Picture Pages: Stretch versus Veer, Fight Comment Count

Brian October 20th, 2009 at 12:16 PM

I mentioned this earlier in one of the two instances where I brought up Chris Brown's explanation of the differences between inside and outside zone runs. Here's a play featuring the tell a couple coaches suggested I look for when I was complaining about the difficulty of distinguishing between the two.

Michigan's in a shotgun with trips to the right. Two things to note here are the two deep Iowa safeties, and the shift of the Iowa linebackers outside. Angerer, the MLB, is lined up over Odoms, sort of:


Also, Greece has destroyed Latvia in World Cup qualifying.

The thing to note in the above frame is the position of Forcier relative to Minor. Forcier is a yard or so in front of his tailback. For comparison, here's a play against Indiana that would end up a standard zone stretch:


Forcier is a yard behind the tailback. This allows the RB to come across him at speed and get to the frontside creases the stretch looks to exploit.

Back in the Iowa game, the positioning of Forcier allows Minor to take a handoff already headed upfield, which was one of the adjustments that Penn State struggled with so badly last year. Also note a great oddity:


Michigan is blocking the backside defensive end! Why are they doing this? Well, if you don't block him and he crashes down and you're running a play that's anything short of a stretch play that's running away from him there's a good chance he makes a thumping tackle in the backfield. Michigan did this a lot against Iowa because Brandon Minor's RAGE is most effective when he's heading straight upfield.

Another item to note: at the moment of the handoff, Forcier is staring at the MLB over Odoms, judging whether or not he's coming up to contain.


He isn't. And one reason for that may be that this looks like play action. Odoms isn't running a bubble. The backside defensive end is getting blocked. In the past, this has always been a pass, or an attempted one. So Angerer gets a pass drop. By our next frame he'll be hanging out at the first down line, six yards back from the frame above:


You'll note that Minor is running right next to Forcier; with five guys in the box and no support for a hypothetical bounce, Minor could have made this same run. Iowa's decision to leave two deep safeties back makes it really hard for them to stop Michigan's ground game, though it did prevent Michigan from breaking anything long: their longest run in Kinnick was twelve yards.

At the end of the play Forcier has near first down yardage after having slid to the ground untouched. The Iowa defender does give him his best Cato June, though:


Here's the glorious you-tube-o-vision, in which you can see that the receivers' half-hearted routes. That indicates this was a called run play, not an improvisation, in case you're wondering if this was play action gone awry (awright?):

Object lessons:

  • Zone runs have a bit of a tell. If your depth perception and processing is quick enough and you see the QB step forward you've got a good idea that it's not a stretch. If he stays back you've got a good idea it is. This is probably not a huge deal since the QB takes up his final position moments before the snap, preventing—or at least hindering—the ability for defenses to key on it. It's a lot to process that when you're trying to time the snap and figuring out your assignments and whatnot. It is there.
  • But you, the viewer, have a great view of it. TV angles are great for picking this out, though, and it's simple enough that you can try to pick it out real-time.
  • RAGE. Michigan went to a lot of interior, non-stretch runs with Minor and blocked the backside DE. This helped out on a variety of plays and should hypothetically make Forcier's job on the reads easier because the guy he's reading is a lot further away and his motion has to be less subtle if he's got contain. This also brings in some elements of Paul Johnson's flexbone, too. Johnson loves to leave a guy unblocked for much of the game, then crush him unexpectedly for a big play.
  • Michigan's mixing up its routes on certain keeper plays. I'm betting that if Odoms ran a bubble route on this play that was a key for one of the linebackers to shoot up for contain against Forcier and for one of the safeties to crash down on the bubble. By just running its receivers downfield, Michigan got Iowa to go into pass drops and opened up tons of space for Forcier.
  • Iowa loves them some two-deep safeties. The zone read brings in the quarterback as another runner and has essentially forced its opponents to ditch the two-deep look. In the Rodriguez coaching videos kicking around the web, the implicit assumption is that opponents will usually have a single deep safety because of the threat of the keeper. Iowa defies that, and it worked for them, albeit barely. Michigan racked up almost 200 yards on the ground without its starting center and nominal starting tailback despite seeing five drives end on turnovers. Michigan had similar success against Notre Dame last year when Corwin Brown decided to keep two deep safeties. Once Michigan emerges from its freshman quarterback purgatory I wonder if Iowa will be able to get away with this sort of thing.


Raback Omaba

October 20th, 2009 at 12:22 PM ^

I'm Greek, but not a huge Futbol fan unless it's the World Cup or Euro Championships (I know, I know...)

Did Greece beating Latvia clinch a World Cup berth??

It would be nice to see us get redemption for the goal-less 1994 campaign.


October 20th, 2009 at 12:57 PM ^

It seems to me that Forcier has a tendency to keep the ball a little more than he should. This play is really a perfect example of that, as it looks like giving it to Minor had the potential to be a bigger play. My question is why? Is this a pure freshman thing, and why have the coaches not beaten into him to give it up more?

I realize he's 19 and as he develops a feel for the pocket and a better vision of what's going on, he should be scary, but I would like (for his health as much as anything) to see him give up the ball a little more.


October 20th, 2009 at 1:07 PM ^

You are spot on here, Brian. The subtle differences in RB position are telling. When I coached collegiately we used these same techniques for these plays.

I would add, by the book, this should have been a give rather than a pull. Rarely does an offense line up and have five OL for five defenders. With better blocking, you're talking about Minor one-on-one vs. a safety at least 8 yds downfield. That's a good matchup. The "trips-open" look has pulled both Sam and Mike out of the box, and the Will approx over center.

There is no veer action because there's no one for the OT to veer for. I would guess this is more likely why the DE is getting blocked since this is an obvious read zone rather than IZ or OZ.

Also, Brent, it's not a read option...do you seen an option phase anywhere?

steve sharik

October 20th, 2009 at 1:48 PM ^

...if we decided to "load" (i.e. block a regular option key) the DE and make the Will (who is in the middle LB alignment) the dive key. If the Will flows for zone (as he did) it's a pull. If the Will scrapes ("scrape exchange" for those of you following the previous discussion on mgoblog) for QB, it's give. Nice little wrinkle, if this is what the scheme was.

After watching the cut numerous times, Tate is definitely looking either at the DE or the extended Mike. He pulls the ball before the Mike does anything, so I'd guess that Tate was keying the DE, saw him try to work inside and take the B gap, and decided to pull the ball.

Of course, with only 5 in the box, almost any run scheme is good.


October 20th, 2009 at 2:10 PM ^

...there is no option runner. It's TF and Minor. The option runner would be a second running back opposite Minor, with Minor running the dive action. I think we're talking about different things. There's no pitch phase here.

This is straight zone blocking (despite the RZ concept) because there is no one else to block. The RT has to block the DE, if he didn't, then who? This goes back to my point of why it should be a give. The DE cannot hawk the zone runner because he is blocked by default.

A scrape exchange (natural exchange is what I'm used to) cannot be implemented with zone action TO YOUR SIDE. You have to flow to the ball. This concept is for pull responsibilities away from the zone flow. In this scenario the scrape exchange would have to be with the Mike who is already naturally removed from the box. If the Will didn't flow he'd be opening up a giant hole in the middle of the field. Does not compute.

steve sharik

October 20th, 2009 at 3:27 PM ^

Tate is one option, Minor is the other. It's just double option, not triple option. So, yes, we're talking about different things. But it *is* option.

Neither you nor I know whether or not this should be a give. Probably so, but only the Michigan coaches know for sure. I don't think it's an auto give b/c it's veer w/a load block on the backside DE. The give is a downhill run into the B-gap. So if the backside DE slants into the B-gap, you want to give the ball into a pile of muck? I think the decision to pull was the right one, as evidenced by the untouched, 9-yard gain that could have been more if a) Tate was thicker and healthy b) he didn't slide and c) Minor didn't pout and instead blocked someone downfield. Minor only came free b/c he bounced outside the hole; point being, the give hole wasn't there b/c the defense took it away.

Obviously, the Mike (in Iowa's case the Will) cannot scrape exchange b/c he is the only ILB in the box. I'm just saying that is a possible reason why Tate kept the ball. UFR, it was not, b/c his eyes weren't there.

As for the Mike "naturally" being removed from the box, I don't find much "natural" about it. You're putting your Mike out on the perimeter and your OLB (Will) in the box, all in the name of keeping a 2-high look. What a 40 front should do is roll the safeties to the trips side and play 1-high. If you want to play 2-high against trips open, you have to play a 30 front.


October 20th, 2009 at 10:11 PM ^

Isn't the decision to give or pull based on the read rather than the result of the play? You're not suggesting that the decision to give or pull was based on whether the left side of the line had created the designed hole for Minor, are you? Whether the give hole was there or not, that wasn't Tate's read, right? It's possible the give hole wasn't there because the defense took it away, I guess, but the play started with, essentially a 5 on 5 in the box and it seems just as likely the hole wasn't there because it was poorly blocked. And, why do you suggest that Minor was "pouting?"


October 20th, 2009 at 1:17 PM ^

Like a few previous comments, I would have liked to see the ball in Minor's hands. However, that said, was Brandon supposed to be running shoulder-to-shoulder with Tate on this play? Was he looking for someone to block?


October 20th, 2009 at 1:25 PM ^

He's running the read zone, but when it turned into a poorly blocked mass of humanity there wasn't really a hole for him to hit. He just ended up there, IMO. I think if he'd gotten the ball he would have cut it up and ended in the same position, with TF running wider.


October 20th, 2009 at 1:41 PM ^

It's just so darn cool to watch this team and its ability to learn and execute more and more of the playbook. If this learning curve keeps up as is (or hopefully accelerates) we will be a huge problem for many a D-coordinator for years to come.


October 21st, 2009 at 9:42 AM ^

It's fun to see the wrinkles that get added every week to combat what defenses try to do to stop us. I really liked the pitch out play that is the counter to the stretch read. If they start running those back to back it will really start to confuse the defense. I really hope we can put some big time yardage on the ground against Penn State. They remember Minor from last year, and they will probably focus on shutting him down.

I also really enjoy two coaches going back and forth about what the reads are, and who is supposed to do what on both sides of the ball. This illustrates Steve's point that only the Michigan coaches know whether Tate should have kept it or handed it off.

Sextus Empiricus

October 20th, 2009 at 2:02 PM ^

The read is the issue. Tate could have counted the defenders in the box and decided to hand off before the snap. Clearly he is reading either the DE or LB.

It's a good result for Mich, but better if Minor has this run. Minor shows a little jump at the end of the play (frustration?). The handoff itself is tricky if the decision is tentative on Forcier's part, so maybe it's better to keep these unless the read is blatantly obvious. It just seems obvious that 5 in the box = handoff regardless of what the DE or LB is doing.

Thanks these posts really add to my viewing experience watching this team. This is great stuff. Thanks to Chris Brown as well!


October 20th, 2009 at 2:44 PM ^

I also noticed this curious QB-to-RB positioning pre-snap.
It's also interesting to note that even with the QB 1 yard a head of the one or two tailbacks out of the shotgun, I've observed West Virginia, Oregon and Northwestern quarterbacks take a quick dance step backward on some plays to still allow the tailback to run past him so that he can ride the fake at full speed for the first option. Maybe the way Michigan does things at this stage is that this staggered QB-TB positioning does signify a pass play, but I don't know whether defenses could consistently rely on this to be the case every time. I'll try to find some examples of WVU games where we see the same alignment of QB ahead of the tailback(s) and the QB does this fancy footwork I mention to compensate for what is a zone read run play.

los barcos

October 20th, 2009 at 3:31 PM ^

your mention of greece v latvia reminded me...what ever happened to your proposed us soccer blog?

also, completely unrelated. lyon v. liverpool is playing now and lyon has a player with the same name as our suspended buddy but spells it "Cissokho"


October 20th, 2009 at 6:08 PM ^

please continue these.

I'm also enjoying the grad level debates and analysis between our resident coaches. Agree, disagree, but please continue!



October 20th, 2009 at 10:48 PM ^

Does anyone else feel like they could effectively coach young kids in the zone read option offense after reading these "Picture Pages" posts?!

Seriously, Brian et al, thanks for this info.

It just makes the games more entertaining (or frustrating) to be able to decipher the game within the game!