chance of bowl: 13.6%
Formation notes: Stacks and stacks. Here's a "shotgun trips" with Dileo moving outside a couple of stacked WRs, one of whom is Kwiatkowski:
Totally standard three wide for some reason:
Michigan spent a lot of time in this, which was dubbed Shotgun 2TE twins:
And triple stack tight:
Substitution notes: Nothing weird. No Rawls, a few Smith plays. Darboh got on the field for some real plays for the first time but no passes—not that there were many to go around. Didn't see Jerald Robinson at all, FWIW.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M22||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Inverted veer keeper||Robinson||5|
|Three man front for Purdue for whatever reason. Michigan doubles both playside DTs; Short is moving away from the play at the snap anyway. Omameh(+1) pulls past that and a double by Lewan and Kwiatkowski on the playside end; LB contains and Denard(+1) pulls. A safety has moved down to add another guy to the box; Denard has to go inside the Omameh block. Kwiatkowski(+0.5) peels off to get a pop on a linebacker, but these guys were a bit confused and did not try to seal the DE inside, so he can disengage from Lewan and tackle. Purdue in pure cover 0 here.|
|M27||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||End-around||Gallon||4|
|I wonder if this might turn into a read at some point as Denard does appear to be looking at someone on the D as he executes the mesh; Barnum pulls around and heads up inside, so a pull could be viable here. I don't think it's a read yet, though. Denard hands to Gallon as the playside DE chucks Schofield in an effort to get to the inside. He removes himself from the play. Schofield didn't look too hot here but he's probably not expecting the DE to do his job for him. Toussaint(+1) gets a hit on an OLB that gives Gallon(-0.5) the corner as Gardner(+0.5) cracks down on a LB; Gallon kind of jogs out of bounds instead of trying to blast out the first down.|
|M31||3||1||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Base 3-4||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||1 + 15 Pen|
|Michigan barely squeezes this out as Mealer(-0.5) kind of loses Short and does not get around him to seal him out of the intended hole and Williams(-1) really loses the end; both of those guys are in the hole as Lewan and Barnum release into one guy. Bler. Omameh(+0.5) is pulling around and manages to get a hat on a filling LB; this gives Toussaint his tiny little crease he hits for a yard and a first down, with a facemask penalty aiding the cause.|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun empty TE||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB sweep||Robinson||4|
|Kwiatkowski(+1) blocks down on the playside end and erases him. That's Short! Dang. Lewan and Barnum pull around him. Lewan(+0.5) kicks a linebacker type, easy. Barnum(+0.5) finds a linebacker farther inside and blocks him. Mealer and Omameh are trying to scoop the NT and don't quite get it done but it's a push since the guy has to give a ton of ground to prevent the seal. Robinson runs up in the huge gap and goes NS, picking up a decent gain on first down. The 3-4 seems to be screwing with some blocking assignments.|
|O49||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 under||Run||Pin and pull zone||Toussaint||-1|
|Michigan gets caught by a corner blitz that allows Purdue to slant towards the playside. Kwiatkowski(+0.5) shoves the playside end past the play. Omameh(-0.5) gets no movement on Gaston and loses him to the frontside; Short beats a scoop by Barnum(-1) badly, and when the LBs keep leverage on the pulling linemen the two DTs flow from the interior to eat up Toussaint. RPS -1. Nice kick from Schofield(+0.5) and cut by Mealer(+1), FWIW.|
|50||3||7||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Drag||Roundtree||10|
|Pretty simple for Robinson as the MLB is stacked over the center and takes a step to the field as Roundtree drags inside of him. He recovers okay; not nearly enough to prevent the conversion. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O40||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 under||Run||Reverse||Gallon||7|
|Purdue blitzes off the slot; Michigan fakes a QB run to the field and pitches to Gallon coming the other way. Schofield(-1) blocks down on the backside DT for a moment and then lets him go, then thinks he's messed up and chases the guy. Gallon avoids him, then cuts up; the DE who is further downfield now comes up to contain and or tackle; he can't do anything. Schofield ends up blocking the DT but after Gallon beat him and doesn't actually make anything useful happen. Omameh(+1) makes the yardage happen thanks to a long-term block on the other DT that ends up sealing him away from the sideline. Gallon(+2) has already beaten two guys and throws in a third for good measure.|
|O33||2||3||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel 3-4||Run||Inverted veer give||Toussaint||3|
|The playside end comes down a little bit, enough to convince Denard to give. DE can chase Toussaint outside but not catch him, so maybe this is right? I'm not sure. Dileo(-1) runs by the slot LB, who forces Toussaint to bounce upfield; Darboh(-0.5) also gets beat by his blocker. Toussaint(+0.5) bounces outside of the first guy and then tries to do the same with the second, getting slowed by one DB and bashed by a second when just hitting it up is a first down.|
|O30||3||In||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB sweep||Robinson||2|
|Same bit with Kwiatkowski(+1) shoving an end well out of the hole; his block eventually takes out Short, who slanted inside an attempted double. Roundtree(-1) whiffs an easy crack down; Barnum(+1) pulls and slows up to knock a linebacker inside, which gives Robinson a crease for the first down despite Lewan(-1) getting only a bler kickout as he falls to the ground. Robinson(+1) had cut well and was one and a half of those missed blocks from a touchdown. RPS +1.|
|O28||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||6|
|The slightly odd shotgun iso Michigan broke out against Minnesota a while ago. Gap to get is between Lewan(+1) and Barnum(+1). Lewan gets movement and a kickout; Barnum's guy helps him but Barnum locks him out well despite a hands to the face that goes uncalled; Kerridge(+1) thumps a linebacker. Toussaint's got a good hole and hits it; overhang guy is unblocked and tackles.|
|O22||2||5||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Inverted veer keeper||Robinson||0|
|Purdue moves a guy off the slot and blitzes right into the mesh. Again, have to prevent this from happening with bubble punishment. M runs the veer; Robinson does read it and pulls in time. Schofield(-1) is getting slanted under and gives up too much ground, knocking Barnum off his pull. That guy shoots past the play as Denard pulls; now he's past an initial wave and in space further inside than he wants to be. It really looks like he's got huge lane outside but because of the bump on Barnum he's not making contact with the LB at the LOS and Denard(-1) fails to read the open space he will have. He made a quick decision to take here, but a missed opportunity for more. Since he does not cut outside he has blown up the blocking angle of a down-blocking Omameh and an overhang guy can come in to tackle for no gain. Kind of want to RPS -1 this but M did have an opportunity to pick up yards if Schofield and Denard execute a little better.|
|O22||3||4||Shotgun 3TE||3||1||1||Base 3-4||Pass||Flare||Toussaint||Inc|
|OLB is moving at the QB at the snap; Funchess is mainly picking the ILB to the short side, leaving Toussaint all alone on a little swing; Denard overthrows it. Toussaint almost makes a one handed stab-and-grab but can't quite. (IN, 1, protection 1/1, RPS +1)|
|O22||4||4||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Pass||Hitch||Gardner||8|
|Great pocket; Denard zings it into Gardner's chest on time. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O14||1||10||Shotgun 2-back trips||2||0||3||4-3 even||Run||Inverted veer give||Smith||1|
|Covered slot play. Purdue has a CB to the non-WR side on the LOS, a LB there, and a safety who is reading run the whole way. Corner comes upfield at snap; this looks like a veer but if so it seems like Denard should pull, except it doesn't really matter since Toussaint blocks the corner and there is no one being optioned. Denard gives; Smith meets an unblocked guy at the LOS. RPS -1. Schofield(+1) had a good block on a slanting guy, FWIW, and Barnum(+1) got to the second level right quick. If they'd had a guy for the safety...|
|O13||2||9||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 under||Run||QB iso||Robinson||4|
|This is an iso on which they run a fake veer mesh point and send Smith up the middle of the field. Barnum(+1) gets a tough scoop block on one of the DTs, sealing him. Mealer moves to the second level and would get an LB blocked if he knew where the ball was. Omameh(+1) kicks the other DT, Short. Lewan was blocking a guy who never tried to contain because the slot LB had it; he never gets sealed or kicked and flows down the line to tackle. Would like to see Mealer(-1) hold his ground and react on the fly once that LB starts moving away from the play. That's what the action is supposed to do, so set up and wall off anyone who shows, not just the LB.|
|O9||3||5||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 nickel||Run||QB draw||Robinson||8|
|How does this even happen I don't know. Purdue is running man on the goal line against Denard. They send a corner who Schofield(+0.5) flings upfield; Short gets out of his lane all by himself, and this gives Robinson(+1) a crack to the outside that he takes, as he is wont to do. He cuts past a charging LB and extends the ball to score, probably, but is called down and the replay can't overturn it. Bah. RPS +1, amazingly.|
|O1||1||G||Goal line||2||2||0||Goal line||Run||Trap||Toussaint||0 (Pen +0)|
|Burzynski in and a Lewan/Schofield setup on the left side of the line. Schofield(+1) blows up Gaston and Kerridge(+1) blows up a linebacker; Toussaint(-1) has an easy dive into the endzone that he does not trust and goes too far outside, allowing Purdue to recover. Rawls scores this. Purdue is offsides.|
|O1||1||G||Goal line||2||2||0||Goal line||Run||Off tackle||Toussaint||1|
|Basically the same one gap over. Lewan(+1) and Barnum(+1) pave the way and it's Toussaint one on one with a safety; Toussaint manages to squeeze in.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 4 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M37||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Nickel even||Run||Inverted veer keeper||Robinson||38|
|Man, this is easy. Just six guys in the box for Purdue and the sixth flares out on the slot receiver. Playside DE contains, but it doesn't really matter since Omameh(+1) is pulling around and blocks him since he's got no one else to deal with. Lewan(+1) gets rid of the only(!) LB. Barnum got beat-ish by a late shift by Short but not enough to screw the play up; push. Robinson(+2) is into the secondary in a flash and turns ten into lots by making a safety look foolish. Gallon(+1) fended off a cornerback, adding a big chunk, too. RPS +3: five in the box against Denard Robinson.|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB power||Robinson||3|
|NT blows upfield of Mealer(-1) and disrupts the pull from Omameh. Against a three man front this is bad. Mealer ends up blocking no one. Lewan(+1) crooshes silly donkey DE to the interior but Kwiatkowski(-1) shows to the inside too much and lets a linebacker run over top of him. Toussaint kicks a guy, leaving two unblocked in the hole. Denard(+0.5) dances for a couple.|
|O22||2||7||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||6|
|OLB comes off slot; Kwiatkowski blocks him out. Purdue slides its line playside and has a linebacker behind who's unblocked thanks to the blitz. He's staying outside, so handoff. The slant gets the Purdue OL past the M OL but the M OL gets good push on a couple guys. Mealer(-1) lets Short by him in frightening fashion; Lewan(+1) gets his guy two yards downfield and makes him give up a lot of space. Toussaint(+1) cuts backside and avoids that linebacker, stumbling as he manages to power through the arm tackle. Short can now finish the job from behind.|
|O16||3||1||Shotgun 2-back 2TE||2||2||1||4-4 even||Run||Speed option||Smith||2|
|You know, Denard never ever pitches here and on this play of all plays he does. He's got a completely obvious lane for a first down; yeah, charging safety but he'll never stop you. Instead, pitch. That charging safety alters his angle and gets past Toussaint's hypothetical lead block; Toussaint does get a bit of a shove on him as Smith cuts inside, which gives Smith just enough to squeeze out the first. Schofield(+1) and Williams(+1) had crushed guys back for that lane; Denard(-1) should have kept this instead of risking the pitch.|
|O14||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||0|
|Funchess in as an H-back. This looks like the veer but they don't let anyone go so I assume this is an actual no read power to screw with folks. Schofield(-1) doesn't fire off, ends up catching a DE, lets him inside, and then Barnum(-1) blocks him too as he fills the hole. Toussaint bounces outside, unblocked LB, no gain. Barnum should be moving outside of this block instead of dealing with the guy who shows. If Schofield can't push him past the play that's not on you.|
|O14||2||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||QB sweep||Robinson||-1|
|Bubble stuff. OLB comes hammering off the edge; Lewan(-2) is pulling around Kwiatkowski(+0.5) who again eliminates the DE easily. Barnum pulls up to wall off a LB coming from the inside and would have a crease for Denard but for Lewan getting blown upfield and the OLB disengaging to tackle. RPS -1.|
|O15||3||11||Shotgun 4-wide trips bunch||1||1||3||Okie zero||Pass||TE Dig||Funchess||14|
|Okie look from Purdue with no single deep safety. Only four sent; M picks it up. Nice pocket that Robinson steps up into and rifles a pass to Funchess at the goal line in between three zone defenders that Funchess brings in. Slightly behind Funchess but still a good throw given the coverage and situation; even better catch by Funchess. (CA+, 1, protection 3/3)|
|O1||1||G||Goal line||2||2||0||Goal line||Run||Off tackle||Toussaint||1|
|Purdue better prepared for this, getting into the pulling Barnum(+1) in the backfield; Toussaint(+0.5) feints outside, finds an unblocked guy, decides that's a bad idea, and then cuts back into Barnum's ass, which is busy escorting a dude into the endzone so that works out okay.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-0, 14 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O26||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||Inverted veer keeper||Robinson||5|
|Gallon motions in from the slot to be the possible handoff and Robinson(-1) keeps. That's an error as the DE is diving down. The corner is coming and this could be an issue but there's a lead blocker to pick the guy off. DE who has come down is in the hole... oh and I guess we take Denard's minus off the board(+1) since he bounces it outside after everyone sucks in and picks up five. Dios mio man. Gallon(+0.5) got a block on the edge. Barnum(+0.5) got a good pull and seal.|
|O21||2||5||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Penalty||False start||Schofield||-5|
|nyet. Schofield –1.|
|O26||2||10||I-Form twins covered||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||0|
|FB offset, TE covered. A big gap develops between the Mealer block and a pulling Barnum on the playside DT. LB shoots the gap, Toussaint gets nailed. Not sure what to do here; Barnum has to block that guy, need that playside double from Kwiatkowski and Lewan on power, Purdue gets unblocked LB in backfield; RPS -2. Insert rant about running from the shotgun.|
|O26||3||10||Shotgun double stacks||1||0||4||Okie zero||Pass||Throwaway||Robinson||Inc|
|Purdue sends seven at first but backs out the middle three guys. Schofield doesn't get out on the outside blitz and lets the guy through but to be fair Omameh is thinking about blocking a guy dropping out and you go inside out on pass pro. If Schofield goes out the inside guy goes in. Robinson should step up in the pocket and be Dan Marino at this point, instead he rolls out and chucks it OOB. I'll take it! (TA, 0, protection 0/2, team -2)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(43), 21-0, 11 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M26||1||10||Shotgun empty TE||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB sweep||Robinson||8|
|Kwiatkowski(+0.5) gets Short sealed for a moment before Short spins past the block; he falls. Mealer(-0.5) and Barnum are trying to scoop the NT and don't quite do it but he is delayed; Mealer releases into the second level and ends up blocking no one there as he lets a LB run past. He does get a safety as a second reaction but it seems like the 3-4 is confusing the line a bit. Schofield(+1) gets a good kick on the OLB; Omameh is leading Denard; a little slow but okay. Denard(+1) sees a crease and hits it fast.|
|M34||2||2||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB iso||Robinson||10|
|Gallon comes in from the slot, fake end around. Short and the OLB both go way upfield and outside in an attempt to contain. Line does an eh job on the iso stuff; MLB meets Toussaint at the LOS and there is no crease. Schofield, Mealer -0.5 each for not getting movement on their guys; Kwiatkowski(-1) blew a block on the OLB. All of this is fine because of Short chasing Gallon, which opens up a huge cutback lane for Denard(+2), at which point he's into the secondary for a nice gain. RPS +1.|
|M44||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||End-around power||Gallon||2|
|Barnum pulls. Toussaint is a lead blocker and Gardner is cracking down on the outside. The corner comes, Gardner shoves him some, which causes the guy to spin (odd). Gardner then gets a shove on a linebacker. Toussaint hits the spinning CB and puts him on the ground; Gallon is headed way outside where an unblocked safety has time to fill. Gallon can't make him miss. This may be a read but they don't appear to be optioning anyone. Pull looked pretty good, FWIW. RPS –1; the corner blitz again.|
|M46||2||8||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Base 3-4||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||28|
|Always works, works this time even though the pass is deflected. Secondary is fearful of bomb; Funchess whiffs on his guy, but Gallon has so much space he can just run inside a little bit. Omameh(+1) is in space and gets a safety block. Schofield(+1) gets an effective cut way downfield, and Funchess saves a minus by keeping with the play and latching on to the guy Schofield cut to give Gallon(+1) an extra ten yards. (not charted, 3, screen, RPS +2)|
|O26||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Pass||Bubble screen||Gallon||3|
|Jackson(-1) starts the play by taking steps inside like he's going to crack down on the LB, who has no chance at making a play here, and is thus late getting out on a safety lined up eight yards off the LOS. That guy gets outside and fights off a cut, so the inside guy can come up and make a play after a couple yards. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O23||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Inverted veer keeper||Robinson||0|
|I'm not sure who the read is since it looks like everyone is getting blocked. Jackson(-1) comes down on the OLB, poorly. The guy is upfield and can explode into Toussaint if he gets the ball; Funchess thinks about blocking him before moving to the second level inside that block. That leaves a charging safety for Toussaint if he gets the ball, so that's not likely to be successful. Denard pulls anyway. Schofield(-1) got beat and his DE sheds to the inside, where Barnum is pulling. Now Denard has to go outside of that block, where Jackson's guy comes down to tackle because he's got an angle. RPS -1; this one was hard to see working even if Schofield gets his block. Slot Jackson is kind of an obvious run tip.|
|O23||3||7||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Post||Gardner||23|
|Purdue sends five and goes from two high to one high late with one safety coming up in a robber. Robinson reads it, finds that the other safety has dropped way too deep, and zings a twenty-yard post to Gardner as a stunting blitzer gets to him. He leaps, catches, falls into endzone. (DO, 3, protection 2/3, Barnum -1)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-3, 3 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M39||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Inverted veer keeper||Robinson||0|
|OLB tears at the mesh point; Denard pulls but too late and it looks like Smith is instinctively clamping down as he takes the hit. Denard(-2) should have just aborted the mesh early but it's tough to ask that.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 28-3, 1 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M38||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB iso||Robinson||9|
|Same thing as the previous play with Gallon in motion sucking Short way upfield. The playside end is slanting hard under Lewan(+1), who latches on and shoves the guy inside and upfield. Barnum(+1) and Mealer(+1) get movement on the NT and Barnum pops out on a linebacker who is coming up. Toussaint pops the other ILB, leaving a safety who came down unblocked; Robinson(+2) cuts behind and thanks to the Lewan block and Mealer getting movement he's got that cutback lane generated by the Gallon fake. He takes it. Short recovers to tackle from behind. You would like Omameh(-0.5) to prevent this from happening. RPS +1.|
|M47||2||1||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB power||Robinson||2|
|Kwiatkowski and Lewan get a little movement on the end; Fitz kicks the OLB. Omameh is trying to get to the ILB to the playside; a safety in the box comes down unblocked to fill and tackle. Denard does get it. Okay, fine, short yardage against cover zero no funny stuff up 18. Push for everyone.|
|M49||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Sweep||Toussaint||3|
|Well blocked, with Kwiatkowski(+0.5) bashing the DE inside; he trips as he spins upfield past the block; would prefer this to not look like it's going to work before it doesn't but the movement Kwiatkowski gets is the reason someone steps on him. Lewan(+0.5) kicks; Barnum(+0.5) gets the ILB, and Toussaint... has an eighth defender in his face because Purdue is in pure cover zero. He makes a good cut past the containing safety and is about to get some nice yards when Short, unblocked on the backside, tackles from behind. RPS -1, technically, not that I'm all upset about it or anything.|
|O48||2||7||I-Form Big||2||2||1||4-3 even||Pass||PA TE Wheel||Funchess||Inc|
|Throwback screen fake that is supposed to get Funchess wide open down the sideline; it does not. Whatever the safety's key was it wasn't something M showed; he drops off and has great coverage that forces Funchess OOB. That's Denard's only receiver and he doesn't have anywhere to scramble so he tosses it up. The pass is perfect, except Funchess is running OOB so that ain't legal for catchin'. Um. (CA?, 0, protection 2/2, RPS -1)|
|O48||3||7||Shotgun trips stack tight||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Out||Funchess||Inc|
|Denard finds Funchess for about ten and it looks like they'll convert but the pass ends up well behind him and wobbly. I looked at this a lot and I think Short got a finger or two on it, as it looks like a tight spiral until it reaches Short reaching up and then it gets wobble on it. I get it if you're like IN, but this got deflected. (BA, 0, protection 2/2). BAs still count against your downfield success rate anyway.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 28-10, 13 min 3rd Q. Man, the drop from NBC to BTN is enormous.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M27||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||Belly give||Toussaint||2|
|Poor damn Toussaint. Again he's eating an unblocked guy in the backfield. The end shuffled down and then collapsed on the handoff; give or not is a push for Denard because the corner was blitzing. Play was dead on the snap. RPS -1.|
|M29||2||8||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Nickel 3-4||Pass||Bubble screen||Gallon||6|
|Second bubble, second screwup by the WR blocking. Darboh(-1) stands at the LOS like a doof and Gallon actually reaches the guy as he catches the ball. From there Gallon(+1) does Gallon things to pick up pretty good yardage. More Gallon touches. (CA, 3, screen)|
|M35||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||QB sweep||Robinson||4|
|Outer two players block down as Mealer and Omameh pull around. WR motions in right before the snap and cracks down. Kwiatkowski(+0.5) shoves the DE inside, getting the edge. Toussaint(+1) kicks the corner with authoritah. Big hole with three M guys in it and three Purdue guys; Denard gets a little impatient and runs up his blockers' backs. Omameh(+1) gets a good second level bock and Mealer is leading, looking at the safety, when that safety goes low, submarining Mealer and just tripping Denard as he tries to cut behind. Think Short had him in pursuit even if this doesn't happen but pretty close to making things happen.|
|M39||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||46|
|This pull is brilliant madness. M leaves the back two guys unblocked; Short tears after Toussaint. The OLB is unblocked and containing, Denard pulls anyway, and goes straight upfield. Short's still after Toussaint; the end cannot reach Denard as he goes straight NS. Mealer(+1) moved the NT playside and got him a yard off the LOS. Schofield(+1) was releasing downfield to get the other ILB, who starts heading outside even before the mesh and runs himself out of the play; Schofield adjusts to eliminate him. Then, Denard(+3), space, fast, etc. No shoe. Runs OOB. Would like to see him be more aggressive in big games. Keep yer shoe on.|
|O15||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Sweep||Toussaint||0|
|Kwiatkowski(-1) does not get a seal on the end this time. Schofield(-0.5) loses the OLB upfield because he's attacking aggressively there. Mealer and Barnum can't get a seal on the backside DT. Toussaint has to arc outside that DT and then try to hit it up; Mealer(-1) couldn't get to a LB despite leaving early and he and Short blow it up at the LOS. Nobody got blocked here. RPS -1.|
|O15||2||10||Ace big||1||3||1||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||0|
|Michigan runs an inside zone away from the strength of the formation and into five guys against four blockers. This doesn't work, especially when the playside ILB bugs out to beat a block. Maybe this should have been a cutback. Yeah, maybe, but tough when Barnum(-1) has just caught a guy and is a yard in the backfield. Still, Toussaint -1.|
|O14||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide tight||1||1||3||Okie zero||Run||Speed option||Smith||4|
|Jackson(-2) is the main blocker on the edge here and barely touches the cornerback. Denard gets some pursuers from the interior and ends up pitching late, but it's so late that as one pursuing guy tackles Denard becomes a human cut block on a second, leaving Smith in space with the corner and Jackson; if Jackson can even shove this guy a little Smith can score a TD; he does not. RPS push since normally the second guy on Denard would hold this down.|
|Drive Notes: FG(29), 6 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M11||1||10||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||4-3 even||Penalty||False start||Lewan||-5|
|bah. Lewan –1.|
|M6||1||15||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||0|
|Safety overhanging is an unblocked guy in the box as M bizarrely doubles the backside DT. I guess Denard could pull and go vertical again; he doesn't. There is a DE that seems to be containing but I'm not sure if he can do anything about this. Anyway, blocking is good for the iso; Toussaint(-2) sees the overhang guy and tries to bounce away from him, turning five yards into zero. Lewan(+0.5) got a good kick; Kerridge(+1) bombed the MLB. Barnum only did eh with Short, understandably.|
|M6||2||15||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB iso||Robinson||6|
|Gallon end around fake. This again gets Short chasing, but no cutback as one of the ILBs is filling that gap. Omameh(+0.5) and Mealer(+0.5) are able to shove and seal the nose. Toussaint(+0.5) gets an okay lead block and Denard(+1) just hits it straight upfield. A safety comes down to tackle after a few; he's doing it from the side and Robinson can drag. This play... this play will be able to hit big on PA. This is going to get an RPS +3 sometime in the next three games.|
|M12||3||9||Shotgun double stacks||1||1||3||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Dig||Roundtree||13|
|Only three rush. Denard sits and zips it to Roundtree for a first down. (DO, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Pass||Veer PA post||Gallon||Inc|
|M continues to have trouble blocking this play action as Barnum sort of overruns his gap and a LB threatens. Barnum does get a shove that allows Denard to move outside and reset but now he knows he's got to go go go and can't let a wheel develop, etc. Gallon is one on one on the outside and has inside position, so this is a throw you may as well make. It's accurate enough despite being a back foot throw; Gallon leaps... and is too short. It does go off his hand, which is pretty good for a 40 yard throw under these conditions. (CA+, 2, protection 2/3, Barnum -1) Funchess or Gardner likely brings this in.|
|M25||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB sweep||Robinson||2|
|Gallon end around action to the sweep. Kwiatkowski(+0.5) bombs the DE. Schofield(+0.5) gets a good kick. M can't seal the NT but does okay and Robison can run by him.Smith and Omameh(-1) are leading into two defenders; Omameh lunges at his guy and doesn't cut him but does fall as he hits in the midsection; gotta pick one thing to do. Robinson is thinking he'll hit a hole between his two lead guys and burst into the secondary; that plan is foiled when Omameh's guy comes through the block to tackle.|
|M27||3||8||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Corner||Gardner||Inc|
|Gardner gets himself open with a post corner; Robinson hits him a little high and a little hard but it's still right in his hands; dropped. (DO, 2, protection 2/2) Denard threw this so the ball was in the air on target as Gardner came out of his break.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 31-10, 3 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||59|
|Pretty much the basic spread play bursts huge. M lets the DE go with Kwiatkowski blocking the OLB. DE shoots for Toussaint, pull. LBs also going for the frontside, so there's a big hole. Safety coming down to fill it; Denard cuts behind Schofield(+1), who latched on to one linebacker and shoved him outside, giving Denard a lane. Lewan(+1 released downfield and though the LB has the angle on him he still collapses to his knees and falls. Boom, lane, gone. 50 yards later there are members of the secondary. He dodges one, then gets ankle-tackled. Dangit. Robinson +3. RPS +2.|
|O16||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read handoff||Toussaint||-1|
|Exact same thing except Denard(-1) hands despite the DE crashing. At least five if he keeps. Schofield(-1) got blown up too, making things worse for Fitz.|
|O17||2||11||I-Form twins covered||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Sweep||Toussaint||2 (Pen -15)|
|LB overhanging goes upfield and gets a two for one as he picks off Kerridge and forces Toussaint inside. Williams(-1) loses his block; both LBs are flowing hard, and there is a safety. Four Boilers, one blocker. Ball game. Schofield(-1) gets called for a chop block.|
|O32||2||26||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB draw||Robinson||8|
|Man, Short can recover like whoah. He gets way upfield, M runs a draw right up in that lane, and he still almost comes back to kill it. Robinson(+1) manages to cut inside the containing LB for a nice gain.|
|O24||3||18||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Batted ball||Gallon||Inc|
|Five man rush with two delayed guys. Picked up. Can't tell if this is a good idea or not. Gallon thinks so, FWIW. (BA, 0, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: FG(42), 34-13, 10 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||2|
|Purdue selling out now and M just killing clock so I'm not going to be too tough. Toussaint would have a shot at a cutback for some yards but the MLB is ripping at the LOS at the snap and bowls Barnum(-1) over backwards; Lewan can't get on him because he's just charging. Situation, whatever. Toussaint does well just to get a couple.|
|O25||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB iso||Robinson||11|
|Playside DE slants inside hard and is shunted away by Lewan(+1). Kwiatkowski(+0.5) kicks the OLB. Toussaint(+0.5) stands up a LB who is containing. Barnum(+1) managed to sidle out into the other ILB; Denard(+1) shoots through the gap and brushes past Barnum for a first down.|
|O14||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||0|
|This is the frustration play where Toussaint(-2) has 4-5 just by running up his OL's back but bounces for zip. Lewan(+1) had pounded a DE. Mealer(+0.5) locked the NT out.|
|O14||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB power||Robinson||4|
|Gallon end around action. Barnum pulls, power etc. Well blocked; Robinson(-0.5) probably makes an unwise decision to bounce but has the speed to pick up five or so so no full minus. Kwiatkowski(+1) had gotten a ton of movement on his guy. Barnum went for a safety instead of the LB, but that decision wasn't tested.|
|O10||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Slant||Gardner||Inc|
|Batted at the line, and then by a linebacker. Fingertips both and he may have had Gardner otherwise so no BR. (BA, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(30), 37-13, 6 min 4th Q. That's it for Denard. I'll take a look at Rawls in the next drive but I'm not charting too hard at this point.|
|O33||1||10||Ace||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Rawls||5|
|Lewan out, Burzynski in at RG, Omameh RT, Schofield LT. Barnum(+1) and Mealer(+1) blow the NT off the ball; Rawls cuts behind and rams it into a safety.|
|O28||2||5||Ace||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Rawls||2|
|Basically same thing except Schofield gets slanted under a little and Rawls has to cut further back, allowing the safety time to get to him near the LOS. He tries to bounce and probably should just slam it right upfield.|
|O26||3||3||I-Form twins covered||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Rawls||19|
|Barnum(-2) whiffs on his DT, falling; Kerridge is forced to take him instead of the LB charging up the middle of the field. Schofield(+1) has enough push on the DE to allow Rawls(+3) a bounce; Rawls then runs over a filling safety and turns barely a first down into a big gain.|
|O7||1||G||I-Form Big||2||2||1||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Rawls||7|
|DT slants under Barnum(+1) again; this time Barnum latches on to drive Short past the play and gets a cutback lane. Schofield(+0.5) kicks the DE well; Mealer(+0.5) gets out on one ILB, with the other trying to fend off Kerridge. Mealer's guy can't extend to tackle in time and Rawls(+2) runs through another safety tackle after the cut for six.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 44-13, 2 min 4th Q. Rest of M snaps are kneels.|
Fine, you win.
We get it.
Yeah, but how about this business on the passing—
[Hennechart legend is updated. Hover over column headers for quick explanations]
|2011 through MSU||13||66(12)||11(1)||34(1)||17||2||3||10||4||55%|
|2011 after MSU||9||77(9)||7||17||9||6(1)||5(2)||9||5||69%|
How about that BR number compared to the TA number? Yeah. Yeah man. Oh, Denard threw it away. Threw it away LIKE A BOSS. That one time.
Anyway, very low numbers so don't take the DSR super serious you guys. Potential alterations: a particular throw behind Gardner may have been IN instead of BA, the one charted IN was filed a screen since it was a little flare behind the LOS, and I gave Denard a CA on the Funchess wheel route that was OOB since he did as well as he could in that situation and it wasn't his fault that the WR was running out of bounds. Also I didn't chart the deflected screen to Gallon.
The line kept him clean, and he responded with a quality small-sample-size day. What happens when he has to throw more than 16 times? We'll cross that bridge if we have to.
I think having faith in the OL is key for Denard. Here's a third and eleven from the 15 on which Denard's got a great pocket, steps forward a couple times, and rifles it to Funchess:
BOOM. Denard with/without pressure is just night and day. Also when he's set up in the pocket he seems to handle it better than when his feet aren't set.
There was a bubble screen!
As Borges pointed out to a shamed Heiko, there were two. Weirdly, both got crap blocking as exterior WRs seemed to not get the playcall. Jackson started a crackback block on no one on the first and I have no idea what Darboh thinks he's doing on the second:
Even so they picked up 3 and 6 yards. You don't want to get so bubble dependent you're getting Jake Ryans in your face on the edge but if you want big plays—and if we've learned anything in the past year and a half it's that Borges has a Fathead of a freestyle ski-jumper screaming GO BIG OR GO HOME in his room—you've got to pull those corners up when they try to play you from the parking lot. Next week maybe the outside WRs will even block for them.
A side note on this section: man, we need more Gallon touches. He had three runs, three catches, and a fourth target in this game. I'd like to see him get to 10-12. Toss him screens, use him as a pitch back on the speed option, hand it to him on an inverted veer from an otherwise empty formation, etc.
All right, passing whatever, MANCHART
|Lewan||10.5||4||6.5||Best drive blocker on the line.|
|Barnum||11.5||6||5.5||Big numbers because M is now lefthanded.|
|Mealer||5.5||5.5||0||Can't seal like Molk against big time competition.|
|Omameh||7||2||5||Reliable, got some space stuff.|
|Schofield||10||8||2||Gets pushed back more than the other linemen.|
|Kwiatkowski||7||3||4||M's running all those sweeps for a reason.|
|Williams||1||2||-1||Less effective than 81.|
|Funchess||-||-||-||Got a push on the screen|
|TOTAL||52.5||30.5||63%||Slightly below desired 2:1 ratio, but game situation mitigates|
|Robinson||20.5||6.5||14||9.8 YPC is good, right?|
|Rawls||5||-||5||Made a case for more PT.|
|Smith||-||-||-||Didn't get a plus or minus.|
|Kerridge||3||-||3||Insert complaints about scholarship FBs x3|
|TOTAL||33.5||12.5||21||Denard kind of good at the running thing.|
|Gallon||5.5||0.5||5||More touches more touches more touches|
|Jackson||-||4||-4||For a designated blocking WR he needs work on blocking|
|TOTAL||6||8||-2||Gallon ran well, receivers blocked poorly.|
|Protection||20||4||83%||Team –2, Barnum –2.|
|RPS||12||11||+1||massive credit to Borges that this is positive with 76% runs and Purdue selling out on them|
Protection stellar, Denard a flaming tower, line could have done better but got a win. Wide receivers were a problem when not in possession of the ball.
Why can the line block for Denard but not Toussaint?
Well so the thing is Purdue spent a lot of bullets blitzing against zone stuff. On plays where Fitz took inside zone handoffs and ate turf for no yards the handoff was always correct because someone was containing. If Denard keeps, he's meat (except that one time). Then you're left with a weird conundrum about why.
Well, one reason why: blocking the inverted veer is relatively easy. It's power without a kickout usually, because the end is containing the back. So the kickout can't screw up, and you get a free release from the guy who would be kicking out, and then you get a downblock on the DT, and you get a bonus guy pulling around to clean up first level mistakes and head-hunt LBs. It's a pretty good play you guys.
Also, sometimes Denard is just dang.
Hello, OLB specifically designed to contain me. Goodbye, OLB. Say hello to Walrus when you get chewed out on the sideline.
There is something to the idea Purdue was going after Toussaint aggressively. On Denard's 59-yarder the unblocked end charged after Toussaint, causing a pull. Denard dipped inside a Schofield second level block when the safety charged up and that was all she wrote. Why you would construct your defense to get Denard Robinson to pull I have no idea.
How much should we care about this?
Um… not much? Michigan put up 6 yards a carry* while running 76% of the time. Completely erase Denard's 59 yarder and you're a hair under 5 yards. That doesn't even make sense! That is a totally unfair thing to do! And Michigan is still kicking ass against a team that did this to Notre Dame:
- five sacks for 40 yards
- 3.3 YPC, sacks excluded, while running 40% of the time
ND just rushed for 376 yards against Miami. Purdue did better against the ND offense than World Best Defense MSU did. Michigan spent the entire game running into stacked fronts. I'm willing to give the OL a pass for getting blown up by Kawann Short a bit en route to 300 yards rushing.
That this game comes after a second half in which Michigan bulled its way down the field against the mansome ND front seven only makes OL fretting even sillier. These guys aren't Steve Hutchinson clones but come on man. They'll be fine until the final test against Hankins and Simon.
*[kneels excised as per usual]
What is your Kwiatkowski deal?
I tried to back off on the assumption that what he was doing wasn't that hard, but Michigan's running that sweep thing where the TE blocks down and the two guys to the interior pull around all the time and you have to figure Kwiatkowski is a reason why. I mean, this is against Kawann Short:
Later in the game Short would start fighting back upfield of this by spinning but Kwiatkowski had usually shoved him so far that he could not recover to make a play. He's kept AJ Williams, a 285 pound player who was a tackle last year, largely off the field. Dispense with anti-walk-on bias—he's a pretty good player. I'd be surprised if Moore got his job back when he returns from injury.
You teased something about QB iso, and I want it more than crack cocaine.
It's back, albeit in a modified form. One of a few things Michigan ran off the Gallon end-around action was an iso where the back would move a gap or two over and Robinson would go straight upfield. The first couple times they ran it, the playside DE to Gallon's side of the field blew out of his gap to chase the end around and Robinson got big cutback runs…
…that would end later when LBs started filling behind the DL. They also ran it with Toussaint a little, but the lack of ostentatious presnap motion didn't cause the same kind of freakouts on the DL.
That vertical motion is going to lead to some freakouts if opponents are going cover zero as much as Purdue and ND did. In the Toussaint link above, if Smith runs by the LB it's game over for the Boilers as Denard flips it into space for an easy TD. In the embed the worst thing that happens is you have pure one on one matchups with both outside WRs; you may be able to shoot a TE down the seam against certain defenses, though this one looks like man to man so that's not the best option.
The return of the iso is what can truly bring back QB Oh Noes, as fear of Denard will drive safeties to abandon deeper responsibilities. If Kwiatkowski gets a shove and then releases downfield on this play… well… you know what happens.
It's called "Tony Moeaki 2009."
Someone's getting burned big time in the next few games. Not Illinois.
Okay, he's shown a little something with the annihilation of the UMass LB and running through tackles against Purdue. Upgraded from Mark Ingram But Fast to Jim Brown But Fast, by which I mean I am intrigued and would like to see some real carries for the guy on Saturday.
The guys who do the… thing. With the hands. Catching?
Oh right those guys.
[Passes are rated by how tough they are to catch. 0 == impossible. 1 == wow he caught that, 2 == moderate difficulty, 3 == routine. The 0/X in all passes marked zero is implied.]
Minimal numbers, most notable thing the Funchess circus catch.
Denard, the left side of the OL, Kwiatkowski.
Toussaint did get antsy. Jackson needs to block better if he's going to be a blocking WR. Schofield got pushed back a bit too far for my tastes.
What does it mean for Illinois and beyond?
Encouraged by the new stuff in the run game; if Borges is focusing on that it looks like we may get little tweaks to keep it fresh.
Denard had a big bounce back from ND and we can tenuously hope he has found turnover religion. Funchess: bad ass.
The line… is okay. They'll never blow guys off the ball but the best DL in the league other than OSU is now in the rear view mirror and they'll be fine.
Gallon needs more touches.
Toussaint will get some holes the next few weeks.
John T. Greilick|DetNews
This does not a happy Hoke make (2012 stats so far):
Here's Hoke on that in the Monday presser:
Looking at the running game, were there different holes for Denard than for Fitz?
“Well some is we couldn’t get Fitz started. They ran 30 times fire zones -- run fire zones, which they never were that big a team. We call them sharks and stuff like that. But it was a little different. It was a little different. Never could get him started. Some of it we have to block better, some of it on some of the reads, maybe he should have kept the ball twice in there, but I think some of it goes down to number one what we were trying to do, giving Denard the ball, and secondly blocking better. And then you’ve got to give them a little credit, too.”
Throw a dart at a row of newsstands within 400 miles of Ann Arbor and you'll probably puncture a sentence telling the Michigan running backs to step it up. If you do the same with the blogosphere it'll stick in some guy who won't notice because he is running around in panic over all non-Lewan OL. Other potential targets include the "Most of that is Alabama" couch, the floor of "Toussaint only played one game and they took him away by alignment," the wall of "it's early in the season," the "Denard missed some reads" chair, or maybe the "Mealer <<<<(!!!) Molk" bookshelf you just bought at Ikea and discovered to your horror you can't return or reassemble even though you're pretty sure you mixed up two of those bolt-thingies and this is why it keeps coming apart.
This Ikea metaphor for the offensive line is worth exploring but not this moment. This moment I want to figure out which of the above targets are actually getting the most hits, i.e. why aren't the running backs getting any traction?
Instructions after THE JUMP
MANBALL: BEATING the opponent with POWER running and repetitive CONTACT and MANLY CAPITALIZED WORDS.
West Coast: A symphony of route design and timing that puts defenses into a progression of impossible choices
Option: Isolate an unblocked defender so that he's forced into a Catch 22 decision.
Justin Verlander: A metaphor.
After reading Parts I, II and III of this series you might think a college offense must only be one of these things. That is a very effective thought, as the best offenses in college football according to people who can extricate offense from defense, special teams, winning, fairy dust, and these days seem to center around doing one of these things very well.
But doing one thing well and building around that isn't the only way to build an offense. In fact if you only do your one thing well and can't execute other things, the other team will adjust quickly and now you won't do your one thing well anymore. These were the points made in the previous articles, the first (Doctor Rocklove) to explain the terminology, the second (Rock, Paper, Scissors) to describe constraint theory and demonstrate a Rock/Paper/Scissors for four different philosophies. The third (Pulls Bazooka!) got into the concept of vanilla defense. This last asks the question: what's Michigan's rock?
The Verlander Effect: Doing Multiple Things Well is Good
I'd like to first hone in on how "Rock" is used in this context, since it's not just another cell in an equal triangle matrix.
In honor of Opening Day today I'll use a baseball metaphor. Pitchers, like offenses, usually build a strategy out of a maximizing the effectiveness of one thing they are exceptional at. A 95+ mph 4-seam (ie straight-up) fastball is a common "rock" pitch that will, to a typical batter looking for any kind of pitch, give the most trouble. To keep hitters from sitting on the fastball, the pitchers use slow-speed secondary pitches, for example a curveball and/or changeup. This is the constraint theory at play. But when you break down the pitch selection of a typical Fastball-Curveball-Changeup starting pitcher, you'll notice quickly that the fastball is between 40% and 50% of his pitches. Football offenses function on the same principle: throw the fastball, and mix in curveballs and changeups to keep the hitters/defense from overreacting to, and thus killing the effectiveness of your heater.
Now to relate this to Michigan's offense. You see, not everyone has the same suite of pitches. Among Tiger starters Doug Fister is the normal fastball-curve-changeup guy, but Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello both use a 2-seam fastball, ie a breaking fastball, as "rock." This pitch will dive downwards and (righty on righty) inwards. The downward motion gets a hitter aiming for the meat of the baseball to hit the top of the ball instead, the spin absorbs some of the power of the stroke, and the result is a lightly hit ground ball. To keep hitters from simply adjusting their aim, the 2-seamer's constraints are a 4-seamer (leading to a pop-up), and a slider, which has a lateral motion opposite that of a 2-seamer.
This brings us to Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in (and MVP of) the American League last year. Justin's "rock" is a killer 4-seam fastball – it has lots of lateral movement and lots of velocity and is a total bitch to hit. In a season between half and two thirds of his pitches will be the fastball. However any MLB hitter who is looking for any fastball will be able to hit it, just as Northwestern defenders can stop a Wisconsin rushing attack if they're looking for it or a I-AA team can...let's not go there. Justin also has a devastating curveball and changeup, both of which will F you up if you're looking for his fastball. Verlander's curveball is like Cam Newton's arm: the constraint is good enough in its own right that you can't beat it unless you're overreacting to it, in which case you're now going to be eaten alive by the fastball and changeup.
In 2010 and 2011, Verlander leapt from being a great young pitcher to undeniably elite. What happened is he developed a 2-seamer game. The two-seamer and the slider arrived in 2010 and now account for about 15% of Justin's pitches.
This is all strategy; the other 90% is execution.
What Does Michigan Do Very Well?
The offense of 2011 at its apex was versus Ohio State. Since the Sugar Bowl strategy became "dear God stay away from the middle" on account of Molk playing gimpy, last year's Game is also the best representative we have so far (other than practice video zoomed into Toussaint's nostril hairs) of the 2012 offense. So let's re-live that game from the perspective of formation, personnel, philosophy, and RPS to get a feel for the current Borgesian ideal.
Remember, personnel is the number of RBs and number of TEs, so 22 is two of each. Subtract the total RBs and TEs from 5 to know the number of receivers. I defined "Value" on this scale: 1: Fail. 2: Got some yards, not what it was supposed to. 3: Did what it was drawn up to do. 4: Did better than it was drawn up to do. 5: Broke open for big yardage/score.
|M31||2||5||Shotgun||12||Zone read belly||Option||Rock||1||0|
|O47||1||10||Split Backs||21||Flare screen||West Coast||Scissors||4||6|
|O41||2||4||Shotgun||20||Inverted veer keeper||Option||Rock||5||41|
|M48||1||10||Denard Jet||12||Jet sweep||MANBALL||Rock||3||5|
|O40||1||10||Denard Jet||12||Counter pitch||MANBALL||Rock||2||3|
|M7||1||10||Shotgun||11||Zone read dive||Option||Rock||2||2|
|M9||2||8||Shotgun||11||Inverted veer keeper||Option||Rock||1||2|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun||10||Zone read dive||Option||Rock||2||3|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun||11||Zone read keeper||Option||Rock||1||1|
|M22||2||9||Shotgun||11||PA TE flat||Option||Paper||3||7|
|O16||1||10||Shotgun||11||Inverted veer give||Option||Rock||2||2|
|O14||2||8||Ace||12||Waggle TE flat||MANBALL||Paper||2||3|
|O6||1||G||Shotgun||12||Zone read dive||Option||Rock||1||0|
|O6||2||G||Shotgun||20||Inverted veer keeper||Option||Rock||5||6|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun||11||Inverted veer give||Option||Rock||4||8|
|M39||2||2||Shotgun||20||Inverted veer give||Option||Rock||3||4|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun||20||Triple option dive||Option||Rock||3||4|
|M47||2||6||Shotgun||12||Triple option keeper||Option||Rock||3||5|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun||21||PA TE seam||Option||Paper||5||26|
|O13||2||4||Shotgun||12||Triple option pitch||Option||Rock||1||-7|
|M10||2||9||Shotgun||11||QB draw||West Coast||Scissors||4||10|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun||20||Inverted veer keeper||Option||Rock||5||22|
|M42||1||10||Shotgun||20||Triple option dive||Option||Rock||2||3|
|M45||2||7||Shotgun||11||PA rollout out||MANBALL||Paper||3||4|
|M28||2||7||I-form||21||Waggle deep out||MANBALL||Paper||5||20|
|O31||2||In||I-form||21||Power off tackle||MANBALL||Rock||3||5 + 13 Pen|
|M13||1||10||Shotgun||11||Zone read keeper||Option||Rock||2||3|
|M10||2||7||Shotgun||11||Inverted veer keeper||Option||Rock||3||6|
|M4||3||1||Goal Line||23||Waggle TE corner||MANBALL||Paper||3||4|
|50||1||10||Shotgun||11||Zone read dive||Option||Rock||1||-1|
|M49||2||11||Shotgun||10||QB draw||West Coast||Scissors||5||16|
|O37||1||10||I-form||21||Power off tackle||MANBALL||Rock||5||20|
|O17||1||10||I-form||21||Power off tackle||MANBALL||Rock||2||2|
|O5||2||G||Goal Line||23||Power off tackle||MANBALL||Rock||3||5|
|O1||3||G||Goal Line||23||Bootleg||MANBALL||Paper||1||1 (pen -25!)|
Non-bullets with charts:
Counting "Denard Jet" as another Ace formation, here's the breakdown:
|Philosophy||Shotgun||Ace||I-form||Split Backs||Goal Line||Total|
And the breakdown by RPS %:
As you can see the RPS rolls look more like a Verlander pitch-type tracker than a triangle matrix of equal things. You can also see Borges working in his West Coast game like a 2-seamer/slider tandem. If there was a base play in there it's probably the zone read from a Shotgun 1-back, 1-TE formation, with the blocking switched up (read: "veer"). Borges threw a lot of fastballs, but it worked:
Remember 3.0 on my value scale means the offense was getting that 3rd down conversion, that 5 yards on 1st down, or setting up that 3rd and short every time. Manball accounted for about 72% of plays, and its effectiveness was strong, including many plays that broke big. The corollary of rock's effectiveness was that the constraints all performed better. This offense was working. About the only complaint here is that the Option game was totally missing a constraint. There was one play where Michigan actually faked this constraint—you know what that constraint is—and it was wiiiiide open, but then the play went rock and got stuffed. This is a minor complaint.
* Y U NO BUBBLE SCREENS?
What the hell was this offense?
It was Fastball-Curveball, with some West Coast sprinkled in. Even Rich Rodriguez's Pat White teams would sprinkle in that much pass-first philosophy, because that's another type of changeup you can throw. What we see here though is that the Option-from-Shotgun philosophy and MANBALL-from-mostly-shotgun philosophies are working in tandem. If you recognize this, it's really not all that different than Michigan's offense in 2010. If you have Denard, you run POWER with him, or you use him in a zone read option.
So after all that you're saying Al Borges is running the same offense Rich Rodriguez ran?
Wait, you were the subheads a second ago; when did you become a bolded alter-ego?
Answer the question!
Well no because it was just 75% shotgun versus like 85%, but other than that, yeah, kind of. But it's not Rich Rod's offense (the Zone Read) from West Virginia; it's what RR did when he got Denard. And I might point out that this was against Ohio State, so while I'm using it as a stand-in for the 2012 offense, that's not quite right because Borges has said and shown in other games that he's not going to have Denard run this often. This was Ohio State; this was balls to the wall.
The lesson of the 2011 offense is that Borges believes in all of this stuff, and despite earlier reticence, is happy to take the best of different philosophies and best use his personnel. And he can identify what that is.
The other thing is how he uses things other than the normal constraint plays as his changeups. Michigan is pitching with a plus-fastball and plus-curveball out of the same "motion," in this case formation. The personnel change on virtually every play, and the changeups are rare and (sometimes) devastatingly effective.
As a 2011 strategy it was frustrating during Iowa to see Michigan come out in an I-form on 1st and 10 in the 1st quarter, and then to hear Borges in the press conference treat questions about that as if we were asking about I-form on 2nd and 2 in the 4th quarter when Michigan's in clock-kill mode. This he learned, as he learned the best way to use Denard is to keep the threat of his legs involved in everything.
So why all the "Power" in the press conferences?
We learned this isn't actually philosophic zeal so much as the fact that one of the key benefits of running power for coaches is getting to say the word "Power" in press conferences. One of the nice things about Power is using the rhetoric, and until the massive incoming linemen and rocket-armed QB and pounding tailbacks and stable of tight ends and tall receivers are on hand to make a Wisconsin offense a reality, these coaches will be happy to take the best of all philosophies and run with them.
Next time in this series (last time?), I'll tackle why recruiting for the Wisconsin offense is perhaps a good idea for the future.
Basketball: really as good as all that?
Now, it doesn't matter for the Big Ten regular season...it is what it is, we went 13-5, and earned a share of the title. But what does it mean for the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA?
Ask yourself this question when it comes to evaluating the Michigan season...was it a solid 13-5 or a weak 13-5? Was it a 13-5 that with a few breaks was 15-3? Or was it a 13-5 with a bunch of breaks that could have easily been 10-8? Which of those is more representative of the basketball we saw this year? Death from above in the two tournaments?
Northwestern looms. Twice we played them. Twice we went overtime with them. Could have lost both. Didn't. Positives to be sure. But who shows up come Friday? …
To me, happy we share the title. Not convinced at this point we are as good as either of those other two teams. Proud of the heart, proud of the overall result. Concerned about the two tourneys.
Bluntly, Michigan was not as good as either of the two teams they tied with. You can see that in the efficiency margins:
W-L Pace PPP Opp. PPP EM 1. Ohio St. 13-5 65.4 1.10 0.93 +0.17 2. Michigan St. 13-5 62.5 1.08 0.92 +0.16 3. Wisconsin 12-6 58.0 1.03 0.97 +0.06 4. Michigan 13-5 58.9 1.06 1.01 +0.05 5. Indiana 11-7 65.4 1.11 1.06 +0.05 6. Purdue 10-8 64.0 1.10 1.09 +0.01 7. Northwestern 8-10 61.0 1.08 1.12 -0.04 8. Minnesota 6-12 62.6 1.00 1.04 -0.04 9. Iowa 8-10 65.8 1.03 1.09 -0.06 10. Illinois 6-12 63.7 0.97 1.05 -0.08 11. Penn St. 4-14 62.3 0.97 1.10 -0.13 12. Nebraska 4-14 61.9 0.93 1.09 -0.16
Kenpom will confirm that for you: it has MSU and OSU #2 and #3 behind Kentucky with Michigan idling at 20.
Meanwhile, going 13-5 would not have netted Michigan a title in any other year since the Big Ten went back to 18 games. Most years they wouldn't even be within a game. There's no denying they were fortunate to end up where they are now. Michigan lost one close Big Ten game (@ Indiana, 73-71) and won four to six (NW x 2, MSU, Purdue, maybe Minnesota and OSU depending on how you feel about five-point games). You can grub grub grub about will to win and finding ways to win and winning is for winners; I don't buy that stuff.
In terms of efficiency margin and Kenpom rankings, Michigan is about where we'd hoped they'd be before the season: slightly improved despite the loss of Darius Morris, short of truly contending for a conference title. In terms of wins they're a three seed and a Big Ten champ.
I don't say this to bring anyone down. It's wonderful. For this team to accomplish what they have is fantastic, and at this point anything after winning a 3-14 matchup in the first round is gravy.
I do think they'll be a particularly vulnerable three, though, and won't be surprised to see them flame out in the second round*. I also won't let that damage the wonderful run they went on to erase a lot of bad streaks. From a logical perspective I get the "concern"; from an emotional perspective it went from 90% house money to 110% as soon as Buford hit that shot. The worst that happens is Michigan State fans say "see you weren't really a Big Ten champ." This will not prevent the banner from going up.
*[I'm not predicting that by any means. Michigan gave Duke all they wanted last year and a hypothetical second-round opponent will be much worse than the Blue Devils were last year. Beilein is a consistent outperformer when he reaches the tourney.
HOWEVA, I do loathe the prospect of drawing a couple of the current six-seeds in Jerry Palm's bracket. They are all dangerous mid-majors: UNLV, New Mexico, Wichita State, and St. Mary's. In Kenpom's eyes that's two teams better than Michigan (Wichita, New Mexico) and two who are a dozen or so spots worse (UNLV, St. Mary's).
You may remember the Dohrmann UCLA article mentioning the success of a couple transfers out of the program: that's basically UNLV. Chace Stanback is a 6'8" guy hitting 47% from three; Mike Moser is a 6'8" guy in the top ten in defensive rebounding with high usage and an inside-out game.
I find Palm's fives a lot more palatable: Louisville (#30 Kenpom), FSU (#28), SDSU (#51), and Creighton(#35). No matter what I expect a second-round nailbiter.]
The golden child's effect on the OL.
Brian or Ace or Anybody;
I am confused, when talking about o-line prospects in the 2012 or 2013 class, some say "Fox makes an ideal RT" or "LT-T is the prototype Left Tackle.". Is the fact that Shane "Obama circa 2008" Morris is a southpaw baked into the projections as to who plays where on the OL? Wouldn't the proto LT be moved to RT for a lefty QB, or no?
Are you and your Bloggy ilk keeping this in mind, does it make a difference for a lefty qb?
I don't think it matters much. Many players at Michigan and elsewhere have flipped from right to left tackle without a problem; when Morris becomes the starter Michigan will put their best pass protector at right tackle and he'll adjust over the course of an offseason. Jake Long switched from right to left after his first year as a starter; Mike Schofield was pressed into service as a left guard after practicing mostly at tackle and did fine.
There might be some slight issues if Morris is either in (because of Gardner injury) or out (because of a Morris injury) of the lineup unexpectedly. In that case you probably wouldn't want to screw up the line's performance by flipping them mid-game and will be exposing either Morris's or his backup's blind side to slightly worse protection. That's life.
Even if that happens it doesn't look like there's going to be a huge difference between the starting tackles at any point in the near future. Whoever the #2 guy is will have beaten out an array of 6'5"-6'7" blue chips. This is not going to be Jake Long opposite Rueben Riley. It's going to be Almost Jake Long opposite Decent Approximation Of Jake Long.
MANBALL concerns revisited.
I WANT YOU TO JOIN UP
ALL OF YOU
THAT WAS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE
You have argued over the past several years that you think Michigan will be at a talent disadvantage compared to teams like Ohio and SEC oversigners like Alabama, so long as the status quo persists. You've also argued that, schematically, the best way to deal with this deficit is the spread offense. I am curious if you think Hoke (and Borges) can build an offense in their mold that can truly compete on the national stage. What do you think it will take in terms of recruiting and scheme to be a legitimate contender for the national championship? Do you think that we have the ability to recruit the offensive talent we need to contend for a national title? Or is it perhaps too early to tell?
Obviously an elite defense, which I think we are building, mitigates the need for an elite offense, but recent BCS title games have demonstrated that you can't rely on just defense to win that game. Ultimately I am asking what combination of scheme and talent you think we need to achieve in order to win the national championship.
All the best,
My concerns about Michigan's ceiling have been blown away by Hoke's early recruiting returns. If Michigan is bringing in top five classes consistently—Hoke's already two for two a month into his second class—and is approaching games with the controlled aggression that Hoke, Mattison, and Borges displayed in their first year, there is no reason they can't run a conventional offense and compete for national titles.
When you have a huge talent advantage or are Wisconsin you can line up and beat heads in: top ten FEI offenses* this year include Wisconsin, Stanford, and USC. Alabama was #11. All you need to replicate that is a ton of NFL guys on the line, an NFL quarterback, and some NFL skill guys. Check, check, well… we'll see.
I get the vibe from your email that you're a bit skeptical of Michigan's skill position recruiting. I think that's premature. Shane Morris is a Henne-level QB recruit. Michigan did pick up a consensus four-star in Amara Darboh at WR and came close to flipping Brionte Dunn; this year they've got a top 100 tight end (for now, anyway—Butt will probably fall into the 100-200 range as the year progresses) and seem to lead for a couple five-star types in Ty Isaac and LaQuon Treadwell. If Hoke lands those guys Michigan's weak spot in the 2012 and 2013 classes is…
…uh… cornerback? For now, anyway.
Even if one of those two guys escapes we're still 11 months from Signing Day; more targets will emerge. It seems like Michigan's going to be able to focus a lot of attention on any holes they have in the class come, oh, May.
My main concern with Michigan's scheme going forward is a potential over-reliance on a fullback. It seems like most pro-styles have moved to double TE sets. See this Chris Brown article on Alabama's very MANBALL, very NC-worthy offense. I hope that's where Michigan's going, too. Tight ends threaten defenses vertically in a way that fullbacks do not; they're better athletes, generally, and better targets for downfield passes. Fullbacks… eh.
I think this is also where Michigan's going. Their TE recruiting is massive—they're looking for a fifth in two years—and there's clear distinction between guys like Jake Butt and Khalid Hill, a 6'2", 230 pound guy designated a "U-back" or "move tight end" according to TomVH.
So, like, whatever. My beefs 14 months into the Hoke era are "that one punt against Illinois" and "taking a scholarship fullback." Oh, and the complete implosion of the offense in a couple games. But that's not a long term issue.
Hoke has dumped game-changer after game-changer on us since his hire to the point where the internet is making memes like this…
Ben Gedeon's visiting, you say?
…if we're feeling for a ceiling it's a bit hard to find right now. One will probably come, but there's no reason to go looking for it just yet.
*[I know FEI put up some weird results this year what with Navy and Miami in the top ten as well but it at least tries to account for strength of schedule and pace of play; FWIW, Stanford was 8th in total yardage, Wisconsin 14th, USC 21st, 'Bama 31st.
Also, as long as you're down here, how about Paul Chryst? I predict Wisconsin has a noticeable dropoff in his absence.]
This is a follow up to to Doctor Rocklove a few weeks ago, where I identified the influence of offensive sets on philosophies. If you're not familiar with offensive theory you should go back and read that. If you're a football coach you are welcome to pinch the bridge of your nose and shake your head, for this is only going to cover about 20 percent of what you know to be the basics of offensive football.
The point today is to look at some of the base plays of various offenses, and a few of the constraint plays that they use to counter, and what defenses do to counter that. In doing so I hope to
find stumble upon a better explanation of Borgesian offensive theory than the "grab bag" this space has previously suggested.
That Thing You Do
You've probably read enough college football boilerplate by now to have heard a coach talk about "what we'd like to do." This does not have to mean one play, but it often means one concept—very much like a play—which the team will be able to execute to perfection against the defense they want to see. That play is usually going to be low-risk, and if executed flawlessly against the vanilla defense it's built to beat, it will gain a consistent 5 to 7 yards. It can be run out of many formations, and you will practice it a thousand million times until you are sure it will work every time unless the opposition "cheats" to beat it.
For Vince Lombardi it was the sweep. For Wisconsin (and virtually every high school in our division in the late-'90s) it was the ISO. It could be the Triple-Option (Bo), or the Zone Read (Rodriguez), or Hitch-n-Out (Walsh) or Levels (Peyton Manning's favorite), or 62 mesh (Captain Leachbeard). With passing offenses, which is Borges's thing, it's important to note that the core concept itself can often be a package of plays which work off of each other, none particularly favored; for running the same concept will vary where on the line it will attack.
You can go crazy for your core concept. You can practice it incessantly. You can recruit players whose skills best fit what they're supposed to do on that play. You can even focus physical training on developing muscles that are used on that play. The better you are at that play—and this is a sliding scale—the more the defense has to move someone or do something to "adjust" to you. But this is a zero-sum game, so if you're moving a defender to stop the base play, he's no longer doing the thing he was doing before. He is making something else way easier than it should be. He'll do this anyway, until you make him pay.
Constraint Theory of Offense and RPS
What you choose as your core play or concept will determine much about the other things your offense does, because now you add plays to punish defenses for adjusting to your base play. That's what coaches mean by "constraint"—you are constraining the level to which the defense can react to your bread and butter. What you are essentially doing is creating an environment in which you get to run your core play, which you've practiced more than any other play, exactly how you drew it up as much as you can.
Certain concepts are almost always constraints because they won't work against vanilla defenses. Delayed handoffs work because the defensive line is closing on the quarterback as if it's a pass play. Halfback screens work well against blitzes but if a linebacker is in man on the running back, a vanilla defensive concept, you're screwed.
Defensive wins in rock, paper, scissors are rare and lucky guesses; usually a D's successes come from outstanding execution of a vanilla defense, for example if the nose tackle shoots past a playside block and forces a pitch on a speed option (as if that could happen).
Defenses have constraints too but theirs are limited by the offense's greatest advantage: whoever has the ball chooses the play (the D's advantage is so much more can go wrong with offensive execution). Defensive constraints translated to boilerplate sound like "we took away the run and made Denard beat us through the air." What they mean is the defense was cheating against the offense's base play all game but leaving themselves more open to the constraint plays, betting on poorer execution by the offense.
Dantonio last year sent two blitzing linebackers up the middle on many occasions, taking away Michigan's bread 'n butter play "Denard-'n-stuff." This forced Michigan into our constraint, which was targeting open receivers in short zones, but then Dantonio took this away by having safeties replace the blitzing LBs. This opened up another constraint by making deep coverage completely up to the cornerbacks, but then a trash tornado covered that constraint for them.
What the constraint theory does for playcalling is create a kind of matrix of offensive adjustments to defensive adjustments and adjustments to those adjustments. For a typical varsity high school team that matrix is probably 20 plays, and for college football it's more complex, and in the NFL the adjustments are so myriad and subtle I'd have an easier time teaching EMI/RMI shielding (it sounds hard).
Because the shades of gray in such a big decision matrix make for convoluted understanding, I've tried to (over-)condense the basic constraints of four basic offenses. There is way, way more but these are a few of the constraint packages that Michigan used last year.
Offensive Concept: I'm bigger, faster and stronger than you are, so I'm gonna hit you so hard your momma cries, then evoke masculine metaphors.
Defensive Concept: Control the point of contact, win 1st down, never let the train leave the station.
|Rock||Man-on-man blocking, backs hit 2nd level at full speed running vertically. Repeated success quickly tires defenders, especially if the backs are regularly hitting defensive backs, and sets up soul-crushing play-action.||Read and react. Have LBs who can react quickly to the right hole (5-2, 4-3 under, 3-4), or b) have superior DL beat their blocks while the LBs maintain their gaps (4-3). Zone behind that so CBs can pincer.|
|Paper||Prey on the reacting linebackers by running play action, then rolling the pocket away from the point of attack and passing deep.||Blitz their favorite gaps. The point is to control where the point of contact occurs, so the sooner that happens, the sooner one of them will take out the lead blocker, and the sooner the ballcarrier is tackled.|
|Scissors||Screens, draws, and quick, short passes to curl and out routes to take advantage of corners' fears of something deep.||Back off into safe coverage--these days it's cover 2 man, meaning the cornerbacks are in man on WRs with safety help over the top. This takes the CBs out of run support but any pass deep is into double-coverage.|
Timed Passing (West Coast)
Offensive Concept: A symphony of route design and timing that puts defenses into a progression of impossible choices.
Defensive Concept: Throw off your timing, suffocate your routes, kill your conductor.
|Rock||Quick routes by receivers and RBs that make a zone defender commit to one guy, then hit the other guy before another defender can come up.||Cover-2, and faster, smarter zone defenders who pass off receivers seamlessly, so that the O has to check down to nothing, throw into a super-tight window, or just runs out of time before the pass rush gets home.|
|Paper||Run the ball with power, delayed handoffs and screens. Once the defense is thoughtlessly stepping backwards when the QB is, they're no longer able to react to something as basic as a RB and his convoy pointed downhill.||Zone blitz, i.e. drop DL into coverage while random LBs and safeties blitz or squat in short zones. Reads and blocking are much more difficult, and small windows become no windows.|
|Scissors||Throw "hot" into the pressure, with pre-arranged hot (post-snap) reads that both the QB and his receivers make.||Levels/Robber. Drop back in a 3-deep zone while rushing 5 (often the SLB/nickel). Robber reacts to runs/screens or replaces guy who blitzed for instant pick/scared QB.|
Read Passing (Air Raid, Pro)
Offensive Concept: Spread, mesh, read, and gun, so on any given play, at any spot on the field, we can put it where you ain't.
Defensive Concept: Anywhere you can get, I can get faster
|Rock||Spread to pass. The O-line is spread to basically neutralize line play (DL will break through eventually but seldom right away). Receivers run "mesh" routes against each other, then cut off their routes when they've recognized the D in order to find soft spots in the zone.||Cover-3 zone, trusting your LBs to intelligently route receivers and react and trusting the QB and WRs can't connect on all of their 7-yard passes and that soft spots are small.|
|Dynamite with a cut-able wick||Curls, and/or bubble screen whenever the defense is obviously backing off. Dana Holgorsen has altered this to delayed handoffs and screens by using two RBs and putting one in motion to simulate the spread.||3-5-3. The Air Raid threatens the whole field to open up the easy passes off of two crossing routes, so forget pass rushing and clog up the middle.|
|Scissors||(This is just mean) Four Verts: suddenly the deep receiver is no longer just a quick glance to keep you honest but a high-low with the seam.||Press man coverage/blitz up the middle.|
Option (Triple-Option, Zone Read)
Offensive Concept: Reverse the traditional 7-on-6 "numbers" advantage of the defense in the running game (i.e. their front 7 versus 5 OL and a running back) by having the quarterback participate, and "blocking" an edge defender by optioning off of him instead of wasting a body.
Defensive Concept: The cat has more patience than the mouse.
|Rock||Isolate an unblocked front-7 defender against the QB and another accessible option he can go to once the defender commits.||Change up the edge attack so the QB is reading the wrong guy or walking into a trap. Scrape exchange, slant the DL, etc.|
|Paper||Fake the option and then send a quick seam over the heads of the oncoming defenders.||Cheat extra defenders (8 or 9 in the box) into the area where the option will occur so nobody gets isolated and/or blitz into one of the options (e.g. CB blitz or MLB blitz into RB's hole) so unblocked guy can focus on one option.|
|Scissors||Option 3. This is the FB dive in a triple-option and the bubble screen in the spread 'n shred, and is a constraint called by alignment.||Line up "clean" with safeties still in coverage, and if they option do what you can to delay the decision and await the cavalry.|
Next time in this series: vanilla defenses, and the best offense for Michigan this year and beyond.
Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the I
Things of offense: Manliness, shotgun, impeccable timing, and options
Over the last few seasons we've talked a lot in this space about how shotgun formations and the spread are awesome, while anything else will steal your children. This is a myth—all offenses that score points are equal—but you could almost be forgiven for thinking that we are spread zealots when we have a tag called "i am a spread zealot no foolies." Most of the time we were saying "this is what Michigan should run right now," but to say most of the authors here haven't been partial to Oregonian offenses is an insult to your bias sensors.
Part of this is because I haven't always used the most correct terminology, or used sets and formation and personnel and philosophies as interchangeable when they're not. What we haven't said very much is talk about other offensive philosophies and why they are awesome too. What I'd like to do then is rectify some of that.
HUUUGE thank you to Tyler Sellhorn and Steve Sharik for looking over this stuff, then saying "omigod this is only like 10% of what offense is." Everything below that is correct came from them, but as you read I ask you only think of them as exasperated professors watching their theories butchered by a student presentation.
I. What's the Point of Offense?
Scoring is the point. How you get there is what we're talking about, and that's strategy. Offensive strategy comes down to a fairly simple concept: find a thing that you can beat a base defense with most of the time, then build in things around it to force the defense to defend you with a base defense. Anything can be adjusted to, but adjustments are usually unsound and thus make some other aspect easier than it should be. Where coaches disagree is on what that thing is, and whether to get so good at that as to be nigh unbeatable at it, or to get good at other things that beat base defenses too. What follows is a layman's oversimplification of offensive formations, and how they relate to offensive philosophies by a layman who needs to oversimplify it to get it.
* That link is to Chris Brown's "Why Every Team Should Apply the Constraint Theory of Offense" and you should read that.
When I started trying to make formations and philosophies into the same thing, two coaches I asked about it said don't do that because personnel groups matter more. A formation is two things: personnel (how many RBs and TEs vs. receivers are there) and set (how they line up). Common backfield sets are the words you're probably most familiar with: a. I-Form, b. Split-backs, c. Ace, and d. Shotgun.
But these words are only part of the set nomenclature. "I-Form" means the RB, FB, and HB are more or less in a line (though the FB is often shifted one way or another). "Split-Backs" refers to where the RBs are lined up, whereas "Shotgun" just means where the quarterback is lined up. What you know as "Ace" is actually referring to personnel, i.e. there is just 1 RB in the backfield. In the above examples both (c.) and (d.) could be called "Ace."
"Pro Set" is a specific alignment of the wide receivers, where one side has a receiver (the "flanker") plus a tight end, and the other side has just one receiver, the "split end."
The part defensive coaches are most concerned about when they're matching is not the set but the personnel. Football coaches express personnel in numeric terms you may have heard them yell at their wards but never understood: Twelve! Twenty! Twenty-One!, i.e. 12, 20, 21. These numbers, like "43" for a 4-3 defensive alignment, are combo digits where the first refers to the number of running backs out there, and the second to how many tight ends. So "12" means there's one running back and two TEs, "21" is two RBs and a TE, "11" is one RB and one TE. A third digit in the representation is the receiver count, e.g. 104 personnel means 1 RB, 0TE, 4 WRs.
So the four examples above are a.) I-form 21 Pro, b.) Split-backs 21 Pro, c.) Ace 11, and d.) Shotgun 11.
III. Why Set Matters
There are tradeoffs to how you line up your backfield, especially in the running game. A running back who starts the play behind the quarterback (a., b., or c.) will get the handoff a few yards behind the line of scrimmage with a running start in the direction you want the ball to go, but if the QB's getting a shotgun snap that handoff occurs six feet behind the line of scrimmage, and if the RB is moving it's not forward. This is a considerable disadvantage—one second after the snap a ball carrier about to hit his hole at full speed is far preferable to one at a dead stop far behind the line of scrimmage.
"Spread" has virtually lost its meaning but it's basically the opposite of bunching, the idea being to trade off some of the "I can put lots of guys at any point of attack on the line really really fast" for a measure "I can make your defenders pull apart to open up more space for my athletes to beat yours in space." I couldn't find a coach to back me up on this but I see horizontal spreading as a sliding scale between how much of the line of scrimmage in the box can you attack quickly with lots of guys (less spread) or how much of the line of scrimmage outside of the tackles can you attack quickly with one guy in space (more spread). Again, this is a tradeoff between things that are (specific talents nonwithstanding) equal.
Three of the four formations above are made to threaten this quick-strike downhill runner. Having the QB under center gives the RB in an Ace formation that head start. With multiple backs you threaten such quick attacks at multiple gaps in the line (think of two chess bishops next to each other), though when you go to 20-something personnel the defense will likely match.
I-form gets the added bonus of a fullback hitting that same hole even faster, either as a lead blocker or the main attraction. This is the key to such favorite I-form plays as SLAM! and WHAM! and BUHBUHBLAM!!! So long as the O-line can do its job the speed and power with which such an attack hits a base defense can make it good for 3 or 4 yards consistently. I've just described part of the base premise of Manball philosophy.
There are plenty more than this, but the four concepts that seem to cover most offenses you need to know are:
- Manball: My bigger- and stronger- and faster-than-you-are running back and his lead blocker are going to attack any spot between the tackles so fast your defenders won't get there until we're already in your backfield. Requires: Talent across the board. An OL who can't block 1-on-1 can screw up the play; an RB who loses all momentum at the moment of impact is giving up an extra YPP.
- Timed Passing: aka "West Coast:" A symphony of route design and timing that puts defenses into a progression of impossible choices, living and exploiting those precious seconds when your zone defender can't be in two places at once. Requires: Quick-thinking, –seeing quarterback with strong arm and laser accuracy, WRs with great hands for catching under duress, pass-pro OLs.
- Mesh/Read Passing: Spread, mesh, read, and gun, so on any given play, at any spot on the field, we can put it where you ain't by having QBs and receivers read your coverage and go right to the holes. Requires: Smart QB and receivers who can quickly read a defense, receivers with speed to open up those holes, incessant drilling so that QB and WRs are "in sync" or "on the same page."
- Option: Isolate an unblocked defender so that he's forced into a Catch 22; when he makes his decision, take the option he didn't. Requires: QB with running back skills, quicker OL, WRs who can sustain blocks.
All of these are unbeatable strategies if executed properly against a base defense. And it's important to note that none are restricted to any one formation. What was so cool about the Zone Read, which uses an option philosophy, is that it does so from the same formations NFL offenses normally use for their Timed/Read passing games, preserving all of those passing advantages for the constraint plays. At Michigan Rich Rodriguez ran a ton of QB Iso out of a shotgun spread, sending a lead blocker (at times the RB, an H-back, or a pulling guard) into the intended gap and having Denard Robinson (and Feagin before him), act as his own I-back. It's also key to remember that most offenses use many concepts, in fact most NFL offenses today, though they call themselves West Coast, all use concepts that are very Air Raid.
However the formations do have some relationship to the above philosophies. To way oversimplify, here's a matrix of base effectiveness for each common formation and the four above philosophies ("1" being "Most Effective, and "4" being "Least Effective"). Also I'm comparing the formations to each other; West Coast still works quite well out of the I-form I'll have you know.
|Shotgun Spread (11, 12)||I-Form (21, 20, 22, 23)||Split Back (20, 21, 22)||Ace (12, 13)|
|MANBALL||4. Can work as a changeup (e.g. the delay) against defenses keying on ZR or pass, or with a great rushing QB.||1. Multiple RBs and blockers quickly hit many points of attack with forward momentum.||2. Two RBs mean either can get the handoff and get outside the tackles quickly, but any lead-blocking plays are slow to develop.||3. Single RB hits the hole with momentum, but no lead blocker. Power is mostly a check against passing.|
|Timed Passing (West Coast)||3. RB can stays to help with protection and QB should have time to survey, room to step up into the pocket. But because it's a pass-heavy set the defense will be keying on it, meaning less time to throw.||4. Relies a lot on play-action, rollouts, and the running game being good enough to make opponents cheat on it. Works if D must respect PA.||2. RBs and OL are already set in pocket formation. Great formation for a good Pro-style QB/WR combo to let routes develop. Usually frees a TE or RB in the flat as an outlet. Lack of spread hurts.||1. Horiz. spreading helps, drop-back is timed with routes. PA, threat of screens, end-arounds, and pre-snap motion force D to play it honest.|
|Mesh/Read Passing||1. QB is immediately in position to see and throw, receivers are spread horiz and vert. However lack of running threat lets D tee off with 9-techs, etc. Most NFL offenses today are this.||4. RBs are mostly limited to flat routes that you can high-low and TE is only inside receiver, but D overplaying run should get WRs good space for curls and slants.||3. Two receiver options are RBs starting far behind the line so meshing routes is difficult. Threat of run establishes pass options.||2. Receivers can be arranged to spread horizontally or bunched to flood a zone, RB acts as center threat.|
|Option||3. Spread 'n Shred. It gives up ground and is slower to develop. Options btw dive and QB off-tackle; Option 3 is a pre-snap read (bubble screen). Speed option gives up the dive for Options 2 or 3.||2. Nebraska under Osborne. The triple-option is often run from this set since Option 1 (the FB dive) can happen super-quick.||1. The triple-option ("Houston Veer") was born from this set. The playside RB is the dive, and you can option off of multiple front 7 players.||4. One of your "backs" is a receiver so the way to run Triple-O is to put that guy in motion (think Denard Jet), which basically means you're converting to an I-form.|
No the formations are not created equal. Some are better at running, others passing. But the thing to remember here is the rule of constraints: if you can do something well from a formation that doesn't do it well, the things that formation does do well are now available to you. Oregon's offense works so well because running so effectively from the spread means defenses have to cheat against the run against an essentially passing formation. Meanwhile MANBALL offenses are best if filled with great passing pieces, e.g. Henne and Braylon/Avant, because if the safeties are backpedaling away from a 21 I-formation, well yipee.
When Brian complains about DeBord it's often because his playcalling was so predictable. The crime here wasn't anything to do with Manball as a Philosophy, but in not using the pass as a constraint, and in telegraphing which side the play was going—more often than not behind Long/Kraus because the other side was Mitchell/ Ciulla/ Schilling/ Ortman/ McAvoy/ Riley/ Whatever—by shifting the fullback to that side. Defenses would do the unsound thing, and there would be zero constraint. Conversely, when I was making yards-per-attempt cases from the UFRs earlier this year it again wasn't anything wrong with Manball the Philosophy, but because the offensive personnel's strengths were the wrong strengths for that philosophy. By 2015 I'm guessing that will have reversed.
Next Museday: a grossly oversimplified matrix of Rock, Paper, Scissors for each philosophy, and the RPS counters by defenses for each, then a long discussion of which philosophy I think Borges really believes in.