i am a spread zealot no foolies
Morris's cannon, by me.
Before getting into last week's game, Best and Worst this week spent about 1,000 words on exorcising demons, spinning a tale of Michigan's decline with the rise of offense based on athletes in space. Once the 2014 ASU game was in hand, it occurred to me that this is where Michigan ought to have been 7 years ago. By 2007 the college football world had witnessed the spread's effectiveness in all its forms, and had time to adjust their schemes, recruit for it, and develop those recruits. The prep sites already identified dual-threat and pro-style quarterbacks separately, and the nationally #1 2008 recruit was absolutely the former.
One part of The Horror story is that Opening Day of 2007 was Michigan's first after switching to zone blocking. [Correction: I have been going around remembering this wrong for years. M went zone in 2006.] Our metrics for evaluating that weren't as good back then, but from memory the blocking that day was about on par with last Saturday's—a work in progress with some obvious successes—except the unit was 20% more senior Jake Long. The biggest difference in the two game plans is once 2007 App State began cheating to stop zone left, DeBord never punished them for it by taking the easy WR screen-type yards. On Saturday, Nussmeier absolutely did, and while that certainly wasn't 2007 Appalachian State out there, it wasn't so hard to imagine if it had been.
Which brings me to the above gif, a sort of preview of things to come in 2015. It was indeed a rollout from a two-TE formation that required a quarterback to make a play that required amazing awareness, footwork and arm strength, but not running speed. It seems the armistice between spread zealots and the MANBALLers will be this: the 2007 offense except with sensible constraints, the 2007 defense except with five times as many functional LBs and DBs, and the 2007 outcomes except we won't lose to teams with a major talent disadvantage. So long as it's successful there will be peace, and so long as the players do amazing things they will be gif'd. Both sides of the fanbase have decided we'd rather eat some lemons that go through bad ideas and bad fits any more.
This is COrrEct. From Inside the Box Score:
I Attended the Beth MOOOwins school of jOUrnalism this sUmmer. According to Beth, the key to doing play-by-play is to randomly Over-anunciate your vOwels. That's the key to doing a Beth MOwins imitAYtion. Just blAst the occAsional vOwel at mAx vOlume. Especially the O's, she loves her O's.
I tend to imagine ESPN has some kid sitting behind Mowins in the booth and the kid is kicking her chair and rocking it back and forth as she talks. In answer to what does Joey Galloway bring to the game: something that's far more annoying than Beth Mowins.
Preach!. Sharik showed that Alabama, whose special teams players might be All-Conference starters already at other schools,
was 112th in net punting because they dinosaur. Purdue, who recruits so terribly that Urban Meyer complained it was hurting the conference, was 2nd. [UPDATE: apparently we read that wrong. HT to johnthesavage.]
[After the jump: videos of MGoBlog posters eating lemons]
read option [Fuller]
I am determined this spring to mine every possible stat for every possible insight. This week I delved into quarterback rushes. Not sacks. I wanted to know which offenses tended to have their quarterbacks take off, or planned runs for them into their game plans.
Baseline: here's Michigan and their opponents last year. Sacks and yardage lost to them are not counted, but I couldn't tell from scrambles and QB sneaks, or stuff like if he took off for 10 yards on 3rd and 15 that defenses are happy to give up:
|Season Avg||vs Mich|
|Opponent||QB Rush||Yards||QB Rush||Yards|
Indiana, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Kansas State ran option games. Minnesota's offense was QB power running (thing it is like: Michigan's 2010 offense when Rodriguez gave up on trying to make Denard into a zone reader). According to the UFR database Minnesota quarterback running plays vs Michigan were as follows: 7 QB powers; 2 draws; 2 zone read keepers; a false zone arc sweep thing, a QB sneak, and 7 scrambles.
The stats can't tell the difference between this kind of offense and a dedicated Richrodigan spread 'n shred. There aren't many teams who run this as their base offense, as simple as it may be, but a lot of teams have a mobile change-of-pace quarterback and a small package built around him. Notable teams who deployed a second guy:
|Player (2014 Elig)||Team||% of Snaps||% Will Pass||Rush||Pass|
|Austin Boucher (graduated)||Miami(NTM)||51%||73%||80||211|
|Austin Gearing (So.)||35%||35%||129||70|
|Drew Kummer (Jr.)||14%||71%||22||55|
|Nate Sudfeld (Jr.)||Indiana||61%||94%||22||338|
|Tre Roberson (Jr.)||38%||62%||84||139|
|C.J. Brown (11th year Sr.)||Maryland||73%||72%||119||303|
|Caleb Rowe (Jr.)||26%||91%||14||136|
|Philip Nelson (transferred)||Minnesota||59%||72%||79||200|
|Mitch Leidner (So.)||38%||51%||89||91|
|Gary Nova (Sr.)||Rutgers||68%||93%||25||328|
|Chas Dodd (graduated)||32%||87%||21||143|
|Tommy Armstrong (So.)||Nebraska||39%||68%||63||135|
|Ron Kellogg III (graduated)||31%||90%||16||141|
|Taylor Martinez (graduated)||30%||77%||34||116|
|Trevor Siemian (Sr.)||Northwestern||63%||92%||29||315|
|Kain Colter (graduated)||36%||50%||98||99|
|Braxton Miller (Sr.)||Ohio State||72%||65%||150||276|
|Kenny Guiton (graduated)||25%||74%||39||110|
I included Rutgers to show Chas Dodd wasn't a Drew Henson-ian run threat except in comparison to Gary Nova.
[Jump: Okay spread zealots, do teams with running QBs have an advantage?]
I wonder where fightin' bird guy is today. North Dakota may want to stop playing Frozen Four semifinals. First you've got the Life As A Vole Hunwick game…
…and then last night a Minnesota defenseman with zero goals on the season scored a shorthander with 0.6 seconds left to knock them out. Seriously.
North Dakota won their consolation game in the league playoffs to push Michigan out of the tournament, which I was mad about but maybe I should thank them because I would be waking up in a dumpster today if that had happened to Michigan. I would not feel well.
Minnesota plays Union for the title tomorrow at 7:30. Go Union, if only to see Mark Emmert's head explode. THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE, MARK.
I mean why would you want to do that. An excellent article on Fox Sports about Derek Mason, former Stanford DC and new guy at Vanderbilt discusses how Mason came to prominence thanks to his ability to adapt to the hurry-up spread offenses that are kind of a big deal when you're in the same division as Oregon. Mason lays out the four things that up tempo does for your offense, and while they're really only three things if you can divide it's a good framework for understand why the spread keeps spreading, Danielson be damned:
1) Defenses get stuck in one call
While defensive coordinators enter a game with a long list of plays, the defenders on the field are often forced to play the same call repeatedly when the ball is being snapped every 14-18 seconds. The middle linebacker often looks to the sideline only to see the defensive signal-caller frantically gesturing to repeat the last call.
2) Defenses don’t get ready in time
Even when defensive players get their play call on time – some defenses will often call two or three plays in advance when facing an up-tempo team – you will often see the defenders unsuccessfully scurrying to get into their proper alignment before the ball is snapped.
3) One-on-one matchups
Tackling a skill player one-on-one in space is one of the most difficult tasks in football. Up-tempo offenses often operate out of a spread scheme that forces defenses to cover the entire width and length of the field, as Mason noted.
4) More snaps per game
I'm not clear on why more snaps are necessarily better, at least insofar as you get more snaps because you're moving faster. More snaps are obviously good because that means you didn't punt; outside of that the only thing I can think of there is that defenders tend to get tired more quickly than offensive players. Substitution patterns certainly indicate that's the case.
I would also add that a high tempo team is more flexible in its approach to the clock: for them slowing it down is a matter of hanging out at the line of scrimmage longer than they usually do. For a team that does not operate in a hurry-up environment, accelerating is considerably more difficult.
Mason's reacted to the above issues by having hybrid players who may not be the best at any one thing but can straddle the line between run support and pass coverage, having simple, quick playcalls, and training their defenders the way Oregon trains offense: relentless pace.
Anyway: Hoke talk about toughness is grating these days because he's content with an offense that doesn't try to make it tough on other people. Toughness is something Michigan has to have because things are being done to them. (It is also grating because Michigan finished dead last in tackles for loss allowed in year three of being a Tough Team that Runs Power.)
Excellent timing. You may find yourself suddenly more interested in this profile of Mark Donnal the Daily published five days ago. He's getting hype; let's hope it pans out.
Donnal’s not sure when exactly it was, just that it came around the middle of the regular season, but he turned a corner. He’d found success against Morgan and Horford enough in practice that he knew he belonged.
“I started to pick up everything, and my game started to come back to me, and I’m getting in the flow of the college game,” Donnal said.
If it wasn’t for the redshirt, Morgan and Horford might have had to worry about their job security.
“He’s becoming a force,” Morgan said. “He’s hard to guard down there in the post, and he’s definitely come a long way.
“Over the past couple months, he’s just become really good. Really dominates, shoots the ball well.”
Donnal is still just 18—he's young, like Caris—and has upside yet to tap.
Brace yourself! Someone at Penn State has been in the photoshop doin' the shrooms.
— Matt Brown (@MattSBN) April 11, 2014
James Franklin being a great recruiter is a kids these days kind of thing.
At least we're not alone. On the one hand, Ohio State has a real spring game with a player draft and opens practices to students, and this makes me sad because it's clear their athletic department doesn't have quite the contempt for their fans that Michigan's does. On the other, they're not immune from Creating The Future either.
Didn't know Ohio State was charging $20 for a scrimmage. Guessing the same dipshit there who tries to seize blog assets came up with that.
— Ramzy Nasrallah (@ramzy) April 11, 2014
On a third, mutant hand, imagine a version of the Michigan spring game that anyone, dipshit or not, could believe was worth 20 dollars. OSU knocked the price down to 5, apparently. I wonder if there are punting drills.
Okay bro. I'll take this shot from a fan of any program but two:
Here's a hard and round number for you: 10 years. That's how long its been since Michigan has won a Big Ten championship. To locate a gap that pronounced in Michigan's storied and (schadenfreude alert) oppressively self-congratulatory history, you have to hearken back to the pre-Schembechler era.
Those programs are Notre Dame and especially—especially—Penn State, which author Michael Weinreb is a fan of. Until Sandusky blew everything all to hell, Penn State was recruiting kids by noting that they'd never been on probation.
Their mantra of "Success With Honor" implies that most places having success don't have honor. Michigan's is just about winning football games. Penn State was stuck so far up its own butt smelling roses that they allowed the worst thing in the history of college football to happen. You might not want to claim Michigan's history is "oppressively self-congratulatory" in that context.
Ok, bro. Get The Picture finds this assertion in Northwestern's appeal to the national NLRB:
Contrary to the Regional Director’s findings, Northwestern scholarship football student-athletes are not “initially sought out, recruited and ultimately granted scholarships because of their athletic prowess on the football field.”
I would have believed this in the 1980s. Nowadays the only school that can claim that with a straight face is Purdue.
Wow. Bursaspor's new stadium is… it's this.
Orson says he'd trade the Swamp for this as long as the interior was searing orange, and… yeah, you'd have to do it. I await Spencer's longform piece on Turkish soccer with bated breath, and not just because I once pretend-managed a Turkish third-division team to the Champions League title despite Turkey's restrictive rules on foreign soccer players. Also because in Turkey things like this happen:
The club switched names with crosstown club Kayseri Erciyesspor in 2004.
YANKEES: "We're sick of being the Yankees. Would you like to be the Yankees?"
METS: "Jolly good. Here's Mr. Met and a legacy of crippling failure."
Also they have doner kebab. They are probably the origin of doner kebab. Go Turkey.
The usual. Kam Chatman is up to #38 on ESPN's final recruit rankings and draws mention as one of their top risers:
Kameron Chatman, Michigan: He’s a classic late bloomer who has continued to improve at a rapid rate and yet very clearly still has his best basketball in front of him. A highly skilled southpaw with excellent size on the wing, Chatman’s frame has now started to fill out at a much more rapid rate, giving him the versatility not just to splash 3s over contesting defenders but also to diversify his offensive game around the rim. He’s also a deceptively good ball handler and very good passer, all of which will be utilized in Michigan’s offensive system. The bottom line is that it was clear he was still trending up, so he jumped 13 spots.
A palpable fit.
Etc.: I'm here for the sex… ual misconduct investigation. Breaking down the best offenses of the Kenpom era. The 1995 Virginia game on the tubes. Basketball would like to add another quality home game to next year's schedule. Magnus on the spring game. Stapleton on Michigan's sophomores-to-be. The state of Michigan basketball.
So we've got ourselves a new offensive coordinator. I guess there's no use hiding that I'm on the more ambivalent end of the spectrum of Michigan fans, but I'm a spread zealot, and I admit another gorram transition is just too painful a prospect right this moment. At the very least it was the kind of PR coup that resets the countdown clock on Hoke's tenure. These days you only get to play the "it was my offensive coordinator's fault" card once per Rose Bowl trip, but this was the right time to do so. I'm probably just a cynic who's been sold a bill of Mariucci over Mornhinwheg to believe in any apparent upgrade. Let's see if the readers can convince me otherwise.
Eye of the TIger tried. He found some quotes by an ex-Bama player on how Inside Zone is repped to insanity, which can be taken as evidence of philosophical thinking, or taken as the zone version of Hoke's "Power" philosophy which admittedly never materialized under Borges anyway.
|The thing about Barrett Jones is you don't have to make tough decisions about what your OL can and can't do.|
Tiger pointed out that Alabama's riches in offensive lineman size allowed them to depart from the typical suite of complementary plays and players that limits you to. It's supposed to be this:
Inside Zone has another advantage--flexibility:
The majority of the time in a zone blocking scheme the tailback will follow the design of the play, but occasionally the tailback will perform a cutback and change direction during the run. A cutback is when the tailback changes direction and runs away from where the linebackers are flowing (the tailback can only do this once and must not hesitate). This cutback made by the tailback is what makes zone blocking so dangerous because of how easily a cutback can lead to a big play. The cutback exaggerates the advantages of the zone-blocking scheme.
Watch this video highlighting Texas’ use of Inside Zone to see this point illustrated nicely, not only for cutbacks, but for alternate read options.
Major advantages: You can run an offense with less experienced OL and opens up a bigger growth curve for RBs, who become more effective the more comfortable they get at reading the holes and cutback lanes.
Major disadvantage: It's way harder to run play-action from a zone running look. Reason is nothing gets defenders thinking run like a good running MANBALL (or inverted veer) team pulling a guard. Second reason is the small, cut-rate scatbacks that zone lets you get away with don't typically make very good pass blockers. I probably don't have to tell this to 2013 Michigan fans.
At Alabama they overcame the disadvantage by having massive/quick OL who are naturally difficult obstacles to a pass rusher, and with 5-star running backs who can cut, block, slam, juke, and jet, all for three easy payments of $3,995.95, plus shipping and handler's fee (order now and we'll throw in a free safety). At Michigan, well, actually, we've got just those kinds of guys on campus now. Maybe?
Also there's this:
@michiganinsider I think people don't realize how handcuff Nuss was at Bama, he called the plays, but Nick was in control, handcuffs are off
— Theus DeShon Sears (@Theist313) January 10, 2014
And here I am a quarter way through UFRing an Alabama game. Anyone got Washington tapes?
P.S. I purposely stayed vague on the Song of Ice and Fire references; you're not off the hook from a season recap.
[After the jump: the board goes Borges for Nuss]
It's over. Hooray?
And lo, it ended. It ended for us before the new year, and now it's all over, all of it: the season, the BCS, the goofy bowl scheduling. Next year, there are three large games on New Year's Eve and three large games on New Year's Day, two of which are national semifinals leading to a final the next week.
The BCS itself was sent off with a grander finale than it deserved, a taut back-and-forth affair between Florida State and pretty-much-arbitrarily-chosen Auburn that worked out, unlike near-arbitrary matchups that ended up in one sided blowouts with another team with a near-identical resume looked on in disgust. With the playoff these outrages have been reduced in intensity and spread over a greater number of teams, which seems like progress.
How long this holds before expansion and realignment kicks in, I don't know. I tend to think we'll end up with an eight-team playoff sooner rather than later, and from there who knows what happens. Someone will say "but we can get more money," probably, and then things spiral on and on.
At the very least, a bunch of bad ideas have ceased to impact college football, like
- Coaches voting on teams they haven't seen and have a huge conflict of interest about
- Retired coaches voting based on what Oklahoma was like in 1975
- Computer polls that can't take margin of victory or anything else into account
- Richard Billingsley
Whether the new ideas are better is yet to be seen; they almost can't be worse.
OH GOOD. Penn State may have been an incestuous mockery of an athletic department for years, but by God did they turn that around quickly. Bill O'Brien goes so well that an NFL team scoops him up after two years and their sanction-riddled mess of a program heading for a crater is about hire away…
— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) January 7, 2014
...the guy who turned Vanderbilt from a 2-10 type outfit into a consistent bowl participant and all-around thorn in the side of the SEC. Ace and I are trying to come up with the last Big Ten coach to have 1) a job at the time of his hire and 2) a resume better than Franklin's, and, well…
[12:22 PM] Ace: is it bad that kevin wilson was the first name that came to mind?
[12:22 PM] Brian Cook: #ImitateAdam_Jacobi
…we're having some difficulty. Ace throws out Dantonio, but Dantonio's record in three years at Cincinnati was 18-17. Best we've got is Gary Andersen at Wisconsin, who implemented a hugely impressive build at Utah State. But I dunno man, Vandy is coming off back to back 9-4 years. Vandy. Which is in the SEC.
Not sure how good of a cultural fit the fiery, weird Franklin (remember that thing about how he only hires guys with hot wives?) will be at Penn State, but for a team in their situation to poach the hot up and coming SEC guy is impressive.
Unless this is all agents getting their dude a raise, but there's a lot of smoke here indicating he's the guy. Which will mean Michigan is in a division with Urban, Dantonio, and Franklin. Plus Randy Edsall. It's not all bad, I guess.
That was awesome, do it more. Twitter was agog about the ESPN News section of ESPN's BCS overkill broadcast, as it featured coaches (and Chris Spielman and Matt Millen) with instant off the cuff reactions to what was going on. I was with Twitter. Spielman's fervor for assignments came through clearly as he steamed about Auburn's screen touchdown, and then Kevin Sumlin jumped in to say that is what Auburn does, they put the eye candy in front of you for just those reasons, and everything was just terrific.
A few suggestions:
- Everyone do this all the time. Seriously, I would watch Glen Mason in a room just dying in disgust as he tries to watch Michigan run the ball. This may qualify as torture under the Geneva Convention; if it doesn't, do it.
- The game is the most important bit, so make it the whole screen, with the coaches popping in with small PIP boxes. The All-22 camera angle combined with the smaller box for the actual game was problematic, and I have a huge TV. Maximize the game size; no need to cut to visuals of Spielman, et al., when I can hear them talking.
- Cut two guys. One guy to run things, one D guy, one O guy, and Spielman.
- Send small electric shocks to anyone who talks in platitudes, like Paul Chryst did much of the night.
What I have been trying to express all year. Smart Football profiles Gus Malzahn for Grantland. This is the core of the offensive philosophy that brought Auburn from 0-8 in the SEC to the precipice of the national title in one year with a converted cornerback at QB:
Malzahn had never been in charge of an offense before. Searching for help, he turned to a book famous in coaching circles, The Delaware Wing-T: An Order of Football, by Harold "Tubby" Raymond, and followed it "word-for-word."
The genius of Raymond's book is that it's not merely a collection of football plays, though there's still plenty of that. Instead, it's primarily a treatise on how to think about offensive football. "The Wing-T is more than a formation," Raymond wrote. "It is sequence football." The animating idea behind Raymond's "Delaware" wing-T was his belief that the best offenses were built around a tightly wound collection of plays that fit together so that defenses effectively dictated the next play; each time a team tries to stop one thing, it opens itself up to something else. Beginning in the 1950s and lasting into the early 2000s — first as an assistant under wing-T innovator David Nelson, then as head coach from the mid-1960s on — Raymond fielded teams that devastated defenses. If the opposition tried to stop his base plays, Raymond had counters to his counters, counters to his counters to his counters, and so on. He amplified this "sequential" approach by "utilizing the misdirection theme to its fullest." With a dizzying array of motions, backfield actions, and fakes, Raymond correctly determined that defenses wouldn't be able to stop his offense if they couldn't find the ball.
Auburn's offense is a modernized version of that. It's like Fritz Crisler, basically, except not as wacky. Michigan does not have a tightly wound collection of plays, partially because they can't execute basic runs and partially because that's just not how Al Borges rolls. Borges does have sets of plays that are interrelated, but instead of piling wrinkle on wrinkle like Malzahn does—his thing this year was double arc blocks…
…Borges goes to a different package once his previous stuff has been figured out. And they dispense with the frippery. To me that's a philosophical thing on par with huddling.
How do you run the ball in college football? The top 25 teams in yards per carry this year, with offense type appended (note: distinction between spread to run teams and passing spread teams largely based on how many yards the QB had. Generally spread to run teams had 500+ QB rushing yards, and usually 700+).
|1||Ohio State||6.8||Spread to run|
|3||Northern Illinois||6.35||Spread to run|
|4||Auburn||6.3||Spread to run|
|5||Oregon||6.26||Spread to run|
|6||New Mexico||6.14||Spread to run|
|9||Missouri||5.66||Spread to run|
|10||Florida State||5.63||Passing spread|
|15||Arizona||5.32||Spread to run|
|19||BYU||5.23||Spread to run|
|20||Oklahoma||5.21||Spread to run|
|21||Texas A&M||5.17||Spread to run|
|22||Wyoming||5.1||Spread to run|
Yeah, it's possible to have a good running game by going under center and grinding it out, but is it likely? Four of the top 25 teams are pro-style outfits, one of which is Alabama and their overwhelming talent. Is Michigan going to be Wisconsin? I hope so, because that's the only way we get on this list.
Dolla dolla bill. We have money. Some of it comes from the only incompetent Germans.
According to a study done by the Portland Business Journal, Michigan's contract with Adidas (which is currently set to expire in 2016) is the most lucrative apparel deal in the country. Yes, more than Oregon's flashy contractual arrangement with Nike.
Per the study, Michigan currently receives a total of $8.2 million annually from Adidas stemming from the contract signed in 2007 between the two parties.
Michigan receives $4.4 million in equipment and apparel, and $3.8 million in cash. That's more than twice as much as the next-highest school in the Big Ten, Nebraska, which makes a total of $4 million from Adidas.
Part of that is the fact that Michigan has so many sports, which drives up the equipment and apparel bit. I wonder what will happen in 2016; that Most Favored Nation status Martin acquired has long driven ND crazy and Michigan's national appeal has… uh… suffered in recent years. The brand, if you will. Maybe we'll run an ad campaign about how we know our football is terrible so we changed our football sauce.
Our roundtable's obsession this bye: what to do if you're Borges. The cast:
Scott Bakula as Brian Cook, a quantum physicist who becomes trapped on the internet following an experiment with trying to understand zone stretch plays.
Dean Stockwell as Seth Fisher, a cavalier, cigar-smoking hologram sidekick who's always playing with his doohicky smartphone thing.
Deb Pratt as Mathlete, a super hybrid computer that runs Project Points Above Normal.
Dennis Wolfberg as Heiko, a programmer and doctor described as short and annoying.
|Having Dileo in the slot blocks a SAM more effectively than asking Funchess to block that guy. [Upchurch]|
Okay I'm out of Quantum Leap characters. Next person to respond gets to be the chimpanzee. That question:
By an extraordinary string of events that in no way represents unauthorized usage of the MGoBlog credit card, I have managed to procure for us one (1) trip via the Quantum Leap machine into the mind of Al Borges. We may send just one person--totally undetected--to control the mind of Borges from now until Minnesota kickoff, and must use it to fix Michigan's offense. Remember, once you are out of his head Borges takes over again. What would you do, implement, change, practice, and rep if this was you?
Heiko: Well I actually succeeded in doing this and it resulted in the last two weeks so I am staying away now.
[After the jump: Brian's 8-step program.]