Picture Pages: Illinois Hates Reading Comment Count

Brian October 8th, 2008 at 10:39 AM

Hey, guess what? Michigan's run game against Illinois sucked donkey. This was partly Michigan's offensive line getting beat, but it was also partly Illinois outscheming Rodriguez.

To wit: first and ten on Michigan's second touchdown drive on the Illinois 25. Michigan comes out in a standard 3-WR set; Illinois has their base formation on the field with a linebacker over Odoms.


Michigan is running the same play Brandon Minor took to the house against Wisconsin; I've been terming it the "zone read dive" in the UFRs. Michigan will hand it off to McGuffie, using the zone-read induced delay on the unblocked defensive end to get out on the linebackers and shoot McGuffie into the secondary.

Problem: the defensive end couldn't give a crap about Threet. Here at the handoff he's already given up containment.


This is quickly followed by McGuffie getting swallowed whole. So Threet should keep it? Not so much, as Martez Wilson has hopped outside and Vontae Davis is crashing down, too. If Threet keeps it he's going to get tackled for loss, too:


(Also, note Molk's whiff on Miller, the only real execution issue on this play.)

And for the kicker, go up to that first frame above: that linebacker is right on the LOS, close enough to jump the bubble screen route if Michigan sets up to throw. They've got all the angles covered.

Except, of course, they don't. Michigan could combat this a number of different ways:

  • Shoot Threet up into the hole originally designated for McGuffie. On this play it wouldn't work, but only because of the Molk whiff. If Molk gets a block that's into the secondary.
  • Just run some play action. For Davis to get that close to the LOS he had to jump off Mathews as soon as he saw the zone read action; Mathews is now wide open.
  • Throw a long handoff to Savoy. Look at the cushion, man.

They did none of these things. I've got another one of these coming in a little bit.



October 8th, 2008 at 10:46 AM ^

Are we not seeing these counterpunches because RichRod is keeping the playbook simple?  Given all of the execution problems that we have had, maybe this is our only option.

Tim Waymen

October 8th, 2008 at 10:54 AM ^

Is it poor coaching?  Bad execution?  Poor decisionmaking by players because of inexperience?  An accidental wrong playcall on offense? I don't know.  I'm wondering what Brian and all you think.


October 8th, 2008 at 11:01 AM ^

In my opinion, it's bad execution.  They only had six guys in the box.  If blocked properly, McGuffie should be able to take the handoff and fly through a hole.


October 8th, 2008 at 11:09 AM ^

Except for Molk on a guy who's in the second level, it is properly blocked. The threat of a keeper is supposed to keep the DE from crushing McGuffie like that. The real question is whether Threet had an option to keep the ball on the read, if he could run through the hole that has been created, or if Rodriguez has the ability to adjust and use those other options that Brian mentions.


October 8th, 2008 at 11:20 AM ^

It's hard to tell from the screencap, but it looks to me like the RDT should be blocked out, not driven down the line by Ortmann.  But I could be wrong.  It's just difficult to see where that DT is lined up, but you could be correct. 


October 8th, 2008 at 11:07 AM ^

It's things like this that make me confident in the future. Clearly the system works, but we need to continue to teach the players the system (and obviously bring in some players that are designed for it).

That being said, this is ridiculously frustrating.


October 8th, 2008 at 11:14 AM ^

.....and I have mentioned this before, but the running game goes nowhere without a lead blocker coming out of the backfield or some other derivative off of that, such as a running back lined up behind and just outside the toffensive ackles' outer leg.

With a lead blocker, I counted 13 runs for over 60 total yards.

Meanwhile, I counted 6 runs for Sam when he was the only running back in the formation, such as in this picture page. I dont think he even had 0 total yards out of those formations.

Yes, not having a typical zone read running QB is a big problem. And, right now, teams are sitting on all possible options (as Brian diagnosed so well in this post) on plays when its just 1 RB and the QB back there because they dont respect the Dual Threet.

However, with Moundros blocking for Sam or Minor and even Minor blocking for Sam, the running game moved the chains and had a some big gains.....it was almost always moving forward for postive yards.....Michigan ran some beautiful counter plays out of different formations with both Moundros and Minor paving the way.

These plays were so good that we even hit a WR screen for decent yards on first down because the D was held up due to counter fakes.

Rr and company know whats going on. I would expect to see a lot of more of that.....and even an occasional Moundros carry or two.....dare we dream of a runaway Moundros Beer Truck?!?!?

Anyway....anyone else see what I saw......maybe a picture page on some of the running pays that worked?


October 8th, 2008 at 11:25 AM ^

Also, as Brian said, if we had a guy wide right (Savoy, in this case) who was able to make people miss, Threet could just turn and throw to that guy and let him try to dodge a tackle or two.  But Stonum and Odoms (and Robinson) are really the only guys on the roster who could do that.


October 8th, 2008 at 11:25 AM ^

Actually, there was an execution problem besides Molk - a bad read by Threet, who I assume had the option to keep.  Now, granted, with the way the play worked out, this particular play would not have gone any better had Threet held onto the ball.  But, because Threet can be counted to hand the ball to McGuffie when he shouldn't (as here) more often than not, the DE is free to take his chances and crash like this.  If, on the other hand, Threet starts making this read correctly on a consistent basis, the DEs will have to stay home more, or the LBs and CBs will have to cover as they did here, leaving those play-action passes open more consistently.


Ideally, in the spread option, when you see this action in the backfield, the defense needs to fear at least three things - the dive back, the QB run, and the play-action pass.  Right now, they only need fear two, and that makes those much more difficult to execute.  Even though Threet is no Pat White, I think he's a good-enough runner that if he just starts making the correct read more consistently, you'll see all three options starting to work better.


October 8th, 2008 at 11:35 AM ^

Does Threet have the option to audible at the line when he sees that cushion on Savoy?  I remember someone mentioning (probably in these comments) that RR did not allow Threet to call his own audibles.  Any insight? 


October 8th, 2008 at 12:01 PM ^

But when threet is comfortable with the offense, he is smart enough to make adjustments at the line.  Right now the coaching staff probably just does not have enough confidence in Threets audibles.  But I imagine in time he will be able to make these adjustments with out the coaches running plays in.


October 8th, 2008 at 11:56 AM ^

I see nothing in the second image to indicate that Threet could not have at least gained a couple yards by keeping (unless you assume that Molk completely fail to block Miller). The CB is not in the picture, and should be blocked by the WR. The outside linebacker that moves up to contain is blocked by the left tackle. Threet has a gap inside the left tacke, and assuming Molk doesn't miss, he has at least a short gain. Obviously, looking at the third image, we can see that he would have been killed by Miller, and even if not, would have been shortly caught by Davis, but he couldn't have known that at the time of image 2.


October 8th, 2008 at 12:18 PM ^


I keep thinking you have the wrong idea on what is supposed to be going on with this play, unless you are assuming Threet wouldn't have been able to adjust and cut to the hole inside instead of heading outside.


October 8th, 2008 at 1:53 PM ^

Clearly, there are unblocked defenders who would have tackled Threet.  The DE, Martez Wilson (the OLB), or Vontae Davis (the CB) would have come up to make the play.  It was just a well defended play.  That's why they need to be able to run alternative plays off that read option.


October 8th, 2008 at 2:08 PM ^

which is where Threet had to make the decision.  The whole point of the zone read is that if the DE commits to the RB, the QB can step around him.  I don't know why you can't see the T blocking the OLB.  I also don't know how you can assume in the second image that the CB will go unblocked. Ah heck, you can't assume it.


October 8th, 2008 at 2:12 PM ^

This goes right back to what Starko stated, which you said was wrong: there is a hole developing up the gut at the time of the read. The DE has sold out so much that it would be impossible for him to deal with Threet, and he is only a Molk block away from a ton of daylight up the middle.

Granted, with what happens after the read, this would have been a 1 yard gain with a (-1) to Molk in the UFR, but Illinois doesn't have everything covered.


October 10th, 2008 at 10:42 AM ^

Totally agree.  Threet should have certainly kept this ball.  If the OL charged with getting to Martez Wilson makes his kickout block, there is a big hole the DE left by crashing down.  Assuming this was run all the way, the WR on the bottom of the screen should have been blocking Davis (the CB).  Otherwise, as Brian mentioned, he's wide open on play action.


It's all about the DE. Nothing else matters in this play the way the numbers are.

Icehole Woody

October 8th, 2008 at 11:58 AM ^

I have yet to re-watched the Illinois game but it seems to me that the trouble with the running game was McGuffie frequently running into the Illinois defensive line well behind the line of scrimmage.  If his offensive line is going to block like they did last Saturday McGuffie needs to start jumping over people.


October 8th, 2008 at 12:05 PM ^

Michigan has used the solutions you proposed in other games.  On the play you pictured some Spread-Option teams will use the playside slot or wide reciever as the pitch in a Dive-Keep-Pitch triple option.  Odoms and Mathews have caught "Pitches" (looks like long handoff after dive-keep action) on the "Zone-Read Dive".  If the CB was consistently coming off of coverage the coaches should have exploited that for TDs.  Play action versus this defensive look is killer.  Unfortunately, UofI may have called Paper when RR called Rock.  Game theory figures heavily into the effectiveness of what is technically called a Veer Option.  Hence why head coaches RR and Paul Johnson call their own offensive plays.


October 8th, 2008 at 12:17 PM ^

I think that last post about the Audible is probably right.  If RR limits Threet's ability to switch plays (run/pass) at the line then maybe we can't take advantage of the soft cushion on Savoy.  I remember Henne having the ability to check into that play and using it effectively.


I disagree with a previous post about needing a WR out there who can break a tackle.  Certainly it would help if that cushion was given to Stonum, Odoms, or Robinson.....or even Hemmingway.  But I think if Threet turns and fires the ball to Savoy on this play he gets 4 yards even if he's completely inept and gets tackled right away.  More than likely he's going to average 6 yards on this play. 


I'm surprised that RR doesn't try to leverage Threet's advantage of having a good arm in this situation.  If you have Pat White you try to rely on the read option to make something on this play one way or another.  If you have Threet I think you lean on either the quick pass or the play action to Matthews.  In a run based offense I think play action would be incredible successful and I'm surprised it isn't used more.


What I find a little troubling about this outcome is that the play in question is from early in the game.  Perhaps the coaching staff hadn't been able to adjust to Illinois' formation yet and that's why you didn't see a positive outcome.  But if that were true, why was it that this actually came from a functional drive when in the second half our offense struggled more?  You would have thought the opposite.


Finally, let me tell Brian that I absolutely LOVE this type of post.  I get more information from these Picture Pages posts than just about anything else.  I'd love to see more of them - both for plays that worked, plays that didn't, offense, defense, special teams, etc.  It is like a UFR on steroids for one play. 


I also wanted to commend jaimemac on trying to provide statistics associated with the type of play.  It would be great to get more concrete data like that - yards with lead blocker, yards without, yards based on formation, yards based on direction, etc. 


October 8th, 2008 at 1:27 PM ^


 Finally, let me tell Brian that I absolutely LOVE this type of post.  I get more information from these Picture Pages posts than just about anything else.  I'd love to see more of them - both for plays that worked, plays that didn't, offense, defense, special teams, etc.  It is like a UFR on steroids for one play.   


* Second 


October 8th, 2008 at 1:57 PM ^

You don't NEED a wide receiver who can make a guy miss.  But would you rather have a guy out there who can catch the ball and gain 4 yards...or a guy who can gain at least 4 yards but probably make a guy miss and gain 10?

Mathews has caught bubble screens and gain yardage.  That doesn't mean he's the ideal guy to target on a bubble screen.


October 8th, 2008 at 12:22 PM ^

i dont think this is the same play


if you notice, unlike the wisco play, there is a te and the initial doubleteam is on the strongside de. this is designed to go around right end behind schilling, not up the gut behind ortmann. this sorta explains the molk wiff, because his job here is to keep the lb from flowing down the play, not to bulldoze him.  


October 8th, 2008 at 12:33 PM ^

With the gap in time between pictures, I could just be seeing what I want to see, but....

Looking at the position McGuffie is in as he takes the handoff, it looks like he's pointed to head inside instead of outside. He would have to take an immediate cut to get the correct angle for the stretch.

Again, this is just how I view it. A comparison to a picture of the handoff to McGuffie on a play that definitively turned into a zone stretch would help clarify.


October 8th, 2008 at 12:56 PM ^

Yeah, I also think this should go right up the gut.  There is a pretty solid hole at the line of scrimage, if you ignore the DE who came in, and if Molk doesn't whiff on that guy.  Even aside of Molk's man, I think McGuffie would have made it to the hole before that LB and a decent cut could have had him into the secondary.  It looks to me like it's just the DE that blew it up.


October 8th, 2008 at 2:49 PM ^

Where are the receivers at time of hand off?  If that DE respects Threet running then McGuffie is sprung into the secondary.  So assuming Threet just made a bad read in handing off to McGuffie, did he have options on a screen?  The 2nd and 3rd pics are cropped so we can't tell.

Blue Balls

October 8th, 2008 at 5:48 PM ^

My question is how far should Threet be setting up behind the line of scrimmage?Sam is 6 yards off the line,  With that defensive end unblocked, Sam never had a chance to get back to the line of scrimmage. 

chitownblue (not verified)

October 10th, 2008 at 10:48 AM ^

The problem with these posts is that, while valuable, they start giving people the impression that this single play is representative of the larger sample (hence, the person asking if RR was outschemed by Zook) - this is a single play, a small sample-size.