Problems against good Dlines

Submitted by wildbackdunesman on October 15th, 2011 at 10:10 PM

IMO, the deciding factor in today's game was the Defensive Line of MSU.  MSU typically controlled the line of scrimmage when we had the ball.

MSU has one of the better Dlines that we will see all year, however, quite a few teams left on our schedule also have good Dlines - if not as good as MSUs.

What can we do to mitigate a good Dline?

More shotgun, more option, more protection int backfield?



October 15th, 2011 at 10:17 PM ^

Remember that comment Hoke made about teams that run near-exclusively zone blocking / finesse schemes? The one Brian went crazy on? It looks pretty damn smart after today.

It is certainly possible we will have this problem all year and until our o-line has adjusted to the expectations of the new staff.




October 16th, 2011 at 10:22 AM ^

I seem to recall a debate from three years ago.  One side worried that RRs scheme would lead to O-linemen who were too light, and not aggressive and powerful enough, to block big, aggressive D-lines.  The idea was strongly pooh-poohed.  Lines can be strong and aggressive in spread offenses, we were assured.  It's a myth that lines in spread offenses aren't big and strong!

Yet look at one of the cliches that has emerged this season, as so many repeat derisively, "manball!"  "Power foobaw!"  The cliche is this: "B--b-but...Hoke, Borges, don't ask the line to gap black or block man-on-man power -- they weren't recruited for that!"

They weren't recruited for that.  Even though Molk and Huyge were recruited by Carr.  We're told they were recruited for and are best at reach blocking.  It's as though it's unfair or futile to demand players gain weight and learn different blockiing schemes...So, now the sentiment seems to be that the reservation from a few years ago was on the money: these "reach blocking" linemen have trouble with big, aggressive linemen.  

Now, you can point to Florida and Auburn: but it seems to me that I recall Meyer's O-line averaging over 300 lbs and still containing elements of power.  And lets ignore that the two best teams in the SEC now -- 'Bama and LSU -- are power teams.  And in any case, does anyone truly think Lewan will be "the next Jake Long" if he remains a 6'7" 295 lb. left tackle?  


October 15th, 2011 at 10:20 PM ^

We didn't seem to be a threat to complete passes. If our completion percentage was higher that would have opened things up on the ground.

Some screens would also neutralize the pressure.

Also, we really need to bench Taco Pants. It's time for him to ride the pine.


October 15th, 2011 at 10:19 PM ^

The only other line that can potentially pose similar problems is OSU's, with Simon and Hankins.  I think we gave up on the run too early today.  After a certain point, the D-line and the blitzers were just pinning their ears back and playing the pass only.  We ran very few Denard power off-tackles today, which was disappointing.  


October 15th, 2011 at 11:24 PM ^

Was the lack of a different snap count. It was to determine when to blitz when Molk ducks his head to look at the QB, then raises his head and snaps the ball. The coaching staff should have given Molk the autonomy to take a second and keep defenses honest. This was a major reason we couldn't control the line of scrimage!


October 15th, 2011 at 11:50 PM ^

I kind of wonder if the coaches didn't run the ball as much with Denard because of the beating he was receiving before and after the whistle.  They probably figured it would be better on Denard's long-term health to take chances with his arms.  That said, would have liked to see more running by hte backs.

NOLA Wolverine

October 15th, 2011 at 10:20 PM ^

Block better and get Denard to make quicker (and better) decisions. Borges gave it a shot today trying to get receivers into some of the voids created on plays where they blitzed (which wasn't always the case), but it's pretty tough sledding when he's having to build Denard's progression reading from scratch. Scheme's won't save you when you're getting shredded up front. Review the LSU - Oregon game if you want to see what one of the best offensive minds in the country came up to deal with LSU's talent up front against his relatively experienced QB. We need to let these recruiting classes pile up and get some depth on the line, that's when we'll be able to finally turn the page.  


October 16th, 2011 at 2:52 AM ^

Seemed like he was creative when he didn't need to be, and not creative enough other times. The Devin throws on 1st down with Denard on the bench confused the heck out of me. Devin under center and Denard in the backfield makes sense, but keeping Denard off the field by choice seems pointlessly debilitating.


October 15th, 2011 at 10:26 PM ^

All the sacks came in the second half after we had proven that we were not going to hand the ball off, except on the occasional zone read to Vincent Smith.  When your backs get 6 carries in 11 possessions, the defense is able to tee off on the QB (even the few times we ran it the back was standing right next to the guy they were going after).  When that QB is also a huge rushing threat, the bull's eye gets even bigger. 

As long as it is done with variety (toss, trap, sweep, counter, iso, power, draw, etc.) and you give your best players opportunities (more than two carries for Fitz, let Shaw touch the ball, etc.) it should work out nicely.  At worst it keeps the defense honest and opens things up for Denard (at a minimum it gives him time to breathe).

As far as formations go, I guess the only thing I would do is employ less spread if you aren't going to run a spread offense and try to attack the defense on the edges and stretch them horizontally.  Without that stuff in the gameplan the QB is just a sitting duck and would  be better off having more blockers in front of him.


October 15th, 2011 at 10:28 PM ^

The gorgeous one made some bad calls, but Denard missed BADLY on a wide open Hemmingway for a TD, and Devin didn't make his progressions to see a wide open Hopkins that probably would've been a TD and instead chucked it to Hemmingway. MSU played well on D, but they weren't in Denard's grill every other play.  He just made some bad throws.


October 15th, 2011 at 10:31 PM ^

I feel like the QBs continue to miss the receivers that are between the LBs and the DBs. Sure, it would only be a 5-7 yard pickup, but its positive. They spend too much time looking downfield and then they have too much pressure to see the wide open pockets in the defense. It's not their fault. that's on the coaches.


October 15th, 2011 at 10:31 PM ^

Sam Webb called into the WTKA post game on his way back from the low plains of East Lansing. He noted that State once again was anticipating the snap count and getting slight edges and causing our line fits. Not that much different than what we saw in 08-10. He never felt like we altered our cadence to make them pay and get them to back off. Something we'll have to clean up for the future. 


October 15th, 2011 at 10:38 PM ^

I really expected a different approach this time around, regardless of coaching staff.  MSU has been ridiculously overprepared for this one game for the last few years.  I imagine if they went up against Oregon next week they would have a ton of success stopping their base, zone read plays. 

To see us almost exclusively in the shotgun, with no option in the running game (aside from Denard on his own) other than the basic zone read play was very disappointing.  They played well up front but we played right into their hands with the stuff we ran today.


October 15th, 2011 at 10:43 PM ^

I was suprised we didn't throw any bubbles today and I'm really disappointed that we didn't seem to have our WR prepared for hot routes to counter the blitz..  The UFR should show that Vincent Smith erred horrendously on the pick6.  Both inside linebackers blitzed, leaving a giant chasm over the middle.    Smith should have run a hot slant to the middle for what could have been a big gain.   Instead, he appeared to almost set up to block the DB.  I have no idea what he was doing or thinking.


I tried to watch Worthy from time to time and when I did, he seemed to have been blocked effectively.  I didn't "feel" him, to borrow a phrase from Coach Hoke.  In my opinion, the Spartan's DBs add as much to their D's effectiveness against the run as the DL.  They support fast and hard and fit into the rush lanes very well.



October 15th, 2011 at 10:54 PM ^

I'm not sure who was in the slot on the other side, but he is basically all alone on the pick 6 play for what would have been a huge gain and a relatively easy completion.  But instead of looking back at Denard he is making an out cut and has his back turned when the ball is released.

Not sure how the hot route thing would have worked there, but it seems like the receivers (and Denard along with them) are struggling handling the newfound responsibility that comes with running parts of this west coast offense and adjusting to plays on the fly.


October 15th, 2011 at 10:55 PM ^

The O-line needs to step up and give Denard few moments to make a play.. I mean those sacks were just god-awful.. by the time denard turned around he had some one on him. On multiple occassions the LB and CB got a free lane to denard/gardner while lewan was just standing there like an on-field spectator..

Just the way we are asking defense to not give up on play, and all 11 players to chase the ball, we need the o-line to keep engaged in the play and protect the pocket


October 15th, 2011 at 11:02 PM ^

The offensive line was forced to play on their heels for most of the game.  We didn't attempt to run the ball and rarely if ever gave Deanard opportunities to quickly get the ball out of his hand (I remember one tunnel screen).  They also lined up in a formation with little margin for error in terms of having extra blockers in to help out.

They didn't play a great game, but the playcalling could have made their job a hell of a lot easier by helping them out and keeping MSU off balance.


October 15th, 2011 at 11:06 PM ^

yeah.. I guess I am not as sophisticated at football to tell the difference between bad play calling and bad playing. All I am saying is what I saw from the offensive front did not make me happy. that needs to change


October 16th, 2011 at 3:04 AM ^

He throws less accurately when rolling. I don't think Brian hates a rollout in general, just a rollout when you've got contain guys keyed on Denard who will come at him in a way they wouldn't against John Navarre. I do wish we had attacked the edge more with screens and sweeps (though they covered our option plays well, so maybe not).


October 16th, 2011 at 12:24 AM ^

When Michigan was dominating the B1G and cmpeting for Rose Bowl berths, we had the kind of O lines you see at Wisconsin now.  The transition away from the lean, smaller, faster lineman that RR wanted here is going to take the some time.  In the mean time I think we are going to see our line get pushed around by the bigger, stronger defenses in the conceference.  OSU has a line like that and Iowa pretty good too.  I'm not sure about Nebraska, but I can see Michigan being the underdog in every game except the Purdue game the rest of season.  Unfortunately, I am nowhere near as optimistic as I was before today. 

The Illinois game will be very telling.  If we don't win that one, 7-5 is a real possibility.  I hate to admit it, but based on the way our lines were dominated today, it's a reality we might have to come to grips with.


October 16th, 2011 at 7:31 AM ^

According to a pre-game segment on WTKA, the average weight of our OL was just 4 pounds less than MSU's. The average weight of our DL was actually higher than MSU's DL.

Weight is the not the problem. Talent is, or the ability to assess it and bring it to Michigan.

Woodrow Hankins is making plays as a pure soph for OSU, but somehow our previous staff didn't think he was worthy of an offer until way too late in the process. OSU, by contrast, saw his potential.

I agree that 7-5 is a distinct possibility, though. We have no running game other than DR, and part of that is that we've got a mediocre OL. The other part is that our starting QB is very erratic as a passer.

Maize and Blue…

October 16th, 2011 at 9:50 AM ^

The old staff gave Hankins a chance to earn a scholarship at camp and he didn't show up in shape.  He knew they were concerned with his lack of conditioning and he shows up out of shape.  That is a big red flag to me.  If he wanted the offer so bad he should have worked a little harder.  He also was at what school in HS?


October 16th, 2011 at 10:57 AM ^

I've got news for you—there are plenty of kids who don't work as hard as they can in high school. They're kids. Was William Campbell in that much better condition than Hankins? Considering how much weight he had to drop when he got here, I'd guess not really.

More to the point: If the perceived lack of conditioning was such a red flag to our staff, why was it not a red flag for Ohio State, who've been beating our asses for six years running?

All the UM staff needed to do was make an offer to Hankins conditional: he will receive the formal offer of a scholarship if he's in condition by signing day. If he's not, it will get pulled.

I'm not a RR basher when it comes to his recruiting; I think he doesn't get enough credit for bringing in a number of quality kids and players, most of whom are still early in their careers. However, on this one critical player, I think they made a huge error in judgement, with consequences that the present staff are going to have to deal with for the next three seasons when we play them.


October 16th, 2011 at 1:24 AM ^

This won't be solved for one or two recruiting classes. Outside of Molk and Lewan we just don't have the talent on the o-line to compete with the bigs boys...


October 16th, 2011 at 6:29 AM ^

If the opposing defensive line is going to keep bringing pressure, then I think quicker reads and quicker throws may be the best thing to work on here, or if we're going to keep our typically dangerous run game as an alternative, whoever has the ball will just have to book it through the first hole they see and get at least a few yards before the secondary finds them. If   we need to get to the end zone on a painfully long series of short passes and runs up the middle, then so be it. 

Go Blue Beau

October 16th, 2011 at 6:57 AM ^

The only thing we can do sadly is wait for these offensive and defensive line recruits to come in next year. We just don't have the personal up front. It's called reality. I can sit here on my couch and bitch all day on how great I could've called the game, but come on, Borges is pretty limited on what he can do here. Hard to do anything with a defense that has a great d line and can bring all their linebackers with a corner on top of that since we can't throw and they totally don't have to respect it. Trying to find plays for a bad line to block between 6-8 players every play with no threat of a pass, well not even the annexation of Puerto Rico would work.


October 16th, 2011 at 10:38 AM ^

I'm sure it's been noted elsewhere, but I wonder whether the wind affected the game plan yesterday w/r/t dealing with their D-line.  I could see Borges et al. having a bunch of bubble screens planned but then scrapping or limiting them at the last minute after getting blown half to hell during warmups.  Last minute adjustments could also explain why we flirted with delay penalties for a lot of the day.  


October 16th, 2011 at 10:39 AM ^

You mean our offense struggles when playing a better defense?  I don't know, maybe we can schedule all cupcakes to fix the problem...move down to division 2.