Why can't Michigan run the ball without Denard? As with anything in football, the answer is "it's complicated" but against Nebraska the pendulum swung decisively towards an inability to block anything.
There were two primary ways in which things went unblocked, one of which we'll cover in two posts.
Ain't Nobody Trying To Block Important People
The first were either busts, play design errors, or combo blocking errors that left totally unblocked linebackers in the hole. A here's a third-quarter iso on the penalty fiesta drive that resulted in a field goal:
The highlighted guy is Nebraska's WLB. No one even tries to block him.
Unsurprisingly, this doesn't go well.
I'm not sure who this is on. I don't get the blocking. If Mealer releases directly downfield in the second frame in an attempt to get that WLB he does not have much of an angle and probably doesn't do much. I would expect Michigan to double that DT, leave Mealer behind on the DT, and then have Omameh pop off.
That doesn't happen. Did someone screw up? Is the play design bad? Is it Schofield moving to the second level poorly? Things are so confused I don't know.
If this was a one time thing you could chalk it up to a guy busting. It wasn't.
[AFTER THE JUMP: more unblocked guys! Like, so many you'll freak! They're coming out of holes in the ground like the Viet Cong!]
Oops I Didn't Do It Again
Nebraska MLBs were hanging out unblocked in the hole a lot. Here's a second quarter iso against a straight-up 4-3 with the same problem:
I expect double teams on the LOS, and you do see Mealer doubling a DT, hopefully sealing him inside before he moves to the second level(1). To the bottom of the screen(2), though, is a one-on-one block from Barnum on the other DT. Lewan moves to the second level…
…and is a gap away from the play with no angle on the LB.
Note that to the top of the screen, the other DT has come through the attempted double by Mealer and Omameh, so they didn't even do the bit that made sense well.
That play was the second of three consecutive first-down runs that gained two yards.
Safeties Get In The Act
This wasn't just an I-form iso problem. Sometimes it's the play design, like the end around fake to start the game.
That may have held the linebackers a fraction; it also robbed Michigan of anyone to block the safety with.
The result was three yards on a play where everyone who Michigan tried to block got blocked.
Looks Like An Option, Probably Isn't Since Michigan Never Runs Option
Michigan brought out some option action that may or may not have been a real read and was definitely not respected by Nebraska since Michigan hasn't run an option more than a couple times all year. Michigan's in a two-back setup with a TE.
They send Kerridge in motion around Denard, with a corner threatening blitz.
At the mesh point Denard is looking… somewhere. He's not looking at the end, who's getting blocked anyway. He's not looking at the MLB, who's well inside. Is he checking that corner over the slot for a potential packaged play where he just hits Roundtree as the corner comes up reading run?
Nope, Roundtree is blocking. Poorly, as the corner is past him and he's peeling back and won't end up blocking anyone. Meanwhile in he middle of the field the option fake did not pull out the MLB, Michigan has no one to block him, and that's the same story.
Michigan is again optioning no one here. They block the end. This play works if Michigan runs a basic zone read and gets out on that LB; instead they're relying on the idea Michigan is going to run an option with the fullback as their pitchman to hold the defense outside.
Sometimes Michigan did get blown up spectacularly…
not going on Barnum's favorite play reel
…but far too often the Cornhusker making the tackle didn't even have anyone assigned to him.
Things And Stuff
I don't get it. Nebraska isn't running something weird here. They're shifting their linebackers sometimes, sometimes they're just playing it straight up, but these aren't blitzes or getting rock-paper-scissored by Pelini's playcalls. I get that sometimes you're just going to get caught in the wrong play. None of these are the wrong play except possibly the option, if it's actually an option.
So why the hell can't Michigan block an ILB on multiple iso plays? That's the most basic play in football and Michigan can't get anyone out on a linebacker. A lot. Not once. A lot.
The option thing is just… come on man. I'm not sure who the "come on man" is for. They have to be optioning off the MLB on this play, but Denard's not looking at him. He's just handing off and faking a pass to a guy who is not running a route. If it's just a straight handoff—and yeah guy in the comments you don't believe that Michigan's coaching staff is stupid enough to do that, and probably still don't believe Michigan had no audibles in the MSU game—then you're relying on the threat of an option that Michigan does not run with a fullback pitch man to scare the MLB out of his gap.
I don't think it's an option. Otherwise Denard would probably be running out the speed option fake instead of pulling up to fake a throw. (To a guy not running a route.) And he'd probably be looking at someone who is being optioned, which he's not. I mean, do we really think Denard is so bad at football that he can't even figure out how to look at the guy he is supposed to look at and instead stares into empty space?
Options not taken. It's not just the option that's not taken. The throw fake to Roundtree is a really good idea to make not a fake. Oklahoma State and West Virginia have deployed that with great success and if Michigan packaged a quick throw with this read they might have it too, as that nickel corner is reacting to the Kerridge motion. (He's the only one.)
Denard is pretending like they're running a stick route based on what the LB does, which would be nice if they put it in the offense but they won't because Michigan can't even block an iso right.
You've got to run it or the threat is not credible. Michigan's run this option action several times this year and handed it off every time—another indicator that this is not actually a read. At some point you have to actually run the other thing, whether it's a call or a read, because "oh the fullback is in motion" is not getting it done.
This would be a nice package. Here is a series of plays that would be hard to defend in concert off this motion:
speed option / lead blocker
inside zone w/ unblocked DE
inside zone w/packaged stick route
triple option off the MLB's motion
Michigan's run one of those plays, except they're not actually reading their triple option off the linebacker's movement.
Poor damn Fitz Toussaint. I have some still from a play on which he screwed up, but that's the only truly negative play I have for him. I've got plenty of the above, where he's got no space and an unblocked guy in his face. Poor damn Fitz Toussaint.
Now on the first play, the blame is on Mealer he went to the safety. When he should have gone to the WLB. Omameh had one he'll of a nice block on the one tech. Now the Fullback has great head position, but does not keep his leg driving after point of contact. It's just a simple man on man blocking scheme mealer went to the wrong guy. Mealer could have drove the WLB aNd made a nice seal u could see the ally or wall of butts forming .
play 2 Now they double team The 1 tech and he split them smh, so there is no room for error on this play. Omameh never gets his head across his face so when mealer leaves, omameh loses the battle. Now U highlighted the LB again on this play the blame goes on Lewan he never gets to him. It looked like he got pinched from the 5 tech and the 3. But he was supposes to get a hand on the SDE cuz he was inside then go to the LB he could have made a block if he gets out there he could have push him into the wash but he never got off the LOS cleanly
All in all we should be playing better then this..I love o-line talk it's beautiful one wrong step, not driving legs, head position it happens in a matter of seconds, it really comes down to the little things
I agree that the line's not blocking well but that Lewan block is tough though since at best you're going to be pushing a guy from a crappy angle; same with Mealer.
Even if he picks the right guy, what are the chances he gets a block that keeps him out of the hole? I don't think they're good. It seems like M does not much faith in their ability to combo block DL and as a result puts their OL in tough spots on plays like this.
It's really starting to seem like the trajectory of the OL is trending negatively and that a lot of the problems on offense are related to exactly that. Yes, the plays themselves lack coherence, but it seems like part of what Borges is doing is trying to compensate for an inability to execute. Hence all the bells and whistles signifying nothing. That is, no actual option is run because we can't teach it.
This is exactly what happened in the Sugar Bowl btw. I actually liked the scheme Borges cooked up, which I thought was coherent. But they didn't execute it at all. Borges' response seems to have been to bore down to a focus on doing just a very few things well...but that hasn't really come to fruition either. Presumably part of this is Denard. But the OL is clearly having problems too and Greg Frey seems to have been able to do things with many of these guys that Funk hasn't been.
Caveats apply; I'm not an OL coach. But it looks pretty rough out there.
...the Canadians make up for it with their emotion and classic ice-dancing skill.
Al Borges has no rhyme or reason in calling plays, it's just a let's see if this works. Nope didn't work, let's try it again, nope didn't work again. It's like he's eating at a Chinese Buffet and every time he tries something new, it tastes bad or makes him puke or shat himself, but he'll try it once more to make sure it wasn't just that one piece. Our line isn't helping matters with flat out terrible blocking.
... we ran reach blocks and all kinds of stuff with Molk last year, and when he got hurt in the Sugar Bowl we suddenly couldn't do anything. I figured the DL would be big loss since we still had Lewan but it does look like Molk made the line more than the sum of its parts and Mealer can't do that (yet?).
I was screaming at my TV set all night about not blocking the ILBs. Thank you for posting this. At least it validates my concerns.
"the Spirit of Michigan...is based on a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways....and a conviction that nowhere is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours" - Fielding Yost
1. When was the last time Michigan handed the ball off to their fullback?
2. Beyond the traditional inside zone read, inverted veer, and speed option, none of these are actual reads for Denard. The jet sweep action, triple option look from late last year, Kerridge orbited out, etc. are just decoys. Decoys that nobody bothers honoring. Even the speed option is usually neutered since we almost always run it on 3rd and short and Denard is just trying to find a crease for the first down. Except on 3rd and 7 (topping it off I think it was to the boundary) against Nebraska which was extremely humiliating.
3. Even if the Kerridge play was a good idea, wouldn’t it make more sense to line up with a 2nd tailback such as Rawls, Hayes, Norfleet, or at the very least Hopkins so the defense might be concerned with them. Do you think Nebraska would have ignored Norfleet on that play? I doubt it.
These lame decoys are causing us to have to play quite a bit of 10 man football.
Denard is reading the corner over Roundtree. At the mesh point, the corner has taken a couple shuffle-steps out and has his eyes on Roundtree. Denard reads that as coverage, and hands off. By the time Roundtree sees that the pass is a no go, it's too late for a block because the corner actually did bite on the run (he moved in to contain the pitch-man) and is two steps past him.
The pass would have worked (especially if the wideout gets a good block on the safety) but at the point where Denard had to make that decision, it looked more like an interception waiting to happen.
I actually have some confidence in our Oline next year. If Lewan stays then we could possibly be seeing Schofield move back to LG. Lewan-Schofield-Miller-Kalis-Magnuson would likely be our best 5, and would probably be an improvement over this years line-in-transition.
RS freshman Kalis should be more than ready to play MANBALL next fall, Magnuson as well.
Jack MIller hasn't played yet, but he's been practicing at Center and Guard for 2 years now, and has the size to match his athletecism. His strengths were footwork, technique, and a nasty streak, his weaknes (was) size. He's 6-4 and is around 290 now. He had played basketball, and is supposed to be a very cerebral player, evidenced by the his offer list. Some stats from his MIchigan bio page: ran 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds ... had a 30-inch vertical jump ... Key Statistics ... posted 70 tackles and 15.5 sacks at defensive end senior year ... recorded 56 pancake blocks at offensive line as a senior ... registered 14 sacks as a junior...named to the Division I All-State first team as a senior ... awarded Lineman of the Year in his district as a senior. Maize and Brew did a nice intro on him too:
as well as Molk did and it's really hurting the whole offense. Essentially this same line with the exact same OC ran the ball very well last year. The only difference is the lack of Hugye and Molk so I think that's where we should look for cause of the disparity.
Why isn't Fitz going left? He shoots up the middle/right side when Mealer blocks the LB to the left. If he cuts left he has everyone blocked. Maybe the blocking was supposed to go right, but if Fitz cuts left Omameh basically gets a 2-for-1 block and Fitz has open space.
I truly believe that 90% of our rushing issues this year is on the lack of execution by the o-line from a standpoint of improper reads and missed assignments. This cannot be placed on Borges as the play calls seem pretty sound. I've found myself saying about a dozen times per game all year "if only X player would have executed properly, that play would have netted 20+ yards." This is why Hoke always stated that Will Campbell was not in a position to be on the field last year. A player needs to be consistent and execute on every single play, not just make a couple good plays here and there. We are not consistent in our line play right now...
That being said, where I do not give Borges a free pass is in some of the plays drawn up given the personnel we currently have. Denard can not make a competent pitch to a back to save his life. In the few occurrences he has pitched a ball, either Fitz or Smith have made great plays to control an errant pitch. Why design a play that has a pitch fake that no defense will ever have to respect? Why implement slow developing pass plays that ask Denard to make reads he isn't very good at making? All the plays are schemed beautifully, but are unable to be executed properly due to players lacking the needed skill-set. See Jeremy Jackson: large bodied kid who is brought in to block or go up for a ball, neither of which he does even remotely well. Yet on crucial third downs he was in the game more than Dileo and Gallon, arguably our most reliable pass catchers.
Hopefully we get it sorted out yesterday. We can't afford to lose a game in year one of Meyer. I already can't take all the garbage from Buckeye fans around here...
O-line is blocking the wrong guy, blocking poorly, missing block, and these are designed handoffs made to look like read option. Denard isn't optioning anyone. Also, Fitz has Shaw-itis dancing around and not getting up field.
Reader 71, you should post on gbmwolverine.com..... that sight actually appreciates and looks for input from posters that is insightfull.
I had been posting all yr how our line is whiffing blocks and lbers are coming free....it didn't happen last yr and we ran the same scheme. Since the only losses on oline were Molk and Huyge where is the problem.... Imo it's Mealer not getting the calls right. But I also recall last yr the oline didn't take off until Barnum was injured and schofield moved to LG ...........
Who knows but that is why I think Mealler is not getting the calls correct.
Btw, big props to the posters negging the one poster who actually understands and explains line play on this board. I digress though , you guys all played oline, are schematical geniuses and reader 71 stayed at a holiday inn..... Now, if you all want to complain the play calling is way to conservative and predictable....I am on board cause I have called out our plays from the couch and in the stands and if I can, I know the defenses we play can.