The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
Thursday, September 29, 2011- 5A
Michigan red-zone package tough to defend
Offense a perfect
By STEPHEN J. NESBITT
Daily Sports Editor
The Michigan football team's
offense is a perfect 13-for-13 in
red-zone conversions through
four games this season.
There, the secret's out.
"Why do you say that?" said
Michigan offensive coordinator
Al Borges, when reminded of the
red-zone success. "Doggone it.
It's just like that kiss of death,
The Wolverines, led by junior
quarterback Denard Robinson,
have scored 12 red-zone touch-
downs, tearing up defenses for
the nation's second-leading red-
zone touchdown percentage
But that success is nothing
new. Michigan's identical 4-0
starts the past three seasons
have been due in large part to
the offense's success inside the
In 2010, Robinson tortured
defenses in the opening four
games to the tune of 18-for-19
in red-zone conversions with 12
to those numbers in the previ-
ous three seasons under former
quarterbacks Chad Henne, Ste-
ven Threet, Nick Sheridan and
Tate Forcier. The 2007-09 totals
through four games were 10, six
and 10 touchdowns respectively,
for touchdown percentages of
66.7, 60.0 and 62.5.
Clearly, Denard Robinson
makes a difference. But he's not
the only factor in the red-zone
"I don'tknow if there's a magi-
cal answer," Michigan coach
Brady Hoke said. "I mean, I think
part of it is always you have some
pretty good luck."
Even with one of the nation's
most-feared rushers handling
the ball at quarterback, Michi-
gan hasn't favored spreading out
the field to open running lanes in
Inside the red zone, Borges
has called in what Hoke referred
to as "jumbo personnel" - I-back
sets and three tight ends stacked
up close to the line of scrimmage
in a classic goal-line look.
Facing the red-zone offense
in practice seems to have helped
defensive coordinator Greg Mat-
tison's defense. The unit has
allowed just seven scores on 13
red-zone attempts this season,
with just five touchdowns.
The Wolverines have the low-
est opponent red-zone conver-
sion percentage (53.9) in the Big
Ten and the eighth-lowest in the
"Some offenses you can really
get a tendency on," Mattison said.
"And you can just say, in this per-
sonnel group they're going to do
this, and in this personnel group
they're going to do this.
"Coach Borges, now, if you're
playing against him, just when
you think they may run it, he's
going to throw it. Just when you
think that he's goingto be in this,
he's going to spread out and be in
that. I think that it's because he's
so sound in every group, where
some teams aren't."
The goal-line tenacity is
Junior quarterback Denard Robinson and the Michigan offense have come away with at least three points on every red-zone possession this season.
emphasized in practice, where
the offense and defense square
off inside the red zone everyday.
"One thing I'll say for this
football team - we are not per-
feet by any means, 'we are not
there - but we've got pretty
good will," Borges said. "A lot of
times, teams don't have a great
will and you tend to fold. We've
shown no signs of that. Not yet,
Michigan's 4-0 start will be
tested against Minnesota on Sat-
urday. But if you're going by the
numbers, Robinson should have
his way with the defense.
When backed into the red
zone, the Goldon Gophers have
allowed 14 scores on 16 chances.
That spells a busy day for Min-
"(The red zone) is a point of
emphasis," Borges said. "There's
nothing more distressing than
getting the ball down there and
not scoring. And you're not going
to score a touchdown every time,
but you're not coming away with
They're not perfect in his eyes,
but they've been perfect in the
"There you go again," Borges
NOTES: Gophers coach Jerry
Kill, who was admitted to the
Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
on Sunday after suffering a sei-
zure earlier in the day, returned
to practice Wednesday.
The first-year coach has had a
seizure disorder for nearly two
It caused him to collapse dur-
ing a game against New Mexico
State earlier this year.
"I ain't changing," Kill said
after his return from his first
seizure. "What the hell am I
supposed to do? Stop? I mean,
sit in the chair and wait for the
next God-dang seizure to come
He hasn't stopped. Kill was
back in practice and defensive
coordinator Tracy Claeys said
Tuesday that he expects Kill
to coach the Big Ten opener at
Michigan Stadium on Saturday.
Lewan playing penalty-free football on offensive line
By TIM ROHAN Michigan lineman a year ago,
Daily Sports Editor Lewan has anchored a Wol-
verine offensive line that has
Taylor Lewan jogged off the allowed only one sack through
field Saturday and put his arm four games this season. And
around a team staff member. Lewan's playing a penalty-free
"No penalties," Lewan told the left tackle, protecting junior
man. "I'm due for one, aren't I?" quarterback Denard Robinson's
When Michigan coach Brady blind side.
Hoke first arrived, he met with The difference?
every player "I don't want to say, 'Not being
individually. NOTEBOOK dumb,' but that's what it is,"
He spent his Lewan said. "Go back and look
time with Lewan discussing the at the film and see the things I'm
number of costly holding and doing. It's like you're thinking to
unnecessary roughness penal- yourself, 'Why would he do that?'
ties he racked up last season. The whistle's obviously over and
"That was what our meet- I go and run into a person. I don't
ing was about, and it was a little know what that's all about. I
longer than everybody else's," fixed it. We're good.
Lewan said. "But I think you jinxed me
"I can blame it on being a red- though. Now I'm getting all ner-
shirt freshman last year, just vous about it."
going guns blazing, hoping for Lewan said he wanted to see
the best. At the end of the day, improvement in the offensive
it's just being a smart player. You line's run blocking, even though
can be more aggressive than Michigan has averaged 250
I was last year, more aggres- yards rushing per game. With a
sive than I am now and still not new coaching staff that teaches
get penalties. Just be a smarter blocking differently from the old
player, know when the whistle's staff, Lewan said the line is still
blown." learning to "jell" with one anoth-
Easily the most-penalized er as they start understanding
what each lineman's responsibil-
ity is on every play.
"There's still some gray area,"
But the other four linemen
have a more mature Lewan to
"Yeah, I mean, I'm an old man
now, I'm 20," Lewan said. "It's
ridiculous. My knees hurt now."
GET LOW, BIG FELLA: Junior
defensive tackle Will Campbell
has shown Hoke flashes. The
next step is shining all the time.
Campbell's high school team-
mate, redshirt sophomore safety
Thomas Gordon, offered a simple
solution for Campbell.
"Will's just got to keep stay-
ing low," Gordon said. "He's got
to stay low all the time. Because
he's a big guy, and he if he keeps
that good leverage, he'll be good.
"You see some flashes here
and there, and that's when he
Campbell first made an
impression in Michigan's win
over Notre Dame. In the two
games since, he hasn't been as
"I'm glad Thomas is coach-
ing him up," Hoke said with a
Redshir sophomore offensive lineman Taylor Lewan and the offensive line have only allowed one sack in four games.
smile. "I really am. And Thomas
is right, Will just has to ... play
lower and be more consistent
in that part of it. His get-off the
football is something that he has
to be conscious about and make
good habits with."
Senior defensive tackle Mike
Martin said Campbell has the
tendency to watch the ball
instead of going full-steam ahead
and finding the ball himself. Get-
ting low and driving ahead is the
"If he comes in low like that,
you can't stop him," Gordon said.
MEET THE COMMITTEE:
Michigan's lead running back
may just be Denard Robinson.
His 18 carries for 138 yards per
game average say he is.
As for a true lead running
back, one Michigan offensive
coordinator Al Borges can feed
the ball 20 times a game, the
Wolverines still don't have one.
Borges was resigned to the real-
ity Tuesday that he may not have
a feature back with Robinson at
quarterback, playing so often out
of the shotgun.
All offseason and through the
first four weeks, Borges has been
opposed to the tailback-by-com-
mittee approach, but with junior
running back Vincent Smith and can get that kind of productivity
redshirt sophomore Fitz Tous- every week, that'd be pretty darn
saint, that may be the only pos- good."
sibility. Smith and Toussaint com-
"If we can produce over a hun- bined Saturday to run 22 times
dred yards rushing from our tail- for 114 yards and a touchdown
backs between two guys, I can - together still not up to Robin-
live with that," Borges said. "As son's production.
long as there's productivity at INJURY UPDATE: Hoke said
the position, and we'll get into a fifth-year senior cornerback
little of that now, I'm not going to Troy Woolfolk, who injured his
complain about it. It's just not my ankle again on Saturday, has
participated in every practice
since the game against San Diego
"I'm not going - Redshirt junior left guard
- Ricky Barnum also injured his
to complain .-- ankle against San Diego State,
-t's jubut he had not practiced as of
it's just not y Tuesday, which doesn't bode
well for his chances to play this
-eSaturday against Minnesota.
"I'm not saying he's out, but
he's trying to take care of that
ankle," Hoke said.
preference. And as for injured lineback-
"Because Denard's such a ers Cam Gordon and Brandon
featured runner in our offense, Herron, Hoke said they're doing
I don't know if the tailbacks are everything in practice.
ever going to get huge numbers Gordon, on the other hand,
until we just jump into the I-for- has been practicing for a while
mation and startcdoing that every now, and his name appears on
play, which we're not doing as the list of available players, but
long as Denard's the quarterback he hasn't played a game yet this
- not every play, anyway. If we season.
Junior running back Vincent Smith has stepped up to take the No.1 running back spot for the past two games.
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