Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What if The Denard Experiment is a success?

Yesterday, I wrote about the possibility of Rich Rodriguez pioneering yet another trend in college football: a small, hypermobile quarterback named Denard Robinson. I am calling this, for the time being, "The Denard Experiment." Today, I want to look at what the future might hold if Denard were to have Tim Tebow-ian success.

First of all, RR's influence on the Big Ten has already made it a faster conference. The days of slow, bulky Big Ten teams piling on the lard for "leverage when the weather turns cold" are pretty much over, unless Michigan State and Wisconsin count. Northwestern was the first Big Ten team to use RR's spread option offense. It was their 54-51 victory over Michigan in 2000 that made the mainstream football world pay attention to the offense.

Ironically, Northwestern head coach, the late Randy Walker, learned the offense from Rich Rodriguez, who would be coaching the team he beat eight years later. Northwestern was able to have a better record than it "should have" with its personnel using this offense. Still, nobody really paid a lot of attention to it until Urban Meyer won a couple of National Championships with it at Florida.

When Appalachin State and Oregon used the spread to embarass Michigan in 2007, Michigan finally decided to go outside the old, incestuous coaching tree and get some new ideas. The newest and most modern idea was still the spread option. Who better to coach it than the man who invented it: Rich Rodriguez?

Jump ahead to 2010. Michigan has finally gotten past its struggles, and is being led by a quarterback who is under six feet tall, doesn't weigh 200 pounds, and can run a legitimate 4.3 forty. Denard Robinson has put up insane numbers running the offense, and is already being mentioned as a serious Heisman Candidate. Regression fallacy projections based on his numbers for two games work out to 2730 yards rushing and 2580 passing for a total offense of 5210 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Obviously, Denard can't keep putting up numbers like this all season, but what if he comes close? What if Denard becomes the best player in football for the next three years, and brings home one or two National Championships to the Maize and Blue? I could see the following effects on the game and on Michigan:

1. Denard Robinson might become the prototypical spread option quarterback. No more statues, no more tall guys, no more "sneaky fast" guys: just burners who can stop on a dime and hide behind the linemen when they have to.

2. Michigan, by virtue of the success of TDE, might become THE school for spread option quarterbacks.

3. The requirements for a passer may change. Because a fast quarterback running the spread option creates a lot of space and mismatches, it won't be as important for a QB to be a complete passer. All he will have to do is be able to run really fast, manage the offense, and hit high-percentage passes when his recievers are open, which will be often.

4. The NCAA may no longer be a "farm system" for NFL QB's. This could cause:

5. And NFL development league. Not a crappy imitation like Arena Football or a joke like the UFL, or whatever it is now called, but a real developmental or "minor" league where players who want to get to "the show" can develop their talents in a pro-style offense. Or:

6. The NFL could actually start using the spread option, or at least a lot of shotgun and spread formations. The NFL likes to think it rules the sporting universe, but college football has its way with the NFL. College football can support a lot more teams than professional football can, because the game is a lot more fun. One of the reasons it is so fun is that everybody doesn't use the same offense.

7. A college football playoff system. I'm only kidding on this last one. The only two things that will cause a D-1 playoff are money or government "interference."

Anyway, the football world is watching TDE with great interest. Denard is talented, humble, and charismatic. If he continues to perform on an elite level and continues to exemplify ideals such as teamwork, commitment, and humility, he could be the new "face of the spread option." And he could be the new prototypical spread option quarterback.

I would like that a lot.

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