the season has truly begun now
mike debord doom
1. Is Michigan about to be on the wrong side of history?
When Rich Rodriguez was hired at Michigan, Gary Danielson infamously predicted Michigan would be the last major program to move to a spread offense. Five years later, Michigan is shedding the spread as the NFL adopts it en masse. I am a spread zealot, no foolies, and while I may be influenced by factors like…
- Associating pro-style offenses with Mike DeBord, "the expectation is for the position," and opponents saying they knew exactly what was coming game after game.
- Psychic scarring from things like Donovan McNabb, Carlyle Holiday, The Horror, The Post-Apocalyptic Oregon Game, Northwestern 2001, and even Braylonfest.
- Denard Robinson!
…I've also watched an awful lot of football over the past eight years and there seems to be no substitute for the defense-wrecking ability to run with a guy who can throw, and give him the ability to make that decision after the defense commits.
'bout to get yards'd
These days the thing that's all the rage is packaged plays that give the quarterback the ability to pick from a number of simple options based on the alignment of a couple players, and not just on the college level: Doug Marrone and company got scooped back up by the NFL largely because they ditched a complicated pro-style offense for quick decisions that make the defense wrong every time. Tavon Austin is a 5'8" wide receiver who went 8th overall in the NFL draft. The Great Satan in Columbus has Denard but tall at quarterback.
Meanwhile, the idea that Michigan needs to run a rough-and-tumble offense to cope with the rough-and-tumble Big Ten is total horseshit. If you haven't noticed, the Big Ten sucks at football, Michigan is recruiting a billion times better than anyone except Ohio State, and Ohio State is a spread option team. If we accept the fact that you have to run power to defend power, isn't the corollary there you have to run the spread to defend the spread? Clueless spread outing after clueless spread outing through Carr's career certainly suggests that. I mean, Michigan was fortunate to escape a home game against Northwestern last year because they gave up 248 rushing yards and 10 YPA.
Add in Michigan's stubborn adherence to the increasingly archaic huddle and it does seem like there's a little bit of dinosaur in the program even if Brady Hoke is hip to Romer. Arguments in favor of the huddle include feelingsball arguments like "it helps your quarterback be a leader"; arguments against include Nebraska lining up with 25 seconds on the play clock and checking into an RPS +3 play once they saw Michigan in a man to man alignment:
Where did they get that call?
From the sideline after they got lined up with 25 seconds on the clock and Michigan showed man coverage with one high safety. That was not aww shucks luck. It's using the extra information the defense gives you to exploit it. Michigan, meanwhile, is usually still in the huddle with 18 seconds on the playclock and often scrambles to the line with no other option than running what's called no matter what the D shows.
It kind of sucks that Michigan doesn't seem to want to do similar things. You'd think every coach would love the opportunity to get whatever information they can before making a decision.
Michigan's not using these newfangled offensive innovations. They suck so much at varying tempo that you, reader, have screamed "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" more than once in two-minute drills the last two years.
I love everything about Brady Hoke, but this is the one thing that makes me fret at night when I forget about Jabrill Peppers.
[After THE JUMP: DeBord is not Borges, Borges is not DeBord. Gardner confirm. Interior line muttering.]
With Barnum getting healthy and Schofield playing well any chance we see one of two scenarios: Barnum takes over left guard, Schofield moves to right tackle and slide Huyge down to left guard or Barnum takes over right guard for Omehmeh? I'm partial to the former simply because of two 6' 7" 300 pounders on the edges, yes please.
It might be too late to make that change. While Huyge has some experience at guard, that came under Rich Rodriguez, when pulling was not a major part of the offense. Putting him at G seems like an invitation to have the same issues Omameh is having with a different player.
I could see the straight Schofield-for-Huyge swap if the coaches believe Schofield is a much better pass protector. We have no evidence that's the case since he's only played guard, but if I had to bet I'd guess he is. It's tough to take a senior who's only had one bad game out, though.
Do you think Borges is leaving our base offense (and by that I mean Denard at QB, lots of RB runs interspersed with a few Denard runs and passes) too early? Against Michigan State and Purdue, our first drives worked to perfection and our run game seemed effective.
Immediately thereafter, we started running a lot of crazy reverses, reverse fakes, and Devin-centric chicanery instead of sticking with what worked. Why? it drives me crazy every week. Also, we seem to love to fake the run before we've even established our running threat. For obvious reasons, this hasn't been effective.
For coaches that talked a lot about man ball and the desire to establish a RB, we seem pretty eager to abandon Toussaint and the run game.
I addressed this topic in a picture pages yesterday and got a couple inquiries about whether or not I thought Michigan's seeming lack of a base offense was a good or bad thing.
I'm not able to answer that yet. It's a thing. Whether it's good or bad is something we won't be able to tell for a while. I am sure I like it better than DeBord's zone offense, which was predictable and seemed to save every interesting tweak for the Citrus Bowl. I'm not sure if I like it better than the style of offense Michigan was using last year when the omnipresent threat of Denard's running often led to free touchdowns, or at least long drives before Michigan would turn the ball over. (YAY LAST YEAR.)
But you need opinions, no matter how flimsily justified. So: if I never hear "they did what we expected them to do" again it will be too soon. The only time someone's tried that this year was when Dantonio said something about how Michigan will run tunnel screens when Gallon is in the game as if he's a Calvin-Bell-style designated reverse guy. That is incorrect, so, like, thumbs up. Tentatively.
Why was Borges so terse on the bubble screen question – (btw did you ask it?). I wonder if it was because he expects the QBs to check into that play and it hasn’t been happening – perhaps he was protecting the players a bit?..
The process by which questions about football—as opposed to feelingsball—are asked at press conferences is like so: Heiko goes to the pressers and sometimes asks questions that I've asked him to ask. Sometimes he just reads a bunch of blogs and asks questions the blogosphere has implied he should ask. The option responsibility Q posed to Mattison after NW was the former. The bubble screen Q was the latter. This is what happened:
Is the bubble screen ever going to be a part of your offense? “I’m not saying one thing about any bubble screens.”
Heiko is in intensive care recovering*. In lieu of flowers you can donate to the EFF.
So… why did the normally accessible Borges fire that off when asked about the lack of a bubble screen? I'm guessing he thinks the bubble screen is stupid. I'd like to find out why he thinks it's stupid since everyone from Dantonio to Rodriguez to Lloyd Carr made it a part of the offense to punish teams that tried to cheat inside or deep. His perspective on the thing would be interesting.
I doubt that it has anything to do with the players not making that check. For one, the alignments that seem to open up the bubble are usually trips formations featuring the #2 WR on the line of scrimmage. The latest BWS bubble complaint:
That makes for an awkward backwards orbit by the potential bubble guy and puts the main blocker in a less advantageous position than he would be if he was on the LOS. It seems clear that the bubble is just not installed.
As to why Borges isn't saying word one about the bubble, there seem to be two possibilities:
- He is vaguely aware of the fan zeitgeist about this and is sick of these laymen bothering him about a stupid play.
- He is going to bust it out as part of Michigan's ever-evolving baseless offense.
Meanwhile, between morphine doses I'm trying to get Heiko to ask questions that are less confrontational.
UPDATE: AA.com has a slightly longer version of the quote.
"I'm not saying one thing about any bubble screens," Borges said. "Everyone wants to ask about that play."
Door number one, then.
*[This is actually the second time Heiko's gotten acid in his face asking about something strategic. He asked Hoke whether he'd ever considered a spread punt and got this answer: "no." End of answer. It's not a surprise that coaches don't take kindly to random people implying heir decisions are not optimal, but it's kind of fun to ask anyway. As long as you're not Heiko.]
Hindsight in re: Three and Out.
I know your criticism of the Hoke hiring, and I am not trying to bait you on this. With the benefit of hindsight, however, I keep asking myself whether a Hoke hire in 2007-08 would have been all that risky given what appears to have transpired (and actually did). It now seems like it would have been the safe move -- kind of like Bo elevating Gary Moeller, despite Moeller's horrendous record as a head coach at Illinois -- i.e., you don't lose to Northwestern in the late 70s solely because Illinois doesn't recruit well.
Obviously, what's done is done. But my opinions of Bill Martin and Lloyd Carr have been altered dramatically.
Let's just hope the Notre Dame coaching carousel of fun is not in UM's future. . . .
I just don't see how you can hire a guy who is vastly under .500 in the MAC. At that point Hoke hadn't had his 12-1 season or turned around the perpetually moribund San Diego State. He was 22-36 in five years at Ball State.
I mean, envision this situation: the fanbase is even more up in arms about than they were in the brief period between Hoke's hiring and kidnapping Mattison from the Ravens. Martin does not want to shell out for Mattison. Mallett still probably leaves. The team is just as much of a tire fire in 2008. You probably get Threet to stick around the year after, but did he prove himself much better than Tate even given another year to redshirt and learn a system? Eh… not really.
Michigan still turns in a losing season its first year and is 7-5 at best in year two, at which point the coach has had one winning season, period, and has overseen the worst period in Michigan football since the 60s. Can Hoke recruit in that environment? Can anyone?
Unless you believe Hoke turns the tattered roster in 2008 and 2009 into significantly more wins than Rodriguez does—like five or six—he's doomed. I think that's a stretch. You can't cure John Ferrera flipping from DL to start at guard, can't cure the Threet/Sheridan QB combo, can't do much about the disaster zone in the secondary.
Michigan ran a guy with two BCS bowl wins out of town after three years. Were they going to keep a guy whose high water mark was a 7-5 MAC season longer? This is a fascinating hypothetical, actually. They just might have.
It has been mentioned on the front page twice that Dungy was a broadcaster in 2007. This is off by a few years. 2009 was his first season out of coaching and in the role of studio analyst.
Er. Sorry about that, Bill Martin. Your coaching desires were crazier but less easy to evaluate than I expected.
Approved by NASA.
I was on Uni-Watch this morning, and this ad popped up:
Finally, the Elvis Grbac simulator we’ve waited 20 years for!
I'm all like… is that guy wearing #45? I don't understand.
My eccentric Oregon financial advisor doppelganger. Smart Football points to a fellow who goes by FishDuck and is all about zone reads, feeding his dog, the violent-yet-genteel devouring of Mike Patrick, and more zone reads:
An interesting point picked up from Chip Kelly's presentations: Oregon has tipped inside/outside zone for six years without ill effect because declaring the play causes people to overreact to it, which opens up constraint plays. More than that, the zone often acts as its own constraint as over-aggressive players flow playside or bunch up inside, opening cutbacks and bounces.
He's also got a video on Oregon's deployment of power, which it uses as a counter to their usual inside zone stuff. We haven't seen this out of Borges yet, but I'm hoping. My desire to see Michigan pair an opposite-side-of-the-line speed option with the inside zone borders on lust. And by "borders on lust" I mean "invades Poland with sexy tanks."
When he was hired in January, Hoke's mission was explicitly to roll back the Rodriguez era, to restore whatever it was that made Michigan feel like Michigan again. To that end, even Wolverine fans seemed to find the sudden proliferation of countdown clocks, macho posturing and various Buckeye-related eccentricities laying it on a little thick. But six weeks in, the Wolverines are right on schedule in the national polls, the Big Ten standings and the weekly stat sheets. If they clear the midseason hurdle Rodriguez's teams never could at Michigan State, they can claim one more phase of the mission accomplished.
Kind of a big deal, this game.
Point: Tim. Reportorial ex-girlfriend Tim, who now goes by the bizarrely long moniker "Tim Sullivan" over at Rivals, was a committed skeptic about Rob Bolden since he was one of a trio of touted in-state quarterbacks in the 2009 recruiting class.
Despite the rankings, Tim said the guy didn't know how to play football. It seems like his scouting prowess has been borne out:
Game Over, Man. Game Over. This quarterback contest is done. Urban Meyer remarked toward the end of Penn State's first offensive drive that at Thursday practice, he did not see Bolden complete a single pass over five yards. This makes sense, as Bolden did not throw a single decent pass on the entire first drive. …
Rob looks completely shattered at this point, and it's time for the coaches, players, and fans to embrace the crazy train that is McGloin Moxie Mania.
It's McGloin o'clock in Bolden's Penn State career. Beaten out by a walk-on, does a transfer again beckon? /NYT headline writer imitation
Point: Hoke. Shudder at the awful puntasaur display in the Iowa-Penn State game:
…Iowa got to the PSU 33, faced 4th and 8... and punted. That Guthrie was able to pin PSU on their own 10-yard line (a solid accomplishment) is irrelevant. Punting from the other team's 33-yard line is A F---ING STUPID AND TERRIBLE IDEA. I don't even need statistics to back me up on that one (although they would). Even if Ferentz didn't want to try to convert on fourth down (4th and 8 isn't easy, obviously), why not give Mike Meyer a crack at a field goal? It was a beautiful day, the ball was lined up near the middle of the field, and Meyer has made 50+ yard field goals in the past (this year, in fact). But no. Ferentz gave a vote of "no confidence" to both Meyer and his offense on that play. Iowa probably deserved to lose the game for that decision alone.
Of course, JoePa was determined to out-conservative -- or out-dumb -- Ferentz; he punted three times from the Iowa side of the field, including late in the game on 4th and 2 from the Iowa 36. If he really didn't think his offense could rip off a two-yard gain against a gassed and reeling Iowa defense, I... I just have no words for the level of neanderthal football thinking on display in this game.
Of course, that coaching blunder on Ferentz's part might be narrowly eclipsed by the decision to eschew running a two-minute offense upon getting the ball at the Iowa 20 with two timeouts and 1:42 to go before halftime. God forbid we try to score there. It's not like we don't have a no huddle offense that's been effective this year or a kicker with decent range. Nope.
Even if trying the field goal with Gibbons is a mistake, it pales in comparison to that business. I cannot express how much I love the Mathlete's new Dumb Punt of the Week feature. The inaugural winner is Ohio State's Frank Solich, who punted on fourth and one from the Buffalo 36. Buffalo has the #91 rushing defense. After an 11 yard punt, Buffalo drove for a touchdown. Ohio State lost by a point. The game theory gods do not take kindly to being spited so grandiosely. (See also: Kirk Ferentz.)
I missed another Hoke game theory bit: he got the ball at the 22 with about two minutes left and did not pull the Ferentz. Robinson rushed for a loss of one on first down, then five straight passes got Michigan to the Northwestern 44 before Robinson's third awful interception set up a Northwestern field goal drive. While we've seen Hoke eschew half-ending drives a couple times this year, those were with a minute or less on the clock, not two.
Now… it didn't work out that time, but these things are never 100%. Did it make sense at the time to try to score with a couple minutes left against Northwestern's defense? Yeah.
Glarb glarb glarb. So when Michigan shuffled its fullback on third and one and got owned I had a conniption fit. This was the result of DeBord Doom re-emergence:
That's the corpse of Steve Watson you see getting annihilated at the LOS. Glarb.
BWS picture-pages this and points out that the shuffling fullback opened up the Gardner rollout TD on which he had either the run or pass; I'm not so sure showing the first play is worth the cost to get a yard when your redzone offense seems to be able to get a yard whenever it wants. I like diabolical machinations better when they're like the above Oregon stuff—plenty diabolical in their own right without the counter.
Mitchbreaks. Mitch McGary's impending Michigan decision now seems far less certain:
Recently, reports came out that Mitch was nearing or had made a decision. However, Tim refutes that notion “He hasn’t made a decision. I just talked to him tonight (Monday night) and we talked about it a little bit. He’s coming home Wednesday night and we’re going to sit down and talk about it. They get a four or five day break this weekend so he’s flying in to O’hare and my older son will pick him up. We’ll be able to sit down and sort things out.”
Likely rumor vector: AAU coach to national guy, national guy tizzy checks in with coach a few more times, everyone wants to back off. Confidence level: reduced, but still high.
Etc.: Denard Robinson is healthier this year because he is homeopathic or something. Mark Huyge has had a tough year. Holdin' the Rope doesn't like "smug, pompous buffoon" Mark Dantoinio. Jon Merrill suspension 50/50 to end his career. Sad face.