1. Denard Robinson
The first pass Robinson threw looked like it was taken straight from the 2009 season. With Roy Roundtree beating his defender deep, Robinson threw a bullet that was tipped by a (edit: safety) underneath and then caught by the corner back. Robinson tried too hard to force the ball in with a Navarre like bullet pass, and probably misread the safety as well.
How did Denard respond to his first bit of adversity? He completed over 75% of his passes from then on out and ended the day with 17.2 ypa. More importantly he didn't shy away from the deep ball.
In the first game against UConn most of Robinson's passes were underneath throws designed to pick apart soft zone coverages. He only forced a couple of these and made very good reads on most. By the Notre Dame game he had improved his decision making on a couple of plays (namely the one from the week before that almost got Roy Roundtree killed) and attacked down the field more with the aide of play fakes, but most of his work was done on short and intermediate routes.
UMass gave us the first real indication that not only will the staff call for a deep pass in the face of tight man coverage, but that Denard can absolutely make that throw:
The first play that comes at the nine second mark is the great pass and catch between Denard and Kelvin Grady. UMass sends six guys, two of which get in Robinson's face as he releases, but he still manages to hit Grady in stride for a beautiful over the shoulder catch. Moving on to the 1:30 mark Robinson hits a now healthy Junior Hemingway in a soft spot in the zone defense for a big gain that will help set up the second Stonum touchdown. Finally, at the 2:36 mark Robinson rolls slightly to the right and then hits Darryl Stonum with a great throw on the fly pattern.
This offense had shown over the course of the first two games that it could be productive against zone pass defenses. Robinson has been making all the right reads and delivering balls where only his receiver can get them. Saturday, faced with man coverage Robinson showed a knack for deep throws that few dreamed was there. He stood tall in the pocket and delivered strikes. One of the advantages to such a dangerous ground game will be the opportunities it opens up deep. With a talented group of receivers, and the delivery that Robinson showed Saturday, this offense has now found yet another way to torture defenses.
Lost in all this was Robinson's 104 yards rushing on 17 carries that led to a touchdown. A more preferable rushing load than he has carried the last two weeks.
2. Michael Shaw
|Let him loose in space and you better watch out.|
Shaw has always had the speed to be a dangerous running back, but his vision and balance always held him back. Through his career at Michigan there have been a number of take downs consisting of slight contact or a gust of wind. On top of this Shaw has shown poor decision making once he gets the ball (beautifully broken down by BWS).
Saturday Shaw made a number of good reads in the run game (see video above at: 2:10 and 3:14) as well as scoring on two goal line runs (see video: :21 and 3:31. While one game does not a productive running back make, if Shaw can continue to produce at a high level this offense will be ready to take the next step.
3. Darryl Stonum
|The second of two TD's|
After becoming Michigan's second incarnation of Rick Vaughn it seems Stonum might be poised for the breakout season that has had most Michigan fans salivating for the last two years. He has already matched his stats from the last two years, thanks in part to his newfound ability to "see in HD".
If this is the season he blows up, Saturday was his coming out party. What is a more appropriate stat line for a home run threat receiver than three catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns?
His first catch came on a slip screen against a UMass blitz. Stonum caught the ball
The emergence of Stonum and Shaw as legitimate home run threats, coupled with the continued brilliance and evolution of Denard Robinson at quarterback bodes well for this offense. The last two years the big play was an afterthought for defenses, and the offense struggled. If these three players can continue to produce there will be a lot of unhappy defensive coordinators around the Big Ten this fall.