Question about UM's passing offense

Submitted by Diagonal Blue on October 14th, 2018 at 11:11 AM

So my ears are still ringing from last night and I can't believe UM ran all over UW like they did. Ed Warriner and our OL deserve to take a bow. It felt like old school UM football and it was awesome to finally have a mobile QB on our side in one of these games. Shea had all day to throw in the pocket and was rarely pressured. Obviously we were able to put the passing offense in the garage in the 2nd half and that was more than fine by me. But I do have a question for some of the football guys here, are Pep's passing plays taking too long to develop and do we need more quick hitters? I was rewatching the game this morning and Herbstreit in the first half was continually pointing out how long our passing plays take to develop. He even said every time UM went empty UW would blitz and Shea would have nowhere to go with the ball quickly. I believe this was a criticism Pep had in Indy as well. Just curious if that was by design last night or if this is something that's been happening all year. Would be nice to see Grant Perry and Oliver Martin get more involved in the slot quick pass game. Same with our backs.



October 14th, 2018 at 11:26 AM ^

Eh, 14 of 20 was good. We didn't really need to sling it around all that much after a while. There were a few plays where I wish Shea was quicker to pull the trigger, but there wasn't much to complain about overall. Solid game from a passing standpoint.

Hail Harbo

October 14th, 2018 at 1:34 PM ^

That's something I've been noticing, that Patterson at times seems reluctant to throw the ball.  I guess it was last week against Maryland that I was telling myself that if Patterson had thrown the ball a heartbeat sooner his receivers wouldn't have to wait on the ball or even have to come back to it. 

Not being able to see the entire field during the entire play, but I wonder if against Wiscy our receivers were open early but Patterson's hesitancy meant the receivers were thus covered.  He doesn't have a lot of INTs this year (3) and I can't help but wonder if the two issues aren't connected.  IOW, it seems he's being risk averse when it comes to passing.

Ghost of Fritz…

October 14th, 2018 at 11:26 AM ^

Offense was really good last night.

M is now a legit playoff contender.

But to stay a playoff contender, the offense will have to continue to develop and refine.

To my eyes at least, adding in a set of short pass plays would be a great idea. 

M has them, but they all seem to be out on the edges. 

Maybe we will see some stuff short 'possession' pass plays beyond the stuff in the edges that gets used.  Hope so. 


October 14th, 2018 at 11:32 AM ^

Fake news.   There are plenty of short, check down type passes available.  Patterson is pretty aggressive, he needs to settle for some of the short stuff more often.

Ghost of Fritz…

October 14th, 2018 at 12:50 PM ^

Yes, there are often check downs.  The pass on 3rd and long (complete but well short of 1st down) near the end of the half is an example.

But I think plays with a built in check-down is a different thing that the plays where the entire design is complete a short quick strike pass. 

I think M ran only 1 such play--a completed slant to Collins (IIRC)--that was not on the edges last night. 


October 14th, 2018 at 11:42 AM ^

We threw a bunch of hitches and outs yesterday. Only thing I would say is that, on the plays where we have 3 or so guys running deep routes, we need to have a dump off option as well. This exists a good deal already - often it's in the form of the RB running out if he has nobody to block - it just takes Shea being settled enough to see it. When Wisconsin did blitz yesterday, Shea got happy feet a few times.


October 14th, 2018 at 11:42 AM ^

Wisconsin was dropping into a zone underneath and a deep cover 2 to limit big plays. Leonhard had a decent game plan but Shea made just enough plays through the air. If we get the chance in single coverage with no safety over top I want to see Shea throw the ball up to DPJ and Nico (eventually Black) a little more. Let them go make a play one on one. Now the defense needs to give us a look to be able to do it, but I think Wisconsin just didn’t want to give up the huge offensive pass play and totally lose momentum (even though that happened anyway on the ground).

Ghost of Fritz…

October 14th, 2018 at 12:55 PM ^

This is what saw too.

Here are my uncertainties: 

Is Shea not great at picking apart/finding the gaps in that sort of zone coverage?

Are the receivers not great at finding the soft spots in zone coverage?

Was there a failure to call plays/adjust play calling with route trees that could exploit that sort of coverage?

Input from any X and O gurus would be appreciated on this.


October 14th, 2018 at 1:06 PM ^

The way I look at it is, it has to do with Shea and his height. At only 6’2, he can’t see over his O line and the D line very well because those guys are 2,3 even 4 inches taller than him. He can’t see the over the middle throws as well because of linebackers dropping into the windows he needs to be able to complete those passes. That is why he is so effective at the outside hitches and comebacks, there is less traffic in front of him. And tall QBs can throw the ball over people and have the point of the ball facing down and drop it over the defense into the soft spots that are created in the zone. Shea has to leave the ball high because he can’t really drop it in there is what I’m trying to say. And he doesn’t want to turn the ball over as I’m sure Harbaugh has bashed into his head all season. So I’m not sure if it’s a X and O thing so much because I saw WR and TEs open last night, but Shea just couldn’t see them. But he is a very good QB who can make a lot of throws. He will only get better I presume.


October 14th, 2018 at 11:47 AM ^

Wisconsin was only rushing 3 to4 on the line, so they played coverage, and it’s hard to find an opening when that happens. That’s why Shea is going to start using his legs more. 


October 14th, 2018 at 11:50 AM ^

Yeah, it’s an issue.  Patterson seems to stare at zones a lot and not do anything.  And then he bails out on clean pockets too soon and too often.  At this point I think part of it is just who Patterson is.  I don’t think this year will fix it, so it’s going to be the limiting thing of this offense going forward.  Feels weird saying that at this point, but that feels like the weakest part of the offense.  Not sure how to adjust the offense except maybe pull out more of those RPOs he ran for two years at Ole Miss.  I don’t think he’s been asked to read defenses and route trees this much before the this year.  


October 14th, 2018 at 12:00 PM ^

It should be pretty obvious after the last game that Michigan is holding offensive plays in their back pocket for specific teams. We busted Nebraska with down G, and Wisconsin got the genuine RPO that Michigan has been teasing all season. 

The short stuff will show up in force... when it's needed. 

The coaches know what they're doing this year. All the bitching of internet experts have really clouded everyone's vision. 

Ghost of Fritz…

October 14th, 2018 at 1:07 PM ^

Well, I think that you will probably end up being correct on this.  At least I hope so.

OTOH, the NW game goes against this narrative. 

M was down 17.  And M was still trailing late in the 4th.  Yet JH did not pull out the sort of wrinkles or unique sets.  It was just the standard sort of offense that was used to eventually take the lead against NW.

It will he telling to see whether JH has a specific set of plays in his back pocket for MSU (hope so).  MSU runs a very different sort of D than Wisconsin.  



October 14th, 2018 at 2:06 PM ^

Good teams play flat, or even look like shit sometimes, and manage to win. NW was that kind of game. I’m sure MSU would have been happy for that outcome. 


The whole notion that Harbaugh forgot how to coach and Pep sucks is so overblown. Last season was awful but it was an abberation and still ended up at 8 wins. 

Ghost of Fritz…

October 14th, 2018 at 2:30 PM ^

I never said JH forgot how to coach.  OTOH who knows what we will see for the remainder of this year? 

Nebraska and Wisconsin games saw some really smart offensive play calling/play design aimed specifically at exploiting the tendencies of the opposing D.

Yet in other situations JH has not rolled out anything unique at all designed to exploit a specific opposing D's weakness/tendencies--such as against NW this year.

In 2016 we did see new offensive plays/wrinkles A LOT.  Almost every week.  

In 2017, we did not see much of it.  2018?  We have seen some of it. 


October 14th, 2018 at 2:18 PM ^

MSU is generally a Quarters defense team, at least that's what Dantonio likes.  The advantage to it is that it's an all-around general coverage that can be used easily with man or zone concepts. The disadvantage is that, in attempting to cover everything decent, it covers nothing expertly, and a team with good blocking receivers or a solid screen play set can rip them apart.  

Here's a good link for studying quarters: 


October 14th, 2018 at 12:53 PM ^

Pep called an excellent game.  We stopped ourselves on offense when we tried the gimmick plays, which may have been scripted.  Also, using the short passing game and read option were two wrinkles I didn't expect. 

TBH, I'm excited to see what new wrinkles they have for step two of the revenge tour.


October 14th, 2018 at 1:16 PM ^

I think the passing offense is fine. I've been pretty pessimistic about us all year because I wanna see us play msu before I really buy in. We get this W and idc how the rest of the season goes! We need to beat these guys and shut them up

It's Always Marcia

October 14th, 2018 at 2:51 PM ^

The reason Jim McElwain was hired was to be ready to take over the whole passing game. With the time Patterson has to look over the field, he should be getting much bigger numbers. Michigan's pass game is ranked #73 in the Nation. It is a stone-cold-lock it would be ranked much higher with Jim McElwain coaching it.

But will that change be made? Winning makes everyone feel good. Coaches are not fired at those times.

But certainly Jim Harbaugh knows the passing numbers too, and can give more of the passing game duties to Jim McElwain without needing to fire anyone.

If there are doubters about Pep Hamilton not being a great passing coach, just look up his history. Everywhere he has gotten involved with a passing game, the numbers start to go down. And just look at how Shea Patterson played at Ole Miss. There was Heisman talk. There is not a peep of Heisman talk for him at Michigan.

It's Always Marcia

October 14th, 2018 at 4:03 PM ^

Yeah, because the passing game has looked so powerful since Pep Hamilton took it over. All those jaw dropping TD passes last year. And that's why Jim Harbaugh (according to you, must have mistakenly) hired Dan Enos, then Jim McElwain..... because it had nothing to do with Pap Hamilton. I get your line of reasoning.


BTW, have you noticed anything different about Alabama's pass game this year?


Stick to watching the Brady Bunch. It's easier.


October 14th, 2018 at 4:05 PM ^

This is a ridiculous take.  McElwain was a successful HC at Colorado State and is undoubtedly biding his time at M before he gets another shot.  JH knows this.  He'll take advantage of the opportunity to have McElwain on staff while it lasts but he's not going to push out Hamilton for a guy who could easily be gone once the carousel starts in December and is here another year or two max even if not.

It's Always Marcia

October 14th, 2018 at 10:12 PM ^

You did see that Jim Harbaugh hired Dan Enos, and then Jim McElwain? You sure Jim Harbaugh is completely satisfied with Pep Hamilton? Because, looks like he isn't. No need to hire Enos and McElwain if everything is hunky dory in the passing game.

You do see what Dan Enos is doing with Alabama's passing game?

These are not trick questions by the way.


October 14th, 2018 at 2:54 PM ^

There’s no issue with Pep designing routes that are too long at all. 

If there is (and I am open to arguments in this direction) the fault lies with Harbaugh. He’s the OC. Wouldn’t be hard for him to say, “hey, the plays take a while to develop, I want some quick slants.”