In the “What is the Source of Our Run Blocking Issues” thread, I offered my list of things we are doing poorly (hint: everything). This Diary delves deeper into each of those items by examining an example of each in a brief picture page format. Let’s jump right in.
1. Bad individual technique. A lot of plays start from a fresh line of scrimmage 2 yards behind where the ball was snapped because of just plain getting beat 1 vs 1.
Example: First play of Michigan’s second possession.
Pic1: Butt motions next to AJ Williams, who is the defacto LT since Lewan is lined up outside of Schofield on the right in "Tackle Over."
Pic2: Michigan runs outside zone away from Lewan/Schofield. This goes about how you'd expect. Bryant and Williams both take a step laterally and allow their guys to get in on them with leverage. Before the ball is even handed off, they’ve each ceded 2 yards. Bonus: Schofield releases without chipping the DT, leaving Lewan an impossible angle.
Pic3: By the time Fitz gets the ball he has a wall of bodies in front of him 5 yards behind the line. The DT Lewan had no chance at is also there to prevent any hope of a cutback. Michigan would go on to throw for short gain on 2nd down, then Gardner throws his first pick on 3rd.
2. Guys not getting clean blocks on second level defenders. Guys are releasing downfield and letting guys run by them or force them to give ground to recover a good blocking angle.
Example: 2nd Quarter, 11:51. 1st and 10
Pic 4: Michigan is in Tackle Over again with Lewan outside of Schofield on the left side.
Pic5: Michigan runs to the stacked tackles this time. This pretty well blocked. Lewan has kicked out the end and Schofield is sealing(ish) the DT, leaving Kerridge 1 on 1 with a LB in the hole. Thump that guy and Fitz is out to the safety (who came roaring down at the snap, but still)
Pic6: Kerridge isn't able to shove the guy out of the hole. He lets the guy side step to his left and now there are two bodies in the way. The LB gets an arm around Fitz and hold him up until the cavalry arrives and TFL.
Pic7:On the very next play, a read option, Bryant pulls around and has a LB dead to rights. Dileo is already harassing him and has him sealed to the inside, all Bryant has to do is aim for his right hip, latch on and Gardner is off to the races.
Pic8: Instead, Bryant puts his head down and goes for the kill shot, which not only misses the LB but almost takes out Dileo, forcing Dileo to step aside. The LB goes from being 2 vs 1 to 0 vs 1 and is all alone with Gardner to tackle for minimal gain, bringing up 3rd and 8. Gardner throws to Chesson on the 3rd down, but it’s dropped. Punt.
3. Lack of cohesiveness. Guys not feeling what the guy next to him is doing or how much help they need. You have guys holding combos too long to release on one play, then on the next they'll leave to go block a LB while the other guy gets smoked by a DT he has no angle on.
Example: Michigan gets the ball back following PSU’s score right before the end of the half.
Pic9: They need a yard on 2nd down, and line up in standard OL formation. Lewan is injured so the line is Schofield, Bryant, Glasgow, Kalis, Magnuson, with Funchess at TE on the left side.
Pic10: At the snap, Glasgow barely gets a rub on the DT before heading out for the MLB, leaving Kalis in a bad spot. Notice how much further downfield he is than Schofield, who is also releasing on this play. Kalis maybe can do a better job moving laterally to scoop that guy too, but that's a tough play.
Pic11: A couple seconds later, Kalis is fighting the good fight, but the DT is steadily getting play-side of him.
Pic12: Bryant and Funchess both do a decent job sealing the hole long enough for Fitz to burst through, but Kalis eventually gets beat to the spot by the DT who is free to tackle at the LOS. Downfield blocking looks decent enough to at least let Fitz fall forward for the first down otherwise.
Michigan goes from trying to score to running out the clock. They run into a 10 man box on the next play and punt it with 14 seconds left.
4. Targeting issues. Guys are not identifying the right guy to block, resulting on some guys blocking air and/or defenders being blocked by air.
Example: This is Michigan’s first play of the game.
Pic13: Schofield motioned to tuck in between Lewan and Bryant on the left side in "tackle over."
Pic14: At the snap Glasgow inexplicably goes to block the 3T, who Bryant and Schofield are already doubling. Kalis is pulling, leaving a giant hole for the NT to charge through untouched.
Pic 15: The NT steps behind a pulling Kalis and meets Fitz in the back field. Michigan would go on to punt after a Gardner run and INC.
Two other issues I noted were running into a stacked box with infuriating predictability and RB hesitation. I won’t get into these because you know what it looks like in the case of the former, and honestly Fitz played pretty well this game in the case of the latter.
Conclusion. I can only imagine how frustrated the coaches are getting at this point. There is no one problem or even one guy. Quite the opposite, on any given play, we have the ability to screw up in 4-5 different ways, by anyone on the line save maybe Lewan. That’s wack-a-mole futility right there, where do you even start? I was able to find an example of each type of issue in the first half alone, often more than one case of each. This wasn’t an every once in a while thing, it happened with alarming regularity. The proof is in the pudding, we had one good RB running play and every other one died in its infancy due to one or more critical mistakes. As Brian said last week, it only takes one.
What’s even more interesting or frustrating, depending on your level of optimism, is that every one of these directly lead to the end of a drive. It’s not really surprising, we’re just not good enough to play with 2 or less productive opportunities to gain a fresh set of downs.
I’m not sure where we go from here. We’ve all but exhausted personnel tinkering options and the guys that are starters by virtue of marginally being better aren’t improving. In fact, in the case of the fullbacks, it’s actually getting worse. My hope is a light will go on for one or two guys late into the season just from sheer repetition. That’s all it is at this point though, a hope and a prayer.
(disclaimer, I’ve never played nor coached a down of football in my life so if I’m totally off on something, please correct me in the comments).