Mailbag: Redshirts, Bad Burned Ones, QB Oh Noes, Packaged Plays

Mailbag: Redshirts, Bad Burned Ones, QB Oh Noes, Packaged Plays

Submitted by Brian on September 19th, 2012 at 4:30 PM

Redshirts.

star_trek_redshirts[1]

Hey Brian,

The media has made a big deal about the 12 freshmen that have already played this season, mainly viewing it as a sign that the team is in bad shape.  I think it's mainly because the 2012 recruiting class was so good, not because the returning players are performing poorly.

Guys like Funchess, Norfleet and James Ross would find some playing time on most teams.  I don't see many Ray Vinopals out there - players only burning a redshirt because the depth chart at the position is a tire fire.  Yet another interpretation is that it is a reflection of Brady Hoke's philosophy which differs from past coaches. I recall that you didn't expect so many to play.  How did you interpret the situation?

Best,
Mike Forster
Class of 2005

The twelve who have seen the field grouped into categories:

JUST THAT GOOD: Norfleet (at least in the context of KR), Funchess.
STANDARD-ISSUE GROOMING: Darboh, Wilson, Pipkins
GROOMING TOO BUT PROMINENCE IS WORRYING: Bolden, Ross
BAD SIGNS: Williams, Ojemudia, Richardson.
WTF: Jenkins-Stone, Houma.

Ideally you wouldn't have Demens's job under threat in his third year as a starter, wouldn't be playing a true freshman blocking TE who was a tackle last year, and would tell Ojemudia and Richardson to eat a bunch of lard and talk to me when you've put on 30 pounds. Everyone else is about what you'd expect.

I'm not surprised most of these guys are all seeing time. I thought Ojemudia would be forced onto the field because of Clark's issues; those turned out to be less severe than they might have been but Beyer's injury still forced M's hand there. After I predicted a redshirt in Richardson's recruiting profile, Michigan saw two corners leave the team and a third go down for the year, plus Avery has/had back issues. They need to have him out there. With four corners in the next recruiting class they don't absolutely need to have him get that fifth year.

The two real surprises are RJS and Houma, but while they're irritatingly burning redshirts so they can watch Matt Wile pound kickoffs into the endzone their presence on special teams doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things.

[after the jump: more redshirts! sexy packaged plays! A dinosaur!]

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-24-12: Al Borges

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-24-12: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on August 25th, 2012 at 9:02 AM

Al Borges

How are you guys doin? Kinda stoic. / File

How are you feeling about things now compared to the beginning of camp?

“Better. I think we have a little bit of feel, we’re getting a little bit of rhythm on occasion, but we still need a little more practice. We’re not there, but we feel better. I mean the thing about offense and defense is once you narrow down your field of players and you start working with them rather than work with the whole team, which you’re doing kind of for two weeks, the execution gets better. I mean that’s been the case, and that’s why spring football is hard, because you never really do that, you know. In the fall you narrow down your field of players and they start doing better.”

What exactly is the criteria for being there?

“I’ll tell you after the game whether we were there or not. The reason -- and I’m not being sarcastic -- but sometimes you think you’re there and you find out whether you were or not. You can go through a very good practice where there are very few errors and then all of a sudden the pressure of the game gets to some kids, particularly the ones who have never played before that don’t have a start. You realize that you weren’t quite as prepared as you thought you were. But all you do is the best you can to get those kids in as many scenarios that will make them react well and hope like heck they do. But there is no way to really know.”

[After THE JUMP, offensive line, freshmen freshmen everywhere, and Borges comes perilously close to admitting slot backs exist]

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-8-12: Al Borges

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-8-12: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on August 9th, 2012 at 9:16 AM

Al Borges

Opening remarks:

"Okay. Who’s going to break the ice?"

With Fitz out for a while, how quickly will you be able to identify your next No. 1 RB?

“Well we’re just going to the next guy. We’re not really changing anything. Thomas Rawls is going to be that next guy. Vince is going to do what he’s done, and on we go. I think the key to these situations from a game plan perspective is to try to make as little out of it, to make it as seamless as you can, and just go.”

What can you glean from the first few practices?

“Not much. I mean, what do you see? They’re just running around in shorts. Until somebody’s going to hit somebody and somebody’s going to do something, it’s really just kind of glorified aerobics in a lot of ways. I hate to put it that way, but you know, we have a few kids run pretty good. We’ll learn more today because we’re in half pads and we’ll learn even more towards the end of the week. To make any hard and fast assessments of where we are is really hard to do right now. It is. I’m not copping out, I’m just telling you this. We know more about the offense, but we kind of knew that before we even lined up. That part is better.”

Does that mean Vince is just a third down guy?

“No. Not necessarily. Vince is going to pretty much play the same role as he did a year ago, and that wasn’t always on third down. So he was in there sometimes to spell backs, and we’ll just see how it shakes out, but Thomas is going to get a good chance, and Vince is going to get a good chance. Justice Hayes is in the fold, too. So we’ll kind of see, and again these next few days -- not few days, but really this next week or so, when we start and the full contact takes hold, we’ll learn more about that situation.”

Have you talked much to Fitz?

“A little bit. As much as I ever do, ya know. ‘Hi Fitz, what’s going on, how ya feelin.’ Yeah, I mean. I talk to all offensive players at one time or another. But yeah, that’s about it.”

You’ve been around Rawls. What do you like about his style and what he brings to the table?

“He’s reckless. He runs with a demeanor that’s aggressive. Suffice to say, aggressive would be the best word -- he looks like he’s mad when he runs sometimes. But he’s a tough guy, and if you hit him you’re going to feel him, I promise you that. You are going to feel him, because there’s times when he’s just simply not interested in avoiding you.”

In your offense, how do you choose where to place your X and Z receivers? Does it make a difference?

“Yeah, it does make a difference, but optimal thing is you’d like to have a guy that plays the position. But the X receiver tends to draw a little more single coverage depending on the team. Some teams that’s not true, and he’s on the line of scrimmage most of the time, so he’s going to draw tighter press coverage, too, whereas the flanker’s not going to draw quite as much tight coverage. The X is a guy that’s got to be kind of rangy because he’s got to be able to get some jump balls. The Z does sometimes, too. The Z’s got to be a guy that moves around a lot more. He’s going to be in more formations than the X is, so he’s got to be on the ball with regard to that. But the skill set in terms of being able to catch, run, and jump, it’s very similar. But once we get them there we try and kind of fit the guys that look like they can handle those things I talked about better.”

What role do you envision Jeremy Gallon to be in?

“Pretty much more the same, with a little bit more seasoning, if that makes any sense. He’s a tough guy. He plays much bigger than his size. You just don’t see a lot of guys his height that can go up and get jump balls like he does. He’s a very good blocker. But what I’d say in answer to that question is that every phase of his game should be a little better simply because of his overall understanding of what we’re trying to do. But he’s a reliable kid, and the quarterbacks have faith in his ability to go get the ball. They know they’ll get his best effort every time he goes up. I would look for him as well as Roy, who’s really [had an outstanding spring] -- both of them have taken that next step. Now I hope we get some carryover once we start playing.”

How much do you think you can use Devin at receiver?

“Well, that’s going to be a lot by game plan, but we’re developing him at two different positions, and let me tell you that’s a challenge. For a kid to be an occasional player is one thing, but to be a guy that you’re really kind of splitting time with, that’s a challenge, but we’ll just see how that shakes out. That’s still kind of in the embryonic stages. As we go, we’ll decide how much of it we’re going to use.”

Do you expect to use him more at one position or another?

“He could -- it depends. I can’t commit to that because you don’t know. At the end of the day, maybe, but we’re trying to exploit every option at this point.”

Does the decision to play Devin at wide receiver mean you have more confidence in Russell Bellomy’s ability as a backup quarterback?

“Yeah. I have more confidence in all their abilities. Any way you cut it, Russell Bellomy’s going to have to take the next step, just like we’re asking everybody else to do. So yeah. I think that’s the key point. You have to develop three quarterbacks. At this point, anyway. Now once you get into the season and you decide how you distribute all that, you’re really working just with two quarterbacks, but we have to see how this whole thing shakes out. Right now we’re still an open book, but we do have some nice options, and right now that’s all you can ask for.”

Have you consulted any other coaches who have dealt with players splitting time between two positions?

“Uh, no not really. No, I tell you what we did do when I was at UCLA is we came here when [Michigan] had Charles Woodson. We came for a spring. Just curious because we had a kid there who we were talking about doing some of that stuff with. But that was different. It was a little different because Charles was playing in a defensive and offensive position. He had this completely different deal. You have to learn two different systems. But Devin’s … in the same system. Learning, hearing the same words all the time. But I can still remember doing that.”

Have you done this with many players in the past?

“A few. A couple over the years, yeah. One time or another you’re forced to do some of that. Sometimes you’re just short on depth, particularly when I coached lower levels when you didn’t have all the scholarships, you know. You had to have some kids that were versatile, so it was through necessity.”

Any examples?

“Oh god, I don’t even remember anymore. God I’d have to walk in the room -- I don’t remember.”

How hard is it for a kid to split time?

“It’s tough because there’s not that many reps. You get X amount of reps and you have to figure out how to get them those reps without killing them. It’s hard. It’s not easy to do.”

You said you’ll see “how it shakes out.” Can you determine that by the end of fall camp?

“Well we determine it before we get to a game situation because we have a game plan, right? You have to make some hard and fast decisions before you get to game time because you have to have a plan going into the game. You can’t do that experiment. And I will say this, too: once you get into the game, it better work out at least in part how you wanted it to, or you’re gonna have to make some adjustments, but at one point in time, we have to have an idea how many reps everybody’s going to play. You know what I mean? Not just him, but everybody -- where and when and what situations. That’s part of game planning.”

Does it help Devin that he’s practicing at two positions that have to work together so closely?

“I think so. Yeah I do.”

Are Devin and Bellomy 1A and 1B?

“No, Devin’s still the second quarterback. That part of it doesn’t change.”

Any impressions of the freshman receivers?

“Eh … nah. I ain’t doin’ it. Nah. I could [say], ‘This guy’s great, that guy’s great,’ then tomorrow you put pads on and go, ‘Oh my god.’ No. Ask me in a week and I’ll probably have a better assessment.”

Does Devin’s switch to receiver show off his athleticism more?

“Yeah. Yeah, and that’s why we did it. Some quarterbacks are quarterbacks and that’s all they are. We’re fortunate in that we have really a couple good quarterbacks that can probably play [receiver] … and he’s one of those guys. You know, he’s a big guy that can run and has good hands. So I mean it’d be bad coaching if he’d be standing next to me the whole game when you have a guy who can really help us. Last year we were pretty deep at that position so it wasn’t as critical, but I think this year he can play more of a part.”

Thoughts on offensive line chemistry?

“Eh, again, it’s just so hard to call, but I know that those kids worked their butts off in the offseason. They did. And they worked together as much as they could. I think that’s something that if it’s not there now, it’s going to come because I know how important it is to those kids.”

MGoQuestion: How do you evaluate the effectiveness of the deuce package, and will you consider using it again this season?

“Well I had my analyst do a -- I believe we were eight-point-something yards [per attempt]. I’m not sure exactly. I don’t have it in front of me, but it was good. And even the plays that weren’t good set up plays that were good. You know what I mean. There were guys we’d run a play that wouldn’t yield much, only to be set up by another play that did. It’s not always the play, sometimes It’s the residual effect of the initial play. So it was good. Now how much we use of it? I don’t know. That’s a game plan deal. As we get through the install and we see where we are, we’ll decide on that. But we’re not doing any of that stuff now. That’s not what we’re about right now. We’re about teaching the system and getting our valuations straight. And once we do that, then and only then will we start playing with some of the more I guess cute phases of our offense. I hate using that word. Why’d I say that.”

You mentioned starting Denard off a little too quickly with the pro-style concepts. How do you approach it this year?

“Well we have a lot better feel for what we are. You know what I mean. We knew Denard was a good spread quarterback. I mean, anybody could see that. It was a matter of how much he could do of what we’d done in the past -- because we were always going to have some of that in our offense. We decided that when we came here. We decided that when I took the job. So once we decided what percentages that was, then we could proceed accordingly. We have so much better feel for that now because we’ve been through a fall, a spring, we know basically how much we want to be of both. It’s different now. It’s different without a question.”

Can you make a determination on certain position battles -- like left guard -- by a certain date? Do you have a timetable?

“I would never put a date on it because it could change the day before the game, you know what I mean? But there is a point in time when you have to narrow the field down to how many kids you’re going to practice in scout teams. And that’ll be sometime within a couple weeks to the game -- within at least a week and a half to the game. We have not set that date yet, but at that time it’s fish or cut bait. You have to take the 18 to 20 players that you’re going to practice with every single day, then kind of go from there.”

Spring Game Presser Transcript: Al Borges

Spring Game Presser Transcript: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on April 15th, 2012 at 3:53 PM

Al Borges

Opening remarks:

“From an overall perspective, 15 days, I think we really had a nice spring offensively. We got a lot of questions answered, I think. Had a chance to do some experimenting, although we didn’t use any of it today, but we did some things and turned another page in our offensive approach. I think people we knew could play pretty much proved they could play, and we found a few guys along the way that I think are going to be contributors. We still have a ways to go. It’s still a typical spring game. The amount of times I’ve come out of a spring game and been happy I can count on two fingers in all the 26 years I’ve been coaching. That’s just kind of the way it is. But we got something done, and that’s what’s most important, is getting a chance in front of our fans to do some deals, do some things and I think we got something done, and that really was the goal for today.”

Can you talk about Ricky Barnum’s progress. Did he meet your expectations?

“Yeah Ricky’s come a long way for a position that he really hasn’t played very much. But I mentioned to you guys before, I think from a profile perspective, Ricky fits that position better than he probably does any other position. He’s a smart kid that plays with good leverage, knows how to use people around him. Now that he understands the calls and how to put everybody on the same page, that really makes a big difference at that position, because you’re not forced to block people one-on-one constantly. That’s the thing about playing center, is there’s a lot of that going on. He’s done a nice job. I’m really happy with Ricky.”

We didn’t see a whole lot from the receivers today. Who are some of the guys that can really step up and compete for playing time with Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon?

“Well I think Jerald Robinson is one guy you’re going to see more and more of. He got banged up a little bit I think somewhere, I don’t know, but nothing serious. But I think he’s a guy you’re going to see step to the forefront because he’s been very prominent in our practices. Jeremy Jackson and Drew Dileo have also been very very active in our passing game. So I think those people and then if some of the freshmen come in and show up and aren’t awed by their surroundings, they may be able to contribute. I think we’re good at the position. We’d like to be deeper, but I think we’re pretty good.”

You gave most of the snaps to Devin Gardner and Russell Bellomy today …

“Yeah, that’s what we were trying to develop. We decided before we came in that we were only going to play Denard just a little tiny bit. We wanted to see these other kids.”

Thoughts on their springs overall?

“Yeah I think Devin in particular has had an outstanding spring. He’s really done some very nice things and has developed in the position more and more. Needs more time in situations like this where there’s a lot of people watching and the pressure’s on and all that, but he has really done a nice job. And Russ -- I said it last week and the week before -- Russ has been steady and solid and guys get open he hits them. He makes very few mistakes. He’s just one of those kinds of guys. He too is very athletic and can get himself out of some messes. He’s a solid guy. We have three quarterbacks who I think … I’m not sure when their major contributions are going to come -- two of them, anyway -- but I think there will be a point in time when they’ll make a major contribution. I’m happy with the position.”

Rawls had some nice runs. Can he potentially be the more physical back you’re looking for?

“Yeah. He’s a different kind of runner than Fitz and a differnet kind of runner than Vince and Justice Hayes too, in that he’s a battering ram type of guy. He goes in there and when Thomas hits you you’re going to feel him. He makes no concessions to the defense. He’s got a little bit of stop and go ability, but I would not say that’s his game. His game is running through people and making it very difficult to tackle, and following forward. He’s done that all spring. You only saw a little bit of it today. In the 14 days previous, we’ve seen quite a bit of it. He’s another guy that, you have to understand our appraoch was not to entertain today. Our approach was to find out more about our football team. He’s one of the guys we wanted to find out [about], and he was going to be featured. The players that we needed to know about were the guys we let play more, him being at the top of that list.”

What did Burzynski do to push his way into a starting spot than guys who have been there longer?

“Well he worked his butt off. He’s still not in the starting position but he’s competing for one certainly. He’s worked his butt off and he’s very coachable. He’s worked hard for Coach Wellman. He’s very attentive. He takes everything to heart. It’s very important to Joe that he improve, and a guy like that is going to improve if that’s your appraoch. When you’re a walk-on and you’re battling to get in that depth, you’ll never get in that depth until you get someone’s attention. He just did a good job. We’re not really deep at offensive line. He’s had opportunities, and he’s taken advantage of them.”

When did he get your attention?

“We saw some last year. More this spring, you know. Early on he became a factor and decided that he was going to step up and compete for the postiion, but I would say the first three or four days of spring football.”

What was he showing you?

“Good, explosive get-off, number one. Good hand placement. Good hat placement on his drive and zone blocks. Pretty solid pass protector. Had a good feel for playing games, working with the guy next to him. When you’re not the most gifted guy, you have to have something else that llows you to play. Joe’s not a bad athlete, but he’s probably not as athletic as some of the other guys. That means you have to study the game and play with awareness. And I think that’s what he’s done as much as anything to put himself in the position that he’s in.”

Did he show any of these signs last season?

“Yeah, some. Some. Because the depth was different, it wasn’t as critical that we have him step up. Well the depth’s not quite what it was, now there’s an opportunity there. We tell the players every time there is [and opportunity] to seize the moment. He’s seizing the moment.”

We heard more about Chris Bryant at the end of last season than this spring. What does he need to do to get better and get back on track to play?

“Just keep going the way he’s going. He’s been set back from being banged up a little bit, too. Nothing major. Chris Bryant’s going to be a good player. The one thing you have to understand about an offensive linemen: in my opinion, I think offensive line is the most developmental position on the entire football team. There are very very few that can step up on day one and be right with it. Now every so often you get a tailback. I know when I was at UCLA, I had DeShaun Foster. The day he stepped on campus he was the best tailback we had and we had to find a way to play him. But you don’t find many linemen like that. Usually they have to go through some growing pains, get a little stronger, get a little more aware, and do some of the things I’m talking about with Joe. Chris Bryant’s going to be a good player. He just needs a little more of that development.”

Denard said he only threw off his back foot one or two times this spring. Was that the major improvement he made? Are there other areas he’s improved?

“That was the biggest one. There are two things. And you didn’t see much of Denard today, but if you could have you would have appreciated this a little bit more -- and I want to see it [keep] going before I go on about it too much. I’d like to see some carryover, but the two things that have gone away in Denard’s game is falling off throws or throwing off your back foot as you say, and number two is indiscriminate decision making. He had very very few interceptions this spring. Very few. He had cut his interceptions from last spring to this spring four times. Four times [fewer] interceptions. And that’s not unusual now for a guy that didn’t understand the offense. I said that last year our passing game was a drastic disparity from what they had done in years past, and there’s going to be some growing pains. We have to take the step into the fall because it’s all irrelevant if you don’t, but our passing game is enhanced immeasurably.”

Spring Practice Presser Transcript 4-5-12: Al Borges

Spring Practice Presser Transcript 4-5-12: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on April 5th, 2012 at 3:56 PM

Al Borges

Gorgeous.

Opening remarks:

"I can sing, but I'm sure you don't want to hear that."

Have there been things that have surprised you since the last time you spoke to us?

“Uh, let me think about that question. No major surprises. I think things have followed suit pretty well. We’ve had a couple kids perform pretty well, maybe better than they have been. Joe Burzynski would be one. Joe’s had a nice spring. He’s done a good job. Elliott Mealer. The two of them are competing for the job, so that’s good. Those two come to mind right away. I’m sure there are others who would be subtle surprises, but those two have done a good job battling each other for that spot.”

How has Brandon Moore looked?

“Brandon Moore is playing right now better than he’s played since he’s been here. He is. He’s still got a little ways to go, but when he is technically sound, takes the right steps and comes off the ball with a little bit of an attitude, he’s a pretty good player. Brandon’s got some talent, but his consistency of play is a little erratic. In terms of understanding what we do, I don’t think there’s any issues there. He’s a smart kid. Now that he understands it, the paralysis through analysis should be gone and pretty much is. He’s as aggressive as I’ve seen him and has demonstrated a certain degree of consistency that’s shown improvement.”

What about the guys behind him?

“Ricardo Miller and Mike Kwiatkowski. Ricardo’s more kind of an H-back or what we call the U position. All of those guys still practice playing on the line of scrimmage, but Ricardo’s a pretty athletic kid. Runs better than any of our tight ends. Still has a ways to go as a blocker. And then Mike Kwiatkowski, if I had another surprise, he would probably be the next one that I mention. Mike’s always been a very good receiver. His only issue has been his ability to play on the line of scrimmage because of the bigger guys, but he’s improved that. He’s a strong kid, he has good power, but he’s done a pretty nice job. Those three are probably in the fold as much as anyone.

If you had to start today, how comfortable would you be with what you have at that position?

“Well I think we’d be fine. Yeah I think we’d be okay. We still need to improve. I’m not comfortable at any position right now game-ready wise. We will use our personnel accordingly. If we feel like that position isn’t as strong as other positions, we’ll find a way to play other positions. If that position gets up to speed and up to snuff, then we’ll let them play a little more. It’s up to them. It’s really not up to us. It’s up to them. We will totally evaluate and assess every player on the team. Playing time will be dictated by their productivity and nothing else.

Who’s stepping up at wide receiver this spring?

“The same cast of characters, you know, save Jerald Robinson, who’s really proven some toughness because he’s been a little banged up, but he’s not bad. He’s done a very nice job. I’ve been happy with Jerald. Jeremy and Roy are doing a nice job. They know what to do. That’s what’s really nice about it. Not just that position -- every position. But they know what to do. We get very few missed assignments now whereas last spring it would be a carnival of missed assignments. And it always is, it’s not their fault -- new system, that’s going to happen. But we just don’t get it anymore from those players that have played significantly. Drew Dileo, again, is consistent, smart, tough. Jeremy Jackson -- Jeremy’s been healthy, and because he’s been healthy, his game has taken another step. It’s good to have him because he gives us some range at the position that we lost in junior. I think those are the guys that have been the most prominent.”

How has the learning curve for the offensive line been like?

“They’re in the same situation, I think, as the receivers or anybody else. They’ve got a much better feel for what to do. You know what’s a significant advantage, and it’s an advantage that you gain -- and that’s playing in a bowl game. When you play in a bowl game and particularly a bowl game that’s in January, you get extra practices and that helps everybody and not least of which is the offensive linemen, particularly the kids that aren’t playing much. You don’t want to beat up the kids that are. That bowl practice was invaluable to some of those young players.”

Is that why Mealer and Burzynski have had a chance to step up this spring?

“You bet. Yes. Absolutely. Darrell had a chance to work with those kids. The issues we had during the season are preparing X amount of players -- usually around 18 guys -- the rest of the team was the scout team. Well other than individual drills, you just don’t get a lot of practical application of the offense, whereas when you get into bowl practices, you’ve got enough time now to go back and look at those kids run your offense, not running an offense off cards. Those reps running our offense for those kids are very valuable. It’s almost like having a second spring football.”

Are you feeling like the chemistry is developing well?

“Yeah, it’s starting to come. A lot of that now, you have to understand, is dictated by the center’s ability to be confident in his position. Ricky is a work in progress still, but as Ricky becomes more and more comfortable in there, it has an infectious effect on the rest of the players. They all kind of take his lead a little bit. Like I told you before, he kind of quarterbacks the offensive line. If he’s on the same page with everybody else, that chemistry tends to take.”

How has Fitz looked?

“He’s been good. Really good. Really good. We’re trying to be careful with him, because he’s kind of proven himself. Not that we’re ever -- a guy’s always going to work. We’re not going to give him an easy way out, but by the same token when we go live and such, he’s going to carry the ball so he keeps well oiled, but we’re not going to run him into the ground and get him banged up, but he’s had an outstanding spring.”

What areas specifically?

“Run the football, his blocking has improved, his receiving -- every area has improved. He’s become more complete, and that was our goal coming in. He’s still not a finished product, no, and I don’t think any of them are, but he’s a kid where as a coach, you’re always looking for a group of kids who you have complete confidence in their ability to do what you want them to do in a game. And I tell them, ‘If we don’t, we’re not going to put you in a game.’ But he’s probably reached that point.”

How much better is he at blocking?

“His biggest issue, and I’ve said it before, was his vision a year ago, but that’s gone away. I see no signs of that being around anymore. It’s just running the ball and seeing the holes and knowing where your help's coming from, but that’s really it. He had to improve his protection -- no issues with toughness, just understanding how to position yourself so you can get good leverage to throw the block. He’s done that. We’re throwing him more balls than we have. He’s a prideful kid, and football’s important to him, so those types of kids tend to get better, especially if they have a lot of skill.”

What have you seen from Thomas Rawls this spring?

“Thomas is a different kind of back. He’s more of a power back. He brings a load now, because he’s a thick, strong, solid player with good speed. He’s going to generally fall forward when he hits you, and there’s going to be some impact when he hits you. Whoever’s trying to tackle him, particuarly in the open field, is going to feel him. But he’s got some of the same issues that Fitz had last spring, but they’re starting to go away I’ve noticed, too. He’s starting to see the line of scrimmage better and make better cuts and not run into bodies. Thomas, when he came in coming out of high school, and a lot of the guys do this -- the power backs just tend to want to run straight ahead and run over guys because they can’t tackle them, and the scat backs tend to want to juke everybody and never get up the field. Well the perfect back is somewhere in between. They understand when to use their power and understand when to use their stop and go ability, and Thomas is now gotten to a point where he’s not simply trying to run over everybody every time he gets the ball.”

Do you think it helped that he watched Fitz’s development last season?

“I don’t think it hurt him any. I think those are good mental reps, I call them, where you can steal repetition from a guy who may not have done it right, and then not have to bull it yourself. Have the coach critique it. There’s nothing like doing. I’m a big believer in body learning. Body learning means physically going through the trial and error part of it so that you can fix the mistake yourself. Mental reps are great. You have to take them, but the body learning is even more important. I talk in coaching about two things really that are important for players: one is body learning, and that’s reptition and such, and functional intelligence. Functional intelligence simply is the ability to transfer what you learn in the film room or on the chalkboard or in the locker rooms and practically apply it to the game. The progression, of course, is practice first. But it’s really irrelevant what your IQ is when you take a test when in fact when it comes time to execute the responsibility you’re not able to do it. Those two things, being able to body learn it and being intelligent enough to execute it when it’s time to execute it.”

How do you like Rawls’ functional intelligence?

“Good, because he understands better. He is still going through a few growing pains with our protection, but it’s not because he doesn’t know it. He just needs to body learn it a bit more.”

What’s your philosophy on the spring game? What do you hope to get out of it?

“Same thing as everything else -- evaluation, system, that’s usually what spring’s all about. See if we can find another playmaker. See if somebody jumps to the forefront when everybody’s watching. That’s when it’s really the most critical is when the lights go on. Sometimes guys in practice are better than they are when it really counts. Freddie J has a name for it -- State Street players or Main Street players. We’re going to find out who the Main Street players are. Or at least, we hope to.”

With Devin, how much have you experimented with his role?

“A little bit here and there. A little bit. Part of spring is experimentation, but it’s not really the emphasis. What we want to do as coaches is install our offense, refine our offense. Because we’re constantly evolving and trying to professionally enrich ourselves, we take little bits and pieces that we’ve learned in the offseason and try to apply them in spring football and test them a little bit, but that’s a small percentage of what we’re doing. That’s basically testing schemes. We’re much more interested in seeing to it that these kids are developed within our system and we can evaluate their skill level so when it comes time to play we can decide who deserves to.”

Do you feel like you’ve found a role for Devin?

“Yeah, I think so. I think right now it’s quarterback. I think he’s going to be the No. 2 quarterback and we’ll see how things go. Our approach to Devin hasn’t changed much. We’re going to find a way to get him on the field because he’s got skills that go over and above your average quarterback.

Is he far and above Bellomy as the No. 2 QB?

“No. No. No one is far and above anybody right now that I can think of. Russ Bellomy’s made a -- he has people’s attention. Russ is another kid that's really athletic, can throw the ball. Good functional intelligence. He’s a kid that needed more body learning, more reps, but he’s had a pretty good spring, too. He probably doesn’t get mentioned as much as he should, but he’s a good player.”

Have you had the opportunity to identify any spots where you might have to play freshmen?

“Yeah, well first of all, the guys coming in, we have no idea who’s going to help us. Neither does anybody in the entire country regardles of what you told them in recruiting. No one does, because sometimes guys come in and simply -- they’re just not as good or they’re not ready. Either one of the two. I have no idea what going to happen with that. We recruit every kid assuming they’re going to play for us, and we’ll just go from there. But this isn’t about that. This is about trying to get a team ready in 15 days and find out do they know your system and who has got the best chance to play at that point. Now when we get into the first weekend in fall, we start all over again. You install your system, evaluate what you have, and see who’s got the best chance to play at that point. You have a new batch of players.”

Could you see yourself doing some tailback by committee this fall?

“No. I see no reason for that. Not at this point. Fitz is clearly our tailback. If he isn’t, I’m not very smart. We’re going to spell him occasionally. He’s not going to be in there every play, but our last five or six games, you saw what our appraoch wanted to be, and that’s pretty much how it’s going to stay until it isn’t productive.”

MGoQuestion: Speaking of experimentation, it looked like there may have been a couple bubble screens in the highlight videos from spring practice. Are you --

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Next question.”

MGo =(

Michigan Muse(urs)day Has a Wicked Fastball

Michigan Muse(urs)day Has a Wicked Fastball

Submitted by Seth on April 5th, 2012 at 2:28 PM

aom-booktom_brady_photos1Denard_Fitz_Offense-thumb-590x391-95878JustinVerlander357FEB24004_Detroit_Tigers_Spring_Training 

MANBALL: BEATING the opponent with POWER running and repetitive CONTACT and MANLY CAPITALIZED WORDS.

West Coast: A symphony of route design and timing that puts defenses into a progression of impossible choices

Option: Isolate an unblocked defender so that he's forced into a Catch 22 decision.

Justin Verlander: A metaphor.

After reading Parts I, II and III of this series you might think a college offense must only be one of these things. That is a very effective thought, as the best offenses in college football according to people who can extricate offense from defense, special teams, winning, fairy dust, and these days seem to center around doing one of these things very well.

But doing one thing well and building around that isn't the only way to build an offense. In fact if you only do your one thing well and can't execute other things, the other team will adjust quickly and now you won't do your one thing well anymore. These were the points made in the previous articles, the first (Doctor Rocklove) to explain the terminology, the second (Rock, Paper, Scissors) to describe constraint theory and demonstrate a Rock/Paper/Scissors for four different philosophies. The third (Pulls Bazooka!) got into the concept of vanilla defense. This last asks the question: what's Michigan's rock?

The Verlander Effect: Doing Multiple Things Well is Good

I'd like to first hone in on how "Rock" is used in this context, since it's not just another cell in an equal triangle matrix.

In honor of Opening Day today I'll use a baseball metaphor. Pitchers, like offenses, usually build a strategy out of a maximizing the effectiveness of one thing they are exceptional at. A 95+ mph 4-seam (ie straight-up) fastball is a common "rock" pitch that will, to a typical batter looking for any kind of pitch, give the most trouble. To keep hitters from sitting on the fastball, the pitchers use slow-speed secondary pitches, for example a curveball and/or changeup. This is the constraint theory at play. But when you break down the pitch selection of a typical Fastball-Curveball-Changeup starting pitcher, you'll notice quickly that the fastball is between 40% and 50% of his pitches. Football offenses function on the same principle: throw the fastball, and mix in curveballs and changeups to keep the hitters/defense from overreacting to, and thus killing the effectiveness of your heater.

Now to relate this to Michigan's offense. You see, not everyone has the same suite of pitches. Among Tiger starters Doug Fister is the normal fastball-curve-changeup guy, but Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello both use a 2-seam fastball, ie a breaking fastball, as "rock." This pitch will dive downwards and (righty on righty) inwards. The downward motion gets a hitter aiming for the meat of the baseball to hit the top of the ball instead, the spin absorbs some of the power of the stroke, and the result is a lightly hit ground ball. To keep hitters from simply adjusting their aim, the 2-seamer's constraints are a 4-seamer (leading to a pop-up), and a slider, which has a lateral motion opposite that of a 2-seamer.

This brings us to Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in (and MVP of) the American League last year. Justin's "rock" is a killer 4-seam fastball – it has lots of lateral movement and lots of velocity and is a total bitch to hit. In a season between half and two thirds of his pitches will be the fastball. However any MLB hitter who is looking for any fastball will be able to hit it, just as Northwestern defenders can stop a Wisconsin rushing attack if they're looking for it or a I-AA team can...let's not go there. Justin also has a devastating curveball and changeup, both of which will F you up if you're looking for his fastball. Verlander's curveball is like Cam Newton's arm: the constraint is good enough in its own right that you can't beat it unless you're overreacting to it, in which case you're now going to be eaten alive by the fastball and changeup.

In 2010 and 2011, Verlander leapt from being a great young pitcher to undeniably elite. What happened is he developed a 2-seamer game. The two-seamer and the slider arrived in 2010 and now account for about 15% of Justin's pitches.

This is all strategy; the other 90% is execution.

What Does Michigan Do Very Well?

The offense of 2011 at its apex was versus Ohio State. Since the Sugar Bowl strategy became "dear God stay away from the middle" on account of Molk playing gimpy, last year's Game is also the best representative we have so far (other than practice video zoomed into Toussaint's nostril hairs) of the 2012 offense. So let's re-live that game from the perspective of formation, personnel, philosophy, and RPS to get a feel for the current Borgesian ideal.

Remember, personnel is the number of RBs and number of TEs, so 22 is two of each. Subtract the total RBs and TEs from 5 to know the number of receivers. I defined "Value" on this scale: 1: Fail. 2: Got some yards, not what it was supposed to. 3: Did what it was drawn up to do. 4: Did better than it was drawn up to do. 5: Broke open for big yardage/score.

Ln Dn Ds Formation Per-son-nel Play Philosophy RPS Value Yards
M26 1 10 Shotgun 11 QB sweep MANBALL Rock 3 5
M31 2 5 Shotgun 12 Zone read belly Option Rock 1 0
M31 3 5 Shotgun 10 Slant West Coast Rock 1 Inc
O47 1 10 Split Backs 21 Flare screen West Coast Scissors 4 6
O41 2 4 Shotgun 20 Inverted veer keeper Option Rock 5 41
M48 1 10 Denard Jet 12 Jet sweep MANBALL Rock 3 5
O47 2 5 Ace 11 Throwback screen MANBALL Scissors 2 2
O45 3 3 Shotgun 11 QB power MANBALL Rock 2 2
O43 4 1 I-form 22 FB dive MANBALL Rock 4 3
O40 1 10 Denard Jet 12 Counter pitch MANBALL Rock 2 3
O37 2 7 Shotgun 12 Rollout hitch MANBALL Paper 4 8
O29 1 10 Shotgun 20 Inside zone Option Rock 2 3
O26 2 7 Shotgun 21 Post MANBALL Paper 5 26
M7 1 10 Shotgun 11 Zone read dive Option Rock 2 2
M9 2 8 Shotgun 11 Inverted veer keeper Option Rock 1 2
M11 3 6 Shotgun 11 Rollout Sack MANBALL Paper 1 -4
M20 1 10 Shotgun 10 Zone read dive Option Rock 2 3
M23 2 7 Shotgun 20 PA scramble Option Paper 2 5
M28 3 2 Shotgun 22 QB power MANBALL Rock 3 3
M20 1 10 Shotgun 11 Zone read keeper Option Rock 1 1
M22 2 9 Shotgun 11 PA TE flat Option Paper 3 7
M29 3 2 Shotgun 10 Scramble West Coast Rock 4 9
M38 1 10 Shotgun 11 Sprint counter MANBALL Rock 5 46
O16 1 10 Shotgun 11 Inverted veer give Option Rock 2 2
O14 2 8 Ace 12 Waggle TE flat MANBALL Paper 2 3
O11 3 5 Shotgun 10 Drag West Coast Rock 3 5
O6 1 G Shotgun 12 Zone read dive Option Rock 1 0
O6 2 G Shotgun 20 Inverted veer keeper Option Rock 5 6
M20 1 10 Shotgun 11 Inverted veer give Option Rock 4 8
M28 2 2 Shotgun 11 QB power MANBALL Rock 2 3
M31 1 10 Ace 11 Throwback screen MANBALL Scissors 4 8
M39 2 2 Shotgun 20 Inverted veer give Option Rock 3 4
M43 1 10 Shotgun 20 Triple option dive Option Rock 3 4
M47 2 6 Shotgun 12 Triple option keeper Option Rock 3 5
O48 3 1 Shotgun 11 QB power MANBALL Rock 3 3
O45 1 10 Shotgun 21 PA TE seam Option Paper 5 26
O19 1 10 Shotgun 11 QB sweep MANBALL Rock 4 6
O13 2 4 Shotgun 12 Triple option pitch Option Rock 1 -7
O20 3 11 Shotgun 10 Dig West Coast Rock 5 20
M9 1 10 Shotgun 11 Sprint counter MANBALL Rock 1 1
M10 2 9 Shotgun 11 QB draw West Coast Scissors 4 10
M20 1 10 Shotgun 20 Inverted veer keeper Option Rock 5 22
M42 1 10 Shotgun 20 Triple option dive Option Rock 2 3
M45 2 7 Shotgun 11 PA rollout out MANBALL Paper 3 4
M49 3 3 Shotgun 10 Corner West Coast Rock 1 Inc
M25 1 10 Shotgun 11 QB sweep MANBALL Rock 2 3
M28 2 7 I-form 21 Waggle deep out MANBALL Paper 5 20
M48 1 10 Shotgun 20 Zone stretch Option Rock 5 11
O41 1 10 Shotgun 11 QB draw MANBALL Scissors 4 10
O31 2 In I-form 21 Power off tackle MANBALL Rock 3 5 + 13 Pen
M13 1 10 Shotgun 11 Zone read keeper Option Rock 2 3
M10 2 7 Shotgun 11 Inverted veer keeper Option Rock 3 6
M4 3 1 Goal Line 23 Waggle TE corner MANBALL Paper 3 4
M20 1 10 I-form 21 Sweep MANBALL Rock 2 2
M22 2 8 Shotgun 20 Rollout corner MANBALL Paper 5 28
50 1 10 Shotgun 11 Zone read dive Option Rock 1 -1
M49 2 11 Shotgun 10 QB draw West Coast Scissors 5 16
O37 1 10 I-form 21 Power off tackle MANBALL Rock 5 20
O17 1 10 I-form 21 Power off tackle MANBALL Rock 2 2
O15 2 8 Shotgun 11 QB power MANBALL Rock 4 11
O4 1 G Shotgun 21 QB power MANBALL Rock 1 -1
O5 2 G Goal Line 23 Power off tackle MANBALL Rock 3 5
O1 3 G Goal Line 23 Bootleg MANBALL Paper 1 1 (pen -25!)
O25 3 G Shotgun 10 Throwaway West Coast Rock 1 Inc

Non-bullets with charts:

Counting "Denard Jet" as another Ace formation, here's the breakdown:

Philosophy Shotgun Ace I-form Split Backs Goal Line Total
MANBALL 17 5 6 - 3 31
Option 24 - - - - 24
West Coast 8 - - 1 - 9
Total 49 5 6 1 3 64

And the breakdown by RPS %:

Philosophy Rock Paper Scissors Total
MANBALL 61.3% 29.0% 9.7% 48.4%
Option 87.5% 12.5% 0.0%* 37.5%
West Coast 66.7% 0.0% 33.3% 14.1%
Grand Total 71.9% 18.8% 9.4% -

As you can see the RPS rolls look more like a Verlander pitch-type tracker than a triangle matrix of equal things. You can also see Borges working in his West Coast game like a 2-seamer/slider tandem. If there was a base play in there it's probably the zone read from a Shotgun 1-back, 1-TE formation, with the blocking switched up (read: "veer"). Borges threw a lot of fastballs, but it worked:

Philosophy Rock Paper Scissors Total
MANBALL 2.8 3.2 3.3 3.0
Option 2.6 3.3 - * 2.7
West Coast 2.8 4.3 3.3
Total 2.7 3.3 3.8 2.9

Remember 3.0 on my value scale means the offense was getting that 3rd down conversion, that 5 yards on 1st down, or setting up that 3rd and short every time. Manball accounted for about 72% of plays, and its effectiveness was strong, including many plays that broke big. The corollary of rock's effectiveness was that the constraints all performed better. This offense was working. About the only complaint here is that the Option game was totally missing a constraint. There was one play where Michigan actually faked this constraint—you know what that constraint is—and it was wiiiiide open, but then the play went rock and got stuffed. This is a minor complaint.

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* Y U NO BUBBLE SCREENS?

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What the hell was this offense?

ManballisPlusEV

It was Fastball-Curveball, with some West Coast sprinkled in. Even Rich Rodriguez's Pat White teams would sprinkle in that much pass-first philosophy, because that's another type of changeup you can throw. What we see here though is that the Option-from-Shotgun philosophy and MANBALL-from-mostly-shotgun philosophies are working in tandem. If you recognize this, it's really not all that different than Michigan's offense in 2010. If you have Denard, you run POWER with him, or you use him in a zone read option.

So after all that you're saying Al Borges is running the same offense Rich Rodriguez ran?

Wait, you were the subheads a second ago; when did you become a bolded alter-ego?

Answer the question!

Well no because it was just 75% shotgun versus like 85%, but other than that, yeah, kind of. But it's not Rich Rod's offense (the Zone Read) from West Virginia; it's what RR did when he got Denard. And I might point out that this was against Ohio State, so while I'm using it as a stand-in for the 2012 offense, that's not quite right because Borges has said and shown in other games that he's not going to have Denard run this often. This was Ohio State; this was balls to the wall.

The lesson of the 2011 offense is that Borges believes in all of this stuff, and despite earlier reticence, is happy to take the best of different philosophies and best use his personnel. And he can identify what that is.

The other thing is how he uses things other than the normal constraint plays as his changeups. Michigan is pitching with a plus-fastball and plus-curveball out of the same "motion," in this case formation. The personnel change on virtually every play, and the changeups are rare and (sometimes) devastatingly effective.

As a 2011 strategy it was frustrating during Iowa to see Michigan come out in an I-form on 1st and 10 in the 1st quarter, and then to hear Borges in the press conference treat questions about that as if we were asking about I-form on 2nd and 2 in the 4th quarter when Michigan's in clock-kill mode. This he learned, as he learned the best way to use Denard is to keep the threat of his legs involved in everything.

So why all the "Power" in the press conferences?

We learned this isn't actually philosophic zeal so much as the fact that one of the key benefits of running power for coaches is getting to say the word "Power" in press conferences. One of the nice things about Power is using the rhetoric, and until the massive incoming linemen and rocket-armed QB and pounding tailbacks and stable of tight ends and tall receivers are on hand to make a Wisconsin offense a reality, these coaches will be happy to take the best of all philosophies and run with them.

Next time in this series (last time?), I'll tackle why recruiting for the Wisconsin offense is perhaps a good idea for the future.

Michigan Museday in Doctor Rocklove

Michigan Museday in Doctor Rocklove

Submitted by Seth on February 14th, 2012 at 4:53 AM

Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the I

aom-book1777154-4_barrel_shotgun_1_largeTiming_is_everything12Options

Things of offense: Manliness, shotgun, impeccable timing, and options

Over the last few seasons we've talked a lot in this space about how shotgun formations and the spread are awesome, while anything else will steal your children. This is a myth—all offenses that score points are equal—but you could almost be forgiven for thinking that we are spread zealots when we have a tag called "i am a spread zealot no foolies." Most of the time we were saying "this is what Michigan should run right now," but to say most of the authors here haven't been partial to Oregonian offenses is an insult to your bias sensors.

Part of this is because I haven't always used the most correct terminology, or used sets and formation and personnel and philosophies as interchangeable when they're not. What we haven't said very much is talk about other offensive philosophies and why they are awesome too. What I'd like to do then is rectify some of that.

HUUUGE thank you to Tyler Sellhorn and Steve Sharik for looking over this stuff, then saying "omigod this is only like 10% of what offense is." Everything below that is correct came from them, but as you read I ask you only think of them as exasperated professors watching their theories butchered by a student presentation.

I. What's the Point of Offense?

Scoring is the point. How you get there is what we're talking about, and that's strategy. Offensive strategy comes down to a fairly simple concept: find a thing that you can beat a base defense with most of the time, then build in things around it to force the defense to defend you with a base defense. Anything can be adjusted to, but adjustments are usually unsound and thus make some other aspect easier than it should be. Where coaches disagree is on what that thing is, and whether to get so good at that as to be nigh unbeatable at it, or to get good at other things that beat base defenses too. What follows is a layman's oversimplification of offensive formations, and how they relate to offensive philosophies by a layman who needs to oversimplify it to get it.

* That link is to Chris Brown's "Why Every Team Should Apply the Constraint Theory of Offense" and you should read that.

-----------------------------------

II. Terminology

When I started trying to make formations and philosophies into the same thing, two coaches I asked about it said don't do that because personnel groups matter more. A formation is two things: personnel (how many RBs and TEs vs. receivers are there) and set (how they line up). Common backfield sets are the words you're probably most familiar with: a. I-Form, b. Split-backs, c. Ace, and d. Shotgun.

a.I-form b.PRoset

c.ACE d.SHOTGUN

But these words are only part of the set nomenclature. "I-Form" means the RB, FB, and HB are more or less in a line (though the FB is often shifted one way or another). "Split-Backs" refers to where the RBs are lined up, whereas "Shotgun" just means where the quarterback is lined up. What you know as "Ace" is actually referring to personnel, i.e. there is just 1 RB in the backfield. In the above examples both (c.) and (d.) could be called "Ace."

"Pro Set" is a specific alignment of the wide receivers, where one side has a receiver (the "flanker") plus a tight end, and the other side has just one receiver, the "split end."

The part defensive coaches are most concerned about when they're matching is not the set but the personnel. Football coaches express personnel in numeric terms you may have heard them yell at their wards but never understood: Twelve! Twenty! Twenty-One!, i.e. 12, 20, 21. These numbers, like "43" for a 4-3 defensive alignment, are combo digits where the first refers to the number of running backs out there, and the second to how many tight ends. So "12" means there's one running back and two TEs, "21" is two RBs and a TE, "11" is one RB and one TE. A third digit in the representation is the receiver count, e.g. 104 personnel means 1 RB, 0TE, 4 WRs.

So the four examples above are a.) I-form 21 Pro, b.) Split-backs 21 Pro, c.) Ace 11, and d.) Shotgun 11.

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III. Why Set Matters

20081122_Nick_Sheridan_hands_to_Brandon_Minor_against_Ohio_StateDenard_Fitz_Offense-thumb-590x391-95878

DeSimone c/o DetNews | Melanie Maxwell

There are tradeoffs to how you line up your backfield, especially in the running game. A running back who starts the play behind the quarterback (a., b., or c.) will get the handoff a few yards behind the line of scrimmage with a running start in the direction you want the ball to go, but if the QB's getting a shotgun snap that handoff occurs six feet behind the line of scrimmage, and if the RB is moving it's not forward. This is a considerable disadvantage—one second after the snap a ball carrier about to hit his hole at full speed is far preferable to one at a dead stop far behind the line of scrimmage.

"Spread" has virtually lost its meaning but it's basically the opposite of bunching, the idea being to trade off some of the "I can put lots of guys at any point of attack on the line really really fast" for a measure "I can make your defenders pull apart to open up more space for my athletes to beat yours in space." I couldn't find a coach to back me up on this but I see horizontal spreading as a sliding scale between how much of the line of scrimmage in the box can you attack quickly with lots of guys (less spread) or how much of the line of scrimmage outside of the tackles can you attack quickly with one guy in space (more spread). Again, this is a tradeoff between things that are (specific talents nonwithstanding) equal.

Three of the four formations above are made to threaten this quick-strike downhill runner. Having the QB under center gives the RB in an Ace formation that head start. With multiple backs you threaten such quick attacks at multiple gaps in the line (think of two chess bishops next to each other), though when you go to 20-something personnel the defense will likely match.

I-form gets the added bonus of a fullback hitting that same hole even faster, either as a lead blocker or the main attraction. This is the key to such favorite I-form plays as SLAM! and WHAM! and BUHBUHBLAM!!! So long as the O-line can do its job the speed and power with which such an attack hits a base defense can make it good for 3 or 4 yards consistently. I've just described part of the base premise of Manball philosophy.

-----------------------------------

IV. Philosophies

george-halas-1Walsh_Bill1_49ers40031_1

There are plenty more than this, but the four concepts that seem to cover most offenses  you need to know are:

  • Manball: My bigger- and stronger- and faster-than-you-are running back and his lead blocker are going to attack any spot between the tackles so fast your defenders won't get there until we're already in your backfield. Requires: Talent across the board. An OL who can't block 1-on-1 can screw up the play; an RB who loses all momentum at the moment of impact is giving up an extra YPP.
  • Timed Passing: aka "West Coast:" A symphony of route design and timing that puts defenses into a progression of impossible choices, living and exploiting those precious seconds when your zone defender can't be in two places at once. Requires: Quick-thinking, –seeing quarterback with strong arm and laser accuracy, WRs with great hands for catching under duress, pass-pro OLs.
  • Mesh/Read Passing: Spread, mesh, read, and gun, so on any given play, at any spot on the field, we can put it where you ain't by having QBs and receivers read your coverage and go right to the holes. Requires: Smart QB and receivers who can quickly read a defense, receivers with speed to open up those holes, incessant drilling so that QB and WRs are "in sync" or "on the same page."
  • Option: Isolate an unblocked defender so that he's forced into a Catch 22; when he makes his decision, take the option he didn't. Requires: QB with running back skills, quicker OL, WRs who can sustain blocks.

All of these are unbeatable strategies if executed properly against a base defense. And it's important to note that none are restricted to any one formation. What was so cool about the Zone Read, which uses an option philosophy, is that it does so from the same formations NFL offenses normally use for their Timed/Read passing games, preserving all of those passing advantages for the constraint plays. At Michigan Rich Rodriguez ran a ton of QB Iso out of a shotgun spread, sending a lead blocker (at times the RB, an H-back, or a pulling guard) into the intended gap and having Denard Robinson (and Feagin before him), act as his own I-back. It's also key to remember that most offenses use many concepts, in fact most NFL offenses today, though they call themselves West Coast, all use concepts that are very Air Raid.

However the formations do have some relationship to the above philosophies. To way oversimplify, here's a matrix of base effectiveness for each common formation and the four above philosophies ("1" being "Most Effective, and "4" being "Least Effective"). Also I'm comparing the formations to each other; West Coast still works quite well out of the I-form I'll have you know.

Shotgun Spread (11, 12) I-Form (21, 20, 22, 23) Split Back (20, 21, 22) Ace (12, 13)
MANBALL 4. Can work as a changeup (e.g. the delay) against defenses keying on ZR or pass, or with a great rushing QB. 1. Multiple RBs and blockers quickly hit many points of attack with forward momentum. 2. Two RBs mean either can get the handoff and get outside the tackles quickly, but any lead-blocking plays are slow to develop. 3. Single RB hits the hole with momentum, but no lead blocker. Power is mostly a check against passing.
Timed Passing (West Coast) 3. RB can stays to help with protection and QB should have time to survey, room to step up into the pocket. But because it's a pass-heavy set the defense will be keying on it, meaning less time to throw. 4. Relies a lot on play-action, rollouts, and the running game being good enough to make opponents cheat on it. Works if D must respect PA. 2. RBs and OL are already set in pocket formation. Great formation for a good Pro-style QB/WR combo to let routes develop. Usually frees a TE or RB in the flat as an outlet. Lack of spread hurts. 1. Horiz. spreading helps, drop-back is timed with routes. PA, threat of screens, end-arounds, and pre-snap motion force D to play it honest.
Mesh/Read Passing 1. QB is immediately in position to see and throw, receivers are spread horiz and vert. However lack of running threat lets D tee off with 9-techs, etc. Most NFL offenses today are this. 4. RBs are mostly limited to flat routes that you can high-low and TE is only inside receiver, but D overplaying run should get WRs good space for curls and slants. 3. Two receiver options are RBs starting far behind the line so meshing routes is difficult. Threat of run establishes pass options. 2. Receivers can be arranged to spread horizontally or bunched to flood a zone, RB acts as center threat.
Option 3. Spread 'n Shred. It gives up ground and is slower to develop. Options btw dive and QB off-tackle; Option 3 is a pre-snap read (bubble screen). Speed option gives up the dive for Options 2 or 3. 2. Nebraska under Osborne. The triple-option is often run from this set since Option 1 (the FB dive) can happen super-quick. 1. The triple-option ("Houston Veer") was born from this set. The playside RB is the dive, and you can option off of multiple front 7 players. 4. One of your "backs" is a receiver so the way to run Triple-O is to put that guy in motion (think Denard Jet), which basically means you're converting to an I-form.

No the formations are not created equal. Some are better at running, others passing. But the thing to remember here is the rule of constraints: if you can do something well from a formation that doesn't do it well, the things that formation does do well are now available to you. Oregon's offense works so well because running so effectively from the spread means defenses have to cheat against the run against an essentially passing 6180157606_e0a358684b_zformation. Meanwhile MANBALL offenses are best if filled with great passing pieces, e.g. Henne and Braylon/Avant, because if the safeties are backpedaling away from a 21 I-formation, well yipee.

When Brian complains about DeBord it's often because his playcalling was so predictable. The crime here wasn't anything to do with Manball as a Philosophy, but in not using the pass as a constraint, and in telegraphing which side the play was going—more often than not behind Long/Kraus because the other side was Mitchell/ Ciulla/ Schilling/ Ortman/ McAvoy/ Riley/ Whatever—by shifting the fullback to that side. Defenses would do the unsound thing, and there would be zero constraint. Conversely, when I was making yards-per-attempt cases from the UFRs earlier this year it again wasn't anything wrong with Manball the Philosophy, but because the offensive personnel's strengths were the wrong strengths for that philosophy. By 2015 I'm guessing that will have reversed.

Next Museday: a grossly oversimplified matrix of Rock, Paper, Scissors for each philosophy, and the RPS counters by defenses for each, then a long discussion of which philosophy I think Borges really believes in.

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs OSU

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs OSU

Submitted by Brian on December 8th, 2011 at 3:17 PM

THIS.

they don't like it

Formation notes: Almost entirely shotgun this week. As far as OSU's defense goes: they run a nickel package on every down with Tyler Moeller the "star", a sort of hybrid safety/LB. OSU had two main alignments, one with Moeller over the slot and one with him in the box. Moeller slot == Nickel. Moeller box == 4-3. "Plus" means a safety has walked down all the way into the box.

Substitution notes: Status quo on the line and at WR. Toussaint was obviously the main guy at RB; Hopkins got some time as a single blocking back on passing downs and Denard runs. Not sure if Smith is still dinged up or if that's a shift in deployment. Moore seemed to be the second TE in this game.

In lieu of anything interesting on the Michigan side of the ball, here's an oddity from OSU: planetoid DT Jonathan Hankins spent almost the entire game playing DE. No idea why. While he made some plays out there he was useless in pass rush.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M26 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel over plus Run QB sweep Robinson 5
Barnett rolled down as another LB with the SLB over the slot. Michigan pulls Schofield and Molk; Odoms runs an end around fake. Koger(+1) gets a good downblock on the playside DE, opening the corner. Toussaint has the cornerback; Schofield(+1) has Barnett. Barnett bugs out and is about to go for a ride; Molk(-1) does not see Sabino coming from the inside and runs past him. Sabino was slightly delayed by the end-around fake and he can't cut Denard off until he picks up a nice gain; could have been big time if block is made.
RUN+: Koger, Toussaint RUN-: Molk
M31 2 5 Shotgun twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Zone read belly Toussaint 0
Odoms motions for the triple option look. Hankins is lined up at DE and is the unblocked zone guy. Weird. He shuffles down. Shazier is in the gray area as far as a handoff goes; playside CB is hard on the edge and will eat up a pitch. This is supposed to be a belly given the blocking but it's not there; MLB is unblocked and Toussaint has to dance around to get back to the LOS. The blocking does not make sense with Toussaint's angle of attack. Not sure who that screwup is on but assume Toussaint since the blocking is coherent. RPS -1; I can't figure out how Michigan is going to get yards here.
RUN-: Toussaint
M31 3 5 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Nickel even Pass Slant Odoms Inc
An accurate dart; Odoms is blatantly interfered with without a call. Refs -2. (CA+, 0, protection 1/1) Odoms got an illegal motion call so this would have offset.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 11 min 1st Q. Three and out plus sack plus crappy punt sets Michigan up with good field position on the next drive.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O47 1 10 Pro set 2 1 2 4-3 over plus Pass Flare screen Toussaint 6
Actually a T formation(!) until Hemingway motions out. Michigan runs a delay fake to Hopkins and then hits Toussaint on the flare screen. Hankins is the playside DE again and gets chopped; he's useless out there. Shazier sucks up. Gallon whiffs a block in space, as does Schofield, and Toussaint doesn't realize he's got a lot of room behind Molk, so he ends up running into the corner after a decent gain. RPS +1. (CA, 3, screen)
RUN-: Gallon, Schofield(0.5)
O41 2 4 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel even Run Inverted veer keeper Robinson 41
Nickelback comes down off the slot to show blitz and then just forms up as LB. Short side corner does blitz. Hopkins ends up kicking him out as Denard pulls. Shazier covers Toussaint; Omameh is pulling and ends up ignoring Sabino, instead choosing to block Shazier. Robinson(+3) jukes Sabino as Omameh(+1) latches onto Shazier and pulls the Te'o special by driving him into a safety; Toussaint also improvises to help get that guy blocked. Gallon(+2) puts Barnett on the ground and that's all she wrote. Lewan(+1) crushed Hankins inside BTW. I thought Omameh screwed this up, which is why Denard had to juke, but it worked out in the end. I'm not sure about the screwup now; more later. RPS +1. Picture paged. Replay w/ Gallon block.
RUN+: Robinson(3), Omameh, Lewan, Gallon(2) RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 9 min 1st Q. Safety gives M 9-7 lead and good field position on next drive.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M48 1 10 Denard jet 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Jet sweep Robinson 5
Basically the same play they started with from a new formation. Boise State "just plays" theory. OSU sends a guy off the edge who sets up in good position, making either the bounce or the cut upfield awkward. Michigan now running at Simon, not Hankins, and that's a big difference. Moore(-1) is owned. Denard has to bounce outside. Molk(+1) gets a shove on the contain guy Smith is blocking, giving Denard(+1) a little room before a safety comes up to contain; Smith's guy disengages to tackle.
RUN+: Robinson, Molk RUN-: Moore
O47 2 5 Ace triple stack 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Throwback screen Gallon 2
This is dead since the corner is sitting on it and is right on top of it to tackle on the snap. Not actually sure how this gained any yards at all. (CA, 3, screen, RPS -1)
O45 3 3 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB power Robinson 2
Well blocked and should actually be a nice gainer except Hopkins(-1) starts blocking the edge contain guy Odoms is already on, leaving Shazier free to flow to the hole. Koger(+1) got an excellent seal of Simon. Omameh did a meh job on his pull but did get a helmet on Sabino; Sabino gets playside and impacts Robinson, so when Shazier bangs into the pair their momentum stops dead.
RUN+: Koger RUN-: Hopkins
O43 4 1 I-Form Big 2 2 1 5-3 eagle Run FB dive Hopkins 3
Easy because Omameh(+1) and Huyge(+1) crush one DT; NT submarines himself and Hankins isn't terribly useful; Molk(+0.5) gets enough of a shove on the MLB to prevent anyone from coming over the top and Hopkins gets it easily.
RUN+: Omameh, Huyge, Molk(0.5) RUN-:
O40 1 10 Denard jet 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Counter pitch Smith 3
No sale. Shazier reads it and gets outside of Lewan, flowing down to tackle when the corner maintains contain. Still an okay gain.
O37 2 7 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass Rollout hitch Roundtree 8
With Simon doubled and Toussaint screening the edge is a given here since the slot LB is dropping into coverage. Denard finds Roundtree for a first down; throw is low and has to be dug out. Maybe that's intentional since he's keeping it away from coverage... but probably not. (MA, 2, protection 2/2)
O29 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Inside zone Toussaint 3
Odoms in motion underneath and after the handoff Robinson fakes a bubble screen. Which was CRAZY OPEN. Borges did this to spite Heiko. The run is close to working too; expecting belly the two linebackers end up on the backside as Toussaint hits the gap between Schofield and Omameh; Shazier has bolted up into the backside of the play and is sealed away by Omameh. Schofield(-1) got shoved into the backfield, however, and Hankins has both gaps covered. He reaches out to slow Toussaint, allowing the safety to fill. Toussaint(+0.5) breaks a tackle to get some yards after contact.
RUN+: Toussaint(0.5) RUN-: Schofield
O26 2 7 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even Pass Post Hemingway 26
Play action. Robinson has all day; great protection from the line and Smith lights up the LB when he comes on a delayed blitz. Live I thought this was late from Robinson but it's not really, Koger just screwed his route up by running a seam instead of what I'm sure must have been an in or something. With no safety over the top and Hemingway inside of his man all he has to do is box out. Denard underthrows it a smidge but nothing too bad; Hemingway's adjustment is simple. (CA, 3, protection 3/3)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 16-7
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M7 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 2
Schofield heads to the second level immediately and Molk(+1) has to block the NT one on one; he goes playside and Molk locks him up; Toussaint(-1) has to cut behind. He reads this late, slowing up in the hole and gingerly picking his way through the traffic. This delay allows Simon, unblocked on the backside, to hug Lewan's hip and then come around. (Koger is headed outside to potentially block contain guy Shazier, but no keep.) There's a hole because of the overplay by the NT and Omameh/Huyge comboing the DT; Omameh(-1) gets out on the MLB but is shed easily, robbing Toussaint of the ability to fall forward for a couple more or run through Simon's ankle tackle attempt.
RUN+: Molk RUN-: Toussaint, Omameh
M9 2 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Inverted veer keeper Robinson 2
Okay, this is the second straight time the pulling guard has blocked the guy the read options off instead of heading to the second level. Michigan got away with it the first time; not so much here. Koger is blown up by Simon; Denard reads Klein shooting outside and pulls; Schofield(-1) blocks him anyway. Klein is so confused he runs after Toussaint well after the pull. This leaves Denard in a lot of space against Johnson, the safety. He makes a wrong move and Johnson makes a great open field tackle to prevent a big gain; Robinson fumbles but Michigan gets lucky on the recovery. Omameh(+1) got a good driving block to open up more room. RPS+1; this should have worked even with the screwup. (If it actually was.) BWS picture-paged.
RUN+: Omameh RUN-: Schofield, Robinson(3)
M11 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Sack -- -4
Koger motions out. Michigan rolls out to that side and gets plenty of time; Robinson can't find anyone open and eventually eats a sack. Hopkins could have done a better job cutting Simon, I guess. (TA, N/A, protection ½, Hopkins -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 16-7, EO1Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Nickel even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 3
Ten man football. Backside DT slants inside Lewan(-1) and Schofield(-1) and charges down the line; Molk(+0.5) and Omameh(+0.5) have beaten up the other DT and Simon has to contain; Grady(+0.5) comes down on the safety and there is a developing gap. Toussaint has to run away from the backside DT and this gives Ohio State time to rally.
RUN+: Omameh(0.5), Molk(0.5), Gallon(0.5) RUN-: Lewan, Schofield
M23 2 7 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run PA scramble Robinson 5
After an inverted veer fake Robinson pulls and sets up to throw. I think Robinson needs to ride the fake longer here to get the DE to commit to Toussaint; as it is he pulls and has that guy plus a linebacker scraping over with just one blocker. DE comes in on him; Robinson takes off. Without the pressure, I think he's got Hopkins on a wheel route as Shazier is confused as hell. (SCR, N/A, protection 0/2, Robinson(!) -1, Team -1)
RUN+: Robinson RUN-:
M28 3 2 Shotgun 2-back 2TE 2 2 1 5-3 eagle Run QB power Robinson 3
Simon blows up Koger(-2), who loses him outside immediately; Simon takes out the puller and forces a bounce that Robinson can manage because Toussaint(+1) got a good block and he is Denard Robinson. He gets the first down before fumbling; this time Michigan is not so lucky. Shazier gets all limpy on this play. He'll continue but he won't be full strength. (Robinson only loses two on this play because he got a +1 for the run before the -3 for the fumble.)
RUN-: Koger(2), Robinson(2)
Drive Notes: Fumble, 16-10, 9 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even plus Run Zone read keeper Robinson 1
One high with Moeller out on the slot and Johnson walking down. Sabino does a good job of getting outside Koger's block and Grady(-1) totally whiffs on the slot guy, so Denard can't just go outside. Would probably have gotten decent yardage if Grady gets anything on Moeller.
RUN-: Grady
M22 2 9 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even Pass PA TE flat Koger 7
Both safeties back, for the most part. OSU blitzes a linebacker and has Simon drop off as a DT heads out on the edge for contain. No linebackers means the short flip to Koger is open; Robinson takes it. Moeller does a good job of filling; you'd still want Koger to maybe shake this guy a little and get more yards here. (CA, 3, protection N/A)
M29 3 2 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 3-4 nickel press Pass Scramble Robinson 9
DL in a 3-4 alignment with Simon in a standup position on the edge. OSU offsides; no call. Refs -1. Their early movement reveals a slant/stunt that gets Simon past Huyge(-1); Huyge does keep shoving the guy and eases Robinson's step past him. With a DL upfield there's a running lane Robinson hits for the first, picking up another five by dodging a tackler. (SCR, N/A, protection ½, Huyge -1)
RUN+: Robinson(2) RUN-:
M38 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even plus Run Sprint counter Toussaint 46
Sabino buries himself in the line on the counter action. Schofield(+1) seals one DT; Molk(+0.5) and Omameh(+0.5) the other. Huyge(-1) gets chucked by the playside DE and falls to the ground; a pulling Lewan(+2) improvises to pick him up. Shazier is in a lot of space and Toussaint can go either side of the Lewan block because it's at the LOS and Lewan is shoving the guy downfield; Shazier tries to maintain leverage, forces the cutback, and slips. I don't think the slip mattered; Toussaint(+2) was one step and gone upfield. Barnett can't close him down because he hesitated, thinking Denard might have it. RPS +3.
RUN+: Schofield, Molk(0.5), Omameh(0.5), Lewan(2), Toussaint(2) RUN-: Huyge
O16 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even Run Inverted veer give Toussaint 2
This is all about Simon. Schofield's(+0.5) guy gets upfield and is sealed away; Lewan(+0.5) gets downfield with alacrity to seal Shazier. Molk deals with the backside DT easily enough. There's Simon, unblocked, Koger on Sabino, and Hemingway(-1) on Moeller; Hemingway loses Moeller quickly to the outside and Toussaint has to cut upfield. Koger's block is okay; Simon plays this perfectly to get the handoff and still make the play on Toussaint on the cutback; he reaches out and spins him 360 with an arm tackle on the shoulder, allowing the safety to fill. I think Denard has to ride the mesh longer here to make Simon pick. He's the only guy who can deal with this.
RUN+: Schofield(0.5), Lewan(0.5) RUN-: Hemingway
O14 2 8 Ace twins twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass Waggle TE flat Koger 3
Nine guys tight to the line. Michigan runs PA because that's what they always do from this formation. Huyge(-2) inexplicably lets a DT go to block Shazier, DT pressures, Denard sidesteps. More guys come in now (Huyge whiffed on Shazier, too) but the threat of the run pulls Simon up and Koger is open on the sideline for a short catch and some YAC. (CA+, 3, protection 0/2, Huyge -2)
O11 3 5 Shotgun trips bunch 1 0 4 Okie Pass Drag Odoms 5
Three guys are sent up the middle; Molk and Hopkins pick up two. The last guy is unblocked as Schofield is blocking air with a DT dropping out. A guy is in Denard's face; he calmly hits Odoms on a drag route for the first. Ball is behind him but not too bad; Odoms gets hit by the safety and has to juggle and re-catch the ball as he goes to the ground. Tough, tough catch. (CA, 1, protection 0/2, team -2)
O6 1 G Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-5 umbrella Run Zone read dive Toussaint 0
Backside blitz sends contain DE Simon inside; Lewan(+1) blocks him. Koger, heading backside picks off the blitzer. Toussaint(-1) has a cut backside for six and misses it. Huyge(-1) has gotten shoved into the backfield and lost inside position on his DE; Toussaint bounces into a lot of trouble.
RUN+: Lewan RUN-: Toussaint, Huyge
O6 2 G Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even plus Run Inverted veer keeper Robinson 6
DE upfield; obvious keep. Sabino heads outside for Hopkins, who he must be keying on to maintain leverage. Safety Johnson has no idea who has the ball and takes a step outside well after the mesh point. Huyge(+1) gets a good downfield block on Shazier, pancaking him; Omameh(+0.5) did enough with the playside DT, and Robinson(+1) strolls in. RPS +1.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 23-17, 3 min 2nd Q. Michigan gets the ball with little over a minute left inside their 20 and runs the clock out to end the half, then gets the opening kickoff in the second.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Inverted veer give Toussaint 8
DE is Hankins and he does not get upfield, so the handoff is made. Koger(+1) blocks Shazier, Omameh(+1) pulls and blocks Hankins, again leaving a rolled up safety one on one with Toussaint. Toussaint(+2) jukes him out of his jock with a jump cut reminiscent of his high school film. He's now on the edge; Sabino just manages to come around traffic to tackle with help from the corner, who chucked Hemingway upfield.
RUN+: Toussaint(2), Koger, Omameh RUN-:
M28 2 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even Run QB power Robinson 3
Odoms in motion for an end around fake. Denard keeps and it's power. OSU blitzes. Omameh(+2) crushes blitzing MLB to the ground, removing him and destroying backside pursuit. Playside DT slides outside, creating a big hole in the middle. Unfortunately, Koger(-1) is assigned to him and can't deal with it. He peels off; both Schofield and Toussaint see him as a threat so he ends up taking three blockers. Simon is to the outside of this so it's not that bad but it does leave Johnson unblocked. Robinson has a lot of space and should probably try to jet straight upfield. Instead he goes with the bounce and Moeller tracks him down, but after he picks up the first.
RUN+: Omameh(2) RUN-: Koger
M31 1 10 Ace triple stack 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Throwback screen Gallon 8
Hemingway blocks the near guy this time as eight OSU defenders are dealing with the zone fake. Odoms... heads inside. Argh. One of the two WRs has to go to the safety. Neither does. He's still about eight yards off on the catch and Gallon does juke him to the outside, but the delay allows other members of the secondary to fill, turning a potential big play into a decent one. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +1.)
RUN+: Gallon RUN-: Odoms
M39 2 2 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Inverted veer give Toussaint 4
DE comes down so the give is made. Shazier heads outside to contain and is kicked by Hopkins(+0.5); Schofield(+0.5) comes around in time to bump the MLB. Zone stuff holds that DE inside long enough. Johnson is overhanging close to the LOS and fills quickly; Toussaint tries to bounce and Shazier closes him down. Johnson gets dinged, paving the way for Dominicoe.
RUN+: Hopkins(0.5), Schofield(0.5) RUN-:
M43 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel even plus Run Triple option dive Toussaint 4
Or sort of anyway; Hopkins in motion on the speed and Toussaint runs after a handoff I bet a dollar is not a read. Toussaint sees nothing inside and bounces; Huyge(+0.5) did get the corner by not giving ground but this is not a slam dunk. Toussaint(+0.5) ducks under a Shazier tackle to turn a couple into a couple more.
RUN+: Huyge(0.5), Toussaint(0.5) RUN-:
M47 2 6 Shotgun twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Triple option keeper Robinson 5
Virtually the same play with Odoms coming in motion to replace Hopkins and a Denard pull. Not sure if this is a real read or not. Moeller blitzes off the edge; Koger pulls across, forcing him to delay but not actually getting a block. Robinson(+1) sees Lewan(+1) has shoved Simon down the line and shoots directly upfield, taking a shot from the MLB as he recovers from the playfake. Rolled up safety finishes it off short of the first, but very close.
RUN+: Lewan, Robinson RUN-:
O48 3 1 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB power Robinson 3
Odoms motion, fake jet sweep action. Lewan(+1) and Schofield(+0.5) double the playside DT, busting him back and sealing him; Lewan then pops off to the second level. Molk(+0.5) gets an easy seal on a guy lined up outside of him. Robinson leaps over the prone DT Schofield is sitting on and gets it easily.
RUN+: Lewan, Schofield(0.5), Molk(0.5) RUN-:
O45 1 10 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even Pass PA TE seam Koger 26
Blitz off the slot draws Lewan and leaves Schofield(-1) with Simon; Simon gets a dangerous rush. All for naught as Koger drives past Shazier after a not particularly convincing fake and Robinson lofts a perfect touch pass to him for a big gain. (DO, 3, protection ½, Schofield -1, RPS +1.) Shazier is in good position here but the throw is very good; need to make that fake better.
O19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB sweep Robinson 6
End around fake to Odoms as Molk and Schofield pull outside of Lewan and Koger. Lewan(+1) eliminates his DT. Koger almost loses Simon but manages to push him past the play as he threatens to TFL. OSU flows well to the play; Toussaint(+0.5) kicks out one LB and Schofield(+0.5) gets the MLB but those two have made creases difficult to find. Molk is also running at this situation; both he and Denard run up the back of Schofield and lurch the pile forward for a decent gain.
RUN+: Lewan, Schofield(0.5), Robinson(0.5), Toussaint(0.5) RUN-:
O13 2 4 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-5 umbrella Pass Triple option pitch Odoms -7
Moeller moves late to the edge and blitzes off the corner, which forces a pitch from Robinson about a half second after the mesh point. The pitch is wildly off. I'm not sure why he kept; having that guy coming off the edge is bad news even if the pitch is completed and the handoff is the move.
RUN-: Robinson(2)
O20 3 11 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Nickel even Pass Dig Odoms 20
OSU gergs it, dropping Simon into a short zone and attempting to rush with three DTs (Hankins is still playing DE). With Hopkins protecting that's doubles for everyone and a billion years in the pocket. Robinson surveys and finally throws a dart to Odoms in between four defenders, two of whom derp each other, allowing Odoms the last three yards for the touchdown. (DO, 3, protection 3/3) Replay.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 30-24, 9 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M9 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even Run Sprint counter Toussaint 1
Molk(+1) buries the NT. This has the unfortunate effect of taking out Schofield's legs from behind and freeing Hankins to flow down the line. Omameh(-1) whiffs on Sabino on the second level. Huyge(-1) is in a stalemate with the playside DE, who successfully forces the play back inside as Huyge kicks Shazier. Hankins whiffs as Toussaint jukes; Sabino makes the play. Somewhat unfortunate.
RUN+: Molk RUN-: Huyge, Omameh
M10 2 9 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Nickel over Run QB draw Robinson 10
This screams QB draw but OSU can't do much about it. I assume this is a draw but the receivers mostly go into routes; Odoms is the only guy mountain goating up. Michigan doubles the NT and runs at the gap between that guy and the DE as OSU shifts their line; when neither of those guys fights into the gap it opens up wide. Huge room and Shazier can't close the space down. RPS +1.
RUN+: Robinson, Omameh(0.5), Huyge(0.5) RUN-:
M20 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel over Run Inverted veer keeper Robinson 22
Omameh(+0.5) kicks the playside DT easily as he slants. DE and Shazier have to go out for the fake; Sabino picks up a hypothetical -2 by not being in the hole; he goes for Toussaint as well and this opens up huge. Huyge(+1) gets a downfield block on the filling safety. Schofield again goes for the DE; not sure I understand this but it seems like that is the way it's coached. Robinson(+2) jets for the secondary, getting a good block from Roundtree(+1) downfield. RPS +1.
RUN+: Robinson(2), Omameh(0.5), Molk(0.5), Roundtree, Huyge RUN-:
M42 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Triple option dive Toussaint 3
Hopkins motions as the pitch guy. Definitely good decision to hand as a LB is scraping over and they've brought Moeller off the slot. Huyge has a tough job as OSU aligns their playside DE inside of him and scrapes Shazier over the top of that, so the DE gets penetration and the bounce is not there. With Schofield(-1) getting busted back by Hankins there is no room; Toussaint(+0.5) wisely just burrows straight upfield, which gets Michigan a few yards when the pile is shoved forward.
RUN+: Toussaint(0.5) RUN-: Schofield
M45 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass PA rollout out Dileo 4
Robinson's throwing on the move to his left, which is awkward, and leaves this ball short and upfield. It's catchable but Dileo is taken off his feet and denied the chance to turn upfield for a shot at the first down; probably third and one, though. (MA, 2, protection N/A)
M49 3 3 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Nickel even tight Pass Corner Grady Inc
Pure man from OSU with no one deeper than six yards. OSU sends two blitzers against five blockers, the second delayed, and there is obviously a free guy. Molk blocks both, actually, letting the initial blitzer go as Shazier comes. Not much he could do. No one is open, really—he could try Hemingway on a hitch and rely on him to box out his defender, but he's stopped and covered—and he tosses a corner route to Grady that's OOB. Torn between IN, TA, PR here. I guess it's (IN, 0, protection ½, team -1) but this is about as understandable of an IN as you can have. I also wonder about these routes. You know you're getting man, so a slant or a drag maybe? Hemingway had an opportunity to pick the guy covering Hopkins's flare but did not. RPS –1.
Drive Notes: PUNT DISASTER, 30-24, 1 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 Shotgun triple stack 1 1 3 Nickel even Run QB sweep Robinson 3
Odoms in motion for end around fake. Simon does a good job of stringing out the edge here; Koger(-0.5) cannot get a handle on him. This really slows things up and makes for a lot of people in the area when decision time comes. Simon does end up falling and Schofield is moving out; I think Denard makes a bad cut here as Toussaint(+0.5) got a good kick and the charging safety is coming up inside of Schofield; if he follows his lead guy he will burrow for decent yardage. Instead he cuts behind and gets tackled just past the LOS, almost losing the ball. Tough read in a brief window, but still lost yardage.
RUN+: Toussaint(0.5) RUN-: Koger(0.5), Robinson(0.5)
M28 2 7 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 under Pass Waggle deep out Hemingway 20
No real play action fake, just Denard spinning around to the outside as Schofield pulls to provide some edge protection. Simon dives inside and Schofield has an easy time kicking the contain-concerned LB upfield. Denard pulls up and finds a wide open Hemingway about 20 yards downfield. Better thrown ball picks up a bunch of YAC; at this depth that's the difference between a DO and (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1). You can argue Denard is throwing the safe ball here and I get you.
M48 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel even Run Zone stretch Toussaint 11
Oh argh argh. Perfect time to call this as OSU sends a blitzer straight up the middle who Molk(+2) seals and disposes of. Backside guys are slanting outside and not useful; Omameh(+1) gets a seal on the other linebacker, who was almost moving away from the playside. Hankins is pushing hard to the the playside and forces it back inside, into the cavern just described. Lewan has a block on Moeller on the edge but Toussaint(+1) can't cut upfield and back outside quick enough to not bang into it; he stumbles a bit. Grady(-0.5) loses his block downfield and Hopkins(-1) doesn't block the safety, instead going to double the player Hemingway already has. Toussaint is stumbling forward when the corner and safety converge on him. RPS +2; Michigan was a block and a half from one BILLION yards.
RUN+: Molk(2), Omameh, Toussaint RUN-: Hopkins, Grady(0.5)
O41 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even Run QB draw Robinson 10
Robinson delayed by a stunt that gets Hankins thrumbling his way into the backfield. OL does a reasonable job with it and the stunt does open up a big running lane once Robinson(+1) gets around it, so RPS push. Omameh(+1) deals with the other DT well, holding his block a long time. Molk's looking around for someone to block and finds no one; Shazier beats Toussaint thanks to the delay but is delayed himself; Denard runs through his arm tackle attempt. Safety fills near the sticks. Hemingway(+1) gets a  great, extended block on his guy. RPS +1 overall.
RUN+: Robinson, Omameh, Hemingway RUN-: Toussaint(0.5)
O31 2 In I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Power off tackle Toussaint 5 + 13 Pen
Line slants away from the play; Schofield(+1) buries the playside DT. Hankins has slid inside and blows up Omameh(push, he is not expecting to deal with a cutback and gets on the wrong side) but the Schofield block means Toussaint(+1) can cut behind that easily. He picks up the first, at which point unblocked dudes converge since Toussaint has cut away from his blocking. Shazier rips his head off for 15 more. RPS +1
RUN+: Toussaint, Schofield RUN-:
M13 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Run Zone read keeper Robinson 3
Cover zero with man. Michigan lets Hankins go and Koger(+1) flares out on Shazier, eventually pancaking him. When Hankins gets too aggressive Denard pulls. Good decision but Lewan moves to the second level and ends up blocking no one because his assumption is he's walling the defender off from the zone. Robinson ends up tackled by both those guys in space.
RUN+: Koger RUN-:
M10 2 7 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Inverted veer keeper   6
Simon comes HARD off the edge, unblocked, and crushes Toussaint in the mesh point. Denard pulls at the last second a la MSU 4th down conversion. Robinson gets bumped, too, and instead of heading straight upfield into open space he has to orbit around this mess. Shazier comes underneath a block; Robinson runs past him, jersey tugged but not enough. He cuts behind Roundtree(+1) blocking a DB and gets chopped down by the last man, Barnett. Dang, Denard(+3). Hemingway did a good job of moving on to another DB after Shazier got upfield, creating some of that space Denard used.
RUN+: Robinson(3), Hemingway, Roundtree RUN-:
M4 3 1 Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line Pass Waggle TE corner Koger 4
Hopkins and Toussaint offset, in a semi-pro-style thing. Michigan runs a deeply bizarre play action fake with OL blocking like it's a sweep and Toussaint coming in a counter motion; Koger releases downfield and is wide open for six. Confusion. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS +2)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 37-27, 8 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Sweep Toussaint 2
Unbalanced. M tries to pull Molk and Schofield; Hankins goes straight upfield and removes Molk from the play while simultaneously forcing Toussaint outside. Koger(-1) is on Simon and Simon swims past him; Toussaint can only run to the corner. He does well to get a couple yards. RPS -1.
RUN-: Koger
M22 2 8 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel even Pass Rollout corner Dileo 28
M gets the corner, at least enough. Denard pulls up and fires as Sabino starts rushing at him, finding Dileo just breaking open in front of the safety and hitting him in the safest place possible; Dileo has to make a tough catch to bring the ball in. NFL all around. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)
50 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even Run Zone read dive Toussaint -1
Only six in the box and this should be money. Not so much. With the TE to the same side as the RB, this is a situation in which a cutback is your primary read off the handoff; since it's made the DE is upfield and since Omameh(+1) got a good block on the backside DT it's there. Toussaint(-2) cuts to the wrong side of Schofield, robs Molk of his blocking angle, and gets swarmed. Denard even cuts the backside DE! Cut back, Fitz!
M49 2 11 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Nickel even Run QB draw Robinson 16
Shazier blitzes and is picked up by Hopkins(+1). Hankins is sliding into the lane; Molk(+1) blocks him into Schofield(+0.5) and then releases. Denard(+1) into the second level. He sets up Molk's downfield block and glides to an easy first down. RPS +1.
O37 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Power off tackle Toussaint 20
Moeller over the slot, leaving just two LBs and the overhang corner plus a safety in the area. Omameh(+2) and Huyge(+2) destroy the playside DT. Molk(+1) throws Hankins to the ground. This plus a good read from Toussaint and the OSU LBs flowing hard to the intended hole gives a cutback lane that is hit with authority; Lewan(+1) walled off Simon on the backside with help from Denard's waggle motion. Toussaint into the secondary, where he's barely roped down.
RUN+: Toussaint, Lewan, Omameh(2), Huyge(2) RUN-:
O17 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Power off tackle Toussaint 2
Well blocked but eighth guy in the box plus power from the I equals bad. Koger(+0.5) flares out on Moeller; Schofield(+1) seals Hankins; Omameh(+1) makes a much better pull, getting to the hole as fast as possible, getting a block on Sabino. Hopkins(+0.5) kicks Simon and this should work except for the unaccounted-for safety. RPS -1.
RUN+: Koger(0.5), Hopkins(0.5), Koger (0.5), Schofield. RUN-:
O15 2 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even Run QB power Robinson 11
Odoms end around fake. OSU has two LBs at the LOS and they blow themselves out of the play. Toussaint(+1) takes on a charging, unblocked Simon at exactly the right spot and shoves him out of the play upfield. Koger(+1) and Lewan(+1) donkey Hankins. Schofield(+1) seals blitzing Shazier. Denard has all of the room. Omameh(+1) gets a good block on the safety; Robinson cuts to the wrong side of that block and turns this from a TD into not quite a TD. I am not that mad since he plows inside the five. Push there. RPS +1.
RUN+: Omameh, Lewan, Koger, Toussaint, Schofield RUN-:
O4 1 G Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 Goal line Run QB power Robinson -1
A massive pile of bodies. Hankins beats Koger(-1) upfield. Schofield gets slanted under. A blitzing LB gets past Molk and takes out the pulling Omameh, removing any cutback lanes. Hopkins(-0.5) should pound the dude Schofield has sort of lost and helped the burrowing, but it's pretty much a lost cause by then. RPS -1.
RUN-: Koger, Hopkins(0.5)
O5 2 G Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line Run Power off tackle Toussaint 5
NT slants outside and live I thought this was Toussaint making a great play; it's not, its Schofield(+2) reacting to push the slanting NT past the play. Toussaint(+1) does cut past the problem smoothly, but it's Schofield adjusting that makes this. With the NT gone it's Molk(+1) owning a blitzing LB and Huyge(+1) getting a downfield block on Shazier that gets Toussaint into the endzone. Sort of, anyway. There are two angles, one of which is obviously out and one of which is obviously in. SURPRISE: it's based on the angle of the camera. Refs -2.
RUN+: Molk, Schofield(2), Toussaint, Huyge RUN-:
O1 3 G Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line Run Bootleg Robinson 1 (pen -25!)
This gets the corner; Omameh(-2) does hold the guy on the edge. Watson does plug this guy. I kind of wish they just did the QB sneak. The downside there is nil. RPS -1.
RUN-: Omameh(2)
O25 3 G Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Nickel even Pass Throwaway Roundtree Inc
I'm surprised this is a throw instead of free ten yards given the situation, but they go for it; Robinson has no one except maybe a check down and is being pursued so he just chucks it OOB. (TA, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: FG(42), 40-34, 2 min 4th Q

ALL OF THE POINTS

All of the points. Michigan had not scored that many points against Ohio State since a 58-6 whipping by Fritz Crisler and company in 1946. If you give the safety to the defense 2006 beats it and 2000 ties it, but then you've got the whole touchdown fiasco.

And what's more, that was a short game. Michigan had only ten drives. None of them were turnover-spawned and many of them were long. Michigan put up 460 yards of offense. Against Ohio State. In ten drives.

How did this happen?

Remember the 2005 Rose Bowl, when Michigan felt the wrath of Vince Young? While Young did put up 192 rushing yards what lost Michigan the game was the invincible robot going 16 of 28 for 180 yards in the air.

Invincible robot chart?

Invincible robot chart.

[Hover over column headers for explanation of abbreviation. Screens are in parens.]

Opponent DO CA MA IN BR TA BA PR SCR DSR
2009, All Of It 1 7 6(2) 3(1) 4 4 - - ? 44%
Notre Dame 3 25(8) 3(1) 4 1 - 4(1) 2 - 71%
Michigan State 4 14(3) 1 7(1) 1 - - 2 2 68%
Iowa 1 11(3) 2 3(1) 2 - 1 - - 64%
Illinois 4 9(1) 1 4 1 3 1(1) - - 60%
Purdue 2 12(1) 1 3 1 1 1 3 - 68%
WMU '11 - 6(1) 4 3 1 - - - 1 56%
Notre Dame '11 6 7(1) 1 6(1) 5 1 1 1 - 50%
EMU '11 1 10(1) - 5 1 - 1 1 1 59%
SDSU '11 - 10(2) - 4 2 1 - 1 - 53%
Minnesota '11 1 13(3) 1 3 1 - - - - 73%
Northwestern '11 4 12(3) 1 7 2 - - - 1 59%
MSU '11 1 8(1) 4(1) 6 5 - 1 7 1 40%
Purdue '11 1 7(1) - 1 2 1 - 2 - 66%
Iowa '11 2 21 2 7 1 - 3(1) 2 - 69%
Illinois '11 1 4(1) 1 2 - 1(1) - 1 1 66%
Nebraska '11 1 12(3) - 2 2 1 1(1) 1 3 66%
Ohio State '11 3 10(3) 2 1 - 2 - - 1 77%

Lethal, lethal, lethal. His one IN was a corner route thrown to Grady on a third and medium when everyone was covered and he had an unblocked blitzer coming up the middle. His two MAs were completions. His DOs were fantastic. Finding Odoms on third and eleven was the best:

He sees that linebacker vacate his zone to chase Hemingway and lasers it in. Pray this is a consistent thing.

Meanwhile in open versions of Hemingway:

Various Buckeyes on twitter bemoaned the fact that Denard missed Koger so badly that he hit Hemingway, which is laughable, man.

Robinson dealt with a lot of pressure effectively, scooting out for a scramble and calmly hitting Odoms for a critical third down conversion in the redzone. There is nothing to criticize in his passing this game. You know what that performance warrants? The "Denard Robinson killed Tacopants" tag.

So… we have a pattern now. In the beginning of the year Denard had no idea what to do with this passing offense and his lack of comfort screwed up his mechanics. As he progressed and Borges adapted to his strengths the comfort level rose and he hit a plateau of totally acceptable performances before lighting up OSU. The progress is undeniable. He'll regress a bit against VT but if he nudges his DSR above 70% it's time to quietly hope he can have a ridiculous career capping year in 2012.

The best part of going 14/17 for ten YPA? Three QB draws for 10, 10, and 16 yards. Run and tell that, homeboy. If Denard is the QB he became after the trash tornado game, look out: 59% completions, 7-4 TD-INT, 8.4 YPA against Purdue/Iowa/Illinois/Nebraska/OSU translates into… I don't even know what.

Yea, and we looked unto his serene face and praised him.

So the big chart is the big chart and you are going to be skipping to the last bit:

Offensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Lewan 9.5 1 8 Effective against DTs, mostly, also getting to the second level.
Schofield 9.5 4.5 5 Fortunate to have a sixth OL as competent as this.
Molk 10 1 9 Great day picking up blitzing LBs.
Omameh 15 4 11 Has picked it up late.
Huyge 7 3 4 Had some issues but hardly a weak link.
Barnum - - - DNP
Moore - 1 -1 Heir apparent next year.
Watson - - - DNP
Koger 5.5 5.5 0 Simon was a tough matchup.
TOTAL 56.5 20 65% Slight step back from Nebraska but still a quality day. Very little penetration yielded.
Backs
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 16.5 8.5 8 A bunch of awesome and then two fumbles and a bad pitch.
Gardner - - -  
Toussaint 12.5 4.5 8 Step back from his 18(!) last week but consistently a playmaker.
Shaw - - - DNP
Smith - - - Did not register; did get a critical Mountain Goat.
Hopkins 2 2.5 -0.5 Bit of an off day.
Rawls - - - DNP
McColgan - - - Did not register.
TOTAL 31 14.5 16.5 Two! Two fantastic runners. AH AH AH
Receivers
Player + - T Notes
Hemingway 2 1 1  
Odoms - 1 -1  
Gallon 3 1 2 Key block on long Denard TD.
Roundtree 3 - 3  
Grady 0.5 1.5 -1 --
Jackson - - -  
Dileo - - - --
TOTAL 8.5 4.5 4 Solid.
Metrics
Player + - T Notes
Protection 21 10 68% Team 4, Huyge 3, Robinson(!) 1, Schofield 1, Hopkins 1
RPS 19 7 12 BAM

The inverted veer tore Ohio State up and Borges got good mileage out of the throwback screen. There were plenty of open receivers and Borges pulled out some old staples that had been put in the barn for a while: the sprint counter and PA TE seam picked up huge chunks on Michigan touchdown drives. He even got an easy flip into the endzone on play action.

I want to focus on what happened in the fourth quarter. After the punt disaster Michigan gets the ball back on their own 20 up three points. Their drive goes like so:

  1. QB sweep for 3
  2. Waggle action rollout to deep, uncovered Hemingway for 20
  3. Zone stretch for 11
  4. QB draw for 10
  5. I-Form power for 5 on second and inches
  6. Zone read keeper for 3
  7. Inverted veer keeper for 6
  8. Waggle TE corner for 4 yards and a TD

These are all different; OSU had not seen plays 2, 3, 5, or 8. On second and medium in the fourth up three, Borges throws the ball downfield. On the next play he RPS+2s OSU by running a stretch against a linebacker blitz up the middle. A few plays later he does it again. Remember how we were talking about the Boise State "just plays" philosophy? The TD was that incarnate.

So you've got this pro-set sweep thing with counter something something and what the hell is going on? Michigan hasn't aligned in that formation all year. It hasn't run anything like that all year. There is nothing for the defense to key on. They have no idea what's happening in front of them and end up so mesmerized Koger can declare his corner of the endzone Kevin Koger's Kogerland and hold elections without anyone noticing. President for life of Kevin Koger's Kogerland: Kevin Koger. First order of business: a motion to put six points on the board. Vote: unanimously in favor. Ratify that baby, Vice Exchequer Gibbons.

And then on the next drive Michigan gets the ball up three with seven minutes left; on second and eight Borges dials up the Dileo corner for 28 yards. Michigan marches down the field and coulda-shoulda-did put the game out of reach.

That continued aggression got Michigan ten points on drives starting from the 25 and 20 in the fourth quarter. Without it Michigan does not win this game.

How about that offensive line?

Hey, remember early in the year when everyone was saying they were overrated and Michigan was doomed? Yeah. No. While they too experienced a frustrating transition period, once they got their feet under them they helped rack up Michigan's massive rushing numbers.

Against OSU they were executing at a very high level; when they were defeated it was because Hankins and Simon are very good players, not because of anything poor they did. Sometimes when runs went backwards it was the tailback's fault, not theirs. They even broke a power big when Omameh and Huyge thumped a DT five yards backwards:

mmmmm grasss

Watch Omameh pull along the line and get to the hole way before Robinson:

That is how it's done, and that's night and day from Omameh's kind-of-sad attempts to pull earlier in the year. Compare and contrast the above with a similar QB power from the MSU game:

Funk has brought him a long way in a short time. I'm not sure if Omameh will ever have the size and strength Michigan wants in their guards but he's a hell of a lot better now.

They're not great all along the line like some of Michigan's units from a decade ago but combined with Robinson and Borges they've put up better numbers than anyone in 15 years. Molk is an all-timer at center, Lewan is still on the Jake Long track (and past the half-way point), and Schofield is going to be a very good three year starter. The right side is a little shakier but I don't think I'd trade for any line in the conference save Wisconsin. OSU's went out the window when Mike Adams got thrashed in pass protection two or three times.

What about that third and goal from the inch call?

That is the one thing I had an issue with. From that spot on the field I would sneak it 100% of the time since the chance of success is very high and the downside is a yard loss, if that*. Putting yourself on the edge exposes you to the possibility of negative events without a commensurate increase in success rates.

There was a second thing: once you're back on the 26 I'm just taking the free chunk of yards OSU will cede and setting up a chip shot field goal. The chances of actually scoring from the 26 are close to zero and the field goal from the 43 is not a gimme. Running for ten yards makes your FGA a lot less harrowing and strips OSU of its last timeout.

*[If you're thinking about Chad Henne's fumble against ND in 2005, you have to make the exchange on any call you make.]

Receivers?

Ah, yes. Those guys. Very strong day.

[Passes are rated like so: 0 = uncatchable, 1 = very difficult, 2 = moderately difficult, 3 = routine.]

  This Game   Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Hemingway - - - 2/2 11 0/2 8/9 22/25
Roundtree 1 - 1/1 - 12 2/7 6/8 9/10
Odoms 1 1/1 - 1/1 4 1/1 1/1 5/5
Grady 1 - - - 6 - 0/1 2/2
Gallon -

-

- 2/2 7 - 2/3 25/25
J. Robinson - - - - - - - -
Dileo - - 2/2 - - 0/2 4/5 3/3
Jackson - - - - - - 1/1 1/1
                 
Koger - - - 4/4 6 1/3 3/4 14/15
Moore - - - - 2 - 1/1 -
                 
Toussaint - - - 1/1 - - - 5/6
Shaw - - - - - - - 1/1
Smith - - - - 4 0/2 1/1 7/8
Hopkins - - - - 2 - - 1/1
McColgan - - - - 1 - - 1/1

100% on catchable balls with a 1 and three 2s. They were money.

Have you ever felt personally taunted by a college coordinator?

Not until last Saturday.

/shakes fist at Borges
/looks at above RPS numbers
/sheepishly ceases fist-shaking
/makes a golden idol or something

So what was with the pulling guards blocking optioned guys on the inverted veer?

I thought this was a mistake due to a lack of reps, but like Troy Woolfolk jumping short routes it happened with such consistency that it eventually became clear it was no mistake. Tyler Sellhorn has a possible explanation:

Dear Brian,

I think Schofield and Omameh were coached to block the DE. Hoke/Borges do not like leaving unblocked defensive linemen out there. A famous unattributed coaching axiom that I am sure that Hoke/Borges believe in is: "First level defenders cause fumbles, second level defenders make tackles." To me, this is the "MANBALL" component of M's "option" game.  True power running game people think like that.  I think that is the reason there have been fewer really long runs (the second level has been blocked less consistently this season). 

This is one philosophical difference: RR's first thought always was, "How can we dick with the safeties to get big yards when we break through the line", Hoke/Borges first thought is "How can we dick with the DL so they are less aggro (in run and pass situations) and we don't ever have a negative play." Both work well as we have seen.

Tyler Sellhorn

To me it's weird that you'd option a guy off and still block him, but we saw Denard keep on the inverted veer five times and these were the results:

  1. WOOPS unblocked Sabino in the hole and gets to the sideline for 42-yard TD.
  2. Does not WOOP unblocked Johnson in the hole, gains two yards.
  3. DE flies way upfield, Hopkins takes Shazier outside without having to block him, Schofield moves to second level to block Johnson, six yard TD.
  4. Sabino blows his assignment and heads out on Toussaint. Pulling G blocks DE.
  5. Simon annihilates mesh point, Robinson pulls and miracles his way into six yards.

We can't glean anything from #5 since it did not go as intended. On three of the other four the pulling guard blocked the optioned DE. On the other, he got to the second level. Why? My theory is because there was no one else on the edge but the DE. On the other runs OSU ran blitzes that forced Hopkins to block guys other than the DE, who was then in a position to make a play on the ball, hypothetically, and received the attention of the pulling G. On the six yard TD the DE flew upfield to contain Toussaint and the puller moved on.

Goats?

Nobody. The only bad things to happen on the day were Denard's fumbles.

Heroes?

Everybody. Denard, Molk, Omameh, Lewan most of all.

What does it mean for Virginia Tech and the future?

It means we're going to be disappointed when Michigan does not execute flawlessly in the Sugar Bowl.

It also hints at fantastic things for next year. If Denard can maintain that level of play in the air the offense goes from dang good but inconsistent to

image

Can he? Well… probably not. We've got a lot more evidence pointing the other way. But you can't rule out something like the last five games, if not a little better, over the whole of 2012. That would be a great offense if they can just keep every single offensive lineman healthy throughout the whole year and find a tight end. And figure out what life without David Molk is like. So… some questions, but so much promise.

Picture Pages: Inverted Veer FTW

Picture Pages: Inverted Veer FTW

Submitted by Brian on December 7th, 2011 at 12:35 PM

This will not be a surprise to BWS readers, but dangit I also have my veer package and I'm going to run it. Because so there.

NOMENCLATURE NOTE. This from Chris Brown on nomenclature complaints:

Also I saw your note on whether the play should be labeled an "inverted veer." Others may disagree, but to me the fact that there's a guard pull doesn't make it not a "veer" -- you can have a veer play with all kinds of block schemes ("down" schemes, inside zone schemes but leaving a guy unblocked). The regular veer is just where the RB and QB go to the same side and you leave a defender unblocked. I may be responsible for the "inverted veer" name from naming it that a couple of years ago but I hear coaches call it that all the time now. "Dash read" is the other way to call it but that's not all that descriptive.

I put up a post on the scheme from this year. I note in there that you can run the play with either power blocking and a guard pull or zone blocking; I know teams that do both. Just depends how you want to deal with the second level.

I've been calling it inverted veer for a long time and it's not wrong-wrong—"veer" generally means leaving a playside DE unblocked, which the play does. I'll keep calling it that and note when it does not feature a pulling G.

/nomenclature

Show show. Michigan finally—finally—made the inverted veer a primary part of their offense, fulfilling a desire I've had ever since Smart Football posted on the thing way back when. It worked really well, from Denard's 41 yard touchdown to open the scoring to Denard's six yard touchdown to continue the scoring, to… yeah. You get it.

The veer was perhaps the core play of an offense that did this to Ohio State:

  1. three and out
  2. 47-yard touchdown drive
  3. 52-yard touchdown drive
  4. three and out
  5. Michigan gets a first down, whereupon Denard fumbles
  6. 80-yard touchdown drive
  7. 80-yard touchdown drive
  8. 40-yard drive from own nine followed by punt disaster
  9. 75-yard touchdown drive
  10. 80-yard touchdown drive that morphs into 54-yard field goal drive thanks to replay incompetence and penaltyfest

Without looking it up I guarantee you that is Michigan's best-ever offensive performance against the Great Satan in the modern era. That is a short game and 38 legitimately acquired points. Ten real drives, six touchdowns, four of them 75 yards or longer, two three and outs. An average of 46 yards a drive. As weird and disappointing as Michigan's defensive performance was, the offense made up for it in spades.

And the thing is, I'm not sure Michigan is even running the veer that well. You know how Denard had to juke that guy on his 41-yard touchdown? He shouldn't have had to. Omameh blocked the guy the play options off:

veer-4

With a lead blocker taking the corner you can see the read is Shazier here. Shazier indicates he's flaring out (or Denard just pulls because that seems to be the default on the veer). The pull is a good default since Shazier has a nasty tendency to have no idea where the ball is on plays like this, a major reason Penn State tore up the Buckeye run D. (It's worth noting that for all the panting about Shazier once Sweat went out OSU opponents ran for 6.1 (PSU) and 6.2 YPC (Michigan).)

Here the mesh has already transpired, Denard has pulled, Shazier is still charging at Toussaint, and Denard is going to get a bunch of yards once Omameh blocks MLB Sabino.

veer-6

SPOILER ALERT: Omameh is not going to block Sabino.

veer-7veer-8

WOOP WOOP WOOP

veer-9veer-10

Now, Omameh does latch on to Shazier. And Shazier has no momentum since he held up and started going backwards; Omameh Te'o's the dude back into a safety with a little help from an improvising Toussaint. I'm a ol' softie so I gave him a plus one despite a missed assignment.

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Denard sees grass. Denard runs. Some dude waves a pompom in front of his kneel, which is frustrating but apropos.

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This is what pom poms are for: to block vision.

Video

The replay:

Items of Interest

That is not how they draw it up. They draw it up with Omameh blocking Sabino and Denard jetting past Shazier directly upfield. Here it works out well, but the other play I hate BWS for beating me to had a sadface outcome:

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Schofield did the exact same thing Omameh did on this play, blocking the guy who the play options off. The guy way behind the LOS who isn't John Simon? Dude ran himself there because he had no idea who had the ball. Schofield should be moving to the second level to pick off S Orhian Johnson.

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This time Denard makes the wrong cut and gets two yards.

As BWS says:

For me, this isn't quite as frustrating as when Michigan fails to run from under center. This seems like a repetition issue. Neither Omameh or Schofield have practiced this blocking scheme as much as they probably should, and pulling across the formation and finding the right defender to block is probably one of those things that just takes getting used to.

That said ARGHHH. Block the right guy. I wonder what goes through Denard's mind during a play like this. "Yes, yes, got'em. Remember, take a knee. Troll Tebow. Chest bump. Hoke Point." Tackled.

This wasn't an issue on the six-yard Denard TD, on which the optioned guy was the way-upfield DE and Hopkins ran outside, taking Shazier with him before blocking him. Denard ended up cutting behind Huyge, who released downfield; Schofield pulled and got a block on Johnson.

BTW, the above-picture play was part of Michigan's second (and last!) three and out. Borges uber alles.

Even with that! Okay, the above is frustrating, but, God, look at all that space. How many times do you think Denard gets corralled there? And what is the payoff when he isn't?

Borges's wonky little adjustment from earlier in the season here is using a lead blocker for the sweep action, which pulls a second defender outside—one evidently unprepared to make this read since nobody ever thinks Denard has it—and makes the pull even more dangerous because of hockey power play analogy*. The veer forces that safety into the box and still works.

[You have a bigger advantage 4 on 3 than 5 on 4; here equal numbers with Denard in space is basically a power play.]

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: MOUNTAIN GOAT. Where is the safety? Jeremy Gallon turned him into a smoking heap of scrap metal.

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And he knows it.

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BAM BAM BAM BAM

I don't know what it is about five-eight guys from Florida. Their agility helps them in open space, for one, and their height means they are unusually able to get into the chests of opposing defensive backs. And there's some mountain goat in those boys somewhere.

Rep that, rep that, rep that. There are things other than "pulling guard doesn't block the optioned guy" that seemed like they could be coached up: on one play that ended up a give John Simon split the difference between the two potential ballcarriers and managed to spin Toussaint around at the LOS.

Denard could/should be riding the mesh point a little longer to force that DE to commit when it's not obvious. Maybe not; that is a great play by a great player and sometimes that's just going to happen. I just remember Juice Williams holding that thing forever, until the DE freaked out and took off for the tailback, and then being a 500-foot-tall robot.

Play action lack frustrating. Michigan went to a play action look off of this that turned into a five yard scramble instead of a potentially huge play because there were two unblocked guys on the edge and one blocker (who didn't block anyone). This has been a consistent frustration going back to the last couple years of the Rodriguez era: Michigan struggles to effectively run deep play action because the nature of their shotgun run game often leaves players unblocked and forces quick throws.

Rodriguez avoided this with QB Oh Noes pop passes on which Denard faked his iso and then dropped to pass. No pulling linemen, no edge issues, no guys who must be left alone for the play to seem convincing. I'm hoping Borges works something out to get big plays off counters to this over the offseason.