Preview 2013: Five Questions, Five Answers, Offense

Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Previously: Podcast 5.0, The Story, Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End and Friends, Offensive Line, Defensive Tackle, Defensive End, Linebacker, Cornerback, Safety, Special Teams.

1. Is Michigan about to be on the wrong side of history?

When Rich Rodriguez was hired at Michigan, Gary Danielson infamously predicted Michigan would be the last major program to move to a spread offense. Five years later, Michigan is shedding the spread as the NFL adopts it en masse. I am a spread zealot, no foolies, and while I may be influenced by factors like…

  1. Associating pro-style offenses with Mike DeBord, "the expectation is for the position," and opponents saying they knew exactly what was coming game after game.
  2. Psychic scarring from things like Donovan McNabb, Carlyle Holiday, The Horror, The Post-Apocalyptic Oregon Game, Northwestern 2001, and even Braylonfest.
  3. Denard Robinson!

…I've also watched an awful lot of football over the past eight years and there seems to be no substitute for the defense-wrecking ability to run with a guy who can throw, and give him the ability to make that decision after the defense commits.


'bout to get yards'd

These days the thing that's all the rage is packaged plays that give the quarterback the ability to pick from a number of simple options based on the alignment of a couple players, and not just on the college level: Doug Marrone and company got scooped back up by the NFL largely because they ditched a complicated pro-style offense for quick decisions that make the defense wrong every time. Tavon Austin is a 5'8" wide receiver who went 8th overall in the NFL draft. The Great Satan in Columbus has Denard but tall at quarterback.

Meanwhile, the idea that Michigan needs to run a rough-and-tumble offense to cope with the rough-and-tumble Big Ten is total horseshit. If you haven't noticed, the Big Ten sucks at football, Michigan is recruiting a billion times better than anyone except Ohio State, and Ohio State is a spread option team. If we accept the fact that you have to run power to defend power, isn't the corollary there you have to run the spread to defend the spread? Clueless spread outing after clueless spread outing through Carr's career certainly suggests that. I mean, Michigan was fortunate to escape a home game against Northwestern last year because they gave up 248 rushing yards and 10 YPA.

Add in Michigan's stubborn adherence to the increasingly archaic huddle and it does seem like there's a little bit of dinosaur in the program even if Brady Hoke is hip to Romer. Arguments in favor of the huddle include feelingsball arguments like "it helps your quarterback be a leader"; arguments against include Nebraska lining up with 25 seconds on the play clock and checking into an RPS +3 play once they saw Michigan in a man to man alignment:

Where did they get that call?

From the sideline after they got lined up with 25 seconds on the clock and Michigan showed man coverage with one high safety. That was not aww shucks luck. It's using the extra information the defense gives you to exploit it. Michigan, meanwhile, is usually still in the huddle with 18 seconds on the playclock and often scrambles to the line with no other option than running what's called no matter what the D shows.

It kind of sucks that Michigan doesn't seem to want to do similar things. You'd think every coach would love the opportunity to get whatever information they can before making a decision.

Michigan's not using these newfangled offensive innovations. They suck so much at varying tempo that you, reader, have screamed "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" more than once in two-minute drills the last two years.

I love everything about Brady Hoke, but this is the one thing that makes me fret at night when I forget about Jabrill Peppers.

[After THE JUMP: DeBord is not Borges, Borges is not DeBord. Gardner confirm. Interior line muttering.]

2. But the pistol?


Yes. It is Michigan's great fortune that their upward-looking coaching staff* has just seen Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin and Colin Kaepernick obliterate NFL defenses with spread elements. Borges's mindset was made clear when he talked to Sam Webb about the pistol, mentioned those three quarterbacks in the NFL, didn't reference a single college, and emphasized the fact that Griffin got hurt:

"Now this has really been kind of a recent development with the quarterbacks running the ball more and it’ll be interesting to see here over the next few years how that holds.  A lot of things come and go in the NFL.  RG3 got hurt last year and don’t think that didn’t get some people’s attention."

Everyone's who's tried to analyze the correlation between QB runs and injuries has come back saying there doesn't appear to be one. A Slate analysis actually found a slight negative correlation, and a guy who went into his study with "a pretty strong conviction that there would be a positive and significant relationship between number of hits and injury" ended up concluding the same thing Slate did.

This is not to argue that Michigan should have Gardner take off 15 times a game; I mention it because that seems to be a good insight into Borges's state of mind. He finds the spread distasteful at best and is willing to marshal crap arguments against it. Nothing about it was worthwhile until the NFL finally tried it out last fall. Now it is an Innovation and using it no longer makes you an untouchable.

So it'll be a part of the offense. Michigan's told everyone they will retain spread concepts

"Devin was recruited to run the spread," coach Brady Hoke said last week at Big Ten media days in Chicago. "Philosophically, we’ll be much more downhill running team. Philsophically, we’ll be under center more.

"But the spread will still be in place, keeping some people honest. So that will still be part of it."

…and drips of information from the inside confirm that they continue to practice the inverted veer—a play so successful for Michigan that they just can't dump it. Pistol read option is obviously in line as well. Borges wants to throw everything at a defense, always.

SO THAT IS THE GREAT RELIEF in our worry. I fully admit that my paranoia is rooted in the belief that Lloyd Carr's Michigan teams rarely lived up to their talent because of milquetoasty what-might-go-wrong approach that saw them do things like run into the line against Alabama until they were down two touchdowns when they had Tom Brady and David Terrell facing off against a horrible secondary. Or make Michigan fans think "oh no, not again" when Michigan scored to go up 18. Or install a zone strech running game that (almost?) literally had no counters built into it.

The lack of imagination and exile to NFL position coach Siberia for Terry Malone for taking tentative steps towards changing that were second to safety play as far as late Carr frustrations went. I think everyone had a bit of dread that was coming back.

It's not. Al Borges is emphatically not Mike DeBord. While he's not a fan of spreads, he's got "CHICKS DIG THE LONG BALL" tattooed across his chest (trust me) and has led aggressive, efficient offenses when handed anything other than Tommy Tuberville's sclerotic quarterback recruiting to work with. He is an inveterate tinkerer. He just hates the spread. So, okay. I think Michigan won't be taking advantage of everything they might, but as long as they go for the jugular we'll be okay.

*[What I mean by this: Michigan prefers to look at the NFL for ideas, instead of other colleges. Carr did the same thing. in contrast, Rodriguez would go anywhere and look at anything from D-III on up for ideas. You can see this not only in the offense but in Michigan's refusal to run the spread punt formation adopted by every school more forward-thinking than Iowa. The spread punt is not legal in the NFL: only the gunners can be more than X yards downfield before the punt gets off. Therefore Michigan does not run it.]

3. Is Gardner really going to be all that?


Uh… yeah. Literally everything that has reached my ears this offseason about Gardner has been something between positive and rapturous. The public stuff has been in this space: Manning camp, spring game, Whitfield, teammates. The insider stuff has been just as positive, if not more so. At the Mott scrimmage Gardner spun the ball with authority, altered trajectories and speeds, and looked in total command of the offense. The only thing we lack is sample size.

We'll start getting that tomorrow. But I'm telling you: you guys. Gardner's arm, running ability, improvisational skills, and dedication to getting better are all there. You know how Michigan was talking up Brian Cleary's quantum leap and then like two days later Shane Morris was installed as the clear backup? To me, that's Michigan's coaching staff having a pow-wow and deciding they need to have Morris ready because Gardner is a major threat to depart for the NFL after the season.

He's going to be good. Very good.

4. The interior line—why would we not die this year after dying last year?


Can Glasgow play?

The offensive line section's comments featured a dude ranting at me for being excessively optimistic after giving the interior guys a two and saying that "mediocrity would be a win" at the center position. People are punchy about the offensive line.

While it doesn't look good coming off a year in which I should have given the interior OL a zero, there are reasons to expect improvement. Kyle Kalis should be an upgrade for Omameh for what Michigan wants to do. Omameh got picked up by the Niners as a free agent and was moved to tackle, a spot he never played at Michigan. Thus went Omameh's ability to pull. While Omameh was easily the best interior OL a year ago, he was an undrafted guy recruited to run zone stretches. If Kalis is mentally ready he opens up great possibilities, like, say, pulling to Lewan.

The other two spots are dodgier, but at least this year there is some plausible competition that gives Michigan a bullet or three. Braden was bashed out to tackle by Chris Bryant's emergence, and the walk-on is a guy you can believe in more than the 6'1" dude last year. We will know a lot more in a few games. If Glasgow can play—like, really play—things immediately become much sunnier there. I think he can and that Jack Miller is the guy with the shakiest profile, but that's admittedly an opinion based on circumstantial evidence as thick as vapor.

Meanwhile, last year it was Barnum or Mealer, Mealer or Barnum, and the starting center was a last-second switch because the other guy couldn't get the calls right. At the very least, Miller should be able to do that.

I'm not high on these folks this year, but take it from someone who had to UFR the Nebraska game: it just cannot be worse.


Also, some of the derision heaped on the OL rightly belongs to the tight ends, who were freshmen last year and are now sophomores. Kerridge also moves from a redshirt freshman to his sophomore year. A sizeable advance from the three primary blocking-type skill players is likely, and that will help the offensive line look better too.

5. Well?

Last year's implosion was ugly and not particularly relevant to this year since the offense changed dramatically when Gardner was the quarterback and the interior line has graduated.

So: I believe in Gardner, and Toussaint, and that the overall blocking will be improved not only by the new guys on the line but also the maturation of the new generation of blocky/catchy guys. I think Al Borges will be much better equipped to take advantage of Gardner's skills than Denard's, and I can't really find a spot on the offense that I think will be meaningfully worse than last year:


  • Junior Gardner > Robinson/Bellomy/Gardner, throwin'
  • Toussaint/Smith/Johnson/Rawls/Green > Poor Damn Toussaint/Rawls
  • Kyle Kalis > Patrick Omameh
  • Glasgow/Bryant/Miller > Mealer/Barnum
  • Michael Schofield > junior Michael Schofield
  • Williams/Funchess/Butt/Paskorz > freshman Williams/Funches plus Kwiatkowski
  • Sophomore Kerridge > Freshman Kerridge
  • Pro-style Al Borges >> self-loathing spread Al Borges


  • Justice Hayes == Vincent Smith
  • Taylor Lewan == Taylor Lewan
  • Drew Dileo == Drew Dileo
  • Jeremy Gallon == Jeremy Gallon
  • Chesson/Jackson/Reynolds == Roundtree/Jackson/Reynolds


  • not having Denard Robinson to paper over rushing issues <<< having that

    Oh, right… except for that guy who ran for 7.2 YPC last year. Michigan can overcome that if Gardner is superman.

Last Year's Stupid Predictions

Devin Funchess exceeds last year's Koger production.

Koger had 23 catches for 244 yards and 5 touchdowns; Funchess had 15 for 234 and 5 touchdowns. So no; "matches" would have been close.

Roundtree, Gallon, and Gardner are all in an undifferentiated heap around 30-40 catches and 400-700 yards.

Gardner got moved back to QB midseason after accumulating 16 catches for 266; Gallon's crazy chemistry with Gardner got him up to 49 for 829; Roudntree was right in the middle at 31 for 580. If Robinson hadn't gotten hurt this would have been about on point.

Denard has about the same production rushing, gets his INT rate down to better-than-sophomore-year levels-but-still-not-good (3.4%!), and ends up in New York for the Heisman ceremony. He does not win.

Uh, no, for a lot of reasons.

Overall rushing YPC goes up slightly thanks to Borges having more of a grasp on what works and Rawls improving the productivity of the third-tier carries. Playing Alabama without Fitz may have a distorting effect on this.

    Even worse.

Barnum isn't Molk but acquits himself well at center and gets drafted late after an honorable mention ABT-type season.

Oh god. To be fair we didn't know about the Mealer switch at this point.

Kyle Kalis waits for most of the year, unable to redshirt because of minor injuries; Mealer does hold the LG job.

    Kalis did redshirt but this was basically right… somehow.

There is no Iowa game where they try to go under center for most of it.

    Gardner changed this. Robinson games… yeah.

Yardage moves up to 20th; advanced stuff is about the same but things feel better because the offense is less prone to wild swings (58 vs Minnesota, 40 vs Ohio State, bupkis vs VT, etc.)

Yardage collapsed to 78th, as did advanced stuff.

Not a good performance.

This Year's Stupid Predictions

  • Gallon and Gardner chemistry is a real thing that propels both of them way up statistical charts. Gallon challenges Braylon's single-season receiving record.
  • Gardner is not quite as statistically amazing as he was last year but is clearly the best throwing quarterback in the Big Ten. His legs are a side asset.
  • If healthy a month into the season, Bryant moves into the starting lineup. Glasgow displaces Miller at center. The interior line struggles early before rounding into an acceptable unit.
  • Toussaint goes over a thousand yards at over 5.0 YPC. He gets the lions share of the carries. De'Veon Smith emerges into the #2 back by midseason.
  • Funchess blows up thanks to Gardner and the Darboh injury. He's the #2 receiver on the team.
  • I complain about Dileo being underutilized at some point.
  • Michigan splits its snaps about equally between shotgun, pistol, and under center.
  • The offense rebounds from the ugly numbers a year ago, in part because Alabama isn't on the schedule and Michigan doesn't spend half of the Nebraska game with the backup QB (knock on wood). Passing offense skyrockets from 94th to top 20.
  • Rushing remains basically static (41st, 4.8 YPC) as an improved line and Toussaint can only do so much to keep pace with Denard's missing 7.2 YPC. YPC will actually drop a few tenths.
  • Borges seems like a much better coordinator when he's not trying to work with pieces he'd never have recruited.



August 30th, 2013 at 2:38 PM ^

You mention execute in your quote then ignore it completely. You blow off execution in favour of just running a spread.

I say 100% WRONG.
It is ALL about execution. Doesn't matter your scheme if your execution of that scheme is terrible.
And you focus ONLY on offense. If your defense can't stop anything but others can stop you due to your execution, you lose. Running a spread offense does not guarantee wins. I cannot remember an example of such...

Hmm... spread offense, worst defense in school history, winning close games losing in blowouts. Hmm... Probably can't happen if you are running a spread offense.

Space Coyote

August 30th, 2013 at 1:19 PM ^

I don't think some of the spread concepts will go away anytime soon in as much as I don't think they are going away in the NFL. Teams like the Saints and Pats run some of the spread to pass concepts that are currently heavily utilized by O'Brien at PSU. I think Michigan will be similar to that. Yes, it'll be more man/gap blocking, and likely will look a lot more like the 49ers than either of those offenses, but it's not going back to a simplified passing system and a complete read based run game. Frankly, I don't really want to compete with Meyer for spread personnel, I want something that continues to bring in kids that want to play some hard nosed football that isn't as hard nosed as people think. It's mostly perception really.

I do think you're going to see more up tempo this year, as it was flashed against South Carolina. I think Gardner is purely better at it, because I think he's a little bit smarter QB than Denard was. I think the coaches have more trust in his reads and things and I think the coaches also are starting to trust their defense more (not to mention offensive consistency, which I think was a huge reason for running so slowly the past two years, discomfort in the offense and complete inconsistency). They'll still huddle more often than not, but it won't be 100% of the time anymore.

As far as pistol and what not, this offense is going to still be a miss-match multiple offense, it's just going to be with multiples Borges is more comfortable with. Some spread elements, some 49ers now and 49ers 20 years ago elements, some Pats elements, and some bombs away Al Davis run to set up the deep ball offense. It's a lot of things, and it certainly isn't one thing. That's good and bad but is what it is.

los barcos

August 30th, 2013 at 1:20 PM ^

with most all this, but i dont believe justice hayes == vincent smith, unless, of course, borges continually slams hayes into the offensive line on third and short.  but i do think smith's third down blocking was above-average to pretty good, and hayes wont be at the same level due to inexperience.  not sure how much it matters on the grand scheme of things...


August 30th, 2013 at 1:23 PM ^

Funchess definitely has to be the man this year.  We can't have him going through stretches of being on the bench due to blocking issues.  I see the TE's playing a more prominent role in Borges' offense this year with no established #2 receiver and no Denard.


August 30th, 2013 at 1:28 PM ^

I am probably as much a hater of the spread as Brian is a fan, but here's the rub (quoting from the OP):

there seems to be no substitute for the defense-wrecking ability to run with a guy who can throw

We've now had plenty of experience with the spread, including a guy who ran extremely well and threw very poorly.  Love that Michigan Man and all of his off-the-field amazingness, but it's time to move on?  Yeah, Lloyd was overly conservative.  Agree 100%.  Know who's gone?  Lloyd.  And Rich.  And Denard.  Alabama is doing fine.  Stanford is doing fine.  We will do just fine as well.

And no, you don't have to run the spread to defend it (see, for example, MSU v Denard, Alabama v Denard, OSU v Denard, etc.).

1 more day.  Go Blue!!


August 30th, 2013 at 1:48 PM ^

Yeah, I agree.  The argument Brian seems to be putting forward is "don't be a conservative puntasaurus on offense", not his proclaimed "the spread is the future of offense."  Teams figured out pretty quickly how to stop Denard when they had comparable talent: force him to throw.  It worked most of the time, and while everyone remembers him crushing ND in 2010 and 2011, they forget he also threw 5 picks against ND in 2012 when they were able to slow him down on the ground and take away the plays he liked.  Teams adapt, and good OC's do the same.  I totally believe that RR would have found other ways to compensate, but that has less to do with the offense he runs as his overall abilities as a play-caller.


August 30th, 2013 at 2:34 PM ^

Assuming OSU=Ohio, they run the spread.  No one is saying you can't be successful with a non-spread offense.  The spread offense is statistically the best, and Alabama has lost to spread teams almost exclusively with the exception being LSU.  Going no huddle as an offense and being spread, while often going together, are separate things.  Borges can do the same things on offense without a huddle and be able to adjust a bit more to the defense, but he doesn't. 


August 30th, 2013 at 4:51 PM ^

It's funny how a number of people have said, "Ohio (OSU) runs the spread!" as if they've been running it since Jim Tressel told his first lie.  They stuffed Denard when they ran a "pro-style" and didn't have a chance to pick him off 12 times when they ran a spread.

What folks (maybe mostly just the OP) are saying is proclaiming their undying love for an offensive format that was the highlight of a failed era in Michigan Stadium.  Teams that haven't been able to attract the best talent might have a better chance with the spread, but those are the same teams that need to gain attention by wearing uniforms sponsored by Zubaz.  Programs like Alabama and Michigan don't need to play games. We can get the best kids, line up and pummel you with an array of options.


August 30th, 2013 at 1:40 PM ^

Obviously--if he hits and he probably will--there is a huge threat to Devin leaving for the NFL. But, the thing that has me all NSFMF about all that is that he really doesn't have much experience as a starter and won't even at the end of this year. Games started is huge in projecting QB effectiveness at the next level and there's only one way to get that. If he's a legit Heisman contender then the urge likely becomes almost compulsory, but even then, Devin might just stick around anyway.



August 30th, 2013 at 1:30 PM ^

As was stated before Alabama runs the pro-style offense. Isn't the point of the huddle and pro-style offense to keep your defense fresh? 

I love the offense that Rich Rodriguez implemented but it always seemed as if our defense was on the field. Eventually the defense will lose out and not just because of scheme but due to fatigue. Rodriguez's team last year once again put up a bunch of points and yet could not stop anyone.

Another note about the spread, teams and coaches are learning how to defend it better. This isn't the 90s and early 00s where team scrambled to figure out how to stop the spread. Oregon was stuffed last season by Stanford. Ohio State's offense did not have an exceptional game against Michigan with Miller. In the past, the running QB has hurt Michigan but not so much as of recent.

I fully expect our defense to destroy App State when they return to the Big House.

Zone Left

August 30th, 2013 at 1:49 PM ^

I'm relatively neutral on the spread. I think teams should pick a philosophy they believe in for solid reasons and run with it. The proliferation of the spread is actually helping us, in my opinion, recruit certain types of players. It can be very good to be different.

No one forces spread teams to snap it quickly. Ole Miss ran a spread last night. Sometimes they went really fast, but most of the time, they walked up to the line, looked at the defense and then looked to the sideline for their play before snapping the ball around the 10-15 second mark on the play clock. If you add those 15 seconds up over an eight play drive, that equals 2 minutes. TV timeouts, resetting the ball after first downs, etc take up the vast majority of time in a game.

Also, Rich Rod's defenses just don't count. We were awful.


August 30th, 2013 at 2:56 PM ^

I don't mind the spread except for the fact that it is meant to run as an up tempo offense. The spread is not what will win games. A stout and fresh defense will win games for a team coupled with winning the time of possession battle along with fewer turnovers.

I looked up Rich Rodriguez's numbers and even in his best season, his teams still gave up 270 points. Alabama has given up max 180 points on defense. A 90 point swing can be huge in determining wins and losses. I have looked at several of Michigan's seasons were less than two touchdowns was the difference between two losses and a national championship.

You can blame personnel here for the poor defensive production from 2008-2010 and yes we lacked talent but the offense most certainly did not help to minimize the weaknesses of the defense. Robinson scored often with less than a minute running off the clock. Out comes the defense with minimal rest.


August 30th, 2013 at 2:16 PM ^

To be a little fair to Brian and Oregon, they did manage to put up 405 yards against Stanford; they just had horrible 3rd down efficiency (especially in the 3rd and 4th quarter), and had a trip to the red zone where they went for it on 4th down and missed.

And let's not forget the 3 years before that, Oregon walked up and down the field against the Stanford Defense

French West Indian

August 30th, 2013 at 1:37 PM ^

Michigna is being left behind.  I'm pretty sure the program died when it took them two days just to fire Rodriguez and then they replace him with a blockhead that can't even correctly name our number 1 rival.  Sad times, indeed.

Zone Left

August 30th, 2013 at 1:41 PM ^

First, I am a fan of spread elements. We've all figured out having the ability to run the quarterback and force the defense to cover the whole field are assets. Having the counters available off the spread and combo plays are really useful too. I also hate that we still huddle. I think it's ridiculous and the no huddle offense, regardless of tempo, has been shown to be superior

That said, now that everyone knows what the spread is and there is a consensus on how to defend much of it, the spread is relatively easy for really good defenses to stop with the right personnel if your offense doesn't have some special players. In particular, strong interior defensive lineman kill spreads. The easiest example is to look at what Chris Fairley did to Oregon in the national title game--and that Auburn defense wasn't even very good. Two other great examples are how well Nick Saban's earlier, less well-recruited Alabama teams ruined Urban Meyer's offenses at Florida. More college teams can get away running a spread because there are so few really good defensive tackles in college. Our goal should be to beat OSU, because if we can beat them, we can beat anyone else on our schedule. We should expect them to have excellent defensive linemen. 

The other spread killers are excellent defensive backs. If you can put your corners on an island, you can more easily match up at the line of scrimmage with spread teams, negating much of the offenses' built in advantages. Again, expect OSU to have really strong college corners. 

I guess I view a pro style offense as a little more capable of hiding flaws and doesn't require as great of a quarterback. To win a title as a spread team, you basically need Cam Newton or Vince Young. Colt McCoy couldn't do it--not just the game against Alabama, but his whole career--and none of the Oregon quarterbacks have done it. Devin Gardner may be awesome this year, but that's a really tall order. 


August 30th, 2013 at 2:22 PM ^


Colt McCoy couldn't do it--not just the game against Alabama, but his whole career--and none of the Oregon quarterbacks have done it.

McCoy was one of the most decorated college football players in the past decade. I know those Texas teams had loads of talent, but he put up some silly numbers against good teams. And he played was injured during the first drive of the game against Alabama, making your "he couldn't do it against Alabama" argument completely wrong. He was 2-2 against Alabama; you either live in an alternate universe where math doesn't apply or you are stuck behind a field of strawmen.

Oregon QBs went 34-6 the past 3 years and played in an MNC that they lost on a last-second FG.  That was the most competitive MNC game in years, and definitely showed the possibilities of the "gimmicky" offense working against a solid defense.

I get that you are trying to say the spread is beatable; nobody is arguing with you.  But the examples you gave are pretty weak.  

Zone Left

August 30th, 2013 at 3:34 PM ^

I disagree. First, I was trying to give McCoy a pass for being hurt against Alabama. He barely could move the ball at all against Suh in the Big 12 title game that same year. Oregon and Auburn played a really entertaining title game, but they put up 19 points against Auburn, which was the fifth lowest point total against that defense all season. Oregon really struggled against Auburn.

My point is that really solid interior line play is a must for any spread team. It's almost impossible to mask weaknesses if you're lined up across from a really solid interior defensive line. They'll beat up the interior and free everyone else to help on the edges. The only way around that is a really special guy like Cam Newton or Vince Young who can really run and really throw along with the playmaking receivers to go with him.

I think you need really special quarterbacks to beat the best teams while running a spread. I don't know that I want to bank on us having a really great quarterback each season. To me, the pro-style spreads the need for greatness out and allows special players elsewhere to mask some deficiencies with a quarterback. I'd rather hope for 2 in 11 to be special with 9 good players than need 1 in 1 to be special with 10 good players.


August 30th, 2013 at 4:02 PM ^

I'll agree that McCoy struggled against some teams with solid inside play, but those Texas teams had horrible running games if memory serves me right - I think McCoy led the team in rushing one of those years.  So part of their problem with the inside was either that they lacked good guards and centers or they lacked solid RBs.  I'm guessing a bit from both columns on that one.  So to say McCoy struggled to move the ball isn't really fair; the whole offense struggled blocking a guy who accounted for 6(!!) TFL, including 4.5 sacks in a single game.  No QB in the world, in whatever system, will be successful if he can't even take a 3-step drop before a DT is crashing into him.  

With respect to Oregon-Auburn, I've always felt those games are wonky just because of the layoff.  Oregon at the end of the year would have played much better offensively, and Auburn's defense was a bit underrated because of their tempo.  If I remember correctly, their adjusted defense was top-15ish.  And Oregon still put up 449 yards on Auburn, which wasn't chump change.  I will concede Fairly played great and the defense disrupted Oregon, but in the end it was still a close game and Oregon certainly wasn't run off the field by Auburn's defense.

I won't disagree that dominant DTs are essential to stopping a spread attack, but that's one of those "you gotta score points to win" mantras that are always true.  Controlling the inside compresses the pocket and gives your ends easier times getting to the QB and disrupting rushing attacks; accomplishing those goals are not spread-specific.

I agree that spread offenses put a focus on the QB and make him an essential component of the system, but the same is true for most offenses.  The reasons QBs are so protected is because they are so hard to replace; witness Bellomy taking over for Denard when he was hurt.  You may have a great WR or TE, but if the guy throwing to him or trying to make adjustments at the line isn't talented enough to get the ball out, it doesn't matter which system you are running.  So when I hear people say "you need a great QB" to win the title, that isn't necessarily true (see McElroy at Alabama), but in all instances the guy running that offense has to do it well.  I just think people focus more on the spread-style QB because he has the ball in his hands more often and the nature of the offense pushes him to the forefront; success in a pro-style offense tends to be attributed to other players more equitably even when that may not be the case.


August 30th, 2013 at 1:43 PM ^

My guess is that we're going to have a year or two of the best of both worlds with Gardner, a guy who can throw the ball downfield like a typical Borges QB but also be a running threat like a tyical Rodriguez QB.  We lost the downfield threat with Coach Rod, and I fear that we'll lose the running threat with Borges once Gardner leaves. 


August 30th, 2013 at 1:44 PM ^

"He finds the spread distasteful at best and is willing to marshal crap arguments against it. Nothing about it was worthwhile until the NFL finally tried it out last fall. Now it is an Innovation and using it no longer makes you an untouchable."

Great google moogly. Tone down the rhetoric.

The guy runs a WCO. He's not Satan.

It's almost as if you're extra mad that you think Borges may be evolving to your opinion.


August 30th, 2013 at 2:30 PM ^

Yeah, I've never quite gotten why some people get so bent out of shape about Borges (or really any coach) to this level.  People used to say the same thing about RR as if he was trying to pee on Bo's ashes to get YPC above 5.  Borges is not a spread guy; I didn't hear this carping when RR ran Steven Threet until his elbow exploded.

If Borges really disliked the spread, he would have stopped running it as much as he did with Denard and Devin.  He's not a fan because it isn't an offensive system he prefers, but he's never been as profoundly anti-spread as he's portrayed around these parts.  He wants to win, fergodsakes, and seemingly whatever makes that easier is an option he'll explore.

One Inch Woody…

August 30th, 2013 at 2:10 PM ^

The big 10's bowl record is not an adequate measure of a conference's success. The big 10 doesn't play most of its bowls on a neutral site - they are full fledged away games. Big 10 teams travel very well which leads to worse teams getting moved to higher bowls than they should be playing. Postseason bans and rampant coaching changes in the conference powers (maybe more than other conferences) factor heavily into it also.

One Inch Woody…

August 30th, 2013 at 4:25 PM ^

Alright, keep telling yourself that. Looks like the worldwide leader in sports has succeeded in bashing their agenda into your head.

But, I will agree that the conference has been lacking recently due to the factors I discussed earlier. Two years from now, we will finally have some stability at the big programs (Michigan, Ohio, and Nebraska) as well as enough league bottom feeders to make the top half of the league look really good (like the SEC) and produce title contenders. This is something that only the PAC 12 had, besides the SEC, with Oregon and now that Chip Kelly is gone, Oregon could very well go to the toilet.

One Inch Woody…

August 30th, 2013 at 1:49 PM ^

On my phone sorry - I should also add that the Big 10, this year, has a chance to do what the PAC 12 did last year. Ohio State, in my opinion, is grossly over ranked (though not as much as USC last year. They were complete absolute dogshit) and if they were to lose an early conference game, the narrative will shift like the PAC 12 to "look how much depth the big 10 has". Preseason bias, people.


August 30th, 2013 at 1:51 PM ^

"I've watched a lot of football for eight years," and read a bunch of stuff on the internets, and that justifies my conclusion that the offenses of Alabama, Michigan, Stanford, Wisconsin, and LSU are "dinosaurs" -- totally outdated!


Heck of a credential, "watching a lot of football" for less than a decade.


August 30th, 2013 at 1:52 PM ^

It doesn't seem to me that Brian is saying that pro-style offenses can't win championships. Obviously Bama's success would refute that point. I think he's just saying that, if a team uses a pro-style offense, the coaches better make sure they maximize their kids' talent -- something previous OCs haven't necessarily done at UM. Brian seems to think the story will be different with Borges at the helm, and I'd like to agree.


August 30th, 2013 at 2:12 PM ^

But this feels like a weak argument as it presupposes that the spread/spread afficionados don't need to/have "maximized" the talent of their players.  All good teams need to take full advantage of their players' abilities; anyone who doesn't won't have a job.

I agree that Brian seems high on Borges and that is reassuring, but his argument reads a bit like sour grapes and selective sampling.


August 30th, 2013 at 2:42 PM ^

I agree with you about letting them hang out.  What killed me during the mid-00's Carr teams was having NFL talent everywhere but never doing anything with it.  That's on the OC/'HC not taking risks and maximizing his players' potential, and that seemed like the argument Brian was trying to make.


August 30th, 2013 at 2:09 PM ^

1) Al Borges takes a liiiiiitle too much heat on this site for a guy who has yet to touch 50% of his playbook because Denard was ill suited to it. He looked around, sighed, and chucked half his playbook into a drawer in his offense after the 1st spring scrimmage in 2011. "Square peg, round hole" people said.

When Rich Rod came in, our offense was horrendous. Borges at least put something functional on the field, something RR could not do (against equal or lesser talented teams like Toledo, even).

Yeah, I went there.

2) Scout's message board is horrendous. Hideous.