During the Denard Robinson era over the last three seasons, Michigan‘s offense has been run-heavy. Robinson, although a fantastic runner, lacked a great arm. He often misses receivers on medium depth routes and threw far too many interceptions. Much of Michigan’s passing offense became predicated on the deep ball, which was hit or miss, but hit a lot more than one would expect.
So, the passing offense was not completely lacking, as Robinson did throw for 49 TDs and 6,052 yards over his three seasons as starter. Nonetheless, passing was Michigan’s weakness with Robinson.
Now, with Robinson out and Devin Gardner in as the full-time starting quarterback, the passing offense should improve.
Gardner is a larger quarterback and has a stronger arm than Robinson, making him a much better passer. During his fives games as starter last season, Gardner was superior to Robinson in every passing category, averaging 9.78 yards per attempt with a passer rating of 161.7, compared to Robinson’s 8.4 Y/A and 138.6 passer rating.
Robinson also was more prone to throwing picks, averaging just 1.25 TDs per interception to Gardner’s 2.2 TDs per interception.
So, based on the premise that Gardner is a superior passer, the other major factor in Michigan’s passing game are the guys actually catching the footballs. Michigan lost Roy Roundtree, who caught 154 passes during his four-year Wolverine career.
They return just two wideouts who made substantial contributions last year in Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo. Both receivers are small, while Gallon is a great speed option and Dileo has proven to have dependable hands. Michigan’s fourth-leading receiver last season was actually Gardner, who spent the first eight games lined up outside.
A real X-factor will be sophomore tight end Devin Funchess. Funchess showed flashes of great promise, including his Week 2 performance where he caught four passes for 126 yards and a TD. Funchess is a very big target at 6-foot-6 and 228 pounds, and could potentially be an impact player in his second season.
The big hole left open, even with Gallon, Dileo and Funchess, is a big wideout. Gallon and Dileo are both well below six feet tall, and Funchess will be lined up in the middle of the field. Michigan needs a big target who can make plays on the outside (a Junior Hemingway type).
There are some potential candidates to fill that role including Amara Darboh, a sophomore. Darboh, who has the size Michigan needs at 6-foot-2, hardly played last season after coming in as a four-star recruit, but has big aspirations.
Fans should expect a much improved passing offense this year with Gallon and Dileo anchoring the receiving corps, and some new names helping out.
You can follow Alex Dale on Twitter @alexdaleCFB