Upon Further Review 2017: Special Teams vs Maryland Comment Count

Adam Schnepp November 17th, 2017 at 10:04 AM


[Paul Sherman]

Substitution/formation notes: Michigan lined up a gunner in the slot…

maryland punt 1

…and then motioned him in. In this instance he carries the Maryland player lined up across from him into the middle, and he taps his lineman to let him know which gap he’s in.

maryland punt 2

Michigan used this motion again later in the game, though that time they had the gunner motion across the entire formation and then head downfield.

[After THE JUMP: A Eurostep punt block? Head to the comments, you titan of special teams nomenclature]

Kickoff Return
Play Qtr Time Score From To Player Rtn Rlt
Left 1 15:00 0-0 35-M M5 Thomas 11 M16
Thomas can't take the kick outside because there's an unblocked man there, thus he has to carry inside where there's soon to be an unblocked man; Glasgow (-2yds) gets run over and his man makes the tackle. Had he not, this obviously wouldn't have gotten much further.
Left 3 00:14 28-3 35-M M7 Thomas 18 M25
Hawkins lead blocks for Thomas but gets close enough to Woods on his path to the outside that he gets grabbed and delayed. Hawkins then misses his block (-3yds) and Thomas is taken out.
Left 4 9:46 35-10 35-M M4 Thomas OOB M35
Thomas makes a great heads-up play, allowing the ball to hit right in front of himself and then careen out of bounds. He's obviously watching the spin on the ball. Crediting him with just five yards because he's so dang fast and there's not a single Maryland player inside Michigan's 40 at the time he would have fielded the punt.
Play Qtr Time Score Kicker From To CvrTeam Rtn Rlt Tackle
Squib 1 6:11 7-0 Foug 35-L O13 O38 22 O35 Hewlett
JAMES FOUG TACKLE except wait he's a kicker that's very very bad. St. Juste and Wroblewski run into each other (-10yds), then Schoenle and Glasgow run into each other (-7yds), then Hewlett and Foug (+65yds) save the touchdown. Big return is already likely considering the placement of the coverage team when the ball is received. I think squib kicks in all forms are the devil's work and this is a good example why.
Left 2 12:13 14-0 Foug 35-L O1 O33 27 O28 St. Juste
Ben Mason destroys his man but stays on him for almost three seconds; if he can disengage a half second earlier he likely brings the returner down at the 15 (-13yds). J'Marick Woods tries to go under a block (-10yds). St. Juste does an excellent job getting off a block and making the tackle, but he gets no love from the yardage-gained column because Ross is in position to make the tackle at the same spot. Worth watching the video to see St. Juste get grabbed but still have the focus to look through that and make the tackle.
Right 2 11:16 21-0 Foug 35-L O5 O27 16 O21 Wroblewski
Wroblewski gets off a block around the 30 and has 10 yards to gain a head of steam. The returner puts his head down ostensibly to meet Mason and try to run through him, but it kinda sorta looks like he's making a business decision on film. I would too if Wroblewski (+2yds) was barrelling toward me.
Left 2 8:14 28-0 Foug 35-L EZ O28 22 O21 Glasgow
Woods almost makes an incredible play, evading a blocker and closing rapidly before he mistimes his tackle and slides off the returner (-7yds). Glasgow (+5yds) takes a nice angle to the ballcarrier, going over Woods and diving to make the tackle.
Left 3 15:00 28-0 Foug 35-L EZ O26 8 O7 Mason
Welp, seen a murder. Glasgow gets past two blockers, Mason gets past a blocker, Wroblewski gets past a blocker, nobody picks up Ross, and the all converge. Maryland's coverage team really looks like it wants to get back to the sideline; those were some incredible oles.
Left 4 4:49 35-10 Foug 35-L O3 ? 23 O26 Hewlett
Glasgow comes in with a lot of speed and forces the returner to his left; Woods (-5yds) is one lane over and doesn't widen, so he ends up taking a bad angle. Mason gets the feet, but Foug helps roll him up.
Punt Return
Play Qtr Time In-Air Yd From To Player Rtn Rlt
Right 1 10:15 58 O17 M25 DPJ 8 M33
Maryland rolls the shield to absorb the free runners. The punter's form makes it look like he punched the ball with his foot. Peoples-Jones might have been able to loop around to his right and find a seam, but I can only see part of the field and don't think it's fair to dock yardage for that. He makes one guy miss somehow, then is immediately brought down.
Right 1 3:55 48 O22 M30 DPJ FC M30
Line drive. Shield rolls, punter rolls, quick kick, DPJ has no option but to FC considering the guy a yard away ready to turn him into paste. Not the kick to try to make something happen considering Maryland's 6-2 man advantage within 15 yards of the ball.
2 14:55 43 O17 M40 DPJ Dwnd M33
First communication error in quite a while. Guessing that St. Juste just couldn’t hear Peoples-Jones since he’s so far away when he makes the call.
Fake 2 11:26 n/a O30 O33 Kelly-Powell/Bush/Hawkins n/a O33
What a difference between calling this and kicking the sad field goal a quarter later. Maryland gets called for a penalty because the intended recipient of the toss off the direct snap lines up on the line of scrimmage. Even so, lining up a step off wouldn't make a difference. Kelly-Powell goes outside at first but disengages from his blocker and cuts back in to make the tackle. Bush tears into the hole from the middle of the field, and his pop leads to the lead blocker rocking back a little and slowing the runner as he avoids the falling body of his teammate. Hawkins is a few yards deeper than Bush and arrives in time to find no blockers; he helps Kelly-Powell clean up.
Left 2 9:16 n/a O17 O18 Metellus
Sometimes you slide the shield, sometimes the shield gets stepped around. Okay, only once. I've never seen it before either. Maryland lets two guys rush off the edge as they usually do with the expectation that the shield will take them out and the punter will remain protected. Then Metellus flat-out jukes the protector and blocks the punt. Gil closes five yards in a hurry, falling on the ball before the player on the far left of the shield can spin around and figure out what just happened.
Middle 3 11:20 46 O1 O47 DPJ FC O47
Another one almost blocked. Maryland again lets the right side rush and again almost gets stepped around. The punter gets the ball away quickly and from there it's another uneventful fair catch.
Play Qtr Time Kicker In-Air Yd From To Rtn Rlt Tackle
Right 1 11:10 Robbins 45 M33 O22 Fmbl O22 n/a
Just speaking generally, it seems like it's a bad idea to field a punt to the side of you. Probably want to be in front of it. I don't know. Fumble means nothing, though, as it bounces straight up to the returner as he attempts to smother it. Worth nothing that Michigan dropped the wings a couple yards further back.
Left 1 2:33 Robbins 52 M28 O20 FC O20 n/a
Michigan motions in a gunner from the slot and pulls a Maryland player back into the box. Robbins' kick has a hand-timed hang-time of 4.9 (though that includes the returner's dive). Which yes the returner again misjudged the ball's flight path and had to dive to avoid letting it hit and losing yards.
Middle 3 11:34 Robbins 45 M47 EZ TB O20 n/a
Thomas is the first man down but he gets held up by two Maryland players. He splits them, but not before the ball hits. There isn't enough time for him to get over and down the ball considering the low bounce. Rest of the coverage team is relatively far behind.
Right 3 5:33 Robbins 57 M30 O13 FC O13 n/a
Ball backs the returner up five yards. Heck of a punt.
Right 4 14:42 Robbins 50 M17 O33 Dwnd O24 n/a
Another punt with big (4.6 sec) hang-time. Moore calls the clear out and Michigan gets nine yards on the bounce.

That was weird.

Sorry that they couldn’t provide a narrative for you.

Eh, that’s not my concern. My concern is that there isn’t a concern.


Alright, that’s fair. Looks to me like Nordin…

I’m not sure, actually. This kick is missed from the second it leaves his foot; it’s not as though it was pushed, it’s just a line drive that’s aimed at the wrong place. For reference, here’s a video from the season opener of him hitting from 55; no glaring differences in form that a novice like myself can pick out. Nordin had a sleeve on his plant leg this week so I guess maybe there’s a slim chance there’s something going on with that health-wise, but it seems mental at this point. Yelling back at Harbaugh does not help dissuade this perception.

I don’t understand how you could think there are no narratives. Have you not watched the tackling on kickoffs?

That was weird. It hasn’t been an issue all season. It wasn’t even an issue on every kick return.

There’s no way they had a field mic or that hit would’ve sounded like someone borrowed Rutgers’ cannon to shoot some shoulder pads at a brick wall.

The rest of the returns don’t concern me. The first was a squib which just don’t ever ever ever squib it. Ever. It’s like building a Taco Bell and Qdoba next to each other. You park and you get out of your car and you think you’re choosing between two varieties of Mexican food but you are clearly giving something up if you pick Taco Bell. I’m not above eating Taco Bell; I also know the opportunity cost of my choices.

The coverage team is behind the eight ball from the second this kick is picked up. Then a couple of guys are slow to react, a couple get in each other’s way, and next thing you know Foug is diving at a guy’s feet. Worked out in the end in that they didn’t give up a return TD; going off player positioning, there’s no scenario where this is better than a touchback.

Then there’s a ball placed at the one (as per usual) that gets bounced outside.

A few instances where guys need to take better angles that are detailed above (particularly Woods not going under a block and Ross getting over the top of Schoenle faster), but this is also the first time Michigan has faced a Thomas-like returner and botched something; Ty Johnson is averaging 26.5 yards per return, FWIW. Can’t make a call based off one bad return, especially considering the caliber of returner they’ve faced earlier this season. Those games didn’t feature mistakes in lane fills or reading and reacting; there’s a chance this is a one-off issue.

Uh, one-off with regard to games, not returns. Here the angle issue crops again. Glasgow does a great job to step hard and sell that he’s coming directly for a guy in coverage before steering around him and bursting into the open field. Woods takes a false step as Leake widens and from there he’s done. Woods dives at Leake and misses, simultaneously missing a great opportunity to deploy the Ol’ J’Marick Woods prospectin’ name. Apparently Michigan doesn’t need to worry about having a solid last line of defense, though, because there’s Foug throwing the body at the 25-yard line again.

KO Summary
Player Returns YdsGained YdsLost TotalYds SsnYds
Team 0 0 24
Schoenle 0 7 -7 57
Woods 0 15 -15 -20
St. Juste 0 10 -10 -10
Wroblewski 0 10 -10 -10
Glasgow 0 7 -7 -7
Mason 0 13 -13 -13
Foug 65 0 65 65
Hewlett 65 0 65 65

Good job thoroughly dampening your audience’s interest. Do you have other debacles to talk about? Did a Chitauri invasion lead to the demise of Donovan Peoples-Jones?

No, but Maryland’s punter tried. All of the rolling out and quick kicking led to one returnable punt on the day, and it happened to be the first and longest punt of the day. Peoples-Jones does a great job adjusting to the ball on its descent and then makes a guy miss.

Speaking of rolling the punter out, that didn’t work so well for Maryland’s shield. They were content to let two guys rush off the end with the idea that they would be picked up by the shield, which they were until they weren’t.

Metellus goes inside-outside at the proper depth (two yards out) to freeze his man, and from there the punter can’t do anything to stop the block; he has already dropped the ball by the time Metellus gets free. Ace mentioned on the podcast that Tom Lawrence tweeted at him about the Eurostep block and yeah that’s perfect. Nice work, Tom.

What else you got?

You want some charts?

Do you… do you even work here?

This one may only have one entry but it’s the charted version of the header picture so here you go.

Punt Summary
Player Returns YdsGained YdsLost TotalYds SsnYds
The ball 9 9 43
Metellus 19
Poggi 5
Thomas 5
Wangler 5

And here’s a very low key kick return chart:

KR Summary
Player Returns YdsGained YdsLost TotalYds SsnYds
Crawford 0 -17
Hawkins 0 3 -3 40
Thomas 0 5 5 114 (7gms)
Hewlett 0 -10
Wangler 0 8
Glasgow 0 2 -2 -2

What does it mean for Wisconsin and beyond?

  • Probably another quiet week for DPJ. Wisconsin’s punter has put 15 of his 33 punts inside the 20 and forced 12 fair catches. He is only averaging 40.5 yards per punt, so some of this may be due to kicking on a short field.
  • Expect the kickoff unit to bounce back. Wisconsin doesn’t have a returner the caliber of Johnson. If they miss a few tackles start to worry, because then we’ve got a trend.
  • Wisconsin’s punt returner is a fair catch machine. With Robbins’ strength still being the air he puts under kicks, expect a lot of hand waving.