Jimmystats: The 2018 Class in Context, Part 1: Offense

Jimmystats: The 2018 Class in Context, Part 1: Offense

Submitted by Seth on February 8th, 2018 at 12:04 PM


It’s tough to see what they’ll become [UM Bentley Library]

So yesterday came and went the way it went. The SEC cheats, Michigan’s a tougher sell right now for reasons, yada yada—those who choose to rend garments or yell at the folks wearing tatters have plenty of threads to do so in. Let’s talk about the guys Michigan got.

As it so happens I keep a database of Michigan recruits that goes back to the 1993 class, and that gives us a chance to put all the new guys in context. Shall we?


Shea Patterson is a transfer but let’s start with him for we can have nice things reasons. Also because he was one of the highest-rated quarterbacks out of high school to ever come here:


Shea in 2016 was the #1 Dual Threat or #1 QB to everybody, and between third and 15th overall. Quarterbacks ranked in the Top 5 overall tend to have some real talent—nobody doubts Mallett’s arm. A year of starting in the SEC should put Shea in good shape to challenge for the top job this season, provided the NCAA waives the transfer year. Yay for five-star quarterbacks!

Joe Milton comes in as a project, though one with significant upside. That kind of player usually creates a large amount of disagreement among the recruiting sites and it would appear that’s the case with Joe:


ESPN rated him the highest, which is a bit of a red flag since they tend to fire and forget. Scout had him one of their highest three-stars (before they merged with 247) and Rivals had him a solid 4-star. 247 was down relative to the others. The result is somewhere between Dylan McCaffrey (4.31 average star rating) and Alex Malzone, and closer to the latter. His late fall on 247 dropped him to 16th in the composite score. Some guys you’ve probably heard of who’ve fallen around that range in past years include Maryland’s Kasim Hill (2017), Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson, Wisconsin’s Bart Houston, ND’s Everett Golson, and Messiah deWeaver, Brian Lewerke, and Andrew Maxwell of MSU.

I also tried to find a Harbaugh comp and came up with 2009 Stanford recruit Josh Nunes. Like Milton, Nunes put up big high school stats with a low completion percentage. He wasn’t much of a runner. From my Hall of Harbaugh Quarterbacks piece from a few years ago:

Josh Nunes, the 9th pro-style QB and 139th overall player according to the 247 composite. Nunes was a prolific passer in high school (6,306 yards and 52 TDs in 34 starts) who on Harbaugh’s recommendation added running (3.1 YPA with sacks included) to his reads as a senior. Nunes was heir apparent to Andrew Luck but lost his job to Kevin Hogan while out with a foot injury in 2012, and lost his career to a freak pectoral injury in 2013.

Also the greatest QB of all time was rated around this spot in 1995, but that was 1995.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the offense]

Neck Sharpies: Reading Your Tight End Open

Neck Sharpies: Reading Your Tight End Open

Submitted by Seth on February 17th, 2016 at 9:44 AM

In January I drew up two running plays from Harbaugh's masterful 1st quarter drive against Florida. In both plays Michigan found room to run despite the Gators scheming to attack inside runs, either by blitzing a linebacker or putting DTs in both "A" gaps (the gaps between the center and his guards).

Michigan also used its passing game to attack that defensive strategy, and true to Harbaugh, they did it with tight ends. Let's see how.

The setup:


Rudock will call a play three plays in the huddle and pick one at the line. At that point Harbaugh quarterbacks will often decide where the ball is going by subtle things the defense does with its alignment. You can't trust a defense to attack the way they show, but they do betray some things. Apologies if this sounds like Dora (I work from home with a toddler, okay?!?) but can you spot what the defense is aligning for?


1. That DT isn't in a standard 3-tech position. Both DTs are in a 2i, i.e. lined up on a guard's shoulder. Again, Florida is srsly about taking away those inside runs.

2. The LBs are squeezed in, more evidence that they're selling out against interior runs, which isn't so bad of an idea given Michigan's got Houma and Smith—two runners who do most of their damage going north-south—in the backfield. Guessing who's got what gap isn't easy since the MLB doesn't seem to have one. On the other hand the SAM I'm pointing at here isn't really in position to defend a quick-releasing TE. Meaning the safety to that side is engaged either in a zone or man coverage over there (i.e. not free to roam). Good to know.

3. The ends are both playing 6i, off their respective tight ends' inside shoulders. This suggests some defensive backs have edge responsibility, with the MLB a free hitter. This is suggesting a 9-man front. Perhaps those ends are expected to engage and delay the release of their tight ends, but it's doubtful either would have more than flat coverage against the TEs on a pass play; if those tight ends do release downfield those same edge defenders hangout out on the wings become pass defenders.

Considering the things Michigan wants to do with its offense, this seems pretty sound. Is it accurate though?

[After the jump: there's always a crack]

Preview 2014: Tight End And Friends

Preview 2014: Tight End And Friends

Submitted by Brian on August 26th, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Previously: Podcast 6.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running back. Wide Receiver.


Butt don't fail me now [Adam Glanzman]

Depth Chart

Fullback Yr. U-back Yr. Tight End Yr. Flex Yr.
Joe Kerridge Jr.* Khalid Hill Fr.* AJ Williams Jr. Jake Butt So.
Sione Houma Jr. Wyatt Shallman Fr.* Keith Heitzman Jr.* Ian Bunting Fr.
Bobby Henderson So.*     -- -- -- --

Just when we'd split out the various gradations in blocky-catchy guys into its own section of the preview, Al Borges had to go and get himself fired. Cumong, man.

They're all still on the roster and Michigan's going to try to use them so we're sticking with it. This section of the preview consists of everyone who isn't quite a skill position player and isn't quite an offensive linemen. Let's reprise last year's explanation of what is what to orient ourselves:

  • FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head who runs into linebackers, gets two carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley.
  • U-BACK: A "move" tight end who motions all about, rarely lines up on the actual line of scrimmage, often goes from fullback to a flared spot or vice versa, and operates as more of a receiver than the fullback. Must be a credible threat to LBs; ends career with 40 catches. See: Aaron Shea.
  • TIGHT END: Larger that the U-back, the tight end is a tight end who is actually tight to the end of the line. He comes out, lines up next to a tackle, helps him win blocks, and clobberates linebackers at the second level. He goes out into patterns as well, and may end his career with 40 catches himself. See: Tyler Ecker.
  • FLEX: Sort of like the U-back in that he rarely lines up on the line of scrimmage itself, but if he motions away from his spot near the line, it's not to fullback but wide receiver. They get a billion catches and break Jim Mandich's record eventually. See: every ND tight end ever.

And of course many of these people bleed into other categories. Think of these position designations as Gaussian distributions in close proximity to each other.



Kerridge hits his upperclass years, also linebackers [Maize and Blue News]


Same guys, potentially less of a role. Doug Nussmeier comes from a one-back coaching tree, and one-back guys are usually a lot more interested in putting two tight ends on the field than a fullback, because fullbacks don't threaten vertically. Given the situation at tight end and the need to bash out a yard or three on the regular, these guys will still be involved. Just maybe not quite as much.

JOE KERRIDGE remains the starter here and should hold on to that designation. It seems like he's been around forever already and he's still got a year left after this one; now is the time for him to start imposing himself on opponents. He did a fair job of doing so last year:

Opponent + - TOT Note
CMU 4.5 - 4.5 FBs did well.
Notre Dame 7.5 1 6.5 Isos were a high point.
Akron 2 - 2 Blocks got cut away from.
UConn 1.5 2 -0.5 Not heavily involved.
Minnesota 6 3.5 2.5 Let some guys under him.
Penn State 1 0.5 0.5 Blocks couldn't even become relevant.
Indiana 2.5 1 1.5  
MSU - - - DNC
Nebraska 6.5 3.5 3 Got good movement.
NW 3 1.5 1.5 Soon to be a WR.
Iowa 4.5 1 3.5 Good game, quasi third-down back.

When the blocking was good enough to make him relevant he did his job, and did it well. It was not all terrific, as he had some questionable plays against Minnesota:

But by the end of the year he was taking a bunch of snaps as a pass protector on throwing downs, acting as Gardner's lead back on occasion, and even catching things out of the backfield. I didn't chart the OSU game but I did review it and Kerridge had a quality day highlighted by this thunderous block:

My God man. I heard that this place's Heap of Smoked Linebacker was excellent, but the descriptions do not do it justice. That is Dudley-worthy there.

Nussmeier isn't likely to deviate from his belief that tight ends on or near the line of scrimmage are much more threatening to a defense than fullbacks, but when Michigan absolutely must scatter a linebacker's equipment across the field, Kerridge will be the weapon of choice.

[After THE JUMP: I googled Jake Butt's name so by god you are going to read the things I have to say about Jake Butt.]

Hokepoints Wins a Medal for Participation

Hokepoints Wins a Medal for Participation

Submitted by Seth on November 19th, 2013 at 8:53 AM


Fuller didn't get a shot of Dileo that he put on Flickr, but he got this 6-yard catch by Butt on 2nd and 5, when Dileo was busy running off two defenders.

The primary complaint with Michigan's offense, rightly, has been with the blocking dudes' problems with blocking dudes. While gathering data on personnel changes throughout the Northwestern game I got an opportunity to look hard enough to have an idea where the UFR will lay blame for 9 points in regulation. Preview: Bosch didn't have a good game. However the freshman guards are a problem solved mostly by experience, i.e. we can't fix it this year.

But if Michigan is looking for an offensive boost it might find one by improving which parts they deploy among the five eligible receiver positions. Which personnel and how they're aligned come with various strengths. Generally the smaller and more spread out, the better to make space for you to operate; conversely the larger and tighter the better to block dudes. I put forth that our blocking dudes are currently pretty bad at blocking dudes, thus it's worth moving some of their snaps to 3rd and 4th receivers.

MANBALL isn't Borgesian

Here's Borges's offense being run at UCLA in 1998, a time when the spread offense was something that won games at Tulane:

Note the 3WR sets pop up plenty. I believe the goal here is to be multifarious, not just very large and good at something. He wants to be impossible to prepare for because at any moment you might put in your 4-4 personnel when you see him trotting out 3 tight ends, and then he'll spread them out and put a 6'6 monster on your tiniest cornerback. This is why they're recruiting Fifty Shades of Shea.

But That's a Long Way Away

Today, they have precious few developed parts to play these "skill" positions. The running backs can't block, either because they're really spread nutrinos (Toussaint, Hayes, Norfleet) or true freshmen (Green, Smith) who didn't need blocking lessons to run over high school fools. The fullbacks are a walk-on they've been developing for awhile but who still misses 1 in 5 blocking assignments, and a RS freshman they recruited out of Utah who needs work.

Off. Performance vs. NW'ern When Player is On Field
(Only normal downs counted)
Player Pos Snaps YPA Run%
Gallon WR 60 5.45 48%
Funchess WR 54 5.74 46%
Williams Y 41 5.46 54%
Green RB 40 5.45 53%
Butt TE/WR 39 4.69 49%
Kerridge FB/RB 23 4.52 43%
Dileo WR 10 9.00 20%
Smith RB 9 5.22 78%
Hayes RB 8 5.63 13%
Chesson WR 7 5.00 29%
Paskorz TE 6 5.33 67%
Houma FB/TE 4 4.50 100%
(Total) n/a 60 5.43 48%

From a Borgesian perspective, the tight ends are in even worse shape. Funchess became a receiver because despite all that size he's not much of a blocker. That leaves his classmate A.J. Williams at the top of the depth chart despite the fact that he's not been a very good blocker, and his threat as a passing target fizzles out about three yards downfield. They've got Jake Butt, who like Funchess is more of a receiver at this stage in his career. And just so they have another body there, positional vagaband Jordan Paskorz has been getting a few drives here and there; after him it's burning a redshirt and air.

It would make sense, then, for the receivers to pick up the slack. If you can't block a guy with Williams, you can get that same block by putting a receiver far away from the play, so long as you threaten to go out there if a defender doesn't follow. But there's another problem with the receivers: Gallon is great but tiny, Funchess is great but still raw. Chesson is coming along. Dileo is himself.

And…? The coaches seem to have put every other receiver on the shelf: they've played Jeremy Jackson a lot and gotten little returns. Joe Reynolds seems to be not an option. So every time they go 4-wide, effectively the whole depth chart is out there. Exhaust those guys and the passing game goes away. Or at least this is the best reason I can imagine.

I'm not sure it's a good reason. It seems to me that they're pretty effective the more they spread 'em out, because you're essentially replacing a mediocre-to-bad FB or TE with a slot receiver who is pretty good at that job.

Did You See Dileo's Number in that Chart?

I spent much of yesterday and all night last night charting the personnel moves during last Saturday's game to be able to pull those numbers. The whole thing is here:

There's no way I can go back and do the whole season, unless Brian has a secret code hidden in the UFRs or something. Anyway: 9 YPA when Dileo is out there, and 4.5 to 5.5 when he's not. Here's some other things I found in there.

[After the Jump: What We've Learned]

Hokepoints is On Notice

Hokepoints is On Notice

Submitted by Seth on November 12th, 2013 at 10:51 AM


Incompetence on a level that Michigan unlocked against Michigan State and Nebraska cannot be achieved by one man or even one team (MSU is good at defense, and hey, Nebraska did some good things). There's still the possibility that Borges and his charges  are sabotaging themselves, but since that's impossible to prove let's permit that they do in fact wish to progress the ball forward, and parse out how much responsibility lies in the various inadvertent factors.

I thought I'd take us back through a timeline of the events that led to the state of the offensive roster, picking up blame on the way.

I wish we could blame this whole thing on the old coach. Wouldn't it be the most ironic thing if the great guru of offense was really at fault for Michigan's offensive woes? There are really three things I think we can lay at his feet, in order of importance:

  1. Hired DCs he couldn't work with and made them run defenses they didn't understand, thus dooming Michigan to another coaching transition.
  2. Recruited just one OL in the 2010 class.
  3. Didn't recruit a single tight end or fullback, nor a running back who can block except Smith, whom he didn't redshirt.
    Michigan's 2009-2011 tight end recruits.

Tight End, Briefly

We've had #1 out, and #3 is debatable: Y U NO RECRUIT THE BREAD AND BUTTER OF BORGES'S OFFENSE, GUY WHO INVENTED THE OFFENSE THAT MADE BORGES'S OFFENSE OBSOLETE? I can't blame him for skipping fullbacks or running backs who can block since he had a track record of developing fullbacks from the walk-on program, while his backs, e.g. Toussaint, were recruited to operate in space. I wish he'd redshirted Vincent Smith, or gotten a medical for him.

But I do think he could have seen the need for tight ends even before the abilities of Koger and Webb opened his eyes to that. Rodriguez ignored the position for two years, and when he started looking again it was for the 2011 class that was devastated by Rosenberg and The Process: Hoke and Borges went on the hunt for last-minute TEs in 2011 and came back with Chris Barnett, a vagabond of the type that Michigan typically stays away from. Barnett transferred almost right away; I put that on having just a few weeks.

Tight end is another position that typically requires a lot of development, but Michigan knew by mid-2011 that its 2013 starters would be, at most, true sophomores, and knew a year later that neither of their 2012 recruits were much for blocking. At this point any sane human would not have made the ability of their tight ends to block a key component of their offense.

Offensive Line, Longly

Rodriguez put all of his eggs in the 2011 OL recruiting basket, and Michigan ended up with all their eggs in a project recruit's basket.

As for the OL, the failure to recruit just one offensive lineman in 2010 is the centerpiece of modern bitching. Is that fair? Here's a line from Brian in Mike Schofield's recruiting post, dated June 2009:

"Michigan didn't need a huge offensive line class one year after taking six big uglies and graduating zero, but you never want fewer than three and you always want quality."

So yes it is established MGoPrecedent that fewer than three OL in a class no matter how much meat you have stacked for the meat god is not cutting it.

Offensive line recruiting happens a bit earlier than most other positions. Since they're unlikely to be starting for several years (even redshirt freshmen are pretty rare) OL recruits rightly look for coaching stability more than early opportunity. The 2009 class was narrowing down their lists before the 2008 season, and so on. With that said here's a timeline of Michigan offensive line recruiting:

2009 (recruited in early 2008): Tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, and guard Quinton Washington. This despite a huge/mixed haul from 2008, when RR added Barnum and Omameh to Carr's class of O'Neill, Mealer, Wermers and Khoury. For the record O'Neill left the team in June 2009, and Wermers was gone in July (though his World of Warcraft account was presumably active), so the coaches wouldn't have adjusted to either of those departures at that time. Meat for 2013 Meat God: three redshirt seniors, one a potential Jake Long 2.0, can't do more because there's still six guys from the previous class.

[Fail leaps atop fail, after the jump]

This Week's Obsession: The Borges Leap

This Week's Obsession: The Borges Leap

Submitted by Seth on September 25th, 2013 at 11:26 AM

10 -Fuller - Borges4

Oh boy.

Our roundtable's obsession this bye: what to do if you're Borges. The cast:

Scott Bakula as Brian Cook, a quantum physicist who becomes trapped on the internet following an experiment with trying to understand zone stretch plays.

Dean Stockwell as Seth Fisher, a cavalier, cigar-smoking hologram sidekick who's always playing with his doohicky smartphone thing.

Deb Pratt as Mathlete, a super hybrid computer that runs Project Points Above Normal.

Dennis Wolfberg as Heiko, a programmer and doctor described as short and annoying.

Having Dileo in the slot blocks a SAM more effectively than asking Funchess to block that guy. [Upchurch]

Okay I'm out of Quantum Leap characters. Next person to respond gets to be the chimpanzee. That question:

By an extraordinary string of events that in no way represents unauthorized usage of the MGoBlog credit card, I have managed to procure for us one (1) trip via the Quantum Leap machine into the mind of Al Borges. We may send just one person--totally undetected--to control the mind of Borges from now until Minnesota kickoff, and must use it to fix Michigan's offense. Remember, once you are out of his head Borges takes over again. What would you do, implement, change, practice, and rep if this was you?

 Heiko: Well I actually succeeded in doing this and it resulted in the last two weeks so I am staying away now.

[After the jump: Brian's 8-step program.]

Preview 2013: Tight End And Friends

Preview 2013: Tight End And Friends

Submitted by Brian on August 27th, 2013 at 1:35 PM

Previously: Podcast 5.0, The Story, Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver.


I'll miss you, #19.

Depth Chart

FB Yr. U-back Yr. Tight End Yr. Flex Yr.
Joe Kerridge So.* Khalid Hill Fr. AJ Williams So. Devin Funchess So.
Sione Houma So. Wyatt Shallman Fr. Jordan Paskorz Jr.* Jake Butt Fr.
Thomas Rawls Jr.     -- -- -- --

Al Borges necessitates a change in season preview strategies. Previously folded into the wide receiver section, tight ends and close relatives have become so prevalent and diverse that they demand their own post and elaborate delineation of responsibilities. I have also snatched the fullbacks away from the tailback section to give a full spectrum of guys who aren't tailbacks or receivers who will see the field for Michigan this fall.

Your author's attempt to distill all the things he's heard about the guys listed above and put them into categories:

  • FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head runs into linebackers, gets two carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley.
  • U-BACK: A "move" tight end that motions all about, rarely lines up on the actual line of scrimmage, often goes from fullback to a flared spot or vice versa, and operates as more of a receiver than the fullback. Must be a credible threat to LBs; ends career with 40 catches. See: Aaron Shea.
  • TIGHT END: Larger that the U-back, the tight end is a tight end who is actually tight to the end of the line. He comes out, lines up next to a tackle, helps him win blocks, and clobberates linebackers at the second level. He goes out into patterns as well, and may end his career with 40 catches himself. See: Tyler Ecker.
  • FLEX: Sort of like the U-back in that he rarely lines up on the line of scrimmage itself, but if he motions away from his spot near the line, it's not to fullback but wide receiver. They get a billion catches and break Jim Mandich's record eventually. See: Devin Funchess is the only flex guy I can think of recently.

Complicating matters is the fact that many of the players listed above bleed into other positions: Houma, Rawls, and Shallman could be tailback-ish, Funchess and Butt will have their share of time with their hand in the dirt, tight to the end, and may even motion to fullback on occasion. In a Borges offense, things are not as they appear!

/tosses smoke bomb



Fullback is a spot where walk-ons are prevalent; Dudley mentioned above was both a walk-on and Michigan's finest linebacker eraser in the past 20 years, with only Chris Floyd offering competition. This year is no exception, as JOE KERRIDGE eased past converted tailback Stephen Hopkins last year to acquire a strong hold on the job. Judging from one of the sudden legion of shirtless photos players put on Instagram, if you encounter Joe Kerridge in the wild you should walk away slowly and hope you don't smell like salmon:


L to R: Sione Houma, Bobby Henderson, Joe Kerridge.


That plus the whole returning-starter bit should see Kerridge retain his role as Michigan's first choice when something absolutely has to die. In year one he was a little tentative, as you might expect, and there were a number of plays on which I though he was not reacting to the situation in front of him quickly enough to make an effective block. I'm still not clear on whether some of the suboptimal blocking on spread plays was because Michigan wasn't using newfangled arc blocking (ie: using your fullback or tight end to take out an exchanging linebacker and give your edge guy the edge) or because a freshman wasn't executing, but with the move away from spread elements, the job will be simpler: see man, make man wish he had taken up lawn darts. 

Kerridge has a ton of potential. When he makes solid contact with guys, you can hear football:

That linebacker set up outside, Toussaint cut outside, and all the LB could do was fall over. He can bring the pain.

Kerridge had his inconsistencies. After three consecutive +3 games and a monster +6.5 against Illinois

And Kerridge is racking up big numbers.

I may be giving him too much credit for standing up linebackers but to my eyes he really appears to be whacking them and providing the impetus for an improved under center run game. Those isos and such are

…he fell off into a bunch of games where he hung around 1 point. A large part of that was the Gardner transition; he also lost some playing time to Stephen Hopkins, who came back from injury and was given a shot to displace Kerridge. Kerridge did whiff some blocks. He got smoked for a sack in the bowl game, for one. And this inverted veer against State is something an experienced guy might decide to block the end on because otherwise there's no one else he can hit.

For a redshirt freshman it was a promising season. In year two the goal is to cut his failure rate in half and catch five passes. He'll be an interesting guy to watch in UFR. If Michigan really commits to MANBALL he could see some big numbers.

[After THE JUMP: Funchess, Williams, U-backs, we've got it all. Except upperclassmen.]

Hokepoints: Fifty Shades of Shea

Hokepoints: Fifty Shades of Shea

Submitted by Seth on August 20th, 2013 at 11:18 AM


In this week's podcast Brian alluded again to his spectrum of blocky-hitty to catchy-outie or whatever. Most of this has been touched on before but I thought I might delve a little further into the Fullback/U-back/Tight end descriptors and what Borges means to do with his shiny new knife set.

The positions

The coaches call them fullback (Kerridge and Houma), U-back (Shallman and Hill) and Y-Tight End (Funchess, Williams, Butt and Paskorz). By now you ought to be familiar with all of them but just in case:

  • Fullback: lines up in the backfield in a position to receive a handoff; may be split, offset, or inline. Kerridge is your pure blocker type; he'll wander out to be a pass option out of the backfield but I've yet to see him run a route more than a few yards from the L.O.S. Houma is supposed to be more of a combo blocker-runner; his quick burst of acceleration and compact body force defenses to respect the threat of a quick dive from him.
  • U-back: lines up in the backfield but nearer to the edge of the line, usually outside the tackle opposite the Y-tight end. May also line up as an end (on the line) if the receiver to his side is not on it. This position really encompasses anybody between pure fullback and pure tight end. Wyatt Shallman is the more fullbackian as he's more of a running threat than a pass-catching option, though his size makes him a strong edge blocker. Khalid Hill is an interesting guy for the U since he's supposed to be an accomplished pass catcher and route runner, yet can still lay fullback-like blocks.
  • Y-Tight End: lines up on the line (and thus can't move before snap) next to the tackle. A guy whose skills lean receiver may "FLEX" out, which is a fancy way of saying he's playing possession slot receiver. A.J. Williams and to a lesser extent Jordan Paskorz represent the "more like another offensive tackle who may go out and catch something sometimes" end of the Y spectrum, while Funchess and Butt are both on the "more like another receiver who may block something sometimes" extreme. Getting production from this spot this year hinges on getting somebody to get adequate at the part he's not great at, the most likely candidate being Funchess's blocking.

[Jump for discussion and guys and whatnots]

Michigan Musenesday is an End in Motion

Michigan Musenesday is an End in Motion

Submitted by Seth on April 11th, 2012 at 8:50 AM

perry-great_0Ecker - NW923c86976d2148b27cf9e3bda1bce767-getty-124586777

Little boxes on the grid-iron, little boxes made of football players, little boxes for positions, little boxes some the same. There's a tall one and a short one and strong one and speedy one and they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all seem much the same.

Football positions are things that fans learn very young. Everyone knows who the quarterback and running back and linebackers etc. are. But then coaches start talking, and like any expert they designedly do so with such abstruse and recondite specificity as to elicit from the lay audience a greater appreciation for the mysteries of the speaker’s craft and complexities of Oxford-Dictionarythe imbroglio of disagreements wherein than said audience might have been provisioned in elucidation—much like a writer who uses lots of SAT words to say "they’re being pretentious." Not that our coaches do this; Hoke’s staff is remarkably candid as coaches go.

Anyhoo, as with the penultimate sentence of the previous paragraph, more obscure lexemes, when understood, can communicate greater subtleties as well as pedantry. So that you too can cognize the nuances, or just sound like an insufferable know-it-all during the Spring Game (that’s what you're here for anyway right?), hither a glossary of Michigan’s various names, past and present, for eligible receivers; would that the Oxford was so concise.

Football allows four players of any type in the backfield ("backs")  plus the two guys lined up on the extreme edges of the line ("ends") to be eligible receivers. A QB, RB, TB, HB, TB, WB, SB, FB, UB, YB, FL, Z, SR, or R is technically a back, while a TE, SE, X and Y are ends.

Quarterback (QB): Is an effin quarterback. Mr. Lewan would you kindly show the audience what this look li…


Eric Upchurch

Ah. The first quarterback at Michigan was on Team 2 (1880): Edmund Barmore, though Elnathan Hathaway played some QB as well. Why "quarter?" When the game was young they played a lot like rugby, with rushers and a goalkeeper and innings and such. The recognizable part of this was that the rushers (blockers) were meant to plow the way forward, and a couple of ballcarriers stood half-way back from that. When the line of scrimmage and downs were established teams lined up in a diamond behind the line with a quarterback, two half-backs, and a full-back. Here's Stanford doing something like that under Harbaugh if you can imagine Luck is lining up in front of the 40 yard line:


The story is more complicated and took half a century but if you look at this you can see why the quarterback got the ball first. Now imagine the two halfbacks are receiving a lot of lateral handoffs and speeding for the edges more often, while the guy all the way back is set to plow straight forward.

Running Back (RB) is Michigan’s current preferred term for the traditional (first appeared in 1880) Halfback (HB), though RBs can often include fullbacks, e.g. Running Backs Coach Fred Jackson. Scatback or Powerback are unofficial labels that refer to skillsets, i.e. backs who, respectively, might run around or through attempted tackles. Tailback (TB) is slowly becoming an anachronism which seems to have made it into Michigan’s lexicon with Bo’s arrival and left shortly after the 1997 season; Manus Edwards in 1998 is the last player to be listed as "TB" in the Bentley database. That database phased out Halfback in the '60s.

Superback (SB) generally means an RB/WR hybrid. Rodriguez threw it around in 2009 to essentially mean Carlos Brown when Brandon Minor was in there too. It makes more sense the way Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern uses it to mean an RB who can split out to be a receiver, thus creating matchup problems for defensive coaches who prefer to single-wing-offensematch personnel (one LB per backfield member, one DB per receiver). All-Purpose Back is something I think Rivals.com made up.

Fullback (FB) is now the misnomered blocking back.

An H-Back is a fullback/tight end hybrid. An H-Back will line up behind or outside a tackle and usually goes in motion before the snap. A Wingback (WB)—on the far right of the pic at right—is another anachronism from when Single-Wing and Wing-T formations ruled the game and passing was for communists and differs from the H- in that he's lining up outside the ends. Michigan has WBs listed from '69 through '79. This differs from an H-Back in that he lines up outside the tight end—this is Pop Warner-style with no receivers remember. An A-Back is another term for this.

Hoke's staff has been recruiting a position they call the U Tight End or more often just "U" which is almost indistinguishable from H- or A-Backs except that it's much closer to a tight end in the hybridization scale. Calling him an "end" is a misnomer because he's not on the line, therefore he's not any kind of end.


Smart Football, also linked on 11W's recent "Let's Bubble" article. I'm using it here to show how XYZ aren't always XYZ and what a 'U' is. Irony not lost.

You may remember the U from such Minnesota tight ends as those other Minnesota tight ends who were not Ben Utrecht or Matt Spaeth. Michigan did it too with Massaquoi and Ecker (right: from MGoBlue.com file, 2004). Nebraska has a U under Bo Pelini (Ben Cotton last year, Mike McNeill before) which he calls "The Adjuster" Ecker - NWbecause he can be a FB, TE, or WR of the converted quarterback variety. Gruden calls this the "joker." In the play that had Greg Mattison cackling maniacally during the latest Spring Scrimmage overreaction you can see Ricardo Miller lined up as a U, which may be a nod toward more WR alleles this year, but Khalid Hill, a fullback-ian recruit, was offered at the 'U' and A.J. Williams came in as one too so Miller is not the coaches' ideal there.

Also Syracuse used this position under Doug Marrone, which I only know this from scouring 'Cuse articles during various GERG-related panics. The thing about the U is you don't know where he'll line up (backfield or as a true TE) until after he breaks from the huddle, so it's kind of a personnel gimmick.

Tight End (TE) is normally an end who lines up flush with the tackles. They used to be just called "ends" before a distinction needed to be made between them and wide receivers; the last ends on Michigan's rosters—OEs to the Bump Elliott era—were phased out in the middle of the 1960s. To Hoke the typical tight end spot is the Y. This is where I would expect Ricardo Miller to line up, and where The Funchess and other more receiverish TEs will end up, since he has a clearer release to receive, and because he can line up flush or as a receiver (ends can't move before the snap).

That label comes from receiver nomenclature: X, Y, and Z. The letters come from reading across the formation most typical when receivers began needing special designations:


Wide Receivers (WRs) are backs and ends lined up outside the box. Having the Y move to the right turns him into the slot receiver. Having him split all the way out makes him a wide receiver. He also would then be outside the Z and screw this up, but NFL players seem to be able to keep straight who's who:923c86976d2148b27cf9e3bda1bce767-getty-124586777

"Some teams, mostly in collegiate and high school football, use route trees and route numbers for play calls. So you might hear a play such as "Spread right, Z zoom, 821 H-swing on two." Knowing what you know now, the play call should make a lot more sense. Spread right is the alignment, Z zoom is the motion, 821 are the pass routes in the order of "XYZ." So X runs an 8, Y runs a 2, and Z runs a 1. H-swing tells you what the H man runs (the running back or often the "H" back in two tight end sets) out of the backfield."

It seems Y and Z don't care who lines up outside; Z is the one that has to line up at least a yard off the line of scrimmage and who's counted as a back. If you turn the fullback into a slot receiver on the other side or bunch him up or whatever, that receiver is the R.

Split End (SE) is the X and was where you'd normally put the 'No. 1' receiver. The nomenclature appeared on Michigan rosters with Bo and lasted a year longer than his career; Greg McMurtry was one of the last listed starters at "SE" in Bentley, although my 2003 program has Braylon as it. Michigan didn't really have a Braylon or McMurtry last year so this fell to Roundtree. As an end the X needs to get out of bump coverage but doesn't go in motion. The Z last year was mostly Junior Hemingway. This is the Flanker (FL) position, and is typically the Jason Avant to the SE's Braylon. That's what Roundtree means by doing more movement before the play; he's kind of the possession guy now; he has moved from an end position to technically a back.

This is where it gets confusing, because the Flanker or the Y or the R can both be the Slot Receiver (SR) or Slot Back. This is because the slot comes from spread formations which differentiate from slot and wide. The slot refers to the area on either side of the line about mid-way between the wide receiver and the tackles. If the FL is inside the Y, he's the slot. If the Z is inside, he's the slot. SR as an official roster position came and went exactly as quickly as Rich Rod did; the leftover guys like Gallon and Dileo are now, with the rest of the receivers, listed as WR.

As Borges, a West Coast guy, well knows, where the slot lines up matters much to the receiver in his area, since they will run routes off of each other to flood a zone or clog the lane for man defenders.

Let's Overreact To: Spring Scrimmage #2

Let's Overreact To: Spring Scrimmage #2

Submitted by Brian on April 2nd, 2012 at 10:19 AM

Via MGoVideo:

The king of tight camera angles was really feeling it this time around, so we don't get a whole lot of detail, but it's April. Events are not thick on the ground.

Play 1: Denard fires a TE out to Brandon Moore, immediate tackle by Kenny Demens and Jake Ryan. Ricardo Miller comes into the frame late: 2TE set from the shotgun, or Miller's splitting his time between TE and WR.

Play 2: What looks like an inside zone from the shotgun breaks big. Ryan is coming around the backside and gets butt-blocked by Lewan, and that's all she wrote. Where is the SDE?

Play 3: Similar but Toussaint hits his gap closer to the frontside between Omameh and Barnum. Black gets handled one-on-one by Barnum and Toussaint jukes a filling safety I can't identify to dance into the endzone. I think that was probably Marvin Robinson since he was not a white guy and Gordon comes into the frame at the end of the play. Bolden and Talbott are also in with what seems like the first unit.

Play 4: Denard zips a deep slant just over the outstretched hand of Brennen Beyer that Jeremy Gallon snags impressively:


That's Countess to the left. He's concentrating on the interception instead of the tackle and gives up a bunch of YAC as a result.

Play 5: Marvin Robinson clubs a quick TE out for little gain. Second unit there: Ringer and Mike Jones are on the field.

Play 6: More 2-on-2s action as an inside zone to Rawls is well defended on the front side; Rawls cuts back behind Quinton Washington for a big gain. Washington is a three-tech next to NT Ash, so it's not really his fault. Where is the WDE?

Play 7: Denard under center. Iso handoff to Toussaint goes nowhere as Ryan makes a nice play. Campbell beat Barnum and forced Toussaint behind the A-gap where Hopkins was leading into; Morgan thumped the FB at the LOS. Bolden now running with the first team. probably because this is after Demens did this:


He took the opportunity to claim he'd be out for the season as an April Fools joke before revising that down to a few weeks and then a couple days.

Play 8: Vincent Smith power from under center goes nowhere. Bolden ends up tackling near the LOS. He does not bring his feet, causing someone to cry out "bring your feet!"

Play 9: Gardner launches a deep fly to Gallon; Countess is all over it, knocking it away.

Play 10: Under center power is pretty much stuffed until Ryan can't quite make a tackle on Toussaint as he breaks outside containment. He did a good enough job of stringing him out and slowing him down that Countess and other members can rally and hold it down. Michigan still can't run power from under center.

It is possible that Toussaint had a decent gain if he slammed it up in the hole.

Play 11: Denard sits in the pocket, getting no pressure, then runs around being all fast and stuff.

Play 12: Gardner waggle does not meet pressure on the edge. Gardner lofts a nice touch pass over Frank Clark to walk-on former DE Chris Eddins.

Interlude: Man, is Elliot Mealer's forehead red.


Also he has a great mountain man beard going on. Some potential here for Mealer to be Mike Hart's Pet Viking down the road.

Play 13: Another under center run should be consumed until Toussaint makes it into a decent gain. Toussaint has to dodge Beyer in the backfield. Campbell is stunting behind this and overruns the play a little bit; he's got help to the frontside and lets Fitz behind him. He gets enough of Toussaint to put him to the ground but not before the play gets six or seven.

Play 14: Denard hangs in the pocket and zings it to Gallon; ball is well behind him and Gallon has to make a moderately difficult catch. I don't think this is that bad of a throw—at the coaches' clinic Borges said he wants his QBs to hold the receiver up when throwing against zone, which this is. He doesn't want the QB to lead the WR into a defender. So this is somewhat intentional.

Talbott still out there with the first team.

Play 15: Another TE out, this one from Gardner to Jordan Paskorz and a bit deeper. Jarrod Wilson appears for the first time.

Play 16: Denard zings a TE in to Moore for a first down. Gordon tackles.

Play 17: Taylor Lewan blocks Ryan. We don't see the ball.

Play 18: Unidentifiable leaping guy (probably Ryan or Beyer) dissuades Denard from throwing the throwback screen. Instead he takes off and is fast and stuff.


Any takeaways here? It feels like the offensive line depth chart is approaching ink: Barnum has won the center job and Mealer is the guy at left guard. We haven't seen a snap that would suggest otherwise yet. Things can change when the cavalry arrives in fall; for now it looks like the veterans have the edge.

There are a lot of plays featuring tight ends, which is kind of odd since everyone's claiming their tight ends are a major issue and won't feature much during the year. Eddins, Moore, and Paskorz all feature. This may be the Johnny Sears move where you promote the weakest link on the team in an effort to keep spirits buoyed.

Other bits: Bolden passed Mike Jones the minute he showed up. Terrence Talbott could be a viable option at corner and may be pressing for some time. Also he has six arms and an FTL drive. /BOOM FredJackson'd. Campbell isn't getting blown up by Barnum. They've got some edge issues. Big ones, issues where you wonder if they weren't playing with ten guys on the field.

Denard is fast. Their under center running game is still poor. Jeremy Gallon is making some nice downfield catches, and Toussaint is on another level from Rawls and Smith. You can see the difference immediately in these tight-frame closeups.