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Submitted by Brian on October 16th, 2008 at 4:29 PM

Brian,

Do you think it was more than just slightly coincidental amidst last Saturday's misery that the marching band chose to do an emo halftime show? 

-Jeremy

That's only the tip of the iceberg, man: during the Wisconsin game they did a Ferris Bueller parody where the drum major was absent, then showed up at the last second. Just like the team!

Brian,

Rodriguez has been dealt an impossible hand by a combination of (a) circumstances (untimely graduations and transfers) and (b) transitions (the personnel we had is ill-suited to the offense he wants to run).  He is doing the best he can, and we have been competitive in every game we played this year, except for the ones where we took howitzers and pointed them in the general direction of our own nutsack.

My bigger concern is not Rodriguez and it isn't how we are doing this year.  My bigger concern is the high level of risk associated with the spread offense.  It absolutely cannot come as a surprise that Threet was injured -- he has been getting hit hard on a regular basis.  This is what happens when the quarterback is an important yard gaining aspect of one's offense.  I am concerned that in the bright future, we are going to have a really good team well-suited to running the spread -- and our entire season will hang on whether the quarterback can avoid injury.  And when he won't, we'll spend lots of times saying "If only [fill in name] hadn't gotten injured in the fourth [fifth, seventh, first] game, we could have been really awesome!"

You think back to Oregon with Dennis Dixon.  They were unstoppable.  Then Dixon got hurt and they were nothing.  It is just such a "everything must go right" type of offense.  That's my big concern.

Anyway, just wanted to sound off about the spread in a different way.  Not so much a "where the fuck are we?" kind of way, because as you ably pointed out, that's not very useful.  More in a "does it make sense to go in this direction when we are the type of program who can recruit hosses and play a sweet pro style offense."

Steve

This is often cited as a reason to be leery of the spread: Pat White, Drew Stanton, Dennis Dixon, and many other spread quarterbacks have been blown to smithereens and taken their teams' chances with them. While dropback passers get hurt, too, it's reasonable to suggest that Pat White (197 carries, including sacks, in 2007) is more likely to get hurt than your average Michigan quarterback (57 combined carries in 2007).

I think the dropback guys aren't quite as well off as that disparity suggests, though. Quarterbacks don't have to register a carry to get hit, especially when they're dropping back to pass behind an iffy offensive line. I think it's safe to assume that Michigan quarterbacks got hit as they threw the ball far more often than White did—for one thing, White only threw a quarter of the time. This narrows the gap somewhat. Also, when you're running with the ball you are usually conscious of the people trying to tackle you and rarely take a big hit; quarterbacks getting attacked from the blindside or standing in and throwing often take wicked shots. So it's not a slam dunk the spread guys are at more risk. I think they are, but if it's 10% or 20% you're probably better off with the spread.

To find out we'd have to go to the numbers, classifying quarterbacks as spread or pocket passers and surveying the recent history of college football to determine how much time the spread guys missed versus the pocket guys. Without anything resembling an injury database you're reduced to inferring which guys got benched (good or bad, you can rest a guy at halftime of the 'Cuse game and that looks like he's injured) or had disciplinary issues versus which got knocked the F out. That's a ton of noise when you're looking for an effect that's pretty noisy itself; I don't think any sort of study is feasible.

So then you're measuring whatever bonus effectiveness you get from running your quarterback—and the evidence suggests this is substantial—against the murky increased chance of injury to you quarterback.

All I can tell you on this is: I don't know. This is a tootsie-roll-pop-level mystery, and will probably always be so.

I have a rhetorical question for you. Is it just me or does McGuffie run straight up? I know the kid has talent but I will guarantee if he leads with his pads more he'll stop going down on first contact. This is a pet peeve of mine similar to your coping issues with clock management. I don't think anyone can use the argument he's to small right now to run thru defenders. Mike Hart wasn't always big and Jacquizz Rodgers seems pretty successful. At this point I'm hoping it's something Jackson is working with McGuffie on this since I  believe it will expedite his success as one of the great Michigan running backs. Go Blue!

Scott.

Yeah, McGuffie's major flaw to date has been a near-total inability to make yards once a guy has him wrapped up. He's the exact opposite of Mike Hart. I'm not sure if he's ever going to get better at it, either. He's a slasher, which fits very poorly with our current inability to block defensive linemen consistently, and is probably 20-30 pounds lighter than Hart. I think it's something we're going to have to live with.

Comments

caup

October 16th, 2008 at 4:53 PM ^

I seem to recall McGuffie breaking numerous tackles against ND (okay, grain of salt) to the point where the announcers were actually lauding him as a guy who's hard to take down.  Against WI, his game-winning TD run was a tough rumble where he had to help move the pile and break arm tackles.

Also, he's 18. He's GOING to gain at least 15 pounds of muscle over the next couple of years. IMO, this is a non-issue.

k bizzle

October 17th, 2008 at 9:41 AM ^

McGuffie is still a freshmen and he has plenty of time to improve and get better with BARWIS. Just give the kid another year like everyone is giving RR to see if he can get better at it.

 Also I think this may have to do with McGuffie protecting the ball more than the other RBs. Everyone is getting on anybody who puts the ball on the ground and McGuffie hasn't been. So maybe he is trying to protect the ball more than make a move or two and get a bad hit on him. It seems the coaches have been getting on everyone about it and he is one of the few listening to them.

So for the people that want to talk about him not breaking tackles I will point to his lack of fumbles. Maybe I'm wrong here in liking a guy who protects the ball more than breaking a tackle or two and giving the ball right back?

matty blue

October 16th, 2008 at 4:55 PM ^

i would also note - i can think of two times this year that threet got absolutely clocked while running the ball...in both cases, he probably could have slid instead of going for the extra yard or two.

my feeling, which may or may not be true, is that a more instinctive runner gets hit less often, and less hard, than someone like threet, who is serviceable but not as "natural."

i'd also note, and it relates to the mcguffie letter - terrelle (sp?) pryor runs about as straight up as anyone i've ever seen.  that guy is going to get creamed at some point.  sorta like drew stanton did by woodley.  which probably contradicts my first point.  never mind.

PattyMax64

October 16th, 2008 at 6:37 PM ^

That is the point I was going to make.  If you look at a RB, he knows how to take a hit and how to fall.  I think the same goes for running QBs, they know how to take a hit and how to fall because they do it more often.  The only other thing I can think of, is if the QB runs like Tebow.  If he embraces contact for an extra yard instead of sliding, he will be more prone to injuries, be they concussions or upper body injuries.  I think if our QB can slide or run OOB when necessary, we will have a much healthier QB.

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 16th, 2008 at 5:07 PM ^

The key to any offense it to have 2 QBs (preferably three) that you can win with. But two is a must, in case of injury.  It does not matter if you have a drop back thrower or an option-style QB.  Michigan's record under option style QB's (i.e. taking punishing hits) is actually fairly good. Under Rick Leach Michigan was 48-8-2 9 (4 years). Under Steve Smith 26-10 (3 years), as some examples.  Leach and Smith probably took the most hits.  Both sustained mild injuries over their career (Leach with a lingering hamstring) and Smith was knocked out cold of the '83 Rose Bowl with a shoulder injury.

But UM's experience with drop back passers is tough too: John Wangler (injured knees in '79 Gator Bowl) on a rollout pass play, Jim Harbaugh (broken arm) vs. MSU, and other drop back QBs like Collins, Brady and Henson (more dual-threat) and Henne have sustained injuries as well mainly dropping back to throw.

Coaches assume injuries will take place. That's why depth and preparation are so important. 

It's not enough anymore to have Chad Henne as first string and Jeff Kastl as your backup.   You need 2 QBs that can go anytime - just to survive a football season.

The Oregon Dennis Dixon example is a good one, but did you notice what Belotti and Kelly have done this year. They have like 4 Duck QBs ready to go and run the spread (and they're pretty good).   UCLA or Washington State right now are both in deep doo doo, just like Michigan.  And neither runs the spread offense.

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 16th, 2008 at 5:10 PM ^

Spread QBs getting tackled?  what happened to option QBs during the 50's thru today?  didn't Rick Leach get tackled (a lot)?

i don't see how being a running QB in an option is more dangerous than being one in the zone spread is?  and i don't recall anyone ever suggesting that teams should scrap the option (certainly not w/in ear shot of Bud Wilkinson or Wooody Hayes) because their QB got tackled too often.

Engin77

October 16th, 2008 at 5:25 PM ^

Seems like it has alot to do with deceptiveness and elusiveness;
Threet has a little of the first, but not so much of the latter.

OL play has a lot to do with QB health; Henne missed alot of time last year, and Lloyd wasn't running the spread.

Huss

October 16th, 2008 at 5:41 PM ^

that suggests spread QBs are hurt more than dropback QBs.  None.  People just know about Dennis Dixon and Pat White, pay little attention to every other QB in the nation - and boom, a theory is conjured.  SPREAD QBS GET INJURED INEVITABLY, DUH!

 And not to be Michigan Man-ish, but I'm pretty sure the backup QBs he'll begin to recruit at UM will be a helluvalot better than WVUs or Oregon's.  Forcier/Beaver next year, an instater the year after, and on and on.

Enjoy Life

October 16th, 2008 at 5:43 PM ^

I found this site:

http://www.covers.com/pageLoader/pageLoader.aspx?page=/data/ncf/injury/…

It is way depressing - lists injuries for all college football teams. There are a lot of QBs on the list.

Cincinatti Bearcats -- 3 QBs out, Washington Huskies - 2 QBs out.

Not sure if this could be compiled to something meaningful.

I tend to agree with Brian -- I still don't know why Ben Roethlisberger is still alive after all the hits he has taken with the Steelers this year. He is playing with a bad shoulder.

papabear16

October 17th, 2008 at 12:03 PM ^

I was a wishbone QB in HS, so I took a lot of hits running the ball, particularly from DEs right after a pitch or even carrying out a fake.  Mostly, because I knew how to run and take a hit, I didn't have any more real injury problems than any of our RBs.

 What I did notice, though, was that my effectiveness could be limited by those hits when a RBs wouldn't have, because they don't care if they get a deep tricep bruise, but that could affect my throwing motion a bit.

In the end, the reason the White and Dixon injuries have been so devastating is because they were Heisman-caliber players on teams without good replacements.  If we ahve good RBs or backup QBs so the drop-off isn't as great, we'll be fine.

wolverine1987

October 18th, 2008 at 10:30 AM ^

about the risk for the spread QB going down, and the potential problems for the team, and here's why--it's not just about having a greater risk of injury spread vs. pro-style, the key IMO is this: when the top guy in a spread system goes down, for whatever reason the backups seem less capable of holding the system together than backups in pro style systems.  I don't know why, but for some reason when the White's and Dixon's of the world go down there goes the offense.  But in pro systems the backup often seems far more able to hold it together, perhaps because the required skill sets (drop back, read, throw) are less specialized than in the spread?

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 18th, 2008 at 11:14 AM ^

it seems to me most michigan fans just refuse to see how good mcguffie is because they just cant get past the fact that he is white. The call for Brandon Minor is just retarded. sam is faster, quicker, better ball security, just a bit less powerfull. I think fans have been bombarded with so much of the MYTH of black athletic supremacy that it will take a few more mcguffie's, gerhart's (stanford) and hawkins (vanderbuilt) to actually convince fans that there are quite a few white athletes who have more then enough athletic ability to compete at this lever against thier black counterparts...just my 2 cents