Neck Sharpies: Peppers on Offense

Submitted by Seth on November 4th, 2015 at 2:00 PM


With such a surehanded Jug grip, Falk thinks Jabrill would make an excellent assistant equipment manager.

Mr. Peppers do pretty much anything better than the people who usually do that thing. We've been told he can play corner, nickel, safety, linebacker, returner, holder, kicker, punter, receiver, running back, quarterback, and do your taxes. I have no doubts he could write this blog better.

Peppers can't be everywhere, but Michigan did use the bye week to put him into the offense in interesting ways. So I thought I'd show all of them. Happy Peppers fun time everybody!

PLAY 1: Empty End-Around

Personnel: Peppers + QB, 2 WRs, 2 TEs (looks like Ace)

Peppers is a: Z receiver

Formation weirdness: Peppers lines up as a receiver and Butt is a flex TE to the same side as the Y-TE, A.J. Williams, who also is split off a good yard from the edge. This will come in hand. The result is an empty 4-wide look; safeties back off.


The play: End around. Peppers starts his motion just before the snap so the defense has barely reacted to it. Mason Cole pulls, other two uncovered OL release, and Kalis and Braden have to reach their guys.


How it worked out: The split of Williams comes into play here as the playside end is shooting that gap and gets caved [A.J. Williams heart bubbles!]. Braden and Kalis both got playside of their guys for just enough to delay while Peppers bursts past. All the 2nd level defenders except the MLB are expecting pass and don't react until Peppers has already turned the corner. They get blocked really far downfield. However Glasgow couldn't get a good angle on the SS, who gets a tackle in space after the 1st down.

[Hit the JUMP for two more of these]


Play 2: A Match Made in Harbaugheaven

Personnel: Peppers + QB, RB, 2 TEs, WR (looks like Ace)

Peppers is a: Fullback!

Formation weirdness: See above. Otherwise it's a standard offset I with TE twins on the field side.


The play: This is all about getting Peppers manned up against one of the LBs. I think they're expecting the Gophers to put the WLB on Peppers, then use Darboh's slant-n-go route as a pick to get Peppers wide open downfield. If it's covered the TEs are running levels, which space should clear out as the LBs react to Peppers.

How it worked out: Surprised Minnesota didn't see this coming, or maybe they did and that's why the SS was slow to get over to cover A.J. Williams. Anyway the MLB having Peppers works as well as the planned WLB pick and all Rudock needs to do is loft it downfield so the huge speed mismatch can be cashed in for six. Instead Rudock shorted it by a lot. Peppers has to stop, MLB pushes him down, intercepts, and gets flagged for interference.


Play 3: Reverse

Personnel: Peppers + QB, RB, TE, 2 WRs (looks like 3-wide)

Peppers is a: Slot receiver

Formation weirdness: Minnesota is showing a 3-3-5 over with the NT shifted to the backside and MLB (a freshman backup) showing blitz. Michigan's in a straight up under-center 3-wide waitaminute…


The play: Peppers goes in motion AND MINNESOTA FREAKS OUT OVER THE END-AROUND. There's a wad of bodies closing in when Peppers stops and flips it to Chesson for the reverse (EDIT: Sorry I'm one of those who calls a reversed end-around a "double-" even though I've been informed that's incorrect. Fixed.)

How it worked out: Swimmingly. The nickel (Boddy-Calhoun) bugged out for the backside the moment he saw Peppers motion, and everyone except Myrick (lined up on Chesson) did likewise. Murray (the RCB) went way downfield with Darboh. At the pitch the Gophers are dead:


Myrick's the only guy facing the direction of the play, and M has blockers everywhere, because the threat of Peppers got everyone else to react.


Play 4: Quarterback Sweep

Personnel: Peppers + QB, 2 TEs, 2 WRs (looks like Ace)

Peppers is a: Quarterback (Rudock is a WR)

Formation weirdness: This starts with Rudock under center and Peppers at halfback. Then Rudock motions out to the flanker position.


The play: The interesting part here is that Cole and Glasgow are pulling, while Williams, Braden, and Kalis are tasked with reaches. Kalis and Braden do this by cutblocks. Chesson has to block the SAM. If all those tough blocks work, it's Peppers and an escort of Butt and Michigan's best two OL versus a linebacker and defensive backs.

How it worked out: Not how you'd expect. The cutblocks go well, and A.J. Williams dominated the playside end, remaining in contact and going downfield to avoid getting called for having that dude's jersey (these holds are rarely called but it affected the play). Chesson couldn't do better than harass the SAM, and that used up Butt's block. Glasgow was beat to the point of attack by the MLB but Cole picked that guy off. With the blocks used up, now it's Peppers versus two defensive backs: Eric Murray (the CB) with con tain, and Ayinde, the SS we don't think much of. Peppers makes contact with Murray at the 3 and De'Veon Smiths his way in from there.


PLAY 5: QB Outside Zone Lead

Personnel: Peppers + 1WR, 3 FB/TEs, 6th OL (looks like goal line)

Peppers is a: Wildcat quarterback

Formation Weirdness: This was pretty cool in that Michigan came out in wide tackle splits; Mason Cole was even standing up like a receiver. Grant Newsome [insert redshirt ranting] is in as the extra OL. Readers of HTTV may recognize this formation as what Stanford started with in that six-shift Virginia Tech run. But Michigan is using it to go Wildcat. As a balanced formation it can attack either side equally. Minnesota is in an over alignment and cheating to the side with the extra lineman.


The play: Pretty straightforward outside QB keeper, not all that different from what Michigan ran as its base with Denard in 2010. I didn't use the "Power" designation from that era because I associate that with pulling. This is more something Yost would run. Strobel and Mags doubled the playside end, Houma sealed an excellent run defender of a CB out of the hole, and it's up to the two lead blocks to connect and send Peppers into a 1-on-1 with the free safety.

How it worked out: Kalis and Glasgow couldn't combo the NT so Kalis never got out on the MLB, Chesson could only cut the WLB so that guy is just on the ground in the gap, and Braden lost the backside DT (Mags walled him off), so all of those defenders are closing in when Peppers gets to the LOS.


Peppers cuts inside the WLB and uses Chesson as a shield to eke out 4 yards.


Play 6: The One Where He Tried to Pass

Personnel: Peppers + QB, RB, TE, 2WR (3-wide)

Peppers is a: Quarterback (Speight is a WR)

Formation Weirdness: We were all watching them put Speight out there as the Z receiver and motion Chesson to RB, and I didn't even notice until rewatch that Michigan had an unbalanced line (where technically the guy snapping it is the right guard).


The play: They're running a zone read play-action bootleg to the underweighted side, and from the looks of it they're hoping the DBs are watching all the motion and are freaked out by Peppers at QB and forget to cover Butt.

How it worked out: They don't freak out or get confused. Minnesota isn't even cheating to the unbalanced side except that the SAM has come down. Butt is covered right through the point where Peppers runs out of bounds.


ND Sux

November 4th, 2015 at 2:17 PM ^

Peppers on offense is the attention he draws...this will open up a huge play to someone else, eventually.  It's not just him, but the potential for counters / catching the D off guard is mind-bottling. 


November 4th, 2015 at 2:33 PM ^

Totally. Adn I'm hoping they install pre-snap options and shifts to his package of plays.  They should also run the read option with Peppers a couple of times.  DE's will likely start hedging hard on Peppers as the QB and open up runs for the RB's.  I think we're gonna see some cool shit against Penn state and OSU. 


November 4th, 2015 at 2:26 PM ^

I disagree.  A non-QB rolling to his non throwing side is asking for trouble unless there's no chance he's actually throwing the ball.  The intent here was to throw and him throwing against his body is probably a recipe for disaster.  However...  Peppers!  So maybe it works. 

Space Coyote

November 4th, 2015 at 2:54 PM ^

But the mechanics of throwing when rolling to your strong side are much easier. Your front foot as you run is also your front plant foot as you pass.

When you roll the opposite direction, you have to get your back foot (for most, their left foot) forward of your right foot, and you have to get your shoulders turned in the opposite direction that you are running to get your shoulders in the right spot. So the mechanics are much more difficult. However, because they are much more difficult and awkward, a QB will tend to make fewer late throws over the middle because doing so opens their body up to getting hit.

Space Coyote

November 4th, 2015 at 2:48 PM ^

People make this complaint a lot. They made this complaint when they used to roll Denard out, they made this complaint when rolling DG out, fans of speed option teams have complained about it a ton, but you typically want to run these plays into the boundary.

Defense are designed to cover the whole field, and so they often rotate their coverage a bit to the field. That means there are LBs under cutting routes, more bodies in the area, and more space for the QB to see. The boundary typically limits the amount of defenders the QB has to worry about and reduces the amount of field he needs to see. It also reduces the ability for the defense to insert defenders into the alley, as their angle isn't as optimal to do so.

So while a lot of fans complain about running into the boundary, there is a reason that roll outs and outside runs are typically run in that direction, despite there being less room to operate.


November 4th, 2015 at 2:38 PM ^

I love the fact that he pulled it down and didn't try to force anything that wasn't there.  The kid has a pretty good head on his shoulders and doesn't panic easily.  That said, he may have shown a bit of oopsy on the punt he muffed into the endzone and thought he had to bring out. Still, give me MOAR PEPPERS!


November 4th, 2015 at 2:25 PM ^

hand off to speed merchant Chesson or Pat White keeps for a touchdown.

With all this counter action, please, please run a double-option play. For once in Michigan football history.  It'll probably go for a touchdown.



November 4th, 2015 at 2:47 PM ^

is even-keel.  He is a good announcer.  With almost pinpoint precision, he calls the play and tees it up for the color man.  His voice tone or inflection rarely changes.  I enjoy his style very much. 

Contrast this with Sean McDonaugh, who I do not care for, and you notice that Nessler never editorializes things nor does make loaded statements like McDonaugh does. 


November 4th, 2015 at 3:03 PM ^

If Newsome is going to come in as basically a jumbo tight end, does it make sense for him to switch numbers so he can be eligible? I know the chances of him being targetted for a pass are pretty slim, but it's one more thing the defense has to worry about and maybe Harbaugh schemes him wide open on a trick play somewhere down the line.

Also, Butt said the Peppers pass was supposed to Johnson and he was just the decoy tasked with running guys off. I didn't really see that, but maybe it was the result of Minnesota doing something different than what they expected.


November 4th, 2015 at 3:30 PM ^

Johnson is coming open at the end since he's running at the unblocked DE like he's got a kickout block. May be the point was in all the confusion to get him to run by the DE into the open space left by Butt clearing everyone out.

Anyway Minnesota played it well.


November 4th, 2015 at 2:37 PM ^

of helmet awards.

As far as I know, the below image has never, ever happened at Michigan before.

Not Rick Leach. Not Rob Lytle. Not Ron Simpkins. Not Anthony Carter. Not Jim Harbaugh.

And definitely not Charles Woodson.

It's gonna look very interesting in 4 games once the Buckeyes come to town, LOL.


November 4th, 2015 at 3:01 PM ^

"As far as I know, the below image has never, ever happened at Michigan before."


This is true, but not for the reasons that I think you're inferring (that Peppers has amassed more stickers than any other player in history). It's supposed to be an unwritten rule that stickers never cross the lines to the inner portions of the helmet. That was either forgotten or igrnoed with Peppers. In previous sticker eras, any "extra" stickers that would have crossed over the lines were put on some kind of board/wall in Schembechler Hall.


mvictors mentions this rule being broken here (which is where your image is from).


November 4th, 2015 at 2:50 PM ^

Can anyone create a graphic of Jabrill as the Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man in the World"?:  I don't always play offense, but when I do . . . look the f*#k out!

El Jeffe

November 4th, 2015 at 3:02 PM ^

The theory behind that play is excellent but not the location on the field. I would like to see us run that when there is lots of room behind the D for someone to get loose so that when the safeties and LBs freak the eff out that PEPPERS HAS THE BAAAAAAAWWWWLLL!!!! he can calmly drop one over the top. This play didn't really exploit the way he makes everyone pay attention to him since there was so little room to maneuver.


November 4th, 2015 at 2:56 PM ^

that SNL parody commercial for the "Happy Fun Ball."  If anyone remembers that, the funniest part was the numerous foreboding disclaimers and warnings at the end of the commercial. A couple of them in particular seem pretty apropos:

Happy Fun Peppers may suddenly accelerate to dangerous speeds.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Peppers.


November 4th, 2015 at 3:07 PM ^

...was the touchdown. Every time I see it my instinct is to shout "just fucking smash him and get the TD"...and JP does just that.

I think that is my favorite touchdown in watching the last 8 years of UM football (caveats apply, e.g. Not most important and not most exciting).

It's beautiful when the HS hype translates to the college field.

Space Coyote

November 4th, 2015 at 3:01 PM ^

1. Michigan essentially did the same thing against MSU when they lined up a WR in a "far" alignment out of shotgun. That play was what drew the PI flag on the MSU LB. Michigan is essentially doing the same thing here. This is one of the downsides of running a relatively simplified defensive scheme; you can utilize formations to take advantage of how defenses cover you. Borges used stack a ton against MSU to force them to play off (without success because the protection broke down). ND used a ton of rub routes and bunch formations against Michigan's Cover 1 last year. Michigan has used receivers coming out of the backfield (not vertical threats according to the MSU and Minnesota schemes) in order to match up a receiver on a LB. Minnesota split TEs wide and motioned a WR into the #3 position to isolate a LB on their best WR. Point is all teams are doing it, this is two games in a row we've seen Michigan take advantage of this aspect in a similar way.

2. You can't really cheat the wheel because of the formation. This is less an offset I formation, and more a "far" formation. If you remember when Denard got hurt and then came back as a RB, Michigan lined him up quite a bit at "FB" in what looked like an offset I, but was actually more of a "far" formation, and then they ran sweeps with him away from his initial alignment, much more like the classic WCO Far formation used to be. That's the same threat here for Minnesota. It's essentially set up to run a sweep to the field side with Smith inserting himself as an additional blocker (similar to something Michigan ran against MSU with success, I believe the play that Peppers sprung for a long run against MSU). It's also a great formation for swing passes and some counter action (fake the sweep and come back to Smith). So a lot of short things Minnesota has to account for, which is why the wheel is so dangerous (no one deep and relying on to LB to play in coverage).

Space Coyote

November 4th, 2015 at 3:10 PM ^

When Peppers is in the game: follow Chesson. He's consistently used as the guy that takes advantage of people over committing to Peppers or he's put in position to be the lead blocker (of which he's often successful). He wasn't in the game on the wheel play, which should tell you something, though I guess on the Peppers throw they broke that tendency by faking to Chesson first.


November 4th, 2015 at 3:09 PM ^

Can we get another jump for a few more of these? Please? Pretty please?

Peppers is starting to look like Denard 2.0 and it's giving me a funny feeling inside.


November 4th, 2015 at 3:31 PM ^

do we agree that this isn't an packaged play? That is, Peppers fakes the zone-read handoff to Chesson but actually the play is for him to keep it?

I ask because if it were a package play where Peppers has the option to hand it off to Chesson, he should have given it there. I suspect that Peppers doesn't have the option to hand it off on that play -- although I presume there is a counter-punch where he does just hand it off.

Space Coyote

November 4th, 2015 at 4:10 PM ^

The Peppers pass play is essentially the staple pass play out of a single wing offense. It's essentially a high-low read on the TE/Blocking Back. The TE more often than not is going to be covered; you hope to get single coverage with inside leverage from the safety and then you can hit him, but it's unlikely. The more likely option will be the back slipping out of the backfield.

That's why Butt is saying the play is "intended" to go to Johnson. Butt is an "Alert" read, but the main read is the flat receiver, and if he's not open you run (and use that receiver as a blocker, just as Peppers kind of did). Johnson gets caught in the wash and never gets in the flat and that's why he and Darboh are in the same area. Darboh runs a route but it's a route you only throw if it is wide open; I'd also like to see him get that route to 10-12 yards rather than 8 to help with spacing, but he needs to stay below the safeties here.