Struggle. There is only struggle. We can ask the how and why of it but the pale fact remains that all around us is struggle. Eat At Arby's.
I've put Drevno on my personal hot-seat given the continued struggles with the OL both on the field and in recruiting, not to mention the hiring of Frey. With that being said, however, isn't this year different than the last two in the way they're struggling?
I feel like our OL struggled mostly with run-blocking the past two years (pulling, ID'ing, push, leverage, etc.) while this year we're struggling primarily in pass-blocking (stunts, twists, blitzes, etc.).
Would that indicate it is more of a player-related issue or schematic issue this year rather than an OL coaching issue?
These questions are always in the "I don't really know" zone since they require insight into the inner workings of the program I'm not privy to. Michigan faces twists, stunts, and blitzes whether they run or pass, and the ground game has been a struggle.
There's a clear personnel hole at right tackle, where Ulizio just got yanked for Juwann Bushell-Beatty, a redshirt junior who still managed to lose his job to Ulizio. The results have been ugly so far, far uglier than last year even after Ben Braden was forced to kick out to LT:
5 Sacks, 2 hits, 6 hurries given up on the season. We still haven't charged anyone else on the OL with >1 (QBs collectively at 5).
— Josh Liskiewitz (@PFF_Josh) October 9, 2017
That's Ulizio through five games, turning a motley collection of defensive ends into Brandon Graham Voltron. Ulizio's struggled less on the ground but has not exactly been good. That is a definite player-related issue, and a Grant Newsome-related issue. But as I noted in the game column Michigan has a severe issue at tackle in part because Michigan airballed at the spot in their first recruiting class.
Michigan also attempted a change in philosophy. It seem like the addition of Greg Frey caused them to go heavy inside zone, trading surprise for execution. They did not execute, so they just gave up their surprise. Michigan did go back to something that looked more like last year's diverse run game against MSU. Despite the uninspiring numbers it's been their easiest run performance of the season to look at so far in UFR. I would say there is a schematic issue caused by that change in philosophy, which may or may not end up sticking. Survey says: probably not.
[After THE JUMP: will you be more likely to click if I say the Star Force Alfisode B trailer is behind the link? It's got a funny lookin' animal in it!]
Where is the roster patch on the OL?
So one of the most promising things that happened when Harbaugh arrived was him grabbing O’Korn, Rudock and O’Neill. Safe to say he looked at the roster, saw the holes, and moved immediately to address it. Highly competent roster management.
Given that, and the fact that offensive line has so many more scholarships dedicated to it overall, how have we ended up in this place? It’s not like there haven’t been tackles available to grab. It’s baffling how the same guy who snagged an asset at punter failed to somehow in 3 years have a viable right tackle. I understand the Newsome injury was extreme bad luck, but injuries happen and roughly 15-20% of your roster is offensive line. Frankly, that’s the position group most likely to be able to withstand an injury.
If you're talking about 'croots, I agree with you. Transfer OL, however, have a dismal track record. Remember Chad Lindsay, the Alabama transfer who we were pining for who ended up at Ohio State? He failed to win a starting job, got hurt in fall camp, and quit the team midseason. Clemson transfer Jake Fruhmorgen was at Florida for a cup of coffee, quit the team, retired, and is now at Baylor. USC transfer Khaliel Rodgers also retired briefly after moving to UNC; a few weeks later he's getting a shot at a starting job only because two starters are out on a horrible team. Not coincidentally, UNC's horrible offense was starting UF grad transfer C Cam Dillard. Closer to home, David Dawson didn't make it past June at Iowa State. I bet a dollar that Texas transfer Jean Delance also flames out.
Michigan poked around the transfer market for OL and came back empty; chances are whoever they acquired wasn't going to help them. At all. OL take so long to develop and have so many starting spots available that 1) anyone who's actually good isn't blocked on his way to the field and 2) anyone who gets the impression they should leave early in their career is probably a very long way from being a top-end contributor.
A guy like Ryan Ramczyk is an exception: overlooked in high school and established at a particular level, transferring up, is a totally different world than a guy who can't get on the two deep at a Power 5 school. And guys like Ramczyk are exceedingly rare. I can think of only Ryan Ramczyk.
Transfer OL don't help.
I'm arguing with an awful ND friend of mine about the virtues of Football Outsiders versus ESPN's FPI (FPI likes ND more than Michigan). Is my troll accurate as to the Football Outsiders guys' metrics being better than ESPN's?
I'm an LSA grad, so don't have the quant skillz to prove my point. But I know somebody who does - everyone's favorite MGoBlogger. Any ammo you have would be appreciated.
Anyway - love the blog and Go Blue.
John [ed: a different John]
I don't know anything about FPI since it's proprietary. Also I don't look at it because it doesn't say anything interesting. It has grades for offense, defense, and special teams and one overall number and that's it. When a Mississippi State blog looked at it a couple years back it won 53% of the time against the spread in a 55-game sample, which is probably within the coin-flip error bars. S&P+ is in the same range:
Each year at Football Study Hall, I have posted weekly S&P+ picks as a way of affirming the ratings’ validity. I use my S&P+ system as a complement to most of my analysis, and the picks are a way of showing it generally knows what it’s talking about.
S&P+ tends to hit between 50 (meh) and 54 percent (great) against the spread from year to year. It isn’t always the single best performer, but it holds its own. And beyond picks, it goes deeper than any other set of college football analytics on the market. You can go into granular detail regarding team strengths and weaknesses in a way that no other set of ratings allows. (See the annual team statistical profiles as proof.)
So: I don't know which one is better, and I don't know which team is better, and probably nobody does. I like S&P+ because it tells you a lot of different things and seems no better or worse than any other ranking versus the spread.
Game theory item.
In the last game, Michigan scores a touchdown to make it 14-9 and decides to kick the point after instead of go for two. Why not go for two and make it a field goal difference (14-11)? As things turned out, if the two point conversion was successful, it certainly could've impacted the outcome of the game.
I'm probably just missing something obvious here as this wasn't addressed in either the broadcast or the "game theory stuff" section of the podcast.
This did not occur to me at the time but I think you're right. Normally the middle of the third quarter is too early to start thinking about end-game states. Michigan had six(!) possessions after their TD, five of them unencumbered by the clock. Usually the play there is to kick the extra point instead of going for the lower-percentage play.
With rain approaching and Michigan having just two scores most of the way through a game the equation shifts. Even at the time Michigan scored it felt like they'd need another short field to do it and that another MSU TD would be game over; in that circumstance you probably should try to get within a field goal. Another reader with the same question noted that a 54-yard field goal was on offer for Quinn Nordin if Michigan was down 14-11.
A question for your next mailbag: what is the difference between a receiver who runs good routes (Grant Perry) and a receiver who doesn't (DPJ)? Is it the ability to run a route that is accurate to the play's design, or is it more in the realm of taking what the defense gives you? By contrast, what makes it difficult for many younger receivers (e.g. DPJ) to run accurate routes? Thanks!
Routes, with a few exceptions, are broadly irrespective of the defense that is run against them. Those exceptions include underneath "stick" routes on which the TE or RB breaks away from the closest defender, four verts concepts on which sometimes interior WRs do sit down if they recognize coverage, and tweaks on crossing routes when you see zone coverage and sit between two defenders instead of continuing to run into one. You might also see a guy anticipate a back shoulder throw when he's got a guy over the top of him.
But mostly you're running an out or a fly or a post and that's just what you're supposed to do. And getting that down...well, there's a lot of stuff, just like anything. Precision is the most important thing: the QB is often throwing to a spot at a certain time and you have to be there, and not a yard off or a second late. Perry is consistent at this; others not so much. Getting off of press coverage is another thing; a couple times in this game we saw WRs get shoved so far into the sideline that they had no shot at a catch. Setting up your guy with a double move is a third dark art, one that Perry has and Crawford, amongst others, seemingly does not.
Young guys have a tough time with route precision because they've mostly been able to overpower and outrun anyone they come across in high school, and precision is often made worthless by bad coverage and bad quarterbacks. DPJ, who played in a rudimentary passing offense, was a guy who was always going to have a transition period.