Michigan couldn't get yard one with the veer against Nebraska, and most of them ended up with an unblocked Nebraska player blowing up Gardner. It is time to look at them. For some reason. Why didn't I start a blog about 1980s hairstyles? 1980s hairstyles never make you want to rub your face in gravel.
I digress. The first one comes on Michigan's first drive. A late blitz has just seen a power O slanted to and blown up for a one yard loss; it's second and eleven on the 24.
Michigan comes out with an H-back and two tailbacks in a twins formation, which necessarily means that the slot receiver is not an eligible receiver. Nebraska responds with 7.5 in the box, with the gray area defender just about splitting the difference between Funchess and the tackle.
On the snap Bosch pulls and the gray area guy sits and stares the backfield down.
Michigan shows veer action with Kerridge leading Toussaint to the outside; Michigan blocks the playside end, which would mean they're expecting to option the slot defender except 1) Kerridge is out there, so they're using one of their blockers on him anyway and 2) Gardner does not appear to be reading him but something further inside, if he's in fact reading anything. Gardner's awareness of this slot defender seems to start after the mesh point.
You can see that Gardner's helmet is not pointed at the slot defender as he starts making his decision:
What's he reading? Is he reading anything? I don't know. it doesn't seem like it. Watch the video in real time to get a feel for it. Toussaint does react like a guy who might get the ball, juking the blitzer, so I guess they're reading something. What is unclear.
Meanwhile, Kerridge is expecting the slot guy to contain upfield; instead he shoots upfield inside of him hard, too hard for him to adjust to.
Gardner pulls and seems to sense a disturbance in the force now; he goes straight upfield.
Toussaint dodges the blitzer, running into Gardner; Kerridge is prone, Gardner starts stumbling, and his momentum is taking him into the chest of an unblocked LB.
It's now third and nine, and Gardner's soul is now worn 1% more.
Items Of Interest
Optioning no one. We're back here, in year three. Michigan has a rudimentary read option game on which their QB doesn't know what to do too often and gets plays blown up, but here we're back to last year's Alabama game, where the defense made it so that Michigan's option plays didn't actually option off a defender, with similar results. No matter what happens on the edge here, the play still spends Kerridge and Toussaint on one defender and leaves an unblocked guy.
It would be one thing if I'd ever seen this fullback on the edge thing work. I have not. At best it's wasted him as he blocks a guy shooting up on the edge who is trying to contain Toussaint; at worst:
I'm about to get some comments about how this is Gardner's issue or Kerridge's issue and that Borges can't be held responsible for the results of this play. Sure. Any one play can be traced back to some execution error by the offense.
These posts are an effort to explain trends I'm seeing in the offense with particular plays, though, and this kind of half-ass option is par for the course. Michigan cannot get the fullback to be useful on these read option plays, and hasn't made him useful for three solid years.
This is the kind of stuff Denard papered over by being Denard. Even when Michigan was eviscerating Ohio State two years ago, they weren't really optioning anyone and it was left to Denard to make the magic happen against an unblocked dude at the LOS:
Michigan was fortunate that was a freshman Ryan Shazier on one leg. When you don't have Denard and you've turned your quarterback's ribs into a fine paste already, you no longer get 41 yard touchdowns and instead your unblocked dude gets a tackle for minimal gain, or more likely a loss.
They've had Kerridge for three years now and Gardner that long and Toussaint that long and they still can't get them to execute a real option. Either they're not trying or they're not coaching. And either way…
How is this supposed to work? It seems like the idea here is for the slot guy to run himself upfield outside of Kerridge to maintain a force back inside and then for Gardner to hit the gap between him and the rest of the defense. Nebraska beats that idea by using the slot guy super-aggressively.
How do you make this play work? Nebraska understood that Michigan's formation meant Funchess was not eligible; the gray area defender had no thought of a pass and ended up blowing up the play. But you can still make this work since Nebraska is sitting so deep with the safeties. Michigan has two options here: shooting Kerridge at the LOS, leaving Toussaint to his own devices, or using Kerridge to attack the slot defender and put Toussaint on the edge into acres of space.
This is the kind of thing you could come back to later with a tweak and bust a big gain. Clearly there were no big gains on this day. This design isn't necessarily bad; the inability to see what Nebraska is doing and get rock to their scissors at some point is. I mean, if you get this again and block the dude the defense has no force player, which means you get a lot of yards. This move by Nebraska violates a cardinal tenet of sound defense and works because they win on RPS, and if you probe at what they're doing here you can beat that. Instead Nebraska just kept chewing up Michigan's offense.
Hooray covered slot receiver. Hooray. I will never understand the point of that. If Michigan had some package where the ability of the H-back to get to the backside of the play meant something, okay. Instead you get nothing and if the D recognizes it, as they seem to here, you're playing 10 on 11. Temporary voluntary red card.
Again, maybe this is some sort of genius but since I've never seen it do anything productive it just seems dumb.
Incompetence on a level that Michigan unlocked against Michigan State and Nebraska cannot be achieved by one man or even one team (MSU is good at defense, and hey, Nebraska did some good things). There's still the possibility that Borges and his charges are sabotaging themselves, but since that's impossible to prove let's permit that they do in fact wish to progress the ball forward, and parse out how much responsibility lies in the various inadvertent factors.
I thought I'd take us back through a timeline of the events that led to the state of the offensive roster, picking up blame on the way.
I wish we could blame this whole thing on the old coach. Wouldn't it be the most ironic thing if the great guru of offense was really at fault for Michigan's offensive woes? There are really three things I think we can lay at his feet, in order of importance:
- Hired DCs he couldn't work with and made them run defenses they didn't understand, thus dooming Michigan to another coaching transition.
- Recruited just one OL in the 2010 class.
- Didn't recruit a single tight end or fullback, nor a running back who can block except Smith, whom he didn't redshirt.
Michigan's 2009-2011 tight end recruits.
Tight End, Briefly
We've had #1 out, and #3 is debatable: Y U NO RECRUIT THE BREAD AND BUTTER OF BORGES'S OFFENSE, GUY WHO INVENTED THE OFFENSE THAT MADE BORGES'S OFFENSE OBSOLETE? I can't blame him for skipping fullbacks or running backs who can block since he had a track record of developing fullbacks from the walk-on program, while his backs, e.g. Toussaint, were recruited to operate in space. I wish he'd redshirted Vincent Smith, or gotten a medical for him.
But I do think he could have seen the need for tight ends even before the abilities of Koger and Webb opened his eyes to that. Rodriguez ignored the position for two years, and when he started looking again it was for the 2011 class that was devastated by Rosenberg and The Process: Hoke and Borges went on the hunt for last-minute TEs in 2011 and came back with Chris Barnett, a vagabond of the type that Michigan typically stays away from. Barnett transferred almost right away; I put that on having just a few weeks.
Tight end is another position that typically requires a lot of development, but Michigan knew by mid-2011 that its 2013 starters would be, at most, true sophomores, and knew a year later that neither of their 2012 recruits were much for blocking. At this point any sane human would not have made the ability of their tight ends to block a key component of their offense.
Offensive Line, Longly
|Rodriguez put all of his eggs in the 2011 OL recruiting basket, and Michigan ended up with all their eggs in a project recruit's basket.|
As for the OL, the failure to recruit just one offensive lineman in 2010 is the centerpiece of modern bitching. Is that fair? Here's a line from Brian in Mike Schofield's recruiting post, dated June 2009:
"Michigan didn't need a huge offensive line class one year after taking six big uglies and graduating zero, but you never want fewer than three and you always want quality."
So yes it is established MGoPrecedent that fewer than three OL in a class no matter how much meat you have stacked for the meat god is not cutting it.
Offensive line recruiting happens a bit earlier than most other positions. Since they're unlikely to be starting for several years (even redshirt freshmen are pretty rare) OL recruits rightly look for coaching stability more than early opportunity. The 2009 class was narrowing down their lists before the 2008 season, and so on. With that said here's a timeline of Michigan offensive line recruiting:
2009 (recruited in early 2008): Tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, and guard Quinton Washington. This despite a huge/mixed haul from 2008, when RR added Barnum and Omameh to Carr's class of O'Neill, Mealer, Wermers and Khoury. For the record O'Neill left the team in June 2009, and Wermers was gone in July (though his World of Warcraft account was presumably active), so the coaches wouldn't have adjusted to either of those departures at that time. Meat for 2013 Meat God: three redshirt seniors, one a potential Jake Long 2.0, can't do more because there's still six guys from the previous class.
[Fail leaps atop fail, after the jump]
Position: Tight End
Ht/Wt: 6'4"/270 lbs.
Location: Cary High School – Cary, NC
Offers: NC State
He’s been tagged as a “jumbo-athlete” and at 6’4” and upwards of 270 lbs., Anthony Rush, is just that. Rush has been popping up lately as someone of interest among the coaching staff and he is starting to form a pretty good relationship with them. I talked with Rush very briefly just to see where he’s at in regards to his Michigan interest.
Rush was visited by Coach Manning toward the end of October after a few days of communication via Twitter. Rush spoke very highly of Michigan even before he was visited by the likeable coach. “I have a lot of interest in Michigan, of course! That place is always packed on Saturdays and they have great academics.”
He described his recently formed bond with the coaching staff as a pretty good relationship and insisted that the coaches have been clear in telling him that they really like his game. He also said that the staff has already mentioned an offer for him once he gets the chance to check out Ann Arbor.
Tryone Wheatley Jr. is the only offered 2015 tight end and Michigan figures to be in pretty good shape with him so Rush may be considered a bit of a back-up plan or a legitimate 2nd tight end in a small recruiting class.
Rush has recently uploaded new highlights that are definitely worth a watch. He’s the large person in the white #25 jersey to start the film.
ALL HAIL HENRI, THE OTTER OF ENNUI
Things could have gone better.
The usual: late collapse in the face of overwhelming existential ennui. HENRI: deployed.
Save us, Obi-Wan Beilein, you're our only hope. Michigan tried to go away from the pick and roll against Lowell and that really did not work; when they went back to it they started scoring points. Two posts == DOA.
TALKING BIG TEN WITH JAMIEMAC
I sound jealous of Indiana football. We're so far past being jealous of Minnesota. Damn you, Iowa, for allowing Purdue to score a garbage-time touchdown to thwart BoilerQuest.
"Across 110th Street."
"Sour Times," Portishead
"I Got Issues," The Beauty Shop
"The Lord's Going To Separate The Wheat From The Tares," Huggins & Phillips Sacred Harp Singers (this is off of a six-volume box set called "Goodbye, Babylon" which is pretty great).
The usual links:
Five-star DE Da'Shawn Hand announces his college decision between Michigan, Alabama, and Florida on Thursday at noon—today, Rivals revealed that the announcement will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network and streamed on Rivals.
It's not worth delving too deeply into speculation when we'll know Hand's decision so soon; it appears that his decision will come down to Michigan or Alabama—while the Wolverines haven't exactly been tearing things up, his visit to Florida came just in time to see Will Muschamp's seat go from "hot" to "scalding". Remember Notre Dame? Hopefully he does, too.
I'll quickly address that the Alabama Scout board has a rumor that Hand is down to Alabama and Florida, and that rumor has been shot down by at least one credible source. You'll probably hear a lot of stuff like this before Thursday, and given how little Hand has been willing to reveal throughout the recruiting process, it'll all be educated guesses at best, total BS at worst.
If you want a more complete breakdown, 247 has a free primer detailing the positives/negatives for each school.
A free 247 article on Malik McDowell's Army All-American jersey presentation features more quotes from McDowell than we've seen in a while:
“I never could say (Michigan) was on top but they’re one of my favorite schools,” McDowell said. “Ohio State has always been one of my favorite schools. Michigan State has been impressing me ever since I got my offer from them.”
The Wolverines were one of the first schools to extend a scholarship to McDowell and the relationship continues to grow.
“That was like my second offer,” McDowell said. “It was a big deal. We keep in touch a lot. I like Coach (Greg) Mattison and I’m real cool with Coach (Brady) Hoke. I just really like their whole coaching staff.”
McDowell visited Ohio State for the Penn State game, received a visit from Mark Dantonio last week, and was reportedly in attendance at the Nebraska game on Saturday. He's still discussing setting up an official visit to Florida on Thanksgiving (to watch them get crushed by Florida State, in all likelihood) and mentions Alabama, LSU, and Oregon as other potential official visit destinations.
[Hit THE JUMP for a must-read piece on Detroit recruits from TomVH, new offers in the 2015 and 2016 classes, Jabrill Peppers highlights, and a roundup of last weekend's commit stats.]