Flippin' the line: feasible?
Schofield moved all over
How hard is it in mid game or mid season to change from a right handed to a left handed qb? Does the OL switch the guards and tackles etc.?
Not particularly hard, because the offense will almost certainly ignore the change and operate just like it was before. If there is a change, it will be flipping the tackles, something that teams occasionally do when guys go down injured. Either of these things are suboptimal, but if we are, say, talking about a potential Devin Gardner injury forcing Shane Morris onto the field, that righty-lefty switch is maybe 5% of the hit.
It might be more when there's a significant pass protection gap between your tackles. I'm projecting 6'7" Michael Schofield to be very good at that, so any blindside/non-blindside pass rush tradeoffs are minor. The run game shouldn't be affected, as QBs have to hand off to both sides of their body on the regular.
A couple years down the road when Morris is the projected starter it'll make sense to flip the right and left tackles over the offseason to give Morris better protection from behind, but that's a minor change when you've been given that much time. Schofield slid from left guard to right tackle, a much more drastic move, with not much ill effect.
Why you gotta be huge to play left tackle?
Quick question that may be obvious: why is height such an important asset in a left (or blindside) tackle? I've always taken it as a given but I'm not sure I've ever heard an explanation. Off the top of my head, I would guess it has to do with arm length and the ability to be massive yet retain a lean and athletic body (i.e. Schofield is 303 lbs but is quite a bit more lean and athletic than Ondre Pipkins).
OT Adam Terry (Baltimore Ravens) and OT Marcus McNeill (San Diego Chargers) are both former second round picks (Terry in 2005, McNeill in 2006) who both weighed in during their Combine appearances at 6-8 and around 330 pounds. However, the key difference during each player’s weigh-in was the dramatic discrepancy in the length of the two player’s reaches. McNeill measured in at 35½ inches and Terry posted a reach of 32 ¼ inches. Therefore, we have two men who are roughly the exact same size, however, McNeill has the length to match and maximize his 6-8 frame, while Terry’s length forces him to play like a tackle closer to 6-3.
There are other variables that go into a comparison like this, however, the facts are that McNeill has been the Chargers starting left tackle for each of the past five years, while Terry is considered now as nothing more than an NFL journeyman.
The same guy had an article the previous year on the same topic and a notable name jumped out at me: Robert Gallery, former Iowa superstar, top-five pick, and colossal bust. He also has T-Rex arms.
HOWEVA, Iowa pro-bowler Marshall Yanda's arms are 33.5 inches long, famous left tackle prototype Michael Oher the same. Joe Thomas is at 32.5, Jake Long 33. Arm length is marginal at best… at least when we're talking about guys in a narrow range from enormous to slightly less enormous.
Meanwhile, height is sometimes a… drawback? Again, talking on an NFL level where you can pick the top 1% of players, yeah. After Jake Long in 2008, the NFL didn't take a tackle taller than 6'6" until the 2011 draft, when it was so odd that there were so many huge guys that Mike Tanier wrote an article about it:
One scout I spoke to in Indianapolis said that diminishing returns kick in once an offensive lineman reaches the dimensions of an NBA power forward. “They have to keep working to bend at the knees, to not pop up at the snap,” he said. “They can’t ever let up on their technique.” …
Several of this year’s tall tackles are not just long, but lean. Castonzo has a classic lineman’s build, with a lot of mass in his thighs and butt, but Carimi and Solder have relatively narrow trunks. Their “high cut” bodies create even more leverage issues. Carimi, in particular, gets too narrow when run blocking: defenders can turn him sideways and slide around him. Carimi is so strong and athletic that teams will be willing to work with him to perfect his technique, but his size may never convert to NFL strength.
Giants Nate Solder (Colorado), Anthony Castonzo (Boston College), and Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin) all went in the first round, but so did three 6'5" guys. You'll note that Michigan's recruiting is heavily biased towards 6'5" high school tackles who have half the scouts pegging at tackle, half at guard.
Tanier does note that super long arms are, in general, a help, and that blocking techniques are designed with the assumption you're going up against a guy a couple inches shorter than you.
Here's my take on it: in general, bigger people are just harder to get around. A wider stance and longer arms gives a left tackle a bigger catching radius, as it were, to intercept pass rushers. When it turned out NFL teams were sending players of size X at quarterbacks, most of those guys turned out to be 6'3" or 6'4" and after some experimentation it was determined that guys a couple inches taller than those guys combined catching radius with balance. Balance is absolutely the most important thing for offensive linemen. Bigger guys with traditional lineman builds (ie, bottom heavy) take more force to get off balance than smaller ones, but only as long as they can keep a leverage advantage on their opponents.
Who takes the shot against Kansas and such, other than nobody?
With Trey & Tim leaving, who takes the end of shot clock and end of game shots for us next year?
I think McGary would be the obvious choice, but that can be pretty tough for a big man to create shots outside of the offensive flow. And it could pull him away from the basket and rebound opportunities. GRIII hasn't shown a lot in a way of creating his own shot. Walton would be an obvious choice, but he's a freshmen. Maybe some end of shot clock looks, but at the end of a close game? Same goes for Irvin. That leaves the other options as Stauskas (maybe?), Levert (supposedly a terror 1-on-1 in practice, but late game experience?) and Spike (not as terrifying as I thought a few months ago).
Who do you think becomes the regular closer out of that group?
Uh… I think they might go closer by committee?
There is no obvious answer there. McGary's usage shot up in the tournament but very little of that was McGary actually creating a shot—basically some jumpers from the elbow, a couple of sweet short-corner turnarounds, and his once-per-game two-dribbles-to-a-layup. Michigan never, ever posts guys up, and I don't think that's going to change. Meanwhile the other returning star had a usage rate of 13% and got virtually all of his baskets from Burke or off rebounds. Neither is a good candidate for late-game or late-clock hero duties.
With Michigan's emphasis on the pick and roll, it'll probably fall onto the point guard again. Derrick Walton isn't going to take step-back jumpers that somehow fall quite a bit; he's more distribution-oriented. Teams overplaying his penetration will find him kicking to Stauskas or Irvin or dishing to Robinson or McGary.
I can see three other guys possibly taking up the banner:
- STAUSKAS. Showed pretty good ability on the pick and roll, where he showed hints of a Darius Morris-like ability to find passing angles with his length. And you of course cannot go under unless you want punishment. Would take some development both on the bounce and as a distributor, but that's what freshmen do.
- IRVIN. 6'7" to 6'8" guy with an advanced pull up game already. By midseason will be able to get a midrange jumper whenever he wants. Prefer Michigan to try something else always, but late when refs are clenching their bowels and swallowing the whistle the midrange game is the part of your offense least affected by hacks.
- LEVERT. Yes, a stretch given his rough numbers and brief tourney cameos where he was unready for the moment. Seemed to be able to get where he wanted most of the year, small sample size, freshman improvement, and he should have buckets since he was both young and skinny.
This question is a "what we do without Burke" Q writ small, and the answer is "I don't know, but spread it around."
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.
goodnight sweet prince
- QB Denard Robinson. Michigan's career leader for yards per carry (6.3, tied with Jon Vaughn, would best it if sacks were accounted for properly). All-time national record-holder for most rushing yards by a quarterback. Three-year starter. Only player who could run for more than two inches per carry behind last year's offensive line. Kind of a big deal. Did not start last five games at QB, which mitigates blow significantly since Gardner was a revelation.
- LT Taylor Lewan [assumed]. Future first-round pick was near flawless in pass pro his last two years. Penalties returned after refinement as a sophomore; got beat painfully against OSU, but nearly shut out Clowney in the bowl game.
- WR Roy Roundtree. Never really recovered his prominence after rampant 2010. Did bounce up to 31 catches as a senior at a nice YPC clip. Had clearly become the #2 option by the end of the year.
- OG Patrick Omameh. Four year starter was probably Michigan's best interior OL. Lacked desired power for manball run game. Pass protection was solid. Probably replaceable. Probably not getting drafted.
- TE Mike Kwiatkowski. Don't-call-him-a-walk-on tight end was Michigan's most effective blocker at the spot; not targeted much in the pass game.
- OC Elliott Mealer. Last minute switch to center didn't smooth over issues; seemed to mess up a bunch of line calls starting in the Nebraska game; graded out as an extensive downgrade from Molk.
- OG Ricky Barnum. Not very good. Got run over a lot.
RB Vincent Smith. Throwback screen merchant and pass-protector extraordinaire was never a great runner but leaves a hole at third down back. Admirably managed to not dissolve into component atoms after Clowney hit.
- FB Stephen Hopkins. Seemed to lose his job to Joe Kerridge and left the team after the OSU game.
- TE Brandon Moore. Barely played.
we gon' throw
- QB Devin Gardner. Blew in from wide receiver after Nebraska debacle to start final five games of the season, completing nearly 60% of his passes for 9.7 yards a pop with 11 TDs and 5 INTs. Added a couple hundred yards on the ground, sacks excluded. Those were mostly on scrambles. Fluctuating accuracy a concern.
- WR Jeremy Gallon. Gardner's favorite target was on pace for 80 catches and 1300 yards once Denard hurt his elbow. Diminutive but capable of leaping past defensive backs; quick enough to get open against almost anyone.
- RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Gruesome break of both bones in his leg should actually be healed by fall. If available, Michigan needs the 2011 version of him badly.
- LT (presumably) Michael Schofield. Early struggles as he transitioned back to tackle did not last; established himself a good pass protector and adequate run blocker. With freshmen populating the depth chart everywhere on the OL, will likely move over to Gardner's blindside, allowing a burlier kid to play RT.
- TE Devin Funchess. After breakout Air Force game use steadily declined; he finished with only 15 catches for 234 yards. Did lead the team in receiving TDs with five. Passing game priority one needs to be getting the Devins on the same page.
- WR Drew Dileo. Sticky-fingered Louisiana gnome should have been targeted more. Catches quickly, gets upfield, small target but extremely reliable.
- TE AJ Williams. High school tackle was supposed to be Michigan's blocking TE but displayed horrendous technique and probably would have redshirted if Michigan had any options. Needs a big step forward with Kwiatkowski out the door.
- FB Joe Kerridge. Thumping fullback of the walk-on variety will be frequently used as Michigan transitions back to pro-style.
- RB Thomas Rawls. Flashed some tackle-breaking power in garbage time against Purdue and Illinois; proceeded to average under two yards a carry once forced into the lineup late in the year. Passed by Justice Hayes in bowl game and will likely fall behind freshmen when they arrive on campus.
- WR Jeremy Jackson. Lumbering possession receiver can't get separation from DBs.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
The offensive line. With Lewan taking his twosie to the next level, Michigan is left with Michael Schofield and a bunch of guys who haven't seen the field. Two fellows seem like locks to start:
- Redshirt sophomore Jack Miller at center. It's possible Blake Bars moves over to challenge, and vaguely possible that Patrick Kugler—son of former Steelers OL coach and new UTEP head coach Sean—enters ready to play on day one. Miller has to be considered the heavy favorite. The coaches love his nasty, Molk-like disposition; they may not love his Molk-like size. He does have the asset of being a center from the get go, unlike the candidates in 2012.
- Redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis at guard. I bet if Michigan had to do it over they would have put Kalis in the mix to start from day one. Instead they preserved a year of eligibility for him, which will benefit them down the road. If Kalis, a proverbially nasty road grader, doesn't win a job with ease, it's time to start worrying about living up to the hype.
A third is not quite a lock but has a healthy lead in my head:
- Redshirt freshman Ben Braden at right tackle. Braden is a mountain of a man better suited to crubberate people off the ball than classmate Erik Magnuson, who's more of a left tackle type. Scuttlebutt reaching my ears is that the coaches are extremely high on him. Magnuson does have a shot.
The fourth is up in the air between these folk:
- Redshirt sophomore Chris Bryant, who remains a 320, 330-pound mauler. He missed the season with a leg fracture. Availability in spring will be key.
- Redshirt freshman Blake Bars, who's a lot smaller than Bryant and will probably have to wait a bit longer for a shot at the starting job. He was a 3/4 star borderline kid.
- True freshman Kyle Bosch, this year's edition of Kalis. While he's not quite as hyped, he's enrolling early and should find himself on the two-deep immediately. He could push through.
- Redshirt junior Joey Burzynski. I'd be surprised if a 6'1" kid can move past the aforementioned trio and into the starting lineup. That said, he's got the most on-field experience in this grouping.
Breaking in four new OL, three of them likely to be freshmen, is scary. On the other hand, it's not like they can be worse at run blocking.
A dang running back who can run the dang ball. Maybe this is Toussaint. It seems more likely it's either DeVeon Smith or Derrick Green, particularly the latter guy if he does indeed end up in Ann Arbor like it seems the world expects him to. Running backs don't need a lot of seasoning, and Green is college-sized and then some.
Also here's my candle for Dennis Norfleet, third down back kthx. Get some Muck in you, kid, and there's a job waiting.
African refugee wide receivers. Amarah Darboh pointlessly burned a redshirt; Jehu Chesson kept his. With no immediate help from this WR class likely, last year's folk will have to break in. I was pretty high on both those dudes, with Chesson a co-MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year with Braden. They both provide relatively big targets, and Chesson might have deep speed.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1972
Gardner to Gallon. As mentioned above, that connection was red-hot over the last five games of the season, and not just against tomato cans. Gallon's best game of the year was the nine-catch, 145-yard, two-TD outing against a top-shelf SEC defense in the bowl game. Those guys are in tune.
Just running one offense, thanks. No longer will Michigan be at war with itself about what it wants to do. A section a bit later in this post hopes they'll run the QB some; this should not detract from the fact that Michigan moves from a system Borges never quite got the hang of to his bread and butter. Gallon's performance once Michigan had a quarterback who could stand in the pocket and deliver entices.
Presumably large improvement from the tight ends. Devin Funchess and AJ Williams got thrown into the fire a year too early; now they can add 20 pounds each and learn how to block and add a couple new guys in the hopes of Stanfordizing this offense.
Funchess seemed like a matchup issue last year, but if you were a defensive coordinator considering him a wide receiver, how wrong would you have been? Not very. Getting him to a point where he is a credible blocker is what'll get him open on seams and whatnot.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2013
Offensive line depth x2. This isn't quite as bad as it was last year, when there were essentially no backups—the sixth OL was a walk-on. It is still not good. If you make the reasonable assumptions that the freshman class redshirts and Bryant wins the other guard job, Michigan has Burzynski, Bars, and Magnuson available. Freshmen and that walk-on. Suboptimal.
But hey at least next year this problem goes away: Schofield's gone; everyone else returns.
Offensive line starters, probably. Four new ones; asking a lot for all of them to be good from day one.
WR depth? I'm not entirely sure this is a huge problem with Gallon stepping up and Dileo presumably establishing himself an excellent slot option. But they need some other guys; the incoming class provides little immediate help, so then it's down to Darboh and Chesson. Either or both could break out—Michigan needs one to.
QB depth. Bellomy or a true freshman.
WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY
The offensive line can't be worse, right? The running backs didn't help sure but when you return a thousand-yard rusher and his YPC average dips almost two yards a carry, the finger points squarely at the blocking. Lewan will be missed. The other guys are replaceable.
But replacing them is not a great thing. Michigan needs an upgrade.
How accurate is Devin really, and how much progress can he make in one offseason as the man? The overall numbers are good; his last two games left a bit to be desired. Hopefully he can refine down those misses by 20-30%, at which point Michigan is in the proverbial business.
How hard are we jamming the pro-style pedal down? Petrified at the prospect of having Gardner go down when it seemed like the alternative was Jack Kennedy, Michigan all but dumped quarterback runs from its playbook once Gardner entered the game. Was that circumstance or preference? And if it was the former, how comfortable will Michigan be incorporating Gardner's legs as an intentional part of the gameplan if the alternative is Shane Morris?
We won't know that until fall. I'm hoping Michigan keeps the inverted veer around, because that's a pretty good play.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN ANYONE OTHER THAN DENARD ROBINSON PICK UP THREE FEET ON THE GROUND? Freshmen will get opportunities, yes. Toussaint may be back. The youngsters will be a bit older, and at least Hayes and Norfleet came with some scatback hype—though I wouldn't be entirely surprised to see Hayes move to slot receiver since there's no one on the roster who won't be a senior next year. Only the seeming likelihood that Michigan acquires Derrick Green prevents this from going in the Rod Stewart 2013 category.
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
Improvement as long as Gardner stays on the field. This edition of Michigan limped to middling numbers everywhere. Next year's offense figures to have a better fit with the offensive coordinator, a better offensive line if only because of reversion to the mean and having non-walk-on options outside of the starters, and at least equivalent playmakers at the skill positions with an outside shot at much better if the running back situation gets an injection of talent.
So then, how are you feeling about Denard Robinson's legs versus Devin Gardner's arm+legs? I'm thinking that's a push once turnovers are accounted for and we bake in an offseason of Gardner improvement. Guy was the #1 dual threat QB of his class, after all, and displayed some excellent potential on the ground in his tenure as a starter. And in a Borges offense, there's no comparison in the passing game*.
A lot rides on Jack Miller and the tackles; I figure the guards will be an upgrade. I'd guess we see an improvement—not that it'll take much to get that with Alabama sliding off the schedule and hopefully not having a half against Nebraska where the offense goes to die. Gardner bails Michigan out from some tough times.
*[Let's say we had that argument about the spread 'n' shred and not have it, okay?]
Formation notes: much, much more under-center in this game. FWIW, Minnesota had some packages where they'd put a linebacker in between two DL, as below:
Last year people told me this was a bear front, so that's what I called it. On short yardage Minnesota would do this to both sides of the line, so that's double bear. As always, lingo may not be compatible with your local football lingo-knowing guy and only exists to provide extended conversations with Seth about what the hell I meant when I classified X as Y.
Also here's this guy again:
Substitution notes: Gardner the whole way at QB, Rawls got some playing time, Smith was back, and the line was exactly how it always is. Burzynski got a few goal line plays on that package where they line up Lewan and Schofield next to each other.
The WR rotation was about what you'd expect as well, except there was a lot more Jerald Robinson. He has apparently inherited most of Devin's snaps.
[AFTER THE JUMP: so how was Devin really, and ARGH runs ARGH]
Yesterday's Picture Pages covered extensive confusion on Michigan's part as they tried to run basic isos against a basic defense but couldn't get the ILBs blocked, with a side of playcalls that leave guys alone in the hopes that accounting for end-around motion or the threat of an option play will draw players away from the actual threat.
A second major reason Nebraska had unblocked guys all over the place was blockers seeing a player shoot past them quickly and reacting. I've been doing this for a while now and this sort of thing has become one of my pet peeves. A blocker will see a defensive player run past them clean. They now have two options:
- Turn around and get that guy.
- Know—or at least hope—that wasn't your guy and find someone else to block.
Door A never works. They don't block the guy they missed, and they don't block anyone further downfield. When another blocker takes care of the aggressive player or the ballcarrier outruns him, the play is still screwed up because another defender is coming free.
This happened to Michigan on consecutive plays at the end of the first quarter. On the first, Michigan runs the veer from a 4-wide formation. Nebraska responds with two safeties at about ten yards and 5.5 guys in the box, as was their wont:
You can see the nickelback cheating off Dileo presnap, and he will come.
Remember earlier in the year when I was complaining that the linebackers didn't seem to understand that when the line slanted one way they should be moving against it since that is where the ball is likely to end up? This is an offensive version of that.
Dileo should know these things when the corner comes:
- Michigan is running the inverted veer.
- A blitzing corner is invariably the defense's force player—he contains and forces the runner inside.
- On an inverted veer the force player will be optioned off by the running back. The quarterback will have the ball going vertically.
So does he need to block the corner? No. Will he block the corner? Well, this post exists, so deduct for yourself.
Michigan snaps the ball and runs the veer. Barnum pulls. Here's the mesh point:
45 degrees from downhill—okay
The playside end is hugging the back of the tackle who's ignoring him. This is normally a give by Robinson, and Michigan has picked up some decent chunks early by giving. Denard pulls this time, which is good because that corner is coming to make the give a likely TFL. Nebraska made it easy by tipping that the nickelback was coming presnap.
Dileo should move to the next level, but he turns and starts pursuing the nickelback.
90 degrees! alert!
Argh. At this point the guy is gone, and even if Dileo makes contact there's a good chance he'll pick up a block in the back call. To add insult to injury, trying to block this guy you can't block is purposeless—he's already going to be optioned off.
- Barnum picks up the end.
- Schofield gets his free release and engages the MLB.
The coast is clear!
turned around: dead
Dawwwww, unblocked safety. Unblocked safeties.
Five yards, and Dileo comes back in at the end to go "dawwwwww."
If Dileo can cut that safety like Joe Reynolds did against State, that is six points. Even if the safety keeps his feet and contains, that's likely a first down.
[AFTER THE JUMP: dawwwww not again.]
Why can't Michigan run the ball without Denard? As with anything in football, the answer is "it's complicated" but against Nebraska the pendulum swung decisively towards an inability to block anything.
There were two primary ways in which things went unblocked, one of which we'll cover in two posts.
Ain't Nobody Trying To Block Important People
The first were either busts, play design errors, or combo blocking errors that left totally unblocked linebackers in the hole. A here's a third-quarter iso on the penalty fiesta drive that resulted in a field goal:
The highlighted guy is Nebraska's WLB. No one even tries to block him.
Unsurprisingly, this doesn't go well.
I'm not sure who this is on. I don't get the blocking. If Mealer releases directly downfield in the second frame in an attempt to get that WLB he does not have much of an angle and probably doesn't do much. I would expect Michigan to double that DT, leave Mealer behind on the DT, and then have Omameh pop off.
That doesn't happen. Did someone screw up? Is the play design bad? Is it Schofield moving to the second level poorly? Things are so confused I don't know.
If this was a one time thing you could chalk it up to a guy busting. It wasn't.
[AFTER THE JUMP: more unblocked guys! Like, so many you'll freak! They're coming out of holes in the ground like the Viet Cong!]
Formation notes: MSU's defense is very simple, with few substitutions or wacky formations. They spent most of the game in a 4-3 even with linebackers shaded to the slot. Like so:
Shotgun 2TE twins for M
They would go into an okie package with two deep safeties on passing downs:
Shotgun 3-wide for M
When Michigan split their WRs this was the preferred look:
Also shotgun 3-wide
MSU screwed their corners down into press man and walked their safeties up to about nine yards deep, ready to roar downhill at any run action. You won't get any bubble complaints from me in this game—it wasn't there.
This is "Ace Triple Stack" as a reminder:
Yes, throwback screen obvs.
Substitution notes: Few surprises here. Line all starters; TE rotation about as it has been. No RBs other than Toussaint and Smith made appearances; Gardner was not announced as a starter and got a lot fewer snaps than he has previously. Speculation is he's carrying some sort of injury. Joe Reynolds got his first snaps in a heated situation—all were runs. More about that later.
[……IS BEHIND THE JUMP! There are lot of embeds this week and I've gotten some complaints that UFRs bog people's browsers down—hmmm wonder why—so taking most of the junk off the front page should help in that regard.]