A few years ago it was de rigueur on this site to talk about how college rules allowed NCAA teams to use a different style of punting, and that this style (called spread or shield) of punting was demonstrably superior to NFL-style (tornado). Michigan has swung between them in recent years. Carr tested out something like shield punting in 2003 then scrapped it when it cost him a game against Iowa. Rodriguez took us to spread punting along with spread offense, and Hoke returned the program to pro-style as was his wont.
In 2015 Harbaugh brought in special teams guru John Baxter and the spread was once again installed, presumably for good. Then Baxter left, and this year Michigan used both. At first we wondered if this was, like under Hoke, some relic of a coaching staff that strove to be pro-like in everything. But as the punt blocks, and near punt blocks, and running-intos that by all rights should have been punt blocks piled up, a new thought emerged: maybe Michigan thinks they’ve solved the spread punt.
Shield punting refresher
The splits are huge: two yards between the snapper and the guards, and two more yards until the next guy. You don’t care who comes up the A gaps—the only thing the guys on the line of scrimmage have to do is redirect the man lined up outside of them then get downfield (you don’t want your snapper involved in blocking).
The three guys standing about 7 yards back are the “shield”. You want big burly dudes for your shield, and you tell them the Grand Canyon is just behind their heels so they’d better not give an inch. By not giving an inch, they create an eye in the middle of the storm for the punter to safely get the punt off.
Everyone else just has to force the attackers to widen to the point where they can’t get back inside in time to affect the punt. That’s why the guards split so far apart: anyone going outside of them should presumably be too far outside to affect the punt. Anyone coming up the middle will get stuck behind an immovable wall of beef.
In the linked video, Daniel mentions the way to attack it is put four guys into those big “A” gaps, because that could overwhelm the shield. The way the shield would deal with this is block out man-to-man, and let the guys in the A gaps try to get around the shield. As long as your three-man shield can still stop four A-gap rushers, you’ve got a sound punt blocking strategy with two to four more guys releasing downfield than you would in an NFL-style punt.
[After the JUMP we get around the shield]
Takeaway: offenses were so potent by the 1950s that teams would punt on normal downs to gain field position, and the opponent wouldn’t have a guy ready for this.
Michigan’s outmoded punt formation is a horse we’ve been beating since Hoke’s first year despite it being about as dead as, well, NFL-style punt formations in college football. In light of last week’s punt-o-rama first half I got a question from a reader asking if we’d actually explain what the difference is between them and why one is better than the other.
So yeah, let’s do that, with the foreknowledge that Hoke isn’t going to change no matter what we say or prove; this is so you’ll know what you’re seeing only.
Here’s the punt formation that Michigan uses:
Like all things in football there’s a hundred different names and minor variations on it but the gist has remained the same since a time before the word “pattern” was replaced with “formation.” It follows the same rules as normal downs: seven men on the line of scrimmage, four in the backfield, with the backs plus ends on the line counted as eligible receivers. Since the snapper has to concentrate on that he typically doesn’t figure into the punt protection scheme except as a bonus dude to get in the way or cover a lane. The O-line does the front-line blocking, with a couple of wingbacks to protect against an edge rush and an up-back on the “leg” (…of the punter) side to catch anything that comes through, like an RB in pass pro, reading inside-out.
This protection scheme has worked for two generations and remains pretty safe from all kinds of punt blocking attacks unless a block is blown. It packs guys in the middle and on the outside the blockers mostly just have to keep rushers from getting inside before the punt is off. The two “ends” (wide receivers, really) are gunners, releasing downfield on the snap to attack the returner before the ball arrives and he can set up his blocking.
The NFL still uses this formation because they have to:
During a kick from scrimmage, only the end men, as eligible receivers on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap, are permitted to go beyond the line before the ball is kicked.
Exception: An eligible receiver who, at the snap, is aligned or in motion behind the line and more than one yard outside the end man on his side of the line, clearly making him the outside receiver, replaces that end man as the player eligible to go downfield after the snap. All other members of the kicking team must remain at the line of scrimmage until the ball has been kicked.
Translation: only the two outside guys can be gunners; everyone else on the punting team can’t release downfield until ball leaves foot. This was an attempt to cut down on injuries, figuring it’s best to keep as many collisions between high-speed NFL bodies to short range meetings in the backfield.
[After the jump: niche opportunity leads to adaptation]
Soady two-holer > Sochi two-holer
One of the mods already put this in a thread but a front page reminder can't hurt: don't post scores or spoilers of Olympic events on delayed telecasts. This goes especially for the results of hockey games that will be broadcast in primetime. Laughing at the myriad (mostly toilet-related) follies of bored and pampered journalists with nothing else to talk about for four days is fine.
The NHL kindly added the hockey games to its schedule, and I Bleed Maize N Blue put up a list of Michigan folk. Your Wolverines are hockey players Carl Hagelin (Sweden), Brian Lebler (Austria), and Max Pacioretty (USA), and U.S. figure skaters Meryl Davis & Charlie White, Maia & Alex Shibutani, and Evan Bates.
|Fri 2/7||Opening Ceremony||7:30 PM||NBC||All|
|Sat 2/8||Ice Dancing||9:30 AM||NBC||Davis & White|
|Wed 2/12||Hky: Czech-Sweden||12:00 PM||USA||Hagelin|
|Thu 2/13||Hky: Finland-Austria||3:00 AM||NBCSN||Lebler|
|Thu 2/13||Hky: Slovakia-USA||7:30 AM||NBCSN||Pacioretty|
|Fri 2/14||Hky: Sweden-Switzerland||7:30 AM||NBCSN||Hagelin|
|Fri 2/14||Hky: Canada-Austria||12:00 PM||USA||Brian Lebler|
|Sat 2/15||Hky: USA-Russia||7:30 AM||NBCSN||Pacioretty|
|Sat 2/15||Hky: Sweden-Latvia||12:00 PM||USA||Hagelin|
|Sun 2/16||Hky: Austria-Norway||3:00 AM||USA||Lebler|
|Sun 2/16||Hky: Slovenia-USA||7:30 AM||NBCSN||Pacioretty|
Makes M's Happy
Sara Driesenga pitched 263 innings with an ERA of 1.89 last year [Terra Molengraff/Daily]
Softball is my chosen sport for following without obsessing. Carol Hutchins is one of the best coaches the sport's ever had, and the team still exudes a spirit that's so so enjoyable. Just don't think too hard about the competitive aspects, or how large a role a pitcher plays in the outcome versus the rest of the team.
If you'd like to know how this team looks, the answer is "very good" again. Like the Tigers, they return ridiculous pitching—Haylie Wagner and Sara Driesenga are both aces, and they're joined this year by highly touted freshman Megan Betsa—and one of the game's best hitting infielders (shortstop Sierra Romero), but lost their cleanup hitter. Also like the Tigers they're not a very good defensive team.
Etc. Survey results for RunTheFootball's expectations thing says Michigan's not living up to those. Your weekly goal by goal analysis covers the tallies vs. Wisconsin last weekend. Michigan is still shooting the lights out in conference play except against Indiana, not updated with Nebraska game yet. Lacrosse. Softball.
Best of the Board
NATIONAL SIGNING EVE WAS LONG AND FULL OF TERRORS
The night before signing day I got an email from a source who's been spot-on before that Peppers was thinking about holding off signing his LOI the next day—nobody else had that info so I didn't publish it, but it appears he was correct and that Peppers's coach talked him down off the ledge. Since this source has been right about everything so far, I'll share the reason he gave for the wavering: another program's coach, claiming knowledge from an NCAA source, was in Peppers's ear about "possible major sanctions at Michigan," presumably for the Gibbons thing. Crutin, man.
Clarification Update: He didn't say which coach, and guesses are just that since virtually every coach goes around flingin' B.S. on signing eve. Playing defense keeps other coaches from going on the offensive against your class. It's just Crutin' man.
TIDBITS FROM THE SIGNING DAY PRESSER
- Clarity on LB recruit positions: Winovich is a Jake Ryan-style SAM, Ferns is a MIKE, Furbush is a MIKE or WILL, Wangler is a WILL or Stevie Brown-style SAM.
- Dymonte Thomas will just be a safety, no more nickel and diming
- Canteen is a slot guy
- Furbush cut his own cast off using a hedge trimmer.
Thanks to Every Roh Has Its Thorn for collating these.
PUNTING: NOW FAME-WORTHY
Monte Robbins [source] / Zoltan Mesko [Scout] / Adam Finley [Desimone]
Now that the stat-heads have shown the punt is the least important play in football, the NFL Hall of Fame, which is the second-least meaningful of all Hall of Fames (they're heavy on skill players and big names, light on understanding the game; the college football one is worse), has finally decided to let in the Guy (ha!) they named the punting award for.
This got me wondering if there's a punter in Michigan history who could surpass those I can personally recall. Punting stats have been kept only since 2000 by the NCAA, and Bentley only goes a few years further back. They're very wonky stats when they're good, and very badly curated, and the most accessible ones are more suggestive of a terrible offense than a great leg. Zoltan is the obvious if-memory-serves candidate for best Michigan punter ever. I remember thinking Adam Finley was underrated because he could pow it very high or place it out of bounds, and that Hayden Epstein was overrated because all he did was thwack it.
Great Grandpa Alfonse used ta say if you're lookin' back at the tings you missed you won't know what hit ya.
As for how Wile did I can pull 2013 conference data from cfbstats if you like:
|Player||Team||Atts||Net YPA||% Ret|
|Cameron Johnston||Ohio State||49||41.7||16%|
|Mike Sadler||Michigan State||76||41.0||25%|
|Alex Butterworth||Penn State||51||38.5||22%|
That 46% of punts returned (ie didn't end with a fair catch, downed, out of bounds, or touchback) is the dinosaur punting. This is enough about punting for today.
CRASH TESTING HELMETS
UM Engineers are getting into the helmet-improvement game to understand the biomechanics of football hits.
Your Moment of Zen: