"It's a lot easier being a drug dealer than an AAU coach" - this guy. Tell me something I don't know. I mean, don't think but have never tried either.
Today we look at special teams play from the weekend Miami series.
We start with a 5-3 powerplay. From right to left, Moffie, Merrill, Treais, Moffatt and Di Giuseppe. Michigan is not set yet, Moffatt is skating through and Di Giuseppe is screening. Moffie takes a one timer that get blocked and come right back to him.
Moffie passes across to Merrill who sends it down to Treais, Miami has picked up Moffatt in front of the net.
Michigan has set up in perfect position, Di Giuseppe is playing backdoor for anything that gets through and Moffatt is covered by a lefty. Since the stick is in his left hand he has no real chance to make a play on the puck, unless he uses his skate.
Unfortunately for Miami, Reichard tries to make a play on the puck and catches it at a bad angle, sending it into his own goal.
Miami special teams were awful this series and this PP was no exception. A Miami skater comes on late and has no idea where he is supposed to be, the two players to the right are mixed up and try to cover the same assignments.
The puck is cycled from the corner boards to the pointman Jon Merrill. The Miami players have confused their alignments and left Luke Moffatt free to screen, even if the save is made no one in red is there for the rebound.
Merrill gets the shot down on the ice and Knapp sees it at the last second, he goes down but Moffatt gets a beautiful tip and sends it over his shoulder.
Michigan gets a very lucky bounce here. The defenseman is thinking the puck is going to be rolled down the boards, but it's chipped up into the air. With the Miami forwards still in the zone Michigan has nothing to lose by trying a rush in the neutral zone, except Miami was playing to agressive and got caught so no one is there.
Notice the direction of his head, he's looking down the goalie. That freezes the defensemen, since he is seeing shot his priority is shot blocking. Except Luke sends a beautiful no-look pass to moffie.
I continue to see the defense and special teams developing, and becoming a strength for the Michigan team.
- It is interesting to hear Hoke quoted as saying:
I think our defense is playing pretty good, to be honest with ya.
- Looking at the scoring defense, Michigan is averaging 10.33 points scored against per game, which would be good for somewhere around 8 or 9th in the country. Of course, things will change soon, but that is a great start. This is a tremendous reflection of the bend, don't break philosophy. (Note: I have no clue how to calculate this stat. Do you include WMU or not? Do you amortize the WMU score over four quarters instead of three? Regardless, we are not getting clobbered by other teams on the scoreboard.)
- It is great to see the emphasis in practice this week on better play on kickoffs, and the huge improvement by Matt Wile. This apparently is falling under Mattison's review. This is a huge between games adjustment. We are not only seeing adjustment during games, but during the season.
I am especially looking forward to the defense UFR this week.
While it would be a mistake to be too positive, it would be hard to think of a more favorable schedule.
- Minnesota seems as easy of a game as possible to start the conference schedule.
- This will also give Michigan at least one game to scout and prepare for Persa and Northwestern.
- Michigan is due to win vs. Michigan State, but more than being due, MSU appears greatly weakened on the OL.
- Purdue is not frightening.
- Iowa appears vulnerable, with their loss to ISU.
- Illinois is Illinois. They are stronger than last year, but so is Michigan.
I can't believe Michigan will win all these games. But we could run the table in October, and split Iowa / Illinois, leaving us to close out at home with the two strongest teams we face, Nebraska and OSU.
Honestly, I don't care if we lose, as long as we're in the game. And Mattison is maximizing the defense to keep us in the game. More than that, the favorable schedule allows us to grow the defense, to heal up as necessary (exhibits A & B, Cam Gordon, Troy Woolfolk,) to give experience to Freshmen (Blake Countess,) to teach BWC how to play. It also limits the burden on Denard.
In the aftermath of Dan Ferrigno's hiring, a lot has been made about Michigan finally getting a new special teams coach. This should help shed some light on the past performance of Coach Ferrigno.
Caveats- The data is incomplete. NCAA archives only go back to the 1999 season, where Ferrigno was in his fourth season as special teams coach at Cal. He spent 1996-1999 as special teams coach at Cal, moved on for the same job at USC for the 2000 season, and then did not go back to coaching special teams until 2009 at San DIego State under Coach Hoke.
Just a memory jolt, because the overall strength of the team obviously has a huge impact on their special teams play.
1999- Cal 4-7 (3-5) Unranked. Later forefitted victories due to ineligible players.
2000 USC 5-7 (1-7) Unranked.
2009 SDSU 4-8 (2-6) Unranked.
2010 SDSU 9-4 (5-3) Unranked.
|Team||Net Punting||Punt Return||Kickoff Return|
|1999 Cal||9 (39.7)||30 (11.0)||12 (23.7)|
|2000 USC||110 (36.21)||63 (9.19)||62 (19.49)|
|2009 SDSU||18 (38.05)||92 (6.31)||97 (20.10)|
|2010 SDSU||49 (36.93)||93 (6.04)||107 (19.34)|
Let's take a look at Michigan under Coach Rodriguez:
|Year||Net Punting||Punt Return||Kickoff Return|
|2008||5 (39.34)||64 (8.62)||56 (21.44)|
|2009||3 (40.93)||62 (8.67)||23 (23.80)|
|2010||69 (36.07)||67 (7.43)||68 (21.44)|
One thing to remember is that special teams rankings are very fickle. .2 yards can decide the difference between the 20th ranked team and the 60th. Anyway, I hope this adds something to our regime change analysis.
Michigan (under RR):
So Brian referred to our new Special teams/tight ends coaching position as esoteric. I don't know about tight ends but I am extremely happy we have special teams coach right now.
Rodriguez was accused of ignoring the defense to devote more attention to the offense. If that is true I believe it is doubly so for the special teams. I don't know what else he could have done given the limitations of the athletes he had at his disposal, but having a dedicated coach seems like a reasonable place to start.
Now let's look at some statistics (all courtesy of ESPN)
We had the 8th most yards per game on offense. Pretty good especially considering some of our tough competition. But the complaint from most people is that we didn't score enough points. We tied for 24th most points per game. Why?
Well, a large part of that has to do with field goals. To start, we were dead last in both field goals made and field goal percentage. We were 4/14 and that was without attempting a single kick beyond 50 yards. Because of our inability to kick, we passed on what should have been a guaranteed 3 points in several situations, once or twice a game, to go for it on fourth down. We succeeded a few times but failed to score on most of those attempts.
So, we never kicked a long field goal, should have made most of the ones we took and skipped out on attempting easy ones a little more than once a game. I estimate we could have scored 6 more points per game. That puts us at 38.6 ppg and 11th overall in scoring. That looks much better and explains a big portion of the discrepancy between points and yards.
Punting was also not great, finishing 87th in average yards per punt. I couldn't find statistics on kickoffs (like touchbacks) but ancecdotally we sucked. We were middle of the pack in return yards per kickoff (67th) and return yards per punt (also 67th, weird). We had a punt blocked and didn't manage to return a single kick for a touchdown.
So in summary, if having a dedicated special teams coach makes a difference, improvement in special teams performance is another reason to be optimistic about 2011 and beyond. It is also an indication that Brady Hoke gets it and is addressing the needs of the football team. I am cautiously optimistic.
I am not a stat geek, but it doesn't matter in special teams. An idiot can see that our special teams are a huge liability. Looking at ESPN's rudimentary stats, we have the following rankings for Michigan in 2010:
- Field goals: #120. This is out of 120 teams. What a travesty.
- Kick Returns: #22.
- Punting: #105.
- Extra Points: #17.
- Punt Returns: #107.
These statistics average out to 74. Frankly, I don't think we are #74 in the country in terms of special teams play. In an un-related ESPN article, it mentions the following rubrics for ranking NFL teams:
Football Outsiders evaluates special teams based on five categories -- field goals/extra points, kickoffs, kick returns, punts and punt returns -- and then compares them to the league average to develop leaguewide rankings.
I'm wondering first, if one of you who is statistically minded can do the same thing with Michigan to figure out our ranking in terms of special teams. I'd guess that we are in the bottom quartile. This is a huge detriment, and has somewhat been neglected in our focus on the defense and the defensive secondary.
Second, what are we doing to improve our special teams for next year? As a Chicagoan, the Bears, while not a great team, rank #1 in the NFL in special teams. This allows them to win some games they wouldn't otherwise. And as teams avoid kicking to Hester, the Bears begin many series with great field position.
If our special teams play was much improved, it would help the team out tremendously. The morale of the team must be shot with bad special teams play. Getting the ball to the red zone and scoring nothing is a huge downer. Scoring a TD, and then having your opponent score a TD on the ensuing kickoff (See: tOSU game) takes the wind out of your sails.
I, for one, would rather have an extra kicker than another QB at this point in time. And I don't know how you coach it, but for all areas of both punt/kickoff coverage AND returns to improve is critical.
Errors, Errors, and More Errors: As I watched the game on Saturday, it became obvious to me that turnovers may not tell the entire story. I saw error after error by M that caused many, many points to be left off the board. None of these are classified as TOs but can be just as damaging. So, I decided to see if I had lost my mind or not. I have not lost my mind. M had at least 8 ERRORS that cost us 21-35 points! Well, you say, every team makes errors, right? Wrong – Wisconsin had ZERO errors! BTW, W has 17 seniors (4th or 5th year) on their starting offense and defense. M has 5.
As weird as it may seem, the errors are a much bigger problem than the actual TOs. So, FOR GOD'S SAKE, QUIT STOPPING OURSELVES!
Synopsis for Turnovers: The game ended with 2 TOs for each team and, of course, a TOM of –0-. Gallon's fumbled KO return was followed by Rogers intercepting a pass on the same Wisconsin drive and saving at least a FG. Unfortunately, the interception came with only 30 seconds left in the half. Wisconsin's lone fumble led to a Michigan TD and Denard's lone interception on a tipped pass led to a Wisconsin FG.
Michigan has a TOM of –7 which is exactly ONE turnover less than it was last year before the osu game (after an additional –4 TOM in the osu game we ended the year at –12). TOs lost are now 123% of the average team and TOs gained are just 82% of average. Since we have a negative TOM, the overall ranking actually improved but is still FUGLY at #101. So – HOLD ON TO THE GOD DAMN BALL AND THROW THE GOD DAMN BALL TO OUR RECEIVERS!!
Synopsis for Special Teams: Unbelievable! Yet another missed FG and the 3 extra points by Gibbons barely made it over the crossbars. The fact that RR keeps having these guys kick the ball at all is the triumph of hope over experience. Hagerup continued to punt well with 3 punts and a net average of 40 yards. Stonnum did much better than Gallon at KO returns but that looks to be over with his injury. Not sure who will be returning punts and KOs against osu. That is too bad because KO and punt return yards allowed is a weakness of the boys down south.
Details for Turnovers: Here is the Summary by Game. According to the folks at Football Outsiders a first down TO is worth 5 points, second down TO is worth 4.5 points, and a third down TO is worth 4.0 points (regardless of field position!).
The extrapolation is a straight line [Totals] X [13 Total Games / Games Played]. AQ Best and AQ average is over the past 10 years. AQ Best is kind of funky because the team with the "best" in each category is different so the numbers don't add. But, it does provide a point of reference.
Here is the detail of each fumble/interception and a comment providing insight if the turnover (or lack thereof) was significant. Note, blocked punts are not considered a turnover and an interception of an extra point is not considered a turnover (player does not get credit for a interception).
Here is the overall summary by player (data in yellow was affected by this week's game).
Details for Special Teams: Here are the Punting and Kickoff statistics. (Touchbacks are included as –20 yards when determining net yards.)
Remember here are the correlations of TOM to WLM at season's end.