Monday, November 24, 2014

Michigan vs. Maryland Awards

Devin Gardner
Let's see more of this guy on offense . . . a healthy Devin Gardner. Gardner had some very nice throws, and he had several that were just a little off target. Most of all, though, he looked healthier, which means that he can be dangerous on the ground. That adds an element to Michigan's attack that has not existed for the last several weeks. A healthy Gardner gives Michigan a chance. He ran for over 80 yards in this game, including a 24-yarder and then a 15-yard touchdown. When Gardner is on, he looks like Colin Kaepernick. Hopefully he can stay healthy and break out a big game like he did last year against Ohio State.

Let's see less of this guy on offense . . . De'Veon Smith. Smith has no speed element to his game, and he doesn't break enough tackles to warrant being the main guy. Michigan gave Smith 10 carries in this one, which earned them 28 yards. Meanwhile, Drake Johnson (14 carries, 94 yards) and Justice Hayes (6 carries, 36 yards) combined for 20 carries and 130 yards. Michigan's offensive line isn't great, but there are some holes occasionally. I am looking forward to next season, when Derrick Green will hopefully be healthy and Ty Isaac will be in the mix. There's also a chance that Green could return for the Ohio State game after missing the last several weeks with a broken collarbone.

Let's see more of this guy on defense . . . Willie Henry. I'm assuming Henry has been playing a limited number of snaps because of the hand injury he suffered several weeks ago, so I don't know if anyone deserves blame here. But without Frank Clark on the roster, I think Henry is arguably the best defensive lineman on the roster. He played a little bit against Maryland, but he didn't show up on the stat sheet and we're seeing a lot of Matt Godin. Godin did okay and even notched his first career sack, but he's not Willie Henry.

Let's see less of this guy on defense . . . Matt Godin. I don't know who else to pick, so I'll choose the guy who would be replaced by Henry. You can't argue with that pristine logic.

Play of the game . . . Joe Kerridge's fake punt run. It showed some creativity in play calling that we haven't often seen from this Michigan staff. Granted, it was perhaps the most boring kind of fake punt possible. Baby steps. Kerridge rumbled for 52 yards before being taken down inside the 10 yard line. I'll just throw this out there, but if that were Ben Gedeon, I think Gedeon would have scored. But hey, that will probably go down as Kerridge's biggest play of his career (he had only 1 career carry for 3 yards going into the game, and his longest catch was a 17-yarder against Indiana a few weeks ago), so hopefully he enjoys the memory.

MVP of the game . . . Devin Gardner. There aren't many options here. Nobody really stood out on defense as they gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns, and the offense stalled out regularly, as usual. Gardner looked more like the player from the second half of the 2013 season, someone who was dangerous on foot (14 carries, 82 yards, and 1 touchdown) and potentially through the air (13/24 for 106 yards and 1 interception), though his receivers dropped numerous balls.


  1. Lets See Less Of This Guy: Funchess.. talk about over rated. Like Gardner with his turnovers, guaranteed to drop at least one critical pass a game, sorry, make that a quarter or half.

  2. Nobody on this team has speed elements to their game. Michigan is a slow team.

    1. There's slow, and then there's slooooooooooooooooow. De'Veon Smith is slooooooooooooooow.

  3. I said after watching the fall scrimmage that Joe Kerridge was a secret weapon if they ever wanted to use him. He isn't the fastest kid on he field, but he is slippery when it comes to being tackeled. He catches he ball with good hands out of the backfield and isn't afraid to make a block. I wish they would use him a little more, not saying start him, but a little more in the certain packages. I know that Funchess, Darboh and Butt are bigger targets for Gardner to hit, but Joe just keeps on doing it when he gets the chance.

    I also thought after watching the scrimmage that Gardner had hit his ceiling and we wouldn't see a significant improvement. Turns out I wasn't crazy. This team has a lot of potential weapons and seems lost on how to use them effectively.

    1. Honestly, I don't think Gardner has even approached his ceiling. I don't really understand where that comment is coming from. Gardner was good in last third of 2012, he was good against Notre Dame in 2013, and he was pretty good in the second half of 2013. The way he and the offense have been playing in 2014 is not indicative of what he can do.

    2. Thunder, let's turn the question around -- in what elements of the game do you think Gardner *has* reached his limits ... or is close to his limits?

      I can't imagine he's a Brady or a Manning if only he had the opportunity to develop that. To me he seems like a really good athletic QB (like McNabb, Vick or RGIII pre-injury) but not really an intuitive reader of defenses and pressure and receiver route development.

    3. I don't really think he HAS reached his limits in any phase, really. I mean, he's not going to get taller and he probably won't get faster (if we're talking about a potential pro career). That stuff is obvious.

      He has issues with mechanics (mainly his footwork, which is fixable) and issues reading defenses (also fixable). I think Michigan's offense has really limited him with a poor offensive line, a mediocre running game, and no explosive receivers. I mean, he set some records last year with a terrible offensive line and a 5'8" receiver who has basically been unable to stick with an NFL roster. I'm not proclaiming greatness for Gardner, but he has/had a lot of potential. The combination of factors working against him has just been too much.

    4. Okay, that seems fair**. Now a second question -- imagine you're an NFL GM. Do you take a chance on Gardner? And if so, what round?

      ** I'm not sure I fully agree with the reading defenses thing being fixable, but the thing that requires is (a) real game reps, and (b) an offensive line that gives him enough time to get the practice in games, rather than running for his life. Still, my sense is he's at core a schoolyard athlete and his first instinct is to run. He's not doing that now because the coaches are probably telling him to stay and find his receiver.

      I was listening to ESPN radio the other day and they were talking about RGIII and how he's not the same physical QB he was pre-injury. Their point was he has to listen to coaching to get the other phases of the game, and they questioned whether he was open to coaching.

    5. No, I wouldn't take a chance on Gardner in the draft. I would snap him up as an undrafted free agent in a heartbeat, though. Maybe you can stash him and develop him, or maybe you can turn him into a wide receiver. I think he has too much physical potential not to get a shot at the next level.

    6. I cringe whenever people say Devin was good in 2012. Sure he was vastly more productive, but he was playing the same massively undisciplined football he is today. Go back and watch those games - I did recently. The difference is that in 2012 the o-line didn't penalize him as much for waiting eons to get rid of the ball, he had receivers good enough to adjust to his late and inaccurate throws, and defenses respected his run game.

      He has certainly shown flashes of better accuracy and decisiveness (in the games we always cite), but rewatching the end of 2012 shows me it's not that he's regressed, it's that he's the same except his current supporting cast is unable to mask his poor habits.

      I give the coaches credit for reigning in his loosey-goosey tendencies like the pirouette move and some ill-advised throws, but his inaccuracy, indecision, lack of ball security and poor vision have never really improved.

    7. As for RGIII, I think he had been told for a long time that he was God's gift to football, won the Heisman, did well as a rookie, etc. Now I get the feeling he thinks that if things aren't working, it's everybody else's fault. I would think that his last couple seasons would knock him down a peg or two. Otherwise, he's going to find himself out of chances very soon.

    8. @ Anonymous 9:53 a.m.

      "It's that he's the same except his current supporting cast is unable to mask his poor habits."

      Any decent quarterback with a poor offensive line and a poor running game is going to struggle. Maybe he did wait a long time to throw the football, but good offensive lines GIVE you time. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning haven't set records by having offensive lines that are getting them hit immediately. I'm not saying that Gardner is as good as them, but there's a reason that quarterbacks who play well often are supported by good offensive lines.

      Also, Gardner hasn't really had a stellar wide receiving corps. That 2012 group wasn't noteworthy until Gardner took the reins and Jeremy Gallon started to take off. Last year's combo was pretty good (Gallon, Funchess late in the year), but the OL was absolutely terrible.

      Yes, Gardner has some immature tendencies as a quarterback, but he's a gunslinger. That's the type of QB he is. That can work in some cases, but without a good supporting cast, it doesn't matter if you're a gunslinger or game manager or a stud.

    9. Thunder: "Now I get the feeling he thinks that if things aren't working, it's everybody else's fault."

      That's pretty much what the folks on ESPN radio were saying as well ... that RGIII had better stop talking and start listening, or he'll soon find himself on the outside looking in.

      The radio guys also relayed a saying they'd picked up from some coach (can't remember which coach) -- "When you lose, say little; when you win, say less." I think that's a pretty good formulation. It's akin to the idea of not celebrating in the end zone ... act like you've been there before and expect to get back there soon.

    10. totally agree with much of your comments. but manning and brady and rogers and those type dudes are just as smart and well prepared as they are athletically gifted. its stale, but they play the game in their heads during the week - and those guys really do not only understand how to identify defensive weaknesses on given plays but also exploit those weaknesses with checks, hots, manipulating pocket for that extra second, etc... gardner just seems lost out there. i totally agree his supporting cast has been very weak compared to his athletic ability, just as hes had weak coaching, but he also does not appear to understand the position at all (granted its hardest position in sports in my opinion, but thats what separates average from good and good from great)

    11. @ Thunder...

      I do think that Gardner has reached his ceiling and his mental state has been the limiting factor. He has a ton of physical tools that he has not used fully, but mentally he has maxed out his ceiling as a QB. Aside from a complete reboot mentally he stands very little chance of going farther. I don't see him being a workaholic like some QB's have been, I don't see him slowing the game down and making that connection and I don't see him reading defenses or schemes to move himself or the team ahead. He has played almost his entire career here at Michigan in the Fight or Flight mode and most of it in the Flight profile.

      I am not sure that I can 100% put this all on Devin though. The changes in coaches over his career and the lack of a QB coach have not helped. The lack of players surrounding him to make big plays has also been a bad thing. I do like that he did spend the last two summers with a top QB guru, but again....where has the progression been? His ability to not speak up and speak out often as a locker room leader is also a big question I have. I can tell you that the way he carried himself during the fall scrimmage was not that of a leader, but that of an entitled player. He genuinely was there to have a good time and not to learn. I like Devin and I am glad that he has the chance to graduate with a couple of degrees from Michigan, but he has not progresses like one could expect.

    12. "I can tell you that the way he carried himself during the fall scrimmage was not that of a leader, but that of an entitled player. He genuinely was there to have a good time and not to learn"

      Nick, you're just making shit up at this point. Did Gardner steal your girlfriend? Kick your dog? The non-stop Gardner-trashing at every corner is getting tiresome. We lose games even when he plays well, so clearly there are bigger problems, and the guy's been the opposite of trouble off the field.

    13. re: Gardner's NFL potential -- it's probably in there somewhere but he has been badly mishandled. If he signs as an NFL free-agent he'd probably need to go through a few years of practice squad work to unlearn some of the garbage he's picked up these last 5 years. Frankly, I don't see him doing the practice squad thing when he seems like an intelligent guy with a bright future.

      The sad reality is we'll never know what would have happened if he had committed instead to Notre Dame, Baylor, Oregon or Wisconsin. I think he'd be a star had he ended up at any of those places, but it's a hypothetical and a matter of opinion. I know many would disagree, which is fine, but there are good offensive coaches and there are bad offensive coaches. Had he been coach by Brian Kelly, Chip Kelly/Helfrich, Briles, I think his fate would have been a lot different. But who knows, accuracy and consistency have never been there for him, either as an input or output (i.e., he didn't get it or give it).

    14. @ BlastBeat88

      I have not made up any part of what I witnessed during that scrimmage. I do not lay blame for 100% of the team failures on Gardner, but he definitely is a significant part of the problem on Offense. Being a team with so much to prove he honestly was having too much fun. He was joking, not paying attention to what was going on and all around gave the vibe that he knew he was the starter and didn't need to work as hard during the scrimmage. During the scrimmage he made a terrible forced throw down the field that was almost picked off and when he came to the sideline he was talking with Nuss. On the very next drive he threw a similar play to the opposite sideline that was picked off and should have just been tossed out of bounds. You could see from Nuss' reaction that he wanted him to take better care of the ball and he did the same exact thing right after being talked to about it.

      I am sorry that you don't like what I have seen with my own two eyes. I reported this same exact sequence of events way back in the fall before the games even began. I am not piling on when it comes to Devin, but in my opinion his ceiling is maxed and the problem lies in his head.

      By all other accounts he has been a stellar role model for behavior off the field. He donates his time to multiple charities, he stays out of trouble and we don't read or hear about him every Saturday for negative things. I think it is great that it looks like he will graduate from Michigan with two degrees and I hope that he does well in life post-football.

      BTW....thanks for commenting about how I made this stuff up when you are the one who cannot accept the truth, but instead moves to childish conclusions about a girlfriend or a dog? Really...I am a grown man with a wife and children and I enjoy watching football on Saturdays when my alma mater is playing.

    15. I think we, as a fanbase, read waaay too much into the spring open practice. It's a very controlled environment and there's been a lot of "false positives" coming from that game over the years. False negatives too.

      I had my own up close and personal experience with Gardner, in the tunnel before the last Nebraska game. On the field in warmups, and during the game, he looked basically like his normal self, maybe a bit reserved/controlled. But in the tunnel, without any teammates around, he was clearly hurting and moving gingerly, slumping as he walked. No one of note was around, a small handful of staff/media types. So this was not for show -- looking completely healthy the rest of the time was.

      Take that for what you want or toss it aside completely and think I made it up.

      For me, I was impressed. It was a sign that he has been a warrior and I suspect a lot of the problems we've seen are related to injuries.

    16. I can agree with you about reading way too much into a spring practice. I was talking about the fall scrimmage at the Big House just before the season opened. That should have been a point of seriousness being that close to the season. I don't think that Devin is a bad kid and he definitely has sacrificed for the team. I also think that injuries have played some role in his lack of improvement. I think that last year really messed with him mentally and he didn't get appropriate snaps to learn as a QB the year before that. This has all led to him decreasing his ceiling as it comes to being a great football player. I really got the impression from that fall scrimmage that he felt this year was going to be good and that he could be more relaxed than maybe he should have been. There are times where he looks like he could really get it going, but then there are times he looks like he has taken two steps back and reverts to his lost self. Great kid, great ambassador for the university and a good player....wish him the best.

  4. Nussmeir seems to be calling runs extremely often in passing situations to build up this teams running stats. How many times have you seen us run on 3rd and long. And then that crazy end of half all-running 2-minute drill that seemed designed to kill the clock but accidentally got us in FG range.

    Smith did look slow this week and had a couple of palm-in-face runs where he paused for no discernible reason.

    That said, Johnson wasn't much better. He was 5 for 49 on the end of half drive where Maryland was defending the pass and then, similar situation, added another 17 yard run on Michigan's last drive. The Nussmeir special rewarded Johnson this week.

    It is true that Smith wouldn't have done as well in those passing situations, but on standard downs where the defense is defending the run, Johnson ran 8 times for 28 yards while Smith ran 10 times for 28 yards.

    The best RB on this team still might be Hayes, but with this coaching staff and this OL it's very hard to tell.

    This is still not a good running team, and it's not because of the RBs.

    1. Maybe the runs are a way to avoid interceptions. Play not to lose.

    2. Well when you have a quarterback that throws picks like it is his job, it kinda limits what you can do.
      Running a 2min drill from our side of the field, and all through the air is asking for a pick six, or another 3 points against us.
      In this sense, I can understand why they ran the ball, getting like 6 yards a pop, when Gardner completed what? Like, 3 passes longer than 10 yards.

    3. I think you're right on Drake Johnson. I was shocked to see his final stats given how I felt he showed during the game. I agree that he got a substantial chunk of those yards based mostly on the fact that Maryland couldn't understand why we weren't throwing the ball.

    4. It is absolutely playing not to lose. But it's bigger than that. It's playing to control the clock, to slowly get first downs, to try to dominate physically. They are playing to win battles, not the war.

  5. Anyone who believes Gardner has any chance whatsoever of making a NFL roster (even practice team) is smoking something.
    Keep these comments for next year this time when he is out of football. At least he has the U-M degree to fall back on which is better than anything in the B1G less NW.