Michigan to retain some zone-read elements, even as it transitions to pro-style
But it won't completely abandon the zone-read elements that made Denard Robinson a household name -- at least in the immediate future.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges said last week as long as Michigan has a mobile quarterback, he hopes to keep the zone-read in his bag of tricks. And he has that guy in senior Devin Gardner.
"Are we just getting rid of all the zone-reading? No, we're not," Borges said. "We're going to keep some of that stuff in our offense because we have a mobile quarterback, and as long as we have a quarterback that can threaten the defense as a runner, we're going to have bits and pieces of that that we're going to keep.
"Are we going to run him 25 times? That's over. We're not doing that anymore. That was logical, with what we had (in Denard Robinson). but now we want the quarterback to be more of a passer-runner, than a runner-passer."
Michigan has recruited for a more traditional pro-style offense, grabbing 10 big-bodied offensive linemen, five tall receivers, four tight ends, a fleet of powerful tailbacks and a big-armed quarterback in the past two recruiting classes.
There's no mistaking where this thing is headed.
But Borges showed with Robinson he doesn't mind bending his offense to suit the personnel, and Gardner has a mobility that could pose problems for defenses. And Borges won't overlook that.
Gardner is not nearly as electric as Robinson on the ground, but was the country's No. 1 dual-threat quarterback recruit in 2009 for a reason. He's elusive, and a load to bring down at 6-foot-4, 203 pounds.
He played five games at quarterback to conclude last season, after Robinson suffered nerve damage in his throwing elbow, and averaged nearly 10 carries in those games. Although, few of those touches came on zone-read plays.
Gardner's rushing was particularly effective on third downs, moving the chains on 14 of 18 attempts. He ran for seven touchdowns overall, including at least one in four of his five quarterback starts.
The pass became a pronounced component of the offense once Gardner became the trigger man, but the quarterback's mobility helped convert third downs and punch the ball in the end zone. Michigan appears set on keeping that in the fold.
"You saw in the last five games a version -- what I would call a starter's set -- for what we're going to do down the road," he said. "The last five games give you an indication of the direction, yet it's really just scratching the surface."
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