Picture Pages: Cut It Up, Tate Comment Count

Brian September 18th, 2009 at 3:19 PM

Yet another in this site's series "counters to the scrape exchange." 

This one doesn't take a whole lot of explanation. Michigan's in its H-back set and Notre Dame in the nickel it used all day. It's first and ten on Michigan's field-goal drive right before halftime:


Michigan's going to run something I called a "QB counter"; it, I believe, is not a read but a called QB run. Just like the dive play we saw yesterday, the TE (in this case Martell Webb) is going to pull across the formation and look for a block. LT Mark Ortmann, the topmost offensive lineman, is going to downblock on the weakside defensive tackle. But you'll do fine on this play if you just watch #80. He's the whole play.


Here we have a moment right before the key part of the play. Forcier has pulled the ball out of Minor's belly and Webb is approaching the point at which he's supposed to block the defensive end.


So Webb reaches the DE and… uh… runs right by him.


Here note two things. One: Ortmann has not done a great job with the DT, who has apparently read the play or was stunting or something and has shot into the backfield. This held the defensive end up. Normally on a scrape he'd be hauling ass after Minor, but since he got delayed he's right there and sees Forcier with the ball. Two: Webb ignored that guy and is heading right for the scraper. Tate has to deal with the DE.

Next, the moment of truth:


One: Forcier has beaten the defensive end despite the screwup/stunt by Notre Dame. This is MAKING PLAYS, and something it's doubtful either Threet or Sheridan could have pulled off. Two: Webb has blocked the scraper. Crushed him.

Forcier, well…


look at all that space


nooooooooo cut it up cut it up



Object lessons:

  • This is another scrape counter. This one didn't go very well for whatever reason and it still should have been 8-10 yards because Michigan has blocked the one guy tasked with the quarterback.
  • Assuming your guy with the quarterback isn't going to get blocked can be dangerous for the defense. The scrape read presumes that your guy tasked with the QB isn't going to get lit up by a tight end, and it's hard to see any way to read what's going on to help out. The only player who can be of assistance is the backside DE, and that pulling tight end can do so many different things—block the scraper, block you and spring Brandon Minor up the middle, head out into the flat, pass block—that you're really picking your poison.
  • I don't think it matters what side the guy gets blocked on… usually. Here Webb gets outside of the scraper and that's key because of the defensive end's presence, but if that guy's not there it makes no difference because Tate will be jetting up into massive space on either side of the block.
  • Rodriguez's offseason planning was hugely focused on the TE. This was something we talked about in UFR, but it's worth repeating. There was a lot of hype about Michigan's tight ends and that hype has been more than met. A TE is on the field 90% of the time and has been a huge key in Michigan's ground game. Rodriguez has adapted to the scrape exchange and his counter is the tight end. At this point I'm actually a little concerned Michigan doesn't have a tight end in the recruiting class.
  • Tate needs to realize he's no longer way more athletic than everyone on the field. He's done this three or four time in his first two games. It worked against Western,  but not so much here.

This ended up being three yards, but it should have been ten, and holy God what if Denard Robinson was out there in that kind of space?

UPDATE: forgot the youtube-o-vision:


J. Lichty

September 18th, 2009 at 3:28 PM ^

he should have cut it up too, but when I look at the picture, if Stonum and Odoms make their blocks, the most room is to the outide and there was actually more help for the D inside.


September 18th, 2009 at 8:38 PM ^

Yeah I'm pretty inexperienced at breaking down plays, but I must have watched this clip about 50 times, frame by frame. Tate is going to get crushed from both sides if he heads up the middle, without the promise of much yardage. (I think all that space is misleading due to the fact that the defenders are closing. Tate sees two blocking receivers who (if they execute their blocks) will give him some serious empty sideline. Blocking fail by Odoms primarily as I see it, but I'm willing to be convinced otherwise by the experts.

Oops,sorry; everything I said has been mentioned earlier, thats what i get for not reading all the comments.


September 18th, 2009 at 3:28 PM ^

this is why sports media hate brian. he can do insanely in depth play analysis in a medium that they can't/don't want to. i feel like i could coach college ball by only reading his gospel.


September 18th, 2009 at 4:12 PM ^

Nope. I thought I understood football well. Then these started showing up, and I've learned so much more from the details here. Plus, I rarely have time to read an entire UFR. But this is a great ten-minute break from work where I come away knowing something.


September 18th, 2009 at 3:38 PM ^

Is it possible that the coaches are urging Tate to take it to the outside more often to prevent injury? Seems like it would be easier to get injured when tackled in the middle of the field than having the option of running out of bounds.

Undefeated dre…

September 18th, 2009 at 3:39 PM ^

I get Brian's general point about Forcier needing to cut it up, but in this case I think Forcier makes the correct read and it's Odoms who misses a block. Odoms completely whiffs. Walter Smith would have *crushed* him, getting Forcier to about the 28. at least.

On the plus side, dang I love that shot of Webb turning the corner and eyeing up the defender.


September 18th, 2009 at 3:53 PM ^

Not sure which is Walter Smith (31 or 22) but it seems either of these guys would have crushed Tate had he broke it upfield. Tate starts upfield but the first guy (31) sees this and Tate is forced to cut back the other direction.

I wonder if Tate isn't told by the coaches that to take it outside rather than cut up the middle. I mean unless it is wide open, (his Cover 0 read - 31 yard TD), I dont' think you want your QB to get hit in the middle of the field potentially by multiple defenders at strange angles etc.

Plus when he does break it to the outside he has shown the ability to direct traffic and pass.


September 18th, 2009 at 3:42 PM ^

...and holy God what if Denard Robinson was out there in that kind of space?

This is what makes me excited for tomorrow's game. I hope we see Shoelace have a blast out there during his drives.


September 18th, 2009 at 3:44 PM ^

good analysis Brian... despite these little mistakes, and a decent but not great OL... Michigan is still averaging over 200 yds per game the first 2 games (!)... this will only get better once some of these bumps are ironed out.

That is what is most encouraging about the offense...the scheme with even decent players is well above the old school scheme we used to run.


September 18th, 2009 at 5:13 PM ^

will be better in the future because there are OL who are more suited to play in RR's scheme than most of the current starters(except for Schilling at OG). Having the next two games would be helpful if Michigan can get off to a fast start and let the backup have experience(especially at OL like Omamaeh, Barnum, Khoury, etc) so they are ready to step in if needed or for next season when they replace some of the players like Hugye, Ortmann.


September 18th, 2009 at 3:47 PM ^

If Forcier cuts it up the middle he risks getting blown up by the safety at around the 31 yard line (about a 5 yard gain). I'd rather he bounce outside than risk getting decapitated. Plus, as has been already pointed out, if Odoms makes his block, this is around a 10 yard gain.


September 18th, 2009 at 3:54 PM ^

The safety can't come up hard because Forcier has so much space. If he charges at Tate he's risking a big play if he takes the wrong angle or gets juked. You'll see that guy fill at 5-6 yards at best and then chances are Tate either makes him miss or gets tackled such that he falls forward.

Also, I don't know if Odoms' block is particularly easy, since he's not sure where the DB is going and there's a lot of space here. Tate should take the yards. Denard can try to hit home runs.


September 18th, 2009 at 4:09 PM ^

I do not agree. If he cuts it to his right, he has the d-line and LBs pursuing him -- all that space was going to close in a hurry. If he goes straight ahead, the safety is going to decapitate him. He didn't have much room to maneuver inside, and I think he might have gotten another two yards out of it at the risk of taking a big hit.

Agree that the Odoms block was not especially easy, but he probably could have done a little better.


September 18th, 2009 at 4:15 PM ^

Its a sure gain to run straight ahead, but a pretty good bet to get an equivalent gain on the outside with a shot at a huge gain mixed in. 2 blockers on 2 DBs leaves Tate 1-on-1 racing to the corner against the safety. They can meet 10 yards past the line of scrimmage on the outside or 6 on the inside.

It didn't work out on this play, but most times I'd rather see Tate take this run outside, though as a general rule I agree that he isn't going to run past BCS-caliber DBs too often.


September 18th, 2009 at 4:53 PM ^

and one LB, and what looks to be one other player. If Tate can get 10 yards by turning up field on this particular play then he is a true Jedi Master. Regardless, I'm sure there's probably a better example of what you're trying to show in some other play during this game, because Forcier tried to bounce it outside quite a bit. I don't think this is the best example.


September 18th, 2009 at 5:18 PM ^

Dude... come on guys. in shot #5, Tate is at the line of scrimmage moving forward at considerable speed and the two ND safeties are flat-footed ten yards downfield. For this not to be 8-10 yards the safeties would have to move as fast as Tate is over the next five yards when they are not at speed, which they would absolutely not do because that's a great way to miss a tackle entirely. In shot 6, both safeties are still ten yards downfield and Tate is a yard past the LOS. He would be three yards past the LOS if he wasn't trying to go outside. The best possible situation for ND if Tate takes it straight upfield is that #22 sets up 6-7 yards downfield and makes an excellent open-field tackle. More likely he gets blocked by Minor and it's a first down.


September 18th, 2009 at 10:20 PM ^

I beg to differ, Brian. It looks like a hole, but it isn't. There are three unblocked defenders turned towards him and closing in. There should have been a block on the outside if the wideout had been paying attention...what they call in hockey "playing without the puck." All #9 needs to do is make some contact with him and Tate may have gone to the house...It was the right read.

Eye of the Tiger

September 18th, 2009 at 4:00 PM ^

Hard to criticize Tate after that performance, but this is one play where he was trying to do more than he can. He's not big or fast enough to make it past the defender and around that corner, so he got...what 3 yards? He could have gotten 6+ if he'd gone inside. But what's interesting to me is that I think he figured this out during the game. On the TD run, he cut inside and went straight ahead.

matty blue

September 18th, 2009 at 4:12 PM ^

THAT, my friends, is why rodriguez isn't a good coach but a GREAT coach. at his last stop, he rarely if ever used the tight end, to the point where we didn't worry about tight end recruiting when he first got here.

now, a year on, he is blessed with tight end talent, and he's not only using it in a perfunctory way, but as a major (and absolutely integral) part of the offense. the man adapts and uses the weapons he has as well as any coach i've ever seen.

we are so fucking lucky to have this guy.

J. Lichty

September 18th, 2009 at 4:15 PM ^

regardless of whether hs should have bounced it outside or not, as a general principle from what we have seen is that he does not have the speed to make that play to the outside consistently and he will get more yardage cutting it up over the long haul.

J. Lichty

September 18th, 2009 at 4:19 PM ^

At this point I'm actually a little concerned Michigan doesn't have a tight end in the recruiting class.

Hopefully Alex Smith (the 4 star TE prospect who decomitted from Cincy) has been watching. I think Koger has already exceeded his season totals for receptions from last year, and Webb has also been getting a few looks.