October 24, 2012
Mailbag: Robinson's biggest throws
There's no mailing in the Mailbag on a week in which the Wolverines have a chance to put the Legends Division in the rearview mirror. Here's a look at what's on your minds.
Among his most important pass completions, where would you rank Denard Robinson's 20-yard connection with Drew Dileo in setting up last weekend's game-winning field goal?
Easily top five, and let's leave it at that. There were a bunch of them at the end of last season, that were huge in terms of Michigan getting established well in Brady Hoke's first season as head coach. In the Nebraska and Ohio State games, Robinson made a number of crucial throws.
He didn't have a big game passing the ball in the Sugar Bowl, but when he did, they were game-changing scoring shots to Junior Hemingway. But make no mistake, buying time and finding Dileo could prove even bigger than it already is.
That throw helped Michigan break MSU's four-game winning streak. It kept the Wolverines undefeated in the Legends Division of the Big Ten. It put U-M in position to take control of its division, which could pave the way toward the goal for which they're all shooting - the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl.
In other words, depending on how things break over the next few weeks, that already significant toss could grow in importance.
A thread on The Fort Tuesday suggested that the Devin Gardner to wide receiver move has been a failed experiment. How do you view the position change? And do you expect to see Gardner under center or at wideout in 2013?
I think it's a little like saying Devin Funchess is a failed experiment as a tight end, because he's dropped a pass or two and can't block at a Big Ten level yet.
Gardner has played all of seven games at wide receiver, making him a true freshman at the position. Any other first-year starter there with his numbers - 15 catches, 251 yards, and a team-leading four touchdowns - would be considered pretty promising. He's obviously still learning, and has some rough edges on routes, etc.
But if Gardner comes up with a long reception or two against Nebraska, or Ohio State, or in another crucial situation down the road, giving up on this "experiment" would be a failed idea. I expect to see Gardner compete for the starting quarterback job in 2013
and to help Michigan considerably at wide receiver.
Why do you think the defense has made such dramatic improvements throughout the season during the past two years? And do you think it's fair to say the offense hasn't enjoyed the same progression? How would you explain that if you agree with the assessment?
Premise rejected, out of hand. Michigan has certainly made dramatic improvements on the defensive side of the football last year, and appears to be headed for a strong finish to the season this year. That's obviously a result of solid coaching, bringing younger players along and plugging holes.
Michigan's offense improved considerably last season as well, playing two of its best games in the final two showdowns of the regular season. Forty-five points against Nebraska and 40 more to win a shootout over Ohio State shouldn't be undervalued at all.
And yes, Michigan struggled against a good Virginia Tech defense
with a center on one leg, and several others beaten up. The Wolverines haven't operated at a high level on offense yet this year with any consistency, so that certainly leaves open the door for "dramatic improvements."
With the understanding that Michigan is still not running the offense it plans to run, beginning next season, let's not make this call too early.
What early-season basketball game will provide us the biggest clue as to what this team is capable of in 2012-13?
Focus in on Michigan-North Carolina State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Wolfpack doesn't feature the big name of its nearby ACC brethren, but features top-10 talent that's good enough to hang with anyone in its league.
Especially since it comes early in the season, that showdown provides a good gauge of where Michigan stands with its younger players, defense and general cohesiveness.
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