Mike Lantry, 1972
Eye of the Tiger
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|5 days 3 hours ago||Personal vs. Institutional Racism||
I notice some people think racism is just personal sentiment, i.e. prejudice against another individual or group based on skin color/phenotype. That's a kind of racism, for sure, and it's one that can go in any "direction."
But what your post highlights is a "deeper" form of racism is institutional in nature, and can exist and reproduce itself even in the absence of personal racism. I think the NCAA and NFL have come a long way over the past few decades, but even still most of the reins of power remain "white." Black athletes still have fewer opportunities to become coaches, ADs, etc., even though they certainly have more of those opportunities than before, and football is fairly progressive and egalitarian when compared to, say, congress or most private industries.
This context of institutional racism makes "black on white" personal racism inherently less damaging than "white on black."
|5 days 17 hours ago||I'm a little late to this party, but...||
...I generally agree with you. The problem on offense last year wasn't personnel/inexperience and it wasn't schematic--it was the intersection of the two.
Nussmeier's system (or what we can infer of it from his stops in Tuscaloose and Seattle) promises to be easier to learn, more consistent in its application and should put less pressure on the weak points of the roster. It's not a silver bullet, and we will probably still have trouble with Michigan State's and Ohio's defensive lines. But I expect us to:
A) be more consistent
B) run more effectively from the RB position
C) produce fewer TFLs
D) face fewer 3rd and 8+ downs
E) improve over the course of the year, rather than regress
On the other hand, Borges was pretty good at designing vertical pass plays, and there's always a chance (esp considering we lose both tackles to the NFL) that we regress in the one department that bailed us out in the close wins. Nevertheless, I expect us on balance to be moderately better on offense than we were in 2013--and if we had been moderately better on offense in 2013, we probably would have won 9/10 games instead of 7.
As far as the defense is concerned...I just don't know. On paper we should improve, but I'm not sure how I feel about the moves at LB. Ryan might be better than Morgan or Ross in the middle, but he wasn't just our most consistent pass rusher (in 2012), he was also the most consistent in stopping outside runs. OTOH, we were terrible at covering crossing patterns. Had we been better at that...well...everyone who beat us or threatened to beat us (Ohio excepted) did it with crossing patterns.
|1 week 3 days ago||This comment is messed up||
FYI. Not funny.
|1 week 6 days ago||Last year's team||
...probably deserved its 7-5 record (in the set schedule), but was 11 pts from being 10-2 and 7 pts from being 5-7. That is in part due to internal factors, but it also reflects the state of our competition--with the exception of MSU and Ohio, more "iffy" than "scary." This contrasts to 2012, when we pretty much beat everyone we were supposed to beat and lost to everyone we were supposed to lose to (Nebraska excepted).
2014 looks to be another high-variance year where there are a lot of iffy games (more than in 2013, actually), but none that look as scary as MSU or Ohio did last year. 8 or 9 wins would be a solid prediction, but, really, the range of plausible outcomes is quite wide.
|7 weeks 3 hours ago||MSU and Ohio||
MSU is going to be pretty good, but #5? Really? After losing 6 starting defenders and 3 OL? That I have a hard time understanding. Of course, MSU gets a fairly easy schedule AGAIN. They play at Oregon (likely loss), but then the only other tough road game is at PSU. Even if they lose that, the rest of the potential losses are at home (us, Nebraska and Ohio), where I think it's unlikely they lose more than 1/3 of those. That gives them 9-10 wins. Probably end up ranked somewhere in the 10-20 range.
#13 for Ohio is argubaly even less rational: they are losing 4 OL, Carlos Hyde and the good part of their not-good secondary. And then there's the schedule: Virginia Tech (home) will not be easy, nor really will Navy (away) or even Cincinatti (home). I bet they lose 1/3 of those--and maybe 2/3. Then they play at MUS, at PSU and at Minnesota, which won't be a pushover. I bet they lose 2/3 of those. And then us to finish--a tossup, as usual. That gives them 7-9 wins. They may end up somewhere in the 20-25 range, or even unranked.
|7 weeks 19 hours ago||Reading the Tea Leaves isn't dead...||
...it's just on hiatus until after the Spring Game, by which time I will have dried the tea and meditated sufficiently in the presence of their intoxicating, truth-revealing, nerdy-stuff-ranking smoke.
|7 weeks 1 day ago||They run Power O and Outside Zone||
And, of course, being 'Bama, run them both well. But in this case everything is set up by Inside Zone. Wisconsin does the same thing.
I'm going to talk about this in detail for my next diary, but suffice to say, there's a version of Power O that looks like Inside Zone at most points of attack, so if you're selling Inside Zone well ennough, you can goad the defense into reading the play incorrectly.
|7 weeks 2 days ago||Whatever happened to BlueSeoul?||
I used to love his MSPaint-fueled diary series.
|7 weeks 2 days ago||This||
Inside Zone really only works as intended if you rep it to insanity and use it as a base from which to build. It can't be a half assed midseason replacement, a la Michigan 2013.
|7 weeks 2 days ago||This is the topic for my next diary||
I actually cut it out of this diary because the damned thing was getting too long!
But seriously, I totally agree. Alabama uses Power O as a changeup, and does that really well. That's yet another way to punish defenses fo keying in on Inside Zone.
|7 weeks 2 days ago||Outside Zone||
...which we tried to run this year as well, with poor results.
|7 weeks 2 days ago||Two things||
First, Inside Zone isn't as personnel-specialized or as reliant on as either Power O (bigger, stronger + pulling guards) or Outside Zone (leaner, quicker). So it should work out just fine with the guys we have--provided they can learn the system. But I don't think that will be a problem. Consistency and comprehensibility in playcalling, combined with inexperience in the interior, was our big problems in 2013, and this year we'll have a more experienced interior OL who will almost certainly spend their time repping a smaller repertoire of plays and formations. Practice makes perfect and so forth.
As far as defending Inside Zone goes, I know a lot less about defensive than offensive schemes--so someone please step in and correct me if I'm wrong here. But Inside Zone tried to give defenses an impossible choice, so the best defense will be one that improves the choice. AFAIK, the most effective defense is to do that would be to play Quarters (Cover-4) with highly disciplined LBs who time their gap shooting (zone blitzes) perfectly, and aggressive, WR-mugging corners who disrupt route timing and thus reduce the potential of both playaction and bubbles as constraint plays. Like the Seahawks.
It's less common in FBS, because defenses often can't pull it off. But MSU does this really well. So does Alabama. Interestingly, Saban was one of the guys who developed the system (when he was with the Cleveland Browns).
Just to underscore, Inside Zone isn't a panacaea; it won't solve all our problems, as if by magic. Tough defenses will still be tough defenses. But even that MSU game looks a bit different if we get another 50 yards from our RBs (better field position for us, worse for them, more converted 3rd downs, fewer obvious passing downs, more real threat of playaction, etc.).
|7 weeks 2 days ago||I think my favorite thing about that play is...||
...that even if the SS plays it right, Alabama still gets the first down. Once the blocks are in, the only thing ND can really do is crash the gaps at the LoS, and if they do that, a smart RB will know to cut outside.
In terms of how well we would have run it in 2013, well, that's moot because Alabama reps Inside Zone to hell from day one. But assuming we do that in 2014, I think it's plausible to expect us to run Inside Zone to the same level of profiency of, say, Iowa. That might not be a thrilling prospect, but it's also improvement of exactly 62 rank positions among FBS schools. Given our dual-threat quarterback and our potentially explosive playaction game, I think that's enough to produce major dividends in the relatively weak Big 10.
...oh, and yeah--Drake Johnson could be really effective. I guess I'm just not sure where he's at in terms of rehab, and I have high hopes that Green and Smith will develop into a one-two punch, kind of like Yeldon and Drake at Alabama this year. (I guess that could make Drake Johnson our Derrick Henry? I'll take that!)
|7 weeks 2 days ago||Some guesses||
Funchess = WR #1
Darboh = WR #2
Chesson = WR #3
Butt = U/Y TE #1
Kerridge = H-Back
Green = Yeldonback
Smith = Drakeback
OMG Norfleet = Henryback??!!!??? (Probably not)
|8 weeks 22 hours ago||Not exclusively, but...||
They run Inside Zone as their base play and add a lot of wrinkles from there. We're likely to see a LOT more zone blocking in 2014 than we did in 2013. And Alabama's practice MO is to drill the bejesus out of Inside Zone, so we'll likely be much better at it too.
Power O is likely to be much more situational and a changeup.
|8 weeks 1 day ago||I don't know whether to laugh or cry||
...but was the difference, too much of the time.
(We did get some success using playaction at others.)
|8 weeks 1 day ago||I listen to far too much Paul Finebaum||
...for someone who does not live in Alabama and does not care what happens to the Crimson Tide, but I can't get enough of the accents and it's actually a pretty informative show.
Anyways, the reason I bring this up is that the show gives the impression that the "underlying cause" for the split is Saban's belief that Alabama should challenge for an NC every single year, and his sense that Alabama's offense wasn't as overwhelingly dominant in 2013 as he thought it should be. That it was comparable more dominant than in 2011, when they won an NC and with 3 new starting OL, as well as new TE and RB, doesn't seem to factor into the equation here.
This might be apocryphal, but the whole Lane Kiffin consulting thing makes a lot more sense in that context.
...the second part of the theory is that the resultant Kiffin event served as the "proximate cause," the feeling of being undermined that potentially explains why Nussmeier was keen on leaving Tuscaloosa--even for another OC gig.
There are, of course, alternate theories: Saban micromanaging the offense throughout Nussmeier's tenure, Michigan paying more money, the desire for a new challenge, the hope that he might improve his stock for an HC position, etc.
...but this one has the ring of truth for me.
|8 weeks 1 day ago||Playaction from zone blocking||
Nice writeup of the diary, Seth--thank you!
But I think zone blocking is potentially worse for play-action in another respect: many zone blocking schemes (especially those run from the spread and pro-style variants that stress Outside over Inside Zone) prefer leaner more athletic OL over the big bruisers. These kinds of OL don't function as well (for the most part) in protection for long-developing pass plays. But as Space Coyote pointed out in the comments on my diary, that's not the case for Inside Zone focused teams like Alabama and Wisconsin.
And against both these teams, whose bread-and-butter is to punch you repeatedly in the face with Inside Zone (recall our collective PTSD after the 2010 Wisconsin game), defenses have to expect run on every single play. It's not hard to sell playaction if you can do that.
Of course, it's much harder to do that if you can't run consistently :P
...and this is one of the maddening things about Borges 2013: we couldn't not credibly sell the run, yet we kept going back to playaction as if we could.
While it's not reasonable to expect Michigan 2014 to run like Alabama 2013 (or Wisconsin 2013), it is reasonable to expect Michigan 2014 (under a simpler blocking scheme combined with more efficient drilling, featuring a more experienced/better conditioned interior OL and utilizing misdirection and passing constraints) to match or surpass the run game of other zone blocking teams in the Big 10.
Say Iowa 2013. Iowa was ranked #50 in total rushing offense (179.9 YPG, for 4.2 YPC) and was #30 in TFLs. = Not elite, but solid.
Michigan 2013, by contrast, was ranked #102 in total rushing offense (125.7 YPG and 3.58 YPC) and #91 in TFLs. = Basement.
[stats from: http://www.ncaa.com/stats/football/fbs/current/team/]
Now, keep in mind that's not adjusted for sacks. But still...I can only imagine how different our season is if half those 3rd and 8-12s are 3rd and 2-6s, and if playaction actually came off a credible fake.
|8 weeks 1 day ago||My bad||
I actually just logged on to edit that comment--which I made much too strongly and which I should have qualified more accurately. They do use the H-back in the exact sense you mean (the guy who lines up just behind the OL and who can either block or go out as a receiver).
What I meant to say/should have said is that I don't believe Nussmeier uses that position as much as Borges likes to use FBs (i.e. as a default). But yes, you are right, they do use it more than I stated/implied.
...and they also do use plenty of TEs, just in a pretty vanila way (mainly pass blockers with some rudimentary route running). I think that changes, given Jake Butt and the mismatches he potentially presents. But he didn't do much of that at Alabama.
|8 weeks 1 day ago||Yes on flipper||
I talked about footwork, but in the sense that flipper/shoulder technique emphasizes getting your body in the right place to a greater degree than hand technique (via the feet, of course). I prefer that method, as I think it results in more physical play from the OL and, like most things blocking related that I prefer, is easier to grasp (i.e. better for getting the most out of younger/less experienced players). Plus, if I'm not mistaken, it's harder to draw holding penalties that way.
But again, there's no single "right" way--either method can work if implemented well.
...and I think that's my main concern: that we stick with one thing, use it consistently, and drill it like madmen.
|8 weeks 1 day ago||Good points||
You bring up some excellent points, and I think the bottom line is that Nussmeier's offense is more constraint-based than Borges'. If a defense keys in on something, like defenses were keying in on our "runnning game" and playaction passes all season, he will take what they are giving (the screen, the edge of the field, etc.).
One quibble: Alabama doesn't actually use the FB or H-back much--they go single-back most of the time. Nussmeier may use our FBs more liberally than he did at Alabama, but my feeling is that we move away from that and towards a single-back system (which I prefer).
And on that note, some Tide fans actually complain about underutilization of the TE. I think he'd be nuts to ignore Jake Butt, who should have a breakout year in 2014, but I think it also cements Funchess' move to WR and probably changes our recruiting a bit.
|8 weeks 1 day ago||One of the reasons I love Inside Zone||
...is that you can run it out of the shotgun or pistol and not much changes from a blocking perspective. And, as you say, you can add complexity by introducing various QB option plays (Inverted Veer, Zone Read, etc.). Even from under center--if you have big OL like Alabama or Wisconsin (and presumably, like the Michigan of the near future), there's a host of possibilities (counters, playaction, screens, etc.).
Also, as a point of clarification: I don't think zone blocking is "simple," but I do think learning Inside Zone and being able to do a pretty large number of different things without changing personnel, formations, etc. makes it a great "value," so to speak--and this is why so many teams have moved in this direction. Why drill ten things when you can drill one and still get ten plays out of it? Just get it down pat and then add the wrinkles.
I also don't think zone blocking is invincible--clearly not, or everyone would do it and no one would fail. And other blocking schemes will work just as well with the right pieces in place. However, I do think it's very efficient, from a coaching perspective, and fits the exact point we are in right now, in terms of our roster and what we will reasonably be capable of in 2014 and 2015. I think it would have fit who we were in 2013 better than what we ran too (though of course we did run some zone plays).
|8 weeks 1 day ago||Thanks for the kind words, and...||
...yes, you're right about the size of OL and whether you run Inside or Outside Zone as your base play. What I was getting at, though, was that there's a theory of zone blocking that stresses smaller, faster OL, and that a lot of people thought this to be generally true--even though it's really not, for exactly the reasons you point out.
And you're also right about implementation--but I do find Inside Zone to be relatively easier to implement than Power O, and it's so flexible that you can (like Alabama and Wisconsin) run tons of misdirection and other shenanigans out of your base play. Doing so keeps things simple for the OL, and allows you to cut down on what you drill in practice--both advantages for the quick development of young/inexperienced OL. So in that sense, I see it as simple/elegant relative to most alternatives.
As for who ran the Alabama offense, my understanding is that Nussmeier came in and tweaked the system Saban and McElwain had already put in place. So he's not an innovator like, say, Rich Rod--but rather a guy like Narduzzi who has mastered a system. I think he can import that system to Ann Arbor and implement it without much transitional pain, and in that sense I think he's just about the best hire possible for us right now.
|8 weeks 1 day ago||Conceptually not that different from Nussmeier||
But there are some significant differences, both in blocking technique (emphasis on hand placement [DeBord] vs. footwork [Nussmeier]) and playcalling (scripted/dictate-to-defense [DeBord] vs. constraint-based/respond-to-defense [Nussmeier]). And Alabama runs relatively less Outside Zone and more Inside Zone than we did in 2006/7. Oh, and Nussmeier likes to go vertical more than DeBord did--in that sense he reminds me of Borges.
So even if the two systems have the same structure, they don't really resemble each other in execution. I would say Nussmeier's (and Jim McElwain's) reminds me a bit of Shanahan's Broncos, in that you can pretty much plug any B+ running back into the system and expect results. Hopefully we see that next year with Smith and Green.
|8 weeks 1 day ago||It's more like||
...a cross between what we ran in 2006-7 under DeBord and what we ran in 2010 under RR. In 2011, if I'm not mistaken, we utilized Power O blocking, which has some elements in common with zone blocking, but involves pulling guards and doesn't option off defenders. We certainly did that well then, and I'm not so zealous about zone blocking that I can't see how other schemes can work. But I see zone blocking--and the Inside Zone play in particular--as one of those sublimely elegant setups that's super easy to implement and can paper over some structural deficiencies in the roster.
Nussmeier did an incredible job getting the most out of new starters at Alabama this year, including 3 new starters on the OL, a new RB and new TE--all of whom were involved in the run game and pass protection.
|8 weeks 1 day ago||Your conclusion is a much better version of the cliche||
"Offense wins games and defense wins championships" (for unexplained, largely ethereal FEELINGSBALL reasons).
Rather, it's defense puts you in games more consistently than offense does, because of lower variance.
|8 weeks 2 days ago||I think it's a bit of both||
A lot of our offensive struggles were predictable outcomes of inexperience; another portion were outcomes of poor tactical and strategic decisions--many, I'd assume, coming from Borges, though some probably also coming from Hoke. Plus there's bad fortune--make that 2pt conversion against Ohio, or one of those doomed FG tries against PSU, and how do perceptions change?
Thus I'd say Borges is fairly blamed for certain things and being scapegoated for others.
|8 weeks 2 days ago||Tom Brady||
He doesn't really need to practice anymore, does he?
|8 weeks 2 days ago||I grew more addicted to Skyrim than any game since Contra on NES||
Love everything about it, aside from the bugs, of course.
|12 weeks 2 days ago||Great hire for UCONN||
Not only is Diaco an excellent defensive coordinator, but the ND "brand" has a lot of cachet in the heavily Catholic Northeast. As much as I think Narduzzi is better at developing and coordinatoring defensive players on the field, Diaco is certainly a better recruiter and that "name brand recognition" factor should serve him well in attracting more talent to what's essentially seen as a basketball school.