Managing Expectations

Brady Hoke’s first season at Michigan was a smashing success. Few could have predicted an eleven win season considering the challenge of implementing a new offense and defense, overcoming talent and depth deficiencies, and trying to fit personnel to scheme. Hoke’s first year sJ.T. Floyd - 3uccess exploded expectations for 2012. Going into last season, the majority of Michigan fans expected seven-nine wins. In the span of a year, those expectations have changed dramatically. Last week, Michigan was voted the favorite to win the Big Ten conference by members of the media. Brady Hoke, as most would expect, brushed aside the selection noting that where Michigan is rated to finish the year is more important than where they are at the start. The media selection echoes what many Michigan fans have felt all off-season. Michigan returns fourteen starters off an eleven win 2011 team including the electric Denard Robinson. As a result, many feel that Michigan is inevitably poised for an equal or better 2012 campaign.

There are inherent dangers in expectations exceeding reality. When a team plays to its capabilities yet that is not enough because of unrealistic expectations, the result is often a strong negative backlash. That backlash can potentially create a toxic environment that impedes future success. Michigan fans know the results of trying to operate in a toxic environment all too well. There is nothing wrong with wanting or hoping for highly successful seasons. We all want Big Ten Championships; BCS bowl victories, and National Championships. The danger comes when you move from hopes and dreams to expectations. Expectations come with consequences when they are not met.

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Grading The Performance: Notre Dame


I’ve debated long and hard on how to grade Denard’s performance from this game. On the one hand he really struggled to execute in the passing game, there were horrible throws which were matched with even worse decisions. On the other hand Denard was asked to do things that he has long struggled with and that he’s frankly not very good at. Denard was not, is not, and likely will never be a good drop back passer. He makes poor decisions and throws when he is asked to sit in the pocket, scan the field, then make throws. That’s not his strength and it never has been. He was asked to do that a lot in this game and struggled mightily. Denard can’t be completely absolved of the blame however. He flat out made some terrible throws and decisions. He’s been drilled on his footwork and fundamentals all offseason yet still makes the same mistakes over and over. Al Borges can’t be blamed for Denard chucking a screen pass 4 yds over a back’s head, or air mailing go routes. Denard did showcase some of the phenom ability we’ve come to expect. The pass to Hemmingway while being dragged down by a defender was one of the most exceptional plays I have ever seen. In addition Denard made  clutch play after clutch play in the 4th quarter. Still, on a night where Denard finished with only 11 completions and threw 3 interceptions it’s tough not to focus on the negative despite the outcome. In the end both the coaches and Denard are responsible for the performance. In this case I put more blame on the coaches than Denard.

 Grade: C+

Running Back

The backs were mostly non-existent. The efforts to find a complimentary back to help shoulder the load continues. The backs simply weren’t asked to do much as they received a combined 8 carries in the game. I would like to think that the absence of Fitz contributed to the effort but we simply did not use our backs enough to evaluate their performance. Vincent Smith had one of the plays of the game on a screen pass but the Hopkins fumble at the goal line offsets what would normally be a decent grade.

Grade: C+

Wide Receivers/TEs

The receivers were really the story of the night offensively. I would give a gameball to the entire receiving core as they were the real heroes of the game. Junior Hemmingway did his best Braylon Edwards impression on a night when his #21 was honored for Desmond Howard and he really bailed out his QB. Despite being one of the smallest guys on the field Gallon had two of the biggest plays in the game, including setting up the winning TD. Roy Roundtree caught the winning TD on a spectacular effort but it was his blocking on the Vincent Smith TD that really caught my eye. The early drops are the only thing that keeps the WR unit from receiving perfect marks.

Grade: A-

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Grading The Performance: Western Michigan


Not surprisingly Denard Robinson had moments of both good and bad, though there was none of the spectacular plays that we have come to expect from #16. Fitzgerald ToussantOn the plus side Denard seemed more comfortable under center than he did in the spring, he didn’t turn the ball over and his decision making as a passer was good for the most part. Denard threw a picture perfect strike to Gallon on 3rd and 6, a pass that he struggled to complete in the past. On the down side there were several very poor throws made by Denard which were the result of bad footwork. There were under- throws, over-throws, and several passes thrown behind WRs that were caught. There were also several instances where Denard left his receiver out to dry, subjecting them to big hits and potential turnovers down the road. Overall the game management and decision making earn Denard solid marks in his first performance in the new offense, even with the lack of big plays.

Grade: B-

Running Back

The performance by the backs was really a tale of two halves. There wasn’t much running room in the first half and the backs struggled to hit holes and make guys miss. Michigan averaged a measly 4.2ypc going into halftime. That number radically changed in the 2nd half as Fitzgerald Toussaint and Shaw both broke runs of 40+ yards. Michigan finished the game average 7.3ypc with both backs flashing the kind of big play ability the offense has missed. The backs also did a good job of blocking, both in pass protection and lead blocking for Denard on designed runs.

Grade: B+

Wide Receivers/TEs

It was a mostly uneventful day for the receivers as there were only 13 passes thrown in the game. Roundtree and Hemmingway both bailed out Denard Robinson on bad throws and the receivers as a whole did a good job of catching the ball. Koger had 2 nice grabs, including one in traffic which got him hammered. Both the TEs and WRs did a good job of run blocking during the game. Tough to praise or criticize a unit that didn’t get asked to do very much.

Grade: B

Offensive Line

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The Blueprint To Filling Out The 2012 Class

With 18 commits for the 2012 class so far and the final number more than likely 26, numbers are starting to become very, very tight. Here is my Gunner Kiel - SI.comlist of kids that we are still recruiting to fill out the class.

Quarterbacks (Wanting 1?)

With Maty Mauk giving his pledge to Missouri, Michigan is down to two offered quarterbacks who are showing interest.

1. Gunner Kiel. Most have him down to Alabama, Indiana (yes I said Indiana), and Oklahoma. Rumors of a second visit have not yet come to fruition. Not looking very good here.

2. Devin Fuller. Devin is a very explosive athlete who wants a chance to play quarterback in college. Michigan is recruiting him as an athlete, but would get a shot as a signal caller.

Running Backs/Fullbacks (Wanting 1 of each?)

With no running back standing out in the current roster the Wolverines do need a back that will be able to carry the rock around 25 times a game. And that back does need a true fullback leading the way. I’m not a huge fan of giving a fullback a scholly unless he is a very, very good one. And unless we can snag Bri’onte Dunn or Greg Garmon, I’m all for passing on a running back this class in favor of an extra DL, WR or OL.

1. Bri’onte Dunn. The long time Buckeye verbal continues to reiterate his commitment to them. Unless OSU receives MAJOR (USC like) sanctions no one should hold their breath here. Until those penalties are handed down Dunn will remain “open” and make some additional visits. He will be back to AA for the Notre Dame game.


2. Greg Garmon. A very explosive back who visited Michigan a few weeks back. Garmon keeps his recruitment rather tight and continues to name North Carolina his leader.

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Crystal Ballin’ UM’s 2012 Recruiting Class

Here is my first guess on how I believe the recruiting class might look like at the end of the season. Remember recruiting is very fluid and the final list will probably look very different. At this point I have Michigan at 18 scholarships with the Cullen Christian and DJ Williamson transfers. This number will likely grow to around 20-22 when all is said and done, but for this list I’ll keep it at 20 prospects. Again, this is purely my guess at this point in the game and February is a long ways away.

1. QB – Tyler O’Connor. No offer as of yet, but since the Pike commit to Auburn things have been heating up.

2. WR – Malik Gilmore. Wants to visit Michigan and ND.

3. TE – Devin Funchess. Michigan Commit.

4. TE – A.J. Williams. Michigan Commit.

5. TE – Ron Thompson. Even with Funchess and Williams in the fold, I think Michigan takes him.

6. OT/OG – Ben Braden. Michigan Commit.

7. OG – Caleb Stacey. Michigan Commit.

8. OT – Jordan Diamond. Has stated for quite some time now that Michigan is on top.

9. OT – Erik Magnuson. Has Michigan in his top 3 along with Miami and Oregon.

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