Once upon a time, there was a little girl with hair wings the color of goldish yellow, kind of like corn, or maize, or maybe the 14th most populous city in Texas if that makes sense. (She also had a phase where she dyed it neon. A lot of people bitched about what color this was, actually).
Anyway, one day she went for a walk in the forest. Pretty soon, she came upon the house where lived three bears. She knocked and, when no one answered, she walked right in.
Earlier this week I went over what a reach block is. There's actually a play where they're trying to reach block all three relevant linemen. It's called a zone stretch, also known as outside zone. And no, it doesn't actually rely on everyone getting reached; in fact all sorts of things are expected to go wrong, with guys getting help and offensive players coached to react to defensive reactions.
Those links cover what the offense does, but how should the defense play it? Indiana ran a lot of zone stretch against Michigan in 2015 and on one in particular I thought we got a nice example of the actions and reactions that go into these plays.
Zone blocking asks the OL to get the best block they can based on what the defense does, and as you might have guessed a reach block is the best block you can pull off. On a stretch play the OL will ID the defender they need to get playside of by how the D aligns, and the way they play the block is determined by how the guy getting block reacts. The RB then picks whatever hole materializes.
There are three different reach attempts going on here:
- The LT (Jason Spriggs) will reach/cut Godin (top)
- The LG (Jacob Bailey) will try to reach Willie Henry (middle) with a minor assist from the C (Jake Reed) as he releases.
- The RG (Dan Feeney) and RT will try to scoop Chris Wormley.
A scoop is a combination block where the OL lined up outside blocks the defensive player until the guy doing the reaching can get in position. Once they've got another guy around, the outside man releases to block someone else. Teams that run a lot of zone will get good at combo-ing with each other, and it's rare that any reach block is purely the work of one man. Even in our last example Braden lent Mason Cole an arm.
[After THE JUMP, too soft, too hard, and just right]
This is a new series I've begun to serve as an ad hoc glossary of specific football concepts/terminology that get thrown around in our articles. The plan is to discuss as they come up and then (probably forget to) link them when we're talking about this stuff down the road.
REACH BLOCK DEFINED
When an offensive lineman blocks a defensive player who's lined up playside of him. For example on this play Mason Cole is going to block this guy:
…on a play going to the right of him. In other words this play is going to the defender's left, and it's Mason Cole's job is to be in the way of that defender going left.
HOW DO YOU DO THAT?
There are lots of O-line technique videos out there but here's the simplest:
The reaching blocker takes a short (that's key) step at an angle toward the defender's opposite shoulder. That puts him in a stance sort of like that of an Olympic sprinter, so his next step can launch him across that defender and get your helmet across the defender's torso. Lock in that victory by putting the inside arm into the defender's outside number, and pivot around to seal. The key is quick feet and a wide stance to not get off-balance—remember the defender is also fighting.
IS THAT HARD?
Yuh huh. The lineman has a fraction of a second between when the ball is snapped and the defense starts to read the blocking to get around that guy, get leverage, and seal the dude being blocked before dude can put a stop to this. It is the hardest of blocks.
Coaches emphasize different talking points but the basics are a short first step toward the outside shoulder, get your arms into him and your head across to seal, all the while keeping your feet apart so don't get knocked off.
Back when (IU OL coach) Greg Frey was at Michigan under Rich Rod, Michigan would try this a handful of times a game, and Molk was better at this than just about anyone I've watched closely. In fact Brian had a Picture Pages in 2008 to show Molk getting a guy lined up outside the guard.
Michigan tried a bunch in 2007, when they were a zone stretch team. This had varying results: Jake Long and (former tight end) Adam Kraus could pull it off occasionally; Justin Boren, Jeremy Ciulla, Alex Mitchell and Reuben Riley were comically bad at it. Against FBS competition it takes a very agile player.
[After THE JUMP: running it, and defending it]
[I didn’t label these MGoQuestions because it was a one-on-one interview]
Where would you say you’ve made the biggest gains from last year to this year as far as technique’s concerned?
“I think just kind of honing in on the little details of my technique. That was big for me, going back and watching past years and seeing where I need to improve and kind of honing in on the smaller details of things. Getting off blocks, finishing tackles, finishing plays were the biggest for me.”
With Don Brown coming in, are you guys going to be dropping into coverage a little bit more or is it about the same as what you’ve done in the past?
“Pretty similar. But his motto is ‘Solve your problems with aggression,’ so we’re going to get after the quarterback. We’re going to be blitzing a bunch. We had aggressive defensive coordinators in the past as well. Coach Durkin got after the quarterback as well, so it’s not too much of a change for us.”
Technique-wise, what does Coach Partridge or Coach Brown preach to you most often?
“Just really getting off blocks and finishing tackles. That’s the art of playing linebacker. You’ve got to get off blocks. You can’t stay on blocks, you can’t trade one for one. You’ve got to finish plays.”
You were saying you feel like you’ve made pretty big strides as far as shedding blocks?
“Yeah, I think so. Spring’s a big fundamental time for us and I think altogether us linebackers got a lot better in that regard.”
How do you get better at that? Is it through drills, is it through live reps, or can you study it on film? What helps the most?
“I think it’s a combination of all of them. You start with the drill. You start not against another person and you hone in on the technique, but once you get to a live period sometimes you forget all that and you fall back on your technique and you evaluate it at film [sessions] and try to improve.”
What, if any, differences are there from last year’s defense to this year’s defense as far as your assignments are concerned?
“The biggest difference?”
Yeah, if there are any.
“Pretty similar. I mean, for me personally it’s just being more vocal and making the calls as a Mike linebacker. Play a lot of man coverage. No secret there. We’ll be blitzing a lot so we’ll play a lot of man.”
[After THE JUMP: Learn how Carlo Kemp became Chris Wormley’s psedo-son and which NFL players’ film Amara Darboh watches]
Event reminder. We're having a Hail To The Victors kickoff party/thing on Friday at Circus Bar. Hopefully it will be as crazy as last night.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) August 1, 2016
About last night. I don't get WOO NIKE. I have no strong feelings about clothing brands, except insofar as I would like them to put the sports teams I like in uniforms that 1) stay in one piece, 2) are legible from distance, and 3) don't make me envy the dead. I'm in the same realm of bafflement Dan Murphy was last night:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- They lined up for T-shirts.
All day, Michigan fans stood in line for T-shirts. And when the sun went down they chanted and painted their faces and counted down the last few seconds like it was New Year’s Eve for T-shirts, ones with a tiny lopsided parabola in the corner instead of a striped triangle. ...
“I’ve lived 52 years, a lot of them right here in Ann Arbor,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said into a sea of fans recording on their cell phones. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
LIST OF SHIRTS I WOULD STAND IN LINE TO BUY
1. if it was the 12th century and they sold indulgences on shirts
— mgoblog (@mgoblog) August 1, 2016
But I'm happy you're happy, and happy that recruits and players are bonkers for the stuff. There are many many variations of this on Michigan player twitter:
— Moe Ways (@MoeWays) August 1, 2016
It's probably better that Michigan's back with marketing folks who can inspire the kind of devotion that results in a walk-on basketball player crowdsurfing like he's 1992 Eddie Vedder. The gap between the Only Incompetent Germans and that 190-proof blast of capitalism is obvious. While the headline number* on Michigan's apparel contract has been beaten by a few different schools since it was signed a year ago, Jumpman exclusivity looks like a big deal for players and recruits—you know, the people who help you win on the field.
I have one hope, and that's a football version of Jumpman. Pick one of Desmond or Woodson:
A permanent logo swap ain't happening, but if Nike wants to do a special edition thing that will sell a lot of merch and not piss off traditionalists this would be killer. (I think? I obviously have no idea what I'm talking about in this department. Later today I will advise rappists on the finest iambic pentameters. The very best.)
I have one concern. The hockey jerseys look weird and wrong.
Mismatched blues, a weird sheen on top, really not digging the jersey with one maize stripe across the top and nothing else anywhere. A closeup of the hockey jersey does seem into indicate it's regular jersey material and not, like, shimmery. I'll reserve final judgment until I see them in the wild, but I'm not hopeful.
*[I say "headline number" here because it looks like various other schools have structured their contracts such that theirs is the "biggest ever" to the press but not in reality. For example, OSU's "biggest ever" deal with Nike is actually worth $13 million less in cash than Michigan's over the same timeframe. They just pad it out with more gear at an inflated price. I haven't looked into the details of UCLA and Texas but it's possible—probable in UCLA's case—that the same thing is going on there.]
This is completely rational. I retract my tweet at Nick Baumgardner yesterday:
"I definitely think its symbolic, it's a new age for Michigan," Gozdor said. "A lot of my friends are saying they're going to burn their Adidas gear and forget the whole entire thing ever happened."
He was right.
Jeremy Gallon finally gets to be taller than some people. An alert reader points out that the Nojima Sagamihara Rise, a team in Japan's "X-League," is currently listing Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon on their roster. (Also included is former Illinois safety Earnest Thomas III.) Thorough research* reveals that only two foreign players are allowed to be on the field at any one time; the Rise must be planning on Gardner to Gallon for 50% of their plays. This is a good plan.
[Update: now there is an article on this occurrence:
“Everybody here is so respectful, so nice. It’s almost like a compete 180 from in America,” said Gardner, who made 27 starts at quarterback for the Wolverines, with a smile. “They (the Americans) are nice people but I’ve never been to a place where everybody is so kind and so respectful, and it’s just part of the way everyone is here. It’s pure refreshing to get a chance to experience it.”
No Michigan State or Ohio State fans in Japan, I take it.]
*[googling the league's wikipedia page]
I'd be happy to be wrong here. Erik Magnuson doesn't strike me as a guy who the NFL will consider drafting early unless he takes a big step forward as a senior, but CBS's Dane Brugler disagrees with that take, naming him one of the top ten senior OTs in the country and saying he "played like a legitimate NFL prospect":
...moves with a smooth shuffle and wide base, transferring his weight well in his kickslide to mirror edge rushers. He stays low off the snap and prefers to use his hands to control the point of attack to out-leverage and out-power defenders. Magnuson is able to secure downblocks and anchor at shallow depth, driving his legs to finish in the Wolverines' power offense. He has also been praised by the coaching staff for his leadership and consistency during the week.
Although hustle and effort aren't an issue, Magnuson has sloppy tendencies with a bad habit of lowering his head and losing sight of his target, ending up on the ground. He tends to be a waist bender and lacks ideal length to compensate, which allows savvy rushers to get him off balance and leaning. While powerful when squared to defenders, Magnuson will struggle to recover once defenders attack his shoulder.
I thought Magnuson was okay, and only that, a year ago. I get the vibe that PFF agrees with me since they haven't posted anything about him, or the rest of the Michigan OL not named Mason Cole. They tend to have an "if you can't say anything nice..." policy.
I'd be happy to be right here. Ryan Glasgow makes ESPN's list of the top 25 Big Ten players... at #25, which I'm sure I'll find is an outrage once they get around to putting a punter at 16 or whatever. Even so, thank you, ESPN, for not consigning Glasgow to a Wally Pipp role just yet. PFF also names Glasgow their #3 breakout player this year, though they do admit that's a bit of an injury-induced slam dunk:
2016 grade: 84.8 | 2015 snaps: 332 | PFF College 101 rank: 72
The argument could be made that Glasgow has already broken out as he boasted the nation’s No. 19 run-stopping grade before going down to injury last season, but since he only played 332 snaps, he still qualifies as a breakout candidate. He’s seen the field for 753 snaps the last two seasons, posting a strong +32.7 grade against the run, and last year he improved his pass rush grade to +9.0 on the strength of a sack, four QB hits, and 12 hurries on 179 rushes.
Taco Charlton shows up at #7 for the same reasons we're hyped about him around here: a lot of production in under 400 snaps. There are scattered Big Ten players to round out the list plus a couple of old names for recrutniks: both Cal RB Vic Enwere and Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage make the tail end of the list.
Spreading the wealth. Michigan probably has four guys on that aforementioned top 25 B10 players list (Lewis, Peppers and Butt are probably locks and Glasgow snuck in) so it's not exactly crazy that these gents missed it...
Michigan DL Chris Wormley and receivers Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson: Wormley is one of the more versatile defensive linemen in the league, with the ability to move between end and tackle, and he had 14.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 2015. Some of us argued for his inclusion, though we ultimately went with a different player in his position group. As for Darboh and Chesson, they are clearly two of the better wideouts in the league. Yet neither had huge numbers last season, and even Jim Harbaugh will tell you it's a coin flip on who is the better player. They sort of canceled out each other for purposes of this list.
...but since two of those guys are seniors getting first round draft hype it is a little bit crazy. Also:
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) August 1, 2016
Meanwhile Feldman named Michigan's receiving corps the #3 unit in the country. Michigan could be all right this fall.
Etc.: Peppers gets votes from current Big Ten football players as the Big Ten's best defensive player... and its best offensive player. PSU fans expect a punter to be their biggest impact freshman... and they're probably right. Y'all probably don't know how bad PSU punting has been the last few years. TV networks not a big fan of the Big 12's naked cash grab. Always weird when some guy you remember as like 15 is now writing for the Daily. I'm old and DEATH DEATH DEATH. ND contract details.
[Ed—Seth: Every year, by tradition, Mike Spath (@MichaelSpath198), one of the best journalists on the Michigan beat and bar none the best source of Michigan hockey info, also generates the only content I ever care about from Big Ten Media Days, offering anonymity to opposing players in return for their unvarnished opinions on Michigan players.
Spath has departed The Wolverine, but he still went to Media Days and got those golden quotes. He was at WTKA this morning and shared some of them with Sam Webb. You can listen to the entire segment on WTKA's website here. With their permission, Adam and I transcribed the parts that were paraphrased from those players.
Note: "paraphrased." Note again: I SAID PARAPHRASED. On a lot of these Spath is combining several players' thoughts, and he was talking on the radio. Please don't construe that into misquotations that result in me being chased by a tall blond man who in turn is being chased by a Big Ten athlete.
If you want more Spath, he'll be contributing some at Badgerblitz.com, and is expected to become a regular contributor on WTKA.]
HOW THIS WORKS: So I’ve gotten some harsh feedback on Twitter saying “you know, if I was going to say something critical I’d put my name to it,” but that’s not the way that it goes. I don’t go up to them and say “Sam, I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to put your name on it.” I’ll say “Sam, I want to ask you some really honest feedback about Michigan football,” and the only way you’re going to give it to me is if I don’t quote you—if I don’t use your name.”
And so that’s how I do it and I would say this: if you’re a pretty smart person you can probably figure out that I went up to Indiana players, I went to Minnesota players, Rutgers players, Illinois players … and Northwestern.
So those are the five teams I was able to approach. It was a little more difficult this year—Sam you were there, and they didn’t go into roundtables where you have a lot more one-on-one times. So you really had to wait these guys out, and I waited until the last five minutes when they were completely empty, or I wasn’t afraid to—when a guy was getting up and leaving the podium when he’s done with his hour, or walking down the hallway with him. Because that’s when you’re gonna get the good stuff: when there’s nobody else around, and you have to really assure him: “I’m NOT gonna use your name.” You can see the light bulb going on in their head for that first second like: “I don’t know about this...do I really wanna do this?”
But eventually, and here’s the thing too, is that when you ask these questions—and I’ve seen other people try to do it—I think if you ask generic questions you get generic answers. If you ask specific questions, you get specific answers. And so a lot of the time what I’ve focused on is specific players.
“The player that they played against in November: we had six games of film on him from earlier in the season, and who was that player? This was a guy that caught everything, was a big play waiting to happen. There’s a play where he caught the ball in the middle of the field against us, and we had two guys right there, and we thought we had the angle on him, and he pulled away!”
“There’s track speed and there’s football speed, and this guy’s got football speed. I couldn’t believe how unbelievably fast this guy was, and how much of a difference he made over the course of the second half of the season.”
I posted some of these things to Twitter and there’s already this Jourdan Lewis thing that blew up big time:
Note from rival on @JourdanJD, even though they didn't complete much throwing at him, he didn't have many INTs so there was no fear factor.
— Michael Spath (@MichaelSpath198) July 26, 2016
One guy said that the reason they throw at Jourdan Lewis is there’s not a fear factor. And I immediately got jumped on and ripped on. I think when you read the whole quote it’s a little more understanding.
The guy was talking about how they didn’t complete much last year—they only completed 36% of their passes that they threw at him. But they did throw at him, because he had 90 targets according to Pro Football Focus, and that’s the tenth most at any specific defensive back in the country. So I mean you’re talking about 127 teams, talking about four defensive backs for the most part on every team, so you’re looking at 400 players and he’s the tenth-most thrown-at? That’s pretty crazy for a guy who’s only giving up a 36% completion. And the guy said to me:
“You know we didn’t complete much, but he didn’t get many interceptions.” So I asked him a little bit more—why did you keep throwing at him, and he said “What did he have interceptions-wise compared to Desmond King? Two or three?” (The answer’s two). “You weren’t going to complete many passes if you threw his way, but he wasn’t going to pick you off either. You didn’t have to fear the turnover if you threw it.”
And I said “So you didn’t fear him?”
And he’s like “We didn’t fear him: no.”
So when I’m trying to present this as “there wasn’t a fear factor” that’s not really how the quote comes off. [Sam and Spath talked a bit about man-to-man versus cover 2. Upshot: the difference with Desmond King is cover 2 cornerbacks are facing the ball the whole play.]
[Hit THE JUMP for Victims of Glasgow and Wormley Anonymous, Glasgows, Guards, and Peppers]
It lives part II! When Homesure Lending sponsored these posts, Matt admonished me that his sponsorship was contingent on me actually doing all of them. So, yeah, next time you see him buy him a beer and get a mortgage. Matt just pinged me in case a refi made sense, demonstrating that 1) he's always on the lookout if he can save you money and 2) rates must be even more absurdly low than they were a couple years ago.
Formation notes: Michigan spent almost the entire game in nickel, as you would expect against a spread. There were only a few plays on which they deployed odd formations. Here RJS is a standup DT in a dime package on third and eleven:
This was "dime standup DT," because sometimes obvious is obvious. Michigan also had a couple plays where they walked out a bonafide linebacker over WR bunches:
But it was mostly standard stuff as Florida failed to threaten those formations.
Substitution notes: Peppers missed this game with a broken hand. Michigan moved Lewis inside and played Clark and Stribling on the outside. Thomas and Hill rotated at one safety spot next to Wilson. LB was the usual Morgan/Bolden pairing with both guys getting spotted by Gedeon.
DL was variable, with Wormley seeing time at three tech and SDE; Charlton was at WDE and SDE; RJS got a lot of WDE time. Hurst and Henry started at DT and got the bulk of the snaps. Marshall saw some snaps at WDE. Godin and Strobel saw scattered snaps on the interior. Brady Pallante even got a few plays in.
[After THE JUMP: way less data than the offense provided.]