Monday O Line/Offense Snowflakes Thread and Wisconsin question

Submitted by CLord on September 23rd, 2013 at 9:44 AM

While I realize there are other prior snowflake threads, I thought I'd start a new one for today based on a more specific question:  What is Wisconsin doing that we can't seem to be able to do?  Anyone have Badger fans as friends how might explain how they have been able to consistently run the ball for a decade with minimal or average-at-best over the top or passing threat?  Is it that they consistently have upperclassmen O line across the board that just reload every year?

When I first heard Hoke imply we were going back to ManBall, and given our superior recruiting to Wisconsin, I always envisioned the goal state was a Wisconsin 2.0 run game.  I.e., what the Badgers do, but even better.

Perhaps some insight on Wisconsin's success can help shed more profound light on the real cause of our own running woes.



September 23rd, 2013 at 9:50 AM ^

I think it mostly has to do with them running the same offense and recruiting the same players for going on 20 years now.  I mean, basically since Barry Alvarez they've run a specific type of system and recruited for it.  Also, they obviously have good player development at least along the line.  

I will say, though, that I think some of their running success more recently has been because teams are moving away from that style of offense and, not surprisingly, recruiting different types of defenders.  When I was at UM in the late 90s/early 00s, the Wisconsin running attack usually terrified the NW's of the world but definitely ran into much tougher competition against teams like UM, OSU, and PSU.  Those teams had the type of large bodies up front and strong LBs you need to slow it down.

I'd argue their attack is somewhat similar to those option offenses you see at the service academies and the pass-crazy spread offenses like TT under Leach.  You find something you are good at and double up on it, and usually the opposition isn't strong enough to hold up.  But I suspect that when Wisconsin runs into good defenses that they stop them from rushing for 200+ yards, they'll struggle to move the ball without a great passer and/or above-average WRs.


September 23rd, 2013 at 9:59 AM ^

So I guess when we wondered what the lasting effect of RichRod's marvelously nonexistent O line recruiting class of 2010 would be, we are seeing it this year in the form of that giant, gaping hole that exists at O line between 2 seniors and a bunch of redshirt freshmen and sophomores.  Our non-existent 2010 O linemen would all be experienced upperclassmen this year.


September 23rd, 2013 at 10:15 AM ^

I've been saying for a while that I think the first real year we can judge the future of U of M football will be in 2014. Then Hoke will have some of his upperclassman recruits, his style of offense, and ownership of the program. Right now we're still suffering through some of the leftovers from Rich Rodriguez, in particular the 2010 class that has lost so many players and produced zero linemen.


September 23rd, 2013 at 11:02 AM ^

The thing about Wisconsin's offensive line is that if you look back over the past 10 or so years, it is incredibly rare to see (1) any freshmen playing, or (2) any walk-ons.  Their offensive line consists almost entirely of seniors, and some juniors, almost all of whom had redshirted. 

People don't get how much of a liability it is to have an interior line made up of underclassmen.  It's not just about getting bigger and stronger every year (although that is a part of it) - OL is more about really learning the nuances of the game such as when to double, when to abandon your double, when to move off of a block and take on another defender, proper technique, etc.  For this position, these things just tend to take time. 

The other issue is comfort in an offensive system.  For 2011 and most of 2012, we were still running a version of Rick Rod's zone read option offense.  We continue to run that offense even after Denard went down to a large extent, and this year is the first year that we are going full "pro style" (whatever that means today).  Aside from age and experience, consistency of offensive scheme has a huge impact on OL success. 

Wisconsin hasn't changed up their scheme in ages.  So their line is made up of upperclassmen who have had years to learn the position, and who have studied and learned a single system.  All factors that will lead to success.  By contrast, our line is made up of some very young, inexperienced players who are all in their first year of a new offensive system.

Magnus, I am totally with you that next year is the first fair year to evaluate the coaches' success with this team. 


September 23rd, 2013 at 4:32 PM ^

2014 will remain a tire fire on the OL.  Kalis will be the grizzled veteran.  Miller could be out of a job in 2 weeks or as likely next year to either Glasgow or Kugler.  Magnuson was destroyed in his early play against UConn (leading to a Devin fumble) but will be one of the tackles most likely, along with Braden at the other.  And the other guard if not Glasgow could be Bryant who unless something changes in 2 weeks is likely to be almost as inexperienced in 2014 as he is today.  Just older.   Or maybe you get a RS freshman like Dawson to step in if he beats out Bryant/Glasgow.  There is a very good chance there will be 3 new starters next year and a 50/50 chance there will be 4 new starters with Kalis the only holdover.  And we lose Gallon, Dileo and Fitz.  But other than that, yes let's judge 2014 :)  Honestly it is going to be 2015 until this offense can be judged - unfortunately.  So much rebuilding to do...


September 23rd, 2013 at 10:05 AM ^

While I agree that having a OL with 4th and 5th year guys gives you a better chance of having a good OL and a good running game, it's not a certainty....see last year's UM line

LT- Lewan (4th year)

LG - Barnum (5th year)

C - Mealer (5th year)

RG - Omameh (5th year)

RT - Schofield (4th year)


September 23rd, 2013 at 10:41 AM ^

I think the major problem with last years line is similar to what you are seeing this year. Guys who are upperclassmen were recruited for a completely different offense. Their skill set isn't aimed at Hoke's offense. This is why you see guys like Kalis and other young guys getting action early in their career.


September 23rd, 2013 at 11:06 AM ^

What you say is correct of Lewan and Schofield.  But, those guys are not really the problem.  It is the interior of our line that is absolutely killing our running game and getting Devin off of his game.  And the interior is really just a mess of issues, starting with inexperience for all three, lack of fit for Miller and complete lack of experience for Kalis and Glasgow.  Also, Glasgow was a walk-on, so not sure if it is entirely fair to say that Hoke recruited him.  Had Rich Rod bothered to recruit OL in 2010 and had the 2011 "process" class not been a total disaster, Hoke would not have had to go out looking for walk-on OL.


September 23rd, 2013 at 11:16 AM ^

While the interior has been a problem, I'm not willing to give a complete pass to the T's.  I'll be honest, I expected a little bit better from both of them thus far....not that they are playing poorly.  TE blocking has been a major issue as well.

Sten Carlson

September 23rd, 2013 at 3:10 PM ^

So many Michigan fans are obsessed with finding a scapegoat for things not meeting their expectations.  Yet, few seem to be willing to look inward at those expectations and ask if they're grounded in reality, or biased, arrogant fantasy.

I'm going to defer to what Magnus said, we cannot really judge Hoke & Co. just yet as they're still suffering from the lack of depth left over from the previous coaching staff.

Space Coyote

September 23rd, 2013 at 9:51 AM ^

They recruit the position well, and then let the OL develop in their system. They've also had their system for over a decade, so despite a new coaching staff, they are running almost the exact same system and every one of the players, from OL to TEs to RBs, knows exactly what to do immediately for pretty much every situation.

I think right now, one of the huge advantages they have is great blocking TEs. When you have two TEs on the outside you can really stretch the defense laterally and add additional gaps for the defense to defend. If those TEs can block, seal, and get push on the edge, or pin and pull  on a DE, or effectively seal the second level, your run game will really open up.

So, it's really an experience as far as being older and experience as a team in the system. They have gotten to the point where they really have three runs: outside zone, inside zone, and the occassional power O/ counter. This makes them very effective and efficient in what they do.


September 23rd, 2013 at 10:46 AM ^

Hugely important for Michigan right now.  With the weakness of the interior line, most of our running plays are going outside the tackles, so the ability of the TE to seal the edge is crucial.  Once Funchess basically got benched in the second half, the running game was markedly better.  I think one of the changes coming out of the bye week will be Butt starting and Funchess as a mainly passing downs TE.  That, and I'd like to see Schofield moved to LG and Magnuson in at RT, but I'm not holding my breath on that one.  

Blue Mike

September 23rd, 2013 at 9:55 AM ^

They've been replacing every 340 lb. graduating senior with a 340 lb. junior for 20 years.  Alvarez gets what his advantage is, and has gone out of his way to hire coaches who fit what works for them instead of trying to switch to a spread offense and back over four years.

Give us a few more years when Hoke's recruiting classes are filling the OL with 4/5* and everyone on the two-deep has been in the system 3+ years, and you'll see us have much more success running the ball.


September 23rd, 2013 at 4:28 PM ^

... Pretty much every call for Funk to get fired is coming from the "but we suck - it must be someone's fault" school of thought.

You could blame the coaches if they'd turned steak into scraps; that's not the case here. Kalis is progressing pretty much as his pedigree would suggest; Glasgow is grading out well in both UFR and coaches evals which is better than we could expect. Miller has not been blocking well, but has been snapping well; I don't know about the line calls, but that's what his recruiting profile suggested.

Put another way, the very limited evidence suggests Funk is a good coach, because Glasgow is exceeding his recruiting profile and no one else is underperforming it. Our problem is with talent, not coaching - more specifically, we needed to recruit OL talent three years and failed.


September 23rd, 2013 at 9:59 AM ^

In a brief CFB summary post he talks about the troubles, but ends with this:

"It isn't a perfect team, but surely it's capable of playing better than what we've seen the past two weeks.  The good news?  The Wolverines are still 4-0, and their schedule is still very manageable through the end of October."

There is time for improvement.


September 23rd, 2013 at 12:08 PM ^

that the D would have four sacks while holding the opposing team to 201 yards, that the other team's offense would manage just two touchdowns and be one for eleven on third downs. . . that (on offense) our RB would go for 120 yards, our QB 11 for 23 and rush for 67 yards himself. . . or that Michigan would close out the game with 17 unanswered points. . . I'd have felt pretty okay about the game. Clearly, it was turnovers, again, that killed us. Clearly (prior experience suggests) DG does not HAVE to be that nervous or disaster-prone going forward. We were all praising his ridicuous accuracy a few games ago. 

Not saying we played well Saturday, but in retrospect—as you and ESPN suggest—it might not have been the end of the world.


MI Expat NY

September 23rd, 2013 at 12:42 PM ^

All good points, but I don't know about Gardner not being disaster prone.  He's thrown at least one interception in every game he's started.  There's obviously more tape on him now and allowing defenses to adjust to tendancies, something that largely wasn't true last year (hello constant decision to turn away from edge rusher, reverse field and try to make something out of nothing which led to the worst pass ever, a near disaster against Akron and a sack for a huge loss against UConn).  

Gardner can obviously be more accurate than he has been the last two weeks, and hopefully he can limit turnovers to 1 or so a game, but I'm afraid that might always be a problem this season.  On the plus side, when he's playing his best, I think every game is winnable.  


September 23rd, 2013 at 10:00 AM ^

I agree that in 2 or 3 years down the road that the Oline should be very good to even great. Next year though could be scary. Replacing 2 senior tackles with a couple more young inexperienced kids.
Just have to be patient. Talent is there, just a few years away.


September 23rd, 2013 at 11:05 AM ^

At times the offense struggled. Remember, against Ohio State in 1997 they scored exactly one offensive touchdown.Thank god for Woodson and Andre Weathers.

The next year when those two guys were redshirt sophmores, in October the offense couldn't manage more than 21 points against four of the worst teams in the Big Ten (12-9 over 3-8 Iowa, 12-6 over 3-9 Northwestern, 21-10 over 4-7 Indiana and 15-10 over 5-6 Minnesota). 


September 23rd, 2013 at 10:27 AM ^

Is there a glossary of terms and memes that get used around here?  What does 'snowflakes thread' mean? 

I love the blog but sometimes I find the inside jokes a bit much for the occasional reader who misses their origin.  Or maybe I'm just old.


September 23rd, 2013 at 10:39 AM ^

I may be wrong, but I think a snowflake posts implies what happens after a program suffers a major negative event like a loss or a scandal or back to back  near losses to cupcakes, where suddenly hundreds or thousands of fans all want to purge their rage and offer their quick fix ideas by posting new threads all at once.  So each new rage post = a snowflake in a flurry.  So the idea behind an official snowflakes thread is to put them all in one place to avoid forcing the mods to delete endless new rage threads.


September 23rd, 2013 at 10:27 AM ^

It's just mind boggling to me (no matter who was recruiting) that there are no other upper class linemen than Lewan and Scholfield. I guess Chris Bryant has been around, just never really healthy and Q. Washington was brought in to be guard. But man next year could
Be worse.


September 23rd, 2013 at 10:31 AM ^

  • Are we going to move Schofield to left guard?
  • Glasgow to center?
  • Magnuson starting at right tackle?

For the first four games, most thought Bryant could come in at left guard, with Glasgow or Miller at center.   But, seeing Magnuson step in and knowing Schofield is skilled at several positions, it will be interesting to see if Hoke calls for a more significant realignment for B1G! action.   

I know a lot of comments are directed at Glasgow and Miller's problems.  But, I think Kalis' play was abysmal on Saturday -- especially when pulling.   Maybe the UFR will show otherwise, but it seemed to me that our right side was source of most of our issues with UConn (including big misses by Schofield). 


September 23rd, 2013 at 10:59 AM ^

I was one of the guys hoping for a reshuffle going into UConn, and I've changed my mind. For one, Magnuson looked bad in the few snaps he was brought in on. I have a feeling if the other guys were a huge upgrade, they would have already been starting. In hindsight, the Braden, Bryant reshuffle during camp is indicative of a lack of quality options at the position. Basically it's a "careful what you wish for" situation. On one hand you may find a spark in a new guy, but more than likely the guy will be a push talent wise and there will be drop-off in chemistry. With how fragile the psyche is of not just Gardner, but Fitz as well, I think we are probably better off sticking to what we have and trying to work them into something passible as the season goes on.


September 23rd, 2013 at 4:42 PM ^

Agreed. Magnuson looked a bit overwhemed on a few plays he was in and was blown up on the butt fumble (pad level!).   This is a case of the grass is always greener on the other side.  We think what we have not seen is better than what we have seen.  The scary thing is most likely it is not and what we have out there is the best we currently have and/or Bryant is the 6th man equitable to a Glasgow perhaps but not substantially better.   At this point hoping that a RS freshman is some savior is not going to help things.  We have what we have and we are going to struggle with it this year, and next year.  


September 23rd, 2013 at 11:14 AM ^

hope for the changes.   The coaches don't seem to think that a Bryant/Glasgow/Miller switch is the answer (or, they would have made the change by now).  It apepars they are considering other configurations.  

With a bye week, and a lower rated conference opponent coming up, it seems like the last good opportunity for a line reshuffling.   



September 23rd, 2013 at 10:37 AM ^

If experience were all that mattered, why did Wisconsin fire its new OL coach last year after two games (including a narrow victory over an FCS team), after which it went on to win the Big Ten championship? (Wisconsin's OL coach from 2006-2011 is now an OL coach in the NFL.  Does anyone really think Funk could get such a job?)

Experience is of course preferred, but if that were all that mattered, Tony Gibson-coached upperclassmen would be world-beaters.  I do not think that is how it works. 



September 23rd, 2013 at 11:08 AM ^

I'm skeptical of Funk as well, but I don't think he should be fired yet. If by next year, we don't get serviceable guys out of the 2012 OL recruiting haul and one or two RS freshmen out of the 2013 class, then there's obviously a coaching problem because the talent is there. Kalis looks ok and shows flashes of being good. He's also playing his first college snaps this season, so you'd expect shakiness and mistakes. The other two guys... I think you can make a case either way on if that's talent or coaching. The more I watch Miller play, the more I think he's just doesn't have the physical traits for the job.


September 23rd, 2013 at 11:12 AM ^

This article references the event you're talking about.  The left side of the Badget line last year was very solid, but the right side was young and pretty inexperienced.

At this point, I don't know how anyone can definitively say this isn't somewhat on Funk.  Ever since he lost Molk, the line has looked like absolute garbage.  I don't know what is wrong with the interior line - if Bryant, Braden, someone, needs to come in - but it's clearly the major issue on offense.

Blue Mike

September 23rd, 2013 at 2:51 PM ^

Let's not forget that Wisconsin lost 5 games last year and only got to the B1G Championship game because Ohio and PSU were ineligible.  It's not like they got a new coach and suddenly were unstoppable on offense.  They still had their issues.  Bielema just got someone he trusted more to be a coach.

Texas went from Diaz to Gerg on defense last week and won, does that mean Diaz was a bad coach?