Borges Disease And You

Borges Disease And You Comment Count

Brian May 2nd, 2018 at 12:35 PM


TOO MANY COOKS [Bryan Fuller]

Today's hot topic is a statement from President in waiting Grant Newsome on last year's offense:

The offensive line? Players talked about how much new position coach Ed Warinner made simplifications this spring, mainly because he had no other choice. Grant Newsome told reporters Tuesday that Warinner stripped down the complex language and overall concept because it was overwhelming.

"He said he was even confused by the amount of terminology and different plays we had in the playbook," Newsome said.

The internet's talked a lot about the excessive complexity of Michigan's offense in the aftermath, and I feel like I have to interject. Michigan's OSU gameplan wins the game if it doesn't draw the worst QB performance in living memory. Michigan's ability to tweak and screw with people's heads has been a trademark of Harbaugh's best offenses. It can and should be Michigan's approaching going forward for the same reason RichRod shouldn't have run a pro-style offense in his first year in Ann Arbor.

I'd like to separate out the offensive approach in general from a particular problem on the offensive line that Newsome highlights above. Michigan's 2017 OL, and by extension the team, suffered from a terminal case of…

borges disease



Borges disease is when you try to do everything without doing one thing well and everything falls apart in a morass of beautiful-on-paper plays that are executed with the balletic grace of a drunken donkey crashing his ex-wife's wedding.

Borges's special power was containing all bad-idea multitudes within himself. Michigan created their own version of this by importing former Indiana and RichRod OL coach Greg Frey for a single disastrous year. This wasn't Frey's fault; he remains a well-regarded OL coach and jumped to his alma mater FSU before a serious inquest could result. Because Frey's hire was a half-measure on Harbaugh's part, it blew up in his face.

Publicly, Michigan split OL duties between Frey and a still-extant Drevno, handing Frey the tackles and TEs while Drevno coached the interior line. I'm not sure that's the way it actually worked, because Michigan went from a power-based run offense in Harbaugh's first two years to an inside zone team with some power sprinkled in. Then they went to a 50/50 split, and finally they returned zone to an occasional constraint play, because they were immensely bad at running zone.

So not only did Michigan spend a bunch of time trying to get good at IZ and burn a bunch of snaps grabbing two yards a pop, they retarded their growth as the mashing power team their personnel certainly pointed to. Post-MSU UFR, which was in the 50-50 phase:

Michigan ran 11 zone plays versus 14 gap-blocked plays. (FB dives, crack sweeps, and the reverse are excluded from this analysis.) That is a significant shift away from zone. That still remains a part of the playbook, obviously... but a crappy one. Those 11 plays gained just 25 yards. Michigan suuuucks at zone.

There were costs to the returning diversity. Michigan had a couple of plays on which it looked like someone busted an assignment. Onwenu appeared to be running a trap on a play that was not a trap, and either Hill or McKeon busted on this Isaac TFL. Michigan blocks a big cavern in the middle that has an unblocked LB, and then Hill runs outside. Isaac follows him, because follow your fullback:

I gave that to Hill but that could be what he's supposed to do; in that case McKeon needs to be doubling on Cole's guy and leaving the force player for Hill. YMMV. Either way it's a mental mistake that turns a promising play into a TFL.

When Michigan focused on becoming the mashing team they were always supposed to be, the results were good. Despite wasting a bunch of time, their S&P+ breakdown stats paint the picture of a bunch of maulers:

  • Power success rate: 7th
  • Adjusted line yards: 20th
  • Rushing explosiveness: 29th
  • Overall rushing S&P+: 14th

A #47 stuff rate, #79 success rate, and #90 opportunity rate look like a lot of missed assignments in that context, missed assignments created by Michigan's failed attempt to adopt Frey's approach on the ground.

That is dysfunction. Michigan masked it fairly well by pushing the abort button halfway through the season and having a couple good running backs and some Large Adult Sons. But since those Large Adult Sons came coupled with serious pass protection issues, there was no Plan B for the other half of the offense.

There the disconnect between Drevno and Frey was easily seen every time Michigan failed to pick up a stunt, which was about every other stunt. Michigan looked like the worst-coached offensive line in the country last year. I started wondering if Patrick Kugler's inability to get on the field until his redshirt senior year was because he couldn't make a line call to save his life. And here's where the Newsome quote comes in. Michigan clearly couldn't execute their pass protection system.

An outsider can't know whether that's because two different guys were teaching it, or it was an unholy combination of two different approaches, or it was just plain bad because Drevno is bad and should feel bad. But it all goes back to Michigan importing an offensive coordinator (Pep Hamilton) and an OL coach without telling the guy who thought he was both to hit the bricks.


Exit Greg Frey

Exit Greg Frey Comment Count

Brian January 4th, 2018 at 7:07 PM


Frey will return for halftime, and only halftime, of the 2025 Indiana game [Bryan Fuller]

Greg Frey's second stint at Michigan was shorter than his first:

It's not exactly his fault that he walked into a Harbaugh team after years of basketball on grass and the transition didn't go particularly well, but hoo boy did it not go well at all. Michigan's ground game improved midseason when it more or less abandoned everything slightly reminiscent of Frey's approach and inserted mauler Juwann Bushell-Beatty at right tackle.

Meanwhile his impact on Michigan's pass protection was either negligible or terrible, since those are the only two options. If he was brought in mostly to be Michigan's Kevin Wilson insider, that might have worked out okay, but with that knowledge downloaded and the offense seemingly uninfluenced by him there wasn't a compelling reason to keep him around. For Frey's part, he doesn't have to be the other OL coach and can return to his alma mater under Willie Taggart.

Former Michigan OL and Arkansas OL coach Kurt Anderson has been rumored as a potential replacement. His resume is pretty thin, with a couple of grad assistant years at Michigan during the dying days of the Carr regime followed by four years as the OL coach at EMU—the ultimate knife-at-a-gun-fight situation— and three years as the assistant OL coach with the Bills before he landed at Arkansas in 2016.

There he coached PFF fave-rave Frank Ragnow, by their estimation the best C in the country for two years running, and coulda-shoulda-been Michigan Wolverine Hjalte Froholdt, who moved from the DL and developed into an elite-level OG:

Arkansas had a top ten run game per PFF... and was 89th in pass protection. He's clearly not working with the same level of talent he'd have at Michigan, so make of that mixed bag what you will.


Early Signing Day Presser: Jim Harbaugh

Early Signing Day Presser: Jim Harbaugh Comment Count

Adam Schnepp December 21st, 2017 at 10:39 AM



“Am I late?”

[light laughter]

“Should have come and got me. I was busy doing something. Sorry if I’m late.”

Tell us what you like best about the guys you got on the dotted line.

“Um…the thing I like best…I like a lot of things, but the thing I like best…football players, good students. I think the thing I like best is there’s guys that really wanted to be at Michigan and appreciate what Michigan has to offer. They can understand it both as a football powerhouse and an academic powerhouse. That it provides both of those things.

“Nobody in there that really thinks they’re doing us the favor. It’s equal. So I think that’s what I like the most.

“I like the production in football games. Guys that are record-setters. There’s state champions. Very productive, and they’re productive in the classroom. They’re coming here to get a degree. The parents expect that they will get a very good degree. They’re not going to college to major in eligibility. They understand that they’re going to major in a legitimate discipline. There’s going to be rigor here, and they welcome that. Multiple things I like about this class so far.”

You guys announced yesterday Shea Patterson. What are your thoughts about him coming in and what his role could be?

“To compete. To…like everybody in the program, he has the license and the ability to be a starter. As I told all three of the quarterbacks at the same time, the only thing that’s guaranteed here is an opportunity. If I was the mindset of Brandon Peters, I would say, ‘Brandon, this is how you should think.’ He’s the starting quarterback, he should take this job and run with it and nobody’s going to take that away from him.

“If I was Dylan McCaffrey I would have the mindset of being on the scout team, being the scout team player of the year, now he’s going to get stronger. Doesn’t matter how many quarterbacks are on the roster, nobody’s going to beat him out.

“And if I was Shea Patterson, I would have the mindset of ‘Wait till they get a load of me.’ So all three have the license and ability to be great.”

[After THE JUMP: an MGoFriend stonewalls a minor violation, Hurst’s bowl-game decision, and a bit on some of the incoming freshmen]


Wednesday Presser 11-8-17: Greg Frey

Wednesday Presser 11-8-17: Greg Frey Comment Count

Adam Schnepp November 9th, 2017 at 6:58 AM


[Chris Cook]

“How’s everybody doing?”

Good. How are you?

“Getting cold.”

What have you seen from some of the younger guys at tackle, Stueber, some of those guys?

“They’re doing really well. That transition of coming from high school to college is going really good. You’re seeing them move around do things more natural now than six weeks ago, seven weeks ago, so really excited about the young group. There’s a good group and it’s going to be fun to watch them continue to grow and compete and prepare and the whole nine yards.”

Is that typically a pretty big transition coming from high school to college as an offensive lineman?

“Oh yeah, absolutely.”

What’s been the difference for Juwann [Bushell-Beatty]? He started out no. 2, now he’s in there moving people.

“Juwann’s—he’s really maturing in just his outlook and how he goes and it’s been really fun to watch and interesting to see, like you said, overcome some adversity early on and continue to battle and continue to press. Certainly not where we want him to be or where he feels he can be but I think he’s on that road and it’s been really fun to watch.”

He’s been moving people. Is the pass pro part still where you’re really—

“Yeah, it’s always because every defense presents different challenges, and so as a group and watching these guys, they’re attacking those challenges. Still making some mistakes. There’s still some things we’ve got to get where maybe a guy gets anxious or something happens where we’ve got to calm him down a little bit but he’s solidly moving forward to become what we think he can become.”

[After THE JUMP: how Frey approaches TEs, updates on Hudson, Newsome the player/coach, and a Maryland scouting report of sorts]


Wednesday Presser 10-4-17: Greg Frey

Wednesday Presser 10-4-17: Greg Frey Comment Count

Adam Schnepp October 4th, 2017 at 6:00 PM



As far as preparation, you’ve been through Michigan State weeks before. Pretty similar?

“Yeah, you know, obviously it’s a rival game. They’re a great team, great program. You’re really focused on improving you as you go through the season so the best version of who we are shows up on Saturday. Guys have been focused and working hard.”

You look at Zach Gentry and how has he developed into a great tight end, what’s it like coaching him?

“Like anything else, you want to see players develop and attack his problems and then not only attack it but bottle up and continue to do the things he’s doing well. Zach’s been really focused, been working really hard, came off a very good summer, has started a way that we felt good and so we’re going to see how it goes the rest of the way and if he continues that journey.”

MGoQuestion: What stands out to you on film about Michigan State’s defensive line?

“Oh, very good. Active. There’s a mold to what they develop and what they do and these guys certainly fit. They’re strong inside, fast on the outside. It’s a tough, great scheme. Ranked very highly and so that stands out the most.”

Where did your tackles improve during the improvement week? What did you guys work on?

“Really the biggest thing as we went with the front, the offensive line and the tight ends, is continuing to identify potential issues. These are great coaches that we face week in and week out in the best football conference in America and so they dissect you. Whether it be a stance or leaning here or slow hands or whatever it may be and so what we try to do is identify some of those things and correct them, and if they don’t need to be corrected just continue doing them.

“But really just focusing on each individual and the role they play and how they do it and seeing if we can tweak something here, get a little more efficient there, maybe take a false step out, something like that and that’s what we’re looking for as we move through improvement week, watching film, getting ready for the game.”

[After THE JUMP: Growing Pains (non-sitcom edition)]


Five Question And Five Answers: Offense 2017

Five Question And Five Answers: Offense 2017 Comment Count

Brian September 1st, 2017 at 10:31 AM

Previously: Podcast 9.0A. Podcast 9.0B. Podcast 9.0C. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive End. Defensive Tackle. Linebacker. Cornerback. Safety. Special Teams.

1. Are we still in love with Harbaugh's offense? It was a bit inert last year.

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[Bryan Fuller]

The last couple years this post has led off with a high-level look at the things Jim Harbaugh has done to keep his dinosaur-lookin-ass offense on the cutting edge. These have mostly focused on Harbaugh's little run tweaks that keep the opposition unbalanced: traps, offset draws, gap plays with zone principles, various ways to clobber people on the edge, and formations, formations, and more formations.

In UFR I try to have a reasonably low-level listing of all the plays Michigan runs. A typical game could have 15, 18, or even 20 runs different enough for me to name them separate things—and I'm sure there are subtleties I'm missing. Harbaugh's offense is a world away from any I've charted before. Everyone tweaks; everyone presents a moving target. (Except Late Carr-era Mike Debord.) The sheer blizzard of stuff Harbaugh throws out, with the offense adding new stuff almost weekly, is fun and effective.

But it wasn't the flashy tweaks and run schemes Harbaugh's resurrecting from the Fritz Crisler days that really stood out a year ago. It was Michigan's prep. When Athlon pinged Big Ten  coaches for anonymous takes on their compatriots, the Harbaugh mania stood out:

"The team is starting to reflect Jim — you could see it more last year."

"They want to outwork you. That was the whole satellite camp thing last offseason. He wanted to send a message to the SEC and other schools that he will outwork you to make up for any advantage you might have over Michigan."

"They’re scouting opponents better than anyone in our league. They’re at Alabama’s level of prep and analysis, and as they’ve started to fit talent you’re seeing the effects. It’s hard to surprise them."

This was clearest in the Michigan State game. As mentioned in the section on Mason Cole, Michigan comprehensively defeated the double A gap twist blitz that had annihilated Michigan for going on a decade. They didn't just defuse it, they ripped it:

The biggest tactical takeaway wasn't the existence of something but rather its absence: MSU's double A gap twist blitz. You may remember that blitz from Spittle Flecked Rich Rod Rant and Spittle Flecked Al Borges Rant way back when, because Michigan ate it over and over and over again for TFLs and stuffs and sacks. No longer. They still run it. It's not working.

Michigan's opening first down was a double A blitz that got Bullough through, but to do so he had to go so fast that he overran the play:

Michigan got the other guy; Cole probably biffs on Bullough but he doesn't compound the mistake by turning upfield. It's his block that makes the room for the Smith cutback, and then it's Godzilla versus the fishing village time. ...

This was even happening when Speight was your shotgun quarterback. Smith's six yard TD late in the second quarter was another double A blitz that Michigan had the answer for:

By this point it seemed clear that shotgun snaps got double A blitzed a lot, so Michigan might even have gone with the gun here specifically because they wanted the gut of the D to be linebackers instead of DTs. McDowell rips outside and finds air. ...

The trademark MSU defensive playcall was comprehensively beaten. Finally. All of these plays feature the extreme aggression of the MSU linebackers being used against them, something that Michigan hasn't been able to do in forever. Can't block 'em? Run right by 'em.

Michigan won't let that stuff happen to them for a decade straight anymore. So they've got that going for them.

Harbaugh continues to morph his offense, adapting it to the players at hand. Sometimes this backfires when his players can't imbibe the firehose he puts in front of them—see the departed OL. There's a reason that Harbaugh's offense developed so quickly and cromulently at Stanford, where his only asset early was a bunch of nerd brains. This year Michigan's OL makes most of the shift to the Harbaugh generation. The exceptions are Cole, an OL nerd brain if there ever was one, and Kugler, the son of an OL coach in his fifth year.

This might be the year Michigan can really start making some hay by out-smarting the opposition. To date they've given some of that back with blizzards of missed assignments. Now they've got a shot at really paying off on that diversity. So, yes. Harbauffense for real.

[After THE JUMP: Pep effect, and running a dang stretch]


Fall Camp Presser 8-14-17: Greg Frey

Fall Camp Presser 8-14-17: Greg Frey Comment Count

Adam Schnepp August 14th, 2017 at 3:06 PM



Talk about the progress you’re seeing in the first few weeks.

“You know, it’s been really good. The guys have been working hard. Had a great summer. There’s a really good vibe. They’re fighting. It’s been really just a pleasure watching them grow, excel, learn, and then become a team.”

Tim [Drevno] talked a couple weeks ago about the division of responsibilities, [how] you taking the tackles kind of frees him up as an offensive coordinator to do a little bit more that way. How have you seen that division work for you guys?

“When coach Harbaugh and I talked a long time ago and then when I met coach Drevno, whatever helps us win, I’m 100% in. My history obviously leans toward offensive line play, so if I can help coach Drevno and free him up or help coach Hamilton in some way I’m going to do it, but really we’re just a really good, close group of offensive coaches working together. No egos, and it’s been awesome.”

How’s that battle at right tackle so far?

“As far as those things go, we’re just—our focus is on us and developing these kids and correcting things. Everybody’s doing really good things and everybody’s doing some things you want to do better. At this point in camp really legs are tired, guys are fighting, and so it’s a situation where you’re really trying to bring the stress level up and individually correct and develop, and as we get through camp I think separation occurs. It’s a little too early to tell right now.”

Jim was saying that on the offensive line, nobody can block Mo Hurst. I guess Rashan Gary, Rashan’s been pretty good. What—

“Wait, wait, wait. Rashan’s been very good. No ‘pretty.’ Nothing ‘pretty’ about it.”

At that elite level, is it a cause of concern for you and the offensive line or do you look at the level of competition—

“I don’t have to play him this year. I’m on the team with him, so I’m watching him. You know the old saying ‘Iron sharpens iron.’ When you’ve got guys and they’re coming in and you’re trying to prepare them to play, who you practice against plays a big part in that. And while you can’t go every single snap every single day against Rashan or Mo, what does happen is it becomes competitive. And so when it becomes competitive it brings the level of play up for guys.

“Mason Cole may not need that; he’s a four-year starter. We’ve seen him in a lot of game reps, but when you take guys that maybe haven’t, being able to get in there and compete and get some game-level intensity reps helps. And those two guys are unbelievable and coach Mattison and the whole D-line are unbelievable. We love it and going against them, you win some, you lose some, but the biggest thing is we’re stressing ourselves to become a more cohesive unit.”

[After THE JUMP: on Mason Cole, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Jon Runyan, and getting a group (not just a starting five) ready]


Fall Camp Presser 8-3-17: Tim Drevno

Fall Camp Presser 8-3-17: Tim Drevno Comment Count

Adam Schnepp August 4th, 2017 at 10:45 AM



Jim said during media days that the three of them [Speight, Peters, and O’Korn] are basically tied. What, in your mind, separates one quarterback from another? Not specifically, but whoever wins out, what’s going to be the difference for them?

“We feel that’s the best player for us to win football games with.”

What are your thoughts on ever having multiple quarterbacks play regularly?
”I think you could do that. At times you have different packages and things. Going into a football game you’re always trying to look for the best way to attack the defense and if that’s something that presents a problem for the team that you’re playing then.”

What do you think about this fall that being an option?

“I don’t know yet. It’s so early in camp. We’re still putting this thing together and putting the offensive concepts together and things we’re doing, so we’ll see as we go.”

Jim talked about maybe ten practices or so to decide, to really know on a quarterback. How about offensive line? How long into camp is it before you get a good sense of that?

“It just depends, you know. Could be practice ten, could be practice 12. We just put pads on yesterday and things change when you put pads on. You know, with the competition of hitting and physicality and moving people off the ball and things moving faster. As we go we’ll make that decision.”

[After THE JUMP: RT possibilities; finding OL six, seven, and eight; how the staff complements each other]


Spring Practice Presser 3-29-17: Greg Frey

Spring Practice Presser 3-29-17: Greg Frey Comment Count

Adam Schnepp March 30th, 2017 at 10:38 AM

Athletics, Dave Ablauf


“We starting with questions or…am I breaking into a speech here?”

MGoQuestion: You’re a few practices in now. Are you liking Mason Cole better at tackle or center?

“You really haven’t, uh…just playing hard, seeing who goes where as we go as an offense. As we get through the summer we’ll figure out—the first play of the Florida game, we’ll know who the starters are.”

So is the offensive line kind of a long-term project, long-term development then?

“What do you mean?”

When you say you want to take the summer to evaluate this.

“What’s beautiful about Coach Harbaugh is ever position is being challenged and every position is open and we’ll find out when we get to gametime who the guys are.”

How important is versatility on this offensive line?

“I think it’s important anytime you have players. When you’ve got guys that can do multiple things it helps. It helps alleviate stress. It helps when you can bring players along. You want guys to do a lot of things. As a player you want the versatility going forward when you’re trying to chase that NFL career.”

Have you met and talked to Grant Newsome yet? Obviously he’s got a road that he’s been on to try and get back.

“Yeah, I have met with Grant Newsome, and he’s a wonderful, great person. As far as him as a player, I don’t handle those questions.”

[Hit THE JUMP for an interesting bit about the schemes Frey has coached]


Spring Practice Presser 3-24-17: Tim Drevno

Spring Practice Presser 3-24-17: Tim Drevno Comment Count

Adam Schnepp March 27th, 2017 at 12:00 PM



Newsy bits:

  • Adding Greg Frey to the coaching staff has allowed Drevno to more fully take on the role of offensive coordinator
  • Pep Hamilton and Drevno have a nigh telepathic connection thanks to their days coaching together at Stanford
  • Donovan Peoples-Jones appears to be everything he was advertised as being; Drevno said that with DPJ, “…there’s no letdown, man.”
  • Grant Newsome is not practicing yet
  • When asked about Grant Perry, Drevno said it’s an internal matter and didn’t elaborate further
  • Everyone is being rotated through different spots to find the best five (and the best fit) on the offensive line
  • Drevno praised Cesar Ruiz’s rapid processing of information and his ability to quickly get off the ball and to the second level

You’ve got a lot of new guys. What’s your impression through the first day of spring?

“Really good. They worked really hard. They’ve done a nice job in the classroom the last couple days. Like we’ve said, just in terms of the winter condition there’s some very athletic guys that we’ve recruited, especially at the wide receiver position and other places on the offense, so it’s been really good.”

The football classroom?

“Yeah, the football classroom in terms of just the last couple days we’ve met and it’s been good. And they carried it over into today, which is really nice to see just them doing it at a high level. They learn fast and can fix problems.”

Is Mason [Cole] going to be practicing at multiple spots to make sure you get the right fit as far as tackle and center goes?

“Yeah, we’re rotating guys through there and we’ll see who the best five guys are.”

[Hit THE JUMP for more]