2013 Offensive Depth Chart Preview

With the 2012 season wrapping up this weekend, it’s time to take a way too early look at the 2013 projected depth chart for the Wolverines with some analysis. Note: The only iDevin Gardner - UMGoBlue.comncoming freshmen that I will include in the depth chart are Shane Morris and Jake Butt.

QB: 1. Devin Gardner – Senior

2. Shane Morris – Freshman

3. Russell Bellomy – RS Sophomore

Analysis: Gardner returns for his fourth season as a Wolverine after starting the second half of 2012 at the QB spot following Denard Robinson’s injury. Gardner’s skill set opens up a more vertical passing game that the Wolverines became accustomed to with Robinson at the helm. Gardner has also shown the ability to make teams pay with his feet and should be the future of the position if he is granted a fifth season, something Coach Brady Hoke seems optimistic about. Shane Morris will be the second best quarterback on the roster talent wise, but don’t expect to see him in mop-up duty– that role will fall on Bellomy’s shoulders. However, should Gardner get hurt, expect to see Morris step in as the starter, ready or not.

RB: 1. Fitzgerald Toussaint – RS Senior

2. Thomas Rawls – Junior

3. Justice Hayes – RS Sophomore

4. Dennis Norfleet – Sophomore

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Grading The Performance: Iowa

Quarterback

Devin Gardner continues to improve at an Devin Gardner - UMGoBlue.comamazing rate. The better Devin plays, the more Al Borges has opened up the playbook and there has been little drop off in play. Devin made several NFL caliber throws on Saturday that Michigan fans haven’t seen since 2007. Throwing the deep 15-20 yard out route between the corner and safety is one of the hardest throws in football and Devin passed the test with flying colors. Devin also threw 2 flag routes to Roy Roundtree that were as impressive and difficult a throw as you are going to see in this offense. Devin continues to showcase that he is at his best when throwing to the sideline and vertically down the field. Al Borges has wisely steered away from throws to the middle of the field which can be hit or miss for Devin. Devin still has moments when he throws into double coverage or doesn’t identify hanging defenders which gets him into trouble. Devin’s interception to Micah Hyde occurred on a play where he failed to identify the hanging defender and threw the ball into what appeared to be an open spot.

If they’re smart, Michigan will continue to recruit mobile and dual-threat QBs in the same mold as Devin Gardner. The ability of mobile and duel-threat QBs to make plays with their legs in addition to throwing the ball is too advantageous to pass up in this era of college football. Devin Gardner’s arm has opened up facets of the playbook that Michigan hasn’t been able to successfully access prior to now. Gardner’s legs will allow them to continue to use parts of the playbook that would otherwise disappear once Denard Robinson is gone. Devin “only” carried the ball 9 times but he was extremely efficient and successful on those runs, accounting for 3 TDs and 37 yds. Devin’s legs not only force defenses to play honest, but give Michigan the ability to continue to actively attack opposing defenses on designed runs.

Grade: A

Running Back

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Grading The Performance: Little Brother

Quarterback

The QB play wasn’t always pretty on Saturday, but Denard Robinson made enough plays in the end with both his arm and his legs to put Michigan in position to Denard Robinson - UMGoBlue.comwin the game. Robinson completed just 48% of his passes on the day but converted some critical 3rd down passes to extend drives. Denard took care of the ball for the most part, but there were several occasions when the ball was thrown up for grabs. When the offense continues to struggle in games Robinson has tended to press and try to force plays that aren’t there. Denard didn’t press the issue as much this game but there were still a few “oh no” moments on Saturday. Denard threw behind a wide open Jeremy Gallon in the end zone and misfired on a pass to Roy Roundtree in the end zone early in the game. When plays needed to be made on the final drive however, Denard made them. No play was bigger than the 19 yd. pass to Drew Dileo that setup the game winning FG.

Reads continue to be an issue for Denard in the run game. While in some cases it would not have ultimately made a difference in the success of the play, Denard missed several key reads on the zone read. The fact that Denard hasn’t completely mastered the zone read after 3 years as the starter continues to bewilder. Denard did have the best rushing performance that he’s ever had against the Spartans on Saturday. It took 20 carries for Denard to eke out 96yds on the ground, 44 of which came on a single run.

Denard accounted for all but 67 of Michigan’s 326 yards on Saturday.

Grade: B-

Running Back

After what occurred in last week’s game, there was an expectation that Michigan would continue to use a running back by committee approach. The expectation never materialized as Michigan used Fitzgerald Toussaint on nearly every snap. Fitz probably should have received more touches as he gained 52 yds on just 10 carries (5.2 ypc). Saturday was probably the first game in which Fitz actually looked like the back Michigan fans saw last year. Fitz was decisive, didn’t go down easily, and finished off his runs with physicality. In a game where yards were hard to come by, Vincent Smith had a big 12 run to kick off Michigan’s game winning drive.

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2012 Michigan Football Backfield Preview

Depth Chart:

 

3rd Down BackV. Smith4Justice Hayes AP Image
 Vincent SmithJustice Hayes

Freshmen likely to redshirt: Drake Johnson

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Grading The Performance: Ohio

Quarterback

Players at Michigan are ultimately judged by how they perform against Ohio. While all position groups have to deal with an added level of expectation against the Buckeyes, no position group endures more pressure than the QBs. QBs are judged above all else by their record and performance against Ohio. For much of the last decade Michigan fans have seen their QB’s outperformed by their Buckeye counterparts. Names like Krenzel, Smith, and Pryor have made more plays in the clutch and fewer critical mistakes than Wolverine QBs. Over the last decade Ohio QBs have outperformed Michigan’s QBs, until Saturday.

Denard Robinson rose to the occasion on Saturday and simply willed the Wolverines to victory. Every time the Buckeyes made a play to take the lead or tie the game, Denard came right back to make a play of his own. Denard performed at the highest of levels on the biggest of stages; became a legend in the process. During one stretch of the game, Robinson completed 11 straight passes and was the most accurate that he’s been this season. The most impressive part of Robinson’s performance, from a passing standpoint, was that he was the most accurate while making the most difficult throws. Denard threw a perfect 15 yd corner route to Drew Dileo that would have gone for a TD had Dileo stayed on his feet. Denard also hit Junior Hemingway on a perfect strike between a safety and a corner. Denard made the difficult throws look easy, something that seems truly amazing when you think back of the season. In addition, Denard showed a tremendous amount of patience before hitting Odoms for a TD. There were no back foot, chuck the ball up for grabs plays, the kind that have gotten Denard into trouble all season. Denard was dialed in from the first snap and amazing enough continued to elevate his level of play throughout the game.

On the ground, Denard ran harder and with more decisiveness than he has since arriving at Michigan. There was only one play where Denard hesitated instead of making up his mind and taking off. Denard burned Nebraska last week with his scrambling ability and he did the same to the Buckeyes this week. Anytime Ohio vacated its LBs from the middle of the field, Denard took off which was great to see. Denard also did a great job on the zone read, an area that he has struggled with his whole career. Denard was determined not to let Michigan lose and he ran like it.

The only imperfections on the day for Denard Robinson were the two balls he put on the ground. On the first play Robinson was ruled down. On the second, Ohio got the ball in Michigan territory and scored a few plays later.

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