HOEGLAW. Richard Hoeg has many interests. None of them include criminal law or horses, which I have been asked to make explicitly clear for SEO purposes. One of them is talkin' about stuff, including video games and Star Wars; he's put together a Youtube channel for his various and sundry podcast appearances.
TOO MANY COOKS [Bryan Fuller]
Today's hot topic is a statement from President in waiting Grant Newsome on last year's offense:
The offensive line? Players talked about how much new position coach Ed Warinner made simplifications this spring, mainly because he had no other choice. Grant Newsome told reporters Tuesday that Warinner stripped down the complex language and overall concept because it was overwhelming.
"He said he was even confused by the amount of terminology and different plays we had in the playbook," Newsome said.
The internet's talked a lot about the excessive complexity of Michigan's offense in the aftermath, and I feel like I have to interject. Michigan's OSU gameplan wins the game if it doesn't draw the worst QB performance in living memory. Michigan's ability to tweak and screw with people's heads has been a trademark of Harbaugh's best offenses. It can and should be Michigan's approaching going forward for the same reason RichRod shouldn't have run a pro-style offense in his first year in Ann Arbor.
I'd like to separate out the offensive approach in general from a particular problem on the offensive line that Newsome highlights above. Michigan's 2017 OL, and by extension the team, suffered from a terminal case of…
Borges disease is when you try to do everything without doing one thing well and everything falls apart in a morass of beautiful-on-paper plays that are executed with the balletic grace of a drunken donkey crashing his ex-wife's wedding.
Borges's special power was containing all bad-idea multitudes within himself. Michigan created their own version of this by importing former Indiana and RichRod OL coach Greg Frey for a single disastrous year. This wasn't Frey's fault; he remains a well-regarded OL coach and jumped to his alma mater FSU before a serious inquest could result. Because Frey's hire was a half-measure on Harbaugh's part, it blew up in his face.
Publicly, Michigan split OL duties between Frey and a still-extant Drevno, handing Frey the tackles and TEs while Drevno coached the interior line. I'm not sure that's the way it actually worked, because Michigan went from a power-based run offense in Harbaugh's first two years to an inside zone team with some power sprinkled in. Then they went to a 50/50 split, and finally they returned zone to an occasional constraint play, because they were immensely bad at running zone.
So not only did Michigan spend a bunch of time trying to get good at IZ and burn a bunch of snaps grabbing two yards a pop, they retarded their growth as the mashing power team their personnel certainly pointed to. Post-MSU UFR, which was in the 50-50 phase:
Michigan ran 11 zone plays versus 14 gap-blocked plays. (FB dives, crack sweeps, and the reverse are excluded from this analysis.) That is a significant shift away from zone. That still remains a part of the playbook, obviously... but a crappy one. Those 11 plays gained just 25 yards. Michigan suuuucks at zone.
There were costs to the returning diversity. Michigan had a couple of plays on which it looked like someone busted an assignment. Onwenu appeared to be running a trap on a play that was not a trap, and either Hill or McKeon busted on this Isaac TFL. Michigan blocks a big cavern in the middle that has an unblocked LB, and then Hill runs outside. Isaac follows him, because follow your fullback:
I gave that to Hill but that could be what he's supposed to do; in that case McKeon needs to be doubling on Cole's guy and leaving the force player for Hill. YMMV. Either way it's a mental mistake that turns a promising play into a TFL.
When Michigan focused on becoming the mashing team they were always supposed to be, the results were good. Despite wasting a bunch of time, their S&P+ breakdown stats paint the picture of a bunch of maulers:
- Power success rate: 7th
- Adjusted line yards: 20th
- Rushing explosiveness: 29th
- Overall rushing S&P+: 14th
A #47 stuff rate, #79 success rate, and #90 opportunity rate look like a lot of missed assignments in that context, missed assignments created by Michigan's failed attempt to adopt Frey's approach on the ground.
That is dysfunction. Michigan masked it fairly well by pushing the abort button halfway through the season and having a couple good running backs and some Large Adult Sons. But since those Large Adult Sons came coupled with serious pass protection issues, there was no Plan B for the other half of the offense.
There the disconnect between Drevno and Frey was easily seen every time Michigan failed to pick up a stunt, which was about every other stunt. Michigan looked like the worst-coached offensive line in the country last year. I started wondering if Patrick Kugler's inability to get on the field until his redshirt senior year was because he couldn't make a line call to save his life. And here's where the Newsome quote comes in. Michigan clearly couldn't execute their pass protection system.
An outsider can't know whether that's because two different guys were teaching it, or it was an unholy combination of two different approaches, or it was just plain bad because Drevno is bad and should feel bad. But it all goes back to Michigan importing an offensive coordinator (Pep Hamilton) and an OL coach without telling the guy who thought he was both to hit the bricks.
Message boards had it last night, Brandon Justice reported it earlier this morning, Sam was talking about it, and now Bruce Feldman has SOURCES:
SOURCES: OC Tim Drevno is stepping down at #Michigan. The Wolverine Lounge first reported the news.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) February 23, 2018
…so there’s enough smoke that we should probably report the fire. Michigan’s embattled offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, by hook or by crook, appears to be leaving the program.
We had high hopes for Harbaugh’s longtime sidekick due to the regular asskickings Drevno’s wards handed out at Stanford, and there was a brief moment last year when it looked like the OL was growing into a similarly ferocious meat grinder.
Alas, nobody’s pass protection has significantly improved in three seasons, and a lot of Michigan’s problems last year and today go back to offensive tackle recruiting, which also goes back to Drevno. He was looking increasingly superfluous last year when Michigan brought in another offensive coordinator type in Pep Hamilton and another offensive line coach type in Greg Frey. With Harbaugh calling the plays, Pep still around, yet another OC type Jim McElwain joining the staff, and OL development guru Ed Warinner with the team in some capacity, “What precisely do you do here?” was slated to remain a valid question.
Jim said this morning that Cesar [Ruiz] and Mike [Onwenu] might play together. How would that work?
“Well, you know Mike is working through some things, his back… gosh, there’s three more days of practice left so we’ll kind of see how it all shakes down and like every day, we’ll roll the balls out and see who the best guys are and the best guy for us to win. Could both share time. We’ll just see as we go. Still too early to tell.”
Even if Mike’s healthy, do you feel like Cesar’s one of your best five right now?
“Cesar does a nice job. His athleticism, his initial quickness, the way he can recover on a block. I mean, both of them bring great things to the party, but to say he’s one of the best five right now, that’s just a little too early to tell just because of where we are. He’s played two games. Did a nice job in there. There’s things that all of them need to work on, just as Cesar needs to work on some things, but he’s doing a good job.”
Enough to make you think about it, though?
“Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, you think about it. Every day you’re thinking about, hey, how can I change this lineup, how can I make it better? Every day is a day in here is—you want to make sure you’re working, that you’re unsettled. You don’t want to become content. Content becomes laziness, and that’s not a good thing, is it?”
Why are you looking at me?
“I’m not. My wife sometimes says that: ‘This isn’t the Marriott, pick up your stuff around here.’”
[After THE JUMP: scouting Wisconsin’s defense, why Drevno went back to coaching from the field, where Ruiz and Bredeson won’t play, and more evidence Drevno should always listen to his wife]
Can you assess Brandon Peters’ game and did he do enough to earn another start?
“He really acquitted himself well. Moved the football team. Played very, very well. Yeah, he did a lot and from the first time he went in there, just feeling the deep zone and feeling the linebackers drop and taking that extra half second to take a breath and hit the checkdown just was good ball. He was good.”
Brandon himself said his biggest advancement since fall camp was communication. How much has he addressed the things you talked about before the season?
“He’s made big strides. Really good in that area. It’s been—and was good out there today.”
What did you see on the touchdown pass to Chris Evans and—
“I thought Chris made a heck of a catch on it. Thought Brandon saw it well. Good protection, and Brandon put it… you know, a little short, but Chris adjusted well to the ball and made a nice catch.”
And then the next time out he had a two-minute drill. What impressed you most about Brandon’s game today?
“Today? Well, the things I talked about earlier. I mean, just that he was playing the position. He was playing good ball. Two-minute drill, I think that’s definitely… that’s a real bright spot to go in there—what was it, his second drive, I think, and get organized and get our team organized in the two-minute drill on the field. That’s something a quarterback doesn’t usually have happen to him on his second drive of playing football but I think it went really well for him, and that was great to see.”
[After THE JUMP: questions about special teahaha just kidding it’s more stuff about Peters]
How much improvement did you see from your guys up front in that Indiana game?
“I saw a lot of improvement. It was good. We still need to play better offensively and the guys up front, but when you rush for 271 yards there’s a lot of positivity. Guys are moving guys off the ball and protection was better, so it was a step forward as we prepare against Penn State this week.”
How much improvement have you seen out of Mike Onwenu?
“A lot, a lot of improvement. You can see that he’s moving his feet, he’s understanding it, he’s finishing. He could finish a little bit better, like all of them can, everybody on the offense. But you can see it. Light bulb’s going on, which is neat. He’s playing good football—really good football.”
How did Juwann Bushell-Beatty do in his first full contest?
“Juwann did a nice job. He competed well. There’s some thing we’ve got to clean up but he did a nice job for his first start here. He had a false start there at one point in time in the game but for the most part his protection was good. We’ve just got to clean up some of the run blocking things, but it was real positive.”
[After THE JUMP: Tim Drevno, an American Legion baseball field, a water pump, and a metaphor for the offense]
10/7/2017 – Michigan 10, Michigan State 14 – 4-1, 1-1 Big Ten
a metaphor for somethin' [Bryan Fuller]
Don Brown is in one of those Progressive commercials where everything gradually turns white, except in his case everything is gradually turning back into Boston College. Someone walks by with a bunch of hockey sticks. Bill Simmons is on the television again. He swears he overhears a conversation about pahking the cah. Maroon filters into his peripheral vision.
On Wednesday at three fifteen PM there is going to be a knock on the door. Steve Addazio is going to walk in and sit down. Brown will summon all his willpower not to jam the nearest pen through his own eyesocket, to claw the power of sight from his face and evaporate from the world of men.
Jay Harbaugh, seated, will wonder if the slight twitch under Brown's eye means anything or if it's just something that happens to men of a certain age. He will not say something about "guys being dudes," and will never know how close he—how close all of us—came to Total Mustache Annihilation. He will tell Brown about Terrace House, a Japanese version of the Real World where everyone is very nice and considerate of each other's feelings.
Thus disabused of the Addazio specter, Brown will resume destroying all that opposes him until the inevitable knife in the back. He tries not to think of Sisyphus, and fails.
Michigan's main problem on offense is that they are bad at it. This is not a good problem. "Our right tackle sucks" is something you might be able to address. "Almost everyone is not good at football right now" leads to situations like Saturday. I brought up the Law Of Large Percentages Multiplied A Lot, which is something I just made up right now, in a brief twitter conversation with a reporter who wanted people to know one weird thing about Oklahoma football:
This is the 7th straight season Oklahoma has lost a game in which it was a double-digit favorite. Seventh.
— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) October 7, 2017
That is a weird thing, but it's not as weird as it sounds. If OU was a 10 point favorite in eight games they'd get through unscathed just 12% of the time*. If they were a 14 point favorite they get up to 27%. You have to get up to 17.5—a 93.7% shot at victory!—before Hypothetical OU even hits 50%. The Law Of Large Percentages Multiplied A Lot is that even big ones fall off faster than you'd think.
Michigan's offense has 6-7-8 guys who have to execute on any particular play for it to be a success, and... let's just say many of them are not three-score favorites to do so on any particular play. They are an example of The Law Of Large Percentages And Some Quite Small Ones Multiplied A Lot. The results can be seen in the box score, or the haunted look on the face of a man who replaced ten starters and still has the #3 defense in the country.
And so today the Must brigade is out. "Must" is the worst word in sportswriting for a lot of reasons. Foremost among them is that whatever follows "must" is something so blindingly obvious Marcelo Balboa is probably talking about a replay of it as we speak. He must catch that ball. He must YES WE KNOW I HAVE EYES, AT LEAST FOR NOW, I'M CONSIDERING A CHANGE IN THAT DEPARTMENT, THANK YOU.
I spent most of the weekend trying and failing to get this column done because I couldn't wade into any commentary on the game that wasn't furious and over the top, and immediately made me want to go do something else. Weird shit happens in college football, especially when you're playing your backup QB, and there's a brief second-half monsoon, and on top of that you turn the ball over five times. Various dirt stupid people are now flogging a "Harbaugh is 1-4 versus rivals" thing as if that encapsulates the whole of his tenure, or even his career. Yeah, Michigan had the dumb thing happen on the punt and lost by a literal inch in Columbus last year. If you're ascribing that to something other than chance I cannot help you.
Whatever Harbaugh MUST do he's probably already doing. He has a track record, and he'll either follow that up with more of the same or not. We're oddly locked in: few coaches trying to establish themselves at a new school come with the pedigree that Harbaugh does, so he'll get a ton of time and a bunch of rope and we'll see where it goes. It'll probably go really well once they aren't carrying the baggage of someone else's screwups on top of their base rate.
But I mean, go ahead and yell about how unacceptable everything is, I guess. We are dying to hear about your feelings.
*[This is based on this site's conversion of point spreads to winners.]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Mo Hurst. Hurst got to play a lot of three tech this week and went from making good plays that someone else scoops up the glory on to wrecking the interior of the opposition offense himself. The fourth down stop stands out, because Hurst may have induced the fumble from a nervous center; Hurst whooped him anyway and the play was doomed either way.
#2 Lavert Hill. Hill's three PBUs were all excellent plays, and he was in the hip pocket of whoever his assignment was for the duration. MSU had... one open receiver? Maybe two? Lewerke averaged 4.3 YPA. Hill played the largest part in that.
#3 Brad Robbins. Averaged 43 yards a punt in often-difficult conditions and mindblasted the MSU returner on the muff; gave up just ten total return yards on seven attempts.
Honorable mention: Most of the rest of the defense. And... Grant Perry, I guess?
8: Devin Bush (#1 Florida, T2 Cincinnati, T2 Air Force, #1 Purdue)
5: Chase Winovich(#1 Air Force, #2a Purdue)
3: Mason Cole (#1, Cincinnati), Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Mo Hurst (#1 MSU)
2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Lavert Hill (#2 MSU)
1: Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati), Tyree Kinnel (T2 Cincinnati), Mike McCray(T2 Air Force), Sean McKeon(T3 Purdue), Zach Gentry (T3 Purdue), Brad Robbins(#3 MSU).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
MSU's punt returner dorfs on a bomb by Robbins, muffing it back to the two and setting up a short field that Michigan would use to get their touchdown.
Honorable mention: The first drive was pretty all right until the back-to-back fades.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Eddie McDoom drops a pass that would have taken Michigan down to the 25 with 13 seconds left.
Honorable mention: Pick a turnover but especially the first two, as they were key in Michigan's deficit by the time the rain arrived. Lewerke scrapes out a late first down because he lands on Michigan players. Michigan gets a touchdown wiped off the board on a Higdon holding call. Most offensive plays.
[After THE JUMP: what would you say you do here]
1 hour and 6 minutes
We Couldn’t Have One Without the Other
We can do this because people support us. You should support them too so they’ll want to do it again next year! The show is presented by UGP & The Bo Store, and if it wasn’t for Rishi and Ryan we’d be talking to ourselves.
Our other sponsors are also key to all of this: HomeSure Lending, Peak Wealth Management, Ann Arbor Elder Law, the Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown, the University of Michigan Alumni Association, Michigan Law Grad,Human Element, Lantana Hummus and new this week introducing Ecotelligent Homes
1. The Offense
starts at 1:00
That’s the O’Korn we remember from Indiana. Right tackle is a massive hole. Think this team needs a receivers coach and needs to adjust better to what it cannot do. Drevno what exactly do you do here moment.
2. The Defense
starts at 27:47
Dominant again: State’s one successful power play was surprising because we never see a normal play work against them. Hurst was mighty. State got just about everything on frippery and luck, which was in abundance. Michigan will be in every game as long as the defense plays like this.
3. Special Teams and Feelingsball
starts at 39:09
Michigan got close to blocking a bunch of punts and got to one of them—first time this year that it looked like a solid special teams win. Maybe go for it on 4th and 2 but when your offense is butt and you’re in a 1950s game that’s fine. Don’t take the ball out of the endzone on kickoffs please.
4. Around the Big Ten with Jamie Mac
starts at 48:20
All bad blowouts. Ferentz decides to coach this week. Barkley had –7 rushing yards in the 3rd quarter. Minnesota-Purdue was probably the most interesting. Is Purdue going to challenge Wisconsin for the West or is that just the Badgers’ birthright still?
- “This Night Has Opened My Eyes”—The Smiths
- “Nineteen Years Old”—Muddy Waters
- “Everyday is Like Sunday”—The Smiths
- “Across 110th Street”
THE USUAL LINKS
Some of the defensive players were saying that Joe Hewlett was really helping out with the scout team in emulating Air Force’s offense. Have you seen that as well?
“Yeah, I’ve been busy with the offense. I really haven’t paid much attention to the defense, but I know that Joe Hewlett’s in there.”
Have you ever run a triple option at any stop in your career?
“Uh…no. I’ve kind of messed with it here and there.”
What does that mean?
“I’ve put in some different plays but never saturate yourself into it, so I don’t know the ins and outs of it. You try to maybe put a play in here or there in the form of a triple option but not live in it, no.”
What have you seen from Air Force’s defense?
“Great question. Very fast, well disciplined. They play an odd scheme. They love the pressure. They’re very good tacklers in the back end. Play extremely hard. Just technically sound. They know how to get off blocks, know how to pass rush. Secondary’s very good at reading route concepts, know how to break on the ball. They’re very well coached. They do a great job at Air Force.”
Do you think Jon Runyan’s a better fit at guard? He was in the mix at tackle and then seems like he’s coming in a little bit—
“Yeah, Jon’s a very athletic guy. He could play all five positions. It’s just right now he could be a guard, he could be a tackle, but he does a good job just initial quickness off the ball, with his hand placement, really athletic, feet move well, when something moves he can cover it up. Jon’s doing a nice job and progressing well.”
[After THE JUMP: correcting little mistakes, O-line development, and Grant Newsome as coach/president. Oh, and what it means to be human]
Where are you guys offensively heading into this game?
“Feel really good about it. Guys have really prepared well, got a great gameplan, the focus is there, everything you’re looking for to be successful, so we’re really excited about it.”
Outside a lot of people have questioned you as a young team, what are you guys going to look like. Do you have a little bit of curiosity or anxiousness about what these guys are going to look like in an actual game?
“No. I mean, we feel very confident about the guys that we have. You always kind of wonder how’s the game going to take place, what’s the situation that’s going to come up, the calls that need to be made in critical situations and things but in terms of confidence behind this team, I’m 100% confident in what we have in locker room and the core group of guys that we have. It’s an exciting time.”
Who’s starting on the right side of the line?
“We’re not going to talk about the depth chart today. It’s a good try. Nice job. Keep grinding on that one.”
Are you all settled?
“Yeah, we’re settled.”
You know what you’re going to—
“Yeah, we know. We know, absolutely. You get to this point and this time in camp and you’re ready to kick it off.”
When we talked a few weeks back you said you’d like to have about eight or nine guys in the core rotation. Do you feel good about where those guys are and do you have that?
“Yeah, feel very good about it. These guys have done a great job developing. The coaching staff has done a great job. Feel good about the core guys that we do have, and there’s other guys progressing.”
[After THE JUMP: the line’s lack of levity, Welch’s Light, Ulizio bulks back up, and more receiver buzz]