Sunday, September 03, 2006

Commentary on the Vanderbilt Game (Offense)

I have thus far avoided reading any recaps or reactions to yesterday's beatdown of the Commodores so that I could give my unbiased and honest summary of what went down. We'll start with the offense first.

Quarterbacks

Chad Henne v 3.0 was unveiled yesterday. The results? 10/22, 135 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs. But good lord did his receivers drop the easy catches. If they would've caught all the balls that hit them squarely in 2 hands, his stats would be closer to 16/22 and 195 yards. He only made one bad throw all day long and I'm convinced he just didn't see the LB closing in front of his receiver on the sideline. But Carson Butler, Steve Breaston, Mike Massey, and Mario Manningham all dropped great throws from Henne. Despite his bland stat line, Henne had a very good day. He faced quite a bit of pressure from the Vandy D and did not make mental mistakes. I am noticing a definite career trend for Henne, however, that I've been watching since his freshman year. It's his pocket presence and what he does under pressure. As a freshman, he just stood there and got sacked (frequently) showing almost zero pocket awareness. It was his one major weakness his freshman year. Last year as a sophomore, he started to feel the rush and was willing and able to throw the ball away when the heat was on. Then towards the end of last year and what looks to be growing this year, when the heat is on he is showing a knack for tucking the ball down and running with it to make a play. This is a good thing, because he's probably our 2nd most athletic QB in the Lloyd Carr era behind Drew Henson. But where am I going with this? I think he's on the verge of making a quantum leap in quarterback-hood. I don't know if it will be this year, but I'd be shocked if it doesn't happen by next year. At some point he is going to feel the rush, run to avoid it, and keep his head up looking to make a pass downfield from outside the pocket. Watching him take off 7 times yesterday just reaffirmed this for me. He would feel the rush, tuck the ball, and take off. Not once did he scan downfield after tucking the ball. But you know what? He's going to. And when he does, he will become a very dangerous playmaker. I just hope it starts clicking this year and we don't have to wait until next year.

Overall grade for yesterday? B+. Didn't make any mistakes and was really hurt by his receivers drops. All in all a solid effort, though, as most of his passes were on the money.


Running Backs

Was that a healthy Mike Hart we saw yesterday? You're damn right it was. And he was back in full effect juking the hell out of people and breaking tackles left and right to the tune of 31 carries for 146 yards. There really isn't much to say, because it was simply a classic Mike Hart game. He hardly ever breaks a long run, but just repeatedly gouges the D with 5 and 10 yard runs that move the chains. He also made several defenders look silly yesterday leaving them in the dust when they had a clean shot at him in the backfield. It's been a long time since I've seen a back make people completely whiff so frequently.

Who else got action? Kevin Grady was definitely slimmer and faster and looked great on his 19 yd TD run on the opening drive. Then he did got himself in the doghouse by losing a fumble. Based on the amount of talent at the position, he better not make that a habit if he wants to see the field. Carlos Brown popped the cherry on his freshman season by inserting himself into Antonio Bass role from last year going 4 yards behind the right side of the line from the shotgun. And then there was Brandon Minor. Rivals rated him as a fullback coming out of high school. Most people (including me) assumed he'd redshirt with all the depth. But word on the street was that he was putting on a show in fall practice. And oh good lord did he make a statement yesterday. 3 carries, 30 yards, and a spectacular show of speed and vision. I can't figure out who his running style reminds me of. Maybe an Anthony Thomas with more speed? Yeah, it's only 3 carries and some fall hype, but he looks like the real deal. In total, Michigan ripped off 51 carries for 246 yards and generally exerted their will against Vanderbilt's overmatched defense. Obi Oluigbo wasn't dominant, but made some solid blocks at fullback.

Overall grade: A. Could not have asked anything more from the running backs yesterday.



Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Steve Breaston did his thing on offense with 4 catches for 68 yards (including one classic across the field jaunt) and 1 end around for 13 yards. Mario Manningham was solid with 3 catches for 44 yards although he really should have had 4 for about 60 some if you credit him with what the replay official incorrectly took away. Everyone else was generally nonexistant. Tyler Ecker had a nice TD grab in the back of the endzone but that was his only catch. Carson Butler might be a physical freak, but he dropped 2 easy catches. Mike Massey was wide open on what would've been about a 30 yd TD pass but it just fell off his fingertips at the 5 yard line. Adrian Arrington had one catch and some decent blocking. Carl Tabb didn't do much of anything except take a stupid false start penalty. And then there was Greg Mathews out there ahead of LaTerryal Savoy burning his redshirt. Kid certainly passes the look test and if he's earned PT in game 1 as a freshman at WR you know he has a bright future.

Overall grade: C+. Breaston was good on the underneath stuff, but still doesn't do much downfield. Manningham had a solid but unspectacular game. Way, way, way too many dropped passes though. That needs to be straightened out ASAP because the Notre Dame game is not far away.


Offensive Line

Michigan officially unveiled their new zone blocking scheme yesterday. Got off to a nice start on the opening 81 yard drive where they just blew Vanderbilt's front seven off the ball. Up and down the rest of the way with several missed assignments leading to untouched passrushers, though Henne bailed them out by avoiding the rush and only taking a single sack. I guess it's about what you'd expect with the first game action for a new blocking scheme. Get the kinks worked out and they could be very good.

Overall grade: B. It's hard to fault a group that paves the way for nearly 250 yards on the ground against an SEC opponent. Too many free passrushers, though.


Special teams

I don't feel like doing an entire post dedicated to the special teams, so I'll just throw them in here. Garrett Rivas was in midseason form yesterday going 2/3 on field goals and 3/3 on extra points. The one missed field goal was blocked and it was clearly his fault for getting off one of his low linedrives. He did make a career long 48 yarder, though. He also made all 3 extra points, though, 1 almost missed. As for punting, Zoltan Mesko made his Michigan debut by booting 3 times for a 41.7 yd average that was aided by some friendly bounces. His 3rd punt, however, was a towering 45 yard effort. Ross Ryan got 1 punt for 37 yards. The return game yesterday was awful. Breaston only had 1 clean shot at a return and he bobbled it.

Overall grade: B-. The return game stunk. The punting was decent. The kicking was the same as it has always been as the final results were pretty good but it sure looked ugly.


Offensive coaching

Mike DeBord made his return to OC duties at Michigan. What did we see? A little bit more running out of spread formations than we've seen in the past. Some actual misdirection plays that went against what used to be Michigan's stonecold predictability. I mean did anyone else notice the FB shuffling in motion to the right only to watch the play go back to the left side yesterday? In the 4th quarter, however, DeBord showed some classic Lloyd-ball by steadfastly pounding Mike Hart behind the left side of the line against a stacked defense when we had a double digit lead. I'm willing to cut DeBord a little slack in this game. It was the first game of the season and Michigan basically dominated everywhere but the scoreboard thanks to some dropped passes, penalties, and a blocked field goal.


Overall grade: B-. It would get more of a C if it wasn't the first game, but I'm assuming/hoping DeBord didn't want to show anything. Our running attack did like mighty nasty, however, and I really think we could get back to punishing some teams on the ground this year like we haven't done in years.


Later today I'll get to the defense. Here's a preview of my thoughts: Me Likey! Here's a preview of opposing QBs thoughts after games this year: Ouch!

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