Mailbag: Uptempo Effect On D, Next Year On O, Personnel Bits
Reading your 11/26 post about "The Game", I noticed you made mention of the question of whether huddling is necessary anymore. As a high school coach and former small college player who has used both the huddle and the no-huddle, my first reaction is to disagree with your point that the huddle is archaic and a bit of a dinosaur. But I am also intrigued.
My overall response would be that there are obvious advantages to both. Points and tempo are the obvious gains, but tempo is also a negative from the no huddle (as we learned circa 2009-2011) when an offense has too many three and outs and a team's defense bears the brunt of it all. In short, it's hard to praise a defense, especially an overachieving bunch like our boys, while touting an offensive style that so often seems to lead to a loss in defensive production.
In short, what data is out there to suggest that the no huddle would not obliterate our defensive gains?
There are two issues here being conflated here. Not huddling is not necessarily synonymous with going at a high speed. Ohio State runs the same no-huddle style as Oregon but does not push the pedal down nearly as much:
|Team||Offensive Plays||Defensive Plays||Total||% Plays on offense|
Oregon games had 24% more plays in them than Michigan games; Ohio State games had just 10% more, and I'm guessing the difference there is more Michigan being exceptionally slow than Ohio State being fast: decidedly MANBALL Wisconsin games featured a little over 1600 plays this year. If OSU is over the national average for plays run it's not by much.
The benefits of getting to the line immediately are the same whether you're going fast or slow: the defense is hampered in its ability to substitute and you can see how they align as you make your playcall. You can sprinkle in tempo plays when you have an advantage without cracking the whip up and down the field.
The other issue is how a high tempo affects your defense. This is the reason people invented tempo-free basketball statistics: how fast you go can distort how your offense and defense look. A high-tempo approach artificially inflates the former and deflates the latter.
Take the most extreme possible example: Oregon. The Ducks are are decent but essentially mediocre in yardage statistics. They're 47th in rushing, 60th in passing, and 46th in total D. But they faced 915 plays. Michigan's defense faced 791, and in there is a large part of the gap between the two defenses. Michigan is still better on a yards-per-play basis, but there's no question that Oregon played more good offenses.
Advanced stats that try to account for tempo look a lot more favorably on Oregon's defense than conventional ones. The Ducks are eighth in FEI*, one spot in front of Alabama. They're 21st in S&P, which I don't like as much because it's play-focused instead of drive-focused.
As this year's Michigan team proved against Nebraska and OSU, a three and out is a three and out and you're in trouble no matter what if that's what your offense is doing. In games you can win, the price you're extracting from your defense is going to be similar to the price you extract from the opposition.
And, like, I don't think it would have mattered if a Greg Robinson defense played opposite the Lombardi Packers. They were cooked.
*[A note on FEI: that ranking looked pretty strange on offense last year; this year it passes any sanity test you want to give it with Florida/ND/Stanford/MSU as the top 4. It seems to be overrating some small schools but that's inevitable.]
Are we running the Air Raid next year? Taking out Denard, Michigan had a pretty atrocious rushing offense this year. It's obviously going to look different next season without a primarily rushing QB but even still, with a starting RB coming off a serious leg injury, and replacing 3 or 4 offensive lineman, this looks bleak right?
Look on the bright side: at least Borges has shown to be more willing to adapt to a throw-first mentality than Carr-era coordinators. And the interior line literally cannot be worse! Woo!
It does look bleak. Michigan has to hope that Mike Schofield can hold up at left tackle (I think he can against non-elite pass-rushers and will probably be a Stenavich-level player) and then fill in the rest of the line with n00bs. There are some assets:
- Extremely fast QB.
- "College-ready" five star Kyle Kalis at guard.
- Guy who has played center all the way, Jack Miller, at center, presumably making much better line calls.
- Enormous guy Chris Bryant
- Enormous guy Ben Braden
It… yeah, it looks grim-ish. While any of the above could work out Michigan is still working through the disastrous RR OL recruiting and will have a similar problem to the one they had this year: few, if any options to turn to if the starters are not performing. Things are little better at tackle, where Erik Magnuson is available to back up instead of nobody, but on the interior you've got a redshirt freshman on the 3/4 star borderline (Bars) and Joey Burzynski, who is still 6'1".
But there's a bunch of hype for the freshman class and Bryant was reported looking good before the leg injury. Michigan may have to go with more Gardner running than they might want. I certainly hope they don't ditch the veer, for one.
First of all, I'm very surprised by Hoke's prediction that Devin's redshirt will go through, given his history of never saying anything specific, ever.
With that in mind, do you think Devin is a good fit for Borges' style of West Coast offense? Or will we still be "making due" with some Frankenoffense for the next two years, give or take, until Shane is ready?
Like most fans, I've been pleasantly surprised by Devin over the past month, but I don't know enough about Borges' dream offense to know how well his QB skills translate.
I was surprised, too, and assume he was told by the people who had talked to the Big Ten that they would get it. Which hurray, one less argument about how dumb Rich Rodriguez is and extra year for starting QB.
Gardner is clearly a better fit for what Borges wants to do than Denard was. He's tall, he can stand in the pocket, and he has an excellent deep ball when he's not being asked to throw it on the run for some strange reason. He also tends to run when he should run, thus rescuing various plays that aren't going so well.
I am actually hoping for something of a Frankenoffense, though. Running big epic "play action" from an I-form that is really just a max-protect setup doesn't use Gardner's legs particularly effectively, and we've seen that when you get a guy who can run and throw trying to stop both is super hard. Hell, run-and-kinda-throw is pretty hard. I'd like Michigan to still run most of its offense from the shotgun and use Gardner's legs to mitigate some of the problems that will arise on the offensive line. With Morris backing Gardner up you won't have to be as overcautious as it seemed Michigan was this year.
Maybe the OL will surprise and DeVeon Smith or Derrick Green will show up as a grinder and it will work. If a traditional manball running game isn't in the cards, though, the Frankenoffense may be the best one available.
Do you think Hopkins gets a long look in the spring back at tailback with Fitz's status up in the air?
Seems like they have some depth now at fullback with Kerridge and Houma. I know he has ball security issues so maybe he has to walk around campus all spring, summer and fall carrying a football. Could he have the potential to be a Leroy Hoard-type in 1988, '89 as a featured, ball-carrying back?
While that's a possibility I doubt it will amount to much if they do try it. Hopkins may be marginally better than Rawls if he doesn't fumble, he has. Rawls hasn't done much but he also has not fumbled.
A Hoard-back requires Hoard-blocking, and more speed than Hopkins brings to the table. If Derrick Green ends up committing he's the early favorite to get a plurality of carries.
Any chance that Michigan starts Pipkins and Washington in a similar way that they used Washington and Campbell this year?
Probably not. Nose tackle is a draining position staffed by enormous men and requires that two people play it. Michigan probably wanted to use Pipkins more than they did a year ago; they couldn't because he wasn't very good. Michigan will probably stick with him as the backup nose in preparation for a two year starting run. Big guys take some time.