things go poorly
I am getting tired of fans/reporters/so-called experts saying that RR should revert back to a pro-style offense or lessen the amount of spread offense they run because the players they have are more familiar with that type of offense. How in the hell do you expect him and McGee to teach an offense they know nothing about. RR has run this offense for years and has had success with it. You can't just make up a pro-style offense when you have never ran one before. Not to mention the players have been running a spread since last spring and would take a huge step back if presented witha pro-style gameplan.
Play calling is not the problem. They are getting guys open, examples = koger seam route in the 1Q / Moundros PA Wheel route, both routes were set up perfectly with previous plays but both passes were overthrown. It is all about exectution and players performing.
Coaches are required to put their players in postions to suceed but it's the players responsibilty to perform. That has been the major issue this year. Making plays when the team needs them. The Team made plays in the Wisconsin game when given the chance and they won.
I know it is not a big revelation but it just comes down to players playing better.
I am sick and tired of hearing about how Rich Rod has done us some great dis-service by installing the spread offense this year. Anyone in the media will simply say Michigan is bad this year "because of the system." This team was going to be terrible regardless of what offense we ran. Would running a pro-style I-Formation make the O-Line block any better? Its ridiculous to blame basic flaws in execution on an offensive system. People have also been complaining about how Rich Rod has been calling too many running plays and refuses to play to the our strengths. What QB have they been watching all year? How can you have Threet throw more when he can't even throw a simple screen. How does the offensive system matter when you a redshirt freshman QB who clearly needs to work on his mechanics. McGuffie and Odoms have shown they will be stables of this offense for years to come. We need Shaw and Stonum to see the field more so they can improve, and the O-line needs to establish some consistent play.
As for the defense I think Shafer is not playing to the strengths of the defense. Basically the only strong part of our defense is the D-line. Our LBs are all terrible at reacting to plays. They can be exploited in outsides runs and pass protection. These players need to be given one assignment when possible, and players should not be passing off coverage. Its become clear that reaction and communication on the field are simply not there. Morgan Trent has not shown the confidence I expected of a 5th-year senior, and is bad in run support. Warren has shown flashes, but is still a sophmore. Brown has been bad early, but he have Harrison have shown to be more competent. We really need out LBs to improve, because there is no depth there. Its unbelieveable that our best LB was a low 3-star running back recruit from a small catholic school with no other big time offers except michigan state. Whoever was in charge of recruiting LBs the past few years really dropped the ball.
As I got more and more psyched about the reality that the Rich Rodriguez Era really is upon us and that the Wolverines will actually be rolling out on Saturday I wanted to find some X’s and O’s stuff on the spread as a way to brush up and get ready for what we will be seeing on Saturday. I came across a couple of very good articles in the archives of ESPN written by Bob Davie
breaking down various aspects of the spread, bubble screens and a piece that tried to explain the things that made Rodriguez’s version of the spread better than everyone else’s.
What got me pumped about what Davie had to say was not so much about Coach Rodriguez’s unique X’s and O’s packages, but the way in which he ran his program at West Virginia. Here’s what he had to say:
"Just about every offense in the country has incorporated some element of the spread in its package. As a result, defenses are now more comfortable defending the scheme. However, Rich Rodriguez has done a great job of staying one step ahead of the defenses.
What's different about West Virginia?
In watching WVU over the past several years, several things set it apart. Everyone wants to know about the X's and O's first, but some other important factors stand out.
The Mountaineers are physical, intense and play hard. WVU operates a lot of new-school concepts in the spread, but the team plays with old-school principles. Everyone coaches playing hard and with great effort, but WVU constantly demands it. Rodriguez talks about playing with a hard edge -- and the Mountaineers practice that way. The two worst words you can be labeled with in their program are soft and lazy. [empasis mine]
2. Team building
West Virginia does a great job with team building. The Mountaineers' staff does some different things to develop unity. WVU's team building ideas include some simple rules:
• No cell phones in the football building
The staff wants players talking to each other, not girlfriends or friends, during football time.
• Name game
Every player must know the name of every person involved with the program, including cooks, janitors, managers, trainers, secretaries, etc. That sounds simple, but when you have over 200 people involved in a program, it is not. Rodriguez hands out pictures to help the players identify the staff, and then tests the players.
In the offseason, Rodriguez divides his team into eight different groups consisting of players from a variety of positions. Then he sets up a point system under which the groups are rewarded or punished based on individuals' academics, offseason program and off-field issues. This makes players accountable to each other in the offseason.
3. Tweak scheme to fit personnel
With 15 years in the system, the foundation is not going to change, but Rodriguez does a great job of tweaking the system based on individual personnel. Every fall, he will do one or two significant things to highlight that team's talent. For example, with Pat White returning to direct the offense, quarterback runs and the option are major parts of the scheme heading into the 2006 season."
I love hearing that about “soft and lazy.” And from everything that we have been hearing out of camp, he has carried the practice hard doctrine to Michigan as well. And if he does some of these other things, I would be even more impressed. I especially like the “learn everyone’s name” mandate. It is definitely a way to instill character. And I am really encouraged that Davie feels that Rodriguez is able to tweek the spread and what he is doing to keep himself one step ahead of everyone.
So it seems the QB & OL will be the biggest weakness of the team this year. In addition, it seems that Usain Bolt is fast (topical!) and Charlie Weis is a super genius. Ok, I’ll stop there. Anyway, lack of depth, talent, experience and fit to the system are all contributing to the low expectations of these position groups this year. Now, I’d love to talk about the OL. It’s the biggest part of the offense and thus probably more crucial to the success of the team than even the QB. However, I’m going to ignore the OL basically for 2 reasons: 1) I don’t enjoy feeling like this little guy, and 2) I don’t think there’s anything that can be done to mitigate the situation. But what about the QB issue? When you have minimal talent and experience at the QB position, can one reduce the impact of the QB on an offense?
I want to find out and hopefully there will be some insightful comments* that can add to the discussion. I don’t have a ton of time to research the topic, so my research outline consisted of:
IF (Google == helpful) THEN
“The Bucs like to minimize the position to the point that their quarterback has no more impact than a receiver does for most teams. On most plays, he's a bystander.”
This may be overstating the situation a bit, but I can not image RR saying to the staff at a meeting, “Goll-ly fellers, I know we have some perrrty speedy RBs and some dang good WRs, but we autta have Nick Sheridan be the playmaker fur dis here team.” It’s logical to assume that the staff would want to mitigate what seems to be the weakest part of the team, isn’t it? So what did the ’99 Bucs do?
Short passes to the RBs:
“A dozen of his passes were thrown at running backs.”
Run a heck of a lot more than they pass:
“On first down, the Bucs have rum 61 percent of the lime [sic].”
Not a lot of down field passing:
“A whopping 66 percent of their pass attempts this season have been for 10 yards or fewer, and only 12 percent have been for more than 20 yards.”
This seems to reinforce the idea that the offense will not be what we have become accustomed to under LC. Decisions will be easy ones for the QB. Passes will be short and designed to allow the RBs and WRs to make plays. First and second downs will be run heavy to make sure the QB isn’t pit into 3rd & ten situations.
Now, some of this may sound similar to what Michigan did with young QBs and that’s because it is. But recall, the offense and young QBs LC had are not the same RR has. I don’t expect short crossing patters that take 8 seconds to develop, nor do I expect 5 yard out patters that require a howitzer to complete. More bubble screens that are easy for the QB to read. Of course, the spread-option is an easy read. The bottom line? Expect a ton of carries for the RBs and the fewest passing attempts by a Michigan QB since Elvis Grbac gave us The Catch.
*insightful comments are defined as the opposite of this: "The O-line is no reason to freak out. They will gel."
A lot of Michigan fans were born to wear maize and blue. They came home from the hospital in block M socks and winged knitted stocking caps. They spent Saturdays at grandpa's house, learning how to pump their little arms into the air and sing along after a Michigan touchdown, learning how to belt out creative obsceneties after a Michigan turnover. Some of us weren't that lucky. We had to settle for becoming Michigan fans later in life, say for example, when we were looking at educational opportunities and realized a giant towers above all others when it comes to combining education and football, and her name is Michigan.
Those born into it have experienced things I have not. Indeed, they are the fortunate ones when it comes to the Wolverine rushing attack. They have seen it all when it comes to Michigan running back styles - Power, elusiveness and extraordinary speed. Those who happen to be my age have seen running backs I have not - Lytle, Morris, Boles, Wheatley, Biakabatuka, among others. They've seen real wiggle and real speed, often in the same package. I have not.
Perhaps until now. Don't get me wrong, I have been fortunate enough to witness some incredible Michigan RB's. Chris Howard, Anthony Thomas, Chris Perry and Mike Hart have each wowed me at some point or another. All ran with great determination and power, punishing defenders and eeking out the tough yards. Perry obviously possessed much better than average elusiveness and first step explosiveness. As for Hart, about the only thing I can say other that "wow" is, can you imagine if he had take-it-to-the-house, morgan-trent-you speed?
Which leads me to my point. It seems that, based upon on the Fall practice reports, we johnny-come-latelys may finally get an opportunity to see what it looks like when a winged-helmet half back gets a step on the corner and runs away from everyone. And given the big play potential of the spread coupled with the sheer numbers of guys who seem capable of going the distance on the roster, we may get to see it repeatedly, and from different ball carriers.
I know we are all terrified at some level given the youth of this team, the entirely new scheme, and the uncertainty at QB. But at the same time, whether we admit it or not, I'm guessing we are equally excited at the possibility that is this stable of running backs. Granted, if there's one thing I've learned over the past decade, it's that practice reports and $5 will get you a grande latte at the local Starbucks. They don't necessarily translate to anything come game day. But one thing seems to be certain. We have 3 or 4 guys playing RB that, if given a step into space, are capable of changing a game in seconds.
In the end, it's that fact that helps me sleep at night.