Hokepoints Reps Inside Zone

Hokepoints Reps Inside Zone

Submitted by Seth on August 5th, 2014 at 10:30 AM


By the end of this article you should be able to make an educated guess
as to what Braden is saying to A.J. Williams [Fuller]

You may have heard Michigan has a new offensive identity, by which of course we mean Michigan now has an offensive identity. We think. We're told. Evidence for this is Michigan hired a new OC who runs inside zone, and he has even Brady Hoke talking about it being our base thing. This thing is totally happening. I mean if they hadn't sworn up and down for three years that Power was going to be their thi...

Let's just not go into that and focus on inside zone and how to watch inside zone, and how to be correctly disappointed with the correct person when inside zone isn't run very well. Since this is a new thing, and the offensive line are all relatively new things themselves, and the recent history of Michigan football has given you no reason to believe otherwise, and there are some really good defensive linemen Michigan has to go against this year, let's concede right now that Michigan isn't going to be running inside zone very well this season, especially early. Let's pretend like the coaches are going to stick it out anyway and let it play out.

IZ Resources: As well as the above-linked articles, I drew from Chris Brown at Smart Football, and this article that quotes Chris Brown on a Philly Eagles website. And Space Coyote wrote an entire article on IZ and some plays that stem from it in this year's HTTV; I'm sure he'll pipe in as soon as I mess something up here.

Every blocker is responsible for whatever defender appears in the "zone" he's responsible for blocking.

A Temperate Zone

What's inside zone? Maybe it's best to start with what it's not: man. In MANBALL, most linemen have an assigned guy to block; a lead blocker (sometimes a puller) is the only dude who has to make a tough, mid-play decision, and the running back just has to follow that guy.

Inside zone is a base running play where all the blockers are reacting to the defense, not just a lead guy, and the running back has to choose from among various holes that could open up. It takes a different set of skills, mastery of a different set of blocks, and most of all: reps reps and more reps so that everybody can make split-second decisions and those decisions will be correct.

That's not to say all decisions are made after the snap. In fact most blocking assignments are determined by how the defense is lined up. In many cases it won't be all that discernible from man-blocking.


yellow is uncovered. click bigginates.

The read OL have to make is whether they're "covered" or not. Covered means there's a DL lined up across from you. If there isn't, you are "uncovered" and most likely you'll get to go hunting linebackers. But first you look next to you and see if there's a defender shaded to the playside of your buddy; he may need help with that lineman before you release downfield. If that defender is a beast your buddy may need all the help he can get. You deal with the first level defenders before you worry about stopping linebackers.

Almost always, more than one defender will arrive in a blocker's zone. So zone blocking means lots of shared blocking. Ultimately the blocking ends up being 2-on-2 instead of 1-on-1. For example in captioned illustration above-right, the center and right guard are together responsible for blocking the nose tackle and the middle linebacker.

Footwork Impeccable

Offensive linemen in high school seldom get the right footwork down. Zone-blocking footwork isn't the same as pile-driving some dude, for one; and two it's not something many high school coaches know how to teach; and three if you're a 6'6"/300 future Big Ten OL and your job is to block a 6'0"/180 future Big Ten economics major, your greatest motivation to pay attention to your feet is probably the preservation of your prom date's.

In this moment it matters greatly. You need to get off the snap, get playside of your defender, get downfield, and get your feet set beneath you, your hands inside, and your pads beneath his so you can ride him out of the play, stonewall him, or shove him downfield; you let him dictate his fate.

On inside zone, an uncovered guy's first step is always to the play-side, not directly toward the guy you're going to block (the OL taking this step is a good indicator it's a zone-blocked rather than man-blocked play). This is because the DL don't always come straight upfield; you don't want them running by you.

Your job is to block the guy trying to cross you. If someone lined up inside you and ran further inside you, he's not yours. Your head stays downfield until you lock on a target, and any object that attempts to cross your field of vision must be stopped.

That Rabbit's Dynamite

Interesting example of a 1) a cutback and 2) the U starting on the strongside of the formation then executing his backside block almost like a lead blocker

Mastering the combo blocks and footwork to respond to all the things defenses throw at you takes a bazillion reps. The upside: inside zone, like option offenses, is a multi-attack threat that can go where the defense doesn't. A called IZ play could end up going outside, or inside, or cut to the backside depending on how your opponent defends it. A well-run IZ offense doesn't let defensive fronts play aggressively; if they want to stop you they'll have to activate the safeties in the run game, opening up the pass. It's not wimpy; it's smashmouth football that—as you'll see—relies mostly on crushing blocks to break things big.

[After the jump I'll show some sample executions versus various defensive alignments so you can get a sense of how it attacks and what factors lead to its success.]

HTTV: A Totally Real Sneak Preview

HTTV: A Totally Real Sneak Preview

Submitted by BiSB on June 4th, 2014 at 9:55 AM

HUZZAH! The Kickstarter has been Kickstarted. HTTV shall be printed, just as Steve Gutenberg anticipated when he invented the four-color glossy printing press in 1988. Not only that, but with Draftstreet picking up the tab for express shipping, you will receive it mere seconds after it is mailed. But what will you actually GET for your money?* I thought it might be interesting for people who contributed to get a sneak peek at what is in this year’s HTTV, as well as to hopefully convince those of you on the fence to secure your copy while you still can.

You still have until tomorrow just before noon.

*Disclaimer: I have not seen the magazine yet, so these are just my assumptions of what will be in there. But it all seems pretty likely.

Full Team Preview

Team Preview

Brian provides an in-depth look at every position group. Some tidbits:

  • The defensive line section spends a couple of pages analyzing the various positions along the DL, including how Michigan will adapt to Ondre Pipkins’ injury, how the snap distribution is likely to shake out at the 3-tech DT spot, and whether we can expect Frank Clark to take another step forward.
  • The parts about the linebackers and secondary are a combined 37 pages long, and largely consist of hand-drawn battle scenes of Jake Ryan and Jabrill Peppers attacking ninjas and robot dinosaurs with fighter jets and tanks. Complete with “neeeeeeeerrrrrrrVRROOOOOOOMMM” sound effects.
  • The part about the offensive line is a quarter of a page long, and consists mostly of a drawing of a seven-legged spider.

    In-depth analysis.
  • The quarterback section is exactly one word long. I can’t tell you what it is, but it rhymes with “Kevin.”
  • The running back section is just a list of every calorie Derrick Green has consumed since the end of last season.
  • The wide receiver section is a full-page explanation of why Devin Funchess is a wide receiver, not a tight end.
  • The tight end section is a full-page explanation of why Devin Funchess is a wide receiver, not a tight end.

Opponent Previews

Opponent Preview

Ace basically watched every available snap of every opponent Michigan will face this year other than Notre Dame and Ohio State. He broke the tape down, player by player, until he had a handle on the personnel and how they were used in the various offensive and defensive schemes. He then looked at the teams in the broader context of their previous seasons and used everything to put together a comprehensive and cohesive picture of what we can expect in 2014.

Meanwhile, I Googled “what is Notre Dame football” and “Ohio State intelligence joke” and pretty much copied and pasted the first few results. Between the two of us, this is what we found:

  • Appalachian State is bad and we shouldn’t be playing them.
  • Miami (NTM) is bad and we shouldn’t be playing them.
  • Rutgers is bad and we shouldn’t be playing them.
  • Maryland might actually be good and we shouldn’t be playing them.
  • Michigan State will be good and we shouldn’t be playing them where we are playing them.
  • Minnesota is probably bad but BROWN JUG.
  • The Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team is the intercollegiate football team of the University of Notre Dame. The team is currently coached by Brian Kelly and play home games at the campus’s Notre Dame Stadium, with a capacity of 80,795.
  • Ohio State ain’t come to play school.

Twisted Blue Steel

Twisted Blue Steel

The creative essay portion of HTTV. People wax poetic on things of interest. This year's things of interest:

  • A farewell to Jeremy Gallon. If you were wondering how many ways in 2,000 words you can call someone short without using the word “short,” the answer is 61.
  • A farewell to Denard. Yeah, I know. He left two years ago. SHUT UP AND READ ABOUT DENARD.
  • A farewell to Trey Burke. See above.
  • An inspiring piece about the scrappy underdog tale of Hunter Lochmann. From his childhood days with a Darren Rovell poster on his wall and nothing but hand-me-down marketing plans, he learned the game from his sandlot strategy meetings,  and managed to fight his way to the top. I challenge you to not cry at the description of the slow clap that follows his first successful SEO initiative.

Technical Dossier

Technical Dossier

The X’s and O’s. Space Coyote does a lot of it, so I don’t fully understand it. But it looks impressive, and I’ll take his word for it.

  • An explanation of the change to the 4-3 Over from the 4-3 Under, and something about Doug Nussmeier. Blah blah.
  • A detailed explanation of how running plays are designed to, under ideal circumstances, move the ball closer to the end zone.
  • A bunch of pretty pictures with lines and stuff.

Additional Things


There are also a few other tidbits and other assorted whatnot buried in the book. I don’t want to give them all away, because half of the fun is finding them for yourself, but here are a few:

  • The first letters of every line will give you a really nice recipe for chicken tetrazzini. The secret is nutmeg.
  • The lower right-hand corner acts as a flipbook of the Dileo power-slide.
  • The paper is made from real recycled pieces of Devin Gardner’s ribs. This wasn’t actually intentional; Michigan State just sacked him into a paper mill when this particular batch of paper was being made.
  • Everyone who purchases HTTV will have a chance to play three snaps at right guard this season.
  • If you read HTTV while listening to Guns N' Roses' "Appetite for Destruction," it syncs up in a really cool way. If you read at the right speed. And change some of the lyrics.

One Other Reason

There is one other reason to buy this magazine: you will want this magazine. You might not think so right now, because this has been a long and generally crappy few months. You don't think you'll be excited about this football season. I know, because I felt the same way. And then I started watching video of last year's Michigan/Notre Dame game and Michigan/Ohio State game to write my stuff, and I remembered how much I love college football.

You'll get there, too. It might be in early August, or it might not be until the team runs out of the tunnel, but you will get there. You'll get that familiar feeling of anticipation and dread that has accompanied those September saturdays your entire adult life. Regardless of the team turmoil or the weak schedule, it will at some point strike you that Michigan is playing football, and you will once again fall under the autumn spell. There's no shame in it. It happens to the best of us.

The only question is whether you will be prepared.

Hokepoints: Seasoning the Line

Hokepoints: Seasoning the Line

Submitted by Seth on April 29th, 2014 at 1:00 PM


Gardner's implied question is the same we're all asking [Fuller]

The 2014 football season hinges on whether the offensive line can go from one of the worst in the country to just mediocre. We've mentioned the downsides: it has to replace two NFL tackles. The upside is an offensive coordinator who plans to simplify the things they'll have to do, a ton of talent, and rather good excuses for why the bulk of guys weren't so good (youth compounded by panicky/insane coaching decisions). The competence of coaches replaced, arriving, or remaining can't be determined until they play, so guesses at their 2014 performance have to be extrapolated from what we know of the current players and the typical progression of men like them.

When Michigan was still putting together those 2012 and 2013 classes I looked over the history of our offensive linemen going back to the mid-'90s, because my memory before that is weak.


     Year in program
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
All-B1G+ - - 1 10 12
Solid Starter 1 8 14 10 13
Liability Starter 1 3 8 12 6
Backup 0 50 30 17 8
Redshirting 75 - - - -
Injured 0 6 3 2 -
Playing defense 2 1 1   - -
Not on team 1 6 13 17 29
% Available 99% 92% 81% 75% 57%
% Solid + 1% 11% 21% 29% 37%
% All-B1G+ - - 1% 15% 18%

The results were the growth chart below. I've reproduced it with updated data from 2013:

Really it's more specific than the above. If you're the backup to Steve Hutchinson in 2000 you could be pretty solid or terrible, but if you were an interior lineman on the 2013 team and hale and still couldn't crack the depth chart, you were obviously not good at that point. One thing working in our favor is Michigan has historically brought in offensive line classes rated about as highly as the recent crops. If you tried this with MSU over the same period there would be stretches of 2-stars (and, um, personal issues) to throw off the numbers.

A more precise way to show where our OL are at this point is to find closer comparisons to historic players at this point in their careers. I couldn't figure out a good way to show "tracks" before, but I think I've learned enough about table html now to make a crude flow chart. Sample sizes are way too small to say "Kalis will be X good by Y season," but if you can read it to say "At that age, Steve Schilling and Patrick Omameh were both about where Kalis is now." Usefulness is better at capping expectations: you can always say so-and-so was a backup at this point, but Miller's not going to be Molk.

Here goes:

Freshman(True) Fr/So So/Jr Jr/Sr Sr 5th Players
Solid Solid x x n/a Justin Boren
Bosch, (Cole?)






Defense Backup Backup Star n/a Maurice Williams,
Damon Denson
Not on team (x) TransferRS Backup Solid Star Jonathan Goodwin

Kugler, Samuelson, Dawson, Fox, Tuley-Tillman,(Bushell-Beatty)


Star Star Star David Molk
Solid Star Star Jansen, Hutchinson, Backus, Long, Lewan
Kalis, Magnuson
Liability Solid Solid Steven Schilling
Solid Liability Liability Patrick Omameh

Braden, Bars

Star Star David Brandt, David Baas
Solid Star Tony Pape, Adam Kraus, Schofield
Solid Stenavich, Lentz
Solid Star Zach Adami
Injured Solid Chris Ziemann
Liability Solid Mark Huyge
Liability Reuben Riley
x Alex Mitchell
Backup Backup Demeterius Solomon


Solid Solid Dave Pearson
Liability Ricky Barnum
Liability Solid Frazier, Petruziello, Bihl, Ortmann
Liability David Moosman, Perry Dorrestein
Backup Ben Mast, Courtney Morgan
Backup Solid Kurt Anderson, Leo Henige
Liability Elliott Mealer
Backup N. Parker, Denay, Kolodziej, McAvoy
Unrenewed Partchenko, Potts, Christopfel, Gaston, DeBenedictis, Ciulla, Gallimore, Khoury
Defense Backup Backup John Ferrara
Injuries Zirbel, Mossa, Sharrow, Brooks, Schifano, C. Bryant, Tannous, A.Brown, Simelis, Berishaj, C.Pace
Transfers Ries, Moltane, Zuttah, Wermers, O'Neill, Posada

[Discussion after the jump]

Schedule of Successories!

Schedule of Successories!

Submitted by Seth on April 6th, 2011 at 3:19 PM


The Conference of Leaders and Legends and Champions and Successes and Deliverables has released its industry-leading, no frills, easy-to-use schedule of play through what we can only hope will be Brady Hoke's fourth consecutive Big Ten Championship. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg managed to get early dibs on the Big Ten's 2013 and 2014 conference schedules (HT: dkeesbury), so we can bring you the near future's road to Pasadena / Wherever-Probably-Not-Glendale-lolz:

2013 Big Ten Schedule:

Date Opponent Location
Sep. 28 x TBA
Oct. 5 MINNESOTA* Ann Arbor, Mich.
Oct. 12 @ Penn State* University Park, Pa.
Oct. 19 INDIANA* Ann Arbor, Mich.
Oct. 26 x TBA
Nov. 2 @ Michigan State* East Lansing
Nov. 9 NEBRASKA* Ann Arbor, Mich.
Nov. 16 @ Northwestern* Evanston, Ill.
Nov. 23 @ Iowa* Iowa City, Iowa (We're from Iowa!)
Nov. 30 OHIO STATE* Ann Arbor, Mich.

2014 Big Ten Schedule:

Date Opponent Location
Sep. 27 @ Indiana or Illinois? Bloomington, Ind. or Champaign, Ill.?
Oct. 4 x TBA
Oct. 11 MICHIGAN STATE Ann Arbor, Mich.
Oct. 18 @ Minnesota Minneapolis, Minn.
Oct. 25 PENN STATE Ann Arbor, Mich.
Nov. 1 IOWA Ann Arbor, Mich.
Nov. 8 @ Nebraska Lincoln, Neb.
Nov. 15 x TBA
Nov. 22 NORTHWESTERN Ann Arbor, Mich.
Nov. 29 @ Ohio State Columbus, Ohio

There's no Purdue. :-[(


And no Wisconsin.

I said No Wisconsin!

Where's Wisconsin?


And no Illinois.


Earlier there was a discrepency on MGoBlue.com that had Michigan playing the Illini instead of Indiana. That has been cleared up - the mothership just had a typo.


By 2014, Michigan State gets moved back to mid-October, which if I knew Michigan State existed when I was a kid* I guess that would feel more appropriate than mid-November. This seems to be a quirk of the schedule and not the Big Ten acknowledging rivalry dates are important, other than the BIG rivalry between Legendary Leadership, and Leaders of Legend. That – the conf. championship – will be on Dec. 7, 2013, and Dec. 6, 2014, respectively; locales TBD.


* My father went to MSU in the 60s - but like who of his generation remembers anything from that time? Nobody talked about Michigan State at Quarton Elementary School is what I mean.


The Rittenberg article also quotes a TV guy in the conference who seems to favor 9-game conference schedules:

"That's just the mathematics of it," said Big Ten senior associate commissioner for television administration Mark Rudner, who puts together the schedule. "While teams are still playing eight conference games, out of the total inventory of games available, we're playing a smaller percentage. We've added a 12th institution. Part of this could be solved if we went to a nine-game [Big Ten] schedule moving forward. 

"It's not ideal, but hopefully moving forward it can be addressed."

Okay, so there's one guy who's maybe probably voting for 9 games at the next meeting. Reason for: one week in September we play the Wisconsin Badgers instead of the Not-a-State University Baby Seals (and MSU lines up Ohio State instead of the Northern Colorado School for Mimes). Reason against: fewer bowl-eligible Big Ten teams -- you're turning 12 almost-guaranteed wins for conference teams into exactly 6-6), plus all the same reasons BCS teams choose to play kick the can in September instead of each other. I'm for 9. I also think it's a pipedream.

Other random, non-bulleted thoughts:

Nothing lasts forever: Other than Penn State games, the schedule does set up nicely early in the season, but with brutal Iowa/Nebraska/Ohio State Novembers broken up by that quasi-traditional Northwestern-in-a-cold-November-Rain game.

Not a good refrain: When we rebooted the ND rivalry again for '02, I wanted somebody to notice that Michigan would end up getting both the Irish and Ohio State at home on odd years, thus leaving Michigan State the de facto big home game of even years. Surely when adding Nebraska, this would be rectified so that…dammit! So from now until the conference adds a 9th game or whatever, on odd years we get Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and the Brown Jug game. On even years we visit all of them, and get Michigan State at home.

Also, MSU doesn't play Ohio State these two years, if you're the type who likes to grumble early.

I've added the info to the future schedules wiki.