is there such a thing as an etsy genuis? if so, this is it.
FF101: Day 4 – Offensive Linemen
Offensive linemen are the men that do the most and get the least credit. Not many kids grow up dreaming of some day being a starting left guard, and it’s sad that that’s the case. Offensive line is the most underrated position in all of football, both in terms of the recognition they get and in terms of enjoyment due to a stellar combination of physical and intellectual responsibilities. There is the obvious when it comes to offensive linemen: they stand several inches away from another hulk of muscle and run into them like two rams.
(Sorry for the advertisement beforehand, but the narration of this is oddly appropriate for offensive linemen as well).
However, the intellectual part of the game cannot be lost with offensive linemen. Defensive fronts constantly change, blitzers show and back off from all possible angles, and as an offensive lineman you now have to prevent the defense from doing what it’s trying to do while successfully allowing your team to do what it is attempting to do. It truly is one of the most overlooked positions in football, but its purpose and necessity for the success of a team cannot be ignored.
When I first started coaching I went to an offensive linemen class put on by the former offensive line coach of the Buffalo Bills during their great super bowl runs of the early 1990s. Afterward I was able to strike up conversation with the man and he actually walked me through many more intricacies of the offensive line one on one. I later got to actually coach with him. I owe much of my knowledge of the offensive line to this man as I had never played it before. I also owe him my Alan Ameche Story (shameless plug here), which is one of my favorites, that I told randomly a while back.
Anyway, long story short, he was teaching me how to properly get in the 3-point-stance. The best way to coach is to be able to do it yourself. So we are going over it again and again and I finally get the stance right after a while and he asks me “Are you comfortable.” In response, I, being new to coaching and this being a man that knows his stuff, shyly reply “Yes.” He slaps me across the back of the head and yells “You’re a gosh damn liar!” I was in shock and a little nervous. Honestly, I did not know what to say or do. Finally he continued, “But everyone is, they all say yeah. But if we were so comfortable standing like that then we would walk around like that and have conversations standing like that. It’s not comfortable. It’s extremely uncomfortable! It’s your ass wanting so badly to get out of that stance that makes it so great!” And so I give you the 3-point-stance.
3-Point Stance: The 3-point-stance is the most common pre-snap stance of offensive linemen, though it may not be for much longer as more pass heavy teams begin to favor a 2-point-stance. Regardless, we will first cover the 3-point-stance. (Important note: This is a very different 3-point-stance than for fullbacks, defensive linemen, etc.)
Legs: Flexed at the knees, somewhat like doing a squat.
Feet: Feet need to be about shoulder width apart, maybe a little more if he’s a bigger fellow. It is important to note that he should not stand too duck footed (toes pointed out). It will feel much more natural to stand with his toes pointed out with his feet spread apart as they are, but it will lead to a lack of balance and power. His toes should be pointed essentially forward. Therefore, it is common to tell people just learning the stance to kick out their heels, and that should help. Other than that, if an offensive lineman is a position other than center, his feet should be slightly staggered with his outside foot being planted somewhere between the instep and heel. He should not go beyond the heel as this will lead to being off balance. The weight should be placed firmly on the soles of his feet. His forward foot should be flat (you don’t get much power playing from your toes) and the heel of his back foot should only be about a quarter of an inch (about 2/3 of a cm for you metric people out there) off the ground.
Feet and footwork are of the utmost importance for offensive linemen, it is important that that is not overlooked when teaching.
Hands: The first hand I’ll talk about is the down hand. Typically the down hand is the hand away from the ball (this usually leads to better balance for being able to both pass and run block). To start, it should be dropped essentially straight down from the shoulder just inside your knee. There should not be much weight on this hand. The down hand is simply used as a guide. A common emphasis when coaching is that the offensive lineman should be able to swipe the grass in front of him without falling forward, backwards, or to the side regardless of the direction the hand is swiped. The offensive lineman should be able to pick it up and set it back down without any shifting of balance. The weight should be on the soles of his feet. In the old-days (at least my dad tells me) the knuckles of the offensive linemen used to give away run or pass because of the amount of weight put on the hand. This tip off should not exist.
As for the off hand, anywhere from the wrist to elbow should be rested calmly on the inside of the thigh. Weight should not be applied to this hand as it is necessary to use this hand to quickly attack defensive linemen.
Other: Back should be straight to slightly arched back, head should be up. Make sure the butt isn’t too high as this will lead to poor balance. It is also important that offensive linemen do not tip off the play with their eyes, head direction, feet direction, or lean.
(I don't know who that guy is, but he has good form)
2-Point-Stance: Very common in today’s pass oriented offenses. What is lost from leverage is made up for by being able to quickly go to a pass blocking stance. The knees and feet do not change much from the 3-point-stance. The big difference is the back is more upright and the head a little higher. Hands or wrists should be rested on inside of thighs.
As most of us are aware, there are two different types of blocking schemes: Base and zone blocking. The distinction will be made below, along with some other blocking types.
In a zone blocking scheme the offensive linemen block a space rather than an actual man. This can have extremely good results, as defensive linemen stunts and what not are somewhat negated. This can also have negative connotations when you’re Texas, you don’t have a good power run game, and Nick Saban puts his DTs heads up on the guards with the linebackers stacked. It can also hurt when you’re playing USC in the Rose Bowl without developing a successful counter play to slow the defensive flow to the ball. Anyway, the two types of blocking in this scheme depend on if the offensive lineman is covered (a defensive man is lined up directly over top of the offensive lineman) or uncovered (no defensive linemen directly in front of him). When a offensive lineman is covered (or the defensive player is shaded away from the play side) the lineman blocks directly to the second level (LB level). When the offensive lineman is uncovered (and there is a defensive player in the gap toward the play side) then the offensive lineman reach blocks.
Reach: (Also a base block) When an offensive lineman attempts to reach the outside shoulder of a defensive player, and thus blocks him back inside.
In base blocking the offensive line reads the defensive front and communicates appropriate blocking schemes to successfully run the called play. Important note: If there is a split down the middle of the diagram and two blocking types on this diagram on each side, this means that these two blocking styles do not work on the same play).
Double/Combo: The difference is that a double takes the man that is blocked and drives him into the LB, whereas the combo is initially a double, but then one blocker releases to the LB. The man that releases is determined by the direction the LB takes. If the LB runs inside, the inside player (guard in this case) releases to the LB, and vice versa.
Down: When an offensive lineman heads directly to the second level and blocks the linebacker inside.
Drive: A drive block is when any blocker takes the defensive player over top of him and drives him the either out of the hole or simply backwards, away from the play (This can be seen in the diagram for Trap/Cover).
Trap/Cover: A trap play sucks the defensive tackle into the back field by sending the two offensive linemen nearest him toward the LB. This typically baits the DT into thinking they messed up, when suddenly a trap blocker (typically the opposite side guard) pulls tight to the line of scrimmage (as tight as he can) and kicks the DT out of the hole. For this to work however, the defensive man over top of the trapping guard must be covered so that he doesn’t also explode into the backfield. Thus, the center typically covers for the trapping guard. A cover block typically also happens for any pulling plays.
Step/Cross: These two blocking combinations are very similar. Both involve the outside blocker to, in essence, cover block for the (in a way) pulling inside blocker. On the step, the pulling blocker pulls up toward the linebacker, blocking him back inside. On the cross, it is identical to a trap, however, the player being trapped is now the end with the outside man (typically a TE or Tackle) covering for the puller.
Fold: Rather than trap the DT, sometimes it is preferred for the guard to be a lead blocker for the TB. This usually happens in single back type plays. What happens is the C cover blocks for the G, pushing his man as far out of the hole as possible. The guard then slides right off the centers butt and shoots up toward the second level, essentially becoming a lead blocker (and get your mind out of the gutter, I know it sounds dirty, but come on, this is football!).
Pull and Reach/Lead: Pull is when the guard “Pulls”, or swoops around the offensive line and blocks someone on the outside. A pull and reach is when the play side guard pulls around and does a reach block on the end. A pull and lead is when either guard pulls (in this case the far guard) and blocks the first off colored jersey (defensive player) he sees (typically on the inside).
Pull and Kick: Much like a trap block, this happens when the guard pulls and kicks out the end, creating a seem right off his butt (ha ha, dirty joke here).
So now you have learned the stance of an offensive lineman and the basic blocks. In the future, on the next cycle, we will look at what to specifically call some of these combo and double blocks. We will also look at chop blocking and more what you are looking for in the people that play each offensive line spot. Hopefully even further in the future we can start to look at specific blocking schemes against particular fronts.
Up next we will be looking at the receivers, which includes wide outs, slots, and tight ends. Hope you are enjoying the courses and I’ll see you next time.
I more or less c/p'd this from the comments of MCal's most recent post. Read it if you haven't, because it's great. He's great.
Anyway, I was just idly thinking about how Troy Woolfolk's injury in an instant dashed our Motor City Bowl dreams, worrying that 3 wins would be more humiliating than 4. But unless my method sucks, it looks like most college football starters simply can't do that much* to affect their team's chances.
Let's say on average the worst team in college football wins 1 game. Call that replacement level. Every school in college football has at least the talent level this worst team does. That means an average team has 5 wins above replacement. Football Outsiders breaks wins down using a 40/40/20 rule. That is, 40% of wins are attributable to defense, 40 to offense, 20 to special teams. So an average defense will be worth 2 WAR (40% times 5 WAR). If each player is about as important as the other (probably true on defense), then an average defense will feature a unit of ~.2 WAR players (2/11, rounded). Average defensive players are worth just 1/5 of a win above the talent of the worst college football team.
To round out that scale, we should still try to get some idea of how good the best players are. The approximate range for defense yards per game allowed is about 200 ypg to 500, with 350 about average. The difference between best and worst is twice as much as the difference between average and worst. As long as we assume that yards convert linearly to wins, it looks like the best defense (4 wins better than the worst team) would have on average ~.4 WAR players. Even the very best defenders are going to max out in all likelihood around 1 win above the worst players.
So Woolfolk in himself won't mean the end of the season...unless we can't supply replacement level players. And given our depth, maybe that could be problematic? On the other hand, as MCal pointed out, are we really going to be worse than various other terrible outfits around the country? Northwestern and Indiana are always dealing with these kinds of problems. Achieving replacement level should not be a significant hurdle.
On the other hand, let's look at what we can expect from the defense this year given what we now know. The offense last year was about average. Special teams were above. Exactly how bad was the defense? Wholly average teams get 2 WAR from defense, 2 from offense and 1 from special teams. So let's say we got a full 2 WAR from offense and 1.25 ST wins. If we were a true talent 5 win team (i.e. Michigan won 5 games because they weren't unduly lucky either way), that means 1.75 wins from the defense. I think we can probably assume BG was worth .75 wins in himself. Martin, RVB, Roh, Brown, Woolfolk, Warren were varying degrees of not horrifying. Kovacs, Floyd, Ezeh and Mouton were all near replacement level. In fact, let's run with that. 1 win split among the actual contributors (Martin et al.) still means slightly below average talent in that group. If BG's dominance was not so great, they'd come out better of course. This isn't the most robust analysis ever, but I think most observers would paint BG's season as seriously that good.
And if there's one thing we're sure of, it's that losing one dynamic player isn't that big a deal. Depth can absolutely make up for a lack of stars at the top end if all you're trying to achieve is competence. I happen to think the offense will be well above average and ST will be fine. The question, I think, comes down to how dominant the DL can be and, after that, finding guys who can do a couple things who maybe have some flaws in their game. Moundrous may have trouble walling off a slot receiver on a vertical, but if he can stuff the run he'll have value over Ezeh last season. And then maybe Demens can do the pass drops/blitzes on passing downs. Piece by piece, use everybody. That's the way we'll have to do it. And just maybe we'll see a bowl game this year.
*Exceptions granted for quarterbacks and, in case Brandon Graham is reading, Brandon Graham.
Try to do this yourselves. When I do it, I can only find one configuration that works for me at all:
- "East" -- PSU, OSU, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern
- "West" -- Michigan, MSU, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska
I really think this is what the powers that be have in mind. Think about it -- if you separate OSU from Michigan then you pretty much have to keep Wisconsin in the division. Nebraska has to stay with Iowa, so it's done. The divisions are in fact geographically contiguous. All major rivalries are preserved within the divisions except one, or maybe two if you count MSU-PSU.
One problem with this is the reality that the winner of OSU-PSU will almost always play for the conference championship. How often will one of the others break that stranglehold? Twice a decade? Less? You're taking the two programs from the largest and richest football recruiting states in the Big Ten, both without in-state conference rivals, and isolating them in a division by themselves. Yeah, that will work!
What are they thinking?
I'm going to guess that they are thinking that this will create a competitive championship game every year. They are right -- the champions of the West are likely to be a very good team. But they will almost always have more losses than the East champion, due to more parity within their division.
While it's fun, the point of the game is not to knock OSU out of the national championship every once in a while. That is so 1969. The point is to beat them and not just go to the Rose Bowl, but go onto the national championship ourselves. These divisions work against that ultimate goal. Indeed, any Big Ten divisional alignment that separates Michigan and Ohio State has this same fatal flaw.
I guess Dave Brandon would argue that the primary goal of conference play is to win the Big Ten championship, no matter how the Wolverines get there. That's true. But to play for the BCS championship, most years Michigan will have to win three games against OSU/PSU. Strength of schedule might allow us one conference loss along the way if the SEC champion isn't in the same predicament. That's likely to be the new reality, folks. Get used to it.
I have been on the MGoSidelines for an extended while, too shellshocked by the current state of Michigan football to participate much or even complete my McBean Rating System. Yet, I return on the eve of the season because I think a point need be made. Assuredly, it’s been made before, but perhaps not with this emphasis.
I am somewhat hesitant to post this, and some will say I was not hesitant enough. I am going to the UConn game overflowing with optimism, but the optimism comes with a catch, which, because it is cathartic, will now pollute MGoBlog.
Absolutely nothing, in my opinion, now stands or can stand between the results we see on the field and a verdict on this coaching staff. We are at a moment of refreshing purity where a simple answer to a simple question now awaits the spiritually hungry:
- Can the current staff of football coaches actually recruit and coach?
In previous Rodriguez campaigns, muddy waters divided the Michigan faithful; one side, with justification, pointed at coordinator changes, mismatched personnel, attrition, distractions, and injuries, while the other side declared that, despite all these high-quality excuses, no serviceable coaching staff could ever lead a Michigan team to 3-13 against Big 10 teams over two years. (Can this actually be true? Pinch me. A 3-13 record against the Big 10? Hit me.)
The debate is thankfully over. Almost like the nauseating propaganda that precedes an election, this confusion now ends in Election Day: eleven votes are to be cast that will answer many questions, but one in particular:
- Can the current staff of football coaches actually recruit and coach?
Reading scrimmage notes prompted me to post this; in particular, I detected a faint odor of excuse wafting from comments about the secondary and the marginal tackling performance.
No more excuses, no matter how tempting. If our entire team transferrs tomorrow, no excuses. If we’ve had the bad fortune to overrate every linebacker on the planet since David Harris, no excuses.
Last year after the Indiana game, I posted on how other coaches are doing more with less. Allow me to quote myself:
The Iowa defense is younger than ours overall and features a less-experienced secondary that averages 5.3 for a Rivals Rating, or a middle range two-star. Brian says about Michigan, “There is exactly one junior and no seniors at both safety and cornerback.” Iowa has less experience. Yet my gut tells me – with absolute certainty – Darryl Clark will have a far better day against our secondary. Who wants to take me up on that bet?
In general, their players are more lowly rated at every position (possible exception of one LB), often significantly so, with players converted from the offensive side of the ball (a TE turned DL) and one playing out of position.
Occam’s Razor makes it difficult to accept that our stud HS talent was pretty much collectively overrated, and Iowa’s meh HS talent was pretty much vastly underrated. Ferentz would have given a kidney to have Cissoko or Warren or Graham or Brown or Mouton or Martin. He doesn’t have enough organs to bargain with the devil to get those types of players with mega-hype coming out of HS, yet he easily is fielding a better defense that probably would have consumed Indiana whole without any sauce.
As for the “new system” argument – that switching from Shafer to Robinson has resulted in our guys being at the start of a new learning curve – I accept some of that, but not all. Now, I will defer to Sharik or gsimms to tell me whether a new system can transform studs into non-studs, but it would seem to me that stopping Eastern in the first half or stopping Indiana at all would frequently be possible with raw stud talent playing by instinct.
I backed down last year. New DC I was told. New system, fool. Well, it’s not new anymore. No one in today’s game gets a decade to establish a system. If Appalachian State can manage Mannigham, Arrington, Matthews and Butler with walk-ons, we can manage better than last year with our secondary. If Michigan State can dominate most of a football game with putrid DBs, so can we. If Iowa can mold nasty defensive lineman out of corn oil, tight-ends and spare body parts, then our row of premium four-stars is ready to be twice as nasty…if the coaches are competent.
- Bad tackling will be on them.
- Bad coverage schemes will be on them.
- Safeties futilely chasing TD runs from behind will be on them.
- Turnovers will be on them.
- Weather will be on them.
- Injuries will be on them (speaking of which, whatever happened to the Barwis dividend? If being turned into supermen doesn't help you tackle and stay healthy, then he’s more overrated than Heaven’s Gate).
I look at the Michigan football team, and I don’t see players, I see red litmus paper hovering over a solution know as UConn, that, if basic Michigan coaching is present, will turn that paper Blue.
(FWIW, I feel the paper will turn Blue. I think we shall catch a glimpse of WVU-style offensive firepower against Oklahoma come September 4th en route to an 8-4 season.)
This weekly update will have a few brief notes about a couple prospects, and mainly be about some of the visitors I've confirmed for the U Conn game. This is an initial list that will most definitely grow as the first game gets closer, and as I talk to more people.
6'5", 225 lbs.
Deion quiet with his recruitment, but has always listed Michigan in his list of schools he has interest in. He recently told me that his list is now down to five:
Michigan, Pitt, Penn State, Georgia, and South Carolina are my top five for now. I might wait until signing day to decide, or I might announce at one of the All Star games I was nominated for.
The main all star game he's talking about being nominated for is the Army game, which is a nice honor. He also told me the Michigan coaches want him to wait until the end of the season to take his official visit so they can make sure he's their main focus. Interesting strategy which could mean a few things. Either they really want to give him enough attention, or they don't want him to try to commit with Anthony Zettel still on the board and two defensive ends already committed. I'm not sure which is the case.
6'5", 265 lbs.
Knox is an instate kid that has a couple MAC offers under his belt. Grades and qualifying test scores have been the issue with Knox, but he's working towards rectifying that.
I retook the ACT, I got a lower score but a better score on the math part. I have all core classes my first trimester, and if I ace those classes then I'll be qualified.
So there's that. He told me he really likes Rich Rodriguez, and if he gets qualified Michigan has a good shot. His top three is Michigan, Michigan State, and Illinois. His fate is in his hands.
I'll post these here for now. Since this is on the front page I'll create a diary later with more updates so you can follow along.
- Avery Walls - Safety out of Georgia has been to Michigan twice, and rumors are that Michigan leads.
- Daren Kitchen - Defensive back from Louisiana told me he 100% will be there for the U Conn game, and also said his written offer from Michigan is in the mail. I've heard that before, and don't really have any way of verifying, so we'll see. We will all find out together soon, I promise you that.
- Demetrius Hart – Obviously. He's bringing some friends:
- Nick Patti - 2012 QB, teammate of Demetrius Hart will be up with his Dad, and potentially with his trainer Tom Shaw. Shaw trains a ton of football players in Florida, including Florida State commit Karlos Williams. Nick told me that Shaw will play a big role in his decision, and he considers Tom to be an uncle. Getting him on campus could be a good thing for a few reasons.
- Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix(?) - He's not 100% coming yet. They're still figuring that out. Patti and Hart don't think Clinton-Dix would consider decommitting from Alabama, but a visit can't hurt.
- Jake Fisher - Michigan commit will be there.
- Delonte Hollowell - Michigan commit.
- Chris Bryant - The Illinois offensive lineman is a maybe, depending on his game schedule. He'd like to be there, but his team has a game in East St. Louis, so he doesn't think he'll be able to make it. I'm in contact with Chris quite a bit, and he has said he'll most likely wait a few games into the season to make his decision, but may get it over with before the season. If that happens Michigan is in good position. As per usual, they just need to win.
- Hunter and Cam Stanley - 2012 offensive linemen from Toledo, Ohio. They're twins! The 6-foot-4, 260-pound linemen are both very high on Michigan. They camped at Michigan's four-day camp, and jointly took home the offensive line MVP award (they do everything together!). Hunter actually ran his best 40 time at Michigan's camp with a 4.75. Michigan is in their top three along with Notre Dame and Northwestern. They both want to make their decision relatively early, and as you can tell by their list they think they fit best in a spread offense.
- Chris and Demitrious Davis – More twins! Seriously: both 2012 prospects, Chris (5'9", 185 lbs.) is a WR/DB and his brother Demitrious (5'10", 183 lbs.) is a QB/DB. I had a great conversation with Chris, and he wanted me to make sure I told the Michigan fans this next part. "My Dad loves Michigan. Our family hates Ohio State." Chris said his dad was standing next to him grinning ear to ear because he's such a Michigan fan. He also said his dad has always told him and his brother that they should go to Michigan. The twins(!) have an early top five of Michigan, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Tennessee, and Miami. Michigan has a good chance here. Chris says his brother is quicker, but he's faster. You can watch for yourself if you'd like. Their film is actually pretty impressive sophomore film. Chris Davis and Demitrious Davis.
- .....AND TWINS!! (I had to)
- Kaleb Ringer - 2012 linebacker from Clayton, Ohio. His uncle is Javon Ringer, former MSU star running back. He told me his family affiliations won't play into anything, and he's actually a Michigan fan (FWIW). He currently holds verbal offers from Cincinnati and Iowa, which is a good sign of his talent level. He and his teammate Jeremy Campbell (DL) will be there. Campbell is listed at 5'11-6'0, weighing in at around 250-pounds. Ringer says that Campbell can squat 750 pounds, which seems like a lot to me. [Ed: me too.]
- Royce Jenkins-Stone - 2012 Cass Tech linebacker will be there. He loves Michigan.
- Chase Deback - 2012 instate offensive lineman from Charlotte, Michigan. Says he's a fan of Michigan State, but will put his fandom to the side for his recruitment. He wants to go wherever he feels is the best place for him. Being a fan of MSU growing up won't play into it. It's often hard for 16-17 year olds to distinguish the difference, though.
- Nathan Ricketts - 2012 instate linebacker. Shameless plug here. Ricketts is a 6-foot-2 linebacker with some good speed from Holland, Michigan.
Even though I am like Data and deal strictly in numbers and facts, my cavorting with you Michigan folks has left me in Blogpoll purgatory. My requests for a ballot were summarily dismissed so I am taking my efforts to the people. Even though this is a Michigan site, my Mathpoll will be done strictly on a non-human intervention process.
My first ranking will be based on team strength with no relevance to schedule. It will be done using my Points Above Normal (PAN) metric. It’s really Points Above Average but PAN was nicer acronym. The ranking determined using 2/3 historical average, in this case 2003-2008 and 1/3 last season.
There are no adjustments made for returning starters, coaching changes or anything else. I have not done a thorough examination of how this does historically, but doing some quick work indicates that it is appropriate to weight the historical average more than a single previous season. This method is essentially regressing to the mean with the mean being unique for each team.
Teams that have made big strides forward in the last year or two (Alabama, Stanford, Cincy) will seem low because of their variance and historically strong teams that have struggled in the last year or two (Michigan) are bolstered by a strong track record.
After week 1 the poll will be purely in season results based with the exception that for the first four weeks the opponent adjustment will be made based prior year opponent ratings.
|6||Ohio St||Big Ten||16.0||16||16|
|12||Penn St||Big Ten||12.4||14||11|
|13||Texas Tech||Big XII||12.2||13||12|
|15||W Virginia||Big East||10.4||8||11|
|24||Oklahoma St||Big XII||8.0||6||9|
|45||Michigan St||Big Ten||1.7||3||1|
Based on their strong history, Michigan comes in at #29 with a 6.6 rating (9.5 historically, 0.9 last year).