the offense sucked last year against good teams.
It's clear now that Hoke's offensive staff won't stick with the schematic advantages Rodriguez established. However, Hoke has already shown he can recruit well. In regard to the offense only, how soon (if ever) will Hoke's recruiting success offset the scheme regression?
I can't tell if "schematic advantages" is a sly Weisian dig or not. Well done. Disclaimer: I don't necessarily think Borges represents a scheme regression in a general case. Just this case, and it's hard to blame Borges when his lizard brain is an entirely different lizard brain than Rodriguez's, etc.
Anyway, it's kind of depressing how long it might take. I don't think there's anyone on the roster who will excel in the framework Hoke and Borges prefer next year, and then in 2013 you've got a choice between a redshirt junior Gardner and a freshman Morris. That's either Gardner getting a lot better—obviously possible, necessary, not guaranteed—or yet another underclass starter. The most frustrating part of the double transition is not effectively using the first returning starter at the position since 2006 (2007 Henne was a shell of himself due to injury until the bowl).
And then you've got the ancillaries. In 2013 Michigan will have one upperclass tight end (Miller), zero upperclass interior linemen (there will be a couple redshirt sophomores), and two upperclass WRs (Jeremy Jackson and Jerald Robinson).
Thanks to Rodriguez's disastrous 2010 OL class, transition issues, and a weird decision or two in the first weeks of the Hoke regime it's looking like 2014 is going to be the first year you can reasonably say Michigan has all the pieces they want in place.
I have heard many people say that Borges is making bad decisions calling running plays when the defense is stacking the box with eight, sometimes nine, players. Borges does not have the luxury of knowing what alignment the defense will run. Most offenses, at least when I played, rely on the quarterback to check out of a play when these types of issues are presented. Nine men in the box, check to a pass play, five or six in the box, check to a run.
I think this is something that is really hurting the offense because, for whatever reason, Denard simply is not very good at making correct reads prior to the snap. This is where Rich Rod’s style, everyone look at the sideline after lining up, really benefitted Denard. What solutions, if any, do you think there are to help remedy a problem like this?
This is something I've been thinking about since I watched the Calvin Magee videos I mentioned a few weeks back. Magee talks about some philosophical differences he has with Rodriguez, most prominently that he "wants to let the kid grow" by allowing him to make pre-snap calls whereas Rodriguez strongly prefers having the kid read it out post-snap.
Is there really a gap between pro-style and spread 'n' shred offenses when it comes to pre/post-snap reads? Yes and no. Both offenses have them, but they're on different people. In the spread 'n' shred it seems like the vast bulk of the post-snap reads are on the QB. The WRs run the routes, the line blocks, and the QB decides where the ball is going. In pro-style stuff a chunk of the responsibility ends up on the shoulders of the receivers. See: killer MSU pick six. In the spread 'n' shred the bulk of the pre-snap reads are on the coaches. That is not the case in a pro-style offense.
As far as the assertion that Denard's inability to make the pre-snap reads is hurting Michigan in a way it wasn't last season, I think there's something to that. The RR style often gives that responsibility to the guys who have been running the offense for a decade. Pro-style never does that. That's another thing that Denard is being asked to do this year that he didn't do before—never had to do, really—and I'm guessing that's a chunk of the issues.
Remember that actual zone reads from Denard were rare last year. Everyone thought that was rawness, but there's a possibility he's just not good at it and won't ever be. Sad fugee face.
With the caveat that I would also love to see a few more QB isos or Gallon bubble screens per game to replace hopeless bombs, we’ve seen Denard struggle against good/good-ish defenses since last mid-season when they stack the ol’ box—regardless of who was calling the plays. 2010 and ’11 MSU, 2010 and ’11 Iowa, 2010 OSU and Miss. State. (The one notable exception is 2010 Wisconsin, which notably featured three 24-yard-plus proverbial field-stretchers from Stonum getting several steps on a corner, which our WRs this year don’t do). I’ll take for argument’s sake that RR would probably have been better equipped to counterpunch from the spread as a playcaller than Borges is. But what specifically are the kind of plays he would have called? The most notable counter play in his arsenal was the QB Oh No, which is still in the playbook. What other kind of things would work? I really am curious. Our short hitches and bubble screens weren’t cutting it in at least four games last year either.
I’m willing to concede that RR could have been a better playcaller for this year’s offense, but it’s not as if Borges is making Denard sit in the pocket and throw 50 times every game with zero designed runs. He’s using him to run some but trying to develop the RBs and find effective pass-offense changeups. That’s what RR would have been tasked with too. Sometimes it works—sometimes Hemingway can go over a drawn-up safety and post up. But we don’t have a deep threat good enough to consistently make up for Denard’s weaknesses yet. What else can we try?
I think Borges still deserves the benefit of the doubt—I believe that he IS still trying to find what works, and he only has a certain amount of plays per game to do that and sometimes it’ll work and sometimes it won’t and you lose to Iowa. I think where this debate goes next is someone saying concretely okay, here’s what RR might have done. Maybe Wisconsin offers clues. Maybe that Magee video you’ve been working through offers clues. What’s out there that we could try?
The debate about whether last year's offense was actually good is infinite and neverending and we will be talking about it in 2050 when the only thing the same about college football is Joe Pa—er.
I cannot convince anyone of anything in this matter, but I can try to explain my perspective.
There is a difference between this year's struggles and last year's. The listing of defenses above seems arbitrarily chosen to highlight the spread 'n' shred's worst performances. Michigan put up 31 against PSU, 28 against Wisconsin, and a billion against Illinois*, all of which were at least decent defenses.
In many of the crap games listed, Michigan put up yards only to be thwarted by horrible field goal kicking and turnovers. Michigan managed to give the ball away 29(!) times last year. Michigan lost 14 fumbles last year. This year they're on pace to lose 4 (and a third). To me that's just randomness. It's not like there was anything about last year's offense particularly likely to shoot itself in the face with fumbles. The interceptions were not random but since they've literally doubled this year that is not an argument in favor of the new thing.
This is not last year's offense. It is last years offense with nine returning starters and an upgrade at tailback. The line depth may be an issue but the one new guy on the line, whether it is Barnum or Schofield, has not seemed like a major dropoff from Schilling.
This is not last year's defense and special teams. FEI tracks a stat called "Field Position Advantage" that measures relative starting field position. Michigan was 89th last year. They're 68th this year. I can't find starting field position for drives, unfortunately, but I am guessing Michigan has had a good deal more short fields since they've already picked up one turnover more than they did all of last year. And the field goal kicking exists.
So, yeah, I am disappointed. The adjustments I would like:
Rodriguez would have run a bunch of the stuff the line is designed to do, not power, forced teams to move a safety in the box by using Robinson as a threat and constraining via the bubble, and then made that other safety's life hard by using the Denard play action that is nigh unstoppable if executed. The heart of the offense would be Denard's legs instead of… well, I don't know what the heart of this offense is. Throwback screens?
*[Debating the merits of the Wisconsin points is a popular sub-pastime in this domain. The last touchdown was garbage time; the first three were not. Michigan only got eight drives before garbage time because of the nature of the game—in one of average length it is reasonable to expect they score another TD. Plus they missed a FG. Also some of the billion Illinois points came with Forcier on the field, but by the time he left Denard had 300 yards passing and 62 rushing, so… yeah.]
On Pharaoh Brown.
Was wondering what you thought about [Pharaoh Brown's] position flip. I can't help but be disappointed. Everything I have read about him says he is a terrific athlete. Isn't DE or WR more important than TE if you have a great athlete?
I wouldn't regard Brown's position as set until he's seeing the field somewhere. With guys like him you don't really know where he's going to end up permanently before college coaches get ahold of him. They'll put him wherever he'll work out best.
In any case, I think you're unfairly downplaying the importance of TE. Tight ends are more involved down-to-down since they are key components of the run game; wide receivers are only relevant when everyone else does their job well and the play breaks into the secondary. After going up against Rudolph and Eifert the past few years I'd love to have a 6'6" guy with sticky hands who can play security blanket for QB du jour.
I get the vibe that tight end is going to be a big deal with Borges. If we're headed to a collection-of-plays Boise-style offense, having a diverse set of tight ends is a key component. Having a 6'6" guy who can run some is a major help in your effort to whiplash the defense from huge power running sets to spread passing attacks. What do you do when the opposition has a guy who can block a defensive end but can't be covered by a linebacker? Brown may be that guy.
Combine the above with the depth charts at the two positions and I get it. WDE next year is Roh, Black, Clark, and Ojemudia with the potential addition of Beyer if he beefs up a bit. Tight end is Moore, Miller, Funchess, and maybe AJ Williams but it increasingly sounds like he's a tackle.
the offense sucked last year against good teams.
I'm just curious about the randomness of fumbles. Do you think the fumbling of the ball is random or the recovering of fumbles? or both? You show the stat of lost fumbles, which requires both fumbling and not recovering it.
Have we fumbled as much this year as last year and just been fortunate enough to recover most of them? I don't know a ton about this, but not fumbling the ball might fall into the "toughness" category. If guys are focused enough to concentrate on ball security during play, I'd say that has to do with mental toughness.
I talked to a bunch of guys who played football at different levels of college. They each said to a man, that anyone who thinks turnovers or lack of turnovers is random, never played tackle football. Or was like punter or kicker Point blank.
There was also a lot of cursing in their responses. Along with various stuff about stat nerds having no clue.
I never played so the topic interested me.
They're arguing something that isn't what the "stat nerds" argue though. No one says turnovers or lack of turnovers are completely random. RECOVERY of fumbles is pretty much random, as in, it's not a repeatable skill of a defense or offense. Fumbling itself (or defensively, forcing fumbles) is not completely random -- some guys suck at holding onto the ball while others (like Mike Hart) rarely put it on the ground, and defenses absolutely can be good or bad at forcing the ball loose.
All the time. There have been whole treatises on whole turnovers are completely random, and how it causes regression to the mean and they're not predictible year to year. If it was just "fumble recoveries" there is a large component of randomness due to football bounce. But even that has some non-random nature due to how many defensive players you can get around the ball. Things like that may have less to do with "coaching recoveries" than "being good", and having good/well-coached/athletic players who swarm the ball.
Everything else, like EVERYTHING in football (and life) has some "luck" to it; but fumbles can be forced, people can be trained to try and intercept rather than break up passes, coverages can be disguised into encouraging bad passes, and QBs can be taught not to throw them (thus why older QBs do it less than younger, and good ones less than bad). None of that is random. It may be player more than coaching, but if it were all luck, then Mike Hart should have played the lottery every day in college. And guys who are fumble prone are should triple check before crossing the street.
It's "luck" when a ball bounces off your receivers chest and falls right into a LBer's hands. It's not when you fake a blitz, drop into coverage, get into passing lanes, and rip the ball out of that receiver's hands. But if that's "luck", then you can't teach offense, defense, or any other form of football, because there's luck involved in it (defensive back trips and you score at touchdown...so if that can happen, it must all be luck, and you can't coach scoring touchdowns).
I think in a perfect world, yes, people are just taking into account the things that have some variability to them. But I don't think that's the case with a number of proponents of the "turnover" theories.
That is certainly true, but I think even they would admit that fumble recoveries have a bit of a random aspect to it. For instance, I don't know how we managed to recover Gardner's fumbled snap on Saturday. Almost any time the snap is fumbled past the line of scrimmage it's a turnover.
I could see defensive players thinking they weren't random, because they want to believe they forced them.
Iowa played with both safeties about 8 yards from the LOS most of the game. They were daring Michigan to throw over the top of them and I think Borges figured Denard could hit a few of them. I think Michigan will see teams stacking the box like this a lot the rest of the season until Denard can show he can hit a deep ball now and then.
...not the fumbles themselves. This link describes it well (and agrees with what your football players said, w/o the 'nerd-hurt' sentiment): http://www.footballoutsiders.com/info/FO-basics
"Stripping the ball is a skill. Holding onto the ball is a skill. Pouncing on the ball as it is bouncing all over the place is not a skill. There is no correlation whatsoever between the percentage of fumbles recovered by a team in one year and the percentage they recover in the next year."
In other words, being a ball hawk like C Woodson or L Taylor is a skill; recovering the fumbles they cause is luck. Same goes on the offensive side (e.g., Mike Hart rarely fumbling as a great skill).
Now, let's look at our offense's stats (all from http://www.teamrankings.com/college-football/stat/fumbles-per-game):
2010: Michigan average 2.0 fumbles a game and lost 1.3 of them (i.e., lost 65% of fumbles)
2011: Michigan average 1.3 fumbles a game and lost 0.3 of them (i.e., lost 23% of fumbles)
If Michigan had as bad of luck, like last year, we would have already lost 5 or so more fumbles this season. Think of the Denrad scoop and score against ND as your touchstone for the good fortune we've (thankfully) had this year in this regard.
I would guess a big reason Michigan is averaging lower fumbles this year in the first place is Denard is going out of bounds much more easily, but perhaps there are other reasons (e.g., Fitz is getting more carries, and he has a better handle than Smith or Hopkins).
Hopefully our luck will continue this season. Or perhaps better yet, let's hope we don't even need it.
I second this notion. It also possible that Hoke has put a greater emphasis on holding onto the ball/fundamentals in general than RR. It seems that this team does the "little" things, like getting off blocks, catching punts, not fumbling, etc) better than in 2010.
I think that a team's percentage of fumbles lost is a fairly random stat. I don't think that it's number of fumbles (both lost and recovered) is a random stat.
It is simply not believable that football coaches vary in terms of how much they don't want their players to turn the ball over.
No coach is indifferent to this.
Or teach their players the bad technique that often results in losing. No coach is indifferent to losing. Yet some guys are successful at it, and other's aren't. You wouldn't think you could be indifferent to defense and coach it badly, but we had 2 years of GERG.
There's only so many hours in the day, you pick and choose what's most important to you, and some guys are better at it than others. It certainly helps to have the best players available, but to act like coaching is all equivalent (even if it's just in desire) isn't believable. Otherwise we'd have no posts complaining about Borges because it's certainly not believable that he wants to score less than Rich did. Or DeBord. Or anyone else. But maybe how they teach people to score, and what they emphasize to do it is very different.
But there are different ways to score points and stop the other team from scoring points, and there are different levels of skill of players that lead to scoring points or preventing the other team from scoring points.
I highly doubt that some coaches care more about their players' holding on to the ball than others. That's what I was responding to. I'm not saying that all turnover outcomes are the same, but rather the amount that coaches care about not turning the ball over is the same.
This line of reasoning is non-sensical.
Coaches probably don't differ in how much they want to win, get a first down, score a TD and so on and yet these results do differ from coach to coach.
It may be that some coaches coach more effectively or are more accepting of risking turnovers for the reward.
Thank you for making my point for me. Coaches don't differ in how much they want to win; hence, the fact that there are differences in winning percentages means that that difference cannot be due to differences in how much coaches want to win.
The point wasn't that Hoke is better than Rodriguez at coaching his players to hang on to the damn ball; it was that Hoke "emphasizes" hanging on to the ball more. I find that to be as idiotic as suggesting that Hoke cares more about winning than Rodriguez does.
In answer to the original question, no Michigan has not fumbled as much this year. Last season Michigan fumbled the ball 29 times and lost 14. This year Michigan is on pace to fumble (rounded up from 15.8) 16 times. Michigan has lost o lower percentage of fumbles this year (27.3%) than last year (48.3%) although Michigan would still be on pace for about half the fumbles of 2010 even if they were losing half their fumbles.
I will continue to dispute that the problems Michigan had with fumbling under RR were random however. In 10 years at the FBS level, RR has had exactly 2 teams that have lost less than 10 fumbles in a season and 2 teams that have fumbles the ball less than 20 times.
2010: 14 lost (29 fumbles)
2009: 13 (29)
2008: 18 (38)
2007: 15 (28)
2006: 9 (24)
2005: 10 (18)
2004: 11 (20)
2003: 12 (27)
2002: 6 (19)
2001: 13 (26)
At some point doesn't that stop being random and start to become a pattern? You could pretty much count on RR's teams to avergae about a fumble lost a game and about 2 fubles a game. And before anyone says "gee, I guess RR shouldn't have called the fumble the ball play so much then huh (eyeroll)!!" I'm not saying it's his scheme or anything. But it does seem possible that ball security wasn't a major priority as a coaching point or that players who fumbled weren't sat down.
On the flip side, Brady Hoke's teams (I wasn't able to find Ball State stats prior to 2006, so if you can find them help me out here) have lost double digit fumbles in the last 6 seasons.
2011 (to date): 3 (11)
2010 (SDSU): 8
2008 (Ball State): 10
Maybe it's just me, but there's kind of a difference there that doesn't seem attributable to simple randomness.
I don't really get what this analysis shows. In 2007 we had 28 fumbles and lost 15 which is certainly not statistically different from 2009 or 2010. Ditto 2001 and 2003. And in 2007 we had Mike Hart running the ball most of the time, which probably means our fumble rate was higher with non-Mike Hart players. And in 2008-2010 we had a bunch of newbies, whereas in 2007 we had a lot of experience.
I don't get it.
Did you even read what I wrote? The 2007 numbers aren't for Michigan, they're for WVU. Those are the numbers under Rodriguez at both Michigan and WVU.
I did read what you wrote. Not well, unfortunately. I saw a bunch of numbers and assumed you were comparing M under RR to M under not-RR.
An embarrassingly bad explanation.
"I read it without grasping the most basic concept from the information provided."
Sorry to call you out, but I thought it was funny.
It's not that I didn't grasp the most basic concept; it's that I didn't even see the most basic concept. Am I making things better or worse?
2007 is West Virginia.
We had 28 fumbles and 13 fumbles lost in 2007.
I'm not sure that this is really flamebait so I'll respond. You are correct. Prior to Rodriguez the numbers looked like:
2007: 13 fumbles lost (29 total fumbles)
2006: 4 (13)
2005: 10 (20)
2004: 9 (16)
2003 :9 (23)
2002: 10 (18)
2001: 11 (23)
2000: 11 (19)
1999: 5 (13)
1998: 15 (30)
But some people have personal vendettas.
It's strange though, because if you look at those numbers for fumbles lost there's really not a whole lot of difference between Michigan 1998-2007 and West Virginia 2001-2007.
There seems to be a base of somewhere around 10 fumbles lost in most seasons and then a few outliers: 5 for Michigan in 1999, 6 for West Virginia in 2002, 15 for West Virginia in 2007, 15 for Michigan in 1998.
It would appear though from this and from the post you have below about carries per game that RR's teams fumbled the ball at a higher rate.
So what does that come down too? Running technique? Recruiting players who are more prone to fumble the ball?
out of how many carries per game this is?
Excellent question actually.
2010 Michigan: 941 total plays (536 rushing plays) fumble every 67.2 plays
2009: 823 (494) every 63.3 plays
2008: 791 (453) every 43.9 plays
2007 West Virginia: 893 total plays (628 rushing plays) every 59.5 plays
2006: 823 (590) every 91.4 plays
2005: 818 (625) every 81.8 plays
2004: 849 (590) every 77.2 plays
2003: 852 (600) every 71 plays
2002: 993 (714) every 165.5 plays
2001: 838 (475) every 64.5 plays
2010 SDSU: 865 total plays (431 rushing plays) fumble every 108.1 plays
2009: 776 (328) every 86.2 plays
2008: 925 (520) every 92.5 plays
2007: 950 (467) every 190 plays
2006: 739 (366) every 123.2 plays
Would the significant amount of running plays that RR teams ran in comparison to Hoke's team factor in?
When a receiver catches the ball, many times he doesn't have to run, he is just tackled, thus negating a good portion of the play where he may lose the ball.
Also, are quarterbacks who run more prone to losing the ball than running backs and would this then put RR's offenses at a disadvantage in regards fumbles?
Good questions and ones I can't answer. I wonder, has someone done an analysis to see what percentage of fumbles occur on running plays vs. passing plays? It would seem like fumbles would occur more often on running plays.
Although I suppose you could just look at similiar seasons for each team, but that wouldn't really give you any information about what type of plays the actual fumble occured on.
wouldn't the fact RR's offenses ran a ridiculous number of plays per game have an affect on the number of fumbles the offense had?
Not really, since RR's teams didn't run a significantly higher number of plays than Hoke's teams did, and you can see by the numbers above that his teams fumbled at a higher rate.
Average Total Plays
As a matter of fact, it's something of a myth that Rodriguez ran/runs a significantly higher number of plays per game than most other teams. 2007 Michigan ran about 100 more plays than RR's WVU team did. RR's teams routinely finished in the middle to bottom half of college football in total plays.
"Random" is just a stats term of art. It is what a stats guy calls something that conflicts with his point of view. For example, we have now learned that offensive interceptions are not random because they have increased under Hoke. Interceptions by the Michigan defense, like fumble recoveries, remain random events which can safely be discounted. Please don't talk about them ever again. At the end of the year we will learn if wins are also random events.
I believe Brian's main argument is that there is nothing inherent to the offensive scheme that made fumbles more likely under Rodriguez. And the players are the same - so they shouldn't be more or less inherently prone to fumbling, except that an extra year probably helps them. I don't think yelling "toughness" over and over again makes fumbles less likely, but certain drills and coaching techniques might (though it's not like RR encouraged fumbling - several points in 3&O include RR being critical of players for poor ball security). Either way, fumbles are probably irrelevant to the debate of whether or not the current offensive scheme is optimal.
There may have been something inherent to the individual coaching that might have been. I don't know. I'm not sure what Rich specifically was doing. But it also means there might be something done by the current guys to cause turnovers and not give it away. And at least one defense, we know that's an emphasis. And while I don't think a spread means one turn it over more, I'm pretty sure paying ten yards off the other team's receivers probably makes it a lot harder to get interceptions or be around fumbles. So, yeah, I won't say anything the previous guys did caused it...but there are things various staffs can do or not do that affect it.
Last year when Brian indicated to the folks in NY (around early November, I think) that he did not think RR would make it as the coach at M, I posted "Ugh, you realize that means another 2-3 years of meh football as the new coach implements his new system."
Right now it does not appear that we have any QB that can run the pro-style offense. This may take a while.
Yep. I was real enthusiastic after the Purdue game, but the Iowa game was just plain ugly, even aside from the dropped passes.
While he certainly deserves and will get the eventual, post-DR opportunity to show what he can do as a full-time starter, I haven't seen much out of DG yet to convince me he's going to be real difference-maker at that position.
"it's looking like 2014 is going to be the first year you can reasonably say Michigan has all the pieces they want in place." Sad Panda...
At least that's one more upperclassman WR.
Dileo will also be a senior that year. I'm guessing Brian is considering Gallon and Dileo slots and not the normal pieces for the pro-style, but it is worth noting that there will be two other pass catchers with experience on the roster.
Devin Gardner is referred to as a redshirt junior in your post Brian. Are you fairly certain Gardner will get the redshirt, or do you know something we don't?
I realize the redshirt question has been asked to death on this board, just wondering since it's Brian saying it.
For me regarding Pharaoh Brown at TE, I think he could be quite effective. Just look at how the Patriots have used Rob Gronkowski (6'6", 265 lbs. for those wondering). He has 42 catches for 596 yards and 6 touchdowns. He trails only Wes Welker by 1 yard for YPC average, and if you remove Welker's 99 yard td catch against the Dolphins, Gronkowski leads the team. He also trails Welker for total yardage, but has 30 fewer targets.
If we can use him as a big target over the middle that is fast enough to get by LBs but that draws the attention of safeties to open up the field for everyone else then I think having him as a TE can be extremely useful. Possibly moreso than him being at DE given the other DEs that we have coming in.
Link for stats:
OSU's defense had good personnel last year to defend the spread. It's personnel is a better fit for defending pro-style offenses this year. For example, OSU basically plays four DTs as its DL. I hope Borges recognizes this and acts accordingly.
The NFL's best offenses almost universally have at least one TE who is a matchup problem. Jermichael Finley, Jimmy Graham, Gronk/Hernandez, etc. I'll take one of those for the Michigan offense any day.
Green Bay made a 6-0 end-of-season run to a Super Bowl title without Jermichael Finley.
If Borges' offense eventually looks like what they are doing at BSU, but with the kind of personnel Michigan can attract, I hope he ends up being a "lifer" who has no interest in being a head coach. I like the "collection of plays" approach, and I see it as a hybrid. "Mad Scientist," indeed.
If Borges turns out to be as good on his side of the ball as Mattison is on his, and Hoke ends up having both until they decide to retire, we could be having a lot of fun for the next ten years or so.