Michigan Football: Michigan vs. Kansas State — What May Happen
Entering the Breech — Without Devin Gardner
Michigan’s football team has been somewhat impugned in the news and on certain web sites lately, perhaps justly, perhaps, not. But Michigan likely is up against it this Saturday with quarterback Devin Gardner on the shelf. It will not be miraculous for freshman Shane Morris to play well, but he probably needs to play well for Michigan to win.The opponent, Kansas State, is in a position to simply play the game to win with no sideshow, and somewhat self-created issues and distractions. Kansas State has had nearly everyone ready to go and practicing. There is no external fervor of a must win atmosphere or hot seat talk concerning the Wildcat program or Coach Bill Snyder. The prairie crowd is smart enough to know the worth of Snyder’s work and has reciprocated with extreme gratification and loyalty. Michigan, on the other hand, has a duel-threat quarterback on the shelf, questions about who will separate at running back, and an offensive line that likely will have to deal with the blitz blueprint other teams have clearly laid out for KSU planning.
Michigan will start and probably end with Shane Morris, an outstanding young man with football skill and excellent personal qualities. He of the 7-7 recruiting fame will take on Wildcat defense, not single-handed mind you, but his decision making, poise, and above all marksmanship will play a huge role as to how this game unfolds.
Alchemist Al Borges is in a tough spot. KSU will score on anyone and the Michigan defense must have an offense that can at least functionally execute to keep the Wildcat offense off the field and also put up points. The first option is the running game. Everyone, including KSU, will expect that option. Yes, Borges will probably have Shane throw a few easy patterns early, or Shane may go deep immediately to send a message. But Michigan will need to run the ball and will unlikely turn this into a Brady versus Manning affair.
The question has been posed as to whether Shane will play more from shotgun or from under center. We will all see what the answer will be. Some have prognosticated to watch early and see how much Shane is under center.
Will KSU load the box? More than likely is the smart bet, as KSU’s staff loves to go with what works. Can Michigan run against the loaded KSU box? The smart answer is probably not consistently; there will be plays of exception, good or bad. Michigan may go back to quick screens, bubbles, draws, etc. to reduce the pressure on the running game.Take note that the KSU safeties are pretty good and the above strategy could help in that regard as well. The long developing midrange and long patterns ran off of read stems have been problematic. If the line can indeed hold up better to pressure than in the past, then the UM passing game has a shot at production. Morris throws line-drive darts and underneath patterns may be more successful for him versus down the middle 20-30 yard passes. One headache for Morris will be Ty Zimmerman, a two-time All-American, who is on nearly every important watch list in America. He is certainly happy about the opportunity of preying on the blood of a true freshman quarterback. Hopefully, the announcers will not be saying “Morris never saw him when he passed.” Look for KSU to jump Michigan’s short routes suspecting the Wolverines will only go long when needed. Look for Michigan to know this and Gallon or Chesson to double move. Again, how will pass protection hold up?
The West Coast Offense is meant to strike quick, or deep, or run, or pass. It is meant to go horizontal or vertical. It is meant to take what is offered. So the logical question is what will KSU provide? KSU will blitz, but expect a standard defense much of the time, since the threat of Gardner’s running has been removed. Morris will be required to hit hot reads, probably on third downs. The problem has been the hot reads have had to stay in to block. A question becomes will Michigan have to maintain this strategy or have some potential outlets that can slow down a blitz?The defense for Michigan knows what is coming and the number one mission will be to shut down the read option from KSU’s quarterbacks and running backs. Like any such offense, the Michigan defense will need to neutralize the inside option and play assignment gap defense throughout the entire play. The linebackers and safeties will need to check and be aware of play action passes. If one safety is sacrificed to the box, or if the safeties both bite short, look for KSU to run the deep sideline, up, or deep post patterns.
KSU has been in years past an offensive juggernaut, but this year the Wildcats have an offense that is dangerous but not overwhelming. The Wolverine defense against the Wildcat offense should be an interesting match-up. Michigan’s defense has had sufficient time to prepare for the inside read. Now it comes down to whether or not the front seven can contain the read.
People bad mouth Big 12 defenses and bad mouth most Big Ten defenses. The truth is that in this era of offense, unless the talent level is misappropriate, teams are going to score.
Michigan has its work cut out, and it would be a mistake to place excessive pressure on Shane Morris. It will be a mistake for the playbook to shrink to the point KSU can predict, without impunity, Michigan’s offense. Shane will have to man up and do more than throw three-yard patterns. And he will need to not make plenty of mistakes. This is part of the growing process. Shane has had good rep time and studies the game hard. Controlled aggression may be the ultimate game plan that gives UM the best chance of winning.
It is a bowl game, KSU is playing to win. Is Michigan playing for next year, or the best chance to win? That is a tough call, but with Morris at quarterback the equation changed.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu
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