Picture Pages: Nose Penetration Allowed Comment Count

Brian September 17th, 2013 at 11:57 AM

Michigan's running game wasn't quite as bad as it looks in the stats, as they had some good gains wiped out by phantom holding penalties, but it warn't good. One of Michigan's main issues was not getting the Akron nose tackle blocked, but when this happened the guy in the backfield seemed only partially at fault, because Michigan was asking him to do something very tough.

Here's a play at the end of the first quarter. Michigan has just shifted various players around and gotten Akron to do this in response:


That is a massive gap between their nose tackle, who's "shaded"* over Miller, and their end, who's outside of Jake Butt. Michigan decides to run at this, which seemed like a good idea at the time.

*[ie, lined up between the center and guard, closer to the center.]

Michigan's going to run a stretch to the wide side of the field, and get a loss out of this. I know. So. Akron's got about seven guys in the box. Michigan has two uncovered OL to the playside plus Kerridge. This should be easy.

[After the jump, it's not going to be]

It isn't, and this is basically why:



The nose tackle gets into Miller immediately and starts driving him back into the play. This is not good. But Michigan has a choice here: double that guy. Glasgow released immediately in an attempt to cut a linebacker instead of hitting that DT, allowing Miller to step around him.

In the wider shot, you can see 1) Glasgow cutting that linebacker as 2) Miller continues to give ground and give ground:


But notice something about the Akron linebackers? Their hair is not on fire. They are not yelling war whoops and plunging at the line of scrimmage, screaming yo ho ho. Neither ILB type is trying to shoot a gap; the weakside guy is just trying to get to the play. This is not playing Notre Dame.

Too late to consider that though. Kerridge ends up banging into that DT a couple yards into the backfield:


Toussaint is presented with a couple of not-great opportunities; he tries to cut back behind Miller and gets nailed by that weakside linebacker, as he flows up behind Kalis. This isn't Kalis's fault; the cutback changes the blocking angle without his knowledge.


"When you rush the football, you don't want to take loss yardage plays" –Chuck Long

Michigan managed to turn that massive gap into second and twelve.



Items of Interest

This seems like an obvious error but it was consistent. Earlier in the game it was Miller who released immediately and gave Glasgow the near-impossible assignment:

Slow version:

Why is this going on? I'm guessing it's a reaction to Notre Dame's linebacking style, which is to run hard up any gaps in zone plays. Michigan had problems recognizing that and getting to the second level. After a week of getting coached up on that, it seems like anybody who didn't perceive a lineman directly over them just went to the second level, with results like those above.

The weird thing is that seems in opposition to their often-frustrating approach to inverted veers and the like where Michigan would block the guy who's supposed to be optioned. When they do that it seems like their priority is to assure themselves a moderate gain at the expensive of explosive plays. Here they're betting on a very difficult first-level block to get back to the line of scrimmage.

The alternative is Miller and Glasgow are misreading both these plays and they should double. Once I see that happen on the first snap and two drives later, I lean towards this being a play on which the assignments are executed—or at least attempted—correctly. Akron just slanted into the play and got Michigan RPSed.

I don't see how Miller is going to have anything but a bad time here. Not even David Molk could take a lineman shaded playside slanting away from him and do anything but slightly harass him as he beasted his way into the backfield. Yeah, he ends up in the backfield on the wrong side of the guy, but how the hell is this supposed to end any differently?

In this game most Akron penetration was a result of asking guys to do things that I don't think it's easy to do. You know that ostentatiously bad block by Funchess on a pitch? He was in a two-point stance trying to deal with a defensive end lined up outside of him.


That is not how that is supposed to go. He's even aligned with his inside foot back—also a gameplan thing, Michigan did it for a big chunk of the game—so if he's going to step outside of that defensive end he has to turn his body outside.

Akron ran a ton of bear fronts—linebackers tight to the line between DT and DE in this game, often showing an eight man front with six guys at or near the line of scrimmage. This really threw Michigan off; in that still above you can see that Akron has a linebacker near the LOS at the bottom of the screen, allowing them to flare that DE.

Michigan doesn't have a response to this. They still have no counter play. They have a few different run plays that don't seem to fit together in any reasonable way. I see what Michigan is trying to do with their pass game (eg, a bunch of TE outs in the first half lead to an out and up that would have been first and goal but Gardner threw it behind Funchess). I don't see any kind of punishment for cheaters.

Sometimes Michigan gets a defense by running power when they expect zone, but they don't have a run play designed to look like another play until it's too late.

Toussaint probably should have followed his fullback. Kerridge may get him a crease and once he cuts behind that DT there's no help. I don't blame him for what he decided, but Michigan still had something here if he can pick his way through on the frontside.



September 17th, 2013 at 1:01 PM ^

that is the question.  It depends on what look the defense is giving you.  If the NG's allignment is head up on the Center the answer is not to chip.  If the NG is shaded play side on the center the answer is you better fucking chip him before going to the next level.

It is basic blocking.  There is no way anybody coaching at the FBS level is not aware of this.  The coaches are for sure telling them this in practice.


September 17th, 2013 at 1:44 PM ^

Plus, Akron is pretty clearly baiting M to run toward that gap. It doesn't take Admiral Akbar to diagnose that. They clearly have a plan, and the obvious one is to slant the nose toward that huge gap. Maybe Miller/Glasgow just over thought to and said, "this has gotta be a run blitz by the LBs, Glasgow better go there ASAP." I dunno.


September 17th, 2013 at 1:01 PM ^

Maybe Miller made the call to send Glasgow to the second level. Part of the problem here could be Miller getting confused on the calls. I don't know, I'm not out there or in the film room. But zone running 101 says not to allow first level penetration. So I doubt the coaches are telling them to leave Miller 1 on 1 with a nose shaded to the play side.  Like someone said above if Miller gets caught like that he should just use the defenders momentum to run him past the play and let Fitz make the cut behind him.

these wolverines

September 17th, 2013 at 12:33 PM ^

He should combo block everytime like the guy said above. Its a really simple block for Glasgow bc he should be able to clean that guy right off the snap at worse handing him off to miller and then he goes to the LBs that dont move. I rewatched this game last night and its really sad that we didnt dominate the LOS they way they were lined up like above and a few other times, where they left the middle wide open but yet we couldnt establish anything. Really worries me that we couldnt run for more yards vs akron.


September 17th, 2013 at 12:34 PM ^

He used to post on these things and provide valuable additional insight or sometime counters to Brian's play dissections. I agree that this looks bad, but is it better than it looks, I don't know.


September 17th, 2013 at 12:40 PM ^

I'm sitting at the game wondering to myself "why can't we run against Akron, and why can't we ever seem to run consistently out of the pro style set?"  Very difficult to get that sense without replays watching from the stands.

Well, it seems like this a partial answer here.  It seems to me that either (1) the players have been given impossible assignments by the coaches, or (2) the players are blowing their assignments.  

Either way this is incredibly frustrating and makes me slightly anxious for the future of our running game.  It's one thing if the players are just so bad that they can't make blocks.  We've got a lot more guys coming up and maybe that will solve the problem.  However, this seems like a structural error in our scheme that will always make running difficult.  This is year 3 of "the transition" and we still can't run consistently out of a pro style set and are forced to run read options to get any amount of consistency.  


September 17th, 2013 at 12:55 PM ^

First, Glasgow is beating out scholarship players for his position.  So walk-on status doesn't really mean a whole lot.

Second, as others have pointed out, it seems like Glasgow and Miller are being tasked with impossible assignments that are just asking to get blown up and also deviate from normal Xs and Os of the running game.  Either way, its on the coaches to give them something more managable.

Third, this lack of production out of the I-form has been a consistent theme for awhile.  Not just these players.  


September 17th, 2013 at 1:13 PM ^

That Glasgow has earned a spot over a scholarship player is less a feather in his cap than it is an indictment against those players on scholarship that he has beaten out.  You think every major program in the country just missed on him and he really is awesome?  He's playing because he (apparently) is the best option we have, that doesn't make him good.  Same for Miller.

Asking your Center to make a reach block on a NG is hardly an "impossible assignment" same goes for asking your Guard to chip the NG before going to the second level, same goes for asking your RT to hold his blocks for more than a two-count...

Miller, Glasgow, and Schoefield played like shit on Saturday.  There is no way to sugar coat it. 


September 17th, 2013 at 1:16 PM ^

These assigments are not impossible to execute. I'd be interested to hear you explain why they are impossible and how they deviate for the "normal" x's and o's of the running game.

Lets remember that the RG, C, and LG all combine for 9 starts. Not only are these guys young it also takes time for a new line to gel. Between confusion on calls, movement by the defense, blown assigments through mental errors and blown assignments through physical errors there are a lot of ways for a play to go wrong. But hey lets just blame the coaches for puttting them in "impossible" situations.



September 17th, 2013 at 3:28 PM ^

To be fair, I don't know that they are impossible.  I'd have to look at some film other pro style attacks to see if they are forced to make the same blocks.  

I do know that our Oline has been almost completely incompetent for 3 years (not just this year w/ the young Oline) when the QB is out of the mix running, and I'm looking for reasons.  This includes Molk, Mealer, and now Miller.  It's the same this year against completely awful competition.  Maybe they are not impossible blocks to make, but when you can't make them against Akron, you better find something else to run against other people.


September 17th, 2013 at 1:27 PM ^

How do you know Indiana's oline is executing everything perfectly right now? Are you on one of their blogs breaking down moving picture pages and UFR's? From the outside people probably think 3-0 Michigan is getting good offensive line play too. I'm not here to blindly defend Funk but saying "hey Indiana's oline is better with our old oline coach" seems kind of unfair.


September 17th, 2013 at 2:43 PM ^

and not attempting to tear Funk down. We all knew we'd experience growing pains this year.  However, IN has been able to go 5 deep in rbs in their three games. AK and Directional no.1 were similar to In St and game no. 3, but even against their best opponent they were able to move the ball significantly better on the game than us. Their top three RBs-and other than ND- our schedules have been about the same, their top three rushers all average more than Fitz at 4.5, 5.8 and 5.8 ypc. Fitz comes in at 3.9 thru 3 and I believe Green has been allowed to touch the ball all of two times the last two games.  DG is  an oddity for a drop back passer, simply because he gains more yardage scrambling than he does gettting sacked, both of which count against the rusing avg. And he distorts the image you are talking about. You, if you are being objective, are completely aware our biggest gainers to date have been him taking off from the pocket on non designated qb draws or other running plays.  This isn't good OL play. It's a superior athlete taking advantage of a defense that has gone into pass prevent mode.  Mano-Mano we are not coming out on top and that is all the other poster was attempting to state. At least that's what I took away from it.                       ^I still don't know why I can't do a double return and get a para when I want one, but I don't think Brady is going to keep Funk around if he didn't believe strongly with experience along the OL, we would steadily improve. They were able to produce an NFL back at SDSU and Fitz is capable.  However, his big runs to date, and there haven't been that many, seem to come on an outstanding move on his part rather than having an open path.   Now whether this is Borges' fault for diagramming plays that can't be blocked properly given the defense(in which case they should be audibled out of)or just a product of our inexperience, it does needs to be addressed and I think our staff has proven that with experience they get good work out of their players.  Think that has been borned out by the DB this year, our most recruited and experienced unit.  Funny how those two go hand in hand, no?  


September 17th, 2013 at 1:36 PM ^

I'm not certain who Funk has and has not coached up to the level of being "top-notch." I do know, however, that Greg Frey was an outstanding OL coach and that unit, made up of one returning starter, RT Schilling and the others from the old regime, who for some reason-they hadn't proven themselves- had virtually no p.t. was able to do an outstanding job with them. In fact, most professional observers made the same observations on the production of this basically complete new unit and were very impressed with the job he had done.  Man is a proven commodity.     ^Understand completely the necessity of keeping staff together, but when you have the opportunity to keep one of the best in the land on staff, why not take it? Obviously, it's a carosuel and none of them take firing personally. We had, perhaps, the best OL coach in the past decade here. Why we didn't keep him doesn't make much sense to me either.


September 18th, 2013 at 1:21 PM ^

I know newtopos MO is to come on here every 6 months when something doesn't go great to long for the days of Rich Rod and find ways to tear Hoke's crew down, but let's be honest - our offensive line was not great when Frey was here either.  The fact that he's at Indiana and didn't make the jump to Arizona shows you how much the old staff valued him, so why should the new staff have kept him?

Space Coyote

September 17th, 2013 at 2:00 PM ^

And I liked Frey, but you are taking very limited information. What blocks are Indiana's OL being taught to make? Just zone? Pretty much. They are running a spread that will do more things to hold DL and LBs. The offenses are different. OL is important in both, but OL is leaned on nearly as much as the skill players and QB are much more heavily relied on. It's schematic and philosophical differences. And it's not as simple as: "then why don't we just run the spread this year".

Space Coyote

September 17th, 2013 at 12:58 PM ^

This blocking scheme is definately intentional, but a few things.

Akron is getting off the snap quicker than the OL. You have to slow them down at the snap. It's snap count and switching up the blocking scheme (which is why Iso worked later). The DT is following where ever the OL's first step is. He would be punished for it later.

One the first play: that formation is set up for zone blocking schemes. Akron has 4 guys to Michigan's 4, but Michigan can't double anyone. This needs to be a check by DG, if he's allowed to do so, into a man blocking scheme. Counter or Power absolutely destroy that formation. I don't know if he's at that point yet (I don't think he does, I think he can switch sides, check pass, or check speed option), but this is just straight up RPS where the Akron defense was set up to stop it.

The second play discussed is actually an inside zone run. This is a response to what Akron was doing. How can I tell it is inside zone? Because Houma comes back across the formation to kick out the backside DE. Glasgow isn't expected to seal the guy inside of him. He's expected to get a piece of him and delay penetration. On inside zone, if the guy beats you over the top, you just drive him further, you do not continue to try to fight underneath him. There should be a huge cutback in the backside A gap, which is the design of the inside zone (the end around action holds the backside LB to open it up more) but Fitz can never get into it because Glasgow is beat cleanly and Houma whiffs his block anyway because he can't take a proper path because of the NT penetration. Also note that the DE crashes immediately at the snap, following the zone blocks.

But, Borges saw this as well and attacked it on the next series with the end around. Someone whiffed a block on the outside or on the LB and it only went for a 2 yard gain. But Michigan did try multiple things to counter this.

Space Coyote

September 17th, 2013 at 1:50 PM ^

It's an outside zone run, if Glasgow doesn't release quickly the play is dead. So by design, with the NT shaded but on the center (it's the difference between a 0 shade and a 1-tech) he's supposed to release. Now if that guy is lined up on Glasgows inside shoulder, he will chip and release because it's within his path. But if he gets off track on the first play by coming back to chip (remember, he doesn't know it's a hard slant) then the LB will fill and kill the play.

It's about trusting your teammates to take care of their job. And then you have assignments and reads and keys that you follow. The fact that the defense did something that make those reads and assignments very difficult to succeed isn't the job of the OL, it's the job of the OC and OL coach to not put the team in that situation again or to do things to prevent the defense from doing that.

Space Coyote

September 17th, 2013 at 2:10 PM ^

Borges saw it and made adjustments with his play calling (inside zone, Iso, etc) to try to mitigate it. It was obviously a thing Akron was taught to do. Is there an OL coaching issue? Maybe. Is it a youth issue that they aren't consistent with technique, a common problem with young OL? Maybe. Is it that they weren't focused properly or didn't prep properly? Maybe. I mean there are a ton of things you can't answer about it. What is obvious is that blown assignments were consistent regardless of play call, and that's an issue. What the exact issue is, probably a combination of a lot of things.


September 17th, 2013 at 2:14 PM ^

So the nose just needs to slant and this play is doomed? Why would we expect the nose to do anything else from this alignment? Seems like we ought to have seen that coming and adjusted.

It also looks like we had plenty of bodies to deal with the LBs if Kerridge hadn't had to help with the nose.

Are our blocking schemes really that rigid? Are there no checks the center can make to say, hey, this guy's probably going to slant and doom me, let's adjust?

Space Coyote

September 17th, 2013 at 2:19 PM ^

There was no way of knowing the NT was going to slant hard at first motion to prevent zone. Zone blocking is extremely not-rigid. The NT could have tried to fire the gap (which is what he'd usually do), he could have a designed slant the other way. He didn't, it was Akron's design to take away outside zone. If a team is scheming to stop a run they'll scheme to stop it. You can't still run a play with a tweak and have it work, you have to switch up the runs, the look, the direction, etc. That's what Michigan did in the second play, because they had realized that Akron was scheming to stop outside zone.

Space Coyote

September 17th, 2013 at 2:43 PM ^

Yes, outside zone is the majority of what Michigan has run. But Michigan had more success running Iso against ND than it did zone. You don't know if Akron is going to try something with it's DL, or LBs, or if they are going to play you straight. As is, they "should" be leaving themselves open to getting killed in other ways. That's why you don't just do it.

Let's take MSU-Boise St, first game of last year. Boise St is known for running weakside Iso. MSU made an adjustment to stop this by kicking their 1-tech out a shade. Boise still needed to run the play to see if they were just pre-snap aligning that way, if it was an occasional thing (ie RPS), if Boise could still do their "bread and butter" play. They couldn't. So they switched to strongside Power O and started getting 4-6 yard chunks against a great defense because MSU was hurting themselves with alignment.

Well then the chess game begins. Is Narduzzi doing that alignment or not, what do you call as an OC? The same thing is happening here. Borges is testing the waters early, as part of the script. He's going to his bread and butter plays that he thinks his team executes and knows the best and at the same time is seeing what the defense is giving him for future parts of the game.

As it turns out, the defense made a schematic adjustment to stop outside zone, so Borges went away from it the next two drives but the OL and blocking failed to execute despite the defense setting themselves up. That's the issue.


September 17th, 2013 at 4:05 PM ^

thank you for the reply, that all makes sense. What I take is that Al is ready for this but the team is not able to execute the bread and butter as well as they should or anything else correctly. Feels like to me we are just looking for ways to say that our interior OL doesn't suck, which through 3 games we actually can say. Here's to hoping this gets fixed and soon. In your experience is this fixable, is it just them "getting" it and it is possible a light comes on later,  is this something that is just going to take more time for any (or most)  young OL to learn, something else, or not something you can tell without inside information?

Space Coyote

September 17th, 2013 at 4:18 PM ^

And it's not the fault of the players that they can't execute their bread and butter play here, I mean, Akron has schemed to stop it and did. It happens, so it's not all on the players. None of it is all on the players, the coaches need to step up their coaching as well.

As far as my experience, OL is a position that clicks, especially the footwork and mental side of things, which appears to be the big issues with Glasgow at least. I mean, footwork is no small task, it's something that is deep inside your muscle memory, can feel awkward. Reps certainly help, but just doing it won't get you there. It's really something you'll almost do by accident one time and everything will work out perfectly and it'll just click that "that's the reason I put my foot there". But it takes enough reps where almost doing it by accident feels natural, and it takes a moment where it just all makes sense.

The mental part of it is similar. You just have to see enough things enough times and suddenly it'll make sense about "oh, that's why I do that in this situation, which is why I do that other thing in this situation". Trust me, live, I'm no where near that point. I've had that moment as far as some things, but as far as everything, no. It is no small task by any measure with how much info OL have to digest in such a quick time. And it needs to be nearly instantaneous (look at Brian's second picture pages for evidence of that). It's easy on video, but it could take time or it could happen this week for it to click live. It just kind of happens.


September 17th, 2013 at 3:01 PM ^

I get what you're saying, I guess I just look at this rather odd DL alignment and immediately think "they are baiting us to run outside zone, maybe we shouldn't". You've got a far better eye and experience for this, but I see a trap in this alignment. Am I missing something?

Base on what Borges has run so far this year, it's fairly apparent that outside zone is our go-to run. If I'm Akron, I know that Borges probably underestimates me and will play vanilla. So I scheme to stop outside zone until Borges proves me wrong. Borges needs to plan for that possibility. That's the danger of being vanilla - even a weak team can scheme to take away one thing.

Space Coyote

September 17th, 2013 at 3:11 PM ^

The defensive alignment is essentially a trap. But so is what Michigan did to Northwestern on the last play in overtime. You can't know for sure. You can assume, but the play call has been made.

You call a play and you can only give so much room for your QB to audible. Borges has a script early. The reason for that script is to run the plays he is most confident his team can run and execute and get an idea of what Akron's scheme is going to do. I mean, even with Akron scheming this play, there is still a chance it can be successful if Butt doesn't get blown up on the outside. That's the thing, you can still, plain and simple, out execute and defeat the scheme, it's just not optimal.

Borges knows this, but early on he can't tell what Akron is going to do. So he's trying to put his team in a position to succeed early with limited information while gathering enough information so he can put them in position to succeed later.

Space Coyote

September 17th, 2013 at 2:04 PM ^

Glasgow's problem on the first play is his first step, which takes him upfield. It's not proper inside zone block technique. His first step should be essentially lateral, at which point he can then work up field. If the NT cheats playside, he attacks the NT's backside shoulder and drives him further playside. If the NT stays honest, he attacks NT's playside shoulder and seals him off. But he can't do this because his first step is at 45 degrees almost like he's planning on scooping or going ot the next level. Poor footwork there by Glasgow.


September 17th, 2013 at 1:05 PM ^

It's definitely not optimal that Akron's DT is that far into the backfield, but I still think Fitz needs to try to shoot the gap in the play's intended hole. He might have to break an arm tackle, but if he does he's got some green grass and the play is relatively well blocked. The alternative is what he did: a cutback into three unblocked defenders, which has zero shot of anything.


September 17th, 2013 at 1:29 PM ^

That's an interesting argument. I replayed the video about 10 times to watch that hole and see if it would work. I think you're sort of right and sort of wrong.

1. There is a hole that Fitz could have run through, and the result would actually have been better. He lost significant yardage here and Kerridge had sealed his player, so Fitz would have had several yards to run through. As it was he was swamped as soon as he cut back and went nowhere. In this sense you are correct.

2. The block that occurs right at the point of the "1st & 10" arrow in your picture is about to be chucked by the defender, and a moment after this screencap he was free and waiting. Fitz would almost certainly have been tackled by him for no gain. Meanwhile, with Miller chasing his man, the logical read is for a backside cut behind Miller. The problem is that there are, as you point out, three backside defenders unblocked and waiting to make the play.

So I think Fitz did as well as he could there; the problem is that there is a nose tackle three yards in the backfield that requires two men to block. If Miller had held him up, there is a bigger hole, and Kerridge is free to pick up the man downfield that I highlighted as being ready to make the tackle. Instead there is nothing. There is nowhere good for Fitz to run.


September 17th, 2013 at 1:43 PM ^

The guy being blocked by Butt (#11) was never "free and waiting" -- at best, he slightly disengaged himself from the block, but on the upfield side, and Fitz would have been through the gap before #11 could possibly have made a play on him.  I agree with Antonio here (and PurpleStuff below) -- Fitz needs to follow where his lead blocker is taking him.


September 17th, 2013 at 1:57 PM ^

The linebacker does get disengaged from Lewan further downfield, but it seems to me it happens only after Fitz has cut it back.  Even assuming he's waiting to make the play, Fitz can use Lewan's body to avoid the guy to the outside, IMO.  And I'd still take Fitz one on one with a head of steam against a linebacker as opposed to running into a wall of three unblocked defenders on the backside.

Brewers Yost

September 17th, 2013 at 2:22 PM ^

That guy does get off Lewans block but he is off balance and more important sealed to the inside. If Fitz follows his FB like he supposed to he has a nice lane between Lewan and the WR. Plus his cut in the backfield slows his momentum and he needs to accelerate through the hole that the play is designed to create.


September 17th, 2013 at 4:00 PM ^

Fitz is not hitting the hole hard at all. He's looking at the blocks before he even receives the ball. If he explodes through the hole he has a chance to break a long one here. Instead he pitty pats in the backfield and the blocks collapse around him. This was something that he consistently did all day.

Space Coyote

September 17th, 2013 at 2:07 PM ^

The FB should never be responsible for sealing the NT here. He is because it's the first off color jersey to come into his path, but it is not intended and is not what Fitz is reading. You're looking at a still picture, but if you watch the video you essentially see the FB get blown into that hole you're talking about because the NT is large and has more momentum than the FB has to counter it.

You saw a mix and match of Fitz "letting his blocks develop" and then them not developing and Fitz doing something like above, where he doesn't trust the play to develop because of his reads. The biggest problem here is that because of the NT penetration and the guy outside that is three yards deep (Butt cannot let a defender set the edge this deep on outside zone) is that Fitz can no longer press the edge. If Fitz can press the edge then he has time to realize the NT is picked up (or at least slowed) by the FB and this is a big gain. But the edge rusher has gotten so far up field that he cannot do that and Miller gets beat so quickly that none of that can develop.