How Long Until Manball?

Submitted by Swayze Howell Sheen on October 15th, 2013 at 4:23 PM

How long should it take to develop a team into a Manball team?

To understand this question better, I scraped some data about Stanford from their first three year's under Harbaugh; recall that before that, Stanford was a bit of a train wreck. Thus, you'd think that if our goal was to be like that, perhaps we'd be able to develop to Stanford's level of manballishness in a similar time period.

Here is a graph of Stanford's run game over the first three years under Harbaugh:

Click here for the full-sized image. 

The left y-axis (in darkred) shows the average yards per carry; the right y-axis (gray) shows total rush yards. I've just selected a subset of games (those in the Pac10... er... 12?) to get a consistent snapshot against a certain level of competition. 

As you can see, the first year was a train wreck: only one game with a decent total number of yards rushing (Oregon), and most games with a low average (only two around 4 per rush).

However, by year two, Manball was in effect: many games with hundreds of rush yards, and many with high yards per attempt. Wow! Year 2 and already rolling. Year three, a better year record-wise, was similar (perhaps a bit better).

Now, the contrast: Michigan in the first three Hoke/Borges years.

Again, click here for the full-sized image. Similarly, just showing Big 10 competition.

First year was all over the map, but some big games. Next year, the first few games were great. Then, Denard got hurt. And after that, a much less robust rushing attack, hovering around 4 YPC, and few games with substantial rushing yardage. And now, 2013, with another step backwards: not many total yards, and an even lower YPC.

Of course, the jury is still out on this year, and there is a lot of football left. But if the rushing game looks like it has for the beginning of this year... 



October 15th, 2013 at 4:33 PM ^

Useful data but not indicative of manball unless you first remove QB rush yards.

And I have a sneaky suspicion that doing so will only further evidence the massive failure that is Al Borgerg.


October 15th, 2013 at 4:43 PM ^

Well, it's not entirely fair to say that we would have no data, although it is fair to say that over the season to date, Devin Gardner owns 439 of Michigan's 1,039 rushing yards, or about 42% - a similar portion of the total belongs to Toussaint, so two players are slightly over 80% of the rushing attack. In our two conference games, Gardner only accounts for 17 of the 113 yards against Minnesota (about 15%), and in Penn State game, this jumps to 121 of the 149 yards (about 81%). 


October 15th, 2013 at 4:34 PM ^

What did Harbaugh inherit at Standford personel wise? Did Harbaugh begin installing his system from day 1?

Borges and Hoke had plans of semi installing it in 2011 but they seemed to go away from it all together after Iowa. 2012 we thought there would be more of a 50/50 and it started that way and then they went away from it after the ND game and brought it back for Minnesota on.

I don't know if that makes a difference in the time table or not.


October 15th, 2013 at 5:10 PM ^

Here's their '07 roster. Not a lot of NFL talent on there and most of what there was has a FR next to the name. There's a reason they were 1-11 the year before.

Which might explain why he installed his system straight away instead of having a couple years of half-measures like we had. They weren't gong to a bowl no matter what and it was almost literally impossible for it to be worse than what they'd had the year before.


October 16th, 2013 at 11:22 AM ^

Exactly this.  No one needed Stanford to win right away.  He had as much time as he needed to get things together, and if that meant not going to a bowl for a couple years, no problem.  And although their talent level was certainly low when he arrived, it wasn't necessarily an ill fit, the guys just weren't that good. 

That was not the case here.  Here we had enough talent to win (some) immediately, just not the kind of talent to do what the coaches wanted to do.  We had small OL (and only a few of them), small RBs, no TEs and QBs who could run like the wind but barely throw.  If we were Stanford, Harbough would have moved Denard (and maybe DG) to WR, grabbed 2 QBs in that first class (like Bellomy) and gone from there, not winning much, but transitioning all at once. 

Hoke has had to transition every year he has been here, which makes the transition that much more difficult. 


October 15th, 2013 at 4:40 PM ^

I think the most depressing things wrote this week is much like this. Comparing Michigan to other schools and it showing they are "getting it" much better or faster than this staff and or squad.

Next year I think Michigan will be starting 3 new OL with a possible 4th depending on Kuglar moving ahead of Glasgow at Center. I would guess right now it will be Magnuson, Kalis, Bosch, Glasgow/Kuglar, and Braden. 

It just isn't happening, Molk left and everything went to hell. I mean look at the line production and that's with Lewan and Schofield. 

What's equally frustrating is there is no way any team we have played can handle Chesson, Funches and Gallon and yet aside from one game they have failed at that.

What ever happened to take what they give you? 

I think alot of this should fall on Devin as well. He hasn't earned the coaches trust and he has to be able to check out of some of these plays.

Nothing to do with Manball really but throw to Dileo on 3rd down more than twice every 4 games. He was wide open on the one pick Saturday.


October 15th, 2013 at 5:44 PM ^

As long as Funk and Borges oversee said O line, all excitement is tempered and instead replaced by the mental equivalent of a jock supporter and athletic cup meant to protect the future family from subsequent dong punches.


October 15th, 2013 at 9:17 PM ^

First of all; attrition happens.  There is zero chance that Michigan starts the exact same OL for 3 years.

Furthermore, Glasgow and Burzynski and Magnuson and Miller and Bryant all played ahead of Braden.  Marking him down as a 3-year starter is highly dubious.


October 16th, 2013 at 8:26 PM ^

Whenever a lack of a running game gets going, people refer to getting the right people and recruits. However, great coaches like Meyer and Saban seem to come to new teams and transform them with the personnel at hand in 2 years or less.Teams such as Wisky seem to run very well with 3 star and below players. The ability to play manball seems to have ALMOST everything to do with coaching and not so much with recruiting. As such, waiting for the right players to come along seems like a form of denial of more serius problems.

turd ferguson

October 15th, 2013 at 5:00 PM ^

Thanks for doing this, but I don't think there's much information here of relevance.  Some reasons...

1.  You've cherry-picked the one school that runs MANBALL and has come out of nowhere the fastest over the past few years.  What about others?  Obviously, we'd love to rise at that pace, but I don't really like the "we should be able to do it since [one outlier] did it" line of reasoning.

2.  Did Stanford transition from anything like what we ran under Rodriguez?

3.  The problem under Rodriguez definitely wasn't our ability to run.  That's the one thing we did really, really well (especially against mediocre/bad teams).  Defense and passing were the problems there.  In Hoke's first year, when we were still essentially running the RR offense with Denard, we expected to run reasonably well.

4.  Our offensive line should be blocking better, but there's still that stubborn reality that we have a really young offensive line right now and offensive line is probably the position group that requires the most coaching, seasoning, and body development.  Plus, I'd imagine that we won't be putting many walk-ons out there once these guys get a little older.


October 15th, 2013 at 5:03 PM ^

They will tell you Michigan is very talented, and Borges is a good OC.  I think it is hard to overstate just how much Gardner's picks explode our offensive playcalling.  

While I do find the arguments in favor of the no-huddle, and in favor of using screens and perimeter passing as a counter, to be compelling, IMO the single most important thing that could happen to team 134 is DG regaining his confidence.

I Wrote a 4 Wo…

October 15th, 2013 at 5:16 PM ^

Agreed. The bubble screens become an issue for me when the DB's are each 10 yards of both WR's on the same side & there's not an audible bubble screen to get a minimum of 5 (and being one missed tackle from a TD).

If Gardner takes care of the ball, Michigan is perfectly fine, and even a little scary (ND game sans the worst play ever for instance). Defenses don't load the box & we run better. If he doesn't, the playcalling plays right into the hands of stacking the box.

Blue Durham

October 15th, 2013 at 6:58 PM ^

Yeah.  Didn't we have a similar record in Rich Rodriguez' last 2 years at this point? And then what happened?

Again, the schedule is incredibly back-loaded. What, 4 or 5 (OSU, MSU, Nebraska and Northwestern for sure) of the toughest 6 games are the last 6 games.

The majority of the wins were never coming in the 2nd half of the season for this team.


October 15th, 2013 at 5:15 PM ^

To be honest, I don't think manball is the plan, or ever was. It's true in contrast to RR's spread and it was a good PR ploy, but it's not how I'd describe what Borges and Hoke ran before they got here. They ran power and iso but what they really seemed to want to do was to stretch the field vertically. Nobody was walking a tenth man into the box against that team.


October 15th, 2013 at 5:26 PM ^

Here's Wisconsin's recruiting rankings ( the last 5 years followed by their BIG10 rushing performance/rankings:

Recruiting          BIG10 Rushing Rank

2013  37th        1st (week 7) - 9th in the nation

2012  69th         1st

2011   38th         1st

2010  33rd          3rd

2009 51st           1st

What gives?

Well, Wisconsin isn't fancy. They don't waste any time and resource courting 4 and 5 star offensive lineman, because those kids end up at Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio.

Still, despite this, Wisconsin is the new Nebraska. They recruit local and nearby, bratwurst- and cheese-fed road-graders to play manball. And it works.

Wisconsin has dominated BIG10 in rushing performance.

I'm unconvinced that manball is so goddamned important except for the selective memory traditionalist and Debord romantics, but assuming it really is important to the game in any measure, maybe Michigan's staff could take a hard look what's been going on in Madison the last 5 to 10 years. Because there's no shame in copying playbooks or recruiting approaches. Bo did the same damn thing (off Hayes, Gillman).





Ron Utah

October 15th, 2013 at 5:28 PM ^

I enjoyed the data.  It's interesting to see that Stanford was able to transition so quickly.

There are some significant differences though:

  1. Stanford was running a west coast offense before Harbaugh arrived...which is what Harbaugh runs.
  2. Michigan was running a spread/option offense before Hoke/Borges arrived...which is nothing at all like the WCO.
  3. Our rushing success has decreased with our QB runs.  DG is actually averaging more YPC than Denard did 2011.
  4. Stanford returned 7 starters on offense in 2007.  The O-Line was three juniors and two seniors.
  5. In 2008, Stanford returned eight offensive starters, and had three seniors, one junior, and one sophomore on the O-Line.
  6. In 2009, in addition to having Andrew Luck, Stanford returned eight starters on offense, and had two seniors, two juniors, and RS Freshman David DeCastro on their O-Line.

Our situations are not comparable.  I also didn't mention that Stanford plays in the Pac-12, where MANBALL is rare, not the corn-fed B1G where defenses eat until they're heavier than the offense and then thay HULK SMASH!!!

We're still only halfway into our MANBALL transition, but it sucks so far.  That's all I know.


October 15th, 2013 at 5:37 PM ^

Many of the players were already in place to run the scheme. That is why it happened so quickly. Michigan meanwhile has had to recruit and develop the players for their desired schemes on the go. That obviously draws out the process longer.


October 16th, 2013 at 8:36 AM ^

that we could have beaten Penn State if we didn't spend the last two minutes and 4 OTs trying to establish Manball?

We manned up and failed. Would the team be better off if we had not manned up and won? Then you could look back and point a finger at two TD off of turnovers and said "see, other than that we killed them".


October 15th, 2013 at 6:47 PM ^

I would have a no runningback backfield or at the very least send a lone RB in motion, split WR's 5 wide, stretching the defense to their max and give our 5 star dual threat quarterback the opportunity to throw first or use his God given gift of elusive wheels to pick up 8+ yards per crack ie. 'See Vince Young' and 'Patriots Tom Brady' is all I'm saying!

I dumped the Dope

October 15th, 2013 at 6:48 PM ^

I think that would be more useful to be honest.

I think we are at minimum 1 season away from running, and that's due to weak 14 schedule.

15 would be when the boys are ready to rumble.

Of some concern is the big class followed by tiny recruiting classes. That would seem to have some peril of being a 4 yr vicious cycle...

I dumped the Dope

October 15th, 2013 at 6:48 PM ^

I think that would be more useful to be honest.

I think we are at minimum 1 season away from running, and that's due to weak 14 schedule.

15 would be when the boys are ready to rumble.

Of some concern is the big class followed by tiny recruiting classes. That would seem to have some peril of being a 4 yr vicious cycle...

Michigan Arrogance

October 15th, 2013 at 7:21 PM ^

1960: how far out it reliable controlled fusion? nuclear physicist: about 20 years away

1980: how far out it reliable controlled fusion? nuclear physicist: about 20 years away

2000: how far out it reliable controlled fusion? nuclear physicist: about 20 years away

2013: how far out it reliable controlled fusion? nuclear physicist: about 20 years away