Well This Was Fun Wasn't It?
It took 2 seasons, but last fall when Denard Robinson beat out Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner for the starting quarterback role, it was evident by game 1 that, Rich Rodriguez had found his guy to run the spread offense. All of the slot ninjas, quick nimble lineman, and quarterbacks that could run, seemed to be finally meshing. Through the first 6 games of the season Denard was the Heisman Trophy front runner (he finished 6th in final voting). Shoelace became the first player in NCAA history to rush and pass for more than 1,500 yds and set the Big Ten single season total offense record with 4,272 yards of total offense (2,570 yards passing and 1,702 yards rushing) and led the conference in rushing. By the end of the season the offense statistically was one of the best in the country and one of the most exciting Michigan offenses to watch in memory.
|Michigan 2010 Offense|
|Rushing Offense||13th (238.5 yds/gm)|
|Passing Offense||36th (250.2 yds/gm)|
|Scoring Offense||25th (32.6 pts/gm)|
For all of its successes the spread seemed to have its down falls as Denard missed time in 10 of 12 games last season and the offense seemed stagnant against the better teams on the schedule. The offense also seemed to flounder in the redzone ranking 92nd in scoring %. Personally, I think that statistic is somewhat not conducive of the circumstances. Our defense couldn't stop the JV girls powder puff team from getting in the end zone, forcing the offense to score on nearly every possession. Oh, and that field goal kicking thing? Uhh...
|Thank you Barbrady, you're right I did not want to see that.|
Well, after a 52-14 beat down by the hands of Mississippi State, Rich Rodriguez was gone and so was the spread. Brady Hoke brought in Al Borges to take the reigns of the offense. There were rumblings about whether or not Denard Robinson would stay... he did and here we are.
Al Borges is a journeyman offensive coordinator, with four schools under his belt in the last eleven years. The performance of his teams?
|Al Borges Offenses||Team||Rush Off.||Pass Off.||Total Off.||Scoring Off|
My reaction, very MEH... But, in this what have you done for me lately world we live in, the progress he was able to make at previously abysmal SDSU in just two seasons, is where I find my hope and encouragement. Borges was able to move the ball against quality teams last year when SDSU played TCU, Missouri, Utah, Air Force, and Navy.
Brian at MgoBlog had this to say about Borges.
Borges looks like just a guy by the numbers, and he's just a guy who seems like the worst possible fit with Denard. Jason Campbell ran more when he got to the NFL. Hopefully there's some more flexibility in this offense than it appears at first glance, otherwise it's a fourth straight year with a new, underclass starting quarterback.Borges and Hoke both came in saying there would be an emphasis on establishing the run and running a more pro-style/west coast, MANball type of offense. Think Lloyd Carr offense, but without that old man I need a diaper look, every time we drop back to pass. Borges likes to zing it around a little bit more. But, with a talent like the Denard the old adage, can't fit a square peg into a round hole seems to apply. It appears as after spring ball Borges is beginning to feel the same. In a recent Rivals article Borges dropped these bits on his plan.
"What we're trying to do as we go is take the next step, understanding what we want in the offense, and his skills are going to be explored," said Borges. "We're probably going to run the quarterback more than I ever have because he is so talented we have to explore that option, but then develop other parts of his game. Because he wants to be a next level player, he's been very receptive."And this about running out of the shotgun.
"We will be under center half the time and more in shotgun than we've ever been before, though we've always run a good degree of it. We ran 35 snaps in one game at San Diego State last year. It's not news for us. But there's a transition not just for Denard, but everybody."
You'll notice here in the spring game highlights that, the first play was out of shotgun and Denard was able to, well... be Denard.
The rest of the time, made me maddeningly confused wondering, "is this that turn around for the defense we've been waiting for, or are we really going to be this bad on offense?" I think somewhere in between. What I find most encouraging is...
- The progression Denard was able to make from his freshman year to last, which leads me to believe he will put in the time and effort this summer to make the transition smoother.
- Al Borges I think clearly sees he has a talent he can't under use just to install his system. Something that plagued Rich Rodriguez early in tenure at Michigan.
- We have 9 starters returning offense. This is a veteran group that are no longer freshman and sophomores who are still working the squeak out of their voices. These are matured dudes who have had adequate time in the weight room.
- Who steps up at running back to make MANball work and keep the load off Denard? Many out there seem to believe that incoming freshman Thomas Rawles may be the dark horse in the running back race. Rawles was an under the radar recruit who would've been ranked higher had their not been questions about his ability to qualify.
- The offensive line is the least of my concern. From my time playing football I am under the distinct impression that moving from a zone scheme to a man blocking scheme isn't that difficult for a lineman. If you're blowing people up you're blowing people up. If that assumption is far and away inaccurate it could be a problem.
- Too many receivers not enough balls. With all of the slot ninjas on the team how do they become incorporated into this offense.
- I expect to see an offense hovering somewhere around the 40 in the country. There's too much talent coming back on this team for me to believe we will take a drastic dip. If we struggle the first two games of the season to move the ball against two defenses we haven't had a recent problem against than, I may be putting my foot in my mouth sooner rather than later.
- I expect to not see a clear-cut back until the 3rd or 4th game of the season unless someone emerges from camp head and shoulders above the rest. My starting back prediction is... Michael Cox
The true tale of the story will be, if we aren't moving the ball well early in the season, how quickly will Borges and Hoke scrap all that is MANball and cater the offense to our skill set. The hope and my belief is that we never get to that point. We will definitely see some "uhh ohhs" and "ohh EFFFFFF" plays along the way but nothing compared to 2008. The offense seems to have all bought in to the new system and I think we won't be last year but we won't be even close to 2008 either. At the end of the day we have the best smile in college football leading our offense and if this doesn't put your heart at ease, than I do not know what will.
Up next we get caught up on recruiting. As always, Go Blue.