Monday, October 8, 2012

Michigan vs. Purdue Awards

Michigan's defense really handled its business on Saturday afternoon, with sacks from both Craig Roh and Jake Ryan
(image via
Let's see more of this guy on offense . . . Thomas Rawls.  I know I've been on the Fitzgerald Toussaint bandwagon for a few years, but Toussaint is having his worst year.  After averaging 5.6 yards/carry last season, he's getting just 3.2 this season.  On Saturday he gained only 1.1 yards per carry on 17 attempts.  If Toussaint can't get the job done, I'm not sure that Rawls can, either.  But it's tough to do much worse than 1.1 or 3.2 yards/carry.  Toussaint looks like he has gained a few pounds and/or lost a step from last season. The coaches should get Rawls a few more touches earlier in the game, and perhaps go with the hot hand.

Let's see less of this guy on offense . . . a second tight end.  I really think Michigan needs to spread the ball around a little more if they're not going to get the running backs going.  The second tight end has generally seemed to help more for the running backs than for Denard Robinson, but the running backs aren't getting any seams to run through.  Denard can run the ball whether there are five wide receivers on the field or three tight ends; what Michigan needs to improve is running back production.  Put a fourth wide receiver on the field, spread teams out a little bit, and get Toussaint/Rawls going.  Robinson can't last the season if he runs 24 times a game.

Let's see more of this guy on defense . . . Keith Heitzman.  Heitzman has made just 2 tackles this season, but I'm liking what I see from him.  He truly looks like an athlete out there, and I think he could have a solid future as a strongside end type.  Michigan needs to develop an heir for Craig Roh's spot, and Heitzman could very well be that guy.

Let's see less of this guy on defense . . . nobody.  I thought Michigan's defense played well on Saturday, and there wasn't anyone on the field who was a real liability.  I'm still not sold on Michigan's cornerbacks, but there aren't many options; and even those two stepped it up from the Notre Dame game two weeks ago.

Play of the game . . . Jake Ryan's sack of Caleb TerBush.  There were lots of big runs by Denard Robinson and the 63-yard pick-six by Raymon Taylor.  But I thought Ryan's sack of TerBush really set the defensive tone in the first quarter, and from that point onward, Purdue's offensive playcalls seemed designed to get the ball out of the quarterbacks' hands in a hurry.  The Boilermakers seemed to know that they wouldn't have much time in the pocket, and that made it easier for everyone on defense.

MVP of the game . . . Denard Robinson.  He ran 24 times for 235 yards, though he was held out of the end zone; and he completed 8/16 passes for 105 yards and 1 touchdown.  It was a grind-it-out game by the Wolverines, and the grinder was the 6'0", 195 lb. Robinson.


  1. Thomas Rawls is the new Mike Cox. After seeing his impressive runs in late game action, I thought he's going to get the "let's see more of" award for sure.

    Like with Cox, I agree that he probably deserves to see a few carries earlier, but OTOH, these plays were the first impressive plays of Rawls career, and they came against a fairly weak team at the tail end of a blowout.

    I'm not a fan of Rawls ability, but I like his potential to provide a different look to Toussaint. I doubt Toussaint has any less ability than last year, but he may be running less effectively as a result of the consistent lack of holes being created by the OL.

    Denard is the man. I agree that a run-heavy attack is the way to go. Limit Denard's exposure to situations where he is less likely to succeed, and use plenty of called QB runs unless you have the luxury of not doing so.

    I also agree with cutting back the use of a 2nd TE, but come on - Borges isn't going there. When you're down to walk-ons and one-dimensional true freshman and you're STILL using 2TE sets, you're not going to change. Borges has made statements in the past that he thinks the 2TEs help Denard run effectively. It'd be interesting to see him explain that in more detail, because it would seem to me that spreading the field would make more sense. He obviously disagrees.

    Glad to hear your positive opinion of Heitzman. That would be big for next year. The 2013 defense is looking like a potential powerhouse if they can develop those DEs into playmakers.

    1. I'm not a big fan of Rawls, either (I gave him a low TTB rating, he didn't run well earlier this year, etc.), but the starter isn't getting the job done. I just want another guy to be given a chance to a) win the job, b) prove that he's definitely the second back, or c) provide some competition so Toussaint steps up his play. Competition is healthy.

    2. Whoa...a Lanko post that I agree with entirely? The times, they are a-changing.

      I like Magnus' basketball analogy with "go with the hot hand." Coaches constantly say that running back is a feel thing that takes momentum to get going.

      The 2TE crap is by far the most frustrating Borges-ism for me. I understand that Kwiatkowski is a good blocker and Funchess is Funchess, but there seems to be so much more value in putting more receivers on the field. Flood sides, run clearouts, do west-coasty stuff to get Denard's arm locked in.

      The cornerbacks don't scare anyone on paper, and they both have a few tackling issues, but it seems that they just don't allow a ton of completions.

      Also, Jake Ryan blows up bubble screens like whoa. He goes right for the outside contain and the receiver just can't handle him.

    3. @Thunder

      I think Rawls was given a chance to win the job - he just didn't do it. Toussaint's the better back. I'm sure Fitz deserves some of the blame for the meager production of our RB run game, but I suspect it's mostly the OL - Rawls isn't going to fix that. RBs are overrated.

      Smith is clearly the second back and not too surprisingly his YPC suck - his are the same as Toussaints: 3.2pc.

      If Toussaint or Smith got to come in exclusively for blowout situations their numbers would look good too. Rawls got to play meaningful snaps against Alabama and carried 6 times for 9 yards. Alabama is better than Purdue obviously, but too much shouldn't be made of these situations. It's better than it happened than it didn't, and maybe it moves the needle a little bit in terms of Rawls' playing time, but not much.

      If the coaches think motivation is a factor, then yeah - get Rawls in there, but I don't think that's the problem. It seems like blocking and/or play calling is the culprit. The holes just aren't there. Putting an inferior back isn't going to fix the problem anymore than moving Denard to WR and inserting Gardner into QB would have fixed the passing game last year.

      So, yeah, I think he's earned some more carries, and Illinois should hopefully provide him an opportunity to get them before things are totally out of hand. I'd just like to see a lot more from Rawls before he gets the ball against MSU or OSU instead of Fitz.

  2. +1 for "west-coasty stuff", along with "Jake Ryan blows up bubble screens like whoa." What else do you think Jake Ryan blows up?

  3. "Even those two stepped it up from the Notre Dame game 2 weeks ago."

    You mean when Notre Dame had all of 145 yards passing, 2 interceptions and no passing touchdowns? That's some tough grading there, Magnus. You can't even avoid taking shots at the cornerbacks when the numbers don't necessarily support you and when we're playing Purdue instead of a Top 10 team. Love the blog and your honest take for the most part, but the snide, sometimes vitriolic comments about the secondary baffle me sometimes. They're not world beaters, but they've done well overall outside of Alabama.

    1. Just because Notre Dame didn't have many yards passing doesn't mean the cornerbacks did well. They're not great in run support, and they also got beat over the top. Notre Dame's quarterbacks (especially Golson) are not very good, and their wide receivers aren't great, either.

  4. I missed a lot of the Purdue game so I will have to go back and look for Heitzman. He showed legit DL skills/instincts in the spring game. I agree that he has a shot at replacing Roh, and I predict that he will be more effective than Roh by the time he is finished. Hope he can bulk up some more.

    Boy, Jake Ryan just has a knack for getting guys on the ground. That sack you mention is the type of play where the rusher usually gets juked by even a slow QB. If Ryan is near a ball-carrier, there's a good chance the guy is going down. He looks like a vintage Tressel LB out there.

    Agree on the TE's. Time for Borges to mix up the formations and cut back on TE snaps. Where is Hopkins - hurt? I have not really verified this, but it it looks like defenses can tell whether run or pass is coming based on the personnel and formations.

  5. Totally agree. There are small differences that may affect the ability to change the outcome of the game. Craig Roh and Jake Ryan are not my favorites but they can give many surprises.