Last year, after the Wolverines’ dreadful performance against Notre Dame, I wrote a post about how much better Michigan will be when Denard leaves. @TBHReport founder, CEO, and my favorite Australian, +Joshua Henschke put a disclaimer on it, saying that it was my opinion, not that of the website. I received a great deal of negative feedback about it, with even a few people telling me that I wasn’t a, “real Michigan fan,” or that I didn’t like Denard because he was a black quarterback. My response was, “He’s only one of those things.”
Under Rodriguez, Denard put up Create-a-Player stats against less-than teams but struggled against opponents like Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio. Teams that had any type of depth on the defensive side of the ball, and a Defensive Coordinator who had the ability to watch film, figured out how to stop the Wolverines: Stop Denard. In 2011, when Michigan went 10-2, the emergence of a legitimate RB threat in Fitzgerald Toussaint added a previously lacking wrinkle in defensive strategies. Last year, Fitz had a less-than-stellar campaign, culminating in a grisly injury. The focus shifted back to stopping Denard. 8-5 was the result.
Even with Al Borges calling plays, Denard and the Wolverines struggled. An injury against Nebraska gave Devin Gardner the chance he needed the following week, and it also gives the Wolverines the best chance to win with an actual quarterback.
Devin Gardner’s emergence as one of the two best starting quarterbacks in the B1G conference (Hey, Braxton), as well as the return of Fitzgerald Toussaint and arguably one of the deepest running back pools in recent memory, put Michigan in excellent position to win their first B1G Title since 2004. It’s been a while.
Even some of the players have noticed the difference in the offense this year as opposed to last year. Just last week, Drew Dileo said, “… it’s gonna be a lot less Denard runnnig left, Denard running right this year.” I’m sure that Dileo didn’t mean anything by his comments, but much can be taken from the words. Put another way: “Michigan’s offense will be more versatile and dangerous, now that the person all of the DCs around the country have to stop is now gone.”
Denard fit perfectly into Rodriguez offense, but when (thankfully) the West Virginian Hick got himself fired for actually making grown men hold hands and sing a Josh Groban song, Denard found himself in the position of being the square peg in a round hole.
He performed well, except during B1G play, which is how Michigan measures success.
Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, Michigan’s offense will be statistically better this year without Robinson. It may not be as exciting as watching him leave a MAC linebacker with a broken ankle as he reverses field and scores a touchdown in a game that has already been decided, but I will take a potent, balanced attack that has Jim Heacock and Pat Narduzzi up at night questioning if they’ve done enough to stop their hated rival over that every day.
And in other news, for the Michigan fans who continue the ridiculous talk that Rodriguez wasn’t given a fair shot, or that his record at Arizona proves that he would have succeeded at Michigan: when Michigan went 7-6, Rodriguez pointed to it as a positive reason to keep his job. Last year, after Michigan went 8-5, Brady Hoke said it was unacceptable and not up to the standards of the University of Michigan. Which sounds better?