The regular season is over so it’s time to start looking ahead to the next game, the next season and the next recruiting class. We check out all that and more in this week’s WolverineNation roundtable.
1) If you're coaching Michigan football for the bowl game, how do you use Denard Robinson in his final game?
Chantel Jennings: Well for starters he needs to be on the field at the same time as Devin Gardner. The coaches have harped on getting their best 11 on the field, so put both Robinson and Gardner out there. Even if he can’t throw, even if he doesn’t get the ball, he’s like a magnet pulling in defenses. Gardner has shown that he can be consistent when given ample opportunity, so I think he should play the majority, if not all, of the quarterback snaps and let Robinson be a threat or distraction.
Michael Rothstein: Use him as he would be used in the NFL. Play him in the slot, put him at running back. If he’s healthy enough to throw, play him 12-15 snaps at quarterback. If he isn't, play him 5-7 snaps because after that the surprise element will have worn off. Put him on kick return with Dennis Norfleet. He'll have a month to learn basic blocking and rudimentary route running, so he could be a real asset.
Tom VanHaaren: The same way they did in the Iowa game. Get Robinson and Gardner on the field at the same time and pull out all the stops. Get flashy and get Robinson in space to run loose. They'll have plenty of time to prepare for their opponent, so I would assume the game plan will play to their strengths with Robinson.
2) How much do the prospects of the Wolverines change over the next two seasons if Gardner gets his medical redshirt? Could you see them competing for a top-5 spot in 2014?
Jennings: Next year will be another rebuilding year of sorts. It’ll be interesting to see what Al Borges does with his first year having a true pro-style offense. And with time, it’ll get better. However, in the second year, it should be much, much better. Just looking at the 2014 schedule with a veteran QB and an experienced defense, it’s incredibly favorable for getting marquee wins. The Wolverines have MSU at home, but they take the road to Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State. If they can pick up road wins, they’ll be on everyone’s radar.
Rothstein: Doesn't change much for next season. Michigan might actually not be too far off this season's record next season, mostly due to a favorable schedule with Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State at home, the latter two not happening until mid-November. It could mean a major uptick in 2014, though, because instead of breaking in a first-year starter in Shane Morris or Russell Bellomy, Michigan will have a fifth-year starter with almost 20 games of starting experience entering the year. That would be massive for the Wolverines.
VanHaaren: Having Gardner for an extra season is definitely a positive. Competition at any position is a good thing, and letting Morris get acclimated would be beneficial for everyone. At that point I don't see why Michigan wouldn't be fielding a very competitive team and should be in position to factor into the conversation of top teams nationally.
3) Last year we had a weekend that saw eight commitments from the 2013 class. We're assuming that won't happen this year, but is there a player or event that could produce a smaller, but still important, domino effect for the 2014 class?
Jennings: That was definitely a domino affect: One commit sparked another sparked another sparked another. The key is getting those recruits on campus. If Michigan can have a weekend (surrounded around a basketball game or something else) when they can get a lot of top recruits in town as well as 2014 commits Michael Ferns (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville) and Denzel Ward (Chicago/Hales Franciscan) it could be a similar thing on a smaller scale.
Rothstein: Tough to say, especially since last season that appeared to be so random in how it occurred -- and Michigan was fortunate to have it happen on the biggest basketball weekend in Ann Arbor in at least a decade. There won't necessarily be a weekend with that much hype around it this time around, but if the Wolverines could create a similar atmosphere around, say, the Michigan-Michigan State game the first weekend of March or Michigan-Indiana game the weekend after, there could be a small domino effect. Otherwise, perhaps not anything until the barbeque.
VanHaaren: I think you will probably see something similar to last February. Not on the same scale with eight commits on one day, but prospects will visit for basketball games and will get to the point where they're ready to make decisions. There are a few prospects who could make a decision around then, including offensive linemen Mason Cole (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) and potentially Alex Bars (Nashville, Tenn./Montgomery Bell).