Dumb Question RE: Offensive Line Strategy

Submitted by LKLIII on December 12th, 2017 at 3:00 PM

I was watching one of our games this year with my MGoWife (very, very grateful that I've got a wife who is reasonably into college football), and I was talking to her about how our pass protection struggled so much on OL.  In particular, I pointed out JBB and how he was such a dichotomous guy w/ his skill set--awesome road grader in the run game, but terrible at pass protection.

Then my MGoWife laid a question on me that I didn't know how to answer.  

Her question:  "If certain offensive linemen are terrible at pass protection, why don't we just swap them out during obvious passing downs?"

I was never a football X's and O's or player/coach type growing up, so I'm at a loss for the answer.  I assume there IS one, since by now you'd think that if it was in fact a viable strategy, it'd be common practice among teams to do it.  We rotate DL all the time & swap different personnel on the defense & offense depending on distance/down/matchup situations.

So why don't we do it on the O-Line?

The element of surprise is no longer needed, and if it's clear the defense is bringing the house, why not insert other guys in place of JBB (or any other guys who aren't good at pass pro/stunt/bliz pick-ups)?

Anyway, seemed like a pretty fair question that my MGoWife had, but one I didn't really have a good answer for since I just didn't grow up with great knowledge of the sport.

Can the more knowledgeable posters on the board break it down for me?





December 12th, 2017 at 7:14 PM ^

Sir the recruit has a Question sir. I use to just laugh when i heard that in basic, because you knew pain was coming. Usually just humiliation but sometimes physical if the Question was beyond stupid, which of course anyone stupid enough to ask a D.I. a question. Well.

Sir the private requests permission to be thrashed sir. Was'nt fun while in basic, but can laugh at it know. Hey dummy don't ask D.I.'s questions.

yossarians tree

December 13th, 2017 at 12:32 PM ^

I was in officer training (these guys were all in college) and I was amazed at how certain guys just kept sticking their necks out for something stupid--dumb questions, drill screw ups, etc. It really was not hard to stay down if you had half a brain, but some of these guys just could not manage it. Shudder to think that they would end up leading men.


December 12th, 2017 at 3:06 PM ^

JBB out; defense knows it is a pass play. JBB in; defense knows it is a run play. You do not want to tip off the defense in this manner. This dramatically lowers your chances of a successful play.


December 12th, 2017 at 6:57 PM ^

and you took JBB out for a better pass blocker, you're not really giving the defense any information they don't already know.  You're gonna pass.

The issue is whether you have a guy that's better at pass pro (we probably didn't) and if you do, he'd probably not be so bad at run blocking that he wouldn't be the starter in the first place.


December 13th, 2017 at 12:31 AM ^

is probably the correct answer for us this year.  Not sure there was a better option for pass pro. 

And my guess as to why it doesn't happen (because it is a reasonable question) more often (ever?) is that it's probably rare to have two tackles that diverge enough in their pass blocking and run blocking abilities to make this worth it, without completely waving the flag about whether you're running or passing (i.e. you'd need your standard down guy to be able to pass block at least decently because you have to be unpredictable enough on standard downs, and at that point, it'd be unlikely to have a guy that is so much better at pass blocking but bad enough at run blocking such that he wouldn't be the starter in the first place).


December 12th, 2017 at 3:07 PM ^

I'd be interested in seeing a rehash of JBB in pass protection. My impression is that while he wasn't great, he wasn't the constant flaming dumpster fire that is sometimes portrayed.

And a large part of that is because the interior line had serious pass pro problems on its own. Specifically with stunts, which they had consistent trouble with. It was, in my uneducated opinion, a bigger factor in our poor pass protection than whomever was playing tackle. But I'd love someone to produce better evidence than my vague recollection to confirm or deny this.


SoDak Blues

December 12th, 2017 at 3:07 PM ^


I was talking to her about how our pass protection struggled so much on OL

You sir, are one lucky man. I have said certain things about recruiting or strategy to my wife, and she asks me if I think I am talking to the blog. 

With regard to your question, I was kind of wondering the same thing throughout the year as the UFRs for run protection improved. Probably pretty obvious to the defense, but on 3rd and 9, they know you are passing anyway...


December 12th, 2017 at 4:22 PM ^

I am absolutely lucky in that regard.  She isn't into it as much as I am--she doesn't post or read the discussion board for example. 

But I HAVE seen her occasionally visit MGoBlog to read up for a game preview on her own accord.  

She even understood & appreciated the "Cue the Muppets" T-Shirt I got her at the start of the season.


December 12th, 2017 at 3:09 PM ^

If a defense sees the pass pro OT come in they bring in extra DB's to defend the pass so the odds of a receiver getting open are slim.


If you bring in the run blocking OT they load the box which makes it impossible to run against.  Similar to what defenses did when O'Korn was playing.


It makes you very predictable and removed any element of surprise.


December 12th, 2017 at 4:13 PM ^

My example was probably a bit extreme, but the more predictable your offense is the harder it is to gain yards.  Of course you could run some gadget plays off of it that might catch the defense off guard.  In my example I was assuming you always pass when the pass blocking guy is in and you always run when the run blocking guy is in.


Being unpredictable is key when running an offense.  If the defense knows what you are doing it makes your offense that much easier to stop.

Mr Miggle

December 12th, 2017 at 4:50 PM ^

Bringing JBB in doesn't mean a run. If the alternative was to leave him on the field all the time, then he was going to be out there for all the passing plays. Throwing a pass when you substitute him in isn't a trick,  The defense is still going to be guessing.

Same with taking him out in a passing situation. It was already a passing down. How much more is the defense going to change? The replacement isn't going to be incapable of run blocking, just not as good as JBB. Plays can be run to the other side too

Some of our standard substitutions can tip plays too. Schoenle in for DPJ, aren't teams thinking it's a run?. Same with multiple TEs or a FB. You have plays that break tendencies and it stays a guessing game. It's not just offenses that have to worry about being predictable. It applies to defenses as well. If they always react the same way to our substitutions, they'll be easy to exploit. 


December 12th, 2017 at 6:45 PM ^

It's the score, Down & Distance, and field position (vertical and lateral) that already makes the play call (and defensive package as well) more or less predictable (or I should say establishes the tendencies); along with the QB and skill position personnel in the game; then the formation. An OT...less so.


December 12th, 2017 at 3:09 PM ^

OP, I think you're assuming that the loss incurred by tipping your hand to the defense would be more than offset by the improvement in pass blocking.

However, the opposite is true, because a defense that is close to certain about a pending pass play can negate the blocker's skill in one of two ways:

(1) send so many rushers (say, 6 or 7) that the D wins on pure numbers regardless of OL skill, or

(2) send so few rushers (say, 3) that the WRs are blanketed, and the extra OL skill provides no advantage.

Put another way, this highlights why the "blocky/catchy" types, deployed properly within Harbaugh's offense, are so valuable: the offense can do radically different things with the same personnel.


December 12th, 2017 at 3:11 PM ^

There's probably not a guy better at pass pro to sub in. Also, pass pro is as much a team skill as it is an individual skill. Having multiple OL combos doesn't exactly help cohesiveness.


December 12th, 2017 at 3:13 PM ^

I don't want to be a downer, and I don't know the answer, but maybe it's because Michigan didn't have anyone good enough to do it, even on obvious passing downs.

The other option is max pro, but I remember guys getting totally confused/O'Korn taking so much time that it didn't matter.


December 12th, 2017 at 3:15 PM ^

This question assumes that we have better pass protecting OL. We don’t.

Also, just not a viable strategy based on tipping the play call as well as chemistry of the line working together.