"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
The play of your unit so far this year: thoughts on it?
“I think the second game against Oregon State we played more like we expect to play, which was a lot more effort and a lot more- you know, we’ve always prided ourselves here on running to the football and everybody getting to the football. And that game, I think, the guys did that at a more consistent rate.
“We still have to get better at our technique. They hear that from me every day and they’re gonna hear it until we grade out on technique like we should. We’ve got to improve that.”
Fair to say a light’s gone on for Chris Wormley?
“Chris has made some plays. You know, Chris has done some good things and there’s a lot more good things to be had and he’s got to keep striving to be as good as he can be. He’s a very talented football player. You’ve got great size, great ability to run, he’s strong, and I’m looking for him every game to get better.”
Coach Harbaugh mentioned Ryan Glasgow as a guy who played well. What did he do well last game?
“Ryan just goes out there every day and plays with very, very consistent technique. Great toughness, there were a number of plays in that game where he did what we expect our defensive line to do and that’s relentless effort to the football. Made some key tackles on plays where the guy was running and came from inside out and made some good hits. He’s just every day- one thing about Ryan is every day he has come out and he works hard and tries to improve. Been very pleased with him.”
That first drive against Oregon State: what were you thinking, and then were you automatically thinking we’ve got to make certain adjustments after giving up three big plays?
“Yeah, there wasn’t any panic. You knew it was a breakdown here and there that caused it, and you knew that we were going to make the adjustments we needed to on the sideline. DJ [Durkin] does a great job making sure he knows what’s going on in all parts of it, and he just got everybody together and said, ‘This is what’s happened. This is what we can’t let happen’ and they adjusted it and they did it.
“It’s been very good, the sidelines. After every play we’re all together and DJ will call the group together and explain exactly what and then we break it down at each position, and I think that’s been good for both ball games and can even be better.”
[After THE JUMP: Rotation, ‘handsiness,’ and just where the heck is Lawrence Marshall]
The game heading into UNLV/UCLA last Saturday ran long, so I was greeted to this when the broadcast began:
Note that (1) this is the second time that's happened in two weeks, (2) UCLA has already scored, and (3) UNLV started the game with the ball.
UCLA won 37-3, outgained UNLV 526-237, and it easily could've been worse. UNLV starting quarterback Blake Decker went down untouched on the last play of the first quarter and his availability for the Michigan game is very much in doubt; even if he plays, he'll most likely be limited. When Decker is out of the lineup UNLV is essentially last year's Indiana offense with Alexander Diamont and without Tevin Coleman. Chris Wormley is drooling right now and he doesn't even know why.
Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
Wormley's got his star now and the heights/weights are fixed from last week.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread-to-run. UNLV stayed run-heavy even as they fell behind big, though part of that is because their backup quarterback is almost literally incapable of completing downfield passes.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Mostly MANBALL. Even when running read options UNLV often pulled linemen. Their best runs mostly went inside.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Pretty leisurely pace. They don't look capable of tempo-ing anyone, especially with their backup.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Upon Further Review has not yet lost its sponsor.
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FORMATION NOTES: Michigan stuck mostly with its nickel even against a run-oriented spread team. At times either Peppers or Hill would line up as a WLB:
My deeply unsatisfying nomenclature for this was "nickel 4-3." I know this is a nonsense thing to say, but this is the world we live in.
I also don't like calling this a "3-3-5 nickel" since it's really just taking a DE and having him run at the LOS:
I need better lingo for that if you've got it.
M did this some with Frank Clark last year and they're continuing to do it with Ojemudia. I kind of get the idea, but execution so far has been weak.
Oregon State used a lot of H-backs and I designated those with "H" after whatever the formation is. This is Shotgun TE H for the Beavers. Michigan is an actual 4-3 here.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Much the same as the first game, with heavy rotation on the front that justifies the OR next to Matt Godin's name. He played both DE and DT and probably got as much time as either Henry or Wormley. Glasgow probably got the most snaps on the DL; Hurst appearances were infrequent. It was mostly Ojemudia at buck, with a reasonable number of RJS appearances.
Secondary was as in the first game: Lewis, Peppers, Hill, Wilson + Stribling/Clark. When they went to a 4-3 it was Stribling/Clark coming off the field instead of Hill. After Lewis went out it was Stribling and Clark. Dymonte Thomas got some snaps in the dime.
LBs were Morgan and Bolden with Ross coming in for 4-3 snaps; Gedeon and Ross both got a couple drives as ILBs.
[After THE JUMP: short is good]
Color changes, helmet stickers, rawk/band ratio, production: what was better/worse/different this time about the stadium experience?
Adam: What was better and worse and different was people going to the game. The neighborhood I normally park in had lots of people tailgating and throwing footballs around outside, and the tailgates that used to exist closer to State Street were back as well. It was nice to see people outside enjoying a game day in Ann Arbor, especially considering how tail gates disbanded more and more often as last season wore on.
The downside of attendance numbers that actually pass the eye test is traffic. Last season I got stuck once, and that was after the Penn State night game. Usually people were cleared out by the time I finished with the postgame presser and walked back to my car. The last thing I expected was to get stuck on Main Street after a game that entered garbage time early in the fourth quarter, but that's what happened. People care again, man. They stuck around.
As far as in-stadium stuff goes, I'm hoping the block M and end zones get repainted to match the uniforms soon. I think the darker maize on the uniforms is perfect. I don't really care who the apparel manufacturer is as long as the maize and blue we saw on the field Saturday are the maize and blue they use.
Sticking with uniforms, I was initially lukewarm on helmet stickers but have come around after seeing them in action. I can understand people's concern over a helmet that appears cluttered, but I think they look great. It's hard for me to argue with a uniform change that results in something that appeals to Harbaugh and appealed to Bo and not illegible maize letters or oddly placed stripes.
[After the jump: WE ARE WINNING AT THIS!]
Yes, these posts are now everything I ever hoped they would be when Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh. There's no longer really room for words; I made 42 GIFs for this game. The righteous punt anger only accounts for three of them. Let's get right to it.
[Hit THE JUMP]
You're going to have to bear with me on the offensive UFRs this year. The last time I saw a traditional gap-blocked, regular-ol-QB offense for anything more than a one-game debacle was ten years ago. That was the first year I did UFR and most running plays of that sort were deemed "another wad of bodies" because I didn't know what I was looking at. Since then:
- Two years of Debord running almost nothing but outside zone
- Three years of Rodriguez running inside and outside zone with a little power frippery
- Two years of Hoke trying to shoehorn Denard Robinson into a pro-style offense, giving up, and running a low-rent spread offense
- Al Borges's Cheesecake Factory offense that ran everything terribly
- Doug Nussmeier's inside zone-based offense.
I've seen plenty of power plays. Most of them were constraints that could be run simply and still succeed because the offense's backbone was something else. The rest were so miserably executed that they offered no knowledge about what power is actually supposed to look like. I watched a bunch of Stanford but not in the kind of detail I get down to with the UFRs.
One thing that I am pretty sure I think is that the popular conception of power as a decision-free zone in which moving guys off the ball gets you yards is incomplete. Defenses will show you a front pre-snap. You will make blocking decisions based on that front. Then the defense will blitz and slant to foul your decisions and remove the gap you want to hit. If you do not adjust to what is happening in front of you then you run into bodies and everyone is sad.
What Stanford was great at was running power that was executed so consistently well that it was largely impervious to all the games defenses played. This requires linemen who are downblocking to think on their feet, maintain their balance, and stay attached to guys who may be going in directions they were not expected to. It requires everyone off the line of scrimmage (tailback, fullback, pulling G) to see what's in front of them and adjust accordingly.
Michigan did a bad job of this against Utah. They also got blown backwards too much, complicating decisions for the backfield. The latter was not a problem against a much weaker Oregon State outfit. The former was much better, and that's the most encouraging thing to take from this game.
Here's an example. It's a six yard run in the first quarter on which Oregon State sends a blitz that Michigan recognizes and thwarts. There's no puller on this play; I think it was intended to be a weakside iso that ends up looking not very much like iso because Michigan adjusts post-snap.
M comes out in an I-Form twins formation; Oregon state is in a 4-3 that shifts away from the run strength of Michigan's formation. They are also walking a DB to the line of scrimmage:
By the time Michigan snaps the ball this DB is hanging out in a zone with no eligible receiver while both WRs get guys who look to be in man coverage. This is not disguised well unless the highlighted player is Jabrill Peppers and can teleport places after the snap:
He's going to blitz and the DL is going to slant to the run strength of the line. Michigan will pick this up, and I wonder if they IDed the likelihood of this pre-snap. No way to tell, obviously.
On the snap both the FB and RB start to the weak side of the formation; you can see Erik Magnuson start to set up as if he is going to execute a kickout block on the defensive end:
With the blitz and slant from the Oregon DL that's not going to happen. Each Oregon State DL has popped into a gap. Kerridge is taking a flight path to the gap that would normally open between Magnuson and Kalis, the right guard, on a play without this blitz. Without the blitz the DE would be the force player tasked with keeping the play inside of him; Magnuson would have a relatively easy job as he and the DE mutually agreed on where he should go.
Here the DE threatens the play's intended gap. Magnuson can't do anything about that. The D mostly gets to choose what gap they go in, and it's up to the offense to roll with the punches.
Michigan does this:
A moment later Magnuson has changed his tack from attempted kickout to an attempt to laterally displace the DE using his own momentum. Kerridge has abandoned the idea of hitting the weakside B gap and is flaring out for the blitzer.
Now, this could be successful for Oregon State still. The slant got five Michigan OL to block four guys. Nobody got downfield; the slant got a 2 for 1. But their MLB has stood stock still for much of this play, and Magnuson ends up shoving his dude past the hash mark—+1, sir. This is a ton of space to shut down, and De'Veon Smith is the kind of back that can plow through you for YAC.
Smith fends off the linebacker with a stiffarm and starts gaining yardage outside; it could be a good deal more but Chesson misses a cut* and the DB forces it back, creating a big ol' pile:
Second and four sounds a lot better than second and eleven.
*[Drake Harris will later pick up a 15-yard penalty for a similar, but more successful cut block; the genesis of that flag is probably Gary Andersen doing some screaming at the official after this play.]
Items of interest
You don't get to pick the gap even if it's gap blocking. Defenses slant constantly, and often in a specific effort to foul the intended hole and pop the back out into a place where an unblocked guy can hit. Post-snap adaptation is a must for a well-oiled power running game.
Slants win if they suck away an extra blocker. I would be peeved at the MLB if I was Oregon State UFR guy. While Michigan adapts to the slant well enough to provide a crease for Smith, the blitz means Michigan had to spend a blocker on the defensive back and the MLB is a free hitter. He should be moving to this more quickly than he does.
Slants also tend to open up giant running gaps. Adjustments like the above will often lead to a defender running in one direction suddenly getting unwanted help from an OL. If the OL can redirect and latch on just about everyone is going for a ride here. Once Magnuson locks on and Kerridge targets the DB these are two blocks that are easy to win and Smith is going to have a truck lane.
Given how much space Smith has even a linebacker playing this aggressively who shows up in the gap might lose or get his tackle run through; Michigan's getting yards here, whether it's three or six or more if Chesson gets a good block.
In the past this site has seen arguments about whether meeting an unblocked safety at or near the line of scrimmage is a win for the offense or the defense. I have largely come down on the side of "that absolutely sucks," but when the hole is so big that the defender is attempting to make an open-field tackle it's a lot more appealing.
Michigan WRs need to be more careful with the cut blocks. You can cut a guy from the "front," by which the NCAA means the area from 10 to 2 on a clock. (Seriously, that's the way it's defined in the rulebook.) This was very close to a flag, and Michigan got one later.
I wish Michigan was running pop passes, as those are good ways to get defensive backs hesitant about running hard after plays like this. Maybe in a bit.