Offensive personnel breakdown vs OSU

Submitted by Diagonal Blue on November 27th, 2018 at 12:24 PM

From a poster on 247:

Here's the personnel breakdown from Saturday:

11 personnel - 58% of all snaps for 348 yards. 62% pass & 38% run. 
12 personnel - 31% of all snaps for 45 yards. 71% run & 29% pass. 
21 personnel - 6% of all snaps for 2 yards. 20% pass & 80% run. 
13 personnel - 4% of all snaps for 5 yards. 67% pass & 33% run. 
32 personnel - 1% of all snaps for 1 yards. 100% run (for a TD).

In other words,  42% of our offensive snaps generated only 53 yards. OSU could not stop Michigan when they were in 11 personnel. 

There's also this:

Michigan ran the ball between the tackles 20 times Saturday, for 3.2 yards per carry (and that includes a 15-yard QB draw). When they attacked the edges, they averaged 5.9 yards per carry.

— Michael Spath (@MichaelSpathITH) November 26, 2018



November 27th, 2018 at 12:35 PM ^

First number = running backs
Second number = tight ends

You can have up to 5 skill guys (5 linemen + 1 QB + 5 skill guys), so anyone not listed there is presumed to be a WR.

12 personnel = 1 running back, 2 tight ends (and 2 wide receivers)
32 personnel = 3 running backs, 2 tight ends
10 personnel = 1 running back (and 4 wide receivers)

We've occasionally run some Wildcat stuff that we call 41, which is 4 running backs, 1 tight end (and 1 wide receiver), so the QB knows he's coming out of the game.


November 27th, 2018 at 1:11 PM ^

As someone who only played the kind of competitive football with throw-ins, yellows cards, corner kicks and penalty kicks, as always, your explanations are very much appreciated. 

After all of my years as a sports fan (born during the Truman administration), but not as many years practicing law, I've come to the realization that learning the details of football schemes and play calling is almost like trying to understand and explain the Rule Against Perpetuities for the Bar Exam. You make it easy for those who've never played the game.

QUESTION: Will any of this be on the final exam?


November 27th, 2018 at 12:29 PM ^

I’ve always said that the only thing wrong with this offense is our willingness to invite 8 and 9 man boxes because of our stubborn use of constricting formations.

We want to play in a hallway for some reason.


November 27th, 2018 at 12:38 PM ^

Some football coaches have this philosophy:

Spread the formation to run. Constrict the formation to pass. 

Obviously that can't be your philosophy 100% of the time, but it can work. Personally, I would like to see more wide receivers in condensed formations rather than tight ends, but there's some merit to that overall attack.


November 27th, 2018 at 2:32 PM ^

The Rams rarely run on 1st and 2nd downs so they can throw a bunch of underneath passes to get some yards to set up 3rd and short. They faced the fewest men in the box out of anybody in the league because they pass a lot. Condensed formation with WRs lining up close to the box forces the defense to line up wide because they have the space to run through it. It seems counterintuitive but it works.


November 27th, 2018 at 3:25 PM ^

A lot of the big plays against tOSU this year have been when they can't hold the edge, or on breakthrough runs because the LBs were tied up at the LOS, and backs breaking through to a big open field with poor tackling by the secondary. Until Saturday, they were not always gap sound, so the tight-slot and motion created extra gaps which Michigan hoped to exploit.

Ohio State made their LBs play more sound, reading the play, and then attacking. When there was an open gap, they shot it. Michigan's line seemed tentative and confused at times.




November 27th, 2018 at 12:30 PM ^

I don't know football at all, but I'm guessing many of those between the tackle runs helped to keep the edges open. Had 100% of plays been run to the edge, OSU would have adjusted and shut that down. Is that how coaching works?

Red is Blue

November 27th, 2018 at 1:43 PM ^

Here's what I don't get.  I think you're right about the game plan.  But, given that, the very first play of the game Higdon gets 8.  Instead of bringing in Mason and pounding up the middle, twice if need be, Michigan got cute and tried a pass.  Which, okay, I suppose they were trying to catch them off guard. 

But, if you're willing to go away from the ground and pound game plan on the second play of the game in an ideal ground and pound down and distance, why do you insist on running it after halftime when you've got plenty of evidence that it wasn't working or in not ideal down and distances?

yossarians tree

November 27th, 2018 at 2:28 PM ^

Grind it out offense is really most effective when you are ahead and your defense is getting stops. When you are behind or quickly surmise that you are in a track meet, you have to be able to adjust, spread it out, and get some chunk plays. We certainly have better athletes outside than a lot of teams that do just that. So why can't/won't we do it?

Michigan should be equally capable of pounding the ball AND airing it out.  

That being said, the defense was by far the reason Michigan lost. Total outlier. Makes no sense.


November 27th, 2018 at 12:43 PM ^

I'm sure that is somewhat true, but contrast that with OSU's philosophy which was -- we have a scheme that works, and we'll do it from the start, and keep doing it (with minor, but significant adjustments) until you stop it, consistently. 

Less non-productive "set up" plays. It's one of the ways you get to 62 points instead of 39.


November 27th, 2018 at 12:56 PM ^

Yep, even though I'm not a football coach, it doesn't seem too hard to say, "that worked, let's do more of that."

JH is our best hope as coach for the foreseeable future, but our FB program is limited by his stubbornness and dinosaur philosophy. We're Iowa, with better personnel. Going forward, 10-win seasons will be common, but we will not beat OSU or similar elite teams without them taking a step back. Now there's really no argument. Nothing gets "held back"....nothing gets "saved". As a matter of fact, we get more conservative and more predictable against the better teams -- absolutely the opposite of what it should be.

That's the most frustrating part. I know of no other program that (a) has the talent to be better and (b) makes a conscious decision to ignore that to play football what it considers the "right" way. It's almost unbelievable.

For the basketball program, it's "Win the Game"....adapt to your personnel....change the strategy. That's why John Beilein is light-years ahead of JH as a coach.

10-win seasons are awesome, but we've hit our ceiling. Is there a better coach out there for us that would come here? Especially after what we did to Rich Rod? I don't think so....


November 27th, 2018 at 1:18 PM ^

I am definitely *not *ignoring his whole tenure. While we have certainly done some nice things (e.g., adding Shea's running this year), I have not been impressed with our creativity and utilizing our best assets on a consistent basis. The PepCat is one of my (least) favorite examples of this lack of creativity; DPJ only getting 39 catches this year is one example of not utilizing a game-breaking asset.

I put this on another post, but our biggest road win this year was against NU -- and when we were down 17-13 in the middle of the 4th quarter, our first down plays were:

- Pass to Wangler (9 yards)
- Run by Higdon (1 yard)
- Run by Higdon (1 yard)
- Run by Higdon (0 yards)
- Run by Higdon (1 yard)

We got bailed out by Shea making plays and a great pass / catch by Gentry on 2nd and 3rd downs.

When the chips are down and/or we are facing our toughest opponents, Harbaugh too often relies on "set up" plays and body blows as opposed to getting creative or aggressive -- in my opinion.


November 27th, 2018 at 1:34 PM ^

Yep...  Going conservative seems to be the Michigan Way.  Bo did it religiously.  Moeller also went conservative when things got tough.  Carr is infamous for it.  RichRod had a one tool toolbox.  Hoke was just, well, Hokish...  Harbaugh goes conservative.

Why can't get a coach that gets as aggressive as the best of them?  Moeller was the closest we've had, and he went hardcore Bo the moment a game got tough.

This offense has all the basic tools and players it needs.  It's just not aggressive enough...


November 27th, 2018 at 2:46 PM ^

It's been a long time since Moeller was coach so it's hard to argue what his overall tendencies were in tough game situations, but the most iconic play from his tenure was The Catch on 4th & 1 up 3 in the 4th qtr. Also, in the 1988 HOF Bowl vs Alabama going for the TD down 3 in the 4th qtr on 4th & 3. And throwing for the 2-point conversion down 1 instead of going for the tie vs MSU in 1990 when Howard was interfered with.

Ron Utah

November 27th, 2018 at 1:04 PM ^

Especially when you have Collins and Black, two players that have proven you can toss it up and they'll go get it.

When Nico caught that TD, I actually asked the empty room why we haven't been doing more of that all season.  Why don't we throw back-shoulder fades or arm-punts to our ridiculously tall and talented WRs more?  Why don't we use more slants and crossing routes to open up fades, snags, and corner routes?  Why don't we use Chris Evans more in the passing game?

The passing game is what needs fixing this off-season.  I'm confident Don Brown will have the defense ready for OSU-style mesh plays next year.

Reggie Dunlop

November 27th, 2018 at 1:49 PM ^

The passing game is what needs fixing this off-season.

100% agree. It's not that our passing game is illogical or dumb. It just doesn't seem to fit with who and what we are. We use multiple TEs. That's what we do and it generally works. But like OSU's run-heavy offense with Barrett, the complementary pass game would seem to be big plays over the top when the defense becomes over-committed to stopping our generally effective run game.

Only we've paired our run game with what seems to be a west coast passing attack that more often than not is operating within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. I know that's over-simplified, and we've taken plenty of deep shots, but in general the pass game just doesn't seem to fit what we're doing.


November 27th, 2018 at 12:43 PM ^

That 11 personnel grouping didn't come into play until the drive near the end of the 1st half, already down 21-6.  By then, what was happening was pretty clear...  And it didn't come back into play until late in the 3rd, when the game was done - and we all knew it.

Simple stubbornness to change things up when they clearly aren't working...