Shane's not Gardner enough to be worth changing the offense to take better advantage of his legs, but the offense might be? [Upchurch]
Ace: What type of offense do you want M's coach to run next year? Explain how you're factoring current personnel vs. ideal scheme when coming to your decision as well, if you could.
Brian: Whatever the coach is good at. This was the right move for Rodriguez in 2007 when there wasn't much talent no matter what you did with it. It was not in 2011 when you had a sui generis talent like Denard at your disposal. 2011 Michigan fought it at times (Notre Dame, Iowa) but for the most part shrugged and tried to adapt.
I'm not seeing a whole lot that's worth adapting to at the moment. Morris looks far away from viability, Speight's a redshirting unknown, and Malzone will be a true freshman (unless he decommits). The OL is going to be the OL still, and the main distinction between OLs is what you try to run a lot of, not whether there's a fast QB behind you or a slow one.
So, yeah, whatever your bag is, man. Obviously you can't run a spread 'n' shred with the available personnel but you've got enough mobility in the QBs to keep 'em honest Forcier-style if that is your bag, and as Mississippi State and Ohio State have demonstrated in recent years there's quite a lot of power in spread offenses that want to go that route.
And unless it's Harbaugh it's likely to be a spread guy. Broken record time: pro-style coaches attractive enough to get the job and poachable are hard to find.
[After the jump: sirens]
Seth: Before formulating a plan, let's list our assets. Shane is adaptable, Speight's a big gunner, Malzone is a proto-Brees. The OL are already okay at pass pro, are still working toward decent as run blockers, and possess a surprising amount of experience for all that eligibility remaining . The WRs are mostly of a type of leapy/ strong/ handsy/ brainy/ not-fast variety. There are running backs with lots of stars who at times can't tell their blockers' asses from a hole in the line. There's a spectrum of tight ends and fullbacks, only one of whom to date has materialized as any kind of threat.
The last vestige of Rodriguez graduates with Gardner. So for the first time since 2000, I'm not advocating a spread-to-run scheme. I'm advocating…
IE a shotgun four-wide, hyperspeed, option-route, spread-the-OL, Mike Leach go-deep-a-ganza, except with the modern innovation of slot receivers with funny names you can deploy in lieu of a running game. I would not demand the offensive coordinator dress and speak like a pirate, but it is encouraged.
A major drag for Michigan the last four years has been offense conceptually predicated on running the ball, combined with an inability to do so. The Borgesian OL are not agile enough to be good zone blockers, but transitioning back to the manbraw they were recruited for would waste all the gains made this season. Keep IZ, but it won't work as the focus of the offense.
The receivers Borges recruited also lack the shake or speed for a Notre Dame drag-n-drop or West Coast (route timing) offense, except Norfleet. He's your "Percy" or "H-receiver" or whatever Urban calls his option-route underneath weapon nowadays, with Canteen as his understudy. Darboh/Chesson/Harris/Ways/Jones/Dukes would be given a crash course in route-stemming, and rotated constantly so there's always fresh legs threatening all four deep lanes. The catch-blocky types can focus on red zone stuff; Butt and Bunting and Chris Clark (if he sticks) at least have roles as Flex-TEs.
Despite technically being the best fit for (most of) Michigan's talent, Air Raid isn't an overnight installation. Simple break-off option routes would come first, with the real advanced stemming perhaps not ready to come online until Morris is a senior.
The upside is it works long-term, since these skills are the same that modern pro passing games are built on. Like it has with basketball, Michigan would be ideally suited as a system program, as opposed to another Jones. It would have us recruiting and developing a certain type of super-smart/super-athletic player, accepting of a longer development path.* The program could build its reputation by churning out NFL QBs and WRs, while moving from the stone age to the cutting edge of offensive technology. It would be highly fun, and also take advantage of the limited athleticism of the defensive players Big Ten schools are generally able to recruit these days.
Downside: variable weather conditions in the autumnal Midwest are not kind to passing spreads.
* Yes I know Beilein's last five teams have all been really young, but only because a string of his sophomores and juniors far outperformed their recruiting expectations and left for the NBA. Football would welcome this problem.
Adam: I want an offense that doesn't look at 1:30 left on the clock and say A) that's not nearly enough time to score and B) we almost blew it last time we had the ball so let's just run the clock down and head for the locker room.
I want an offense that passes to run, not runs to pass. I want an offense that appreciates "three yards and a cloud of dust" for what it was but feels the way I do about the embroidered Batman: The Animated Series sweatshirts I wore when I was young; fine for the time, not such a good look now.
Ideally I'd like Michigan to run an offense their coaching staff is proficient in that doesn't feel like it came from a well-worn copy of "Offensive Football Strategies" somebody found deep in the stacks at the grad library.
|Do your thing, but let the OL zone block since they spent all of this year becoming not terrible at that. [Fuller]|
I don't think my demands are that difficult to achieve with the personnel Michigan already has. Moving from a pro-style to hybrid offense seems like enough of a change to improve offensive output but not so much that there would be a multi-season development curve. I hope whatever type of offense the new coaching staff brings ditches the huddle, utilizes the read option occasionally, and passes first.
Ace: There's really just one thing I definitely want to see next season, and that's a continuation of the zone emphasis in the running game, something that shouldn't be hard to maintain under a new staff; I'm not sure I can watch another season of the offensive line mostly trying to figure out which guys they should block. If Michigan keeps things relatively simple up front, the line should take another step forward, and suddenly there's a passable group with some experience paving the way. That sounds better than what they've been working with, IMHO.
The good news for the next HC/OC is that Michigan's available personnel should be able to adapt to just about any general scheme, save the Rodriguez spread-and-shred and the Holgorsen short-passes-to-slot-darters spread. The wide array of fullbacks and tight ends would be an asset if Jim Harbaugh comes in with something like his Stanford offense; the deep group of talented receivers—I have high hopes for the trio from the class of '14—would work fine in a spread, especially if the coach is inclined to use living matchup problems like Jake Butt and Ian Bunting as slot receivers. I'm not so much worried about running back scheme fit; if the line blocks, they'll get their yards. As for the quarterbacks, Morris has enough mobility to mix in some keepers if that's in the gameplan.
The stuff I want to see isn't so much macro schematic as micro—give me some packaged plays, give me a coach with a strong handle on constraint theory, give me someone who will see the 6'5" Minitron galloping past defensive backs and perhaps throw the ball deep to him more than once a game. Have a scheme, stick to its core principles, and utilize the available personnel. The rest should work itself out.
BiSB: I will preface this by saying that I don't care. At all. If the new guy comes in and runs a Single Wing or a Wishbone, but Michigan moves the ball and scores points and wins games, FINE BY ME. The only thing I ask is for a coherent offense built around something that works.
Short term, I'd like to see some sort of a modern spread-to-pass setup. I wouldn't go so far as Seth as to advocate the full-on Mike Leachification of the offense, but there is nothing wrong with basing an offense around something that isn't either (a) MANBALL SMASH, or (b) the zone read option. Just look at what Ohio State did with Kenny Guiton: spread the formation, put pressure on defensive backs to make reads and decisions, force linebackers into awkward spots, and make reads easier by forcing the defense to declare its intentions pre-snap. Mix in some of what Auburn does with their running game (given Michigan's plethora of H-back types), and you're in business.
Michigan has large, talented receivers who can't seem to gain separation from all but the most Indiana of secondaries, so why not try to get them open by formation or by letting the play design break down the defender for you? For three years now, Michigan's offenses have been almost allergic to easy yards.
Take Saturday for example. Michigan ran Devin Gardner on exactly one designed QB run; a typical zone read (reading the backside end) with a built-in bubble to the read side. The bubble was screamingly wide open because the nickel corner came down on Gardner. They never ran it again, but they put it on film for Northwestern or whomever else. Everyone else can do this stuff. Michigan mashes at it like they are trying to fit a square peg through a round chunk of cinder block. But I digress.
Long term, I really don't know what offense would be "best." The game evolves too quickly to say "you must run this because it is the thing that works." Defenses adapt, and new stuff appears. But if you hire a guy (or hire a guy who hires a guy) who understands the game and can adapt to his personnel, to the state of football, and to what he sees, the details are of secondary concern.