Picture Pages: Why People Scrape

Submitted by Brian on September 24th, 2009 at 10:20 AM

MGoBlog's relentless quest to post something that links to Smart Football's explanation of the scrape exchange every week… continues!

Okay. Picture Pages has shown you three different counterpunches to the scrape exchange over the first couple weeks of the season. There's throwing a wide open bubble screen. There's shooting a blocker into the backside of the play and galloping through the gaping hole that results. And there's peeling that same blocker around the back to pick off the scraper and get the quarterback into acres of space in which Tate Forcier should run straight upfield until murdered by a safety no matter how many people disagree with me in the comments. Michigan broke out the second of those several times against Eastern, picking up a bunch of first downs and one ninety-yard touchdown.

So why bother doing this stupid thing that just results in various big plays in your face? Well… because it's better than the alternative. Meet the alternative, presented to you by Ron English:


Okay: Michigan is in a trips set on their second drive of the day. English sets up in soft coverage and plays his linebackers off the line of scrimmage. Michigan will run the most basic play in their arsenal: the zone read.


Here's the exchange point. (Sorry about the crappy quality; I was working with an SD torrent at this point.) Two points: 1) with trips to one side of the field and soft coverage, the bubble is open here. Two: Forcier gets to honest-to-God read the backside DE. He is maintaining outside contain, so he hands it off.


Eastern's defensive line has slanted hard to the frontside of the play and Ferrara has gotten blown back a couple yards. Brown has nowhere to go and must cut up. But he can.


Because of the heavy slant, which was required to cut off the frontside of the play, there's plenty of room between the defensive end and his compatriots on the line. Because of the bubble threat, the weakside linebacker has been held outside. EMU basically destroyed the play but because of the design and EMU's lack of aggression they still don't stop it.

Eastern Michigan defended this about as well as they could here, forcing Brown behind every offensive lineman and into the unblocked backside of the play. It still gained five yards. This is really hard to prevent if you let the backside end get read and he's not a superfreak. Thus, the scrape.



September 24th, 2009 at 10:30 AM ^

i love the idea of making the playcalling a grab bag for the other side instead of consistent use of the same 9 plays that the offense cannot take to the next level... it makes me feel fresh, like i could ride horses or go have a laugh with all my girl friends.

again, as long as we can keep the defensive coordinator on the other sideline doing this

i'm a happy boy


September 24th, 2009 at 10:38 AM ^


For the sake of accuracy, the comment under the picture 1 states that this is Michigan's first drive of the day. But the score is already 3-3, and there's only 5:32 left in the first quarter, so Michigan has had the ball at least once before.

Please don't hate me.


September 24th, 2009 at 10:47 AM ^

I am starting to understand one thing with this offense: you don't need an all-world QB. Smart, accurate and mobile (read: TForcier) does just fine, thank you.

Now if you start getting 3-4 stars into the rest of the offense, condition them up, and THEN put a 5 star QB (certainly mobile) who has accuracy and smarts, WATCH OUT.


September 24th, 2009 at 11:01 AM ^

What is the backside DE doing between the 2nd to last picture and the last one? It seems like he's in position to make a TFL when Brown cuts back, but must have been seriously juked out of position. As far as I can tell, EMU's scheme puts their players in position to stop this play, but the DE blows it. Video might help explain this a little better.


September 24th, 2009 at 11:15 AM ^

From the caption right before the 2nd to last picture:

Two: Forcier gets to honest-to-God read the backside DE. He is maintaining outside contain, so he hands it off.

He's moving outside to keep Forcier from taking off, which is why Forcier hands the ball off to Brown. Which is the whole premise of the zone-read, having the QB essentially "block" the backside DE with the threat of the keeper and slowing down backside pursuit. Which is why the scrape-exchange was developed, which is why RichRod has shown multiple ways to make the scrape exchange hurt even more than playing straight up.

It actually would have been better if Brian had done this picture page first. This is the zone read beating a straight up defense every time. If the defense decides to game the offense with the scrape-exchange instead of playing straight up, the previous picture pages this season show the constraint plays used to punish the defense for not playing straight up.


September 24th, 2009 at 12:02 PM ^

It actually would have been better if Brian had done this picture page first.

IIRC, Western played the scrape exchange right from the get-go. They didn't play straight up D, hence no picture page of them doing so.

Also, in a sense, Brian did cover this first: there's an extensive explanation of how zone read beats the straight-up D (written by Chris Brown) in this year's HTTV. It's not too late to get a copy.


September 24th, 2009 at 12:37 PM ^

Eh, I'm not really saying that there were plays illustrating this in that game, just that the picture pages series makes more sense if you think about this as the base and then all the others as the reactions. In the non-existent world where opposing defenses call their sets in order to best illustrate the cat and mouse game in Brian's picture pages, we would have seen a base set (this picture page), the games to stop the base set (the Western scrape exchange), and then the constraints to attack the out of position defense (the ND pages). Too bad we don't live in that world.


September 24th, 2009 at 12:58 PM ^

And I'm excited to see whether RRod has yet another counter-counter-counter-counter-adjustment to spring. It's cool to think, too, about how the tight end is the key position for many of these counters, and yet RRod's WVA teams basically didn't have tight ends. Essentially every counter in this series is new. Pretty cool, huh?

Thanks, Brian, for an outstanding series of explanations.


September 26th, 2009 at 10:39 AM ^

I know right now the TE can counter block or counter and run into the flat but Florida has used another counter for 3 years now that I can't wait to see (OSU maybe?). The TE counters and heads to the backside DE but instead of blocking or running into the flat the QB throws a shovel pass (or shuffle pass) who cuts it up either where the backside DE started at. The OLB who is scraping gets blocked by the slot WR and basically a huge triangle of space opens between the outside WR/CB the safety up the field and the slot WR/OLB. If the WRs hold their blocks the TE can gain 20-25 yards. At Florida, where the TE is often bigger and as fast as the Safety this means often the TE gains an extra 25-30 yards before the other S/CB catches him (if they can).

The two questions for Michigan before they run this is 1. Can Odoms/Grady block a Big 10 outside LB? and 2. Is our TE shifty enough to bounce around a LB if the WR misses. If we got a TE like Rudolph at ND then this play works. I love Koger but I don't think he has this in him to run this 2-3 times a game like Florida did last year.


September 24th, 2009 at 12:38 PM ^

Remember, Jolt?

Anyway, lots of stuff in this one post, and my comments are:

1) it should be easier to post to the board then have a diary (diaries should be more 'earned').

2) I have such fond memories of "Who Cares!" (Everyone could join in and it was fun -- blue hairs, little kids, alumni, students...)

3) I agree that I'd rather have the Big 10 hypocrisy than this stupid policy re hitting. But, at least now, with all the other coaches pissed, maybe the Big 10+1 commissioner won't roll over cause someone from Notre Dame got bitchy and yelled at him cause their coach blew the game.


September 24th, 2009 at 12:57 PM ^

As long as its not a forward pass the o-line can block up field, correct?

Also, I like how the nearside WR (Mathews?) sucks in the corner and then goes for the block.


September 24th, 2009 at 2:34 PM ^

Yeah, in college that is the rule. In the pros a pass behind the line of scrimmage is treated the same as one downfield. That's why there are a lot more exotic screens in college than in the pros.

A backwards pass should be counted as a lateral and not a pass, so presumably there is no ineligible receiver downfield problem. But backwards passes are a lot riskier (fumble not incomplete) and what if the ref thinks it is forward and not backwards.

Blue in Seattle

September 24th, 2009 at 4:39 PM ^

I don't know if Brian's a fan of Bill Cosby or not, but every blog of pictures pages I read, I also have the song going in my head.

Actually I enjoy all the authors contributing these explanations of game tactics.

Please sir, can I have some more?

Blue Bill

September 24th, 2009 at 8:59 PM ^

Brian, it's also worth noting that the reason this play is successful is because Michigan has EMU outnumbered at the point of attack. The line leave the backside end unblocked (as they always do on the zone read, of course), but as you explain he is forced to take himself out of the play to contain the QB; in this way, as you've mentioned, he is "blocked" by the QB. But the other side of this coin is equally important to mention: this (along with the trips left pulling the Will/dime out wide in his alignment) leaves Michigan with five blockers on four defenders in the box, since the strong safety (who appears to be dropping back into deep coverage) is a good 13 yards from scrimmage and hugging the numbers when Brown gets the ball. It's this numbers advantage that makes this play work even though the defensive line was slanting toward the direction of the play.

I'm surprised you didn't mention this given the video of RichRod himself explaining this play that's currently posted on SmartFootball.

Love the blog. This is my first post, but I've been reading for years. Keep up the good work.