In our last meeting of the season with Rotoworld.com NFL draft writer Josh Norris (@JoshNorris on Twitter), we talk about, what else, Denard Robinson and the problems he and Devin Gardner pose for South Carolina in Tuesdays game as well as what the best individual matchup in the game will be.
We know about Michigans history and tradition. Tell us what kind of talent this team has got.
Well it all starts with Denard Robinson. Hes not playing (full-time) quarterback anymore because of the elbow (injury). He hasnt been able to grip a football in quite some time. Hes taken a couple of snaps at quarterback but I see him taking more snaps at running back and wide receiver in this game. I think those two positions are really where he projects, specifically running back. Hes the type of player you want the ball in his hands. Hes a different kind of running quarterback in that hes very patient with the ball and his blockers. Thats something you dont find with these quarterbacks who are in a hurry to get out of the pocket. He kind of power runs where hes following a lead blocker. He knows when to cut off his blocks and burst through the hole. I wouldnt be surprised to see some trick plays with him and (quarterback) Devin Gardner. To start the season, Gardner, whos a much better passer than Denard Robinson, was a first-team receiver because of injuries. It could be really interesting to have both those guys on the field at the same time. Gil Brandt, who is a longtime NFL evaluator, said hed draft Robinson for cornerback. That was kind of surprising to me. On the tape I have, there is no sense of aggressiveness that translates to cornerback. How does cornerback come up? But he may play there. Hes going to the Senior Bowl. Hes not going to play quarterback there. I dont know if hes going to play running back or receiver or corner. Patience, cutting ability and straight line speed, all of those translate well to a ballcarrier, especially at the next level.
I mentioned Devin Gardner, hes a little bit taller than Denard (6-4 to 6 feet), hes just a much more accurate and consistent passer than Denard and hes not afraid to test downfield.
They did get a freshman tight end in Devin Funchess who has been underused all season long. Hes going to be a real stud. Hes a big-bodied tight end who can really get downfield. This may be his coming out party if they figure out how to use him in these last few practices because hes got a lot of talent.
They have a left tackle in Taylor Lewan who a lot of people are talking about a first-round pick, 6-8, 308. I bet youll see him and [Jadeveon] Clowney go up against each other a number of times. Lewan, I wouldnt put him up against a Luke Joeckel, but hes like an Eric Fisher who is at Central Michigan right now. I definitely think Taylor Lewan, if he declares, will be a first round pick. Hes patient, he doesnt overextend himself.
On the defensive side of the ball, Michigan has really lacked the talent theyve had in previous seasons. Craig Roh, a defensive end, 6-5, 278 pounds, who has gone through a transition every single year hes been at Michigan. He started off as a strongside linebacker, moved to weakside defensive end, where I think he played really well last year, and then he moved over to strongside defensive end this year and I thought he wasnt good at all. Well, thats harsh. I thought he was average. I expect him to move back to the weakside and lose some of that weight. Hes just a lot slower, a lot more methodical and doesnt get in the backfield often enough.
And then Jordan Kovacs is their safety, and hes always in the right place. Hes very reliable in that deep coverage. Both of their starting cornerbacks now didnt start the season and one is a freshman, so well see if Connor Shaw lets it loose throwing the ball.
I think the marquee matchup is Lewan versus the defensive line, and if (South Carolina) can contain these big plays. Its really going to be the South Carolina defense versus the Michigan offense.
On the South Carolina guys who will be headed to the NFL next year, is there anything to be said for one last chance to show something or has most of their work been done in that regard?
Since these games are pretty much the only ones on at that time, you have (more) eyes on them than normal Saturdays. If you have a big-time performance on national television, it cant hurt you. I think a lot of these guys are set where they are going to be, but lets say a Chaz Sutton comes in and has a great performance to head him into a solid senior season, that could really be probably the most beneficial. Then hed be a name evaluators would keep in mind heading into the 2013 season.