Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Illinois Comment Count

Brian October 27th, 2016 at 4:11 PM


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FORMATION NOTES: Illinois loaded the box the entire game, usually in an over front

illinois 4-4

They played with one safety exclusively and had 8 or 9 in the box depending on whether M was in a big formation or not.

Michigan didn't have anything too weird except a slightly modified T:


This was one play only. Oh, right, and TRAIN.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Starting line of Braden-Bredeson-Cole-Kalis-Magnuson went most of the way, getting 66 snaps each. The backup line now reads JBB-Runyan-Kugler-Onwenu-Dawson, FWIW. Ulizio got bumped by JBB, must be primarily a tackle.

Butt got the most snaps of any skill player with 56, and Asiasi wasn't far behind with 41. Wheatley had his most extended playing time in a while with 31 snaps; Bunting returned on a single snap. With Perry out the main beneficiary was Kekoa Crawford, who had 35 snaps; Chesson had 33 and Darboh 44. McDoom had his usual deployment.

Poggi and Hill again split snaps about down the middle.

[After THE JUMP: a diversity of items.]

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 I-Form Big twin TE 2 2 1 4-4 under 9 Run Lead zone Smith 7
Illinois is going to load the box and hammer down with their LBs the whole game and M is going to eat some TFLs as a result. This could have been one of them except Smith(+1) cuts to a gap behind that Bredeson(+1) and Braden(+0.5) carve out with solid kickouts of a couple DL. Kalis(-0.5) probably needs to get off his double and cut off a LB shooting into the frontside gap but as mentioned the LBs are just hammering down. Smith’s cut puts him past the first level and creates a good gain.
M32 2 3 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 over 7.5 Run Iso Smith 9
In second and shortish Illinois backs off, rather conceding things on the ground. Kalis(+2) gets a hit on the NT and extends to wipe out a LB. NT tries to give ground and get to the hole; Cole(+1) stays attached and drives him. Poggi(+1) manages to get as low as the LB trying to submarine him and puts him on the ground. Big gap as Mags(+0.5) gets a solid kick and Smith gets an easy conversion.
M41 1 10 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under 7 Pass Slant Chesson Inc
Open for near first down yardage but way behind Chesson and uncatchable. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)
M41 2 10 Ace 3-wide 1 2 2 Nickel under 6.5 Run Crack sweep Isaac 6
Hill cracks down on the DE, who’s prepped for this play and extends to the sideline. Hill drives this guy; can’t seal him. He eventually gets chucked past the DE but has done enough for a push. Magnuson is leading out and gets cut by a playside DB, which is a cheap out that got Newsome’s knee exploded. Isaac cuts outside of that, away from his blockers. He cuts back in for a decent gain largely because Chesson(+2) wrecked the playside LB and Cole(+1) eventually put the playside DT on the ground. Darboh(-2) airballed on his block and the corner comes down just after Isaac(+1) makes the right cut and threatens to explode to the secondary. Dunno what Mags can do about this DB.
M47 3 4 Offset I twins 2 1 2 4-3 over 7.5 Pass Jet counter flat screen McDoom 33
This is hilarious on film. Illini DB on McDoom passes him off to the slot corner and takes Crawford. That slot corner starts chugging across the formation hell bent to pick up McDoom on the other side, and eventually gets outside the opposite tackle with giant question marks over his head. McDoom stopped, reversed field, and is bogglingly wide open in the flat. McDoom(+2) then grabs another 15-20 yards by avoiding one tackler, staying inbounds, and breaking a second tackle. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +3)
O20 1 10 Pepcat 3-wide 2* 1 2 4-3 over 7.5 Run Inverted veer keeper Peppers 4
DE contains; pull. M spends too many guys outside as Crawford cracks down and Asiasi goes for the same guy on an arc block. Peppers jets upfield and finds two unblocked guys, one a linebacker who scraped around and the other a safety who came down quickly. Still four yards but M ended up spending Asiasi on nothing. Bredeson(+0.5) got around for a good hit on his pull. Mags(+1) and Kalis(+1) blew a DT out and got to a LB, but no lead blocker means Peppers is contained. RPS -1.
O16 2 6 I-Form BIg H 2 2 1 4-4 under 9 Run Twin iso Higdon 7
Ugh. This is an iso play with two lead blockers in the same gap. It should probably be double iso, but I have a play named that already. Anyway. W/ Speight not a factor Illinois has one more player in the box than M has blockers and they all jet to the LOS; backside guy is in free. Higdon(+1) breaks that tackle and eases into the gap just behind him. Knocked off balance, he can’t fend off a safety. Hole there thanks to Braden(+1), who got an eliminating kick on a DE. Cole(+1) and Bredeson(+1) drove the NT a good long way and Cole popped off on a LB, giving Higdon the room to cut past that LB.
O9 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over 7 Pass Swing Peppers 5
Peppers in at RB. He goes out for a swing pass. I think he’s supposed to be a decoy to open someone else up but no, he’s the open guy. Speight hits him and takes him out of bounds when not doing so is a TD. (MA, 2, protection 2/2)
O4 2 G Pepcat Pistol diamond TE 3* 2 1 4-4 over 9 Run Arc zone keeper Peppers 1
the FBs both pull around to the outside and with the DE shuffling this is a pull read; Peppers pulls. Poggi(-2) does not get lower than his man and ends up going over the top of him. That guy is on the ground but two yards in the backfield. Peppers has to leap him; guy gets up to tackle. Otherwise this is probably a TD.
O3 3 G Shotgun empty trips TE 1 4 0 4-3 even 6.5 Pass TE drag Butt 3
TRAIN. M breaks from it into a trips formation with Wheatley as an inline TE and Butt alone to the boundary. M runs a mesh with Wheatley picking off Butt’s guy. Wheatley(route +) does a good job to look like he’s getting out of the way while still banging that DB so that the resulting throw is dead easy. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 10 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
O44 1 10 Offset I Big 2 2 1 4-4 over 9 Pass PA FB flat Hill 7
Asiasi runs directly upfield after motioning to a spot that implies crack sweep; he gets in the way of the LB in man coverage on Hill; wide open flat and second and short. (CA,3 protection 1/1, RPS +1)
O37 2 3 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-4 over 8 Run Iso Evans 16
Kalis(+2) gets a terrific block here, impacting the NT and helping Cole out and then getting to and moving a LB. Cole(+1) does his part. Poggi again gets undercut by a guy but it’s not relevant since Kalis gave Evans a big crease inside. Evans(+0.5) is fast and eats up a lot of ground before the secondary can rally; he gets nailed by two guys and concussed, exiting for the day.
O21 1 10 I-Form 2 2 1 4-4 over 8 Pass PA post Wheatley 21
M pulls a guard and this erases the linebacker level, 3 of 4 of whom cross the LOS. Wheatley(route+) drives outside through CB contact and then breaks in, getting separation; Speight nails him in stride. Miserable S angle gives TWJ an easy TD. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Touchdown,14-0, 7 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M19 1 10 Offset I Big twin TE 2 2 1 4-4 over 8.5 Run Power O Smith 6
This feels like M getting comfortable with manballing it. Illinois slants to the play hard with linebackers shooting outside as they seek to spill the play. Butt’s guy dives inside of him. Butt stays attached and pushes but he’s got no real shot at dealing with this; Bredeson(+1) helps him out on his pull. He thunks that dude and blows him out. Kalis(+1) shoves the DT a gap further inside a bunch and that’s a crease for Smith. Mags(+0.5) gets out and cuts off an out of place LB; Poggi(-1) failed to cut the backside end and he can weave through some guys and tackle from behind. Asiasi(+0.5) annoyed his guy, who slanted to the play and was difficult to contain; that probably earns a yard or two.
M25 2 4 Ace trips TE 1 1 3 4-4 over 7 Run Jet sweep McDoom 19
Playside end is let go and McDoom gets outside of him. M has Mags block down instead of trying to deal with him in the hopes that he bites on that action; he does. Butt(+1) gets out and engages the CB to the playside and that’s all McDoom needs for a solid gain. RPS +2.
M44 1 10 Pistol diamond TE 2 2 1 4-4 under 8.5 Run Split zone Isaac 3
Butt arcs out to the outside for a moment, drawing attention from a guy worried about a pass route and another LB thinking it might be a sweep to the outside. He then cuts back inside to whack that LB(+1). That should advantage M but the snap is low (Cole -1) and Isaac is delayed by a second or two. Poggi(+0.5) gets enough of the DE and Bredeson(+2) crushes the DT slanting away from him so there’s a huge hole; Braden(-1) and Kalis(-1) both fail to adjust to the slant and allow LBs through. Even so the huge gap Bredeson provided might have been a big play without the crappy snap.
M47 2 7 Shotgun trips tight bunch 1 1 3 Nickel over 6.5 Pass Skinny post Chesson 13
DE slants inside Mags(-1), who struggles to deal with it. He does delay the guy and keep pushing so if Speight wants he can re-set outside because there’s no immediate contain. Instead he stands in and fires a dart to Chesson, who broke past the first level of defense and sat down where he needed to be. This is the first eyebrow cocking throw of the day. (DO+, 3, protection ½)
O40 1 10 Offset I 2 1 2 4-4 over 8 Pass PA Dig Darboh 21
A lot of time but Speight does get nailed just after the throw as Kalis(-1) allowed a DT to spin off of him. Darboh was open before this and you might want to see Speight speed up his decisions here, but Kalis does allow a delayed pressure. Throw is on the money to a blindingly open Darboh. (CA+, 3, protection ½, RPS +1)
O19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over 6.5 Run Dart zone Isaac 3
After talking with James Light on twitter I’m dubbing this play dart zone: it’s basically outside zone except the NT gets blocked down on and the C pulls around that. This works too well for M; Bredeson(-1) hammers the NT. He hammers the NT into Kalis and Mags, cutting them off and allowing the DT to loop around into the gap; he and a free LB hit Isaac at the LOS. This is the first minus I've given for hitting someone too hard but Bredeson has to not kick this guy's ass so bad for the play to work.
O16 2 7 Offset I 2 1 2 4-3 over 7 Pass Scramble Speight 10
Jet motion and a fake handoff into a waggle on which Speight is all alone in the world. Backside LB is confused as heck. Butt is covered so Speight just takes off for the first down. (SCR, N/A, protection N/A, RPS +1)
O6 1 G Offset I big tight 2 2 1 4-5 over 10 Run Crack sweep Isaac 5
Looks like sweep and finally is. Crawford(+1) and Poggi(+1) turn in Illini who should really know better. Hill(+2) leads out and just pounds the playside LB into the endzone, hitting him twice. Bredeson can’t get out on the next guy but that’s not his fault; Isaac just about outruns him to the pylon but cannot quite make it.
O1 2 G Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line 11 Run Iso Smith 0
Bredeson(-1) gets submarined and ends up sliding into the backfield, which provides UI with enough space to get to Smith for no gain. Caveat: pylon cam here so hard to tell.
O1 3 G Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line 11 Pass PA TE out Butt Inc (Pen +1)
M seems to goof their protection as Smith flares out wide after the PA fake and has nobody; LB jets up the gut untouched. Guy on Butt did bite on the PA and panics as he turns around and hits him before the ball gets there, but the ball was off, understandably, because of the quick pressure. (MA, 0, protection 0/2, team -2)
O1 1 G Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line 11 Run FB dive Hill 1
Finally, said the weird-ass Michigan fanbase. Hill(+0.5) is most of the motive force this time.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-0, 1 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M38 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-5 over 9 Pass PA TE y cross Butt Inc
PA but no one to fake it to as both FB and RB head right as Speight goes left. Bust? Guys aborting fake because they see blitz? Dunno. Smith(-2) seems to bust. He flares right, then checks back inside, sees he can’t get one LB, and now can’t get his initial target. If he picks one Speight has an extra second and might be able to complete this. As it is he gets nailed on the throw and his attempted pass to Butt sails. (PR, 0, protection 0/2)
M38 2 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 over 6.5 Run Split zone Smith 13
Slot LB blitzes and Illinois slants to the play. M fortunate as the blitzer runs right by Smith as he tries to get to the QB. Large gap results as Mags(+1) shoves a DE shooting inside of him and redirects to a LB. Poggi(-1) has to change his target as Mags gets the LB and chooses poorly, hitting a DT to the inside who can’t get out into this lane; the slant sent a LB back to this hole who Kalis has no angle on; Smith(+2) stiffarms him to the ground. He then runs through another ankle tackle and mooses his way for a first down. RPS +1.
O49 1 10 Pepcat 3-wide 2* 1 2 4-4 over 8 Run QB crack sweep Peppers 4
Butt(-1) sits and tries to catch the playside DE. That DE shoots inside of him and into the backfield, shoving Kalis and delaying him. He also chases from the inside so Peppers can’t cut back. Playside OLB does a good job to get outside of blocking and force it back; Kalis(+0.5) does manage to get out there and hit a LB. Still meh room.
O45 2 6 Ace twins H 2 1 2 4-4 under 8 Run Trap Higdon 16
Poggi aligns just behind Kalis and M traps with him. NT is let go and roars upfield. Poggi mostly misses but it doesn’t matter since dude just blocked himself. Similarly, MLB runs up and mostly past Cole(+0.5). Cole gets enough of a shove to give Higdon the lane behind him; Higdon(+1) smoothly cuts right off Cole and jets for the secondary. Ump gets in the way to hold this down, refs -2. RPS +2.
O29 1 10 I-Form Big twin TE 2 2 1 4-4 over 8.5 Run Crack sweep Smith -5
Edge blocks here are fine with Butt(+1) correcting his earlier issue and pushing the DE such that Kalis clears him no problem. Asiasi(+1) takes a LB out and five yards downfield. But nobody IDs the MLB. He jets through unblocked for a TFL. Poggi(-2) is the rearmost guy and best positioned to deal with this but it could have been someone else’s issue.
O34 2 15 Shotgun 4-wide tight 1 0 4 Nickel over 7 Pass Post Darboh 27
NFL level throw here; Speight is clean and steps up in the pocket to deliver a ball in a tight window to Darboh. Darboh has to go up and get it as Speight is keeping it away from the underneath zone defender; he does so. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)
O7 1 G Pepcat 3-wide 2* 1 2 4-4 under 8 Run ZR fake QB iso Peppers 3
Pure zero coverage from Illinois here so close to the goal line and the extra guy hacks it down. Peppers(-1) fakes a handoff and then follows Higdon up the middle; Butt is in an H-back spot and tucks inside the tackle as another lead blocker. Peppers misses a cut for a TD as Bredeson(+1) turns out one DT impressively. Other one jets upfield past Kalis and out of the play; Butt(+0.5) and Higdon(+1) get second level blocks; Higdon’s rocks his guy back. With Cole(+0.5) getting a LB a cutback behind Higdon is six; Peppers doesn’t see it and gets hit by UI’s free guy.
O4 2 G I-Form Big H 2 2 1 4-4 under 9 Run Double Iso Smith 4
Slight variant here as the NT gets comboed instead of single blocked; FBs go on either side of that block. Cole(+0.5) and Kalis(+0.5) drive that NT off the ball enough; LB fills hard and cuts off the gap. Huge cutback lane as Mags(+1) shot a DE way outside and Asiasi(+1) hammered a LB. Butt(+0.5) also kicked a DE. Smith(+1) sees the lane and hits it, running over a DB on his way.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-0, 11 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M8 1 10 T Form TE 3 1 1 4-4 under 9 Run Twin iso Smith 4
T form is three backs next to each other in the backfield. Poggi is a tiny bit ahead of the other guys but whatever. I can’t name everything. M attacks a bubble in the Illinois front and blocks it well but a safety who started five yards off the LOS is there to tackle. Kalis(+1) moved the NT out; Mags(+0.5) got a good kick; Hill(+1) thunked a LB. RPS -1.
M12 2 6 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 under 7.5 Pass Slant Darboh 13
M motions Smith and Asiasi to the boundary; UI slides their LBs that way. Chesson comes back to the ball on a fake screen; he’s not really in this route. I guess they’re just clearing as much space as possible for the slant, which they do; CB was eight yards off and this is easy. Right on the money, though. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M25 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 1 2 4-3 over 7.5 Run Outside zone Smith 2
M can’t get the NT sealed as Kalis(-0.5) doesn’t offer much help and Cole(-1) can’t step around despite the NT giving him an opportunity to do so at the start. There’s no chip at all on the backside as Bredeson(-1) just leaves so there’s no cutback; Smith pokes through the frontside gap and gets got by the NT.
M27 2 8 Offset I twins 2 1 2 4-4 over 8 Pass PA slant Darboh 7
Darboh fends off press coverage before breaking in. Good protection, LB level sucks up on the PA, easy read and throw. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M34 3 1 I-Form Big twin TE 2 2 1 4-4 over 9 Run Iso Higdon 1
Almost fail to get it here as Butt(-2) gets driven into the backfield and into the path of Hill. Mags(+1) blew his guy out; Kalis(+0.5) took out a LB. Higdon(+0.5) manages to lean forward and get it on second effort. Really wonder why Butt is the interior TE here when Asiasi is a more powerful choice.
M35 1 10 Offset I 2 1 2 4-4 over 8 Run Jet sweep Chesson 5
CB in man coverage on Chesson does a good job to get over and hold this down as much as he can. M needed no blocks to get these yards; Braden(+0.5) did get out on and cut off a LB. RPS push, I guess, since the unblocked guy got it at 5.
M40 2 5 Ace 1 2 2 4-4 over 8 Pass Waggle comeback Chesson 14
Nobody bothers to check Speight so he’s got plenty of time to survey and find a guy; Chesson(route +) drives his man deep on a potential fly route before getting wide open as he comes back to the ball. Speight leaves it slightly upfield and forces Chesson off his feet. Catch is a relatively tough one. (MA, 2, protection N/A, RPS +1)
O46 1 10 Pepcat pistol FB 2* 1 2 4-3 over 8.5 Run Arc zone keeper Peppers -3
Another meh Peppers run. My guess is that the playside DE reads this play and does a good job on it because Butt(-1) gets hammered back so badly that I assume that he’s trying to get around the guy and to the second level. With Butt removed Peppers is dealing with the LB level without help and dances around for a minimal gain. RPS -2.
O49 2 13 Ace 1 2 2 4-3 over 7 Pass Sack N/A -6
PA and Speight has a ton of time. Braden does get shed eventually, but it’s on the DE’s third move. This should be plenty of time to get the pass off, especially since Smith is a wide open checkdown. Speight holds it… holds it… holds it. He gets sacked. (TAX, N/A, protection 2/2)
M43 3 19 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Nickel even 6 Pass Screen Smith Inc
Playside DE does a great job to read this and drop back. Braden’s still grabbing him; DE is able to back away from the QB such that the throw to Smith is very difficult. Speight misses it but that’s fine by me since a more accurate throw is a potential INT. Smith can’t bring it in and was going to the ground anyway. (MA, 0, screen, RPS -2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 28-0, 2 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-4 over 8 Run Iso Smith 2
Bredeson(+1) gets a big hit on the NT and gets out to the second level but Cole(-1) again cannot seal the deal, getting driven back into the run lane. Smith could think about a cutback since the super aggressive UI LBs got in before Kalis could seal one out, but it looks pretty jammed up in general. Poggi(-1) tried to cut his guy but just bounced off and he’s free to tackle as well.
O23 2 8 Ace 3-wide 1 2 2 4-3 over 7 Run Offset draw Smith 13
It always works and it works here. Braden(+1) hurls the DE upfield and then goes to get a stationary LB, engaging him and allowing Smith(+1) to burst outside. RPS +2.
O10 1 G I-Form Big twin TE 2 2 1 4-3 under 10 Run Trap Smith 6
NT again is gone upfield so fast that the trapper, this time Asiasi(+0.5), can barely get a shove in. The bare shove is enough. Mags(+1) gets a good kick; Kalis(-1) whiffs on a second level block; Poggi(+1) helps clean up, hitting both his guy and Kalis’s at the same time. Smith(+1) through the line, where the extra guy starts tackling at about two yards and gets dragged another four.
O4 2 G Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line 10 Run Iso Smith 2
Kalis(+1) and Mags(+1) blow a DT off the ball. Wheatley(-1) and Asiasi(-1) both get slanted under by LB types; Poggi(-1) falls off the LB he’s trying to block. Smith(+1) manages to grind this down to the two on sheer will.
O2 3 G Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line 10 Run Crack sweep Smith -3
Asiasi(+2) drives the edge dude into the endzone. Wheately(-1) gets slanted inside; Cole gets picked off as he tries to pull. Still probably have enough but both Hill(-1) and Mags(-1) go to the force defender and a LB can again run right at the back for a TFL.
Drive Notes: FG(23), 31-0, EOH.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M24 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-4 over 9 Pass PA TE out Butt 15
Butt motions across the formation; CB goes with him, tipping man coverage. On the route he drives upfield and breaks out; tough cover for this guy. Speight has plenty of time and lays in a nice ball. Maybe a hair off and upfield but this helps the catch as it draws Butt away from the defender. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M39 1 10 Ace trips 1 1 3 4-3 over 6 Run Offset draw Smith 17
It again works, with Braden(+1) doing the shove upfield and release bit again; LB widens out to prevent Smith from bouncing outside, requiring a second block. That’s from Cole(+2) and it’s an excellent extended one in space. Haven’t seen much of that from him this year. Smith(+0.5) gets a little YAC. RPS +1.
O44 1 10 Offset I twins 2 1 2 4-4 under 8 Pass PA wheel Chesson Inc
Well covered and neither of the other two options looks open so might as well take the shot. Speight has some room for a back shoulder but tries for the perfect pass, overthrowing Chesson by a couple yards. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
O44 2 10 I-Form Big twin TE 2 2 1 4-4 over 9 Run Outside zone Isaac 15
Left side FTW here as Braden(+1) gets a huge kickout on the playside end and Bredeson(+1) almost reaches the DT. Can’t quite get it but does enough to delay him; Hill(+2) pounds a LB to the ground and goes looking for more trouble, hitting a guy who scraped over Cole and then trying to get to the safety level. Cole(-2) almost got the play blown up by immediately leaving the NT to Kalis, who had no shot. Anything less from the left side and this is thunked.
O29 1 10 Offset I Big twin TE 2 2 1 4-4 over 9 Run Counter trey Isaac -4
Playside DE is unblocked and tackles for loss. Kalis(-2) appears to be the culprit, as Michigan is pulling to the weak side so he’s the nearest player; Hill was offset to the other side of the line. Kalis also belatedly lunges at the guy.
O33 2 14 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 over 7 Pass Fly Darboh Inc
Simple bomb down the sideline that Darboh doesn’t get much separation on but does have a half step; Speight nestles this ball in perfectly in stride and Darboh can’t finish the play largely because he’s kinda sorta interfered with. It’s mostly handfighting; DB is early but doesn’t even grab an arm he just leaves it in Darboh’s breadbasket until it’s time to rake the ball out. TBH I’m fine with a no call; good play. (DO, 1, protection 2/2)
O33 3 14 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel over 5.5 Pass Sack N/A -6
Bredeson(-2) gets suckered by a stunt, following a DT well into Cole’s area and not leaving to go get someone else. Smith picks ip one blitzer; there is no one for the second. Speight does have time to throw and live I saw some one open but he pulls it down for unknown reasons and eats the sack. (PR, N/A, protection 0/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 31-0, 10 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M27 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-4 over 8 Run Lead zone Smith -2
Cole(-1) leaves immediately and Kalis(-1) bears the brunt; he can still do better here. NT drives into the backfield. Poggi and Smith do well to cut behind that but Kalis lost the NT to the point where he can tackle in the backfield. Going nowhere anyway since there’s a free hitter up the gut. RPS -2.
M25 2 12 Offset I twins 2 1 2 4-4 under 8 Penalty False start Chesson -5
Chesson -1.
M20 2 17 Offset I 2 1 2 4-4 under 8 Pass Skinny post Chesson 20
PA fake and Speight comes up looking for Chesson, who motioned to a spot just outside of Butt. Despite the down and distance the PA fake sucks in the entire LB level and as soon as Chesson breaks in he’s wide open. Speight nails him. Chesson(-3) picks up 20 before he’s hit as he goes down and fumbles. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +2)
Drive Notes: Fumble, 31-0, 6 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M30 1 10 I-Form Big H 2 2 1 4-5 over 9 Run Double Iso Smith 4 (Pen -10)
Again the NT combo so this should probably get another name. Kalis(+0.5) stalemates a DT. Cole and Bredeson(+0.5) don’t do much with the NT but Bredeson does whack him well; Cole can’t seal but keeps pushing. Smith cuts back; Asiasi(-2) leads out in that gap. LB gets under him and blows him up; as he falls, Asiasi grabs the LB and drags him down for a holding call.
M20 1 20 Ace 1 2 2 4-4 over 8 Pass PA Dig Darboh 30
FFS, Illinois LBs. They’re biting hard on first and twenty PA. W UI in three-deep that bite makes the dig route wide open. Speight hits it. Darboh(+1) weaves through traffic for significant YAC, with McDoom(+1) picking up a block to help him out. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)
50 1 10 I-Form Big H 2 2 1 4-3 over 9 Run Twin iso Smith 0
Asiasi(-2) and Hill both hit the same LB. Usually the rear guy gets dinged here but Asiasi’s flight path indicates he’s going for the MLB before changing his mind. Also, he is a freshman. Also, Hill looks pretty peeved after. As always, sometimes I’m guessing. In any case, LB directly into Smith at LOS.
50 2 10 Ace twins 1 2 2 4-4 under 8 Pass PA TE corner Butt 22
Mostly excellent protection; Asiasi is a little wobbly on a DE but does get the job done. Butt(route +) releases to the inside of a LB, who ends up in trail tech on him. Butt sells a post and then cuts back out as the outside WRs drive off their guys; LB bites enough for Butt to get a couple yards of separation outside on coverage designed to keep him in. Speight nails him in the hands for an easy conversion and some YAC. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)
O28 1 10 Ace offset 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over 7 Pass Comeback Crawford Inc
This might be a little high and outside but Crawford leaps and it hits him in the hands. Ball is away from the DB so that’s a good throw in my book; Crawford drops it. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
O28 2 10 Offset I Big tight 2 2 1 4-4 over 9 Run Crack sweep Higdon 9
A couple of motions to put M in a looks like a sweep formation; it’s a sweep. Butt(+0.5) gets enough of the playside end to prevent him from bumping Mags too hard. Kalis(+1) locks his guy up and then rips him to the ground. That’s a hold(refs +2) but nobody is looking at him so it’s a crafty veteran move. Darboh(+1) wipes out his dude. Ditto Hill(+1) .Higdon has an obvious lane he takes; Mags and Cole lead out into space but don’t really contact anyone. Their presence helps out; push.
O19 3 1 I-Form Big H 2 2 1 4-4 over 9 Run FB dive Hill 2
A mighty surge. Cole(+0.5) and Kalis(+0.5) drive the NT back and that’s all you need.
O17 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under 7 Pass Back shoulder fade Darboh Inc
Speight throws the back shoulder; Darboh doesn’t anticipate it and runs by it. Darboh got over the top of his guy by a step so probably a misread from Speight? (IN, 0, protection 1/1)
O17 2 10 Offset I 2 1 2 4-4 over 8 Run Counter lead zone Smith 3
Jet action; M leaves the backside DE free, and even now he’s not biting on it. What does it take for you to pay attention to jet action, buddy? M runs opposite it; Cole(-2) does not step around on the combo block at all and when Kalis departs for a LB that DT surges upfield. Hill(-1) aborts to pick him off and doesn’t touch him; this leaves a LB free. Kalis(+1) got a ton of movement on that LB so there is a crack for a few.
O14 3 7 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even 6 Pass Circle Johnson 4
Nate Johnson’s first catch. He feints outside and then dives back in. McDoom(route -) meanwhile drives vertically for a bit and then breaks out; one dollar says his job is to run straight upfield and pick off the DB with his route. Unpicked DB does a good job to redirect and tackle. (CA, 3, protection 1/1) M gets hit with an illegal formation either on Johnson or McDoom. Freshmen.
Drive Notes: FG(27), 34-0, 1 min 3rd Q. That’s it for the starters.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M21 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-4 over 9 Run Iso Isaac 5 (Pen -10)
W Bredeson promoted Runyan is the second string LG. Runyan(-1) doubles the NT but doesn’t get much of a hit; he’s then beat to the punch by a LB. LB is howling down at the gap because it’s 34-0 and the backups are in so maybe not entirely realistic for a competitive game. Isaac(+1) bounces and gets the corner thanks to a tug from JBB(+0.5), who got away with a little holding (refs +1) that they usually let go. Poggi, on the other hand, gets hit with a flag. Poggi -2.
M11 1 20 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-4 under 8 Run Iso Isaac 1
Not so hot this time. Dawson(-1) gets run around; Onwenu drives his guy into the gap the FB is hitting; Kugler has to come off the NT to block a LB hauling for the play, and the cutback is swarmed. RPS has been turned off at this juncture, but this is an RPS minus.
M12 2 19 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 NIckel over 6.5 Pass Tunnel screen Ways 2
Crawford(+1) gets a good driving block on his guy and then comes off on the other CB, but for naught. JBB(-2) fails to recognize the LB coming from the inside until it’s way too late and Ways gets little.
M14 3 17 Ace trips 1 1 3 Nickel even 6.5 Run Offset draw Higdon 22
Surprise, it works. Play is good for about ten and then Higdon(+2) makes a sharp cut outside away from JBB leading out, beating a corner to the edge and picking up an improbable first down.
M36 1 10 Ace 1 2 2 4-4 over 8 Pass Waggle scramble O’Korn 3
Nobody open, good decision to go for the yards he can get.
M39 2 7 Ace twins twin TE 1 2 2 4-4 over 8 Run Jet sweep McDoom 4
Man coverage; DE let free forces McDoom to bend around him, allowing that CB to rally and keep it down. Kaiju package to the 2TE side blew the playside DB and OLB out; Wheatley, Asiasi +1.
M43 3 3 Ace twins twin TE 1 2 2 4-4 over 8 Pass Scramble O’Korn 2
Illinois again covers everyone; both TEs and the outlet are not available, and the WRs aren’t actually running routes for some reason. O’Korn tries to scramble for it and doesn’t make it.
M45 4 1 Punt 1 2 2 Punt block 8 Run Fake punt Gedeon -2
Gedeon fumbles the snap.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 34-0, 10 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M39 1 10 Offset I Big twin TE 2 2 1 4-4 over 9 Run Iso Isaac -2
LB again shoots the gap; I’m really just around for the TD, man.
M37 2 12 Offset I tight 2 1 2 4-4 over 8.5 Run Crack sweep Isaac 3
Crawford(+1) wipes out the playside LB. CB inserts himself into the legs of Henderson, tripping JBB along the way; Isaac bounces it for little. He should cut back since nothing good happens outside but he’s not getting much even if he does.
M40 3 9 Offset I 3-wide 2 1 2 4-4 under 8 Pass Hitch Harris Inc (Pen +15)
Well short of the sticks; Harris doesn’t run a great route here, basically turning around as soon as he reaches the DB; DB duly PBUs. Route minus. Michigan gets bailed out by a targeting call.
O45 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-4 under 9 Run Lead zone Higdon 45
Onwenu(+2) is eventually able to reach a DT, which is a holy shit kind of thing. He works his way around this guy like a vet. W Dawson(+1) kicking his guy way upfield there’s a big gap; Henderson(+2) makes it count by obliterating a LB. That guy goes flying back into the next-closest LB and Higdon’s off to the races. He wins those races(+3) by blowing right by the FS, who looks like he’s stuck in mud, cutting back behind a LB trying to recover, and grinding out the last three yards.
Drive Notes: Touchdown 41-8, 8 min 4th Q. Final drive is deep deep bench and not charted.

Did anyone call this a trap game?

Absolutely not.

Even so it says something that Michigan ripped off four long TD drives to start the game, though?

Yes. It says that Michigan's good at football, and good at breaking tendencies in ways that get them big chunks early in games. There's no better example of this than the hilariously open McDoom swing pass. I've taken the unusual step of highlighting an opponent, which I'm sure you'll agree is the most cromulent way to imbibe this play:

My favorite bit is right before that guy scrolls off the screen, when he looks back and figures out that something is not quite right.



Later that drive Michigan pulled out the TRAIN to general merriment, and Seth pointed out that the camera caught an Illinois defender staring uncomprehendingly at whatever this was:


Dollars to donuts that he is thinking "f--- Jim Harbaugh" at this very moment.

I was struck by something when Michigan pulled a lineman late in this game: Michigan barely does this except on their crack sweeps. I have exactly two(!) power-ish plays of any description listed in this game, one a straight up power O, the other a counter. They also ran an inverted veer, which is also known as "power read." The rest of the 18(!) different run plays they used are a profusion of variety heavy on iso and variants thereof with a smattering of zone plays, traps, and various Peppers exotics.

Manball is an amorphous term but power is usually thought to be a huge component of any offense that dares to call itself thusly. Michigan pulls its guard to run play action more than they do to run the ball. Strange but true, and deadly. For years I associated manball with running the same damn things over and over and out-executing your opponent. That was a false impression given to me by Lloyd Carr; this offense is so far from boring, and Illinois #1 knows it.

But this is not the important thing. We know this. The important thing was the throwin', right?

We got UCF Speight back for this game and it felt real good.

[Hennechart orientation: mouse over column headers for explanations of the categories. + is handed out for a good throw under duress. * is handed out for a very bad version of a bad thing. Numbers in parens are screens. DSR is an attempt to compress the numbers into one overall number. PFF is PFF's grade.]

  Good   Neutral   Bad   Ovr
Hawaii 1 8(1)+       1(1)       1* 2*   73% -1.0
UCF 3 21(1)     5 2     2 2(1) 2   82% 1.0
Colorado - 14(2)++++ 1   4 3   2 - 5 6**   50% -3.5
Penn State 1+ 17(2)++ 1   1 4   1(1) 2+ 8(1) -   68% 1.0
Wisconsin 3 16(3)+   5+   1 2+ 4 5*   57% -0.5
Rutgers 1+ 10(1)++   1   5   67% 0.5
Illinois 5+ 10+ 1 2 3   1* 3   79% 4.5

Second straight week without a bad read and a new career high in dead on throws makes for a happy DSR. PFF was highly enthusiastic for the first time as well; they also handed him almost a full point for his scramble.

What happened? I'm sticking with my theory from the game column: Speight entered the year all coached up by Harbaugh and played excellently. He got battered early against Colorado and reverted to bad old habits, whereupon an uncomfortable amount of pressure got him sped up and prevented him from reclaiming his early season form.

The bye week was a chance to recalibrate that Speight took. The most impressive throw was a dart on a post route that was between three defenders:

Yeah, he had the guy in the flat open for third and seven. Instead he goes and gets 27 yards and most of the way to a TD. We'll see if this lasts; right now that throw feels like the badass crossing route to Jehu Chesson that announced the flaming phoenix version of Jake Rudock.

That's because it was surrounded by other throws only marginally less impressive. He stands in against a guy running up the gut and delivers the ball for a first down here; if it's a tiny bit behind Chesson that's because Chesson didn't sit down quite enough in the gap in the zone. 

This skinny post looks easy and is easy but watch Speight's head snap from the middle of the field to Darboh right before the throw.

It's easy because he holds the S, and the ball is out right when it needs to be. That's a guy for whom the proverbial slow down has occurred. He knows exactly what he's doing and executes it confidently. A corner route that couldn't be thrown better was in the same category:

His accuracy snapped back to that UCF level, with even mild issues exceedingly rare after his obligatory first crappy throw. His efficiency was even perhaps undersold by the numbers, as a perfectly-thrown potential touchdown wound up incomplete thanks to either interference or an excellent play by a DB, depending on your point of view. (I thought it was good coverage, myself.)

If Speight continues to play like this through the rest of the regular season, I will issue an unironic We Want Bama. Long way to go for that Rudock trajectory to become clear, though.

Smith is old! Outdated! Let's put him on the shelf next to the Atari 2600! I've got a new shiny console!

He's only averaging 5.2 YPC!


Is this a serious take?

Yes. Higdon and Evans and I guess Isaac but he's also old and busted and barely averaging 5 YPC.

Well. First, let's talk about the Illinois run D approach: they run at everything as hard as possible. Check the UI linebackers on Michigan's first play:

Hell for leather. Everyone, all the time. Both times Michigan trapped in this game the DT set free ran upfield so fast that the trapper neither could nor had to block him. Sometimes the LBs bit on play action even when Michigan was not running play action. In this context there are going to be some TFLs, and Smith suffered almost all of them through little fault of his own. And even so he pounded out a bunch of yards.

4.2 YPC? Pshaw.

First let's check the

obsolete chart

it's not obsolete, it's cutting edge with PFF data


jerk. Chart.

RB chart (WR grades are run only):

Player Rushes + - T   PFF   Notes
Speight 1   0.8  
Smith 19 7.5 7.5   1.1   Half point of that for pass blocking.
Isaac 11 2 2   -0.1 Not much either way.
Evans 1 0.5 0.5   -0.7   PFF must have though he missed a cut on his one run?
Higdon 8 8.5 8.5   2.1   Bonafide.
Peppers 5 1 -1   -1   Muted day.
Johnson               DNP
TOTAL 45 18.5 1 17.5   +2.2    
Player Blocks + - T   PFF G   Notes
Darboh 24 2 2 0   -0.2    
Chesson 17 2 4 -2   0  
Perry     0  
Ways 2     -0.1    
Harris 11         0    
McDoom 3   3   0.2   Two missed tackles and a block to help Darboh out.
Crawford 20 3   3   0.3 Crack sweep improvement.
TOTAL - 10 6 4

So for one, there aren't big chunks of negatives for Michigan's main runners. While they will occasionally make a goofy cut, those are now anomalies instead of half of these posts on a weekly basis. Smith included and perhaps especially since he remains the top back, getting about half the snaps when the first team is in. 

I'm just going to take it as read that Smith is the best option on short yardage and inside the ten because I'm not arguing with anyone crazy enough to dispute this. So let's axe the five goal-to-go carries on which he got nine yards. That's 5.2 YPC on the remainder. And yes that's not, like, ten, but so much of that has to do with the vagaries of blocking and the fact that Smith is cooling his heels when Michigan's in salt-the-earth mode late. He remains able to dismiss linebackers and DBs as if they are paper mache.

Tyrone Wheatley has gone to work on him and he's going to continue to get a bunch of carries, because he is an established pass protector in a way nobody else is.

Buuuuuut Higdon.

Don't get me wrong, I'm on the Higdon bandwagon as well. The his long touchdown was a terrific combination of raw speed—he blew past a safety's angle so fast it was no contest—cutting ability, and power.

Almost every time he got the ball in this game he broke a tackle or dusted a guy in the open field or slalomed through gaps in the line at speed. Higdon has a knack for not losing speed as he adjusts his path, and he feels blocks developing.

He tends to take the most efficient path through the line.

If he's legit fast, which he's hinted at but never really shown until the touchdown and third-and-seventeen conversion, that's the total package. Nobody is emerging faster, and on this team that's quite a statement.

We seem to be running for many, many yards. OL... good?

One more chart:

Offensive Line
Player Snaps + - Total PFF   Snaps Pass- Error% PFF
Braden 39 5 1 4 1.6   27 0.4
Bredeson 39 9 3 6 0.1   27 2 6% 0.1
Cole 39 8 7 1 -0.3   27 0.9
Kalis 39 12.5 6 6.5 -2.5   27 1 3% 0.6
Magnuson 39 7.5 1 6.5 0.6   27 1 3% -0.1
Butt 36 4.5 4 0.5 2.1   3 -0.4
Bunting 0   - -
Wheatley 19 1 2 -1 0   3 - - 0.1
Asiasi 29 6 5 1 0.4   1 -0.4
Hill 15 6.5 2 4* 1.7*   4 - - 0.3
Poggi 18 3.5 10 -6.5 -3.7   3 0.1
TOTAL - 63.5 41 61%

*[PFF handed him a +1 for running the ball. I gave him +0.5, which is not in the blocking total.]

Note that the metrics below only cover the starting OL.

Player + - T Notes
Protection 30 8 79% Bredeson –2, Smith –2, Team –2, Magnuson –1, Kalis –1.
RPS 22 8 +14 Blitzball made traps so easy, McDoom thing, etc.

PFF and are clearly in disagreement about how various OL are performing. I am usually going to hand out some positives when Michigan gains a chunk and when Michigan spends the day running into stacked lines with blitzball LBs for 270 yards I'm going to be generally pleased with the state of affairs; I can't say I get the grades above.

You liked Kalis a bunch; PFF not so much. Time for a bunch of clips I think.

Kalis did have a zone biff—though it's hard to tell sometimes because Michigan doesn't run zone much and it's vaguely possible things are as intended—that stood out because of the rarity of such occurrences this year. When not doing that he was thwacking guys impressively and then getting out to the second level:

That's textbook. (I mean, probably?) This was similar but even better as his thwack is thwackier and Evans gets a chunk largely because he carved out the space himself:

This is what happens when a frustrating player has the proverbial light go on; Kalis is your 2016 AJ Williams Memorial Senior Bust-out.

But you're both meh on Cole.

On a less salutary note, Mason Cole hasn't been great at center. I chalked up early issues to a bunch of 3-4 defenses featuring mondo NTs that are bad matchups for him. By this point it's clear that's not the only issue. He's not getting out in space as much as he did as a tackle and he's not doing a great job finishing blocks even when his guards help him out significantly. This iso momentarily looks like it'll be a gash when Bredeson pounds the NT but Cole doesn't step around and seal him out; NT gets back to the gap.

On a counter play in the second half, Kalis whacks a guy and then leaves for a linebacker; Cole does not attempt to step around and seal him at all, and falls to the ground as his guy goes and stuffs the play.

Remember that Cole was Michigan's best run blocker by a great distance a year ago; this year he's scuffling in the zone Braden and Kalis were in a year ago.

Michigan has not played to his strengths much. Since they're gashing folks on the ground this is not an actual issue, but I was struck on another offset draw when Cole did a great job to block a linebacker for ten or fifteen yards downfield.

That kind of stuff is why Cole was one of PFF's top run-blocking tackles in the country last year, and it hasn't been frequent.

So how did the revamped left side do?

Very well. Braden was virtually unnoticeable in pass protection against a very good rush end and when his blocks were relevant on the ground they were positives. (Caveat: many complaints from Illinois fans that their ends are horrible run defenders; I agree with those complaints.) The sack Braden was charged with is about 90% Wilton Speight holding it... holding it... holding it...

He mirrors the first two moves and after that you're on your own, Mr. Quarterback. That drew the very rare TAX out of my Hennecharting. A 'throwaway' so bad you get sacked on it.

Ideally Braden is at least able to stay attached and give Speight an opportunity to move around, but when that's your only pass pro issues against Illinois's DEs that's a terrific result for a guy who just moved to tackle this week. FWIW, Michigan didn't rush towards Braden much; when plays cut back to him he was carving out big gaps with good kickouts. His biggest contributions were a couple of impressive hurl-and-release blocks on the offset draw.

I had him for a single run minus as he missed a LB amongst various positives. While I expect he'll be worse than Newsome and will have some struggles against B or B+ pass rushers, I feel much, much better about the LT spot.

Next to Braden, Bredeson had a breakout game. I've harped on his many missed assignments so far this year; his only major issue on Saturday was a biffed stunt pickup that got Speight sacked. He did let a few blitzball LBs past him, as OL are wont to do. On the other hand he was moving people to the point where the running back could make something of the play. Here he drives the NT so far down the line that Higdon can cut right off him for a first down despite a LB jetting into the backfield:

With Cole popping off on one LB he's got to stay on the DL and hope that the linebacker doesn't make the play; that is indeed the case.

I also appreciated his pull on the one bonafide power play M ran. Illinois slants hard and Bredeson thumps the guy headed directly to the back, giving Smith a crease.

If Poggi gets much of anything on the backside end that's probably a first down.

Bredeson flashed power a freshman should not have; he got a couple of those NT-moving hits that Kalis specialized in, and on this play he took a slanting DT and deposited him outside the hash:

I in fact handed him a minus for hitting the nose tackle too hard on a play, about which more in the Stanford section. That was the kind of day he had. Occasionally he kicked someone ass too much.

That bye week must have helped a ton because Bredeson suddenly looked like the guy pushing Grant Newsome instead of a freshman who goes the wrong way more often that not. I know the response to this is "just Illinois" but level of competition caveats don't really apply. PFF had the Illinois DTs even or better as run defenders entering the game; Ace was also pretty impressed with their performance against Nebraska. These guys aren't meatballs. They aren't Malik McDowell. They're average Big Ten players.

That Poggi number, though. Yikes.

Both PFF and I had big negatives for Poggi thanks to missed blocks, getting blown up, and some targeting issues.

It's well past time to start giving as many snaps to Hill as he can handle. He is the superior receiver and regularly gets +2 blocks like this one on Isaac's near-touchdown:

lol gtfo.

He also got another one of those edge two-for-ones, hilariously planting a DB and then cutting off a guy trying to pursue from the inside.

Poggi isn't doing this and multiple times in this game he ended up lying in the running lane next to his man. Seven games in it's clear who the starter should be.

Did Peppers swing too hard towards keeping the ball this week? He had a lot of carries that didn't really go anywhere.

Most of those were actually designed runs or stuff like inverted veer where the default is a QB carry. The DE has the RB covered here and Peppers must pull:

That didn't work largely because Michigan sent Asiasi wide, either in anticipation of the DE overplaying Peppers or because a freshman busted an assignment. (I charged it to RPS, FWIW.) And four yards isn't the worst.

I had to look at it a lot but I'm pretty sure the keeper that looked the worst and had the worst result is just a good play from the DE. Butt gets hammered so badly here I have to assume he's trying to avoid contact and arc out to the LB. Also he seems to attempt a juke on that end. 

With no lead blocker Peppers gets hemmed in and TFLed. That looks like a terrible pull decision but it is again a play on which the default leans towards a keep; Illinois just happened to have the right answer.

Man, Wheatley is just... large. I want him to make more impact. Is that crazy?

Yes, large and agile and when you see him get something right you're just like yes that again. I'm repeating myself here since my game column take on Wheatley was "large good fast man" but it bears repeating:

That's a natural receiver for a 280 pound guy. His blocking is a work in progress but with Harbaugh in charge you have to assume it's going to get there, whereupon you have a uniquely tantalizing player.

Asiasi did regress from his excellent game against Rutgers; on one play he led out into a LB, got blown up, and dragged his man down, drawing a call. Unevenness is expected from freshmen; he should clean it up and start getting after it in earnest next year. The kaiju are flashing glimpses of the finished product and hoo, boy:

That is going to be fun.

You mentioned this above, but Stanfordization stuff?

Michigan added a wrinkle to its double iso stuff. Whereas previously the C would take on the NT by himself, in this game they comboed him. No idea if that's permanent or just a tweak or if it's based on what Illinois was doing.

Michigan ran an outside zone variant on which the C pulls around the playside guard; we finally asked James Light for some lingo. He supplied "dart" or "fold"; I'm calling it dart zone.

This one got stuffed because Bredeson hit the NT too hard, cutting off the Kalis/Magnuson combo block. On the one hand, good job hitting someone hard. On the other, to get this right Bredeson has to cede some ground so that Kalis can get out to that LB.

There was of course the McDoom play mentioned above and the column led with a description of the vast diversity of Michigan's ground game. I don't have a playsheet and am probably missing several slightly different varieties of iso or whatever that I just lump into one play; I'd say we're just about all the way there.


[0 = uncatchable, 1 = circus catch, 2 = moderate difficulty, 3 = routine]

Player 0 1 2 3   0 1 2 3
Darboh 1 0/1 1/1 4/4   12 1/4 3/3 26/29
Chesson 2   1/1 2/2   8 0/1 7/9 12/13
Perry     9 1/1 5/5
Peppers     1/1       1/1  
Ways                 1/1
McDoom             1/1   2/2
Crawford       0/1         1/1
Butt 1   3/3   5 1/2   20/22
Bunting         1     2/2
Wheatley       1/1         1/1
Asiasi               1/1
Poggi               4/5
Hill     1/1       2/2 6/6
Smith 1     3 1/1 2/2 7/7
Evans       1 0/1   3/3
McKeon                 2/2
Hirsch                 1/1

ROUTES: Chesson +, Butt +, Wheatley +, McDoom –, Harris –.

Johnson also had a catch on a 3.

Mostly uneventful day. Crawford dropped his one target; on the other hand, he had a couple of excellent blocks to seal the edge on Michigan's crack sweeps. Early struggles are being put in the past as he begins to live up to his Chesson-esque recruiting reputation.


Speight was excellent; I thought Higdon and Smith got all the yards that were blocked for them and then added some on. Nobody on the OL was an immense standout but all performed well, especially when you consider a mostly clean pocket against a tough pass rush.

Maybe not so heroic?

Poggi missed a ton of blocks and singlehandedly took Michigan's blocking success rate from 66% to 61%.

What does it mean for Michigan State and the future?

Cumong Rudock trajectory, let's go. Speight's game was just as good as it looked live, and a couple more games of that level of performance and Michigan's down to one big hole on the entire team outside of kicker...

And they might have fixed that. The Braden/Bredeson debut on the left side of the line went about as well as could possibly have been expected. It's still a downgrade from Newsome and will meet issues when Bredeson does freshman stuff and Braden ends up leaning on a good pass rusher. Even if things come down from a good starting point the line felt way, way less rickety than it did with JBB at left tackle.

Hill for full time fullback. You probably have to rotate FBs just to keep the pounding down, but it's past time to move beyond the 50/50 playing time split.

Kekoa Crawford is leading for an outside receiving job next year. He got a bunch of snaps in Perry's absence and has the size to move outside.

Higdon is for real. Better than Mike Weber yo.

It took Tyrone Wheatley a year but he got the RB corps straightened out. If you'd told me in fall of 2015 that by this point I'd think Michigan has four good running backs, I'd have hugged you. Error rates have fallen precipitously. Go coaching, go.



October 27th, 2016 at 5:10 PM ^

I seriously doubt it, especially if Harbaugh is involved, which I would expect him to be.  Before the season started, Harbaugh said he ran a meritocracy, then asked the reporters if that was a word, or if he had just invented it.  But, it's not just that he said it, but there seems to be evidence for it all over the field.  He keeps players competing all season and is not afraid to replace a starter with a backup. 

oriental andrew

October 27th, 2016 at 5:16 PM ^

If it's anything like what Don Brown said in his presser re: the defense and assuming it's applicable in practice as well as blow-out game situations, they're trying to give additional reps to the backups b/c why not? If Poggi needs the extra game reps and there is confidence that that one thing won't hurt the outcome, then it makes perfect sense, regardless of who the dad is. 


October 27th, 2016 at 4:53 PM ^

I cannot say I am totally disappointed in Cole's performance if it ensures he comes back next year to solidify the M line and raises his draft stock.

Hail Harbo

October 27th, 2016 at 9:53 PM ^

Notably a few former OL have chimed in about how difficult it is to learn new offenses and positions.  Overall the OL did very well adapting to an entirely new offense last year but now Cole has to forget everthing he ever knew about playing tackle and play a position he has never before played.  While I too am disappointed that he didn't take to the new position seamlessly, I temper that with the understanding that he is Mason Cole, and he's still better than an older player that has played the position since forever.


October 27th, 2016 at 5:01 PM ^

Encouraging from Speight. Encouraging from Bredeson and Braden. Just plain encouraging. 

Reading this, it sounds like Bredeson is making real progress during the season; that's huge for this year, and monstrous for next season when he and Cole (who is in no position to go pro at this point) will be expected to anchor a young OL.

I haven't been blown away by this OL, but it is certainly opening holes for serious rushing yardage in a way we haven't seen in quite a while. So that's good.

The Maizer

October 28th, 2016 at 1:00 PM ^

I understand this is sarcastic and I don't mean the following to refute your point. However, the body language of Evans and Higdon, etc. when they get tackled short of the endzone indicates being somewhat upset. I know they're probably just upset because they were so close, but I think a workhorse RB that knows he's going to be carrying the ball in anyway is less upset about it than when you know it's basically a guaranteed Panda TD from the 2 yard line.


October 27th, 2016 at 5:16 PM ^

"What are they going to do this week?" "Ummm....their tendencies are this"  WRONG.


I think Harbaugh is bringing in a different kind of gameplanning that will eventually take hold in all of college football, just like the RichRod spread offense was visionary a few years back 

I bet eventually all big programs tweak every week. The secret sauce is: how the hell do you get college players to learn all of this, then execute it so well every week?  I mean, how many base packages does this offense have?  How many new plays are they learning every week?


October 27th, 2016 at 5:39 PM ^

Part of it I'm sure is the 4 hour practices in the spring, bowl game and fall camp.  You can get a lot more reps in then if you were spending 1/2 or 1/3 of that time watching film or in meetings.  Not to mention the whole team doesn't practice during the same 4 hours.  Hypothetically, the younger guys are practicing 10-12, the full team 12-2 and then the upperclassmen/1st/2nd team practice 2-4.  You can get a lot of reps for a lot of players with how Harbaugh sets up his practices.

Hail Harbo

October 27th, 2016 at 10:18 PM ^

The Harbaugh gameplan doesn't rely on a scheme, it relies on coaching and players both smart enough and willing enough to be coached.  More to the point, it relies on a HC and staff that are willing to work their collective asses off in ways they never could have imagined.  The point being that it is far easier to write a playbook, bind it, learn it, and rely on it than it is to continually rewrite the playbook.  I imagine not many coaches are willing to invest that amount of time and energy.  If they were, what we're seeing now wouldn't be so unique.


October 27th, 2016 at 5:22 PM ^

Yeah, that Higdon/Weber comparison will continue be analyzed for the next two-three years. Hopefully Higdon comes out on top. I have to say that I think he showed speed that I'm not sure I've seen from Weber. But Weber is awfully powerful and reads holes pretty well from what I've seen.

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October 27th, 2016 at 5:34 PM ^

Haha, I know, that's actually exactly what I thought. Honestly, Weber seems to be the only true RB OSU has any faith in right now. But they'll get some. Wonder how his PT shakes out going forward. He looks a lot like Deveon Smith except smaller and a bit faster. Also able to ID holes as a frosh.

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October 27th, 2016 at 6:05 PM ^

No. Both Smith and Weber look to go North, they're one cut guys, and they bother NEVER stop moving they're legs. They also can run over people, but also are able to subtle move their bodies when getting contact to avoid big straight up hits, glance off people and gain more YAC without juking people hard like Evans can do.

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October 27th, 2016 at 5:42 PM ^

Cole took some practice snaps last year at center, but this is a new position and, mentally, the most difficult. position on the Offensive Line.  It would be great if he were a superstar already but he and therefore the line are solid.  To me this looks like a B this year.  Next year it would be a C.

True Blue in CO

October 27th, 2016 at 6:00 PM ^

One good week of improvement on Michigan's 3 Key Issues
  • Speight - Best week of Career - Keep it Up!
  • Left Tackle Position - Nice improvement but need to get better every week
  • Kicker Confidence - Kenny Allen had a good game with the 2 FGs

The balance of this team at every position offense, defense, and special teams is something we have not seen in a very long time in Ann Arbor.



October 27th, 2016 at 6:01 PM ^

and seeing how Illinois stacked the box the OL did a great job. Had a very productive day running the ball against an 8 man front all day and as you pointed out the one sack is all on Speight. He had a good 4 seconds to find a receiver before the rush even appeared. Usually if a QB can get a solid 3 seconds before they need to start worrying about the rush is acceptable.


October 27th, 2016 at 6:23 PM ^

Very cool Wheatley has legit coaching chops.  Hopefully he can be involved with the program at an increasingly high level for a long time to come.


October 27th, 2016 at 10:23 PM ^

I complained about Wheatley last year based on what the rbs we not doing. I mean he had Smith and two 5 stars and the UFR was constantly identifying missed holes. When AJ Williams 180'ed his career rep it seems reasonable that at least one rb would do so as well. Is it just unchallenged dogma that rb is easier than other positions?

kevin holt

October 27th, 2016 at 7:20 PM ^

If we disagree so often with PFF's grading, and if that grading is so opaque and inconsistent, how long does it take to get sick of PFF and dump it? I love the idea of it but the execution seems odd---it should really take them longer than it does if they're doing it right, right? Maybe it's just not good?


October 28th, 2016 at 9:00 AM ^

I agree that their data may be useful, but if PFF and this site are going to purport the PFF data as a standard, it's imperative that their system be more transparent as the commenter above suggested. Brian is paying for this data and can ask more from them, rather than having to guess at how they arrive at their numbers.


October 27th, 2016 at 8:07 PM ^

I love how that play unfolded and cannot wait to see what new wrinkles emerge.

I cannot escape the thought that this is all a mindfuck to unlease something awesome during The Game.