November 21, 2012
A new wrinkle to the Wolverine offense
Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham
From the golden years with Bo to the dreary stretch with Rich, Michigan has enforced a run-first offensive scheme. So when they've possessed a strong-armed quarterback capable of putting up large numbers, the team's record reflected the success through the ground and air.
After their poor showing in Lincoln where their leader and QB Denard Robinson suffered an injury to his throwing arm, Wolverine fans caught an early glimpse of what's to come to their offense in 2013. A athletic quarterback capable of tossing it as well as any in the conference.
"With Devin in there, they run more of a pro-style offense and with Denard in there, it's more of a spread and stuff like that. They played both of them in the backfield last week and they have a lot of options doing that. It's a dangerous team because you do have two running threats, as well as a strong throwing threat (with Gardner)," said linebacker Zach Boren.
Over the last three weeks, Gardner has averaged 278 passing yards per game, a completion percentage over 65 percent while tossing seven touchdown passes, which is just two shy of Robinson's nine this season. He also sits tops in pass efficiency among Big Ten quarterbacks.
"They're going to be a hard team to stop," Boren added. "I feel like they're getting better each week, since kind of Devin's coming along and now Denard's getting healthy, they're starting to become a little dangerous."
The biggest benefactor to the recent change in the backfield goes to the Michigan receivers, who have seen more looks and opportunities to make plays. Senior Roy Roundtree has doubled his reception total and produced his first 100-yard game in two years. Jeremy Gallon is average 99.7 receiving yards per game with Gardner behind center while tight end Devin Funchess has found the end-zone each of the last two weeks.
Most of Gardner's production in the passing game has come from the play action. With their receivers lacking in size, Al Borges continues to utilize the speed of his wide-outs and his new quarterback's arm strength.
"It's his composure, as much as anything," Borges said. "Somebody asked me if I was surprised by his accuracy. Not at all. All of his numbers in practice have shown you he's an accurate passer."
Even with this new wrinkle to the Wolverine offense, the Buckeye defensive backs are not concerned and are ready for the challenge.
"The guy that's really been their go-to guy is Roundtree. He's definitely a great player for those guys, and he goes out there and makes plays. But really, we're not going to go out there and make somebody that they aren't and try to hype anybody up or try to downgrade them or anything like that," said safety Orhian Johnson.
"Once we get out there, we're going to focus on our technique and assignments and just go out there and compete every play."
Even though Ohio State has forced 13 interceptions this season while Michigan has thrown 17, they still sit towards the bottom of the conference in pass defense, surrendering over 250 yards a game. While maintaining Gardner and Robinson at the line-of-scrimmage is crucial, the silver bullets must respect their ability throwing the ball and not sellout to the run.
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