I don't pretend to know the intricacies of football but during the Nebraska game it seemed that Toussaint, in pass protection, would wait for his blocking assignment to come to him before engaging the player. Seeing as Toussaint is significantly smaller then the LB or lineman he's been assigned to block this usually resulted in Toussaint getting pushed backwards (physics and all). Is this how RBs are typically coached to play pass protection?
I mostly stay away from the how of any particular technique failing; more of a "what" guy since I didn't play the game, etc. But to me Toussaint's blocking issues stem from three problems:
- Michigan's line has to resort to slide protections that often expose him to a pass-rushing DE. This is a bad matchup for anyone.
- He's part of that need to resort to slide protections since his recognition isn't good; when he is tasked with identifying guys to pick up he often catches them. Vincent Smith and Mike Hart would find guys and then get some momentum before making contact.
- He hits guys too high sometimes, which makes it easy for them to shed him and attack. Smith and Hart got low, or in Smith's case existed in a perpetual state of low-ness.
3 is his problem, 2 is part his and part a holistic inability to pick up blitzes, and 1 is not his fault.
What's different about this year?
Regarding the offensive line, I saw some comments that intrigued me that intrigued me the other day and I’m curious your perspective.
Borges indicated that another variable in the mix this year is that it’s “the first year in the scheme we’ve wanted to move to.” Based on your work therefore, do you conclude that:
1) There is a significant difference this year in scheme, protections, and what the offense is asking of the o’line?
2) That experienced lines would be impacted by such a scheme change?
3) That inexperienced players would unimpacted (i.e. just as inexperienced)?
4) That therefore the years experience/games experience would also be negatively impacted from a production standpoint.
So that in conclusion – there’s actually hope bc the ones that are young are young and the ones that are supposed to have experience have less experience than one would otherwise understand to be true.
And – that next year or the year after really will be better!
Keep up the good work.
Unfortunately, I'm not seeing a whole lot of evidence for that rationale.
Borges's comments make no sense. This year started out with Michigan running a bunch of stretch plays, which was a departure from what they'd done the first two years… and a staple of the Rodriguez offense. If that's what he meant, he could have just, you know, kept running the stretch.
Instead Michigan was almost exclusively an inside zone and power team their first two years here, and the differences between running those things from under center versus the shotgun are minimal. There has been a more concerted effort to run plays from under center, but that shift was even more pronounced late last year after Gardner took the helm of the offense.
If anything's changed this year from last year in terms of blocking it's that Denard isn't around to bail it out. Borges trying to use him to cover his ass by claiming he somehow couldn't run the schemes he wanted to be cause the guy running behind them was also the one taking the snap is a weak excuse that throws Denard (of all people!) under the bus.
[After THE JUMP: WHY WOULD YOU THINK THAT MAKES ME FEEL BETTER]
I know you were disappointed about the Hoke hiring as was I. However, I subsequently became impressed with his recruiting and the staff he put together, though skeptical about Borges. In retrospect, was there anyone available at the time that Michigan had a realistic shot at that they should have hired?
Peter from Horsham, PA
I am in the same boat with regards to staff and recruiting and would also like to throw his level of aggressiveness (Penn State excluded) as unexpected positives.
As to your question: probably not. If we are taking the narrowest possible view of "realistic"—simply would coach X take the job if offered—then there are some guys out there who look attractive to me, but not many. Gus Malzahn was still Auburn's offensive coordinator at the time; I did like him. Kevin Sumlin was out there but had not yet led Houston to a 13-1 record and was much less of a hot commodity. Charlie Strong had just finished his first year at Louisville and it would have been a tough sell on both ends to pull a Todd Graham. I can't think of anyone else who seems like a man-that-guy kind of hire who was remotely plausible.
And then if you make realistic include the fact that Michigan was coming off a disastrous foray into modernism and had a program culture that had derided Rich Rodriguez as a hilljack from about the moment he showed up, that closes off various possibilities. Would Malzahn get the RR treatment? Maybe, maybe not but after RR he was politically unviable.
So it was either Hoke or some other swing in the dark at a guy less likely to make Dhani Jones happy, and now that everyone's happy Michigan has at least stabilized their roster and recruited very well. Anyone else was going to be facing this crapstorm on the OL, too, and they'd be far less likely to have the capital to power through it. And right now Michigan just needs to have a guy in for five years and see what happens.
One of the lessons I hope we've all learned from this: never wait until after the bowl game to fire your coach (and then don't do so in with a bizarre three-day "process" and don't take another week and a half to hire the new guy). By waiting, Michigan turned one crap recruiting class into two and missed out on various other coaches who would have been available earlier in the year, like Jim Harbaugh. If rumors that Dave Brandon's mind was already made up before the bowl game are true, that's a huge blunder. It's one thing if the program insurrection is his fault, another if he was a known dead man walking. But we'll probably never know the truth there.
I have been just as frustrated by the recent offensive output as anyone and have been struggling with what should be done against the blitzes and the in our headset defenses.
What does a team like Alabama or Stanford do that does not allow the same types of defensive strategies to work? Is it the better offensive lines, use of counters, more coherent scheme, consistent coaching, or a combination? As an example, Stanford against Oregon seemed "predictable" in running power but continued to be successful regardless of the defense. Or I would imagine Alabama could run tackle over stuff against Penn State and obliterate them.
I pick those schools as they seem to be the model for what we strive to be. I want to understand the solutions to our woes.
First, sanity check. FEI rankings for their offenses (please keep in mind that as a schedule-adjusted system, being 34th is really being 34th out of the 50-60 teams playing serious football plus whatever Boise State or NIU may happen to exist in a particular year):
So… yes, Stanford and Alabama have generally had elite-ish offenses over the past five years, with Alabama being more consistent.
Stanford's success can be traced back to having Andrew Luck. for 2009, 2010, and 2011, and Alabama is just an NFL factory of five-star linemen and back after back after back plus the occasional Julio Jones.
With anything there is a certain level of talent that brings with it the ability to impose your desires on the defense. When you can run something against a defense playing straight up and get five, six, seven yards, the defense then has to cheat to stop you and that opens up other possibilities. Against Oregon, Stanford lined up with tight line splits and made it so that blitzers would not find gaps and they could just roll over the lighter Oregon defense. Their predictability was not an issue because they had the horses in that particular matchup, as Alabama tends to do against anyone. And when you can be predictable and still get some yards then teams have to start freaking out about thing X and overplay it, which opens up other options.
Michigan obviously lacks the talent to do that sort of thing. They might have the talent to make their thing deep passing, but Toussaint (and the OL against MSU) have prevented that from happening. They have nothing that they can rely on. That is the fundamental issue. They don't have a go-to play.
That is part talent, part wishful thinking about what this team could do (if we had similar wishful thoughts that is more understandable because we weren't watching practice daily), part midseason OL changeups that have at least partially backfired, part wasting three weeks with a tackle over gimmick, and part Cheesecake Factory offense that in fact allows teams to cheat like a mother to things like the inverted veer without ever worrying that Gardner is going to put a throw on their face once they see veer handoff action.
i loved your site and the informative analysis you brought to the table. now, it has become a useless forum to spread anger and hate and you are the leader. every week you write about and talk about (on wtka) how displeased you are with the michigan offense. you basically heap all of the blame on borges, even though they have a line that can't block, backs that can't hit a hole or pick up a blitz, a qb that locks on one receiver, throws ill advised passes and bails the pocket too quickly and receivers that can't get open and don't come back to the qb when he is scrambling.
if you have all of these issues with coach hoke and coach borges then why don't you attend their press conferences and ask them questions? why send a lackey to do your work for you? simple answer. you are a coward.
if you are so dissatisfied with what the coaches are doing, go root for arizona. that is where your heart lies anyway. you and rich can cuddle while listening to josh grobin.
Putting aside the ridiculous assertion that I haven't pointed out the various flaws in the personnel all year when offensive line UFRs come in speckled in vomit and a purple-green substance I don't even want to get into, I don't go to press conferences because these are my options:
- asking about which kind of horse is your favorite horse (A: "I like 'em all.")
- trying to bring film cut ups and walking through certain things I don't understand, taking 10 minutes, getting cut off, getting a BOO THIS MAN from rest of assembled press corps
- trying to do that verbally, doing unspectacular job, getting are-you-an-idiot cocked eyebrow from coach, more BOO THIS MAN
- sarcastically huffing at every response, asking "why are you the dumbest dumbass in the history of dumbasses?"
- listening to a bunch of questions about horses
Also I have other things to do, like put out 20k words in two posts on one game. I prioritize that over asking about horses and Heiko does a great job—a much better job than I would do—of representing the blog at the pressers. He does not ask about horses.
If Al Borges wants to hear it directly from me, my email address is at the top of the page. Until such time as he asks for it I'll forgo telling him to his face that I think he's screwed the pooch this season, because who does that help? I don't pretend to imagine that Borges gives two craps about what I think. And I don't care what Borges thinks about what I think, because it can only be one thing: "why are you the dumbest dumbass in the history of dumbasses?"
ALL CAPS SECTION
I HOPE YOU'RE WELL?!?
Can he pull a Russell Wilson and go play his senior season elsewhere? If so, any potential destinations? The thought of him going to the desert and playing for RR would be quite juicy.
Hope you're well,
I'M A LOT LESS WELL AFTER GETTING THIS EMAIL, JORDAN
I'M GOING TO BOLIVIA MYSELF
I'm itauditbill on mgoblog. I didn't want to actually post this for the real possiblity of be bolivia'd. However the thought struck me last night in a flu addled state. What are the odds that Applachian State is already working on the A Gap Blitz? (or whatever blitz it is that teams have been doing to Michigan the past few games, I will profess my understanding of football only comes from MgoBlog and it's not as in depth as others)
Yes, I've moved on from this season into worrying about the Nightmare 2.
I ONLY TALK ABOUT COACHES WHO COACH FOR MICHIGAN
Thank you for the outstanding work despite trying times.
Maybe I'm just making this worse, but I'm a little concerned about the (understandable) existential crisis swirling in the the six-inch space between Brian's ears.
What if one of the other guys does the Michigan offense UFRs for the balance of the year, and Brian UFRs the Arizona games? I can't be the only person who became entranced by the spread option after Denard Dilithium met Brian's UFR analysis, and am intrigued at the developments taking place in the parallel universe down in Tucson.
I understand that Brian's name probably needs to be attached to the Michigan's UFRs, but I think we're all better off in the long run if he stops for the balance of the year. Why not take the opportunity to build bench strength in the mGoStaff?
What's going on now ... it's not your fault:
DO YOU THINK THAT WOULD MAKE THINGS BETTER
DON'T YOU THINK THAT WOULD BE LIKE WATCHING YOUR DYSFUNCTIONAL EX-GIRLFRIEND HAVE SEX WITH A HOBO
AND FEELING JEALOUS