This Week's Obsession: How Borges is Nuss? Comment Count

Seth April 16th, 2014 at 10:15 AM



Question: Did you notice any appreciable difference in the Spring Game between the Borges offense and Nussmeier's? What are hoping to see by fall, and do you think they appeared to be heading in that direction?

Ace: Well...

Inline image 1

I might not be very useful in this roundtable.


Brian: Well... it wasn't much different in person.

And the stuff they did show was the usual vanilla business that is designed to be as basic as possible, so I'm not sure there's a whole lot to glean. It looked a lot more compact than last year's offense, sure. All spring games look compact as the bells and whistles are stowed away for use on a two-point conversion in the bowl game after you're down one billion points.

Michigan did seem to have a dedication to the inside zone with a side of power, and the linemen seemed more focused on making sure the defensive tackle was good and beat up before trying to get to the second level. That led to a lot of runs that made it to the line of scrimmage (hooray!) and didn't get much further. And that's fine. You don't dig out of a hole as big as the one Michigan's in quickly. Michigan looks like it's going to be mostly an IZ team that mixes in power to keep opponents honest, and as long as they look like that through the nonconference season and don't start flipping people about all willy-nilly, that is the first step towards competence.

So that's what I think we'll see: a boring-ass offense that tries to keep errors to a minimum and punts a lot. People will complain about its predictability and simplicity and they'll be right. Michigan doesn't have much choice, unfortunately.


Seth: It's impossible to compare Borges's Michigan offense to anything, because Michigan's offense wasn't anything under Borges for more than a few games. The three things I was looking for were 1) personnel, 2) a concept, and 3) how well those things could complement each other.

If you flup this up, Doug, so help me Bo…

Personnel was heavy, which was discouraging. For one Michigan has little in the way of tight ends. I didn't see anything from A.J. Williams, who was behind Heitzman, or Khalid Hill, who was behind Houma, and that was discouraging for hope of TE production before Butt's back. Houma is a fullback who lined up at the U only to motion back to fullback.

The operating theory on the OC hire was that Nussmeier at Bama was forced to use heavier formations than he wanted, however that compromise came down to 65% of snaps with three or more receivers:

Team Big 2 WR 3 WR 4 WR
Bama (Sugar Bowl) 3% 31% 58% 7%
Michigan 2013 8% 54% 29% 9%
Mich 2011-'12 7% 41% 43% 9%
Mich 2008-'10 1% 7% 76% 15%

Eyeballing it, the spring game was closer to Michigan in 2013. If there was a difference it was more Ace as opposed to I-form, but that's less relevant because those second TEs were usually Houma and Kerridge, i.e. the fullbacks. There's a fear shared by every Michigan fan with a functional nervous system that the run-and-shoot-yourself-in-the-face offense under Borges was, despite protestations to the contrary, a mandate from the top. If Nussmeier compromises for Hoke more than he would for Saban, well, that would be insane. If that was all just a bunch of spring practice hooey, well, why are they spending spring practice on hooey when every countable hour is precious?

Great scott Doc, this is too heavy. [Fuller]

On the upside, there was a concept. The running was mostly zone, with some power mixed in only because you need to pull somebody to sell play-action. The passing game was a slight departure from Borges, who used a lot of 5-step patterns last year. These were 7-step patterns with an outlet, matching what we saw from Nussmeier at Alabama. The difference here can be overstated; Borges used lots of longer routes with Denard but went to the quicker stuff in 2013 because he couldn't get protection to last longer than that.

How do I feel about that? Well it fits the receivers' abilities. There's no Gallon to turn every 7-yard cushion into an easy 5 yards, but there's Canteen and the Funchise and lots of leapy things who can reel in a desperation heave. I have serious doubts the offensive line can hold up that long, but that's why there's an outlet. On the play I drew up it was Funchess running what appeared to be an option route; with Alabama it was usually an RB.

Zone is good. It's what Funk knows, it's easier to teach to young linemen, and we've already established his charges' total inability to pull correctly. My guess is the tight ends are in there because the OTs need help, though any time you have Heitzman/Williams/Houma in there instead of Chesson that's a talent downgrade.

I think the great hope for an offense that can finish in the top half of the conference is Gardner. I think Nussmeier is building an offense that is simple for everybody but him.



April 16th, 2014 at 10:33 AM ^

Well that was a real WOOD KILLER. I guess it's better not to be surprised come September tho. Here's to hoping we develop our line , our defense is stellar, and by the time October and big ten play roll around we are competent. I DO NOT WANT TO START OVER AGAIN NEXT YEAR


April 16th, 2014 at 10:42 AM ^

If that was all just a bunch of spring practice hooey, well, why are they spending spring practice on hooey when every countable hour is precious?


Agreed - although you know they would play things close to the vest, I can't see them spending all that time to then NOT do some of those things.

Should have had a Borges Meter for Nuss.

1 - Almost complete absence of Borges

2 - Some Borges in there, but hey, there's Nuss in there too!

3 - Worrisome Borges Tendencies

4 - Gorgeous Borges Nuss


April 16th, 2014 at 10:41 AM ^

I hope the same people who slammed Borges for being too complicated don't slam Nuss for being too simple.  (No, I won't be putting any money on this.)

Nuss's resume is pretty spotless.  It seems safe to say that, if the offense lags in 2014, much of that will be due to problems he inherited. 

I think our most realistic hope for the offense is that it's much better by the end of the year than it is in the beginning. 


April 16th, 2014 at 11:01 AM ^

I didn't see a lot of complaining about it being simple, although Brian noted that it probably will be. I personally expect the offense to be a little more simple than ideal, and often frustrating because of that, with the understanding that doing a few things pretty well is better than doing too many things not well at all.

The complaints I saw in this post are more geared toward the choice of personnel and formations, which seems valid. It appears that our TEs are well behind the WRs in terms of both raw talent and skill (and, seeing as we're somewhat desperately plugging in Heitzman and Houma, that doesn't seem likely to change in the near future). Even if that's not the long term plan, it seems odd to emphasize the weaker group at the expense of the stronger.

Maybe for the spring game they just wanted to focus on the run, but if we're going to need to operate out of heavy formations just to get a couple yards at a go, the running game is going to be really painful to watch - and pass pro is going to be scary.


April 16th, 2014 at 11:02 AM ^

"the linemen seemed more focused on making sure the defensive tackle was good and beat up before trying to get to the second level. That led to a lot of runs that made it to the line of scrimmage (hooray!) and didn't get much further. And that's fine."


Man, it'll be like Christmas (or something of the like) when the D line is not mostly playing on our offensive side of the ball.

I don't care if we have a 1,000 yard back this season, I'll be elated with not getting Gardner killed and not having the most negative plays in the country.


April 16th, 2014 at 10:57 AM ^

Can we just focus on the defense from now until App. St.? The defense seems like it should be good. 

Like, question for next week: Where is Jabrill Peppers going to play? How many snaps? Does he redshirt because if not our starting boundary corner will probably be fighting over the 4th corner spot with someone who may or may not be cured of that weird phasing out of reality desease he had?! 


April 16th, 2014 at 11:00 AM ^

I'm fine with the vanilla offense. One great thing about Devin is that during the chaos of the game he'll make some explosive plays. A sound run threat will only help open the Devin factor up.

Painter Smurf

April 16th, 2014 at 11:54 AM ^

I'm expecting to see something along the lines of Jim Bollman's offense with Terelle Pryor.  Very simple, lots of blockers, let the QB keep drives alive with scrambles, and take the occasional shot downfield.

We've heard comments about Nussmeier making life difficult for the QB's during practices.  But come gametime, I think he'll do what he can to protect Devin from passing too much.  We'll see a bunch of 2-4 yard runs by RB's, which will be boring but nonetheless a huge improvement over last year.


April 16th, 2014 at 1:13 PM ^

in the top half of the conference is Gardner," says Seth, stating what becomes ever more obvious given how the offense is looking.

Can we take up a collection and take OUT the next person who speaks of a QB controversy? Maybe, just maybe by NEXT year we can have an offense that will work for Shane.   


April 16th, 2014 at 11:07 AM ^

The only thing I saw in the Spring game that sticks out was a left guard pulling to his right and the center NOT blocking back on the 3 tec.  As you can imagine, that play got blowed up.


April 16th, 2014 at 11:11 AM ^

I just hope Nuss doesn't change his MO from Bama and UW. In those, he definitely showed he was not Borges; he would most definitely throw an outside screen "long hand off" to WR given tons if space. Perhaps the multi-TE/FB formations is just his way of installing the 'base' offense and then lifting TEs for WR, etc, is just the extra 'frippery' off the base that looks different but actually isn't?


April 16th, 2014 at 11:22 AM ^

If no one blocks, Nuss will struggle. As did Borges. As would any OC. I really hope we block people, and Nuss is a genius and Borges is a simpleton and all of our notions are confirmed and we live happily ever after, amen.


April 16th, 2014 at 4:23 PM ^

is Borges is the evil genius who outsmarts himself by creating play complexity that hinders execution - especially with inexperienced players

Nuss is supposed to have a focused set of plays with various options for the QB to choose from. Execution for the linemen is easier as they focus on the execution details of fewer formations. (Bo with a yardstick anyone?) Reliance is on an experienced decisionmaker at QB reading the defense as it lines up against the offensive shifts.

Thus to get to middling offense effectivity our 5th yr QB is the key.


April 16th, 2014 at 5:18 PM ^

borges was like in ncaa when you just call all the crazy deep passes you see in the play book and get sacked a ton but might have some sweet bombs that work out. hopefully nuss will be like when you just start throwing the comebacks and outs and start marching down the field with the hurry up because you found something that works.


April 16th, 2014 at 11:29 AM ^

Having an athletic QB and playmaker like Garnder will ensure that the offense is never too vanilla.  Hopefully Nuss will have designed plays to ensure DG gets an opportunity to make plays (bootlegs, waggles, zone-read options, etc.).  We have to face the fact that we will continue to rely on our QB to produce a significant amount of the run-game for another year. 


April 16th, 2014 at 11:50 AM ^

MGoBlog is not a fan of rollouts because it's a constraint for immobile QBs.  The logic goes that if you have a plodding cannon back there with an established running game, the defense will allocate all 11 to stop the pass, run and play-action.  This shuts down the offense and it works because no one's on the QB because he's not a running threat. . . until he rolls out on a fake handoff with no defender within twenty yards and easily slides to the ground just past the first down marker.  That wakes up the D, loosens them up, because if you pull a defender away from his assignment to follow the QB, someone's open.  But it all starts with the premise that the defense won't expect the QB to run.

Defenses expect DG to run.  Devin Gardner's legs terrify opposing defenses, so they always have someone tracking him.  So when he runs away from his protection -- as bad as it is -- as soon as he turns around he's got a guy in his face.  It's not a good way to use a mobile QB.

I think using DG's legs is a good idea, but I'd be more subtle about it.  Borges used a lot of play action, but they were very conventional -- no one was scared of the RB because the O-line couldn't run block.  What I'd use are a mix of draw plays, options and play-action off QB runs.  The idea isn't to have DG run 20 times a game.  The idea is to always have that threat there, use it to option off a defender, and always leave the defense guessing where the ball's going to go.  If DG runs only 5 times a game but is always a threat to run, you can do a lot of damage without actually getting him beat up.

Painter Smurf

April 16th, 2014 at 12:06 PM ^

A lot of Devin's bad decisions seem to come when he is drifting sideways or backwards, and most roll-outs would probably fall in the same category.  All play action bootlegs where the QB turns his back to the LOS should be banned from the playbook.  So I agree that he is best off with the straight dropback, and that he should be coached to scramble forward only (area between the two OG's).


April 16th, 2014 at 5:28 PM ^

The bad decisions come from having a containing DE in his face, so yeah.

However, I wouldn't BAN the bootleg, just get rid of the goddamn play-action where he has to take his eyes off the defense and slow down to sell the run no one is expecting.  The defense has to fear the RB more than the scramble for that to work and that's not happening anytime soon.

However, you can deploy a waggle variant of QB oh noes where DG just books it to the sideline, probably out of pistol.  If he sees daylight he just goes for it, but for reasons explained above, this is very unlikely.  What IS likely is that the linebackers will be coached to assist in the chase.  So if DG just rolls out without that stupid play-action crap to slow him down, the pursuit can result in a TE, slot or WR breaking open in the flat.


April 16th, 2014 at 9:17 PM ^

Nebraka's offense had this. It's a fake sprint option. The RB maintains pitch relationship then stops and upends the pursuit. Then Martinez would square and pick a level on the resulting flood route.


April 16th, 2014 at 5:23 PM ^

the rollout is usually not for runs, its to cut down the field that the qb has to read and to get the defense flowing to the opposite side of the field. qb's running out of a rollout is usually like a checkdown option when there isnt an open throw.

the rollout action is usually carried out on normal runs to set up the actually rollout pass so the coaches can tell if the DE or OLB is crashing/spying the qb all the time.


April 16th, 2014 at 11:34 AM ^

Of course the TEs were in there; even the squirrel outside my window knows they need the practice.  If you're going to rep your TEs it helps to have them go up against a defense formation vs. formation.

The thing about WRs is that they generally operate in space.  Man blocking and route-running can be drilled ad nauseum in a vacuum.  You do want to get some timing down but they repped that as well.

Granted Nuss could probably look a lot better by opening his bag of tricks, but what would be the point?  Nuss isn't trying to beat the defense in the spring; he needs to get his TEs beaten by it while no one's keeping score.


April 16th, 2014 at 12:02 PM ^

I guess I don't understand the difference between vanilla and, I don't know, Rocky Road offenses.  RR's offense was dynamic at times but mostly ran out of a couple of formations; it was predictable in the sense that you saw the same looks and had to react.  But it's strength was to enable last-second wrinkles and counters to defenses while also relying on the fact that college defenders aren't going to do the right thing consistently, so you can keep moving the ball just be sheer attrition.

Compare that to Borges, who had a massive playbook and a decent number of looks but none of them really worked consistently.  There were few counters, fewer consistencies, and player development that was uninspiring.  

I guess my point is that we don't completely know how the offense will look under Nuss, but if "vanilla" is competency with a set number of plays and then (I suspect) some wrinkles, I'm fine with it.  I don't think UM would ever be successful running a Stanford-style offense, just because that seems (a) very specific to a coaching staff and recruiting profile that doesn't apply to UM, and (b) not one that may not scale well.  And we've seen how fans respond to that "wild" spread offense that RR and Meyer run.  It would take a collective lobotomy of both the AD and a vocal part of the fanbase for that type of offense to be run again.

So right now, Nuss seems like the best option.  And while I don't think we can take much from the spring game, I'm WAY more encouraged this offseason than last.


April 16th, 2014 at 12:31 PM ^

I wonder how many times you've typed out the following phrase since 2008: "You don't dig out of a hole as big as the one Michigan's in quickly."  Wait, maybe let's not answer that


April 16th, 2014 at 12:36 PM ^

My friend that was there said:  About Nuss as OC: No idea. Of course they keep it vanilla for the spring game. One thing for sure he is loud as hell. Could hear him berating his players 10 rows up


April 16th, 2014 at 12:51 PM ^

You sort of asked the question "was Borges ordered to run the offense he ran last year" in the post.  I've wondered that too myself.  And what I really wonder is what effect will the lack of changes in the balance of the offensive staff have on Nuss's results?  

I cant help it but everytime I think about  our offense next year I see Nuss 2014 as Robinson 2009 with Funk playing the role of Gibson.  A long-time close friend of the HC who cant coach his position group worth a damn and sinks the coordinator and the team with his lack of ability.

FWIW Greg Robinson remembered how to coach defense at Texas this year when the HC left him alone.  Imagine that.


April 16th, 2014 at 1:32 PM ^

And how do you know Funk and the balance of the staff was coaching "Hoke's offense" and not Borges's offense?

Keep searching.

Funny how the Hoke haters use both the "Hoke is too hands off" argument and "Hoke dictating the offense" argument. Whichever one serves the agenda better in the given thread.


April 16th, 2014 at 1:43 PM ^

"A hater."  

I started to get offended but then I thought about it for a minute and you're absolutely right.  I HATE losing 11 out of our last 26 games.  I HATE leading the country in plays for negative yardage.  I HATE that our offense is classified as "shitty" and that we don't seem able to block anything.  I HATE that we have never made it to the B1G Championship game. I HATE that in year four of Hoke's regime we seem to going backwards fast and I HATE the thought of yet another regime change and what that'll mean to our program.

But mostly I HATE that my alma matter, the school I love and have supported for the better part of my 54 years on the planet is now nothing more than just another middle of the road team in a crappy conference that gets its ass kicked regularly by both Ohio State & MSU - something that never EVER happened in my lifetime before.

So if that makes me a "hater".....guilty as charged.