Thursday, June 28, 2012

2012 Season Countdown: #63 Ricardo Miller

Ricardo Miller
Name: Ricardo Miller
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 234 lbs.
High school: Ann Arbor (MI) Pioneer
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #80
Last year: I ranked Miller #48 and said he would be a backup tight end.  He played in eight games as a special teamer and backup tight end but did not accrue any statistics.

Miller has led a bit of a wandering path to this point in his career.  He started off as a highly touted wide receiver recruit, but when he arrived in Ann Arbor for his senior year of high school, it looked to me like he wouldn't be able to hack it at wide receiver.  He tried to play at wideout as a freshman, moved to tight end as a sophomore, and now finds himself back at the wide receiver position after the spring didn't go so well.

Now headed into his junior year, Miller doesn't look much closer to seeing the field with any consistency.  He's too slow to stretch the field, not sudden enough to get open on short routes, too small to be an in-line blocker at tight end, and was never considered a "jump ball" type of receiver in high school.  He seems to be a man without a true position.  However, the need for contributors at wide receiver (and tight end) is pretty dire.  The starters are average, and the backups are very young and unproven.  It remains to be seen how Al Borges will use him in the offense, if at all.

Prediction: Backup wide receiver or tight end


  1. I'd say the fact that he played at the thinnest position on the team (TE) this spring and then was promptly moved tells you all you need to know. Even if the guy cannot block in the least, Borges is still hurting for weapons at slot and U-back. If he were any receiving threat at all, I think Borges could have found a role for him in that position group. Will be shocked if he sees the field outside of special teams.

    1. I tend to agree with you, but there is an outside chance that Borges could be planning not to use much of the tight end this year and just decided to disband the position a little bit. There's a need for receivers, too, since three of them graduated last year. I don't think Miller will be particularly useful at either position, but I don't think the position change is as clear-cut as you, I guess.

  2. It could also be that the WR position didn't go well in the spring either and we know the coaches like tall possession receivers. I hope he finds a role because he committed so early, loves the school, and even moved to Ann Arbor as a senior to help prepare for college.

    1. I'm rooting for him too...but things don't look too hot right now for his role on the team.

  3. The need for WR 'contributors' isn't dire at all. Rewatching a highlight tape of the ND game last year and the primary targets in the 4th quarter were Gallon, Grady and the last 2 TDs were to Smith and Roundtree. Hemingway's gone, but he's replaceable. I can agree that we don't have a proven IMPACT player but there are a lot of quality receivers on the roster and a couple promising freshman too. We'll be fine there. Besides, this is still a run-oriented offense. The receivers just have to keep the defense honest by grabbing some of the long balls that go in their direction (which Gallon and Roundtree have proven they can do). Denard's legs (and Fitz's) mean 1 on 1 coverage for wide receivers. These guys are good enough to get open against that. The question, again, is if Denard can get it to them consistently.

    As for TE - that's a different story. Borges loves using them but the two best guys are gone and there is no Roundtree or Gallon caliber player to take over. The best guy is Brandon Moore and his WR equivalent is somewhere between Carl Tabb and Greg Matthews - unimpressive. Maybe Borges will adapt, but last year he stuck with a thin TE group and being deep at WR. He's also made comments that indicate he believes this offense (with Denard) benefits from have 2 TEs.

    Even though Miller is a WR now, I could see him get used in the slot as pseudo-TE. He could get a shot there, but unless he can block effectively, he won't see much time. Hard to envision much of a role for a 6'4 TE turned WR who hasn't done anything to-date.

    Maybe I'm crazy but... what I'd like to see out of this offense is, instead of throwing out a 2nd TE or 3rd WR, lets use Vincent Smith as a 2nd back and move him around between the slot and the backfield. He's a good blocker and a receiving threat. He may not drive his guy down the field when Fitz and Denard run, but he gets in people's way...and he'll keep the DBs and LBs honest with his receiving skills.

  4. The need for bodies at WR isn't dire, but the need for contributors is. As you mentioned, the primary targets against Notre Dame were Gallon (solid, but short), Grady (gone), Hemingway (gone), Smith (a running back), and Roundtree (who had a poor season last year). I don't necessarily agree that Hemingway is replaceable, at least not by this group of guys.

    Counting on Gallon to win jump ball is dubious, and Roundtree isn't the physical leaper that Hemingway was. It wouldn't be such a highly valued quality to grab jump balls if Denard Robinson didn't heave up so many of them, but that's not the receivers' fault, I guess...

    I don't like the idea of using Smith as a slot receiver much, at least not if Gallon is on the field, too. Putting three receivers on the field when one is 5'8" and another is 5'6" is a bad combination. I like Smith in certain situations, but eh... Besides, it seems that Borges likes to use big guys in the slot, so someone like Jerald Robinson or Jeremy Jackson is probably more likely to be used at that position.

    1. It's the 'but short' part that I quibble with. He was just as short last year and very good. The coaches and the qb have talked about Gallon's jump ball ability AND he's shown he can do it in games. Desmond Howard was short (and skinny). Hemingway was stocky. Tom Brady doesn't have a great arm, but he's a great QB. Jordan Kovacs is slow. Mike Martin is undersized. It's silly to focus on his one negative, which isn't really that big of a negative anyway. Gallon was productive - that's the bottom line. Who care's that he's short? Not every player has to fit into the prototypical body type.

      Smith has been extremely effective in the slot. He's also motioned into the outside WR position at times. I don't want to get into arguing about him again (even though I'm the one who brought him up.) Gallon has been effective from the outside. They can be used at the same time - I don't see any reason they can't.

      Roundtree didn't have a great season, but there were 3 quality seniors, he moved outside, and he had a new offense - plus Gallon (the more highly regarded recruit and more talented player)emerged to pass him by. He's a good, not great, player. That's fine.

      Yeah, Hemingway Odoms and Grady are gone but Dileo and Jackson have already proven they can be 'contributors' at least. Let's put it this way - if Hemingway, Odoms, and Grady hadn't been there last year these other guys would have produced in their place - a no one would be worried in the least.

      You can nitpick the perceived flaws or limitations of each of these guys. You can do this at every position. None of the WRs are David Terrell (I was going to say Braylon Edwards but he's a guy who sat on the bench for 2 years, so maybe they are...). So what?

      Gallon, Roundtree, Dileo, and Jackson are proven 'contributors'. These guys can be competent, at worst. Robinson, Darboh, and Chesson are talented and are going to get their shot too. It would surprise me if none of them emerge as good players. WR is one of the least worrisome position groups on the entire roster. QB has reliability issues, unproven backups, and an undersized starter with injury issues. RB and OL lack depth. WR and DL don't have any proven elite talent returning and will ask freshman and career backups to step up. TE lacks...everything. Even LB and DB - the strengths of the team on paper, come with question marks about overall talent level.

      I guess my point is this. If your position group lost a bunch of seniors that is bad, obviously, but it's far less bad if the guys replacing them have experience and proven production than relying on freshman and non-contributors. If Miller was being counted on, I'd be worried. He's not.

      Regarding the Hemingway jump ball thing - this WAS a big part of the offense last year, but lets not over-react. First, Denard can get better and rely on that less (it's very likely he does). Secondly, Roundtree and Gallon did win jump balls last year (not as prodigiously as Hemingway did, but still) and Darboh and Chesson are big dudes. We'll be fine, even on jump balls (which happen infrequently.) We're going to miss Koger a hell of a lot more than Hemingway and he didn't catch any jump balls IIRC.

      Hemingway went from being underrated a year ago to being overrated now. He's a good player with an uncanny knack for grabbing the ball out of the air. He was a big play threat, but he wasn't particularly elusive and didn't consistently get separation or make a lot of people miss after the catch. Gallon and Roundtree are different players and that's okay. Mike Hart was different than Chris Perry. Different players have different skill sets (and bodies) As long as there are good overall players the offense will keep on going. Denard's and the OL are what will make this offense go.

    2. The point is that the coaches played to Gallon's strengths last year, because he was a sub/situational player. You can be effective as a 5'8" situational player. Chances are slimmer that you can be a productive starting outside receiver at 5'8". And yes, he was good at catching the jump ball...once. He caught a nice jump ball against Notre Dame. That doesn't mean that we should count on a 5'8" kid going up and getting it as often as Hemingway, and probably not often enough to take the risk frequently.

      It's NOT very likely that Denard gets better. Denard was a junior last season. He threw 15 picks (and 20 touchdowns) and completed 55% of his passes. I mean, I guess 56% and 14 picks is better...but we shouldn't expect that Denard is going to come out as a senior and light the world on fire as a passer.

      I don't think Hemingway is overrated at all. He's not a great player, but he bailed out Denard time after time because he was able to go up and turn Denard's mistakes/prayers into good plays. Nobody is claiming Hemingway was an excellent receiver, but he was pretty good. The issue is that if Denard continues to chuck those balls downfield, there's quite possibly nobody to come down with them. Jerald Robinson, Darboh, and Chesson are all rather big guys with some potential, but obviously none of them is proven. And maybe I'm crazy, but if those same balls are thrown to Gallon, I'm going to go out on a limb and say most of them turn into interceptions or incompletions. I'm willing for him to prove me wrong, though.

    3. Lank, your double standard is amusing. You freak about about "unproven" commodities like every freshman offensive lineman or backup and Shane Morris, but then look at a group of unknowns at receiver and say "we'll be fine."

    4. @Blastbeat

      Most freshman OL red-shirt because they aren't physically ready to play. Roundtree and Gallon are far from unknowns. Even Dileo and Jackson aren't unknowns. Chris Bryant is the equivalent of Jerald Robinson, but the 2012 team doesn't need Robinson to be on the 2-deep. That situations at WR and OL aren't remotely the same.


      I don't agree that Gallon was a situational player like Smith. There was a ton of WR depth so players rotated around (with Hemingway clearly the best guy and therefore playing the most). Gallon was in on 1st downs and 3rd downs. HE was in on 2 WR sets and 3 WR sets. He was in when they were running mostly and in when they were in passing situations.

      The coaches and Denard raved about Gallons jump ball abilities. I'm not sure why you doubt them on this one besides your hatred for short people (just kidding...I think...)

      The jump ball was obviously part of the offense last year. They weren't all mistakes/prayers, many of them were called plays. Maybe because of Denard's limitations they were calls, but still - it wasn't about 'bailing out Denard' anymore than Fitz taking a handoff from Denard. Even if we take your assumption that the teams jump ball ability is grossly diminished without Hemingway, the coaches simply won't call those plays anymore.

      We'll see about Denard, Thunder. We've argued this before. Denard may be "a bad quarterback" in your eyes, but he's not going to throw 15 interceptions again. Denard's going to improve because Borges is a good coach and he has a year under his belt. He has the ability to do it, he has the coaches, he has the desire. The vast majority of Seniors get better - I don't know why Denard would not. He's not going to become an ultra-accurate passer but he just has to become incrementally more consistent.

      Look, I get that you prefer big players on offense. You've dogged Denard, dogged Vincent Smith, and you don't like Roundtree, Dileo, or Gallon's abilities. You think the smaller OL aren't going to be ready (despite Molk putting in 4 good years). That's fine, but I think at some point you have to acknowledge production... I wonder what this blog would have said about Mike Hart in '04

    5. I don't expect Denard to "light the world on fire" through the air, either. But it's reasonable to assume that he'll make considerable improvement, just like nearly every other QB has done during his second year Borges's system. He will need to be better, too, because I just don't think the "chuck it up" approach - which was clearly a strategy to counter defenses stacking the box - will work with Gallon and Roundtree manning the outside receiving spots. So. . .just like with the team, there could be considerable improvement without that being reflected in the stats/record.

    6. Lank, that's just not fair to Magnus.

      He hasn't dogged Denard for being small.

      He hasn't dogged Vincent Smith, just have a crazy man-crush.

      Molk was super strong coming into college...much stronger than any of the incoming freshman OL. That makes a difference.

      Roundtree and Dileo didn't catch very many passes last year, period (Jackson caught even fewer), and the former is even more disappointing given his 2010 season and his vast amount of playing time. I think Gallon's pretty good, but that's about it. Jackson's a pretty good blocker, but a very poor man's Jason Avant otherwise.

      Out of curiosity, what happens if Denard DOES throw 15 interceptions again?

    7. "Look, I get that you prefer big players on offense. You've dogged Denard, dogged Vincent Smith, and you don't like Roundtree, Dileo, or Gallon's abilities. You think the smaller OL aren't going to be ready (despite Molk putting in 4 good years). That's fine, but I think at some point you have to acknowledge production... I wonder what this blog would have said about Mike Hart in '04."

      That's the thing, Lankownia - I DON'T prefer big players on offense. I think guys of any size have a role. I have never brought up Denard's size as an issue. I dogged Vincent Smith because he WASN'T productive as a starter; however, I have consistently stated that I was glad Al Borges was finally using Smith in the way he should be used, which is as a third down/situational back. I like Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo...but not as starting wide receivers for an inaccurate passer. And Roy Roundtree didn't produce much in 2011.

      I do acknowledge production. Which of the guys you mentioned "produced" when I "dogged" them? Not Roundtree. Not Vincent Smith. Dileo hasn't produced much of anything, although I have never really "dogged" him. A good number of Gallon's catches came on screens and short passes, which is fine...but if he's going to start at split end, he's going to have to be productive running all kinds of routes.

      I don't know where you get the "smaller OL" thing, by the way. I have only said that the smaller FRESHMAN offensive linemen are somewhat unlikely to That just kind of makes sense. Molk put in four good years and I never said a peep about him. But he redshirted as a freshman.

    8. @ BlastBeat88

      In fairness to Lankownia, I did "dog" Vincent Smith pretty hard when Rich Rodriguez was here. But that's because Smith wasn't a productive starting running back.

    9. @Thunder,

      That's a pretty big coincidence that you just happen to be highly critical of the short guys. Look, I get the Vincent Smith critiques - he's a mediocre runner at best. His height isn't why that's true tough. Our Smith/Shaw arguments where more about what is important about the position than the guy, but there were a lot of mentions of stature along the way.

      The OL comment was a stretch, I admit.

      With Denard you were exceedingly harsh. And while you didn't explicitly talk about height much, you did call Gardner a better fit for the offense and say Denard was a bad qb. You depicted Gardner as the much better passer and a better fit for the offense even though there wasn't any real evidence of it. So did most fans. But Gardner's just a taller Denard. The best thing about him is his speed, and his passing is still a work in progress. One guy got the benefit of the doubt here, and it wasn't the one who had plentiful on-field success under a different head coach.

      Roundtree didn't produce last year, but did in 2010. Part of why was Gallon's emergence. Part of it is a big change in the offense.

      There's strong evidence of bias and I'm sure if I looked through your reviews of Norfleet and other undersized recruits I could point to more examples. I think the coaches agree with these biases. They want bigger guys everywhere and the small guys have more to prove.

    10. The stature thing with Smith was mostly about the fact that he was tiny and couldn't get the job done in short yardage situations. That was as much of a critique of Rodriguez as Smith, since 5'6", 180 lb. (maybe) guys weren't meant to gain first downs on 3rd-and-short.

      I will be exceedingly harsh with any guy who fumbles the ball too much, completes 55% of his passes, and throws 15 picks. I don't care if it's Denard, John Navarre, or someone else. I do think Gardner's skills fit a Hoke/Borges offense better in the sense of what they WANT to run in an ideal world, the offense they're recruiting for.

      You wouldn't find any bias in my review of Norfleet, and I was a big fan of Demetrius Hart when Michigan was recruiting him.

      Here's the thing that I've said before, Lankownia, and I never really heard a good response:

      We can probably agree that Hoke is a better coach than Rodriguez, right? At least for Michigan's purposes?

      So if Hoke agrees with most of the things I say (Roh should be a DE instead of LB; Smith is better as a 3rd down/change-of-pace guy; Michigan wants bigger receivers), then what's the problem? I'm not 100% on board with everything Hoke does, but you say that these coaches really like Jeremy Gallon and he fits really well and can do all the things they aren't the coaches recruiting more Jeremy Gallons? Why are they saying that Norfleet was brought in as a returner almost exclusively and probably won't run the ball much? If there's a different interpretation, please let me know...but my interpretation is that the coaches don't want more Gallons and Smiths. They'll try to figure out the best way to use what they've got, but they clearly think this offense will operate better with the Jaron Dukeses and LaQuon Treadwells and Wyatt Shallmans and Derrick Greens and Ty Isaacs of the world.

      Maybe it will work out. Maybe it won't. But if you look at Nick Saban (who's unfortunately probably the best coach in the country) and if you look at Hoke (who might not be the best but is pretty good), they're not stocking the team with 5'6" running backs and 5'8" receivers. They might have a Dennis Norfleet or a Marquis Maze here or there, but there's a method to the madness of recruiting for their teams.

    11. Some guys get the benefit of the doubt some don't. You focus on Denard's negatives and ignore his best traits, ditto for Smith and Gallon. Yes, they're not going to excel at things that Navarre, Bunch, and Walker excel at. They'll succeed in other ways that shouldn't be discounted or ignored entirely. If you were sitting here ripping apart Navarre for his lack of mobility, Bunch for his lack of jukes and Walker for his lack of success on screen passes, I'd be defending them too (probably more vehemently, since I'm a tall guy myself.)

      Yes, we agree that Hoke is better for Michigan. He's done a better job than anyone could have reasonably expected him to do so far. But that doesn't mean I'm going to give him blanket approval and assume he's perfect. I'm sure you agree with that.

      I think its a mistake not to recruit more Gallons. I think the Norfleets and Hayes's are going to be disproportionately successful compared to the Shallmans and Dukes's. I think the coaches attitude (and your evaluations) are biased, erroneously.

      I could be wrong. We'll see.

      I'm not opposed to POWER football at all. But I'm opposed to stubborn adherence to orthodoxy at the expense of play-making and productivity. Whoever gets the job done - size is only relevant if it inhibits ability. Yes, Smith should be used as a short yardage back - I don't think I've ever argued that. Denard shouldn't be asked to throw to timing routes in narrow windows. But Gallons done a lot more than catch screen passes.

    12. The style of play argument is weak though. Michigan and Alabama are traditional powers who succeed with superior talent. The best examples of pro/power success exceeding their talent are Stanford, Wisconsin, and Oregon State, I guess. And even Stanford's was heavily based on Luck.

      Meanwhile, the programs that have raised the bar did it with different approaches. Miami did it with speed, especially on defense under Johnson. Oregon did it with speed and spread offense with Kelly and Auburn piggy-backed off that. Texas Tech

      Not saying it's a bad strategy for Michigan, because they ARE a traditional power and can bring in elite talent. We don't have to mess with success and can take a low-risk approach. Just saying that applying the bigger is better argument doesn't work in their cases. Better is better. And Michigan/Alabama get better players, regardless of size.

    13. Navarre: Michigan's all-time leading passer, a 7th round pick
      Bunch: 1st round pick
      Walker: All-American, 3rd round pick

      I don't foresee Gallon or Smith going down in the history books or being drafted into the NFL. There's a reason for that. It's not entirely because of size. It's because they haven't (and probably won't) been able to produce at a high enough level. You may think I'm wrong for feeling that way, but Saban, Hoke, and most of the NFL agree with me.

      I absolutely agree that Hoke shouldn't be given blanket approval.

      However, I think you're mistaken that my evaluations are biased. Well...they're biased toward players who I think are good. You're choosing to ignore my actual evaluation of Dennis Norfleet, my thoughts on Terry Richardson, my thoughts on Demetrius Hart, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jourdan Lewis, James Ross, etc. All of those guys are slightly to greatly undersized for their positions, yet have received positive reviews from me...because I think they're good.

      You're also ignoring the fact that I have not been a big fan of some of Michigan's bigger players (Wyatt Shallman, Allen Gant, Jaron Dukes, Jeremy Jackson). I don't see how you can claim I'm biased when I like and dislike big and small players fairly equally. Size is part of an evaluation, not the whole thing.

      I will admit that I've struggled with evaluating Denard. He is not a good traditional quarterback and he turns over the ball too much. I think I've learned some things from watching him play, but I will continue to criticize him when he makes bad plays and I will continue to praise him for the good ones. That's the way the quarterback position goes, I guess. There's a lot of scrutiny on the QB.

    14. I specifically said offense - I don't accuse you of size-bias on defense. You've stated your dislike of smallish corners but I think you've been fair on that front (saying, IIRC, don't overdo it, essentially) and backed up it up with some sound logic.

      Valid rebuttal regarding Shallman, Jackson, and Dukes. Maybe it's just guys outside the protypical range you tend to be more critical of...

      Your Norfleet evaluation is geared towards him being a special teamer and wasn't particularly positive anyway. It is mostly critical and takes his size as an assumed negative. Look, I'm not saying you hate every short person on the planet and love every giant - I'm saying there are guys who you're willing to give the benefit of the doubt to and guys that you're very quick to criticize. In my eyes that's bias.

      Smith wasn't great but he was at least as productive as Shaw under Rodriguez and you wanted him benched - under Hoke/Borges he retained a role (albeit, specialized) while Shaw disappeared. Gallon was slot/special-teamer under Rodriguez, but in his sophomore season emerged in Borges offense which uses a lot more 2-receiver sets. Gallon caught 3 fewer balls and 1 less TD than a guy drafted into the NFL and he surged past a couple of quality contributors at senior, plus a guy that caught 935 yards and 7 TDs the year before. An all-american he's not, but Gallon was a highly touted recruit who had a bit of a breakout season as a sophomore despite the competition and a QB who everyone agrees isn't the world's greatest passer. He could get there.

      I just don't get the harping about his size and the doubts about his abilities because of it. Maybe if there was a good comp available... If only there was a 5'9 WR in Michigan's history that won a Heisman or something...

    15. The thing about the Vincent Smith debate was that I wanted someone else to be given a shot. Smith wasn't producing at a high enough level to have a stranglehold on the job. Shaw should have been given a shot. Cox should have been given a shot. Toussaint was sort of given a shot, but he was injured. Someone, anyone, give them a chance, but let's not keep feeding the ball to someone who isn't getting the job done. If they came in and fumbled the ball away or were even less productive, then fine...I guess Smith is the best guy. I never had a problem with Mike Hart, even though he was small. I mean, Hart's lack of breakaway speed bugged me at times, but I never wanted him benched.

      Gallon didn't surge past Roundtree on the depth chart. Roundtree was still the starter. The difference was largely a change of position for Roundtree, and they didn't work to get Roundtree the ball in the same ways that they got Gallon the ball (particularly on screens).

      I don't doubt Gallon's abilities as a complementary player. What I doubt are his abilities as a full-time starter. Again, there's a reason that most coaches don't recruit 5'8" wide receivers. I'm all for having your own opinions (the Lord knows I do), but you're basically saying that every football coach out there is wrong and you're right. I don't understand that logic.

  5. What about Miller at the U Back? Admittedly I am not familiar with the position but I think Miller's "tweener" status might fit this tweener position...

    1. That's where they had Miller last season and in the spring, and it didn't work out.

  6. How did Ricardo ever get such a high rating even in 10th grade? Was it a simple matter of looking good "on the hoof?" Seriously -- people were talking "5-star or high 4-star" with this guy and I can't see why. I guess Gant was once thought to be the best 9th-grader in Ohio, so these things happen.

    1. This is the danger with taking early commitment of guys who haven't even started their Junior year. Miller (and Marvin Robinson) where physically way ahead of their peers in high school and then people caught up with them. Sometimes it's better for people to be late bloomers - to focus on technique and skill and then later develop physical superiority.

  7. Nitpick item I know, but isn't Ricardo a redshirt soph?

    1. He played in one game in 2010 and is listed as a junior on the official site. He should be a redshirt sophomore, but I'm not sure if he'll get an extra year of eligibility, much like Devin Gardner...

    2. You are correct Thunder. My high level of dissapointment in missing Ricardo's special teams appearence against UMASS in 2010 suggests I should probably tone down the fandom a bit.

  8. The thought of Denard playing without Hemingway scares me to death. Small, quick receivers are fine if you can hit them in stride. Denard... not so much.