Upon Further Review 2018: Offense vs Michigan State

Upon Further Review 2018: Offense vs Michigan State Comment Count

Brian October 29th, 2018 at 1:05 PM

image-6_thumb_thumb5_thumb_thumb_thu[1]SPONSOR NOTE: Reminder that Matt is hanging out at the Charity Tailgate at 327 East Hoover (if you were at the preseason MGoEvents this year and last it's the same place). There are food trucks, beer, televisions, a giant colorful bus, and it's right next to Revelli so the band will march past. Check it out.

When not tailgating Matt is also a person who will get you a mortgage right quick from the comfort of your own home. If you need one, he's the man, man.

FORMATION NOTES: Michigan ran an absolute ton of 2TE sets in this game, with fullbacks and third receivers barely making an appearance. MSU continued to be MSU, running a base 4-3 over on virtually all plays.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: The usual at QB and on the OL, with Stueber getting the final mashing drive after JBB's injury scare. Higdon got the vast majority of RB snaps with Evans backing him up; Wilson got one snap.

Gentry and McKeon got most of the TE time, with Eubanks getting a fair number of 3 TE snaps and a few opportunities to replace the starters. Gentry and McKeon were out there almost the whole time.

Mason was again limited but able to get in a dozen or so snaps; Wangler had a couple cameos when Mason was at RB. Collins and DPJ got the bulk of outside WR snaps; Black got on the field briefly; Martin and Bell got their usual dozen or so snaps. Perry was the only slot.

[After THE JUMP: missed opportunities and a few taken ones]


Upon Further Review 2018: Offense vs Wisconsin

Upon Further Review 2018: Offense vs Wisconsin Comment Count

Brian October 18th, 2018 at 4:24 PM

image-6_thumb_thumb5_thumb_thumb_thu[1]SPONSOR NOTE: Reminder that Matt is hanging out at the Charity Tailgate at 327 East Hoover (if you were at the preseason MGoEvents this year and last it's the same place). There are food trucks, beer, televisions, a giant colorful bus, and it's right next to Revelli so the band will march past. Check it out.

When not tailgating Matt is also a person who will get you a mortgage right quick from the comfort of your own home. If you need one, he's the man, man.

FORMATION NOTES: Michigan's most gun-heavy game of the year with just 18 under-center snaps vs 43 from the gun or pistol. Unlike previous games Michigan was perfectly happy to run from the gun on short yardage. There wasn't a whole lot of weird stuff by formation. Michigan had a couple of quads packages, one from a bunch and the other more spread out.

Wisconsin stuck in their base 3-4 defense for virtually the whole game, with the exception of passing downs.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Mostly the usual. OL the starting five the whole way. At QB McCaffrey and Milton both got a a few snaps. Two of those came during the competitive portion of the contest. Evans returned and got backup snaps behind Higdon. Wilson was all but absent until about halfway through the fourth. Christian Turner used up game #2 with a few late carries.

Collins and DPJ backed by Martin and Bell at WR, as per usual. Very little Grant Perry—ten snaps and change—as Michigan played a ton of 2TE sets. McKeon and Gentry were both on the field for large chunks of the game; Eubanks got a few snaps.

The thing that stood out most was the lack of Ben Mason, who didn't have a role on those 2TE shotgun snaps but also ceded some playing time to Wangler.

[After THE JUMP: fire up the ground game]


Neck Sharpies: Breaking Tendency

Neck Sharpies: Breaking Tendency Comment Count

Seth October 16th, 2018 at 10:07 AM

Michigan and Wisconsin are two of the last great bastions of Manball offense. In an age when offensive coaches are constantly trying to scheme their way to limiting the number of blocks that have to be made to win a down, the Wolverines and Badgers predicate their attacks on the concept that the more blocks they can force to happen, the more blocks the defense is going to lose. There's nothing particularly tricky about it. We are going to squeeze your defenders into a tiny, vertical space where the only directions that exist are North and South, and our heavy cavalry are charging downhill.

So of course the play of the game was a tweak to a zone-read option, a play so Rich Rodriguezian in its design you are a little bit mad at the end that the quarterback doesn't have dreads.

[Note: stephenrjking wrote a diary about this play as well]

Let's take a look at what Wisconsin thought they were defending, what they were actually defending, and how everybody's shoelaces suddenly came untied.


  1. Zone Read
  2. Split Zone
  3. Arc Block

1. What's a Zone Read? I see you've missed the last 20 years of football. That's alright, it's a simple enough concept to explain, and a little flick of the mouse wheel if you're already up on the idea.


The zone read options an unblocked defender on the backside of an inside run play. You've seen it a thousand times. The quarterback holds the ball in the RB's hands while watching whatever defender is in that zone on the backside. If the defender forms up outside, the QB takes his hands off the ball and the RB can continue to run as if it's a normal running play. If the defender "crashes" toward the running back, the QB keeps it and runs around into the vacated space. The point is to free up a blocker by having the QB's read either hold that backside player where he can't help a run to the other side, or alternatively get that defender chasing a non-ballcarrier instead of protecting his edge. It doesn't really matter which base running play you pair it with: inside zone, power, zone stretch, Down G, whatever.

Takeaway: It's an important play because it made it possible to have a good running game from the shotgun. All defenses today know how to defend it, most commonly by having an end who finds himself unblocked "shuffle" in that purple zone to make the QB really have to think about his read, wasting precious moments while the defense is prying its way into the plausible gaps. Naturally, offenses that use the zone read have a favorite counter for this kind of thing.

2. A Split Zone. Split zone is basically just inside zone except you block the backside edge defender with an offensive player, usually a tight end, H-back, or fullback, who is blocking opposite and across the flow of the play.


A split zone run gives up some blocking on the frontside for an epic win on that backside, and is particularly punishing when that backside defender is wholly concentrated on forming up to threaten both sides of a zone read.

But again, this is a highly common play at all levels of football, so any defensive player taught to form up against a zone read is also going to keep the corner of his eye ready for any kind of trap block coming from the frontside. If one comes, he shifts his weight and meets the blocker, maintaining the edge of the defensive front and constricting space as much as possible inside of himself.

Takeaway: Any offense that runs a bit of zone read is also going to run a bit of split zone, and any player who'll be playing edge defender in a modern college defense has practiced how to convert a zone read shuffle to setting the edge against a trap block.

3. Arc Block. This is basically the opposite of a kickout block. It's usually used to describe the block by an H-back or tight end who "arcs" around a defender in an attempt to reach block him, i.e. seal him on the opposite side of where the offensive player lined up.


Takeaway: It's just a block.

[After THE JUMP: Stir with half a season of tendency and serve cold]


Eleven On Eleven

Eleven On Eleven Comment Count

Brian October 15th, 2018 at 2:04 PM

10/13/2018 – Michigan 38, Wisconsin 13 – 6-1, 4-0 Big Ten

Like anyone still standing after a 2-15 run against Ohio State, I have withered into a cynical-ass bastard more tree than man. We are the Michigan ents. The Ments. But even though this heart was long ago replaced by lignin, by God I felt it beat when Roy Roundtree and Denard Robinson popped up on the video board before the game. They talked about night games at Michigan Stadium in general. They also talked about one very specific game. I had feelings.

I did not know I had just been handed the most critical bit of the gameplan. Wisconsin did not, either. Wisconsin apparently did not know quarterbacks were, like, allowed to keep the ball. I feel like they should have known this. Even if they were completely unaware of the last 20 years of college football, surely their review of Michigan's game tape would tip them of that yes, occasionally the quarterback guy runs with the ball, and faster than you'd think.


Patterson pulled twice more, once for a redzone touchdown and once for another chunk run. The last saw Wisconsin actually respect the idea of a pull, somewhat, but Patterson was able to outpace a wrong-footed Badger defensive end anyway.

Then the backups came in and things went from intriguing to bizarre and hilarious. Dylan McCaffrey is slashing inside a block and outrunning an All-American linebacker to the endzone! Okay!


TJ Edwards is sad in the background [Eric Upchurch]

Joe Milton, who had approximately zero rushing yards in high school, is switching fields and outrunning the whole Badger defense to the other sideline! I thought this was Diet Coke, not Meth Coke! Who put meth in my Coke? Did you also give some to Paul Chryst? Ah that's fine then, good move.


Michigan's season-long con took in both the Badgers and your author; now revealed, it resets season expectations. Harbaugh noted the impact it had on Wisconsin's run defense when they suddenly had to play 11 v 11:

Coach, you had two quarterbacks that were a big part of things as far as running the ball. Was that element added to this game?

“Yeah, it was big. Shea (Patterson) really got things going in the first quarter with the long run. And the touchdown run he had, he was — allowed us to stretch their defense, get all their gaps, make them cover — make them account for as many gaps as we could. So that was a gameplan well-executed.”

Michigan spent most of their short yardage snaps in this game in a two-tight-end shotgun look that had everyone in Michigan Stadium agonizing about the absence of Ben Mason, but aside from one bad decision from Higdon to press outside Michigan converted every time. Frequently this was accomplished by a running back cutting back behind Juwann Bushell-Beatty, who was paving his man, as a Wisconsin defender gave Patterson his newfound due.

Maybe I'd been primed by the pregame video, but I thought about Michigan's approach in Denard's other Notre Dame masterpiece, the one on the road: after a slant to Roundtree set Michigan up at the two on Michigan's winning drive, shotgun, QB zone stretch, easy cutback, TD.

Patterson's not Denard Robinson but he's certainly fast enough to demand someone account for him. When that gets combined with a mauling right side of the line and a rapidly developing whole, you get something. You get 320 rushing yards. You get nearly 240 of those in the second half. You get fourth quarter drives on which Wisconsin knows you're going to kill the clock and can't stop you on six straight runs; the clock only stops getting stabbed to death 40 seconds at a time because you accidentally score a touchdown.

With the mesh point suddenly a real thing, possibilities open up. Ends can't charge willy-nilly at the quarterback. You can make those token play actions into defense-crippling ones with the extra time that buys you—something that Ohio State just struggled to defend this weekend. The corner that Michigan could turn to become a juggernaut offense is there, shockingly in sight.



Known Friends and Trusted Agents Of The Week


JBB is almost out of this shot, which is good [Fuller]

-2535ac8789d1b499[1]you're the man now, dog

#1(t) Juwann Bushell-Beatty and Jon Runyan Jr. Seriously. Not ironically. Not even in a throw-these-guys-a-bone sense. Patterson was iffy, Higdon fumbled, the defense didn't have a guy contributing except in scattered bursts: JBB and Runyan were the Michigan players most consistently helping Michigan down-to-down.

I don't think either gave up a pressure. JBB paved guys on a series of plays that cut to his side of the line; he was also the source of some of those zone stretch cutback runs. Meanwhile Michigan was usually running to Runyan's side of the line.

DOD was low with Wisconsin in desperation mode at DE, but I be like dang all the same. Both guys get three points because they're made up and don't matter and also this portion of the writeup is indeed me throwing them a bone.

#2 David Long. Both Long and Hill were avoided all night until the late Wisconsin TD drive when Hornibrook went after Hill's excellent coverage. Long didn't suffer those Mr. Tight Windows slings and arrows and was able to sell him twice on man coverage that turned out to be a trap—more below—that turned into a PBU and an interception.

#3 Karan Higdon. Did fumble. Did miss a hole or two. Also went over 100 yards and made some nice zone cuts; his ability was a major reason Michigan won a game in which they had four second half passing yards.

Honorable mention: The Spirit of Denard. Paul Chryst.

KFaTAotW Standings.

7: Chase Winovich (#1 ND, #3 SMU, #1 NW)
5: Karan Higdon (#1 WMU, #3 Nebraska, #3 Wisconsin).
4: Devin Bush(#3 ND, #1 Nebraska), Rashan Gary(#2 WMU, #2 Nebraska), Shea Patterson (#3 WMU, #1 Maryland).
3: Zach Gentry(T1 SMU, #2 Maryland), Juwann Bushell-Beatty(T1 Wisconsin), Jon Runyan Jr(T1 Wisconsin).
2: Ambry Thomas (#2 ND), Donovan Peoples-Jones(T1 SMU), Josh Metellus(#2 SMU), David Long(#2 Wisconsin).
1: Will Hart (#3 NW), Mike Dwumfour (T2 NW), Kwity Paye (T2 NW), Josh Uche (T2 NW), Khaleke Hudson(#3 Maryland).

Who's Got It Better Than Us(?) Of The Week

That would be a game-sealing pick six. Alex Hornibrook has to be sick of watching Michigan defenders spear his passes with one hand.

Honorable mention: 81 yard Patterson run; McCaffrey touchdown; Interception #1; DPJ almost breaks another punt; Wisconsin roughs the snapper; various Paul Chryst punt decisions.


Wisconsin busts a jet sweep to tie the game and momentarily give people the willies about whether Michigan can stop this run game at all.

Honorable mention: The two stunning Winovich holding calls that didn't get made; Michigan's inability to capitalize on the first INT; ESPN having the Chainsmokers on to pick games instead of Denard.

[After THE JUMP: What are you doing, Turtle?!]


Upon Further Review 2018: Offense vs Notre Dame

Upon Further Review 2018: Offense vs Notre Dame Comment Count

Brian September 7th, 2018 at 4:31 PM

image (6)_thumbSPONSOR NOTE: Hey new logo. Matt Demorest has boiled the logo down to its bare essentials, thus symbolizing how simple a mortgage can be when acquired from a qualified, dedicated provider running his own business. At this point the logo can get no simpler, and therefore Matt has reached his final form as a very fast mortgage acquisition machine. Take advantage of this.

FORMATION NOTES: Nothing particularly odd from Michigan. They were about 70% gun, which is obviously a huge uptick. A couple of hurry-up drives (-ish) at the end of the game were always going to be from the gun; even without those Michigan was almost two-thirds shotgun.

ND ran a very standard 4-2-5.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Patterson except for the extended cramping period in the second half when McCaffrey played. Runyan/Bredeson/Ruiz/Onwenu/JBB the whole way except one snap for Spanellis after Ruiz's helmet came off. Higdon got a large majority of the RB snaps, with Chris Evans the only other back to play.

At WR Collins, DPJ, and Martin got all the outside snaps with Perry getting all the slot snaps. McKeon and Gentry got almost all the TE snaps with the occasional contribution from Eubanks.

[After THE JUMP: it says something about expectations that I felt this could have been worse?]


Unverified Voracity Inspires Spain

Unverified Voracity Inspires Spain Comment Count

Brian June 14th, 2018 at 2:04 PM

Campeónes de baloncesto. Where does the Spanish national team draw inspiration from in the aftermath of their coach getting canned just two days before the World Cup?

Glen Rice isn't walking through that—oh. I see. Several Glen Rices are already in residence. Well, fine. You just go out there and win one for Bo Schembechler. I'll be over here in the corner weeping and inventing new swear words. As one does on the opening day of the World Cup.


A good summary of football in two minutes. Kyle Shanahan is asked whether NFL teams have "figured out" the zone read. This is of course a dorfy question about whether that gimmick college stuff can last in The Shield. Shanahan doesn't take the bait and instead provides a concise summary of football strategy:

So there's at least one career NFL guy who wouldn't cause me to break out in hives if Michigan hired him. (Also per PFF zone reads averaged a half-yard more than other runs a year ago.)

[After THE JUMP: mo wagners mo problems for the opposition]


Neck Sharpies: Uche and the Weakside Shuffle

Neck Sharpies: Uche and the Weakside Shuffle Comment Count

Seth May 24th, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Everyone's got their recruit they're over-excited about, but I've fallen hard for the first Don Brown potential dude, Joshua Uche. I figure I should explain why.

So we all remember this, right?


This is now run 100 different ways, with all sorts of guys to read and all sorts of places to attack. The idea is usually the same: leave an edge defender unblocked and read him off while the QB is holding the ball in the RB's breadbasket. It's "zone" because you're watching that blue circle, not the guy in it, since defenses will screw with you otherwise by having the end dive in and a linebacker appear or something. It's "read" because once you've ID'ed the unblocked defender, you watch to see if he's going to take the RB or the QB, then make him wrong.

Now that it's approaching 30 years old, defenses have had a long time to adjust to it. But like the option, or Power, or the Veer, or west coast passing route combinations, it's a good enough base play to remain a standard feature in most college offenses. That means every college team has to spend practice time learning multiple methods to stop it, and probably will as long as the sport lasts.

Don Brown's BC playbook was no exception, devoting over a tenth of the document to beating spread things. Today I'd like to introduce Brown's particular version of zone read defense, then zoom in on the vanilla zone read stopper play and what it means for the kind of player he wants at "End", i.e. the weakside defensive end. I don't want to get into all of the run fits and stuff, but since we just ran Josh Uche's recruiting profile I thought it would be cool to go over exactly what he was recruited to do.


Every coach has his own tweaks, but strategies for defending the mesh (that handoff decision) usually follow along a few similar ideas:

1. Delay the mesh for so long that the rest of the defense can react, beat their blocks, and corral the ballcarrier.

  • Pros: Doesn't use an extra defender/vanilla response.
  • Cons: Hard to do, requires the rest of the defense to win blocks, extra time for play develop can also work against you.

2. Scrape exchange. Attack one or the other to force a fast decision and bring another defender (usually from somewhere he's not expected) to bring down the other guy.

  • Pros: The paper to this particular rock.
  • Cons: You're using two defenders, opening up scissors.

3. Blow it up. Send that unblocked guy right at the mesh point itself.

  • Pros: Aggressive. Against college quarterbacks this may trigger all sorts of bad reactions. May give you a few extra opportunities to hit the quarterback.
  • Cons: A good ZR team will calmly hand it off.

A lot of teams will have one they feature more than the others, depending on the abilities of their personnel and what kind of team they're facing that week. Like, if you're more worried about the QB running than throwing you may scrape them all day. If you're facing a true freshman 3rd stringer they just ripped the redshirt off of maybe blow it up. If the zone read is just a sideshow and the real threat is the RB you may go in with just the delay. If you're facing a team that uses the zone read as a big part of its offense you really ought to have all three, and different variations of them perhaps, so the offense won't know what's coming.

Of these, the delay is good ol' rock-on-rock.*

[After the JUMP: why Uche looks like he will excel at rock]


Neck Sharpies: Not Getting Even

Neck Sharpies: Not Getting Even Comment Count

Seth December 2nd, 2015 at 10:11 AM


This would not go over well.

After the injury to Ryan Glasgow Michigan has struggled to stop zone running. Indiana and Penn State tore the defense to shreds on stretch or outside zone, until Penn State decided the thing that got them two huge gains in three attempts wasn't worth using again (please keep James Franklin forever kthx). I drew that up last week and found Michigan was still trying to defend runs by shooting the DL upfield and dominating one-on-one matchups up front, as opposed to soundly preventing guards from releasing onto the linebackers.

With Urban Meyer, one of a few true masters of modern running attacks, doing the planning for the Game, we knew Michigan's defensive coaches would have to pull something out of our butts to stop it. Here's what we found in our butts:

Michigan broke out a 3-3-5 defense with an "even" front. Offensive coaches have different names for fronts but the basics are:

  • Under: NT on the center, shaded to strong. DT on a guard. (aka Weak, 50)
  • Over: NT on the center, shaded to weak. DT on a guard. (aka Strong)
  • Even: DL are lined up over guards, none over the center. (aka Split)
  • Okie: Center is covered, guards are not. (aka 30)
  • Bear: Center and guards all covered. (aka 46, Eagle, Double Eagle)

These can be split into "Odd" (under/over) and "Even" (Even, Okie, Bear). It is usual for just about any defense to come out in multiple fronts over the course of a game, though Bear and Okie are more rare than the other three.


Anyway that's what that means. By putting guys over the guards it makes it tougher for them to release to the next level. Michigan State used to love their even fronts back when Bullough was their best run defender, and that tells you something about the design of this defense. Tweaking your defense is about making life hard on your better players so things are easier for the rest of your players. "Even" makes life hard on the MLB, since that center is getting a free release unto him.

There's nothing 100% unsound about this defense. Depending on the offense's play, one LB is likely to get a center on him but the other is often a free hitter. If your LB eating the block is good at beating those consistently, or your free hitter is a ninja who sniffs out the play and attacks ferociously, or your unblocked guy is coached to play aggressively against an option you can defeat a basic run play regularly.

[After the JUMP, we totally can't]


Haknpoints: Offensive Concepts

Haknpoints: Offensive Concepts Comment Count

Seth December 9th, 2014 at 2:10 PM

"Every football team eventually arrives at a lead play: a "Number 1" play, a "bread and butter" play. It is the play that the team knows it must make go, and the one its opponents know they must stop. Continued success with it, of course, makes your Number 1 play, because from that success stems your own team's confidence." –Vince Lombardi

As we discuss coaching candidates we'll invariably get into the same old discussions on what kind of base offense said candidate might want to run. There was some discussion on the board this week and I wanted to expand that discussion into some basic "Rock" plays of various offensive schemes.

It is incorrect to identify any one play (and even more incorrect to identify a specific formation or personnel group) as a complete offense. You always need counters to keep doing the thing you do, and the counters will often borrow directly from some other offensive concept's rock. All offenses will borrow from each other so no breakdown is going to describe more than 60% of any given offense. Most zone blocking offenses throw in man-blocked things (example: inverted veer) to screw with the defense. You can run most of these out of lots of different formations. You can package counters into almost all of them (example: The Borges's Manbubble added a bubble screen to inside manball).

Really what you're describing when you talk about any offense is the thing they do so well that they can do it for 5 or 6 YPP all day long unless defenses do something unsound to stop it (like play man-to-man, or blitz guys out of coverage, etc.). Some examples of offenses and their formation needs (where a need isn't specified, figure they can use any set or formation: spread, tight, 23, ace whatever). I've given the rock plays, and left out the counters and counters to the counters because that gets into way too many variants.

Finally, the terms "pro style" and "spread" are meaningless distinctions. NFL offenses have the luxury of getting super complex: they have passing game coordinators who teach the QBs and WRs Air Raid things then run zone or power blocked things. The spread refers to formations and personnel—it doesn't say anything about whether the QB runs, if it's an option offense, or what tempo it runs at, or even what kind of blocking it uses. What I've done here is break up the offenses into "QB as Run Threat" and "QB Doesn't Have to Run" since the construction of these base plays usually stems from that. Remember, however, that QB running offenses can (and often do) still use blocking right out of Vince Lombardi's favorite play.

QB as Run Threat Offenses:

Triple Option


The FB dive will hit too quickly for anyone but the DE to stop; once the DE bites, the RG moves down to the second level while the QB keeps and heads outside, with the RB in a pitch relationship to defeat the unblocked defender there.

Concept: QB makes a hand-off read then a pitch read.

Makes life especially hard on: Edge defenders who have to string out plays against multiple blockers and maintain discipline.

Formation needs: Two backs.

Helpful skills: QB who can consistently make multiple reads and won't fumble, highly experienced, agile OL, backs who can both run and bock.

Mortal enemy: The Steel Curtain. Stopping the triple option is a team effort; if everybody is capable of defeating blocks, challenging ball-carriers, and swarming to the pitch man there's nowhere to attack.

Examples: Air Force, Nevada, Georgia Tech, Bo's Michigan

[Hit the jump for ZR, QB power, Air Raid, West Coast, Manball, Inside Zone, and the Power Sweep].


This Week's Obsession: Best O?

This Week's Obsession: Best O? Comment Count

Seth November 5th, 2014 at 10:14 AM


Shane's not Gardner enough to be worth changing the offense to take better advantage of his legs, but the offense might be? [Upchurch]

Ace: What type of offense do you want M's coach to run next year? Explain how you're factoring current personnel vs. ideal scheme when coming to your decision as well, if you could.


Brian: Whatever the coach is good at. This was the right move for Rodriguez in 2007 when there wasn't much talent no matter what you did with it. It was not in 2011 when you had a sui generis talent like Denard at your disposal. 2011 Michigan fought it at times (Notre Dame, Iowa) but for the most part shrugged and tried to adapt.

I'm not seeing a whole lot that's worth adapting to at the moment. Morris looks far away from viability, Speight's a redshirting unknown, and Malzone will be a true freshman (unless he decommits). The OL is going to be the OL still, and the main distinction between OLs is what you try to run a lot of, not whether there's a fast QB behind you or a slow one.

So, yeah, whatever your bag is, man. Obviously you can't run a spread 'n' shred with the available personnel but you've got enough mobility in the QBs to keep 'em honest Forcier-style if that is your bag, and as Mississippi State and Ohio State have demonstrated in recent years there's quite a lot of power in spread offenses that want to go that route.

And unless it's Harbaugh it's likely to be a spread guy. Broken record time: pro-style coaches attractive enough to get the job and poachable are hard to find.

[After the jump: sirens]