Film Review, Florida Edition: The O-Line

Submitted by AJDrain on September 4th, 2017 at 1:30 AM

When you rewatch game film, you always want to look at specific aspects of the matchup. So what was I looking for when examining the game tape from Michigan's beatdown of Florida? 

Offensive Line. Unquestionably in my opinion, the most uncertain part of this team, the OLine could be the difference between beating OSU and PSU and making the CFP and going 9-3. More importantly, I was looking at how Michigan's running backs gained 229 yards against a Florida defensive line that was rated the #2 DLine in the SEC and #8 in the country according to Phil Steele. Could it be that Michigan's run blocking and offensive line is actually going to be good against good run defenses for the first time in recent memory? Or was it a one off? 

But first, for reference, this link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djqrRfOvp7M) is what I use when I reference specific times for certain clips, if you want to verify my analysis. We'll go through each lineman one by one.

LT Mason Cole 

Cole had a very Cole-like game on Saturday, very strong in run blocking, decent in pass blocking, with a couple ghastly pass blocks. He had no individually great run block, but a few where him and LG Ben Bredeson teamed up for big gains. 

Highlight #1: 4:14-4:21 

The left side of Cole and Bredeson both have a big push, swallowing up the defensive front. Eventually, DL Jachai Polite gets free, but TE Sean McKeon picks him up just enough to let Chris Evans get loose for what should be an easy 10 yard TD run until Evans trips over his own feet, but still gets the first down. A really strong performane by the whole left side of that blocking package. 

Highlight #2: 3:21-3:33 

This is Ty Isaac's long run on the opening possession. It's a pull play, where Mike Onwenu pulls from the RG to the left side. I would prefer Onwenu to go up field instead of staying in the back field to block a guy who had no shot at getting Isaac. However, it doesn't matter because of Ben Bredeson's big push and contain opening up the hole, letting Isaac get loose. However, in 3rd and 13, the initial push isn't enough. Mason Cole gets 10+ yards down field and is the one that guarantees the first down by finishing the block on DB Chauncey Gardner. Another great combo by the left side. 

Highlight #3: 11:02-11:11

This was not a good play due to sloppy play from the right side. Jon Runyan Jr. subbed in for RG Mike Onwenu and completely whiffs on the block and forces the pulling Bredeson to clean it up. However, the mere fact Evans could get three yards is due to Cole's ability to block two dudes on the outside and create just enough of a hole.

High (Low)light #4: 30:11-

Unfortunately we have to include one really bad miss in pass pro, and it came on Michigan's last offensive play. This was not the best play for anyone on the offensive line, but two simple pushes and Cole lets Jordan Sherit blow right by him and take a shot at Speight. Ugly

LG Ben Bredeson

Highlight #1: 6:31-6:44

This is Chris Evans' big runs. A simple pull play where Mike Onwenu comes across and mauls a man and Ben Bredeson steps up and delivers a really terrific block. Mason Cole gets up field and takes one guy, while Sean McKeon seal blocks the other and Evans' generally slipperyness allows him to run it for a big gain. But those huge blocks by the young guards create the initial hole. 

Highlight #2: 20:21-20:27

With Michigan facing a long 3rd down, they give it to Ty Isaac hoping to ensure being in FG range. This is one of Nolan Ulizio's only good plays and he and Sean McKeon hold the right side well with a strong push and Mike Onwenu has another great block. But the play needs a strong Bredeson push on the pull in order for Isaac to get the Wolverines in field goal range. Bredeson pulls and delivers a good block and Isaac gets 7. 

High (Low)light #3: 20:13-20:20

As a whole, Ben Bredeson had a really good day run blocking, and was pretty darn good in pass blocking as well. However, of the 4 plays I identified where he struggled in pass pro, 3 were a 4 man rush with a left side twist. This play is pretty simple. Florida rushes 4, but the left DE and DT twist, where the DT goes outside and the DE goes inside. Bredeson follows the DT and ends up helping Cole with a double team while leaving the DE completely unblocked to take a straight shot at Speight, forcing him to hurry and throw behind Kekoa Crawford. 

C Patrick Kugle

Kugler didn't have a lot of memorable highlights, which is generally a good thing, especially for a center. His best moments were honestly some of the plays that we've already seen, setting blocks, plus one more. His worst moment was the false start penalty for double clutching the ball. He was really solid and I honestly don't have many highlights here, just one.

Highlight: 4:30-4:40

Ty Isaac has a long run up the middle, and it's great interior blocking by Bredeson, Onwenu, and Kugler that springs the hole. But Kugler is the impressive one, as it's between him and Bredeson that the hole opens. He manhandles DL Khari Clark, who is no push over, and opens up a big hole. 

RG Mike Onwenu 

In Onwenu's first game as a starter, he had a day that was pretty clear cut. If he got his hands on a guy, he at least held steady, but most of the time, he mauled them. He's like the trash compacter, a wall closing in to crunch you. However, the moments where he stood out negatively were technical, missing an assignment/blocking the wrong guy or a late jump off the snap. 

Highlight #1: 14:13-14:19

Yes, this play is a sack, due to Nolan Ulizio being awful, but Mike Onwenu has himself a ferocious block in pass pro, despite a late snap, which is what is so impressive. DL Taven Bryan beats him off the snap to the inside, but Onwenu adjusts and follows him and pile drives Bryan into the ground. 

Highlight #2: 15:54-16:03

A nice gain by Chris Evans thanks to a solid block by Kugler to the inside and a monster block by Onwenu. Matched up against Taven Bryan again, Bryan gets one step and Onwenu proceeds to put him on the turf, opening a massive hole. Henry Poggi picks up the block and Evans follows him down field. 

High (Low)light #3: 3:02-3:08

An Eddie McDoom end around is unaffected by this Onwenu miss but he totally whiffs on his block and allows his man to get right by him. 

RT Nolan Ulizio 

This was really, really ugly. We knew RT was going to be a problem, and the film makes it look worse. 2 of the 3 sacks of a Michigan QB were with Ulizio at fault, and run blocking wasn't much better. 

Lowlight #1: 3:09-3:16 

DL Jordan Sherit is matched up with Ulizio. One simple swim move and boom, Sherit blows by Ulizio for the sack. 

Lowlight #2: 18:47-18:54

Ulizio for some reason decides to double team the DT instead of taking the edge rusher, allowing Sherit to get free and chase after Speight on the roll out, forcing Wilton to throw it away. 

Conclusion

After rewatching the game film, and focusing on all 69 (nice) offensive plays that Michigan ran, I will say I was actually pretty encouraged by the offensive line's performance. Kugler was better than I expected and Bredeson's improvement was highly visible. He has the makings of a young elite guard. Mason Cole was Mason Cole which is definitely a good thing. Mike Onwenu for the most part was really encouraging. Physically, he's a monster. There needs to be some cleaning up in the timing and pre-snap assignments, which I think can be fixed with improvement as game play goes along. But on a given play where Kugler holds steady and Onwenu gets his hands on a guy, along with Bredeson, Michigan is going to spring some big rushes. Last season, in the three losses to Iowa, OSU, and FSU, Michigan RB's rushed for 3.3, 2.7, and 3.2 yards per carry, respecitvely. In this game, Michigan RB's rushed for 5.3 yards per carry, facing what this website considered to be a strong rush defense, as well as most other analysts, like Phil Steele. Not every rush was a big rush, and there were some for losses, but it was overall a really strong blocking game for Michigan. And this was, according to Phil Steele, the second best defensive line Michigan will see, behind Ohio State. 

Rushing games are so important, and if Michigan had been able to grind out a few first downs against OSU and Iowa, a 12-0 season would've been possible. With Onwenu and Bredeson both as sophomores, this offensive line looks like it has the making of something special down the road, but also being good enough to have Michigan within striking distance of a B1G title and a CFP appearance. Pass protection was pretty solid overall, but the glaring issue remains at RT. Despite Ulizio being pretty terrible in this game, Michigan was able to dominate a team with what is normally an elite defense. However, it is imperative in the next few weeks to either a) try out Runyan Jr. and see if that goes any better or b) draw up more blocking packages that give Ulizio TE help. It's hard not to like what we saw from the rushing game and the OLine overall in this one, but there is definitely room for improvement. 

 

Comments

Pit2047

September 4th, 2017 at 4:41 AM ^

He's not supposed to block the end on a boot, the end is supposed to get held by the fake.  The play was well defended by Florida and not Ulizio's fault.

Ghost of Fritz…

September 4th, 2017 at 8:37 AM ^

Thanks for posting this. 

The rushing game looked good against a supposedly good d-line.  Encouraging.

Even though UF was deep at d-line and rotated fresh bodies, UF's d-line got gassed later in the game.  This helped M sustain drives and also gash them on several decent runs. 

Penn State is probably the first team M will play this year that will be able to string together first downs and sustain drives, thus keeping their D fresher. 

Even though Penn State's d-line is not as good as Florida's, that game could be a bigger test for M's o-line, at least later in the game when getting a couple of 1st downs on the ground can put the game away.

 

Hanniballs

September 4th, 2017 at 10:09 AM ^

Even if/when he's overmatched, there are things that you can do to mitigate that i.e leave a tight end in to help, chip with a back, etc. I trust that Drevno/Frey/Harbs can figure out how to minimize Ulizio's negative impact on the offense

reshp1

September 4th, 2017 at 10:54 AM ^

On a lot of the big runs, I was expecting to see a WR downfield blocking a DB, but it was actually Cole 10-15 yards downfield. The guy has impressive mobility for a lineman.

The one ugly thing Kugler did was on the TFL on the first drive at the goal line. It was a sweep play and he pulls around and runs literally right by the guy (SAM LB?) that gets Evans without even getting a hand on him. Otherwise, he had a solid outting, imo.

stephenrjking

September 4th, 2017 at 12:37 PM ^

Because I'm killing time while my kids are upstairs, I rewatched the OL.

Onwenu had a rough day. He frequently biffed pulls, sometimes late to the hole or not hitting the right guy. Occasionally it appeared to me like he engaged the wrong guy, resulting in defenders firing into the backfield. Overall, the interior frequently struggled to get push.

I thought Ulizio had some tough moments and was fine in others, but it felt like Michigan gameplanned to keep him from being isolated often. He got an awful lot of help, and on a number of plays the DE he might have trouble with was instead the assignment of a backfield blocker. 

Despite the issues, I am cautiously optimistic, because this OL is young and has a lot of growing to do.