Monday, April 18, 2011

2011 Spring Game thoughts

I probably should've had this up earlier, but there were too many playoff games to watch this weekend. So without having rewatched the spring game, here are some general thoughts:
  • First, yikes. The offense was on some 2008 ish and it doesn't look like they're anywhere near where they need to be. Watching pulling guards run into other linemen during the I-formation power play was painful. Granted, the offensive line wasn't at full strength, but this could be supremely ugly.
  • The defense looked... above average? Without Woolfolk and Floyd, the secondary didn't look like a crater and the defensive line/linebackers all looked OK against the run (the huge exception being Michael Cox's long touchdown run where he bowled over one of Michigan's defenders).
  • If the game highlighted anything, it's that Michigan needs a new quarterback. Shocking though it may seem given Denard's production last year and Devin Gardner's upside, but neither of them are going to work in this offense. Michigan will have a new starting QB next year, book it.
  • Specific problems with the quarterbacks: Denard had trouble making many of the throws. He still doesn't have much touch, especially on deep balls, and had trouble throwing over the offensive/defensive lines, sailing a lot of passes. Devin, who has the size, still has little or no technique. Watching him fling a 40-yard pass from his off foot was the most Pryor-Armpunt thing I've ever seen him do. Unless the new staff can drastically improve his fundamentals, Gardner won't ever see significant playing time at Michigan, and that's disappointing.
  • Your running backs are still just guys that have legs and hold the football when it's given to them. Mike Shaw probably had the best day, making the right reads and getting into space. But even he was unimpressive. The others were all hit or miss with Fitzgerald Toussaint and Stephen Hopkins getting most of the other touches.
  • Will Campbell looked like a large man that was able to stand straight up and not move when offensive linemen ran into him. He has zero technique but will be a functional plug for most of the season.
  • Other defensive notes: Holy Blitzes. Michigan is going to be aggressive this year on defense, play lots of man coverage (yay!), and throw a lot of different looks at quarterbacks.
  • People that impressed: Jake Ryan was as advertised in his recruiting profile: the archetypal linebacker with a nose for the ball. He'll see playing time this year. Carvin Johnson played well at free safety. Tony Anderson held his own against the first team offense, though I suspect he won't see much playing time when Woolfolk and Floyd return.
  • Mike Martin: I know he had a pick-6 during practice, but he needs to not be used as a linebacker. I can see literally no benefit to having Martin line up on the outside, standing up, and dropping into coverage. This is worse than using Craig Roh as a linebacker. If you want Martin to take a zone drop from his nose tackle position, fine, but using him how they did in the spring game is a recipe for easy completions.
Later this week, I'll have other content on the spring game. And hopefully, a torrent of the game will be available so that I can do some real analysis. A bit of editorial though:

This is going to be a difficult year. Despite implementing plays for Denard to run the ball, it's clear that Michigan's offense is going to struggle mightily. They're not built for this system and it showed. The offense is going to be similar to 2008 when it was disjointed and the players spent most of the year just trying to figure out the basics. Fortunately, the defense should be able to make up for some of those shortcomings. It's going to be a blitz-heavy defensive front that will put pressure on the opposition to execute. So long as they can tackle well (still yet to be seen), the defense should look a lot like it did under the Carr years: force teams to march down the field and wait for them to make a mistake. With the caveat that this is just the spring game, it's difficult to see Michigan doing more than treading water this year.


chitownblue said...

This isn't an over-reaction to 50 snaps.

Holy Moly.

jamie mac said...


I will gladly take those bets that Denard and Devin wont be the QB next year and that Devin wont ever see significant PT at MICH. Good grief, it was a practice and they were purposely featuring plays that played the QBs and teams weaknesses. It was almost geared to make them look bad.

Calm down, take a breath and if you still want to book those QB bets, drop me a line anytime. I'll give you great odds because they wont being paying out when its all said and done.

Otherwise, nice blog, Keep up the good work

Anonymous said...

man were you negative. Its April and been a little over a month of practicing a new system.

And everything I have heard out of practice is that Mike Martin coming off the edge has been working wonders. Obviously he would not drop back that much. mattison even said Martin is best coming off the edge and if you can get him a head start without being immediately contacted that is a good thing.

Obviously he wont be doing that all the time but it is a great switch up. Plus how often do you see complex defenses like that in college. This will confuse alot of college qb's.

Andy said...

I agree that the offense looked disjointed, but I think it's a big leap to say this will be '08 again. I have faith that Hoke / Borges will see what happened to Rodriguez when he fully implemented his system and it blew up in his face. They will work this stuff in, but when it comes down to it, I think we'll see the offense looking a lot like it did last year.

As for the QBs, if Forcier were still around, you might be on to something, but the chances of a true freshman unseating senior Denard are very small.

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