Of course just days after we finish our full 2012 season preview all sorts of news leaks out that everything we thought we knew might be wrong. Well, not everything, but a couple things big enough to warrant its own post -- and doubling as an excuse to post this song by Weird Al.
Say what you want about the man, but he sure as hell knows pop song structure.
The Defensive Line
The oft-mentioned catch in the defensive line preview last week was something along the lines of "well, these guys are all quick and athletic, but man are they ever small."
It seems that someone else made that same observation when looking at the group, because the coaching staff has started to experiment with different lineups. Wait, whats that?
I asked Montgomery who would be his starting line if they had a game today, and he said it would be Roh, Campbell, Black and Quinton Washington.
Yes, Jerry Montgomery said that if the season started that day, and his answer included Quinton Washington. I don't think many of us saw this coming. Washington has been a non-entity on the defensive line ever since his switch from guard a year and a half ago. That, and everyone pegged Q as a three-tech.
The current version of the defensive line depth chart has Washington starting at the NT with Will Campbell playing at the three-tech -- exactly opposite of what everyone expected either player to play at coming into the year. On the ends it was Roh at SDE -- consistency, sweet consistency -- and Jibreel Black making the move back out from three-tech to his former WDE position.
These results are surprising upon first consideration, but I think the longer you look at it the more sense it makes. The biggest concern going against Alabama this week (eeeeeeee, this week!) is that the proposed defensive line of Campbell-Black-Roh-Beyer was just too small all over. Moving Washington inside gives Michigan two 300lbs. interior defensive linemen. Furthermore, it frees Will Campbell up to work against more single blocking and potentially become a more effective player. The knock on Campbell has always been leverage -- something that is going to be exploited when taking on a guard and a center every play. If Campbell has improved his leverage enough, he should be able to use his athleticism to do more.
Another problem this potentially solves is the severe depth problem at WDE. With Frank Clark still suspended, the depth chart consisted of two players: sophomore Brennen Beyer and freshman Mario Ojemudia. Getting Black some time on the outside at a position he is already familiar with, having played it a year ago, not only gives Michigan a larger end to hold up against the run on rush downs, but also splits the workload at WDE up between more players.
The negatives are predictable: What if Washington isn't very good? What if he is, have you seen him play this year? What if Will Campbell isn't effective at the three-tech? That would make it more or less likely that he would be effective at the one-tech? What about Black's struggles against the run from years past? Wouldn't you rather have him struggle on the backside than right in the middle of the line?
The odds are good that this is more of a package move, and it points to the coaches finding ways to build an effective line with a bunch of imperfect parts. When you have Mike Martin as your one-tech you can leave him on the field on third-and-one or third-and twenty. Same with Ryan Van Bergen.
When you are trying to build an effective line out of guys with specific deficiencies, you put them in the best situations you can and set them up to succeed. Until someone (ahem, Ondre) separates himself on the Michigan defensive line, look for a lot of movement in an effort to put players in advantageous positions.
Quarterback Wide Receiver
More from Dienhart:
Gardner is a wild card. How much will the quarterback-by-trade play at receiver? I asked Borges about Gardner, and his eyes got big. Borges says Gardner doesn't know how good he can be. He's an athletic freak who will figure in the rotation. Count on it.
We already knew this. Gardner is too athletic and the receiving corp too depleted of big, athletic pass catchers to keep him on the bench wearing a headset. What we didn't know was just how far away from the headset he might get. There were rumors of Russell Bellomy impressing the coaching staff, but those seemed like nothing more than the standard fall practice talk.
Now we have a bit of a clearer picture, and it comes from Brian Cook:
Devin Gardner took zero QB snaps and was on the first team as a WR. I think they moved him full-time. Swingin' for the fences.
This is big news for the offense in that it confirms that A) the coaches really see something in Gardner's prospects at receiver (vs. the internet's collective drool over his measurables) and B) Bellomy is in fact as good as we keep hearing he is.
Now, how long Gardner sticks at receiver in practice and games is going to be dependent on Denard Robinson's health -- I wonder if Robinson gets dinged up if the coaches pull Gardner to the side -- and if Robinson misses any time it will be interesting to see how the coaches deploy Gardner. However, it is clear that Gardner has shown something to warrant the move and that this is real.
Everything you know is wrong.