This Week's Obsession: Best O? Comment Count

Seth November 5th, 2014 at 10:14 AM


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.



November 5th, 2014 at 10:27 AM ^

Count me in! Shane is a gun slinger, we have a deep group of wide outs and tight ends who can catch the ball and move the chains, mix in some draws and IZ and we're in business.


November 5th, 2014 at 10:34 AM ^

That is the offense I want to see.  Single back, out of the gun or under center, spread them out.  From this formation and variations of, you can run the ball against a spread out defense, and throw the ball.  You can throw the ball downfield, mid-range passes or screens.  This was the one game that season that made all U of M fans ask where in the heck was that offense all year?!!!!!  It doesn't need a quarterback that run's all over the place, as this offense was led by Chad Henne.


November 5th, 2014 at 12:04 PM ^

I think everyone thought Henson would usher that in.  A QB first yet one that could take off with the ball if need be.  Unfortunately, for some reason, neither the air raid nor QB mobility was utilized to any great extent.  Would they have been had Henson stayed?  We can't know but the track record suggests not.


November 5th, 2014 at 10:36 AM ^

BiSB smashed it.

I don't care. I don't care. I don't care.

Just move the ball. I'd rather have a jack of all trades than a master of one. We want to win, and we want to win now, and the best way to do that is to have an adaptable offense. Whatever the coach might want it to be at some point in the future is fine, but right now I want a guy who can take what we've got and do something with it. I don't want a guy who is in love with any one thing and will need time to bring his guys in.


November 5th, 2014 at 10:38 AM ^

" 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."

True Blue Grit

November 5th, 2014 at 10:43 AM ^

yet as a good starting QB in the future.  I'm not sure what Nussmeier has been doing with him or not doing, but let's see how he does when HE'S the man at QB and the offense is built around his skills.  It wouldn't hurt if a QB-whisperer like Jim Harbaugh becomes HC either.  I think we have the receivers to do an Air Raid type offense.  But, we damn well need to figure out how to complete long passes down the field.  I think the problem with Gardner is even if he sees a guy down the field, his long ball accuracy is just terrible.  Otherwise Funchess would be scoring a lot more. 


November 5th, 2014 at 11:04 AM ^

think Morris has ever looked all that bad.  We have not been able to run the ball or pass protect for the last two years.  He is thrown into a pin ball machine and told "now go get em!!"  What the hell is he supposed to do? 

I think a shotgun passing spread suits him and the rest of what he have in reserve.  Quick hitters from hash to hash to try to generate room up the middle. 


November 5th, 2014 at 11:12 AM ^

Morris has nothing but a big arm. If he had two years of development under his belt already he could be the starter next year but he no coach has developed his accuracy and decision making at michigan. Malzone will be the starter if he enrolls early. Does any know if he is?


November 5th, 2014 at 11:18 AM ^

I seriously think we've been watching different things.  Shane has had continual problems with downfield passing.  He has yet to show an ability to read a defense or move through a progression when the primary is shut down.


November 5th, 2014 at 11:38 AM ^

2.5 games of college football, total.  One was a bowl game where he looked pretty good, the second was a game where he got smashed everytime he touched the ball until he had to be taken ouf of the game with a concussion.  Every thing else has been garbage time.  I know that you think that you have a read on him but you don't.  Nobody does.


November 5th, 2014 at 11:48 AM ^

Everyone's view on Morris was skewed to begin with. He was overhyped ever since he commited to michigan. He hasn't developed at all since his junior season in HS and is going to have a new QB coming in on equal playing ground because they both will be learning the offense at the same time.


November 5th, 2014 at 10:44 AM ^

I just want an offense that is ahead of the curve.  One that surprises defenses with what it is doing.  One that embraces new concepts.  Not one that waits for 7 years to introduce new concepts after it gets destroyed by modern defenses.


November 5th, 2014 at 10:46 AM ^

What NFL is doing is what we need to do. We have personnel to do that. We are much better at pass protection. We need a RB that can catch off the backfield.

We basically need what many successful teams in NFL do.

You don't even need an elite QB. You just need someone decent enough to throw some darts once in a while. Run only to mix it up.

We have personnel who can do this. QBs does not need to run a lot. Just know when to run for 5 yards to keep the defense honest.


November 5th, 2014 at 10:50 AM ^

I don't understand how Brian can say that Rodriguez forcing his system in 2008 was the right move. Sure, divorced from reality, that is, without considering the psychological effects on and pressure from fans, recruits, and the team itself, maybe taking a year off to play your system and ease into things made sense. But it was absolutely a stupid move on Rodriguez's part in reality. He couldn't afford a 3-9 season; that result hurt his chances here. He thought he had a grace year, and he didn't, and it was a big failing on his part to think that he did. It's disappointing to see our hero Brian still subscribing to that failed theory so seven years later.

(And for the record, I do think he got a raw deal here, and should have been given better treatment. But he didn't help himself in all the ways that he could have.)


November 5th, 2014 at 10:58 AM ^

How does the 2008 offense succeed in any system?  They lost literally everyone the offense was leaning on for the past four years.  It si quarterbacked by a guy who got benched at Arizona St (Threet) and a walk-on (Sheridan).  It feature, I believe, 20 combined starts through the entire offense, 13 of which were on sophomore Steve Shilling at gaurd.  That offense is not succeeding in no matter what they run in 2008.  So why not just start implimenting the Rich Rod system.  I agree with Brian on this one; starting the transition then was the right move.  Maybe if Mallett had stuck around a hybrid type offense would make sense, but that wasn't the reality Rich Rod was faced with.


November 5th, 2014 at 11:47 AM ^

Losing Mallett hurt way more than I thought it would at the time especially if you look now at what Rodriguez has done with the players he inherited at Arizona. Rodriguez lucked out with having Ka'deem Carey already there and promptly turned him into the one of the nation's leading rushers, but absent a Pat White/ Denard Robinson running QB, he's thrown the ball a lot more there than he did here. Mallett was a head case and made a lot of dumb mistakes in his limited opportunities here and it worked out for him to transfer to Arkansas when he did, but I think the 2008 offense performs much better with Mallett than Threet/Sheridan.


November 6th, 2014 at 8:00 AM ^

The pro/anti RR/zone read arguments are stupid. It's done and over.

I will state that my druthers is for holy crap awesome defense and I
Don't care what is in the offensive side so long as it works; and doesn't
Sell out the defense (the coach who doesn't punt comes to mind).

I love sacks, pressure, and pick sixes.

I don't much like watching the zone read. That said,
If our next guy came in here and ran it effectively and had a
I'd watch it with popcorn
And a grin on my face. If our defense was bend but don't
Break and we had an offense that jitterbugged to a
Gazillion points but we WON GAMES AGAINST REAL TEAMS
I'm happy.

My biggest complaint against both RR and Hoke is that
They both make big noise out of beating zombie teams
And get routed against teams with a pulse.

I firmly believe in the team, the team, the team.


the scheme, the scheme, the scheme.

Zealotry generally sucks

Mr Miggle

November 5th, 2014 at 11:55 AM ^

on offense, if RR didn't start implementing his offense in 2008, when would he? By 2009 he would have wasted an entire year in teaching his system to the OL and everyone else. He couldn't count on having a true freshman QB step in and be ready to start. So now we're looking at 2010 when a new QB should be ready. So does he bench a senior Threet to implement a brand new offense they just started practicing? With so many three year staters, it's far from an ideal time.  

2008 was the only reasonable time for RR to install his offense. The problem wasn't his decision. It was the unreasonable expectations of Michigan fans who couldn't see past a painful transition.


November 5th, 2014 at 1:16 PM ^

Hoke should have adjusted his offense to Denard and the spread (an offense he's not comfortable with), yet Rodriguez gets a free pass to install HIS offense despite not having the personnel for it.

I'm just amazed Rodriguez supporters continue to go to apologize for him. His tenure was unmitigated disaster. Hoke's isn't going to go down as much, if any, better.


November 5th, 2014 at 3:11 PM ^

As the previous posters stated, and as most everone agrees, there were no experienced players, none, on UofM's 2008 offense (except for Schilling).  So, there was nothing for RR to build on or carry over.

On the other hand, in 2011, the offense, headed by Denard, had plenty of plenty of players with experience running the read option.  That means there was an opportunity to build on and utilize that skill set during a transition to "Manball".


Does that help? 

Ron Utah

November 5th, 2014 at 10:56 AM ^

While Jim Harbaugh is probably my ideal coaching candidate, spread-to-pass seems like the most fun scheme to me.

That said, I agree 100% with BiSB.  I DON'T CARE.  Whatever works, man.  Move the ball and score points.  We are currently living in some sort of hellish hell-world where Michigan State is the #5 scoring offense and we are the #107 scoring offense.  Plz make it stop.


November 5th, 2014 at 11:08 AM ^

  • 2007: "We want a Michigan Man who understand our traditions and will continue what we've been doing for four decades"
  • 2011: "We want a coach who knows defense. Preferably one who doesn't run this spread crap."
  • 2014: "Anything. Literally anything. Just make the pain stop. And maybe score some points."


November 5th, 2014 at 11:56 AM ^

2007 "I want to win.  I want to do it in a manner that doesn't make me worry about the program's integrity.  I don't want Bo's half-brother (Mo), his illegitimate son (Lloyd [or Les for that matter]), or his second nephew half-removed (Hoke).. we need a new man (ala Bo '68) who will become the new face of Michigan, but who well understands the extreme value of what preceded him.  Also, defense is good and viewing the M job as a final destination is very good."

2011 " "

2014 " "



November 6th, 2014 at 12:43 PM ^

2007: "We want a Michigan Man who understand our traditions and will continue what we've been doing for four decades"

2011: "We want to pretend the last three years didn't happen and get a Michigan Man who, even if he sucks, understands our traditions and will continue what we've been doing for the preceding four decades"

2014: "We want to pretend the last seven years didn't happen and get a Michigan Man who understands our traditions and will continue what we've been doing for the preceding four decades. Hopefully someone who doesn't suck."


November 5th, 2014 at 11:12 AM ^

100% with BiSB here. I don't care if Michigan runs a QB dive offense as long as they somehow move the ball and win games. There's always too much complaining around here about what "perfect" offense Michigan should be running.


November 5th, 2014 at 11:14 AM ^

if we went air-wolverine!  Right now our offense is so predictable and the QB is so inconsistent, the running game is like running into a brick wall. No team respects our passing game!


November 5th, 2014 at 11:16 AM ^

I just want an offense that CAN MOVE THE BALL. if a RB has 200 yards a game from the "I" I don't care. If some QB throws for 400 yards, I don't care. JUST BE SUCCESSFUL at what you do! 

biakabutuka ex…

November 5th, 2014 at 11:19 AM ^

If it isn't going to be win championships every other year like Alabama, it better damn well be entertaining.

Watching the games isn't my job and it shouldn't feel like it, certain entities' opinions be damned.


November 5th, 2014 at 11:39 AM ^

BiSB is the one who nailed it.  Who amongst us should dictate the style? Silly.  Who amongst us is a HC at either college or pro level?  What we ALL should want is a "coherent offense built around something that works."  EUREKA!!!  Since the game is a constant moving target and what works today may not work tomorrow, long for something, anything that works.  Rinse and repeat.

The Baughz

November 5th, 2014 at 11:55 AM ^

I like TCU's offense. They are the only school to avg at least 200 rushing yards and 300 passing yards per game. Caveats apply, but man they are a fun offense to watch. Michigan currently does not have the athletes to put up those numbers, but some sort of spread offenses that would balance rushing/passing would be ideal. 


November 5th, 2014 at 12:02 PM ^

Brian said,  "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." 

I'm going to disagree with this.  It was coaching suicide for RR to implement that offense with the personnel at his disposal.  3-9?  Seriously, 3-9?  Michigan could have (should have) beaten Utah, Toledo, Purdue and Northwestern that year.  The coach's job is to WIN's not to feed his own ego and ground a square peg into a round hole.

Michigan had decent offensive (and very good defensive) personnel available that season.  Threet was a four star QB with a couple of years of maturity under his belt.  He went on to be a reasonably effective QB at ASU (until injuries cut him short).  Schilling, Moosman, Molk, Ortmann, and Dorrestein could have presented a reasonable OL.  Don't forget that Boren and Mitchell were also on the roster that was handed to RR.

Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor were legit (if not dominant) B1G running backs.  Hemingway and Mathews already had some time under their belts at WR.  Carson Butler and Kevin Koger were availble at TE.

This wasn't your father's Michigan team, but it certainly had the ability to compete in the B1G and win 7-8 games.  RR chose not to do that.....even though he had no QB on the roster that could remotely do what was asked of him.  3-9 set the tone for RR's tenure and that's why he never really had a chance to survive (well that and putting the three worst statistical defenses in the history of Michigan football on the field).

In the words of Herm Edwards......"You play to win the game!"