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: Nebraska

Quarterback

While in the game Denard was dialed in with the passing game for the most part. A mix of short precise routes and downfield passes kept Nebraska off balance and passive. Denard threw a beautiful post route to Roy Roundtree that was later rDenard Robinson - USA Todayuled incomplete after replay and he continually found Jeremy Jackson in holes in the Nebraska zone. Denard missed an opportunity on the zone read in the first half that would have likely resulted in a big play.

Two years ago Michigan fans got used to Denard Robinson getting knocked out of games for extended periods of time. The presence of first Devin Gardner, then Tate Forcier soothed most fears and Michigan rarely missed a beat when #16 left the field. A lot has changed in two years. Russell Bellomy is the next man up and he struggled mightily on Saturday. Down on the scoreboard and on the road in a very hostile environment is never a great place to make your meaningful QB play debut. Bellomy did take over deep in Nebraska territory but accuracy issues and nerves kept him from leading the Wolverines to the endzone. Eventually Bellomy settled down; but the accuracy and decision making did not improve and he never really presented Nebraska with much of a threat. Bellomy didn’t receive a ton of help from his receivers either. Even on those plays where Bellomy did deliver the ball accurately, the ball was dropped more times than not.

Grade: F

Running Back

Fitzgerald Toussaint got off to a fast Saturday on Saturday and looked as good as he has all season early in the game. Fitz was decisive, his cuts were precise, and he fought for extra yards. As the night wore on and the holes closed the production for all the runners declined, Fitz included. Vincent Smith was the only other back that received a carry in the game and he finished with minus 6 yards on the ground.

Joe Kerridge was the first Wolverine to catch a pass from Russell Bellomy, getting him off the snide with a 12 yd reception that went for a first down.

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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 Backfield Preview

Depth Chart:

 

3rd Down Back V. Smith4 Justice Hayes AP Image
  Vincent Smith Justice Hayes

Freshmen likely to redshirt: Drake Johnson

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