Picture Pages: All It Takes Is One Guy

Picture Pages: All It Takes Is One Guy

Submitted by Brian on September 25th, 2013 at 1:04 PM

SITE NOTE: as is traditional during a bye week, the UFRs will be delayed a day, allowing us to ruminate in some more detail on a couple more plays that seem to be representative of larger trends.

Today in Michigan's running issues: an example of how all it takes is one breakdown for an otherwise promising play to end in the backfield. Offense and defense are opposite creatures in this regard. On defense, if you make a mistake it may or may not be punished, because someone can beat a guy and clean up for you, or the offense may not see the open receiver or cutback lane. On offense, an error is going to leave someone free and he will end your play more often than not.

A lot of Michigan's struggles so far have been one-guy breakdowns. This sounds like a promising, easy fix, but it's an unfriendly math problem. When you've got seven guys trying to execute, even if everyone has a 90% hit rate 0.9^7 is a 52% shot at someone not executing. At 95%—each guy doing their job 19 of 20 times—you still have a 30% failure rate.

That's obviously oversimplified; there are different mistakes that can make the difference between an unsuccessful run of three yards and an unsuccessful one of negative two yards. But I've been saying things like "it's just one block away from a big play" for a while now without actually seeing a lot of improvement in that category, and the previous paragraph is one of the reasons why.

Our exemplar is a zone stretch midway through the third quarter. It's first and ten after Drew Dileo extended an out route into the short seam and Gardner hit him. Michigan's in the I; UConn responds with a 3-4 look that has an extra guy hanging off the tight end side on the hash.

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UConn did a lot of blitzing from the outside in this game, and this will be no exception. They'll shoot the guy on the hash upfield to be the force player and slant the other two inside, way inside in the OLB's case:

one-guy-1

On the snap, nothing much is revealed as no one's made contact yet except Miller, who's underneath the nose tackle already:

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That nose tackle is going to end up a long way downfield. I know we're all trying to take Miller's job, but he made a couple of nice blocks on these plays in the second half.

In the above shot, you can see the first steps of the defenders highlighted in the arrow picture coming inside. a half step later Michigan has both adjusted excellently and not adjusted excellently:

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Both Glasgow and Lewan have adjusted their flight paths to intersect with the slanting defenders and have successfully made contact that will allow them to shove them past the play and open up a huge hole on the outside of the line, but Joe Kerridge is now trying to hit a gap that is not open.

When he does, he gets whacked.

one-guy-4one-guy-5

Now off balance and a gap away from the actual hole, he's unable to block anyone. That's the one guy. When Michigan does this on defense I mention they got a two-for-one and usually good things happen afterwards.

Here bad things happen because Yawin Smallwood is now hanging out in the hole unblocked.

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Fitz compounds matters by seeing this, considering a bounce, and then deciding against it, which gives up a couple yards.

one-guy-5one-guy-6one-guy-7one-guy-8

Second and twelve blues.

Video

Slow:

Items Of Interest

Well, poop. Michigan blocks this really well on the line, getting both slanters sealed inside and driving the nose tackle back into a linebacker. But once Kerridge gets picked off, this play has a maximum reasonable expectation of about one yard. It only takes one error.

This would take some pretty fast recognition to fix. A lot of zone teams either eschew lead backs or place them in positions such that they, too, have a long path to the hole (think about "superbacks" in spread offenses that start lined up next to the QB). Kerridge is lined up to the playside about three yards in front of Toussaint and his first steps are upfield as he tries to build momentum for a bone-rattling LB block. Toussaint, in contrast, kind of waits and runs lateral to the LOS for a bit, so he has time to see the slant develop and find the hole that is unfortunately filled with one Yawin Smallwood.

Kerridge doesn't have that time. If he's going to make that read presnap he's probably guessing that the OLB is going to attack the gap outside of Lewan, and when that turns out to be wrong he's already committed. I'm not sure he can be any other way when he's lined up so close to the point of attack.

If you're going to do this it almost seems like you'd have to consider Kerridge another lineman and that Lewan should release downfield into Smallwood once the OLB crosses his face, but holy hell is that complicated. Michigan should be trying to make everything as dead simple as possible so they can have uninspiring runs that do pick up some yards.*

So this is a rock paper scissors minus. I don't think Kerridge has time to change his gap, and that gap gets filled by a slant. Even if Kerridge 1) has the option to pick his hole, 2) made a presnap read of the blitzer, and 3) assumed the OLB would slant inside, the OLB is outside of Williams so a one-gap slant takes him outside of Lewan. This puts Kerridge in the right hole. When the OLB goes two gaps over that's when the problems happen.

Toussaint bounce attempt again. Like that Nix play discussed earlier, here Toussaint has grim prospects that he makes a little grimmer by trying to escape. Despite all your rage, Fitz, you're still just a rat in a cage. Here it seems like he has been told that he needs to go N/S and remembers that after his natural inclination. Or he just thinks he can't get outside Williams. Whichever.

It is not an easy decision to bench Jack Miller. The entire world has already benched the guy for the Minnesota game; I'm 50-50 on that. I'm frustrated with him sometimes as well, but here's another loss on which the offensive line appears to be working just fine. He got dumped into the backfield once earlier in this game and struggled in a couple of pass protections (a couple of other pressures that came up the middle were not on him), but I wouldn't be surprised if Michigan soldiers on with their current five guys. Even if they don't, how long is Chris Bryant going to be able to stay on the field?

Also, folks speculating that Michigan might move Michael Schofield back to guard and insert Braden or Magnuson should stop. Miller is not bad enough that switching three spots on the OL and sending a good right tackle back to guard so you can insert a freshman is anywhere near an upgrade. That's a midseason switch worthy of a Rodriguez defense.

*[This is iso's role in the world. It is the DURRR SMASH of run plays, requiring almost nothing other than brute strength and rarely picking up more than three yards, but rarely losing any.]

Picture Pages: Maybe A Third Of Why We Suck At Running

Picture Pages: Maybe A Third Of Why We Suck At Running

Submitted by Brian on September 24th, 2013 at 5:01 PM

Estimates are approximate. Michigan's spent maybe half of their snaps in the shotgun/pistol on running downs this year, running about five things: jet sweeps to Norfleet, QB draws, speed option, the inverted veer, and a kind of alternate to the inside zone called "belly" that Rich Rodriguez was fond of during his brief spell in Ann Arbor.

Oddly, Michigan hardly runs anything like a base play from the shotgun. They don't run the stretch, they don't run any iso or power type plays. There is a faint smattering of inside zone, but that's it, and that's not anywhere near established. In their first three games of the year I've got them down for three inside zone runs from pistol or shotgun; they went for a total of three yards. Nobody's cheating to a base run play against Michigan.

This allows opponents to tee off on the things Michigan is kind of good at. More importantly, it often seems like they're going up against opponents who are better drilled at defending modern offensive concepts than Michigan is at running them. Here's an example:

arc-block-please

Michigan's in the pistol with Kerridge as a fullback, Williams the tight end, and both WRs to the field. It's first and ten. UConn responds by shifting their line to the strength (an "over" front) and aligning their linebackers about evenly with a safety rolled up over Williams.

Michigan wants to read the end to the bottom of the screen. That will allow Michigan to blast the playside end off the ball with a sustained double; Williams will head for the safety as Kerridge deals with the playside linebacker. If the end crashes, Gardner pulls. If he contains, Gardner keeps.

arc-block-please

Snap. You can see Williams release, Lewan and Glasgow begin to bash the playside end off the line, and the frontside UConn LBs react to gaps that may need to be filled.

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Gardner is now considering the end, who does what ends are supposed to do these days: try to split the difference so that they can be useful on a handoff and still contain the QB. Gardner's trying to figure out what to do about this:

arc-block-please-3

(Note that Lewan and Glasgow are battering their guy inside effectively.)

Now, I think that's a pull. I gave Gardner a minus for that, because I want Gardner to test the edge against a defensive end who's standing at the LOS. But it's a gray area for the quarterback. The end is neither flat-out containing or crashing down; this is a situation in which errors are common.

At the decision point, Gardner gives. Kerridge is staring down two defenders, doesn't know which one to deal with, doesn't really deal with either but it doesn't matter because whoever he does in fact block is just going to funnel to his buddy.

arc-block-please-5

Poor Damn Toussaint, 2013 edition.

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That's a loss of two yards.

Video

Slow:

Items Of Interest

Remember the wheel route from the Notre Dame game? That's the opposite of this. Borges saw the wheel open, gave it a try once, and then pulled it out in a similar situation later for a big gain. Here Michigan just abandons these runs. How is this a similar situation? Like ND, UConn is playing this play in a certain way. If they play it in the same way again, you can alter what you're doing to bust it open. But Michigan hasn't done this, and so rarely does things that are misdirection that twitter blows up about it when they get five yards on it.

Arc, arc, arc, arc. Nebraska demonstrated the tweak against Michigan a couple years back on an almost identical play. Michigan shuffled Jibreel Black down, planning to contain with Kovacs on the outside. The fullback approached the end, and then…

black-ok-3_thumb[1]

Black could not recover in time to get out on Martinez, Kovacs got a guy in his face, and Nebraska ripped off a 23-yard gain.

Here it's a little different because the end does have contain on Gardner, but if Michigan pokes at that belly play again they can do something similar. Instead of having a true read it's a designated Gardner keeper on which Kerridge's job is to get outside and block whoever that contain guy happens to be, Michigan can burn the shuffle.

This is a paragraph of disclaimers and explanations. That's my thought process when I see things like that on the zone read, because that was Rodriguez's thought process. He probably forced defenses to create the shuffle a few years back when he started blocking backside ends trying to crash down and shooting Carlos Brown or Brandon Minor through the gaping hole scraping linebackers would leave. That burned scrape exchanges hard for a while, and then the cat and mouse game moved on.

Michigan is deficient at cat and mouse in the run game. I'm not trying to suggest that Michigan has to be a spread option team for their offense to work better; I am pointing this out because it remains my wheelhouse and it's a good example of the things Michigan doesn't do because they are a jack-of-all-trades offense that doesn't see how a defense is responding and do something to break it. Because to do that Nebraska thing above your fullback has to rep it and sell it, etc. It takes practice time.

Michigan's not thinking the zone game well at either the field level or the box level because they're not committed to it, and that extends to everything from stretch to power to iso.

Also maybe chalk that up as a missed read for Gardner. Because Michigan doesn't rep it consistently enough? I don't know. Has to be a consideration.

In other sad runs Michigan got out-schemed on. UConn was sending guys off the corner with frequency, but Michigan did not recognize it despite UConn tipping it hard. This inverted veer featured the dead giveaway of a safety moving down to line up directly over a wide receiver:

And on this one, how would you describe the playside corner's presnap technique? Is "right angle to wide receiver" a thing?

Michigan just gets lined up with 14 or so seconds on the clock and thus doesn't have much time to recognize what the defense is doing and adjust, like you saw Notre Dame and Akron do to Michigan's detriment several times. They're just eating bad playcalls. That's a natural consequence of spending 25 seconds in a huddle and not recognizing that one of the most common responses to spread stuff is to send extra guys off the edge.

None of this has anything to do with the offensive line. These are two TFLs and one miraculous Gardner escape wiped out by a Funchess holding call (which, BTW, ugh) on which the offensive line plays no part. The problems go deeper than their issues, which we'll get to later. This is Borges and to some extent Gardner—I don't know if he's got checks here—getting beat by the defensive coordinator. They got some back with the speed option, FWIW.

Who's up for a tedious 150 comment thread questioning whether it's worthwhile to read this? I certainly am! I hope there are content-free arguments. Let's make sure to ignore Ka'Deem Carey's 2000 yards last year when we're incensed at the idea Rich Rodriguez might be able to coach a run game.

Picture Pages: Adjusting On The Fly

Picture Pages: Adjusting On The Fly

Submitted by Brian on September 17th, 2013 at 3:18 PM

I'd planned on posting another Picture Pages this week from the Notre Dame game on the assumption that there wouldn't be much from the Akron game to discuss. Surprise! The good news—ish—is that this continues our discussion of where Michigan's line is.

This is another Toussaint lost yardage play that marks the last time Michigan's run their as-yet-unsuccessful counter to their zone game. ABC provided a slick closeup of events (the difference between doing this for an ABC broadcast and BTN one is enormous—viva ABC), so we'll get a zoomed-in look at goings-on.

ND's in an even front; Michigan has two tight ends. They'll pull Schofield as the rest of the line tries to sell another zone.

image

Michigan immediately runs into the problems that is Louis Nix, who either isn't buying or is just assigned to slant outside of Glasgow.

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That's bad, that'll happen sometimes when you play Nix. As Nix surges upfield of Glasgow, Schofield sees him and knows he's got to deal with that lest Toussaint get swallowed in the backfield.

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Glasgow violates the fake rule I made up by turning upfield. Schofield's coming, but he doesn't comprehend that he isn't totally screwed until…

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Both guys go to Nix, leaving one of ND's ILBs unblocked. Toussaint makes things worse by trying to bounce around a rampant Nix, and gets chopped down.

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That's a two yard loss.

Video

Slow unnecessary for this one.

[After THE JUMP: Notre Dame faces the same problem, finds different results.]

Picture Pages: Nose Penetration Allowed

Picture Pages: Nose Penetration Allowed

Submitted by Brian on September 17th, 2013 at 11:57 AM

Michigan's running game wasn't quite as bad as it looks in the stats, as they had some good gains wiped out by phantom holding penalties, but it warn't good. One of Michigan's main issues was not getting the Akron nose tackle blocked, but when this happened the guy in the backfield seemed only partially at fault, because Michigan was asking him to do something very tough.

Here's a play at the end of the first quarter. Michigan has just shifted various players around and gotten Akron to do this in response:

massive-gap-1

That is a massive gap between their nose tackle, who's "shaded"* over Miller, and their end, who's outside of Jake Butt. Michigan decides to run at this, which seemed like a good idea at the time.

*[ie, lined up between the center and guard, closer to the center.]

Michigan's going to run a stretch to the wide side of the field, and get a loss out of this. I know. So. Akron's got about seven guys in the box. Michigan has two uncovered OL to the playside plus Kerridge. This should be easy.

[After the jump, it's not going to be]

Picture Pages: False Mesh Goofball Punish

Picture Pages: False Mesh Goofball Punish

Submitted by Brian on September 11th, 2013 at 10:57 AM

NOTE: UFR will be later than usual today, because of Dos A Cero IV. Lo siento.

BONUS: Soon to be number one in Google for highly competitive search term "mesh goofball punish." Dolla dolla bill  y'all. See you on my yacht.

Michigan had seen enough of Notre Dame's maniac linebackers by the second quarter to expose their aggression. On their drive after ND had kicked a field goal to make it 17-13, M opened with four straight runs.

The one tailback touch in there was a one-yard loss on power. A Notre Dame linebacker shot the gap, meeting Kyle Kalis two yards in the backfield, and Toussaint bounced it outside without having any hope of doing something out there. The other three plays all worked because they used Devin Gardner's legs to punish the overcommitting Notre Dame defense. Each of these plays could have been a 35-yarder.

The sequence:

  1. Michigan fakes inside zone, has Gardner run for 7.
  2. A false zone read keeper breaks outside for 35.
  3. Toussaint stuffed for loss of one on power, holding on Houma.
  4. Inverted veer keeper for nine, phantom holding on Miller.

One of them did go for 35. We discussed the veer keeper a bit in the last picture pages post: it sucked a Notre Dame linebacker well into the backfield and may have been a touchdown if Funchess didn't spin around.

The opener is an interesting play; it follows.

Michigan has it first and ten from their 37 and comes out in a pistol 3-wide formation. Notre Dame goes with their 3-4. (I swear ND was mostly a 4-3 team in this game.) Shembo is tight to the LOS over the tight end with Day next to him. ND has two deep safeties and Jaylon Smith in the grey area over the slot.

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Michigan will show inside zone, with quickly aborted doubles on Nix and Tuitt forced by the usual hard reaction by the ND linebackers.

[The jump]

Picture Pages: Hopped Up On Goofballs

Picture Pages: Hopped Up On Goofballs

Submitted by Brian on September 10th, 2013 at 12:56 PM

I wish I'd remembered that Bob Diaco linebackers play like they're hopped up on goofballs before the game. Here's the mesh point on Michigan's first offensive snap:

hyperaggressive LBs

One ILB is almost to the line of scrimmage and the other is a yard back. This is way closer than almost any other team will be, and it is absolutely consistent. ND linebackers fire hard on any run action.

For the most part it's worked for them. Michigan won the Denard after Dentist game despite getting ten yards on eight tailback carries. ND's defense last year was lights out. Notre Dame's hyper-aggression at that spot has been a problem for Michigan's run game for the last couple years, as they haven't had effective counters. Their main one is the waggle, and we all know how that worked out last year.

Not much changed in this one early. Michigan's tailback running game was drips and drabs because of a lack of an effective counter trey. (You know, that play they showed against Central where Taylor Lewan pulled to the backside… ineffectively.) The longer runs they did acquire were almost entirely Fitzgerald Toussaint forcing errors out of ND safeties. For example, the UFR chart on Toussaint's early 14-yard sideline run has four minuses for bad blocks and no positives. Yikes.

Let's get a baseline in this one and see how Michigan responded later. This is a second-quarter zone stretch in which Michigan puts two tight ends to the top of the screen; ND responds with a rare three-man front (they were a 4-3 in this game that occasionally lined up in a 3-4 as a curveball) with a safety walked down:

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This looks like a called blitz but in practice it's difficult to tell the difference between an actual blitz and the playside linebacker hauling ass at the first gap he sees. It's just alignment. Notre Dame got some TFLs out of this gap-shooting, and even when they didn't those linebackers forced Michigan to disengage from double-teams on Tuitt, Nix, and Schwenke early, with predictable results.

Meanwhile, the backside linebacker would ignore any cutback possibilities and flow parallel to the line of scrimmage at approximately the same rate the tailback did:

aggresive-1

The overall effect is six guys at the line with one hovering behind for cleanup and that overhanging safety able to provide quick support. Even when Notre Dame screwed up this was mostly effective.

A moment post snap, Michigan opens up a gap as they go to double the two defensive tackles:

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Note that the backside players on the ND DL are stepping away from the play, which they can do because the MLB is jetting into the gap they vacate. This also allows the backside LB to flow as he does.

Some of this is  tough to see, but in this frame:

  1. Miller has disengaged from Nix in an attempt to cut the charging LB, which he does not do. He does knock him off balance somewhat, possibly contributing to his overrun of the play.
  2. Meanwhile, Glasgow and Lewan try to handle two guys who have disappeared from the frame: the playside end and charging safety.
  3. Both tight ends have locked on the playside LB, who is the force player.
  4. Schofield chases the MLB, who he has no angle on, but could still block if Toussaint cuts back.

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A moment later the LB flashes into the backfield wide of Toussaint and runs by; playside end got his legs caught up in traffic and ends up falling, pancaked. Both tight ends are still on the force guy:

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This is one of them gap things?

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Except it's got a linebacker in it.

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Video

BONUS! Here is a super slo-mo version.

(Does this help? If this helps let me know.)

Items Of Interest

Notre Dame got away with at least a couple errors here. The playside end ends up underneath Glasgow on the ground and they spent a linebacker blowing past Toussaint to little effect. (They did get Miller down but offenses will take one for one trades.) If that can happen and Michigan picks up three yards you can tell that it's tough sledding.

Tough sledding. The goofballs approach makes life tough on offensive linemen, who have to make split second decisions to leave guy and then try to block a rampant guy with tons of momentum before they are ready. This is tough, and Michigan didn't do a good job of it.

Toussaint could put his foot in the ground here and make a cut. Schofield is chasing that linebacker and you occasionally see the blocking develop such that the tailback can make a hard cut upfield behind that OL and suddenly make him relevant. Right about here…

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…if Toussaint goes hard north and south aiming for the hash he may shoot past that linebacker and into open space. That's why Schofield keeps following that guy despite not having an angle. It may not work, but you're at least giving yourself a shot. Toussaint had a good day overall; here I think he missed a cut.

The offensive line… I punt. They had a very tough first half against this line, and these linebacker gap-shots don't help. Miller just barely throws off that linebacker if he does anything, but then again that linebacker zips past the play he's moving so fast. If that guy can't make a play, can the OL make a play?

Meanwhile Glasgow gets a pancake that is probably aided by the ND lineman tripping on the blitzer's feet; Lewan ends up putting a safety on the ground. Points for them. This one was a lot better blocked than some.

Funchess is very frustrating. On this play, the linebacker to the top of the screen is obviously the force player*. Butt obviously has him kicked out. Funchess continues to block the guy the whole damn play instead of releasing downfield and getting a hat on the safety. There is no way this is right.

Meanwhile, on the single inverted veer Michigan ran, Notre Dame hyperaggression bit them as one of their linebackers roared up a gap and pursued Toussaint, as did Tuitt. Gardner pulled and got a nice gain. It could have been a lot nicer, but Funchess turned around again:

funchess-wat

Also not right, as with Kalis headed to the outside the linebacker is the optioned guy. I know Michigan's blocked guys who are supposed to be optioned before; even if that is the nominal plan, nothing good ever comes of turning 180 degrees when you're a blocker.

That left no one to take the only guy standing between Gardner and a touchdown:

funchess-wat-2

I guess it's better that the play wiped out by a nonexistent holding call was nine yards instead of a thirty-one yard touchdown?

We just saw this happen against Central Michigan; it's closing in on a pattern. Funchess remains a tight end in name only. The mental stuff is more bothersome than any lack of technique. All he has to do on some of these plays is vaguely bother a guy and Michigan can break a long one. Hopefully he makes some progress here in the next few weeks, but the relative prominence of Jake Butt in this game is not a coincidence.

*[IE, the guy who sits on the end of the line and accepts a kickout block. He positions himself such that if the back tries to bounce it outside he either gets tackled for has to take such a circuitous route that by the time he gets the corner for guys are waiting for him. Since things usually go badly—very badly—for the defense if the force player is not doing his job, he is limited in how dynamic he can be what with throwing blockers away and getting TFLs, so doubling him is useless.]

Michigan did exploit this, eventually. You may notice that I'm not complaining about how Michigan didn't adjust to this. This is a tease.

Picture Pages: Circle Button

Picture Pages: Circle Button

Submitted by BiSB on August 29th, 2013 at 7:52 AM

As as been extensively discussed, Michigan is finally jumping headlong into the Era of Manbawl, and Manbawl means power. Unfortunately, every clip of Michigan running power this fall has been zoomed to extents that strain modern technology, so we don't have a good recent example. Fortunately we found a nice example of a slight twist on the prototypical power run, albeit from a random high school scrimmage from New Jersey.

Paramus Catholic lines up in a 3-wide I-form with the slot receiver aligned to the boundary.  Jabrill Peppers is lined up as the tailback. This will be important.

02 Formation

Red Bank lines up in a two-high nickel, with the nickelback lined up over the slot. This leaves only six defenders in the box; two linebackers and four down linemen in an over front. You may notice that the offense has six guys in position to put a hat on the six box defenders.

02 Hat on a hat

[AFTER THE JUMP: A decided genetic advantage]

Dear Diary Dives, Rolls, and Eats Ruffage

Dear Diary Dives, Rolls, and Eats Ruffage

Submitted by Seth on April 19th, 2013 at 10:11 AM

Brian mentioned this in his spring recap but here again is the play Michael Scarn picture-paged:

mgovideo

He points out several things that happened here. One is James Ross moving so fast toward the hole he actually cuts off Desmond Morgan. Another is the wholesale disaster that was the interior blocking, as Miller got nobody, Braden didn't peel off to intercept the Will, and Kalis ran right by James Ross. Here's your money shot:

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sorry for low quality—if you can find the play on here I'll make new.

Morgan was the playside LB but Ross is already past him and gunning toward the hole. Miller is looking the wrong way. Kalis is pulling and looking outside Lewan's and Braden's block. If you ever wondered what coaches mean by "head on a swivel" this is the opposite: his head is facing where his body is, and because of that he doesn't see the MLBs racing in. Braden too needs to recognize that his combo block on the playside DT has done its job; the Hutchinson thing to do here would be to find Ross and Morgan charging into the same hole, and using a block on the first to wall off the second.

These are things learned by experience, and are reasons you usually don't expect linemen to be very good until they're upperclassmen.

As for Ross, that millisecond diagnosis was so incredible people are arguing if it was actually a blitz (that stunts the MLBs? Coach-types, thoughts?). Michael Scarn, obvious Diarist of the Week, submitted a supplement on this diary covering Ross and how he compares to onetime-Cane, now-Steeler Sean Spence. I stand by my comparison to another safety-sized Steeler who made a career out of avoiding blocks by simply getting to the ball-carrier first, Larry Foote. Either way, here's betting when Brian sends us the roundtable questions for HTTV the annual 'breakout player?' wording starts with "Other than…"

Etc. For a second I thought Jake Ryan was Brock Mealer. Snowflake-y thing on next year's basketball team now that the personnel seems settled.

Best of the Board

THE FRITZ METHOD:

Spring Practice is over and it's a long few months of coach-less physical training before fall stuff. To give you an idea of the things our players will be working on from now until then, here's a letter from Fritz Crisler circa 1941 dug up by Messenger Puppet.

crabpeople

Apparently the Michigan Method includes:

  • Sleeping from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., 10:30 to 6:30 if you absolutely have to.
  • Rolling on the ground
  • Cut out stimulants such as alcohol and nicotine in order to do better justice to yourself in a football way.
  • "Crabbing"
  • 10 to 15 minutes of "setting up exercises," followed by a cold bath.
  • Eating plenty of ruffage to keep your digestive system normal at all times.

TEAM 96

This is the video shown at the basketball banquet. It starts with Novak and Stu after winning the B1G last year then goes to the freshman class and then…

TOM STROBEL: A THREE TECH FOR NOW

For the tiny subsection of the fanbase for whom heuristics on the interior DL three-deep is news, little shreds of such news have trickled out that could be read as Godin and Heitzman are awesome but probably mean Strobel is still far from playing time (and is a redshirt freshman GAWD U GUYz!)

This sparked a thread led off by Blazefire on Tom Strobel's (below: Fuller) move to 3-tech, apparently because of an injury to somebody in that group. Which injury? Could be Ryan Glasgow, or it could have to do with Wormley being unavailable for most contact this spring. Don't know, guessing Glasgow.

Fuller - StrobelTom's coming in for a little bit "oh no not LaLota" fear since of that ridiculous interior d-line class he's the highest rated to not yet push for serious playing time: Wormley was mentioned as a potential competition for Roh's job last year before his injury, Pipkins played, and Godin and Henry were 3-stars and your 2nd string 5-tech and 3-tech respectively in the Spring Game.

From Mattison's quote it sounds like it's mostly a convenience thing. They need depth at three, and at the five—which is pretty interchangeable—there's a pecking order emerging of Heitzman the starter, Godin the backup, and Wormley the nominal third string with a lot of upward mobility. Speculation centers on why Strobel was moved and not Godin, who's 10 pounds heavier.

On one hand GAWD U GUYz he's a redshirt freshman who always needed to put on weight and for whom "on track" would mean pushing to play by 2014. On the other Godin is now almost certainly ahead of him and the Godin hype hasn't hit anything like Jake Ryan levels where you figure we just found a diamond. Waaaaaaaaay too early for this: absolutely. Irrational fan voice squeaking this anyway: yeah. Impact if true: small. They can't ALL become next-RVBs (4-star DE are about 25% to become NFL draft picks).

COMPLIANCE ZINGERS

The NCAA has put in the time these last few years to establish itself as the most incompetent group of people since they invented Comcast customer service, and as a consequence opened themselves to ALL THE zing.

When Oregon found major violations, the thread is all 'nothing will happen' until ZING!:

"You're wrong there. The NCAA is sick and tired of being looked at as an impotent and largely powerless organization incapable of meting out justice to offenders.

"This time they are mad. This time they mean business. I predict that the NCAA is SO upset at what Oregon's been doing that South Florida's going to get their scholly's cut again." –mGrowOld

When reports surfaced that Ohio State's bow-tied president was trotted out to recruit Drake Harris, the thread began wondering if that's, you know, crossing some sort of line and ZING!

"When presidents are involved in recruiting, it's usually dead ones like Grant, Jackson, et al. See Auburn, University of." –Victor Hale II

People in the thread have a bunch of stories of how beloved Gee is on campus because he goes to bars (!) and sometimes remembers people had crutches (!). He's also the former lawyer who instigated Ohio State's lawyerly defense of itself for Tressel's tenure, thereby undermining the NCAA's self-regulatory compliance system and exposing the organization's true impotence. I don't really have a problem with a school president meeting a recruit; I do have a problem with this president who sees his job as head of Buckeye Phi, until such time as Jim Tressel decides to fire him.

People who agree: Brown University calls its spring game port-a-potties the "E. Gordon Gee Lavatory Complex" in honor of his short and generally disastrous tenure there. There's a reason this guy and Emmert are best buddies.

ONLY YOU.

Ohio State made rings for their Year of Shame.

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Hey, surprise, the school that couldn't find honor if you put it around a Clemson player's neck doesn't do contrition very well. On the last ring they posted the Game's score from last year, calling us "TUN" beneath a horseshoe so detailed you can see them carrying Tressel off on their shoulders. Mr. Yost suggested they should just wear asterisks. ZING!

IS GRIII A THREE OR A FOUR?

CaliUMfan pulled some tweets from people who spoke to Beilein after the "they're back" presser that suggest Michigan plans to move Glenn Robinson to small forward and play McGary at the four, creating a crunch at the two/three of GRIII, Stauskas, LeVert and Irvin. This can be taken in many ways, most of which come back to "yeah you tell Morgan he's the expected starter again."

MY READERS

The guy who played the cynic on the Imperial Mottiboard of directors in the original Star Wars has passed away; for this site, this absolutely constitutes a board thread. If you can't appreciate Richard LeParmentier's acting ability, I suggest you imagine how you'd do if George Lucas handed you a script that read:

"Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the Rebels' hidden fort—[NOW PRETEND LIKE HE'S CHOKING YOU!]"

And yes I claim the Star Wars geeks as mine. When Brian can go three references in a row without flubbing a quote or acknowledging the prequels exist he can have you back. Also when he learns to moderate the board like this:

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ETC. If recruiting his son means Dakich can't do Michigan games anymore, or even if it makes him stop trolling us, it is SO worth a scholarship. Jonvalk suggests a new MGobanner. Novak profiled in local paper, mentions MGoShirt. Will basketball or football end up ranked higher next year?

Your Moment of Zen:

Forty-two not 16 'cause it was Other-Robinson Day.

mgovideo

Picture Pages: Beating The Rail

Picture Pages: Beating The Rail

Submitted by Brian on February 12th, 2013 at 1:31 PM

After Michigan's first outing against Ohio State Zack Novak gave an interesting interview to UMHoops in which he described how the Buckeyes shut down Michigan's pick and roll game:

Well for the first 10 minutes of the game, it seemed like everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. Coach has referred to “locking the rails” in describing what OSU does to guard sideline ball screens, a huge staple of the offense. They do this better than anyone else. Many teams will take away a ball screen by having the defender on the ball play with his butt to the other sideline and bringing a big man in front of the ball handler. They take it to another level. They pretty much play the ball handler not to go to the opposite corner of mid court, essentially taking away any chance for the ball handler to still use the screen. This takes away all uncertainty a big man would have in playing in front of the ball handler.

In other words, big men usually hedge after a ball handler uses a ball screen. Even if the plan is to deny the ball handler from using it, the big still must be ready to hedge in the event the defender does not prevent the screen from being used. This uncertainty can cause big men to be just a fraction late, which in basketball is enough time for a good offensive player to exploit it.

In my eyes, it seemed like their big men were in position every time because they knew there was no chance the guard could use the screen.

Michigan sputtered to an 0.88 PPP outing, one of their worst of the season. In the offense-heavy rematch that moved up to 1.19, thanks in no small part to 58% shooting from three. But Burke also got free on a number of P&R possessions in the first half, with a rolling Mitch McGary the frequent beneficiary. Here's an example from early in the game; this is actually McGary's first offensive possession.

Michigan initiates the offense with a pass from GRIII to Burke and then flashes McGary to the top of the key.

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By the time he gets there, Craft has set up shop such that there's no way for McGary to screen him.

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This is "locking the rail." If Burke goes anywhere, it is right, and the big no longer has any hesitation.

McGary backs off, taking Williams with him, and then Burke attacks the basket, getting Craft outside of him with a crossover.

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If Michigan acts quickly now, they can get the screen. McGary is waiting for this and Michigan successfully breaks the rail and gets the P&R.

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Williams hedges hard as McGary rolls; Burke finds him.

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Lenzelle Smith comes over in an attempt to pick up a charge. He may or may not get there in time, but we don't end up finding out because McGary's agility allows him to pull up short and avoid the contact as the arena is bathed in a mysterious rush of light.

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A quick two for McGary enroute to 5/8 from the floor in the first half.

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Things And Stuff

Burke shakes free. Burke needs help, but even if that drive doesn't get past Craft it necessarily puts him out of position when McGary re-establishes the pick and roll. It takes a little more work to set it up, is all. Burke was also able to shake Craft from the rail at times, like this late-clock move that puts Craft out of the picture and gets Ravenel on his heels, opening up the three:

With everyone on the floor staring down Burke this would be an opportune time for someone to dive to the rim, but oh well.

Planning ahead. Michigan executes a similar set with Hardaway on the next possession, but actually runs it too fast. Hardaway ends up trapped as Williams is much closer to the ball*, but the idea is the same. Next possession: same. Hardaway makes a token drive to the right and then comes back to a McGary screen; McGary gets a roll pass and misjudges how much room he has to attack, throwing up an awkward elbow jumper. After getting very little from the pick and roll in the first game, Michigan adapted, with moderate success inside the arc and Great Success outside.

*[Hardaway gets it to GRIII, who makes an excellent shot for himself against Thomas; Williams throws it back, whereupon Stauskas does his stepback swag in the corner that gets him gif'd.]

McGary skill level. Ohio State gets a defender over in position to take a charge; McGary pulls up short of him and puts up a lane floater that sneaks over the front of the rim. McGary has a high skill level for a 6'10" guy.

Almost inevitable offensive rebound. McGary also pounds Smith under the basket after the shot goes up; Amir Williams is hanging out with Burke well outside your picture, and GRIII has gotten good position on Thomas here. Note also that by the time Burke's three goes down, Craft is trying to box out Horford. That's one vs four, but a relatively high chance of an OREB anyway.

One of the problems against Wisconsin was a relative paucity of shots where offensive rebounds are on the table in the event of a miss.

Picture Pages: Everyday I'm Shuffling (And Chinning)

Picture Pages: Everyday I'm Shuffling (And Chinning)

Submitted by Brian on December 14th, 2012 at 12:17 PM

Ace pointed out a basketball coaching site yesterday that had a bunch of Beilein stuff and one thing led to another and this happened, because apparently this is just what I do.

Trying to see stuff in a basketball game was an interesting change of pace, since even with my Analytical Goggles on there's a lot of stuff that just seems to happen because players are good or not good. This aspect of football is obscured somewhat. A lot of coaches say The Expectation Is For The Position with a straight face—I don't think you've ever ever heard a basketball coach drop that.

Anyway.

The initial post Ace pointed out was a couple sections of Michigan's offense called "chin" and "shuffle" in which the center moves out to the free throw line and acts as a low-pressure fulcrum connecting two halves of the floor.

What struck me about chin/shuffle is how they use the center as a conduit, opening up space without putting undue pressure on what's usually the least skilled offensive player on the floor. Meanwhile, the other four positions rotate through a variety of spots, eventually becoming interchangeable parts looking for the half-step they need to attack or shoot instead of reset.

Michigan runs a variety of looks off of this, each of which probes the defense for an easy bucket before reverting to a high ball screen on which the guy receiving the screen has three options.

I set to watching the NC State game again to find examples of how this works, and came across an example of the two-post offense getting Morgan open underneath for two (eventually).

Setting The Offense

This is a bit of an oddity since it's a two-post lineup but the principles are the same; here the offense will work around the lack of a three-point threat from one of the wings thanks to a busted NC State defensive assignment.

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The above is the on-court equivalent of this:

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For reasons unexplained the document consistently calls the two-guard in this offense a "trailor" instead of a "trailer" or I guess a "tailor". Supposition: he is a trailer who is suppose to tailor some offense. YEAH

So here the post has "flashed" but McGary just kind of set up at the line as Burke brought the ball up the court. The things in the document are an idealized version of the real world, I find. For instance, in one of the ways the offense starts is by dumping the ball to the center and then having the point and "trailor" cut to the basket.

The document:

Once 5 catches the pass, 1 and 4 [ed: the "trailor" yes I will eventually have to either fix that or drop the quote marks] SPRINT backdoor to the block. 5 looks for either 1 or 4.

Real life is dang perfunctory relative to an all-caps exhortation to SPRINT. The document does admit a bit later that "It is not common for either player to be open of [sic] this cut" and asks the 2—Morgan in this play—not to be "robotic". On this play the initial movements of Burke and Hardaway are soft jogs to their spot.

On this play Michigan is running "shuffle" instead of chin. Shuffle looks like chin when they start the play, but starts like this:

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dotted line is a pass

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Once Morgan receives the pass, Burke and Hardaway jog to the spots they're supposed to get to…

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…and McGary extends to the top of the key to receive a rote pass from Morgan. No one has made a decision yet.

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Meanwhile, a conveniently-timed graphic notes that eight minutes into the game Hardaway has more points than the rest of Michigan combined. Naturally he is going to receive lots of defensive attention. The guy checking Hardaway is CHECKING HARDAWAY in his brain.

McGary now has a rote pass to make of his own, this one a swing to Stauskas.

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"5 pops high, 3 reverses through the 5 to 2," sayeth document

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Hardaway sets a "shuffle screen" on Morgan's man; Hardaway's man is looking at that graphic and going "oh man I better check Hardaway"; Morgan gets hand-wavingly wide open underneath the basket.

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Stauskas dumps it down; Morgan misses, gets his own rebound, and finishes.

Meanwhile, Michigan has already executed the next part of the play with McGary screening whoever shows up on Hardaway.

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If NC State had covered Morgan appropriately this was likely to be a quality three-point look for Hardaway.

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"5 [McGary] sets the down screen for the 4 [Hardaway],
4 comes off the screen looking to shoot or curl it for a mid-range jumper.
2 [Stauskas] looks for 4.
After the screen 5 can look to slip to the basket or straight cut the FT line. 2 looks either for the lob[!] or at the elbow."

As it is, it's a layup for Morgan, eventually.

Things And Stuff

There aren't really many player takeaways on a short open layup that Morgan misses, gets back, and puts back. If we're trying to figure out some things about how Michigan runs offense, a lot of these broad early strokes are going to be off, as well. But…

A lot of the early movement in the offense is the process of getting into a play. On this play Michigan makes three passes and sends four players in motion before anyone has a decision to make. When Michigan dumps it to the center and then runs around and whatnot they're not really expecting to get a shot out of that, they're just moving into a variant of one of their standard looks.

Whoever is open is open. In half-court sets the guy who gets the ball is just going to be the guy who is open until nothing works and Burke has to create or die off a pick and roll.

Probe, reset, probe, reset. This is not a good example because Michigan just gets a quick easy bucket, but the document suggests the rhythm you can pick up watching Michigan play sometimes as situations happen over and over on the same possession as Michigan searches for the edge.