"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Over the past month or so, among other things, I've been pulling together information about what to expect Jim Harbaugh's offense to look like. I started out with a preview of the man, that included information culled from a variety of places, including this site. This looked more at the philosophy from a wide angled lense.
Next, I went into more depth with the run game. I looked back at his time at Stanford through his time with the 49ers. It's interesting to note that outside the scope of this article, he did some other interesting things. Back in the early days, Harbaugh utilitized as much, if not more, inside zone than he did Power O (which can make for some interesting offensive transition discussion). He also not only ran zone read dating back to the Stanford days, but Power Read with the 49ers as well as Triple Option (from gun, typically involving a slot as the third option) and PA Draws (where the QB fakes the Power O or Inside Zone and then follows the RB into the gap, using him as a lead blocker).
I don't expect all these schemes to be implemented immediately, though they'll be in the playbook. A commenter at the bottom of the post asked what I expected to see, and my response was "Power, Inside Zone, Crack Stretch (or sweep), and Counter F. The rest will come later when the base is mastered.
Regardless, what makes it difficult to defend comes down to this. The chart below is the direction each blocker will go on a given play (to means in the direction of the play, for example, a zone block; away means away from the play, for example, a down block; pull means pulling to the playside). This is against a standard 4-3 Over defense, FWIW (zone schemes won't really change, but who pulls or the away/to combination blocks on gap/man schemes may change).
Here's the link to that post.
Lastly (so far anyway), I previewed the blocks that FBs and H-Backs are tasked with making. I felt there was some misunderstanding when it came to Pallante moving over to FB and what that would mean with him as a full time FB. I had some reservations, not because of his ability to smack people or understand leverage, but because of just how much is asked of a FB to do, and the combination of bat-shit crazy and athletic that these guys really have to be. So this post discusses many of the responsibilities of being a lead blocker in any scheme (including when the RB is tasked with being a lead blocker for the QB in a spread scheme).
I hope to have another post up about Harbaugh's offense this week, and have a few more planned out. I'm also working on previewing Nebraska (Mike Riley preview here) before switching over to more of the defensive stuff to expect for both Michigan and Nebraska, while continuing to take periodic glipses at other B1G teams. So be on the look out for that.
Dudes, I don't know about you, but I lack some very basic knowledge about football. Enter the Space Coyote interview on this Wisco podcast. It was very helpful for me, and I hope you'll feel the same way!
I’m back with more zone blocking zealotry (see: last week). I’ve decided to make this into a series until all my zealotry for zone blocking has been adequately expressed to all of you. Last week’s diary is thereby retroactively labeled Episode 1.
This week’s episode expands upon some of the arguments made last week about Inside Zone, examining in more detail the various ways teams can use Inside Zone from under center to wreak havok on opposing defenses. To that end, I’ll concentrate on assignments, reads and what options an offense has once Inside Zone has been called.
(Later episodes will tackle, in unspecified order, Inside Zone vs. Power O; Inside Zone from the shotgun and pistol; how to build a coherent offense around Inside Zone; how to defend Inside Zone; how to run Outside Zone better than we did in 2013; and the intricacies of zone blocking technique.)
So without further ado, let’s start with a few elements of Inside Zone that help explain why it is so effective, and why I think it’s the way forward for us (as our base run play).
Inside Zone…isn’t that just another straight-ahead run?
Yes and no. Sure it goes straight ahead, but operates from a different logic and set of priorities from, say, Power O. Power O, as you’ll recall, starts with the mindset that your OL can get at least some push against their DL and, moreover, that everyone is disciplined enough to get to their man and not leave the wrong person unblocked in the process. It’s kind of awesome when it all works as planned, but when that doesn’t happen, you can end up with a TFL (see: 2013).
Inside Zone, by contrast, is specifically designed to reduce the frequency and severity of negative plays. It does this in part by getting the RB to the LOS very quickly, and in part by aiming everyone at the point(s) of attack more or less forward (i.e. no pulling). Even if we don’t end up running Inside Zone as well as Alabama or Wisconsin (and it’s unlikely we will in 2014), eliminating TFLs would itself constitute a net win. I mean, think about how much easier it is to consistently convert 3rd and 4-7 than 3rd and 9-12.
Inside Zone is also incredibly flexible. Though not a true read-option play, Inside Zone also isn’t a scripted play with one basic outcome unless you audible into something else. Rather, it is something in-between the two, and may result in several outcomes without an audible. Under center the primary options are: RB inside, RB cutback and QB bootleg (from the shotgun or pistol these are: RB inside, RB cutback and QB outside).
The decision to alternate from the default (RB inside) is based on three reads. Pre-snap, the OC or QB reads whether to hand off or keep on a bootleg. The second read—whether the RB runs “playside” (i.e. the direction the play is designed to head) or performs a cut to the “backside”—can come pre-snap (by the OC/QB) or post-snap (by the RB), but lot of offenses just leave it up to the RB to make that decision post-snap.
Since the blocking assignments are attuned to the playside, though, the RB has to avoid the temptation to cut backside too frequently. Like the QB bootleg, cutting backside is a constraint or counter play—a way to punish defenses for keying in on the inside run. As such, it works best when the defense is overly fixated on the inside run.
Assuming there’s no cut backside, success on the inside run now relies on the RBs ability to hit the gap at full-speed. The RB is allowed one cut (and one cut only) based on the position of the block on the first defender outside center, relative to his own position. Additional cuts and bounces are viewed, philosophically, as disruptive to timing, generative of negative plays and potentially leading to a breakdown of blocking assignments. As a consequence, your RB must be very decisive—you do not want someone who takes their time getting to the LoS, or someone who never saw a juke or bounce they didn’t like.
But that's not all! Here's a small selection of what you can run out of Inside Zone:
Once you master the techniques of teaching the zone scheme, it really gets fun as a coach. Off the inside zone action, you have the zone read principle (the QB reads the C gap defender), the orbit reverse principle (slot comes in motion to get reverse or hold C gap defender), the split zone or slice principle (FB or backside motion player seals the C gap defender), the lead zone principle (two back concept, in which the FB lead blocks the front side linebacker) and the bootleg or screen off it. You end up with five plays by teaching one scheme.
How do you block for that?
Without getting into too much detail on technique, here’s a primer on blocking assignments for Inside Zone. If you are lined up right across a down lineman, you block as if it were a man assignment. The rest block in zone, with assignments determined by the position of the OL on the man block. In zone blocking jargon:
Almost all zone blocking follows the "Covered/Uncovered" rule. If a defensive lineman is "covering" an offensive lineman (lined up directly across from him or slightly shaded to the playside), that defensive lineman is the offensive lineman's responsibility. No ifs ands or buts. If all five offensive linemen are directly covered by defensive lineman, the scheme essentially turns into five "drive" (for Inside Zone) or "reach" (for Outside Zone) blocks across the line of scrimmage.
Other than goalline situations, though, it's rare for every offensive lineman to be directly covered. An uncovered offensive lineman is referred to as a "bubble" in the defensive front and those "bubbles" determine who helps double/combo block to the second level…These combination blocks/double teams that occur at the bubbles essentially turn into a game of two-on-two between the offensive linemen and a defensive lineman and linebacker.
To illustrate, consider the following question. If playside is to the left, and your C puts a block on the opposing NG, while your LT puts a block on the opposing DT—where does the LG go? The read is based on where the LG perceives the greatest need for extra protection and/or where he sees the most unblocked shoulder visible. Since the play is going left, but is run inside, the blocks are going to angle ever-slightly to the left. So if the C has that the left half of the NG covered well enough, the LG can double the DT. But if the C doesn’t really have a good angle on the NG, then the LG can double the NG, thus creating space for the RB to run through. If they are both blocked well, he can release to the second level and take on the nearest LB. If they are both blocked poorly, he picks up the one who appears the most imminent threat to the play.
The next question is: which of the OL on the double releases to the second-level defender? In some cases, this will be determined by the nature of the double—if one of the OL has a bad position on the defender, he will release. But if it’s a good double, where either OL could sustain the block, the releasing OL will be determined by the danger posed by the nearest second-level defender. Take this example from the Jaguars link:
As you can see, zone blocking introduces a degree of uncertainty into the play that you don’t really get with more scripted inside runs. This uncertainty can manifest either as flexibility or chaos, depending on how well you run the play. But generally speaking the gap is something of a moving target—and that’s fine, according to Inside Zone’s internal logic. But it also isn’t completely fluid .
Consider the following (illustrated!) scenario of an offense running Inside Zone from under Center, with 2 TEs and no FB, up against a 4-3 Over/Under. The advantage of this 2TE set, of course, is that it doesn’t project a strongside and weakside, and thus doesn’t give the defense any information about which side is playside—a useful mechanism for dealing with 4-3 Over/Under. But you’re also wasting a TE and lose the opportunity to goad the defense into over-committing (a perfect setup for the RB cut backside or a called Counter Trey). But anyhoo, the defense doesn’t know where playside will be, guesses left and thus Inside Zone goes right. The target gap is between the RG and RT; the cutback lane is probably going to be between the C and LG, though it may also be between the LG and LT. A bounce outside is possible but not advisable, given the unblocked FS and C lurking in the area.
As you can see, the blocking assignments are:
- U-TE blocks DE
- LT blocks DT
- LG blocks DT
- C blocks NG
- RG blocks NG
- RT blocks DE
- Y-TE blocks DE
Note that, because playside is to the right, the WLB on the left edge is left unblocked. Meanwhile, three of the defensive linemen are double-teamed. Depending on the position of the blockers relative to the doubled linemen (that all important shoulder thing again) and the RB, one of the OL on each block can release and move to the second level defender. In the illustration, LG moves on to the MLB and C moves on the SLB (though RG could just as easily release to take on the SLB).
The intended gap emerges between the RG and RT, and with both SLB and MLB held up, the only defenders left between the RB and the end zone are the safeties. The RB can now choose whether to cut left or right—right if the YTE releases and arrives in time to help; left if not (given more space for the SS to make up).
Ross Fulton of 11W explains the significance of this:
By making an offensive lineman responsible for an area rather than a man and having the linemen work in tandem, zone runs allows an offense to better account for the myriad of blitzes and stunts used by modern defenses. Zone run plays are thus ubiquitous for both pro-style and spread teams.
Formations and Wrinkles
As I mentioned in the last diary, one of the advantages of Inside Zone is that you can run it out of almost any formation without changing much about the OL blocking scheme (though of course a speed/spread team like Oregon will emphasize somewhat different things than a power/pro-style team like Wisconsin). That said, the traditional I-Form does pose specific problems for Inside Zone, which may explain why we never ran it all that well (or often) under Borges.
The primary reasons for lining up in the I-Form are: A) to send the FB to the LoS in advance of the RB; and B) or to pick up an unblocked defender before he trashes whatever play you're trying to run. In a zone blocking scheme, the FB would either double one of the down linemen (allowing an OL to release to the second level), pick up an unblocked man (either a DE/edge crasher or interior gap crasher) or simply move forward to the second level himself, thus theoretically giving the RB an extra block to work with.
In practice, though, sending the FB to the LoS can create “clutter,” reducing the number of gaps for the RB to choose from and thereby simplifying the decision-making process for opposing LBs. Plus with Inside Zone, as with the Zone Read and Inverted Veer, you really don't really care what the backside edge rusher does--so why waste offensive personnel blocking him? After all, if you run the play as it's supposed to be run, there's little way for him to get to your RB in time to affect the play.
Also remember that Inside Zone depends on the RB getting to the LoS with a head of steam, and trying to do that when there’s a bigger, slower FB in front of you isn’t easy. The result is a play that develops too slowly to do the things it’s designed to do. The RB gets to the line without much momentum, with fewer holes to choose from, and facing LBs more likely to be crashing the one gap left for the RB to run through. It can still work if the OL does its job and gets to the LBs, but the brilliant thing about Inside Zone is that it can still work really well even if they don’t.
Consider this video of Eddie Lacy running Inside Zone for Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game against Notre Dame, which Ross Fulton featured in his primer on Alabama’s offense for 11W:
Alabama has six on the line, with a U-TE on the left edge and an H-back lined up behind him. Notre Dame is, I believe, in a 4-3 Over with a cornerback aligned close to the LoS. Alabama runs the play and scores on a 20-yard scamper. But pause the video at 0:08 and notice the gaping hole outside—which Lacy ignores. Also notice that the blocking isn’t actually all that good: the RT gets a terrible angle on the DE he’s assigned to block, the RG falls down en route to the nearest LB and there are 3 defenders unblocked and in position to make a tackle--and then remember that Alabama fielded an OL of n00Bs just like we did.
Meanwhile, back at 0:08, the LBs have not committed yet and are holding their zones. If Lacy dithers, they can close the gap. If he chooses to bounce outside, the MLB can probably catch him before he turns the corner, as well as expect support from the cornerback (who is out of our view). So Lacy just flies through a gap that’s near imperceptible from the viewing angle, but which goes right between the C and LT—and also just in front of the LG, who is now occupying the MLB. That gives Lacy one LB (WLB) to beat by the first down marker and the SS in space, neither of who have much of an angle on him, given the kinetic energy he has accumulated by this point. The free safety is too far back to help much.
I remember Bob Diaco’s defenses being hyper-aggro gap shooters, which begs the question: why don’t they shoot the A-gap from the snap, as happened to us so often this year? The answer: because of a few things made possible by Inside Zone and the specific formation Alabama uses. Recall that gaping hole outside that Lacy does not run through, the one between the Y-TE and LG/LT. If the MLBs does shoot the gap, Lacy can perform a cutback. The WLB, meanwhile, is constrained by the H-back, who looks as if he will (and does) run into the flat. If it’s a bootleg or playaction pass, and the WLB shoots the gap, the H-back will be wide open. This isn’t even taking into account the threat that Alabama will call a screen—that whole “constraint theory of offense” thing again—or an Al Borges-style playaction pass, rendered more frightening by the fact that this is Alabama 2012 and not Michigan 2013.
The H-back is also worth lingering on, as I assume Nussmeier will import this position to our 2014 offense. Rather than anticipate the RB to the line, the H-back runs across the LoS to playside, where he either picks up a block or releases as a receiver. This opens up the possibility of a QB run off the bootleg, or a Bo-approved Waggle.
You can think of the H-back as a converted TE or FB—basically a blocky/catchy type. And that’s pretty much what he was under Nussmeier at Alabama. But I like the idea of using a little speedy guy who can block like a mountain goat—someone who can get lost in there, and even take a handoff or two. Think Vincent Smith (but fast!) or Dennis Norfleet (but blocks like Vincent Smith!).
If you add the threat of a handoff to the H-back, then Inside Zone starts to take on characteristics of the Triple Option. (Note: you can do with with a WR as well, a la our paltry attempts to get a running game going against KSU with Funchess, or Texas at 0:48 in this video.)
Does that sound tempting, Brady Hoke? I bet it does! After all, you get that whole flexibility and constraints thing that differentiates the modern from the paleolithic offense, but you still get to push people around at the LoS like big, bad Alabama does. Come to think of it, that's probably the exact thing you had in mind with this whole Nussmeier hire...
Next Time on Zone Blocking Zealot…
That’s probably enough for this week. Next week I’ll compare Inside Zone to that other base inside play: Power O. I will elaborate on the distinctions between these two staple plays, both in theory and practice, while expounding on the case for Inside Zone as the most functional approach for Michigan 2014. See you next time!
Earlier this year I read a bunch of tea leaves, and suggested that we could explain our fortunes using George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels as metaphor. I planned to do a post-mortem, but got lazy/depressed by our bowl game performance and then Seth beat me to it. So this post isn't really about the past so much as what our SHINY NEW OC promises for our future (preview: zone blocking). But first, the perfunctory conclusion:
Our season is either A Dance with Dragons, if you prefer the preseason scheme--a meandering and listless journey through something and then something else, which has its moments but ultimately leaves you frustrated at the huge investment of time in an mediocre book that failed to live up to your expectations. Or, if you prefer the version written in the throes of alcohol-fueled post-Sparty misery, The Hedge Knight, described at the time as "a third-rate garbage time-waster," whatever that means.
Like many of you, I have mixed feelings about Al Borges’ tenure in Ann Arbor. When he came on board in 2011, he was basically tasked with not cratering Rich Rodriguez’ offense while introducing some West Coast/pro-style concepts into the mix (man blocking, pulling, route progressions, etc.). And I think he did an admirable job—not only holding serve in most respects, but also getting better production out of the running back position than we’d had in 2010. While overall performance declined in 2012, that can be attributed to three factors: a much more difficult schedule, which had us play the eventual AP #s 1, 2, 3 and 4; the graduation of David Molk; and Denard’s injury against Nebraska. The only thing I can really blame Al for would be the decision to go with Russell Bellomy rather than Devin Gardner as Denard’s backup—despite Gardner’s clear talent advantage and Denard’s propensity for coming out of games injured. Well, that and the INT problem, which actually began in 2011.
2013, though, was a different story. There are two basic theories of why our offense declined so precipitously: a) we didn’t scheme as much as throw a bunch of plays together; and b) we couldn’t execute plays that would have worked if we’d had different (i.e. more experienced) personnel. Both are true, and interrelated. While we certainly didn’t have experience in key areas, and especially the interior OL, we also insisted on running plays inexperienced offensive lines are unlikely to execute well. Compounding matters, there was no cohesiveness and not enough repetition to the things we ran, which meant guys on the OL weren’t put in position to improve over the course of the year. The result: TFLs, sacks, interceptions and lots of unmanageable 3rd downs.
In 2014, we looked to have the same problems in different places. While the whole interior OL was set to return (and likely to improve), we were also going to lose our two tackles to the NFL, as well as our most reliable receiver/Gardner’s safety blanket. Thus if we were to try to run a lot of different plays predicated on complex blocking schemes, as Borges clearly favored, we were going to run into similar problems to the ones that bedeviled us in 2013.
While I’ve always been convinced (and remain so) that Borges probably would have been successful by 2015 (when all his favored pieces would have beeen in place and we would have also been gifted with a favorable schedule), the fact is that our 2013 performance was so underwhelming that the fan base lost its patience. Were we to have another suboptimal year in 2014 (which our schedule and said roster changes suggest as a distinct possibility), it would have been likely to create problems for recruiting and probably put Hoke himself on the hot seat. So something had to change, and Al was the guy in the most precarious position.
Was it fair? Yes and no. We also played poorly on defense at times. The K State game in particular appeared to validate concerns about the awfulness of our “bend but don’t break” strategy this year. I mean, shout at Al Borges all you want, but it’s not his fault we gave up too many points to Akron, UCONN, Penn State, Indiana and Ohio. Without much pass rush from the DL, a mediocre secondary and a couple LBs who were just terrible in pass coverage, “the right to rush four” more often translated as “the right to sit back and wait for the other team to successfully execute yet another slow-developing crossing pattern.” This was not the defense we fielded in 2011 or 2012.
But on the other hand, the defense was young and didn’t feature 3 guys about to end up in the NFL, while Mattison is still the guy who turned our historically bad 2010 defense into the elite defense we fielded in 2011. And we looked poised to take a big leap forward on the defensive side in 2014, whereas we did not on offense.
The news that we’d canned Borges elicited a mix of relief and concern—that we’d endure another “Process,” that we’d eventually settle a GERG to follow Borges-Schafer, that we’d potentially lose out on prized recruits and, most troublingly of all, that we might embark on yet another chaos-inducing strategic/philosophic transformation. Never in a million years did I believe Saban's weird thing for Lane Kiffin would push his extremely competent OC into our arms (and not, say, into a head coaching position at a major school).
Make no mistake: Nussmeier is the best pro-style OC not currently a head coach somewhere, and is about as close to a sure thing as you get in this business. In his last two stints, he’s overseen a successful reclamation project at Washington and provided a significant performance boost to an already efficient Alabama offense. He’s known as an elite QB mentor, while Alabama’s performance from the OL and RB positions speak for themselves. Plus he represents a good fit for our personnel and the kind of kids we’re recruiting, so we won’t have to endure yet another multiyear vision quest to get to the proverbial promised land of elite offensive performance.
The Zone! The Zone! The Zone!
Keeping that in mind, Nussmeier does promise some significant changes to how we approach offensive football, particularly in how we block and run—the two biggest deficiencies of our 2013 offense.
Nussmeier’s system is built the simplest, most efficient base run play: Inside Zone. Why is this such a big deal? Consider what happened when Denard graduated. In 2010 our base run play was a QB Iso, which follows zone blocking. In 2011 and 2012 it was the Inverted Veer (to QB), which follows “Power O” blocking—a system that has elements in common with zone blocking, but which prefers the guard to pull and block a guy who's either covered by the blocker in his zone or optioned off. This worked in large part because we had Denard running behind a fairly experienced OL. Exit Denard and 3 starting OL and in 2013 we decided to go with a collection of plays usually associated with zone blocking and single-back formations, but featuring pulling guards and Power O blocking, fullbacks and general confusion. “Zone” Stretch Left and the various doomed attempts to power up the middle actually started pretty well, but cratered against Akron and got worse as the year went on.*
Here’s why Inside Zone is the solution to most, if not all, of our run blocking problems: because it’s the simplest play to block for, because you can run it from under center, shotgun or pistol, because you can run it with one or two backs and—crucially—wherever your team fits on this increasingly complicated Venn diagram, the blocking scheme does not need to change dramatically. The OL just blocks the guy in front of him, and if there’s no guy in front of him, he goes and blocks the next guy in his zone. It’s a relatively simple read that is basically designed to mitigate things like inexperience and being too small/weak, while still providing rewards for experience, size, speed and strength.
As a consequence, Inside Zone works equally well for both the little speedy Oregons and the big, muscular Wisconsins and Alabamas. Inside Zone has, furthermore, been the dominant base run play in the NFL since Mike Shannahan started using it with Denver in the late 1990s. Of more direct concern for us is how well it’s worked for Alabama, as this primer explains in detail.
Inside Zone has another advantage--flexibility:
The majority of the time in a zone blocking scheme the tailback will follow the design of the play, but occasionally the tailback will perform a cutback and change direction during the run. A cutback is when the tailback changes direction and runs away from where the linebackers are flowing (the tailback can only do this once and must not hesitate). This cutback made by the tailback is what makes zone blocking so dangerous because of how easily a cutback can lead to a big play. The cutback exaggerates the advantages of the zone-blocking scheme.
Watch this video highlighting Texas’ use of Inside Zone to see this point illustrated nicely, not only for cutbacks, but for alternate read options.
More importantly, for those of us scarred by the semirandom-collection-of-formations-and-plays approach pioneered in 2013, there’s also these tidbits from an ex-player on Saban's thinking on Inside Zone, which Nussmeier brings to Ann Arbor from Tuscaloosa:
Q. Is the inside zone a play, or a series of plays?
A. It’s a scheme. It’s a concept. You can have play-action off the inside zone. You can line up in the same exact formation and run the outside zone. The difference between inside zone and outside zone is just your aiming point and footwork. You’re still trying to accomplish the same thing. The backs end up going a little wider. As an offensive lineman, you’re aiming for the defender a little wider for leverage. What you’re trying to accomplish is the same thing. We run the zone out of several formations, but you can’t always tell if it’s inside zone or outside zone. You’ve got to read linemen and read running backs. It’s definitely not a play. There are many variations, formations. There’s a lot of stuff you can do out of it.
Q. How do you explain Alabama running this scheme so well?
A. On the first day of spring practice, the first day of training camp, the first play we install is the inside zone play. That’s kind of what everything else in the playbook evolves from. They get a lot of reps every single day. When it comes to those crucial moments when it’s something to lean on, those guys are very well prepared to execute it, no matter how good the front seven is or how big the nose guard is. They repeat it and take a lot of pride in it. There’s certainly an asterisk on it in Tuscaloosa.
Do those sound like philosophical concepts we missed in 2013, and to an extent throughout the Hoke/Borges era? They do to me.
For the schematically minded, here are some diagrams of Alabama's Inside Zone against a base 3-4 and base 4-3 (unfortunately a pdf, so not embedded). Here are more diagrams:
Passing behind Zone Blocking
The main disadvantage, of course, is the inferiority of zone blocking as a conduit to playaction, as this article from Smart Football describes. And Borges did dial up some wicket playaction in 2013. But I often found myself wondering: without a credible run game, wouldn’t simple designed pass plays without the fake work just as well, if not better?
Traditional thinking about zone blocking is that you prefer smaller, speedier guys for your run game whose performance doesn’t quite translate to pass protection, so you need fast developing pass plays that mitigate this disadvantage. Hitches, screens, slants, naked bootlegs and an expanded role for pass-catching RBs/TEs mark zone blocking schemes from early-2000s USC to, well, most of the others.
But Nussmeier’s system at Alabama wasn’t quite like that. His OL were, as a rule, massive and more capable of sustaining their blocks than is often the case in offenses that utilize zone blocking. Part of this is due to the insane multiyear recruiting bonanza Alabama has enjoyed under Saban (and which is undoubtedly buttressed by that whole oversigning thing). But Nussmeier has done an excellent job developing young and talented OL—exactly what we need someone to do. Yet like Borges, he isn’t so much about dink-and-dunk as setting up the opportunity to go vertical. This is, then, a playaction-friendly version of the zone blocking scheme.
In sum, we look like we’ve landed the one guy who appears like both an extension of the upsides to the Borges era and a well-timed departure from its failings. I’ll miss Al as a personality and thank him for all the great games he called over the past few years (Notre Dame 2013, Nebraska 2011, etc.)—and certainly wish him and his family the best in all future endeavors. Like Rich Rod, there were better things on the horizon, but that horizon was still too far off, and there was too much uncertainty and disillusionment involved to continue down that path. As such, this hire really looks like move in the right direction.
*Note: we did run some Inside Zone this year--just not consistently or as a base run play except in a couple games towards the end.
Video companion to the Picture Pages 'Zone Minus Read.' Analysis courtesy Brian, as usual. Original Picture Pages at http://mgoblog.com/content/picture-pages-zone-minus-read. So this time I've got proper lowercase letters and the slo-mo is working again. That means next time I probably will have effed-up lowercase letters and no slo-mo.
Setup: It's second and three on Michigan's first drive of the second half. They come out in Ace one-wide against Iowa's 4-3 under and will run an inside zone.
Wha'hoppon: Michigan doubles the NT and strong side DE as the LBs flow straight upfield. The critical point here is when Lewan just chips the backside DE and then goes out on a LB. This leaves the DE as a free hitter. There are a lot of things you can do differently with Denard in the shotgun reading that DE (the DE would either have to keep contain on Denard and open up a cutback lane for Fitzgerald, or go for Fitzgerald and leave Denard one-on-one against the safety). Since they aren't, he's free to more or less make the tackle. Brian also questions Watson's decision to block the SLB outside and ignore the DE, but I'm not sure the result would have been any different - the SLB would have been maybe one step later in pursuit, but the DE got to the spot so fast that one step probably wouldn't have mattered.
Original Picture Pages at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAQefW9nCkg