Monday, December 2, 2013
Michigan mailbag: Play calls, offense, QBs
By Chantel Jennings
Auburn-Alabama kind of stole the spotlight from Michigan-Ohio State, but regardless, it was a really great game with a fantastic ending. With that, we decided to move the mailbag up to Monday to make sure we get to any lingering questions about the Wolverines and Buckeyes, as well as some others too.
Tobin, Tecumseh: Was the two-point conversion the right decision?
A: I think so. With how the Michigan defense was playing, I don’t know if it would’ve been able to stop the Buckeyes in overtime. But I think the Ohio State defense could’ve found a way to slow Michigan in OT, especially considering how apparent it became that Devin Gardner was nearing the end of his rope, injury-wise. So why go into a situation in which you have to weigh those odds against an opportunity to win the game right here, right now? It was a gutsy call but I think making it, especially with the backing of the seniors, was the right way to go about it.
Now, Ohio State cornerback coach Kerry Coombs said he knew what play was coming which is why the Buckeyes were able to so easily stifle it. So, if that’s true, perhaps a different play call should’ve been the answer. But, with how Gardner appeared (injury-wise) at that point in the game, Al Borges' playbook was likely limited.
James, Chicago: Why did Michigan not play this well offensively until this late in the season?
A: I think a lot of it has to do with the offensive line. The Wolverines finally put together a group that gave Gardner time in the pocket and gave the play calls time to develop on the field. It’s crazy how much of a different half a second makes, but with that kind of push, it just allows the offense to really live up to its potential. The O-line also created holes for the running backs to hit. I was impressed with Derrick Green, Fitzgerald Toussaint and De’Veon Smith, and I think the only mistake there is that Green and Smith should’ve picked up more carries earlier in the season.
Nathan Cole, Grand Rapids: Is there any realistic chance that Shane Morris is the starting QB next year and Devin Gardner goes back to WR?
A: I don’t know. I thought Gardner looked pretty solid against a good Ohio State defense. He threw for four touchdowns and 451 yards against the Buckeyes and played clutch, leading the Wolverines from down two touchdowns to a play in which Michigan had the chance to snag a win. This was really the first time in the conference season that the offensive line has put together a complete game and look what Gardner did with it. I’m not sure why people would still be calling for his head. Morris will compete for the job, as will early enrollee Wilton Speight. The best player will play but I see no reason why Gardner doesn't have the lead as of now (seriously, four touchdowns and 451 yards against Ohio State!). Plus, next season, Amara Darboh will be back from injury and the Wolverines will have receivers with experience in Jehu Chesson, Devin Funchess, Jake Butt and some talented freshmen.
Patrick, Nashville: How important has Jake Butt been this season?
A: I think it’s fair to say that the Wolverines wouldn’t have experienced the same level of success that they’ve had without Butt. If he hadn’t emerged as a player, there’s a pretty good chance Michigan would still have Funchess as a tight end. And because Funchess can move out to WR, that has helped the production of every other receiver because defenses have keyed in on him more. Butt becoming a usable player allowed the Wolverines to have a more well-rounded attack. And the more he comes out as a pass catcher, the more valuable he’ll become because that’ll forces defenses to be even more honest.