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Posted on Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 9:30 a.m.

Michigan to expand use of deuce formation after finding success with 2-quarterback look

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan quarterbacks Devin Gardner, left, and Denard Robinson sometimes lined up together last year in a package known as the "deuce formation." Gardner says the Wolverines plan to expand the package this season.

Melanie Maxwell |

With so much attention paid to Devin Gardner's offseason foray at receiver, it's easy to forget the Michigan football team also got creative last year in an effort to get him on the field.

Remember the deuce formation?

The look, which featured Gardner at quarterback and starting quarterback Denard Robinson either in the backfield or split out at receiver, was highly effective for the Wolverines.

It seems, even if Gardner plays some receiver this year, Michigan plans to bring back the offensive wrinkle.

"They say we’re going to expand on that as well," Gardner said Sunday at the team's media day. "It’s just going to give the defense a lot of things to think about."

Coordinator Al Borges first unveiled the unorthodox formation against Minnesota in last year's Big Ten opener. The initial play out of the look -- a handoff from Gardner to Robinson -- resulted in a 4-yard loss.

Then, it was off and running.

Michigan frequently dialed up the formation as a supplemental package, running everything from power runs up the middle to halfback passes. There were reverses, end-arounds and screen passes.

Borges said Michigan averaged more than 8 yards per play in the deuce formation. The Wolverines averaged 6.2 yards per play overall.

"Even the plays that weren’t good set up plays that were good," Borges said recently. "There were guys we’d run a play that wouldn’t yield much, only to be set up by another play that did. It’s not always the play -- sometimes, it’s the residual effect of the initial play.

"Now how much we use of it (this year)? I don’t know. That’s a game-plan deal. As we get through the install and we see where we are, we’ll decide on that."

Another residual effect of the formation: It got quarterback snaps for Gardner, who otherwise was buried on the depth chart, and got the ball out of Robinson's hands, which was key to injury prevention.

Robinson mostly was used as a decoy in the formation, taking defenders with him on a steady diet of misdirection plays. Others did the heavy lifting.

Borges said he hasn't yet decided how he'll employ the formation this year.

"That’s not what we’re about right now -- we’re about teaching the system and getting our evaluations straight," Borges said. "Once we do that, then and only then will we start playing with some of the more, I guess, cute phases of our offense.

"I hate using that word. Why’d I say that?”

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Fri, Aug 17, 2012 : 8:37 p.m.

When I'm in the duce formation I prefer a good news paper and plenty of TP.


Thu, Aug 16, 2012 : 2:28 a.m.

putting Gardner on the field with DR gives us a legitimate and possibly consistent passing threat. He just might be the three point line for us. Meaning he may force MSU to spread to defend the pass enough to give DR some holes to run in. I'm all in favor of having another passer onfield with DR.


Thu, Aug 16, 2012 : 2:21 a.m.

I had so hoped that "the Deuce" was dead and buried after the fiasco that it was last year. DRob or Devin, not both. Pick a QB and go.


Thu, Aug 16, 2012 : 12:43 a.m.

Borges's career is on the line against Alabama ! Genius or fraud ? Only someone such as me already knows the answer. For those who are fans of Fat Albert I have news for you..... It's over. O.V.E.R.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 10:37 p.m.

I'd still prefer a Gardner to Robinson pass. Will also help Robinson in the next level of his career.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 9:32 p.m.

2 QBs, 3 QBs, 11 doesn't really matter. You've got no one who can throw and you have no one who can catch! stop the run...yeah, pretty sure 'Bama can do that.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

I prefer to perfect a Robinson to Gardner pass play, and use the gimmick play or decoy play sparingly. Michigan needs all the recievers they can get, consequently, Gardner should be used at WR. He is too goo an athlete to allow him to stand on the sidelines, and it appears that he isn't going to be used as QB as long as DR is able to play.

Terry Star21

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

I do like this 'deuce formation' set-up because it establishes many options. I saw every single play, live last year and like a few others here, also do not remember that much success. But if coach Borges says "8 yards average', then my memory isn't so good. The fact that it ('deuce formation') was used sparingly last year also gives me reason to believe it needed some work, and most likely wasn't up to Hoke's complete expectations. My hope is of course, in this second year - that more experience working with this formation will provide great results in the games. The addition work in pass-receiving by Gardner could very well prove the difference. To me, I would love to see DRob on the receiving end more often. What a thrill ! MgoBlueForTiM....DRob steps back, fires the ball down field and sprints out to catch the pass. Touchdown Meeeeechigan !


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

"cute phases of our offense". yeah, that's just too easy...I'll let it go...


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

Wait, when was the 2 QB look successful last year? I don't remember a single big play run out of that formation all last season.


Thu, Aug 16, 2012 : 1:35 a.m.

How about this play from the deuce. 59 yard touchdown for Toussaint:


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 11:18 p.m.

You can find every offensive play of every game last year on You can do the math yourself. And this is Al's exact quote from the presser: ""Well I had my analyst do a -- I believe we were eight-point-something yards [per attempt]. I'm not sure exactly. I don't have it in front of me, but it was good."" Not exactly the kind of statement that makes you want to bet your house on it, you know?


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 7:02 p.m.

I remember the package being variably effective (an ineffective of course). I think we need all the stats to dispute Borges. But, we dont have a direct quote, or text of the larger conversation, so we can't know for sure exactly what Borges was referring to - hell, perhaps both perspectives are accurate; perhaps Borges is taking a subset - such as, 'when the play was properly executed, we gained on average more than 8 yards.' Which might be why its being practiced more. But the larger argument is that I take Borges at his word - he is the offensive coordinator. In this capacity, he's not a talking head. He's not out to persuade us - he really doesn't care if we approve of the deuce package or not. He is just explaining why he likes that formation, and is presumably practicing it.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 6:30 p.m.

I also cited the team rushing because obviously, the receiving was covered. I have to question this because I do not remember it being so effective.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.

Ok...when they first used it, the Minnesota 58-0 blowout. They ran the formation 4 times and picked up 21 yards, for one 1st down. That is a 5.25 average. Can you work with that?


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 6:05 p.m.

Um, but you didn't crunch THE numbers, you crunched SOME numbers. First, you have to look at the specific plays in which the duece package was used, and then compare those to the average gains per play. You didnt. Al did. Second, not all of those plays were rushing plays, so I'm not sure why you cite that number. Give us something we can actually work with, not your sleight of hand approach.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 5:56 p.m.

Robinson mostly was used as a decoy in the formation, taking defenders with him on a steady diet of misdirection plays. So Garnder ran the plays in the formation. His season stats last year...rushed:25 gain:101 loss:48...53 total net yards...2.12 average. ... passing: 23/176 7.65 average. Dennard's season stats...rushed: 221 gain:1349 loss:173 total net:1176 5.3 average... passing 258/2173 8.42 average. the team averaged 5.15 yards per rush I'm not buying it Al, I crunched the numbers, doesn't add up.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 5:33 p.m.

How about we agree that sometimes a coach is a talking head and sometimes he or she is giving inside expertise and factual information? I dont disagree that neither Al nor Hoke give us the straight dope all the time, but they do often give us the straight facts. And when either does state something factual, I will believe them over you or all the other talking heads. Such as when Hoke states that Roundtree got his knee scoped, or when Al states that one play was successful last year - especially citing yardage stats to back up the statement. He's not a talking head then, he's relaying factual information.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 5:19 p.m.

He is absolutely a talking head when it comes to the Al Borges you see in a presser. Those aren't for the kids, they're for us. They aren't coaches sitting in those chairs. They are PR machines. If you think they're giving us anything even sorta straight, you're kidding yourself.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

First - Be careful of your assumptions. I have only one eye that I see football with. I keep my other eye on politics. Never the twain shall meet. Therefore I see little depth in each, giving me the mere superficial understanding that allows discourse with peole such as yourself. Second - I dont think anyone would consider our offensive coordinator a "talking head" on the subject of our offensive playbook. You are the talking head here, AL is the horse's mouth. Its from the horse's mouth that talking heads get their material to superficially manipulate in a self-agrandizing way, often attempting to make themselves out to know more, to be smarter than the actual horse. Sometimes. Sometimes they just ignore the horse altogether and go with their pre-determined interpretations, never attempting to see deeper and perhaps update them.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

You don't have to take anyone's word. You saw it with your own two eyes. That's the problem with America today. We don't judge things with our eyes anymore. We just listen to what the talking heads tell us and call it the truth.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

Yes, I am going to take your word on the successes of the various "deuce" packages last year over Al Borges's word. Keep showing us The Way, for we will follow.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 4:30 p.m.

And I'd LOVE for somebody to try to explain how non-success out of the diamond formation somehow set up success in a completely un-related, conventional formation. And please, be specific.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

Reminds me of the days when Charles Woodson entered the game on offense. You just knew something good would happen! Sometimes it took the focus of the defense away from the play that didn't really involve Charles. Exciting!!


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 3:57 p.m.

Would love to see them put in Gardner, Robinson and Bellomy all in the same play...maybe against Alabama. Having 3 QBs in on the same play could totally confuse a top defense like Alabama and Michigan State.


Fri, Aug 17, 2012 : 8:35 p.m.

That's PeeWee football. It won't work against a disciplined defense Like Bama.


Fri, Aug 17, 2012 : 7:22 a.m.



Thu, Aug 16, 2012 : 3:59 a.m.

No you see, it's gimmicky if you go 3-9, it's creative if you go 11-2 with a BCS bowl win.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

Didn't Rich Rod get blasted for using a "gimmicky offense"? You don't think 3 QBs on the field at once is a gimmicky?


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

I sure remember a lot of collective groans on the live chat every time they lined up in the deuce last year. I'm really surprised that they averaged 8 yards/play with it because I seem to remember it being largely ineffective.


Fri, Aug 17, 2012 : 4:50 a.m.

The key word is 'average'. You may lose 4 yards in the initial play but gain 20 yards the next time from the same formation. Also, it is not so much that DR and DG physically earn the yards but by having both in the formation, took away an extra defender from other offensive player.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.

"Once we do that, then and only then will we start playing with some of the more, I guess, cute phases of our offense." How about working on the forward pass.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

Good idea, we'll need all the help we can get with the coming schedule.

Ron Granger

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

Expand the package! Fwiw, Gardner is 6'4, allowing him great ability to see over the line. Robinson is 5'11.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

Robinson is actually over 5'11" but under 6'; he's somewhere between 5'12" and 6'.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

I prefer the golden feet of Denard!!!!!!!!!! Go Blue!!


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

I prefer the "Golden Arm" of Denard!


Thu, Aug 16, 2012 : 7:09 a.m.

Throw it Denny, thow it!


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

DEUCES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GO BLUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

Good article - many folks forget that one play always does influence, and is ofted used to influence, later plays. They are used to influence the thinking of the defense. That's good coaching. Too much analyses look at plays in isolation and jusdge how the offense worked and the defense reacated in terms of single plays, when thre is never a single play in isolation on the field. Each play always has past and potential plays embedded in it - both in the minds of the coaching staff and in the minds of the defense. One nitpick - Garnder was the back-up QB - that's hardly "buried on the depth chart."


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

Like the run setting up the play action? Thanks, I forgot.