Tom always MIKEs before he hikes.
We here at MGoheadquarters recently received some disturbing news about today's youth:
Devin Gardner on SiriusXM: "Before coach Nuss got here, I never had to identify a MIKE ... now I know where pressure's coming from."
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) August 20, 2014
Kids these days are running around playing three or four years of Division I FBS major conference Block-M-Michigan football without ever identifying the MIKE. !. This sudden revelation has caused widespread histeria. Al Borges has been fired 180 times in the last several hours, and right now Dave Brandon and key personnel are closed off with Rich Rodriguez, deciding whether he needs to get a superfluous extra axe as well. This is calamitous. Catastrophic. Grievous. Pernicious. Regrettable. And avoidable.
What in the name of Double-Pointing Brady Hoke are you people talking about?
MIKE (v.): The act of identifying the middle defender inside the box on the 2nd level for purposes of establishing protection assignments.
It's basically calling out the defense's alignment, using a very simple mechanism: declare one linebacker—the one in the middle of the defense—to be a fifth guy that the five linemen are responsible for blocking.
|Chad always MIKEs before he hikes.|
This is often, but by no means always, the middle linebacker, which many defenses call a "Mike," which is where the term comes from. This is important: the [guy playing the defensive position called] Mike doesn't get to be all-time MIKE. In fact the very reason we MIKE is because Mike the Mike might not be the MIKE, and not knowing this might get your quarterback very badded.
Why is MIKEing important to my children?
Because if the MIKE blitzes there's no way for outside protection to pick him up, so the offensive line has to assign everybody's blocking with that guy accounted for somehow. Defenses LOOOOOOOOVE to screw with this because that's how you get unblocked blitzers, and unblocked blitzers right through the heart of the OL are the best!
When the defense screws with you, you don't have time to point at everybody and say "you block him; you block him." So ONE guy calls out the MIKE and everyone else in the blocking scheme already knows what that means. Usually they call out what sounds like a playcall—it's just a blocking call. "Tango!" "Lightning!" "Red!" "Green!" "Taupe Carpet!"*
|Brian always MIKEs before he hikes. [James Squire|Getty]|
Like in running, pass pro can be man or zone (slide protection). Man makes sure every defender who could be blitzing has a guy assigned to block him (or as is often the case, a man who checks one guy then looks to another). In zone they're blocking gaps: A gap, B gap, C gap, etc. Whatever protection scheme, they have to "declare the MIKE." What they do from there depends on the scheme.
* My dad used colors/nonsense words for playcalls: Blue Jumbo, Yellow Turbo, Purple Eskimo etc. Since he didn't like to use the same "play" twice he got pretty deep into the crayola box before parents' complaints in re: his Lombardi cigar ended his coaching career.
[After the jump, Y U NO MIKE, DG?, and you learn to MIKE]
Why is this an issue now, and how [fires Borges again] did Gardner never do this?
Let me answer the second question first: Gardner wasn't identifying the MIKE because in Borges's offense that was the job of the center. Perhaps the coaches didn't want to put more on Gardner. I don't remember Denard doing a lot of pointing either—Molk set the MIKE. It's not, like, the HUGEST thing that Gardner wasn't MIKEing so long as his protection was.
|A-Train always MIKEs before Henson hikes.|
But on the other hand it's kind of a big deal because he should have learned this in the course of becoming a technical, upperclassman quarterback, and as he said, knowing who the OL aren't blocking gives you a better sense of where the pressure could come from. Changing offenses three times (or, ahem, every three weeks) likely meant Gardner was learning the fundamentals of that scheme rather than other peoples' responsibilities.
So why now? For one it's about damn time, redshirt senior. Second, it's because MIKEing is of great importance to an inside zone running team as well, since likely attackers in the middle tend to do bad things to inside zone. Third, it's hard to MIKE when you're coming to the line with 5 seconds left on the play clock.
How do you choose just one MIKE?
Coaches have various ways of doing this. One I learned is the 2nd defender on the 2nd level starting from the weakside. Other guys say "find the middle guy." There are lots of variations because it's very imperfect—remember, all you're doing is pointing out a linebacker that the OL are responsible for blocking. That's why instead of everybody reading it, ONE GUY identifies the MIKE and everybody else adjusts based on that guy's call.
That guy can be the center, or the quarterback, or someone else. When you see a guy pointing, he's usually MIKEing. If you hear him yell a number—52! 52!—along with it, it could be the jersey number of the MIKE or a number corresponding to a protection scheme. Mike Solari had a good explanation how to do it on Billick's show:
A MIKEing Example
Above we have an under center Ace formation against a 4-3 over front. I'm showing man blocking just because it's easier. I'm also ignoring callsides (right/left) for the same reason. Also I'm using a playcall example that puts six blockers against a potential 7 or 8 attackers (you'll understand why soon enough). If you must know the offense is planning to run four verts.
The guys in blue are the five offensive linemen responsible for the five chief suspects to be attacking the backfield: four defensive linemen and the man they've identified as "MIKE." Based on this alignment the center and LG will be taking the nose, and checking the MLB; between the two of them they should have both blocked. The RB is going to stay in and help, reading the SAM and the WILL (starting from furthest inside) to see if either (or both) is coming. The RB will have to step one way or another; they'll run a token play-action to him and he'll stop and set up on whichever side they ran the PA (up to the coach).
Suddenly the defense changes up:
The WILL got caught trying to time his blitz, and the FS has been walking up. The center or the QB—whichever is in charge of calling out the MIKE, is now going to switch it up so that the OL will have the WLB taken care of.
Note what happened here: the defense went into an 8-man front, and the offense had to pick a guy they're going to block using their best blockers. The RB now has three potential dudes in the box he has to watch. But because he heard the MIKE call he knows who they are and what order to watch them: MLB, SAM, FS. The WLB is the MIKE now. Aaand…
It's a double-A gap blitz. The four down linemen and the new "MIKE" have been blocked by the OL, and the RB read the MLB coming. The quarterback, knowing all about MIKEing and re-MIKEing, knows the pressure is going to come from the MLB. He knows he'll have to keep an eye on the RB's block because that could go badly.
Any parting lessons for the kiddies?
ALWAYS MIKE BEFORE YOU HIKE!
P.S. Everyone should spend a night google image searching "[Michigan quarterback] pointing."