Picture Pages: Mediocre Pitch Sweep Comment Count

Brian November 9th, 2011 at 12:29 PM

It's Complain About Blocking day in the Michigan blogosphere, what with me complaining about blocking and BWS complaining about blocking and—hey!—me complaining about blocking again. Which is this.

This is a mild complaint on another "ten guys" play. Michigan got Iowa fairly well blocked thanks to their alignment, but one mistake far away from everything ends up submarining a winning playcall.

It's Michigan's second play of the game. Robinson has just slipped while cutting, turning a decent gain into a single yard. On second and nine Michigan comes out in a tight ace set with both TEs in a two-point stance. Nominally this is a passing formation what with the TEs all standing up, but formations like this often result in outside runs this year.


On the snap Roundtree, Koger, and Lewan block down, with Schofield and Molk pulling. Patrick Omameh is going to cut the backside tackle… or at least he's going to try. His failure to creates a CHAIN REACTION that DESTROYS THE REACTOR:


Hmm. This isn't good. The backside DT isn't delayed at all. A TFL is possible here. TFLs are not nice.


Meanwhile, there is good work being done on the playside. Koger and Lewan have gotten movement on their guys and Roundtree is cracking down on the playside LB with a great angle.

Molk perceives the threat and removes the threat of the DT with his back. That takes the TFL off the table. Unfortunately, Koger and Lewan have now lost their guys playside. Roundtree does get the linebacker:


At the moment of truth Toussaint does have a crease because Roundtree's block cuts off Koger's guy and Molk slowing has prevented that DT from making the play; Schofield has kicked out the corner.


Unfortunately, there is no lead block, and there is a safety. With the playside DT flowing down the line there's nowhere to go.


On third and five Robinson gets quick pressure and has no one open, so he chucks it well past everyone.


Items of Interest

Ten angry men. So… yeah. Borges basically got Iowa here. Look at the alignment of the linebackers:


They're shifted well to the wide side, assuming that the outside run will come behind Hemingway's block. That gives Michigan a numbers advantage to the playside and gives Roundtree a super easy block on the most dangerous linebacker.

That's enough to get Toussaint a crease on the sideline. If Molk is hanging out being all blocky chances are this sets Michigan up in a third and short. But because of whiff by Omameh so total it threatens to allow a guy on the backside of the play to tackle on a pitch sweep Molk has to bail and unblocked safety is unblocked.

Receivers tight to the line == outside run. Not all the time, of course, but frequently.

These defensive ends are not Purdue defensive ends. Remember Purdue, when a defensive end was a gnome on ice skates?

Good times. Michigan was not playing Purdue in this game. (This is why it was in Iowa.) Koger loses his guy to the outside, and as you can see in the left frame above #79 is threatening enough to remove any hope of a cutback behind Lewan. He's not making the play, but he's doing enough to let some other guys do it. This was a theme.

I don't think Michigan's going to have much better luck with the rest of the defenses on the schedule. Koger's monster day against Purdue looks like an outlier based on the opposition, not a sudden renaissance. NFL scouting of him is middling overall and negative on his blocking:

Isn’t a real balance blocker. Struggles to keep feet under him, lunges into contact and doesn’t create much power as an in-line guy. Possesses a naturally strong frame, but his inability to gain leverage and maintain balance kills him at the point. Possesses long arms and strong hands that allow him to stick initially when he gets his hands on you, but is still learning the nuances of being a consistent run blocker.

That was pre-season; NFP's Wes Bunting re-iterated that recently in a post I can't find.

This is going to be ugly next year when the only options are Brandon Moore, Ricardo Miller, and freshmen. People are talking up AJ Williams as a potential tackle but I think Michigan would love to keep him at tight end if this is at all possible. Having an edge blocker like Williams is a critical piece of a manball offense. Even if Williams is a tackle long term I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't redshirt and Borges uses him as an extra OL. Preseason he talked about wanting to install an extra tackle package but couldn't because he didn't actually have any extra tackles.

Molk == SMRT. The reason this is a modest gain instead of a TFL is Molk's awareness. He catches a glimpse of an Iowa player in his peripheral vision and immediately knows this is trouble. If he had continued on his pull no one would have blamed him—or at least no one would have blamed him much.

He's adapted fairly well to the new system. Not every center can pull effectively. He certainly can, and while he's not an in-line mauler he is generating push more consistently than either of the guards. I predict Michigan misses him badly next year.


Kilgore Trout

November 9th, 2011 at 1:03 PM ^

It's interesting to see these things in the frame by frame with the explanation, then see it at full speed in the video.  It all happens so fast, it's incredible.  Definitely adds to my appreciation of how quick, well trained, and instinctual these guys have to be.


November 9th, 2011 at 1:26 PM ^

that's a tough cut block to execute.  That weakside DT is pretty much head-up on Molk, making it really difficult for Barnum to lay out his body and try to get to him.  Notice how #93 was pretty much grabbing at Molk while he was trying to pull.  I'm assuming thats how Molk knew he had stop and basically box-out #93.  Good heads up play there

Space Coyote

November 9th, 2011 at 1:54 PM ^

If that's the case (and I'm pretty sure you mean Omameh) then there needs to be better O-line communication.  If Omameh can't reach that man then him and Molk need to get that straightened out so that Molk is blocking that man and Omameh is pulling around (which hasn't been too successful this year).  Each player has their presnap keys, and I'm pretty sure that Molk and Omameh read that the DT was shaded enough for Omameh to get, which is why ran it the way they did.  But if they call it that way they need to execute.  And if they misread their keys then it is a communication issue that needs to be fixed.


November 9th, 2011 at 2:15 PM ^

I don't know enough about OL specifics but is that common for the OL to audible who pulls on their own?  I understand that in zone or man the OL has to decide the blocking assignments but it seems like who is going to pull would be pretty much fixed.

Space Coyote

November 9th, 2011 at 2:33 PM ^

It isn't really an audible.  It's the same play call, and the o-line always communicates before every play.  The whole team does that, and the higher up you go the more important that communication is.  It's what you see V. Smith doing when he's shooting the guns, he's actually pointing out the MLB.

As far as the O-line, they have keys for who pulls so that it doesn't matter which type of D they face, they can still run the play.  A lot of times it depends on who's covered (meaning a player is over top of them) and who isn't.  Usually you don't pull when covered, this is why the Bear defense that Michigan sometimes runs is so difficult for opposing teams to run against, because all the O-linemen are covered, so none can pull.  But this is communicated presnap.  If Iowa comes out in a 4-3 over or a 4-3 under, they are lined up over the O-line differently.  They need to be able to adjust to no matter what the defense is running, otherwise whoever is calling plays would be simply guessing what would work and it would be a crapshoot.  That's not effective or efficient football, you want to be able to adjust at all times.  O-linemen communicate maybe more than any other position on the field.  They communicate double teams, pulls, where blitzes are coming from, pretty much everything.

In conclusion: in my experience it is very common and a necessity for success.

Space Coyote

November 9th, 2011 at 2:46 PM ^

It is always difficult to see from the TV angle where the d-line is lined up.  But from this angle it appears Iowa is in a 4-3 under, with WDE kicked out into a 7 tech (outside the TE).  

The playside TE down blocks the playside DE.  This opens the hole the running back is running for.  

The 3-tech DT can be down blocked by the LT, so essentially that frees the LG to pull.  You down block here here because the down block opens the hole wider.  Also, being playside, a cutblock leaves the cut defender near the play and still able to make a play on the ball, so it is not efficient.  The LT can drive and the RB can cut off his butt if the DE gets outside the TE.  Otherwise, the LT has at least widened the hole.  

The 1-tech NT can be reached by the RG.  It is preferred to pull the center because he gets to the whole faster (and is also better at pulling in this case), has a better angle to get to the next level player (often a scraping LB or a safety), so you try to cut the NT when you can.  You are not worried about the NT going to the ground and then getting up and chasing the play down.  If you miss though, as seen above, there are still problems.  

Now say that they are in a 4-3 over.  This means there is someone between the Center and the LG.  It also means there is a DT between the RG and the RT.  In this case there need to be keys for when the center can reach this NT, or when the LG should down block and have the Center pull.  The backside RG will almost always pull as the backside RT attempts to cut the player in the 3 tech.


November 9th, 2011 at 3:10 PM ^

Awesome comments.  That makes a lot of sense.  I knew about the communication but I had never thought about it in regards to who would pull.

So I guess this play is kind of set up to be difficult because the center is so much better at pulling than the guard.  In an ideal world Molk would block the NT and Omameh would pull?  But due to the weakness of Omameh at pulling it's a choice between a harder block on the NT or a bad pull.  Since the pull goes playside it's more important.

One more question, going into the season I would have thought Omameh would be relatively good at pulling.  He was good at getting to and blocking in the second level.  Do you have any thoughts on why he has struggled so much?

Space Coyote

November 9th, 2011 at 3:25 PM ^

I would say in an ideal world they would try to do what Michigan tried to do.   If you can cut with the backside guard and pull with the center you're golden.  You should have a pretty good cutback lane if needed, but you have gotten a pull out quicker, meaning they get to the next level defenders in better position.

The problem on the play above is either that Omameh couldn't cut the NT because of the NT's position or simply that he didn't execute his assignment because he messed up.  So it's either blown execution or blown communication.  But what Michigan tried to do was optimal (FYI, most teams would struggle to do this because pulling as a center is incredibly difficult and most teams don't have a center that can do what Molk can as far as pulling).

I haven't really taken a close look at Omameh when he's pulling, but most likely it's a footwork thing.  It takes quite a bit of practice to get the drop step to start the pull down without hesitating or taking any false steps.  It also takes practice getting the angle down in which you pull.  Usually once you get it down it isn't too bad, but it takes a bit of work to get to that point.  That's my guess for why Omameh is stuggling.  He is having trouble with getting out of his stance and doing the proper footwork to get to the hole on time.


November 9th, 2011 at 2:00 PM ^

I agree about Molk and how it will affect the team next year.  At least UM won't be playing any OOC games against elite defensive lines...oh wait, UMass is on the schedule.  Drat!