What is the Source of Our Run Blocking Issues? - In Pictures

Submitted by reshp1 on October 16th, 2013 at 7:10 AM

[ED-S: Bump]

In the “What is the Source of Our Run Blocking Issues” thread, I offered my list of things we are doing poorly (hint: everything). This Diary delves deeper into each of those items by examining an example of each in a brief picture page format. Let’s jump right in.

1. Bad individual technique. A lot of plays start from a fresh line of scrimmage 2 yards behind where the ball was snapped because of just plain getting beat 1 vs 1.

Example: First play of Michigan’s second possession.

Pic1: Butt motions next to AJ Williams, who is the defacto LT since Lewan is lined up outside of Schofield on the right in "Tackle Over."

Pic2: Michigan runs outside zone away from Lewan/Schofield. This goes about how you'd expect. Bryant and Williams both take a step laterally and allow their guys to get in on them with leverage. Before the ball is even handed off, they’ve each ceded 2 yards. Bonus: Schofield releases without chipping the DT, leaving Lewan an impossible angle.

Pic3: By the time Fitz gets the ball he has a wall of bodies in front of him 5 yards behind the line. The DT Lewan had no chance at is also there to prevent any hope of a cutback. Michigan would go on to throw for short gain on 2nd down, then Gardner throws his first pick on 3rd.


2. Guys not getting clean blocks on second level defenders. Guys are releasing downfield and letting guys run by them or force them to give ground to recover a good blocking angle.

Example: 2nd Quarter, 11:51. 1st and 10

Pic 4: Michigan is in Tackle Over again with Lewan outside of Schofield on the left side.

Pic5: Michigan runs to the stacked tackles this time. This pretty well blocked. Lewan has kicked out the end and Schofield is sealing(ish) the DT, leaving Kerridge 1 on 1 with a LB in the hole. Thump that guy and Fitz is out to the safety (who came roaring down at the snap, but still)

Pic6: Kerridge isn't able to shove the guy out of the hole. He lets the guy side step to his left and now there are two bodies in the way. The LB gets an arm around Fitz and hold him up until the cavalry arrives and TFL.

Pic7:On the very next play, a read option, Bryant pulls around and has a LB dead to rights. Dileo is already harassing him and has him sealed to the inside, all Bryant has to do is aim for his right hip, latch on and Gardner is off to the races.

Pic8: Instead, Bryant puts his head down and goes for the kill shot, which not only misses the LB but almost takes out Dileo, forcing Dileo to step aside. The LB goes from being 2 vs 1 to 0 vs 1 and is all alone with Gardner to tackle for minimal gain, bringing up 3rd and 8.  Gardner throws to Chesson on the 3rd down, but it’s dropped. Punt.

3. Lack of cohesiveness. Guys not feeling what the guy next to him is doing or how much help they need. You have guys holding combos too long to release on one play, then on the next they'll leave to go block a LB while the other guy gets smoked by a DT he has no angle on.

Example: Michigan gets the ball back following PSU’s score right before the end of the half.

Pic9: They need a yard on 2nd down, and line up in standard OL formation. Lewan is injured so the line is Schofield, Bryant, Glasgow, Kalis, Magnuson, with Funchess at TE on the left side.

Pic10: At the snap, Glasgow barely gets a rub on the DT before heading out for the MLB, leaving Kalis in a bad spot. Notice how much further downfield he is than Schofield, who is also releasing on this play. Kalis maybe can do a better job moving laterally to scoop that guy too, but that's a tough play.

Pic11: A couple seconds later, Kalis is fighting the good fight, but the DT is steadily getting play-side of him.

Pic12: Bryant and Funchess both do a decent job sealing the hole long enough for Fitz to burst through, but Kalis eventually gets beat to the spot by the DT who is free to tackle at the LOS. Downfield blocking looks decent enough to at least let Fitz fall forward for the first down otherwise.

Michigan goes from trying to score to running out the clock. They run into a 10 man box on the next play and punt it with 14 seconds left.

4.  Targeting issues. Guys are not identifying the right guy to block, resulting on some guys blocking air and/or defenders being blocked by air.

Example: This is Michigan’s first play of the game.

Pic13: Schofield motioned to tuck in between Lewan and Bryant on the left side in "tackle over."

Pic14: At the snap Glasgow inexplicably goes to block the 3T, who Bryant and Schofield are already doubling. Kalis is pulling, leaving a giant hole for the NT to charge through untouched.

Pic 15: The NT steps behind a pulling Kalis and meets Fitz in the back field. Michigan would go on to punt after a Gardner run and INC.

Two other issues I noted were running into a stacked box with infuriating predictability and RB hesitation. I won’t get into these because you know what it looks like in the case of the former, and honestly Fitz played pretty well this game in the case of the latter.

Conclusion. I can only imagine how frustrated the coaches are getting at this point. There is no one problem or even one guy. Quite the opposite, on any given play, we have the ability to screw up in 4-5 different ways, by anyone on the line save maybe Lewan. That’s wack-a-mole futility right there, where do you even start? I was able to find an example of each type of issue in the first half alone, often more than one case of each. This wasn’t an every once in a while thing, it happened with alarming regularity. The proof is in the pudding, we had one good RB running play and every other one died in its infancy due to one or more critical mistakes. As Brian said last week, it only takes one.

What’s even more interesting or frustrating, depending on your level of optimism, is that every one of these directly lead to the end of a drive. It’s not really surprising, we’re just not good enough to play with 2 or less productive opportunities to gain a fresh set of downs.

I’m not sure where we go from here. We’ve all but exhausted personnel tinkering options and the guys that are starters by virtue of marginally being better aren’t improving. In fact, in the case of the fullbacks, it’s actually getting worse. My hope is a light will go on for one or two guys late into the season just from sheer repetition. That’s all it is at this point though, a hope and a prayer.

(disclaimer, I’ve never played nor coached a down of football in my life so if I’m totally off on something, please correct me in the comments).



October 15th, 2013 at 10:37 AM ^

I specifically remember the left side of the line getting blown up and Bryant whiffing on his block from watching the game live.

It has been suggested multiple times on this blog that we should spread the field more.  It has also been stated that it only takes one blocking mistake to ruin a play.  Wouldn't this fact tend to support the idea of spreading the field?  Instead of having 7 or 8 guys who need to make a block, make it 5 or 6 guys.  Just from a probability standpoint you would be more likely to have everyone make the correct block.

On the other hand, if it's always the O-line messing up their blocks, and not the TEs and FB, you're still going to be hosed.



October 15th, 2013 at 4:16 PM ^

It is not not like we recruited fools or converted a bunch of defensive players to offense. There are some serious coaching issues when after three years into a transition, we don't know who to block. Granted, some schemes and stunts mess up the best line's assignments, however, this is not what we are seeing as the issue.

Blue in Yarmouth

October 16th, 2013 at 8:23 AM ^

I will admit that we have youth on our o-line, but these guys didn't just fall off the turnip truck, they were actually either well regarded recruits or players that have beaten out well regarded recruits. 

In a situation like this, if a team has good coaching, you'd expect to see steady improvement from all these guys. None of them are true freshmen. They have been coached by these guys for over a year and a half now so some form of improvement should be expected, but we see none of that.

This season I have watched teams with far less talent and teams with just as much youth block defenses pretty consistently and yet this group couldn't push my grandmothers knitting group off the line of scrimmage. That tells me they aren't being coached properly, not that they aren't any good.

The bottom line is the problem with this line is the coaching, from the playcalling to the techniques and fundamentals being taught. 


October 16th, 2013 at 1:03 PM ^

There was a post this summer (by LSAClassOf2000, I think) showing how often O-Linemen become solid starters, based on age, #stars, etc. It essentially showed that highly rated linmen rarely pan out before their 3rd year (~19% become solid starters before that) and less harlded linmen rarely pan out before their 4th year (~14% solid starters before that).

Outside of Lewan and Schofield, the list of scholarship athletes looks like this:

Class of 2009 (5th year): None

Class of 2010 (4th year): None

-------------The Line Below Which O-Linmen Do Not Make Good Starters---------------

Class of 2011 (3rd year): Bryant, Miller - both of these guys had mostly mid-major and lower tier BCS offers (e.g. Indiana and Arizona)

Class of 2012 (2nd year): Kalis, Magnuson, Braden, Bars

Class of 2013 (1st year): Kugler, Bosch, Tuley-Tillman, Samuelson, Dawson, Fox

This frightened me at the time, so I started running Monte-Carlos on the odds of Michigan producing offensive lines without liabilities. The results were... not encouraging. 

Odds of producing a line with at least X liabilities:

3: 34%

2: 74%

1: 95%

So just based on how long the current players have been on the team, and how highly regarded they were out of high school, we would expect at least two of our starters up front to be terrible no matter what the coaches do. At this point, I wonder how much of the line issues are coaching vs having no veteran players at a position that takes a long time to learn.

(One encouraging piece of data, I ran the same simulation for the 2015 season and got this result:)

Odds of producing a line with at least X liabilities:

3: 4%

2: 25%

1: 68%

So cheer up, in 2 years we have a 32% chance of grinding opposing D-lines into a fine paste, and only a 4% chance of a dumpster fire. 



October 15th, 2013 at 11:03 AM ^

I watched the first half last night. I came to the same conclusion. There is anywhere between 1 and 3 blown assignments or blocks per play. No idea what Glasgow was thinking on the first play and Butt gets blown up in the hole anyways. The first play you show, Butt needs to help Williams out with a chip there but doesn't really matter becayse Bryant gets pushed 5 yards deep into the backfield.   I would even say Lewan had some questionable attempts when the stretch play went away from him. He kind leans on his guys and lets him run down the line and get in on the play. Thats unacceptable too.  Also not trying to pick on Lewan, but watching in slow mo there we several plays where he is the last guy out of his stance... On the power play, when they got a trey block and Butt had to do a true kickout he struggled rooting that end man out of the hole. But it goes back to their formation. PSU knew what was coming and they attacked hard. Its asking alot of the kickout blockers and pullers when their guys comes screaming downhill with a 5 yard head start.

Byrant was brutal from what I saw. He seems hurt still. I didnt get to the second half to see if Burzynski was any better. But if Bosch is the best of those three, screw the red shirt and get him out there. He can't be any worse then what we are getting. And he might as well get some experience for next year so him and Kalis can be the strength of the oline.

I said yesterday several times that Michigan needs to lose the fullback and extra TE and run the power out of more 3 and 4 wide sets.  They actually tried this a bit more than I thought and 2 of their best runs (12 yards by Fitz and 4 yards by Green) came out of these looks. They are still missing a block but they have a much better chance of getting 3.5 yards in these formations rather than the heavy formations with Kerridge and 2 tight ends.

As Russ Grimm said, the power play is not a "trick em, dick em play". You're not going to get a lot of 20 yard runs. You're going to average 3.5-4 yards on the play. Michigan is a block here and block there away from doing that. Right now there is just no consistency. And letting the other team load up the box and come down hill hard is not helping anything.

Also, I notice a lot your posts and from the quality of them I would not be able to tell you've never played or coached a down. In my opinion you are one of the better posters on this board.


October 15th, 2013 at 11:09 AM ^

I agree, Bryant looked awful, which is perplexing because he looked ok against Minnesota. He made some mistakes but looked physically imposing last game. This game, he made mistakes and got manhandled a lot. I'm guessing it's injury and or just letting the hostile road environment get to him.

Burzinyski wasn't much better. He got beat a lot in pass pro. They were down so many guys by that point it was hard to see who the problem was on the line for running plays.

Re:Bosch... I've said "it can't get worse" like 3 times now and it has, so I'm not even going to go there. It really does seem like a systemic coaching issue when all these guys are coming off the bench with the same issues. At this point, I think they've got to ride out the guys they've gotten and hope the game experience gets them over the proverbial hump.


October 15th, 2013 at 11:17 AM ^

I hear you when you say it can get worse.

But if this is a situation like Kalis last year where he probably could have taken over for Barnum then I think they should pull the trigger and go with him. It became apparent during the offseason through quotes from Kalis, other players, and the coaches that Kalis could have played last year but they made a choice to save him. If Bosch is physically and mentally ready and he is most likely the future at the position, go with him and take any lumps that come with it. Remember he was an early enroll guy too, and Kalis wasn't.

For as ugly as this season has been they are still 5-1 and have the talent to win the Legends. Do whatever it takes to make that happen.


October 15th, 2013 at 12:16 PM ^

Has Kalis been great? No, not at all. But he hasn't been all that bad. He admits to not being mentally ready as far as letting his emotions get to him. Which apparently he is still having trouble with. In my opinion Kalis would have been an upgrade to Barnum last year. And its safe to say if Bosch is getting consideration that he is better than Bryant and Burzynski and they just want to be sure they need to burn his redshirt.


October 15th, 2013 at 12:32 PM ^

I don't think the coaches are protecting red-shirts this year after a good 2012 and 2013 OL recruiting haul. They wouldn't have brought him on the road otherwise. My guess is that he's not playing because he's not good enough. Burzinyski and Gunderson both played before him because they were better, or at least more reliable. It really seems like a coaching issue here. I know OL takes the most time to develop, but these guys coming off the bench aren't just getting beat physically like you would expect for walk-ons, but they're making mistakes (pending UFR of course) like you wouldn't expect upper classmen to make too.


October 15th, 2013 at 12:40 PM ^

I'm not surprised he's not good, but he doesn't even look like the same player he was a week ago. It's pretty disheartening to see a guy that you make some sacrifices in pass pro and agility in exchange for his "road grating" ability fail miserably at the one thing he's supposed to be good at. A 320 lb guy shouldn't be getting pushed 5 yards into the backfield by a 250 lb DE.


October 15th, 2013 at 8:03 PM ^


Could this problem be occurring because of depth. Having the same guys go all game doesn't seem to be working. They're getting beat against the fresh Defensive line. Do any teams constantly switch in and out offensive lines?


Also I'm not sure if Al gives Gardener the option to audible pre-snap. If he does have this option the running game should be put on his shoulders also. They're overloading one side, how do you not audible to the other side in this situation. Also if they're loading the box, he should be switching up to quick slants, or the deep ball to keep him honest. 

I just don't see enough pre-snap audible, and reads to keep teams honest. It's very easy to read what we're about to do once we line up. 

Do you think a quicker paced offense would allow the running game to develope more? It seems to be the trend in the NFL right now. 

Red is Blue

October 15th, 2013 at 11:04 AM ^

This year we had two returning multiple year starters with one of them being top tier. What happens next year? We'll have 2 returning starters (maybe 2.5 - depending on LG) and neither of them are at Scholfield's, let alone Lewan's, level. We'll be even less experienced. Hopefully the newbies can be productive, but based on this year's experience I'm thinking there is a distinct possibility next year is worse (if possible).

Picture 1 is telling. I count 10 defenders within 5 yds of LOS. It was going to be tough to run right behind the 2 tackles, but to run left behind 2 TEs and a shaky LG? Doesn't seem like that is going to work even absent the issues you point out.


October 16th, 2013 at 9:34 AM ^

Maybe, maybe not.  Offensive Linemen are like wheels on a car.  One really good one can't make up for three bad ones.

Next year, the light may go on and we have an OL of mediocre linemen, no really great ones, but no really bad ones either.  If that happens, we are actually better off than this year.



October 15th, 2013 at 11:10 AM ^

Good analysis and post, and pretty much sums it up.  Either the light goes on with a few young linemen or we suffer with this all year.  Good news - it probably won't get any worse and may improve.


October 15th, 2013 at 11:12 AM ^

On other issue I noticed too, but forgot to include (and it's hard to show in still shots) is our guys don't seem to have good hand technique or strength. The defenders were able to yank back and disengage way too easily a lot of times. I wonder if we should be coaching our guys to play a little closer to the edge of holding penalties.


October 15th, 2013 at 11:42 AM ^

I believe they also ran a play with 10 guys on the field. Unless there was another WR that wasn't in the frame.

Williams wasn't on the field and no one lined up next to Bryant. They literally had 8 defenders vs. 5 blockers.  And they ran stretch to the boundry against it.

How does Bryant not notice there is a player missing next to him? How does Gardner not notice? I would even think Fitz would have been able to notice. And not to mention the coaches.


October 15th, 2013 at 11:22 AM ^

These issues are one reason why team go with zone blocking, read options and shotgun-heavy spread.  It still requires good blocking, but it doesn't require perfect blocking.  Say there are six guys on the line, on average (C, Gx2, Tx2, TE) and they run 40 running plays.  That's 240 individual assignments a game, to say nothing of combo blocks or other fancy stuff.  It takes only one bust for a walk-on LB to stop a college running play, so with these plays -- especially against stacked boxes -- everyone has to be perfect.  Not even an NFL line will consistently deliver that.  With a young college offense it's going to happen a LOT more.  So you option off one guy with a simple read, put in constraint plays to hold up 2-3 others, and next thing you know, you're regularly giving the offense challenges that 20-year-olds can handle. 

Borges' approach of telegraphing his plays, not giving the QB time to audible and not running counters or constraint plays puts the O-line in a position that not only they can't do, but NO offense can do.  It takes a lot of work for the DC to go over the tape, but once they do then they can draw up a play for everything Borges does.  The only plays that will work are the few wrinkles he puts in the playbook for a given week, or -- like CMU or Minnesota -- when he renovates the offense with something for which tape doesn't exist.  He is the master of innovating plays that will work for exactly one game.  What he is awful at, and in 2013 this is a good way for an OC to lose his job, is designing an offense around base plays from which you can run multiple plays and adjustments that force the defense to spread themselves thin.  I really don't think it would be any better if this team had more experience.  If it "only takes one guy", then the gameplan sucks.

The coaches keep talking about how the player have to execute, but what they're doing is very difficult, if not impossible.  Defenses aren't made of robots; they're going to go out of their way to try to confuse the O-line and Borges needs an absurdly high success rate on the blocking just to get to 3ypc.  It's nice that they have some long-term plans where once they actually get some decent O-line turnover (by which I mean when a senior OL departs a scholarship RS upperclassman is ready) they can do what they want, but that isn't putting the players in a position to win.  It's doing the EXACT OPPOSITE.  I don't know what number of blocks is needed to get a MANBALL game going, but say it's 90%.  The issue I have with Borges' style isn't that these players are at 60% or whatever.  It's that, combined with the predictability of the offense, they can't get yards even when they win 80% of their blocks, and I'd say even GOOD FBS lines would be happy to take that.  The numbers are ad hoc, but my point is that he's asking the players to do something not only this team can't do, but very few FBS lines can do.  That's inexcusable.


October 15th, 2013 at 11:38 AM ^

The o-line doesn't need to be perfect in either of these schemes. What can't happen though is Glasgow letting a NT go unblocked, Bryant get pushed 5 yards deep into the backfield, and combo blocks not seeing their linebacker. Those problem exist in both schemes. I disagree that running more zone rather than power will help. I actually think they have had a little more success with power.

What I do agree with is that letting the defense load up 8, 9, and sometimes 10 guys into the box is compounding the problem. Now your dealing with 1 or 2 young guys blowing a block on any given play plus 1 or 2 unblocked guys just by design. No chance to succeed there.


October 15th, 2013 at 12:41 PM ^

It's both.  Spread isn't a panacea but if you're not confident in a particular one-on-one matchup you can scheme to option that guy off.  Second, when the defense knows what's coming they can play a numbers game.  In some of those runs PSU left a corner against Gallon on an island.  When they had nine in the box, both wideouts -- and we have two of the best in the conference -- were in single coverage with no safety help.  They ONLY got away with it because Borges all but gave them permission to do so.

Yeah, MANBALL is not inherently inferior to spread.  Zone isn't a panacea but I mention it because among other things it plays the numbers -- if you don't think your O-line can stop a guy (either because the defender is NFL-caliber or your guy is just that bad) you can make a plan to option him off.  Constraint plays are another means -- it's criminal that Borges didn't use Funchess and Gallon to paralyze the safeties.  But as things went the blocking had to be 100% perfect for a hope of positive yardage, and they were almost never perfect.  You can focus on the execution but that the line is inexperienced was a known factor going in.  Borges isn't putting the young line into situations they can handle, and frankly Greg Mattison is a huge reason why these outcomes haven't been far worse.  They blew it at the end of regulation but that was a rare exception.

Blue Mike

October 15th, 2013 at 11:24 AM ^

Looking at the pictures, the problem with the first one is that Gallon is 1 on 1 with a soft corner and no deep help, and we try to run in an 8 on 10 situation.  A quick toss to Gallon and a missed tackle means 6, and maybe PSU thinks twice about putting 10 in the box.  Maybe our inexperienced linemen wouldn't miss so many blocks if there weren't more defenders than blockers all the time.


October 15th, 2013 at 11:38 AM ^

I hate you and your insightful analysis that includes pictures of things that I do not want to process.  Now that all the Kool-Aid has drained, all these things do is sear my brain cells and make me want to kill someone.

Sten Carlson

October 15th, 2013 at 12:01 PM ^

Very nice post reshp1!

I think we're in a similar situation, unfortuantely, as we were in 2008 when RR decided to install his system whole hog, rather than bit by bit.

Before you guys that have grown to hate me recently jump all over me, I am not apologizing for Borges/Hoke's frustrating play calling, I am merely trying to offer perpective.

If you're moving the program to a MANBALL scheme, and you didn't run it last year, nor the year before that, and you're having trouble running it this year, when do you get the OLinemen experience running it?  To me, that is the major issue.  At some point, no matter how well you're executing, you MUST get the players that are going to be playing for the next few years, and the younger guys behind them, experience running your scheme.  You cannot keep altering the scheme and hoping that some how your guys will get it later -- especially when the you have young guys starting, and young guys waiting in the wings.

I know that fans hate this approach.  I know they think that it's easy -- and effective -- to just switch to something else.  But if you keep doing that, then you never have any identity.

Just my $.02 -- now I'll duck for cover.


October 15th, 2013 at 1:09 PM ^

That's all well and good, but this is year 3 - can we honestly say this offense is close to being good at power running, smashmouth stuff like we supposedly want to be? Can we even say that we've significantly improved toward that since 2011? Gardner can throw much better than Denard, but other than that, we're no better at MANBALL than Rich Rod's offenses.

By comparison, 2010 was by no means a perfect offense, but it was much closer to being a good spread offense, and you could see the pieces starting to come together.

The offense looks much more like the GERG defenses with better individual talent bailing us out - confusion, poor technique, no identity, head scratching schemes that seem designed to fail but are used frequently.

I think Funk needs to go, and I think Borges needs to be relieved of QB coaching duties and given direction to find an identity that works with what we have.


October 15th, 2013 at 1:42 PM ^

To be fair to both regimes, this is the direct consequence of cleaning house and implementing your system immediately, consequences be damned (RR) and working with what you have until your guys are ready to make the switch (Hoke). RR had a disasterous first year, not totally his fault, but maybe could have eased the transition by accomodating the guys already there (maybe convince a couple more not to transfer/leave early by doing so too). By year 3, he'd already been drilling the new system for a couple years and as a result the offense was humming by then.

Hoke on the other hand made the desicion they were going to work to Denard's and the linemen's strengths and weaknesses initially and as a result went 11-2 in year one. They basically fixed the defense and copied a lot of what RR was already running on offense. 2012 was a bit more transitional and had more manball elements and as a result saw a regression in offensive efficiency. This year is really year 1 in a what Al and Brady want to do, you can argue it's not even yet. You're seeing a lot of the growing pains RR had in year one in year 3 of Hoke.

Both ways have it's merits. RR's method meant a lot of short term pain that put him on bad footing with the fanbase right away and ultimately, coupled with attrocious defense, was too much to overcome. Hoke came in and acheived instant success, ingratiated himself with the fanbase, but pushed off maturity of his system 2 or more years down the road. Unfortunately, as much as we'd love to, you can't have it both ways.

Sten Carlson

October 15th, 2013 at 2:09 PM ^

Well said.

This is exactly my point.  When RR came in he was criticized for implementing his schemes whole hog.  In his own defense, he explained that the longer your draw out the transition, the longer it takes for the young guys (the guys that will be the future of the program) to "get it" and make it work.  So many rejected this position, and lauded Hoke & Co. for making due with what they had when they came in due to the talent they had in Denard.

As you aptly point out, you cannot have it both ways -- it's really a matter of pain now or pain later, because you WILL feel the pain.  Add that the fact that there is only so much practice time in the day, and season.  It's not like the NFL where a team can basically change their scheme whole scale for a game, then go back.  The line is young, and there are even more young OLinemen behind them.  If they don't work on the power run consistenly, they're ALWAYS going to be in that frustrating transitional state.

I realize that this is frustrating for fans who love to say, "no excuses, win now, or else!"  But, Brady Hoke was brought in to rebuild the program, NOT to win immediately.  Sorry if you feel that is inappropriate, or if you think that was the wrong postion for Brandon to take.  I think Brandon knew the overall state of the program and knew that it was going to take a few years of pain to build it back to where we all want it.  Sucks for us right now at times, but many times in life short term pain for long term success is an absolute necessity.


October 16th, 2013 at 9:45 AM ^

There is a natural timeline here:  One and a half more years.

That's how long we have to transition to true manball and/or a working version of the West Coast offense.  That's when Gardner exhausts his eligibility.  At that point, we're all in.  

Morris can't run like DG.  Four years of your QB being your defacto RB are officially over.  You can't win without a running game, and our QB can no longer be our running game.  The binkie is gone.

That does not mean that we can't skew toward the pass to set up the run, but that run has to be effective.  With a real RB running behind a real OL.

It remains to be seen if we can make that transition without writing off the rest of this year and next year.

MI Expat NY

October 16th, 2013 at 10:01 AM ^

It's not like we were running RR's spread for the last two seasons.  There were a lot of power concepts, even when we were running the Denard Save Us offense.  It's why there's been so much talk about how much zone-stretch blocking we've been doing this year.  That scheme, a huge part of RR's spread, was non-existant for the last two years.  

You seem to to be extending a misconception: running QB out of shotgun-spread look = RR's offense.  That's just not the case.  If we had been running RR's schemes over the last two+ seasons we would have been much better since we had an oline that was actually built for it.  Instead, Hoke/Borges put in their preferred blocking scheme, and now, strangely, in year three have gone away from it a bit.  The only area you can say the full offense maybe wasn't put in was the passing game because that's not what Denard excelled at.  But once Gardner took over, you could see a closer relationship to what Borges wanted in that part of the game.  

In sum, the argument that this year is to manball what 2008 was to RR's running spread is hogwash.  

Sten Carlson

October 15th, 2013 at 1:54 PM ^

"That's all well and good, but this is year 3 - can we honestly say this offense is close to being good at power running, smashmouth stuff like we supposedly want to be?"

Yes, it is year three, but the first two seasons were spent being a Denard-Borges fusion offense.  No, we're not close to being good a smashmouth power running, but how are these young OLinemen going to get good at it if they don't run it in games against live competition?

"I think Borges needs to be ... given direction to find an identity that works with what we have."

Ok.  So, assuming that that identity is NOT power running, and assuming he finds an identity that works with what we have, what happens next season?  Then we have to, once again, try to go back and see if power running will work, despite the fact that they scrapped it midway through the season before.

So again, this is NOT year 3 of power running.  They dabbled with it in 2011, scrapped it.  Dabbled with it again in 2012, scrapped it.  Now they're basically saying that this is going to be our indentity going forward, so we'd better start getting our guys some experience with it, or else well forever be "trying to find an identity."  No?


October 15th, 2013 at 3:45 PM ^

Which part of accomodating the semi-spread requires the O-line to be taught poor technique and targeting for both zone blocking AND man blocking (note that most good teams run some of both)? We do more zone blocking than we did a year ago - how does that play into a transition to "manball"? 

The reality is that the job of the O-line is not that different in spread running. Optioning off 1 guy doesn't negate the need for the OL's to open a hole. You still need to find the right guy and move him effectively. Pass protection has even fewer differences, but we're poor at that too. We're failing at the basics, not 400 level "pro-style" concepts - we don't get push, we let defenders off blocks too easily, we don't communicate and adjust effectively to slants and stunts. All of those concepts ought to carry over from the RR system.

And all of the talk of "identity" is dumb, because no other teams run into a 9 man front repeatedly to no effect as often as we do. It doesn't happen - hence the worst RB game ever. That isn't an identity. A sea slug has a more flexible identity - at least if you drop a rock in front of it, it will eventually go around. If there's a tuba player that only ever plays one note, and plays that one note off key, no one says, "wow, what a great identity he's establishing!" There are not good pro teams that do this - they punish defenses that overplay. There might be some bad high school teams that do it, I guess. But we aren't seeing "pro-style". We're seeing "let's do something we're bad at 30 times a game to set up.... well nothing really".

Sten Carlson

October 15th, 2013 at 4:01 PM ^

"We're failing at the basics..."

I agree, and I just as frustrated as everyone else.  But, Borges is NEVER going to be fired, and neither is Funk.  So, aside from the venom spitting "FIRE BORGES/FUNK!" nonesense, what is the issue? 

To me, there are several issues at play here.  One, is the fact that Michigan has had three different (even if slightly) schemes in as many seasons.  Although that likely isn't the ONLY issue, it certainly cannot help.  OLine development is a long(ish) process, and continuity is essential.  In addition, youth is obviously a factor.  Is it an all encompassing issue?  No.  But, to say it's a nonissue isn't exactly giving it its due.

Aside from the clock-killing aspect of the PSU game, I cannot understand why Borges ran power so much either -- and trust me, I was getting annoyed watching it.  But, there has to be SOME reason beyond "Borges is a moron..." like many people espouse in here. 


October 15th, 2013 at 4:18 PM ^

Your theory is basically 1) we're young and 2) we're doing more MANBALL to transition to it, and we're just having growing pains for the sake of the long term.

I'm asking this truthfully - if your part 2 is correct, how has our "scheme" changed this year, and how has that change been necessitated by our long term planning? The changes I've seen implemented this year:

1) More zone stretch running. Not MANBALL.

2) We added the pistol. Not MANBALL.

3) Tackle over. Sort of MANBALL, but gimmicky, unsustainable MANBALL.

4) More under-center, play action, and I-form. MANBALL.

So only 4 is really something that's moving us toward the supposed long term goal. And even #4 is something we started in 2011. We're doing it in games more, but they were teaching it in practice. And it's not like they've eliminated many of the spread plays - we just use them less often. So next year, we have to change the system AGAIN - will we deploy the same excuses?

So we're not really establishing the long term system, and we're not really playing with only what the current players are best at. We're doing a sort of bastardized thing that, to my eye, is the worst of both worlds: A little bit of power, a little bit of spread, a little bit of zone, but without the fully implemented systems that make those schemes effective. Frankly, I'd rather we just go full pro-style and have growing pains, as long as we actually were going full pro-style, with all the counters, audibles, etc. that that entails.

Sten Carlson

October 15th, 2013 at 4:33 PM ^

So aside from "Borges is a moron..."  what's your take on why they're running what they're running?

I don't have access to practices, but I have to assume there is a reason why they're running some plays and not others.  I agree it seems odd to run something that, a) hasn't worked much all year even against MAC teams; and, b) the opposing defense seems set up to stop. 

It would be one thing to run it a few times, get nothing, the quickly go play action off of it.  Or, after a few TFL's line up in the same formation on 1st down, only to throw out of it with no play action.  The more I read, the more confused I get.  That is why I love coming here -- I learn so much.  I just feel it's important to rule out the "Borges is a moron..." answer as he is clearly not, and if he were doing something completely off base with what Hoke wanted, wouldn't you think Hoke would put a stop to it? 

Again, I am just very confused right now.  Thanks for the input.


October 15th, 2013 at 7:49 PM ^

Is GERG a moron? Is Charlie Weis a moron? Is Lane Kiffin a moron? I doubt it, they're just bad coaches.

So maybe Borges is just a not so good coach who's moderate success to this point was propped up by good talent and/or a great detail-oriented head coach. We don't have the former yet and Hoke is a defense-oriented "Feelingsball" manager, not an Xs and Os wonk. Borges has seen enough football to pick up decent bits and pieces from a lot of systems, but that doesn't mean he knows them deeply, the way RR knows the spread or Mike Leach knows the Air Raid.

Of course, the scarier possibility is that Borges really is a good coach (for a West Coast offense), and Hoke is forcing MANBALL on him. Much like GERG being forced to run the 3-3-5, he's out of his element and flailing.


October 16th, 2013 at 12:14 AM ^

I'm not sure how that second paragraph fits his time at SDSU. They had a very good offense his second year there with fairly mediocre talent--a very good RB (Hillman) and one oustanding receiver (V. Brown), a QB that everyone thought was great but wasn't, really, once Borges was gone, and little else--no linemen from that team were drafted. Maybe they didn't play in a great conference but TCU had the #1 defense in the country, validated that in the Rose Bowl, and SDSU was just about the only team to get any yards or points off them the last eight games of the season.

And the head coach there was the same guy he's working with now. The same O-line coach, too.

MI Expat NY

October 16th, 2013 at 10:10 AM ^

I think all their skill players played or were drafted in the NFL from Borges' "good" year at SDSU.  When compared to the rest of the MWC, that's pretty good talent.  

I also think that TCU result has been blown way out of proportion.  The result was fluky.  SDSU took a quick 14-0 lead, including a defensive touchdown, then TCU scored the next 37 points.  SDSU scored three touchdwons after that to make it a game, but it was one of those classic "we're rolling these guys" letups that allowed SDSU to make it close.  SDSU only gained 300 yards on the day and had 9 straight 3 and outs or worse.  That is not a game to hang your hat on if you're a Borges supporter.  


October 16th, 2013 at 2:20 PM ^

It's a lot better than anybody else did against TCU, the last 3/4 of the season. They got people open downfield, something no other team was able to do. In the six games prior TCU had given up 0, 0, 3, 7, 6 and 7. Only two of their 13 opponents gained more yards than that 300.

I picked that game because there couldn't be any argument about whether it was a good defense--SDSU was clearly outmatched, talentwise, especially up front. I don't know how anybody could argue that SDSU wasn't a good offense that year, but I assume the counter is going to be that they were beating lesser opponents into submission (which I think is mostly untrue) and that it had nothing to do with the staff. But if you compare their offensive performances against the averages put up by their oppoents they were very good to excellent.  BYU was the only game they weren't well above average, they got 21 against a team that averaged giving up 21.5.

One thing that sticks out about their season is the high frequency of 3-and-outs. Borges tends to run a high-variance offense with a lot of deep throws. Having Vincent Brown just gave him even more reason to do what he prefers to do anyway.

Lindley, Brown, Hillman were very good players. (Well, actually, I'm not so sure about Lindley, he was terrible against us and he hasn't shown anything in the prois.) DeMarco Sampson was a seventh round pick but never made an NFL roster. That's it. The line had experience but they hadn't been touted recruits and they got no interest at all from the next level.




October 16th, 2013 at 4:45 PM ^

Well...you kind of answered your own question. The issue is that it's year 3, and we are failing at the basics. While teams around us are making marked improvement as the season progresses (MSU Offense), we appear in decline. 

Also, could the reason simply be that Borgen ran power so much because he's not a very good coach? Just thinking outside the box, but I'm gonna chalk up his continued insistence on running power because he's not very good. Most of his success has stemmed from talented players and / or players that are more talented relative to their competition. 

gustave ferbert

October 16th, 2013 at 7:36 AM ^

so much as simplify?  If these kids (and they are kids) are screwing up so much.  Bryant aiming for LB's hip instead of bowling him over is a pretty complex thought process in a split second.  And the coaching decisions complicated this issue further.  Forging an identity is one thing, but running against 8+ guys in the box when you only have 6 plus the ball carrier is nothing short of lunacy.  I'm sure these kids can process the information better when not overwhelmed to think of having to "chip" another guy's assignment while trying to pay attention to his own assignment. 


October 15th, 2013 at 2:30 PM ^

I have no problem with running power, and trying to get our O-Line good at running it. I do have a problem with how we are running it though. It has no chance of being succesful because we are running it agains 8,9 and even 10 man boxes. Even if it was all blocked perfectly, it has almost no chance of going for more than 4 yards because we are out numbered.

At the very least we need to give Deven the option to throw a bubble screen to a slot, or a quick slant to the WR if the box is stacked. Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler throw the slant to WR's all the time on running plays, its basically free yards.

I  would also like to see us run RB power out of shotgun. We kind of do this with inverted veer, but i would also like to see us put an H-back in there and just run power the the RB. You can also run QB counter off of this look, which is almost the same blocking scheme as power. 

We are so much more effective out of shotgun, and I see know reason we cant run the same schemes (read option, power, stretch) that we run out of I form and pistol out of shotgun.