Can we talk about the offensive line and what this means?

Submitted by wolverine1987 on September 24th, 2017 at 9:44 AM

When you go through the offensive snowflakes thread you find that 90% of the discussion is around JOK's performance, understandably so. But I have to say that the largest impact this game made on me, beyond the happiness for JOK, was that it appeared to the untrained eye that our o-line is regressing, not progressing. Purdue came into the game with 1.5 sacks- against bad teams, yet there was constant pressure throughout the game. In fact only JOK's feet kept us from disaster a couple of times. If this was Iowa/PSU/OSU fine, you might say those guys are better than our inexperienced guys on the right side. But Purdue objectively has inferior talent on both sides of the ball, and yet: Ulizio continued to get owned. MO was shaky, and the rate of mental busts all over the line looked to me to be the highest so far this year. 

I don't know man, not to debbie downer this win but that was concerning. You guys agree or am I too negative?



September 24th, 2017 at 10:17 AM ^

Stunts and twists are still a problem for this line. Experience and playing together to get the assignments right are going to take time, it appears. Got my fingers crossed this will all be sorted out by the time we play PSU.

M Ascending

September 24th, 2017 at 11:04 AM ^

Not just the right side. How Mason completely whiffed on a blitz that crunched Speight, preferring to double team a non threatening outside rusher and leave the Blitzer untouched is beyond me.

We thought the addition of Frey would be a huge plus. Doesn't yet appear so. Have to wonder if he and Drevno are on the same page or are sending mixed messages to the OL.


September 24th, 2017 at 12:59 PM ^

It's too early to pass judgment on Frey's addition. Four games in it does not look good but it's way too soon to expect Frey to have turned these guys into Alabama.

And don't discount the fact that there isn't exactly a ton of OL to choose from.. Hoke may have left some great defenders behind but he left the OL cupboard basically empty. Kugler is a 5th year who couldn't beat out the mediocre guys in front of him, Bredeson, Onwenu are both young and for as good as Cole is he isn't a true OT. Then there's Ulizio, ugh... OL take time to develop in general and continuity amongst the unit is key too. 

That said, O'Korn's mobility could help mitigate some of the protection issues this year.. rolling him out, designed runs, etc. 

Sten Carlson

September 24th, 2017 at 4:19 PM ^

It's not a pure "bare cupboard" argument like in the Carr to RR transition. See my post below. It's a continuity issue. We've not seemed to have a whole OL class (or even most of class) come up and through the pipeline together. It's a hodgepodge of guys when OL play is about unity, commication, and chemistry. Some of it is the previous regime's recruiting and development (or lack there of) so is on Harbaugh's first class, some is just bad luck (injury and recruiting misses).


September 24th, 2017 at 3:31 PM ^

National Champion Clemson started:

LT - Sophmore

LG - RS Sopmore

C - RS Senior

RG - RS Junior

RT - Sophomore

#1 S&P Offense Oklahoma started:

LT - RS Sophmore

LG - RS Freshman

C - Junior

RG - RS Sophmore

RT - Sophomore

Michigan is returning 54 OL starts this year.

2016 Clemson returned 46 OL starts.

2016 Oklahoma returned 32 OL starts,

Sten Carlson

September 24th, 2017 at 4:22 PM ^

Sure, but 42 of those 54 starts are Mason Cole (has he missed a start here or there?) So the other 4 starters have just 12 starts between them. But wait, there's more! Ulizio, Onwenu, and Kugler are first time starters. So actually, those 54 starts were distributed among 2 players in Cole and Bredeson. 2 guys with 54 starts (one with 42, the other with 12) 3 with ZERO.

How are those starts diatributed respectively on the Clemson and Oklahoma rosters you detailed? I'll bet they're not as lopsided as Michigan's.


September 25th, 2017 at 9:04 AM ^

"But my point stands, the distribution is nothing like Michigan's"


The distribution isn't the SAME as Michigan's - but it is absolutely "something like" Michigans.


Michigan has 1 experienced player, 1 inexperienced player, and 3 players with zero experience.


Oklahoma had 3 inexperienced players, and 2 players with zero experience.


Oklahoma was the #1 offense in the country.


We were #40 last year (with WAY more experience than Oklahoma)... and we're significantly worse so far this year.





September 25th, 2017 at 12:01 PM ^

Because the number of starts is so much lower.



2x0 starts +

3 x <15 starts



3x0 starts

1 x <15 starts

1 x >15 starts


Should not be the difference between the #1 offense in the country and something like the #80 offense in the country.


Does having less experience, and more first time starters matter? Absolutely.

Should it matter THAT much, given recruiting and coaching? Not even close.



September 25th, 2017 at 12:02 PM ^


Michigan has more new starters - but the Oklahoma guys haven't been "in the pipeline" LONGER.


LT -

Michigan: 2.5 years in pipeline, 42 starts, 4* (0.9408) recruit

Oklahoma: 2 years in pipeline, 13 starts, 3* (0.8731) recruit

LG -

Michigan: 1 year in pipeline, 12 starts, 4* (0.9790) recruit

Oklahoma: 1 year in pipeline, 0 starts, 3* (0.8674) recruit

C -

Michigan: 2.5 years in pipeline, 1 start, 4* (0.9696) recruit

Oklahoma: 2 years in pipeline, 11 starts, 2* (0.7783) recruit

RG -

Michigan: 1 year in pipeline, 0 starts, 4* (0.9459) recruit

Oklahoma: 2 years in pipeline, 0 starts, 3* (0.8775) recruit

RT -

Michigan: 2 years in pipeline, 0 starts, 3* (0.8342) recruit

Oklahoma: 1 year in pipeline, 9 starts, 4* (0.8986) recruit

Sten Carlson

September 25th, 2017 at 12:12 PM ^

Make your point, please.

My point it's systemic and Michigan's system was broken, and I don't think the same can be said for OU's and certainly not Clemson's. I didnt look at OU, but with a quick look at Clemson they've had the same OC since 2014 and the same OL coach since 2011. That's continuity, and that's what Michigan has lacked.


September 25th, 2017 at 1:03 PM ^

Michigan offensive lineman have been in the same system just as long as the starters at Oklahoma last year had been.

Last year was the 2nd year for Oklahoma with Riley as OC. His first year as OC they had the #7 offense in the country.

It should not take a line full of experienced starters with 3-4 years in the same system


September 24th, 2017 at 12:54 PM ^

Issac did whiff on blitz pick up and I'm hoping it was only because of some lingering effect from last weeks core injury but he is our best back and most productive so far. He would have probably 2 more TDs this year if the staff wouldn't yank him on every first and goal. For whatever reason the staff is not playing to their strengths this year. The most targeted receiver in the red zone this year has been Crawford and generally on fades/go's before Black's injury it baffled me why Black was not the redzone target, or Gentry, or McKeon or even Ian "Houdini" Bunting who has completely disappeared, regardless use your size match up. Same thing at RB, why we don't give Khalid "Hammering Panda" Hill the ball on 1st and Goal from the 5-9 yard line is beyond me, the guy made his hay and literally earned his nickname from hammering it in from short range. Outside of that, yanking Isaac once you hit the redzone is a dick move in my opinion, he does all the RB work to get you down there and you reward someone else i.e. Higdon and Evans(wouldn't mind if it was Hill honestly cause that would be smart) giving them touches to try to punch it in for a TD. And when you run the dang ball RUN IT TO YOUR STRENGTH! Why the hell we would choose to run behind Onwenu-Ulizio over Cole-Bredeson is frustrating, no wonder you lose 2-3 yards on 2nd and goal, you're running behind the two weakest points of your line. What happened to the train? What happened to extra OL, what happened to the creativity. Play to your strengths, and stop shooting yourself in the foot. End Rant.


September 24th, 2017 at 11:01 AM ^

I think the OL issues this week, in terms of pass protection, was more diffuse than just the preponderance of right sided line issues we've seen to date.

Yes, the RB's have not consistently picked up blitzes. The WR's too often don't seem to get great separation, and that likely causes the QB to hold on to the ball longer.

In addition, in the 1st 3 games, Harbaugh's love of the vertical passing game was apparent, modified, finally, against Purdue. We need to run routes that are quicker, so as to get rid of the ball quicker and place less of a demand on our pass protection.

Having said all that ... the run blocking has been inconsistent and sub-par all along the line all season to date. Left, right, or up the middle ... there is no spot that is money on 3rd and short.

At this point, this is not a classic Michigan OL or even a dominant line. Hopefully, it will grow into one.


September 24th, 2017 at 11:24 AM ^

Some of the blocking from RBs was not exactly stellar.  Kind of makes me wonder about Jay Harbaugh our RB coach.


September 24th, 2017 at 10:07 AM ^

Evaluating OL play is such a fluid process though. I've seen a lot of really good running backs & QBs make poor OLs look good and I've seen a lot of mediocre RBs and bad QB decisions make good offensive lines look pretty bad. What's not helping is that prior to the second half of yesterday's game, play-calling has done NOTHING to help mitigate some of the offensive problems. 


UM's current RB situation is Chris Evans who needs a hole to burst through and who still goes down a bit too easily when a gaping one isn't there, Karan Higdon who on too many plays shows little to no vision, and Ty Isaac who has to the naked eye looked like the best RB on the team but who always seems to get fewer carries than we'd like to see. All of them struggle with pass blocking at times.


The timing is off on some of the blockings because again, 3 RBs with 3 different skillsets are struggling to set up blocks. Then you have play-calling which calls run on 1st into a stacked box, followed by run on 2nd into a stacked box, and then a slow developing 3rd down play with unproven and inexperienced wideouts outside Perry that defenses just attack relentlessly. Sometimes too it's Speight holding on to the ball for far too long. And then again, the RBs struggle with pass blocking, so let's keep stubbornly getting stuck in 3rd and long and relying on RBs in blitz pick-up.


Once Purdue was put on its heels a little bit with some quicker passes to TEs and even some first down throws, things opened up and the offense (including the line) looked more competent.


So how much of it is the OL vs. running backs vs. poor QB play vs. JV football play-calling is going to be fun to talk about over the next two weeks.


September 24th, 2017 at 10:38 AM ^

It really is quite obvious and you pretty much touched on it. Because Speight and our young receivers are unproven teams are stacking the box and playing downhill to stop the run. They have no fear of Speights ability's and are daring Michigan to beat them with the pass. The o-line cannot block 7 or 8 guys who are run blitzing. This will only continue until Michigan starts hitting teams for big plays as they did against purdue. Speight is playing scared and with no confidence and defenses feed off of that. Enter OKorn and he starts hitting wide open receivers as he will continue to do against over aggressive defenses. The plays are there to be made. No offensive play calling will work without a competent QB. Okorn also opens up a lot of other possibilities and puts more pressure on defenses because he runs a 4.4 forty. There is no QB controversy as we saw how the offense can go with the right QB.

Also our offense does not have to be off the charts great. It just has to be efficient. Our defense gave up ten yards in the second half to purdue. Completely shut them down and shut them up. This team is just going to grow as the season goes on. I do question sometimes the players we use on some plays. Wide receiver screens or quick outs should go to DPJ period. He is the fastest and strongest wr so why not utilize that. There is a lot of talent on this team and we have only scratched the surface. Sit back and enjoy!!!.

yossarians tree

September 24th, 2017 at 11:37 AM ^

VERY GOOD  quarterback play solves most of these issues. The coaches are being very conservative because they have an incredible defense and they are trying to win the game. I do agree that short passes will help the QBs get some confidence and rhythm. EXCELLENT quarterback play would be nice. We have not had that in a long time. We will not have that until Peters or McCaffrey gets some experience and development. 


September 24th, 2017 at 12:47 PM ^

with his mobility i can see them moving the pocket more on passes to avoid the rush.  he also seemed pretty comfortable throwing on the move.

given that the RBs are also pretty bad at blocking, i would like to see them chip a blitzer then move into the flat for an outlet pass.  hardly ever see that.

at any rate, they have a bye week to work on a lot of things.

this young D, though, is unbelievable at this early stage.


September 24th, 2017 at 10:50 AM ^

of the idea that we were saving plays for tougher future opponents.

I do think, on the other hand, that there was a hope we could establish line dominance and grind other teams down, and that this--especially the outset of games--has contributed to the sense of stagnant play-calling.

There may also be a feeling that banging hard in the beginning, whether hugely successful or not, wears defenses down as a game goes on. 

This discussion will cease to matter, though--it won't matter a lick what the rationale(s) were--if some more creative play-calling doesn't come in future games. 

Was listening to the conversation last night about how Brian Kelly gave up play-calling to spend more time with his players. I think that this conundrum, for clever HCs, faces most coaches. 

Jimmy's going to be tested down the stretch a little in terms of offensive game-planning; it will be interesting to see what path he takes. It could be that Speight's injury and O'Korn's emergence simplify things for him in productive ways. 


September 24th, 2017 at 11:31 AM ^

You should absolutely be skeptical of the idea that we are saving big play calls for big opponents. After all, this coaching staff arrived in 2015 and 2016 with the opposite mentality -- "give the good opponents so much on film that their defenses could never possibly master it all."

Occam tells me it's much more likely that we are very young, and/or Drevno is over-hyped, and/or P.Hamilton is over-hyped...than the likelihood that Harbaugh has, in one offseason, completely overhauled his philosophy of aggressively giving opponents the maximum to prepare for.

A counter might read as: "Well we've (just this season) reached an inflection point in terms of the percentage of scholarship guys that Harbaugh hand-picked, so it's reasonable to expect an inflection point in play calling. However, (a) that sort of switch has never been discussed of his previous stops (Stanford and SF) and (b) no matter the roster make-up, this offense isn't yet well trained enough to survive without constitutively clever playcalling.


September 24th, 2017 at 11:40 AM ^

Harbaugh has to know the bolded portion is true. Do his screens, dives, and clever gadget plays require more offensive competency than we have?

If so, that might implicate some group other than (/beyond) the OL (seeing as this OL a carbon-copy of the last two; i.e., equivalent in the magnitude of their Underwhelming Coefficient and Turnstile Rate). Is it the WRs? Their blocking seems fine. But their routes have been rough. Is it the QBs? Pre-Iowa Speight ran a more inventive offense very well last season, but he's never returned to pre-Iowa form. Could there be lingering injury mechanical or confidence issues?

It'll be interesting to see what happens to the playbook under O'Korn. It'll also be interesting to see how we explain things if the playcalling becomes suddenly inventive.

On the basis of insufficient evidence, we could stumble onto a lot of bad beliefs -- that the plays were saved for MSU and beyond, and/or that they were the product of O'Korn being a better heir, and/or that Speight had been playing at less than 100% since Iowa, and/or that the rest of the offense finally put it all together in the IDLE week.

That would all combine to save Drevno from the hot seat.


September 24th, 2017 at 7:36 PM ^

needing to master the basic before moving on to the advanced.

He said he's not dumbing it down. Fine. But I maintain that he simply has not opened it up, because we're still learning on the job.

He knew it would be like this. He said over and over how this is the only major sport at any high level where there are no practice games.


September 24th, 2017 at 12:23 PM ^

You are right on. I rewatched the first half. When Speight was around he did not dump it off to an open receiver underneath. He kept looking for a long play most of the time and the OL could not hold on that long or the play recognition wasn't done correctly to see a free blitzer.

I feel like putting it all on OL sounds too much. This offense is not in sync yet and the defensive play recognition needs to be shared up. JoK definitely helped out OL by quickly releasing the ball and taking shorter throws.