Preview 2010: Five Questions, Five Answers On Offense

Preview 2010: Five Questions, Five Answers On Offense

Submitted by Brian on September 3rd, 2010 at 11:32 AM

Previously: The story, the secondary, the linebackers, the defensive line, the quarterbacksthe running backs, the receivers, the offensive line, special teams, and the conference

1. Can you answer the same quarterback question everyone's been answering since the spring game?

denard-robinson-rippedSweet hot pickle John The Baptist, the fictional questioners are just as persistent as the real ones. One last time: I expect Denard Robinson to get the start against UConn. Rumor has it the team has already been informed.

The premium sites are engaged in a war of information about the #2. Scout is claiming Gardner has haxored the offense and will plug into the matrix sooner rather than later; Rivals says Forcier's come on like gangbusters of late and is hinting he'll end up starting sooner rather than later. Both of their mumbles are of the "I'm just saying" variety where blame can't be assigned retroactively but credit sure can; both are seriously hedging on Denard Robinson.

I don't buy either much, but I buy the latter way more than the former. My personal obsevations are in line with UMGoBlog's assessment of the spring performances of each. Gardner:

@ the :24 mark: here you can see the game moving really fast around him.  His feet slow down because his brain is working overtime to process all the info available.  Finally, he leans back away from the contact on his delivery, which will normally cause the ball to sail, or fall well short.

@ the :38 mark: this may be his "can't teach that" moment.  With Tate and DR, we have to roll the QB one way or the other to attack the middle.  They cannot see over the line.  Here, DG confidently steps into the pocket and throws a nice, although low, pass in a deep in route.  As he continues to develop, he physical stature may end up being a large advantage for him in the QB race.

@ the 1:15 mark: we see some of the TF-like play making ability.  He escapes the rush, but works back INTO the pocket to keep all his options alive down the field.  Very good poise for the young guy in his first spring.

@ the 1:55 mark: this is not the first example on this film, but the ball HAS to come out quicker here.  Giving the LB/DB time to read this play is a huge mistake and really hung the RB out to dry.  Again, no doubt understandable with DG's inexperience, but this is a HUGE thing that must improve before I will call him "Game Ready".

@ the 2:23 mark: SHEESH!  Protect the ball above all else, especially at your own goal line.  As soon as he felt the hands around him, that ball should have been thrown to the Off. Coord. on the sideline.  Live to fight another play.

It keeps going like that, promise alternating with the freshman mistakes we've gotten all too accustomed to the past couple years. Reports from the fall scrimmage, which was all of two weeks ago, are similar. Downplaying the one horrible interception is "a mistake but…" neglects Gardner's tendency to just chuck things when he got pressure. It didn't happen often, but when it did he responded—all together now—like a freshman. I'm done with this true freshman stuff. We've seen the chart, right? Michigan ran out a drilled-from-birth prodigy last year, got significantly above average performance from him, and still had a creaky offense. Devin Gardner is not that good yet. I have every confidence he will be that good in time, but not yet.

Forcier remains Forcier, hopefully minus many of the crippling turnovers. Denard, well;

@ the :59 mark: he is rolling left and fires a strike over the middle.  I cannot overstate the difficulty of this throw.  Very Impressive. 

@ the 1:30 mark: he cannot find a target and tucks and runs.  It will be beneficial at some point for him to learn to 1)identify targets earlier 2)throw it away 3)get out of bounds and avoid unnecessary hits.

@ the 1:40 mark: he makes a perfect read on the option.  Watch the DE on the O's left side completely bite down on the run.  Other Big Ten teams will not bite this hard.  They know DR is the bigger threat.  He will have to hand off more this year.

@ the 2:20 mark: he hits Roundtree for the 98 yarder.  Beautiful touch on this pass!  However, his throws out to the slots and RB's on the bubble screens and hitches need to be this accurate.  They aren't yet.

Denard is ridiculous. He will be given the first shot because of this, and it will be up to him to keep it. No one can take it away from him; he'll have to give it away. If I had to put numbers on it, there's a 65% chance Denard is the primary quarterback, a 30% chance Tate is, and a 5% chance Devin is.

2. Why should I be excited at all when the "Rodriguez leap" amounted to finishing ninth in total and scoring offense in conference play?

Last year around about the Notre Dame game some very excitable people were proclaiming things about the Rodriguez Leap, something Doctor Saturday identified as a strong trend in Rodriguez-coached offenses to blow up in year two. Michigan's was coming from so far back and running in place when it came to quarterback experience, so that initial prowess ended up being a mirage. Michigan was way, way better, but still pretty meh. So the above conference stats exist.

While those may be literally true, they don't exactly feel right, do they? Michigan's offense did fall off considerably after a scorching start, but whenever that stat gets brought up it seems wrong.  Michigan had the misfortune of missing two below-average defensive teams in Northwestern and Minnesota, after all.

According to some crazy advanced numbers that intuition is correct. Via The Only Colors, an aerial of Football Outsiders' advanced metrics for the Big Ten last year:

fo-advanced-metrics

That is more intuitively correct than raw things like points or yards per game and, since it is conference-only, sidesteps the Baby Seal U issue. Michigan's offense was seventh, a hair away from fifth. That's not good but it is a major step forward after they were last by a mile in '08.

Besides, it's possible they actually made the RR leap. Seriously. The problem is how far back they were coming from. As last year's preview noted:

…even if Rodriguez makes a leap similar to that turned in by his 2002 West Virginia team—probably the most comparable since they were coming from so far back—Michigan will only improve to 68th in total offense.

Sans BSU, Michigan would have finished 78th. With BSU they finished 59th, and since all the other teams that played super tomato cans didn't have them stripped out by when I say they would have finished 78th, splitting the difference seems reasonable. We're back to 68th in total offense again.

The best RR leaps to date were virtually identical improvements at Tulane and West Virginia where year two saw yardage output increase by 21%. If you discount BSU, Michigan went from 290 yards of total offense to 353. That's a 22% increase. While it's a lot easier to go from godawful to bad than go from bad to average or average to great, at previous stops Rodriguez had the luxury of installing an experienced quarterback in year two. With Michigan's chaos there (and Rodriguez's inability to get a viable quarterback in his first recruiting class), they did not have that luxury.

And here's the thing: with the quarterbacks going from freshmen to sophomores and some number of starters back ranging between seven and ten—depending on how you assess players like Roy Roundtree, Martavious Odoms, Patrick Omameh, Mark Huyge, Perry Dorrestein, and a couple others—isn't it plausible to expect another leap in year three? Tacking on 17%—the average yardage increase in previous RR leaps, discounting last year at Michigan—to Michigan's BSU-free yardage yields 414 yards per game for Michigan, which would be good for 32nd nationally.

So…

  1. There was a leap,
  2. It was hard to find because they were coming from so far back, and
  3. There should be another leap this year.

This could be worth a small "woo," or something.

3. Can the running game take a… well… can it improve a… aw, hell, can it make a leap? The leap?

# Year YPC
1 2006 4.27
2 2003 4.25
3 2009 4.03
4 2007 3.97
5 2008 3.91
6 2005 3.89
7 2004 3.83
8 2002 3.82
9 2001 3.59

Last year Michigan obliterated their best YPC mark since the turn of the century, posting a 4.52 well clear of 2006's previous high water mark of 4.27. All right, yes, Michigan's demolition of Baby Seal U (54 carries, 461 yards) is heavily distorting, and if you pull it out Michigan's season YPC drops a half-yard. That drops it to third, as you can see at right. Since most of the seasons there had a nonconference cupcake that wasn't good but also wasn't quite as distorting (in 2006, for example, Michigan put up 246 yards on 51 carries against Vanderbilt in addition to their two MAC snacks), that sells '09 a short.

So. Despite missing their best and most critical lineman for most of the year, suffering a number of bad snaps that ended up looking like –20 yard carries as a result of that, and spending most of the year down at least one of their senior tailbacks, and running out freshman quarterbacks. Michigan posted one of the better YPC numbers of the last decade of Michigan football. They were solidly third. I'm throwing this on the pile of evidence that Rodriguez's approach to the ground game is just plain better than Carr's.

Meanwhile, I'm not too concerned about the lost personnel on the line. Omameh should be better than the Moosman/Huyge/frosh Omameh combo over the course of the year. Molk was clearly better than Moosman as a center, something that was addressed in the Illinois game:

Moosman is not as good as Molk on tough reach blocks. Lot of cutbacks against Illinois because the playside DT did not get sealed. Cutbacks are tougher sledding, usually.

Here's a successful run from Brown on which Moosman does not seal his guy and Brown has to hit it up behind Moosman in front of Schilling:

From what I've seen, Molk is more likely to actually get that block on the frontside. He won't do it all the time and the cutback can be effective but then you're relying on the backside block, which is often a tough one.

Ortmann to Huyge/Lewan probably won't matter much; tackles aren't that important in the spread 'n' shred run game. The only other losses are at tailback, where Minor managed just 96 carries a year ago. His average YPC was 5.2, only slightly better than the team average in I-A games. Brown, meanwhile, finished the above run like this:

which-direction

TOUCH…

which-direction-no

…doh.

It's not like either of the lost guys was 1) that great, 2) ever healthy, or 3) irreplaceable. Here's a preview of a stupid prediction: Michigan 2010 tops that YPC table.

4. What about the tackles?

Yeah… that's the thing. Michigan has depth and talent at the skill positions and the interior line. The quarterbacks have been discussed ad nauseum—while they won't be great the best of the three options available will be at least average and possibly (probably?) good. Michigan can take some hits and still expect good things to happen… except at tackle.

There Michigan has two guys who did not play well last year and two redshirt freshmen. Though Taylor Lewan has a boatload of hype he's just one guy, and a freshman at that. Meanwhile, Mark Huyge and Perry Dorrestein took turns playing Slight Hindrance To Guy Forcing Forcier Out Of The Pocket; both were benched for the other at some point. It's clearly the weak spot.

There are reasons to hope:

  • Experience helps out offensive linemen more than other position groups.
  • Huyge was undersized but is no longer.
  • Dorrestein was struggling with a back injury most of this year.
  • Frey's coaching saw Ortmann improve substantially in his final season.
  • Lewan does have a boatload of hype and provides a viable third option if one of the starters struggle.

A step forward is likely. Even so, at the end of the year the thing that will have held the offense back from great heights will probably be an inability to keep defensive ends away from the quarterback.

5. Well?

This rocket has two stages, the second of which should kick in this year. There's more experience everywhere, plenty of talent to go around, multiple options at quarterback, some of whom are scholarship non-freshmen: Michigan's offense will be much better in 2010. Now for the greater-than-less-thans!

BETTER

  • Sophomore Tate/Denard >>> Freshman Tate/Denard
  • David Molk >> David Moosman
  • Senior Schilling > Junior Schilling
  • Patrick Omameh >> Moosman/Huyge/Omameh chaos
  • Stonum in HD > Stonum in black and white
  • Roundtree/Grady > Odoms/Roundtree/Grady
  • Tight ends > younger versions of themselves

PUSH

  • Five-headed running back monster == constantly injured seniors with younger versions of running back monster.
  • Martavious Odoms == Greg Mathews
  • Perry Dorrestein == The better of Dorrestein/Huyge

WORSE

  • Mark Huyge < Mark Ortmann

As stated above, RR Leap 2 would hop Michigan up to 32nd nationally in yardage even without the benefit of a tomato can I-AA game. Put that back in and Michigan should find itself in the bottom third of the nation's top 25 offenses.

Things that can make this not happen: tackles are bad and or injured. Quarterbacks do not progress like they should. The tailback situation is a muddled heap of mediocrity. Things that can make this pessimistic: Stonum blows up. Toussaint or Cox blows up. Denard really is that good.

Last Year's Stupid Predictions

  • ESSENTIALLY CORRECT IF SLIGHTLY OPTIMISITIC: Minor misses two games with injury [note: chalk!]. [Minor missed Western and Ohio State; he also sat out against DSU, if that matters, and was seriously limited for much of the rest of the season.]
  • RIGHT DESPITE INJURY: People expect Vincent Smith to be the 2010 starter.
  • WRONG BECAUSE OF INJURY: Junior Hemingway is your leading downfield receiver (ie: Odoms is in the running but we aren't counting screens). [Roundtree blew up late; Hemingway finished well behind Mathews amongst outside WRs.]
  • PRETTY CLOSE: Denard runs for 450 yards and throws about ten times. [350 yards and 31 attempts.]
  • NOT PARTICULARLY ACCURATE: Michigan uses a huge multiplicity of formations on offense, debuting new stuff frequently and ending the year with a huge (hur) package. [Michigan never busted out
  • WRONG: A two-back three-WR set is most common, though sometimes that third WR will be a tight end in the slot. [Michigan went 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB most often.]
  • OPTIMISTIC EVEN COUNTING BABY SEAL U: As noted, Michigan finishes somewhere between 40th and 50th in total yardage. [59th.]

This Year's Stupid Predictions

  • Michigan 2010 finishes atop the rush YPC chart above without considering the UMass game and by a considerable margin.
  • Gardner ends up burning his redshirt in very, very frustrating fashion, because…
  • …Denard is pretty much your starting quarterback all year, but…
  • …Forcier plays in every game, bailing Michigan out in one critical fourth quarter.
  • Vincent Smith gets the most touches amongst the running backs. Second: Shaw. Third: Toussaint. Fourth: Hopkins.
  • Robinson is Michigan's leading rusher.
  • Darryl Stonum does not exactly go Chris Henry on the planet but does greatly increase production via a series of big plays: 30 catches, 650 yards, 6 touchdowns.
  • Michigan breaks out the triple option with regularity, using Hopkins as the dive back and Shaw/Smith the pitch guy. They also dig out those WVU formations where the slot motions into the backfield, with Grady the man beneficiary.

Upon Further Review: Offense vs Illinois

Upon Further Review: Offense vs Illinois

Submitted by Brian on November 5th, 2009 at 1:51 PM

Personnel notes: Odoms did not play and was replaced by Roundtree. Patrick Omameh got a series late in the first half, probably because Dorrestein was injured. It sounds like Dorrestein might miss the Purdue game, with Patrick Omameh his likely replacement at RG. Robinson did not play until the game was over.

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M30 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Long handoff Mathews 5
Illinois walks a safety down. Corner is playing off Mathews a bit so Michigan takes the quick pass for a few yards. (CA, 3, screen)
M35 2 5 ??? ? ? ? ? Run ? Brown 3
First missed play of the day; we cut to Brown with the ball and an indecipherable blocking scheme; think Michigan pulled out something new and it didn't quite work.
M38 3 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Hitch Koger 9
Good timing from Forcier, with the ball getting thrown before Koger fully turns around, which allows him to pick up a few YAC. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1)
M47 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone veer keeper Forcier 4
Okay, so the veer: here the line blocks one way—they downblock—and the running back comes across the line going the other way, with the frontside DE ending up unblocked. Here Forcier should definitely give it off as the DE came inside (ZR -1), but he does juke the DE in question and turns no gain into three yards. Forcier could have had a couple more but he's clearly been told to get down before he gets hit.
O49 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Brown 10
Illinois crashing the DE and using an OLB on a scrape. Schilling and Ortmann are trying to scoop block the backside DT and can't get it done because the DT is serious about flowing down the line but Schilling(+1) adjusts well, deciding to seal the guy instead of attempting to pass him off and head to the second level. Since Illinois has slanted hard to the playside and neither Moosman or Huyge has managed to seal his guy, Brown's only option is to hit it up in the small crease the Schilling block provides. Good read there and he hits the crease, bouncing off Schilling and running through a diving ankle tackle attempt by the backside DT, hitting it up into a vacant second level. This could be a touchdown but Brown bizarrely cuts right instead of left and finds Illini.
O39 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Run Power off tackle Brown 4
Moundros in. This is a gap-blocked play with Huyge pulling around in an attempt to attack the gap between Koger and Ortmann. Schilling(-1) does not seal his guy, who closes off the intended hole and forces Brown away from the blocks of Huyge and Moundros. Moosman(+1) got a really effective down-block on the backside DT, though, and this gives Brown a cutback behind Schilling. Unblocked LB meets Brown two yards downfield; he picks up two more.
O35 2 6 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Brown 6
Huyge gets a good stretch block on the backside DT, who was lined up in such a way that made this relatively easy as Illinois appeared slightly misaligned at the snap. Schilling loses control of his guy but it's not quite quick enough for that DT—Josh Brent, he's pretty good—to close down the gap. Brown squirts through it and meets a linebacker that Moosman(-1) had a free run at and could not block. He tackles just short of the first.
O29 3 In I-Form Big 2 2 1 Base 4-3 Run Power O Brown 2
Pretty easy, as Illinois' line is slanting away from the play. Moundros(+1) gets a good kickout block on the OLB on the line and Schilling gets a block downfield, clearing the way for a first down.
O27 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB power O Forcier 4
Another power run play, this with Forcier as the primary ballcarrier. DE they're running right at slants himself out of the play; Huyge pulls around with the MLB in his sights; MLB attacks the LOS well and is in a difficult spot for Huyge, cutting off the outside hole and then getting inside of Huyge when he tries to block the MLB. Forcier does well to read the play and cut upfield and looks like he's got a big crease; MLB makes an ankle tackle to hold it down. (RPS +1, Huyge -1) Excellent play by 38 here. Our linebackers never do this.
O23 2 6 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Bubble screen Roundtree 8
This is called, as Forcier makes only a token fake to Brown before pulling it out for the bubble. This isn't a true bubble, either, as Roundtree takes a couple steps outside and then sets up; he's not running as the ball comes to him. He makes a good, decisive move outside and picks up first down yardage; good block from Koger. (CA, 3, screen)
O15 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Run Iso Brown -1
Huyge(-1) is blown back into the backfield by the playside DE, which erases the hole. Brown has no options and gets tackled for a loss.
O16 2 11 I-Form twins 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass Waggle hitch Mathews 14
Schilling pulls around and does a good job blocking on the edge; Forcier pulls up and zings one to Mathews just as he breaks open in front of the DB. On replay, throw is a bit inside, but this close to the sideline that might be okay. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)
O2 1 G I-Form Big 2 2 1 Goal line Run Zone stretch Brown 2
Dorrestein(+1) gets off the ball and knocks the playside DE back by himself, opening up the corner and providing a lane for an easy Brown touchdown. Huyge(+1) and Moundros(+1) also erased guys, providing a walk-in.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 3 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M21 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Brown 8
Vincent Smith the other back. Michigan running away from the line shift, and Illinois is slanting away from the play, meaning Moosman hardly has to try to block the playside DT. Schilling(+1) makes a good adjustment to get the slanting DE, Smith(+1) pops the blitzing OLB, and Ortmann seals the MLB. Brown can't cut upfield of Stonum's block because of the flowing WLB and cuts outside where a diving ankle tackle sees him fall.. Pursuit would have limited this to a couple more without the fall.
M29 2 2 I-Form twins 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Run Iso Brown 4
Similar to the previous third and short conversion, with the backside DT getting himself easily sealed by Schilling(+1) but no frontside crease; Brown cuts back, where the frontside DT peels and tackles, but not before the first down.
M33 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Long handoff Mathews 15
This is interesting: it's new. It's basically the zone-read-to-bubble play except instead of throwing the bubble it's just a long handoff to Mathews, who is the lone receiver away from the playside. With the CB there cheating down it's open and Mathews(+1) cuts it up for good yardage, making the most out of the room he was given. (CA, 3, screen)
M48 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read veer Forcier 2
This doesn't really work because Illinois is running a scrape. Result: backside DE crashes down on Brown, causing Forcier to pull it (ZR + 1), but the scraping OLB gets out on Forcier and prevents him from picking up any yardage. When Michigan was running this against Iowa and Penn State they were blocking the backside DE and reading the OLB; I guess they thought Illinois would adjust to that. They didn't.
50 2 8 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Edge pitch Brown 2
Roundtree(-1) fails to get a block on the OLB to that side, so the play gets strung out. There was not really an option for a cut up since this is not a true option play and Forcier did not take the DE away by forcing him to come up.
O48 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Throwaway Brown Inc
Wholesale OL failure as both OTs get run around and Forcier has to step up in the pocket, where Huyge and Schilling have both failed to control the IU stunt/blitz. The pocket collapsing, Forcier steps up, finds more pressure, and just tries to get rid of it to Brown; ball is understandably inaccurate. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, team)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 13 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O43 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Brown 5
Omameh in at right tackle(!). I didn't notice this live but Craig Ross did, and it's true. Dorrestein is apparently having injury issues. Omameh kicks out the DE on the stretch; DE gets upfield enough to take out Smith and force Brown up behind him. Playside DT gets doubled by Moosman and Huyge; that double takes long enough that the release into the second level does not get the MLB, who can tackle Brown. Still a decent gain.
O38 2 5 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Smith 4
Hell of a four yard run as this is epic OL fail. Omameh(-1) gets slanted inside by the DE and he's going to crush the play for a four yard loss but Smith runs through the tackle. Corner comes up to try to finish it off and misses; Smith spins through his tackle attempt past another DL, where he meets a diving linebacker, avoids him, and falls forward. This is basically 8 YAC; great, Hart-like run. Announcers are talking about Halloween costumes.
O34 3 1 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-4 split Run Power O Brown 2
Koger and Ortmann double the playside DE, driving him off the ball; Moundros(+1) pops the OLB, knocking him backwards and giving brown enough room to pick up the first. It's remarkable how bad Brown is about contact.
O32 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Brown 19 (Pen -0)
Only six in the box for Illinois as they are manning up on the outside with a single deep safety. Omameh is blocking the backside end since Michigan assumes a scrape and they're right; MLB eliminates himself as Forcier contain. SLB then freaks out to the playside, giving Brown a huge cutback lane as Huyge(+1) slices the backside DT to the ground. Brown jets into the secondary. He cuts outside a good block from Mathews to make the safety chase and gets down to the 13; Mathews gets a somewhat ticky-tack holding call... but I can see it. Dumb. It comes back and we have a do over, basically.
O32 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Pass Sack -- -2
PA stretch fake with Grady rolling out for some pass pro. Forcier appears to have a hitch for a few but doesn't throw it immediately and then the CB comes up, then definitely has a corner route for lots but doesn't throw that, either, and eventually starts running around, taking a sack. Should have thrown it. (BR, 0, protection 1/1)
O34 2 12 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 ? Pass Tunnel screen Roundtree 4
Late to the play again. This is not actually a bubble, as Roundtree is moving inside at the catch. Probably an attempt to take advantage of people over-reacting to the bubble, but on this play Illinois does a good job of staying responsible and holds it down. (CA, 3, screen)
O30 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Sack -- -8 (Pen+15)
A couple of blitzers. One of them attempts to spectacularly hurdle Minor and gets owned, but that blitz and the general tendency of the OL to give ground spooks Forcier and he ends up attempting to roll out against DEs way upfield; he rolls himself into a sack. Should have stepped up in the pocket, where the spectacular leap attempt would have given Forcier a lane to escape the pocket and do his Forcier stuff. He gets facemasked on the tackle. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)
O15 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Smith -1
Poor read by Smith(-1) as he does not have faith that Moosman can seal the playside DT. Moosman eventually does in the manner of many successful stretches. By that point Smith has abandoned the idea and attempts to hit it up behind Moosman, which ends with Smith getting tackled by the unblocked MLB.
O16 2 11 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone veer keeper Forcier 5
Michigan's version of what Illinois does all the time. They must have practiced this all week to prepare for it and threw it in the playbook. Downblock the line, fake the handoff, Forcier(ZR -1) makes the wrong read again when he should give it off, I think, jukes the DE again, and gets a decent gain out of it. Man, this thing can be dangerous if run by a huge fast guy.
O11 3 6 I-Form twins 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass Rollout corner Mathews Inc
Good playcall gets Illinois in man and should see this open up but the corner here makes a good play and Mathews doesn't sell his route; his in cut does not turn the CB, possibly because it's a rollout, and the guy is close enough to grab Mathews's shoulder as the pass arrives. It's high and as a result Mathews can't extend to bring it in. Pass interference? Technically, yes. The grab came before the pass arrives. Does this ever get called? No. So it's a good play by the DB. (MA, 1, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: FG(28), 10-7, 7 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M46 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Pass PA short seam Hemingway 21
New item! Michigan runs a zone read, basically, but Forcier pulls it out and immediately throws to Hemingway, who is open because his guy has set up to play on the corner, allowing Hemingway to lope past unmolested. Forcier hits him for a first down. (CA, 3, protection NA, RPS +1)
O33 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Brown -7
Schilling(-1) fails to pick up on the slanting DT and just runs by him; slanting DT shoots into the backfield. Brown(-1), for his part, should instantly slam it up behind the failed block and hope he doesn't get run down by the backside DE. Even if he does it would be a minimal loss; as it is he tries to stretch it out to the sideline and ends up giving a ton of ground and getting tackled for a big loss. Brown is fast as hell but has little in the way of RB skills.
O40 2 17 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Scramble Forcier 16
Forcier does have a pocket this time and steps up into it as a DE comes crashing around the outside of Ortmann. Seeing no one open, because there is no one open, he takes off for good yardage. I won't chart this, because it's a good decision and doesn't deserve a TA. Protection 2/2.
O24 3 1 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-4 split Run Power O Brown 2
Another good double on the playside DE blows him back; Moundros(+1) kicks out the OLB, and Schilling pulls around into the SLB. Brown has the first down before he hits anyone, at which point he goes down immediately.
O22 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Brown 5
Very similar situation to the seven yard loss, with the playside DT slanting hard; this time Brown makes the hard cut upfield and because Huyge(+1) got a great block on the backside DT he's out of the play. Brown can run up into folk for a decent gain. I think Molk is getting some of these reach blocks and the cutbacks aren't so constant.
O17 2 5 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-4 split Run Iso Brown 0
OL sliding over to run an iso off tackle; Huyge(-1) is pwned and blown back into the intended hole. I'd rather see Michigan double the guy and leave Brown with the linebacker; instead they shoot Omameh at the linebacker and leave Huyge to get pwned. Brown heads outside and is lucky to get back to the LOS.
O17 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Sack -- -8
Actually very good protection from the tackles, who don't let the DEs tear around the corner this time, but Schilling(-2) is just beat one-on-one by an Illinois DT—no trickery—and the immediate pressure up the middle gives Forcier no choice but to eat a sack. I do think Forcier had a slant for the first but just did not have the confidence to throw it. Still... (PR, 0, protection 0/2)
Drive Notes: FG(41), 13-7, 1 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Ace 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run Zone stretch Brown -2
Illinois shifts a LB late and Michigan busts his pickup as Ortmann doubles the playside DE with Schilling. Koger(-1) lets the LB right inside of him without getting a block; that guy tackles for loss.
M18 2 12 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB draw Forcier 5
I don't know what Forcier's looking at because he's got a crease between Ortmann and Moosman that Brown's heading up into to provide a lead block, but Forcier heads directly upfield instead. On his way through a small crease someone knocks the ball loose; Michigan is fortunate to recover.
M23 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Post Roundtree 77
Excellent pocket this time gives Forcier time and room to step up and throw; he rifles a ball 20 yards downfield that hits Roundtree right in stride. A trailing safety is beaten, but a Roundtree stumble gives him a shot at a tackle; he misses it. Roundtree is on the 45 and gone until Hawthorne tracks him down. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)
O1 1 G I-Form Big 2 2 1 Goal line Run Iso Brown 0
Schilling(-1) is blasted back by a single blocker on the backside; the frontside DT double gets him moving backwards and should be enough for Brown to get in but for Schilling falling backwards and giving him no room. Brown falls forward to about the half-yard line; probably could have extended it in.
O1 2 G I-Form Big 2 2 1 Goal line Run Power O Brown 0
They've got a gaping hole to run a sneak but they don't check to it. Argh. Dorrestein(-1), back in for Omameh, gets blown back and Schilling runs into him, falling right in Brown's path. Resulting unblocked guy tackles Brown just short of the line.
O1 3 G I-Form Big 2 2 1 Goal line Run Inside zone Brown 0
Brown's fault: the interior line freaking caves the DTs back and if Brown hits it up immediately this is a walk-in touchdown. His vision has always been bad, though, and he waits too long, and his balance has always been bad so he can't run through a tackle here.
O1 4 G I-Form Big 2 2 1 Goal line Run Outside zone Minor 0
Again a missed read from the RB as Grady takes an interior LB charging up and the OL has slammed Illinois into the endzone. Minor should still get in, but ends up tackled as his elbow hits.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 13-7, 11 min 3rd Q. After the review, Rodriguez looks like Don Draper on this week's Mad Men.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Smith 0
This looks like it's going to go pretty okay as a double on the frontside DT looks like it's working. Playside DE gets upfield so there's a crease; Schilling pops off the double to block the playside LB, at which point the DT they were doubling beats Moosman(-1) and shoots up into Smith at the LOS. My kingdom for a Molk. This play has one of my persistent pet peeves about the stretch: Brown goes outside the playside DE and basically makes himself useless. If you tell him to shoot it up then the players never have to stop doubling the DT here and this is a good gain.
M20 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Flare screen Brown 7
Good gain; great cut block from Roundtree gets a DB to the ground and the Illinois DL sucked up, removing themselves from the play. Dorrestein(-1) manages to whiff on the charging safety, but Brown cuts up behind him, where a DT and the CB the outside WR was blocking converge. (CA, 3, screen)
M27 3 3 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB stretch Forcier 2
Michigan hurries to the line and catches not one but two Illinois players on the field of play as they snap the ball. No call. Ridiculous. Anyway, again Brown just heads outside the tackle and Forcier has to cut it up; a quick-reacting corner blazes past Stonum and Schilling can't block the backside DT, so Forcier gets taken down after just two. If Brown was acting as a lead blocker maybe they get this; I really don't get this blocking scheme on third and short.
Drive Notes: Punt, 13-14, 7 min 3rd Q. That is a ridiculous noncall.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M36 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Hitch Koger Inc
Quick hitch identical to the first one from earlier; Koger drops a ball that hits him in the hands. (CA,3, protection 1/1)
M36 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Hitch Roundtree 4 (pen -15)
Come to the play late as it's being thrown so not much detail; simple pitch and catch for just four. (CA, 3, protection 1/1) Moosman gets a dumb, unnecessary chop block call.
M21 2 25 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Corner Stonum Inc
Stonum runs what looks like a slant at first before breaking it out into a deep corner route on which he's got a step and there's a window. Good pocket for Forcier breaks down with a delayed blitz but Forcier can stand in and throw just before he gets hit; the ball is a couple yards long. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M21 3 25 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Improv comeback Stonum Inc
Third and twenty five sees a four-man rush that's picked up well; instead of stepping confidently and firing to someone, Forcier hesitates, bringing his eyes down and then scrambling out. He pulls up to fire deep to Stonum, who's trying to get open, and throws it a bit wide of a covered receiver; ball is deflected away. Trying to make the best of a bad situation and a throw that was okay after finding no one open, so... (TA, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 13-21, 4 min 3rd Q. Michigan's trying to avoid the hellacious wind and ends up with a line drive rugby punt for little yardage.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Brown 17
Michigan again blocking the backside DE so maybe this is supposed to be a cutback sort of thing. Huyge(+1) cuts the backside DT, who leaps over the block and stumbles wildly; scraping MLB runs himself out of the play chasing Forcier and the SLB move out anticipating a stretch; huge cutback lane. Brown cuts behind the out-of-control backside DT and heads right up the middle, grabbing a chunk of yards before the safeties close him down.
M37 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass TE seam Koger 22
Bubble fake with Koger faking a block on the LB lined up over him, then releasing beyond him; Forcier hits him as he clears the second level but before the safeties get up on him. Poor block from Huyge(-1) gets a guy in Forcier's face and forces him to get rid of it when he had two receivers breaking deep against one safety and could have waited for a home run if a guy wasn't in his grill. Good play anyway; throw is a bit high but Koger brings it in. (CA, 2, protection 1/2, Huyge -1)
O41 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Brown 17
Excellent blocking by the interior line with Schilling getting a seal on the backside DT easily. He's out of the equation. Moosman and Huyge double and blow back the playside DT, with Huyge releasing onto the MLB; he gets outside and threatens to hold it down but the blocks by Moosman(+1) and Schilling have provided a major crease; the backside DE is getting blocked so he's out of the picture, too, and the scraping backer has run himself out of the play for Forcier. Brown's got space and this is what he's good at: darting into the secondary. Again the safeties close him down.
O24 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read keeper Forcier 2 (Pen +5)
Backside DE unblocked this time and stays home but Forcier pulls it out(ZR –1). He's one on one with the DE and jukes him pretty well... and then fumbles for no reason whatsoever. The ball is juggled and he brings it back in; the distraction may have prevented him from fully juking this guy. Result is two yards; Michigan finally gets the “hey you have 12 guys on the field” call as Illinois is egregiously late getting off.
O19 1 5 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Brown 9
Backside DT slices into the backfield past Schilling and Ortmann and threatens to make a play but he needs Brown to get delayed and that doesn't happen. Brown runs past, then cuts up. Schilling's gotten out on the MLB and a double from Moosman(+1) and Huyge(+1) has stoned that guy; Brown slices through a crease between Schilling and Moosman before getting taken down by a safety.
O10 1 G Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Brown -6
Three fold: Huyge(-1) gets absolutely blasted back into the backfield by the playside DT and Moosman, attempting to get the same double he did on the previous play, ends up running at no one, with a linebacker coming behind him. This is not a good situation. Brown should just cut up behind Huyge and take his 0 yards, but instead he tries to get outside—preposterous—and ends up giving up a ton of yards. Freshman mistake.
O16 2 G I-Form twins 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass Waggle throwaway -- Inc
No idea why this is so open; Illinois should have someone cruising in to crush Forcier on the rollout. It's second and goal from the sixteen. It is open, though. Forcier doesn't like his deep options and should throw to Moundros in the flat for a few yards but doesn't and ends up getting to the sideline and throwing it away. Borderline BR, but (TA, 0, protection 1/1)
O16 3 G Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Sack -- -4
Dorrestein(-2) gets completely destroyed by the DE, run around like the other guy is Brandon Graham. Huyge(-1) is bowled over, too, so Forcier has no lane to scramble up in. He gets the ball banged loose and Illinois recovers. (PR, 0, protection 0/3, Dorrestein -2, Huyge -1)
Drive Notes: Fumble, 13-28, 14 min 4th Q. Michigan fit all that in like two minutes of game time BTW. Jet tempo is fast.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Stop and go Mathews Inc
Great stop and go route from Mathews coupled with a pump fake from Forcier gets Mathews open deep for what could be a long completion. Mathews looks inside for the ball the whole way, adjusting only when it's clearly farther outside than he thought it was going to be, at which point it's too late. Mathews had plenty of time to adjust and just did not. The throw as not great but it wasn't that bad, either; this is more evidence that the receivers aren't adjusting to balls well. (MA, 1, protection 2/2)
M20 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Deep post Hemingway 66
Great protection allows Forcier to step up in the pocket and nail Hemingway as he smokes an Illinois safety, getting two and half steps on his guy. Hemingway has to break stride a tiny bit, allowing the safety to catch up, but the end result is still a huge gain. These last two plays invite the question: why are these the first deep balls of the day? (DO, 3, protection 3/3)
O14 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Bubble screen Roundtree 4
Roundtree has a bunch of space and manages to cut inside the crashing safety for a few yards. Timing seemed a little off on this; also if this was Odoms maybe he makes the guy miss totally? (CA, 3, screen)
O10 2 6 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Hitch Hemingway Inc
Hemingway has this for near first-down yardage when a DB comes up to hit him, jarring the ball loose. DB made it tough but you'd still like to see him make the catch here. (CA, 2, protection 1/1)
O10 3 G Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Flare screen Brown Inc
This is too far in front of Brown but it's possible this is on Brown for not running the route right or adjusting to the pass as it came. Still: (IN, 2, screen)
O10 4 G Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Slant Stonum Inc
Forcier finds a window to zing this in to Stonum. It'll be a tough-ish catch with the safety breaking to possibly make a play on the ball, but it is there; Forcier wings it high and wide. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 13-31, 8 min 4th Q. Charting stops as this game is over. Forcier fumbles on the next play after a blocked punt.

So I'm still having this ichor problem.

Man… man. This is going to sound insane, but if Michigan just stops turning the ball over they'll have a pretty good offense.

If my eyes weren't empty sockets dripping with a viscous black goo, I would have perfect eyesight.

Hush, tentacled alter-ego cornerback.

Ain't sayin' it. In fact, here's a chart—

Charts!

GODDAMMIT

Charts.

NO I MADE A LOL

big-ten-2009 HA HA HA

Charts.

(Hennechart legend; MA is "marginal", screen results are in parens.)

TATE FORCIER

Opponent DO CA MA IN BR TA BA PR
Western Michigan 2 14 1 2 1 2 - 3
Notre Dame 5 20 (6) 2 4 3 3 - 4
Eastern Michigan 1 8 (2) 1 1 (1) 1 4 (1) - -
Indiana 3 13 (3) 1 (1) 2 5 3 - 2
Michigan State 5 19 (3) 2 4 3 3 - 5
Iowa 1 8(1) 1 3 (2) 2 3 2 2
Delaware State - 2 (1) - - - - - -
Penn State 3 9 (3) - 4 (2) 4 2 1 1
Illinois 2 13 (6) 2 3(1) 2 2 - 2

DENARD ROBINSON

Opponent DO CA MA IN BR TA BA PR
Western Michigan - 1 1 1 2 - - -
Eastern Michigan - 1 1 (1) 2 (1) - - - -
Indiana - 1 1 (1) - - - - -
Michigan State - - - - - 2 - -
Iowa 1 2 - - 1 1 - -
Delaware State - 2 2 - - - - -
Penn State - - 1 - 1 1 - -

Robinson DNP until garbage time late.

Forcier had a decent game. He was not asked to do a whole lot until late. Illinois was apparently vulnerable to screens, so we saw an uptick in little short throws that were effective until the last one. The downfield success rate is good, not great: 9 / 15 = 60%. And the BRs weren't killer interceptions but just poor reads or poor decisions where to scramble, which is progress. I might need another category for "aigh."

The fumbling issue remains a problem, though: Forcier was irresponsible with the ball and coughed it up twice, once on a QB draw he made a poor read on. Michigan lost one, causing everyone to turn the TV off. Hopefully this is a major point of emphasis in the offseason; Forcier can't be as careless with the ball going forward or the offense is never going to get off the ground.

Receiver chart is interesting mostly for its distribution:

[Receiver chart explanation: throws are rated on how difficult they are to catch. A 3 is a totally routine ball that would induce groans if dropped. 2 is moderately difficult; you'd like to see players catch 50-70% of these. 1 is a circus catch on which the QB is bailed out by a great play from a WR or, more usually, not bailed out. 0 is totally uncatchable and mostly exists to chart how often a player is targeted.]

This Game Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Hemingway - - - 1/1 3 - 1/2 8/8
Mathews - 0/2 1/1 2/2 8 1/6 3/4 11/11
Stonum 3 - - - 6 1/3 3/4 10/10
Savoy - - - - 2 - 1/2 4/4
Odoms - - - - 5 1/3 4/6 16/17
Grady-19 - - - - 2 - 2/3 9/12
Roundtree - - - 5/5 5 - 1/4 5/5
Stokes - - - - - - 1/1 1/1
Koger - - 1/1 1/2 - 3/4 4/6 7/11
Webb - - - - 1 - - 3/5
Minor - - - - - - - 1/1
Brown - 0/1 1/1 - 1/4 2/3 6/7
Shaw - - - - - 1/1 0/1 -
Smith - - - - - - - -
Grady-24 - - - - - - - 1/1

Roundtree tied for the most looks with Mathews, and Stonum is the new Roundtree. Roundtree has passed Grady on the depth chart in what looks like a permanent way because when he is thrown a ball that hits him in the hands it does not fall to the ground. At least, not yet.

Koger also had another bad drop, further sullying his crazy start to the season. He's kind of a tight end version of Braylon, capable of making spectacular catches and dropping routine ones.

And PROTECTION METRIC: 22/27, Schilling –2, Team –2, Huyge –1.

Actually a good day here, though it was against a poor pass rush and Michigan got smoked a couple times. Note the low overall number: Michigan was ground- and screen-heavy.

Why the hell couldn't we get it in from the one?

In four ugly acts:

  1. Schilling is blown back into the path of an iso play that otherwise would have worked. Even with the pwnage Brown should have an opportunity to extend the ball over the goal line; he does not.
  2. Michigan attempts to run off tackle where Dorrestein, who's apparently injured and missed the last drive of the first half in favor of Omameh, gets blown off the ball; Schilling runs into him and Brown has no lead blockers.
  3. Brown waits way too long on a stretch play that sees Illinois's line cave in.
  4. Minor fails to read the blocking in front of him as Illinois's line again caves in and cuts to the wrong side of Grady's block.

Minor scores on third down and possibly second down if he's in, assuming he is healthy, which is a bad assumption. Actually, at this point I'd rather see Vincent Smith down on the goal line instead of Brown, who is a terrible short-yardage back. Brown's quick and nimble but has no balance or power: you hit him and he's tackled. Sometimes if you wave at his foot he's tackled.

Does this make you want to rage about the coaching?

Yeah. If Minor was healthy enough for fourth down he's healthy enough for first down. I think the coaches thought, as everyone did, that a sustained goal-line stand from Illinois was highly unlikely and didn't think it was a good risk. I can understand that on first and second down. On third, though, it was painful to see a play that Minor would have slammed into the endzone easily end short.

The other major coaching bitch from the game: why didn't Michigan take timeout with a minute left in the half? There was another possession waiting against a terrible defense there if Michigan would have just taken it. I'm willing to live with Rodriguez taking risks like the ones at the end of the first half against Iowa as long as he does it when it's a good idea, too. 

My theory as to why Michigan did that, FWIW: they wanted to come after the punt hard but didn't want to give Illinois a chance at a drive afterwards if they got a penalty. That was why they waited to take TO but eventually did at about 30 seconds. Michigan did come after Illinois punts hard all day and blocked one. So it might not have been a terrible decision.

What is wrong with the run game?

Remember that it did pretty well against Penn State so failures against Illinois are not a trend. But issues exist:

  • Brown is not an effective short-yardage runner. He's very fast and the risk-reward with him is good on normal downs where a zip into the secondary is a possibility. On short yardage he is bad because his vision and cuts aren't great and he goes down very easily. Without Minor or Shaw, Michigan could either deploy Cox or Smith in those situations; they are freshmen.
  • Moosman is not as good as Molk on tough reach blocks. Lot of cutbacks against Illinois because the playside DT did not get sealed. Cutbacks are tougher sledding, usually.
  • For whatever reason, Illinois was blowing guys back all day. I don't know if they were timing the snap count or just beastlier or whatever, but there were many instances where the playside DT would shoot into the backfield, which is very bad. Backside DT you can run past; playside DT not so much. This, again, is a Molk issue but it's also a RG/LG issue and a RB issue. Brown compounded problems twice by not cutting his losses and turning zero-ish-yard plays into huge TFLs. This goes back to his lack of vision. Moving Moosman out of the RG spot hurts Michigan there, too.
  • Dorrestein is apparently hurt.

Here's a successful run from Brown on which Moosman does not seal his guy and Brown has to hit it up behind Moosman in front of Schilling:

From what I've seen, Molk is more likely to actually get that block on the frontside. He won't do it all the time and the cutback can be effective but then you're relying on the backside block, which is often a tough one.

The other thing on this play: why in the hopping hell does Brown cut right instead of left? This could be a touchdown if cut left, but instead Brown heads into three guys. I mean this…

which-direction

…leads to…

which-direction-no

Aigh!

Heroes?

Forcier, I guess, and Roundtree, I guess. I didn't think anyone on the OL played particularly well, and Brown's drawbacks were evident.

Goats?

Brown? I know he had a good number of yards but he was one of three players primarily responsible for the goal-line stand, with other demerits going to Schilling and Dorrestein.

What does it mean for Purdue and the rest of the season?

I still think this can be a fairly effective offense when it doesn't turn the ball over willy-nilly. Is that ever going to happen this year? I don't know.

That effectiveness is seriously lessened by Molk's absence. A healthy return for Minor—which is supposed to happen this weekend—would help out; Brown and Minor have their strengths and when Michigan has only one the effectiveness of their game is compromised. Getting Odoms back would help, to. Though Roundtree had a good game, Odoms has proven himself a tough blocker and reliable option more likely to break a screen long, and maybe he won't fumble punts.

I think they'll be able to move the ball against Purdue effectively, with stupid mistakes the difference between a good output and the Illinois game. Wisconsin and Ohio State are a little dodgy with Molk out.

Monday Presser Notes 10-26

Monday Presser Notes 10-26

Submitted by Tim on October 26th, 2009 at 12:48 PM

Rich Rodriguez

  • Injuries: David Molk has a torn ACL and is out until the summer. He will have surgery and miss spring practice. David Moosman will start at center for the rest of the year, and Rocko Khoury and Tim McAvoy will get more reps at center as well. Martavious Odoms is day-to-day with a knee injury. There is no ligament tear, and they're expecting him back. Junior Hemingway has a knee bruise, and he's day-to-day. Brandon Minor bruised his heel (on the opposite leg that has been giving him ankle problems this year). He's day-to-day as well.
  • Defensively, there were more technical errors and missed assignments than usual. Sometimes, it's a matter of guys trying to do too much and losing responsibility. The coaches are always evaluating every scheme and personnel choice. Sometimes adjustments work, and sometimes they don't. Rodriguez has full confidence in the defensive coaching staff.
  • Denard and Tate are both naturally confident young men. Struggling in games may rattle their confidence a bit, and it's up to the coaches to bring it back up. They can't worry about dropped balls, and should only be concerned with what they can fix. They are still learning to use their eyes properly on passing plays.
  • Holding is a point of emphasis for the referees this year. Rodriguez has seen a lot of calls that he doesn't agree with this year - both in favor of and against Michigan. Another thing Rodriguez is upset about is being called for too many men in the backfield. The team was lined up properly and still got called on Saturday - he'll send that play in to the conference for review.
  • The coaches can see the places on the team where talent is lacking. They'll develop the younger guys, but also address the talent issue in the next two recruiting classes. They'll primarily recruit high schoolers, partially because it's difficult for Junior College credits to transfer to Michigan.
  • Illinois is a pretty good team, they've just been unlucky at times. They're still very talented.

Ryan Van Bergen

  • On a down-to-down basis, the defense isn't bad. It's the big plays that have really hurt Michigan this year. Everyone needs to lay their assignments to reduce the big-lay threat of opposing offenses.
  • Van Bergen and Molk are roommates, and Molk's injury is unfortunate, but "it's a part of the game." Molk will help the team vocally since he can't do it on the field.
  • The defensive line is a tight-knit group, and they're fun to play with. If Brandon Graham happens to win a postseason award, he's promised to give the credit to the rest of the defensive linemen.
  • The comments from Penn State that the defense looked confused about where to line up were inaccurate. The team knew what they were doing, and some of the movement was shifting to confuse Penn State's offensive line.
  • Illinois is still similar on offense to what they were last year. Despite the numbers, they still have explosive potential. They make a lot of mistakes though, and Michigan will have to capitalize on that.

David Moosman

  • Moosman is ready to help the team by moving to center full-time. He needs to calm down and remain collected to succeed at center, since he has to direct the entire offensive line. Hopefully, he got all the bad plays out of his system already.
  • The snap through the endzone was the culmination of a bad series by the OL and the offense in general. There was a miscommunication between Tate and Moosman, and Moosman takes the blame for the safety.
  • Since Moosman went to high school outside Chicago, he was asked if he was interest in going to school at Illinois. "I visited Illinois, saw what it was all about, and decided to come here." ICE BURN.

Carlos Brown

  • Carlos's health is good. The headaches from the concussion have gone away. Brown also had "another issue" in spring ball, related to a head injury.
  • The team struggled with the little things against Penn State, and it all added up to result in the loss. Part of that was the fumbling. Brown made a mistake to switch carrying hands on his own fumble. Fred Jackson has a lot of ball security drills that he'll make the players go through this week.
  • Carlos doesn't think Tate Forcier has hit a "freshman wall." He's still the same player he was through the first 4 games of the season, and he's going to pick up that pace again.
  • With Carlos's career almost over, it's crazy to think that he only has 4 or 5 games left. The team's goal has to be making a bowl game to extend to the 5th game. Brown's first career start came against Illinois, and he's hoping to have a good time down there this weekend.

Troy Woolfolk

  • Woolfolk didn't mind switching back and forth between corner and safety during the game Saturday. The package where he plays safety and Cissoko comes onto the field is called the SWAT package by Greg Robinson. It's designed to get the best pass coverage onto the field. Sometimes when the defense lines up in man coverage, it's the CB's decision to press the receiver or play off.
  • The Penn State game wasn't a matter of one or two plays changing the result. Unlike Michigan State and Iowa, the Wolverines were just outplayed for 4 quarters. It was a definite eye-opener for the team to have that happen.
  • The defense is capable of greatness, but they just aren't consistent enough. "We allow people to score [with mistakes], it's not that they're scoring on us." If MIchigan can eliminate the little errors, this could be a good defense. There wasn't confusion for the team, just guys not fully executing their assignments.
  • Woolfolk has thought about returning kicks since he's one of the fastest guys on the team. However, in his only KR experience in high school, he muffed the ball and the other team recovered. His high school teammate Darryl Stonum told the Michigan coaches to avoid putting Troy back to take kicks.
  • Arrelious Benn is a very physical and strong receiver - Woolfolk joked that the DBs will have to get in a lot of reps on the bench press this week. Illinois overall is a big, hard-nosed team. Michigan can't have execution errors and expect to win.

Wednesday Presser Notes: 10-21

Wednesday Presser Notes: 10-21

Submitted by Tim on October 21st, 2009 at 3:59 PM

Personnel

  • David Molk practiced in pads yesterday. He will start against Penn State on Saturday. David Moosman will move to right guard, with Perry Dorrestein and Mark Huyge competing for the right tackle spot.
  • Tate Forcier and Carlos Brown should be fully recovered from all their injuries. Minor's injury is still nagging, but he should be healthy enough to play (as he has been despite the injury in the past couple weeks). The running back starter will depend on Minor's overall health (they'll know after tomorrow) and what play the coordinators want to start the game with. Minor's physical presence will be important against a team like Penn State.
  • JT Floyd feels better, after he suffered through the flu last week. He should be able to play this week. Troy Woolfolk will remain at corner, where they like him better overall, unless there are injuries to the safeties (Jared Van Slyke and Vladimir Emilien are the primary backups at safety now). Boubacar Cissoko's suspension is still a day-to-day affair.
  • The offensive line gave a good effort against Iowa, and Mark Ortmann is a leader of that group. They'll have another good challenge against Penn State.
  • Renaldo Sagesse was not injured against Iowa, but he's a developing player who is getting the first serious playing time of his career, which takes some time to adjust to. Greg Banks is another solid backup on the defensive line. He's the first backup in, and has played as well as the starters at times.

Bill Martin

  • Bill Martin always said he would work at Michigan on a short-term basis, so it's surprising that he was the Athletic Director for a full 9 years. He did a lot of important things at Michigan, including improving facilities, balancing the department's budget, and making a lot of coaching hires.
  • Rodriguez had some good times and some bad times with Bill Martin (no opportunities to go sailing though), and Rich will be sad to see him go. He'd like to provide a few more good moments in Martin's last 10 months on the job.
  • He will be able to give some input in the search for a new director, and his priorities are in getting someone who loves Michigan, understands athletics, and knows how to address the needs of student-athletes.
  • With so much responsibility on ADs today - from athletics, to finances and fundraising, to media - it's a tough job to do, and to find the right person. Mary Sue Coleman is one of the best university presidents in America, and she'll get the job done.

Wednesday Presser Notes 10-14

Wednesday Presser Notes 10-14

Submitted by Tim on October 14th, 2009 at 7:23 PM

Brief today (mostly because Rich was 20 minutes late)

  • Tate didn't really practice yesterday, but RR expected him on the field today. If he's healthy, he'll start on Saturday.
  • Brown and Minor should be close to 100% today. If both are healthy, Minor is the starter. The coaches still want more game reps for Shaw and Smith.
  • Woolfolk will stay at CB for the time being, but he could go back to safety in the future. They like having 2 veteran CBs to defend the pass.
  • Kelvin Grady has gotten less PT because they've been going for more (football) experience in big games. Martavious Odoms has gotten more snaps instead.
  • Moosman has improved at center, particularly with his snaps.
  • Zoltan has been punting very well from both the rugby kick and standard punt plays. He might have even been kicking too well against Iowa, beating his coverage down the field.

Injury Report Is Super Boring

Injury Report Is Super Boring

Submitted by Brian on October 8th, 2009 at 7:09 PM

Editors note: press release.

For the Iowa Game (Saturday, Oct. 10)

Out

Zac Johnson (shoulder)

David Molk (foot)

In addition, head coach Rich Rodriguez announced the game captains for the game against Iowa: linebacker Stevie Brown, offensive lineman Tim McAvoy, offensive lineman David Moosman and defensive end Tim North.

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

/end press release. Also, Carlos Brown was held out of practice yesterday because of a concussion and is probably not going to play Saturday.

Carlos Brown Likely Out Against Iowa

Carlos Brown Likely Out Against Iowa

Submitted by Brian on October 8th, 2009 at 10:45 AM

Brown was held out of practice on Wednesday:

Brown, who has been forced to step up this season with Minor limited by injuries, was wearing a red jersey (signifying an injury) and sweatpants at yesterday’s practice. He watched his fellow running backs from the sidelines as they stretched and broke off into position groups.

A reliable source says this is because he was concussed in a full-contact drill and he is very doubtful for this weekend. Minor is also still somewhat limited, so expect a fair dose of Michael Shaw in Iowa.

Meanwhile, it appears that Molk's recovery is going well and should be on the short side of the 4-6 weeks projected earlier:

Michigan will be without its starting center probably for another two weeks. …

"I still think it's way too early to do anything football-wise with pads on," coach Rich Rodriguez said Tuesday during the Big Ten teleconference. "I know he lifted for a little bit and ran around with the trainer some, but it's still a week or two until he's actually playing football."

That would see him return for the Penn State game if all goes well.

Monday Presser Notes: 9-28

Monday Presser Notes: 9-28

Submitted by Tim on September 28th, 2009 at 2:57 PM

Notes from today's morning press conference. To get live updates from these events, you can follow me on Twitter @varsityblue.

Rich Rodriguez

  • Tate Forcier's shoulder is bruised, but he will play this weekend. Denard Robinson might play a slightly larger role as his comfort with the offense improves. The quarterbacks need to be smart about taking unnecessary hits. They're running a little more than Rodriguez might like, and he'd prefer to see 5-6 rushes a game.
  • Moosman's snapping issues cost the team about 70 offensive yards, but Moosman is a smart, hard worker, so he'll work with Coach Frey to correct the issues. The quick snap to catch guys offsides resulted in fumbles a lot because Tate (and Denard) and Moosman don't have the comfort level with each other yet.
  • The first road game being a rivalry makes it a little tougher, especially for the young guys who have never played on the road yet.
  • Though the depth chart lists Cissoko ahead of Floyd and Turner, the competition at the second corner spot will be more open this week. Hopefully, someone will seize that opportunity and step up to win the starting role.
  • The media will not be able to watch practice this week. Part of that is just paranoia from the coaches, and the rest of it is to make sure the players can maintain their focus in preparation.
  • The Michigan/Michigan State game is a big rivalry, so fans get whipped up into a frenzy. Sometimes they get ahold of the opposing quarterback's phone number and bother him all week, etc. Rodriguez has a good relationship with Mark Dantonio: "I'm friendly with everybody. I'm a nice guy." The two have known each other from Dantonio's days at Cincinnati, and they've come across each other a few times a year since then.

Kevin Grady

  • Kevin's favorite Michigan/MSU moment was watching Chris Perry run the ball 51 times against the Spartans (for 219 yards in 2003).
  • Grady knows State fans at home, and even says "I have family members who are unfortunately state fans," including his grandmother. She doesn't talk a lot of trash, but both Kevin and Kelvin know where her loyalties lie.
  • The team has to run the ball well in order to beat MSU (the team that rushed for more yardage has won 37 of the last 41 games between the teams). This, like every game, is just another opportunity to prove themselves.
  • Kevin doesn't think Tate will falter on the road. If he's able to play in front of 100,000 at home, playing in Spartan Stadium shouldn't be a problem.

Carlos Brown

  • Carlos, echoing his coach, doesn't think that spread teams are necessarily any less physical than I-formation teams: "We can line up and do exactly what they do."
  • Coming from Georgia, the Michigan/Michigan State rivalry reminds him of the UGa/Georgia Tech battles. Whichever team wins is the state champion for a year.
  • Tate should play well against State. He's a great quarterback, and the supporting cast is going to do what they can to get the win.

Obi Ezeh

  • The in-state guys really value the rivalry with Michigan State. Its a chance to win a trophy game, and get back the in-state bragging rights. The Ohio State rivalry might be bigger in the grand scheme of things, but this one means something special, particularly for the guys from Michigan. The team wants to show that last year's loss was more of a fluke than anything.
  • Obi is from an area of Grand Rapids that is a little more Spartan-centric than where Kevin Grady comes from. He has 5 or 6 neighbors that fly Spartan flags, and he joked that he's going to sneak out in the night and take them down.
  • He definitely avoids wearing Green and White this week - but that wasn't the case when he went to Michigan's summer camp as a high schooler. He was wearing an MSU Engineering shirt, and Lloyd Carr gave him the evil eye. Without Carr saying a word, Obi knew it was probably better off if he didn't wear the shirt.

Donovan Warren

  • Coming from out of state, Donovan wasn't aware of Michigan's rivalry with the Spartans (all he really knew about Michigan was that he could watch them when he woke up at 9am on Saturdays). In his freshman year, seniors like Shawn Crable, Jamar Adams, and Brandent Englemon taught him about the rivalry.
  • State might come out desperate to avoid a 1-4 start to their season, but the Wolverines will be able to match their intensity: "It's not a 1-3 team, it's Michigan State."
  • MSU has 3 great receivers in White, Dell, and Cunningham, and they can all be big-play guys. The defense will need to communicate better to avoid giving up big plays.
  • If the defense plays well enough to win, it doesn't matter if the game is something of a shootout. It's the final result that counts.

Picture Pages: Why People Scrape

Picture Pages: Why People Scrape

Submitted by Brian on September 24th, 2009 at 10:20 AM

MGoBlog's relentless quest to post something that links to Smart Football's explanation of the scrape exchange every week… continues!

Okay. Picture Pages has shown you three different counterpunches to the scrape exchange over the first couple weeks of the season. There's throwing a wide open bubble screen. There's shooting a blocker into the backside of the play and galloping through the gaping hole that results. And there's peeling that same blocker around the back to pick off the scraper and get the quarterback into acres of space in which Tate Forcier should run straight upfield until murdered by a safety no matter how many people disagree with me in the comments. Michigan broke out the second of those several times against Eastern, picking up a bunch of first downs and one ninety-yard touchdown.

So why bother doing this stupid thing that just results in various big plays in your face? Well… because it's better than the alternative. Meet the alternative, presented to you by Ron English:

no-scrape-1

Okay: Michigan is in a trips set on their second drive of the day. English sets up in soft coverage and plays his linebackers off the line of scrimmage. Michigan will run the most basic play in their arsenal: the zone read.

no-scrape-2

Here's the exchange point. (Sorry about the crappy quality; I was working with an SD torrent at this point.) Two points: 1) with trips to one side of the field and soft coverage, the bubble is open here. Two: Forcier gets to honest-to-God read the backside DE. He is maintaining outside contain, so he hands it off.

no-scrape-3

Eastern's defensive line has slanted hard to the frontside of the play and Ferrara has gotten blown back a couple yards. Brown has nowhere to go and must cut up. But he can.

no-scrape-4

Because of the heavy slant, which was required to cut off the frontside of the play, there's plenty of room between the defensive end and his compatriots on the line. Because of the bubble threat, the weakside linebacker has been held outside. EMU basically destroyed the play but because of the design and EMU's lack of aggression they still don't stop it.

Eastern Michigan defended this about as well as they could here, forcing Brown behind every offensive lineman and into the unblocked backside of the play. It still gained five yards. This is really hard to prevent if you let the backside end get read and he's not a superfreak. Thus, the scrape.

Monday Presser Notes: 9-21

Monday Presser Notes: 9-21

Submitted by Tim on September 21st, 2009 at 1:49 PM

David Molk had surgery this morning on his broken foot, and will be out 4-6 weeks. David Moosman will be back this week, and replace Molk at center. Rocko Khoury and Tim McAvoy will be healthy now as well. In other injury news, Tate's going to be fine, he just bruised a rib, which prevented him from moving around quite as well in the Eastern game. A rib shot is a good way to teach a quarterback that he needs to get rid of the ball quicker.

Mike Williams and Brandon Minor are both day-to-day. Minor is a guy who will play through a lot of pain, so the coaches have to be careful with how much they let him practice.

Offensive Line. Mark Huyge and Patrick Omameh can both play interior and exterior positions on the offensive line. Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield have both been running with the 2s recently, and might be able to earn a little bit of playing time. There are a few more freshmen that haven't played yet, but probably will before the season is over. Justin Turner is among them. According to Donovan Warren, "He just needs to be a little more comfortable, and have the coaches trust him." Mike Jones and Brandin Hawthorne, who are backups at the SAM linebacker position, will probably see a bit more time as well.

Walk-ons. The walk-on program is important to Michigan Football as a whole, and it's going well so far. Kevin Leach, Jordan Kovacs, Jon Conover and fullback John McColgan are examples of its success. Rodriguez isn't going to publicly announce which walkons have received scholarships, because that's a downer for some of the guys who may have been close but didn't quite get one.

TOP. One of Rodriguez's big defensive goals is to force the opposition into at least 6 three-and-outs per game. That helps in time of possession, and getting them some rest. He doesn't worry about time of possession that much, because it isn't a meaningful stat - especially if you have a quick-strike offense. [Editor's note: woooooooo!] The defense hasn't been able to get a ton of pressure on quarterbacks yet, because opposition has gone to max-protect set and a quick-hit passing game.

Indiana. Indiana is a surprisingly experienced team defensively. They have two of the best defensive ends in the conference, which could cause some trouble. As far as the conference at large, Rodriguez doesn't know how his team stacks up, because they haven't played anyone from the league yet. He's worried about taking care of Indiana for now. As Ryan Van Bergen said, the 3-0 start means nothing towards winning the conference.

Troy Woolfolk gave Carlos Brown a little bit of grief for only having the 3rd-longest run in Michigan history. Brown: "He was like, 'look, my dad's got number 1." I was like 'We've got 9 more games to go.'"

Warren. All three defensive cordinators so far in Donovan Warren's career have been excellent coaches, who are very similar and passionate about the game. They have their differences, but all are good. Warren briefly talked to Coach English on the field after the game on Saturday.

Donovan doesn't notice if an opposing team is trying to avoid him. He just goes out there and plays his assignment, and gets to the ball. He likes that the offense can score, but wishes they'd do it a little slower so he could rest. The team's conditioning has helped him be ready to get right back out there, however.

As far as halftime defensive adjustments go, both Donovan Warren and Ryan Van Bergen pointed out that opponents have given some looks in the first half of games that they hadn't yet shown on film. The coaches are able to make the necessary changes at halftime to slow the opposition down.

Grady (Small). Kelvin Grady talked a long time about the transition from basketball to football, and the decision-making process that resulted in ending up on the football team. He worked in a factory at Amway over the summer, and had a lot of time to think about what he was planning to do. His dad provided him guidance, "He's the father that I want to be someday."

Grady said it would be a great experience to play in an NCAA tournament and a bowl game (knock on wood) within a year of each other.