Grading The Performance: UMass

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Quarterback

There’s no doubt that Denard Robinson improved this off season, in both the run and passing game. Denard’s footwork, mechanics, and decision making have all improved and are as good as they’ve been since he arrived at Michigan. With all that said, there are still moments when Denard reverts back to old habits. Like most QBs, he struggles with pressure in his face. Denard’s “oh no” moments have happened most often when he’s felt pressure. Saturday was no exception as Denard’s decision making, footwork, and accuracy went out the window, resulting in a horrendous pick 6 in the second quarter. Unfortunately the focus for many will be the pick 6, a play that shouldn’t overshadow what was an otherwise great performance.

Denard has made so many spectacular plays over the years that Michigan fans now take it for granted. Denard has turned the spectacular into the ordinary, it has now become something that we expect to see. Denard’s 36 yd TD run (@the 4:45 mark) in the 2nd quarter in a prime example.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlZ1y9riYS8[/tube]

For most of the QBs that Michigan has had over the last 20 or so years, the play above would have resulted in a throw away, a minimal gain, or a sack. For Denard, the play results in a TD. Poor competition or not, that was an unbelievable play and the kind of play that is sure to become extinct after #16 is gone. Yes Denard’s play at times can force you to hurl things across the room and scare family pets. Denard’s bad can be REALLY bad. At the same time, Denard’s good is unlike anything most have ever seen in college football. Denard has made plays in the maize and blue that couldn’t be replicated in a video game. Denard takes a lot of flak and while some of the criticism is warranted, it must be juxtaposed with the fact that Michigan fans are blessed to be in the presence of greatness on a weekly basis.

Backup QB Russell Bellomy finally saw extended playing time on Saturday and was able to flash the athletic ability he has been touted for. There weren’t many opportunities for Bellomy to throw the ball but he made some very good plays with his legFitzgerald Toussaints. Whether he is anything more than a back-up QB remains to be seen.

Grade: A-

Running Back

The Michigan coaches wanted to get Fitz Toussaint 20-25 carries but fell short. Even with relatively few carries, Fitz was able to show the kind of burst and quickness that earned him so many accolades toward the end of last season. Fitz always runs hard and Brady Hoke and Co. love this but his single best quality remains the lateral quickness. Fitz has rare naturally running ability that you just can’t coach. Vincent Smith finished the game with 3 carries, two of which were TDs. Smith also added a 19 gain on a screen pass early in the game that setup another score.

It took 3 games but Thomas Rawls finally showed something in the run game. Rawls flashed decent initial burst and showed the kind of physicality that Fred Jackson and others have raved about. Justice Hayes was the most impressive of the young backs. Hayes didn’t hesitate or tip-toe between the tackles, scored a TD, and clearly has speed to burn. Dennis Norfleet received his first offensive snaps and didn’t disappoint, gaining 14 yds on his one and only carry. The coaches are clearly trying to setup plays for later on down the road using Norfleet. Norfleet’s ability to get to the corner and make plays in the open field is something the Michigan offense is lacking outside of Denard Robinson. It will be interesting to see what Al Borges has planned for Norfleet in the future.

Joe Kerridge filled in for the injured Stephen Hopkins and did a good job of blocking when Michigan went to more “traditional” formations. Kerridge may not blow up a lot of guys in the hole but he does a great job of moving bodies and angling his blocks.

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2012 Michigan Football Wide Receiver Preview

Depth Chart:

The wide receiver position may be perceived as a weakness on the offensive side of the ball. However, I’ll convince you that this unit may be as strong as it has been in recent years. First, let’s take a look at the projected depth chart. This assumes that we’ll be lining up in a spread formation moreso than a pro-style, which is what we should do considering our quarterbacks.

WR R. Roundtree Jerald Robinson - Scout Amara Darboh - isportsweb
  Roy Roundtree Jerald Robinson  Amara Darboh 

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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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Grading The Performance: Michigan State

Quarterback

Saturday was just a rough day for the QB position across the board. While the QB play was heavily influenced by other factors, the QBs didn’t play well on their own. It is certainly difficult to make plays while under constant duress but even on plays where there was time and open receivers, both Denard and Devin struggled. The constant pressure exacerbated Denard’s poor footwork and by the 4th quarter he was completely rattled. In addition, Denard hesitated in the pocket on plays where there were running lanes available and a lot of green grass. Denard looks like a QB who has lost confidence, both in his own abilities and in what he is suppose to be doing. At this point Denard does not trust himself and is over thinking plays instead of being on auto-pilot. The only really successful plays from the QB position occurred when Denard was split out as a wing-back.

There are already calls from some in the Detroit media for Devin Gardner to replace Denard. If said individuals actually rewatch the tape they`d see that Devin struggled just as badly as Denard, just in different areas. Neither QB handled the blitz very well, which isn’t a surprise as most QBs, college or pro, struggle with defenders in their face. From a physical and mechanical standpoint Devin may be ready to play, but he’s nowhere near ready from the mental side. He failed to spot a wide open Stephen Hopkins running free in the secondary, instead choosing to throw into coverage. Devin threw a strike to Hemingway in the endzone only to have it called back because he threw the ball well beyond the line of scrimmage. Devin does a better job of throwing accurate passes to open receivers but first he has to find them. Lastly, he hasn’t reach the point where he can manage the game. It isn’t by accident that Denard is the one who called a timeout with the play clock expiring, Devin had no clue.

The only thing keeping the QB position from receiving a failing grade this week are the extenuating circumstances that had as much, if not more to do with play of the QBs.

Grade: D-

Running Back

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