Fee Fi Foe Film: 2016 Maryland Offense

Submitted by Seth on November 3rd, 2016 at 11:04 AM


We’ve got to go back….to the last movie

As usual at this time of year Ace is called away to preview bouncy hoopy ball, so I get to watch film. Finding film, now that was hard. Penn State and Minnesota handled them, Purdue tells you zero, and the Indiana game went vintage #CHAOSTEAM. So we’re going back to the same game we covered last week.

Granted, this runs the risk of running into our former selves, for which I foresee two possibilities: 1) Coming face to face with football this awful again will put you into shock and you’d simply pass out. Or 2) The encounter could create a time paradox, the results of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space time continuum, and destroy the entire universe! Granted, that's a worse case scenario. The destruction might in fact be very localized, limited to schools that belong in the ACC.

Personnel. My diagram [click to embiggen]:


Hurst is back in for Godin and the rest of Michigan is unchanged.

As for the Terps, the receivers are all slot types, and the tallest may be the slottiest—Teldrick Morgan, the grad transfer from New Mexico State, was most often the jet guy. Maryland will move them all around, and run a ton of WR screens.

There’s a big contrast between the left side of the offensive line, which has two Academic All-Big Ten former walk-ons in consideration for play-related conference awards, and the right side, which has a 5-star true freshman and an even more lost 5-star true sophomore. The latter, Damian Prince, may be more of a problem than numbers show. The true freshman, Terrance Davis, actually did alright. The guy he replaced, Shelton, still comes in once in awhile when Davis needs instruction.

PFF’s grading of these guys made sense on the left and none on the right: Michaels Minter and Dunn are +13.5 and +11.6 respectively, almost all of that in the run game. Those scores held up on film. Dunn, the LT, is kind of a senior version of Mason Cole last year: great in space, and solid at pass pro up to—but not including—elite pass rushers. Minter is agile and built low—kind of reminds me of OSU’s Billy Price. On the right, Prince and Davis have positive pass block ratings(?!?) and negative run grades. I believe that’s mostly because Maryland’s offense does whatever they can to hide these guys. The PFF scores reflect an OL that’s rarely asked to do more than delay a pass rush for longer than it takes to set up a bubble screen.

That helps explain why that tight end, Hayward, graded out as a disaster to PFF. Derrick Hayward is an Ebron special: can’t catch, isn’t built to block, athletic enough to be drafted in the 1st round by the Detroit Lions. He rarely gets to go out in a pass pattern in long situations because the 6’3 right tackle always needs help. On non-passing downs they’ll flex him out as a 4th receiver, or bring him off the line as an H-back for various Harbaugh-style blocks—he’s good at ID’ing but doesn’t stand up to a hit and has a tendency to hold. McDowell had a field day against these guys.

[Hit THE JUMP for a poor man’s Ohio State]

Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread. They almost never left the shotgun or lined up with fewer than three receivers. They’ll do a lot of trips with the receivers all past the opposite hash:


covered! on purpose?

That lends itself to lots of receiver screens, and opens up big runs when they can get one of their excellent running backs through. Everyone’s still learning—on one occasion Maryland had to take a timeout because the receivers were accidentally covering each other, and twice (like above) they covered the tight end for no discernible reason.

It’s rare that they’ll pull the tight end from the dodgy right side, but they’ll often have him off the line and motion him over there.

Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? A mix, leaning manball. The base play that everything else stems from is an inside zone read they rarely actually run. There’s a lot of Ohio State-style pull trapping, especially with the left side OL.

Very Urban Meyer-ish.

Hurry it up or grind it out? Leans grind. OC Walt Bell is a tempo guy but this is not yet a tempo team. Only four times did they tempo to the line, each after a successful first down run, but the players are still relatively unfamiliar with the offense and they’ll burn down a lot of clock pointing at each other and getting the proper spacing down. They’re 83rd in adjusted pace.

Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Seven. Perry Hills isn’t a major running threat but he’s enough to be a part of the offense, and if isolated in space he can get the first down most of the time. It was hard pulling clips from BTN for this game so here’s Hills against Indiana.

If he breaks through on a zone read he’ll probably fall down after 8-10 yards. But when called upon he can whee.

Dangermen: I already brought up the left side of the offensive line but it bears repeating: wherever left tackle Michael Dunn and left guard Mike Minter are is usually where the run game is going.

And their running backs take advantage, starting with true freshman Lorenzo Harrison, a compact and shifty runner who’s now getting the bulk of carries and posting an excellent 7.28 YPC despite missing the softer parts of the schedule. If there’s a knock on him he’s got a bit of fumblitis. The nominal backup is Ty Johnson, who’s averaging 10.4 YPC. Both have great vision; Harrison is harder to tackle and Johnson has better speed. Former starter and 4-star recruit Wes Brown can’t see the field anymore.

Then there’s sophomore receiver D.J. Moore, who’s their favorite screen target when he’s not also their favorite screen blocker and downfield threat. They also had him throw a pass from a screen look; he overthrew a wide open guy 50 yards downfield so there’s an arm there. Moore gets a lot of his yards by adding 4-5 he shouldn’t after the catch.

HenneChart (what these mean): I figured out why Perry Hills has the highest passer efficiency among Big Ten quarterbacks. He throws TONS of screens, and his receivers make more out of them than what should be there.

Perry Hills (MSU) 2 8 (10) (1) 3 -- 2 -- 3 1(1) 66%

Mostly he was accurate. He made two great throws on rollouts, one across his body to a small window on the other side of the field, and a TD pass under pressure when he floated a perfect ball to his receiver in stride. I could have been harder on some ducks that made it there and got charted Catchable. He only went long twice. One he got a good matchup with State’s HSP and chucked it short into good coverage—his receiver adjusted but dropped it. I have no idea how to file that since it was good coverage but seemed like a good idea. The other time he threw a good ball and his receiver took himself out of bounds and dropped it anyway.

There were no bad reads, and scarcely few opportunities to make them. When he had to throw they often rolled the pocket and kept his options simple. This coaching staff definitely took notice of the INT-fest last year.

Zook Factor: Maryland had a 4th and 6 from the MSU 35 and went for it. Durkin and his staff are all young enough to have Madden rules down.


As Maryland burns this year learning to run Ohio State’s offense, they’ll be great practice against Ohio State’s offense. OC Walt Bell is a bona fide spread guy and probably younger than you are. He made his hay at North Carolina before his last stop, which was OC, associate HC, give-this-man-a-job at Arkansas State, the cradle of spread coaches.

Like Malzahn they will spread to get you away from their interior running game, and zone read to get you away from their interior running game, and throw screens to get you away from their interior running game, then funnel outside blockers into their interior running game. The chart leaves out two plays when they tried to score with 38 seconds at the end of the 1st half, and running out the clock on the last drive.

Formations Run/RPO Pass PA    Wideouts Snaps    Down Run Pass PA
Gun 33 23 6 Heavy   - 1st 19 7 3
Ace 0 2 0 2   -  2nd 11 9 3
  3 45 3rd/4th 3 9   -
4 17  
5 2

Other than the personnel, this was very much like Ohio State, and the run/pass/pa ratios on 1st and 2nd down were nearly identical to when I FFFF’d them last year.

That personnel is even less dynamic than it would appear. Often their 4th receiver was the tight end flexed out to the slot, and their fifth was the running back. They did the same against Penn State and Indiana, the two other games of theirs I watched this year. Their backup tight end rarely saw the field and their backup receivers have played less as the season’s gone on. When they went two-backs it was a receiver (Morgan) motioning there. They have their guys and move them around.

This may play into Michigan’s strengths as much as Michigan State’s heavy stuff didn’t: Michigan has their base nickel, which is their base 4-3, which is their base dime, yada yada.

They’ll also give Michigan a preview of Ohio State’s Mike Weber-based running game. Maryland’s is currently 18th in S&P+ thanks to those running backs, the left side of the line, and the fact that your safeties aren’t going to be around to help.

Like Ohio State they have to stay ahead of the chains. Once they’re in 3rd and long Perry Hills needs you to biff a tackle or leave a good zone cushion for his guys; stuff longer than 10 yards starts to look ducky.

Maryland will also bring out some tricks. This one was cool:


That’s three OL on the line of scrimmage and a second set of linemen and a quarterback over on the numbers. The “receiver” at the bottom of the screen is former starter Caleb Rowe. They’d throw it to him for a pass down the sideline that went out of bounds over a well-covered receiver.

This isn’t last year’s tire fire. They have a very simplified offense that makes sense and doesn’t try to do more than their personnel can. This covers up some gaping holes—their right side can’t pass block, their quarterback isn’t much of a passer, and their effective bench are all running backs. This also makes them rather predictable: on any given play Maryland is going to be running where their two good OL are, or throwing a screen to wherever D.J. Moore is. Since Moore and those RBs can regularly get an extra 3 or 4 yards on top of what’s there, that makes for an offense that’s good in the red zone but also can’t take a punch.

So I’m very interested to see what Don Brown comes up with for them: sitting back and giving them 5 yards a play will get you ground down the field, but roll correctly and put them in 3rd and long and it’s all but over. Kind of like some other spread-to-manball team that I’m not at all looking past Maryland at.



November 3rd, 2016 at 11:49 AM ^

Peppers is the best screen-killer in the country and Maryland has half an offense.  This is a hugely, massively, barbequey bad matchup for Maryland.  Imagine the diagram with Hill and Peppers reversed.  Not that Hill can't hold his own, but in a rock vs. rock, strength vs. strength contest Maryland's offense is DoA.

Which means they Will Likely try something else, but per Brian's excellent write-up, they're forced to be rather predictable.  I'm not sure what else they can do; their offense seems tailored to their personnel.  But it looks like Maryland will HAVE to try something else besides throwing screens at Peppers -- most offenses don't even bother to try that anymore.  So it's a question of what else they can do to draw Peppers away from their playmakers and cover up their weaknesses, or will they not be able to execute it well enough to prevent our guys from blowing it up?


November 3rd, 2016 at 11:44 AM ^

That trick formation -- splitting up the OL, creating almost a second LOS near the boundary -- looks a lot like the A11 formation.  Two quarterbacks on the field.  You can imagine, depending on how the D reacts, it can have a lot of variation.  If not enough of the DL splits out to cover it, you toss it down there for a bubble screen and plow forward.  If not enough DL remain over the ball, the QB keeps the ball and RPOs or zone-reads to the other side of the field.

But not against us.  Jabril covers the split formation; he splits thru it and kills that second QB for a 7 yd loss every time.

MI Expat NY

November 3rd, 2016 at 1:46 PM ^

The A11, if memory serves, took advantage of a high school rule on kick formations that did away with the nomral jersy numbering restrictions of 50-79 being reserved for ineligible receivers.  This allowed the offense to declare their ineligible receivers just before the snap.  Maryland's trick play isn't an A11 concept as the offense still has the linemen as ineligible receivers (they're just aligned in a different location than normal), and is perfectly legal on any snap.  

True Blue in CO

November 3rd, 2016 at 11:49 AM ^

This will be great practice for our Defense in terms of preparation for OSU.  This may be our last chance to see a true spread offense before the Game with manballish Iowa and #TeamChaos Indiana's new run oriented approach in the following two weeks.

I am somewhat scared of their highly ellusive scat backs but if Indiana tamed them last week, we should be able to do the same.


November 3rd, 2016 at 11:49 AM ^

Didn't realize their RBs are a freshman and sophomore. Pretty good backs. Don't think they'll have any success in the air, though. Could be similar to the Sparty game, but this time our defense will be fired up at home and start faster.

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November 3rd, 2016 at 12:40 PM ^

I disagree. After last Saturday's defensive letdown, that side of the ball will be pretty chippy.

I think Speight leads an efficient first half game that puts the 2nd and 3rd string in, but with Maryland's trouble defending the run, and all the deep talent we have at running back, garbage time will look like we're running the score up again.

I could be wrong, of course, but I hope not!


November 3rd, 2016 at 12:36 PM ^

I hope to see a rebound game for the D line. Not that they played bad against Illinois or MSU, but we thought they'd run roughshod over those offensive lines and it really didn't happen.


November 3rd, 2016 at 1:00 PM ^

I think our defense has done a wonderful job the last couple games considering the number of un-called holding atrocities that have occurred. Hoping they come out with a chip on their shoulders, looking for another defensive statement game


November 3rd, 2016 at 1:02 PM ^

because of their light schedule thus far:

The next 3 games Maryland will be trying to run against some of the toughest run defenses in the nation.

at Michigan

Ohio State

at Nebraska

This is not going to go well at all.

Thus far Penn State was the best defense Maryland has faced, and they still lost 14-38 on the road. That same PSU defense was still the decimated one that was operating on THREE (3)  3rd and/or 4th string LBs.

Michigan should dominate this game.

But Maryland is the best rushing offense that Michigan has faced year-to-date.

Great Ohio St. training indeed.



November 3rd, 2016 at 2:48 PM ^

I'm not all that worried about this matchup... But the first half of this write up kind of makes it sound like I should be.

Thankfully, the 2nd half calmed me down.

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