An Early Look at the 2012 B1G Legends Division (Pre-Spring)

1. Michigan 10-2 (7-1)

michigan logo

2012 Forecast

IF the Wolverines can find somewhat productive replacements for Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen and find consistency on offense, they should have another very good season.

Key Returnees

Offense: Denard Robinson (QB-SR) 142-258 (55%) 2173 Yds. 20 TD 15 INT – 221 Carries 1176 Yds (5.3) 16 TD. B1G Football Honorable mention.Denard Robinson - OSU

Fitzgerald Toussaint (RB-JR) 187 Carries 1091 Yds (5.6) 9 TD – 6 Rec 1 TD. B1G Football Honorable mention.

Jeremy Gallon (WR-JR) 31 Rec. 453 (14.6) 3 TD.

Taylor Lewan (OT-JR) B1G Football Second Team.

Defense: Jordan Kovacs (SS-SR) 75 Tackles 8 Tfl 4 Sacks 1 Int.

Kenny Demens (MLB-SR) 94 tackles 5 Tfl 3 Sacks. B1G Football Honorable mention.

Jake Ryan (SAM-SO) 37 Tackles 11 Tfl 3 Sacks.

Craig Roh (DE-SR) 32 Tackles 8 Tfl 4 Sacks.

Key Departures

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Previewing the Hokies

Logan Thomas & David Wilson

Offense

Scoring Offense28.5 PPG55th Nat.
Passing Offense227.1 YPG63rd Nat.
Rushing Offense188.7 YPG30th Nat.
Scoring Defense17.2 PPG7th Nat.
Pass Defense206.2 YPG39th Nat.
Rush Defense107.8 YPG16th Nat.

Virginia Tech’s offense has gone through variety of changes over the years. The one constant since the late 90s has been the presence of a difference maker at QB. This year’s version of the Virginia Tech offense is not as explosive as in years past but effective nonetheless under the direction of 6’6 245lb QB Logan Thomas. Any discussion of Virginia Tech’s offense begins and ends with the running game. Tech has a run heavy offense using both RB David Wilson and Thomas primary ball carriers. For much of the season, the Hokie offense revolved around getting David Wilson the ball in as many ways as possible. Dumping off to Wilson and letting him make something happen is a standard offensive play for the Hokies. Stopping the Hokie run game and tackling Logan Thomas will be a major test for the Michigan defense and likely determine the outcome of the game. Thomas frequently bounces off of tackles and is a load to bring down or disrupt even when the defense gets into the backfield. Hitting and wrapping up will not be enough as Thomas is often still able to complete passes with defenders draped over him.

Virginia Tech recruits and signs more TEs than any other team in college football. They do so because TEs are often the more versatile and multi-talent athletes on a roster. The Hokies often take TEs and convert many of them into offensive linemen because of their athleticism and footwork. This Virginia Tech team is no exception as starting left tackle Andrew Lanier is a converted TE. Virginia Tech’s offensive line boasts 4 senior starters but they have struggled for much of the year, especially in pass protection. The interior of the Hokie offensive line has been especially poor. The Hokies have posted some impressive rushing totals but those numbers are a reflection on the talent of David Wilson not the Hokie offensive line.
 
PassingComp. %YardsTDINTYards/Gm.
#3 Logan Thomas59.2 %2799199215.3
#6 Mark Leal69.2%1532076.5

Virginia Tech’s uses a very basic passing game and tries to limit Logan Thomas to easy throws. The Hokies rely on the run so when they do drop back to pass they normally face one on one coverage. The Hokies run a ton of WR screens, both bubble screens and quick hitting plays if opposing corners play off. If Michigan comes out in the same off coverage look it has for much of the season, expect the Hokies to throw quick screens until there is a change in coverage. One advantage the Hokies have over most teams in the passing game is size. The Hokies have some of the biggest receivers in college football. The Hokies use three major downfield targets when teams play press coverage, Marcus Davis (6’4 231lbs), Jarrett Boykin (6’2 219lbs), and D.J. Coles (6’3 225lbs ). As a change of pace the Hokies also employ slot receiver Danny Coale and TE Chris Drager underneath and on screens. As mentioned, screens and dump offs to David Wilson are also a big part of the Hokie passing.

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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: Illinois

Quarterback

The QBs really didn’t have to do much in this game thanks to the play of the RBs. Denard opened up the game red hot going 6-6 through the air. Some of the same bad habits that have gotten him into trouble all season crept back in after the hot start. When pressured, Denard went back to throwing off his back foot and had accuracy issues as a result, as well as several poor decision with the football.

The pass to Koger down the sideline in the 2nd quarter should have been a TD, but it was under thrown, Koger had to wait on the ball, and the defender had time to catch up. There were also several passes that should have been picked off, but were dropped. Ball security was also an issue, as Denard put the ball on the ground several times. Denard did do some nice things in the run game and made better reads on the zone read than he has in recent games.

Devin Gardner played reasonably well in relief action after Denard was knocked out of the game. Unlike Denard, Devin has a knack for throwing on the run as his best two passes came on plays where he left or stepped up in the pocket.

Grade: C+

Running Back

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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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