Calling Space Coyote and other coaches: please help me understand three things

Submitted by trueblueintexas on November 11th, 2013 at 9:02 PM
During the game there were two plays I did not understand the blocking design of at all. I'm hoping someone who understands the nuances of the game can help. Additionally, there is a general question I have. 1) against a four man rush, the entire offensive line zone blocked three defenders to the left and left Fitz one-on-one on the back side with a DE (Greggory, he of the three sacks). Obviously Fitz got abused and a sack ensued. Is there a blocking scheme which purposely says five O-lineman will block three players and leave a RB to go one on one in space? Why would Schofield not help Fitz and let the other four lineman handle three defensive lineman? 2) on a max protect Gardner sprinted to the right. Again zone blocking. The C, RG, RT, TE, and RB all zone blocked to the right. Lewan and Bosch zone blocked going left. That seems bad enough, what happened next is what I really don't get. Lewan barely touched the DE as if he was passing him off to Bosch, Bosch did the same thing, except everyone else who could block was all moving to the right. The DE rushed in for the sack because both routes were covered. Why would two players zone block to the opposite direction of a sprint roll out pass and then both pass off the one guy they are responsible for? I double checked, they were not setting up for a screen because Fitz was fully engaged in zone blocking to the right. 3) this is not play specific. Everyone is well aware of Hoke's feelings regarding Nebraska's claim of knowing what would be run based on tendencies. Forget the specific play call and packages, has anyone seen any evidence that Michigan is somehow tipping its plays? Is there something the O-line is doing which let's the defense know it will be a run to a specific gap before the ball is even snapped? I get guessing run vs. pass but it seemed as though Nebraska's whole defense knew exactly where to run to as well. I appreciate anyone with football intelligence to chime in.



November 12th, 2013 at 10:00 AM ^

i was saying this from day 1 in 2011 with borges.  it was obvious that denard had issues with all of his reads.  so why not just give him one or two.  and if it's not there, take off and run.  he obviously was coached not to run but to stay in the pocket.  roll-out passes should have been a staple in the offense from day 1 with denard or devin.  borges just ain't that bright.  he thought he could turn denard into tom brady and he still thinks he can do the same with devin.

Space Coyote

November 12th, 2013 at 10:06 AM ^

Denard was coached to take off and scramble more. That's why the coaches always talked about it. Denard was supposed to have first read, second read, run, just like Devin is supposed to have this year. There was frustration on the coaches part that he didn't scramble more often or earlier at times.

And Borges did want a lot of roll out passes for Denard. Those are staples of a west-coast offense, but more than that he wanted them to give Denard easier reads and shorter throws while utlizing his run threat. If you go back to UTL 1 and that first season you'll see quite a few roll outs, and then if you look at the UFRs you'll see quite a bit of Brian saying (rightfully) Denard can't throw on the run. He couldn't get the mechanics down, partially because of his lack of pure arm strength in my opinion, so he tried to over throw it, and he still struggled with reads (which is why both Borges and Rich Rod tried to simplify the passing schemes for him and installed non-read based QB runs).


November 12th, 2013 at 11:26 AM ^

Oh great and wise coyote, please enlighten me. I thought that RR use of Denard led to 2700 yds passing and 1700 yds rushing. I thought that Denard was given a special designation as an all american under RR. I thought that when he did this he was a sophomore. He came into Borges first season as a heisman favorite based on RR use of him. Now please help me understand that, since I am not a coach, Denard was a much better player under Borges.


November 11th, 2013 at 10:54 PM ^

We had a few successful 3 step drops in the last game.  Announcer, I think Spielman, was begging for it...and basically calling Borges out.  Can't believe we still try to run any of that slow developing play action garbage when we can't fucking run the ball.  Who would honor that! 


November 12th, 2013 at 2:03 AM ^

Regarding dual-pop schemes: they put a lot of pressure on the guards, and the guards are our weakness. As much as I like the idea of big on big and keeping it "simple", do we really want the Bosches and Magnusons and Kalises deciding when to leave Glasgow alone on the nose? Do we want them setting deep and having them read inside-out on the 2nd level? I would hate to see Bosch trying to get behind Lewan and pick up an edge blitzer. One could say, "It can't be worse," and one might be right. I'm just not sure. If I were the coaches, my first hunch would be to run a lot of these full slides, as they should hold up long enough to get to the three-step drop so that the Gallon-Funchess double slants could work.

I dunno. There doesn't seem to be a great option, protection-wise, for this line. And they don't seem to want to go to a primarily 3-step drop offense, for seemingly decent reasons. First, changing your offense mid-season is a risk. Second, Gardner doesn't seem to be a great pre-snap identifier of defenses, nor a great quick read guy. The line is very poor, but out of the 16 sacks in the past two games, I'd guess 6-8 have been on him. He's not getting the three-step throws out quickly enough. The coverage might account for some. His confidence is certainly lacking, and its understandable because he could get killed on any play. Its a vicious cycle right now. Yeesh.

Mr. Carson

November 11th, 2013 at 11:01 PM ^

Considering we're the only team in the past decade to have back-to-back games with -20 rushing yards, I'd say it really doesn't matter how it's happening.  Funk and Borges should be gone regardless of method.


November 12th, 2013 at 2:10 AM ^

I'd argue that it does matter, for a few reasons. First, because it does. Second, because it is football, and football is important to us. Third, because knowledge is good. Do you want to Fire Borges? If so, this gives you real things to discuss (what kind of fat retard calls slide protections on five step drops?, etc) rather than giving vague "play-calling" complaints and arguments over the importance of truthfulness at press conferences.

In short, this stuff is what comprises the plays that are being called when we are complaining about play calling. Its good to have a bit of an understanding. So when we hire the next guy that we eventually want to fire, we will know what his tendencies are. This might even help us decide if he is predictable or not.

Space Coyote

November 12th, 2013 at 8:54 AM ^

If it doesn't matter how it's happening, then how do you fix it? How is being ignorant to the reasons behind failure a thing that doesn't matter? If you want to learn something, get better at something, have knowledge in your discussions, why matters. I'm not just talking football here, that's a life skill.


November 11th, 2013 at 11:16 PM ^

Space I have two questions for you

1. Given that our changes at center & guard have most certainly NOT worked out for the better, why do you think the coaches havent made the switch back?  Kalis & Miller were doing way better than this IMO.

2. Damn it.  I had a great second question but for the life I cant remember it now.  

Now I remember....given that we've got a pretty good defense it would seem to me that they would be killing these plays in practice cause everybody else does.  Why do you think Hoke doesnt see this and do something about it?  I cant believe a Mattison defense would struggle against a Borges offense.


November 11th, 2013 at 11:26 PM ^

Regarding question 2, I asked Heiko about this in a thread last week. Heiko did ask Mattison about this. (Not taking credit for Heiko asking, just pointing out that at least myself and Heiko thought similar things last week) Mattison's response was that he was so busy trying to get the defense to play their best he didn't have time to worry about the offense. Now I don't believe that for one second. Most experienced coaches are naturally team oriented and would not withhold info from another coach if they thought it would help the team win. My bet is, Mattison and. Hoke have noticed it, there's just not much they can do about it. Sighs...

Space Coyote

November 11th, 2013 at 11:30 PM ^

1. I don't think they were much better. I discussed this at quite a bit of length in the link in my signiture (a couple sections down).

2. I guess I'm confused here a bit. Are you talking about seeing pass pro issues, tendency issues, play selection issues? Trying to figure out how to answer this question without trying to answer all those because that woud be a bit long-winded. Sorry for the confusion.

Edit: be careful how you answer this, it's for point 14,000!


November 11th, 2013 at 11:39 PM ^

LOL....I guess all of the above.  I have to believe that our offense does just as poorly in practice as they do in games.  Which leads me to wonder what's happening in practice.

You're a coach and I used to coach.  I know that plays that we ran in practice that worked against our defense were generally used and plays that failed were never used.  So I have to belive, on some level, that the defense is being told to hold back and not destroy the play in practice.  Or something.  

it just makes no sense to me that the blocking assignments (or lack thereof) arent just as visable on Tuesday as they are on Saturday.  

I'm not sure if I clarified that or not.  

Space Coyote

November 12th, 2013 at 12:29 AM ^

To be honest, I really don't want to go over each of those things independently because it would take a lot of time. I think some of the "tipping" issues are being overstated. It certainly isn't that Michigan isn't above tendencies, and as I've said, they likely lean on tendencies a bit more than some others because of youth at the TE position mostly, but it's not to an extreme degree.

As for the defense holding up, I don't see that. The coaches on that side of the ball are trying to improve them too. They have enough things to work on and get better at that it would do them a complete disservice to hold them back.

I think some of it is probably true with regards to what Hoke says. I do bet they are executing better in practice than they are in the heat of the game. That's to be expected of young players. I'm also guessing they just aren't very good in practice either.

I dunno, without getting long winded it's a tough question to answer. I certainly know Borges doesn't enjoy running head first into a brick wall. But he also understands that this team more than almost any other team can't afford to be one-dimensional. God forbid you let a defense pin it's ears back completely (the little amount more compared to what they're doing already). I dunno, I can't excuse it all, because I don't agree with it all. And I think they all see the issues at OL. I just don't know what they can do about it besides keep repping it and keep throwing them out there and trying to get them better. I don't think they can do much else at this point anyway.

Sorry I can't give a better answer right now, I feel like you deserve a better one, honestly. But without getting more into it, I just can't do it.

Sten Carlson

November 11th, 2013 at 11:54 PM ^

Space Coyote, you are the man! Love reading your detailed posts here and at MGoBrew. I love hearing guys take your posts and simply reply, "fuck that, tired of excuses, rabble rabble rabble!" And they talk about denial. Everything has causes, and they are what they are for Michigan right now.

Curious what you think about my idea about Hoke's dogmatic determination to get these young OLinemen to learn by doing rating than trying to hide them with quirky schemes. I feel like he would be doing the program a long term disservice if he didn't just give them a baptism by fire.


Space Coyote

November 12th, 2013 at 12:21 AM ^

But there also is some maybe not so truths to it. Basically since this coaching staff took over, the vast majority of the plays have been Power blocking. From the inverted veer to a lot of the QB runs, it's all been power blocking. So they've been running with that for the most part from the start.

Now, I don't think they are going to switch everything they do and are trying to build for simply to hide the OL (which is hard enough to do anyway). Some people seem to be calling for that, but I don't think it's realistic. You can't completely abandon what you're trying to work to one year and say "we'll come back to it next year when we have time", because then you never get there, you never learn.

I believe it was you that said something about "this usually happening in practice but Hoke doesn't have that luxery". I thought that was spot on. Michigan would be running this if they had more experienced players and at that time people would be begging for these guys to be in the game because the next guy is always better. "The 2nd string QB is always the best player on the team... until he plays." They were bound to get some trial by fire, you can't really get around it realistically. Now, it's unfortunate that it has to be in real game action, but hopefully it makes them improve faster than they otherwise would.

So like I said, I think there is some to a lot of truth in what you're saying, but I don't think this off season came and they simply flipped a switch and decided it was time to go to their desired offense.


November 12th, 2013 at 10:05 AM ^

If this is true, what is the rationale for taking Kalis out and moving Magnusson to gaurd? If the coaches were trying to balance between the best chance for winning today with preparing for the future, I would think you would move Schofield inside and let Magnusson run at tackle. The coaches are still trying to get Kalis reps via the 6 lineman formations they continue to play. So it seems like they are trying to develop players for next year. I know you have addressed this, it seems like the coaches are still searching for the most "optimal" solution for this year.

Space Coyote

November 12th, 2013 at 10:09 AM ^

It's a trial by fire, but certainly they still want to win now. Mags was and probably is the better pass protector and probably has been a bit better at doing his assignments correctly, which is why he got out there.

I don't think the 6 OL thing is as much about getting another O-linemen reps as it was trying to find another player that can actually block. This goes for both the run and pass game. They were trying to simplify things for others (like the young TEs) and hoping that would help out the RBs a bit. It's had mixed results, as you well know.


November 12th, 2013 at 9:57 AM ^

I think people are impatient and demand winning now...which...unfortunately, is not realistic. It may have been a perfect storm that created all of this. Unfortunately, the storm seems to be raging back to the days of tressel getting hired, Lloyd "leaving the cupboard bare", transitioning out of the spread, and now youth at the oline. Argh.

My philosophy though is, unless we can nab some super high profile OC /O line coach, I think we hang tough and just ride it out. A change in offense with terminology changes etc. is likely going to set us back even more. If we can't develop these great oline recruits into something by '15....and I mean a team that can flat lay the WOOD to sparty, and Ohio...well then, we are 'effed..and the storm rages on.

Sten Carlson

November 12th, 2013 at 1:02 AM ^

Thanks for the reply SC!

I really like what you said elsewhere about this being a very hard offense to stop when the OL play is better. I've been think all season that if the OL could just become average, making the play action effective, with DG's skills it could be deadly. Obviously that's not happened, and likely won't. But, DG and everyone will learn from their mistakes and be better for the struggle.

I am a firm believer is the power and utility of failure as a learning tool. Being given permission try and fail is essential for growth. I think so many people fear failure so much that they don't want to even try, being satisfied with keeping safe. I think that is what upsets me most about people that deride these young kids. They're out there with everyone watching, trying and failing, but whether amateurs see it or not, they're getting a careers worth of learning in one season. I think that is why many times you see the younger brother in a family of brothers being the one that excels the most athletically. He was beat up, held down, and failed to beat his bigger brothers his whole life as a kid. That willingness to fight through adversity is what makes champions, not necessarily winning immediately. But, sadly, that doesn't cut it in our sound bite instant gratification society many times. Someone is always at fault and must pay for failure.

I'm excited for these kids going forward, and it will be all the more satisfying when they reach their potential.


November 12th, 2013 at 3:17 AM ^

when you haven't done any learning.

When Michigan's offense shows it can look like something resembling a very bad offense instead of an absolute dumpster fire, then praise them. 

Right now, I see an offense that has been bad all season and has continued to get worse. Failute can be a learning experience, but the key word in there is CAN and it certainly didn't look like anyone learned anything the last 2 weeks. Right now, it's just failure, and if you fail at a high level, expect to be criticized.

Sten Carlson

November 12th, 2013 at 9:35 AM ^

Would it be any different if you had expected them to be horrible from the beginning? I'd be willing to bet that if one were to have had a brutally candid conversation with Hoke and Borges preseason about the offensive expectations they would have said not to expect much because of the OL situation. Now, I think they are shocked at just how inept they are, and most assuredly some of that falls on coaching. But, youth and simple L.O.F.T. obviously is part of the equation.

I am not saying that we have to praise them, although I'll bet they would appreciate some public good vibes. Hoke is in a very precarious spot here with the OL. He has to give them tough and send message to the team that this kind of performance is not acceptable to Michigan. But, he also needs to show the OL some TLC, if you will, so as to not shatter whatever shred of confidence is still in tact and make their failures into learning experiences. Coaches have to be master psychologists, and it's going to be interesting to see if Hoke & Co. are up to the task. I think they are, and unfortunately for Funk, I think maybe his pink slip is going to be used as a tool to tell the OL that it's not their fault entirely. Maybe, maybe not.


November 12th, 2013 at 1:12 AM ^

I just wish Borges could work with DG and his slot receivers on some quick timing passes. IF DG in the shotgun he should get a couple seconds no matter what the line is doing. The OC should make these defenses pay for what they are doing against us.

Space Coyote

November 12th, 2013 at 9:30 AM ^

Is that there should probably be a change at the OL coaching position. Now, again, I'm not in practice, I'm not seeing if these guys just aren't transferring the ability to play on Saturdays, if they are going over the same things over and over and still just not getting it at all and have no self-respect (Ron English complaint) or what. But I kind of doubt it's from a lack of effort or caring. So to me, something isn't getting through with Funk's teaching methods, which from an outsiders POV seems like a coaching change is probably appropriate.


November 12th, 2013 at 9:37 AM ^

All you coaches, and especially SpaceCoyote - 

A huge thank you for taking so much time and educating this line play moron. This has been incredibly enlightening and part of what makes me keep reading MGoBlog.

Your point about the teaching methods and techniques used hits home. It's a complex blend of confidence in the larger scheme, confidence in themselves, and confidence in their teammates' abilities to understand what they need to do that has to condemn the current coaching staff. Watching Lewan come over after the second series, point the young ones to the bench, and scream WTF is happening at them was brutal.

I'm just wanting to put back on my rose-colored glasses...




Sten Carlson

November 12th, 2013 at 9:40 AM ^

As a piggie back question, do you think it's time for Fred Jackson to retire? Given how little running room the RB's have has I realize that it's hard to assess his performance as a coach, but I don't think I'm alone in feeling like Michigan RB's seem to be leaving a lot of potential and talent on the sideline while other teams keep finding guys that seem to have some pop in their games. Mike Hart comes to mind, as does Tyrone Wheatly. Any thoughts?

Space Coyote

November 12th, 2013 at 10:02 AM ^

If anything, the worst thing is the lack of blocking development from the RB level. I see little improvements in them. Little improvements in their footwork, how they sink their hips, etc. But, to some degree you're kind of right, none have seemed to make a jump. I don't know if he's just not into as much, getting worn out, or what, but I think he'll retire within the next few seasons at the longest (I wouldn't be surprised if it was after this season).

Wheatley would be a great hire. I'm not sure it happens though. If he has hire aspirations, such as moving up to an OC or something, he's likely better off staying as an NFL RB coach and moving straight to an OC job at some level, if not the NFL level. So moving back would have to require some sort of new title (assistant head coach) and at least equal pay. But he would be a great hire, and not just because he's a Michigan man.

Hart has seen some success from the RB position at EMU, but I still have questions for him. Hart was a great on-field leader, but in many ways I question the off-field character and how that translates to the coaching profession. He could be good, he could be viable, but I think they would have to really look at him and see if he's truly a fit.

I think beyond Wheatley, that's what it'll come down to. They interview and search a few areas and really take a strong look at fit within the program, coaching abilities, and things of that nature. They may move Manning over to RBs and hire a different position coach. So there is some flexibility there.


November 12th, 2013 at 9:33 AM ^

This should have been a basic part of our offensive scheme this year from the very beginning. It doesn't require a very young interior OL to sustain blocks for slow-developing downfield patterns, and it also can put DG out into space on the edges where his running ability is particularly dangerous.


November 12th, 2013 at 9:43 AM ^

I agree it's not from lack of effort or caring but there just seems to be a huge disconnect and the players aren't getting it.  Your rational and insightful responses are appreciated.  Meant in response to Space's answer.


November 12th, 2013 at 12:13 PM ^

Great thread. To build on the questions about Michigan tipping their plays (or not), what do our resident coaches think about the suggestion that Michigan's offense isn't built in a way to punish defenses for selling out to stop likely plays? So maybe we don't tip our specific play every time, but we aren't prepared to exploit defenses for attacking our tendencies in unsound ways.

I'm a poker player by trade. A key concept in poker is that every bet needs to have the possibility of being a strong hand or a bluff. So a bet with a certain hand might not be bad in itself, but if you're not capable of making the same bet with a balanced range of hands, a good opponent can exploit your strategy.

Is something similar happening with our offensive strategy? That is, our individual plays are not bad, but our overall strategy allows the opponent to attack us in an effective way a high % of the time?

steve sharik

November 12th, 2013 at 9:24 PM ^

Young linemen could be tipping run/pass with their stances. Young linemen could be not knowledgeable enough to run all the schemes because of all the line calls that have to be made. There may simply not be enough talent to run certain schemes that an offense would ordinarily run (e.g., inside zone). (By the way, I personally find it ludicrous to try outside zone as a switch up with really young players. Zone gurus run nothing but, and that's ask they practice because they feel it takes that much repetition and if you're good at it you don't need any other scheme.)

I haven't watched film, nor do I have a playbook with which to answer these questions. At no point had this staff had a roster that would allow them to fully implement scheme on either side of the ball.

That was a long way of saying that only time will tell.

Year of Revenge II

November 12th, 2013 at 1:23 PM ^

My life-long friend and I both matriculated to, and graduated from, UM in early 70’s.  We both have professional degrees.  My grandfather/father were/are UM grads with professional degrees. 


Now my friend has a theory, which we admit we cannot definitely prove, that Space Coyote’s real identity likely is none other than Al Borges. 


Having read and gleaned from numerous threads his defense of UM coaching in copious respects, of Borges’s PSU game strategy, particularly end-of-game PSU strategy, almost all things MSU, and now regarding Nebraska on various topics, I must say that I suspect my friend and game-day watching buddy is right.


I’m not getting into any logic debate with these two, er…., this guy, though.  I’ve experienced enough losing this year, several times even while winning.  I say, “IF we are wrong, and we very well could be, then to dispel all doubt, bring forth the evidence!!!”  If we are right, then we say many questions regarding to what is happening on Saturdays finally has a plausible explanation.  Can you just imagine, then, what it took for them, er… Borges, to stay abreast of all the blogging developments?  No man, even with his experiences and training, could then put 11 Michigan Men in spaces where 11 non-Michigan Men were NOT within well-defined territorial boundaries, even if they could “execute”.  Or, in the case of blockers, put them were the non-Michigan Men were, or were expected to be given past locations of a somewhat repetitive nature.


If Al Borges is out there, then let him reveal himself.  If he is not, and “change is gonna come” is but a truism for life rather than Michigan Man offensive philosophy and production, then maybe the lyrics to the MSU fight song are more clever than they first appear.

G. Gulo of the Dale

November 12th, 2013 at 1:46 PM ^

... A case of schizophrenia, with a twist of psychological projection.  So, you and your "life-long friend" are actually the same person, and you're projecting that duality onto Space Coyote. 

We're onto you, YoR2 (or, should I say, "you are two").  You can't get away with these shenanigans in a "post-Beautiful-Mind" era.   

Year of Revenge II

November 12th, 2013 at 2:26 PM ^

Nah. My friend exists. We grew up together as acolytes in the same church. YoR2 stands for "Year of Revenge" my father dubbed the year after Burt Smith, MSU AD, voted for Ohio State to go to Rose Bowl instead of UM. 2 just meant I was the succeeding generation.  Inventive and clever comment you had though, but I hope you didn't lose the true point of the post. My bad if that was the case, but I wanted to be as gentle as I could out of respect.

We had another theory that someone whose last name was "Orges" made a big play at the Mirage window on PSU gameday, but we were just joking, kind of like this one.


November 12th, 2013 at 2:47 PM ^

I like how there are actual coaches in here dropping actual football knowledge and you've still got a great deal of MGoIdiots trying to argue with them even though it's clear to everyone involved they have no idea what they are talking about.

Such is internet.

Kudos to the peeps who are actually asking good questions though, and much respect to all of our resident coaches for providing excellent insight and answers.