at least it's not just us?
Hemingway slot business.
As I understand it, you use smaller, quicker WR's in the slot because they are matched up against lumbering LB's who can't keep up. You then use bigger, stronger WR's on the outside against the smaller CB's. It seems like we use Hemmingway in the slot quite often with Gallon or Odoms on the outside. Am I missing something here? I just don't understand why Hemmingway is in the slot so much. It's not like he is Floyd or Calvin Johnson, and they are trying to move him all over the field to keep defenses question because they are so freaked out about Hemmingway.
If you're not going to screen with those slots or use them as runners, there's not a whole lot of point to making those slot dudes little buggers. Putting your top WR there does get you some advantages.
One: it's hard to jam the guy since he's starting off the line of scrimmage and many defenses don't feature a guy directly over the slot. Two: you're essentially preventing the opponent's top corner from covering the guy man to man. If that's not the case you're forcing a nickel package on the field and forcing that corner away from his regular spot. This can have negative impacts on run fills from both members of the secondary. Three: hypothetically your big guy is a relatively good blocker and having him in the slot can help you attack the edge. This works better when we're talking about Floyd or BJ Cunningham.
Just because Hemingway isn't Floyd or Megatron doesn't mean he's not the closest thing Michigan has available, and since the Michigan offense involves zero quick throws to the slot, putting him there doesn't cost you anything.
A timely response on next year's OL.
Despite the awesome win at Illinois this week I still felt like Omameh had a rough day as I saw him get beat on a few occasions. Here's a question for you - based on the outlook for 2012, do you think the coaches might consider moving him to RT and keeping Schofield and Barnum as the two guards? Maybe Omameh just isn't cut out for mauling large DT or pulling, which is what the guard needs to do in this offense.
I think that's a possibility, but one that will depend on how quickly Chris Bryant progresses and how ready to play Kyle Kalis is more than Schofield.
I bet a dollar Schofield is the starting right tackle next year. He was neck and neck with Huyge for the starting job there before Barnum went down; Omameh has not played tackle in two or three years; there are no other tackles on the dang roster. If Schofield isn't the second-best pass protector on the team next year I'll be shocked. So he goes outside.
That means Omameh moving to tackle makes him a backup. Is that a realistic possibility for a would-be three year starter competing with freshmen, one of them a true freshman? Normally the answer there would be "no way" but watching him get chucked to the ground by Illinois (and everybody else) and seeing Omameh's inexperience pulling makes you wonder. He's been hurt more than anyone else on the offense by the coaching change and it's not a huge stretch to see a 340-pound mauler displace him, no matter the experience difference.
That might not be a bad thing. Omameh as the #6 lineman means there is a #6 lineman. Right now that looks far from guaranteed.
MGoBlog ruins relationships.
I've been dating an LSU alum for almost 3 months. In the week leading up to their big game I made the mistake of explaining (unsolicited) the ethical shortcomings of oversigning and the significant competitive advantage that it promotes. She follows CFB sparingly and didn't have much to say about the topic, but at her friends' game party on Saturday night she made sure to have the LSU contingent confront me. The return arguments went something like "you're jealous", "it's a numbers game", and "my friend's cousin plays for the team, he's not very good and he hasn't been cut", etc.
I'm no longer concerned with proving my point but rather with the chasm that oversigning has created in our relationship. Needless to say, she didn't agree with me and said that she just wanted me to be an LSU fan with her. Naturally, I want her to follow Michigan, too. I'm conflicted because I can't reconcile supporting Les Miles or the SEC with my own values. What's a man to do?
If your girlfriend is following LSU only sparingly she will not be able to tell the difference between your mild affection for the Hat's grass-eating insanity and a genuine desire for LSU to win. That will get you through games against the SEC West's collection of robot mercenary Bible salesmen. LSU is the lesser evil in their division if only because Miles is Loki incarnate.
Past that I can't help you. LSU had an assistant coach fired for arranging illicit benefits for a recruit. LSU's oversigning practices are just short of Alabama's for overall odiousness. LSU is mixed up in the Lyles scouting thing. If they were exposed to the same level of scrutiny OSU just went through, Baton Rouge would be a smoking, deliciously-scented crater. They're fun, I guess. I hate fun.
It kind of sounds like this girl is not a winner, anyway. Having her friends dogpile on you to offer sports talk radio opinions about oversigning is not a good sign. "Hey, I know what my boyfriend will like: being berated by a room full of people." Find a nice Texas alum so you can accuse the Longhorns of destroying college football, preferably at a Mack Brown house party.
[ED-S: Pro-tip: don't take relationship advice from Brian unless your relationship is based on an incomparable understanding of college football]
Coaching: it matters.
this year; last year
There's been a long line of assertions about college football being highly dependent on unusually gifted/determined athletes (It's not about X's and O's; it's about Jimmies and Joes comes to mind), and that coaching is more an area where the game can be lost and talent squandered (Ron Zook) or the marginal advantages in the same team strategy add up to wins over equally talented teams (Jim Tressel).
While it seems that some players excel regardless of coaching (Brandon Graham, Jordan Kovacs), the turnaround of Michigan's defense seems to be as good a test case as any for how coaching affects performance. They improved dramatically, but they did it opposite an offense that was similarly potent and returned almost everyone from a year ago, played similar caliber teams if not the same teams, and employed youth effectively in the secondary in stark contrast to previous years.
In light of this, all things being equal, how big a difference do you think having great versus "just good" coaching makes in college football (Like if Michigan had hired anyone who had the misfortune of not being born a Raven's defensive coordinator), setting aside that it only needs to be one point better in each game for the win?
The only thing Greg Mattison and Greg Robinson have in common other than first names—I'm pretty sure they're not even the same species—is their ability to mutter "scheme is overrated" when asked a question they don't really feel like answering. But if this year's Michigan defense has taught anyone anything it's that yes, scheme matters a lot. So does technique coaching.
Michigan did not go from 108th in the country to top 20 by replacing their players. They did it by playing a defense that made sense, delivering remarkably effective zone blitzes, and making certain total scrubs a lot better at football.
Scheme matters. So does everything else. Acquiring your pieces is a third of the game. Developing them into football players is a third. And deploying them effectively is a third.
GRADES AT THESE THINGS FOR VARIOUS THINGS
- Acquire: C-
- Develop: F
- Deploy: F
2011 Michigan defense
- Acquire: C+
- Develop: A
- Deploy: A-
- Acquire: B+
- Develop: B+
- Deploy: A
- Acquire: A-
- Develop: A-
- Deploy: C
Jim Tressel regime
- Acquire: A*
- Develop: A-
- Deploy: A-
Brady Hoke so far (tenuous)
- Acquire: A
- Develop: A-
- Deploy: B+ (provisional)
Fight over the niggling half-grades if you must. To answer the guy's question, the difference between great and "just good" schematic coaching in college football is not a massive difference in win percentage—it's not going to win you three games a year—but when you're at the level Michigan expects to be, edging out an extra half-win per year has a massive impact on the overall prestige of your program. The difference between 6-6 and 7-5 is nothing. The difference between 10-2 and 11-1 is immense, as Wisconsin and their omission from national title discussion have found out.
*[Illicit or no.]
Spread: we wants it forever.
A question that I would love to hear Borges asked is, given the fact that he has run a lot of spread this year, for really the first time in his career because of Denard, has it influenced his offensive philosophy? How he will approach game planning in future?
He always talks about how he's changed over the years and added things to his concepts, and I would love to hear him talk about that. I have a hope that we actually do not move completely away from the spread once Denard is gone--I would love it if we retained some of that concept and retained the ability to run the ball from the QB position. I think it really complicates defensive planning to have a dual threat guy back there (no offense Shane Morris). Is it possible to have Heiko ask a question of that sort?
No one can be certain, but since your question conjured forth an image of Heiko trudging to a press conference with "Taps" playing in the background… eh… I'm guessing not so much. When these guys came in they told everyone in no uncertain terms that Michigan football was running power down your throat, and they kept trying to do that from time to time no matter how spectacularly ineffective it had proven.
Is the Denard Robinson experience going to change that? Probably not. Borges has been an offensive coordinator for decades. Two years of Denard are just a couple additional logs on an already raging fire of this metaphor makes no sense. When he's gone Borges will have Gardner, Bellomy, Shane Morris, and a clobberating OL of Lewan, Barnum, Miller, Kalis, and Schofield with Chris Bryant and others waiting in the wings. He might (should?) have Bri'onte Dunn. Even if he's learned some cool stuff over the past couple years there's not much he'll be able to carry over with the personnel he'll have. While Gardner's pretty fast he's nowhere near the runner Denard is. (Rodriguez's disastrous OL recruiting helps smooth this transition: all the underclass Omamehs are air.)
Maybe we'll see a zone read or two, an inverted veer here and there, but even now it's obvious what Borges wants to do despite not being able to do it even a little.
I do find this a little depressing, but only a little. If Michigan puts together a pro-style offense with personnel like they had through most of the aughts and actually lets it rip that promises to be fun, especially with Ohio State transitioning to an offense that wants different things than Michigan will. I'd still like them to take runs at QBs like Braxton Miller and Devin Gardner, but I think they will—they took Bellomy, who is a mobile guy with the ability to develop into a thrower.
It's clear now that Hoke's offensive staff won't stick with the schematic advantages Rodriguez established. However, Hoke has already shown he can recruit well. In regard to the offense only, how soon (if ever) will Hoke's recruiting success offset the scheme regression?
I can't tell if "schematic advantages" is a sly Weisian dig or not. Well done. Disclaimer: I don't necessarily think Borges represents a scheme regression in a general case. Just this case, and it's hard to blame Borges when his lizard brain is an entirely different lizard brain than Rodriguez's, etc.
Anyway, it's kind of depressing how long it might take. I don't think there's anyone on the roster who will excel in the framework Hoke and Borges prefer next year, and then in 2013 you've got a choice between a redshirt junior Gardner and a freshman Morris. That's either Gardner getting a lot better—obviously possible, necessary, not guaranteed—or yet another underclass starter. The most frustrating part of the double transition is not effectively using the first returning starter at the position since 2006 (2007 Henne was a shell of himself due to injury until the bowl).
And then you've got the ancillaries. In 2013 Michigan will have one upperclass tight end (Miller), zero upperclass interior linemen (there will be a couple redshirt sophomores), and two upperclass WRs (Jeremy Jackson and Jerald Robinson).
Thanks to Rodriguez's disastrous 2010 OL class, transition issues, and a weird decision or two in the first weeks of the Hoke regime it's looking like 2014 is going to be the first year you can reasonably say Michigan has all the pieces they want in place.
I have heard many people say that Borges is making bad decisions calling running plays when the defense is stacking the box with eight, sometimes nine, players. Borges does not have the luxury of knowing what alignment the defense will run. Most offenses, at least when I played, rely on the quarterback to check out of a play when these types of issues are presented. Nine men in the box, check to a pass play, five or six in the box, check to a run.
I think this is something that is really hurting the offense because, for whatever reason, Denard simply is not very good at making correct reads prior to the snap. This is where Rich Rod’s style, everyone look at the sideline after lining up, really benefitted Denard. What solutions, if any, do you think there are to help remedy a problem like this?
This is something I've been thinking about since I watched the Calvin Magee videos I mentioned a few weeks back. Magee talks about some philosophical differences he has with Rodriguez, most prominently that he "wants to let the kid grow" by allowing him to make pre-snap calls whereas Rodriguez strongly prefers having the kid read it out post-snap.
Is there really a gap between pro-style and spread 'n' shred offenses when it comes to pre/post-snap reads? Yes and no. Both offenses have them, but they're on different people. In the spread 'n' shred it seems like the vast bulk of the post-snap reads are on the QB. The WRs run the routes, the line blocks, and the QB decides where the ball is going. In pro-style stuff a chunk of the responsibility ends up on the shoulders of the receivers. See: killer MSU pick six. In the spread 'n' shred the bulk of the pre-snap reads are on the coaches. That is not the case in a pro-style offense.
As far as the assertion that Denard's inability to make the pre-snap reads is hurting Michigan in a way it wasn't last season, I think there's something to that. The RR style often gives that responsibility to the guys who have been running the offense for a decade. Pro-style never does that. That's another thing that Denard is being asked to do this year that he didn't do before—never had to do, really—and I'm guessing that's a chunk of the issues.
Remember that actual zone reads from Denard were rare last year. Everyone thought that was rawness, but there's a possibility he's just not good at it and won't ever be. Sad fugee face.
With the caveat that I would also love to see a few more QB isos or Gallon bubble screens per game to replace hopeless bombs, we’ve seen Denard struggle against good/good-ish defenses since last mid-season when they stack the ol’ box—regardless of who was calling the plays. 2010 and ’11 MSU, 2010 and ’11 Iowa, 2010 OSU and Miss. State. (The one notable exception is 2010 Wisconsin, which notably featured three 24-yard-plus proverbial field-stretchers from Stonum getting several steps on a corner, which our WRs this year don’t do). I’ll take for argument’s sake that RR would probably have been better equipped to counterpunch from the spread as a playcaller than Borges is. But what specifically are the kind of plays he would have called? The most notable counter play in his arsenal was the QB Oh No, which is still in the playbook. What other kind of things would work? I really am curious. Our short hitches and bubble screens weren’t cutting it in at least four games last year either.
I’m willing to concede that RR could have been a better playcaller for this year’s offense, but it’s not as if Borges is making Denard sit in the pocket and throw 50 times every game with zero designed runs. He’s using him to run some but trying to develop the RBs and find effective pass-offense changeups. That’s what RR would have been tasked with too. Sometimes it works—sometimes Hemingway can go over a drawn-up safety and post up. But we don’t have a deep threat good enough to consistently make up for Denard’s weaknesses yet. What else can we try?
I think Borges still deserves the benefit of the doubt—I believe that he IS still trying to find what works, and he only has a certain amount of plays per game to do that and sometimes it’ll work and sometimes it won’t and you lose to Iowa. I think where this debate goes next is someone saying concretely okay, here’s what RR might have done. Maybe Wisconsin offers clues. Maybe that Magee video you’ve been working through offers clues. What’s out there that we could try?
The debate about whether last year's offense was actually good is infinite and neverending and we will be talking about it in 2050 when the only thing the same about college football is Joe Pa—er.
I cannot convince anyone of anything in this matter, but I can try to explain my perspective.
There is a difference between this year's struggles and last year's. The listing of defenses above seems arbitrarily chosen to highlight the spread 'n' shred's worst performances. Michigan put up 31 against PSU, 28 against Wisconsin, and a billion against Illinois*, all of which were at least decent defenses.
In many of the crap games listed, Michigan put up yards only to be thwarted by horrible field goal kicking and turnovers. Michigan managed to give the ball away 29(!) times last year. Michigan lost 14 fumbles last year. This year they're on pace to lose 4 (and a third). To me that's just randomness. It's not like there was anything about last year's offense particularly likely to shoot itself in the face with fumbles. The interceptions were not random but since they've literally doubled this year that is not an argument in favor of the new thing.
This is not last year's offense. It is last years offense with nine returning starters and an upgrade at tailback. The line depth may be an issue but the one new guy on the line, whether it is Barnum or Schofield, has not seemed like a major dropoff from Schilling.
This is not last year's defense and special teams. FEI tracks a stat called "Field Position Advantage" that measures relative starting field position. Michigan was 89th last year. They're 68th this year. I can't find starting field position for drives, unfortunately, but I am guessing Michigan has had a good deal more short fields since they've already picked up one turnover more than they did all of last year. And the field goal kicking exists.
So, yeah, I am disappointed. The adjustments I would like:
taking the free yards teams give them by alignment on the bubble
running the blocking the line is best at (outside zone) more consistently
running Denard 20 times a game in important games, not Eastern Michigan
doing the above in such a way that it puts safeties in a bind so that guys get wide open
not turning the QB's back to the LOS on rollouts everyone has covered
avoiding under-center running, short yardage excepted
Rodriguez would have run a bunch of the stuff the line is designed to do, not power, forced teams to move a safety in the box by using Robinson as a threat and constraining via the bubble, and then made that other safety's life hard by using the Denard play action that is nigh unstoppable if executed. The heart of the offense would be Denard's legs instead of… well, I don't know what the heart of this offense is. Throwback screens?
- This does not constitute an endorsement of Rich Rodriguez. Hoke uber alles.
*[Debating the merits of the Wisconsin points is a popular sub-pastime in this domain. The last touchdown was garbage time; the first three were not. Michigan only got eight drives before garbage time because of the nature of the game—in one of average length it is reasonable to expect they score another TD. Plus they missed a FG. Also some of the billion Illinois points came with Forcier on the field, but by the time he left Denard had 300 yards passing and 62 rushing, so… yeah.]
On Pharaoh Brown.
Was wondering what you thought about [Pharaoh Brown's] position flip. I can't help but be disappointed. Everything I have read about him says he is a terrific athlete. Isn't DE or WR more important than TE if you have a great athlete?
I wouldn't regard Brown's position as set until he's seeing the field somewhere. With guys like him you don't really know where he's going to end up permanently before college coaches get ahold of him. They'll put him wherever he'll work out best.
In any case, I think you're unfairly downplaying the importance of TE. Tight ends are more involved down-to-down since they are key components of the run game; wide receivers are only relevant when everyone else does their job well and the play breaks into the secondary. After going up against Rudolph and Eifert the past few years I'd love to have a 6'6" guy with sticky hands who can play security blanket for QB du jour.
I get the vibe that tight end is going to be a big deal with Borges. If we're headed to a collection-of-plays Boise-style offense, having a diverse set of tight ends is a key component. Having a 6'6" guy who can run some is a major help in your effort to whiplash the defense from huge power running sets to spread passing attacks. What do you do when the opposition has a guy who can block a defensive end but can't be covered by a linebacker? Brown may be that guy.
Combine the above with the depth charts at the two positions and I get it. WDE next year is Roh, Black, Clark, and Ojemudia with the potential addition of Beyer if he beefs up a bit. Tight end is Moore, Miller, Funchess, and maybe AJ Williams but it increasingly sounds like he's a tackle.
With Barnum getting healthy and Schofield playing well any chance we see one of two scenarios: Barnum takes over left guard, Schofield moves to right tackle and slide Huyge down to left guard or Barnum takes over right guard for Omehmeh? I'm partial to the former simply because of two 6' 7" 300 pounders on the edges, yes please.
It might be too late to make that change. While Huyge has some experience at guard, that came under Rich Rodriguez, when pulling was not a major part of the offense. Putting him at G seems like an invitation to have the same issues Omameh is having with a different player.
I could see the straight Schofield-for-Huyge swap if the coaches believe Schofield is a much better pass protector. We have no evidence that's the case since he's only played guard, but if I had to bet I'd guess he is. It's tough to take a senior who's only had one bad game out, though.
Do you think Borges is leaving our base offense (and by that I mean Denard at QB, lots of RB runs interspersed with a few Denard runs and passes) too early? Against Michigan State and Purdue, our first drives worked to perfection and our run game seemed effective.
Immediately thereafter, we started running a lot of crazy reverses, reverse fakes, and Devin-centric chicanery instead of sticking with what worked. Why? it drives me crazy every week. Also, we seem to love to fake the run before we've even established our running threat. For obvious reasons, this hasn't been effective.
For coaches that talked a lot about man ball and the desire to establish a RB, we seem pretty eager to abandon Toussaint and the run game.
I addressed this topic in a picture pages yesterday and got a couple inquiries about whether or not I thought Michigan's seeming lack of a base offense was a good or bad thing.
I'm not able to answer that yet. It's a thing. Whether it's good or bad is something we won't be able to tell for a while. I am sure I like it better than DeBord's zone offense, which was predictable and seemed to save every interesting tweak for the Citrus Bowl. I'm not sure if I like it better than the style of offense Michigan was using last year when the omnipresent threat of Denard's running often led to free touchdowns, or at least long drives before Michigan would turn the ball over. (YAY LAST YEAR.)
But you need opinions, no matter how flimsily justified. So: if I never hear "they did what we expected them to do" again it will be too soon. The only time someone's tried that this year was when Dantonio said something about how Michigan will run tunnel screens when Gallon is in the game as if he's a Calvin-Bell-style designated reverse guy. That is incorrect, so, like, thumbs up. Tentatively.
Why was Borges so terse on the bubble screen question – (btw did you ask it?). I wonder if it was because he expects the QBs to check into that play and it hasn’t been happening – perhaps he was protecting the players a bit?..
The process by which questions about football—as opposed to feelingsball—are asked at press conferences is like so: Heiko goes to the pressers and sometimes asks questions that I've asked him to ask. Sometimes he just reads a bunch of blogs and asks questions the blogosphere has implied he should ask. The option responsibility Q posed to Mattison after NW was the former. The bubble screen Q was the latter. This is what happened:
Is the bubble screen ever going to be a part of your offense? “I’m not saying one thing about any bubble screens.”
Heiko is in intensive care recovering*. In lieu of flowers you can donate to the EFF.
So… why did the normally accessible Borges fire that off when asked about the lack of a bubble screen? I'm guessing he thinks the bubble screen is stupid. I'd like to find out why he thinks it's stupid since everyone from Dantonio to Rodriguez to Lloyd Carr made it a part of the offense to punish teams that tried to cheat inside or deep. His perspective on the thing would be interesting.
I doubt that it has anything to do with the players not making that check. For one, the alignments that seem to open up the bubble are usually trips formations featuring the #2 WR on the line of scrimmage. The latest BWS bubble complaint:
That makes for an awkward backwards orbit by the potential bubble guy and puts the main blocker in a less advantageous position than he would be if he was on the LOS. It seems clear that the bubble is just not installed.
As to why Borges isn't saying word one about the bubble, there seem to be two possibilities:
- He is vaguely aware of the fan zeitgeist about this and is sick of these laymen bothering him about a stupid play.
- He is going to bust it out as part of Michigan's ever-evolving baseless offense.
Meanwhile, between morphine doses I'm trying to get Heiko to ask questions that are less confrontational.
UPDATE: AA.com has a slightly longer version of the quote.
"I'm not saying one thing about any bubble screens," Borges said. "Everyone wants to ask about that play."
Door number one, then.
*[This is actually the second time Heiko's gotten acid in his face asking about something strategic. He asked Hoke whether he'd ever considered a spread punt and got this answer: "no." End of answer. It's not a surprise that coaches don't take kindly to random people implying heir decisions are not optimal, but it's kind of fun to ask anyway. As long as you're not Heiko.]
Hindsight in re: Three and Out.
I know your criticism of the Hoke hiring, and I am not trying to bait you on this. With the benefit of hindsight, however, I keep asking myself whether a Hoke hire in 2007-08 would have been all that risky given what appears to have transpired (and actually did). It now seems like it would have been the safe move -- kind of like Bo elevating Gary Moeller, despite Moeller's horrendous record as a head coach at Illinois -- i.e., you don't lose to Northwestern in the late 70s solely because Illinois doesn't recruit well.
Obviously, what's done is done. But my opinions of Bill Martin and Lloyd Carr have been altered dramatically.
Let's just hope the Notre Dame coaching carousel of fun is not in UM's future. . . .
I just don't see how you can hire a guy who is vastly under .500 in the MAC. At that point Hoke hadn't had his 12-1 season or turned around the perpetually moribund San Diego State. He was 22-36 in five years at Ball State.
I mean, envision this situation: the fanbase is even more up in arms about than they were in the brief period between Hoke's hiring and kidnapping Mattison from the Ravens. Martin does not want to shell out for Mattison. Mallett still probably leaves. The team is just as much of a tire fire in 2008. You probably get Threet to stick around the year after, but did he prove himself much better than Tate even given another year to redshirt and learn a system? Eh… not really.
Michigan still turns in a losing season its first year and is 7-5 at best in year two, at which point the coach has had one winning season, period, and has overseen the worst period in Michigan football since the 60s. Can Hoke recruit in that environment? Can anyone?
Unless you believe Hoke turns the tattered roster in 2008 and 2009 into significantly more wins than Rodriguez does—like five or six—he's doomed. I think that's a stretch. You can't cure John Ferrera flipping from DL to start at guard, can't cure the Threet/Sheridan QB combo, can't do much about the disaster zone in the secondary.
Michigan ran a guy with two BCS bowl wins out of town after three years. Were they going to keep a guy whose high water mark was a 7-5 MAC season longer? This is a fascinating hypothetical, actually. They just might have.
It has been mentioned on the front page twice that Dungy was a broadcaster in 2007. This is off by a few years. 2009 was his first season out of coaching and in the role of studio analyst.
Er. Sorry about that, Bill Martin. Your coaching desires were crazier but less easy to evaluate than I expected.
Approved by NASA.
I was on Uni-Watch this morning, and this ad popped up:
Finally, the Elvis Grbac simulator we’ve waited 20 years for!
I'm all like… is that guy wearing #45? I don't understand.
[Guh. Google image search for "rugby punt" and one of the first images is Zoltan making his very bad decision against Michigan State. Thanks for nothing, BWS.]
Rugby punt responses.
What do you think about having an up man for punt returns when we play against a rugby style punter? How many times have we seen 25 - 30 yard punts turn into 50 yard net results because it was impossible for one man to cover enough ground to catch the ball. If we had an up man he could immediately start moving toward the side that the punter runs toward and would be in position to fair catch many of these 30 yard floaters. I actually like a two man return set up for all punts but it certainly seems to make sense against the rugby style. My nomination for up man is Drew Dileo - great hands, dependable and seems to have an unflappable field presence.
All the best,
Jerry in Ibiza
Against traditional punts putting a second guy that far back could be an invitation for the opponent to run a fake. You could get away with it for a few games but once opponents plan for 9-on-11 you're asking for trouble.
That problem doesn't exist with spread punting*. Fakes there are invariably the punter taking off after he sees the opponent bug out downfield, something the returning team can prevent with three or four guys. So… yeah, I've been in favor of a second returner for a while now. The combo of spread with rugby style punting means returns are infrequent and the best you can hope for is to field the thing on the fly and hope to get lucky—having a guy a closer to the roll side who's 30 yards deep could save you dozens of yards of field position.
In the last year of the Rodriguez regime we actually saw something like that in the open practice. Michigan came out with three returners, one at normal depth in the middle of the field and two guys outside of him closer to the line of scrimmage. Never actually saw it in a game, though, and the punting was so terrible in that practice that we never even saw it return in practice.
I doubt Michigan ever does something like this—using the old-style punting is indicative of a regime that's not particularly innovative on special teams.
*[Rugby punt googling also turns up a coaching video on the thing calling it "shield" punting and enumerating its many advantages:
The traditional punt formation has only two gunners. Everyone else is tasked with protecting the punter until the kick is off, which means they lose time they could be using to go after the returner. The basic shield punt formation allows for much better coverage by spreading out seven gunners on the line of scrimmage with three defenders protecting the punter.
The shield punt is a simple formation that results in your opponents giving you fewer looks and allows you to minimize practice time spent on punt coverage. Your athletes have limited assignments which translates into quick learning and fewer reps in practice.
Seven gunners, man.
BONUS RANDOM Australian team logo:
Is that a location or a description? ]
One of about a dozen emails about why we couldn't do anything against MSU.
Denard, Borges, and the o-line are rightfully getting a lot of heat after Saturday's loss. How much of the blame should go on the wide receivers? MSU loaded up the box and dared UM to beat them through the air. They manned up on the wide-outs and sent the house. I remember a few plays Denard missed open guys, but on most passes the receivers were blanketed. On one pass over the middle, Denard stepped up into the pocket and threw a bullet to Roundtree. The pass was slightly to Roy's left, but instead of sliding his feet, he just reached for it, and the ball glanced off his hands. The best way to stop a team from blitzing is to beat man coverage. On the Roundtree TD, it took a near perfect throw to fit the ball in there.
Clearly MSU didn't respect our wide-outs' ability to beat man coverage. This is the first game I think we missed Stonum's speed. He had that huge catch and run to jump start the team 2 years ago against State. He also got the offense over the hump last year vs. (gulp) UMass. Hemingway is a good position guy, crafty after the catch, great on jump balls, but he's no burner. What impact do you think Stonum might have had on Saturday's game?
PS - why no more bubbles? On the Denard pick 6, UM had 3(!) on 2 and didn't throw it. I don't think we're stretching the field enough horizontally anymore.
I have many of these arguing that various things were wrong with the offense, so if this isn't yours, apologies for not replying—I did read it and will go into UFR looking for it.
As for the wideouts, it seemed like the wind was also screwing with them. Michigan State suffered a half-dozen drops to go with Roundtree's. That's more evidence passing was not the best idea on Saturday.
Did they get open and if not was that their fault? It's hard to tell. While the WRs weren't open on that disastrous three-play sequence in the second quarter, other players were. If the QBs throw to the hand-wavingly wide open guys we're not having this conversation. On other plays they may not have been open because Michigan ran three guys deep into cover three. There was a shocking lack of short routes to exploit MSU's constant double-A-gap blitzing.
Just last week the WRs brought in seven iffy passes from the QBs against Northwestern, and while they aren't Edwards, Avant, and Breaston issuing those guys the blame when they hardly got a hand on the ball is goofy. The QBs and Borges were the main issues.
RE: bubbles. I don't know, man. Argh. They looked open all day. That's a symptom of a larger issue: lack of constraints in general. The base didn't do anything in large part because MSU was cheating it and Michigan had nothing to punish the cheating. It's possible they did but couldn't execute it—Meyer thought the pick six was a slant that a WR did not run.
Ticket wait list: not so good.
So I decided after many years to get my own tickets, expecting to go on a waitlist for end zone seats, maybe take a couple years or more for my name to come up.
I read the online info and sent an email to the ath dept to clarify.
To sum up what I learned, I'm told that I have the opportunity to make a donation of $500 to be on the interest list for this year. Key points: 500 minimum donation, but no guarantee of getting tickets. $500 puts me on the list for this year only. If I don't get them this year, then I need to cough up another $500 to try again next year. Or just donate a large enough amount move higher up the list. It's all about points. More points move you up the list. My degree is worth 5 points, which I could buy for a mere $500.
I told them to tell pass along my dislike to DB.
This is bizarre given the many stories floating around on the internet stating that over the past half-dozen years or so you could jump the season ticket wait list with a donation of $100, $150 at worst. To reiterate, this is next year's home schedule: Air Force, UMass, Illinois, MSU, Northwestern, and Iowa. You could pay $500 for the privilege of being on the wait list, or you could take your 500 bucks, scalp every game, and have enough for a Wii left over.
I'll be fascinated to see how this works.
Since there has been much criticism and analysis of the various systems deployed by current and former coaches, I am just curious: what is your ideal offense? As in, if you were to become an offensive coordinator, what would the personnel look like and which current system would it most resemble?
Oregon. Oregon has the whole toolbox: power, inside zone, outside zone, constraints on all of those, the zone read, and a downfield passing game that is often a blitheringly open touchdown factory. There are a number of other systems that I wouldn't mind—I like Oklahoma's "have an NFL first round QB throwing to NFL first round wideouts" strategy—but the tiebreaker for me is Oregon's ability to manipulate the tempo of the game in their favor.
Oregon can play lightning fast when they have the opponent off balance, which keeps the opponent off balance. If they were to hypothetically be behind in a game, the up tempo nature of the system helps them there, too. If you're trying to kill a game it's nice to have a rushing attack well over seven yards a carry. And finally being really good and playing fast makes you less vulnerable to weird stuff because you're putting more possessions in the game.
Oklahoma's air-raid derived passing spread is also quite lovely but seems more vulnerable to vagaries in quarterback talent. Oregon made Jeremiah Masoli an all-conference player.
We will make an exception this time.
I graduated from UM Law in 2006 and consider myself to be a huge Michigan fan. I went to Yale as an undergrad and was in an a capella singing group (I know, I know) called the Baker's Dozen. Through some weird circumstances, I found out last year that from the early '60s until the late '80s, my group sang and recorded "Hawaiian War Chant."
As you would imagine, or, I would hope, can at least understand, I freaked out and immediately found and purchased a copy of an album from the 80s that contained the song. In the meantime, an alum of the group sent me the attached mp3 which is a recording from the Baker's Dozen's 1960 album.
My wife's about to have twins, so I figure the only logical thing to do is to send the girl to Michigan and the boy to Yale where he'll join the same group and revive the song. That's not a weird plan, right?
Here is one without the other:
Someone in the readership will no doubt find a 60s a capella version of Temptation now. This is what the readership does. It is a machine.
So there's this.
Attached is a picture I took at the game. I'm sure you've seen people wearing Tacopants jerseys before, but thought it was apropos per Denard's 3 INTs.
I'm not sure what's weirder: that there is an extant "Tacopants" jersey or the guy who emailed it to me thinks I've seen people—multiple people!—wearing them before.
I wonder why the Tacopants jersey guy picked 12. If I was going to create a Tacopants jersey he'd probably be 11 (his height in feet) or 8 (he's Jason Avant's imaginary friend) or 8i (obvious, probably not available). 12 seems random. I guess we are talking about a guy wearing a Tacopants jersey. Random is his middle name. Jason Random Tacopants.
Tacopants man! Explain your decision-making process!
The internets have been all "lolzook" this week after the Illini's esteemed coach decided to go for 2 after scoring to take a 20-13 lead, then told a reporter in the postgame presser that they had a 5-point lead when asked to explain his decision. I'm not trying to push back on the lolzook, because obviously, but the situation brought to mind a piece of anti-CW Game Theory I've always held, although without a single shred of evidence to back me up. Maybe you can draw upon your vast resources to look into this so that next time I bring this up while watching a game with somebody, they won't look at me like I'm Ron Zook at that postgame presser.
Now, to be clear, in the Ill-Ind game, I'd have kicked the extra point there. With that much time left, you maximize expected value.
BUT, if it were the 2nd half with the same situation (scoring 6 to go up 7), I believe that the correct Game Theory move is to go for 2. With possessions limited, the opportunity to make it a 2 score game far outweighs the advantage you gain by forcing a 2-point conversion, rather than an extra point, to tie.
Additionally, if you miss the conversion, and if the opposing team comes back to score, the opposing coach will virtually always elect to kick the extra point to send the game to overtime rather than go for 2, and the win, in regulation. In essence, with a standard-issue coach on the other sideline, the worst-case scenario in the "go-for-2" situation (miss conversion, opposing team scores, and kicks the extra point for a tie) is exactly the same as the worst-case scenario in the "take-the-point" situation (make the kick, opposing team scores and makes the 2-pointer to tie). But, the upside to going for 2 in that situation is significantly greater.
I'm interested to know what you think. I have a similarly insane Game Theory belief about going for 2 when you score to go from down 14 to down 8, but I'll save that for another day.
Brian in Charlottesville
I don't think I agree. In the event of going for two:
Tie: 1 - P(you2)
Going for one:
Win: 1 - P(them2)
With 2PT%s generally under 50% it doesn't seem like the right move. You want the burden of making the two pointer to fall on the opponent.
Also, as the team with the upper hand I also think you want the information about whether the two-pointer is successful to remain unknown. If you get it you've changed the opponent's calculus about how to win by collapsing the waveform. Armed with more perfect knowledge of their situation they will press forward knowing they are down two scores. The temptation to think "we're just one score down" when they are actually 1.6 scores down is strong. It causes a lot of lackadaisical behavior you do not see in teams down two scores late, which you like. So don't accidentally make the opponent play better.
If you pick up a penalty or are Wisconsin or have a gotcha two-pointer or are in a game that's going to end 58-51 the probabilities could swing in favor of going for it yourself; in an average situation leave it to the opponent. As always, context matters.
As for your "insane" theory you should go for it when you score to draw within eight, that is never going to happen in a game but has already been discussed by stat nerd types. This piece even uses the 2005 Notre Dame game as an example:
On September 10th, 2005, the University of Michigan football team was trailing by 14 points when they scored a touchdown with 3:47 left in their game against Notre Dame. Their coach decided to kick an extra point to get within seven points. Even though this strategy is followed in the NCAA and the NFL almost without exception, it is, in general, incorrect. In this paper I will show that the correct strategy in this situation is to immediately attempt the two-point conversion.
This is because you can make your choice about the second two-point conversion with the knowledge about whether the first one succeeded. So your chances, assuming that the 43% number given in the article is correct:
TIE: 57% * 43% = 24.5%
LOSE: 57% * 57% = 32.5%
By adopting that strategy you shift your chance of winning should you come back from the two TD deficit from 50-50 to about 55-45. They use a lot more detailed numbers to reach that conclusion but that's it in a nutshell.
A much better strategy is not be down 14 points.
On the armpit jerseys never dying.
Any thoughts or ideas as to why the defensive linemen switched to the road jerseys of the RR regime in the second half with the yellow piping? Also, Denard was wearing that one of those jerseys on the last drive. I like the look of this year's road jerseys without the yellow piping but wondering if if it is a fit or comfort issue although this year's home jerseys looked like they have the same fit with the wide, open arm-pit area.
Let's let another emailer answer this for me:
You've probably observed the same, but there are issues with the new Adidas techfits. I've seen them getting ripped to shreds at various points this season, and so you have guys like rvb, martin, roh, switch to last year's model in previous games. They were presumably asked to wear the new ones tonight given the more drastic change in appearance with elimination of the thick yellow piping. However, we've already seen rvb change back anyway despite the old piping.
I wouldn't normally care about this except for fact that underlying issue appears to be their tendency to be grabbed in a game-impacting way. Even fitz changed to the old jersey last game against Minn after being dragged down by the new techfit variety. We've seen the same thing happen to denard, although he hasn't switched. This is more annoying than anything else, especially to see potential big(ger) gains get stopped shorter than they should because some defender who was beat desperately was able to get a few fingers on some cloth.
We have seen a lot of guys dragged down by the jersey this year, haven't we? Could the Nike zealots have a point all of a sudden?
On OSU timelines.
I’m writing because I am a little confused about the status of the Ohio State Investigation. I understand the NCAA came out with some findings earlier this year, but is that it? Are there still ongoing investigations? When will the findings/punishment be released?
OSU has proposed (laughable) self-sanctions at this point and had their meeting with the NCAA; they are now waiting for the final word. The comparable moment in the stretching Jihad is the middle of last season for Michigan, when they'd proposed and implemented the practice time penalties. Three months later the NCAA slapped on a token extra year of probation and issued their final report. OSU is in that period now.
Their ongoing issues with Posey, et al., complicate things. The NCAA is supposed to get back in 90 days—which would have been in the next few weeks—but has notified OSU that even more cripplingly obvious evidence the Buckeyes lack institutional control will have to be considered and then ignored.
So we just don't know, dude. Hopefully the new information pushes the decision date past the end of the season, just in case the NCAA decides to toss a bowl ban out. I'm actually surprised Gene Smith didn't announce one after the Nebraska game, because there's nothing the OSU athletic department loves more than brazenly late, transparently insincere actions designed to piss off the nation.
On instant replay ritual.
I'm noticing more and more people are saying that when referees say: "The ruling on the field is confirmed" versus saying: "The ruling on the field stands as called", that they mean two different things, as if there's a level of indisputability that you need to "confirm" a call. I think that it's just two equal ways of saying that there wasn't enough indisputable evidence to overturn.
Can you clarify?
They do mean two different things now. The "ruling is confirmed" means the replay official agrees with the call and "the ruling stands" means he just doesn't know, dude. This doesn't prevent replay officials from being violently wrong all the time, as they were when they did not overturn the Hawthorne interception, and still declaring the ruling "confirmed." This is because replay officials are crazy old Estonian men who have never seen football before in their lives.
NOTE: I am looking to purchase a pair of tickets to Northwestern. If you've got a couple extras email me to discharge built-up beveled guilt.
Power vs zone read. A couple weeks ago I wondered if running a bunch of power had opened up the zone read again or if it was just an effect of playing Bob Diaco and Ron English. Frequent correspondent Tyler Sellhorn provides some insight:
WLBs are the bugaboo defender for the power play (double team frontside = WLB difficult to block/unblocked). They are coached to hit the window created by the inside OL stepping to the double. Playside combos of inside zone are difficult to distinguish from straight doubles.
The best defense vs. ZR is to exchange gaps between the DE and WLB (you already know this). Therefore, these two plays in concert screw with the WLB assignment-wise from a gameplan standpoint. Gap-exchange weakside means that the free defender versus power is no longer paying any attention to the RB running said power. Leaving the DE to defend the ZR by his lonesome, though, against DR...hell to pay.
Hope that enlightens.
Since then we've seen San Diego State defend the zone read (and nothing else) ably and Minnesota defend nothing (and nothing else). A test of this theory will come against Northwestern, which may have given up 38 to Illinois but held the Illini rushing game to just 82 yards. Sacks factor in but even without those Scheelhaase and company managed just 3.1 YPC.
They also gave up 400 yards passing, so don't get too frightened.
Stretches versus outside zone. I've been using the two terms interchangeably, which Tyler suggests is mistaking rectangles for squares:
…the zone stretch, the various sweeps (including QB sweeps), pin/pull, and when the G tries to "log" the end/OLB on Down G, the Dash (frontside zone read) all try to accomplish the same thing: circle the defense and (usually) carry the ball between the numbers and the sideline.
What I am getting at is that you have made the statement that there have been zero stretches and it feels like you are implying that M is not trying to get outside when you make that statement. There are lots of ways to get the same thing as "stretch" conceptually, and Borges is trying to fit the concept into what he already has experience calling and know what to call when. For example, QB sweep was the first call against WMU.
So yeah, you keep harping on "zero stretches" when there have been plenty of attempts to get the ball outside, but M is using different blocking schemes to do the same thing. You just need to be clearer about what you are trying to say in regards to this: we should be running outside more or we should be using stretch to run outside. That is the distinction I am encouraging you to make.
Right, then: I'd like to see more outside zone blocking from Michigan because they're pretty good at it and don't seem particularly good at getting outside with pin and pull stuff or toss sweeps.
Saw your picture pages on Michigan DBs playing the fade and having success playing the man versus the ball. Thought you might find this of interest from Saban.
Basically if you are even with the WR, you play the ball. If the receiver looks over his inside shoulder you look back that way; if the WR turns his outside shoulder back you turn into the WR (toward the sideline) to play the back shoulder fade.
But if you're out of phase with the guy, ie trailing him, you don't turn back to find the ball because you never will and they'll catch it; you play the man and his hands and eyes. (I get the impression that this wasn't the case last year.)
From the photos I saw on your site the Michigan DBs are doing a good job playing the man, but that's because they aren't "in-phase" with the WRs. If the throw was better they'd probably be completing the fades. But you're closer to this stuff than I am; mostly wanted to pass along the Saban points.
So Michigan's trail technique seems born of necessity. Since they don't have Charles Woodson or Leon Hall back there the best they can do is go for the PBU. We've seen Blake Countess look for the ball because he's in better position a few times.
If Countess proves to be the real deal and Michigan can get a second corner at that level we may see more DBs look back for the ball. As it is the current technique is at least an excellent stopgap.
A little outdated. This came in before the Minnesota game:
Do you think Denard would be as effective a runner from the RB position as he is from the QB position? My gut says he would not be but can't explain why. I bring this up given his continued poor passing performance with some people clamoring for him to change positions.
Denard wouldn't be as effective a runner because he excels in the space allowed by a spread formation. In a pro-style offense he would probably be too slight to be a tailback, at least full-time. He'd end up in the slot.
The main tactical innovation allowed by having your QB as a runner is it allows you to spread the field horizontally by adding more WRs without giving up the extra blocker. With the defense locked in on those slots—something the threat of the bubble screen enforces—a guy like Denard can pick and choose from big gaps that open up because the defense is stretched.
Handing it to a tailback without using the QB as a threat invites an unblocked guy through since there are fewer blockers in the area. Think of this like a power play: a 4-on-3 power play is more dangerous than a 5-on-4 because it's easier to find the open guy and there's more space. The shotgun provides the extra man by using the QB as a runner. That extra space means Denard can make yards by accelerating past tackles instead of breaking them.
Denard's still pretty good when things get tight, but the pounding would be worse if that was all he was doing.
Play action problems.
Brian, would like your view/analysis of Denard's play action fakes and the importance of these in the offense. It does not appear to me that Denard really sells the hand off as much as other QB's. I'll spare the comparison to Peyton Manning. A good play fake can open up zones in the secondary and give Denard more time to make his reads as the defense should be crashing on the running back. Or, is this less of an issue in a zone read offense since there is basically a play fake on the majority of plays.
It appears to me Borges likes to throw off play action and if the QB is not selling it, that might account for some of the pressured throws we have seen from Denard so far. (disclaimer about adjustment to learning a new offense a given)
There are two entirely different playfakes Denard is executing. There's one from under center and one from the shotgun. It is possible that Denard's fakes from under center are not convincing, but I think the bigger problem is that the run game is not threatening. When you're averaging three yards a carry, safeties don't have to worry about your run game because it's not getting to them. I'll keep an eye out if we get more play action from the I-form later in the year. It's possible he's a problem there since he hasn't really practiced that skill.
The shotgun is a different matter. When Michigan goes play action from the shot gun it's either Denard stepping to the line or a zone read fake. Both are inherently convincing. In the first Denard is moving towards the LOS as the offense run blocks. In the second they are executing the mesh point exactly as they would on a running play. Unless the line is doing things that tip off the opponent there's no difference. The sheer number of hand-wavingly wide open dudes on shotgun PA should be sufficient evidence that Denard's doing just fine with his fakes there.
I'm reading the SDSU preview and you say that Demens and Hawthorne have to get better at diagnosing plays quickly. This appears to be a consistent theme with M linebackers over the last few years. I would assume that this "skill" is probably the easiest to evaluate when recruiting high school players as HS offenses are pretty run heavy. Did our coaches completely drop the ball in recruiting these guys or did they believe diagnosing plays is something that can be taught and, thus, focused more on the recruit's physical traits/potential?
I'm not sure that skill is easy to evaluate because a lot of high school kids don't get much coaching and what they get is of debatable value. You might be able to detect a kid who just Gets It, but plenty of college-level athletes who look clueless early develop into excellent players with college coaching. Prescott Burgess and Shawn Crable are two examples in recent Michigan history.
In the case of Michigan's current starters, the Great Rodriguez Defensive Coaching Malpractice is probably more at fault than recruiting. The current LB crew has been coached by Jay Hopson, Greg Robinson, and Adam Braithwaite. Braithwaite has the best resume of all of those guys by virtue of not having one. They've also swung from one system to another and, in the case of Herron, Hawthorne, and Cam Gordon, from one position to another. If these guys weren't having trouble diagnosing plays that would warrant creating a golden idol resembling Mark Smith.
As it is I think they're doing as well as can be expected. Hopefully we'll see the improvement we never got under the GRDCM as the season progresses.