Offensive changes starting to leak out

Submitted by Ron Utah on August 14th, 2018 at 4:31 PM

From the player quotes, it certainly sounds like some good lessons were learned about last year's offense, and that this year's offense will prominently feature more spread looks.  The way Michigan is recruiting gave some of this away, but the quotes in this story are confirmation that there will be a new "flavor" to the offense this season, even though we'll retain a power running identity.


Ron Utah

August 14th, 2018 at 6:37 PM ^

Folks are focusing on the spread aspect, but the interview with Runyan makes it clear that we are still running power and just giving the offense a different feel.  Also, a slimmed-down playbook and installation process should help.  The comment about more "read" stuff is also interesting, though I expect it's more RPO than designed QB runs.  

I expect the offense to be multiple with more 11, 12, and 21 looks and fewer 22 and 23 looks than last year.  Given the talent level of our TEs, I'd expect Gentry, McKeon, or Eubanks to be on the field almost every play, even if one or more of them are split/standing.

But we really only have eight WRs right now, so four and five wide is not our strength.  Evans and Higdon need to be on the field, along with the TEs, so we'll see more "spread" but not chuck-and-duck.  And we'll still see plenty of power, counter, and iso.

If what Runyan is saying is true, this is a similar philosophical shift to what Georgia did, thought they've always used more shotgun.


August 14th, 2018 at 7:14 PM ^

Interchangeable parts help with the receivers situation. It's not yet clear if they'll do this (we've been talking about Evans running routes since he got here, and except for that one wheel TD from Peters there hasn't been much of it) but the ability to put guys like Evans or Gentry in the slot can product personnel groupings that can operate out of unexpected formations. I have to believe we'll see a fair amount of 2 TE looks where one or more of the TEs isn't lined up as a TE at all. 


August 14th, 2018 at 4:43 PM ^

Yeah, I'm skeptical.  You either need to do what you do well or hire someone to come in and do something else well if you want to change it up (a la PSU and Joe Moorhead).  We saw how this staff bungled the Pepcat pretty badly.  I hope that was Drevno and that I'm pleasantly surprised.

I will say, the OSU game plan last year was stellar.  Not sure why the South Carolina game plan was so awful but at least there is hope.

Saludo a los v…

August 14th, 2018 at 5:07 PM ^

It is fair to be skeptical of a change in offensive philosophy given how those have worked out lately, but this could be more about formations and concepts than a complete change. Warriner coached o-line for some pretty good power spread offenses. He might be the guy capable of fusing our large oline into a cohesive unit capable of mashing defenses with power and blocking long enough for the quick hitting pass plays. If we can find a way to run power out of pistol and shotgun formations while also taking advantage of our large tight ends and wideouts there is a chance for this offense to creative and dangerous.


August 14th, 2018 at 5:46 PM ^

Vanilla would have won the game.  Doing sh*t like handing the ball to a TE wasn't vanilla.  It was crazy.

Also, JBB was a "starter" in name only by default.  There was negligible downgrade there. Probably wasn't much of a downgrade from Bredeson either.  Game plan in the second half was very bad.


August 14th, 2018 at 5:54 PM ^

It also wasn't meant to be a play.  Wrong people in...  Yeah, that's on the coaches, but that game was phoned in from the head coach down to the towel boys.  Don't take anything from it.

As for the offense changes, just remember the last team from San Francisco that played in the Super Bowl.  That team was lead by a QB running a version of a wide open, pistol based spread set up behind a power run game.

The Man Down T…

August 14th, 2018 at 10:31 PM ^

I don't think it was a phone in.  They beating the crap out of them and were up 16-3 and heading into the end zone to make it 23 and put the game away when Higdon fumbled at the 4.  They put that one in, or even just get 3, the game is completely different.  After that fumble the team just fell apart on offense and defense.  


August 14th, 2018 at 4:36 PM ^

I’m very interested to see what changes have been made, however, I’m fairly confident we will not be a true spread offense. We have way to many weapons that won’t be utilized by going directly into a spread system. 


I think we remain a pro style offense that mixes in spread concepts rather than the other way around. 


August 14th, 2018 at 4:55 PM ^

I would think we’d see some of this as a package and change of pace but Shea has said how much he had been working on traditional 5 step drops and pro concepts. No way he works on that a bunch just to throw it out the window. Not to mention there’s no way Harbaugh doesn’t want to see Ben Mason leading the way for Higdon. 

My prediction with virtually no evidence to substantiate it:

70% pro style concepts

30% spread concepts


August 14th, 2018 at 5:19 PM ^

There are essentially three types of QBs:

1.) Pocket passers: great at passing, but don't ask them to run at all (Tom Brady)

2.) Scramblers: more mobile.  You can't ask them to run like a RB or WR for long yards, but they can often get a fast five if necessary, and occassionally by design (Jake Rudock, especially against BYU in 2015)

3.) True dual threats. Often better runners than passers.  Their danger comes in the potential of a long, fast run, which is when this type of QB's passing is the most effective, because when an opposing defense sells out to stop the run the QB has wide open targets (Denard Robinson)

If you look at Harbaugh's recruiting, he will almost always try to get a Scrambler. He wants a passer, first and foremost, but he does not want a statue.  McCaffrey and Milton fit this mold; Peters to a lesser extent (seems to lean a little more toward a pocket passer than a scrambler).  Shea Patterson is more of a true dual threat, but his passing is quite good, which makes him even more effective.

So even when Harbaugh runs a pro-set play, there is still the element of a QB who can run and get positive yardage, and he doesn't necessarily have to set up a zone read play in order to execute it.  Opposing defensive coordinators know this, and it means that, just like a spread, the QB has to be given more consideration as a potential runner.  That's the beauty of Harbaugh's pro-style: it has the attack of a spread zone read as a "hidden element." 

Even if Harbaugh doesn't set up spread formations, it doesn't mean he's taken away the QB's legs. The threat to pick up yardage is still there, and it's serious enough to make a DC pick his poison.



August 14th, 2018 at 4:36 PM ^

Good God, I swear I thought this post title was, "Offensive Discharges Starting to Leak Out." I came here to implore you to see your urologist and/or proctologist... 

Hold This L

August 14th, 2018 at 4:37 PM ^

Really helps open up the run game against better teams that they can’t just impose their will on. I’m wondering how much pistol we’ll see as opposed to shotgun. It seemed to work with Kap. 


August 14th, 2018 at 4:47 PM ^

If the offensive changes involve things like pass blocking that can consistently pick up defensive schemes like a stunt and QBs who can hit a blisteringly open receiver more than 8 yards downfield with some measure of consistency I'm all for it.


August 14th, 2018 at 4:52 PM ^

Best case scenario you get to see an offense that is truly multiple. Ability to spread you out as well as hurt you with 12, 21, and 22 personnel. Using TEs vertically in addition to high percentage west coast principles. Be able to use a fullback and go 4 WRs. Creating an offense that can be a matchup nightmare for any defense. 

Worst case scenario is a Cheesecake Factory offense. 

It will probably be at some point in between.