If we taunt them enough we might get a grail. Or a cow thrown at us.
Man we've been a sorry sack of something these past few weeks. All this negativity: negative posts, negative futures, negative rushing totals. Can we be positive? Finish this sentence:
For Michigan to have a shot at beating Ohio State, between now and then the offense needs to...
Coach Brown: ...pool their money together, hire a squad to kidnap the entire coaching staff and every starting player that Ohio State has until at least Sunday.
Seriously I think this game is going to be really, really bad. What Ohio State has done last year and this year is really something. I don't care about their strength of schedule, it is damn impressive to go almost two complete seasons without losing a game in a coach's first two campaigns. Hate Urban for being Urban, but the guy wins on the field.
|This isn't an argument.|
I know the power of a rivalry, especially in The Game, can level the playing field a bit, but I give Michigan close to a 0% chance of winning that game. Ohio State is clicking, Urban smells blood, and Michigan is going in reverse, literally and figuratively. I'm not being negative, I'm not a downer, I'm a realist. Ohio State pounded Penn State 63-14. It took Michigan 25 overtimes to suffer a loss to that same Nittany Lion team. There are so many things fundamentally wrong with what Michigan is trying to do that fixing just one of them isn't going to be enough to appease the fan base or be overly productive on the field.
I could vent forever and it would come off as whiny, pessimistic, and unrealistic because of expectations we all have for Michigan. It's not even the 6-3 record honestly, it's just how everything looks, feels, and seems. Brian and Ace nailed it on the podcast and the recent "I AM OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL" post. I've turned off. I'm just the recruiting guy so this was my one opportunity to put some of these words down. I apologize for where this went.
Incompetence on a level that Michigan unlocked against Michigan State and Nebraska cannot be achieved by one man or even one team (MSU is good at defense, and hey, Nebraska did some good things). There's still the possibility that Borges and his charges are sabotaging themselves, but since that's impossible to prove let's permit that they do in fact wish to progress the ball forward, and parse out how much responsibility lies in the various inadvertent factors.
I thought I'd take us back through a timeline of the events that led to the state of the offensive roster, picking up blame on the way.
I wish we could blame this whole thing on the old coach. Wouldn't it be the most ironic thing if the great guru of offense was really at fault for Michigan's offensive woes? There are really three things I think we can lay at his feet, in order of importance:
- Hired DCs he couldn't work with and made them run defenses they didn't understand, thus dooming Michigan to another coaching transition.
- Recruited just one OL in the 2010 class.
- Didn't recruit a single tight end or fullback, nor a running back who can block except Smith, whom he didn't redshirt.
Michigan's 2009-2011 tight end recruits.
Tight End, Briefly
We've had #1 out, and #3 is debatable: Y U NO RECRUIT THE BREAD AND BUTTER OF BORGES'S OFFENSE, GUY WHO INVENTED THE OFFENSE THAT MADE BORGES'S OFFENSE OBSOLETE? I can't blame him for skipping fullbacks or running backs who can block since he had a track record of developing fullbacks from the walk-on program, while his backs, e.g. Toussaint, were recruited to operate in space. I wish he'd redshirted Vincent Smith, or gotten a medical for him.
But I do think he could have seen the need for tight ends even before the abilities of Koger and Webb opened his eyes to that. Rodriguez ignored the position for two years, and when he started looking again it was for the 2011 class that was devastated by Rosenberg and The Process: Hoke and Borges went on the hunt for last-minute TEs in 2011 and came back with Chris Barnett, a vagabond of the type that Michigan typically stays away from. Barnett transferred almost right away; I put that on having just a few weeks.
Tight end is another position that typically requires a lot of development, but Michigan knew by mid-2011 that its 2013 starters would be, at most, true sophomores, and knew a year later that neither of their 2012 recruits were much for blocking. At this point any sane human would not have made the ability of their tight ends to block a key component of their offense.
Offensive Line, Longly
|Rodriguez put all of his eggs in the 2011 OL recruiting basket, and Michigan ended up with all their eggs in a project recruit's basket.|
As for the OL, the failure to recruit just one offensive lineman in 2010 is the centerpiece of modern bitching. Is that fair? Here's a line from Brian in Mike Schofield's recruiting post, dated June 2009:
"Michigan didn't need a huge offensive line class one year after taking six big uglies and graduating zero, but you never want fewer than three and you always want quality."
So yes it is established MGoPrecedent that fewer than three OL in a class no matter how much meat you have stacked for the meat god is not cutting it.
Offensive line recruiting happens a bit earlier than most other positions. Since they're unlikely to be starting for several years (even redshirt freshmen are pretty rare) OL recruits rightly look for coaching stability more than early opportunity. The 2009 class was narrowing down their lists before the 2008 season, and so on. With that said here's a timeline of Michigan offensive line recruiting:
2009 (recruited in early 2008): Tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, and guard Quinton Washington. This despite a huge/mixed haul from 2008, when RR added Barnum and Omameh to Carr's class of O'Neill, Mealer, Wermers and Khoury. For the record O'Neill left the team in June 2009, and Wermers was gone in July (though his World of Warcraft account was presumably active), so the coaches wouldn't have adjusted to either of those departures at that time. Meat for 2013 Meat God: three redshirt seniors, one a potential Jake Long 2.0, can't do more because there's still six guys from the previous class.
[Fail leaps atop fail, after the jump]
It would seem obvious
Event reminder: MGoBlog is coming to Chicago next Friday. Moe's Cantina, River North, 6-9 p.m.
The coping mechanisms kicked in about Tuesday, and the diaries flowed. The best, I thought, was by Ron Utah, who took this base alignment
…from the UFR and pointed out why it's hard to attack this in myriad ways because MSU's defense is good. That is true, but it doesn't invalidate the primary complaints: it isn't cohesive. Indiana faced the same defense and their OL isn't all that great, but they have committed themselves to running option routes and tempo, and it works because it puts the offense mostly on the shoulders of three really good receivers to execute. A short list of some of the hands Michigan gambled on:
- Toussaint's pass blocking vs. Denicos Allen blitz
- Funchess's threat as an inline blocker vs. MSU having watched Funchess this season at all
- Half-hearted play-action on 2nd and 15 when Michigan hasn't shown a run out of that formation in ever vs. MSU safeties' ability to read play-action.
State's defense is great, and that gives teams limited options for beating them. But the offensive coaching was awful independent of that, on the game level more so on a macro level: They haven't been able to figure out from week to week what the hell kind of offense they are, let alone who's going to be playing it. Eventually they want to be a TE-mismatch outfit but right now there isn't a single TE or RB on the roster who can block. I get it, but it's not getting better because in three years nobody on that staff has been able to answer "what are we going to do about it?"
The OL can't block either. Well the freshmen can't and hey, they're freshmen. But since OL coaches are particularly difficult to judge (especially when their oldest recruits are all redshirt freshmen this year) Erik_in_Dayton went over all of Funk's previous OL charges going back to Ball State. No conclusions—almost everybody was a 2-star recruit—but interesting read.
Meanwhile Gameboy has been trying all sorts of ways of assessing Michigan's O-line experience versus that of other teams. In three attempts he's got a bunch of data and no sense to make of it still because Michigan has two extremes and the coaches don't do things to cover up for their weak points. The chart at right shows O-line starts and game experience. His big mistake I think is averaging: Team One has a tackle with thirty starts and a left guard with none; Team Two has a tackle and guard who've started next to each other for fifteen games. Both average fifteen starts, but Team Two has a big advantage that is hidden by your method.
Chunkums put up a survey to ask if you want to fire which coaches, but your feelings are irrelevant since this staff won't be budged unless there's wholesale failure the rest of the year and Dave Brandon's pimp hand has to step in. Even then, what are the chances Michigan grabs the soon-to-be-unemployed Nebraska OC we're pining over? What's that guy going to do with Morris and Speight? It's clear now that Borges should never have been brought here in the first place, but then a world where Michigan hung on to Calvin Magee for a few years (as OSU did with Fickell) comes with its own negatives. Either way the future is what matters now; if we're going to advocate anything maybe it's a consultant who can teach Borges constraint theory.
While you're assessing, here's a handy chart of Michigan's games under Hoke by dnak438, with the betting lines included. I think jamiemac once told me that Michigan's final lines, like ND's and other power programs, are worse predictors because they're responsive to the huge number of people who bet knowing nothing more than that Michigan is traditionally pretty good. Early lines are more accurate. By the way dnak took my suggestion of rotating the chart 45 degrees. This week I'm suggesting overlaying last week's to see progression:
[Jump to find out how Brian got banned, and you can too!]
Here is dragonchild's summary of Michigan's offensive gameplan versus Penn State.
Doing exactly what we've done 18 times before is exactly the last thing they'll expect us to do this time! (Remote play prohibited; click the photo or here)
After studying abroad I spent two months backpacking Europe, marveling at their master works while being constantly amazed at the pointless waste accumulated over genera. Nearly every city and town has at least one monument (pre-Napoleonic ones are inside the churches) to townsfolk whose lives were the grist in one war or another's death mill. Overwhelming bodies marching toward an objective worked for the first Louis and Edward, and Europe kept running that same play—regardless of technology—for another thousand years.
Afterwards I spent a week ("The Long Shower") at a friend's apartment in London to get reacquainted with civilization, playing Perfect Dark, watching Black Adder tapes, and just appreciating the hell out of the fact that I was born to the one country in Western Civilization that expects tactical change whenever something isn't working. We lost one Custer (and frankly he probably deserved it) by telegraphing where our inferior force would be, then stopped doing that. From the Euro perspective America is the country that came to the trench war with tanks, and the tank war with an Air Force. Huddling isn't just outdated; it's un-American. As for sending barely trained draftees into machine gun emplacements…
It's not the Philosophy; It's the Fit. Here's Eye of the Tiger from his updated "Reading the Tea Leaves":
Now, as an aside, can we please bury the notion that this result had anything to do with inherent superiority of offensive scheme or philosophy? We didn’t lose because “MANBALL” (i.e. i-formations, power running, play-action and so forth) is inherently worse than “basketball on grass.” (i.e. shotgun spread formations, read-option running, constraint passing and so forth). We lost because our coaches called plays we don’t have the personnel for, then called them again and again when it should have been clear that we couldn’t execute them. Wisconsin, Stanford and Alabama can. We cannot. It’s that simple.
Before there was the UFR of the offense reshp1 tried his hand at identifying what went wrong with the run blocking. This leaves the coaches out of it and talks about the technique problems on the OL:
Conclusion. I can only imagine how frustrated the coaches are getting at this point. There is no one problem or even one guy. Quite the opposite, on any given play, we have the ability to screw up in 4-5 different ways, by anyone on the line save maybe Lewan. That’s wack-a-mole futility right there, where do you even start?
That was bumped. The other bump this week was bronxblue's Best and Worst weekly, which is beginning to really stand out for Sunday content after a game. Co-sign everything up until he says 5 wins and a crazy loss ain't so bad: immediately after it ended I was like "we deserved that," but each day since I'm convinced the level of persistent coach derp it exposed, has me terrified. How confident are you that they're saying to themselves "Wow, predicating our offense on the bet that our young guards will play like All-Americans was just about the dumbest thing we've ever coached; we need to take all of this criticism to heart." So how do things get better?
DOOM DOOM DOOM
it gets better
This whole Center situation has put me in a funk [ed: I see what you did there] and all I can see in the future is doom and gloom. Aren't we going to be in the exact same position next year? I was wondering if you could address on your site the future prospects of this position going forward. Miller is not cutting it at the moment (or at least that's the popular opinion). But is this a problem that he's still too young and needs to learn? Or is it that he's just too undersized for the position? I've heard zilch about the other Centers on the roster, Burzynski and Kugler. So what is to happen next year? Should I just blindfold myself and box my ears for the next year or two?
Sometimes guys just have it, and sometimes they get it eventually, and sometimes they never do. David Molk had no problem popping into a starting lineup as a redshirt freshman and being good immediately. Miller's been done few favors by Michigan's renewed emphasis on the stretch after barely running in the last two years and should become more consistent as he acquires experience with it, but Glasgow seems to be making fewer mistakes than he did at the same level of experience.
The good news is that this year and last should be the nadir for options on the Michigan line. Last year, Miller was literally the only scholarship option other than true freshmen Michigan could turn to if they wanted to make a switch. This year they're in a similar situation except the (formerly) backup option is the oft-injured Chris Bryant; Blake Bars is also an option but looked far from ready this fall.
Next year it's a whole different story. Michigan loses their two tackles and must find a left tackle from Magnuson or Braden; right tackle will be a battle between one of those two guys and any of a fleet of 6'5" guys who can play both tackle and guard. On the interior they'll suddenly be spoilt for choice with count-'em nine options give or take a guy who might be sucked out to tackle. That is worlds away from what Michigan's got now.
They will be young. Michigan will have no seniors on next year's offensive line save Burzynski. They should be able to paper over some concerns with depth in their options.
Wither Washington against spread to run?
In light of our defensive approach to use Black/Wormley as nominal DTs against passing spreads like ND and Akron, should we be concerned against the Buckeyes? Watching how they call their plays at the line, I would think Urban would have Hyde pound it up the middle anytime we showed that alignment. Do you see this meaning we will see more Washington than we would typically against a spread team? Or is sacrificing some beef in the middle with Black worth the lateral speed we gain against their skill players?
The challenge posed by OSU is dealing with not only lateral speed from Miller and their little slot buggers but holding up against Carlos Hyde, who's more manball than any back Michigan has at its disposal. If the defensive line can't hold up against OSU double teams… well, you saw the Northwestern game. It's not pretty for a defense.
I'll be shocked if Michigan has a nickel package on the field against Ohio State on anything other than third and long. Washington is going to a be a key piece against all the spread-to-run teams on the docket, and there are plenty: OSU, Northwestern, and Nebraska plus certain packages Indiana might run with Tre Roberson. With the rest of the schedule filled out by PSU, MSU, and Iowa, we've seen the last of games where Washington is largely a spectator as opponents fling the ball about willy-nilly.
Why bother returning punts anyway?
this massively blocked punt was the difference in NW-OSU (via Eleven Warriors)
This question was prompted by watching Michigan try (and fail) to set up a return when Minnesota was punting from inside their 10 yard line today.
Why not always go for the block? How is running 20 yards backwards, then trying to find and block someone better than making someone block you in their own backfield? Best case, you block the punt; worst case, coverage team suffers from having to defend against punt block before focusing on coverage. If the point of setting up a punt return is to keep would-be tacklers away from the returner, why not make those would-be tacklers deal with would-be punt blockers 40+ yards away from where the punt lands? I really just don’t get it.
Going for a block is a high variance strategy that rarely brings any reward at all and often results in flags for hitting the punter; used too consistently it's asking to eat fake punts more often than you actually get to the punter. So you've got to set up returns at least some of the time: fourth and five or less, any punt safe situation, times when you don't care to risk roughing the punter because you're up, and enough other times to keep teams from planning a fake punt you'll get strafed by.
Meanwhile, with modern punting formations the only guys who have to dedicate themselves full time to blocking you are the three gentlemen in the shield. For the other seven players, a momentary delay on a guy at the line is good enough. If you're sending guys after the punter all the time that's not going to change the behavior of the punting team enough to help you on returns.
The only thing that will do that is blocking enough punts to force guys back into NFL-style punting, and dozens of coaches working over the course of a decade haven't been able to make shield punting seem more vulnerable than the NFL stuff. I'm with you somewhat, in that so few punts get returned effectively these days that you should slant your prep towards blocking them and go after punters more often* but never bothering with setting up a return is too far in the other direction.
*[especially since it's relatively easy to not get a roughing the kicker call: just avoid the guy's plant foot.]
LIKE "THE FLY" EXCEPT GOOD
Hello Brian, Brian's Hair, Ace, Seth and Heiko,
I was watching the network broadcast of the game yesterday and near the end, right around Countess' interception, the broadcast cut to a shot of Jon Falk preparing to open the mail bin that held the Jug. Taylor Lewan was standing next to the bin and I believe one of the announcers called him "Jake Lewan."
Alas, it was a misstatement. But could you imagine if this player existed? Huge. Crazy. Two-way. He pancake blocks linebackers and hurls chipping running backs to the ground. He both protects QBs and turns them into small smears on the ground. I would love to see a .gif of this being in action (destroying the skyline of Columbus Godzilla-style, consuming raw sides of beef lobbed at it by an approving Coach Mattison, charging into the interview room and ripping Heiko's head off after he asks Borges about bubble screens etc. ). I would love to see the Mathlete whip up some sophisticated simulation in R or Stata to project this mythical player's stats. How many stars would he have gotten on the recruiting trail? (six?) What would his fake forty time be? Could he eat more than Charlie Weiss? What sort of tattoos would he have? What pet would he own? The possibilities are both endless and fascinating.
Just thought I'd mention it.
The Mathlete started simulating this but desisted when he started noticing small glitches in reality. He swears that carbonation of beverages was rare until he started working on your question, Patrick. The initial results are a little rough, but your answers:
- COULD YOU IMAGINE IF THIS PLAYER EXISTED? No longer do I imagine or dream, as the act of doing so now brings things into reality. While I could use this for good, eventually the wrong thing would be thought about and Michigan would have two wins over Ohio State since OH GOD I DID IT DO YOU SEE PATRICK, DO YOU SEE?
- HOW MANY STARS WOULD JAKE LEWAN HAVE. Blue. Div by zero.
- WHAT WOULD HIS FAKE 40 TIME BE? Zero point two seconds, to account for human stopwatch vagaries. This would be real, and thus break the concepts of fake 40 times and reality.
- COULD HE EAT MORE THAN CHARLIE WEIS(S)? If you are referring to the temporary head of the Kansas Jayhawks, he's had bariatric surgery so most nine-year-olds could do this. If you are referring to some random dude who has to keep correcting everyone who lols at him about decided schematic advantage, yes. This is a large man who is physically active. Charlie Weiss lifts a little bit but cannot compare.
- WHAT SORT OF TATTOOS WOULD HE HAVE? Animated ones depicting the rise and fall of Atlantis, both of which were his doing.
- WHAT PET WOULD HE OWN? His Excellency The Most Exalted Velocironald The Third The Fourth The Second, Jr.
I think I made this same chart in 2008 #1: Gulo Gulo Luscus is joining Off-Tackle Empire and other folk in looking back at recruiting and OL development time to explain why the problems. His method is to look at average age of the starters versus the performance of the unit as measured by YPA/RPI. Cool chart:
If you can't find Michigan it's because we're buried under the Gophers. TSS's response should be part of the read.
Ron Utah has the beginnings of his own UFR database. With Brian's permission I'll make mine available to anyone who asks for it—don't want to host it online but I'm willing to share copies if you say what you're going to do with it. Only concern there is those numbers are very much in context and the n's are quite small so it's easy to abuse. Anyway, Ron's thing tracked performance of different formations in the UConn game. Tiny sample sizes are going to hide most good info but we can whittle that down personnel instead of formation, since these two:
…have more in common with each other than either has with this:
. By personnel:
|Type||Runs||Rush YPA||Passes||Pass YPA||Total YPA||Pass%|
|Empty TE (1TE, 4WR)||0||-||1||6.0||6.0||100.0%|
|Big (2RB, 2TE)||4||-1.3||1||12.0||1.4||20.0%|
|Goal Line (2RB, 3TE*)||3||6.7||0||-||6.7||0.0%|
* Michigan brings in an OT (Magnuson) instead of a third tight end
Still too small a sample size . I'll check in the next bye week and see what these look like when we're not just zooming in on Gardner's terrible awful no good very bad day. The ratios look normal but given the relative paucity of plays with a fullback (and many of those probably in short situations) it's hard to judge those at all.
Goal line—6.7 YPA—we must be manballius!—looks great because of two Gardner boot-to-runs (it would be epically higher if he'd seen Funchess wide open downfield on one of them), but the other play from that formation was a near-crippling fumble-defensive TD.
On the other hand: 12 rushes for 8.3 YPA from three-wide is not a red herring: that is Gardner's rushing ability and the fact that Michigan is far better at getting linebackers out of the box by making them split out with a slot receiver than having a tight end forcibly remove him. Note when it counted on that late 4th and 2 they went with a 3-wide formation and let Gardner pick his spot.
Our Demographic. I made this to explain our numbers versus other media outlets to a potential advertiser:
She's probably on the phone with WTKA now.