Question that someone may be able to answer: is the reason that we can't clear lanes for consistent 5-8 yard plowing runs because of the type of plays, the type of running backs, the size of the O line, or the skill/experience, and what can we do to fix that. I know watching UGA and Alabama over the last few years, it seems like they can pick up 5 yards up the middle any time they want. Is there a reason for this? It seemed like we still struggled a bit with this against CMU. Will this fix itself as our interior line gets more reps?
Picture Pages: Hopped Up On Goofballs
I wish I'd remembered that Bob Diaco linebackers play like they're hopped up on goofballs before the game. Here's the mesh point on Michigan's first offensive snap:
One ILB is almost to the line of scrimmage and the other is a yard back. This is way closer than almost any other team will be, and it is absolutely consistent. ND linebackers fire hard on any run action.
For the most part it's worked for them. Michigan won the Denard after Dentist game despite getting ten yards on eight tailback carries. ND's defense last year was lights out. Notre Dame's hyper-aggression at that spot has been a problem for Michigan's run game for the last couple years, as they haven't had effective counters. Their main one is the waggle, and we all know how that worked out last year.
Not much changed in this one early. Michigan's tailback running game was drips and drabs because of a lack of an effective counter trey. (You know, that play they showed against Central where Taylor Lewan pulled to the backside… ineffectively.) The longer runs they did acquire were almost entirely Fitzgerald Toussaint forcing errors out of ND safeties. For example, the UFR chart on Toussaint's early 14-yard sideline run has four minuses for bad blocks and no positives. Yikes.
Let's get a baseline in this one and see how Michigan responded later. This is a second-quarter zone stretch in which Michigan puts two tight ends to the top of the screen; ND responds with a rare three-man front (they were a 4-3 in this game that occasionally lined up in a 3-4 as a curveball) with a safety walked down:
This looks like a called blitz but in practice it's difficult to tell the difference between an actual blitz and the playside linebacker hauling ass at the first gap he sees. It's just alignment. Notre Dame got some TFLs out of this gap-shooting, and even when they didn't those linebackers forced Michigan to disengage from double-teams on Tuitt, Nix, and Schwenke early, with predictable results.
Meanwhile, the backside linebacker would ignore any cutback possibilities and flow parallel to the line of scrimmage at approximately the same rate the tailback did:
The overall effect is six guys at the line with one hovering behind for cleanup and that overhanging safety able to provide quick support. Even when Notre Dame screwed up this was mostly effective.
A moment post snap, Michigan opens up a gap as they go to double the two defensive tackles:
Note that the backside players on the ND DL are stepping away from the play, which they can do because the MLB is jetting into the gap they vacate. This also allows the backside LB to flow as he does.
Some of this is tough to see, but in this frame:
- Miller has disengaged from Nix in an attempt to cut the charging LB, which he does not do. He does knock him off balance somewhat, possibly contributing to his overrun of the play.
- Meanwhile, Glasgow and Lewan try to handle two guys who have disappeared from the frame: the playside end and charging safety.
- Both tight ends have locked on the playside LB, who is the force player.
- Schofield chases the MLB, who he has no angle on, but could still block if Toussaint cuts back.
A moment later the LB flashes into the backfield wide of Toussaint and runs by; playside end got his legs caught up in traffic and ends up falling, pancaked. Both tight ends are still on the force guy:
This is one of them gap things?
Except it's got a linebacker in it.
BONUS! Here is a super slo-mo version.
(Does this help? If this helps let me know.)
Items Of Interest
Notre Dame got away with at least a couple errors here. The playside end ends up underneath Glasgow on the ground and they spent a linebacker blowing past Toussaint to little effect. (They did get Miller down but offenses will take one for one trades.) If that can happen and Michigan picks up three yards you can tell that it's tough sledding.
Tough sledding. The goofballs approach makes life tough on offensive linemen, who have to make split second decisions to leave guy and then try to block a rampant guy with tons of momentum before they are ready. This is tough, and Michigan didn't do a good job of it.
Toussaint could put his foot in the ground here and make a cut. Schofield is chasing that linebacker and you occasionally see the blocking develop such that the tailback can make a hard cut upfield behind that OL and suddenly make him relevant. Right about here…
…if Toussaint goes hard north and south aiming for the hash he may shoot past that linebacker and into open space. That's why Schofield keeps following that guy despite not having an angle. It may not work, but you're at least giving yourself a shot. Toussaint had a good day overall; here I think he missed a cut.
The offensive line… I punt. They had a very tough first half against this line, and these linebacker gap-shots don't help. Miller just barely throws off that linebacker if he does anything, but then again that linebacker zips past the play he's moving so fast. If that guy can't make a play, can the OL make a play?
Meanwhile Glasgow gets a pancake that is probably aided by the ND lineman tripping on the blitzer's feet; Lewan ends up putting a safety on the ground. Points for them. This one was a lot better blocked than some.
Funchess is very frustrating. On this play, the linebacker to the top of the screen is obviously the force player*. Butt obviously has him kicked out. Funchess continues to block the guy the whole damn play instead of releasing downfield and getting a hat on the safety. There is no way this is right.
Meanwhile, on the single inverted veer Michigan ran, Notre Dame hyperaggression bit them as one of their linebackers roared up a gap and pursued Toussaint, as did Tuitt. Gardner pulled and got a nice gain. It could have been a lot nicer, but Funchess turned around again:
Also not right, as with Kalis headed to the outside the linebacker is the optioned guy. I know Michigan's blocked guys who are supposed to be optioned before; even if that is the nominal plan, nothing good ever comes of turning 180 degrees when you're a blocker.
That left no one to take the only guy standing between Gardner and a touchdown:
I guess it's better that the play wiped out by a nonexistent holding call was nine yards instead of a thirty-one yard touchdown?
We just saw this happen against Central Michigan; it's closing in on a pattern. Funchess remains a tight end in name only. The mental stuff is more bothersome than any lack of technique. All he has to do on some of these plays is vaguely bother a guy and Michigan can break a long one. Hopefully he makes some progress here in the next few weeks, but the relative prominence of Jake Butt in this game is not a coincidence.
*[IE, the guy who sits on the end of the line and accepts a kickout block. He positions himself such that if the back tries to bounce it outside he either gets tackled for has to take such a circuitous route that by the time he gets the corner for guys are waiting for him. Since things usually go badly—very badly—for the defense if the force player is not doing his job, he is limited in how dynamic he can be what with throwing blockers away and getting TFLs, so doubling him is useless.]
Michigan did exploit this, eventually. You may notice that I'm not complaining about how Michigan didn't adjust to this. This is a tease.
My recollection is that Georgia couldn't run for shit without a stud running back, like a Moreno or Gurley. Alabama, meanwhile, has consistently had super talented and super experienced offensive lines. You'll note that with their graduations they had some serious issues against VT.
Also, Diaco LBs are insane, as Brian notes.
I'm not an expert but I think the sample size for this year is still small and not totally representative. I think both Central and ND sold out to stop the run. In ND's case it was linebackers getting an extra step or two to the LOS before linebackers on an "honest" defense would even have diagnosed the play yet. With Central, they rolled up a safety. This isn't new, since teams were consistently doing this against Denard led offsenses. My guess is the as opposing defensive coordinators start getting the memo that we can hurt them through the air we'll get more favorable formations to run into.
First off, it isn't like a grind it out game against a good defense is all that rare for running backs, even on great offensive teams. Secondly, the moderate success CMU and ND had slowing our RBs was offset by massive vulnerabilities elsewhere.
The offense gained nearly 9 yards every time Devin threw the ball. They gained 14 yards every time he completed a pass. When Devin ran with the ball (taking the one sack out of the equation), he gained 7.5 yards every time. Those numbers were even more outrageous against Central. That isn't just because Devin Gardner is awesome (he certainly is), but because he's able to send the defense chasing Fitz with a simple fake and then stroll into the secondary unmolested or throw over the heads of the charging linebackers who have abandoned the middle of the field.
Our fanbase continues to have a weird obsession with complaining about 40+ point performances if they aren't fueled by slamming the running back into the line over and over again (SEE Purdue game last year for another example).
Just overly long-
Our fanbase continues to have a weird obsession with complaining about 40+ point performances
About the performance, I'm just wondering what sets our RB style apart from smash-mouth teams
But that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement and a place to discuss how Michigan makes that improvement. Michigan still has some work to do. They have room to improve. The offense did well against ND, but they can and eventually will need to do better. Going crazy over it isn't the correct answer, but discussing it I think is fair.
Miller, Glasgow, and Kalis had a combined 3 career starts going into the game. That might have something to do with it. It's going to take some time for them to gel into a cohesive unit.
I'm just saying that just because that's the case, and just because Michigan put up big points, doesn't mean we have to act like they executed everything perfectly. You can throw out disclaimers and other facts, but it's still nice to look at what Michigan can improve on for down the road.
And gloom and doom. The picture page here is the former. "Why can't we run for 5-8 yards a carry" is the latter. To discuss calmly the coaching that needs to go on from making us good to great by getting better at the interior line, second target receivers, defensive pressure, and safety experience are all fair game. Things like "Y R OFFENZE SO BAD?!?" is stupid.
For the record average rushing yards for the 2013 season:
Alabama 2.5 ypc
Georgia 4.8 ypc
Michigan 4.7 ypc
And yeah, their lead running backs are doing better. They're lead running backs are just plain old better. Let's put analysis to where it is worthwhile and not lose our heads over successes. (Not you. Just a lot of Michigan fans can find a snowstorm in the Sahara Desert).
Your stats from other teams point out why this is so bothersome. People seem to groan in a vacuum. There is also a wacky historical revisionism that makes no sense. Even the broadcasters were acting like Denard was some giant handicap when he ripped ND to shreds twice. Yet people act like we need to get back to some glory days era where we just ran it down people's throats at will, and that era really didn't exist. Were people not around or did they just forget?
In 2005 we scored 10 points against ND. Kevin Grady was the leading rusher with 79 yards on 18 carries. In 2004 we lost to the team that got Ty Willingham fired. Jerome Jackson led the team with 32 yards on 15 carries. We lost to another Willingham team in 2002 while posting under 100 rushing yards as a team. In 2001 we averaged 3.6 ypc for the season. Chris Perry averaged 3.8 ypc backing up BJ Askew. The Orange Bowl winning team in 1999 averaged 121.8 on the ground per game and 3.2 ypc for the year. Anthony Thomas wasn't a whole lot better than that at 4.3 ypc.
Fitz racking up over 100 yards of offense against an ND defensive front that is better than most we've faced is a superb performance in that context, especially when the defense focusing on him allowed everybody else to go bananas.
That stopping Denard defense comment is the key I think. Notre Dame early in the game was playing they thought Denard was still there and no one on our team could pass to save his life. They reopened with a rehash of their 2012 formations and were promptly murdered via a passing attack.
As the season goes on we'll see if coordinators we face make different choices, like not stacking 7 or 8 in the box and having the LBs play to stop the run on almost every down, and what kind of running game improvement we see at that point. So far Devin has not been a free turnover machine when pressured, so we'll see what happens next. If we seems playing to stop the pass more and we still struggle to run, my worries will increase at that point.
Funchess blocking mistakes that definitely hurt the run game. That's worrisome, but it is only his second year in the program and blocking takes time to learn (think back to Seth's work on how long it takes to prep offensive linemen to learn the blocking schemes, Funchess faces the same task to a degree).
I agree with this. I think teams are really selling out to stop the run against us, for two main reasons:
1. Hoke has made it abundantly clear that his priority as a Michigan offense is to establish the run. He's basically yelled out, "hey we're going to run up the middle to set up the pass manball blah toughness run." So, I think opposing dc's having naturally planned around trying to take that away. And...
2. Borges stubbornly stuck to this publicized strategy in key games last year (i.e., ohio).
Borges was wonderfully adaptive on Saturday, and if he continues to do so, then I think Hoke's proclamations of manball almost become like misinformation that may sucker a few dc's into playing us like ND just did.
is that Mark Richt tends to want to throw the ball more often than he runs it, while Saban of course wants to run the majority of the time. Lately Richt has run the ball more often than he ever did before, which I believe spurred their turnaround from 2009 and 2010 when they were struggling to just win 6-7 games. Georgia could beat 80% of the teams on their schedule if they just lined up and ran straight ahead, and they do when they employ this strategy. Their 2009 team at 6-5 shredded my alma mater right in front of my eyes by doing this. Joe Cox attempted 14-15 passes and Caleb King and Washaun Ealy both averaged 9.2 YPC. So yeah, with the supreme talent in a talent-rich state primarily heading to Athens, Georgia can do this if they really want to. Having a boss hog like Gurley in the backfield only makes it better (worse).
Saban has always run the ball, and it's no secret that once he's established he takes over the state and region and gets whoever he wants. Hence stacking the line with 315 pounders to block for pillars such as Trent and Lacy. Fowler was supposed to be the next in line but the jury is still out on him.
To answer the original question I believe that M is just inexperienced inside at this point in time. The talent is there, we can see it, but these guys need more reps to be able to develop that chemistry and "feel" the assignments instead of taking that split second to think about it. The good part about this is that like Brian pointed out, no team after Notre Dame will bulge the line more than they did, as the schedule is much friendlier from now until August. I expect the line play as a unit will improve and it will look more like a well-oiled machine come mid-October as opposed to five guys looking for random people to hit.
is friendlier from now through the end of October. Doh.
If you could cut out the sound entirely on the super slo mo that would be great. Weird super slo sound is really distracting!
*cough* mute your speakers *cough*
Just click the volume button before you play it.
We just need to add some old NFL Films music to the slo mo, and it would be perfect.
since it sounds like behemoth cape buffaloes going to battle.
Question for you X and O's guys.... On several plays the run blitzing LBs slicing into the backfield, we had a lead blocking FB. The FB would run right by the blitzing LBs, who would tackle the RB. Should the FB be reading and redirecting to block the guy shooting through the gap instead? or is this a case of don't turn around because it's too late (a la Funchess).
This was pretty frustrating to me that we were getting burned by that time and time again when we had a guy in the vincinity to stop it from happening but just couldn't adjust.
If the guy is there when the FB passes, the FB will take the first guy inside of him. But he should never stop his progression to the next level. The off color jersey should meet him. It comes back to "trusting your teammates to do their job". If he comes back to block the play is just as dead because now the assignments got all messed up.
rule 1) make your block
rule 2) don't EVER stop, turn around, and look back at the guy you were SUPPOSED to block. Stay on your track.
rule 3) block somebody.... ANYBODY...not wearing a winged helmet
rule 3) Be Jehu Chesson.
rule 4) block somebody.... ANYBODY...not wearing a winged helmet
Funchess doesn't possess football awareness yet. He made the same error on Gardner's zone read TD; got in the hole, spun around to look for a guy to block (there were 2 right there), and Gardner zips by him into the end zone.
I suspect DF will get it, eventually, but he is still very raw.
But, he does have an excuse. At the handoff he is feeling that LB. You see when he widens his path just after he gets the ball. He feels the LB coming inside out and is just trying to get down field away from the flow. He doesn't realize the LB has dove and missed him. He tries to cut north/south at the end, realizing he can no longer go straight and that he wants to pick up as many yards as possible. This ends in a short gain instead of a big one.
If Miller cuts his LB though, Fitz doesn't widen his path and can take a more appropriate angle in the gap. He then cuts it back (or should). Still, you'd like to see him have the vision and feel that the LB is gone and he can run to open grass.
Might even complement the picture pages.
Big fan of the super slo mo version.
I think he is messing up on things because of some indecision, but I think on the zone stretch above he is doing what he's told. It's clearly outside zone as the backside DE is left unblocked (you block the backside DE on inside zone because the cutback is backside A-gap).
But Funchess is making sure the guy is absolutely sealed and can't come back into the play by simply shedding Butt. He's maintaining the seal on the edge. I agree it's not optimal, but I think with Funchess and Butt on the field it is something they are being told (hold the edge). He doesn't show indecision on this, he stays on him and never threatens to leave for the safety. I just think they are making sure they are blocking up front. If anything, I think it's a schematic or personnel issue if you will more than a pure mistake by Funchess here.
Also, super slo-mo is nice.
Slo mo definitely helpful. Sound is not. Not hard to mute computer for a hot second though.
love the slow mo version - thanks for including that
Super slo-mo is excellent. I occasionally have trouble tracking a specific player through the picture pages. This made it easy. I would love to see super slo-mo as a regular feature.
I wonder why neither Butt nor Funchess peeled off to take out the LB. it looked like Fitzgerald would have been off to the races.
It would be to take the safety, not the LB. The LB is accounted for.
In Rich Rod's system Funchess surely would have pealed off. Not convinced they aren't making sure to block the front to keep on track with downs and distances rather than trying to spring the big play. Difference in philosophy is what I think is being seen above.
Better yet, can you gif the slo mo?
Gifs are the worst. Keep the youtube!
FWIW, the reason why youtube is so much better than a gif is because you can pause, you can rewind part way to follow players simultaneously, and you don't have to wait for the completion of the play when you're trying to pick something out. Video just really works better for reviewing plays.
It totally depends what you are using it for.
GIF = entertainment
Youtube = good tool for analyzing film.
Some things are just meant to be gifs
Yeah, I can see that. The thing I like about gifs for short clips is the continuous loop.
But as Brian pointed out, this is why counter is fundamental to the success of the run game against ND and one of the reason Bama crushed ND. Bama runs outside zone, inside zone, counter and that's about it. Outside of GL, Michigan can pretty much run outside zone and that's it. ND's LBs are keying and their run blitzes killed Michigan's blocking assignments.
If outside zone is your base, inside zone looks extremly similar but gives backside A-gap cut back, which kills over pursuit like ND has.
On top of that, counter starts making LBs hesitate. Initial movement looks the same, and you start to be able to run with your RB downhill. Those three runs will doom a 3-4 if you can do them successfully. Michigan is still trying to get there right now.
A few questions:
- Is this an RPS-minus play, with the focus being on Schofield? It seems like success here is contingent on Schofield being able to catch up to that backside linebacker and sealing him off. Even if Funchess had gotten out to the safety, that linebacker was still unblocked (barring a Fitz cutback). This assumes that Schofield is supposed to make that block without a cutback from the RB - is this just a limitation of Schofield's skill level?
- Regarding Fitz not cutting back, is that him just lacking the vision to see that, or him missing the play? This question plays off my first one, because with as far away from that weakside linebacker as Schofield was, it almost seems like the play was designed for Fitz to cut back toward the middle.
- It also looked like Fitz could have gained more yards by bouncing outside? I suppose that depends on the closing speed of the safety, but it seemed like he could have bounced it.
- No. This is a RPS nuetral play, IMO. The design of the play is set to work here. The defensive numbers are fine to that side (so no reason DG should check out). This is a play that will work one of two ways: like it did, or it's going to gash the defense for huge yards.
- He should cut back, and part of it is lack of vision and probably more so lack of feel IMO. As I said above, I think he's adjusting because of the safety screaming in nearly untouched. If you watch him right after he receives the ball, he takes a lateral step to gain width and then gets back on track. He's feeling the LB and attempting to escape him. What he doesn't to is feel that the LB has taken himself out of the play, which would allow him to gather his feet in the hole and take a proper angle to attack backside, like the play is designed for.
- No. Fitz's first read is the TEs. They don't reach their block so he comes inside to Lewan. Lewan doesn't reach his block so he starts to drive his man outside as well. This is the second cutback that Fitz is designed to hit through the line. It goes outside, C gap, B gap progression on outside zone. If you cut into B-gap, he is looking for a seam then to the playside diagonally (if they backside reaches the backside LB) or backside diagonally (if backside doesn't reach initially). It looks to me like Fitz is starting to cut north/south when a defender sheds Lewan and essentially falls into Fitz. I think Fitz is attempting to get upfield quickly to get away from the free LB while setting up the defender in the hole. He never does. But if he feel the LB that came through free go down, then he can give room to Lewan and take a better approach to set up that LB and cut it back.
That's my impression on the play anyway.
The man he doubles effectively seals himself at the snap by going wide. Funch should read that and instantly move upfield. If Funch attacks the LB, Schofield could get to the safety. I think Schofield has very little chance to block the LB, maybe if he hussled. He's hesitating, but I can't blame him. JMO.
But his responsibility certainly isn't the LB and Schofield would be wasted trying to get to the safety. If anything, Funchess should go to the safety and Schofield stick to his back side. Schofield gives Fitz the option of where to run, Funchess coming back down inside is contrary to zone rules and would likely only squeeze Fitz's options as a RB.
has no chance at the LB and doesn't want to get a block in the back call. He is hesitating though, and I'd agree with you, had he hauled ass to get in position to make that block.
He has no chance unless the RB cuts back, which happens a lot on the stretch. SC is right that Funchess would climb to the S.
Slo mo is much appreciated, as is the outstanding PP work. As usual.
While our running game didn't look great in the box score, it's hard to say it wasn't effective. The outside zone did produce a few nice plays, kept ND honest on our play action (which was effective all night), and opened-up lanes for DG when we started using the option.
Borges called a great game, and DG's execution was even better. The guy was throwing inch-perfect passes under pressure all game.
Fitz looks good, and is doing what a RB needs to do: picking-up yards even when they're not there.
I think our O-Line will be fine against most defenses, but we do need develop some other effective running plays (inside zone, counters, and some power).
I really appreciate these breakdowns. The plays happen so fast, and we don't have the tools/access that you do. Excellent stuff.
Lastly, please don't start saying "put his foot in the ground"...it's the weakest, most overused sportscaster line out there, and annoying as f###.