landing spot. will be interesting to see how he does.
L to R: Greatest photo evar(!), Trey Burke, Evan Smotrycz
Brian has decided to activate the "ninja" half of my job description and deploy me as MGoBlog's go-to basketball guy this season, a role which will only increase as football season comes to a close. Michigan's basketball season officially
kicks tips off tonight against D-II opponent Ferris State in a game that would be far more interesting if it took place at Yost instead of Crisler, but that's non-conference basketball scheduling for you. That means I should probably post a season preview.
Last year saw an extremely youthful Michigan squad overcome the losses of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims and a six-game midseason losing streak to make a shocking run to the NCAA tournament—highlighted by a season sweep of Michigan State—where they bombarded Tennessee in the first round before falling just short against top-seeded Duke. The Wolverines were poised to bring back every major (and minor, really) contributor from the 2010-11 squad until Darius Morris—the team's leading scorer and only true point guard—decided to leave for the NBA, turning Michigan from a potential Big Ten dark horse into, well, a darker horse, if that makes any sense whatsoever.
Still, the Wolverines return everybody except Morris, add a pair of high-profile freshmen in point guard Trey Burke and combo guard Carlton Brundidge (as well as forward Max Bielfeldt), and have an obvious go-to guy in place in sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr., who is poised to take over the reigns from Morris as the focal point of the offense. This is enough to earn them a preseason #22 rating from Ken Pomeroy, good for fourth in the B1G behind Ohio State (#2), Wisconsin (#10), and Purdue (#19), and just ahead of the Spartans (#24). How will the team fare? Let's start by breaking it down by somewhat-vague position groups:
Yes, point guard gets a section to itself, and this will be the most scrutinized spot on the floor for the Wolverines. As expected, John Beilein has named freshman Trey Burke, a four-star recruit and last year's Mr. Basketball in Ohio, as the starter, and he's under an extraordinary amount of pressure to come in and adequately replace Darius Morris. Their styles couldn't be much more different—Morris is a 6'4", physical creator who used his size to create interior shots (both for himself and others) but struggled with his outside shot, while the 5'11" Burke relies on his quickness and shooting ability to create his own offense. Burke actually fits better into Beilein's offense, but the looming question is whether or not Burke will be able to set up his teammates like Morris (6.7 assists per game last year) while not making too many freshman mistakes with the basketball.
It's likely that Stu Douglass will reprise his role as sixth man and primary backup at both guard positions. Douglass isn't an ideal creator at point guard—last year, he had a higher turnover rate (17.0%) than assist rate (10.9%)—but he's a streak shooter who can occasionally catch fire from deep and as a senior he's well-versed in the offense. Now that he's got a year of experience at point guard—a position he had never played until last season—under his belt, he should be an adequate backup for Burke. Douglass is the team's best perimeter defender, as well, but he must develop more consistency in his shot (48.9% from two, 35.8% from three LY) to become a real threat on offense.
Michigan's only other scholarship senior is the King of the Gritty White Guy Platitudes himself, Zack Novak, a 6'4" shooter/rebounder/unlikely-dunk-contest-winner/sideline-freakout-artist who has spent much of his Wolverine career playing wildly out of position at power forward. Now that Michigan finally has some depth up front, Novak can play the two or the three, and this should help open up his offense—other than seldom-used Matt Vogrich, Novak had the best three-point percentage on the team last year at 38.5%, but he often seemed to get gassed and disappear offensively due to having to guard players half-a-foot taller than him. Unfortunately, he's not a threat inside the arc, posting a paltry 38.0% shooting mark on two-pointers, but his remarkable ability to get rebounds amidst the trees makes him a valuable player on both ends of the floor. I expect Novak will average double-digits in scoring while grabbing 5-7 rebounds per game and providing valuable defense.
Your other starter on the wing is Tim Hardaway Jr., who greatly exceeded expectations as a freshman—averaging nearly 14 points and four rebounds per game—and will now become the team's go-to scorer. Hardaway spent much of last season as a spot-up shooter, and connected on a decent 36.7% of his threes, but this year he'll be asked to do much more creating with the ball in his hands. This was an area he improved upon as the season wore on last year, but he'll still have to get much better now that Morris isn't there to take away a lot of the defensive pressure. Still, Hardaway is the clear best player on the team—he's on both the Naismith and Wooden award preseason watch lists—and he should average at least 15 points a game. The big question here will be his shot selection, as he displayed a propensity for "what was that?"-type jumpers at times last year and could feel more pressure to jack up ill-advised shots as the team's main scorer.
Douglass, again, should be the primary backup at guard, but don't be surprised if 6'4" junior Matt Vogrich sees a greatly increased role this season. Vogrich was a dead-eye shooter from distance last season, hitting 38.7% of his threes, and was much-improved defensively after looking lost as a freshman two years ago. He's still limited in terms of his skill set, but in Beilein's system his sharp shooting will be a big asset off the bench.
The wild card here is four-star freshman Carlton Brundidge, who stands at only 6'1" but is a strong slasher who is at his best when attacking the basket, something you can't say about anyone else on the roster. Brundidge barely played in Michigan's exhibition game against Wayne State last week, but I think his role will increase as the season moves forward—he's one of the more talented players on the roster and could see a lot of time next to Douglass when the senior shifts over to the point, as their respective size and skill-sets make for a solid backcourt pairing.
(I'm throwing the nominal power forwards in here too, just in case there's some confusion when I call, say, the 6'6" Colton Christian a backup big.)
The starter at the four is 6'9" sophomore Evan Smotrycz, a very solid outside shooter (38.1% from three) who many have tabbed as the X-factor for this year's team. Smotrycz reportedly gained 30 much-needed pounds in the offseason, which should help his post defense greatly, but there are still major questions about his athleticism and ability to create shots on offense. Smotrycz doesn't have much in the way of a post game and hasn't displayed the quickness to face up and drive past a player with regularity, and we'll have to see if he's improved in those areas over the offseason. While I still don't think he'll be a major threat in the post, his size and shooting ability are very intriguing, and I think Smotrycz could emerge as the team's second option on offense. Defensively, he should be fine as long as he's not asked to take on quick small forwards or hulking centers, and Beilein now has enough flexibility with his lineups where that shouldn't be a huge issue.
At center, it's a battle between redshirt sophomore Jordan Morgan and true sophomore Jon Horford (brother of Al) for the starting spot. Morgan was the man there last year, and was extremely efficient shooting the basketball (62.7%), but most of his opportunities were either created by the now-departed Morris or the result of offensive rebounds. While he was decent in his on-ball defense, Morgan was extremely foul-prone and did not provide much of a shot-blocking threat. If tabbed as the eventual starter, Morgan should be solid, but he's got his limitations and could really feel the absence of Morris more than anyone else on the roster.
Though it came as a bit of a surprise, it was Horford who started against Wayne State, and he'll take the opening tip once again against Ferris State tonight. An extremely raw prospect out of high school, Horford showed occasional flashes of rebounding and shot-blocking brilliance last year, but often looked awkward with the ball in his hands and frequently settled for outside shots, which he rarely made. Like Morgan, he was very foul-prone, so we'll likely see both big men get major minutes this season, but Horford seems to have the higher upside—he's more athletic than Morgan and has a better shooting touch while providing a much-needed shot-blocking presence on the interior of the defense.
There are two bench players who should see occasional minutes this year: 6'6" sophomore power forward Colton Christian and 6'10" center Blake McLimans. Christian doesn't provide any real threat offensively, but he's a capable rebounder and defender who could turn into an interesting role player if he shows the ability—and willingness—to hit any sort of shot. McLimans is big, which is always nice, but he was supposed to possess a good outside shot and ended up going 1-for-19 for three last year. Since he only shot the ball 41 times total (making 13), this is a bit of an issue, and defensively he's not as strong as either Morgan or Horford. We'll see if Beilein trusts him enough to put him in the rotation, or if he decides to go small and occasionally move Smotrycz to the five, something we saw a fair amount last year.
I hate to kind of punt on this one, but man, who knows? The 2008-09 team was supposed to be mediocre at best, then made a surprise run to the tournament and even knocked off Clemson once they got there. The 2009-10 team brought back pretty much everyone, had a lot of preseason hype, and fell flat to the tune of a 15-17 record. With Harris and Sims gone last season and pretty much the entire team either freshman or sophomores, the 2010-11 squad looked to be terrible, so of course they reeled off 21 wins and once again advanced to the second round of the NCAAs.
This year's team appears poised for a potential top-25 season and another tournament run, but much of those expectations rely on a smooth transition from a star in Morris to a true freshman in Burke while other players—most notably Hardaway and Smotrycz—pick up the scoring slack and keep the offense running smoothly. With a difficult non-conference slate that includes a brutal draw in the Maui Invitational, plus playing in a Big Ten conference ranked by KenPom as the nation's toughest, this looks to me like a team that will spend much of the season squarely on the tournament bubble.
Exceeding those expectations means that we either see vast improvement from key role players, a huge breakout from Tim Hardaway, or a fantastic freshman year out of Burke—none of those are out of the question, but none are certainties, either. If Michigan suddenly finds that they can't create inside scoring chances without Morris's penetration, or Hardaway spends the season trying to carry the offense by chucking up less-than-ideal shots, Michigan could fall short of their goals as the fanbase begins to look ahead to the arrival of Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nick Stauskas in 2012-13.
All I can say for certain is this will be an interesting year, and lucky for us, this is a group that is extremely likable and fun to support. The future is very bright, almost regardless of what happens this year, but we'll just have to see if the Wolverines continue to make a push towards the top of the Big Ten or stay in a holding pattern until blue-chip reinforcements arrive.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Illinois|
|WHERE||Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL|
|WHEN||3:30 Eastern, November 12th 2011|
|THE LINE||Michigan -1|
|TELEVISION||ABC regional/ESPN reverse mirror|
|WEATHER||clear, upper to low 50s, windy|
Run Offense vs. Illinois
Jonathan Brown via Brad Meyer photography
This blog's assumption since Denard Robinson burst onto the scene almost two years ago has been that a non-elite defense will not slow Michigan's ground game because it has Denard. That assumption is now out the window after Michigan took its place on this list against Iowa's then 69th-ranked rushing defense:
Iowa actually improved to 63rd after last weekend. Our world has crumbled.
For its part, Illinois's run D looks very shiny (15th, yielding 2.7 YPC) thanks to a huge number of sacks. When you drill down into the stats the bloom comes off the rose… a little.
They got beat up pretty good against Ohio State and fail to keep opponents under three YPC once their many, many sacks get excised but those are still good numbers against quality competition. The only comparable defense Michigan has played this year is Michigan State. That did not go well, though the special circumstances surrounding that game (trash tornado, lizard brain) mean you shouldn't read too heavily into the results there. You can stick with the Iowa table above if you'd like to furrow your brow about likely events this weekend.
Illinois is a blitzing, confusing defense that will see various linebackers enter the backfield at unpleasant times. Uber-DE Whitney Mercilus is more of a threat in the passing game (11.5(!) of his 16.5 TFL(!) are sacks—already) but does get some penetration against the run; past that the Illinois TFL leaders are their three linebackers. Those guys have 5-7 TFLs each to go with their sacks. Jonathan Brown leads the team in tackles by a wide margin despite missing the Indiana game after turning heel against Northwestern; he will be a guy to watch. Possibly for funny business.
Michigan's best shot may be a reprise of last year, when they had a lot of success reaching then-freshman Akeem Spence with David Molk in the wacky 67-65 game I hardly have to describe to anyone reading this. Blitzing stretch plays can be dangerous business if your linebackers get caught in the wrong gaps—earlier this year when I was flailing about for an answer to constant double-A gap blitzing, multiple folks told me the reason RR didn't suffer the same fate is fear of the outside zone. Michigan's new version of the outside zone is speed option—it might be a bridge to success against an intimidating unit. That, or Borges bringing out some new tricks.
Key Matchup: Denard checking at the line/Molk providing time to diagnose blitzes. I'm leery of an MSU repeat. Michigan has a road game against a blitz-heavy opponent. Lessons need to be learned: vary snap counts to help Michigan diagnose what's happening pre-snap.
Pass Offense vs. Illinois
How good could Whitney Mercilus be if he had all of his fingers and crazy eyebrows?
Denard spent last weekend surveying the erosion of rural Iowa. Plays developed around him at the same rate empires rise and fall; in a world of change the sole constant was Denard Robinson sitting in the pocket, wondering where all the dudes trying to kill him were. While this worked for Iowa it led to Denard's best passing day of the year, Minnesota excepted, in UFR.
Now for something completely different:
DC Vic Koenning is a lot like Greg Mattison in that he likes to throw out a lot of different looks to confuse the quarterback, and his favorite way to do this is to switch up the fronts and zone blitz. He doesn't always bring huge pressure—in fact, he'll often just bring four rushers, just not always the ones you'd expect—but you're never exactly sure where to look for blitzers.
The Illini get to the quarterback, and then they get to the quarterback, and then they get to the quarterback some more. The aforementioned Mercilus has the aforementioned 11.5 sacks, which puts him on pace for a Lombardi trophy at the end of the year. LBs Michael Buchanan, Ian Thomas, and Jonathan Brown have combined for 13 more. Past that no one has more than one but that is still sufficient to see Illinois sitting third nationally in sacks acquired. The prospect of Denard back-footing some throws looms. Passing downs are to be avoided since zone blitzing is considerably tougher when the run is a threat.
When Michigan does get a pass off things don't project to get a whole lot better for them, but sample sizes are restricted. Illinois is 19th in pass efficiency D; their last four matchups have come against Matt McGloin (wsg Rob Bolden), Caleb TerBush, Braxton Miller (who had four attempts), and Dusty Kiel (wsg Tre Roberson). I feel like I say this every week: the opponent has an impressive pass efficiency number thanks to all of the quarterbacks in the league being total suck at passing.
That includes our guy, unfortunately. It's hard to envision things getting much better than they've been. Even when left unmolested a combination of poor WR play, poor planning, and some Denard being Denard plays saw Michigan finish under 50% completions and turn the ball over twice. This was against a team that treated pass rush like kryptonite. Against more aggressive teams Michigan turned the ball over… twice, or more. I'm in wait 'till next year mode when it comes to an effective passing offense. Expect a crappy completion percentage, two picks, and a highly variable YPA depending on whether the downfield jump balls are brought in.
Key Matchup: Huyge versus Mercilus. I assume Illinois is going to match up their best DE on Michigan's somewhat shaky right tackle instead of Taylor Lewan, who I don't think has a single pass protection minus this year not attributable to a biffed blitz pickup.
Run Defense vs. Illinois
When I think Illinois rushing offense these days, I think this:
Pistol triple option. You may remember this from such plays as "aaargh who has the pitch man," "aaargh who has the pitch man," and "you cannot be serious about that tackle Jonas Mouton" from last year's game. (All of which I would have linked if not for the DMCA fight from earlier this year getting my previous youtube account shut down.)
According to Ace, Illinois shelved this look for the entirety of their most recent game against Penn State, but since Michigan has been weak on the edge and specifically showed a vulnerability to shotgun triple option against Northwestern, the bet here is M gets a dose of this early just in case they still can't stop it. Survey says… stopping it, actually. I am surprised as well, but Illinois has been mediocre at best against non-horrible rushing defenses.
Aside from blowing up Indiana and Purdue their best performance was a decent day against Penn State. The other three outings are stinkers, and not even against particularly good opposition. After Michigan re-enacted the Kids in the Hall intro a week ago by having an average weekend, they qualify as Not Indiana Or Purdue and can expect to hold Illinois to reasonable totals.
A major reason for this expectation is a dropoff at the tailback spot. While I have a soft spot for Jason Ford, he is the poor man's Marcus Coker and a far cry from the NFL first-rounders Illinois has inexplicably gotten to deploy the last four years. Mendenhall he is not, Leshoure he is not. He is Just A Guy and he's got the 3.9 YPC to prove it. Smaller, dreaded Troy Pollard has a great YPC thanks to the vast bulk of his caries coming against SDSU (not that SDSU: South Dakota State), Western, and Indiana. In serious games he hardly touches the ball. Freshman Donovonn Young is another backup with moderately shiny numbers thanks to carries heavily distributed towards bad defenses. The last three weeks he's picked up 49 yards on 20 carries. The running back situation is uninspired.
That leaves just one Nathan Scheelhaase. He's Illinois's leading rusher even including large swathes of sack yardage. Chop those out and:
If you take out all the sacks Illinois has allowed this season—they also randomly insert freshman Reilly O'Toole at times, so this may be generous to Scheelhaase—that average jumps to 5.9 yards per carry.
Not Denard but pretty good; I think Ace declaring he doesn't have "breakaway speed" is in comparison to our guy. He's a fast bugger and will be the home run hitter unless Michigan busts something.
A thing I'm curious to see: Illinois does not have right and left on their offensive line, they have strong and weak. IE: they will flip their line down to down. I have never even heard of this.
Key Matchup: Ryan/Beyer/Roh/Black versus the immediate edge. I think we'll see a lot of Michigan's nickel package with Thomas Gordon deployed as an edge containment guy. For things to get to him Michigan will have to correct the issues that caused the unblocked DE to plunge down on the dive back. Michigan's mission on the option is clear: get the ball out of Scheelhaase's hands.
Pass Defense vs. AJ Jenkins
There are rumors of other Illinois receiving threats. They remain unconfirmed at press time. Jenkins is 8th in receiving yards per game on a team that runs 60% of the time, which means he has some ridiculous share of total receptions, like, say, having more than three times the catches and five times the yardage of Illinois's #2 option. They like throwing to Jenkins.
Jenkins is good, a shifty speed merchant equally capable of turning a drag up for big yardage and beating a safety over the top. He's in the running with a few other guys for title of "best WR in the Big Ten," but he's more of a Manningham than the hulking Floydbeasts Michigan has gone up against much of the year. Even Marvin McNutt, who doesn't seem like a Floyd or a Cunningham or a McKnight is 6'4" and lacks that "oh shiiii" deep speed. Jenkins has it. This is a situation where either Floyd gets a bracket or Countess gets a stiff test, because Floyd doesn't have the speed to even be in NOBODY CARES WHEN WR LOOKS FOR THE BALL position.
So that's the good bit of the Illinois passing game. The bad bit is everything else. Despite running the ball most of the time and having a mobile quarterback, they give up a ton of sacks (100th). Scheelhaase has been efficient overall but is on a serious downswing: 4.9 YPA against OSU, 6.2 against Purdue, 3.9 against Penn State. He contributed to the torchings of the Northwestern and Illinois secondaries but back it a bit farther and you get 133 yards against WMU, 135 against ASU—in limited attempts and efficient, granted, but the implication is clear. Illinois will run and run if they can and then hit you for the deep ball. If they can't—and they haven't lately—it's flailing time. Sounds familiar.
Illinois's other WRs, if they exist, are not serious threats. Spencer Harris is the #2 guy; he's averaging under ten yards a catch. Slot type guy Darius Millines has –6 receiving yards in Big Ten play. They do have a couple tight ends they'll throw to and Ford gets the ball a bit; none of these things are going to do anything except maybe move the chains on a third and medium.
Key Matchup: Could possibly be AJ Jenkins versus JT Floyd. The War of the Initials goes down this weekend; more realistically it's The War Of The Initials And A Safety Over The Top. Woolfolk's speed should be of use… if it still exists.
If you hadn't given up on the Penn State-Illinois game in favor of Golden Girls reruns two weeks ago, you may remember Derek Dimke plinking the game-tying field goal off the uprights. Do not get your hopes up based on that. That was his first miss of the year; in 2010 he was 24 of 29. He's good.
The rest of the Illini's special teams are unbelievably terrible. Illinois is 105th in net punting, 118th in punt returns (averaging an incredible 1.7 yards an attempt) and 119th in kick returns (an even more incredible 16.2). Some of the crap net punting stats can be blamed on Ron Zook's belief that punting from inside the opponent 40 is winning, but this looks like one of the few games this year where Michigan will get a field position advantage from the kicking game.
Key Matchup: Gibbons you put it through the uprights?
photography by Zook. SO FUNNY
- Ming the Merculis is destroying Denard's confidence and giving him happy feet.
- The usual happens against a quality defense.
- Illinois is getting the edge, whether via option or otherwise.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Jason Ford runs are ending in the arms of Mike Martin.
- Ron Zook sends out the punt team on third and one from the Michigan 15. It could happen.
- We have a plan on offense.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 6 (Baseline 5; +1 for Easy To See Denard Getting Crushed For Killer TOs, +1 for Hey Option Football We're Good At Defending That Except We're Not, –1 for Ron Zook's Puh-Puh-Puh-Poker Face, –1 for Generalized Ron Zook Scorn, +1 for Is Anyone Going To Be Surprised If Michigan has 150 Yards At The Start Of The 4th Quarter?, +1 for Road Suck Suck Road, –1 for This Defense Is Decent And That's Apparently All You Need Against Illinois.)
Desperate need to win level: 7 (Baseline 5; –1 for Division Goals: We Do Not Has Them, +1 for Boy Am I Tired Of Never Winning Against Anyone In November, +1 for Seriously We're Playing Ron Zook, +1 for I Like Eight And A Half Wins And I Cannot Lie, +1 for Hard To Keep Any Optimism About OSU Up If We Biff This One, –1 for I Feel The Stirrings Of Henri Deep In My Heart.)
Loss will cause me to... put on a smoking jacket, fill a snifter with brandy, sit in an opulent chair in front of a roaring fireplace, and read Beckett until the camera has reached an appropriate zoom level. At this point I will slide my reading glasses down my nose, look into the camera, and say "Life? Don't talk to me about life."
Win will cause me to... experience extremely unwise feeling… hope.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
I HATE THIS SECTION THIS SECTION CAUSED ME TO SAY SOMETHING ABOUT FERENTZ BEING A STUPID STUPID PERSON LAST WEEK AND YOU SEE WHERE THAT GOT US LENNY I AM GOING TO CHOKE OUT THE PERSON WHO FIRST THOUGHT PEOPLE WRITING ABOUT SPORTS SHOULD ACTUALLY TRY TO PREDICT EXTREMELY RANDOM ACTIVITIES THAT THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW ABOUT
So… Illinois is on a hell of a tailspin in which they have 28 points over three weeks. In that time they've hardly given up more points: 17 to OSU, 21 to Purdue, 10 to Penn State. The OSU touchdown drives were 12 and 22 yards. One of Purdue's was 14 yards. Michigan has the aforementioned difficulties against pulse-bearing defenses.
I predict this.
I predict an offensive explosion in which Ron Zook makes razor-sharp decisions, Denard runs 24 times, Illinois's special teams are awesome, and turnovers are a theoretical concept best left to the MAC.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Teams combine for six turnovers.
- Scheelhaase is the game's leading rusher with around 80 yards.
- Denard is sacked five times.
- Michigan, 9-7
I'd never heard this before (mp3 link). It's from the the old Dick Purtan show in the 1980s, though one commenter thinks it's older. (Thank JeremyB for turning this up). However when I was in college we too stood on our porches singing such classics as "Bye Wisconsin", "Blow Right Through Ol' MSU", and "One More Loss for 'Ol Notre Dame." Nowadays the campus nerds troll our rivals by spreading the Might and Main in person:
Kids these days (are awesome). Also awesome: Denard Robinson under 4 mins in the 4th quarter (usually). Nonnair shows:
Adding the two charts together, in his five opportunities to pull off a Tom Brady-style comeback at the end of a game, Denard is 15/27 for 305 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT -- good for an NCAA passer rating of 167.5.
…but doesn't compare that to other CFB quarterbacks. He also called Borges "Uncle Fester." Needs more study.
The Sandusky stuff dominated the boards this week so badly that Ohio State finally getting their long-deserved Failure to Monitor barely registered. In the diaries, we got a good take from PA native Six Zero's front-paged article on how this could affect Penn State traditions, and, uh, JoePa as…Stalin? The point is about loyalty, whether to a friend or organization, and a cult of personality trumping morality. No-sign. I think people knew Josef was a bad guy, whereas Joe Paterno keeping one (very) dark skeleton carries way more disillusionment; his appearance of morality was not just about Penn State because the rest of us used it too to say the Big Ten is better or debate the notion of "all programs" with sentences that begin with "teams like Michigan and Penn State…" To have that guy turn out to harboring a total sicko is just weird.
Well you know what they say, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. It's finally time that jhackney's romp through HST novels would reach its F&L in Las Vegas crescendo. Your Diary of the Week visits sordid Iowa City in search of the American Dream, but ends up with a history of pedophiles in State College, Pa.
Your weekly game wrap with BlueSeoul finds our intrepid screen capturer blaming refs. Rly?Yes, the last play (------>) should have been PI but unbalanced officiating was small potatoes in the game outcome next to Iowa playing great football and Michigan not. I'm your biggest fan, Seoul, but this week I disagree with more than I don't in there.
Danger Chris of Logidanger went all out this week in moving picture pages. There's highlights now and keys and…show? Show:
Formation notes: A lot more under center in this game. I've got Michigan with 9 snaps in an ace formation, four in Denard jet, and 14 in I-Form. Michigan had 26 shotgun snaps in hurry-up time and 22 outside of it.
Of Michigan's 49 snaps in their base offense, 22 were from the shotgun, a 45% rate. Big dropoff from before the bye week.
I called this "ace tight":
And this is still "shotgun trips bunch" but note that those are tight ends tight to the strong side, not WRs:
Substitution notes: Nothing you don't know. Hopkins is pretty much the only FB now, Schofield went the whole way, Toussaint and Smith were the only backs, and the WR/TE rotation was basically how it's been all year. Odoms and Grady may have gotten a little more time late for whatever reason.
|M31||1||10||Shotgun trips bunch||1||2||2||4-3 under||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||1|
|Two WRs are actually TEs as M comes out in a shotgun version of their pitch formation. Iowa ends up shifting its line away from the TEs and putting a LB over Watson. Basically an under front. Michigan runs a zone read and Denard pulls with the backside DE engaging Lewan as he tries to release downfield. DE does pop up after the mesh point to force Robinson outside; Hemingway(-1) loses his block to the outside. Robinson has a lane to cut up into but slips. Something wrong with the field? Maybe. The DE also bit it without impacting anyone. Watson got away with a hold. RUN-: Robinson, Watson, Hemingway|
|M32||2||9||Ace 4-wide tight||1||2||2||4-3 under||Run||Pitch sweep||Toussaint||4|
|Similar concept with TEs in a two point stance being all like “I'm a receiver.” M runs a pitch sweep to the short side, pulling Schofield and Molk. Omameh(-1) whiffs a cut on the backside DT, which becomes an issue later. Molk(+1) feels the DT on his back and knows if he continues through the hole Toussaint may get blown up by this guy, so he slows down and blocks him with his back. Iowa corner charges up into Schofield(+0.5) at the LOS, giving himself up to maintain leverage. Roundtree(+1) gets a good block on the playside LB, sealing him; Koger does a mediocre job he gets away with thanks to Roundtree; Lewan(-1) ends up losing the playside DT as he detaches to run downfield. Still, Toussaint has a crease he hits... that the Iowa safety can fill unmolested because Molk had to double back. Minimal gain. Picture paged.|
|RUN+: Molk, Schofield(0.5) Roundtree||RUN-: Lewan, Omameh|
|M36||3||5||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Pass||Skinny post||Roundtree||Inc|
|Four man rush with a spy. Iowa stunts; Michigan sort of picks it up but it's Toussaint picking up a DE. This is a temporary solution. Worse, the DT is now free to hit as Schofield belatedly tries to pick the stunt up. No one is open; Robinson chucks it deep into double coverage but well long. I think this is just throwing the ball away. (TA, 0, protection 0/2, team 1, Schofield 1, RPS -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M23||1||10||Shotgun trips stack||1||0||4||Nickel||Run||Inverted veer power||Robinson||5|
|One LB over the stack, another in the gray area between it and the box. Two deep safeties and like... five point five dudes in box. M runs the veer. Playside DE moves out on RB; keep. Schofield(-2) is the puller and gets blown up. The sole LB in the box gets into him at the LOS and gets inside, forcing Robinson into a bunch of traffic. Robinson manages to fall forward for a good gain because of the lack of dudes. RPS +1; this formation saw an opponent put five in the box against Denard.|
|RUN+: Robinson, Omameh(0.5), Huyge(0.5)||RUN-: Schofield(2)|
|M28||2||5||Ace 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 over||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||Inc|
|Finally an opponent figures this out. Backside DE is sitting there waiting for the waggle action. He bats the pass down; corner had read it and beaten Koger's attempted block anyway. (BA, 0, screen, RPS -1)|
|Starts with a triple stack to the short side; motion takes one WR to the wide side. Iowa blitzes off the short corner and leaves Hemingway wide open for about ten. Robinson puts it there; dropped. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 9 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M39||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 under||Pass||Rollout hitch||Hemingway||9|
|Michigan exploits some soft coverage to get an easy completion on first down; possible because Iowa shoved seven in the box against a three wide set. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M48||2||1||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Inside zone||Smith||0|
|Gardner, and a double-A-gap blitz gets M's inside zone again. The two linebackers run into the gaps caused by OL doubles and meet Smith in the backfield. RPS –2, no chance for the O.|
|M48||3||1||I-Form Big||2||2||1||4-4 under||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||2|
|Iowa again shooting the gaps. Michigan handles it well (Koger shoves the DE inside and pancakes him; Hopkins kicks out the CB) and Toussaint should be able to hop outside and pick up the first down easily before the safety chops him down. Instead he decides to leap into the original hole, whereupon the MLB scrapes over to nail him at the LOS. Toussaint keeps his legs pumping and manages to get it.|
|RUN+: Koger, Hopkins, Huyge||RUN-: Toussaint|
|50||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Iso||Toussaint||8|
|Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) kill the NT in the face; Hopkins(+1) stands up a blitzing LB; Toussaint cuts past that block smoothly; Lewan(+1) dealt with Binns.|
|RUN+: Molk, Schofield, Toussaint, Hopkins, Lewan||RUN-:|
|O42||2||2||Ace twins||1||2||2||4-3 under||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||5|
|Gray area LB and two deep safeties so only six and a half in the box; M has numbers. They run at the gap between the one and five tech. Michigan gets a little lucky, as the SLB drops into a zone. This means the slant underneath that wipes out Omameh's downfield release does not give Iowa a meaningful free hitter. Huyge(+1) sealed the slanter before he became dangerous; Schofield(+1) got a good pull; Koger(+0.5) kicked out the DE. Toussaint(+0.5) makes a nice cut behind Schofield to pick up the first.|
|RUN+: Huyge, Schofield, Koger(0.5), Toussaint(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O37||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Hemingway||Inc|
|This is going to be one of those five yarders with an immediate tackle; Hemingway drops it. This could have been thrown better but it's not quite an MA. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O37||2||10||Ace||1||2||2||4-3 under||Pass||PA TE flat||Koger||9|
|Play action fake sucks the linebackers in and you'd think there'd be a spot over the middle where Iowa was vulnerable, but Robinson can't find anyone. Looks like Iowa has a robber—that might be it. Robinson surveys, checks down, and hits Koger for about six. Koger can turn it upfield for some nice YAC. (CA, 3, protection 2/2). This is a terrible spot, BTW. Koger had the first by a yard easy.|
|O28||3||1||I-Form Big||2||2||1||4-4 under||Run||Iso||Toussaint||8|
|Iowa very tight to the line. M runs an iso right at them. Schofield(+1) kicks a DT; Hopkins(+1) wastes a blitzing LB, giving Toussaint(+0.5) a crease. He makes a smart cut through the line for the first.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Hopkins, Toussaint(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||Inverted veer give||Toussaint||10|
|Looks like a scrape exchange with a late-moving LB, which convinces Robinson to give. This is probably the right move. Unfortunately for Michigan, Iowa is keying on this with the safety, who is shooting upfield into the play. Toussaint(+2) cuts back. Omameh(+1), Molk(+1), and Lewan(+1) are maintaining their blocks and shove guys past the play; Toussaint cuts back further. Huyge(+1) gets one last block and Toussaint is into the secondary, where the safety chops him down as he threatens to turn this into a touchdown.|
|RUN+: Toussaint(2), Molk, Omameh, Lewan, Huyge||RUN-:|
|O10||1||G||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-4 over||Run||Power sweep||Toussaint||2 + 4 Pen|
|Koger and Lewan down block; Schofield, Molk, Hopkins lead. Koger(-2) gets beat. Hopkins(+1) has to peel off and take the DE; Toussaint does have a hole as a result of that and a great edge block by Jackson(+1). The MLB is unblocked because of the Koger miss; that guy tackles. Michigan gets lucky with a facemask.|
|RUN+: Hopkins, Jackson||RUN-: Koger(2)|
|O4||1||G||Shotgun trips bunch||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||0|
|Michigan actually blocking the backside end here; Robinson is reading the LB in the gray area over the slot. When he turns his attention to the WR, Robinson pulls. Huyge(-1) gets a crappy block and lets that end out on the edge; Robinson(-1) should just run for the edge but pulls up. Bad move. RUN-: Huyge, Robinson|
|Play action, no one open, no one bothering to rush, Robinson has decades. As he starts rolling Toussaint breaks for the corner with him, beating the rather slow LB easily. Robinson flips it out. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown (botched XP), 6-7, 2 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M22||1||10||I-Form 3-wide||2||0||3||4-3 over||Run||Iso||Toussaint||3|
|Molk(+1) chucks the playside DT to the ground as Omameh releases into the SLB. Hopkins(+1) blocks the MLB and gets a good push but can't seal him away (not his fault); Huyge(-1) does not seal the weakside DE, causing Toussaint to bounce out awkwardly. With the way this is set up he should just slam it up and see what happens; Huyge's block is not necessarily a killer. His bounce takes a long time and allows the D to converge.|
|RUN+: Molk, Hopkins||RUN-: Huyge, Toussaint|
|M25||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 over||Pass||PA quick seam||Dileo||12|
|LB starts creeping off the slot, indicating blitz, or at least contain. M goes inside zone play action and hits Dileo on the quick seam; Dileo gets lit up a moment after he catches the ball but hangs on. Throw could have been better here... actually, no, it almost got batted as it is. (CA, 2, protection 1/1, RPS +1)|
|M37||1||10||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 over||Run||Jet sweep||Robinson||3|
|Molk(+1) reaches and buries the playside DT. Lewan seals the playside DE; Schofield gets out on the SLB but cannot seal him; not his fault, he has no angle. He and the backside DT are flowing hard; two guys are on the backside containing Gardner. Denard cuts up and sees the cutback, which he takes... Lewan's(-1) guy has come around him and tackles just as he slips past the pursuers and is poised to move into the secondary.|
|RUN+: Molk||RUN-: Lewan|
|M40||2||7||Ace twins||1||2||2||4-3 over||Run||Power off tackle||Smith||3|
|Huyge(-2) loses his down block; an Iowa stunt is handled by Omameh and Molk but it ends up absorbing Omameh on the line when he should be getting out on the WLB. Still, doing that well gets Smith a cutback lane when Schofield gets submarined by Huyge's guy. Points for those two. Picture paged by BWS.|
|RUN+: Molk, Omameh||RUN-: Huyge(2)|
|M43||3||4||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Pass||Dumpoff||Smith||Inc|
|Robinson looks downfield, then checks to Smith, who is breaking open for a first down. Binns knocks the pass down because he isn't even trying to rush the QB. (BA, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 6-7, 12 min 2nd Q. I don't have Denard for a single bad pass or decision yet.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||I-Form||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||4|
|Michigan runs at the weak side. Omameh(+0.5) and Huyge(+0.5) cave in the playside DT; Hopkins(+1) gets under and inside of Binns, shoving him out of the hole. Schofield(+1) blocks the WLB. Toussaint pops outside for a moment before diving back inside; not sure if Toussaint is pulling a guy outside intentionally or just not being patient enough. It works, though, and he gets a crease. He's through to a safety, but because of the delay that's not that far downfield. I think this is actually a minus for the back.|
|RUN+: Huyge(0.5), Omameh(0.5), Hopkins, Schofield||RUN-: Toussaint|
|M35||2||6||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||QB stretch||Robinson||-1|
|Oof. Michigan destroys the playside DL. Molk, Schofield, and Lewan(+1 each) end up driving their guys yards off the LOS and get a cut on the WLB. Grady(-2) totally whiffs as he cracks down on the MLB. Huyge(-1) got nothing on the backside DT, who's flowing down the line; Robinson(-2) should risk it anyway and hit it up behind his killer frontside blocking for a decent gain. Instead he hesitates. LB maintains outside leverage when he meets Toussaint; Robinson can no longer cut behind the DT, and when he tries to go outside the LB eats him. Very disappointing.|
|RUN+: Molk, Lewan, Schofield||RUN-: Huyge, Grady(2), Robinson(2)|
|M34||3||7||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Rollout hitch||Hemingway||12|
|Binns is let go and starts moving inside, whereupon Smith chops him. That gives Denard the edge. Unmolested, he sees Hemingway about to turn to the QB on a hitch at about ten yards and throws it before the guy comes open. Hits Hemingway in the hands, caught, first down. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1 for edge)|
|M46||1||10||Ace twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 under||Pass||PA Fly||Roundtree||Inc|
|This is how contain-minded the Iowa DL is: Binns remains responsible for this waggle and hardly gets anywhere near Robinson before he gets the ball off. As for the throw: three guys in the route. Koger is bracketed short. Jackson and Roundtree have steps deeper. Robinson loads up and fires to Roundtree... and it looks like he hits him right in stride but for Roundtree misjudging the pass, breaking stride, and ending up a step behind the ball. Argh. This is a DO that the WR screwed up. (DO, 2, protection N/A) Flag thrown for PI, then picked up. I don't get how that's possible but I also don't think this was PI. Prater acts like a jackass afterwards.|
|M46||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Run||Inverted veer give||Smith||0|
|Guh... why is Grady in the game here instead of Odoms or something? Iowa shifts late, bringing the LB off the slot. Grady runs to the safety instead of doing something useful by cracking down. Robinson is reading the MLB and gives because he is sticking inside; Smith is cut off by the slot LB, who absorbs Toussaint. He cuts back inside and meets two Iowa players. He had a major cutback if he came back inside of Omameh; instead he trips over Toussaint. RPS -1. RUN-: Grady, Smith|
|M46||3||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Dime press||Pass||Sack||Robinson||-12|
|Guh. On third and ten Robinson has two guys running three yard circle routes and two guys running double moves deep. Iowa sends six; one guy is buried by Smith; the delayed guy finds his way past the engaged members of the line; nothing any of the OL can do about this since blocking this guy means giving up their man. Robinson pumps a dig route and then the LB is on him. He manages to break the tackle but loses the ball as he escapes and turns it over. Frustrating thing: the route he was pumping was wide open for the first down. Again Borges has no intermediate routes. Robinson had nowhere to go with the ball before a delayed blitzer got to him. (PR, 0, protection 2/3, Team -1, RPS -2)|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 6-14, 4 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M49||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA Comeback||Hemingway||14|
|All day for Robinson as Iowa only rushes four, though a couple LBs bite so hard it looks like a blitz until they back out. Iowa is not coming anywhere near Denard. He waits and fires a high hard one to a covered Hemingway that he snags for a first down. Excellent coverage that the throw and catch beats. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|M35||1||10||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||--||Yakety snap||--||3|
|M32||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 under||Run||Pin and pull zone||Robinson||19|
|Michigan has an alignment advantage here with the slot LB not on the LOS, but working on Dileo. Dileo(+1) kicks him and opens up the corner. Koger(+2) gets the key block on the playside DE, knocking him three yards off the ball and eventually sealing him when Robinson threatens to go upfield inside of the block. Smith(+0.5) and Molk(+0.5) combine to take out one linebacker flowing from the inside and Lewan(+1) pulls around to nail the safety, sending Robinson into the secondary. RPS +1.|
|RUN+: Dileo, Koger(2), Smith(0.5), Molk(0.5), Robinson||RUN-:|
|M13||1||10||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||PA throwback screen||Koger||2|
|This is a touchdown waiting to happen if Lewan blocks the corner; he doesn't. This is because the corner is waiting for this play and has been coached to blow it up, so I don't blame Lewan too much. (CA, 3, screen, RPS -1) RUN-: Lewan|
|M11||2||8||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 split||Pass||Slant||Roundtree||INT|
|Another planned pump, then Robinson fires a slant to a well-covered Roundtree that a DB deflects up to a safety. There is a planet on which this is called interference, but it is a planet where everyone goes the speed limit because robot birds shoot you if you go two over. Yeah, guy got there a tiny bit early. No, this is never called. The problem is Denard threw it a yard or two too far inside, allowing the DB to make a play on the ball. The INT is bad luck, but Tom Brady makes this throw. Slightly reminiscent of his second INT against MSU last year, except not as bad a throw. (MA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 6-17, EOH|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|Omameh(+0.5) only stands up his DT but does just enough; Hopkins(+1) does a good job of getting around that block and plugging the MLB; Molk(+2) has blasted the NT four yards downfield by the time Toussaint reaches him. Toussaint(+0.5) cuts through the gaps quickly, getting cut down by a safety.|
|RUN+: Omameh(0.5), Toussaint(0.5), Molk(2), Hopkins||RUN-:|
|M47||2||3||Ace||1||2||2||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||1|
M double the backside LB, leaving the backside DE unblocked. Lewan(-2) busts. DE rushes down the LOS and makes the tackle from behind when Omameh(-1) and Molk(-1) lose their blocks. Picture paged.
RUN-: Molk, Omameh, Lewan(2).
|M48||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Power off tackle||Robinson||22|
Safety walks down w/ linebacker in gray area over the slot; gray area LB then comes down before the snap. Cannot let the D do this. Have to bubble. No bubble.
With an extra player backside the S and LBs can charge at the play without delay. Schofield gets beat to the hole—not his fault—but manages to shove the guy, who falls. Koger gets beat but manages to shove the guy, who falls. Robinson slows up and pops out side a bit as these guys tumble to the ground. Toussaint(+1) redirects at the last second to kick out the S, and with the three guys on the playside either on the ground or gone, Robinson accelerates through the hole for a big gain. He reaches the 30 and runs through an arm tackle, then just kind of glides OOB when he could stay in bounds for another 10 yards, maybe more. Argh. RPS -1. Koger goes out after the play.
|RUN+: Schofield, Koger(0.5), Toussaint, Robinson(3)||RUN-:|
|Omameh(-1) can't move the DT and that's the intended hole gone. Molk(+0.5) and Schofield(+0.5) blow up the other guy; Hopkins(-1) runs up the back of Omameh, making himself useless, and Toussaint has to cut back into an unblocked LB.|
|RUN+: Molk(0.5), Schofield(0.5)||RUN-: Omameh, Hopkins|
|O27||2||7||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Iso||Toussaint||-1|
|DE swims upfield of Lewan(-2) and beats him clean, then redirects down to tackle for loss. MLB met Hopkins in the backfield, which didn't help matters. RPS -1. RUN-: Lewan(2)|
|Safety comes down to blitz off the edge. Michigan picks it up, and then the DL goes into panic mode. Robinson finds Smith breaking to the outside on a dumpoff and hits him; Smith orbits inside the LB covering him and manages to extend for the first. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 over||Run||Sweep||Toussaint||0|
|Again: LB over slot comes down to contain zone read, opening the bubble M refuses to run. Everyone on the line loses. Schofield(-1) can't cut the backside DT. Huyge(-2) misses a down block on the playside guy. Roundtree(-1) runs by the corner. Toussaint runs to the sideline and is surrounded. RUN-: Huyge(2), Schofield, Roundtree|
|O20||2||10||I-Form Big||2||2||1||4-3 under||Pass||PA TE out||Watson||Inc|
|Backside DE on Denard contain; everyone covered anyway. Robinson throws it at Watson, who's covered but might be able to pick up a few yards. Binns bats it back in his face. (BA, 0, protection N/A, RPS -1)|
|Iowa sends seven against six blockers (Smith is releasing downfield) and gets through clean. Robinson tries to throw and is blown up in the act. The ball miraculously falls to Smith. (PR, 0, protection 0/3, team, RPS -1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(32), 9-17, 6 min 3rd Q. Denard whacks his hand on a pass rusher on the final play of that drive. Gardner gets the next one.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M24||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Pass||Waggle scramble||Gardner||3|
|Gardner doesn't see anyone open downfield and decides to take off for a minimal gain. Had Hopkins late but didn't see him. (TA, N/A, protection 1/1)|
|M27||2||7||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||0|
|Gardner checks into this... not so much. This looks like power designed to go in the A gap instead of off tackle, but that could just be because this gets blown up. Koger(-1) does not block down well and Omameh(-1) fails to recognize a linebacker blitzing from the inside; Hopkins(-1) ends up missing on the outside but it doesn't matter since the LB has forced Toussaint away from his blocking. Molk and Schofield handled a stunt well, but for naught. RPS -1|
|RUN+: Molk(0.5), Schofield(0.5)||RUN-: Omameh, Hopkins, Koger|
|Plenty of time; Iowa has adjusted to the slot hitch Hemingway has run for good yardage (or drops) a couple times earlier. They've got a guy sitting in front of it. Gardner waits, does not check down to Smith, who's running underneath this and has a 50-50 shot of turning it up for a first down. He eventually throws it to Hemingway. It's way high, which prevents the ball from being intercepted, I guess. Hemingway stabs at it with one hand but cannot bring it in. Offsides gives M another chance. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|M32||3||2||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 over||Run||Speed option||Gardner||5|
|Molk(+1) seals the NT. Koger(+1) and Lewan(+1) momentarily combo the playside DE; Koger gets a seal and then Lewan comes off to plow a LB shooting the gap. Gardner almost takes the cheese but does see the DE reached on the outside and takes it out there; safety cuts him down as he picks up the first.|
|RUN+: Molk, Koger, Lewan, Gardner||RUN-:|
|M37||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Sweep||Toussaint||1|
|Huyge(-2) gets beaten up by this little LB on the POA, giving a bunch of ground, forcing Molk upfield inside of him, and eventually losing him outside, where he makes a tackle at the LOS. Molk(-1) ran by the MLB and even if this didn't happen Toussaint probably wasn't going anywhere. Toussaint dinged. RUN-: Huyge(2) , Molk|
|M38||2||9||Ace trips bunch tight||1||2||2||4-3 under||Pass||Scramble||Gardner||1|
|Sweep formation except Watson flares out wide and Hemingway is the interior slot guy. Seems to tip pass. It's a straight dropback. Gardner finds no one and takes off for minimal yardage. (TA, N/A, protection 2/2)|
|M39||3||8||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Nickel||Pass||Rollout sack||--||-12|
|Michigan runs a flood and I bet they have the second level. Hard to tell but the corner is at ten yards and I think the guy behind him should be open. Gardner again finds no one, sacked. (TA, N/A, protection ½, Smith -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 9-17, 1 min 3rd Q. Down 24-9 with ten minutes left, M goes hurry-up.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|Miss most of this play for some frippery. Short pitch and catch for a decent gain. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Well covered; way long and on a line. A throwaway? I don't know. Rather see him toss it back shoulder to maybe give his guy a chance. (IN, 0, protection 2/2) He had more time, so if a TA a bad decision.|
|50||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||QB power||Robinson||2|
|Iowa ready for this. They have the line and LBs moved playside. Down block on playside DT from Omameh(-0.5) and Huyge(-0.5) is meh. Linebacker can scrape over the top of it because of the difficulty and the alignment. Robinson has to slow, at which point DT comes through to tackle. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: Koger||RUN-: Omameh(0.5), Huyge(0.5)|
|O48||4||1||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||5-2 tight||Run||Speed option||Robinson||5|
|Smith blows the snap count and moves way, way too early; NT points him out... and Molk(+2) still reaches him. Robinson(+1) sees it and hits the gap immediately. Schofield(+1) reaches the backside DT and slows down to eliminate him. Omameh(+1) releases into the MLB; Koger also helps. Robinson picks up the first and then cuts outside... or would but for a desperation ankle tackle by the safety.|
|Grady's the slot; he does a good job of settling in a spot in the zone and then moving a bit as the linebacker comes over so that Robinson still has a lane. Robinson hits him in the numbers. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O34||2||1||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Pin and pull zone||Robinson||14|
|Omameh(-1) blows his zone block; Molk has to peel off to finish it. Grady(+1) gets a good kick on the slot LB, which allows Robinson to just squeeze through a crease between that and Koger zoning—barely—Binns. Smith(+1) also hopped through and hits the safety, opening up the corner. Huyge(+1) got a good whack on the playside LB as well.|
|RUN+: Grady, Robinson(2), Smith, Huyge||RUN-: Omameh|
|Slot LB creeps down and basically sits there; with the outside receiver going deep and running off the corner this is wide open and easy. Is this a bust? Probably. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) Grady breaks a tackle for some extra.|
|O6||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 over||Pass||Angle||Koger||6|
|Robinson again has forever. Koger releases, makes like he's going to run an out, then cuts back upfield on a post cut that gets a linebacker to hold him. Robinson loads up and floats it right to him or six; Koger makes the catch despite being interfered with. (CA+, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 16-24, 7 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M4||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||PA quick seam||Hemingway||20|
|PA mesh point to the quick seam as the slot LB again sucks in on the run. Robinson zings it to Hemingway, who catches it for a first down, then runs through a tackle for a chunk more. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +2)|
|Dileo is well covered and there is no pressure so you'd like to see Robinson keep this a bit and try to find someone else or scramble, but it's thrown. It's low and away from defenders but not accurate enough to give Dileo any chance of catching it. The lack of a potential INT prevents this from being a BR, but Robinson made this tough on himself. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M24||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||QB iso||Robinson||1|
|Schofield(-1) does not get around the NT despite getting quite a bit of help from Molk; Omameh(-1) loses the playside DT after giving a bunch of ground. Robinson doesn't see it and decides to bounce. Safety comes up, Robinson has to cut back inside and gets little. Bounce was not there and he definitely didn't improve his lot by taking it; should have hit it up. RUN-: Robinson, Omameh, Schofield|
|Zone blitz(!) from Iowa sees a DT drop off, but it's picked up and Robinson can step and fire up the middle. Roundtree has no separation at all, Robinson throws high and a little wide, and the safety nearly picks it off. Tough life there when you've got a dig route against man that should be open and Roundtree is blanketed. Crappy route? Maybe. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 4 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M18||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||11|
|Playing off the first play of the last drive, and also you basically can't defend this with six guys in the box. Michigan doubles the backside DE—weird--and the NT. Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) get push on him; Molk pops off to get playside LB. Backside guy is watching Robinson and has to remain responsible; Robinson hands off. Smith hits the hole and breaks an arm tackle to pick up a first down. RPS+1.|
|RUN+: Smith, Molk, Schofield, Omameh(0.5)||RUN-:|
|So M blows 11 seconds before snapping the ball here. Gurg. No pressure; Robinson sets up and bombs it deep to a single-covered Roundtree, but Roundtree has run a crap route and is pushed OOB by the CB (legally). No chance. Robinson had a guy underneath open and time. Shouldn't have thrown to a guy with no shot. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Half roll with Robinson pulling up once the backside DT threatens him a bit; he finds a wide open Roundtree for six... and misses. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M29||3||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Rollout hitch||Odoms||13|
|First catch of the year for Odoms; he is on a short hitch and rotates outside as a late-arriving DB misses a tackle on him. Turned up for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Ton of time; he finds Hemingway in one on one coverage but very good one on one coverage and throws it way long. Hang that baby up there. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M42||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Penalty||False start||--||-5|
|Some confusion and the offense never fully stops moving before the snap. Roundtree was the guy who did not get set.|
|Forever, huge pocket, zings to Roundtree as he cuts in front of coverage at the sticks. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Ready for play is three seconds after the playclock resets. WTF. Michigan lets 15 seconds run off before the snap. MOTS: forever and a day in the pocket, zinged to Roundtree's hands for seven plus maybe some YAC, dropped. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Roundtree in backfield, motions out. Again no rush. Gallon's drag comes open as Roundtree drives off the corner; Robinson hits him and Gallon turns it up for a first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) Gallon stumbles and does not actually get OOB here.|
|Michigan huddles. Guh. Ready for play at 32 seconds, snap at 14. They blow 18 seconds. Did they think Gallon got OOB? Anyway, no rush: Robinson pumps to one side of the field and then comes to the other side where a well-covered Gallon is one on one with a corner. He throws it OOB. This may be a throwaway. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O32||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Slant||Roundtree||9 (Pen +10)|
|Zone blitz sees Iowa send five. Michigan biffs the protection with Huyge and Smith headed out to the corner, but Robinson's already throwing a slant. (CA, 3, protection ½, Huyge -1) Flag for holding stops the clock and gives M a first down.|
|O22||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Deep out||Roundtree||19|
|Michigan lets nine seconds run off the clock from the ready to play after a penalty. No pressure. Robinson finds Roundtree inside the ten in front of a corner and nails him. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O3||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel press||Pass||Fade||Hemingway||Inc|
|Massive blitz; Robinson chucks a duck off the back foot when the back corner fade to Hemingway is looking open. (IN, 0, protection 1/1) Protection only one because it's a quick throw and the free blitzer is unblockable since they're sending seven.|
|O3||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel press||Pass||Fade||Hemingway||Inc|
|Slant is first option; covered. Robinson comes off it and there's a guy eating his face, so he has to chuck it back foot. This one isn't great but it's vaguely catchable; Hemingway vaguely does not catch it. (MA, 1, protection ½, team)|
|O3||3||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel press||Pass||Improv||Smith||Inc|
|This time a guy gets free right up the middle; Robinson has to dodge him, which he does. He's taking more heat and has to get rid of it; he finds Smith and tosses it to him; a little low and outside but pretty catchable and away from the defender. Smith can't bring it in. (CA, 2, protection 0/3, team)|
|O3||4||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel press||Pass||Slant||Roundtree||Inc|
|The interference. Refs -2. Again no time because a guy not on the outside is coming free (CA, 0, protection 0/3, team, RPS -1)|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 16-24, EOG.|
Denard Robinson is a terrible thrower who can't throw anything.
Look, man, I'm just like… I chart—
—these things and this is what I got:
[Hover over column headers for explanation of abbreviation. Screens are in parens.]
|2009, All Of It||1||7||6(2)||3(1)||4||4||-||-||?||44%|
|Notre Dame '11||6||7(1)||1||6(1)||5||1||1||1||-||50%|
Gardner had a CA on a screen, an IN, and three TAs, for a DSR of 0.0%.
I got Denard's best performance of the year against a D-I opponent. The things that happened to him that were bad were many dropped passes, Roundtree misjudging a perfectly-thrown deep ball, and plenty of batted passes.
Yeah, I said it, perfectly thrown deep ball:
Roundtree slowed up a moment before this still. If he runs through the ball this is a touchdown the DB can't do anything about. Arggggh.
What's more, I have all seven of Denard's INs and his BR in hurry-up time; most of those were the Rex Grossman deep balls it seemed like he was instructed to throw on first down just in case something worked out. All were way off but historically I've mentioned deep ball INs as less egregious because… like… they are. His BR was an OOB chuck to Roundtree when he had a shorter guy open for a chunk—there was no "WHAT ARE YOU THINKING" throw this week. If his WRs had helped him out we are talking about a different game.
There is a massive caveat: Iowa did not rush the passer. I don't mean they rushed four and didn't get there. I mean that unless Iowa was deploying one of their infrequent blitzes, they literally made no attempt to sack Denard.
- why Denard did not even look like scrambling once (not that he does much anyway)
- why an unusual number of passes got batted down
- why Denard's DSR is much better
It seems like an incredibly dumb strategy but I guess it worked. Robinson did not handle the pressure well on the last series—third down was good, first and second not—and against opponents that get after you more I expect his passing to revert back to the previous not so good form.
The receivers were bleah, you say?
[Passes are rated like so: 0 = uncatchable, 1 = very difficult, 2 = moderately difficult, 3 = routine.]
Three flat drops and two coulda-had-thems. Both of the latter were critical. The first was the Roundtree misjudge you see above, the second Smith's endzone drop of a low floater. One of Hemingway's routine drops ended a drive. It wasn't an all-time bad performance but it could have been better, especially when you consider some of the seemingly crappy routes Michigan ran. I have no way to quantify that, but trust me.
And the run game?
This is an ugly chart.
|Molk||14.5||2||12.5||Legit All-American, I think.|
|Omameh||4||6.5||-2.5||The usual at this point.|
|Huyge||5||9.5||-4.5||Binns ripped him up.|
|Schofield||9.5||4||4.5||Got an easier assignment against the crappy DT.|
|Watson||-||1||-1||Not a whole lot of time.|
|Koger||6||3||3||Still held up okay.|
|TOTAL||45||33||58%||A struggle. Had moments, though. Bigger disappointment…|
|Robinson||8||5||3||Too much bounce, not decisive enough, blew some good reaches. M needs more from him on the cuts.|
|Toussaint||5.5||3||2.5||Also could have done better. Had some dancing at the line that allowed safeties to help. Did have a sweet cutback.|
|Hopkins||7||2||5||Nice day. Major reason those isos were effective.|
|TOTAL||24||11||13||Need to MAKE PLAYS here and largely did not. Ball carriers +5 on 35 carries.|
|TOTAL||5||5||0||Also a disappointing day.|
|Protection||57||15||79%||Team 12, Schofield 1, Smith 1, Huyge 1. Blitzes an issue.|
|RPS||7||15||-8||Throwback screens don't work anymore. At least they got a rollout blocked.|
That is Molk, Hopkins, Schofield, and disappointment. Denard is not immune to criticism here. It was on the ground more than in the air that his decision making was problematic. Cut it up, dude:
Glarg. I wonder if the change in emphasis here has made Denard rusty on his zone cuts. Once that guy comes up it's straight upfield until they tackle you.
Meanwhile, Iowa's ends won the day against the tackles—Huyge in particular could not handle Binns, or the cut block on the above play—and the receivers were crappy when called upon. Like on that play, where Grady turns a big gain into zilch. Y U NO ODOMS. Seriously: why he no Odoms? Where did Odoms go?
We can has fullback?
Maybe. Stephen Hopkins was a bright spot. He has nimble feet, especially for a fullback, and brings a load when he meets linebackers at the POA.
That's pretty good right there. Dude is hammering full speed at the LOS and gets turned out. Later he pancaked the same dude.
He's quickly supplanted McColgan and should be a useful piece the next couple years. If he can stop fumbling he could let Michigan add a triple option to their repertoire.
Why haven't you complained about a bubble yet?
Oh mah gawd, good point. It's not really about the bubble, it's about preventing stuff like this from happening:
Not the 22 yard run part. The part where it takes two guys miraculously falling down to get the 22 yard run. Not bubbling this…
Is pretty much asking for vicious frontside flow because ain't nobody worried about the cutback with the slot LB coming down. This is the wider view from a little earlier:
That is a free first down. Take it. Take it and relieve some pressure from your run game. The only way for them to defend the bubble with that setup is to have the safety roar down at it, which opens them up to Worst Waldo counterpunches.
Can a brother get a run breakdown?
Right. I forgot last week. This week:
ACE (INC DENARD JET)
Total: 6 carries, 2.6 YPC.
Total: 11 carries, 3.4 YPC
Total: 15 carries, 6.3 YPC. Should be noted that the power play was fortunate, the zone read that got any yards on the last drive, and the veer that got any yards the Toussaint massive cutback. Not a whole lot went as planned.
Did you have any issues with the last drive?
We talked about this a bit earlier in the week: once you get to the three with 16 seconds left I think taking your TO and throwing is the move, at least until fourth down.
HOWEVA, there's no way it should have come to that.
Is that a freaking huddle as the ref signals the game clock with 31 seconds on the play clock? Yes.
NASCAR? MORE LIKE SLOWCAR ZING
That's Michigan snapping it seventeen seconds later. /head asplode
Two plays earlier they let fifteen seconds run off after the Roundtree conversion on second and eighteen; three plays later they let nine seconds run off after a penalty. If they chop those delays down to an average of five seconds—more than reasonable considering the last one should have been like two—Roundtree is tackled at the three with 42 seconds left, ie forever. They easily keep their time out and prevent Iowa from sending seven on four consecutive plays.
There is a slight mitigating factor on the above since I think they thought Gallon got out of bounds, so they could huddle. Once it was clear the clock was running they'd already slowed down. It's still really frustrating.
I need one more complaint for my bingo card.
Hated the playcall on Denard's fumble. M comes out in a double stack and has the foremost WRs run little out routes as M goes for a double move. Pump fake…
…to a wide open dude at the sticks…
…who is trying a double move. LB roars up; Denard escapes but fumbles as he does. He had nowhere to go with the ball.
Watch Vincent Smith advertise speed option to the entire state of Iowa and Molk still reach the DT:
I am going to miss that brilliant twinkle-toed media-hating bastard.
Also… uh… Hopkins? Yeah, Hopkins. And here's a change of pace: Denard's arm.
The rest of the line not named Schofield. The receivers somewhat. Denard's legs. (I knew I put Opposite Day in the podcast for a reason.)
What does it mean for Illinois and the rest of the season?
The line has to be better against the Illinois DL or it's going to be a long day. Can they? I don't like that Huyge-Mercilus matchup at all. Without Liuget I think they'll be vulnerable on the interior—Molk reached Akeem Spence all day last year—but will Hopkins-based isos be enough? Will Michigan use Molk's super powers or not?
I don't think Denard's passing performance is replicable. Not only does Denard screw up throws when he actually gets pressure, his inability to figure out how pressured he is has caused a lot of bad throws when players are vaguely near him. The comfort zone he was in against Iowa isn't going to be replicated against an Illinois defense that gets a ton of sacks (third nationally at 3.4 per).
I don't have a lot of faith in this offense moving the ball against the #6 D in the country, on the road. Since this is Big Ten football 2011, they will score 40 points.
- 2 inside zone for 0.5 YPC
- 1 jet sweep for 3 YPC
- 1 pitch sweep for 4 YPC
- 2 power plays for 4 YPC
- 6 isos for 4.7 YPC
- 4 power plays for 2 YPC
- 1 sweep for 1 YPC
- 2 pin and pull zone for 16.5 YPC
- 1 power play for 22 YPC
- 1 QB iso for 1 yard
- 1 QB power for 2 yards
- 1 QB stretch for –1 yards
- 1 sweep for 0 YPC
- 3 inverted veers for 5 YPC
- 2 speed option for 5 YPC
- 3 inside zone reads for 4 YPC
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:
taking the free yards teams give them by alignment on the bubble
running the blocking the line is best at (outside zone) more consistently
running Denard 20 times a game in important games, not Eastern Michigan
doing the above in such a way that it puts safeties in a bind so that guys get wide open
not turning the QB's back to the LOS on rollouts everyone has covered
avoiding under-center running, short yardage excepted
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?
- This does not constitute an endorsement of Rich Rodriguez. Hoke uber alles.
*[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.
This week's Thursday Recruitin' welcomes Michigan's newest commit, has updates on Shaq Thompson and Stefon Diggs, and discusses the new release of the 2013 Top247. Usual request: Please let me know if you have any comments, criticism, suggestions, etc.—as always, I'll be reading the comments, and you can also reach me on Twitter or via email, where I'll also encourage you to send any recruiting articles of interest that you think I should include for the next week's edition.
Before I start, a quick note: I've been getting a lot of questions on Twitter about which Penn State commits Michigan could poach given the current situation at State College. I feel, especially after the events of last night, that such issues are not appropriate to discuss at this time. If a player decommits and expresses interest in Michigan, I'll be happy to discuss such matters at that time. Until then, I think it's best to focus on what's most important in that situation, and that certainly isn't recruiting.
Hello, Drake Johnson
(Photo credit: Angela J. Cesere, AnnArbor.com)
Michigan picked up its 24th commit of the 2012 class in Ann Arbor Pioneer running back Drake Johnson, an under-the-radar recruit and track star who pledged on Tuesday morning as soon as he was offered. You can find my hello post here, and while it's critical of Johnson's game, I hope people realize that I'm pulling for Johnson to wildly exceed expectations (I'm a Pioneer grad, too)—this is really awesome to see for any local kid:
"When I was in little league, we used to be the Washtenaw Jr. Wolverines," Johnson said. "I always had really close ties to Michigan within my family and within the people I know. Michigan has always been the place I wanted to go, and now that the chance has come up it is almost magical."
Johnson's commitment should not affect Michigan's recruitment of Bri'onte Dunn, a sentiment echoed by Scout's Allen Trieu in this AnnArbor.com article:
Johnson is the first running back to verbally commit for 2012, so there still is room for another. Additionally, Johnson is a shiftier runner who excels in space and is terrific in the passing game. He could be used at slot receiver or in the kick return game, Trieu said.
Dunn, on the other hand, is more of a bruising type.
"Dunn is your classic pounder," Trieu said. "I think they’ll be used differently, so there’s room for both in the class. I don’t think they will butt heads in that regard, because they’re both very different."
Congrats to Drake for the offer and commitment, and I look forward to seeing him suit up in the Maize and Blue.
The other big news of the week for current commits came yesterday, as TomVH reported that Pharaoh Brown would come in at tight end instead of defensive end ($) after the coaches gave him the choice to play his preferred position. In the five games where I could find complete stats, Brown put up 614 yards and four TDs on just 25 catches this season while playing wide receiver for Brush, and at 6'6", 220 pounds, he could be a matchup nightmare on the offensive side of the ball. I still expect both Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams to come in at tight end as well, though Williams could be more of a sixth offensive lineman (and potentially move there full-time down the road) after playing tackle his entire senior year of high school.
Quickly: Cass Tech's Terry Richardson and Royce Jenkins-Stone prepare to square off against Warren De La Salle and Shane Morris this weekend ($); Caleb Stacey was named to the 2012 International Bowl; after coming up just short the last two years, James Ross is on a mission to get a state title for Orchard Lake St. Mary's ($); and TomVH profiles Ben Braden ($).
Shaq Thompson's Visit Plans Up in the Air
I reported last week that I had talked to five-star CA S Shaq Thompson, and he told me he would be taking an official visit to Michigan, though he wouldn't confirm which week. There were rumors that he would visit for the Nebraska game, but—as Sam Webb predicted—it sounds like he'll be coming up for a non-game weekend in December so the coaches can get to know him better and gauge his true interest ($):
Thompson was slated to visit Michigan later this month when the Wolverines host Nebraska but those plans have now been altered.
“I’m just focusing on our team right now,” Thompson said. “We have the playoffs coming up and I don’t want to take any more visits until after the season is over. I’m still talking with Michigan and could visit in December but I don’t have a date set right now.
This is good news, and it seems to confirm that Thompson is really interested in the school, and not just a free trip to check out Ann Arbor. Landing him would obviously be a huge coup for the Wolverines, and getting him on campus would be a big step in the right direction—we'll see if he nails anything down in the near future.
The other five-star to recently pop back up on the radar is Olney (MD) Good Counsel WR Stefon Diggs. Sam Webb posted a two-part message board thread yesterday detailing why Michigan has a real shot at Diggs ($, info in header), who now holds the Wolverines in his top five. The Wolverines have a good connection in good friend and former teammate Blake Countess, who was doing some recruiting of his own over Twitter last week. We'll see where this goes, but it sounds like Michigan has a chance to pull in another blue-chip player at a position of great need.
[UPDATE: Sam Webb just posted his weekly recruiting article at the Detroit News, and it's on, yep, Stefon Diggs. Lots of good stuff in there, including the tidbit that Michigan and Cal are the two schools most likely to receive official visits, while his other three haven't been determined. There's also this:
Countess hasn't been shy in conveying that message to his former teammate. The freshman cornerback's advocacy has been instrumental in establishing Michigan as one of the favorites for Diggs' services.
"Blake is my close friend and his word is bond," said Diggs. "I take what he says (absolutely). He would never lead me in the wrong direction. When he says it, I take it to heart. I truly believe him. He speaks highly of Michigan. I respect Michigan a lot. They showed a spark in interest lately. I just look forward to opening the line of communication more and setting up a visit."
Yeah, it's okay to get a little excited about this one. More on this in the next week, but I figured that article was worth passing along now.]
247Sports released their initial Top247 for the class of 2013—Shane Morris comes in as the No. 12 overall player and No. 2 quarterback, while Dymonte Thomas is 35th overall and the No. 3 safety. Not a bad early haul for Michigan, and it could get much better, as the list is littered with Michigan offers. Instead of replicating good work that's already been done, I'll direct you to Touch the Banner, where Magnus has done a fantastic job compiling a list of the players with offers and interest from the Wolverines who made the Top247.
Crete-Monee WR Laquon Treadwell, who made the Top247 himself, was named the Chicago-area player of the week last week, and comes in for high praise from his high school coach:
“He has the obvious size and athletic ability, but what makes him special is his competitive edge and toughness,” [Crete-Monee coach Jerry] Verde said. “He is a blue-chip wide receiver that loves to hit.”
While Treadwell’s future is at wide receiver, Crete-Monee is taking advantage of his size and athleticism in other ways this season. Verde has also made him a defensive end. Like at wide receiver, Treadwell has been impact player on defense and had eight sacks this season.
“He is also often times unblockable as a defensive end due to his speed and surprising strength,” Verde said.
Treadwell had a hugely productive junior season, has been to campus multiple times, and is teammates with 2012 commit Anthony Standifer. He's one to keep an eye on as the focus begins to turn to the 2013 class.
Quickly: Tim looks ahead to the 2013 class for the Free Press; 247 launched their Michigan site last week, with articles on Shane Morris ($) and Toledo Central Catholic safety Jayme Thompson, who currently has Michigan in his top two along with West Virginia ($, info in header); TomVH reports that blue-chip CA linebacker Michael Hutchings has interest in the Wolverines ($, info in header); and Tim profiles Lemont (IL) OL Ethan Pocic, a recent offeree, at The Wolverine ($).
Fear scale: 0 = Bye week?; 1 = If Michigan loses to this team somebody’s going to get fired; 5 = 2010 Illinois; 8 = Best in conference/will play in a BCS bowl; 9 = National title contender; 10 = Hold me, Ace.
The Road Ahead:
Illinois (6-3, 2-3 B1G)
- Arkansas State, 33-15 (W)
- South Dakota State, 56-3 (W)
- No. 22 Arizona State, 17-14 (W)
- Western Michigan, 23-20 (W)
- Northwestern, 38-35 (W)
- @ Indiana 41-20 (W)
- Ohio State 17-7 (L)
- @ Purdue 21-14 (L)
- @ No. 19 Penn State 10-7 (L)
Last game: Bye
Right now they are as frightening as: Michigan apparently sucks on the road, so the rock needs one last revision …
The rock isn’t coming after Michigan.
Instead, Michigan is going after the rock.
Michigan should worry about: A defense that leads the Big Ten in many statistical categories.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: An offense that hasn’t cracked two touchdowns since visiting Indiana.
When Michigan plays them: I-form middle, I-form right, play-action pass, Deuce formation jet sweep fake outside toss, Denard left, I yell at the TV, floater over the middle, punt.
Next game: No. 24 Michigan
(more after the jump)
It's amazing how fast life can change. What's happened in State College is an amazing reminder of how unstable even the most bedrock things in life really are.
That might sound ridiculous when we're talking about a mere football coach. But keep in mind that Bo coached for twenty years. Paterno's been a part of that program for almost fifty.
Watching all of this play out has been nothing short of a nightmare, even from someone like myself who is not a fan but has always respected and admired the football program if not directly supported it. These stories have not showed up as random links in college football tabs on my desktop, but rather on the front page of the paper that lies in my driveway every morning. What has seemed like an untouchable truth has crumbled around us in the blink of an eye.
Reading the SI articles today, it was amazing to see how they provided such a stark contrast of how Sandusky, Paterno, and ultimately Penn State football, was perceived for what seemed like eternity. For me, I grew up in the reality that grass was green, the sky is blue, and Joe Paterno is the respected football coach. I remember a wrestling coach who openly emulated him in every way. I remember entire towns cleaning up because Paterno may or may not be coming to visit a potential recruit. I was raised in a Penn State family. I have an uncle who is probably right now clearing signed footballs from his mantle. I have an aunt who used to babysit for the Paternos in the very house I watched on SportsCenter last night-- I've driven past it myself, and been amazed at how humble the little home is for a man of such legendary stature. And while I was never forced to be a PSU fan, I was always aware of how much the program was about values, and what those values meant to my dad and uncle and grandfather. Honesty. Integrity. Hard work. These things meant everything to my role models, and maybe that's why Penn State meant so much to them as well.
This morning I was in the car when Greenberg literally had the news about JoePa dropped in his lap and he read it aloud. We in Pennsylvania all knew this day would one day come, but like this?
Learning that the ethical standards that went hand in hand with Joe Paterno were not only inaccurate, but has also cost him his immortal job status? Well, it's like waking up one day and finding that the United States is secretly run by a Communist dictator. It just doesn't make sense, and certainly doesn't seem real.
Penn State football will not suspend its games for the season. That's unfair to Nebraska and certainly unfair to the current players. Penn State football will certainly not fold like the Post suggested in its editorial. It will move on, and it will one day be free of this grip of shame and unspeakable horror. Not even this will shut down the program.
But what it will cost Penn State is its tradition.
When I think of Penn State football, it's always had a timeless feel. Regardless of whatever composite materials or Revolution designs the helmet evolved into, it would still remain plain. Boring. Penn State.
What I never could have imagined is that in the decade to come, the school might knowingly sink that tradition, just to move away from all this. In 2020 you might very well see Penn State in some ridiculous ProCombat jersey with leaping mountain lions across the shoulders. You might see gray trim on the numbers. You might see the athletic logo, known affectionately in these parts as the 'Beaver head,' finally on both sides of the helmet. And that helmet might be gray, or blue, or both. And not because Paterno is no longer there to refuse the idea... but rather to distance the program from what is now and will forever be remembered as a marred past.
There was once talk in the early 2000's that not simply the stadium would be renamed in Paterno's honor, but rather the entire campus or town itself. Paterno Park. Paternoville. He was as timeless and as frozen in goodwill as Santa Claus. Until now.
Penn State tradition was forever altered this week. The men that will soon be put to task to pick up the pieces of this Hiroshima-esque landscape might very well choose to bury that tradition once and for all. And for many, dreams, memories and entire ways of life will die with it.
There's a friend of mine down the street, an alum, who along with his dad, my neighbor, cherish their season tickets like family heirlooms. That will not change. They will continue to go, continue to tailgate and even continue to fly the flag outside their homes. But this week, I have thought about him much, and specifically about what he will do on Saturday morning when he packs up the car and prepares to take the family up to State College. He's got a son, about the same age as mine, who is always wearing blue and white on a Saturday morning. And how on earth does he put his son in a Penn State jersey this week? And if he doesn't, how does he tell his son that he can't wear his Moye jersey? How do you tell him to stop loving JoePa, or explain why he won't be there next year?
Yes, I know, small fries compared to the lives of those poor kids whose trust was betrayed by that monster. But life as we all know it has changed this week in Pennsylvania, and the ripple effects of this mess will continue to affect normal everyday people in my life and beyond for years to come. It's just a really sad, improbable day... and we can only hope that lessons are learned and that lives can be changed for the better with the serving of justice.
I know I'm not the only PA native here on the blog, and I'm curious to hear Steve in PA's take, and others. But it's a strange, surreal blur of a bad dream in our community and thought it might be worth sharing and describing for the rest of you, if you're so inclined. This is my last mention of the subject.
Prayers for the victims, and Go Blue.
Formation notes: Michigan debuted a big set that features two SLBs. Here Ryan is to the top of the screen and Beyer the bottom; Countess was lifted.
Michigan was in this set for both of the late third and ones on which Michigan punched Iowa off the field, though on the second they put Beyer and Ryan in a bear front.
Michigan also showed a fair number of over fronts with the line shaded strongside and the SLB off the line:
They've dumped the flipping seen earlier in the year in favor of sucking it up and running this from time to time. I assume the flipping was a sub-optimal thing Mattison felt forced into because his defense couldn't run an over front effectively what with all the freshmen at SLB and WLB.
Substitution notes: Secondary was Countess/Floyd/Woolfolk/Kovacs the whole way with Avery the nickelback. The linebackers were Demens and Morgan for the most part—Hawthorne got one drive right after the "Morgan is killing us" touchdown drive.
Ryan picked up a stinger on the first play and sat out a big chunk of the game. Cam Gordon was in briefly before being replaced by Beyer for the bulk of the extra playing time; Clark assumed Ryan's role as a nickel DE. As noted above certain short yardage plays late Beyer and Ryan were on the field at the same time as Michigan lifted Countess.
There was less substitution on the line than usual. Campbell only got a few plays, I did not see Brink, and Black was an infrequent participant as well. It was mostly the starters. I don't think RVB and Heininger came off the field.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Van Bergen||3|
|M linebackers seem misaligned, too far to the weakside. On the snap Michigan slants strongside. Martin(-1) is doubled and gives a ton of ground—way too much. He does take both blockers the whole play. RVB(+2) drives his man down the line, eventually shoving him so far that Coker bangs into the left tackle. Morgan(-1) flew up past the Martin double to meet a G and gets pancaked at the line; Demens(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) manage to tackle thanks to the delay.|
|O27||2||7||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||-1|
|Ryan out with stinger; Cam Gordon does come in. This time the center ignores Martin(+2), leaving him to get cut by the backside G. This does not happen even a little bit. Martin contacts Coker three yards in the backfield; dude manages to burrow his way back to the LOS. Morgan(+1) did blitz effectively inside of a tight end and was the second man on the scene; even if Martin isn't here instantly Morgan is probably making contact behind the LOS. RPS +1.|
|O26||3||8||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Countess||44|
The obvious problem on this play is Countess(-2, tackling -1) turning this from a first down into 44 yards by letting Davis outside of him. Then I had Heiko ask Mattison about what happened to open up the completion, whereupon Mattison answered:
So Countess gets the ding there, too(-2, cover –3). Harsh, but if Avery's doing what he's supposed to do and the cover-two corner doesn't even tackle the guy after the first down it's all him.
|M30||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 over||Pass||4||PA slant||Demens||20|
|Iowa motions Davis outside of McNutt, drawing Countess wider and getting Morgan matched up over the slot. Not good. They run play action that sucks Demens(-2) up and Morgan(-1) lets McNutt inside of him after starting with a four yard head start to the interior of the field. Demens makes things worse by moving out on a nothing dumpoff, opening the center of the field like whoah. Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) makes a tough tackle on the catch; this was such a quick hitter that it looked like it might go the distance. RPS -1, Cover -2)|
|M10||1||G||I-Form big offset||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Down G||Black||6|
|Narrow WR, TE motion to wide side, offset FB. They're trying the same stuff MSU did. Black(-2) fails to understand this and gives up the edge by moving straight upfield; he gets sealed out of the play. Heininger will end up closer to Coker than he does. Martin(+1) tears through the line and would kill this if there was any delay on the edge. There isn't. Morgan(-0.5) stood up by a cracking WR; tough with that guy's angle but still a missed opportunity to do something. Kovacs and Countess maintain leverage against two guys; Woolfolk is there to tackle with help from Heininger(+0.5) and the aforementioned Martin.|
|M4||2||G||I-Form big offset||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Morgan||4|
|Same setup with a widened WR; they run power at the same place that just ate the outside run. Black(+1) dives inside to cut off the intended flight path, taking out both the puller and the lead back. Morgan(-2) is a free hitter on the outside. He takes a crappy angle and sees his arm tackle run through(-1 tackling). Woolfolk(-1) was sitting in the end zone wondering what to do too long; by the time he makes a decision it doesn't matter what Coker picks because he can't do anything until the guy is already in the endzone. More on this later.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 10 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M48||1||10||Ace||4-3 under||Pass||4||Quick out||Floyd||4|
|Three step drop against soft coverage with an immediate tackle from Floyd(+0.5) to keep it down. Push.|
|M44||2||6||Ace twins TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Kovacs||3|
|Motion of a twinned TE to the two WR side. Kovacs starts signaling others but no reaction. Morgan(-1) doesn't react to the motion at all and runs too far upfield instead of widening out to cut off the outside. Roh took a double and didn't win; he also didn't get beat up enough to allow a linebacker out on Morgan... not that it mattered. Push. Kovacs(+1.5) avoids a cut block from the slot receiver and gets out on the corner himself, saving Morgan considerable blushes. He can't quite tackle; Countess(+0.5) finishes it off. Excellent edge play by the secondary. Martin(+0.5) again blew through the line.|
|Jesus, Iowa can't block Martin(+1) . This time he slants under the G in the intended hole and comes underneath him quickly enough to also take out the fullback. Michigan is in their nickel package with only six in the box so both linebackers still get blocked. Demens(+1) beats his and gets to the hole. Coker meets him a yard and a half short of the first; Coker pushes the pile because he is Coker. Morgan did a pretty good job too, and RVB beat a block and almost made a play in the backfield. RPS -1; an actual 4-3 against this I-Form and this is potentially a loss.|
|M38||4||In||I-Form||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB sneak||Van Bergen||0|
|Excellent coaching for Michigan to know Iowa does this and show up in force on the interior of the line when Iowa hurries to the line. RVB(+2) is the key guy, getting under the G and push him back; Martin(+1) also got key push. RPS +2. Huge swing play due to coaching.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 0-7, 7 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O23||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||10|
I'm not 100% on this. What happens is Iowa runs a zone at the short side of the field, away from Beyer (over the slot) and at the overhanging Floyd. Roh ducks under the tackle at the snap, which gets him in the backfield. That and total inability to block Martin means Coker has to bounce, which he does. That duck inside should mean a LB is exchanging over the top, which would be Morgan, but Morgan sucks inside. Heininger is moving out but can't make the diving ankle tackle, leaving Coker the corner. Morgan recovers to tackle from behind after a big gain.
Heiko asked about this. Mattison's answer is below; in short, this is an RPS –1.
|O33||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||0|
|This is nuts. Every play Martin(+2) is beating blocks. This time he momentarily takes on the C before shedding him to the playside, which forces an uncomfortable cutback. I think Martin actually grabs a foot; either that or he trips. Heininger(+0.5) and Morgan(+0.5) did well to constrict the space so he could not fall forward for a gain.|
|O33||2||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Deep hitch||Martin||Inc|
|Michigan brings a safety down as a withdrawn MLB type person when Iowa motions a TE into an H-back spot; pass anyway. Martin(+1, pressure +1) beats the LG and forces a throw; Vandenberg has a guy open in front of Floyd(-1, cover -1) but airmails it.|
|O33||3||10||Ace 3-wide||Okie||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|Martin as quasi-LB. LT moves early.|
|O28||3||15||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Slant||Roh||11|
|M stunts the DTs. Roh(+1, pressure +1) drives the RT back into Vandenberg as RVB(+1) arrives; he has to throw. Despite going to the ground as he releases this he gets off a dart to McNutt on a slant that Countess(+0.5, tackling +1) is there on; he tackles. Great play by Iowa just to get the completion.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 6-7, EO1Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O22||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||27|
|I blame Morgan less for this than I did live because M was pretty screwed either way once Campbell(-2) was slashed to the ground. This is their first play without Martin. But... that just means he gets -2 instead of -3. When he shoots the interior gap he gives up the outside; Heininger is flowing well but once the tackle realizes he's got no one showing in his gap he doubles on Heininger and seals him; no chance. Even if Morgan pops out Coker probably picks up a big gain because not only Campbell but RVB(-1) got cut. It wouldn't be nearly as big because forcing him back inside makes Kovacs relevant. Coker runs through a Woolfolk(-0.5, tackling -1) tackle attempt at the end, getting five or so additional yards.|
|O49||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||Waggle deep hitch||Kovacs||14|
|Michigan burned on play action; Kovacs(-1, cover -1) does not get enough depth as he's running to the sideline and opens up a deeper route when he could have mitigated the damage that was coming. Countess has no chance; he does tackle immediately. RPS -1.|
|M37||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||2|
|I keep using "inside zone" but the formations and motion provides subtlety no one other than the coaches will ever pick up, which is my way of saying this is kind of an iso. The TE motions back into a FB spot and then heads straight upfield as everyone else zone blocks. This clears the frontside as Martin and others fight to defend the zone; RVB(-0.5) gets sent upfield, though I think that might be part of a playcall. This leaves Demens(+1) one on one with the TE in a fairly big space. He stands up the guy; Coker bangs into the guy from behind. Morgan(+1) crushed his blocker backwards and now peels off to help tackle. Rare play from the LBs here.|
|M35||2||8||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Heininger||1|
|Michigan blitzes Floyd off the edge and stunts the DTs. Heininger(+1) ends up blowing up about three guys; Martin and Morgan flow to the hole. Coker has to cut back; he does. RVB(-0.5) has been blown down the line a bit too much and can only make a hopeful diving attempt on Coker. He runs through it; Martin(+1) does the same and manages to trip him up. Beyer(-1) took a turrible angle and is the main reason this is scary. RPS +1.|
|Martin LB thing. Michigan doesn't get there with six(pressure -2) and Floyd(-1, cover -1) is beaten for the first down; dropped.|
|M34||4||7||Ace 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Out||Avery||8|
|This is tough; Avery is in inside leverage, takes a shove, and has man on an out route. He gets beat. Sometimes that's life. I don't get what Morgan's doing; everyone else is in man and he's sitting in a short zone not getting after the QB or doing much of anything. Could be a call; who knows with Mattison. (Cover -1, RPS -1)|
|M26||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA deep hitch||Countess||Inc|
|Plenty of time(pressure -1) albeit on first down play action. Vandenberg looks for McNutt on a deep-ish comeback route that is low and difficult to catch; Countess(+1, cover +1) is there making life difficult and possibly getting a PBU.|
|Martin(-2) gets locked onto by Ferentz and blown out. He tries to chuck after he's given up a bunch of ground and still can't manage it; backside G peels off on Demens as the FB kicks Morgan. Both LBs hold their ground well enough but Martin getting blown up means a big crease and a first down. Kovacs comes in to tackle.|
|M13||1||10||I-Form Big||46 bear||Run||N/A||Iso||Demens||3|
|Vandenberg sees the bear front and checks. They run away from it, to ungood effect. Campbell(-0.5) gets kicked and pancaked. Morgan(+1) is moving to the play at the snap and takes on the FB at the LOS, funneling back to help. Demens(+0.5) does not get a blocker because RVB(+1) tripped his dude, whether accidental or not. Demens makes a decent tackle attempt but does give up a yard or two YAC before the rest of the defense arrives.|
|M10||2||7||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||Waggle TE flat||Kovacs||9|
|Kovacs(-1, pressure -1) is sent on a backside blitz and sucks in on the run fake instead of getting in Vandenberg's face. Morgan(-1, cover -1) does the same thing on the TE drag route, opening it up; Woolfolk(+1) does a good job of reading it and almost getting to it but can't; he tackles at the one.|
|M1||1||G||Goal line||Goal line||Pass||N/A||PA TE flat||--||1|
|If you're going to call it, first down is the time. Damn you Ferentz. No minuses assigned for a difficult job not quite done.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 6-14, 7 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||WR pass scramble||Demens||7|
|Hawthorne comes in. Iowa goes for the jugular by running an end-around pass; no sale from the secondary(cover +1). McNutt runs. Ryan(+1) does a good job of stringing it out and live I was mad at Hawthorne but he is the LB away from this play and he beats Demens(-1) to the sideline by yards. He still takes a crappy angle(-0.5) and gives up an extra couple yards.|
|M24||2||3||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Van Bergen||-3|
|Iowa derfs on their blocking and lets RVB(+3) through clean. He does take a good angle under the tackle and to the ballcarrier, getting the TFL by himself, so nice job. RPS +1.|
|M27||3||6||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Avery||2|
|Not sure what Iowa is thinking here but they've got no one to block Avery on this play, so Avery(+1, cover +1) shoots up into McNutt and grabs him. He ends up missing the tackle but takes so long to do so three guys grab McNutt after two yards. I think Iowa might have screwed something up here.|
|Drive Notes: FG, 6-17, 2 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||Scramble||Van Bergen||6|
|Coverage(+2) is good but pressure(-2) is stoned; Van Bergen(-1) is trying to get to Vandenberg and gets out of his lane, opening up a scramble.|
|O31||2||4||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Van Bergen||9|
|RVB(-1) sealed quickly; Demens(-1) gets locked away by a guy releasing off RVB, and that's enough for a crease. Coker picks up like 4 YAC on the Woolfolk(-0.5) tackle.|
|O40||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||Sack||Heininger||-8|
|Martin(+2) chucks a center by him and starts attacking vertically once he reads the PA,which draws attention from the G and FB. His motion upfield accidentally takes out the legs of the guy blocking Heininger. Heininger(+2) takes advantage of the opportunity to sack. (Pressure +2)|
|Running at the gap between martin and WDE Black. Morgan(+1.5) runs downhill at the FB and meets him at the line; Black(+1) chucks his blocker to the outside. Martin(+0.5) does a decent job against a double to not provide a cutback lane. Play goes nowhere.|
|There are like two DL with Kovacs, Morgan, and Demens hanging around the line and Martin a quasi-LB. Michigan zone blitzes, sending only four. As Martin drops into a short zone right in front of a TE slant. Vandenberg pumps, freaks out, starts running out of the pocket, and gets sacked by Roh(+2). Cover +1, Pressure +1, RPS +2.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 6-17, 11 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O40||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||4|
|Running away from Martin at the overloaded side of the line; Roh(-0.5) manages to get outside and does not give ground but ends giving too much width. Morgan(+0.5) takes on a block okay and funnels to help; Demens(+0.5) fights through a block to get to the hole and tackle. Heininger may have had a play a couple yards further upfield but he was held. Refs -1.|
|O44||2||6||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||-3|
|They again run away from Martin; Martin(+2) slants under the guard as the C releases immediately—not a good idea—and runs right into Coker's path. Heininger(+0.5) also beat his block and would have been there to finish the play if necessary.|
|O41||3||9||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Slant||Morgan||Inc|
|Michigan tips a zone blitz early. It looks like it's about to get picked up when Vandenberg releases the ball seemingly too early. He's got two receivers within about a yard of each other. Morgan(+2, cover +2) makes the hash to hash zone drop with aplomb, getting a PBU on a ball that if better thrown could have been a pick. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 9-17, 4 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O38||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA hitch||Countess||8|
|Easy pitch and catch that Countess(-1, cover -1) allows to be turned up for 4 YAC.|
|Heininger(+1) fights through a single block to the hole and absorbs the FB. Coker has to cut behind. Morgan(+0.5) scrapes to the hole and hits at about the LOS; Coker falls forward. That's life against Coker. Martin(-1) was blown out by a double, which gave Coker the room.|
|O49||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||4|
|No real creases. Martin(+0.5) fights through a double okay and Demens(+0.5) pops a releasing G near enough to the LOS to convince Coker to cut back. Heininger(+0.5) also deals with a double in a moderately effective way, preventing the second guy from really doing anything to Morgan. Coker falls as he passes the LOS; Morgan probably would have stopped this for a similar gain anyway.|
|Vandenberg checks when he sees bear + man coverage. He goes after Countess on a McNutt hitch; Countess(+2, cover +2) is right there to break it up. Nice play. RVB(+0.5) was getting some pressure, perhaps forcing an inadvisable throw.|
|M47||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Hitch||Floyd||15|
|Michigan shifts late and blitzes. Avery(-1) doesn't time it that well and is about a yard or two away from crushing Vandenberg from behind when he gets the ball off to McNutt. McNutt got separation from the press coverage of Floyd(-1, cover -1)|
|M32||1||10||Ace big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Van Bergen||2|
|Third TE motions over Beyer and then runs straight to the safety. Weird. Iowa doubles RVB and looks like they will seal him and get a crease but he manages to get playside of the interior guy(+0.5) and force a cutback. Beyer(+0.5) fends off a block and starts tackling from behind when Martin(+1) and Demens(+0.5) meet him in the hole.|
|M30||2||8||Ace twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||Hitch||Countess||6|
|Countess(-1) is a little late here and is very fortunate his desperate lunging arm tackle(-1) brings McNutt down. A little more balance and this is six on a nothing hitch.|
|M24||3||2||I-Form Big||46 bear||Pass||5||Quick out||Floyd||4|
|This is tough to stop if executed well; it's a three yard route. Floyd can't do it, but I won't ding him.|
|M20||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||7|
|Campbell(-2) in; he is easily slashed to the ground by the backside G. Heininger(+0.5) does a good job of cutting off the frontside but that cutback is there all day with the NT on his knees at the LOS. Morgan, getting blocked to the other side, reaches out an arm and slows Coker down but there's no way that's actually going to get him to the ground. Kovacs comes up and gets plowed over, but that's not his fault. That's physics.|
|M13||2||3||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Pass||4||PA throwaway||Demens||Inc|
|Kovacs rolls up. Iowa goes play action with essentially a one-man route... McNutt jogs off the LOS as a TE releases. No sale from Demens(+1); Woolfolk(+0.5) is over the top and Vandenberg chucks it OOB. Weird call. Cover +1.|
|M13||3||3||I-Form Big||46 bear||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Roh||13|
|Beyer and Ryan in the game at the same time, with Beyer the rolled up LB on the line. Kovacs is going in man with the TE coming across the formation. Roh(-2) gets blown up by that TE; crushed to the inside that is it for the line. Morgan(-2) runs straight into the LOS. Kovacs has to keep contain and gets kicked out; TD.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 9-24, 10 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA Dig||Floyd||24|
|Floyd(-0.5, cover -1) beaten on a dig route for a round first-down yardage; Woolfolk(-1, tackling -1) whiffs embarrassingly on the tackle, running right by the dude without even getting a hand on him and banging into Demens. Morgan(-1) vacated his zone by biting on the PA as well.|
|An I form version of QB oh noes with the entire line blocking as if it's a run and Iowa throwing a wide open slant against Floyd(-1, cover -1); dropped. RPS -1.|
|Iowa runs at the strong side of the line. Martin(+1) beats the G and takes out the FB. Heininger(-1) is kicked out big time; Demens(-1) takes a block a couple yards downfield from a releasing G. Beyer(-1) fails to read the play and gets himself out of position, then absorbs Coker, falling backwards and giving up near first down yardage.|
|M43||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Demens||0|
|Beyer and Ryan in. Beyer rolls to the line when Iowa evens its strength so you've got a 4-3 under with SLBs on both sides of the line, basically. Heininger(+0.5) and Morgan(+1) do well enough on the playside to force a cutback, with Morgan impacting the FB at the LOS and removing any hole. Demens(+3) sees the iso and roars at the line, taking on a block from the second guy releasing off Martin at the LOS and getting outside of it. Coker runs into him and Demens friggin' sticks the guy, holding Coker not six inches from where the impact happened until the cavalry arrives. That is almost unbelievable.|
|M43||4||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|Illegal snap prevents Ferentz from going for it here in a horrifying, exactly-right game theory play.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 16-24, 5 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O36||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||4|
|Beyer(+0.5) sets up well on the outside, restricting space but not offering a bounce. RVB(+0.5) is blown out by a double but recovers after the second guy releases downfield to trip Coker a couple yards downfield. Need Demens(-1) to do better here; he took a block and got shoved back, eventually doing nothing.|
|O40||2||6||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||5|
|Demens(+0.5) hits the LOS quickly and Martin(+0.5) shoots to the intended spot, forcing a cutback. Heininger(-1) has been blown off the ball by a double, so it's there, but he fights through the block; Morgan(-1) is the bigger issue since he took the block of the other guy and lets Coker outside. He gets off it to tackle but momentum carries them both forward three yards before they run into Kovacs and his blocker.|
|O45||3||1||Goal line||Goal line||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Ryan||-1|
|Beyer and Ryan to one side of the line in a bear front. Iowa runs power at them. It is a heap of bodies. Ryan(+2) takes on a TE's block and sheds it to the outside, falling into Coker's feet in the backfield as Demens(+1) reads the G pull and scrapes to the hole on the outside; he's not needed because Ryan tackles but he would be there if needed. RVB and Martin(+0.5 each) help by standing up to double well enough that Coker couldn't try to cut it inside.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 16-24, 2 min 4th Q. Michigan's next drive is the rest of the game. EOG.|
That was totally acceptable.
Was it better than acceptable?
No. It was exactly acceptable despite the low yardage totals. That was a short game. Iowa only had nine drives and scored long touchdowns on three of them; they did not turn the ball over. They didn't even come particularly close—the closest thing was a Desmond Morgan PBU (about which more later) that would have been a spectacular catch.
Iowa averaged 6.7 yards per passing play* and 4.6 per rush. That's meh. Vandenberg's actual YPA was 8.1—not good; Iowa averaged 5.3 yards a play. Etc. It all points to an average performance against an average offense. Iowa is hovering around 60 in all the yardage metrics and is 29th in FEI, Michigan gave up an average number of points, etc. etc.
*[IE: I added in Vandenberg's rushes to get 167 yards on 25 attempts]
But acceptable is good?
Excellence is good. Acceptable is acceptable, which is unbelievable in this context.
This is what it's like to live in GERG's head, I think.
Okay, yeah, that's a good idea. Chart.
|Van Bergen||11||4||7||Busy, busy. TFL or two and usual level of stoutness.|
|Martin||17.5||4||13.5||Essentially unblockable. What we expected from him the whole year. Think Iowa's inside zone game plays into his strengths.|
|Roh||3||2.5||0.5||Sack was kind of a gift from freaked Vandenberg. Didn't do much else.|
|Heininger||7.5||2||5.5||Quality day. Will take this the rest of the year.|
|Campbell||-||4.5||-4.5||Got cut to the ground and was a major culprit on two long runs.|
|TOTAL||41||19||22||The Mike Martin we've been waiting for; 2:1 ratio is the usual at this point.|
|Morgan||9||12.5||-3.5||Not as bad as you might think, but still a problem.|
|Demens||10||6||4||Stuck Coker cold a half yard from a critical third down conversion. I be like dang.|
|Ryan||3||-||3||Michigan missed him.|
|Beyer||1||2||-1||Lacks the impact of Ryan, didn't do anything too obviously wrong.|
|C. Gordon||-||-||-||One play, I think.|
|TOTAL||23||21||2||Average average average.|
|Floyd||0.5||4.5||-4||Struggled with McNutt.|
|Avery||1||1||0||Seems quality at nickel.|
|Woolfolk||1.5||3||-1.5||Tackling questionable, not tested deep.|
|Countess||4||6||-2||Great day except for the 44 yards that were all on him.|
|TOTAL||9.5||16.5||-7||A bit of a letdown, but expected given opposition.|
|Pressure||8||6||2||Decent job; few blitzes.|
|Coverage||11||14||-3||Good recovery after weak start.|
|RPS||7||6||1||Old school push.|
Martin was crazy good. Just 1.5 TFLs but was the primary force for a large chunk of Iowa's other not-so-good plays, including the Heininger sack on which three guys tried to block Martin and Heininger squeezed through some befuddled dudes. This was all day:
Heininger, meanwhile, had his best day as a Wolverine. He looked like an above-average Big Ten player. I wonder if Iowa's interior line is not very good.
The linebackers felt Ryan's absence mostly in his lack of playmaking—both ways. Beyer was out there but not tested often. Demens seems to be topping out at just okay, but he had one of his better games of the year. Twice he took on a lead block and came off it to tackle Coker, and the second was a critical play I still find hard to believe:
If you could freeze time at the moment it became clear Coker was going to cut back into a blocked Demens a yard from the first down, what kind of odds would you get on a stop? I submit the odds would be very low.
The secondary… well, I think we knew something like this was coming. Countess froshderped that long completion on Iowa's first drive and Floyd is just never going to do well against top flight receivers. That's life.
ARGH MORGAN AWFUL ARGH
He obviously had some problems but since we can now ask the coordinators direct questions and get straight answers we know it's a little more complicated than just that:
The first play of Iowa's third drive was an inside zone that bounced outside the end for ten yards. Roh dove inside the tackle. Was that something you called? “That would be me. In coaching Craig and watching everything they did -- I know exactly what you’re talking about -- every game that they’ve played so far this year, they’ve brought the tight end in motion, and he blocked out on the end man. Well when that tight end is in Craig’s area right there, most times you have him attack that tight end. Well they kind of wanted you to do that in other games, so now the tackle has an angle on you and he can knock you out farther. So I just told him, I said, ‘Craig, don’t mess with that. When that guy comes over in motion, just attack the tackle and hold the edge on the tackle.’ Looking back on it, I told him straight out, I said, ‘Craig, they changed. They did the same thing Michigan State did and they hadn’t done it all year. They kind of influenced him to keep him from being able to attack that tight end. That’s not him.”
MGoQuery: Was Desmond Morgan supposed to scrape over the top? “Desmond Morgan’s supposed to stack behind him. He’s not running outside of him. Because Craig didn’t play through the tight end like he probably thought he should have, and I wish I would have told him to do that, the guy got knocked back a little bit and got kind of in Desmond’s way and he got caught up in the trash. That’s what happened on that one.”
My natural inclination on that play is to ding Morgan because a junior dives inside and a freshman doesn't come over the top to pick up the trash. It turns out this is one of those hidden RPS things that we can never know, or at least couldn't before the Great Hoke Coordinator Presser Revolution, and that this is somewhat on Roh but mostly an RPS thing.
I do think Morgan has the opportunity to read what's going on in front of him and adjust to the changing situation to make a great play… when he's a junior, and if he's an All Big Ten level player. So I don't know if giving Morgan a –2 on the first Coker touchdown is actually right since Black might be freelancing inappropriately and Morgan's assignment is not something that matches my expectations. This is a necessary limitation of not actually being Greg Mattison. As always, numbers in these posts are helpful summaries and useful… but not gospel.
Anyway, Morgan did some good stuff. He actually executed a successful hash to hash zone drop:
I've seen a bunch of people try that this year. No one has actually done it until then.
Now that we've got the defending out of the way… yeesh, Morgan had some problems. This is not even a little bit of a surprise when you run a freshman out against Marcus Coker and Iowa's zone running game. It's a sore spot, though:
That is not good. /science!
Is there anything you have ever loved in your whole life more than the coordinator pressers?
Not related to football media. I think they even beat out Star Control II. I mean, you can ask Mattison about a specific ten-yard run in the first quarter and he knows exactly what you're talking about and can explain what happened. No longer do we have to have months-long arguments about whether Kenny Demens or a corner was the problem on a 44-yard drag. We can just ask.
I know I've been critical of Borges but Borges's pressers are about 95% as awesome as Mattison's. While I'm frustrated with the steep costs of the transition (on offense, anyway), reading the presser transcriptions from Heiko fills me with confidence this is going to be a national program once they get the pieces they need in. The contrast between this and GERG is immense.
Any other worries pop up?
Yeah, this was not a good game for Campbell. Contrast the above video, where Campbell gets put on his knees, with anything Mike Martin did. Campbell went down on two of the few snaps he was in and both of those turned into big runs. If Campbell is on his feet and moving on the above, does Morgan still run up into that gap? Maybe, maybe not. The dropoff from Martin to Campbell in this game was ominous. With Heininger established Michigan is now replacing 3/4ths of their defensive line with not a whole lot of playing time going to backup options.
Martin had his best day of the year; Heininger and RVB also played well. Mattison's short-yardage attack is killing people.
Countess is going to be a real good time, with emphasis on going to be. Floyd can't quite check McNutt, and the wildly oscillating item that is Desmond Morgan ended up considerably in the red.
What does it mean for Illinois and the future?
I'm sure the Illini will test Michigan with the triple option after watching them struggle with it against Northwestern… but I think Michigan will have ironed out many of their issues.
Unfortunately, AJ Jenkins is going to be an issue. I assume Woolfolk will be over the top on him. That will be a test for a guy who's bounced back and forth from safety and hasn't really gotten his feet under him since returning from his ankle injury.
As for the near term future, it looks like Cam Gordon is way down the depth chart and the defensive line is going to be an issue next year. On the bright side, for the rest of this year it looks like we may be getting an improved (healthy?) version of Mike Martin and Will Heininger seems to be approaching average.
I'm going to apologize in advance for this edition of FFFF—I had three Illinois games lined up to watch, then the PSU scandal happened and two of the games wouldn't import into iMovie, so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the hell was going on and less time actually getting to the film. Luckily, I've already watched two Illinois games—against Northwestern and Purdue—for previous FFFFs, so I've got some previous knowledge to go on.
The bad news: The one video that worked was the Illinois-Penn State offensive debacle from a couple weeks ago. Lucky for you, I get to extract the few successful plays from that game, but let's just say there wasn't much to choose from.
A.J. Jenkins, lone receiving threat. Unfortunately, lone and very good.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? A very run-heavy spread, featuring a lot of zone read and some triple option, though Illinois will also switch it up and go I-form with big starting running back Jason Ford.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Though the Illini run all the freakin' time, they're actually more basketball on grass due to the large percentage of zone running plays. They will pull a guard every once in a while, but zone running is the bread and butter of this offense.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is the Illini's leading rusher with 501 yards, but those have come on 137 carries (just 3.7 ypc). If you take out all the sacks Illinois has allowed this season—they also randomly insert freshman Reilly O'Toole at times, so this may be generous to Scheelhaase—that average jumps to 5.9 yards per carry. He's a powerful runner for a quarterback and can make guys miss or run them over, but doesn't have breakaway speed. I'll give him a 7.
Dangerman: WR A.J. Jenkins (#9) has 68 receptions—46 more than any other Illini player—for 1,030 yards and seven touchdowns. He's their lone big-play threat, but he's also really good, and Illinois runs the ball so much that things often open up for him in the secondary.
OVERVIEW: Illinois is going to run the ball. A lot. Their run/pass split on the season (sacks included as passes) is 383/262, meaning they run the ball right around 60% of the time. They'll mostly go out of the shotgun and their early downs are almost always run plays, rarely passing on first or second down except off play-action, when they'll often take a deep strike to Jenkins to see if they can generate more than five yards on a single play. Both Scheelhaase and running back Jason Ford (6'0", 235 pounds) are downhill runners who are at their best when they find a crease and go until they hit something.
The Illini will also mix in some triple option, often out of this look, which didn't show up in the Penn State game so I'll give you a screencap—the fullback lined up next to Scheelhaase gets the dive (or dive fake), and then the option play goes towards the strong side:
[image removed because it broke the feed]
The option attack hasn't been particularly effective for Illinois, and they abandoned it entirely against Penn State, but we could see it again as the Illini test out the edge of Michigan's defense. However, most of Scheelhaase's runs against Penn State came on designed QB draws, which I think is actually the best way to use him considering his size and lack of breakaway speed—get him going upfield and he has success. It'll be up to Michigan's interior line to stop Scheelhaase and Ford, and they'll be tested frequently.
Illinois also eschews the normal way of assigning linemen (you know, left tackle, right guard, etc.), instead having strongside and weakside tackles and guards who will flip sides depending on the formation. They put their better linemen—tackle Jeff Allen and guard Hugh Thornton—on the strongside and tend to have more success running behind them.
This breakdown will be rather short, as Illinois doesn't exactly have a ton of tricks up their sleeve. Here's what they want to do to your defense—open up a crease in the middle of the line, let Scheelhaase or Ford (in this case, Ford) get going downhill, and pick up big chunks on the ground:
That's a typical Jason Ford run right there—straight north-south, not a lot of wiggle, slam into the guys attempting to tackle. If he gets into the secondary, Woolfolk/Gordon will be tested.
Illinois uses their frequent running to set up the pass, and while it's usually to A.J. Jenkins, here's a PA tight end seam that went for their lone touchdown against Penn State:
The safeties must make sure to stay sharp and disciplined, because it's easy to get lulled to sleep against this offense. All it takes is a couple big plays to turn the tide of a game, and Illinois gets their big plays out of the play-action passing game. Otherwise, Scheelhaase tends to go underneath or, quite often, hold onto the ball too long and either scramble outside for minimal yardage or take a sack. Keep contain, Jake Ryan and Craig Roh. Please keep contain.
- Yes, Illinois's backup QB really is named Reilly O'Toole—Brian said the name reminded him of a Bond girl, though I'm inclined to go with porn star (not that the names are markedly different)—and we'll probably see him come in for a series or two. I'm not exactly sure why. O'Toole doesn't really run (four carries for 12 yards this year), and while he's completed 22 of 29 passes this year (72.4%), he's averaging a paltry 5.1 yards per attempt and has tossed two interceptions. He doesn't have a very strong arm and he's very much a dink-and-dunk QB. Why Illinois regularly lifts Scheelhaase for him is anybody's guess. Maybe Ron Zook just loves the name.
- Michigan could see two different Illinois backup running backs. One is 5'8", 190-pound senior Troy Pollard, who has put up great numbers (48 carries for 390 yards) but almost entirely against terrible competition—his best game against a remotely viable opponent was when he amassed 24 yards on five carries against Ohio State, and he was held to two yards on five carries against the Nittany Lions. Donovonn Young—a 6'0", 215-pound freshman—has 63 carries for 363 yards this year, but again much of his production has come against awful teams (the lion's share of his yards have come against South Dakota State, Western Michigan, and Indiana). He does flash some decent speed, however, and is a decent change-of-pace option to complement Ford.
For the defensive breakdown, hit the jump.