...do the plays called for Rawls have a different blocking scheme, different alignments or personnel, that are not resulting in favorable situations for Fitz? I find it hard to believe Al is trying to call plays that are to his disadvantage
So what's the deal with Fitz?
I don't think the play calling this year has been as creative with getting the ball to the running backs. Toussaint's running plays are very predictable.
Needs MOAR pitch option
1) Denard Runs = 1 extra blocker (the running back) v. Fitz Runs = no extra blocker
Based off the result, it really seems like Purdue's goal was to stop the RB on any zone read. Obviously it didn't work out well, but how else can you explain Denard getting pretty clear lanes through it all day while there wasn't much for Fitz? Even if he didn't bounce around so much, it would've been maybe 2-4 yards rather than the 1-2 he was getting.
He's bouncing too many runs east and west, often giving up a couple yard gain in the process of losing a yard near the sideline. Sometimes you gotta take the two yards.
On 40% of his carries it seems, and that causes him to become impatient and bounce it outside. Regardless, the O line has not opened many holes for him and it seems like a lot of his run plays are slow developing that get blown up before they start.
I think the biggest reason is that Fitz isn't seeing/feeling the holes/cuts like he was toward the end of last year. It took him a bunch of games last year to get in a groove, and I think he's still working on it this year. On the year, he hasn't had that many carries. As a secondary issue, I think he looks just a little bit slower than last year.
I like Rawls, but I don't think his style fits as well in the read-option as Fitz. I think you need speed to go along with power to succeed in the read-option. Maybe bring in Rawls here and there as a change of pace.
Speed does nothing when you're dancing in the back field all damn game. Ill take 3-5 yds and a punishing blow, all day.
The OL is weaker, but he is trying to avoid tackles instead of lowering his shoulder and hitting the hole.
This is a common mistake in youth football it's hard to teach players to run into the tackle and bounce off/get more yards.
He sees a linebacker then stops before the hole, behind the line of scrimmage and starts trying to make moves to avoid the tackle. Only a few players elite can really do this - Barry Sanders and Denard for example.
you can hear Rawls run. I don't think dancing is his thing.
He's exactly the kind of RB Hoke and Borges want for their scheme. He doesn't run around you. He runs through you. Unless Green commits, I think Rawls has a solid chance to win the starting job next year.
Don't know what happened with Fitz this year, but its like he's lost a step or two.
I don't know.
Excuse the staggering football ignorance, but here goes:
I don't understand the concept of 1 extra blocker on read options. It makes sense on designed QB runs (10 blockers+1 ballcarrier vs 11 defenders), but not so much on options. When you option off the DE, it takes on person to do it (the QB/RB who doesn't have the ball). I haven't really noticed Fitz blocking for Denard after Denard keeps, or vice versa. So isn't it really [9 blockers+1 ball carrier] vs [10 defenders] with either Fitz or Denard+the DE taken out of the play?
If that's the case, then the only real runs in which there's a structural advantage to Denard running as far as I see it is designed QB runs. But Denard, when he keeps, is way more productive on the option than Fitz is. Hence I'm tempted to minimize Decided Schematic Advantages as an explanation for why Fitz isn't getting it going.
Can anyone shed some light on this?
Compare the read option to a standard hand off. In that case the QB accomplishes nothing post-snap, it's 11 defenders vs 9 blockers and a runner. The read option forces a DE (or LB if the defense makes certain adjustments) to take the RB/QB without the ball so it's 10 defenders vs 9 blockers and a runner. Does that clear things up?
With the prevalance of the scrape, nowadays, not even the DE is really "optioned off" - he still has a role in the play. The difference is in the offensive line play between a zone-read and the power veer that we run. Let's assume 1-1 shotgun (1 QB, 1 HB, 1 H-TE, 5 Line, 3 WR) and the defense lines up in Cover 1 (4 D line, 2 mike backers, 1 shade backer, FS, SS, 2 CBs) The zone read has two directions: the playside and the weakside. The weakside end is left unblocked and then either pursues the running back, or takes the quarterback. Meanwhile, the O-line in front blocks zone. The weakside tackle then eliminates 1 linebacker from the play.
After this transpires, the current numbers matchup (assuming good outside blocking by WRs) is QB+HB+H-TE+5 line vs. 4 D-line, 2 Mike, SS , so 8 vs. 7. Now the scrape exchange occurs and the weakside end takes the QB, which leaves the HB to find a hole in the zone blocking. The H-TE can also act as a lead blocker, and now let's assume that the 5 o-line neutralize the 3 remaining D-line + 1 Mike (who filled a gap, just not the one the HB was going to). This leaves the matchup of: HB + H-TE vs. Mike + SS. The SS has a high probability of being lost in traffic, and the Mike will get smashed by the H-TE, and so you're left with an advantage with the zone-read even WITH the scrape exchange for the HB. Without the scrape exchange, there is even larger number advantage.
With the veer, though, the LG pulls and draws the mikes out of position to the weakside (the right side), and the playside end scrapes on the HB almost all of the time. The LT then seals off the weakside tackles. The HB almost ALWAYS gets picked off by the playside end, which leaves this gigantic cavernous gap for the QB to run through. Denard is always looking straight down the field when running the veer and he's looking for the linebacker reaction, not the end reaction. If the linebackers stay, then somehow he gives the ball to Fitz, though I'm thinking the crashing end would neutralize that every single time.
Anyway, so both have numbers advantages even with the scrape, but the veer is specifically designed to benefit the QB while the read is more leaning to the HB
One-inch Woody, you write:
The weakside tackle then eliminates 1 linebacker from the play. After this transpires, the current numbers matchup (assuming good outside blocking by WRs) is QB+HB+H-TE+5 line vs. 4 D-line, 2 Mike, SS , so 8 vs. 7.
So what just happened to the OLB? You say the tackle eliminates a LB (presumably the OLB), but doesn't that mean that you're down to 4 OLs, which would make it 7 vs 7 again?
And it's unclear exactly how the HB helps in this play if the QB keeps. Isn't he just as lost in the fray as the SS is?
He IS a step slower and the line is a step slower, but he stands around too much and runs east and west far more than north and south. Also they (Denard and Fitz) run together on some read-option runs and at the end of the run they are looking at each other like saying "what are you doing here"?
It's obvious that it is John Navarre's fault.
I still would not have got two points though
Maybe it's his punishment for that DUI. As they say, Karma is a bitch.
I think there is a reason why Norfleet is not at running back. As in the mold of Smith, I think the coaches are going to be very selective how they use a very small back. On a side note, can't wait to see Norfleet take a punt/KO back for a score. The kid has the makings of a great return man.
Play calls that require an edge to be sealed, just are not working. Fitz is running 15 yards east / west and gaining nothing. Is this a line play issue ?
Then he has started to develop the "Mike Cox jutter step" rather than being an agressive runner. How many times have we seen Denard place a hand on his blocker then dart to the opening. If Fitz sees his own blocker in front of him, he jutters - which stops his north / south inertia and once you stop, the defensive players have the advantage.
It was great to see TR look so strong late in the game. Hopefully he'll get to see some "real game" action against Illinois.
Weaker OL, Denard passing even worse than last year to defenses key the run, has personal issues but all of that takes a back seat to: The kid dances too much. He took more than a few 4+ yards gains only to back out of the hole and try to bounce outside or take another hole for a 1 yard gain. He was always a dancing, East-West HB but those first facts are just magnifying it.
We need a guy who will get us 3 a pop by just going forward. Denard is good for 4 yards by ground or air each set of downs (MOST of the time) if we just got that. We dont. Fitz trying to go to the house every carry has us in a lot of 2-3rd and longs.
I wont bench him for having seen Rawls carry with fresh legs against a wore down defense a few times but he is on thin ice if Im Hoke/Borges. Smith and Rawls at least go forward most of the time as opposed to side to side most of the time. Fitz isn't Barry and defenses are keying the run and rightfully so (you stop it you beat us).
I'm going to say it's scheme.
We had three "bread and butter plays" during the Rich Rod era: zone read, QB zone, and HB sweep.
This year, our "bread and butter plays" are: inverted veer, QB power, and "Down G" to the left.
The reason why Fitz isn't able to break any big runs is because he is automatically at a disadvantage on 2 of those 3 plays given how defenses try to stop Denard, but during the Rich Rod era, those same plays would be favorable to the HB as well.
For the zone read, the weakside end is in *pursuit* of the running back and his gap is the option by the QB (because of zone blocking), but in the inverted veer, the play-side end is free and he crashes down into the lane of the HB. The playside tackle is kicked out and the weaksides are man-blocked to leave a huge gaping hole down the center of the field for Denard to take. As is evident, there IS an option concept in both plays, but the HB is vastly more favored in the zone read than in the inverted veer.
As for the sweep vs. Down G, our line was.. *okay* at sweeping when Rich Rod was here, but it's ludicrous to try it with these guys now. I believe we did try to sweep against Bama maybe thinking their 330 pound defensive tackles would be slow (wrong!). The sweep is a perimeter play, and so the weakside linebackers/safeties are ineffectual, and so the HB does have a numbers advantage IF the O-line can block effectively. However, Down G is a down-the-middle play and since defenses tend to put 7/8 in the box, no amount of man-blocking can win that battle. 5 v 7 will ALWAYS be a lose for the offense.
The way to set up Fitz to his true ability, in my opinion, is by setting up the run by bubble screens or "lazer" screens. When we run 1-1 shotgun there's no reason to have 7 guys in the box and then run Down G! Throw some lazers and get at least one of those 7 outside.
Not sure about the rest. Why would this not have been a problem last year?
Fitz had his best year last year, not in Rich's offense. In fact he had a better year than any running backs the previous 3 years. I think you need to go back to the drawing board with your theory.
We are running the veer much more frequently this year than last. Last year we had plenty of zone reads and isos which are HB favoring plays. This year, not so much.
Of why he's not Doung as good as last year. But has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the scheme during Rich's years, which is what you were talking about in the other post, and really doesn't make any sense because no running back over those three years did as well as Fitz last year, so it had to be something other than scheme.
Now that you've told us your preference to RR's schemes over Borges's, do you care to engage us in the discussion that we are actually having?
Toussaint's only good year was last, and the plays he ran were the same as they are now. RR was not his coach. The question is, why is he less effective this year than last despite playing in the same system for the same coaches? Especially when his only good season has come under these coaches with these schemes.
I think the answer is manifold: the line is appreciably worse, Fitz is running more tentative, and (most importantly) he wasn't that great last year, particularly at this point in the season. He only picked it up towards the middle/end of the season. He has always been a guy who needed big holes, as he doesn't push the pile, and really, rarely breaks tackles. He can make players miss, but when the defender gets his hands on him, he almost never gets away. I think the problem is that he hasn't met our expectations, which were higher than they ought to have been.
Fitz was doing some dancing on a couple plays, but a lot of the running plays kind of went sideways by design. I seen a lot of handoffs/tosses/sweeps to the outside, but hardly any power runs or traps attacking the middle. I know Purdue has a good dline and all but still. Michigan will be Michigan again when we can run the ball up the a and b gap routinely regardless of who a team like Purdue has on their dline.
If you look back at last year, he dominated on field turf surfaces. I know it seems far fetched but that may be the problem.
It seemed yesterday that after they got beat by Toussaint last year, they tried the "make Denard carry it and hope he takes enough hits that we knock him out of the game" strategy that Notre Dame tried in 2010 (it didn't work that time either).
But I'd have still hoped to see Fitz look better than he did yesterday. Something's gotta be up.
I am almost certain it's (mostly) B. Purdue especially was keying on him, which is why Denard kept getting 8 to 45 yards on ZR keepers all day, and Fitz was immediately bottled up every time he got the ball. He did miss 1 or 2 cuts that could have been big gainers, and at least once I saw him jump outside when he could have slammed it up for 4 or 5. That's probably coming from not getting enough carries to get in rhythm and hone that 6th sense of where tackles are coming from you get from lots of attempts.
If teams are going to focus on shutting down Toussaint until Denard is breaking rushing records and gets lots of clean passing lanes, that's more than fine for me, since it means Toussaint won't be in a position to rush off to the NFL after this year, while Denard gets invited to New York.
I guess the idea is that by eliminating the most eliminate-able option, you keep your defense focused and don't get beaten by scheme. But, if this really is the primary factor at play, Purdue showed why it's not a great strategy when your opponent has Denard (or someone like Braxton Miller, for another example) as QB.
I'd imagine they'd be better off just focusing on Denard instead of the RBs.
Also credit to OP for "what's the deal..." when Seinfeld is in town. Subtly played young man.
We seem to be running the ball fine out of traditional sets. With the read option there isn't room for anyone, cept Denard
The line is just not blocking
He seems to be dancing more than before, looking for the home run when it might not be there. He did the same thing last year, but was able to get more positive gains out of it. I also think the playcalling has been suspect - UM has so many formations that scream run that the defense throws 8-9 guys in the box and it is hard for him to get running room. I mean, Purdue didn't even attempt to double UM's receivers when Denard went to pass, so Fitz wasn't get lots of running room.
It's easier for a running QB in that situation because that RB is going t block for him and college players are just not as used to catching running QBs as RBs. It's a different angle where they come from, differnet responsibilities when there is a chance the guy will throw the ball, etc. Borges needs to shake it up and also get Denard to hand off enough times in different formations that defenses are not able to guess on him pulling on every run.
he's dancing too much instead making his cut and turning on the jets like he did last year and the line isn't blocking as well
I was going back through UFRs after I saw this thread initially, and the four calls which most involve Fitz are inside zone plays (17 calls, netting 88 yards), iso plays (7 calls, 14 yards), power off-tackle (4 calls, 3 yards), an gives on the inverted veer (4 calls, 33 yards). It will be interesting to see if this distribution shifts at all with Purdue - I may watch this one again myself to see.
That being said, the playcalling has definitely shifted some from last year - I took a sample of four games from last year, and in those four game, the most common calls for Fitz were the zone read dive, the zone stretch, iso and the power off-tackle. There were also a smattering of counter plays and pitch sweeps, something that I don't remember seeing much of this year.
It does seem to me that defenses are shifting along with Michigan's gradual change in its offensively philosophy, focusing a little less on just Denard and more on the running game at large. The line play has been pretty good for the last couple games, but the holes that Fitz had last year are often not there this year, and as other have noted, he seems tentative in a way that he wasn't last year.
I was at the Clemson game yesterday -- man was Death Valley rocking -- and it occurred to me that Sammy Watkins is making no impact this year, and just like Fitz he started out with a suspension and the whole dark cloud. It makes you wonder if the season was just tainted for Fitz by the DUI and the suspension. It seems that way for Sammy and I would not be surprised for it to be true of Fitz.
Well, I doubt Fitz suddenly forgot how to run. So I'd have to guess the problem is scheme, blocking, or both.
It seems Chris Johnson has forgot how to run in the NFL... It's possible. I actually see some similarities with those two. They are just looking for the home run on every play, so they dance waiting for it. But it never comes, intead they're tackled for a loss damn near every play.
Fitz is down a little over 2 ypc from last year. At the same time, Denard is up a little over 2 ypc from last year. The overall production is identical to last year, it is just coming from a different spot.
That doesn't mean the line is worse or that Fitz suddenly sucks or that Denard got way better in the offseason. AF was able to shut down Fitz, but doing so cost them 11 yards every time Denard kept the ball. Purdue did the same and Denard burned them for 10 ypc. ND held Denard to 3.5 ypc (more if you take out sacks) and Fitz's numbers were a comparable 4.5 ypc.
Some teams are choosing to concentrate on stopping Fitz. When they do so, Denard is killing them on the ground. End of story.
...and I would say that you can't put all the blame on the O-line or the schemes, although both of those are part of it, but in watching several of his run plays again, I noticed a few times that Fitz just missed the read. There were a few seams where there was a small lane that he could have ran through up the middle, for a modest gain, but Fitz instead chose to dance around in the hole and eventually ran it to the outside where the Defense could catch him. Bottom line- Fitz needs to be more decisive, and run it up the middle where the lane is- even if the lane isn't a huge lane like he's expecting, because when he dances around it gives the D a chance to string him outside and push him out of bounds for no gain, or even a loss.
When Fitz got the ball it was usually out of the gun and he never seemed to get the corner on the veer. He most definitely does look bigger this year. Rawls looked as good as I've ever seen him, I don't care that it was garbage time. He stuck his thigh out on the TD play as if to say: If you can take this out, you got me. The defender couldn't and Rawls rumbled home. Fred Jackson FTW.
That's the biggest part of the problem. Too often he slows down or stops to see if either he can break it outside or a hole magically develops in front of him. For anyone other than Barry Sanders or Walter Payton this almost never works for running backs. I've watched Michigan running backs since Rob Lytle and all the great or good ones pick their lane and run toward it without hesitation. Most of the time, this will maximize the chances of getting a good gain. Running backs that stop or hesitate, allow the defense time to react. I don't think our OL is dong the greatest job yet however, in Fitz's defense. But there were plays yesterday where he would have gotten good gains if he had just kept running forward. Hopefully Fred Jackson can get him straightened out soon. If he has another poor outing against Illinois, IMO Michigan must start giving a lot more carries to Rawls.