Estimates are approximate. Michigan's spent maybe half of their snaps in the shotgun/pistol on running downs this year, running about five things: jet sweeps to Norfleet, QB draws, speed option, the inverted veer, and a kind of alternate to the inside zone called "belly" that Rich Rodriguez was fond of during his brief spell in Ann Arbor.
Oddly, Michigan hardly runs anything like a base play from the shotgun. They don't run the stretch, they don't run any iso or power type plays. There is a faint smattering of inside zone, but that's it, and that's not anywhere near established. In their first three games of the year I've got them down for three inside zone runs from pistol or shotgun; they went for a total of three yards. Nobody's cheating to a base run play against Michigan.
This allows opponents to tee off on the things Michigan is kind of good at. More importantly, it often seems like they're going up against opponents who are better drilled at defending modern offensive concepts than Michigan is at running them. Here's an example:
Michigan's in the pistol with Kerridge as a fullback, Williams the tight end, and both WRs to the field. It's first and ten. UConn responds by shifting their line to the strength (an "over" front) and aligning their linebackers about evenly with a safety rolled up over Williams.
Michigan wants to read the end to the bottom of the screen. That will allow Michigan to blast the playside end off the ball with a sustained double; Williams will head for the safety as Kerridge deals with the playside linebacker. If the end crashes, Gardner pulls. If he contains, Gardner keeps.
Snap. You can see Williams release, Lewan and Glasgow begin to bash the playside end off the line, and the frontside UConn LBs react to gaps that may need to be filled.
Gardner is now considering the end, who does what ends are supposed to do these days: try to split the difference so that they can be useful on a handoff and still contain the QB. Gardner's trying to figure out what to do about this:
(Note that Lewan and Glasgow are battering their guy inside effectively.)
Now, I think that's a pull. I gave Gardner a minus for that, because I want Gardner to test the edge against a defensive end who's standing at the LOS. But it's a gray area for the quarterback. The end is neither flat-out containing or crashing down; this is a situation in which errors are common.
At the decision point, Gardner gives. Kerridge is staring down two defenders, doesn't know which one to deal with, doesn't really deal with either but it doesn't matter because whoever he does in fact block is just going to funnel to his buddy.
Poor Damn Toussaint, 2013 edition.
That's a loss of two yards.
Items Of Interest
Remember the wheel route from the Notre Dame game? That's the opposite of this. Borges saw the wheel open, gave it a try once, and then pulled it out in a similar situation later for a big gain. Here Michigan just abandons these runs. How is this a similar situation? Like ND, UConn is playing this play in a certain way. If they play it in the same way again, you can alter what you're doing to bust it open. But Michigan hasn't done this, and so rarely does things that are misdirection that twitter blows up about it when they get five yards on it.
Arc, arc, arc, arc. Nebraska demonstrated the tweak against Michigan a couple years back on an almost identical play. Michigan shuffled Jibreel Black down, planning to contain with Kovacs on the outside. The fullback approached the end, and then…
Black could not recover in time to get out on Martinez, Kovacs got a guy in his face, and Nebraska ripped off a 23-yard gain.
Here it's a little different because the end does have contain on Gardner, but if Michigan pokes at that belly play again they can do something similar. Instead of having a true read it's a designated Gardner keeper on which Kerridge's job is to get outside and block whoever that contain guy happens to be, Michigan can burn the shuffle.
This is a paragraph of disclaimers and explanations. That's my thought process when I see things like that on the zone read, because that was Rodriguez's thought process. He probably forced defenses to create the shuffle a few years back when he started blocking backside ends trying to crash down and shooting Carlos Brown or Brandon Minor through the gaping hole scraping linebackers would leave. That burned scrape exchanges hard for a while, and then the cat and mouse game moved on.
Michigan is deficient at cat and mouse in the run game. I'm not trying to suggest that Michigan has to be a spread option team for their offense to work better; I am pointing this out because it remains my wheelhouse and it's a good example of the things Michigan doesn't do because they are a jack-of-all-trades offense that doesn't see how a defense is responding and do something to break it. Because to do that Nebraska thing above your fullback has to rep it and sell it, etc. It takes practice time.
Michigan's not thinking the zone game well at either the field level or the box level because they're not committed to it, and that extends to everything from stretch to power to iso.
Also maybe chalk that up as a missed read for Gardner. Because Michigan doesn't rep it consistently enough? I don't know. Has to be a consideration.
In other sad runs Michigan got out-schemed on. UConn was sending guys off the corner with frequency, but Michigan did not recognize it despite UConn tipping it hard. This inverted veer featured the dead giveaway of a safety moving down to line up directly over a wide receiver:
And on this one, how would you describe the playside corner's presnap technique? Is "right angle to wide receiver" a thing?
Michigan just gets lined up with 14 or so seconds on the clock and thus doesn't have much time to recognize what the defense is doing and adjust, like you saw Notre Dame and Akron do to Michigan's detriment several times. They're just eating bad playcalls. That's a natural consequence of spending 25 seconds in a huddle and not recognizing that one of the most common responses to spread stuff is to send extra guys off the edge.
None of this has anything to do with the offensive line. These are two TFLs and one miraculous Gardner escape wiped out by a Funchess holding call (which, BTW, ugh) on which the offensive line plays no part. The problems go deeper than their issues, which we'll get to later. This is Borges and to some extent Gardner—I don't know if he's got checks here—getting beat by the defensive coordinator. They got some back with the speed option, FWIW.
Who's up for a tedious 150 comment thread questioning whether it's worthwhile to read this? I certainly am! I hope there are content-free arguments. Let's make sure to ignore Ka'Deem Carey's 2000 yards last year when we're incensed at the idea Rich Rodriguez might be able to coach a run game.
So I kind of misunderstood a direction by Brian when I said I wanted to address special teams—he wanted stats on dinosaur punting and I thought he meant UFR all the things he doesn't.
What sparked my interest was coffin corner kicking. NCAA moved the kickoff spot to the 35 and made touchbacks start on the 25 as in incentive to cut down on kickoff return (and ensuing concussions). Inadvertently (or maybe not) they took away the advantage gained by teams with big-legged touchback machines. To regain that advantage, schools that can recruit kickers are teaching them to put the ball higher and in a spot where returners have to field it but are likely to be swallowed short of the 25 after they do.
Against CMU I noticed Wile seemed particularly good at placing balls right in that deep left corner, the same thing I've done on every football videogame ever once I mastered the timing of the kickoff bar. This seems very hard to do in real life: you need to put the ball high enough to let your coverage get there but not deep enough that they let it go through the end zone, and far enough from the sideline that it won't go out of bounds, but far enough inside of the hash that you can use the sideline as a force defender. Do it well consistently and that's perhaps 50 yards of field position a game.
It's my first time UFR'ing these so gonna have to set some ground rules:
Points: Number of points given out reflects where the play ended up, figuring 1 point roughly equals 5 yards of field position, baseline: 25 yard line.
Glossary: The "From" column is where the kick originated, given as yard line then horizontal position ("L"=left hash, etc.). "Rtn" (return) is how far the returner ran it, "Rlt" (result) is where the ball's placed. "Tchbk" (touchback) means it's on the 25. "Corner L" means they kicked it from the left hash and try to have it come down near the goal line and relatively near the sideline; "Deep L" means they just kicked it deep along the hash mark. "Center" means they kick it toward the middle and come down the same.
Things: Note that Michigan typically kicks off from the left hash despite their right-footed kicker.
Okay, got a UFR macro reverse-engineered in Xcel. Got some torrents. Got a…oh, bolded, chart-demanding subconscious, you there?
Okay let's do this.
[After the jump]
"I just dropped back and did what I was coached to do, kind of read off his eyes and lo and behold he threw it that way so I was just trying to jump up and make the play on it." — Desmond Morgan
He made a play on it, to say the least.
[Hit THE JUMP for the best GIFs (from a very Michigan-biased perspective) from the UConn game, and make sure to vote for your favorite.]
SHOW ME THE HENRY
How to resolve the NCAA being terrible thing.
My friend and I were having a discussion about the best way to compensate college players, and he came up with the idea of paying players based on performance, sort of how incentive laden contracts work in the NFL, with the stipulation that the players will not receive the money until they graduate or go pro. I thought his idea was awful and unrealistic, because the “student athletes” would now become paid employees of the university and we essentially would have a semi-pro league on our hands. BUT, that got me thinking about a possible solution…
The issue we have here is the balance of compensation between stars and bench-warmers, large schools and small schools, men’s sports and women’s sports (which could also very well be a legal issue), revenue-generating and non-revenue-generating sports, etc. Instead of trying to figure out that mess, let’s take the decision of compensation out of the universities’ hands.
The solution: allow the student athletes to sign endorsement deals. If a corporation is willing to pay for a player’s likeness, he deserves that money. However, the stipulation here is that all money earned by a student athlete through endorsements would have to be held in an escrow account, and the release of the money would be contingent upon the completion of the player’s eligibility or his/her declaration to go pro, whichever comes first. Now if a player is caught accepting benefits beforehand, the NCAA would not look hypocritical when laying down punishments. Student athletes get compensated, legal issues are avoided, and you won't have a bunch of teenagers running around campus with millions of dollars to blow/get into mischief with. What do you think? So crazy it just might work?
That's fine. It's a little paternalistic to tell the kids they can't have money until they get their degree, and that will be less effective at legitimizing the stuff under the table, because poor college kids will still want walking-around money. It's still fine.
I'm not sure why there's this widespread opposition to giving people money in exchange for services, but whatever middle ground you want to stake out that gives the kids their image rights and avoids Title IX issues is fine by me. Sign whatever you want, get whatever money you can acquire, and everything will be the same except compliance folk will have to find less mindlessly pedantic jobs. Worries about booster involvement are naïve—they're already involved.
The other major thing that the NCAA could do is get rid of their inane opposition to agents. If you're a legit agent with X number of current pro clients you can sign players regarded as prospects, and give them some advance on whatever they're going to make in the pros. (If you don't make the pros, that's just tough luck for the agent.) The NCAA doesn't even have to redirect any of the buckets of cash they're currently making to make the system
- less impossible to manage
- a more even playing field
- fairer to the players
Yeah: a more even playing field. Right now no one is going to MAC schools over major offers, but schools willing to do under the table stuff—or just not stop it—have an advantage over schools that don't. And it's tough to figure out what the more moral position is there these days.
Sometimes in football, it seems that you just want to get the best guys on the field right? Do you think we might see a DL consisting of Beyer, Henry, Qwash, Black?
I would think Black could flip back out to SDE pretty easily and could fold back in to 3 tech occasionally depending on the substitution patterns. To me that gets your best pass rushers on the field more regularly and is the most likely combo to soak up OL in the run game too.
You mentioned that you expect Beyer to take Clark's job when Ryan comes back, but why not just make that switch now? Wouldn't you rather get Gordon out there with Beyer than Clark at this point?
(This was sent before Clark played well against UConn.)
If Michigan was going to put out its best line for one particular play against an I-formation that might well be it, but with opponents running out all kinds of spread packages and Michigan responding by lifting their nose tackle, Black's snaps are mostly going to be spent as an interior rush-type against shotgun formations. It's probably not worth moving him midseason to get a marginal improvement. While I like what I've seen from Henry so far, there was a play against UConn where he got obliterated. (Michigan was fortunate that UConn didn't block the second level well and held the gain down.) He's a work in progress.
Meanwhile on Cam Gordon: for whatever reason they're not playing him, and it's to the point that his lack of playing time speaks to a lack of performance. Beyer's been good, but mostly as a guy with his hand in the dirt. When Beyer's been put in coverage he's shown some flaws. Gordon's not getting more time is probably just his fate at this point.
I don't get it, either. They've been giving him seemingly genuine praise for years now and when it comes down to it they just don't put him on the field.
[After THE JUMP: evaluating Michigan's coaching staff, plus Bo Pelini axe murder.]
Ht/Wt: 6'2" / 180 lbs.
Location: Athens Drive High School – Raleigh, NC
Michigan has only offered two prospects from the 2016 class but many current high school sophomores are being evaluated by the coaches as the young high school football season gets ramped up. ATH Teryn Savage was a potential visitor for the Akron game, but luckily for the coaching staff he decided to visit Kentucky instead.
Savage is a long, lean athlete who is being looked at by several FBS schools at multiple positions including running back, wide receiver, and safety. Michigan has started building a relationship with Savage, specifically via running backs coach Fred Jackson, and while Savage doesn’t have the typical build the staff usually targets for a running back, Jackson is his main contact at this time.
I asked Savage to tell me how he saw himself as a player and he had this to say.
“I’m 6’2 and about 180 lbs. right now and the first 40 I ever ran was a barefoot 4.62. If I got timed tomorrow I’m sure I’d be in the 4.5’s. I think when coaches and fans watch me play the main thing they will see from me is my physicality. I will smack you in the mouth the whole entire game and talk smack to you while I’m doing it. (laughs) I go hard every single snap. I really think that’s what separates me from other wide receivers or safeties.”
Savage has been compared to Vernon Davis by his coaches because of his ability to stretch the field but also catch the ball in traffic. His body type is much different from Davis’s but he is utilized in many ways in the passing game for his high school team.
Savage has a top 5 that currently consists of Kentucky, Clemson, Miami, Florida and Florida State, but was quick to tell me that Michigan will be in there once he visits for a gameday experience. He also consistently hears from Nebraska, USF, Ole Miss and Georgia, along with some smaller division one schools. He specifically mentioned Michigan saying, “Man, I like Michigan a lot. Coach Jackson is a real cool dude. As soon as I met him we clicked and I also speak to Coach Hoke on certain occasions. Beside the coaching staff, the stadium is just unbelievable. I can’t believe fans pack it every weekend.”
When I asked Teryn if there were any offers he coveted more than others he mentioned Kentucky, Clemson and Michigan. He grew up a Florida fan but when he was about 10 years old he really started liking Michigan because of the legendary winged helmets. He plans to check the helmets out in person for the Minnesota game and was in Lexington this past weekend to scope out the Wildcats.
Being a North Carolina kid Savage doesn’t have a serious connection to Michigan necessarily but his step dad is childhood best friends with Jabrill Peppers’ father from where they grew up in East Orange, NJ. Savage said that he and Peppers weren’t all that close, but they do message on Twitter occasionally, although recruiting is never a topic of discussion. Savage and his family are planning on flying up to New Jersey to catch one of Jabrill’s games within the next few weeks.
Teryn and I finished our conversation with a discussion about his father who was tragically killed by a drunk driver almost a year ago. For such a young kid I was incredibly impressed with his attitude toward such an unfortunate event. This is how he spoke of the situation. “It motivated me more than it hurt. Every since it happened I’ve just busted my behind in the weight room and on the field. I’ve had to realize there’s nothing I can do about it now. He’s in a better place now and I’m just going to ball out like he always told me to and I know he will be pleased.”
It’s hard to say if Savage will ever receive a scholarship offer from the Wolverines but a relationship is being built and Michigan has been a presence in North Carolina in recent years. His interest in Michigan seems legitimate and he had good knowledge of the school, program, and history for an out of region prospect. He will be one to watch moving in to the next two recruiting cycles.
Devin Gardner pointed it at face. Stop point it at face please. Cannot run. Jack Miller: time's up?
Frank Clark makes plays!
Bet you can't guess what we complain about.
TALKING BIG TEN WITH JAMIEMAC
Big Ten! Wisconsin-OSU discussed extensively, the MSU-ND game, Rutgers and Maryland now seem a lot more welcome.
"Across 110th Street."
"Table Dancing," The Kevin Gildeas
"Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying," Belle And Sebastian
The usual links: