Grading The Performance: Purdue

Quarterback

This was by the most efficient day for the quarterbacks that we’ve seen all season. It wasn’t a huge day statistically through the air or the ground but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The offense has been dependent on the play of the QB for the entire year. Saturday was the first game where the QBs have taken a back seat. Denard played the role of distributor more than that of creator or facilitator as he’s done in the past. That isn’t to say that Denard didn’t make some key plays on his own. Denard was in his comfort zone as a passer and it showed. He did get into trouble locking onto Kevin Koger, which cost him a pick, and he once again threw off his back foot into coverage when pressured. Those plays were the exception in the game however. Since arriving at Michigan, Denard’s best throws have come on the intermediate dig route, and Saturday was no exception, as he rifled a perfect strike to Jeremy Gallon in stride, and was on the money on the rest of his short passes.

Devin Gardner continues to receive snaps; which will only help his development. Devin handled managing the offense well enough, but did throw a key interception. He likely kicked himself after watching the film, as there were two wide open receivers; his pass was nowhere near either of them. He is likely still a year or 2 away from being ready.

Grade: C+

Running Back

What a day for Fitz Toussaint, who likely locked himself into the #1 RB role. Fitz showed a burst that we haven’t  seen from him since he arrived at Michigan, but one he flashed in HS. Earlier in the year, Fitz was run down in the open field on several occasions, nothing like that happened on Saturday however. Outside of the speed, Fitz also displayed great vision and cutting ability, which we have really lacked at the RB position since Mike Hart. Even though he didn’t get in the game until late, Mike Shaw continued to show strong running ability. It continues to baffle me why he doesn’t receive more carries, he’s been effective every time he’s touched the ball.

Stephen Hopkins seems to have really taken to the FB position. Hopkins put down some key blocks for the backs, and while he has had trouble holding onto the ball, he’s earned the opportunity for significant playing time at FB

Grade: A+

Wide Receivers

I won’t go as far as calling this a bounce back game for the receivers after their performance against Michigan State, but they did make some very nice plays and bailed out their QB out on occasion. Jeremy Gallon is beginning to live up to the hype he had coming out of HS as an All-American. When he gets the opportunity to make a play in space he’s a real weapon. Roy Roundtree always manages to get himself wide open whenever we play Purdue. I don’t think he has ever let the controversy surrounding his recruitment go. He seems to play with an especially large chip on his shoulder against Purdue.

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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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Grading The Performance: Minnesota

Photo Gallery from Michigan’s 58-0 Thumping of Minnesota

Quarterback

What a bounce back game for Denard Robinson. Amid all the criticism, scrutiny, and even calls for a QB change, Denard came out and produced his best game of the season from a passing perspective. Denard was accurate, efficient, and looked completely comfortable in the pocket, something we haven’t seen from him  since last season. Despite what some may consider a paltry amount of yards this is just the kind of performance Michigan needs the rest of the way through. 15-19, 169yds, 2 TD, 0 INT is the stat line, though I am just as excited about the decision making and the ease at which Denard made completion after completion. When he is in his comfort zone Denard IS a good passer, he showed that on Saturday and hopefully keeps it up the rest of the season. Maybe Denard should have his elbow drained before every game considering the results.

Devin Gardner certainly showed flashes of the ability that made him such a highly rated QB coming out of HS. His passing was a bit hit or miss but there were limited opportunities. Devin is certainly not afraid to thread passes into tight windows as he did on the run to Hemingway.

Grade: B+

Running Back

If Michigan gave out helmet stickers, Vincent Smith would have trouble finding room after Saturday. On Saturday, Smith became the first player in Michigan history to record a passing, rushing, and receiving TD in the same game. Not bad for a prospect out of “The Muck” of Pahokee who was deemed too short and too small by most of the “experts” and coaches in the country. Fitz Toussaint continues to impress with his combination of speed and power. Fitz averaged a Denard Robinson like 9.8 yard per carry on Saturday. He did get caught from behind again, which has happened quite a few times this season. True freshman Thomas Rawls was impressive in his first clip getting extended carries. I`m still not crazy about burning his redshirt, but he definitely had his moments on Saturday. Even Mike Shaw finally got back into the act and had a lot of success on limited carries, especially on the cutback plays.

Grade: A

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Grading The Performance: San Diego State

I am including a scale to provide more detail to the grades I give out. Hopefully this will clear up some of the ambiguity within the previous grades.

A: Unit played as close to flawless as possible. Unit played well enough to win the game on their own.

B: Unit had a major positive impact on the game but also had several assignment/execution miscues.

C: Unit did not negatively or positively affect the game. Unit made key positive plays along with critical errors.

D: Unit made multiple critical errors that could potentially cost the team a win. Unit blew assignments and had poor execution across the board.

F: Play of the unit was bad enough that it could directly cost the team a victory.

Note: Plus and minuses denote degrees of the grade.

Quarterback

The production from the QB position continues to be double sided. Denard remains a terror in the running game, but his play in the passing game is below average. Denard once again broke the back of another opponent by breaking big plays with his legs. He continues to show great vision and patience when running the ball, though his reads on the zone read were suspect at times. Poor decisions and throws in the 2nd half could have potentially brought SDSU back. Both interceptions were the result of bad throws and bad decisions. There were several nice throws in the first half, but overall the passing game doesn’t seem to be getting better.

Grade: B

Running Back

The RBs combined for 23 carries and 127 yds rushing. Vincent Smith had another strong day on the ground and made some nice receiving plays. Smith’s fumble in the first half was costly as the team was driving for a 21-0 lead. Fitz continues to be the best, between the tackles and short yardage runner, but hasn’t broken any large runs since the first game. Stephen Hopkins once again showed that he cannot be counted on to hang on to the football, he needs to exclusively play FB from now on.

Grade: B+

Wide Receivers/TEs

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Grading Brady Hoke’s First Three Games

By Contributing Writer Clint Derringer:

I understand that it’s tough to gauge a coaching staff’s impact, or level of success, in such a short time span. However, 3 games (or 2.75 games) do provide enough data to begin toDenard Robinson - UMass look for patterns, both positive and negative. Here is what I have come up with (grades in the parentheses reflect my thoughts on the COACHING, regardless of what I view as talent issues):

Offensive Staff (C)

Pluses

A huge plus for Al Borges has been his willingness to put Denard Robinson into shotgun/spread situations, where he is more comfortable. Being inflexible in this regard would have spelled a disastrous start for Michigan. Additionally, adequate protection from the O-Line, and Denard’s quick feet, have combined to allow only one sack. Another noticeable factor is Michigan’s improved ball security. Although Michigan has committed 4 turnovers, they have won the turnover battle in each game. That, in my opinion, is the most critical reason that the Wolverines are 3-0.

Minuses

Borges definitely needs to continue to integrate his pro-style offense more as we progress through the season. However, expecting Robinson (5′ 10") to be able to stand tall in the pocket and throw intermediate routes is a recipe for trouble. Once the Michigan running backs are producing more from the "I" formation, the play-action passing game will allow Denard to bootleg and be out of the pocket, where he will have improved vision and (theoretically) better accuracy. This facet of the playbook will also make defenses commit a player to be responsible for Denard just taking off once he is out of the tackle box.

Defensive Staff (C+)

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