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Posted on Thu, Apr 8, 2010 : 3:01 p.m.

Michigan football team's offense has room to grow in 2010

By Dave Birkett

Michigan made gigantic strides from year 1 to year 2 running Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense. Offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said he expects another noticeable jump this fall.

“I hope so,” Magee said Thursday. “You can start to see that.”

The lowest-scoring team in the Big Ten in 2008 (20.2 points per game), Michigan was one of the highest last year (29.5 ppg).

The transformation was due largely to better play at quarterback. Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson took every meaningful snap last year as true freshmen. While their youth showed at times, there’s no denying they were better fits for the system than ’08 signal callers Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan.

Magee said quarterbacks normally make strides their second year in a system, and Forcier and Robinson don't appear to be exceptions two-thirds of the way through spring practice.

The Wolverines held their 10th of 15 spring workouts Thursday.

“I think having a year under your belt with both of them helps,” Magee said. “And we want them to be able to run the entire offense, which is the direction we’re going. And that doesn’t take a whole lot. We had a lot of it in last year, so to get more repetitions added, it’s going to really help them in their decision making.”

Robinson was limited in the playbook last fall, partly because he wasn’t on campus for spring practice. An erratic passer, he rarely was called upon to run option plays that required him to decide whether to keep the ball or hand off at the line of scrimmage.

Forcier started every game and had much more of the offense at his disposal, but Magee said he still “played like a freshman that had a lot of different stuff thrown at him every week.”

“I thought he played competitive, so that was the good,” Magee said. “But now he gets time to settle down and really understand more structure of the offense. That’s what he’s doing in spring, which is a lot better. But he played like a freshman.”

Rodriguez declared the starting quarterback job up for grabs earlier this week, and Magee said Robinson and Forcier are pushing each other in practice. For now, the two are splitting No. 1 quarterback reps.

"The competition at all the positions is heating up, it really is," Magee said. "Next five practices it’s going to be fun to watch who kind of keeps emerging, and that’s across the board at all positions."

More notes
• Brandon Graham held a private workout for NFL scouts Thursday after he injured a hamstring at the NFL combine and sat out Michigan’s pro day. Donovan Warren also planned to take part in the workout. The Falcons and Jaguars were among the teams who sent representatives to Ann Arbor.

• Magee said “very few” NFL guys have inquired about Michigan’s offensive draft prospects including Brandon Minor, Carlos Brown and Mark Ortmann.

• Running backs coach Fred Jackson broke his right foot in practice and is wearing a protective boot.

Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.



Mon, Apr 12, 2010 : 10:13 p.m.

Sorry Terry, I don't think that will happen. If i don't agree with something, I'm going to let it be known. Trueblue, I don't want him to fail, because his failure reflects upon MY university. I have much more invested in it (and in him) than he will probably ever have invested in it. That being said, he's failed more than anyone in the football program, at least as far I've been able to remember and I'm 43. I ain't doing anything to him that he ain't doing to himself already. KWIM?


Mon, Apr 12, 2010 : 4:29 p.m.

TerryStar21 -- yes, I completely agree. There were a lot of things Lloyd Carr did that ticked me off, especially late in his tenure. But even after Appy State, I never went on a message board and trashed the man like so many people are trashing Rich. Beyond that though, it seems there is a segment of the fan base that simply does not like RR. They actually WANT him to fail just so he can be fired. This is very disturbing and it bothers me much more than any smack-talking troll. We need to rid our fanbase of these people. I want Michigan Football to be successful. Period. And I want success THIS SEASON.

Terry Star21

Mon, Apr 12, 2010 : 3:33 p.m.

GoBlueinNE_PA... I think what Truebluefan is saying is, that it's okay not to agree with RichRod, just don't trash him (i.e., lets get rid of him, he stinks, he's...). Just write what you think he needs to do and be constructive - and TrueBlue, myself and other faithful's we'll have no beef, we may disagree, but.... Also, I saw no where in Trueblue's last post where it was said you had to be a RichRod fan.


Mon, Apr 12, 2010 : 1:30 p.m.

Truebluefan I completely agree w/your post, w/the possible exception of the number of wins he needs. I've got no problem w/folks supporting RR, just don't tell me I have to support him too. BTW, I think he needs 8 to stay, anything else won't be good enough.

Terry Star21

Mon, Apr 12, 2010 : 11:38 a.m.

I'm hearing so much of this 'not a fan', 'part-time fan', 'true blue fan', 'band wagon', etc. name calling here - and I think everyone is missing the point. has set up these comment posts to share our opinion and hear our thoughts. They are not just our columns, I believe the sportswriters read our comments, and listen/consider our input. In a perfect world, there would be no bashing of UM, the fans, the coaches, or the team - that is not going to happen. I think one of the 'biggest' drawbacks, that irks our faithful is the badmouthing of the coach/team - this in turn makes some question the 'fan' loyalty. Everyone can air their opinion of course, so we have to hear the bad with the good. So I think the faithful should try hard to be constructive, ie; if you don't like the coach, say what he needs to do, not '...get rid of Rodriguez, or any other name calling. In essence, I think you will garner a lot more respect from fans, sportswriters, etc. by being genuine in your criticism. And all though many disagree, I believe the real fan/faithful will never have to tell anyone.


Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 10:58 p.m.

Macabre and goblueinNE_PA -- I have always respected your opinions, as well as Sean T., because I know you are real Michigan fans and not trolls from Buckeyeland or Spartyville. I think it's fine to have dissenting opinions of RR. It would be strange not to have dissenting opinions considering that so many fans wanted Carr gone and he had a.750+ winning percentage at Michigan! I back RR right now but the bottom line is the team needs to show a good amount of improvement in the win column for me to continue to back him. I think 7 wins is borderline but 8 wins should and will get him another year. I truly believe that if the team gets 8 regular season wins then dominance is right around the corner.


Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 9:22 p.m.

Well said Macabre. I received my engineering degree from UofM in 1988. I've been a fan on Michigan most of my life. To call me a bandwagon jummper is simply some one being ignorant of the situation. I'm not even sure why I bother. IMO, the folks that can't see how far we've fallen are the folks that aren't true UofM fans. Only people that would want to see us floundering would be OK with what we've experienced over the last 2 years. I won't stoop to their level and call them Spartans or Buckeyes though. The greatness of Michigan is in our diversity, even when it comes to opinions about our athletic teams.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 4:10 p.m.

Aside from the childish insults, leathercouch, you're dead wrong. Perhaps you should upgrade to velvet or vinyl. The defense was awful the last two seasons - easily the two worst seasons in Michigan history. That gives the offense more need to take risks and score, not less. Teams fighting from behind usually score more points. At least you have charts showing Michigan near the bottom in offense the last two seasons rather than all these Polyannas who believe the crap Birkett put out there. And yes, Michigan was absolutely dead last in red-zone offense last season. Not even close to 10th. Why? Because it's a gimmick offense. Close to the goal line everyone on the other team and in the stands knows exactly what's coming. Remember that game they lost because they had first down on the 1 and couldn't punch it in? Pathetic. I'm not a part-time fan. I'm a life-time fan who thinks Martin screwed up badly. And I'm enough of a fan that I will voice that opinion because I don't believe in RichRod just because some jacktard spent a few million dollars to put him in maize and blue. He's a bad coach, and he needs to go. All you Polyannas were promising ten wins last season, and even with an easy schedule, all we got was five. What are you promising in 2010? And at what point will the light begin to dawn on you and you'll start to see that Michigan football can not recover until we have a real coach in place.


Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 11:38 a.m.

Sorry about the 5-9, should'a been 5-7.... don't talk to me until I've had my coffee....


Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 11:06 a.m.

BowlForBlue.... no, I think macabre sunset and GoblueinNE_PA are UM fans, their just part time fans. It appears they are looking for any excuse, as inaccurate as it may be, to trash the other part of UM FB they don't believe in. Those are 'Bandwagon Jumpers', we go 10-2 say with Iowa and Wisconsin losses and a Jan. 1 bowl this year and they are bragging, 'I'm a huge true blue fan', etc.... yet 5-9 and they are looking for excuses, lies, from their frustration to get back at the U.

Sean T.

Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 6:28 a.m.

Very well said Macbre Sunset and Kudos to you GOBLUEIN_NE PA I really don't understand the logic of some of our fans. How is there so much confidence in our troubled program when the only glimmer of hope is Tate Forcier? DR would not start on any other B10 team as a QB though he has some nice athleticism. The only RB with experience is still under 170lbs and with an unproven O-line how much improvement can there really be? Defensively we have little hope since BG is gone but what's worse is the players who have experience don't play very well with what they've got! And lastly, what has our coach shown us but arrogance and irresponsibility....Does this guy really look like a leader? I hope RR can turn the losses to wins and prove us wrong but there is no confidence in what his brand of football can produce. Many say we are "bandwagon jumpers" but what excuse will they use when we have another losing season? And RR doesn't have a Bandwagon big enough for me to jump on!!!


Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 1:18 a.m.

Macabre Sunset - For posting here as much as you do you dont know as much about this sport as you think you do. What happened here at Michigan the past 2 years was a fundamental transformation of the way things worked. its not about players lost its about positions saved and created. The biggest problem at U of M is the defense. and will be the defense. what you refuse to grasp is that the offense DID work in the big ten. let me give you a breakdown. team by team of what our offense WOULD have looked like without the inflated number of points WE gave up ourselves. 1. Ohio State.......... 7 201 28.7 2. Wisconsin........... 7 191 27.2 3. Penn State.......... 7 179 25.5 3. Michigan State...... 7 179 25.5 5. Purdue.............. 7 166 23.7 6. Indiana............. 7 162 23.1 7. Minnesota........... 8 179 22.4 8. Northwestern........ 8 178 22.2 9. Michigan............ 8 177 22.1 10.Iowa................ 7 144 20.5 11.Illinois............ 7 110 15.7 as opposed to : 1. Wisconsin........... 8 236 29.5 2. Ohio State.......... 8 222 27.8 3. Penn State.......... 8 214 26.8 4. Michigan State...... 8 205 25.6 5. Purdue.............. 8 204 25.5 6. Indiana............. 8 195 24.4 7. Minnesota........... 8 179 22.4 8. Northwestern........ 8 178 22.2 9. Michigan............ 8 177 22.1 10.Iowa................ 8 174 21.8 11.Illinois............ 8 148 18.5 we only held 1 team under thier season average and thats ohio state. so consider the rest of the conference inflated having played us. once you take away that the averages look a little bit closer than what it first appears. michigan is not that far off. they did a decent job of moving the ball all season they just shot themselves in the foot in the red zone. and a LARGE part of that can be attributed to inexperience and a year under the belt of the most important position in the red zone will help with that. if our defense can hold even a few of the teams below their season averages michigan will be in a decent bowl game. with a lot of players that got game time in defense returning it will help that much more. plus the speed that was added. losing graham and warren is huge but the speed that we gained across the entire defense and the depth of people with playing time will help a lot as well. i will hold judgment on the defense until the fall once the young guys show up but i think with the amount of freshman and sophomores that got to see the field last year on defense will pay off big time this season if michigan can force teams to throw with solid d-line play and crashing linebackers (all of whom have experience) that will help out the D big time because big ten offenses outside of northwestern and purdue are run first offense. the QB play from the rest of the league will be average next season with pryor chapple and stanzi being the big things and pryor still has not shown he can be a QB rather than an athlete that can throw to a guy that's wide open because he scrambled to make a play.

Macabre Sunset

Sat, Apr 10, 2010 : 10:38 p.m.

Oh, I'm far more a Michigan fan than those who are willing to accept mediocrity instead of excellence. Through these halls walk champions. Through the halls of RichRod walk also-rans and excuse-mongers. Birkett's article is misleading. There was no improvement on offense despite having athlete quarterbacks and another year in the system. This is a gimmick that cannot work in an elite conference and the sooner we all realize this, the sooner we can return to the top of the standings.


Sat, Apr 10, 2010 : 7:18 p.m.

Tater, amzack, Terry Star... don't waste too much time on the naysayers here, they are not UM, their own school has half the team in jail or several just getting out and they have nothing to look forward to. Just keep supporting our team and let them act like fools. Problem seems with this 29.5 pts. per game, which is accurate. I was at the Delaware game, we could have put 40-45 on bama that day, we where clicking. Besides Delaware was a last second choice, all the big schools said no. Fact is, everyone knows UM FB is going to bust lose at anytime - they don't want to be embarrassed.

Terry Star21

Sat, Apr 10, 2010 : 5 p.m.

Birkett was correct at 29.5 points per game, some are upset, can't add - what a shame. Michigan's offense improved on offense, some are off in the sunset, behind a fence. Theo's king is ready and able, to lead this team and run the Big Ten table. The definition of macabre is the dance of death, some commenters here are on crystal meath. Michigan football to grow and exceed - split open the defense, oh yes indeed.

Macabre Sunset

Sat, Apr 10, 2010 : 3:21 p.m.

Amzack, I think you're missing the point. Michigan dumbed down their schedule in year two of RichRod in order to try and hide the disaster. It worked on people like you, obviously. That's a shame, because without pressure from everyone, the AD won't abandon this folly. My primary objection to Birkett was his use of the 29.5 ppg number, which was third among Big Ten teams. More accurately, he should have used 22.1, which was how many points Michigan averaged in Big Ten games and was ninth in the conference. To get that 29.5, Michigan had a better non-conference approach. Essentially replacing a strong team, Utah, with one of the worst teams in all of Division I-AA, Delaware State. Not-so-coincidentally, Michigan also scored 22.1 points per game in Big Ten play in 2008, only their record was 2-6 in the conference instead of last season's 1-7. There was no real improvement on offense. In an elite conference, opponents can deal with RichRod's gimmickry. It looked better because the gimmicks worked well against WMU and EMU last season as well, but he didn't have a quarterback who could run them in 2008 against Toledo and Miami (Ohio) so those games flat-lined like the rest of them. So before you yammer on about not understanding simple mathematics, look at what's really going on. Birkett wrote an irresponsible, misleading article. People like you need to open your eyes and see that Theo's emperor is wearing no clothes and Michigan football cannot recover until Martin's Folly is fired and a competent football coach hired to rebuild the program.


Sat, Apr 10, 2010 : 2:28 p.m.

GoblueinNE_PA... Your 'Sixth' reason, i.e. '... counting on incoming freshman... to step in on D and play..'. First we have 10 returning defensive men that saw game action last year, all will show experience, with several improving immensely. Secondly, we are counting on the freshman defensive men, but counting on them to challenge the veterans, and some will play. Hopefully none will have belly problems and need to be stapled. Without insult, you are just a fan and want to see the bad, and rag on it - that is why you have so many negative concerns. The faithful always see good, and want to complement on it, and remember how fast UM FB can strike, like a wolverine! They remember, from the 68' upset of osu, to the most recent 08' come back beating Nationally ranked Wisconsin. Your welcome to your opinion and comments, but please don't ask '... how we get thinking things are going to be better..'.


Sat, Apr 10, 2010 : 1:55 p.m.

Macabre Sunset: You must have slept through all your math classes, so let me help you here. Michigan averaged 26.5 points per game excluding Delaware State's 63 points. (29.5 ave pts/game x 12 games = 354 total; 354 - 63 Del pts = 291; 291 / 11 other games = 26.5 ave points/game) So, a 6.3 increase (26.5 - 20.2) in average points per game is a nice improvement for the offense. Does Michigan's offense still have room for improvement? Absolutely. But, think through your posts before you sumbit!


Sat, Apr 10, 2010 : 8:45 a.m.

I hope you guys that think things are going to be better next year are right, but I dont' know how you get there. Look at the team for a second and be realistic. First, at QB, we will undoubtedly be better, w/Tate in his 2nd season. He'll be better schooled in the offense and physically stronger. That's huge. Second, no matter what other say here, the O Line is losing 2 Sr starters and replacing them w/So. w/no starting experience. Doesn't matter how talented they may be, we simply do not know whether this area will be better or worse. Third, RB, we graduate our top 2 backs and we have no one w/experience at the college level to play a power back role. Sure we have some prospects, but that's it. Heck, we hear this week we have 2 WR taking snaps at RB. Not a good sign, IMO. Fourth, WR, will probably be better since we've been playing young kids there the last 2 yrs, so that experience will help. Fifth, our most dominant player from last yr, Graham, has left the D, a D that wasn't good with him. I fail to see how this is an addition through subtraction situation. Sixth, we are counting on incoming freshman, none of whom are here yet, to step in on the D and play. That is not a recipe for success. Again, I hope you guys are right, but I simply don't see it. We were two lucky plays away last year from an indentical 3-9 record. Way, way too many question marks to see anything but a repeat of 2009.


Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 10:31 p.m.

The fact that the scoring was up (29.5) isn't the single reason the article focuses on 'gigantic strides' from 2008 to 2009, as many naysayers are dwelling on. The new spread offense, a new feature with new quarterbacks was the biggest reason. I think we should all be excited that with another year of experience, this offense is going to exceed beyond limitations. On the Gardner issue, I hate redshirting, but this kid is still growing, still learning and I say keep him interested, use him in practice just like Tate and Denard. Watch the difference one year has made with Denard, and then there's Tate....Oh yes!


Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 10:24 p.m.

spartyo... I think I speak for a lot of us. Please PLEASE do not take take tater as representative of real UM fans. We really are about respect and integrity. I've been to your site a lot lately and frankly am embarrassed at what is being said in the name of "UM fans" like tater, theo, and a couple of others. I appreciate that you guys are behaving better than we are. Again, apologies. I really think UM is better than we are behaving.


Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 5:03 p.m.

spartyo... hope you respect that the vast majority of us here and other UM Faithful don't go to your site looking for trouble. The worst I wish we could hear between our two schools is, 'We're gonna beat you'. Welcome to our site, and hey, this year, 'We're gonna beat you'!

Terry Star21

Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 4:41 p.m.

BroncoJoe... thanks... you make a good point about 'UM fans jumping on the band wagon when things turn around', as they will. I and many faithful try really hard, yes we really talk it up year around, even in what the unfailful may say are bad times, but we keep some rules. We (most) never shove it anyone's face when we win, we celebrate yes, most certainly. However, if the enemy badmouths UM FB, we must react, telling them exactly who they are and what they stand for- but mostly to contradict them, to put them in their place. Problem right now is, we've had a few teams that didn't normally beat us, say msu, osu, psu, pur., etc. come into our stadium and just verbally give it to us, same on the road. It is going to be really hard not to want to give it back to them when we beat them this year. Hoping were gracious winners... stay tuned. UM FB - winners with grace.......... and not an ugly face.


Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 4:41 p.m.

I probably would not put much stock in what Tater says. He post way more on Spartan articles. How could he possibly know anything about Michigan when he is always worries about State?


Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 3:28 p.m.

Complete BS that the team statistics were skewed by one win against Delaware State. What about the "easy" teams UM played in 2008? 10 pts. against Toledo? 16 pts. against Miami of Ohio? The team SHOULD score 63 against Delaware State. And what about the other top scoring teams in the Big Ten? They all put up 40+ or 50+ point totals in their non-conference games. The fact is the offense made a tremendous improvement last year (as anyone that watched 2008 and 2009 could see) and they are poised to make similar strides this year. If all else stays the same but the offense improves slightly, UM is looking at 8, and if they are lucky, 9 wins. After only having two recruiting classes in place (starting in January the first year is NOT a RR class) RR is doing just fine. All the part time UM fans - just stay off the bandwagon when things turn around.


Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 2:49 p.m.

Mr. Birkett sir... very fine writing. You have illustrated the frustrating facts of 2008, shown the improvement of 2009 (highest 29.5), and let us in on some of the great things to look for in 2010. Frustration-to-improvement-to-great expectations, what more could a UM Football faithful look forward to. It's a great time to be a Michigan Football fan. It is that great expectation that brings us to fill the Big House, game after game..... keep up the great articles, 'You sir are a Michigan Man'.

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 1:34 p.m.

What's more, RichRod's failures and gimmickry will trickle down into recruiting. It has already happened, with Michigan finishing outside the top ten in the recruiting rankings for the first time in more than a decade. Failure breeds failure. Top high school athletes will look at his results, and look at an offense that bears no resemblance to anything that works on the NFL level, and they will pass on Michigan. I'm not happy about this. RichRod was a disastrous hire, and now Michigan does need to rebuild its football program.

Terry Star21

Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 1:29 p.m.

This was a very great article indeed, and I agree with tater in so much, but think he is little low with 9 win prediction. We were just shy of nine wins last year and it was because of just a few players, but also a few plays. Every game a few bad plays took us out, and this year with the experience, it will be a few great places that will make the difference and I am looking at 10-2 with losses to Iowa and Wisconsin or Penn State. The experience and big plays - 5 more wins.... This new format - make my helmet bigger


Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 11:36 a.m.

Tater You are factually incorrect when you make these statements about the OLine being "older" or no longer being a "boys vs men" situation. Look at last years starters: LT: Ortmann-5th yr Senior LG: Schilling-4th yr Jr C: Molk-3rd yr So. RG: Moosman-5th yr Sr. RT: Huyge-3rd yr So. And when Molk went down, they brought in Dorrestein, a 4th yr Jr. or McAvoy, a 5th yr Sr. If anything, this year we'll be seeing a much younger and less experienced crew on the Oline. The Sr. from last year, whether they were good or not, are gone and will be replaced with 2nd and 3rd yr So. No matter how you slice that, that's going backwards, at least in terms of experience and probably strength.


Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 9:44 a.m.

tater's predictions so far for UM football: 2008: 9-3 plus bowl win 2009: 9-3 (don't remember a bowl prediction; probably a win) If I were a UM fan, I'd want tater to predict something like 4-8. Macabre is right, of course. The Delaware State game alone increased UM's points per game by about 5. But the UM offense is admittedly fun to watch, and it should be pretty scary for opponents this year.


Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 9:21 a.m.

Time will tell. This was a great PR bit. "An erratic passer" says it all when it comes to Denard Robinson. Unless he learns to hold back and wait for open receivers, he will get killed by any team with a brain. RR needs a winning season in the Big 10 period if he expects to be around after this year. As I said, time will tell.

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Apr 9, 2010 : 12:13 a.m.

What Birkett doesn't seem to get is that Michigan was not a good offensive team last season. Not even mediocre. The Wolverines were next to last in scoring in Big Ten play. The 29.5 ppg is high solely because of the 63-6 thrashing they put on Delaware State. It was by far the highest point total by any Big Ten team this year. And Delaware State was near the bottom of the FCS - a lower caliber opponent than any other team was playing. So please, Dave, put a sock in it when it comes to praising the offense. You don't know what you're talking about. There were no gigantic strides. Decent defenses had no problem with RichRod's gimmickry, and there's little reason to believe that will change in 2010.


Thu, Apr 8, 2010 : 5:45 p.m.

there is no limit for this year. Let's see how far we go


Thu, Apr 8, 2010 : 4:49 p.m.

Gotta love Coach Fred Jackson! Taking one for the team!