Molk/Definitely Not Molk [Heiko]
We waited to pass judgment on this offensive line until they weren't freshmen or true freshmen. We waited for the end of spring and and the end of fall and until we saw them play actual football, and do so against actual NFL-bound defensive linemen. We waited after Akron because everybody was getting a mulligan. We waited until after the UConn game was UFR'd. While nobody among the struggling is so old that their careers are discountable, the evidence is clear that Michigan, so far, hasn't had five guys who can credibly block at a collegiate level.
So…depth chart today:
LT: Brian Cook—turned down NFL to write about college
LG: Ace Anbender—Good find, should be multi-year starter, moonlighted at first as a…
C: Coach Brown—Recipient of much internet scorn lately. A good sport about it.
RG: Blue in South Bend—Top young prospect, struggles with moderation.
RT: Seth Fisher—Been here forever, appreciated but consensus is he's not a star like Brian
|First rule of position group panic: anyone on the depth chart with a plausible excuse for not playing yet is a god. [Upchurch]|
And the question:
The OL complaints have had a few weeks now to percolate through reality and drip a little possibility of personnel changes into our cups. How do we feel about this? How much improvement would you expect out of an assumed Bryant->LG, Glasgow->Center, Miller->Bench plan, and what's the catch? Any other moves you'd consider?
Brian: There are two catches with the proposed Bryant insertion:
Bryant is liable to catch on fire at any moment. He's injury-prone. This is often an overblown thing better attributable to bad luck than anything else, but with very large offensive linemen it's a real thing, especially ones coming off a leg injury who end up getting their knee drained just before the season.
A position switch for Glagsow may limit his effectiveness. Can he snap? Can he get the line calls right? Will he have the requisite agility? That move seems like a recipe for more of the same when it comes to mental errors unless Glasgow is even more of a player than I think he is after four games.
Those issues are not enough to keep Miller on the field after consecutive rough outings against low-level competition against both pass and run. If they're going to continue with the stretch, the center is probably the single most important guy on your OL and Miller is busting too often both mentally and physically not to attempt a change. How effective your stretch is going to be when Chris Bryant is trying to move laterally remains unknown. Add that to the pile of issues, I guess. Here:
Does a Bryant/Kalis guard pairing throw away your offseason prep? Michigan wants to run the stretch for some reason. Their guards don't seem like good fits. Can you run inside zone now? Power?
I feel not good about midseason switches; I still feel that there will be improvement; there is no other move to consider except prepping Bosch or Kugler to enter the lineup in the event Bryant gets hurt or doesn't perform.
[More responses after the jump.]
Ace (who also thought he was the first responder): I'm going to be a major downer: I don't think any potential changes are going to make a big difference, certainly not to the point where the line suddenly goes from awful at run blocking to anything above average.
|Braden may be the next guy in the Long-Lewan line (he has the ink part down) but that doesn't solve the center problem. [Upchurch]|
While I'm not sold on Jack Miller as the answer at center now or in the future (I'd bet Kugler starts there next year), the other options for this season aren't going to suddenly solve everything. Glasgow has been solid at left guard; shifting him to center, however, adds a lot of responsibility—snapping and line calls—and that can be tough for a young lineman to handle. Kyle Kalis has been decent, not great, at right guard, and he's entrenched there. The tackles are obviously not changing because they're upperclassmen with NFL futures; putting Ben Braden at right tackle and shifting Schofield down to guard, for example, only creates an issue (can Braden pass block well enough?) while not really solving the major one (Schofield isn't a stellar run blocker). That last suggestion is also insane, so please don't take it seriously; it's just an example of Michigan's limitations given their lack of experienced depth.
Given the line's performance so far, I'm fine with Bryant taking over at left guard and seeing if that works out; that's preferable to the status quo—run=death—at the moment. Keep in mind, however, that Bryant hasn't been able to stay healthy during his collegiate career, has no real game experience, and wasn't a can't-miss recruit—people seem to remember this differently, but only Rivals gave him four stars out of high school. He also doesn't really fit the zone-heavy run schemes that Borges has implemented lately; on the flip side, if he can move, he could be a terrifying sight for linebackers while pulling through the hole on power. Most importantly, however, he failed to win the job in the fall when it was open; even if that was in part due to his health, the fact that the coaches didn't think he was enough of an upgrade over having Miller at center to throw him out there and hope he stayed healthy says to me that either (1) his injury issues are worse than we think, or (2) the Bryant/Glasgow pairing isn't much better than Glasgow/Miller, if at all. That's doesn't portend well to a midseason switch saving the running game.
I don't think Michigan has a choice at this point: they've got to put Bryant out there and hope his legs stay intact, because Miller simply isn't holding up against even middling competition and it only gets harder from here. I just don't know how much it's going to help matters.
Oh, cool, I wrote essentially the same thing as Brian except in more words.
I guess I'll add that the Bryant injury concerns don't factor much into my worries about the line because the seemingly worse-case scenario is he gets hurt and they go back to the original starters.
Coach: I'm beating a dead horse here, but I feel the same way as Brian and Ace. There isn't going to be a magical fix to the o-line problems and we'd all be delusional to think there will be.There is obviously a reason that Bryant wasn't in the lineup from the start. Injuries have been the main reason but is he going to be any good when he finally gets out there? I wholeheartedly believe that Glasgow will be an improvement at the center position, but Bryant is an unknown at this point. He's huge, but is he healthy, in-tune, or game-ready?
I've got nothing else. I just want to see improvement and maybe some sort of adjustment to find something the line can do successfully. It's very frustrating to watch the line fail to execute something that, either they don't know how to do, or just flat out can't do, and the result is a negative run by the backs. I know the coaches want to establish a power-run identity, but when it's not working, it's time to try something else until the personnel develops enough to be successful.
|Miller gives scuffed-helmet-level effort but hasn't been able to pick up his blocking assignments. [Upchurch]|
BiSB: This might be a radical (read: stupid) suggestion, but if Michigan is going to continue to keep running the zone stretch, and a significant majority if those runs are to the left, and they're going to move Glasgow to center, why not move Kalis to LG? You'd put your best three run blockers next to each other on what would be play-side 70% of the time. You give a little more credibility to the waggle to Gardner's dominant hand (the waggle, of course, being the wave of the future in 1987). You'd take a little less pressure off Bryant/Burzynski/whoever steps in at the other guard spot.
Of course the "why not" is pretty obvious; you'd mess further with the line's chemistry and Kalis has been practicing at RG for forever and do we even know if he can play the left side and yadda yadda yadda. CAN'T A GUY JUST CREATE AN UNREASONABLE AND IMPRACTICAL MAGIC BULLET? Damn, man.
I suppose the other option would be to start running the power scheme we were all expecting/this line seems built to run. But that's just crazy talk.
Seth: The issue, as I understand it, is Bryant can supposedly (man-)block better than Miller, but Miller can snap it far better than any of those guys. Chemistry may be overrated considering the line has developed no chemistry so far. Doing things not-well repeatedly gives you practice in doing things not well. Patrick Omameh, who like the youth on this team was recruited for his skills running Michigan's particular offense, was inserted mid-way through his redshirt freshman season and that worked very well. Schofield, too, began starting at guard as an injury replacement about 1/3rd through the season (when Barnum got hurt). Replacing a center is a bigger deal, but that's because the center is usually the guy making assignments, so if he blows at that or another guy is doing it, so what?
|It's not just the 5 stars we see. It's the mustache. And when he does block someone it looks cool. [Fuller]|
The Akron-UConn showings were close to the bottom of feasible play for a middle-of-the road FCS team, so there's not that much that could go worse. Course I said that during the bye week of 2010 and they got spectacularly worse.
The snapping thing may be a bigger deal than we're crediting it. Michigan played the Sugar Bowl with a one-legged Molk and gave up the entire middle of the offense because Molk could snap it. Molk on one leg = Jack Miller. Spread zealots aren't going to be happy if the spread things go away. Glasgow got a lot of run at starting center in spring and fall when they were trying to do what it seems they're trying to do now; it didn't work then for whatever reason.
To other movement: no. Kalis is by no means excused from the problems but with the upside he's shown, with him I think it's just a matter of time. Since replacement options there aren't likely to be much of an upgrade, may as well give him the snaps and work on improvement. So far he's the Mouton to Miller's Ezeh. And shoot me now before these GERG defense comparisons spread...too late: decimated offense spreadsheet started.