It's clear now that Hoke's offensive staff won't stick with the schematic advantages Rodriguez established. However, Hoke has already shown he can recruit well. In regard to the offense only, how soon (if ever) will Hoke's recruiting success offset the scheme regression?
I can't tell if "schematic advantages" is a sly Weisian dig or not. Well done. Disclaimer: I don't necessarily think Borges represents a scheme regression in a general case. Just this case, and it's hard to blame Borges when his lizard brain is an entirely different lizard brain than Rodriguez's, etc.
Anyway, it's kind of depressing how long it might take. I don't think there's anyone on the roster who will excel in the framework Hoke and Borges prefer next year, and then in 2013 you've got a choice between a redshirt junior Gardner and a freshman Morris. That's either Gardner getting a lot better—obviously possible, necessary, not guaranteed—or yet another underclass starter. The most frustrating part of the double transition is not effectively using the first returning starter at the position since 2006 (2007 Henne was a shell of himself due to injury until the bowl).
And then you've got the ancillaries. In 2013 Michigan will have one upperclass tight end (Miller), zero upperclass interior linemen (there will be a couple redshirt sophomores), and two upperclass WRs (Jeremy Jackson and Jerald Robinson).
Thanks to Rodriguez's disastrous 2010 OL class, transition issues, and a weird decision or two in the first weeks of the Hoke regime it's looking like 2014 is going to be the first year you can reasonably say Michigan has all the pieces they want in place.
I have heard many people say that Borges is making bad decisions calling running plays when the defense is stacking the box with eight, sometimes nine, players. Borges does not have the luxury of knowing what alignment the defense will run. Most offenses, at least when I played, rely on the quarterback to check out of a play when these types of issues are presented. Nine men in the box, check to a pass play, five or six in the box, check to a run.
I think this is something that is really hurting the offense because, for whatever reason, Denard simply is not very good at making correct reads prior to the snap. This is where Rich Rod’s style, everyone look at the sideline after lining up, really benefitted Denard. What solutions, if any, do you think there are to help remedy a problem like this?
This is something I've been thinking about since I watched the Calvin Magee videos I mentioned a few weeks back. Magee talks about some philosophical differences he has with Rodriguez, most prominently that he "wants to let the kid grow" by allowing him to make pre-snap calls whereas Rodriguez strongly prefers having the kid read it out post-snap.
Is there really a gap between pro-style and spread 'n' shred offenses when it comes to pre/post-snap reads? Yes and no. Both offenses have them, but they're on different people. In the spread 'n' shred it seems like the vast bulk of the post-snap reads are on the QB. The WRs run the routes, the line blocks, and the QB decides where the ball is going. In pro-style stuff a chunk of the responsibility ends up on the shoulders of the receivers. See: killer MSU pick six. In the spread 'n' shred the bulk of the pre-snap reads are on the coaches. That is not the case in a pro-style offense.
As far as the assertion that Denard's inability to make the pre-snap reads is hurting Michigan in a way it wasn't last season, I think there's something to that. The RR style often gives that responsibility to the guys who have been running the offense for a decade. Pro-style never does that. That's another thing that Denard is being asked to do this year that he didn't do before—never had to do, really—and I'm guessing that's a chunk of the issues.
Remember that actual zone reads from Denard were rare last year. Everyone thought that was rawness, but there's a possibility he's just not good at it and won't ever be. Sad fugee face.
With the caveat that I would also love to see a few more QB isos or Gallon bubble screens per game to replace hopeless bombs, we’ve seen Denard struggle against good/good-ish defenses since last mid-season when they stack the ol’ box—regardless of who was calling the plays. 2010 and ’11 MSU, 2010 and ’11 Iowa, 2010 OSU and Miss. State. (The one notable exception is 2010 Wisconsin, which notably featured three 24-yard-plus proverbial field-stretchers from Stonum getting several steps on a corner, which our WRs this year don’t do). I’ll take for argument’s sake that RR would probably have been better equipped to counterpunch from the spread as a playcaller than Borges is. But what specifically are the kind of plays he would have called? The most notable counter play in his arsenal was the QB Oh No, which is still in the playbook. What other kind of things would work? I really am curious. Our short hitches and bubble screens weren’t cutting it in at least four games last year either.
I’m willing to concede that RR could have been a better playcaller for this year’s offense, but it’s not as if Borges is making Denard sit in the pocket and throw 50 times every game with zero designed runs. He’s using him to run some but trying to develop the RBs and find effective pass-offense changeups. That’s what RR would have been tasked with too. Sometimes it works—sometimes Hemingway can go over a drawn-up safety and post up. But we don’t have a deep threat good enough to consistently make up for Denard’s weaknesses yet. What else can we try?
I think Borges still deserves the benefit of the doubt—I believe that he IS still trying to find what works, and he only has a certain amount of plays per game to do that and sometimes it’ll work and sometimes it won’t and you lose to Iowa. I think where this debate goes next is someone saying concretely okay, here’s what RR might have done. Maybe Wisconsin offers clues. Maybe that Magee video you’ve been working through offers clues. What’s out there that we could try?
The debate about whether last year's offense was actually good is infinite and neverending and we will be talking about it in 2050 when the only thing the same about college football is Joe Pa—er.
I cannot convince anyone of anything in this matter, but I can try to explain my perspective.
There is a difference between this year's struggles and last year's. The listing of defenses above seems arbitrarily chosen to highlight the spread 'n' shred's worst performances. Michigan put up 31 against PSU, 28 against Wisconsin, and a billion against Illinois*, all of which were at least decent defenses.
In many of the crap games listed, Michigan put up yards only to be thwarted by horrible field goal kicking and turnovers. Michigan managed to give the ball away 29(!) times last year. Michigan lost 14 fumbles last year. This year they're on pace to lose 4 (and a third). To me that's just randomness. It's not like there was anything about last year's offense particularly likely to shoot itself in the face with fumbles. The interceptions were not random but since they've literally doubled this year that is not an argument in favor of the new thing.
This is not last year's offense. It is last years offense with nine returning starters and an upgrade at tailback. The line depth may be an issue but the one new guy on the line, whether it is Barnum or Schofield, has not seemed like a major dropoff from Schilling.
This is not last year's defense and special teams. FEI tracks a stat called "Field Position Advantage" that measures relative starting field position. Michigan was 89th last year. They're 68th this year. I can't find starting field position for drives, unfortunately, but I am guessing Michigan has had a good deal more short fields since they've already picked up one turnover more than they did all of last year. And the field goal kicking exists.
So, yeah, I am disappointed. The adjustments I would like:
taking the free yards teams give them by alignment on the bubble
running the blocking the line is best at (outside zone) more consistently
running Denard 20 times a game in important games, not Eastern Michigan
doing the above in such a way that it puts safeties in a bind so that guys get wide open
not turning the QB's back to the LOS on rollouts everyone has covered
avoiding under-center running, short yardage excepted
Rodriguez would have run a bunch of the stuff the line is designed to do, not power, forced teams to move a safety in the box by using Robinson as a threat and constraining via the bubble, and then made that other safety's life hard by using the Denard play action that is nigh unstoppable if executed. The heart of the offense would be Denard's legs instead of… well, I don't know what the heart of this offense is. Throwback screens?
- This does not constitute an endorsement of Rich Rodriguez. Hoke uber alles.
*[Debating the merits of the Wisconsin points is a popular sub-pastime in this domain. The last touchdown was garbage time; the first three were not. Michigan only got eight drives before garbage time because of the nature of the game—in one of average length it is reasonable to expect they score another TD. Plus they missed a FG. Also some of the billion Illinois points came with Forcier on the field, but by the time he left Denard had 300 yards passing and 62 rushing, so… yeah.]
On Pharaoh Brown.
Was wondering what you thought about [Pharaoh Brown's] position flip. I can't help but be disappointed. Everything I have read about him says he is a terrific athlete. Isn't DE or WR more important than TE if you have a great athlete?
I wouldn't regard Brown's position as set until he's seeing the field somewhere. With guys like him you don't really know where he's going to end up permanently before college coaches get ahold of him. They'll put him wherever he'll work out best.
In any case, I think you're unfairly downplaying the importance of TE. Tight ends are more involved down-to-down since they are key components of the run game; wide receivers are only relevant when everyone else does their job well and the play breaks into the secondary. After going up against Rudolph and Eifert the past few years I'd love to have a 6'6" guy with sticky hands who can play security blanket for QB du jour.
I get the vibe that tight end is going to be a big deal with Borges. If we're headed to a collection-of-plays Boise-style offense, having a diverse set of tight ends is a key component. Having a 6'6" guy who can run some is a major help in your effort to whiplash the defense from huge power running sets to spread passing attacks. What do you do when the opposition has a guy who can block a defensive end but can't be covered by a linebacker? Brown may be that guy.
Combine the above with the depth charts at the two positions and I get it. WDE next year is Roh, Black, Clark, and Ojemudia with the potential addition of Beyer if he beefs up a bit. Tight end is Moore, Miller, Funchess, and maybe AJ Williams but it increasingly sounds like he's a tackle.
This week's Thursday Recruitin' welcomes Michigan's newest commit, has updates on Shaq Thompson and Stefon Diggs, and discusses the new release of the 2013 Top247. Usual request: Please let me know if you have any comments, criticism, suggestions, etc.—as always, I'll be reading the comments, and you can also reach me on Twitter or via email, where I'll also encourage you to send any recruiting articles of interest that you think I should include for the next week's edition.
Before I start, a quick note: I've been getting a lot of questions on Twitter about which Penn State commits Michigan could poach given the current situation at State College. I feel, especially after the events of last night, that such issues are not appropriate to discuss at this time. If a player decommits and expresses interest in Michigan, I'll be happy to discuss such matters at that time. Until then, I think it's best to focus on what's most important in that situation, and that certainly isn't recruiting.
Hello, Drake Johnson
(Photo credit: Angela J. Cesere, AnnArbor.com)
Michigan picked up its 24th commit of the 2012 class in Ann Arbor Pioneer running back Drake Johnson, an under-the-radar recruit and track star who pledged on Tuesday morning as soon as he was offered. You can find my hello post here, and while it's critical of Johnson's game, I hope people realize that I'm pulling for Johnson to wildly exceed expectations (I'm a Pioneer grad, too)—this is really awesome to see for any local kid:
"When I was in little league, we used to be the Washtenaw Jr. Wolverines," Johnson said. "I always had really close ties to Michigan within my family and within the people I know. Michigan has always been the place I wanted to go, and now that the chance has come up it is almost magical."
Johnson's commitment should not affect Michigan's recruitment of Bri'onte Dunn, a sentiment echoed by Scout's Allen Trieu in this AnnArbor.com article:
Johnson is the first running back to verbally commit for 2012, so there still is room for another. Additionally, Johnson is a shiftier runner who excels in space and is terrific in the passing game. He could be used at slot receiver or in the kick return game, Trieu said.
Dunn, on the other hand, is more of a bruising type.
"Dunn is your classic pounder," Trieu said. "I think they’ll be used differently, so there’s room for both in the class. I don’t think they will butt heads in that regard, because they’re both very different."
Congrats to Drake for the offer and commitment, and I look forward to seeing him suit up in the Maize and Blue.
The other big news of the week for current commits came yesterday, as TomVH reported that Pharaoh Brown would come in at tight end instead of defensive end ($) after the coaches gave him the choice to play his preferred position. In the five games where I could find complete stats, Brown put up 614 yards and four TDs on just 25 catches this season while playing wide receiver for Brush, and at 6'6", 220 pounds, he could be a matchup nightmare on the offensive side of the ball. I still expect both Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams to come in at tight end as well, though Williams could be more of a sixth offensive lineman (and potentially move there full-time down the road) after playing tackle his entire senior year of high school.
Quickly: Cass Tech's Terry Richardson and Royce Jenkins-Stone prepare to square off against Warren De La Salle and Shane Morris this weekend ($); Caleb Stacey was named to the 2012 International Bowl; after coming up just short the last two years, James Ross is on a mission to get a state title for Orchard Lake St. Mary's ($); and TomVH profiles Ben Braden ($).
Shaq Thompson's Visit Plans Up in the Air
I reported last week that I had talked to five-star CA S Shaq Thompson, and he told me he would be taking an official visit to Michigan, though he wouldn't confirm which week. There were rumors that he would visit for the Nebraska game, but—as Sam Webb predicted—it sounds like he'll be coming up for a non-game weekend in December so the coaches can get to know him better and gauge his true interest ($):
Thompson was slated to visit Michigan later this month when the Wolverines host Nebraska but those plans have now been altered.
“I’m just focusing on our team right now,” Thompson said. “We have the playoffs coming up and I don’t want to take any more visits until after the season is over. I’m still talking with Michigan and could visit in December but I don’t have a date set right now.
This is good news, and it seems to confirm that Thompson is really interested in the school, and not just a free trip to check out Ann Arbor. Landing him would obviously be a huge coup for the Wolverines, and getting him on campus would be a big step in the right direction—we'll see if he nails anything down in the near future.
The other five-star to recently pop back up on the radar is Olney (MD) Good Counsel WR Stefon Diggs. Sam Webb posted a two-part message board thread yesterday detailing why Michigan has a real shot at Diggs ($, info in header), who now holds the Wolverines in his top five. The Wolverines have a good connection in good friend and former teammate Blake Countess, who was doing some recruiting of his own over Twitter last week. We'll see where this goes, but it sounds like Michigan has a chance to pull in another blue-chip player at a position of great need.
[UPDATE: Sam Webb just posted his weekly recruiting article at the Detroit News, and it's on, yep, Stefon Diggs. Lots of good stuff in there, including the tidbit that Michigan and Cal are the two schools most likely to receive official visits, while his other three haven't been determined. There's also this:
Countess hasn't been shy in conveying that message to his former teammate. The freshman cornerback's advocacy has been instrumental in establishing Michigan as one of the favorites for Diggs' services.
"Blake is my close friend and his word is bond," said Diggs. "I take what he says (absolutely). He would never lead me in the wrong direction. When he says it, I take it to heart. I truly believe him. He speaks highly of Michigan. I respect Michigan a lot. They showed a spark in interest lately. I just look forward to opening the line of communication more and setting up a visit."
Yeah, it's okay to get a little excited about this one. More on this in the next week, but I figured that article was worth passing along now.]
247Sports released their initial Top247 for the class of 2013—Shane Morris comes in as the No. 12 overall player and No. 2 quarterback, while Dymonte Thomas is 35th overall and the No. 3 safety. Not a bad early haul for Michigan, and it could get much better, as the list is littered with Michigan offers. Instead of replicating good work that's already been done, I'll direct you to Touch the Banner, where Magnus has done a fantastic job compiling a list of the players with offers and interest from the Wolverines who made the Top247.
Crete-Monee WR Laquon Treadwell, who made the Top247 himself, was named the Chicago-area player of the week last week, and comes in for high praise from his high school coach:
“He has the obvious size and athletic ability, but what makes him special is his competitive edge and toughness,” [Crete-Monee coach Jerry] Verde said. “He is a blue-chip wide receiver that loves to hit.”
While Treadwell’s future is at wide receiver, Crete-Monee is taking advantage of his size and athleticism in other ways this season. Verde has also made him a defensive end. Like at wide receiver, Treadwell has been impact player on defense and had eight sacks this season.
“He is also often times unblockable as a defensive end due to his speed and surprising strength,” Verde said.
Treadwell had a hugely productive junior season, has been to campus multiple times, and is teammates with 2012 commit Anthony Standifer. He's one to keep an eye on as the focus begins to turn to the 2013 class.
Quickly: Tim looks ahead to the 2013 class for the Free Press; 247 launched their Michigan site last week, with articles on Shane Morris ($) and Toledo Central Catholic safety Jayme Thompson, who currently has Michigan in his top two along with West Virginia ($, info in header); TomVH reports that blue-chip CA linebacker Michael Hutchings has interest in the Wolverines ($, info in header); and Tim profiles Lemont (IL) OL Ethan Pocic, a recent offeree, at The Wolverine ($).
Fear scale: 0 = Bye week?; 1 = If Michigan loses to this team somebody’s going to get fired; 5 = 2010 Illinois; 8 = Best in conference/will play in a BCS bowl; 9 = National title contender; 10 = Hold me, Ace.
The Road Ahead:
Illinois (6-3, 2-3 B1G)
- Arkansas State, 33-15 (W)
- South Dakota State, 56-3 (W)
- No. 22 Arizona State, 17-14 (W)
- Western Michigan, 23-20 (W)
- Northwestern, 38-35 (W)
- @ Indiana 41-20 (W)
- Ohio State 17-7 (L)
- @ Purdue 21-14 (L)
- @ No. 19 Penn State 10-7 (L)
Last game: Bye
Right now they are as frightening as: Michigan apparently sucks on the road, so the rock needs one last revision …
The rock isn’t coming after Michigan.
Instead, Michigan is going after the rock.
Michigan should worry about: A defense that leads the Big Ten in many statistical categories.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: An offense that hasn’t cracked two touchdowns since visiting Indiana.
When Michigan plays them: I-form middle, I-form right, play-action pass, Deuce formation jet sweep fake outside toss, Denard left, I yell at the TV, floater over the middle, punt.
Next game: No. 24 Michigan
(more after the jump)
It's amazing how fast life can change. What's happened in State College is an amazing reminder of how unstable even the most bedrock things in life really are.
That might sound ridiculous when we're talking about a mere football coach. But keep in mind that Bo coached for twenty years. Paterno's been a part of that program for almost fifty.
Watching all of this play out has been nothing short of a nightmare, even from someone like myself who is not a fan but has always respected and admired the football program if not directly supported it. These stories have not showed up as random links in college football tabs on my desktop, but rather on the front page of the paper that lies in my driveway every morning. What has seemed like an untouchable truth has crumbled around us in the blink of an eye.
Reading the SI articles today, it was amazing to see how they provided such a stark contrast of how Sandusky, Paterno, and ultimately Penn State football, was perceived for what seemed like eternity. For me, I grew up in the reality that grass was green, the sky is blue, and Joe Paterno is the respected football coach. I remember a wrestling coach who openly emulated him in every way. I remember entire towns cleaning up because Paterno may or may not be coming to visit a potential recruit. I was raised in a Penn State family. I have an uncle who is probably right now clearing signed footballs from his mantle. I have an aunt who used to babysit for the Paternos in the very house I watched on SportsCenter last night-- I've driven past it myself, and been amazed at how humble the little home is for a man of such legendary stature. And while I was never forced to be a PSU fan, I was always aware of how much the program was about values, and what those values meant to my dad and uncle and grandfather. Honesty. Integrity. Hard work. These things meant everything to my role models, and maybe that's why Penn State meant so much to them as well.
This morning I was in the car when Greenberg literally had the news about JoePa dropped in his lap and he read it aloud. We in Pennsylvania all knew this day would one day come, but like this?
Learning that the ethical standards that went hand in hand with Joe Paterno were not only inaccurate, but has also cost him his immortal job status? Well, it's like waking up one day and finding that the United States is secretly run by a Communist dictator. It just doesn't make sense, and certainly doesn't seem real.
Penn State football will not suspend its games for the season. That's unfair to Nebraska and certainly unfair to the current players. Penn State football will certainly not fold like the Post suggested in its editorial. It will move on, and it will one day be free of this grip of shame and unspeakable horror. Not even this will shut down the program.
But what it will cost Penn State is its tradition.
When I think of Penn State football, it's always had a timeless feel. Regardless of whatever composite materials or Revolution designs the helmet evolved into, it would still remain plain. Boring. Penn State.
What I never could have imagined is that in the decade to come, the school might knowingly sink that tradition, just to move away from all this. In 2020 you might very well see Penn State in some ridiculous ProCombat jersey with leaping mountain lions across the shoulders. You might see gray trim on the numbers. You might see the athletic logo, known affectionately in these parts as the 'Beaver head,' finally on both sides of the helmet. And that helmet might be gray, or blue, or both. And not because Paterno is no longer there to refuse the idea... but rather to distance the program from what is now and will forever be remembered as a marred past.
There was once talk in the early 2000's that not simply the stadium would be renamed in Paterno's honor, but rather the entire campus or town itself. Paterno Park. Paternoville. He was as timeless and as frozen in goodwill as Santa Claus. Until now.
Penn State tradition was forever altered this week. The men that will soon be put to task to pick up the pieces of this Hiroshima-esque landscape might very well choose to bury that tradition once and for all. And for many, dreams, memories and entire ways of life will die with it.
There's a friend of mine down the street, an alum, who along with his dad, my neighbor, cherish their season tickets like family heirlooms. That will not change. They will continue to go, continue to tailgate and even continue to fly the flag outside their homes. But this week, I have thought about him much, and specifically about what he will do on Saturday morning when he packs up the car and prepares to take the family up to State College. He's got a son, about the same age as mine, who is always wearing blue and white on a Saturday morning. And how on earth does he put his son in a Penn State jersey this week? And if he doesn't, how does he tell his son that he can't wear his Moye jersey? How do you tell him to stop loving JoePa, or explain why he won't be there next year?
Yes, I know, small fries compared to the lives of those poor kids whose trust was betrayed by that monster. But life as we all know it has changed this week in Pennsylvania, and the ripple effects of this mess will continue to affect normal everyday people in my life and beyond for years to come. It's just a really sad, improbable day... and we can only hope that lessons are learned and that lives can be changed for the better with the serving of justice.
I know I'm not the only PA native here on the blog, and I'm curious to hear Steve in PA's take, and others. But it's a strange, surreal blur of a bad dream in our community and thought it might be worth sharing and describing for the rest of you, if you're so inclined. This is my last mention of the subject.
Prayers for the victims, and Go Blue.
Formation notes: Michigan debuted a big set that features two SLBs. Here Ryan is to the top of the screen and Beyer the bottom; Countess was lifted.
Michigan was in this set for both of the late third and ones on which Michigan punched Iowa off the field, though on the second they put Beyer and Ryan in a bear front.
Michigan also showed a fair number of over fronts with the line shaded strongside and the SLB off the line:
They've dumped the flipping seen earlier in the year in favor of sucking it up and running this from time to time. I assume the flipping was a sub-optimal thing Mattison felt forced into because his defense couldn't run an over front effectively what with all the freshmen at SLB and WLB.
Substitution notes: Secondary was Countess/Floyd/Woolfolk/Kovacs the whole way with Avery the nickelback. The linebackers were Demens and Morgan for the most part—Hawthorne got one drive right after the "Morgan is killing us" touchdown drive.
Ryan picked up a stinger on the first play and sat out a big chunk of the game. Cam Gordon was in briefly before being replaced by Beyer for the bulk of the extra playing time; Clark assumed Ryan's role as a nickel DE. As noted above certain short yardage plays late Beyer and Ryan were on the field at the same time as Michigan lifted Countess.
There was less substitution on the line than usual. Campbell only got a few plays, I did not see Brink, and Black was an infrequent participant as well. It was mostly the starters. I don't think RVB and Heininger came off the field.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Van Bergen||3|
|M linebackers seem misaligned, too far to the weakside. On the snap Michigan slants strongside. Martin(-1) is doubled and gives a ton of ground—way too much. He does take both blockers the whole play. RVB(+2) drives his man down the line, eventually shoving him so far that Coker bangs into the left tackle. Morgan(-1) flew up past the Martin double to meet a G and gets pancaked at the line; Demens(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) manage to tackle thanks to the delay.|
|O27||2||7||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||-1|
|Ryan out with stinger; Cam Gordon does come in. This time the center ignores Martin(+2), leaving him to get cut by the backside G. This does not happen even a little bit. Martin contacts Coker three yards in the backfield; dude manages to burrow his way back to the LOS. Morgan(+1) did blitz effectively inside of a tight end and was the second man on the scene; even if Martin isn't here instantly Morgan is probably making contact behind the LOS. RPS +1.|
|O26||3||8||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Countess||44|
The obvious problem on this play is Countess(-2, tackling -1) turning this from a first down into 44 yards by letting Davis outside of him. Then I had Heiko ask Mattison about what happened to open up the completion, whereupon Mattison answered:
So Countess gets the ding there, too(-2, cover –3). Harsh, but if Avery's doing what he's supposed to do and the cover-two corner doesn't even tackle the guy after the first down it's all him.
|M30||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 over||Pass||4||PA slant||Demens||20|
|Iowa motions Davis outside of McNutt, drawing Countess wider and getting Morgan matched up over the slot. Not good. They run play action that sucks Demens(-2) up and Morgan(-1) lets McNutt inside of him after starting with a four yard head start to the interior of the field. Demens makes things worse by moving out on a nothing dumpoff, opening the center of the field like whoah. Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) makes a tough tackle on the catch; this was such a quick hitter that it looked like it might go the distance. RPS -1, Cover -2)|
|M10||1||G||I-Form big offset||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Down G||Black||6|
|Narrow WR, TE motion to wide side, offset FB. They're trying the same stuff MSU did. Black(-2) fails to understand this and gives up the edge by moving straight upfield; he gets sealed out of the play. Heininger will end up closer to Coker than he does. Martin(+1) tears through the line and would kill this if there was any delay on the edge. There isn't. Morgan(-0.5) stood up by a cracking WR; tough with that guy's angle but still a missed opportunity to do something. Kovacs and Countess maintain leverage against two guys; Woolfolk is there to tackle with help from Heininger(+0.5) and the aforementioned Martin.|
|M4||2||G||I-Form big offset||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Morgan||4|
|Same setup with a widened WR; they run power at the same place that just ate the outside run. Black(+1) dives inside to cut off the intended flight path, taking out both the puller and the lead back. Morgan(-2) is a free hitter on the outside. He takes a crappy angle and sees his arm tackle run through(-1 tackling). Woolfolk(-1) was sitting in the end zone wondering what to do too long; by the time he makes a decision it doesn't matter what Coker picks because he can't do anything until the guy is already in the endzone. More on this later.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 10 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M48||1||10||Ace||4-3 under||Pass||4||Quick out||Floyd||4|
|Three step drop against soft coverage with an immediate tackle from Floyd(+0.5) to keep it down. Push.|
|M44||2||6||Ace twins TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Kovacs||3|
|Motion of a twinned TE to the two WR side. Kovacs starts signaling others but no reaction. Morgan(-1) doesn't react to the motion at all and runs too far upfield instead of widening out to cut off the outside. Roh took a double and didn't win; he also didn't get beat up enough to allow a linebacker out on Morgan... not that it mattered. Push. Kovacs(+1.5) avoids a cut block from the slot receiver and gets out on the corner himself, saving Morgan considerable blushes. He can't quite tackle; Countess(+0.5) finishes it off. Excellent edge play by the secondary. Martin(+0.5) again blew through the line.|
|Jesus, Iowa can't block Martin(+1) . This time he slants under the G in the intended hole and comes underneath him quickly enough to also take out the fullback. Michigan is in their nickel package with only six in the box so both linebackers still get blocked. Demens(+1) beats his and gets to the hole. Coker meets him a yard and a half short of the first; Coker pushes the pile because he is Coker. Morgan did a pretty good job too, and RVB beat a block and almost made a play in the backfield. RPS -1; an actual 4-3 against this I-Form and this is potentially a loss.|
|M38||4||In||I-Form||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB sneak||Van Bergen||0|
|Excellent coaching for Michigan to know Iowa does this and show up in force on the interior of the line when Iowa hurries to the line. RVB(+2) is the key guy, getting under the G and push him back; Martin(+1) also got key push. RPS +2. Huge swing play due to coaching.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 0-7, 7 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O23||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||10|
I'm not 100% on this. What happens is Iowa runs a zone at the short side of the field, away from Beyer (over the slot) and at the overhanging Floyd. Roh ducks under the tackle at the snap, which gets him in the backfield. That and total inability to block Martin means Coker has to bounce, which he does. That duck inside should mean a LB is exchanging over the top, which would be Morgan, but Morgan sucks inside. Heininger is moving out but can't make the diving ankle tackle, leaving Coker the corner. Morgan recovers to tackle from behind after a big gain.
Heiko asked about this. Mattison's answer is below; in short, this is an RPS –1.
|O33||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||0|
|This is nuts. Every play Martin(+2) is beating blocks. This time he momentarily takes on the C before shedding him to the playside, which forces an uncomfortable cutback. I think Martin actually grabs a foot; either that or he trips. Heininger(+0.5) and Morgan(+0.5) did well to constrict the space so he could not fall forward for a gain.|
|O33||2||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Deep hitch||Martin||Inc|
|Michigan brings a safety down as a withdrawn MLB type person when Iowa motions a TE into an H-back spot; pass anyway. Martin(+1, pressure +1) beats the LG and forces a throw; Vandenberg has a guy open in front of Floyd(-1, cover -1) but airmails it.|
|O33||3||10||Ace 3-wide||Okie||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|Martin as quasi-LB. LT moves early.|
|O28||3||15||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Slant||Roh||11|
|M stunts the DTs. Roh(+1, pressure +1) drives the RT back into Vandenberg as RVB(+1) arrives; he has to throw. Despite going to the ground as he releases this he gets off a dart to McNutt on a slant that Countess(+0.5, tackling +1) is there on; he tackles. Great play by Iowa just to get the completion.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 6-7, EO1Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O22||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||27|
|I blame Morgan less for this than I did live because M was pretty screwed either way once Campbell(-2) was slashed to the ground. This is their first play without Martin. But... that just means he gets -2 instead of -3. When he shoots the interior gap he gives up the outside; Heininger is flowing well but once the tackle realizes he's got no one showing in his gap he doubles on Heininger and seals him; no chance. Even if Morgan pops out Coker probably picks up a big gain because not only Campbell but RVB(-1) got cut. It wouldn't be nearly as big because forcing him back inside makes Kovacs relevant. Coker runs through a Woolfolk(-0.5, tackling -1) tackle attempt at the end, getting five or so additional yards.|
|O49||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||Waggle deep hitch||Kovacs||14|
|Michigan burned on play action; Kovacs(-1, cover -1) does not get enough depth as he's running to the sideline and opens up a deeper route when he could have mitigated the damage that was coming. Countess has no chance; he does tackle immediately. RPS -1.|
|M37||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||2|
|I keep using "inside zone" but the formations and motion provides subtlety no one other than the coaches will ever pick up, which is my way of saying this is kind of an iso. The TE motions back into a FB spot and then heads straight upfield as everyone else zone blocks. This clears the frontside as Martin and others fight to defend the zone; RVB(-0.5) gets sent upfield, though I think that might be part of a playcall. This leaves Demens(+1) one on one with the TE in a fairly big space. He stands up the guy; Coker bangs into the guy from behind. Morgan(+1) crushed his blocker backwards and now peels off to help tackle. Rare play from the LBs here.|
|M35||2||8||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Heininger||1|
|Michigan blitzes Floyd off the edge and stunts the DTs. Heininger(+1) ends up blowing up about three guys; Martin and Morgan flow to the hole. Coker has to cut back; he does. RVB(-0.5) has been blown down the line a bit too much and can only make a hopeful diving attempt on Coker. He runs through it; Martin(+1) does the same and manages to trip him up. Beyer(-1) took a turrible angle and is the main reason this is scary. RPS +1.|
|Martin LB thing. Michigan doesn't get there with six(pressure -2) and Floyd(-1, cover -1) is beaten for the first down; dropped.|
|M34||4||7||Ace 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Out||Avery||8|
|This is tough; Avery is in inside leverage, takes a shove, and has man on an out route. He gets beat. Sometimes that's life. I don't get what Morgan's doing; everyone else is in man and he's sitting in a short zone not getting after the QB or doing much of anything. Could be a call; who knows with Mattison. (Cover -1, RPS -1)|
|M26||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA deep hitch||Countess||Inc|
|Plenty of time(pressure -1) albeit on first down play action. Vandenberg looks for McNutt on a deep-ish comeback route that is low and difficult to catch; Countess(+1, cover +1) is there making life difficult and possibly getting a PBU.|
|Martin(-2) gets locked onto by Ferentz and blown out. He tries to chuck after he's given up a bunch of ground and still can't manage it; backside G peels off on Demens as the FB kicks Morgan. Both LBs hold their ground well enough but Martin getting blown up means a big crease and a first down. Kovacs comes in to tackle.|
|M13||1||10||I-Form Big||46 bear||Run||N/A||Iso||Demens||3|
|Vandenberg sees the bear front and checks. They run away from it, to ungood effect. Campbell(-0.5) gets kicked and pancaked. Morgan(+1) is moving to the play at the snap and takes on the FB at the LOS, funneling back to help. Demens(+0.5) does not get a blocker because RVB(+1) tripped his dude, whether accidental or not. Demens makes a decent tackle attempt but does give up a yard or two YAC before the rest of the defense arrives.|
|M10||2||7||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||Waggle TE flat||Kovacs||9|
|Kovacs(-1, pressure -1) is sent on a backside blitz and sucks in on the run fake instead of getting in Vandenberg's face. Morgan(-1, cover -1) does the same thing on the TE drag route, opening it up; Woolfolk(+1) does a good job of reading it and almost getting to it but can't; he tackles at the one.|
|M1||1||G||Goal line||Goal line||Pass||N/A||PA TE flat||--||1|
|If you're going to call it, first down is the time. Damn you Ferentz. No minuses assigned for a difficult job not quite done.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 6-14, 7 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||WR pass scramble||Demens||7|
|Hawthorne comes in. Iowa goes for the jugular by running an end-around pass; no sale from the secondary(cover +1). McNutt runs. Ryan(+1) does a good job of stringing it out and live I was mad at Hawthorne but he is the LB away from this play and he beats Demens(-1) to the sideline by yards. He still takes a crappy angle(-0.5) and gives up an extra couple yards.|
|M24||2||3||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Van Bergen||-3|
|Iowa derfs on their blocking and lets RVB(+3) through clean. He does take a good angle under the tackle and to the ballcarrier, getting the TFL by himself, so nice job. RPS +1.|
|M27||3||6||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Avery||2|
|Not sure what Iowa is thinking here but they've got no one to block Avery on this play, so Avery(+1, cover +1) shoots up into McNutt and grabs him. He ends up missing the tackle but takes so long to do so three guys grab McNutt after two yards. I think Iowa might have screwed something up here.|
|Drive Notes: FG, 6-17, 2 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||Scramble||Van Bergen||6|
|Coverage(+2) is good but pressure(-2) is stoned; Van Bergen(-1) is trying to get to Vandenberg and gets out of his lane, opening up a scramble.|
|O31||2||4||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Van Bergen||9|
|RVB(-1) sealed quickly; Demens(-1) gets locked away by a guy releasing off RVB, and that's enough for a crease. Coker picks up like 4 YAC on the Woolfolk(-0.5) tackle.|
|O40||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||Sack||Heininger||-8|
|Martin(+2) chucks a center by him and starts attacking vertically once he reads the PA,which draws attention from the G and FB. His motion upfield accidentally takes out the legs of the guy blocking Heininger. Heininger(+2) takes advantage of the opportunity to sack. (Pressure +2)|
|Running at the gap between martin and WDE Black. Morgan(+1.5) runs downhill at the FB and meets him at the line; Black(+1) chucks his blocker to the outside. Martin(+0.5) does a decent job against a double to not provide a cutback lane. Play goes nowhere.|
|There are like two DL with Kovacs, Morgan, and Demens hanging around the line and Martin a quasi-LB. Michigan zone blitzes, sending only four. As Martin drops into a short zone right in front of a TE slant. Vandenberg pumps, freaks out, starts running out of the pocket, and gets sacked by Roh(+2). Cover +1, Pressure +1, RPS +2.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 6-17, 11 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O40||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||4|
|Running away from Martin at the overloaded side of the line; Roh(-0.5) manages to get outside and does not give ground but ends giving too much width. Morgan(+0.5) takes on a block okay and funnels to help; Demens(+0.5) fights through a block to get to the hole and tackle. Heininger may have had a play a couple yards further upfield but he was held. Refs -1.|
|O44||2||6||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||-3|
|They again run away from Martin; Martin(+2) slants under the guard as the C releases immediately—not a good idea—and runs right into Coker's path. Heininger(+0.5) also beat his block and would have been there to finish the play if necessary.|
|O41||3||9||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Slant||Morgan||Inc|
|Michigan tips a zone blitz early. It looks like it's about to get picked up when Vandenberg releases the ball seemingly too early. He's got two receivers within about a yard of each other. Morgan(+2, cover +2) makes the hash to hash zone drop with aplomb, getting a PBU on a ball that if better thrown could have been a pick. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 9-17, 4 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O38||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA hitch||Countess||8|
|Easy pitch and catch that Countess(-1, cover -1) allows to be turned up for 4 YAC.|
|Heininger(+1) fights through a single block to the hole and absorbs the FB. Coker has to cut behind. Morgan(+0.5) scrapes to the hole and hits at about the LOS; Coker falls forward. That's life against Coker. Martin(-1) was blown out by a double, which gave Coker the room.|
|O49||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||4|
|No real creases. Martin(+0.5) fights through a double okay and Demens(+0.5) pops a releasing G near enough to the LOS to convince Coker to cut back. Heininger(+0.5) also deals with a double in a moderately effective way, preventing the second guy from really doing anything to Morgan. Coker falls as he passes the LOS; Morgan probably would have stopped this for a similar gain anyway.|
|Vandenberg checks when he sees bear + man coverage. He goes after Countess on a McNutt hitch; Countess(+2, cover +2) is right there to break it up. Nice play. RVB(+0.5) was getting some pressure, perhaps forcing an inadvisable throw.|
|M47||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Hitch||Floyd||15|
|Michigan shifts late and blitzes. Avery(-1) doesn't time it that well and is about a yard or two away from crushing Vandenberg from behind when he gets the ball off to McNutt. McNutt got separation from the press coverage of Floyd(-1, cover -1)|
|M32||1||10||Ace big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Van Bergen||2|
|Third TE motions over Beyer and then runs straight to the safety. Weird. Iowa doubles RVB and looks like they will seal him and get a crease but he manages to get playside of the interior guy(+0.5) and force a cutback. Beyer(+0.5) fends off a block and starts tackling from behind when Martin(+1) and Demens(+0.5) meet him in the hole.|
|M30||2||8||Ace twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||Hitch||Countess||6|
|Countess(-1) is a little late here and is very fortunate his desperate lunging arm tackle(-1) brings McNutt down. A little more balance and this is six on a nothing hitch.|
|M24||3||2||I-Form Big||46 bear||Pass||5||Quick out||Floyd||4|
|This is tough to stop if executed well; it's a three yard route. Floyd can't do it, but I won't ding him.|
|M20||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||7|
|Campbell(-2) in; he is easily slashed to the ground by the backside G. Heininger(+0.5) does a good job of cutting off the frontside but that cutback is there all day with the NT on his knees at the LOS. Morgan, getting blocked to the other side, reaches out an arm and slows Coker down but there's no way that's actually going to get him to the ground. Kovacs comes up and gets plowed over, but that's not his fault. That's physics.|
|M13||2||3||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Pass||4||PA throwaway||Demens||Inc|
|Kovacs rolls up. Iowa goes play action with essentially a one-man route... McNutt jogs off the LOS as a TE releases. No sale from Demens(+1); Woolfolk(+0.5) is over the top and Vandenberg chucks it OOB. Weird call. Cover +1.|
|M13||3||3||I-Form Big||46 bear||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Roh||13|
|Beyer and Ryan in the game at the same time, with Beyer the rolled up LB on the line. Kovacs is going in man with the TE coming across the formation. Roh(-2) gets blown up by that TE; crushed to the inside that is it for the line. Morgan(-2) runs straight into the LOS. Kovacs has to keep contain and gets kicked out; TD.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 9-24, 10 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA Dig||Floyd||24|
|Floyd(-0.5, cover -1) beaten on a dig route for a round first-down yardage; Woolfolk(-1, tackling -1) whiffs embarrassingly on the tackle, running right by the dude without even getting a hand on him and banging into Demens. Morgan(-1) vacated his zone by biting on the PA as well.|
|An I form version of QB oh noes with the entire line blocking as if it's a run and Iowa throwing a wide open slant against Floyd(-1, cover -1); dropped. RPS -1.|
|Iowa runs at the strong side of the line. Martin(+1) beats the G and takes out the FB. Heininger(-1) is kicked out big time; Demens(-1) takes a block a couple yards downfield from a releasing G. Beyer(-1) fails to read the play and gets himself out of position, then absorbs Coker, falling backwards and giving up near first down yardage.|
|M43||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Demens||0|
|Beyer and Ryan in. Beyer rolls to the line when Iowa evens its strength so you've got a 4-3 under with SLBs on both sides of the line, basically. Heininger(+0.5) and Morgan(+1) do well enough on the playside to force a cutback, with Morgan impacting the FB at the LOS and removing any hole. Demens(+3) sees the iso and roars at the line, taking on a block from the second guy releasing off Martin at the LOS and getting outside of it. Coker runs into him and Demens friggin' sticks the guy, holding Coker not six inches from where the impact happened until the cavalry arrives. That is almost unbelievable.|
|M43||4||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|Illegal snap prevents Ferentz from going for it here in a horrifying, exactly-right game theory play.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 16-24, 5 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O36||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||4|
|Beyer(+0.5) sets up well on the outside, restricting space but not offering a bounce. RVB(+0.5) is blown out by a double but recovers after the second guy releases downfield to trip Coker a couple yards downfield. Need Demens(-1) to do better here; he took a block and got shoved back, eventually doing nothing.|
|O40||2||6||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||5|
|Demens(+0.5) hits the LOS quickly and Martin(+0.5) shoots to the intended spot, forcing a cutback. Heininger(-1) has been blown off the ball by a double, so it's there, but he fights through the block; Morgan(-1) is the bigger issue since he took the block of the other guy and lets Coker outside. He gets off it to tackle but momentum carries them both forward three yards before they run into Kovacs and his blocker.|
|O45||3||1||Goal line||Goal line||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Ryan||-1|
|Beyer and Ryan to one side of the line in a bear front. Iowa runs power at them. It is a heap of bodies. Ryan(+2) takes on a TE's block and sheds it to the outside, falling into Coker's feet in the backfield as Demens(+1) reads the G pull and scrapes to the hole on the outside; he's not needed because Ryan tackles but he would be there if needed. RVB and Martin(+0.5 each) help by standing up to double well enough that Coker couldn't try to cut it inside.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 16-24, 2 min 4th Q. Michigan's next drive is the rest of the game. EOG.|
That was totally acceptable.
Was it better than acceptable?
No. It was exactly acceptable despite the low yardage totals. That was a short game. Iowa only had nine drives and scored long touchdowns on three of them; they did not turn the ball over. They didn't even come particularly close—the closest thing was a Desmond Morgan PBU (about which more later) that would have been a spectacular catch.
Iowa averaged 6.7 yards per passing play* and 4.6 per rush. That's meh. Vandenberg's actual YPA was 8.1—not good; Iowa averaged 5.3 yards a play. Etc. It all points to an average performance against an average offense. Iowa is hovering around 60 in all the yardage metrics and is 29th in FEI, Michigan gave up an average number of points, etc. etc.
*[IE: I added in Vandenberg's rushes to get 167 yards on 25 attempts]
But acceptable is good?
Excellence is good. Acceptable is acceptable, which is unbelievable in this context.
This is what it's like to live in GERG's head, I think.
Okay, yeah, that's a good idea. Chart.
|Van Bergen||11||4||7||Busy, busy. TFL or two and usual level of stoutness.|
|Martin||17.5||4||13.5||Essentially unblockable. What we expected from him the whole year. Think Iowa's inside zone game plays into his strengths.|
|Roh||3||2.5||0.5||Sack was kind of a gift from freaked Vandenberg. Didn't do much else.|
|Heininger||7.5||2||5.5||Quality day. Will take this the rest of the year.|
|Campbell||-||4.5||-4.5||Got cut to the ground and was a major culprit on two long runs.|
|TOTAL||41||19||22||The Mike Martin we've been waiting for; 2:1 ratio is the usual at this point.|
|Morgan||9||12.5||-3.5||Not as bad as you might think, but still a problem.|
|Demens||10||6||4||Stuck Coker cold a half yard from a critical third down conversion. I be like dang.|
|Ryan||3||-||3||Michigan missed him.|
|Beyer||1||2||-1||Lacks the impact of Ryan, didn't do anything too obviously wrong.|
|C. Gordon||-||-||-||One play, I think.|
|TOTAL||23||21||2||Average average average.|
|Floyd||0.5||4.5||-4||Struggled with McNutt.|
|Avery||1||1||0||Seems quality at nickel.|
|Woolfolk||1.5||3||-1.5||Tackling questionable, not tested deep.|
|Countess||4||6||-2||Great day except for the 44 yards that were all on him.|
|TOTAL||9.5||16.5||-7||A bit of a letdown, but expected given opposition.|
|Pressure||8||6||2||Decent job; few blitzes.|
|Coverage||11||14||-3||Good recovery after weak start.|
|RPS||7||6||1||Old school push.|
Martin was crazy good. Just 1.5 TFLs but was the primary force for a large chunk of Iowa's other not-so-good plays, including the Heininger sack on which three guys tried to block Martin and Heininger squeezed through some befuddled dudes. This was all day:
Heininger, meanwhile, had his best day as a Wolverine. He looked like an above-average Big Ten player. I wonder if Iowa's interior line is not very good.
The linebackers felt Ryan's absence mostly in his lack of playmaking—both ways. Beyer was out there but not tested often. Demens seems to be topping out at just okay, but he had one of his better games of the year. Twice he took on a lead block and came off it to tackle Coker, and the second was a critical play I still find hard to believe:
If you could freeze time at the moment it became clear Coker was going to cut back into a blocked Demens a yard from the first down, what kind of odds would you get on a stop? I submit the odds would be very low.
The secondary… well, I think we knew something like this was coming. Countess froshderped that long completion on Iowa's first drive and Floyd is just never going to do well against top flight receivers. That's life.
ARGH MORGAN AWFUL ARGH
He obviously had some problems but since we can now ask the coordinators direct questions and get straight answers we know it's a little more complicated than just that:
The first play of Iowa's third drive was an inside zone that bounced outside the end for ten yards. Roh dove inside the tackle. Was that something you called? “That would be me. In coaching Craig and watching everything they did -- I know exactly what you’re talking about -- every game that they’ve played so far this year, they’ve brought the tight end in motion, and he blocked out on the end man. Well when that tight end is in Craig’s area right there, most times you have him attack that tight end. Well they kind of wanted you to do that in other games, so now the tackle has an angle on you and he can knock you out farther. So I just told him, I said, ‘Craig, don’t mess with that. When that guy comes over in motion, just attack the tackle and hold the edge on the tackle.’ Looking back on it, I told him straight out, I said, ‘Craig, they changed. They did the same thing Michigan State did and they hadn’t done it all year. They kind of influenced him to keep him from being able to attack that tight end. That’s not him.”
MGoQuery: Was Desmond Morgan supposed to scrape over the top? “Desmond Morgan’s supposed to stack behind him. He’s not running outside of him. Because Craig didn’t play through the tight end like he probably thought he should have, and I wish I would have told him to do that, the guy got knocked back a little bit and got kind of in Desmond’s way and he got caught up in the trash. That’s what happened on that one.”
My natural inclination on that play is to ding Morgan because a junior dives inside and a freshman doesn't come over the top to pick up the trash. It turns out this is one of those hidden RPS things that we can never know, or at least couldn't before the Great Hoke Coordinator Presser Revolution, and that this is somewhat on Roh but mostly an RPS thing.
I do think Morgan has the opportunity to read what's going on in front of him and adjust to the changing situation to make a great play… when he's a junior, and if he's an All Big Ten level player. So I don't know if giving Morgan a –2 on the first Coker touchdown is actually right since Black might be freelancing inappropriately and Morgan's assignment is not something that matches my expectations. This is a necessary limitation of not actually being Greg Mattison. As always, numbers in these posts are helpful summaries and useful… but not gospel.
Anyway, Morgan did some good stuff. He actually executed a successful hash to hash zone drop:
I've seen a bunch of people try that this year. No one has actually done it until then.
Now that we've got the defending out of the way… yeesh, Morgan had some problems. This is not even a little bit of a surprise when you run a freshman out against Marcus Coker and Iowa's zone running game. It's a sore spot, though:
That is not good. /science!
Is there anything you have ever loved in your whole life more than the coordinator pressers?
Not related to football media. I think they even beat out Star Control II. I mean, you can ask Mattison about a specific ten-yard run in the first quarter and he knows exactly what you're talking about and can explain what happened. No longer do we have to have months-long arguments about whether Kenny Demens or a corner was the problem on a 44-yard drag. We can just ask.
I know I've been critical of Borges but Borges's pressers are about 95% as awesome as Mattison's. While I'm frustrated with the steep costs of the transition (on offense, anyway), reading the presser transcriptions from Heiko fills me with confidence this is going to be a national program once they get the pieces they need in. The contrast between this and GERG is immense.
Any other worries pop up?
Yeah, this was not a good game for Campbell. Contrast the above video, where Campbell gets put on his knees, with anything Mike Martin did. Campbell went down on two of the few snaps he was in and both of those turned into big runs. If Campbell is on his feet and moving on the above, does Morgan still run up into that gap? Maybe, maybe not. The dropoff from Martin to Campbell in this game was ominous. With Heininger established Michigan is now replacing 3/4ths of their defensive line with not a whole lot of playing time going to backup options.
Martin had his best day of the year; Heininger and RVB also played well. Mattison's short-yardage attack is killing people.
Countess is going to be a real good time, with emphasis on going to be. Floyd can't quite check McNutt, and the wildly oscillating item that is Desmond Morgan ended up considerably in the red.
What does it mean for Illinois and the future?
I'm sure the Illini will test Michigan with the triple option after watching them struggle with it against Northwestern… but I think Michigan will have ironed out many of their issues.
Unfortunately, AJ Jenkins is going to be an issue. I assume Woolfolk will be over the top on him. That will be a test for a guy who's bounced back and forth from safety and hasn't really gotten his feet under him since returning from his ankle injury.
As for the near term future, it looks like Cam Gordon is way down the depth chart and the defensive line is going to be an issue next year. On the bright side, for the rest of this year it looks like we may be getting an improved (healthy?) version of Mike Martin and Will Heininger seems to be approaching average.
I'm going to apologize in advance for this edition of FFFF—I had three Illinois games lined up to watch, then the PSU scandal happened and two of the games wouldn't import into iMovie, so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the hell was going on and less time actually getting to the film. Luckily, I've already watched two Illinois games—against Northwestern and Purdue—for previous FFFFs, so I've got some previous knowledge to go on.
The bad news: The one video that worked was the Illinois-Penn State offensive debacle from a couple weeks ago. Lucky for you, I get to extract the few successful plays from that game, but let's just say there wasn't much to choose from.
A.J. Jenkins, lone receiving threat. Unfortunately, lone and very good.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? A very run-heavy spread, featuring a lot of zone read and some triple option, though Illinois will also switch it up and go I-form with big starting running back Jason Ford.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Though the Illini run all the freakin' time, they're actually more basketball on grass due to the large percentage of zone running plays. They will pull a guard every once in a while, but zone running is the bread and butter of this offense.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is the Illini's leading rusher with 501 yards, but those have come on 137 carries (just 3.7 ypc). If you take out all the sacks Illinois has allowed this season—they also randomly insert freshman Reilly O'Toole at times, so this may be generous to Scheelhaase—that average jumps to 5.9 yards per carry. He's a powerful runner for a quarterback and can make guys miss or run them over, but doesn't have breakaway speed. I'll give him a 7.
Dangerman: WR A.J. Jenkins (#9) has 68 receptions—46 more than any other Illini player—for 1,030 yards and seven touchdowns. He's their lone big-play threat, but he's also really good, and Illinois runs the ball so much that things often open up for him in the secondary.
OVERVIEW: Illinois is going to run the ball. A lot. Their run/pass split on the season (sacks included as passes) is 383/262, meaning they run the ball right around 60% of the time. They'll mostly go out of the shotgun and their early downs are almost always run plays, rarely passing on first or second down except off play-action, when they'll often take a deep strike to Jenkins to see if they can generate more than five yards on a single play. Both Scheelhaase and running back Jason Ford (6'0", 235 pounds) are downhill runners who are at their best when they find a crease and go until they hit something.
The Illini will also mix in some triple option, often out of this look, which didn't show up in the Penn State game so I'll give you a screencap—the fullback lined up next to Scheelhaase gets the dive (or dive fake), and then the option play goes towards the strong side:
[image removed because it broke the feed]
The option attack hasn't been particularly effective for Illinois, and they abandoned it entirely against Penn State, but we could see it again as the Illini test out the edge of Michigan's defense. However, most of Scheelhaase's runs against Penn State came on designed QB draws, which I think is actually the best way to use him considering his size and lack of breakaway speed—get him going upfield and he has success. It'll be up to Michigan's interior line to stop Scheelhaase and Ford, and they'll be tested frequently.
Illinois also eschews the normal way of assigning linemen (you know, left tackle, right guard, etc.), instead having strongside and weakside tackles and guards who will flip sides depending on the formation. They put their better linemen—tackle Jeff Allen and guard Hugh Thornton—on the strongside and tend to have more success running behind them.
This breakdown will be rather short, as Illinois doesn't exactly have a ton of tricks up their sleeve. Here's what they want to do to your defense—open up a crease in the middle of the line, let Scheelhaase or Ford (in this case, Ford) get going downhill, and pick up big chunks on the ground:
That's a typical Jason Ford run right there—straight north-south, not a lot of wiggle, slam into the guys attempting to tackle. If he gets into the secondary, Woolfolk/Gordon will be tested.
Illinois uses their frequent running to set up the pass, and while it's usually to A.J. Jenkins, here's a PA tight end seam that went for their lone touchdown against Penn State:
The safeties must make sure to stay sharp and disciplined, because it's easy to get lulled to sleep against this offense. All it takes is a couple big plays to turn the tide of a game, and Illinois gets their big plays out of the play-action passing game. Otherwise, Scheelhaase tends to go underneath or, quite often, hold onto the ball too long and either scramble outside for minimal yardage or take a sack. Keep contain, Jake Ryan and Craig Roh. Please keep contain.
- Yes, Illinois's backup QB really is named Reilly O'Toole—Brian said the name reminded him of a Bond girl, though I'm inclined to go with porn star (not that the names are markedly different)—and we'll probably see him come in for a series or two. I'm not exactly sure why. O'Toole doesn't really run (four carries for 12 yards this year), and while he's completed 22 of 29 passes this year (72.4%), he's averaging a paltry 5.1 yards per attempt and has tossed two interceptions. He doesn't have a very strong arm and he's very much a dink-and-dunk QB. Why Illinois regularly lifts Scheelhaase for him is anybody's guess. Maybe Ron Zook just loves the name.
- Michigan could see two different Illinois backup running backs. One is 5'8", 190-pound senior Troy Pollard, who has put up great numbers (48 carries for 390 yards) but almost entirely against terrible competition—his best game against a remotely viable opponent was when he amassed 24 yards on five carries against Ohio State, and he was held to two yards on five carries against the Nittany Lions. Donovonn Young—a 6'0", 215-pound freshman—has 63 carries for 363 yards this year, but again much of his production has come against awful teams (the lion's share of his yards have come against South Dakota State, Western Michigan, and Indiana). He does flash some decent speed, however, and is a decent change-of-pace option to complement Ford.
For the defensive breakdown, hit the jump.