Former NFL DE on Lewan and his opinion on our stacked lines

Submitted by 1464 on April 11th, 2014 at 12:39 PM

A former NFL DE reviews Lewan's play during last year to evaluate his draft stock.  I'll let you read the article, but here's a money quote:

Basically, Michigan was cheating [ed: not literally] lining up a tight end to Lewan's side. But it was the stupidest kind of cheating ever.



April 11th, 2014 at 12:51 PM ^

Why didn't Hoke or Mattison say anything when Lewan was helped by a TE? I understand that it's Borges' show, but when he's failing miserably and there are obvious problems, why didn't another coach say something? Why didn't Hoke overrule him?


"you have a tight end helping before he goes out into his route. Lewan, who doesn't need the help any damn way, blocks the hell out of the edge rusher. But the rest of Lewan's buddies on the Michigan O-line aren't quite as, well, good as he is, so the quarterback is under pressure and ends up sacked."


April 11th, 2014 at 12:54 PM ^

The list of "Why didn't Hoke step in?" questions regarding the decisions regarding offense the last couple seasons is very, very long. Doesn't exactly defuse the notion that the guy is getting paid $4 million a year to coach nose tackles, recruit and enforce catchphrases.


April 11th, 2014 at 1:19 PM ^

He's getting paid to run the team. He hired veteran coordinators in mattison and borges to run the offense and defense and has let them do their thing (which was a major complaint about RR and the defense and the 3-3-5 catastrophe). Borges has been a D1 coordinator for years so he obviously has a pretty solid handle on what hes doing, may not be the greatest coordinator but hes far from the worst.


April 11th, 2014 at 2:36 PM ^

HCs delegate to their coordinators. When they meddle, it's a bigger problem. Now, a head coach who has expertise in an area may be heavily involved in that area, but then he usually leaves the other side of the ball alone. Cf Pete Carroll, Chip Kelly, etc.

I had issues with the Borges hire, but he had a pretty long resume coming in, and in the act if hiring him Hoke needed to give him the leeway to make those choices. To do it "his way." Meddling during the season at random times is probably not wise. Hoke made a mistake leaving things unchanged after 2012, but there wasn't much he could do about it in October.

Space Coyote

April 11th, 2014 at 3:05 PM ^

Having a TE to an OT helps the OT because it widens the DE and makes it so he must respect the run more. That said, keeping a TE in doesn't mean you are using him to help the OT block a guy. In fact, Michigan rarely if even used the TE to chip or help the OT on an edge rusher. You can use a TE in that way, but Michigan didn't.

Michigan had H-backs help TEs on edge rushers, and they had TEs take on the edge guy by themselves and the OTs take on a guy inside. This was to help the interior guys, to give them more of a numbers advantage. Which side the TE was lined up to doesn't change that really. The fact of the matter was that the interior OL just didn't stack up. They got confused too often - which even led to helping Lewan with blocks instead of blocking their guy stunting inside - and whiffed blocks, but the schemes weren't intended for Lewan to get extra help while the inside guys were left on an island.


April 11th, 2014 at 3:22 PM ^

Maybe they did. And maybe Borges made changes that we don't have the breadth of knowledge to remember/notice. Or maybe he said, "I need to have a TE over LT for certain plays/concepts/blocking schemes, and if I don't have him out there some other times it's a tell to the defense." There are lots of defensible reasons, even if the overall effect is insufficient.

That's where meddling is problematic. Suppose (and this is plausible, if not likely) that Hoke demanded certain concepts be used or abandoned prior to the Nebraska debacle. Of course, we all know how it went, and we all remember the NU defenders suggesting that they could tell what Michigan would run.

Then, in this hypothetical scenario, Hoke pointedly asks Borges why they were so predictable. And Borges says, "Because you wouldn't let me run the stuff that keeps them off balance." Or, "The stuff they predicted was the stuff you made me run. I wouldn't call it that way otherwise." Either way, whether accurate or not, this hypothetical HC interference makes improvement much more difficult, and accurate staff evaluation much harder.

If, as I suspect, Borges had free reign to run the offense as he wanted in 2013, then his firing makes complete sense. If Hoke was actually ramrodding new blocking schemes and lineups down his throat ("Al, we need to bench Milker, and I want pulling guards next week. Make it happen,") then much if this season's chaos is on him and the Borges firing looks like a scapegoating. I'm not inclined to believe this, but that is a danger in meddling.


April 11th, 2014 at 1:34 PM ^

You could literally step in and say this about any scheme thing ever that doesn't work. The cornerbacks aren't positioned correctly? Hoke should have stepped in! Why are the defensive ends are lined up too wide? Hoke should have stepped in! Why aren't we running more bubble screens? Hoke should have stepped in!

Every team that doesn't win the national championship has questions about why their coaches didn't do one thing or another.

Hell, there are rumors that Horford is transferring from Michigan because of too little playing time, even though Beilein's deployment of players took them from also-rans to the national championship game and the Elite Eight in the past two seasons. People just like to whine unless everything is perfect.


April 11th, 2014 at 5:53 PM ^

What I recall being upset about is how in the world can a team that destroyed Notre Dame have embarassed itself so badly the previous two weeks?  Well, it happens because the leadership of the team, starting with the HC didn't take the first game seriously and then got so hysterical preparing for the game against Oregon, the team choked.

And Michigan didn't go to the RB after losing games to Wiscy and OSU, though that was as much about injuries to Henne and Hart as anything else.


April 11th, 2014 at 3:58 PM ^

And what about big decisions where rational minds would consider a proposed plan to be nothing short of lunacy? 

Of course he can't step in on everything and I don't want him to. But if Borges tells Hoke that Denard - who ran a TON - gets hurt, Bellomy and not Gardner is the Plan B, I think Hoke has an obligation to tell him "No, that can't happen." If he doesn't pull rank on something like that, it's a problem. If he actually thought playing Bellomy over Gardner was a good decision, it's an even bigger one.



April 11th, 2014 at 4:09 PM ^

I don't get your point. Gardner was a wide receiver for a reason. He was our leading receiver for the first several games. Bellomy was inserted for approximately one half of one game. Then Devin Gardner was inserted for the remainder of the season and did well.

Meanwhile, Michigan was doing poorly with THE STARTER in the game against Nebraska. We were probably going to lose that game anyway.

So are you upset that Hoke didn't keep our leading receiver at backup quarterback just because he missed out on the chance to play two quarters of football? That seems like an odd thing to still be bothering you.


April 11th, 2014 at 4:28 PM ^

When Denard went out of the Nebraska game, he had just run the ball inside the 10 for first and goal and Michigan was trailing 7-3, so your assertion is highly debatable.  We don't need to rehash this entire debate, but it's at least open to question whether keeping Gardner as an available backup QB could have changed the outcome of the Nebraska game.  That said, I agree with you that the Gardner/Bellomy decision isn't a great example of Hoke being too "hands off" -- in all likelihood, both he and Borges were involved in the decision to move Gardner to receiver, and though it didn't work out so well in the Nebraska game, it's one of those things where hindsight is 20/20 and there was something to be said for either alternative.  As you say, Gardner made a pretty decent contribution at receiver, a position of need.


April 11th, 2014 at 4:48 PM ^

Calling it hindsight 20/20 is awfully kind considering that Denard got knocked out of numerous games in his sophomore and junior seasons. They knew the backup quarterback position was important and they neglected it.

The "position of need" thing is wildly overrated. Of course, when Gardner went to QB he played with the receiving corps that was deemed not good enough to go into the season with, thus DG's move to begin with. And with those guys the passing game immediately improved.


April 11th, 2014 at 4:57 PM ^

but even if we stipulate that the decision was flat-out wrong -- and I tend to agree, by the way, given what we now know (and the coaches presumably knew) about Bellomy's fitness as a backup -- you still haven't explained how this is an example where Hoke was too hands-off and should have stepped in.  Since the Gardner-to-receiver decision was made pre-season, what makes you so sure Hoke wasn't involved?


April 11th, 2014 at 5:02 PM ^

Again, Gardner playing WR does not mean he couldn't be the backup QB as well. They obviously didn't think Bellomy playing was a doomsday scenario, which is simply crazy. 

I do NOT know that this is Hoke being hands off and too trusting. I stated that in my original post. But again, if he thought it was a good idea, it doesn't say much for his competence.



April 11th, 2014 at 7:02 PM ^

Gardner was a starting wide receiver. Through the first three weeks, he was on pace for 32 catches, 620 yards, and 12 touchdowns. That would have made him the #2 receiver on the team, and quite possibly the #1 receiver because Jeremy Gallon didn't really take off until Gardner became the QB.

A coach's job is to get his athletes on the field, not bottle them all up at the same position "just in case." This is the reason people are suggesting that Jabrill Peppers should play safety - not because he's a true safety, but because the coaches should get him on the field in some way. Blake Countess tore his ACL in 2012. Does that mean Peppers should play CB because Countess has proven that he can be injured? Playing a guy at multiple positions slows down his development at both. So you would be talking about a diminished #1/#2 receiver AND a diminished backup QB.

It was a gamble. It didn't work out. Thus the term "gamble." But while Denard had been knocked out of several games in the past, he usually came back in. It just so happened that in that year (2012), Denard suffered the worst injury of his four-year career. S*** happens.


April 11th, 2014 at 5:37 PM ^

I tend to think that the Gardner-to-WR decision was a staff-wide decision based on cost-benefit analysis. Receiver was a significant position of need, and they had a player as blessed with physical gifts as any on the roster sitting on the bench behind a once-in-a-generation unique talent. The most likely scenario for any backup QB playing would be a play or two when Denard got hurt, something that happened with some frequency, but nothing that a guy like Bellomy couldn't deal with. Meanwhile, receiver was a real need--and Michigan at the time was in a position to gamble, because the thought was that senior Denard had a chance to be special enough to elevate the team to some kind of championship, and having an extra athletic receiver was worth more than having a slightly better backup quarterback.

In the less likely scenario that Denard had to miss games, they could still move Gardner back to QB. And this, it turns out, is exactly what happened; we can debate whether Gardner could have helped Michigan win at Nebraska from the QB spot, but once Denard was out the move worked pretty well.

A position change that significant does not happen without the HC's input; who knows where it originally came from, but it surely made for a lot of discussion. And I think it actually worked out pretty well, post-Denard offense in Lincoln being the glaring exception.


April 11th, 2014 at 6:54 PM ^

I'm sorry, but if your starter can't score in almost two full quarters, then rare is the backup who can come in and jump start a team to victory. Whether that's Gardner the WR moving over to QB or whether it's Bellomy the third-best-QB-who's-taken-all-the-#2-reps coming in, that's probably a loss. The final score was something like 23-9 or something like that, wasn't it? Neither QB was going to make up that 14-point differential, in my opinion.


April 11th, 2014 at 4:45 PM ^

My point is that Michigan never should have invited a scenario where Bellomy could have been the second option to come into any game. Gardner was a WR? Fine. Give him enough reps at QB to feel comfortable. Keep him in the meetings. Or let him wing it and hope he makes some plays with his athleticism. Whatever.

I didn't bring it up because I am still upset about it. I thought then and still do that the process to reach that decision (one that very well could have cost Michigan a spot in the B1G title game) makes one question our decision-making and leadership. There have been other ones, but none so egregious. There is simply no scenario where Hoke looks OK for letting that happen.


April 11th, 2014 at 1:35 PM ^

Well, that and:

  • nurturing 120 18 to 22 year olds
  • making sure they take their education seriously
  • making sure their parents are confident that their baby is being well taken care of
  • coordinating every single day of practice and/or training
  • managing 8 highly paid "executives"
  • schmoozing with big money donors
  • meeting media demands
  • making sure the compliance department is doing its job
  • evaluating high school sophomores and juniors to see which one might some day play here so you can be entertained
  • attending Big 10 meetings
  • AND NOT TO MENTION, being a devoted loving husband.

I'm sure that's nothing compared to they responsibilities YOU face on a daily basis, but let's face it, you are omnipotent.


April 11th, 2014 at 2:33 PM ^

One of the surest signs of a ridiculously-inflated ego is the insistence on attaching your name to an enterprise you're donating money to even though you don't have a single fucking thing to do with actually running it, or even know fuckall about what it does on the field.

It's the price that has to be paid to get rich people to donate their money... it's always been that way, and always will be.

Ali G Bomaye

April 11th, 2014 at 2:59 PM ^

The last time we had a head coach try to give a coach on the opposite side of the ball specific instructions as to what scheme to run, we switched between a 3-3-5 and 4-3 defense all season long and ended up leaving mediocre Penn State receivers open by 15 yards as a result.

Mmmm Hmmm

April 11th, 2014 at 1:18 PM ^

Michigan still put up over 40 against the Fig Things and Ohio with that "shitty offense". Either a commentary on the offensive personnel being better than we thought, or that Urban had better upgrade the Ohio defense's coloring books--er, playbooks.


April 11th, 2014 at 1:52 PM ^

We went backwards on the ground.  That MSU game was the worst game I have ever seen.  I expected us to lose but not like that.  10 years ago we used to beat MSU and then their season would fall apart now it happens to us.  The world is cyclical I guess.

Mmmm Hmmm

April 11th, 2014 at 4:21 PM ^

First off: an offensive performance like that against any team, much a rival, is unacceptable.  It should put an OC on the hot seat at least, and Borges was fired.

On the other hand: If Borges' scheme was really that bad, then it should change how we look at the other offensive coaches and the players. Just as it was not a great indication of the skill leval of Michigan's defensive players when Tony Gibson was a shadow-DC, the failures of the offense last year may yet be more Borges' fault than anybody else.

Of course, this does not mean that Michigan has a stable of potential All Americans lining up with outstanding coaches with Borges gone, but the success in spite of Borges gives some hope that Michigan could achieve in the future against good defenses.


April 11th, 2014 at 12:53 PM ^

Maybe it's just me, but when the LT rides the pass rusher so far outside that the DE's not even in the frame, leaving a cavernous window for the QB to throw in, does that really qualify as 'struggling' with the outside rush

Also, yes, what a shitty offense.