a 5 step pocket passer but if you roll him in space the kid has a cannon and can be accurate when healthy. If he progresses from year 2 to year 3 as he did from year 1 to year 2 I have absolutely no issue with him not running 20 designed off tackle suicide missions. The idea is to run him often enough to pull the safeties down and then use denard in space the threaten the run and throw the rock. Some people act like the spread equals QB RUUUUN!!! It doesn't, it is incorporating the threat of run and pass using the entire field and that doesn't always equate to 60 percent run and 40 percent pass.

Post a Comment