Michigan Football: What We Need to See from Brady Hoke and Staff vs. Air Force
Here's the best thing about the Alabama game for Michigan: it's over. Dee Milliner isn't going to ruin Denard Robinson's day anymore; Barrett Jones and his friends aren't going to be pushing Michigan's defensive line back five yards on every snap anymore. It's time to worry about other teams now.
That all said, if Michigan keeps putting together more game plans like that, they'll be in trouble throughout the season. Here's what Michigan needs to start getting back to immediately, both against Air Force and throughout the season.
Use Denard Robinson More, Better
Say what you will about the myriad disappointments of the Rich Rodriguez era, but the guy knew how to use Denard Robinson.
Robinson rushed for over 1,700 yards in his one season starting under RichRod, and he threw for 2,570 yards. Under Al Borges in the first year? He had 1,176 yards rushing, 2,173 yards passing. All in all, Robinson's production declined over 900 total yards that year.
We saw more of the same on Saturday. Yes, Michigan was playing a hellacious defense in Alabama, but the fact is that Robinson spent most of his time standing still—especially in the first half when the game wasn't in any doubt whatsoever. Robinson can get from Point A to Point B faster than anyone else on that football field; having him stand still and then try to get a pass past Dee Milliner and into Devin Gardner's hands is not a recipe for success.
Now, Borges doesn't have to rush Robinson 30 times every game in order to be successful. That would be lunacy, and Robinson would die by Week 9. But you also don't have to get a quarterback hit in order to make his mobility be a factor. Michigan needed to move the pocket, punish the Alabama defensive ends for breaking contain and get defensive backs out of their comfort zone by seeing Robinson on the move.
And maybe rush him about 20 times instead of 10. That too.
Figure Out the Blocking Issues
We won't rehash everything MGoBlog writes about in regard to the blocking woes Michigan experienced against Alabama, but suffice it to say that when you can't even figure out which defender Michigan is aiming an option at, the play is blocked poorly and it's not going to be successful.
MGoBlog goes one step further and calls it a sign that Al Borges doesn't know how to use Denard Robinson. There's something to that, although it's a bit of a leap in the wrong direction when the real issue is that either the plays are drawn up poorly or they're being executed poorly by the line.
For the Love of All That's Good in the World, Don't Play to Their Strengths
Time and time again on Saturday, we saw Denard Robinson try to test Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, often by throwing to Devin Gardner. That was Gardner's first game at that position. Milliner, meanwhile, knows what he's doing and was key to shutting down Michigan's offense, especially in the first half.
Now, the coaching staff likely isn't sending in pass plays and specifically telling Robinson, "Throw at their best corner." That's not how passing plays work. But Robinson needs pass plays that are more geared to his strengths and get players open more reliably. We'll see if that change is in Week 2.
Against Air Force, that means preparation for the option attack and getting the guys well-versed in where their responsibilities are on each pay. That's not always how it works, of course, and that's a failure of game preparation. In a high-reward offense like Air Force's offense, that can mean disaster.
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