Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Michigan vs. Alabama Awards

Devin Gardner's only reception was this 44-yard touchdown (image via MLive)
Let's see more of this guy on offense . . . Devin Gardner.  Gardner played quite a bit against Alabama, but Michigan needs to keep finding ways to get him the ball.  He almost made a few nice plays, and while I know "almost" doesn't do much for the final outcome of the game, the potential there is obvious.  He had 1 catch for 44 yards and a touchdown, but has the speed to get downfield and the leaping ability to go up and over almost any defensive back.  Most teams Michigan plays won't have a 6'1", 200 lb. cornerback like Dee Milliner to knock the ball out of Gardner's hands.

Let's see less of this guy on offense . . . Thomas Rawls.  Alabama was superior to Michigan in almost every way, and it didn't help that the offensive line had a rough day.  But Rawls didn't do a single impressive thing the entire game.  He had 6 carries for 9 yards, danced too much, and for a big back, he sure did get lambasted by strong safety Vinnie Sunseri.  Rawls might be able to run over the Air Forces, UMasses, and Minnesotas of the world, but it looks like he'll struggle against teams like Alabama, Ohio State, and Michigan State.  Fitzgerald Toussaint is clearly a step above the other running backs on the roster.

Let's see more of this guy on defense . . . James Ross.  Ross wasn't ready for the physicality of Alabama, but he showed some good instincts and speed in the game.  He should be able to hone his skills in the next couple games and be an asset when it comes to the Big Ten schedule.  He got snaps at both inside linebacker positions and has already surpassed upperclassmen Brandin Hawthorne and Mike Jones.

Let's see less of this guy on defense . . . T.J. Yeldon.  Alabama's best running back in Saturday night's game made just about everyone on Michigan's defense look silly.  Michigan won't see many guys like him this year.  Perhaps the closest approximation will be Michigan State's Le'veon Bell, who is just as strong of a runner but probably not as fast.  The whole defense played poorly on Saturday night, including such stalwarts as Thomas Gordon, Jordan Kovacs, and Jake Ryan.  That's more due to Alabama's excellence, though, so I'm not sure that anyone really deserves to see his playing time diminish.

Play of the game . . . Denard Robinson's 71-yard bomb to Jeremy Gallon.  Gallon torched the defense and Denard Robinson hit him with an almost perfect throw to get down to the 1-yard line.  Robinson has often struggled to beat defenses over the top unless he puts the ball up for grabs, so this was a nice play that Robinson, Gallon, and other receivers can hopefully replicate several times this season.

MVP of the game . . . Jeremy Gallon.  Gallon had 4 receptions for 107 yards.  Two receptions came on bubble screens where he made a couple guys miss; one was the aforementioned bomb; and the other was a nice leaping catch near the right sideline.  He and Robinson seem to have developed a nice chemistry.


  1. I can't imagine a much bigger jump in competition than the one Ross just made.

    9 months ago he walked off the field against Mt. Pleasant (I think). The next time he steps out there it's Alabama ..... loaded.

    I was impressed one time when he just got up.

  2. Agree with all these. Nice work.

    Gardner looked very raw but he got himself open against the best defense in the country. Even if they were playing one-on-one coverage almost exclusively, that's pretty impressive for a guy who has spent all his time at QB. And the one-on-one thing won't change unless Denard gets more accurate. Gallon's going to make all-conference.

    Hard to judge a guy like Rawls too harshly after one game, but he looked like a future FB in this one. The race for the 2013 RB job is WIDE open right now, assuming Toussaint is elsewhere.

    Ross may make my prediction of him becoming a starter come true - that was a good showing for game 1. Also, the loss of Countess probably means we'll see a little less nickel-package and a little more LB opportunity.

    The Yeldon-love could be on-target - he looked special, but that OL was pretty darn good too. Still - the result is worrisome because MSU is a constructed like a poor man's 'Bama and Bell is legit. Hopefully he keeps getting the ball 40 times again and ends up exhausted by late October.

    I think by the end of the season we may view this butt-whooping as a positive learning experience for the team. Now these guys know how much better they can be. AF and UMass should be nice opportunities to lick their wounds and regroup.

    Lets see less of this guy: the team trainer. No more injuries!

    1. I'm not nearly as worried about MSU purely because their OL couldn't carry Alabama's OL's jock straps. Plus, their defense isn't as good as 'Bama's despite the talk from the slappies.

  3. Couple of questions:

    * Rawls' ineffectiveness seems to be based largely on his lack of explosiveness / quicktwitchedness. I can see him being somewhat useful only when he has a full head of steam, which (again) doesn't seem to be a quick thing. Does that make sense?

    * In the case of Gardner, how close do you think he is to reaching his 2012 ceiling. Are things like "sloppy routes" and "looking over the wrong shoulder" easily correctable? (He was criticized, perhaps incorrectly, for those things.)

    1. We'll see on Rawls. He did not look instinctive against Alabama, but it's early. He will have plenty of chances to show his stuff in the coming weeks.

      That was Gardner's first game at WR. It is reasonable to expect a big jump from him as he gets more comfortable in games and continues to rep in practice. If Denard can get him the ball, I think you will see some big games from him this season.

  4. Jerald Robinson. how'd he play, I heard no mention of him.

    1. And there's your answer: no impact.

  5. I'd like to see formations that allow higher probability passes for Denard. Spread the field out with 5 WR/ 4WR & 1 TE...and do a bunch of 5 yard outs with a combination of crossing patterns....give the defense a bunch of looks....this will also help the running game

  6. No mention of norfleet?