Mailbag!

Mailbag!

Submitted by Brian on October 15th, 2009 at 11:56 AM

Or, a selection of emails that are sort of old:

Brian,

I noticed something potentially of interest in the Hennechart.  There's an absolute lack of batted balls.  There are ZERO and Tate's reputed to be a midget.  By comparison, Navarre was a giant, and I seem to recall that one of the most frustrating things about watching him was that he would seemingly fire at will into the raised arms of D-lineman (I don't have a Hennechart reference to back that up because it hadn't been invented yet, right?).

So, questions:  Is this schematic?  Does our offense now somehow help our QBs avoid the batted ball in ways that the previous offense did not?  (A comparison of Tate vs. Death last year might help as a reference, but Death wasn't very good, so…)  Does Tate have a special knack for avoiding batted balls?  He's always been short and Navarre was probably always tall, so maybe it's something he developed by necessity, whereas Navarre never had to worry about that sort of thing until he reached college.

Thanks,

Ryan

Forcier got his first two batted balls of the year against Iowa, and both were on third down when Broderick Binns just sat back and waited for Forcier to throw his way; he wasn't even rushing. Even so, the batted ball phenomenon is seriously reduced from past years. The reasons are partially schematic, as Michigan runs a lot of rollouts that open up passing lanes, and partially Tate creating his own fake rollouts by bugging out of the pocket after his first read is covered. As Michigan moves to more pocket passing they'll see the batted balls creep up, but it's not likely to ever approach the frustrating levels it did when Navarre was the statuesque Michigan pocket passer of choice.

Brian
Are Kovacs and Leach on scholarship?  I know they are referred to as walk-ons but are they now on scholarship?

If not, what are the odds that Kovacs and possibly Leach earn scholarships this year?  Kovacs is appears like he is going to be a major contributor the rest of the year with Leach seeing some time too.

I realize that there aren't many scholarships left, but RR also wants to develop a solid walk on program.  I've always figured that one of the ways to make sure you have a good walk on program is for the walk on's to know that there's a chance, albeit very slim, that you could earn a scholarship.

Obviously, the fans and I'm sure RR would like to use the scholarships on incoming fresh but if Kovacs keeps up his play and isn't on scholarship, how do you tell him he hasn't earned one?

Scott

Michigan's only got 76 scholarship players on the roster now, but teams always hand out bonus scholarships to their walk-ons when they end up short. I'd assume Sheridan, Kovacs, Leach, Heininger, Olesnavage, and Pomarico (the long snapper) are all getting this year of school for free. Three other guys who are less obvious are also getting money.

Those scholarships—all scholarships, actually—are one-year deals. If Michigan fills out its roster next year the walk-ons will be out of luck; usually what happens is Michigan fills up in February and then sees some offseason attrition that opens up a couple slots, but not nine, for the top of the walk-on crop. Kovacs, who looks like he'll start the whole year, might be an exception to that.

Brian,

I am curious to hear your thoughts on whether or not Tate and Denard have been making the right reads on the zone read option.  I've seen a lot of criticism directed at these two indicating that they are keeping it too often and making the wrong read.  I know RR has said he'd like to have them not have as many carries.  My question is this - are they actually making the wrong reads?  On the zone read option, Isn't the correct read against the scrape exchange for the QB to keep it?  Or do they need to read the scraping LB/DB (the guy filling the hole vacated by the backside DE)?  It just seems a little knee-jerk to say that they are keeping it too often.  I know we've come up with a set of plays to counter the scrape exchange, but I'd be curious to hear how the scrape exchange has impacted the reads on the bread-and-butter zone read option play.

I realize it's difficult to assess whether they are making the right reads as we have no idea if a play was a called run or keeper but it might be interesting to try and track whether it appears the correct read was made when you are doing the offensive UFRs.

Tony Sinicropi

This was before the Iowa game and an interesting development in that game: Michigan blocked the backside end frequently and, I believe, had Forcier read the appropriate "scrape" linebacker if he read anyone at all. It looked like Michigan took away many of Forcier's reads in the run game and just told him to hand off to the back, because Iowa frequently left no one for contain on him and he did not keep the ball.

The one time he did, though, he made a wrong read, pulling the ball from Minor when the backside DE was keeping contain; he managed to juke the guy and pick up six yards anyway. This has been a frequent occurrence, which isn't unexpected when you're dealing with a true freshman adjusting to a ton of backside games.

The thing I'm wondering about: where is the zone read with Denard Robinson? He's run a ton of draws and called runs but other than a reverse pitch here and there, there's been precious little misdirection from the Robinson package.

what’s the difference between the zone read dive and the zone read veer? is a “veer” just the term for any play that reads the frontside instead of the backside?

- bml

The "zone read dive," or zone counter dive, is not a read play. Michigan pulls the TE to the backside to block the DE back there and always hands it off with the intent of hitting the gap between that DE and the rest of the line, which down blocks. The play gets rid of the extra defender that read plays get rid of by assuming a linebacker to that side of the line has containment on the QB and will run himself out of the play. While it looks like Forcier has an option on the play, he really doesn't.

The veer is a true read play on which the tailback's desired hole is between the backside tackle and the backside DE*. If Viddler had any idea what fair use was I could show you some killer examples from Brandon Minor a year ago, but alas it is not to be. But the idea is this: you block down.** This looks exactly like a stretch play until it's too late and all the DL have slanted past the OL and out of the play. The QB reads the backside DE like a normal zone read, but the tailback cuts hard and swift upfield behind everything, hitting into the secondary immediately since the DE's been dragged outside. Minor had touchdowns on it against Purdue and Wisconsin where he ran virtually untouched into the endzone.

Opponents took away the veer most of the year by crashing the DE down and scraping, which necessitated Michigan's response to that. By the end of the Michigan State game it was clear they weren't scraping, so Michigan ran a version of the veer that was bleedingly open, but Forcier kept it and turned a lot of yards into four.

The key takeaway: any time

*(In Michigan's offense so far. It has a lot of different forms.)

**(Blocking down is the polar opposite of stretch or reach blocking. You basically shove a guy you started playside of; this always leaves an unblocked defender or two behind you. Power off tackle plays seek to get rid of him by pulling guards and tight ends around; the veer tries to do it with a read.)

You have mentioned a couple of times that the performance of the Michigan rush offense against Michigan State the past two years has been a statistical outlier.  I think you have also mentioned that this may be a result of State spending more than the usual amount of preparation time for this game.  If that is the case, how much more time do you think State is putting toward Michigan than a typical opponent and what kind of negative impact might that have on State since that would be time they are not spending on their current opponent?

Andy Heck

Steve Sharik has it from sources inside the MSU program that Dantonio came up with much of the defensive game plan himself, which is unusual. MSU blogs have been complaining about Pat Narduzzi all year. So, yes, Dantonio "gets the rivalry" and Rodriguez "has an injured freshman quarterback."

As far as the question: one thing I might have overlooked in the aftermath of the State game was State getting a test run against Michigan's offense when they played Central Michigan. That did not go well, obviously, but it did give State an entire game film with which to scout themselves and fix a bunch of their problems. Then they went out and laid an egg against Wisconsin in all aspects of the game… it's hard to not see the correlation. Too bad Illinois is such a debacle or we would have gotten some more interesting information out of that game.