I did not make this headline up
Yea, and we shall block things
Ace: Which returning player do you expect to have the biggest breakout season under Jim Harbaugh? Who benefits the most from the coaching change? To keep us from all answering the same thing, first responder gets to take Butt/Bunting.
Adam Schnepp: Butt/Bunting or whoever lines up at Y/TE are obvious (and very merited) choices, but I think that the returning player most likely to have a breakout season under Harbaugh is the guy who ends up being the starting quarterback. That may seem like a strange pick considering that there isn't actually a specific player whom I can definitely name here, but there's pretty solid circumstantial evidence to back up my prediction.
|Beeeeeee goooooooooood. [Fuller]|
Harbaugh's long had a reputation as a quarterback guru, and for good reason: he developed Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick while helping resuscitate Alex Smith's career. Smith had a career completion percentage of 57.1% and threw for 6.2 yards per attempt in the five seasons before Harbaugh arrived. In two years under his tutelage, Harbaugh simplified the offense and Smith's stats benefited for it; his completion percentage in those two years rose to 64.3% while his yards per attempt rose to 7.4.
After years of suffering through Brady Hoke and his offensive staff trying to slam a round peg into a square hole over (Denard) and over (Devin) and over (Shane) again, it's going to be a breath of fresh air to watch Harbaugh implement an offense that's supposed to work to a quarterback's advantage. In the Smart Football article linked above Chris Brown discusses how Harbaugh erased sight adjustments from his offense so that the quarterback didn't have to hesitate when the defense presented coverages that shifted post snap. Instead there were built-in hot routes in every play that didn't require the quarterback to hope the receiver reacted the same way to the coverage they were presented with.
If the past is any indication of the future then whoever wins the quarterback battle is going to have a firm grasp of progressions as well, because Harbaugh tries to make this as simple for the quarterback to rapidly work through as he can (more on that here and here). I expect Harbaugh to implement similar concepts at Michigan, where the power running game should open up options for the quarterback to create the type of big plays that we didn't see last season.
[After the jump: someone will take Butt/Bunting. Eventually.]
News bullets and other items
Delano Hill served a one-game suspension against Maryland and will return against OSU
The vulnerability to a fake punt was something the coaches spotted on film, and Joe Kerridge had the ability to call it off if necessary
The problems with the passing game are “multiple”
Hoke used one timeout in the third quarter to avoid having 12 men on the field and another to try and slow the game down for the defense
"Obviously we're really, really disappointed and disappointed in the – cuz our seniors, the 12 guys we're graduating, the 12 guys who played their last game [at Michigan Stadium]. We always talk about playing for them and coaching for them and we just couldn't execute at times [when] we had opportunities and at times we did [execute]. I also think that we had some mistakes in the kicking game that obviously hurt us as a football team, and some of those are very aggressive mistakes and you appreciate that kind of effort and that kind of aggression but at the same point we've got to be a little smarter, if that's the right word for it. The one thing is in our locker room there's a lot of disappointment and there's also a lot of pride that these guys have in how they've practiced and how they've done things all year and obviously we've got the greatest rivalry game in college football, in my opinion, coming up and that's what we're going to focus on."
You alluded to it but this hasn't been a very penalized team this year. Can you talk about the punt return and the play on the field goal with the field-goal kicker?
"Yeah, some of this is all subjective and what do you think it is and not. Not seeing the whole thing from the angles that you all get I'll have to look and see, especially on the block in the back. On the field goal, the guy was trying to make a play and he was a guy who was supposed to be coming hard off the edge and I guess he hit him hard enough for a 15-yard personal foul."
Can you take us through the time out and the decision to go for it on fourth down instead of just kick?
"Yeah, on fourth and seven?"
"Number one, it was going to be a long field goal and I believe there was some wind coming out of the south. Matt… could have kicked the opportunity. Punting it, thought pooch it there. Little worried about Will getting too much on it. Thought our defense was playing very well at that time. Was playing very well. Believed in the call, believed in what the kids could do. Still."
Did you take the timeout to make the decision?
"Yeah, in my mind I wanted to be sure. I wanted to make sure I talked to Doug also and how he felt about it also and having the right play, and I felt very good about it."
A big punt [fake] to start the game, a couple fourth downs; did you call this game a little more aggressively?
"You know, I don't know if it was more aggressively. We had seen on film that we could take advantage of the fake. We were- we go for it on fourth-and-one and we had the penalty, so that knocks it back. When you look at different punt teams and you look at different zone of the field, what they like to do, or punt return teams and what they like to do and what they like to be in and we got exactly what we wanted. Joe has the ability, Joe Kerridge, to call it off. He's a really intelligent guy football-wise and so it was there and we went with it."
The difficulty stopping the run in the third and fourth quarters; what did you see there?
"I think they got a little bit up-tempo. I think we lost some of our discipline a little bit in some of those things. I thought we missed a couple tackles in there that we needed to- I think we tackle better than that. I think that as much as anything hurt us a little bit. And I'll give them credit too. I want to give- CJ Brown I think he's one of those quarterbacks who's a little but of a gunslinger and does a nice job with running that football team and he's a good athlete."
[After THE JUMP: more words that are strung together into mostly complete sentences]
Frank Clark, Jake Ryan, and Joe Kerridge
Joe, you’re obviously part of the offensive group. Did you notice anything different about Shane in the huddles after he took that hit and through the rest of the game when you talked to him?
JK: “With Shane, I was on the sideline. I was focused in trying to pay attention to the game. I really didn’t have any communication with Shane throughout that part of the end of the game, so I wasn’t aware of any of the symptoms or anything like that.”
Have you noticed anything, seeing him around the building the last two days, that’s been unusual?
JK: “No. I haven’t seen him in the building, but that’s a question for coach Hoke.”
This is a question for Frank and Jake. Does the team get together after a loss like that and the fallout from it and has there been a team meeting? Does there need to be? Do you guys talk about it, and what do you do going forward?
JR: “I think just us as leaders need to bring guys up and get people’s heads up. After a loss like that that’s what you need to do, and we came in and we did what we needed to do. We got our film in, we got our practice in, and it’s just about keeping guys up and keeping guys focused.”
This is for any one of you. I’m wondering how much communication there is between yourself and maybe coach Hoke on the sideline when you see someone get injured or if you see something happen; if you can go up to him and say something or what that’s like on the sideline.
FC: “I feel like really that’s out of our power. If someone gets injured or things aren’t going in our favor, that’s our coach’s power. He controls everything at the end of the day, [and] we just follow the rules.”
Then if you have an injury, say, on the field, how much of a say do you have in getting back on the field? Are you able to simply tell them, ‘I’m fine’?
FC: “We play football. It’s a difference between being injured and being hurt. Anybody can play hurt, but not many people can play injured. But if you want to play football, if you want to go back on that field as a player he’s going to allow you to go back on that field if it’s not too bad.”
[More after THE JUMP]
FORMATION NOTES: We're a… shotgun spread offense with personnel exactly like Rich Rodriguez's preferred 1 RB, 1 blocky/catchy, 3 WR?
We were in this game. Take off… er… put everyone in identical uniforms and don't check to see which team has the 6'5" giant at WR and you would have no idea which team was which based on presnap alignments. Excluding short yardage and two snaps inside the Michigan 5, Michigan had 49 shotgun snaps, five from the pistol, 7 in ace and zero I-Form.
This wasn't quite as WR heavy as that would imply as you can see Kerridge split to flanker in the above shot, something that happened half a dozen times. But… yeah, it looked like a callback to 2010 minus non-scramble QB runs, of which there was one.
Michigan deployed Kerridge all over; here he's the H-back.
And they deployed a few instances of what I call "Pistol FB," which indicates there's a dude next to Gardner and a TE.
Michigan ran a version of this where the "FB" was Norfleet, once from the pistol and once from the gun. Norfleet also motioned to the backfield for a two-back look.
Now if the next time Michigan uses my preferred offensive style if they could just score some points that would be cool.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line was Cole/Magnuson/Miller/Glasgow/Braden the whole way. Gardner QB obviously; Green was the starting RB and vaguely the top guy, with Smith getting close to equal time and Hayes getting some third down snaps.
WR was a rotation between Funchess, Darboh, Chesson, and Norfleet with nobody else getting in IIRC. Hill and Williams saw almost all the TE snaps save a handful Butt got early; Kerridge also played H-back frequently.
[After THE JUMP: why don't you try running INTO the hole this time?]
Butt don't fail me now [Adam Glanzman]
|Joe Kerridge||Jr.*||Khalid Hill||Fr.*||AJ Williams||Jr.||Jake Butt||So.|
|Sione Houma||Jr.||Wyatt Shallman||Fr.*||Keith Heitzman||Jr.*||Ian Bunting||Fr.|
Just when we'd split out the various gradations in blocky-catchy guys into its own section of the preview, Al Borges had to go and get himself fired. Cumong, man.
They're all still on the roster and Michigan's going to try to use them so we're sticking with it. This section of the preview consists of everyone who isn't quite a skill position player and isn't quite an offensive linemen. Let's reprise last year's explanation of what is what to orient ourselves:
- FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head who runs into linebackers, gets two carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley.
- U-BACK: A "move" tight end who motions all about, rarely lines up on the actual line of scrimmage, often goes from fullback to a flared spot or vice versa, and operates as more of a receiver than the fullback. Must be a credible threat to LBs; ends career with 40 catches. See: Aaron Shea.
- TIGHT END: Larger that the U-back, the tight end is a tight end who is actually tight to the end of the line. He comes out, lines up next to a tackle, helps him win blocks, and clobberates linebackers at the second level. He goes out into patterns as well, and may end his career with 40 catches himself. See: Tyler Ecker.
- FLEX: Sort of like the U-back in that he rarely lines up on the line of scrimmage itself, but if he motions away from his spot near the line, it's not to fullback but wide receiver. They get a billion catches and break Jim Mandich's record eventually. See: every ND tight end ever.
And of course many of these people bleed into other categories. Think of these position designations as Gaussian distributions in close proximity to each other.
Kerridge hits his upperclass years, also linebackers [Maize and Blue News]
Same guys, potentially less of a role. Doug Nussmeier comes from a one-back coaching tree, and one-back guys are usually a lot more interested in putting two tight ends on the field than a fullback, because fullbacks don't threaten vertically. Given the situation at tight end and the need to bash out a yard or three on the regular, these guys will still be involved. Just maybe not quite as much.
JOE KERRIDGE remains the starter here and should hold on to that designation. It seems like he's been around forever already and he's still got a year left after this one; now is the time for him to start imposing himself on opponents. He did a fair job of doing so last year:
|CMU||4.5||-||4.5||FBs did well.|
|Notre Dame||7.5||1||6.5||Isos were a high point.|
|Akron||2||-||2||Blocks got cut away from.|
|UConn||1.5||2||-0.5||Not heavily involved.|
|Minnesota||6||3.5||2.5||Let some guys under him.|
|Penn State||1||0.5||0.5||Blocks couldn't even become relevant.|
|Nebraska||6.5||3.5||3||Got good movement.|
|NW||3||1.5||1.5||Soon to be a WR.|
|Iowa||4.5||1||3.5||Good game, quasi third-down back.|
When the blocking was good enough to make him relevant he did his job, and did it well. It was not all terrific, as he had some questionable plays against Minnesota:
But by the end of the year he was taking a bunch of snaps as a pass protector on throwing downs, acting as Gardner's lead back on occasion, and even catching things out of the backfield. I didn't chart the OSU game but I did review it and Kerridge had a quality day highlighted by this thunderous block:
My God man. I heard that this place's Heap of Smoked Linebacker was excellent, but the descriptions do not do it justice. That is Dudley-worthy there.
Nussmeier isn't likely to deviate from his belief that tight ends on or near the line of scrimmage are much more threatening to a defense than fullbacks, but when Michigan absolutely must scatter a linebacker's equipment across the field, Kerridge will be the weapon of choice.
[After THE JUMP: I googled Jake Butt's name so by god you are going to read the things I have to say about Jake Butt.]
Michigan couldn't get yard one with the veer against Nebraska, and most of them ended up with an unblocked Nebraska player blowing up Gardner. It is time to look at them. For some reason. Why didn't I start a blog about 1980s hairstyles? 1980s hairstyles never make you want to rub your face in gravel.
I digress. The first one comes on Michigan's first drive. A late blitz has just seen a power O slanted to and blown up for a one yard loss; it's second and eleven on the 24.
Michigan comes out with an H-back and two tailbacks in a twins formation, which necessarily means that the slot receiver is not an eligible receiver. Nebraska responds with 7.5 in the box, with the gray area defender just about splitting the difference between Funchess and the tackle.
On the snap Bosch pulls and the gray area guy sits and stares the backfield down.
Michigan shows veer action with Kerridge leading Toussaint to the outside; Michigan blocks the playside end, which would mean they're expecting to option the slot defender except 1) Kerridge is out there, so they're using one of their blockers on him anyway and 2) Gardner does not appear to be reading him but something further inside, if he's in fact reading anything. Gardner's awareness of this slot defender seems to start after the mesh point.
You can see that Gardner's helmet is not pointed at the slot defender as he starts making his decision:
What's he reading? Is he reading anything? I don't know. it doesn't seem like it. Watch the video in real time to get a feel for it. Toussaint does react like a guy who might get the ball, juking the blitzer, so I guess they're reading something. What is unclear.
Meanwhile, Kerridge is expecting the slot guy to contain upfield; instead he shoots upfield inside of him hard, too hard for him to adjust to.
Gardner pulls and seems to sense a disturbance in the force now; he goes straight upfield.
Toussaint dodges the blitzer, running into Gardner; Kerridge is prone, Gardner starts stumbling, and his momentum is taking him into the chest of an unblocked LB.
It's now third and nine, and Gardner's soul is now worn 1% more.
Items Of Interest
Optioning no one. We're back here, in year three. Michigan has a rudimentary read option game on which their QB doesn't know what to do too often and gets plays blown up, but here we're back to last year's Alabama game, where the defense made it so that Michigan's option plays didn't actually option off a defender, with similar results. No matter what happens on the edge here, the play still spends Kerridge and Toussaint on one defender and leaves an unblocked guy.
It would be one thing if I'd ever seen this fullback on the edge thing work. I have not. At best it's wasted him as he blocks a guy shooting up on the edge who is trying to contain Toussaint; at worst:
I'm about to get some comments about how this is Gardner's issue or Kerridge's issue and that Borges can't be held responsible for the results of this play. Sure. Any one play can be traced back to some execution error by the offense.
These posts are an effort to explain trends I'm seeing in the offense with particular plays, though, and this kind of half-ass option is par for the course. Michigan cannot get the fullback to be useful on these read option plays, and hasn't made him useful for three solid years.
This is the kind of stuff Denard papered over by being Denard. Even when Michigan was eviscerating Ohio State two years ago, they weren't really optioning anyone and it was left to Denard to make the magic happen against an unblocked dude at the LOS:
Michigan was fortunate that was a freshman Ryan Shazier on one leg. When you don't have Denard and you've turned your quarterback's ribs into a fine paste already, you no longer get 41 yard touchdowns and instead your unblocked dude gets a tackle for minimal gain, or more likely a loss.
They've had Kerridge for three years now and Gardner that long and Toussaint that long and they still can't get them to execute a real option. Either they're not trying or they're not coaching. And either way…
How is this supposed to work? It seems like the idea here is for the slot guy to run himself upfield outside of Kerridge to maintain a force back inside and then for Gardner to hit the gap between him and the rest of the defense. Nebraska beats that idea by using the slot guy super-aggressively.
How do you make this play work? Nebraska understood that Michigan's formation meant Funchess was not eligible; the gray area defender had no thought of a pass and ended up blowing up the play. But you can still make this work since Nebraska is sitting so deep with the safeties. Michigan has two options here: shooting Kerridge at the LOS, leaving Toussaint to his own devices, or using Kerridge to attack the slot defender and put Toussaint on the edge into acres of space.
This is the kind of thing you could come back to later with a tweak and bust a big gain. Clearly there were no big gains on this day. This design isn't necessarily bad; the inability to see what Nebraska is doing and get rock to their scissors at some point is. I mean, if you get this again and block the dude the defense has no force player, which means you get a lot of yards. This move by Nebraska violates a cardinal tenet of sound defense and works because they win on RPS, and if you probe at what they're doing here you can beat that. Instead Nebraska just kept chewing up Michigan's offense.
Hooray covered slot receiver. Hooray. I will never understand the point of that. If Michigan had some package where the ability of the H-back to get to the backside of the play meant something, okay. Instead you get nothing and if the D recognizes it, as they seem to here, you're playing 10 on 11. Temporary voluntary red card.
Again, maybe this is some sort of genius but since I've never seen it do anything productive it just seems dumb.