With Halloween coming up, I decided this would be the perfect time to introduce a new series: Trick or Trend. Every week I will take a look at a thing or two that happened during the previous Michigan game and decide whether these happenings are likely to continue going forward or if they are just one-off occurrences that should not be expected to repeat.
After just one game it becomes tempting to extrapolate off of every single observation, especially after such a complete performance like the Wolverines put up against Minnesota. I will resist that urge for now, and instead will focus on one big area of the game that stood out on Saturday night. It will take a couple weeks to fully know if this is truly a trend or not, but we can look at the clues we saw against the Gophers and come up with an reasonable guess.
Will quarterback runs will be a significant part of the offense this season?
Michigan’s win was impressive for many reasons, but something that really stuck out is how the offense shared the wealth. No receiver was going to record even three catches before Ronnie Bell snagged a couple balls in garbage time to put him at the lofty total of four receptions, while Hassan Haskins led the running backs with just six carries.
One player was in the middle of all the action, though. While the quarterback position naturally lends itself to be the center of the offense, there was some thought to leaning heavily on players like Haskins and Zach Charbonnet during Joe Milton’s first ever start. Instead, the Wolverines threw their signal caller into the fray, letting him run the full offense and showcase his impressive arm talent.
In Minneapolis, Milton carried the ball for 60 yards and a score on seven non-sack carries. He looked confident as a runner and is not easy to tackle, and he has good speed for his size. The Wolverines gave him a designed run on the second play from scrimmage and later used him at the goal line, and the redshirt sophomore also had a couple nice keeps on reads and scrambled when the play broke down.
It is no secret that Shea Patterson failed to effectively run for most of last year, whether that was due to subtle injuries or poor reads. He constantly missed opportunities to burn the defense on the edge, and instead put the ball into the hands of his running backs in tough situations far too many times. After just one game, it is clear that making the right decision will not be an issue for Milton, and he was a very willing runner when he needed to be.
To me, this is the clear start of a TREND. Milton is athletic and can take a hit, and his command of the offense was apparent right away. Having a quarterback who can execute read options and draws is a huge part of Josh Gattis’s offense, and it will open up a ton of space for the other skill players. As long as Milton can stay healthy, expect him to run the ball 5-10 times a game and do so effectively. His third quarter touchdown will be far from the last time we see him convert a short-yardage situation with his legs, and adding this layer to the offense is just another way to keep the defense off balance.