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We’re going to be talking more often in the next few weeks about Run-Pass Option (RPO) plays, also known as packaged plays. Rutgers lives off them, Indiana loves them, Maryland is installing them, and Ohio State has made them a bigger part of their offense this year.
The general concept is easy enough: the offense will isolate a defender who has both run and pass responsibilities. The quarterback reads what that guy decides to do, then either throws the pass if that guy attacks the run, or runs the running play if he stays back.
But they’re not good for all seasons—RPOs take advantage of players with both run and pass responsibilities. If there are none, or at least there are super-clear priorities, it’s hard to find a defender to put in a bind. For example Cover 1—which is still Michigan’s base play—has pretty clear-cut jobs for their man-on-man defenders, the linebackers are given small zones they can defend while hanging in to plug their gaps, and one safety is given free reign to roam the deep middle and clean up any runs that get through. But even Michigan can’t stay in Cover 1 forever (cough cough Durkin), and against option-y, spread-to-run teams you’re almost forced to get your safeties involved in the run game, and then once again you’re susceptible to the offense putting that guy in a run-pass bind.
So let’s see how they work.
Solving Stacked Boxes
While run options are an answer to the problem of how to involve your quarterback in the running game, run-pass options address a different age-old problem for offenses looking to run the ball successfully: defenders in the box.
[After the jump: locking them in the box]
Same as it ever was. Nothing changes.
— Michigan's Past (@MichiganHist) November 9, 2015
The king stay the king. Harbaugh twitter will always be delightful.
Remembering the captain and crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald today. God Bless You and Yours! https://t.co/OZl3bMYWuy
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) November 10, 2015
If you do not listen to this song, this whole song, he will find you.
The equivalent Harbaugh story here is doing pushups with mom at 3 AM. De'Veon Smith was on Inside Michigan Football last night, and said things that make you… uh… notice a contrast between recent Michigan coaching staffs. For one:
"Coach Hoke was a great coach, he meant a lot to me," Smith said. "He came over to my house one day and literally just fell asleep on the couch."
I hope this was unannounced. De'Veon Smith comes home finds that one of his windows is broken. Inside, Brady Hoke is splayed out on the couch covered in cheeto dust and pinecones. Smith ventures a poke in an attempt to wake Hoke up; Hoke mutters "I am the cheesemaster" and rolls over, inert. There he stays for the winter. When he awakes he demands to see the "cheesekeeper" and runs into the forest.
"I guess until this year I wasn't really taught properly how to pass protect and what are my keys exactly," Smith said. "And (running backs) coach (Tyrone) Wheatley is instilling that into in all the running backs.
"In previous years, we tried to cut-block somebody. We weren't aiming at the right spot to cut down somebody and now coach Wheatley has taught us to get up on them and get low on them whenever we have to cut them. All the coaching points are definitely the main difference from this offense and last year's offense."
Smith has been excellent in pass protection this year. Michigan ran a couple of smash combos in the Rutgers game in which he was tasked with cutting an unblocked DE and did it with aplomb.
Mizzou chaos. Mizzou's president resigned, their chancellor also got booted, and because the football team decided they'd join the protest several people are poking me to talk about it. So here we go. Hold on to your butts.
- If you don't understand what's going on, Bill Connelly's explainer is the best that I've found. I still fail to grasp why a few unrelated racial incidents—one of which saw the perpetrator expelled—blew up like it has, but the impression given off by the Connelly piece is that the upper echelons of Mizzou were taken over by Brandon types with an eye on the bottom line and the incorrect assumption that they had infinite political power. Yanking grad student (read: teacher) health insurance the day before classes is a Total Brandon Move. The inciting incidents here were a spark in a dry forest, to borrow Mark Bernstein's analogy.
- The football team joining the protest promises to be a watershed moment. The president was likely on his way out anyway, but for the axe to fall so quickly after the football team announced a boycott indicates the latent power athletes have. Mizzou was about to get hit very hard financially because the football team simply decide to not do stuff. That is power.
- This is still far away from the dread strike-for-money that will happen in the next decade, probably at the Final Four. The climate on the Mizzou campus during a campus-wide protest the aftermath of Ferguson is going to be a lot different than the climate if a team says it simply wants a piece of the pie. Whatever team does that is going to get it from both barrels nationwide. Mizzou's football team has largely been praised by non-ideological* media.
- Gary Pinkel trying to walk it back afterwards by saying it was about nothing other than the health and well-being of the student on a hunger strike is disappointing. If you're going to do it, do it. That's some phony PR right there.
The merits of the protest, its interpretation of what the First Amendment means, and the larger campus climate nationwide are outside the scope of this blog until such time as Michigan gets stuck in a similar morass. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
*[yes yes all media is ideological especially that newspaper or that website here's a cookie]
Okay, Bill Plaschke. I'd link Drew Sharp if he was talking to Keith Jackson.
It is a voice still so memorable, people still call his home and hang up just to hear his greeting.
"If you're calling the Jacksons, you have succeeded," the voice says. "Help yourself."
I don't think that's how it works. The idea of a medical redshirt for Mario Ojemudia came up again:
Elsewhere, Harbaugh said Monday that the team is still in the process of appealing for an extra year of eligibility for injured senior buck linebacker Mario Ojemudia. The 6-foot-2, 252-pounder suffered season-ending Achilles tendon injury during the second half of the team's fifth game of the year -- a 28-0 win at Maryland.
Per the NCAA rulebook, medical hardship waivers (also known as medical redshirt years) can only be obtained (in a team sport) if three separate conditions are met. The injury must occur during one of the player's four seasons of eligibility, the injury has to have taken place prior to the second half of the player's season and the player has not participated in more than three contests (or 30 percent) of his or her season.
Ojemudia appeared in five games, which is obviously more than three/30 percent. Still, Harbaugh said the process of an appeal is still ongoing.
"There's an appeal process," Harbaugh said. "It's a process."
I assume this will get shot down because the NCAA has been very strict about keeping that rule intact, especially since they moved from 25% to 30% a few years back. I'd be really surprised if Michigan wins here.
Kickering, evaluated. SBN Auburn blog College & Magnolia piles field goal attempts from the last decade into a couple of graphs in an effort to evaluate kickers by the worth of their kickery. Average point value by distance:
Surprised a 50 yarder is a 50/50 proposition but I guess they don't throw you out there if you obviously can't make it.
Gets choppy at the end there for obvious reasons. C&M assigns points relative to expectation for the nation's kickers and finds Kenny Allen in a tie for 40th. That's about right since he's mostly hit mostly short field goals.
There are a couple of problems with this approach, It tends to give guys who don't have a big leg a pass for not attempting long field goals and it might underrate guys who end up with a lot of limited-upside chip shots relative to equivalent kickers who get more valuable attempts.
But it's a good first approximation, and Allen is about what we've seen: above average and not outstanding. FWIW, OSU currently is 116th. Jack Willoughby is 7/11 on the year and hasn't hit one from 40+. Just something to keep an eye on.
Smart Football back. Chris Brown has revived his blog until such time as someone else snaps him up. He talks packaged plays and how defenses are adapting to them:
In the below clip, Mariota is reading the backside inside linebacker — who is unblocked as the backside tackle is blocking out on the defensive end — to decide whether to hand off on an inside run or throw a slant into what should be a vacated area.
Yet even though the linebacker steps up for the run — and thus Mariota’s read takes him to the slant — the nickel defensive back had been reading Mariota’s eyes the entire time and he simply steps in front of the slant for a too-easy pick-six.
Does this mean defenses have figured these plays out? Not even close; one of the many reasons Whisenhunt got fired was because he had only superficially begun integrating these plays into his offense, rather than truly understanding how they fit together. But I’ve seen other examples of plays like this so far this year, and it’s evidence that defenses are catching up. That, of course, shouldn’t be a surprise. In football, nothing stays easy for long.
The Borges-Denard parallels are obvious.
Michigan hasn't had a ton of trouble with packaged plays this year since they tend to play a lot of man, FWIW.
Etc.: List of top uniforms has Michigan #1, Oregon #2, which is kind of an amazing list. Leaders have leadership. Dedicating Yost Field House. The Slippery Rock story. The dumbest game theory decision ever. Probably literally. LeMoyne things. Harbaugh's got it all.
"Every football team eventually arrives at a lead play: a "Number 1" play, a "bread and butter" play. It is the play that the team knows it must make go, and the one its opponents know they must stop. Continued success with it, of course, makes your Number 1 play, because from that success stems your own team's confidence." –Vince Lombardi
As we discuss coaching candidates we'll invariably get into the same old discussions on what kind of base offense said candidate might want to run. There was some discussion on the board this week and I wanted to expand that discussion into some basic "Rock" plays of various offensive schemes.
It is incorrect to identify any one play (and even more incorrect to identify a specific formation or personnel group) as a complete offense. You always need counters to keep doing the thing you do, and the counters will often borrow directly from some other offensive concept's rock. All offenses will borrow from each other so no breakdown is going to describe more than 60% of any given offense. Most zone blocking offenses throw in man-blocked things (example: inverted veer) to screw with the defense. You can run most of these out of lots of different formations. You can package counters into almost all of them (example: The Borges's Manbubble added a bubble screen to inside manball).
Really what you're describing when you talk about any offense is the thing they do so well that they can do it for 5 or 6 YPP all day long unless defenses do something unsound to stop it (like play man-to-man, or blitz guys out of coverage, etc.). Some examples of offenses and their formation needs (where a need isn't specified, figure they can use any set or formation: spread, tight, 23, ace whatever). I've given the rock plays, and left out the counters and counters to the counters because that gets into way too many variants.
Finally, the terms "pro style" and "spread" are meaningless distinctions. NFL offenses have the luxury of getting super complex: they have passing game coordinators who teach the QBs and WRs Air Raid things then run zone or power blocked things. The spread refers to formations and personnel—it doesn't say anything about whether the QB runs, if it's an option offense, or what tempo it runs at, or even what kind of blocking it uses. What I've done here is break up the offenses into "QB as Run Threat" and "QB Doesn't Have to Run" since the construction of these base plays usually stems from that. Remember, however, that QB running offenses can (and often do) still use blocking right out of Vince Lombardi's favorite play.
QB as Run Threat Offenses:
The FB dive will hit too quickly for anyone but the DE to stop; once the DE bites, the RG moves down to the second level while the QB keeps and heads outside, with the RB in a pitch relationship to defeat the unblocked defender there.
Concept: QB makes a hand-off read then a pitch read.
Makes life especially hard on: Edge defenders who have to string out plays against multiple blockers and maintain discipline.
Formation needs: Two backs.
Helpful skills: QB who can consistently make multiple reads and won't fumble, highly experienced, agile OL, backs who can both run and bock.
Mortal enemy: The Steel Curtain. Stopping the triple option is a team effort; if everybody is capable of defeating blocks, challenging ball-carriers, and swarming to the pitch man there's nowhere to attack.
Examples: Air Force, Nevada, Georgia Tech, Bo's Michigan
[Hit the jump for ZR, QB power, Air Raid, West Coast, Manball, Inside Zone, and the Power Sweep].
The way we were
Drew Hallett has a series on MNB called "Film Focus" that's a lot like the stuff Space Coyote used to diary here, i.e. screenshots with the play drawn on them. A few weeks ago Drew called for Michigan to add a packaged bubble screen to the zone read running game that briefly resurfaced in the 1st quarter on Saturday. Then he called this a "pop pass" and referred to the QB OH NOES play from 2010.
I started a long reply to make it clear that those are really two different things from two different offensive play groups, though both are predicated on the same spread concept of using the QB to add another player to the running game. Then I made drawings. Then I had video. Then I had a Hokepoints to save for OSU week.
Interesting things people do on offense are so far from topical right now at Michigan, but between interesting offense and Michigan's offense, which do you really want to read about this moment? Exactly.
Spread offense has been around several decades now, and has therefore had time to branch out and expand. A truly great offense will be great at all aspects: zone read running, WR screens, option routes, pre-snap reads, and packaged post-snap reads. But you don't really get that much time in college football to practice them all, so spread offenses become specialized.
Zone Read and Bubble
Drew showed that the bubble screen could be incorporated as a packaged play with the zone read, and yes teams do this. In fact it's so common now that last adapter in the world Al Borges deployed a packaged run-bubble last year.
The zone read/bubble was the base of Rodriguez's offense at West Virginia, and the genesis of the Rodriguezian slot smurf who could best take advantage of that space, but there's a key difference between RR's West Virginia offense and the "packaged play": when that bubble read is made. At WVU it was a pre-snap read, based on the position of that nickel/SAM/Spur/HSP guy. If he tiptoed into the box: bubble. If he stayed spread out like a good boy Rodriguez could continue running his zone read game.
Packaging makes that read after the snap:
The problem is you now have two reads, i.e. a triple option. Asking a QB to read more than one thing on a play takes a big commitment to that offense, and a quarterback who can/will put the time into it. Denard was an amazing player, but Michigan didn't get very far running the zone read offense with him because for reasons of time (he didn't get to redshirt and was a sophomore when he became a starter) and the level of commitment he could put into film, etc., when dude was constantly rehabbing injuries and trying to be a student.
Keep in mind defenses have seen the zone read for two decades now. They run scrape exchanges, and CB blitzes at it, and deploy dudes like MSU's Marcus Rush (the best I've ever seen at this) who can shut down an entire option game by delaying, delaying, delaying that first read until the rest of the defense arrives to bottle it up. By that point the field corner and safety have beaten those outside blocks, and the harassed QB throwing the bubble is an invitation to a pick six, a slotback blown up in the backfield, or even a backwards pass fumble. The defense has some other schematic things it can throw against it to take advantage of a QB who's too green at reading the package, but the point is they're already trained to blow this up in more ways than walking the HSP down.
[Jump for more fun things that Michigan doesn't do for religious reasons].
FORMATION NOTES: Not a whole lot that was unusual. Michigan has changed the alignment of their backs in some shotgun sets:
I called this "shotgun deep" since the QB is still at 5 yards but the back is behind instead of parallel. I imagine they did this for the same reason the pistol exists: to give the back downhill momentum when he takes a handoff.
Conventional shotgun sets were frequent as well, as were split TEs. This is the first snap of the game and features Hill motioning from an H-back spot to the slot; he'll block for Funchess on a successful flanker screen.
Michigan would occasionally scrape up an I-Form out of whatever was laying around, like when Chesson motioned in here. This actually cut behind Chesson's force block to pick up 15.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: OL was Cole-Magnuson-Miller-Burzynski/Kalis-Braden the whole way. Gardner obviously QB until garbage time; he got pulled a couple drives before Michigan did much non-WR substitution.
Feature backs were Green and Smith with Hayes apparently a third down option; Drake Johnson only saw garbage carries and should no longer be considered a playing time contender going forward.
At WR it was Funchess, Chesson, Darboh, and Norfleet rotating approximately equally; Canteen did not get on until late. Bo Dever is your backup slot, apparently. Tight end was mostly Hill and Williams with a bit less Heitzman sprinkled in.
[After THE JUMP: all things discussed.]
YES DO IT YES. Oversigning for the win:
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerCBS) March 23, 2014
Knows Nussmeier, started four games for them a year ago, immediately eligible, Michigan has the room, just do it.
Are we sure he's not actually coffee dad? From John Beilein's favorited tweets:
Coffee dad. Also he favorited some random dude talking about his teams' rebounding derogatorily. John Beilein!
Thx to Mich fans for the support this week! Sweet 16 and on to Indy.Thinking about getting a nice Sub tonight. It could get crazy! Go Blue!
— John Beilein (@JohnBeilein) March 23, 2014
…is self-aware. So it's good he's not Skynet.
OH REALLY. Lost in the sea of March Madness last week was one statement from Brady Hoke that will hopefully prevent me from typing yet more spittle-flecked all-caps rants about how fifth year senior starting quarterbacks don't get benched except in the event of catastrophic injury, and sometimes not even then:
He's doing okay, (but) he's not ready to be the starter at Michigan," Hoke said Thursday. "Devin's got the most experience at that job. … But if we were starting today, (Morris) wouldn't be the guy out there."
All right then. That's settled.
"Two weeks from now? We'll see."
And the Crimson sea parted. It's that time of year again, where players either flee or are pushed from the Indiana basketball program. This time it seems more like a mutual flee/push, as two struggling players Indiana probably needs anyway are exiting. Jeremy Hollowell, one of the two large athletic Hoosiers who can't play basketball, is out the door. Austin Etherington is the other departure. Noah Vonleh already announced he's entering the draft.
With Luke Fischer's departure for Marquette in the middle of the season, Indiana has lost every player over 6'8" who saw time except for Hanner Mosquera-Perea. Meanwhile the biggest guy in their recruiting class is a 6'7" small forward.
Is it too late for James Blackmon to decommit again? Asking for a friend.
And then the other red sea parted. OSU takes a major hit with LaQuinton Ross's NBA draft declaration. They've got a terrific recruiting class coming in, and now they're really going to need it. They've lost Ross, who was 30% of their shots, Amedeo Della Valle, Aaron Craft, and Lenzelle Smith from a six seed and first-round exit.
And then everybody in the Big Ten laid out the red carpet. West Virginia shooting guard Eron Harris is transferring closer to home. Home is Indianapolis. Harris averaged 17 points a game as a sophomore, shooting 42% from two and 86% from the line. Scout's Brian Snow says Michigan will be involved($), and lord knows everyone in and around shooting-challenged Indiana will also make a run. Michigan's hoping that "closer to home" really means "away from West Virginia" since 250 versus 350 miles isn't much of a functional difference.
I'm in favor of Michigan trying to grab him. Think of him as a 2015 recruit who only gets two years before he has to go to the NBA, and oh right that just makes him like anyone else who ends up shooting the ball a lot under John Beilein.
Michigan has an open scholarship this year and it would be nice to have a couple of upperclass years to fill in those vacated by Michigan's NBA draft departure. After Harris sits out a year he would be competing on the wing with a senior Caris LeVert—maybe—and a junior Zak Irvin—maybe, along with Kam Chatman and any class of 2015 freshmen. Harris is a proven high-level player who will make a decision well before the 2015 kids will. And he'll have a year to get better under Beilein before he gets back on the court. If you can get him, get him.
Open to a return. Glenn Robinson was as noncommital as everyone is when asked about entering a professional draft, but this is something good to hear:
"There have been times this year when I thought about it and heard a lot of talk and everything," Robinson said. "I just want to make the best decision, the best decision for me, because I want to play this game for a long time. So if I'm not ready, I'm not ready."
While you can't begrudge someone their desire to get paid lots of money for their skill, it does grind my gears a tiny bit when guys leave early without the prospect of a first-round pick waiting. Robinson might have fallen into that boat; it would be really easy to ignore the stuff they're saying about you this year because you were supposed to be a first rounder last year. Hopefully one of these two things happens:
- Robinson annihilates Tokyo as he drags Michigan to a national title
- Robinson plays pretty well and follows the Tim Hardaway Jr model.
Open to stay. Please hold your nose at a reference to a Michael Rosenberg-gathered quote, but it's kind of a big deal:
Jordan is so admired within the program that Alexander, another rising coach, endorses him to be the next head coach at Michigan.
"In my mind, I think he would be a great progression, when and if the time comes, when coach Beilein decides to transition on," Alexander says.
Alexander is 37, and he set a goal for himself to be a head coach by age 40. But he looks at Jordan and thinks of the Michigan football team's defensive coordinator. Says Alexander: "I would be more than willing to be (Jordan's) Greg Mattison. We want to continue to work together. I just think the world of him."
If Jordan and Alexander are both around when Beilein hangs it up, I don't know how you don't give Jordan the job after his work with Morris and Burke and Stauskas and LeVert, plus the recruiting bonafides and possible huge long-term upside. (Beilein is 61, so if he goes another five years you'd be hiring a 39-year old guy who could be around for the next 25 years.) Especially if that would mean Alexander sticks with him.
They've really got to do something about this. Urban Meyer on the packaged play trend and its acceleration:
The second-level zone read has his attention. In the traditional zone read, the quarterback reads the defensive end to dictate whether he'll hand off or run. In this version, the quarterback is reading the linebacker.
“That's going to not disappear,” Meyer says. “It's even in the NFL now. The NFL doesn't give you three yards.”
College does -- as in, officials allow linemen to get up to three yards downfield before a throw. After following up with other coaches on this concept, one popular play is to throw a slant to the open space if the linebacker goes inside to cover the run, knowing linemen are already headed downfield to block.
This has started to become comical. Last year in the Michigan-Air Force game, two Air Force OL had in fact engaged defenders six yards downfield on a pass play without a call. Either get rid of the illegal man downfield rule or enforce it. But pick one.
Etc.: Glasgow's issue was a "driving-related offense," which seems pretty likely to be one particular driving-related offense unless they've got some really strict new rules about using your turn signal.
Derrick Green getting slimmer. Jim Tressel's CV doesn't include anything about sweatervests. Bo bracket. Pistons to chase Izzo because owner is MSU grad. No idea why MSU NBA owners want to wreck their alma mater's program but fine by me.