Run-heavy offense

Run-heavy offense

Submitted by BlueMk1690 on October 15th, 2017 at 10:14 AM

With the QB situation being what it is - and no real improvement in sight - the attention is turning toward the run game as far as salvaging the season is concerned. It became obvious down the stretch vs Indiana that the coaches shifted their approach to a 'let's avoid passing if at all possible' type of plan.

Now if you look at the numbers you will see that while Michigan has always featured a slight emphasis on the run game - we're still notably more pass-happy than teams like Wisconsin, Georgia or Alabama who feature the run heavily without being 'specialist' teams like Navy or Army.

The question is - can we do that? Can we reliably run the ball to set up the pass just often enough to keep them honest? The three teams in question also have *highly* efficient passing games, in other words, when they do pass the ball, they usually do a decent enough job at it. That is where we differ from them so far. But would it really be beyond possibility for O'Korn to actually make 2 or 3 good play action passes for chunk yardage a game IF we can run the ball reliably?

On the 'con' side - we have had too many runs stuffed for minimal gain or loss due to blown up blocks to do this. But maybe this is more easily fixed by focusing on what we do well with the O-Line than any other part of the offense. If we can fix this - and there were signs vs Indiana that we're improving here. Then this would open up a simplified passing game that perhaps we can pull off  We still wouldn't be high scoring but with 3 TDs we'd be in every game.

tl, dr - Is our future power running it 70% of the time?



A look at Michigan's "Manball" run offense

A look at Michigan's "Manball" run offense

Submitted by taistreetsmyhero on October 13th, 2017 at 5:09 PM

After reading the UFR and seeing that Michigan seemd to improve its run blocking, I wanted to look a little more into Michigan's previous success at running and compare it to last Saturday's game.

Specifically, I wanted to look at Michigan's "Manball" success. I defined a Manball play according to the following criteria:

1) A run on a running down: 1st & 10, 2nd < 8, 3rd < 5

2) A run out of a standard running formation: any formation from which Michigan has run more than it has passed. (This eliminated all Shotgun runs.)

This gives a good proxy for manball, IMO, because it basically comprises plays where the offensive formation and down suggests the offense is gonna run, and the defense knows it. Now, I did included all play types (Crack sweeps, Jet sweeps, counters, draws, etc.). My rationale is that it's still Manballin' even if you don't decide to bash your head against a wall and run it straight up the gut; i.e. you can try to outman the defense without being dumb about it.

Now, with that definition in mind, this is what Michigan's Manball running game looked like going into the MSU game*:

*Note: I have included all penalties into the yardage. This is a end-results-based review.

Success here is defined as:

  • At least a 4 yard gain on 1st & 10
  • At least 60% of remaining yards on 2nd down (i.e. if it is 2nd and 6, at least a gain of 4 yards)
  • At least 100% of remianing yards on 3rd or 4th down

Michigan was successful on 43/99 manball runs, which is solidly below the target of 50%.

That the average yards is so close to the median suggests that there is a relative lack of explosive runs. There were only 3 runs greater than 20 yards. This does show one of the downfalls of my metric, as the rigid definition of "running down" took away both the long Higdon run against Air Force and the long Evans run against Purdue--both of which came out of goal line formations (i.e. obvious running formation) and in obvious running situations (winning late in the game) but not on obvious running downs by my definition (2nd and long).

The blocking score is Not Great, Bob. While the net is positive and there were 14 more plays where there were more positive blocks than missed blocks, overall, the average is pretty close to zero.

RBs faired similarly poor, with 15- scores also contributing to the lack of explosive plays.

Finally, that RPS number is terrible, but that is the inherent downfall of Manball offense: these are by definition plays where the defense should be expecting a run.

Here is what it looks like when you break it down by the 4 most common running plays, Zone, Iso, Crack Sweep, and Power O:


This shows that we had quite a ways to go in terms of executing our two bread-and-butter runs, Zone and Power O. Crack sweep was our best running play, but that too still failed to meet the target success rate of 50%.


Now, going over the UFR from Saturday's game against MSU, let's see how the running game compared:

Albeit in a limited sample size, this does show impressive improvement in the Manball running game as Brian alluded. The average blocking score made more than doubled, from 0.46 to 1.22. The success rate hit well above the 50% target, with 11/19 plays getting solid yardage.

Whereas in the previous game, the blocking +/- ratio was 1.39 (50/36), here it was 2.75.

The big downfall came from the RBs, who were already scuffling to a +/- ratio of 1.67, and here fell further to 1.5.

Michigan had 30 yards on 11 other rushes that did not fit the Manball criteria (either out of Shotgun or on 2nd and >8). This is interesting because in the previous games, Michigan had more success on off-schedule runs than manball runs. Many of the off-schedule runs in this game were doomed by major RPS negatives.

Since the sample size is so small, there's no real utility to break it down by run type as I did above, but I will note the change in play type frequency:

Zone: 39/99 prior, 5/19 vs. MSU

Iso: 15/99 prior, 4/19 vs. MSU

Crack sweep: 14/99 prior, 2/19 vs. MSU

Power O: 12/99 prior, 4/19 vs. MSU

And for Zone, the blocking scores were 2, 1, 0, and 2.5 (with one run not charted because it was a 4th and 1 tempo play). So even though Michigan was a little less Zone-heavy (26% vs. 39%), it still executed significantly better in the Zone plays they did call.


Overall, the data, while representing a small sample size, does suggest that Improvement Week worked for something on offense. Here's to hoping we build off it it tomorrow and grind Indiana to a pulp.

Go Blue!

Post Michigan - New BYU injuries. Play Michigan and "You feel it for a week afterward".

Post Michigan - New BYU injuries. Play Michigan and "You feel it for a week afterward".

Submitted by markusr2007 on September 30th, 2015 at 5:53 PM

I don't know if it was USC coach John Robinson or someone else who once said something along the lines of "you know whenever you play Michigan, you'd feel it for a week (afterward)". The good ole days.

So I was just checking out the NCAA football injuries list

We all know that BYU has been struck by a lot of unlucky, big name injuries this year (Taysom Hill, etc.).

But what I didn't know was that after playing Michigan last Saturday, BYU had 5 new injuries to starters who are all listed as questionable for UConn on Friday.

Notice the "injured last game" status remark.

Also, two starting defensive backs, starting LB, starting LG and starting TB.

Es lebe Manball!

Date Pos Player Injury Status
09/28/15 RB Adam Hine Ankle injured last game, "?" Friday vs. Connecticut
09/28/15 RB Algernon Brown Undisclosed "?" Friday vs. Connecticut
09/28/15 LB Harvey Langi Undisclosed injured last game, "?" Friday vs. Connecticut
09/28/15 OL Kyle Johnson Undisclosed injured last game, "?" Friday vs. Connecticut
09/28/15 DB Micah Hannemann Undisclosed injured last game, "?" Friday vs. Connecticut
09/28/15 DB Michael Davis Undisclosed injured last game, "?" Friday vs. Connecticut
09/27/15 DB Jordan Preator Suspension "?" Friday vs. Connecticut
09/17/15 DB Garrett Juergens Collarbone out indefinitely
09/06/15 QB Taysom Hill Foot out for season
09/05/15 TE Colby Jorgensen Neck out for season
09/05/15 DL Travis Tuiloma Knee expected to miss 4-6 weeks
08/20/15 TE Steven Richards Knee out for season
08/15/15 LB Sione Takitaki Suspension out indefinitely
08/06/15 RB Jamaal Williams Personal out for season


Football 101: Smart Football on Power Running

Football 101: Smart Football on Power Running

Submitted by JeepinBen on September 10th, 2015 at 11:02 AM

What is says in the title. Many people here are beyond "101", but this is a nice supplement to the explanations we get from the front page, Space Coyote, Magnus, etc.

Seeing as Power is our base play, here's a good read.…

While many think the term “power football” describes an attitude or perhaps even a formation, coaches actually use it to refer to something more technical: the Power-O and Counter Trey1 run plays, which most coaches simply call Power and Counter, and which are foundational running plays in the NFL and college football. Power and Counter are so effective because their very designs are forged from aggression. They’re deliberate melees built on double-team blocks, kick-out blocks, lead blocks, and down blocks, and preferably finished off by a running back who drops his shoulder and levels a defender or two before going down.

OT: Bret Bielema's DNA is all over...

OT: Bret Bielema's DNA is all over...

Submitted by The Mad Hatter on August 17th, 2015 at 10:11 AM

The Razorbacks' offense.

Arkansas’ style of play is no secret. Bielema prefers it that way.

"I always think of it in these terms: If we were involved in a crime scene and we did it, they should be able to tell right away because it's part of our DNA."

“There's nothing I love more than to watch a high-powered, fast-paced offense and to see their coaches pacing the sideline because they can't get the ball,” Bielema said. “It just pisses 'em off. It's a great tool because it begins to affect their psyche.”

Harbaugh's Utilization of Space and Width Despite Condensed Formations

Harbaugh's Utilization of Space and Width Despite Condensed Formations

Submitted by Space Coyote on March 26th, 2015 at 11:06 AM

Many on this site have an affinity for the spread. I, myself, love many of the concepts and philosophies that the spread employs. Way back before Harbaugh was hired to lead Michigan, I had talked about my optimal offense being something very similar to what Harbaugh runs in San Francisco. The offense of the 49ers, while in many ways similar, was not the same as the one that Harbaugh utilized at Stanford. While with the Cardinal, Harbaugh began implementing many spread concepts into his heavy formations. For the 49ers, he still utilized a lot of FBs and TEs, but also began spreading the field a bit more and incorporating even more read option concepts.

I expect his offense at Michigan to be a bit of a mix of the two: a bit more spread out and a bit more utilization of the athletes he can pull at Michigan, but closer to the simplified schematic ways of his time at Stanford. Still, Harbaugh has never lost sight of an important concept: utilizing width and space. The spread utilizes width by positioning athletes along the line of scrimmage at the snap. Harbaugh does that too, in some ways. He loves to have wide splits to the field while utilizing multiple TEs on the opposite side. Borges talked about preferring to get to the edge through blocking rather than throwing to the edge, and Harbaugh does a lot of that. But Harbaugh also utilizes a few WR screens to get to the edge.

And at the heart of the pass game is the preferences for gaining width to support the interior run game, and gaining depth to keep the safeties honest. That’s what a West Coast passing attack does. And while Harbaugh is still very much run to set up the pass (rather than the Walsh view of pass to set up the run), he maintains that constraint and element of his attack to keep defenses honest.

So here’s my look at how Harbaugh utilizes space, width, and athletes outside of the Power O and Inside Zone that he’s most famous for.


MANBAUGH, MANBALL and. . . Moyer?

MANBAUGH, MANBALL and. . . Moyer?

Submitted by dragonchild on February 8th, 2015 at 6:02 PM

NSD is over and it's basketball season, so of course I'm going to post a very belated and unprofessional football "analysis".  But hey, the basketball team is rebuilding and spring practice is still weeks away so here goes.


I pored over Seth's "Run Fits" column partly because of the Harbaugh hype and partly because I wanted -- confession of selfishness here -- vindication of my indictment of Borges.  If I'm right in comparing Borges' "27 for 27" to Black Adder's portrayal of Field Marshal Haig (clip since taken down), then Harbaugh should be the opposite, MANBAUGH be damned.  I definitely enjoyed the read and agree with every bit of Seth's analysis, but I kind of saw things a bit differently.  Harbaugh has this reputation for being an XXXTREME MANBALL coach, and the reason is far from inexplicable.  Just a glance at his formations screams old-school, smash-mouth, 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust SPARTAAAA:

Thing is, these offenses are notorious for being predictable in an era of S&C parity.  So why does it work?  Granted you can just re-read Seth's tactical breakdown, but I wanted to examine this offense from a more strategic perspective, so I took another look at Stanford's 2011 Orange Bowl.  First, the opening five drives:

Drive 1
Naked bootleg LEFT* for 11 yards
Tailback flat route for 6 yards
I-form run stuffed behind LoS
I-form pass blitzed, Luck rolls right and turfs it

Drive 2
I-form play-action blown up, Luck runs OOB
I-form quick pass to TE complete for 6
Pistol, go route caught OOB
Fake punt stuffed

Drive 3
I-form run left for 4
Pistol PA screen pass for 1
Pistol, out route + YAC for 20
I-form DOOM** left for 60-yard TD.

Drive 4
I-form run stuffed
I-form run left stuffed
1-back under center pass derped, safety

Drive 5
I-form run left for 5
I-form run right for 3
1-back under center pass to TE for 4
I-form off-tackle DOOM left for 26
I-form off-tackle left for 4
Wildcat right stuffed
Pistol 4-wide, 25-yard pass TD to TE

*Luck is right-handed, so I think VT was caught flat-footed.
**Seth explain this in detail but it's so much fun I'll say it again: Stanford shifted into an unbalanced formation, motioned the TE and then pulled the RG, launching well over a half ton of meat at VT's back seven.

Here's the rub:  A stereotypical "MANBALL" team with a right-handed QB typically has a run-blocking RT and pass-blocking LT, sending the TE, FB, RB and a puller to the right side of the formation to create a meat avalanche.  Stanford handed off three times in the first three drives, and while they were technically strongside runs, none of them went right.  How is this an "XXXTREME MANBALL" team?  The answer is, it isn't.   Hoke is MANBALL.  DeBord is MANBALL.  This is what I refer to as SunTzuBall:

"Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend."

I'm not a coach, but if I was one, this would be my philosophy.  Don't settle for predictable.  Don't even take what the defense gives you.  Make them think, "Ogod I don't know what's coming."  (Edit: Got a bit flippant here.) Every OC says they want that, but some are better at poker than others.


This was NOT a bunch of brutes mindlessly slamming into each other, or even coached to "execute" mindlessly slamming into each other.  Harbaugh's offense looks like MANBALL but is actually balanced.  I don't think Harbaugh does anything to dissuade the perception; he wants people to think they're cavemen.  His assistants will blather on about being a "physical" team and show that I-form heavy all day until your safeties are 6 yards off the LoS, but he's not going to give you what you want.  If he runs the ball 10 straight times, it's not because he's willing it to work; it's because you're doing the damage to yourself:

"For should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left, he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, he will weaken his left."

The keys here are misdirection and mismatches.  Borges tried to create misdirection but was downright infantile at it; Nuss used constraints but didn't exploit mismatches.  In modern offenses overall, the "spread" is such a generic term that it hardly means anything anymore, but to pick on one aspect, the slotback is a mismatch against linebackers and safeties.  It's tough for defenders who bulk up against the run to keep pace with a shifty slotbug in space.  Combined with the zone read and the O-line splits, the essence of a spread is that heavy guys aren't quick.  As Seth points out, MANBALL is the opposite:  multiple TEs and a FB put the secondary in a bind because the defense doesn't have enough meat to go around.  The defense compensates with speed, getting to the point of attack before the play can develop, but this means they have to act fast and make decisions faster.  That's easy when the OC kindly gives you what you want, but MANBAUGH is none of that nonsense.

Here's Some Rope, Now Hang Yourself

With that in mind, let's look at a particular play in the second half of the Orange Bowl (jump to 1:33:38).  Up 19-12 late in the 3rd quarter, Stanford is pinned on their own 3-yard line and shows their classic I-form.  Unlike in the first half, the TE motions to the right side.  The situation calls for a conservative play and the formation is MANBALL to end all MANBALL.  VT's defense had been torched several times, but also scored on a safety and otherwise kept Stanford in check.  So they're wary of strongside runs, but they're not scared of Stanford imposing their will, toughness, physicality, blah blah blah any of that stupid crap we've heard for the last four years.  Nope, they're champing at the bit to swarm whatever gap that FB is going.  Marecic is going to eat helmet.  The ghost of the still-living Borges is blushing with pride.  Only problem?

It's the wrong read.  In the mic'd up clip at 1:21, Harbaugh's yelling "backdoor".  Harbaugh knows VT is overplaying (also mentioned in MGoPodcast 6.15, 9:00-11:00), but I don't think Taylor is even reading this -- they're deliberately running a bait-and-switch.  On the snap, the FB runs strongside and VT follows.  Marecic is working his way outside and can't find a gap.  Even the RB's track is initially to the right, but (I think) this is a feint because after the mesh he immediately cuts around Luck -- no bounce -- and past the edge blocker (LT?) who casually escorts his defender into the mosh pit to create a gap even the legendary Yoh Momma could fit through:

The result is a 56-yard run.  The next play Stanford again shows a heavy formation, then tosses the first of three long TD passes to the TE.  VT does not have enough defenders to stop everything Stanford's throwing at them, and it's game over.

"If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak.  Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare against possible attacks; numerical strength, from compelling our adversary to make these preparations against us."

Space Coyote will probably be the first to point out that fundamentally, these are all plays available to a conventional "pro-style" offense, and I don't dispute that.  The killshot was just a backdoor cut.  We can also digress into an argument about execution, and I do have my thoughts on that as well (might post them later).  But to stay on point, I don't consider Harbaugh's plays "exotic".  The ball still goes in any direction available to a venerable pro-style offense.  The important aspect is that, contrary to his MANBALL reputation, he doesn't "impose his will" or use some plays only as constraints to "keep defenses honest", but do him a favor and go right on telling people that.  His strategy is physically less stubborn and mentally more vicious.  He doesn't pound his head against brick walls or even take what you give him.  He gets inside your nightmares, and if MANBALL is your bogeyman then he'll happily wear that mask.


Jamie Moyer is a retired MLB pitcher who reignited his career in his mid-30s by inverting his approach.  A formerly washed-up power pitcher, his repertoire wasn't different from his peers -- fastball, curve, changeup.  But whereas most "power" pitchers try to blow by hitters with a fastball to set up off-speed "out" pitches, Moyer realized he was terrible at that.  So used his changeup to set up his fastball en route to sub-4 ERAs in 7 of 8 of the most home-run happy seasons in MLB history, culminating with a 3.27 ERA and 21-7 record in 2003.  That is an elite season, and he did it in the boomstick American League, and he did it at age 40 with an 85mph fastball.

As I've said here and there, "3 yards and a cloud of dust" was not a conservative offense; it was an aggressive approach during a bygone era based on the premise that overwhelming talent can turn a predictable run into a sure thing.  There was no need to do anything else.  Today, it's the "washed up" power pitcher.  Except in rare cases, you can't get away with it.  You can't dare everyone with fastballs down the middle any more than you can run into a stacked box over and over again.  Stanford didn't.  They didn't overpower anyone with their roster of 2- and 3-star recruits.  It's not imposing will, toughness, blah blah.  Their "MANBALL" was the football equivalent of an 85mph heater thrown from a 40-year-old arm with veteran sagacity and exquisite precision.  Harbaugh is the Jamie Moyer of the pro-style offense.  That fastball may be 85mph, but you won't be able to hit it because he's smarter than you.

Stupid Person Feelingsball: The value of players opinions

Stupid Person Feelingsball: The value of players opinions

Submitted by IncrediblySTIFF on November 5th, 2014 at 10:15 AM

The Elliot Mealer muggle thing has sparked a lot of conversation around here, and I have seen both positives and negatives.  I can see how "muggles" can be taken as a derogatory term (as it is basically used as one through Rowling's stories).  During my time as a student-athlete, we generally announced to the non-athletes who didn't understand that "I'm D-1, you don't know."  Right or wrong, morally justifiable or not, this was the attitude taken by myself and several of my peers.

I guess where I am going here is that it is hard to make an argument that a student-athlete knows whats best for an athletic department, notably not many student-athletes have significant (if any) experience on the administrative side.

That being said, how much value should the player's opinion on a coach merit?  Unless all the other people that have played for Brady Hoke and spoken out about their love/appreciation/confidence in his abilities as a coach are just doing so because of loyalty, it seems that they are some of the few still in his corner.

Should the opinions of the players factor in when picking a head coach?  We have seen coaches fired for "losing the team" (Charlie Weis, who one time held a practice without the seniors to "develop future talent").  Should we write off these opinions as quickly as we condemn them for thinking they know how an athletic department should be run?

How will you spend your NSD???

How will you spend your NSD???

Submitted by Darker Blue on February 4th, 2014 at 6:30 PM

I'm not going to pay any attention at all, I probably won't even open MGoBlog until just before I head into work ( I work midnights ). 

Is there anybody else out there who doesn't care about recruiting? 

How many of you will be glued to espnu all day waiting to see who goes where? 

And how many of you will be anxiously doing what You're not supposed to be doing?