On Saturday Michigan put up six points on Northwestern on the opening kickoff, a lead the defense was so unlikely to relinquish you might as well say this game was decided by a footrace between Jehu Chesson and the Wildcats' kicker. As Harbaugh described it in the presser:
“106-yard return. The blocks were sharp and crisp. Timing was nearly perfect. 10 guys, 11 guys hustling and 10 of them blocking, blocking for Jehu and he got- he is the fastest player on the team. I know Jabrill said one of the fastest but he is the fastest, and he showed it today.”
And our own Adam Schnepp got Butt on the record after yesterday's presser:
They hadn't really shown that on film where they were going to kick it there on the opening drive, but we knew they could potentially sky-kick it away from Jabrill and they did that to Jehu. We had the right return in anyway, so they kind of just gave us a counter. I had a kickout block and then we had like a wall built for Jehu. I mean, Jehu's a 10.3 100 guy. He just did the rest. You weren't catching him once he hit the open field.
I was still drawing it up when ebv posted an excellent writeup of the same. So at this point you might be sick of talking about it.
I'll use some of his diagrams, and show you what happened.
Our Playcall: Return (our) Right
Here's how ebv made it look:
Butt (on the 20 yard line)'s block is a kickout, not a lead but that's an otherwise very accurate description. Here's my drawing:
(kickoff coverage positions noted as left or right from the kicker, so e.g. "L4" is the fourth guy to the kicker's left.)
Omigod it's POWER—like manball-flavored power running where you form a wall that caves in on their wall, kick out the EMLOS to make a gap, then throw bodies at the point of attack. I color-coded the goals of the blocks: left for seal the guy inside, green for kickout, and blue for the lead blockers.
Wilson, Kinnel, Gedeon and Houma are going to form the "wall"—they each identify a gunner and their jobs are to block down, and keep their guys sealed from the play. Bolden and Poggi double a guy who's basically the playside end. Butt comes across the formation to blow the contain open, and Chesson gets an escort into the hole from Mason and Peppers.
Northwestern's Playcall: Corner (their) Right
This is a fairly basic kickoff coverage that only messes a little with the typical man-to-man return strategy. The kicker purposely sent it to the side away from Peppers, and the gunners were tasked with closing down running lanes. Two members of the coverage team, L5 and the kicker, are back as quasi-safeties to fill any lane that may be created.
[after the jump: execution]
Mailbag: Stats Love Us, Saban Manball Canary, Substitution Style, Cole Absence, Playcalling Approach
Number 3? For the statistically challenged, what do you think of this methodology?
S&P+ is as good as any other ranking system that drills into play-by-play data to get a clearer picture of a football game than scoring margin alone can give you. Bill Connelly, the guy behind it, also runs Football Study Hall. He does a lot of smart things. S&P+ is a valuable look at who is playing the best.
Unfortunately, it can only go on the data that exists and in early-season college football that's always going to be sparse. Meanwhile some folks will dispute lot of the assumptions S&P+ makes, primarily that turnovers are super random and not major factors in the rankings. It also values all games evenly in ways that humans aren't always big fans of. Utah is significantly below Michigan because:
- the Michigan-Utah game was about even down to down and turned on turnovers
- Utah did not significantly outgain Utah State or Fresno State
- Michigan yardage-murdered everyone other than Utah
S&P+ is not trying to be a descriptive ranking (ie: these teams have had the best season so far) but rather a predictive one (ie: if these teams were to meet who would win). Michigan has performed like an elite team so far according to S&P+, and I can see why it thinks that.
FEI, the other major ranking that takes more than score into account*, is more skeptical than S&P, but I think that's because that still bakes some preseason assumptions into the ranking.
*[AFAIK Sagarin only uses the final score.]
Can we manball it when even Saban flees to spread-type behavior?
It seems that Nick Saban has recently admitted that his current style is a bit outdated, that he needs to adjust to the recent trends in college football. It is pretty obvious that teams like OSU, Oregon, TCU, Baylor, even BGSU are seeing a lot of success by utilizing both up-tempo and featuring quick guys in space.
Can you speak to offensive philosophies such as Alabama and Stanford and how this may or may not be a concern for us going forward? I understand that "smashmouth" football is not mutually exclusive with up-tempo and quick guys in space. But it just seems to me that Harbaugh's style doesn't seem to emphasize either of these current successful trends.
Given how the season has gone so far I actually think Michigan might occasionally run into the opposite problem. They've been absolutely lights out against six consecutive spread offenses. (Not very good spread offenses, sure, but Michigan isn't holding these guys to 20 points and high-fiving afterwards. They are crushing opponents.) Meanwhile the Harbauffense is winning plays against teams that aren't always comfortable putting heavy D packages on the field or filling all the gaps Harbaugh creates.
Saban's move to a more spread and tempo oriented offense is a reaction to the many times his defense has been blown out of the water by those kind of attacks over the past few years. When the Tide get to line up against one of the remaining "pro style" offenses, the results are generally ugly. Ask Georgia.
Michigan might not have that issue. Durkin seems very comfortable devising ways to neutralize spreads. I will have trepidation when and if Michigan does come up against… well, pretty much just Alabama.
On and off and on and off
Brian or Ace-
Do you know, or, if not, could you ask someone, why Dan Liesman (I think that is who it is, at least according to my Mini-Program; it is #54) comes out a few yards onto the field between plays almost every time when we are on defense. It is as if he is not sure whether he is going in or not, but since he NEVER goes in, it is obviously for some other reason. Is there some rule about substitutions that this relates to, are we trying to confuse the opposition, or does he just like to pretend he might be going in? There has to be a reason, and I would think most MGoBloggers would love to hear it. Thanks
We've seen Ross and Gant also do this. It's just a substitution strategy. After the play Michigan sends guys who may or may not be in the defensive package, depending on what the offense does, to about the numbers. (Any farther could get you an illegal substitution penalty.)
If opponents send in two or more blocky-catchy types, the linebacker will stay in and a DB will be removed. Since every team Michigan has played almost never uses two or more blocky-catchy types the LB heads back to the sideline almost all the time.
Liesman specifically is interesting because Michigan usually has Ross available; I haven't noticed if sometimes he is poking his head on the field when Michigan's already in a 4-3. That would imply Michigan has a heavy package in case someone tries to manball them.
Someone was confused.
I wanted you to know how much I appreciate and enjoy your broadcasts of Notre Dame football. Your kind deference to Our Lady's University is a beautiful expression of the christian love that infuses your broadcast persona. Thank you so much! You are a good man.
May God bless you and yours.
I did flip over to the Notre Dame-UMass game when it was interesting for a minute and heard Hammond's dulcet tones. He's missed.
I assume that guy who made the Tom Hammond tie is in Congress by now.
[After THE JUMP: early drives allowed, Harbaugh's playcalling system, a search for superclusters.]
Desmond Morgan and Joe Kerridge
Joe, can you talk about being able to touch the ball, carry the ball and what a thrill that is?
“It’s really- over the years, looking at the fullback position it’s a lot of blocking- a lot of blocking- and so getting to touch the ball every once in a while is an awesome thing for us fullbacks. Sione’s been doing a great job. It’s a different twist in the game now and it’s something we really like to do.”
You guys probably haven’t had a lot of practices yet, but has there been an early message from Jim about how to prepare for this game? You guys have been moving up the rankings, people are talking College Football Playoff- how do you not let that get to your head?
DM: “After the game on Saturday we addressed it being a trophy game and being a big game for us, but as far as that we meet this afternoon in probably about thirty minutes or an hour. We’ll get more down to it then.”
When do you recall the countdown clocks coming down, and what do you think about that?
DM: “I don’t remember exact dates or anything like that. As far as thoughts on it, I think the whole mindset this year’s just been approach the next game, just go out and try to win the next game. So, for us in terms of countdown clocks or to count down to a certain game, it’s just basically been the next Saturday.”
Your thoughts on Jake [Rudock]. The steadiness obviously has been kind of a theme for him. This is a big game. Just your thoughts on having a quarterback who seems pretty level-headed through six weeks.
JK: “Yeah, Jake’s done a great job. He’s a student of the game, for sure. I try to get around him as much as I can. He’ll come up to me in the locker room after practice, he’ll already have watched the practice and come up and give me some pointers or something like that; he’ll critique something, or something like that. He’s shown great strides and it’s great to see a quarterback that loves the game as much as he does.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Butt and Jourdan Lewis]
so then Simba gets hit on the head- this is where it gets really good- and he says… [Fuller]
Your thoughts on the line play after watching film?
“Thought it was good. Graham Glasgow stood out the most and he was our offensive player of the game. Also to note, Ben Braden continued to be an ascending player. He might have got the silver medal, which was good to see. But for the line, line play’s been the same.”
Talk about Joe Kerridge. He’s obviously a captain, but what he brings you leadership-wise and what he brings you on the field.
“A++ from day one in terms of work ethic, leadership, role model, example. Been really good. Good to see him back out this week. Warms your heart to see a fullback pop a run for…what was it? 36? 34? Heartwarming! So, nice to see the fullback position do that.
“Sione Houma also has been outstanding. Both in the way they’re blocking and the way they’re running the ball. Haven’t had fullbacks like this, talented runners when they have the football in their hands. Been heartwarming to see the fullback dive be successful.”
What made that play successful? Was it the play fake to De’Veon, or whose blocking was most central to making that successful?
“Yeah, everybody. Everybody who doesn’t have the ball is essential. In terms blocking and carrying out fakes, everybody becomes a blocker who’s not carrying the ball.”
A lot of coaches and players in football and other sports talk about consistency and trying to stay consistent with a demeanor and a message. What’s been that most consistent message that you and your staff have brought to this team that has made it successful?
“I don’t know. I don’t know what the most consistent message would be. What we hope for and look for in consistency is being consistently good, as opposed to being consistently average. I don’t know what else to say about that.”
You had said after Maryland that you thought Channing [Stribling] was just a one-week injury and he didn’t play the other day. Is this a longer-term situation with him?
“Yeah, it’s longer than a one-week. He was very, very close this past weekend. He could have played, but thought it was more prudent to not play him.”
Do you expect to play him this weekend?
[After THE JUMP- It’s State week, so you know what that means: quoting Rafiki from The Lion King]
Flip Watch: Kareem Walker
The marquee visitor for Saturday's beatdown was five-star NJ RB Kareem Walker, an Ohio State commit who kept his official visit under wraps until word leaked out on Friday that he'd be in attendance. Walker doesn't talk to the media much; in the aftermath of the visit he released a statement in favor of doing interviews:
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) October 12, 2015
While Walker isn't saying much to indicate where Michigan stands, the rumblings from his camp are promising. Sam Webb put up a free post that indicated the visit went very well; he posted some jucier tidbits on The Victors Board, including word that Walker may be back in Ann Arbor this weekend for the State game ($).
247's Steve Lorenz caught up with a source close to Walker who said he liked how Michigan handled their running backs ($):
"He's absolutely heavily interested," they said. "He not only sees carries to be had in Michigan's backfield, but knows he doesn't have to necessarily be the only guy either. That's important. It's a lot like when Alabama pulled in a stable of running backs in one class. Get better and be effective, but do it while staying fresh and healthy."
Perhaps the best sign of all comes from the Ohio State side: 247's Ryan Bartow reports that the Buckeyes reached out to four-star Wisconsin RB commit Antonio Williams in the last week. It's hard to imagine that timing is coincidental.
[Hit THE JUMP for FLIP WATCH, CONTINUED.]