Upon Further Review 2017: Special Teams vs Cincinnati Comment Count

Adam Schnepp September 15th, 2017 at 4:00 PM

cincy punt lol

imagine the ferocity of James Franklin’s fist pump at this exact moment

Hello. Welcome to the inaugural 2017 Special Teams UFR. You like analyzing blocks on a kickoff return, seeing who got push on a PAT, and making fun of a decision James Franklin made in 2014? Great, we’ll get along just fine.

There are a couple of things worth noting before we dig in. First, special teams all-22 footage isn’t happening. It’s hard to find good footage; directors seem to use punts as their art house. That makes grading the blocking of each player on each unit impossible, so instead we’ll look at obvious gains and losses in terms of yardage. This is very much a work in progress, the point of which is to gain a better understanding of what’s going on in the third of the game that leads to Australians traveling thousands of miles from home to go full Superman on a prolate spheroid. Feedback? Hit the comments.

SUBSTITUTION/FORMATION NOTES: Peoples-Jones got five chances to field punts, did a nice job with two of them, then found himself on the bench in favor of Grant Perry. More on that later.

Kick returners were Crawford and Hawkins, with the ball never going anywhere close to Hawkins. He found himself forming a wedge with Mason every time.

Michigan’s PAT defense team is going to block one soon; with Metellus coming off the edge, Hurst teleporting through seemingly shoulder-to-shoulder linemen, and Rashan freaking Gary out there, it’s just a matter of time.

Cincinnati doubled Cesar Ruiz on every PAT and got knocked back the first time, then held his own. Not bad for a true freshman.

[After THE JUMP: Charts! Then Bolded Alter Ego (NTBAE)! Then more charts!]

Kick Return

wk 2 kickret edit



wk 2 kickoff


Punt Return

wk 2 puntret edit



wk 2 punt edit


wk 2 pat

PAT Defended

wk 2 pat def

Field Goal

wk 2 fg


Field Goal Defense

wk 2 fg def

Well that was eventful.

It certainly was. Foug’s kicks were arcing rainbows of success.

I meant the punt returns.

Perry did a pretty good job with his fair catches, though there was that one that got over his head.


You know, you’re lucky I even attempted to use the alter-ego format.

Whatever, it’s probably Creative Commons licensed.

But yes, Peoples-Jones’ punt returns. They are very much the returns of a guy who doesn’t have a ton of experience but does have a ton of athleticism and knows it. At the same time, there were a few outright poor decisions.

Who died and made you king of special teams?

No one, but watch this and tell me you don’t see a ghosted Peppers fielding this with a swath of green in front of him.

This is a tracking issue. The gunner shoves his man past Peoples-Jones, giving him plenty of room to take a couple of quick steps forward and field it on the run. The problem is that DPJ has run over and set up on the opposite hash from where he started and yet he’s still two lateral steps away from where the ball’s about to hit.

The most noticeable issue with Peoples-Jones’ next return is communication, but there’s a subdermal tracking issue as well. On one hand, St-Juste could probably pull off his block and get out of the way if Peoples-Jones calls for the fair catch earlier. On the other hand, he gets steered into Peoples-Jones’ path by the defender; if he can just keep the Cincinnati player on the hash this is an easily fieldable punt. I took the yardage gained on Cincinnati’s free possession and split it between Peoples-Jones and St-Juste because you really can’t have one without the other.

Peoples-Jones fielded two punts early in the second quarter and added a couple of bonus yards gained to his chart before another tracking folly knocked him out of the game. DPJ is at least two yards to the ball’s left and a yard behind it when it hits the turf. This time there are no gunners or other blue jerseys (or white, for that matter) for yards in every direction.

I tracked yards in the air in the punt return table for occasions like these. This travels 52 yards, which was Smith’s second-longest punt of the day. That doesn’t matter. Peoples-Jones’ issue isn’t that he’s too shallow, it’s that he’s taking his steps to gain depth while drifting to the left; meanwhile, the ball’s headed for the middle of the field. He would have been able to field the punt if he had pedaled straight back.

So we should freak out, yes?


I can’t believe you want Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork to go out of business. Why don’t you support local businesses?

I…do? Check our sponsors. Anyway, what’s relevant is discussing Michigan’s decision to put Grant Perry into the game to return punts.

Obviously it’s so he could break one. That’s what punt returners do.

Very nuanced. No, I don’t think that’s why they inserted Perry. He came into the game so that Michigan would stop bleeding yards or, even worse, giving away possession. Perry was in the game for his ability to get under the ball and fair catch it. Perry’s in-game exploits as punt returner were wholly uneventful until Smith booted one 60 yards with a minute left in the fourth quarter that went over Perry’s head.

So who’s the punt returner against Air Force?

wk 2 puntret edit 2

If I had to guess, Peoples-Jones. He’s got the most upside and agility, and he was obviously out there because the staff thought he was the player most likely to give them the best field position and/or take one back. The yards gained column bears that out. Perry was a stopgap when things went haywire, which isn’t a bad card to have in your hand. Even so, Harbaugh said that after watching the tape some of what happened was on the gunners and that Peoples-Jones would be back out there soon. I assume he’ll be out there again barring a bad week of tracking the ball in practice.

What about kick returners? Are there any Peoples-Jonesian guys over there?

If you mean in terms of tracking it down, no. Kekoa Crawford did a fine job of that. If you mean in terms of agility and ability to change direction in small spaces, I think the answer’s no but I’m less convinced than before. Crawford did show that he can stick his foot in the ground and hit a gap with speed.

wk 2 kickret sum

Yes, I forgot to fill in the total. You’re reading a Michigan blog, do it yourself. He finished with –2 yards produced because he missed a chance to get to the sideline and cut upfield on a mid-fourth quarter return. Crawford did do the thing where he sticks his foot in the ground and explodes through a tiny space, though, so he showed some of what’s in his toolbox as a returner at the expense of two yards. Everything else was him surveying what he had and taking it to the natural endpoint, i.e. the place where the unblocked white shirts converged. Not a bad day overall.

All this talk about returners and you haven’t even mentioned Special Teams Player of the Week James Foug.

That’s fair. Foug made for an exceedingly boring chart, which I’m learning to appreciate. He knocked it into the end zone on six of seven kickoffs, gaining distance as the game went on. He did his job well, and he’s one of the few guys it feels like you can extrapolate a bit from his performance because it usually takes a while for someone to do something seven times on special teams.

Will Hart shanked two kicks. Why isn’t Brad Robbins in yet?

The two shanked kicks were bad and were made worse by the total lack of pressure he was under. They were bad punts. They were bad enough that I didn’t include Hart on the yardage gained or lost chart because how can you tell where that could have gone when it looks like it was destined for the other team’s bench from the minute it left Hart’s foot? Naturally Hart follows up his two shanks with one booted under duress 58 yards in the air to the sideline. Punters are categorized as #collegekickers, right? Keep an eye on Hart going forward as much for the five good punts as the two awful ones.

Anyone else stand out on punt coverage?

Hey, it’s your first good question of the day. There was one person.

wk 2 punt sum

On the punt at 9:26 in the third quarter, Hudson got off a block and tripped up the returner with the violent grace that only he can muster. I only gave Hudson six yards of field position produced because there’s a good chance Glasgow and Cheeseman would have made the tackle if Grant had cut upfield on the hash mark. If he had bounced it around McDoom, who knows.

Let’s talk about PATs.

Indeed, let’s. There wasn’t enough data to made a sound judgment on anything Michigan was doing with their PATs. They’re definitely going to block one soon, though.

How dare you jinx Michigan.

I promise you I don’t have the power to jinx Mo Hurst or Rashan Gary, but I do have the eyes to see that holy crap they’re lining up their best defensive linemen on the PAT block team and there’s a point where teams won’t even get to pick their poison, Hurst will just phase through the line or Metellus will get it off the edge or someone will throw a flag on Rashan Gary and he’ll Jumpman-logo the point after.

Now you sound like a homer.

I’m just reiterating what I saw. Good players are good.

Not your best work, Brian.

Wait, what? I’m Adam. You can check the byline but come on, you’re my bolded alter-ego. This is a thing that I’m positive you know.

Just talk to the people about Saturday, Ace.

I… fine.

What does it mean for Air Force and beyond?

Hart’s the punter. If he was going to get pulled it would have happened after consecutive shanks. Instead he went back in and nailed his best punt of the day. I’ll be shocked if he’s not the starter on Saturday.

Wild thing. You make my heart sing. Except in the last game, but that’s because you weren’t asked to do much of anything.

The kickoff cover team has been good, but the return team hasn’t opened up much space. See kick return chart above.

Peoples-Jones as PR: probably. It’s not about the timing of his go/no-go decision-making, it’s whether he can physically position himself in the right spot to field a kick that isn’t headed where he started at.

Gonna block a PAT. Maybe not Saturday, but then again...

The tables will look better next week. Got an HTML generator from Seth I didn’t have time to implement. I’ll clip more things, too.


Everyone Murders

September 15th, 2017 at 4:11 PM ^

Arcing is a funny word.  Agreed the kickoffs are a thing of beauty this year.  But "arcing" is one of those words that looks like it's spelled wrong even when it isn't.  And it reads as "R-seen" rather than "Ark-een".  Consequently, I find it unsettling and thus fully applaud your use of this word!

Also, is it realistic to add hang-time to the punting stats?

(Thanks for doing this - special teams stuff is great!)


September 15th, 2017 at 4:13 PM ^

I'm glad this has been added to the blog.  We learned over the last decade that special teams can swing the outcome of a game too many times.  Being able to diagnose the things that make Peppers good at PR, or how Baxter used to design plays, or why Hoke liked to dinosaur punt with 10 players....good to have it captured.

Nice job.


September 15th, 2017 at 5:14 PM ^

information will improve with more reps for the Special Teams UFR.   However, it was weird for me to read prose written in Brian's inimitable style by someone who is not Brian.   I think Adam would be better served finding his own voice and his own schtick.   For example, Seth, Ace, and BISB all are clearly part of the MGoBlog snark genre that makes for entertaining reading. But, each has developed his own voice that is authentic and easily identifiable.

I think Adam's UFR for ST is a nice addition.   I think it will be a great addition when he makes it his.

Nate the Newt

September 15th, 2017 at 9:59 PM ^

I would imagine the format of UFR is dictated to Adam so I'm not sure how much choice he has in the matter.  Given that, I thought his voice was signifiantly different and enjoyed reading it.  Perhaps it's because I read it with Adam's voice in my head.  Given that I had no idea what Adam sounds like I assume he sounds like Morgan Freeman.  Thus, this is the greatest UFR of all time.


September 15th, 2017 at 4:17 PM ^

Great new feature!  Nice work on the kickoff edition.

What about the issue of DPJ's ball security?  He seems to carry it out wide in his forearm a lot, rather than squeezing it high & tight against his torso.  



September 15th, 2017 at 5:13 PM ^

and just as often under the wrong arm. This is a young player thing. I notice, for example, that Ty Isaac changes ball under arm as the situation warrants. This is also true of Evans and Higdon. But the receivers who get the ball on jet sweeps sometimes fail this basic instinct that when running with the ball always carry it under the outside arm and with total ball security in mind.


September 15th, 2017 at 4:28 PM ^

The other UFRs use 'O' (presumably 'opponent') instead of a team-specific letter, which is going to come in handy in the Staee, Maryland, and MInnesota games.

Still, this is great to see and I look forward to watching it grow.  Thanks for putting this together. :)

Shop Smart Sho…

September 15th, 2017 at 4:33 PM ^

At this point do we assume Robbins is either hurt or for some strange reason being redshirted?

Because I assume if you're reading this, you're like me and watched his recruiting video and saw the massive hang time.


September 15th, 2017 at 5:05 PM ^

A couple of things.

That punt bouncing "into the wash" is just another reason why letting the ball hit the ground is dangerous.

I saw a clip of Partridge coaching up Perry on how to call a fair catch.  It was after they decided to pull DPJ but I think not just before sending Perry in.

I would think it would be cool to see a full list of everyone on each of the teams.  Might require sneaking a picture from the stands.

Hugh White

September 15th, 2017 at 5:18 PM ^

On Cinn's long, missed field-goal, Michigan had a return man (DPJ?) in the end-zone just in case the field goal missed and the ball was fieldable/returnable.  The try missed.  But the ball wasn't returnable.  Let's keep our eye out for this in the future.   


September 15th, 2017 at 5:56 PM ^

I think your voice is good, Mr. Alter Ego.

To eke is to make or get very little as in, "to eke out a living" or "to eke out a yard."

"Eek" is when you see something moderately disturbing or slightly frightening, as in "Eek! A mouse!" or "Eek! It's 2016 Staee!"



Goggles Paisano

September 15th, 2017 at 6:37 PM ^

I think he will figure it out soon.   IMO there is nothing harder on the football field than returning punts. Those punters can punt it high, the ball is often floating or knuckle-balling, the defense is running downhill right for you, and you need to catch it clean and maybe try to make some yards out of it.  It is really difficult.  It is easy to catch punts when you are playing with your son or tailgating out on the fairway, but when you do it in a live game with a helmet and shoulder pads on, it can be very challenging.  


September 15th, 2017 at 6:41 PM ^

A couple thoughts:

Why the blank line in the table for the botched return? I was surprised not to see any mention in the table.

The distance for FGs would be nice in the FG tables, even if it's somewhat inferrable from the location of the kick.

I love the summary of players return impact being measured in gained vs lost yards. A way to adapt this for the punter could be to estimate a "reasonable" outcome for an "average" college punter, then give the punter credit or blame for the difference from that. Obviously average and reasonable are pretty subjective, but it would give a way to get an idea for their impact on field position.

For instance, at a punt from out own territory, maybe a 40 or 45 yard punt would be "reasonable" so that a 60 yard bomb gives the punter big credit and a 20 yard shank gives correspondingly poor blame. On the other hand if we are punting from their 45, maybe a "reasonable" punt would pin them at the 10 or 15 yard line so that pinning them inside the 5 gives a big + but a touchback or worse would give a -. 


Just some thoughts! Awesome to see!


September 15th, 2017 at 6:50 PM ^

Punt 1: from M32, 56 yards in air. Hart +11

Punt 2: from M28, 68 yards in air. Hart +23

Punt 3: from M42, 45 yards in air. Hart +0

Punt 4: from M15, 58 yards in air. Hart +13

Punt 5: from M14, 32 yards in air. Hart -13

Punt 6: from M24, 31 yards in air. Hart -14

Punt 7: from M29, 58 yards in air. Hart +13

Total: Hart +33 on 7 punts

45 yards per kick might be a little too easy, maybe 50 is better. But still, I think that idea works out pretty well for summarizing the punter's field position impact.

Also, none of the kicks this game were really ones where he was likely trying to take something off to pin them. Maybe punt 3, instead of being a +0 for kicking 45 yards, should be either a -3 or +2, for pinning at the 13 instead of the 10 or 15 respectively. 

Just a thought.


Mr. Yost

September 15th, 2017 at 7:34 PM ^

Well this was a shitty performance to debut! What about Florida?!

DPJ was AWESOME and our freshman kicker was hitting 55 yard BOMBS! AND the coverage team got a fumble recovery.


September 15th, 2017 at 11:53 PM ^

Not only was the Cinci punter an Aussie, but also left footed. They were mostly short punts with weird spin. DPJ will track other punters much better.

That said, very impressed with Perry's tracking in the same situation...exactly what was needed in that situation