I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Or, a selection of emails that are sort of old:
I noticed something potentially of interest in the Hennechart. There's an absolute lack of batted balls. There are ZERO and Tate's reputed to be a midget. By comparison, Navarre was a giant, and I seem to recall that one of the most frustrating things about watching him was that he would seemingly fire at will into the raised arms of D-lineman (I don't have a Hennechart reference to back that up because it hadn't been invented yet, right?).
So, questions: Is this schematic? Does our offense now somehow help our QBs avoid the batted ball in ways that the previous offense did not? (A comparison of Tate vs. Death last year might help as a reference, but Death wasn't very good, so…) Does Tate have a special knack for avoiding batted balls? He's always been short and Navarre was probably always tall, so maybe it's something he developed by necessity, whereas Navarre never had to worry about that sort of thing until he reached college.
Forcier got his first two batted balls of the year against Iowa, and both were on third down when Broderick Binns just sat back and waited for Forcier to throw his way; he wasn't even rushing. Even so, the batted ball phenomenon is seriously reduced from past years. The reasons are partially schematic, as Michigan runs a lot of rollouts that open up passing lanes, and partially Tate creating his own fake rollouts by bugging out of the pocket after his first read is covered. As Michigan moves to more pocket passing they'll see the batted balls creep up, but it's not likely to ever approach the frustrating levels it did when Navarre was the statuesque Michigan pocket passer of choice.
Are Kovacs and Leach on scholarship? I know they are referred to as walk-ons but are they now on scholarship?
If not, what are the odds that Kovacs and possibly Leach earn scholarships this year? Kovacs is appears like he is going to be a major contributor the rest of the year with Leach seeing some time too.
I realize that there aren't many scholarships left, but RR also wants to develop a solid walk on program. I've always figured that one of the ways to make sure you have a good walk on program is for the walk on's to know that there's a chance, albeit very slim, that you could earn a scholarship.
Obviously, the fans and I'm sure RR would like to use the scholarships on incoming fresh but if Kovacs keeps up his play and isn't on scholarship, how do you tell him he hasn't earned one?
Michigan's only got 76 scholarship players on the roster now, but teams always hand out bonus scholarships to their walk-ons when they end up short. I'd assume Sheridan, Kovacs, Leach, Heininger, Olesnavage, and Pomarico (the long snapper) are all getting this year of school for free. Three other guys who are less obvious are also getting money.
Those scholarships—all scholarships, actually—are one-year deals. If Michigan fills out its roster next year the walk-ons will be out of luck; usually what happens is Michigan fills up in February and then sees some offseason attrition that opens up a couple slots, but not nine, for the top of the walk-on crop. Kovacs, who looks like he'll start the whole year, might be an exception to that.
I am curious to hear your thoughts on whether or not Tate and Denard have been making the right reads on the zone read option. I've seen a lot of criticism directed at these two indicating that they are keeping it too often and making the wrong read. I know RR has said he'd like to have them not have as many carries. My question is this - are they actually making the wrong reads? On the zone read option, Isn't the correct read against the scrape exchange for the QB to keep it? Or do they need to read the scraping LB/DB (the guy filling the hole vacated by the backside DE)? It just seems a little knee-jerk to say that they are keeping it too often. I know we've come up with a set of plays to counter the scrape exchange, but I'd be curious to hear how the scrape exchange has impacted the reads on the bread-and-butter zone read option play.
I realize it's difficult to assess whether they are making the right reads as we have no idea if a play was a called run or keeper but it might be interesting to try and track whether it appears the correct read was made when you are doing the offensive UFRs.
This was before the Iowa game and an interesting development in that game: Michigan blocked the backside end frequently and, I believe, had Forcier read the appropriate "scrape" linebacker if he read anyone at all. It looked like Michigan took away many of Forcier's reads in the run game and just told him to hand off to the back, because Iowa frequently left no one for contain on him and he did not keep the ball.
The one time he did, though, he made a wrong read, pulling the ball from Minor when the backside DE was keeping contain; he managed to juke the guy and pick up six yards anyway. This has been a frequent occurrence, which isn't unexpected when you're dealing with a true freshman adjusting to a ton of backside games.
The thing I'm wondering about: where is the zone read with Denard Robinson? He's run a ton of draws and called runs but other than a reverse pitch here and there, there's been precious little misdirection from the Robinson package.
what’s the difference between the zone read dive and the zone read veer? is a “veer” just the term for any play that reads the frontside instead of the backside?
The "zone read dive," or zone counter dive, is not a read play. Michigan pulls the TE to the backside to block the DE back there and always hands it off with the intent of hitting the gap between that DE and the rest of the line, which down blocks. The play gets rid of the extra defender that read plays get rid of by assuming a linebacker to that side of the line has containment on the QB and will run himself out of the play. While it looks like Forcier has an option on the play, he really doesn't.
The veer is a true read play on which the tailback's desired hole is between the backside tackle and the backside DE*. If Viddler had any idea what fair use was I could show you some killer examples from Brandon Minor a year ago, but alas it is not to be. But the idea is this: you block down.** This looks exactly like a stretch play until it's too late and all the DL have slanted past the OL and out of the play. The QB reads the backside DE like a normal zone read, but the tailback cuts hard and swift upfield behind everything, hitting into the secondary immediately since the DE's been dragged outside. Minor had touchdowns on it against Purdue and Wisconsin where he ran virtually untouched into the endzone.
Opponents took away the veer most of the year by crashing the DE down and scraping, which necessitated Michigan's response to that. By the end of the Michigan State game it was clear they weren't scraping, so Michigan ran a version of the veer that was bleedingly open, but Forcier kept it and turned a lot of yards into four.
The key takeaway: any time
*(In Michigan's offense so far. It has a lot of different forms.)
**(Blocking down is the polar opposite of stretch or reach blocking. You basically shove a guy you started playside of; this always leaves an unblocked defender or two behind you. Power off tackle plays seek to get rid of him by pulling guards and tight ends around; the veer tries to do it with a read.)
You have mentioned a couple of times that the performance of the Michigan rush offense against Michigan State the past two years has been a statistical outlier. I think you have also mentioned that this may be a result of State spending more than the usual amount of preparation time for this game. If that is the case, how much more time do you think State is putting toward Michigan than a typical opponent and what kind of negative impact might that have on State since that would be time they are not spending on their current opponent?
Steve Sharik has it from sources inside the MSU program that Dantonio came up with much of the defensive game plan himself, which is unusual. MSU blogs have been complaining about Pat Narduzzi all year. So, yes, Dantonio "gets the rivalry" and Rodriguez "has an injured freshman quarterback."
As far as the question: one thing I might have overlooked in the aftermath of the State game was State getting a test run against Michigan's offense when they played Central Michigan. That did not go well, obviously, but it did give State an entire game film with which to scout themselves and fix a bunch of their problems. Then they went out and laid an egg against Wisconsin in all aspects of the game… it's hard to not see the correlation. Too bad Illinois is such a debacle or we would have gotten some more interesting information out of that game.
Okay. Picture Pages has shown you three different counterpunches to the scrape exchange over the first couple weeks of the season. There's throwing a wide open bubble screen. There's shooting a blocker into the backside of the play and galloping through the gaping hole that results. And there's peeling that same blocker around the back to pick off the scraper and get the quarterback into acres of space in which Tate Forcier should run straight upfield until murdered by a safety no matter how many people disagree with me in the comments. Michigan broke out the second of those several times against Eastern, picking up a bunch of first downs and one ninety-yard touchdown.
So why bother doing this stupid thing that just results in various big plays in your face? Well… because it's better than the alternative. Meet the alternative, presented to you by Ron English:
Okay: Michigan is in a trips set on their second drive of the day. English sets up in soft coverage and plays his linebackers off the line of scrimmage. Michigan will run the most basic play in their arsenal: the zone read.
Here's the exchange point. (Sorry about the crappy quality; I was working with an SD torrent at this point.) Two points: 1) with trips to one side of the field and soft coverage, the bubble is open here. Two: Forcier gets to honest-to-God read the backside DE. He is maintaining outside contain, so he hands it off.
Eastern's defensive line has slanted hard to the frontside of the play and Ferrara has gotten blown back a couple yards. Brown has nowhere to go and must cut up. But he can.
Because of the heavy slant, which was required to cut off the frontside of the play, there's plenty of room between the defensive end and his compatriots on the line. Because of the bubble threat, the weakside linebacker has been held outside. EMU basically destroyed the play but because of the design and EMU's lack of aggression they still don't stop it.
Eastern Michigan defended this about as well as they could here, forcing Brown behind every offensive lineman and into the unblocked backside of the play. It still gained five yards. This is really hard to prevent if you let the backside end get read and he's not a superfreak. Thus, the scrape.
Yet another in this site's series "counters to the scrape exchange."
This one doesn't take a whole lot of explanation. Michigan's in its H-back set and Notre Dame in the nickel it used all day. It's first and ten on Michigan's field-goal drive right before halftime:
Michigan's going to run something I called a "QB counter"; it, I believe, is not a read but a called QB run. Just like the dive play we saw yesterday, the TE (in this case Martell Webb) is going to pull across the formation and look for a block. LT Mark Ortmann, the topmost offensive lineman, is going to downblock on the weakside defensive tackle. But you'll do fine on this play if you just watch #80. He's the whole play.
Here we have a moment right before the key part of the play. Forcier has pulled the ball out of Minor's belly and Webb is approaching the point at which he's supposed to block the defensive end.
So Webb reaches the DE and… uh… runs right by him.
Here note two things. One: Ortmann has not done a great job with the DT, who has apparently read the play or was stunting or something and has shot into the backfield. This held the defensive end up. Normally on a scrape he'd be hauling ass after Minor, but since he got delayed he's right there and sees Forcier with the ball. Two: Webb ignored that guy and is heading right for the scraper. Tate has to deal with the DE.
Next, the moment of truth:
One: Forcier has beaten the defensive end despite the screwup/stunt by Notre Dame. This is MAKING PLAYS, and something it's doubtful either Threet or Sheridan could have pulled off. Two: Webb has blocked the scraper. Crushed him.
look at all that space
nooooooooo cut it up cut it up
- This is another scrape counter. This one didn't go very well for whatever reason and it still should have been 8-10 yards because Michigan has blocked the one guy tasked with the quarterback.
- Assuming your guy with the quarterback isn't going to get blocked can be dangerous for the defense. The scrape read presumes that your guy tasked with the QB isn't going to get lit up by a tight end, and it's hard to see any way to read what's going on to help out. The only player who can be of assistance is the backside DE, and that pulling tight end can do so many different things—block the scraper, block you and spring Brandon Minor up the middle, head out into the flat, pass block—that you're really picking your poison.
- I don't think it matters what side the guy gets blocked on… usually. Here Webb gets outside of the scraper and that's key because of the defensive end's presence, but if that guy's not there it makes no difference because Tate will be jetting up into massive space on either side of the block.
- Rodriguez's offseason planning was hugely focused on the TE. This was something we talked about in UFR, but it's worth repeating. There was a lot of hype about Michigan's tight ends and that hype has been more than met. A TE is on the field 90% of the time and has been a huge key in Michigan's ground game. Rodriguez has adapted to the scrape exchange and his counter is the tight end. At this point I'm actually a little concerned Michigan doesn't have a tight end in the recruiting class.
- Tate needs to realize he's no longer way more athletic than everyone on the field. He's done this three or four time in his first two games. It worked against Western, but not so much here.
This ended up being three yards, but it should have been ten, and holy God what if Denard Robinson was out there in that kind of space?
UPDATE: forgot the youtube-o-vision:
Last week in Picture Pages we saw one of Michigan's counters to the "scrape exchange" that Western ran constantly last game. Michigan ran a ton of bubble screens or "long handoff"* routes and gave Forcier another option after he decided to pull the ball out: run or toss it to a (usually) wide open receiver. Once Forcier got over some early jitters, this worked well.
Notre Dame was determined to take that away:
This is Michigan's first drive of the second half. Michigan's moved the ball and just got a gashing Brandon Minor run on a zone stretch. They're going to play off that success here.
You can see Notre Dame's response to what they saw in the Western game: line up in press coverage all day, including over the slot receiver. There will be no bubbles here. To prevent Notre Dame from being outnumbered in the box, 80% of the time Notre Dame walks one or both safeties up just before the snap. And to deal with the zone read, Notre Dame is running a scrape exchange every play. (Reminder: on a scrape exchange the backside DE just hauls ass for the tailback and a linebacker pops out to contain the QB.)
Notre Dame has countered Michigan's counter to their counter and pretty much shut down Michigan's rushing attack in the first half. But it's time for the counter-counter-counter-counter.
Here's the snap as it approaches the handoff point. Note that 1) there's no bubble available and 2) Kevin Koger is pulling across the formation. Oh and 3) Moosman, who is the second OL from the top, is just drive blocking his guy instead of taking zone steps to the left in an attempt to get his helmet across. His ability to shove the DT back a yard or two is key to this play.
A couple of moments later, Michigan's diabolical plan is revealed:
Points of interest:
- Kevin Koger's pull block pops the backside defensive end, providing a lane between that guy and RG David Moosman.
- Mark Huyge gets a free release on the linebacker, who you can see moving upfield and to the outside to contain Forcier. When he realizes Forcier does not have the ball he will have run himself into a spot where Huyge has a great angle to block him.
- Molk and Moosman have terrific angles to block their guys. Why are these blocks so easy? Notre Dame is anticipating a stretch play, which is what Michigan usually runs from this formation, and if it was a stretch play it would be imperative for them to get playside of their blockers. On this counter, that expectation runs them into places where it's easy to seal them away from the play.
This is basically over. A moment later, you can see the motion of the scrape linebacker has taken him into Huyge's block and that Moosman and Molk have locked up their defenders. Brandon Minor doesn't even have to cut:
The play ends at the one yard line. Watch it in glorious Youtube-o-vision:
Minor misses a cut on first down, Forcier fumbles on second, and a pitch gets blown up on third; Michigan misses a chip shot field goal, providing yrs truly with a wave of despair. But it ended well: Michigan was provided a short field on the next drive after a Notre Dame fumble and went from the 26 to the 7 with a six-yard stretch and 13 more on this play; that drive ended in a touchdown.
*(I don't have good lingo for that. Basically, the outside receiver stands there.)
Picture Pages: you see, Rudy, sometimes you just need to break down a play that's representative of a larger trend. This series picks out a play or two per game that seem significant in the grand scheme of things, Theo, and attempts to explain why. Vanessa.
I brought this up in UFR and wanted to make it clearer so here goes. This is a first and 15 on Michigan's first drive of the day.
Michigan lines up in one of their common sets, a three-wide shotgun look. Here the tight end is lined up as an H-back. Michigan often used the h-back as a pass blocker for Forcier rollouts, but this time he's going to go with the play. Western aligns in a 4-3 look with the nickel back shaded inside of the slot receiver. Michigan will run a zone read, and Western will do a version of a scrape exchange. In brief: in a scrape, the backside defensive end will take off after the tailback instead of maintaining contain. A weakside linebacker or corner will provide QB contain, thus hopefully minimizing or eliminating the quarterback's athleticism edge over the defender he's dealing with.
Below is the handoff point. As Western did basically the whole game, the unblocked backside end takes off after the tailback. Since this is the guy Forcier is reading, he pulls the ball out. A couple points: Michigan has six blockers against six defenders here and should be content to hand the ball off. As we'll see, Brown's going to end up with a lot of room.
A few moments later we see the scraper coming in: he's the corner/LB who was lined up over Grady. He comes flying in and threatens to tackle Forcier in the backfield. The scrape exchange Michigan saw a lot last year saw the WLB head outside; this one is less vulnerable to the veer or other quick-hitting backside plays that exploit the fact that your WLB is flying around the edge. But there's an obvious cost: HOLY GOD LOOK AT THE SLOT RECEIVER.
Forcier is, in fact, looking at a spectacularly open guy on a bubble route. One of the Western safeties is coming up but he's inside of and ten yards away from a guy who's quicker than him. At best he squares up and holds the gain down. If he misses a tackle Grady is born to run.
Also note the line moving to the second level and sealing those defensive tackles. Michigan had three or four plays like this where the tailback shot up to cavernous gaps in the line of scrimmage without the ball. And this isn't a reaction to Forcier's decision to pull the ball yet; only the WLB has seen that. The frames above make it pretty clear that if Michigan had handed the ball off Schilling was going to cut this guy off.
Forcier, unfortunately, decides against the bubble and cuts directly upfield:
Molk has finished burying the playside DT and if Brown had the ball he'd be cruising, as the WLB who peeled off to Forcier was about to get his clock cleaned by Schilling. But Forcier pulled the ball and then made a poor read, so he's got one option:
- Just because the backside DE is crashing down doesn't mean you have to pull the ball. This would have been a big gainer if Forcier handed it off.
- Scrape exchanges are not a magic pill. They pull defenders out of position and the right play call—or read—can exploit them.
- Forcier is, yes, a freshman. He made a number of mistakes against Western of this variety.
- But even so it's nice to have a guy like Forcier who can turn his mistake into positive yards. Michigan had a lot of screwups in game one but most of them still went forward. That's a huge difference from last year.
I live 10 miles from Scripps Ranch, but never got a chance to see Tate play down here. However, I do have an idea about the teams he's played down here and the teams he's playing up there, and after watching all the youtube clips I'm having troubling thoughts about the possibility that some linebacker might remove Tate's head from his shoulders early in the season. This makes our depth chart look like this:
- Next of Kin
- The Guy We Put In The Formation Because We Can't Direct Snap To The Other Team
What do you think of Tate's ability to avoid tackles, and more importantly, decapitation?
It will help a lot if Michigan ends up with a consistent counterpunch to the scrape exchange Western was running most of the day. Smart Football has a primer on the thing if you want detail. If you just want a sentence: on a scrape read the backside defensive end automatically crashes down on the TB and quarterback contain falls to a linebacker or, sometimes, a cornerback. Since the quarterback is supposed to read the defensive end, that means he'll keep the ball and then meet a linebacker, often in the backfield.
This is a frequent response to the zone read. Last summer, I UFRed the West Virginia offense against Rutgers and saw Schiano's guys do this on almost every play:
(Big original here.) This is a variant on the scrape where the backside DE is tasked with the gap on the backside and it confused West Virginia for a while until they started running the QB directly at it and busting Slaton into the open field. A lot of teams are going to play games with Michigan in an attempt to screw up their reads.
It's not good. Tate was keeping the ball a lot and then dancing past linebackers and corners for 3-5 yards.
You've already seen a couple of counter-punches. One is the backside veer that looks like a zone read but sees a fullback or h-back pull to wipe out the normally unblocked DE. The idea here is for the back to quickly hit the gap between the DE and the DT, as it's just been vacated by the scraping linebacker. Done properly, it sees a running back shoot immediately into cavernous space, as Brandon Minor did on touchdowns against Wisconsin and Purdue. (Viddler's finally really killed my account dead, so I can't bring it to you. Lo siento.)
The other counter-punch you've seen was deployed frequently against Western: the zone read to a bubble or long handoff. Unless the opponent is getting super-aggressive you'll usually see soft coverage behind the corner version of the scrape—it's basically a corner run blitz—and since the corner to your side is coming up to take you, the wideout over there tends to be wide open.
A more direct answer to your question: yes, I'm sure the coaches would rather have Tate throw and other people run. Rodriguez on the 23 carries his quarterbacks provided:
"That’s probably more than we’re accustomed to," Rodriguez said. "We probably gave more, particularly to Denard in the first game, just so they would get the experience."
That is likely to be their high water mark for the season, Forcier particularly.
Although I don’t think that recommending voluntary workouts makes them involuntary, the NCAA is probably going to come up with some new vague description of non-countable time. My question is that every D-1 coach since the beginning of time has used extra drills, runs, etc. as a requirement for disgraced players to earn their way back onto the playing field. If I recall correctly even the oft revered Lloyd Carr had Manningham do weeks of extra stadium climbs to make up for failing two drug tests. If there is any fallout from this probe will it change the way coaches administer in-house punishment from now on?
I don't know about Manningham and stairs, but it was public knowledge that Adrian Arrington had a strict 6-AM stairs regimen to get through if he was going to remain on the team after a couple of disciplinary instances.
A couple of people have mentioned this: these workouts are most definitely not voluntary, as the alternative is finding another school, and yet no one's ever brought this up. The only thing I can think of is that the Arrington punishment and other like things fit underneath the eight-hours-supervised a week.
This whole NCAA violations ridiculousness has made me miss the days of Carr's stern skepticism and distance with the media. Would Carr have let two freshman talk to the media so candidly? Will this cause Rodriquez to clamp down on which players are made available for interviews (what is the policy now?)? If the Free Press has to eat their words, what would be the ramification in the press corps for them?
Thanks and GO BLUE!
Since the freshmen were interviewed at Media Day, I don't think you'll see that access curtailed except to certain members of the media who abused it. More broadly, I know all player interviews have to be approved by the department and you might see the freshmen harder to get at in the future, especially if you are on the Enemies List.
The thing is: it's not like the freshmen here said anything that they shouldn't have. They merely described their summer conditioning activities. No "everybody murders" here, just a description of lifting and working on coverage and watching film. It wasn't even particularly candid. It was just a boilerplate description of activities every football program does. If there's someone at fault here, it's not them.
As to the Free Press ending up with zero after an investigation: the ramifications will be zero. They'll probably get an award anyway. No one at the Free Press is going to get a one-on-one with anyone associated with the program, again, but pulling credentials is a guaranteed media firestorm and who wants another one of those?
One question: Is it louder?
It didn't seem obviously louder except a few times when there seemed to be an echo, which implies that noise is getting reflected back into the stadium. It wasn't exactly a tense game, though, and Michigan Stadium doesn't get really loud unless it's called upon to do so. If Notre Dame has the ball for a key fourth quarter drive that's when we'll find out.
I should point out that other people think it's way louder, although I can't find that tab I thought I had open.