"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].
Shane's not Gardner enough to be worth changing the offense to take better advantage of his legs, but the offense might be? [Upchurch]
Ace: What type of offense do you want M's coach to run next year? Explain how you're factoring current personnel vs. ideal scheme when coming to your decision as well, if you could.
Brian: Whatever the coach is good at. This was the right move for Rodriguez in 2007 when there wasn't much talent no matter what you did with it. It was not in 2011 when you had a sui generis talent like Denard at your disposal. 2011 Michigan fought it at times (Notre Dame, Iowa) but for the most part shrugged and tried to adapt.
I'm not seeing a whole lot that's worth adapting to at the moment. Morris looks far away from viability, Speight's a redshirting unknown, and Malzone will be a true freshman (unless he decommits). The OL is going to be the OL still, and the main distinction between OLs is what you try to run a lot of, not whether there's a fast QB behind you or a slow one.
So, yeah, whatever your bag is, man. Obviously you can't run a spread 'n' shred with the available personnel but you've got enough mobility in the QBs to keep 'em honest Forcier-style if that is your bag, and as Mississippi State and Ohio State have demonstrated in recent years there's quite a lot of power in spread offenses that want to go that route.
And unless it's Harbaugh it's likely to be a spread guy. Broken record time: pro-style coaches attractive enough to get the job and poachable are hard to find.
[After the jump: sirens]
Let's check in with Iowa City. Hell no they ain't happy after a narrow escape against Ball State and then the missed-it-TO-made-it sequence to lose to Iowa State for the ninth time under Ferentz. The ninth time!
borrowed from a great American pic.twitter.com/9APTZQtYLZ
— PlannedSickDays (@PlannedSickDays) September 16, 2014
It's kind of like Michigan if Brady Hoke was permanently unfireable. They're probably going to be okay-ish, they are frustrated with their archaic program (and Iowa is way more archaic than Michigan except when Iowa plays Michigan), fans would probably like to move on. But, uh, not happening:
If Iowa were to fire Ferentz for convenience, the school would continue to owe him 75% of his annual guaranteed salary for the remaining years in his contract. …
Ferentz’s base salary has climbed each year since 2010, hitting $2.07 million for the current season. It stays at that level for the next five years. Ferentz also receives supplemental income in the amount of $1.48 million per year, bringing his total salary up to $3.55 million per season. That means if Ferentz were fired at the end of this year, Iowa would owe him $13.3 million, to be paid in monthly installments between now and 2020. That amounts to
roughly $2.7 million per year.
And this is a guy arguing that Iowa can totally afford to dump him. It is possible. Charlie Weis is still getting paid by Notre Dame; the Irish offered him a total of 19 million to go do anything else. (All will be forgiven if one day Weis cites Foul Ole Ron as one of his inspirations.) It's just hard to see Iowa pulling the trigger given that they've put up with all the stuff they've already put up with from Ferentz so far, including the rhabdo event and going 4-8 more than a decade into your tenure.
And then there's the question facing Michigan fans who want a change: is there anyone out there who seems like a good idea? Or is it Terry Bowden sweepstakes time again?
Alabama will just tell you stuff. Because it doesn't matter if you get the kind of stuff that laymen will understand, Alabama's just like "okay here let's talk about it," which makes for interesting articles about the Tide facing a blizzard of screens in their early games against overmatched foes and how you go about dealing with that:
"When they're throwing fast, get your hands up," defensive end Jonathan Allen said. "If they throw a screen, you have to retrace. That's what really defeats the screen is when the linemen retrace and run to the ball. That'll really take away from the screen. So our job's just beginning as soon as he throws the ball."
This is not rocket science. It is part of a respectful-seeming conversation happening about football in front of the media that the media can then go use to write interesting stories, thus increasing the overall happiness around the program slightly.
And this is Alabama, home to the notoriously prickly Nick Saban. I can't imagine how frustrating it must be to be on the Michigan beat. I can count the multitudes who have fled.
Meanwhile at Michigan. The university's notoriously expensive FOIA department strikes again:
Michigan attempted to charge CBS $410 for a FOIA request looking for data into basic 4-year scholarship #'s. More than anyone else, by far
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) September 16, 2014
The only two possibilities here are that Michigan is breaking the law or that they run the most inefficient FOIA office in the country, which implies things about the efficiency of the rest of the unduly-closeted operation. Either way this should change. If you end up talking to Schlissel ask him which possibility is the truth.
And yes more dead horse spread punt stuff but this answer is just …
Hoke asked about why he doesn't use the spread punt: "I've always been a pro style punt (coach). ... I really don't want to talk about it."
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) September 10, 2014
Okay. What would you like to talk about?
One of the ultimate people in charge of things. Spencer Hall roasts Goodell and shows why the people in charge of things are just in charge of them:
Remember now what a blank social boffin the NFL strapped to its face to begin with: a Senator's son from a safety school who quite literally never worked anywhere else but in the sports job he got directly out of college. Roger Goodell's resume is a hollow blandishment of institutional servitude. He fought in the arbitration wars; he coordinated the events. Calendars were heroically arranged.
Do not expect that having a job means anything. Every great organization will one day hire the moron who will destroy them.
People in charge of coin tosses are just in charge of them. If you missed this from Saturday, whoah:
That's Texas electing to kick after UCLA deferred, the ref explaining this, and Texas's captains going "sounds good to me!" Shockingly, Charlie Strong did not kick them off the team immediately. I would have.
Apparently this happens about once a year? I could never be a coach. I would assume that things like brushing your teeth were outside of my purview and lose games because of it.
Also in CFB oddities. So this was a trick play:
"What should I do on this play to draw attention to myself, coach?"
"Have you seen Showgirls, son?"
"No. Unless the answer is supposed to be yes. Then yes."
"Son. I'm going to need you to flop around like an electrocuted fish like when Nomi—"
"How about I just fall over?"
"I am just going to fall over."
Arkansas threw at the "tackle", who was eligible, and two different guys on Miami intercepted the same pass. Should have flopped around like an electrocuted fish.
And the oddest oddity. Boston College ran for 452 yards against USC! That is not the grand total of Eagle rushing yards in all Boston College games against USC ever! It is one game from Saturday! What?
you could see the Eagles wear down USC's discipline and will with one play in particular, applied heavily over the course of the game: the zone read with a lead arc block by a tight end.
The common way this play is run is with the QB choosing to handoff or keep the ball. If he keeps, he's attacking the edge based on a read of an unblocked defensive end, with a lead blocker for him on the edge.
BC kept USC off balance with a bunch of other stuff; it was an arc block on the zone read keep that was the killer time and again.
Etc.: Matt Hinton's weekly has landed at Grantland, and is recommended. We don't feature because no one pays attention to 34-10 MAC games. That UGA-SoCar first down is the definition of margin of error.
Guy with name as difficult to spell as Coach K bombs Coach K. I don't really know why Paul George exploding is a big deal in this context; if not playing for USA he would have been doing something else that put his leg in danger.
read option [Fuller]
I am determined this spring to mine every possible stat for every possible insight. This week I delved into quarterback rushes. Not sacks. I wanted to know which offenses tended to have their quarterbacks take off, or planned runs for them into their game plans.
Baseline: here's Michigan and their opponents last year. Sacks and yardage lost to them are not counted, but I couldn't tell from scrambles and QB sneaks, or stuff like if he took off for 10 yards on 3rd and 15 that defenses are happy to give up:
|Season Avg||vs Mich|
|Opponent||QB Rush||Yards||QB Rush||Yards|
Indiana, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Kansas State ran option games. Minnesota's offense was QB power running (thing it is like: Michigan's 2010 offense when Rodriguez gave up on trying to make Denard into a zone reader). According to the UFR database Minnesota quarterback running plays vs Michigan were as follows: 7 QB powers; 2 draws; 2 zone read keepers; a false zone arc sweep thing, a QB sneak, and 7 scrambles.
The stats can't tell the difference between this kind of offense and a dedicated Richrodigan spread 'n shred. There aren't many teams who run this as their base offense, as simple as it may be, but a lot of teams have a mobile change-of-pace quarterback and a small package built around him. Notable teams who deployed a second guy:
|Player (2014 Elig)||Team||% of Snaps||% Will Pass||Rush||Pass|
|Austin Boucher (graduated)||Miami(NTM)||51%||73%||80||211|
|Austin Gearing (So.)||35%||35%||129||70|
|Drew Kummer (Jr.)||14%||71%||22||55|
|Nate Sudfeld (Jr.)||Indiana||61%||94%||22||338|
|Tre Roberson (Jr.)||38%||62%||84||139|
|C.J. Brown (11th year Sr.)||Maryland||73%||72%||119||303|
|Caleb Rowe (Jr.)||26%||91%||14||136|
|Philip Nelson (transferred)||Minnesota||59%||72%||79||200|
|Mitch Leidner (So.)||38%||51%||89||91|
|Gary Nova (Sr.)||Rutgers||68%||93%||25||328|
|Chas Dodd (graduated)||32%||87%||21||143|
|Tommy Armstrong (So.)||Nebraska||39%||68%||63||135|
|Ron Kellogg III (graduated)||31%||90%||16||141|
|Taylor Martinez (graduated)||30%||77%||34||116|
|Trevor Siemian (Sr.)||Northwestern||63%||92%||29||315|
|Kain Colter (graduated)||36%||50%||98||99|
|Braxton Miller (Sr.)||Ohio State||72%||65%||150||276|
|Kenny Guiton (graduated)||25%||74%||39||110|
I included Rutgers to show Chas Dodd wasn't a Drew Henson-ian run threat except in comparison to Gary Nova.
[Jump: Okay spread zealots, do teams with running QBs have an advantage?]
Estimates are approximate. Michigan's spent maybe half of their snaps in the shotgun/pistol on running downs this year, running about five things: jet sweeps to Norfleet, QB draws, speed option, the inverted veer, and a kind of alternate to the inside zone called "belly" that Rich Rodriguez was fond of during his brief spell in Ann Arbor.
Oddly, Michigan hardly runs anything like a base play from the shotgun. They don't run the stretch, they don't run any iso or power type plays. There is a faint smattering of inside zone, but that's it, and that's not anywhere near established. In their first three games of the year I've got them down for three inside zone runs from pistol or shotgun; they went for a total of three yards. Nobody's cheating to a base run play against Michigan.
This allows opponents to tee off on the things Michigan is kind of good at. More importantly, it often seems like they're going up against opponents who are better drilled at defending modern offensive concepts than Michigan is at running them. Here's an example:
Michigan's in the pistol with Kerridge as a fullback, Williams the tight end, and both WRs to the field. It's first and ten. UConn responds by shifting their line to the strength (an "over" front) and aligning their linebackers about evenly with a safety rolled up over Williams.
Michigan wants to read the end to the bottom of the screen. That will allow Michigan to blast the playside end off the ball with a sustained double; Williams will head for the safety as Kerridge deals with the playside linebacker. If the end crashes, Gardner pulls. If he contains, Gardner keeps.
Snap. You can see Williams release, Lewan and Glasgow begin to bash the playside end off the line, and the frontside UConn LBs react to gaps that may need to be filled.
Gardner is now considering the end, who does what ends are supposed to do these days: try to split the difference so that they can be useful on a handoff and still contain the QB. Gardner's trying to figure out what to do about this:
(Note that Lewan and Glasgow are battering their guy inside effectively.)
Now, I think that's a pull. I gave Gardner a minus for that, because I want Gardner to test the edge against a defensive end who's standing at the LOS. But it's a gray area for the quarterback. The end is neither flat-out containing or crashing down; this is a situation in which errors are common.
At the decision point, Gardner gives. Kerridge is staring down two defenders, doesn't know which one to deal with, doesn't really deal with either but it doesn't matter because whoever he does in fact block is just going to funnel to his buddy.
Poor Damn Toussaint, 2013 edition.
That's a loss of two yards.
Items Of Interest
Remember the wheel route from the Notre Dame game? That's the opposite of this. Borges saw the wheel open, gave it a try once, and then pulled it out in a similar situation later for a big gain. Here Michigan just abandons these runs. How is this a similar situation? Like ND, UConn is playing this play in a certain way. If they play it in the same way again, you can alter what you're doing to bust it open. But Michigan hasn't done this, and so rarely does things that are misdirection that twitter blows up about it when they get five yards on it.
Arc, arc, arc, arc. Nebraska demonstrated the tweak against Michigan a couple years back on an almost identical play. Michigan shuffled Jibreel Black down, planning to contain with Kovacs on the outside. The fullback approached the end, and then…
Black could not recover in time to get out on Martinez, Kovacs got a guy in his face, and Nebraska ripped off a 23-yard gain.
Here it's a little different because the end does have contain on Gardner, but if Michigan pokes at that belly play again they can do something similar. Instead of having a true read it's a designated Gardner keeper on which Kerridge's job is to get outside and block whoever that contain guy happens to be, Michigan can burn the shuffle.
This is a paragraph of disclaimers and explanations. That's my thought process when I see things like that on the zone read, because that was Rodriguez's thought process. He probably forced defenses to create the shuffle a few years back when he started blocking backside ends trying to crash down and shooting Carlos Brown or Brandon Minor through the gaping hole scraping linebackers would leave. That burned scrape exchanges hard for a while, and then the cat and mouse game moved on.
Michigan is deficient at cat and mouse in the run game. I'm not trying to suggest that Michigan has to be a spread option team for their offense to work better; I am pointing this out because it remains my wheelhouse and it's a good example of the things Michigan doesn't do because they are a jack-of-all-trades offense that doesn't see how a defense is responding and do something to break it. Because to do that Nebraska thing above your fullback has to rep it and sell it, etc. It takes practice time.
Michigan's not thinking the zone game well at either the field level or the box level because they're not committed to it, and that extends to everything from stretch to power to iso.
Also maybe chalk that up as a missed read for Gardner. Because Michigan doesn't rep it consistently enough? I don't know. Has to be a consideration.
In other sad runs Michigan got out-schemed on. UConn was sending guys off the corner with frequency, but Michigan did not recognize it despite UConn tipping it hard. This inverted veer featured the dead giveaway of a safety moving down to line up directly over a wide receiver:
And on this one, how would you describe the playside corner's presnap technique? Is "right angle to wide receiver" a thing?
Michigan just gets lined up with 14 or so seconds on the clock and thus doesn't have much time to recognize what the defense is doing and adjust, like you saw Notre Dame and Akron do to Michigan's detriment several times. They're just eating bad playcalls. That's a natural consequence of spending 25 seconds in a huddle and not recognizing that one of the most common responses to spread stuff is to send extra guys off the edge.
None of this has anything to do with the offensive line. These are two TFLs and one miraculous Gardner escape wiped out by a Funchess holding call (which, BTW, ugh) on which the offensive line plays no part. The problems go deeper than their issues, which we'll get to later. This is Borges and to some extent Gardner—I don't know if he's got checks here—getting beat by the defensive coordinator. They got some back with the speed option, FWIW.
Who's up for a tedious 150 comment thread questioning whether it's worthwhile to read this? I certainly am! I hope there are content-free arguments. Let's make sure to ignore Ka'Deem Carey's 2000 yards last year when we're incensed at the idea Rich Rodriguez might be able to coach a run game.
Les and Bo standing around, 1989. I'm just posting this for the shorts, really. Seriously, it's almost entirely guys just standing around. In shorts. From 1989.
This thing I am the foremost practitioner of is banned! Of all people, it fell to Barry Alvarez—he of the cancelled Virginia Tech game nigh on the eve of the season—to reveal that the Big Ten is going to dump I-AA opponents posthaste:
“The nonconference schedule in our league is ridiculous,” Alvarez said on WIBA-AM. “It’s not very appealing…
“So we’ve made an agreement that our future games will all be Division I schools. It will not be FCS schools.”
I… actually, I don't care. It does restrict the availability of cupcake games, thereby driving up the costs to schedule MAC folks and the like, but not significantly. If you want to have a walkover, Eastern Michigan's just as piteous as Northern Iowa—significantly moreso, in fact.
This man either gets it or does not get it depending on whether you get it or do not get it. Indiana's athletic director:
“What they like to do is make opportunities available to wear different kinds of uniforms,” Glass told Inside the Hall, “and we’ve had multiple opportunities to wear alternative uniforms, and we’ve respectfully passed on that. … I would never say never, but I think it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be doing that.”
A number of college and pro teams are trying the new jerseys out. We’ve seen schools such as Michigan State and Ohio State wear alternate uniforms in recent weeks.
So why not Indiana?
“The IU men’s basketball uniform is iconic,” Glass said. “I have a poster on my wall that is kind of like a fake group photo of all the All Americans that we’ve had in basketball, and the jerseys, whether its from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s or 2000s, pretty much look the same.”
Indiana fans say "thank God" in the comments, because they either get it or do not get it. Kids hate it and Indiana's program will crater on Wednesday as the Hoosiers mass defect to Bill Walton's new Hypercolor State team.
Even more rules changes, these of the on-field variety. It's February, which means something something flowers and the NCAA's annual set of rules changes. These are just proposals at the moment, so don't write your congressman yet.
The flashiest is jacking up the targeting flag. Now it comes with a free ejection, and if it's after halftime a suspension for next week. Also a free review:
To balance out the incidents where a player is unfairly penalized, officiating crews would be allowed to review the hit through video replay. Said the committee, the replay official "must have conclusive evidence that a player should not be ejected to overturn the call on the field."
Sounds a lot like the interminable and pointless elbowing reviews from basketball, except people do get hit with targeting flags at the moment. This will either lead to those calls disappearing again, or a parade of defensive backs making a split-second decision wrong heading to the locker room.
Others are minor cleanups aimed at giving referees an easier time:
- all blocks below the waist are legal if they're in front of a defender, illegal otherwise
- you can't spike the ball with one or two seconds left (presumably an attempt to prevent games where one coach disposes of his headset instantly and the other stages a hunger strike for his last second on the sideline)
- an extra official for Big 12 conference games
- Lane Kiffin and Boise State can't jerk people around by switching numbers or wearing blue on a blue field.
Nothing in those is going to have an impact on your viewing. I thought we'd hear something about repealing the helmet rule, too—seems like forcing a player without a helmet to stop playing is punishment enough. No dice on that one.
Good lord. Northwestern makes the case that their basketball outfit is cursed with low-effort sketchy photoshops and lots and lots of evidence:
Look, I'd do more unfortunate things for Northwestern basketball, butmore freakish unfortunate things happened to Northwestern basketball than happened to the players in that episode of the Simpsons where all the players get into freakish unfortunate accidents.
The Wildcats are now down JerShonn Cobb, Drew Crawford, Sanjay Lumpkin, Chier Ajou, Aaron Liberman, Alex Olah, and Jared Swopshire. A few of those guys are on redshirts and may be in the lineup if Carmody was inclined to waste their final year of eligibility on a team nowhere near the NCAA tourney; even so, that's Angry Blank Hating God territory and some.
This is Darren Rovell's fault, of course.
Bring on the bee people or whatever. Gerry DiNardo might know something about something. Not football, but moving because of football:
I don't think we'll ever play with a 14 team team conference, I think it'll be 16 (by 2014, when Maryland and Rutgers join). And I don't think they're going to go through all this conversation and all this realignment and do it again for just two more schools. Where are they going to come from? Hard to say, but I would guess the footprint would continue to grow southeast, so that would leave me to believe that would be the ACC. When you look at schools institutionally, they'll be schools similar to Maryland and Rutgers. They'll be an academic fit, which I think is important, and appear to be in areas where there's population, and I think those are the similar things that has driven expansion
The Big Ten Too is totally happening you guys. This is why the league is already talking about a ten-game conference schedule.
Nebraska hockey: not happening. Their athletic director just said "nope":
On his monthly appearance on the Husker Sports Network, Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst threw cold water on the idea of the athletic department starting up a division 1 ice hockey program. The only sport Nebraska has any intention of starting is the new sand volleyball program. That's cold water, not the ice that a hockey program would need. A lot of people had hopes that with Eichorst's background at Wisconsin and the Big Ten's expansion into hockey that the Huskers might join the ranks of the division 1 schools with hockey programs. But that doesn't appear to be in the cards at this time.
The vast deserts of Nebraska have long teemed with moppets who have done nothing but play volleyball, so they should be an instant national power in that. If Nebraska isn't inclined to add hockey, I'm not sure who would. I bet it would be a success at Iowa—triangle of hate, good USHL base—but it's tough to find the money, somehow.
Zone read: not dead yet. Michigan will keep it around next year:
"Are we just getting rid of all the zone-reading? No, we're not," Borges said. "We're going to keep some of that stuff in our offense because we have a mobile quarterback, and as long as we have a quarterback that can threaten the defense as a runner, we're going to have bits and pieces of that that we're going to keep.
"Are we going to run him 25 times? That's over. We're not doing that anymore. That was logical, with what we had (in Denard Robinson). but now we want the quarterback to be more of a passer-runner, than a runner-passer."
I hope the end point is somewhere between 25 times and Gardner's ground efforts last year, where on-purpose runs were limited to some goal line rollouts and the occasional draw. I'd like to see Gardner get 6-8 called runs a game to go with whatever he gets on scrambles.
Etc.: Jeff Bridges has a go-to shirt. I'm fine with Michigan not having a member of Andy Staples's all two-star team this time around. It might be a problem that the Big Ten has eight kids on the team. Brief preview of Michigan's 2013 by me at The Saturday Edge. Goodbye, Matt Painter. Kenpom profiled.