Monday, October 29, 2012

Michigan vs. Nebraska Awards

No. 16 isn't allowed to get hurt anymore. (image via AnnArbor.com)
Let's see more of this guy on offense . . . Devin Gardner at quarterback.  He might not have done any better than Russell Bellomy (3/16, 38 yards, 3 interceptions), but he couldn't have done much worse.  In Gardner's career, he's 11/23 for 176 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception.

Let's see less of this guy on offense . . . Russell Bellomy, obviously.  I still believe he'll eventually be a competent quarterback, but if there was any question about whether he's ready or not, that was answered on Saturday night.  The coaches insisted in the off-season that Gardner was the #2 quarterback; well, now it's time to make sure that happens.

Let's see more of this guy on defense . . . nobody.

Let's see less of this guy on defense . . . Jake Ryan at defensive end.  Ryan is much more effective as a SAM linebacker, and Cameron Gordon is a downgrade at the position.  Ryan played a fair amount of defensive end because Frank Clark missed the game due to an ankle injury, so hopefully that injury heals quickly and #47 can go back to his regular position.

Play of the game . . . linebacker Desmond Morgan broke up a pass headed for the left flat, and freshman defensive end Mario Ojemudia - who was playing defensive tackle on the play - hustled after the play to make a diving interception.

MVP of the game . . . Craig Roh.  Nobody did well offensively, but Roh made several nice plays from his defensive end position.  Last year defensive linemen Ryan Van Bergen and Mike Martin dominated up front, and Roh carried on that tradition this year.  He had 5 tackles, 2 tackles for loss (for 15 yards), and 1 sack (for 10 yards).

48 comments:

  1. You;re still not ready to give Rawls some regular series at RB? You're as stubborn as Hoke.

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    1. Not based on this game. I thought Toussaint ran fairly well...but the line couldn't get any push.

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    2. Also...the QB position is more in need of some rearranging than the RB position.

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  2. Magnus do you think there is any truth to the rumor that Gardner is still suffering from a shoulder injury from ND and thats why he didnt play?

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    1. It's possible, but there's no real way to know.

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  3. Not sure why people say DG might not have been much better. I know he would have. He would have at least been able to rush and open up the dual threat aspect of our offense.

    WillyWill9

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    1. Exactly, once Nebraska knew we didn't have a mobile QB they T'd up the blitz packages and gave no regard for losing contain on the QB. If we couldn't connect on quick passes it was game over from that point... that's where at least DG can scramble as a back up to the passing game and break some runs for himself. The way I see it after 3-5 series the way they were going our coaches should have said "What the hell let's give DG a shot, it can't get any worse!"

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    2. Of course Gardner would have been better. He's older and he beat out Bellomy the last 2 years. He'll be your starter next year, I'm 80% sure.

      But I can understand the coaches decision here since Garnder hasn't been practicing at the position. (i.e. they made their bed and had to lie in it.) It wasn't fair to expect Gardner to come in without proper preparation. Pulling Bellomy was going to wack his confidence and hinder his long-term development. In hindsight, it was so bad that it looks like the wrong choice, but Gardner shouldn't have played in that game at the time that Denard went down. If he's out next week though....

      The big mistake was moving Gardner to WR in the first place. They should correct that error immediately. Gardner's not significantly better than Dileo/Roundtree/Funchess/Gallon. And given all the 2-TE sets we play we don't need a very deep receiving corps. Gardner IS significantly better than Bellomy. He makes plays with his legs and this is an offense built around a QB that can do that.

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    3. Gardner has twice as many TD receptions as the other wide receivers combined. If Denard's on the field, Gardner is one of the 10 best other athletes. But he needs to be prepared to play QB, too.

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    4. So is Dennis Norfleet, that doesn't mean I want him at left tackle.

      Being an 'athlete' is not the same as being a football player. Devin is a great athlete, but not a good WR.

      Can he be a good QB? I dunno, but he's the best option we have after Denard.

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  4. After Saturday's performance, I'm not entirely convinced that Bellomy will "eventually be a competent quarterback." It would be unfair to expect a redshirt freshman to go into Lincoln and be able to win that game, but he was literally incapable of doing ANYTHING. Compare him to Tate, who as a true freshman, was able to complete passes and move the offense, and Denard, who did the same thing as a true sophmore. Again, expecting Bellomy to be able to step in and win that game is awfully unfair, especially with the offensive talent surrounding him, but thinking that he could complete 1 of is first 11 passes was not. I sure hope Shane Morris is ready to play from the start next year, otherwise the offense is going to look really rough.

    I do hope this game puts an end to the notion that Denard, notwithstanding his many interceptions, is the problem with this offense. He's the only thing in it that consistently works.

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    1. Tate Forcier was more talented than Bellomy. He was a better natural athlete. Unfortunately, he was a moron. It's understandable that Forcier would have been a better QB, even as a true freshman, than Bellomy is as a redshirt freshman.

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    2. I have to question your definition of 'consistently' in terms of Denard working. But you make a good point nonetheless about our offense. Yet, you ignore the larger question regarding why we dont have a more competent, game-ready 2nd string QB when our 1st string is a running QB? When a coach has decided to switch his more experienced back-up QB to wide receiver, why keep Denard in so long in blowout games? Or, should one have switched his more experienced back-up QB in the first place when your other back-up has 1) no experience and 2) a mis-matched skill set compared to what the offense runs with the first string QB? These are all management decisions that all seem very questionable. Yes, from hindsight. But still.

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    3. We don't have a more competent, game-ready 2nd string QB because we don't have a more competent, game-ready 2nd string QB. Forcier would be a senior right now, but he transferred. Rodriguez didn't have a QB in the fold for the 2011 class, and we had to scramble to get Bellomy. And Hoke didn't take one in 2012.

      You can't just make one magically appear. You have to play with the players on the roster.

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    4. You just completely ignored the latter 3/4ths of my statement regarding the decision making that led to our 2nd string QB not being competent. I know we dont have a competent one. My questions had nothing to do with Forcier. They were about the questionable decisions (long, long post-Forcier) that gave us Bellomy for one, and in his current instantiation for another (lacking game experience). So great work there. It must be ego-boosting to have a conversation with yourself - you are obviously always right.

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    5. I'm sorry you're disappointed with the answer you got on a free blog.

      My point is that it doesn't really matter. Our backup quarterbacks are bad. THAT'S what led to this situation. Your other points are pretty irrelevant.

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    6. Tate was better prepared for college football than almost any recruit every. That's not a fair comparison. Most kids take a few years to develop into starter-caliber QBs.

      Besides, RR's system was easier for a newb to step into.

      RR had Sousa signed for 2011. He de-committed a few weeks before RR got canned. In the alternate universe where Rodriguez is retained, he probably brings in a QB, just like he did every other class.

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    7. I agree that Hoke's staff made some mistakes with roster evaluation, by not recruiting QB and WR more aggressively from the outset. They definitely overrated RR's WR's. Those two positions could be the last two to get "fixed" in terms of depth and talent. It could be they were so distracted by the terrible situation at OL/DL to address everything. He has done a better job than RR or even Carr of building balanced recruiting classes, but of course weakness at the QB position trumps everything else.

      The game was obviously way to fast for Bellomy on Saturday. I would not necessarily close the book on him, though. I'm interested in seeing what he can do when he is not so nervous. Assuming that Denard is healthy, UM needs to build some leads and get Bellomy garbage snaps where they actually call pass plays. The kid needs confidence in a hurry.

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    8. I don't view their approach for WR recruiting as the problem. They prefer 2TE sets and run-heavy attack. This staff does not want to have a dozen WRs on the roster and there was an oversupply (in terms of numbers) from Rodriguez. They couldn't have foreseen Stonum's departure, probably didn't anticipate Roundtree's regression, and probably felt they had some talent on hand. There were bigger problems.

      The big mistake was not recruiting another QB in '12 and then moving your only viable backup to WR, where he isn't a game-changer anyway.

      And moving forward, they need to have some speedy guys (Probably speedy LITTLE guys) on the roster too. It can't all be 6'3-6'5 guys who outjump instead of outrun DBs. That seems to be all they're going after.

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    9. Lank, the staff is pursuing Artavius Scott, Devon Allen, and they pursued Alvin Bailey. I think they realize what they're doing at this point.

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    10. They're not going to land any of those guys, and they know it.

      Yeah, they'll recruit elite WR who happen to be fast, but it's not what they are targeting in general. Dukes, York, Darboah -- none of those guys are burners. Chesson - maybe, but he's a tall guy too. Same thing at RB - they're going for size and, weirdly, height (which isn't even a significant benefit to a RB).

      They're old-school coaches running a spread offense. They're doing a good job given what they have to work with, but not a great one.

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  5. The coaches insisted in the off-season that Gardner was the #2 quarterback; well, now it's time to make sure that happens.

    Doesn't Saturday night prove that this obviously isn't true? Why wouldn't you play your #2 QB when #1 goes down in a game that, if you win, puts you in control of your destiny for the Big Ten championship?

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    1. Maybe they thought Gardner held more value as a WR than a QB, and perhaps they thought Bellomy could get the job done.

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    2. Probably some of both, but I think it's more the latter part, which feeds directly into the largely overconservative nature of this offense.

      Bellomy is only a QB; if they would have went to Gardner, that would have been seen as the more radical (relatively speaking) move due to the position switch - they would have been replacing Denard AND replacing Gardner at WR.

      The other three times Denard went out (I think it was briefly for injuries against Alabama and Illinois, and then the UMass blowout), Bellomy went in. He was/is their #2 in practice, if not in word. That evidently was their plan, and they stuck to it, to Michigan's great detriment in a very winnable, important game.

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    3. But you open up the run game if you have DG in at QB. So you then fix the Running situation- which by the way, is the team's strength. What did DG do at wide out? You can't throw the ball if you don't have time or experience at QB.
      WW9

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  6. On Rawls: I don't completely understand the clamoring for him. (I partly get it. Fitz hasn't been nearly as effective as last year.) He needs a hole, or some semblance of a hole, to be effective, right? He's a battering ram, and with this kind of run-blocking line he'd just "batter" into someone's backside. I think elusiveness (which Fitz brings to a greater degree) is more important for now.

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  7. That's what I call being stubborn. The offense falls apart completely without him, but instead of defusing the Denard-criticism it's more of the same. "Let's see more of Devin"? No -- let's see more of Denard! The kid has been a gift to the program, a dream-come-true during a turbulent era, and people are still complaining about what he isn't rather than appreciating what it is. I just hope he makes it back in time for OSU so we have a puncher's chance of getting back into the conference title conversation.

    Regarding the QB depth chart -- I continue to completely agree that we should have recruited one in '12 and should recruit another one in '13. Putting all your eggs in one basket is stupid.

    Regarding this year's QB situation -- this is exactly why I've been critical of the Gardner move to WR (that and he's just not very good at the position, not enough to warrant pulling him from QB). MGoBlog and others have asserted that we're screwed with Denard either way, but this game showed you how that's not true. If Gardner had stayed at QB all year, we might have a very different feeling this Monday.

    Bellomy will be fine - he's a freshman. And he's a freshman running a playbook geared towards a very different QB (another reason Gardner should be the backup.)

    This is yet another example of why you can't read too much into spring games and garbage time. People were seriously talking (again) about moving Denard to WR because Bellomy is a better 'fit' for the scheme. Most people didn't think that, but a significant number seemed to. And last year it was the same thing with Devin Gardner. And the talk about Rawls is along the same lines (and probably comes from the same people.)

    ....

    On a different note: Roh was awesome. Morgan continues to play well. I definitely underrated both these guys in the lead-up to the season.

    All is not lost. This was a tough one to take given how positively things were trending in the Big10 play, but this is how it goes -- when you a play a road game, especially at night, you have to be better than your opposition or get lucky. Michigan wasn't and didn't. Now we have to root for MSU to beat those Huskers and for the Xth year in a row...our season comes down to OSU, but that's going to be an extremly difficult game to win on the road. For a lot of people, how Denard performs in that game (assuming he can play) will define his legacy at Michigan.

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    1. Um, do you really think I want Devin to start over Denard? No. I just want to see Devin ahead of Bellomy.

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    2. Well you've argued for it in the past, but No, I don't think that you think that anymore. I do think that you are undervaluing and under-appreciating Denard very much. You've been a very consistent critic of Denard and when he goes out the offense falls apart completely. If there's was ever a time to say "man, that guy is our entire offense, what a player!" it is now.

      If the offensive incompetence sans Denard isn't on Borges, I don't know who it's on. Yes, we're still trying to deal with a transition from Rodriguez's personnel and scheme to some vaguely defined future, but obviously the offense is struggling very much. Against top 10 defense like ND, MSU, and Alabama, that's understandable - those teams shut down nearly everyone, but the Nebraska D has been pretty mediocre. That level of incompetence without Denard warrants some heavy criticism and it's not all on the 3-star freshman QB that replaced him...not when you have a 5-star junior available.

      This offense, even with Denard, has taken a big step back from 2 years ago, and that was a young team with many of the same parts. What Borges is doing is working inconsistently, at best.

      If the OL is struggling with your scheme than do more of what they've proven they CAN do.

      If the WRs aren't getting separation on deep passes - throw it short.

      This can be swept aside as transitional cost, but I think there are long term worries here. This coaching staff is overly conservative and rigid-minded about offense. They look at Devin and see a WR, even if he doesn't have the skill for it. They recruit bigger/slower WR and they play walk-on TEs instead of Dileo and Gallon. Playmaking speed like Norfleet (and maybe lil Edwards) is an afterthought, instead they go for size like Shallman and Smith.

      I hope it all pans out in the next few years, but after Rodriguez's players all graduate I struggle to see where the playmakers are going to come from. Yes, if the OL steams through everyone we won't need them, but that's a HUGE leap of faith to make, especially in 2013 and 2014 when the OL will be primarily underclassmen. I'm as happy about OL recruiting as anyone, but they have to keep it up and the fruits of that effort might take 3 or 4 years to mature.

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  8. Personally, I think the BIGGEST difference in last year's offense to this year's is the loss of David Molk. Our Oline was solid last year in pass protection and run blocking. Lewan and Schofield with Molk at center made out left side a strength. Moving Schofield to RT was the right move, but not having a quality LG or C has really hurt this unit. We can't open running lanes for our RB's and only because Denard is Denard can he make plays.

    Gardner moving to WR showed me at the time the lack of playmakers at WR. Gallon is at best a bubble screen guy. Roundtree is a spread slot receiver, but is completely lost when he plays on the perimeter. There are A LOT of players playing out of position because the alternatives are even worse. Remember when RichRod wouldn't stop recruiting the "slot ninjas?" That's all we got. Moving Gardner to WR had to be done out of necessity, not as a luxury. This staff is in it to win it and sometimes you gotta go all in and take the risks. Moving Gardner to WR was a risk worth taking for them. Now that we have 20/20 hindsight we all armchair QB the decision. Our personnel is getting better, but for now our staff is trying to get the best 11 on the field to maximize our chances of winning.

    Injuries happen and will continue to happen. What if Lewan gets hurt? We would be in BIG trouble. The cupboards arent as stocked as we would prefer them to be. GOtta use what we got.

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    1. Gallon has made plays on the outside. Besides screens, most of his plays have come from 2-WR sets.

      Gardner is not a play-maker at WR, he's a ball-dropper, body-twister, non-blocker, and a mess on routes.

      It was not a necessity to move Gardner to WR, it was a choice. A choice to disregard risk for a marginal benefit to the receiving corps.

      The argument of "well sure, hindsight is 20/20" ignores the fact that some people WERE saying it was a bad idea. It's not like no one knew Denard couldn't get hurt.

      The reason it was a bad risk to take is that Gardner just isn't that good. Yes, the rest of our WR group isn't that good either, but Gardner doesn't make them substantially better. And in such a run-heavy offense, it was a bad decision to go "all-in" on Denard staying healthy all year.

      The difference between Lewan and Denard is that there isn't a 5-star backup for Lewan that we moved over to DL just to see if he could help a little bit over there. That would have been dumb too.

      Depth IS an issue for this team, due to the transitions that happened. But you manage that and deal with it as best you can. DEPTH at WR isn't a big problem, it's the top-end talent. Devin didn't fix that, he just gave us another guy in the mix. One that isn't appreciably better than what we already had.

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  9. It seems like some UM fans are conceding that Nebraska will lose at most one more game. I am usually pretty pessimistic but I think that there is a decent chance (call it 35%) that UN loses two more games. The only "lay up" left on their schedule is a home game against Minnesota. They still have to play at MSU (I think they will lose that game), Penn State in Lincoln and Iowa in Iowa City on Senior Day. If Denard is able to play the next three games, UM should (repeat...should) win those games which would mean that if Nebraska loses two games, UM would still win the division even with a loss at OSU.

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    1. Just as Michigan SHOULD win their next 3, Nebraska SHOULD win their last 3.

      The MSU game is 50-50. If you estimate that another loss to either Penn State (30% chance?) or Iowa (15% chance?) or Minnesota (5% chance?) is about 50-50, that means there's a 25% chance of two losses.

      It's possible, but unlikely that Nebraska losses 2. Michigan's gotta win out.

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  10. I like this group of coaches a lot but while their focus on trying to improve the defense from the RR debacle has proven successful, the powerful offense has stumbled a bit. We can't have it all in a year. The incoming class will get us in the right direction to rebuild the O-line which will help fix the run game.
    That's why we can't blame Bellomy...entering a hostile environment...unexpectedly...with a pure passing offense. The key to future success is getting away from the one man offense that has been Denard (haters stop hating...he has been great) and get back to Michigan football...down your throat. The Gardner move has had more positives than negative...a little bad luck put us in a bad spot. Let's focus on winning out and a game plan that gets us past the "most important game on that schedule."

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    1. Most of Gardner's catches are plays that Roundtree or Dileo or Gallon could have made. I fail to see the positives.

      The negatives are many. Gardner isn't bad at getting open, but he is bad at catching the ball. I'd rather Denard tuck and run than throw a ball that Gardner drops.

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    2. He can use his size for position better than any of those guys...his route running needs work but we are far better off than him standing on the sidelines waiting. Unfortunately, Denard's lack of accuracy leads to him having to make acrobatic catches that are a struggle even with Gardner's athleticism. That is one of the things missing since Hemingway is gone.

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    3. That seems generous to Devin and harsh to Denard. The ball is getting there, but Devin is twisting himself all around before letting catchable balls fall to the ground.

      Devin probably has gotten his hands on some balls that another WR couldn't have -- but he hasn't reeled those in.

      He's a good athlete - and maybe the raw material is there to make him into a WR, but going into his senior year, and with the team in need of a QB, it seems very foolish to use him this way.

      I would agree that we're a little better of with him playing at WR than not - I trust the coaches in that, but the net benefit, compared to him playing that game Saturday at QB has been very small.

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    4. Definitely was not intended as a shot at Denard...he has carried this offense on his back. Including many attempts to change his style to be more patient before running. I appreciate your perspective...one of the many reasons I enjoy this blog daily.

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  11. The coaches were damned if they did...damned if they didn't.

    1. At the time Brady Hoke arrived, with only a few weeks to signing day, Bellomy was the best QB available. Hoke was (then) relatively unknown, and the big stud QBs were already committed elsewhere. Michigan is lucky they got anyone at all.

    2. With the loss of Darryl Stonum, they needed another game-breaker at WR, and Gardner was the best guy available. Unfortunately, it's tough to practice two positions at once, when QB is one of the two. The dilemma was: do you give him enough reps at WR, and then he isn't ready to play QB? Or do you prepare him at QB, and unless Denard is injured he has nothing to do? I can't really blame them for trying to get him on the field somehow. The gamble backfired, but who knew? There aren't many analysts who thought the move to WR was a bad move all along. To criticize it now is mainly hindsight bias.

    3. No imaginable QB they could have recruited in 2012 would have averted Saturday's disaster. You're crazy if you think otherwise. All of the good QB recruits saw Shane Morris arriving in 2013, and looked for another program where there's a clearer path to becoming a multi-year starter. Hoke could have gotten another Bellomy type, but to state the obvious, that guy would've been another Bellomy, except with a year less of experience.

    4. For similar reasons, no QB you want is going to choose Michigan in the same year as Shane Morris, and it'll be tough to get a great QB in 2014 either. Clearly they'll have to get someone, but you're probably looking at David Cone's body double, a guy unlikely to see meaningful action unless disaster strikes. That's the inevitable side-effect of signing a five-star QB. No one else of comparable ability wants to come anywhere near him.

    We're paying the price now for an awkward coaching transition, Tate Forcier flunking out of school, and Rich Rodriguez's poor recruiting at the wide receiver position. Given what they inherited, there's not much the coaches could have done about it.

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    1. Good point about 2012 recruiting. The problem there is WR recruiting, not QB. If they had recruited Burbridge or another ready-to-play WR, then they might have reconsidered the Gardner position switch. Instead, we have Chesson red-shirting and Darboah burning his red-shirt for special teams action.

      While most pundits thought it was correct to 'risk' the Gardner switch a lot of people did question it, given the QB situation. It's not just hindsight, but it was a concern voiced throughout the offseason. Most of that got ignored because Bellomy looked solid in the spring game.

      The current coaches could have done a lot about it. Namely: recruit better WR and keep Gardner at QB.

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    2. I don't think anyone expects the missing 2012 QB recruit to have saved the day against Nebraska. People are fretting because that's another guy who could have completed for the spot amongst a weak group next year.

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    3. Lank, we DID recruit Burbridge. He didn't have the grades to get in, and it was obvious at about the midpoint of that recruiting cycle.

      The real head-slapper here is Devin Lucien.

      I was really, really hoping that either Darboh or Chesson would be starting by now.

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    4. The scary thing about your 4th point is that Morris has not played all that well in real game action since his commitment to UM. His high ranking, which is almost certain to drop precipitously based on this year's game results, seems to be based almost entirely on his arm strength and camp/7-on-7 performances in T-shirts and shorts.

      UM may be getting the WORST of both worlds with Morris, a highly ranked QB who keeps other good QB's from committing to UM but one who is (potentially) overrated and doesn't pan out leaving UM in an even worse position than they are in right now at QB. There have been numerous highly rated QB's in the past few years who have stunk it up at schools where the fan bases were expecting them to be a program "savior" and it could happen to Michigan as well.

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    5. @BB88,

      By recruit I mean offer. Michigan backed off and MSU got him. The minimum standard for both schools is the same and Michigan takes kids who are academically questionable too (including some of our biggest current stars.) I don't know the specifics, but Burbridge isn't the only recruit out there who could have helped Michigan. Darboh and Chesson could still be very good, but it's not a great sign that they're non-factors given our current receiver's limitations.

      I don't think Lucien solves many problems here and there were already a boatload of WRs on the roster at that point. But I would guess that's one decision the coaches would like to have back, instead of say Barnett or Posada, even those fit much bigger needs. It's a bit like the mistake Rodriguez made with defensive recruiting in his first class. He figured the leftover talent was adequate for his system.

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    6. Anon, have you ever watched De La Salle play? Morris is running for his life nearly the whole time...AND he was coming down with mono for at least one of those games. You may be too lazy to pay attention to this, but recruiters certainly aren't.

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    7. Lank, it seems you have reverted to talking out of your ass.

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  12. I'm all for the idea of moving DG back to QB permanently, this move won't cripple the offense since Rountree has stepped up his game lately. At this point I think its paramount to have a reliable backup just in case Denard goes down again. At least DG presents the same threat as Denard, Bellomy was a sitting duck back there.

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    1. Not to mention, Gardner's probably the starter next year. Keeping him at QB affects 2013 at least as much as 2012.

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