Picture Pages: Adjusting On The Fly Comment Count

Brian September 17th, 2013 at 3:18 PM

I'd planned on posting another Picture Pages this week from the Notre Dame game on the assumption that there wouldn't be much from the Akron game to discuss. Surprise! The good news—ish—is that this continues our discussion of where Michigan's line is.

This is another Toussaint lost yardage play that marks the last time Michigan's run their as-yet-unsuccessful counter to their zone game. ABC provided a slick closeup of events (the difference between doing this for an ABC broadcast and BTN one is enormous—viva ABC), so we'll get a zoomed-in look at goings-on.

ND's in an even front; Michigan has two tight ends. They'll pull Schofield as the rest of the line tries to sell another zone.


Michigan immediately runs into the problems that is Louis Nix, who either isn't buying or is just assigned to slant outside of Glasgow.


That's bad, that'll happen sometimes when you play Nix. As Nix surges upfield of Glasgow, Schofield sees him and knows he's got to deal with that lest Toussaint get swallowed in the backfield.


Glasgow violates the fake rule I made up by turning upfield. Schofield's coming, but he doesn't comprehend that he isn't totally screwed until…


Both guys go to Nix, leaving one of ND's ILBs unblocked. Toussaint makes things worse by trying to bounce around a rampant Nix, and gets chopped down.



That's a two yard loss.


Slow unnecessary for this one.

[After THE JUMP: Notre Dame faces the same problem, finds different results.]

Notre Dame Executes

If that seems excessively demanding of offensive linemen trying to process fast-moving information in front of them—an opinion I kind of share—then you should know that Notre Dame pulled this off on a nearly-identical play.

They've got a pistol setup with three wide and Niklas as a tight end. They want to run power to the short side of the field, where freshmen Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton happen to be located. Michigan is in a standard nickel setup.


Michigan's going to blitz James Ross.


Since this is power, Ross can win by getting penetration and getting a two-for one. By getting in the backfield he draws the attention of both the lineman trying to block him straight up and the puller, leaving a free hitter behind.

Ross gets his penetration…


…and everything looks just fine, as the puller has to deal with him. Ross will still cut off the outside and then Morgan can clean up as the RB picks the only hole available to him despite the fact that Morgan's sitting there by himself.



Except that ND guard Chris Watt, a fifth-year senior entering his third year as a starter, understands what Ross is trying to do and just passes him off to the pulling guard.


Watch this at full speed to see how quickly this decision is made. Watt sees the blitz and where it's going and instantly decides to bail.

Morgan now has to deal with a blocker, and while Michigan has successfully constricted the RB's lane with their slant/blitz, Carlisle has room to pick a hole and hit it hard.


Morgan gets understandably pushed past the play (he needs to fill that gap so Wilson can tackle) as Ojemudia and Wilson collapse on the runner. It's five yards when Michigan could have forced none if Watt wasn't a wily veteran.




Items Of Interest

On play #1. Michigan can get this blocked if Glasgow has as good of an understanding about what it means for Nix to rip outside of him as Watt does. Glasgow thinks "HER LIFE WAS IN OUR HANDS"; he is very undude. The nihilists will call back, though: Schofield sees Nix all the way; Nix has considerable momentum upfield and away from Schofield and is likely to get kicked effectively. If Glasgow understands that and just climbs to a linebacker, Toussaint can hammer it upfield for a good gain. He almost certainly reaches the safeties.

On play #2. Michigan calls a good play here and just gets beat by Notre Dame executing a tough thing well. Ross gets upfield and cuts off the outside; Wormley slants across to fill the gap Michigan is vacating; Morgan gets to one gap at the LOS and forces the play into his help. It is unusual to see an offensive lineman able to recognize the fact that he has help in the form of a puller behind him and avoid that 2-for-1.

Notre Dame does it here, and my case that their offensive line is where Michigan's is going once they're all veteran and stuff was much stronger before ND running backs combined to acquire 99 yards on 32 carries with a long of 11 against Purdue. Football! Nothing makes sense, ever.

But seriously though, most of the stuff I'm seeing against Akron is Michigan making mental errors because the entire interior line is new. You'd hope they get better, and in their defense Akron spent large chunks of the game in bear fronts that Michigan had not seen before.

On Toussaint. This is the third or fourth run this year I've highlighted in which Toussaint responds to some crappy blocking in front of him by making things worse. If he slams it into the ND linebacker he picks up a yard or two. Instead he loses two on a hopeless bounce outside of Nix. On the just-Picture Paged Akron play he tries a hopeless cutback because he doesn't trust Kerridge to get him that frontside crease.

He's had a lot of tough reads what with the issues so far, but Michigan would be better off if Toussaint would just shrug his shoulders and go north and south when things break down. Part of the reason Michigan keeps getting TFLed is because Toussaint won't accept the one-yard gain.


Space Coyote

September 17th, 2013 at 3:51 PM ^

Is that one is the NT and another is the WILL, the guy the puller is intended to block. Still, I love trap plays and wish Michigan would run more of them. The Power O by ND essentially turns into a trap play because of the B-gap blitz by Ross. Glasgows initial step once again betrays him, and I tend to agree, at that point you lost and it's time to find someone to hit. Don't retrace.

I do actually think the pulling OG did a hell of a job here in kicking though (Schofield also would have, but that speaks to him being a senior).

EDIT: FWIW, if the LB is still on the backside it's blocked how ND blocked it with a blitzing LB being taken out by the puller. But if that backside LB gets above the center, then he'll be the pulling players responsibility. It's about angles to the LB and how you block the play.

The basic premise of this picture pages is a recurring problem, and something that is difficult for players to learn. When you blow an assignment you want to fix the problem. But by doing that you are just compounding the issue. You need to have a short memory and move on to the next guy. Don't get caught in no man's land doing nothing. And this is where some of the players are struggling, when do you still try to make a play and when do you realize you're at the point of no return?


September 17th, 2013 at 4:24 PM ^

You need to have a short memory and move on to the next guy. Don't get caught in no man's land doing nothing. And this is where some of the players are struggling, when do you still try to make a play and when do you realize you're at the point of no return?

How do you coach that? Is this something that you go over in film review and learn with more game experience?

I'm guessing it might be hard to coach that on the practice field, unless that specific situation is practiced.

Space Coyote

September 17th, 2013 at 4:37 PM ^

I mean, when it happens you yell at them, not in a mean way, but to remind them. Just try to get it in their head until it becomes instinct. Other than that you just have to wait for the player to figure it out I guess.

To be honest, I can't say I've ever coached at a level where that was the biggest concern. There are so many other things to teach. Sure, you tell them sometimes just to find someone and hit them, but as far as, you missed your assignment, at the level I've coached at you're just kind of happy they realized they missed it and wanted to make up for it. And you tell them to go out there, learn from it, and win the next play.


September 18th, 2013 at 9:56 AM ^

So in this situation, do you think Glasgow is coached to do one of two things:

  1. If the NT tries to take you outside, let him go because Schofield is pulling and he'll get him and proceed upfield and hit whoever is there?
  2. ...Or if the NT tries to move inside, crush him no matter what because her life is in your hands?

And in this instance we see Glasgow make a mistake by doing neither thing for whatever reason?

Either way, I'm with Brian in that he choreography of this play is incredibily complicated and gives me a massive appreciation for the difficulty of playing offensive line.

Space Coyote

September 18th, 2013 at 10:23 AM ^

There are a ton of different ways to block this. Whether he is doubling with another OL at the point of attack and releasing to a LB, or down blocking, or whatever. But the playside LB is typically always going to be the backside OG's block on this pull in this scheme.

But then yes, if Glasgow whiffs his block so quickly, he might as well not compound his mistake by doing nothing. Let the puller adjust and move on to the next level.


September 17th, 2013 at 3:45 PM ^

where Michigan's is going once they're all veteran and stuff

Evidence that we're still digesting the gap in lineman recruiting under the previous regime. And/or, o-line coaching is the problem?


September 17th, 2013 at 3:51 PM ^

Actually if you check out the Akron Picture Pages there's a fine example of Kalis NOT doing what Notre Dame is doing. Not to call him out as Brian mentioned, the trials of youth and whatnot. But you can see in the video quite clearly he does not pick up a free hitter in the cluster**** that ensued.


September 17th, 2013 at 4:35 PM ^

Even if Watt did miss his block the point is he didn't backtrack and knowing the play he knew the pulling RG would have picked him up and it's his job to pick up Morgan.

Either way they executed it properly whether or not a mistake was made.

We on the other hand have a very bad habit of basicly going backwards no for apparent reason to try to save something that is already blown.


September 17th, 2013 at 5:10 PM ^

Having the knowledge to make that split second decision to move to the next LB - which is what Brian is asserting here - is orders of magnitude more difficult than having a standing rule to never chase. The former would likely take years to get to, the latter is much simpler.

ND Sux

September 18th, 2013 at 11:13 AM ^

they effectively help plug any potential escape route the RB may be lucky enough to find.  One more body, particularly one not doing as expected, makes Fitz' job that much tougher.

I'd roll the dice on Fitz making one guy miss before I'd add my OL back into the cluster where the odds of him fixing the breakdown are slim. 


September 18th, 2013 at 10:28 AM ^

I agree he has little to work with

and he is turning those into lost yards due to poor cut's, as you can see about he turns that up into that LB and he is going to get a yard at least OR he could break a tackle and have a better gain, running right into where your blockers are taking the penetration is recipe for lost yards and even holding calls.


September 18th, 2013 at 11:10 AM ^

that his interior o-line can't get any push...whena  RB has to constantly bounce around to avoid getting hit right when he gets the ball 5 yards behind the LOS that is on the line, not him...you're saying Fitz should get back to the line of scrimmage by taking on hard hits just to get back to the LOS...what is that extra 2 years going to do? 2nd and 12 vs 2nd a 10 is basically the same outcome


September 18th, 2013 at 10:26 AM ^

if we had not seen this last year as well with 3 seniors at the 3 interior line spots I would not be so concerned

are the players just making stupid mistakes by turning around instead of finding the next man to block?

or are they being coached to go back and try to seal the man off?

we saw this all night against nebraska last year and pretty much every game

at this point I am not sure if it is coaching or just poor execution.

Do agree that Fitz just makes bad cuts and thinks he can bounce everything outside (he just doesn't have the burst to get there IMO)

I am all for trying Green for at least 10 runs in the first half on Saturday to see if he can make the right cuts.