Picture Pages: All It Takes Is One Guy Comment Count

Brian September 25th, 2013 at 1:04 PM

SITE NOTE: as is traditional during a bye week, the UFRs will be delayed a day, allowing us to ruminate in some more detail on a couple more plays that seem to be representative of larger trends.

Today in Michigan's running issues: an example of how all it takes is one breakdown for an otherwise promising play to end in the backfield. Offense and defense are opposite creatures in this regard. On defense, if you make a mistake it may or may not be punished, because someone can beat a guy and clean up for you, or the offense may not see the open receiver or cutback lane. On offense, an error is going to leave someone free and he will end your play more often than not.

A lot of Michigan's struggles so far have been one-guy breakdowns. This sounds like a promising, easy fix, but it's an unfriendly math problem. When you've got seven guys trying to execute, even if everyone has a 90% hit rate 0.9^7 is a 52% shot at someone not executing. At 95%—each guy doing their job 19 of 20 times—you still have a 30% failure rate.

That's obviously oversimplified; there are different mistakes that can make the difference between an unsuccessful run of three yards and an unsuccessful one of negative two yards. But I've been saying things like "it's just one block away from a big play" for a while now without actually seeing a lot of improvement in that category, and the previous paragraph is one of the reasons why.

Our exemplar is a zone stretch midway through the third quarter. It's first and ten after Drew Dileo extended an out route into the short seam and Gardner hit him. Michigan's in the I; UConn responds with a 3-4 look that has an extra guy hanging off the tight end side on the hash.


UConn did a lot of blitzing from the outside in this game, and this will be no exception. They'll shoot the guy on the hash upfield to be the force player and slant the other two inside, way inside in the OLB's case:


On the snap, nothing much is revealed as no one's made contact yet except Miller, who's underneath the nose tackle already:


That nose tackle is going to end up a long way downfield. I know we're all trying to take Miller's job, but he made a couple of nice blocks on these plays in the second half.

In the above shot, you can see the first steps of the defenders highlighted in the arrow picture coming inside. a half step later Michigan has both adjusted excellently and not adjusted excellently:


Both Glasgow and Lewan have adjusted their flight paths to intersect with the slanting defenders and have successfully made contact that will allow them to shove them past the play and open up a huge hole on the outside of the line, but Joe Kerridge is now trying to hit a gap that is not open.

When he does, he gets whacked.


Now off balance and a gap away from the actual hole, he's unable to block anyone. That's the one guy. When Michigan does this on defense I mention they got a two-for-one and usually good things happen afterwards.

Here bad things happen because Yawin Smallwood is now hanging out in the hole unblocked.


Fitz compounds matters by seeing this, considering a bounce, and then deciding against it, which gives up a couple yards.


Second and twelve blues.



Items Of Interest

Well, poop. Michigan blocks this really well on the line, getting both slanters sealed inside and driving the nose tackle back into a linebacker. But once Kerridge gets picked off, this play has a maximum reasonable expectation of about one yard. It only takes one error.

This would take some pretty fast recognition to fix. A lot of zone teams either eschew lead backs or place them in positions such that they, too, have a long path to the hole (think about "superbacks" in spread offenses that start lined up next to the QB). Kerridge is lined up to the playside about three yards in front of Toussaint and his first steps are upfield as he tries to build momentum for a bone-rattling LB block. Toussaint, in contrast, kind of waits and runs lateral to the LOS for a bit, so he has time to see the slant develop and find the hole that is unfortunately filled with one Yawin Smallwood.

Kerridge doesn't have that time. If he's going to make that read presnap he's probably guessing that the OLB is going to attack the gap outside of Lewan, and when that turns out to be wrong he's already committed. I'm not sure he can be any other way when he's lined up so close to the point of attack.

If you're going to do this it almost seems like you'd have to consider Kerridge another lineman and that Lewan should release downfield into Smallwood once the OLB crosses his face, but holy hell is that complicated. Michigan should be trying to make everything as dead simple as possible so they can have uninspiring runs that do pick up some yards.*

So this is a rock paper scissors minus. I don't think Kerridge has time to change his gap, and that gap gets filled by a slant. Even if Kerridge 1) has the option to pick his hole, 2) made a presnap read of the blitzer, and 3) assumed the OLB would slant inside, the OLB is outside of Williams so a one-gap slant takes him outside of Lewan. This puts Kerridge in the right hole. When the OLB goes two gaps over that's when the problems happen.

Toussaint bounce attempt again. Like that Nix play discussed earlier, here Toussaint has grim prospects that he makes a little grimmer by trying to escape. Despite all your rage, Fitz, you're still just a rat in a cage. Here it seems like he has been told that he needs to go N/S and remembers that after his natural inclination. Or he just thinks he can't get outside Williams. Whichever.

It is not an easy decision to bench Jack Miller. The entire world has already benched the guy for the Minnesota game; I'm 50-50 on that. I'm frustrated with him sometimes as well, but here's another loss on which the offensive line appears to be working just fine. He got dumped into the backfield once earlier in this game and struggled in a couple of pass protections (a couple of other pressures that came up the middle were not on him), but I wouldn't be surprised if Michigan soldiers on with their current five guys. Even if they don't, how long is Chris Bryant going to be able to stay on the field?

Also, folks speculating that Michigan might move Michael Schofield back to guard and insert Braden or Magnuson should stop. Miller is not bad enough that switching three spots on the OL and sending a good right tackle back to guard so you can insert a freshman is anywhere near an upgrade. That's a midseason switch worthy of a Rodriguez defense.

*[This is iso's role in the world. It is the DURRR SMASH of run plays, requiring almost nothing other than brute strength and rarely picking up more than three yards, but rarely losing any.]


Zone Left

September 25th, 2013 at 1:18 PM ^

They do everything pretty well individually, but nothing well as a group. I can't decide if it's scheme or cohesion or what, but that's been the story of this line's season so far.


September 25th, 2013 at 6:37 PM ^

Amazing how generally applicable the "they" in that statement is, too. It's true on both sides of the ball, and for every position group. And it's not necessarily surprising either, for (all together now) such a young team. After all, it's hard enough to learn your own job, let alone learning what everyone else around you is doing on top of that. Luckily, the more starts these guys get together, the more cohesion should start to develop.


September 25th, 2013 at 1:20 PM ^

Brian stinks and he thinks he's so knowledgeable about football but he's just a long haired hippie communist engineer and he should stick to digging through CSS/ HTML issues to fix upvotes and downvotes, not speculating on why the offense isnt working.

There. got that out of the way.


September 25th, 2013 at 1:27 PM ^

Plus he never played the game, so he has no clue...



Anyways, couple questions:


1) Is this a normal slant, seems a bit extreme

2) Have our other opponents slanted like this

3) Seems like a slant/run blitz from the linebackers.


There has to be a counter to these kinds of things if teams start doing this to the OLINE more. Quicke outs to the TE, slant and/or in routes to, Dileo, throw it Dileo.


September 25th, 2013 at 1:48 PM ^

1) It is a bit extreme. Usually slants go over one gap. 

2) Everyone slants, a lot. The two gap slant is rare, I think. 

3) The linebackers do a good job of understanding where the hole is likely to be and showing. 

As far as a counter, Michigan doesn't need one for this specific play. They can block it. They almost do. 


September 25th, 2013 at 1:33 PM ^

and UCONN, I kept asking Al Borges (who NEVER gets back to me when I talk to him through the TV):

Why You no Run ISO??? | All the things

I realize ISO is not flashy/going to gain lots of yards. But if our O-Line is so much bigger/stronger than teams like Akron and UCONN (I know UCONN had a very large NT who beat up on J. Miller some) I would prefer to get steady yardage to help setup play action, which I don't recall a lot of, especially in the UCONN game.

Or maybe I was just to sad and into my beer to notice the play action? 

Anyway, I'd take more consistency with the occasional big play, is what I'm trying to say.


September 25th, 2013 at 1:42 PM ^

Iso is just so low upside that it doesn't really function as a base run play unless you've got Denard. From I-form-like sets it's pretty good at bashing a linebacker and really bad at getting the other two, so unless you get an A+ block somewhere you're going to top out at 3-5 yards.

Michigan's previous ISO success is not something you can spin into an entire offense. I know that right now anything like two yards looks wonderful, but that's no way to live, long term.


September 25th, 2013 at 2:09 PM ^

If the alternative is continued struggles throughout the season as we work out the kinks running IZ and OZ, isn't there a point where you say "this is who we are right now and we need to take what we can get"?

I totally agree that ISO cannot be your run offense, but I'm all for excising some of the more gimmicky plays (see repeated fails at the Jet Sweep*) for establishing a presence at the line of scrimmage.  We can still be creative. Show different formations, different motions, things to throw off the defense. 

It just seems that this team is mediocre at a number of things and really good at almost nothing save running Devin. Take out some of the more difficult running plays and let the O-Line go out and smack some dudes around.


*I am not calling for zero D. Norfleet, FWIW. Maybe, I don't know, use him as a slot receiver and throw him that oblong slice of pig skin.


September 25th, 2013 at 2:30 PM ^

The jet sweep has been really effective, for the most part. It's only gone for big yardage once that I recall, but there were a couple other times that it really should have, had a WR not whiffed his block.

Settling for ISOs would basically be giving up on the season. Even if it causes significantly more growing pains, Michigan's offense needs to learn how to execute its base plays. Maybe it will never figure it out, but it still won't have been a bad decision. You have to try.

Zone Left

September 25th, 2013 at 2:28 PM ^

The iso with Denard worked for the same reason the "wildcat" stuff works. We had one more blocker than you would if Denard handed the ball off on a traditional iso. We could do the exact same thing with Gardner and probably fare about as well.

That said, you're right, any defense worth its salt will have one more player in the box than there are blockers for a traditional iso play. Someone on defense has to miss for the play to succeed or your pass offense has to be so terrifying that the defense drops an extra guy into coverage and chooses death by papercuts over death by long pass.


September 25th, 2013 at 1:40 PM ^

In HS we would run the zone and basically the weakside tackle either cuts the weakside end or punches him and releases inside to get the first person he can. the weakside G and C would take the NT(1 tech) and the Will.  The Playside Guard and Playside Tackle would take the DT (3 Tech) and the Mike.  The FB and TE (lined up playside) would take the defensive end and first run support player usually the strong safety rolled up to the line.  In this play the blocking looks similar except for Kerridge plunging forward way too soon.  In the blocking I outlined he would take steps towards the TE looking to help with a double team on the end but then bounce to first threat he sees which would be Smallwood in the hole.  Could this be a blown assignment by Kerridge or is he coached to attack the line of scrimmage on a zone?


September 25th, 2013 at 1:39 PM ^

There are a number of plays early where one guy (usually a TE, usually Funchess) misses a key block and lets a guy set the edge in the backfield who blows up the play dead to rights. I said it in the snowflakes thread and I'll say it again: run blocking looked pretty decent on the interior line against UConn. It was, however, coupled with a regression in pass protection. It's almost as if they only have time to focus on one thing each week and because of the lack of experience, the thing they rep'ed the week before doesn't stick.


September 25th, 2013 at 1:39 PM ^

Should AJ WIlliams be passing blocking on this play?  (Sarcasm alert)   I think him 5 yards in the back field is posing a bigger problem than Kerridge or at least majorly compounds the problem.

If he is just 2 yards behind the LOS (where he made his initial contact) or at the LOS, Fitz has a legitimate shot to pick up good yardage no matter what decision he makes.

* I cannot watch the youtube videos at work, I'm going strictly off the picture pages, so feel free to correct me.


September 25th, 2013 at 2:01 PM ^

I said from the picture pages, that's how it appeared.  I admited I cannot watch youtube from work so asked for clarification.  

Don't be upset because you got called out by about 10 different people on how ridiculous your posts were on Hoke's Presser thread. 

"RR would get accepted to Medical school before Hoke because he went 3-9, 5-7, 7-6 which is showing progress"

You said that and were dead serious.


September 25th, 2013 at 2:14 PM ^

i'm not upset by it, but my statement is true. If you knew anything about med school admissions, yes over all grades matter, but they are really more concerned about trends than the overall stuff. That was my point. Thus far, RR was trending up, and Hoke is trending down.   Granted Hoke started better and some regression was to be expected but the amount that we are seeing is way beyond some. Both lines and Gardner need to significantly improve in order for us to avoid a 6-6 season

Shop Smart Sho…

September 25th, 2013 at 2:18 PM ^

Would you please stop?  Brian has asked personally for this type of stuff to not go on.  And while I'm addressing you in reply, I mean it for both of you.  I'm sure we would all very much appreciate it.


September 25th, 2013 at 2:45 PM ^

What med school are you getting into with a GPA trend of all F's, followed by all D's and then all C's? Because that's what RR had. To date, Hoke's worst grade is still better than RR's best. And RR never had to play Alabama or ND during a NC run.


September 25th, 2013 at 3:58 PM ^

Hoke hasn't had to play Wisconsin or Penn State yet. And Iowa was actually BCS-good during the RR years because of Stanzi.

But on the other hand, Iowa has been offset by a resurging Northwestern, who RR didn't have to face in 2009 or 2010, and 2008 NW was certainly not at the level that NW is at now. And RR never had to play Nebraska either. 

So...yeah, your point still stands.


September 25th, 2013 at 3:08 PM ^

Dude, when you start at 3-9 its hard to trend anywhere else but up.  And when you start 11-2 its hard to trend anywhere else but down.   These trends don't prove anything.


September 25th, 2013 at 3:44 PM ^

Might want to slow your role a bit here.  I really could not care less about whatever pissing contest went on yesterday, but posts like this are just looking for a fight.

Monocle Smile

September 25th, 2013 at 3:33 PM ^

I've called TwoFiveAD out several times for being a douche, but this is a perfectly reasonable comment presented pretty well with exactly zero douchitude. There's no need to make this about you.

I think he's right, actually. If Williams crushes his guy to the inside, it looks like there's a bunch of grass outside of him. Or if he authoritatively seals his guy outside, Kerridge gets a more obvious read on which linebacker to clobber. Blocking straight-on and being pushed into the backfield is bad juju.


September 25th, 2013 at 3:39 PM ^

Haha, only because I found it comical people think Norfleet and Dileo should get more targets.  I think that's been our only back and forth blast.  

Those guys are not B1G caliber players ;)   I kid, let's not go there.

See my post below about Williams on this play.  I bet he graded worse on this play than Kerridge with the possibility they both graded death.


September 25th, 2013 at 1:43 PM ^

I don't think that's his fault. He didn't get blown back by a guy lined up heads up on him. He has to move laterally quite a ways to engage the OLB, who gets two or three free steps into the backfield. Williams, at that point, is best served using the guys momentum against him and kicking him further upfield and away from the play. Unfortunately due to the unblocked MLB in the intended hole, Fitz hesitates and the OLB in turn can funnel Fitz into the MLB.

Space Coyote

September 25th, 2013 at 2:50 PM ^

Fitz's first read is Williams, who looks to have engaged the EMOL pretty straight, giving him the edge or inside. Fitz then reads Lewan has sealed his man inside so he then takes his eyes to the LB. Once there, he sees the LB filling rather than scraping over the top, and decides to cut outside. But by this time, Williams has given ground and the defender has fought outside. 

I'd like to see Williams seal or carry. He kind of did neither here. And while that isn't the main issue with the play, I think it's something that could be improved. Either jump outside and seal inside, or drive outside and upfield, don't get caught in between.


September 25th, 2013 at 4:04 PM ^

Williams initial contact is at 1 yard behind the line of scrimmage.   The defender essentially has his back to the side line, so he is not trying to get around AJ, rather bull rush him.   AJ ends up 5-6 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

I can almost gurantee, he graded poorly on this play. 

Without being able to watch it in motion, that's what I see on the still frames.

Which begs the question, why is a 265lb TE losing that much ground to a safety bull rush?

That should be a pancake and Fitz should be running right off the edge with his middle finger up to the unblocked line backer Kerridge couldn't take care of.


September 25th, 2013 at 4:20 PM ^

You should watch the video. Williams' man takes off on basically the line drawn by Brian - straight upfield and even a little to the sideline, definitely not aimed at Williams. Williams has to shuffle over 3 yards just to get to him, hence initial contact in the backfield.

The defender's shoulders were square upfield until he hits Williams. At that point the defender and Williams get turned sideways and their combined momentum carries them mostly sideways and a little back. It looked like Fitz saw Smallwood coming and adjusted his angle to bounce, but saw too late that Williams was in the way - Williams took a half step back just a split second before Fitz got to him.

Blue in Seattle

September 25th, 2013 at 5:37 PM ^

Is this the same play as the TD after Michigan's interception?  That play looked like everyone sealed their man inside.  How did the defense respond on that play?

I think the picture pages are great for analyzing one play in isolation.  And if the goal of this analysis is to say, "hey the OL did a pretty good job blocking, but the defense was ready for it, and Fitz should have slammed up into a LB for 1-3 yards forward instead of dancing for a -2.

Now the conclusions that are made in the article go beyond what I think the single play can provide.  Primarily the unstated assumption is that this is as  best as Michigan can block it.  But every now and then a play loses on RPS.  How did this play and this team execute when RPS even?  That's why I'm asking if this was the same play that also got a TD at a very critical moment?

To extend this into other analysis I've seen on the board, or in comments to other front page analysis, there was a comment that the speed pitch is great, but Borges better not call it for MSU because they weill surely have an answer.  The problem I see with that is the speed option has only been called as an audible by Gardner.  The first time he made a bad decision to keep AND failed to secure the ball.  The second time he made a great decision to pitch, maybe even helped by UConn studying film and saying, "Gardner never pitches to Fitz, annihilate Gardner", which ends up as a TD.

Basically, if we are going to try and analyze the game plan, we need to sort through all the different play calls (hard to do without a playbook) and then compare results on the same play call against the variations of defense put up against it.

Or we could limit our conclusions to only what the single play against a specific defense tells us.  On this one I see us almost win on a play call that was defensed perfectly.



September 25th, 2013 at 1:40 PM ^

Kerridge should be reading the same thing as Fitz. When he sees the slant he should think this is bouncing and take that path.  From what I can tell right now (at work, so can't really disect the video too hard) it looks like Kerridge takes the wrong path and at the very least should end up between Lewan and Williams, possibly outside of Williams. Now thats how I know OZ with a fullback leading. Fullback and running back have the same exact read on the EMLOS. They very well could tell Kerridge he has that LB no matter what.

There is a similar play at the end of the 1st quarter on Michigan's 2nd drive (I started re watching last night and only made it through 2 drives so far). This one was a stretch to the right and Schofield/Kalis was clearly not going to get his guy reached so Kerridge who was reading the same as Fitz cut up under Kalis and Schofield and went for playside ILB. His initial path looks like he wants to go outside. So this leads me to believe he is reading like Fitz and doesnt have a presnap assigned block. Problem here was Miller didn't get the leverage on the 1 tech as we see in this one and Fitz couldnt cut under Schofield nor could he cut all the way back under the nose because the penetration was so quick.  He tried to bounce it playsude and the unblocked S came up and made the play. That safety would have been blocked by Kerridge had Schofield and Kalis handled the end.


September 25th, 2013 at 1:54 PM ^

Problem here was Miller didn't get the leverage on the 1 tech as we see in this one and Fitz couldnt cut under Schofield nor could he cut all the way back under the nose because the penetration was so quick.

Disagree. I'm one of the guys that's been pretty harsh on Miller, but he did exactly what he's supposed to do here. He and Kalis drive that guy yards off the LOS. The slanting guys attacking the inside shoulders of Lewan and Glasgow here shut down that cutback at the expense of opening up the hole outside Lewan. This is exactly how that defensive call is designed to work since the MLB is sliding over to cover that hole from the beginning (something our LBs don't always do when line slants in front of them, as Brian has decried numerous times). They got a free hitter with that twist by causing confusion and taking Kerridge out of the play. This is pretty classic RPS +, I don't think anyone really deserves a minus on the play since any adjustment from their presnap assignment would have been very difficult.