Picture Pages: Getting The Edge

Submitted by Brian on October 13th, 2009 at 11:21 AM

This one's pretty simple because the blocking scheme is "hey, receivers, block that guy": it's the edge pitch Michigan debuted over the weekend.

The setup:


A standard formation with Koger as the near-side slot receiver. Note Forcier's position: he's a yard in front of the tailback—in this case Michael Shaw. This usually means Michigan is running something intended to go up the middle. On pure stretch plays Forcier will be even with the tailback.

Iowa, for its part, is in the base 4-3 cover two they ran the whole game. More about this in UFR later, but if Iowa persists in running this scheme in the future I think Michigan is going to smoke them when their quarterbacks are freshmen who are freakin' out, man.

Here's the snap:


Forcier's got the ball already and you can see Shaw bugging out to the sideline to get a in a pitch relationship with Forcier. There's no counter action on this play, it's just get to the edge as quickly as possible.

A moment later:


Forcier's still got the ball and has hardly moved;  you can see by the clock on the field that this is less than a second later. The only things to note here are Iowa's MLB, who's taken a step to the side of the field a stretch would go to, and the defensive end, who has also stepped inside in anticipation of one of Michigan's plays that attacks the backside DE's usual tendency to either crash or head out on the quarterback. His caution, usually rewarded, pulls him out of this play.

A second or two later, Forcier has ditched the ball and is a spectator:


Odoms has whiffed his cut block, unfortunately, leaving a linebacker in space. Iowa safety Tyler Sash is also filling, and the backside DE has reacted to provide some contain.


Shaw gets upfield quickly before the three Iowa defenders can converge…


…and picks up five yards despite Odoms whiffing on one of the two relevant blocks.

Object lessons:

  • It's hard for this play to not pick up five yards unless the defense is specifically gameplanning for it (which they probably will at some point). Michigan ran this a bunch and the worst it ever did was two yards on second and two, and that was because a receiver ran right by a safety and that safety bounced Minor—who's not the best guy to run this thing—out. At all other times it picked up four to six yards. Opponents will now start preparing for that, which will open up some other stuff, as the defensive end's tendency to slide down the line in an effort to defend the zone counter dive opened up the edge for this play. Cat and mouse goes on forever.
  • It's probably never going to break big against a defense like Iowa's. Linebacker versus slot receiver usually doesn't go well and it doesn't develop fast enough to make a cut block, even a really successful one, more than an annoyance when those linebackers are five yards downfield. Then you've got that safety coming downhill unblocked, the backside defensive end peeling back, and linebacker help from the inside. It's weirdly like MSU's power off tackle game, which is likely to pick up 3-5 yards and unlikely to do anything more.
  • It's something I bet they wanted to run against MSU, and might work better against an aggressive defense that's using a corner guy as a scrape exchange defender. Iowa plays two deep on every play, which always gives them a safety who can run to the POA and fill. If the corner guy is charging off the slot and sucks in on Forcier, then Odoms can go block the safety and Shaw ends up with a lot of room to run downfield. Or he ends up with that scrape defender in his face. About that…
  • This is step one in the evolution of a speed option game. The solution to that is to turn this into a true option play where Forcier threatens to get upfield and takes that scrape defender before pitching, or turns it up himself for yardage. Right now this is just a safe little pitch play that has no read and is easy to run.



October 13th, 2009 at 11:26 AM ^

and this is just speculation with no football knowledge, that if the LT blocks the DE and tate runs some sort of option play there drawing in the LB, all that would stand between the RB and a huge gain would be the slot blocking that downfield safety.


October 13th, 2009 at 11:43 AM ^

I really like this play w/ Shaw as he is the shiftiest of the rbs. When they tried it w/ Minor just looked clumsy. I would like to see them run this out of a 5-wide set and motion Odoms into the backfield.


October 13th, 2009 at 11:53 AM ^

motioning D-Rob into the backfield.

I think that's what we'll be looking at in 2 years. Next year the Inkster kid will redshirt, and the year after he'll be the backup QB to Forcier (who will be a jr.) and Robinson will have made the complete transition to slot receiver.

Me likey. :)


October 13th, 2009 at 11:44 AM ^

continually evolve the offense from week to week to add wrinkles to play off the things the opponents probably scouted the week before the game. Other than changing some of the blocking of the zone stretch play and the occassional trick play, the last few years of the LC regime was maddening in that it was essentially a carbon copy of the same offense each week.

Can you even imagine the amount of plays and knowledge these guys are going to have in the next 3-4 years when they don't have to look to the sideline to get the calls? I mean, if they can run 4 or 5 plays that are all variants of a single play they've learned as a base offensive play, then what would the opponents scout each week, except to be everywhere and defend every inch of turf at all times.

With all of these reads that the defense will have to do to defend all of the punches and counter punches, does this slow down the opposing D as they have to read more than just filling and scraping?


October 13th, 2009 at 11:53 AM ^

Wouldn't it make good sense to put Koger out in Odoms' spot to utilize TE blocking, and maybe oven motion over the wide out? Or have Robinson in for the RB and have him take the pitch and then have Odoms wiff the block only to get up and recieve the pass from Robinson. If the defense lines up like this again, this formation could give a couple of good wrinkles.


October 13th, 2009 at 2:40 PM ^

What I poorly was trying to do was have Koger in the left slot(?)(in place of Odoms) and motion the wide out down and away from the play if they were in straight up man to get that extra defender out of that side of the field, unless they would pass him off to the other side. Just sandlot thinking.


October 13th, 2009 at 10:40 PM ^

I was thinking the same thing about having Robinson take the pitch as the RB, have Odoms wiff the block and then Robinson passes to Odoms who would then be 1 on 1 with the safety. Maybe wait until you've run it straight up a few times so they bite harder. Seems like a plan to me, but then I'm not a coach.


October 13th, 2009 at 12:08 PM ^

The reason the play is called is to prevent the DE and MLB from cheating. The MLB takes the false steps inside, he wouldn't make it back to the QB unless he runs a 4.5 and can cut like Barry Sanders which he can't because he is a MLB. Now if he's not cheating then sure he can get over there, but if he's not cheating we just run the dive and bludgeon them to death because they have only 6 in the box, which is why they are cheating.

oops sorry supposed to be for bsb2002's response to Mgoobes


October 13th, 2009 at 12:19 PM ^

even if he takes a false step he can probably get to the qb turning the play up right into him, unless he really sucks. frankly if he doesnt take the false step, the LT probably cant get to him like he's supposed to.

as you can see, if that were the idea, the play would be designed for the LT to block the DE, not the MLB. but he clearly goes for the MLB, and that's how it's diagrammed in the playbook

matty blue

October 13th, 2009 at 12:09 PM ^

...i understand more than i did a few minutes ago.

the question, of course, is if you think we wanted to run it more vs. msu...why didn't we? were they doing something that would have kept it from being effective? did their scheme simply not have the same sort of exploitable weakness?

Wolverine In Exile

October 13th, 2009 at 12:16 PM ^

limited his practice time, so I'm guessing coaching staff didn't feel positive inputting a new play that requires a QB with a potentially bad shoulder to pitch a ball one-handed. I'm really looking forward to these variations for next year, and even later this year when the typical Wiscy / NW tackling machine* MLB is put on an island or just watching DRob go "zoom zoom" right by him.

* "tackling machine" is a MLB analogy saved for plodding white guys whose only saving grace is that they're good at tackling fundamentals 2-3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, but hardly ever make a play that changes a game, and hence gain 15+ tackles a game. See: J Lehman, Pat Angerer, Pat Fitzgerald, etc etc. Analogous to "posession receiver"

matty blue

October 13th, 2009 at 12:41 PM ^

...although it did cross my mind when i read it, and i'm not sure that it's a difficult "throw" to make, nor do i think it's as timing-dependent as some of the other stuff we ask him to do. it also has the added benefit of putting forcier at next to no risk from a hit. he gets the snap and it's gone.

i would have liked to see it more against state, that's for sure.

The Original Seth

October 13th, 2009 at 1:09 PM ^

So a two-time consensus all-American who doubled up on both major national defensive awards, a multi-year all-Big Ten starter, and a second-team all-Big-Ten linebacker who forces an average of half a turnover a game or thereabouts are examples of guys who 'hardly ever make plays that change games'? I understand what you're saying, but I think the personnel you're trying to assess with that term doesn't match up with your examples.


October 13th, 2009 at 12:15 PM ^

was the zone read option. I'll wait for the UFR, but I don't recall seeing that run. This pitch would appear to be a nice complement to the option, but it's not currently integrated with it. Perhaps that has to do with Iowa's approach to defense. Regardless, it'll be interesting to see if that gets reintroduced or not.


October 13th, 2009 at 12:29 PM ^

and maybe MGoObes and bsb are getting at this:

1) Is the LT supposed to get the LB on the 2nd level (because it looks like he didn't in these frames)?

2) Is there a backside seam pass option with this? If you look closely, the LB is flying to the pitch leaving the area between the hashes wide open for Koger. This would appear to be even more open against teams that run an aggressive scrape exchange with their LB's and/or corners.

Great stuff as always!


October 13th, 2009 at 12:41 PM ^

1) yes, but that's usually up to the linebacker, not the LT. if he can't get to him he'll follow the guy in case there's a cutback and he can become relevant.

2) maybe? I think the play action would be tough unless you block the backside DE. There's trick play potential in it if that safety comes down and a player successfully fakes out his blocker.


October 13th, 2009 at 1:37 PM ^

or quick swing pass with this? If you look at your top 2 frames, it looks like Shaw is already outside the DE and LB. If you send the two receivers deep (say, a go route and/or skinny post), this would clear the area and it would appear to be a nice pitch and catch for at least 8-10 yards at a minimum.


October 13th, 2009 at 12:58 PM ^

I just sent a variation of this to Brian re: this play. It is really only a quick pitch since the QB never threatens to run.

I didn't pay attention to this during the game, but I would be curious to see if Michigan ran this play when the field corner was pressed up in this fashion.

A normal Cov. 2 corner is going to be around 6 yds off the LOS and 1 yard outside the widest WR with his eyes inside (to prevent any outside release, help the safety, and be the force player vs. the run. Also, look at the boundary corner). In the pressed up corner scenario, the corner does not have his eyes inside and can never see this play coming. Then the WR must try to stay on this block long enough to make the CB choose a side. I would be curious to know how often they ran this play against the pressed up corner. I will also be curious to see the actual film footage to see how Michigan's WR tried to set up the corner for this.

Also, by pressing the CB can create havoc for a WR trying to crack the safety in the run game. I don't know how often Michigan cracks the safety in the run game (again, haven't paid attention to this detail specifically), but I'm sure the press had something to do with that. The UFRs (past and upcoming) are probably telling.


October 13th, 2009 at 1:33 PM ^

This is the kind of play that should destroy Delaware State's will.

Along with the I-Right 34 Blast on Go.

I recognize the need to practice the playbook so Denard (and Tate, frankly) feel comfortable. But Michigan's 5 basic plays should be good enough, with the talent Michigan has, to score 70 points.


October 13th, 2009 at 9:59 PM ^

this is toledo, i don't think you understand just how bad they are. as a toledoan currently living in toledo* i assure you they are fucking horrid.

Does this sound about like what we were saying last year?

* I don't live in Toledo. My condolences to anyone who does.


October 13th, 2009 at 4:37 PM ^

With the safety commiting to the run this is a big gain/TD play if the other slot (Koger) runs a post over the top of the vacated safety position and the RB throws to him.


October 13th, 2009 at 9:37 PM ^

One more counter to this. Forgive me if this has already been suggested since I have not read all of the comments and I am contributing via Blackberry.

What if the outside receiver fakes a block and goes downfield? The running back then throws the ball to the outside receiver streaking down the sideline for a touchdown. This would be great to save for OSU.



October 13th, 2009 at 10:53 PM ^

I commented below (as did someone else) that the play could be run with Robinson as the RB, have Odoms wiff his block and get a pass downfield. But now that you mention it, I think it works better to have the outside guy fake his block (or block for moment and then release). I'm interested to see what more knowledgeable people think.