A Question for Borges: What Happened to the Veer?

Submitted by stephenrjking on November 5th, 2012 at 12:14 AM

We now know that Devin Gardner was basically Michigan's only serviceable quarterback Saturday. Bellomy was hurt (and it's pretty obvious it was legit, given his absence from warmups and Kennedy's insertion in garbage time) and Denard was unavailable.

We also suspect that Al Borges isn't a huge fan of using a quarterback in designated runs, and that starting next year the "Let Denard Run" portion of the playbook will be mothballed. He had a week of Devin Gardner as his first-team quarterback, knowing that Denard and Bellomy might not go. 

The result? A gameplan that completely ignored the quarterback as a runner. Devin's a pretty fast guy, but his running plays were mostly improvised, with a light helping of traditional drop-back draws. There were no veers where Devin actually could have made a run read. No QB isos or sweeps. We just saw what might be our QB next year; did we just see a preview of our new offense?

My question: Did Borges remove the QB run plays from the gameplan because he preferred Gardner as a more traditional drop-back-and-occasionally-scramble QB? Or did he merely take runs out of the plan because Michigan absolutely could not afford to have Devin get hurt?

This question is in good faith; I think either answer is reasonably valid, and on this weekend at least the Manball grind-and-torch-clock huddle offense was absolutely perfect for Michigan. The second quarter was brilliant. This question is relevant, though, because if Devin starts next year but has a valid backup or two, he can still do damage in an inverted veer that seems to work pretty well.



November 5th, 2012 at 12:23 AM ^

It is a good question. Another possibility is that Devin wasn't sharp on his reads during these plays from not taking many qb snaps so Borges removed them from the plan rather than having some bad decisions being made.


November 5th, 2012 at 11:16 AM ^

keeping the playbook simple for a guy who's been practicing in another position the whole season, and protecting that guy because the backup is a throwing handless Denard, or a musically talented 4th string back-up.

[Edit:] Actually in this DetNews article, Devin Gardner said the following after the game:

I feel like it was kind of safe due to the fact we didn't have as much depth at quarterback today so they couldn't run the quarterback, ... I'm comfortable doing that (running), but there's no way we could have done that. It wouldn't have been smart.

So they game planned to protect him. (It also says if Devin went down, a limited Denard was the backup plan.)



November 5th, 2012 at 12:34 AM ^

I think it's pretty obvious that Denard's skill set makes QB runs a necessity. If you're going to have Denard as your QB, and I agree he should be the QB, there has to be a reason for it. I'm sorry, but he's not playing QB based on his throwing ability. I think Gardner looked, at least on Saturday, a lot more comfortable as a thrower. Borges may just trust Gardner more passing. I'm not sure if that's the way Borges wants it to be, but that's the way it is. The running game hasn't gone well without Denard (due to both the RB's and the linemen). Maybe they just thought they could exploit the Gophers through the air. Maybe Devin just is not great with the decision making involved with the veer/option. There's a lot of variables. I'm just tryin to enjoy the ride, man. It's fairly obvious that Borges doesn't plan on continuing the QB run attack forever, but it may not be the best idea to scrap it completely when we no longer have Denard.


TL;DR Version: I don't know, man.


November 5th, 2012 at 12:35 AM ^

I seem to remember some called runs with Gardner. One was a QB sweep that picked up a first down.

But let's be honest, Borges wants to run a more traditional system. In addition, he was probably a little concerned about Gardner getting injured.

I think everyone needs to stop their hand wringing over the offense and see how this season and next season play out. Borges seems pretty set in the way he des things and I don't see it changing. Lets just hope his plan for the offense and the players he end up with make for a good combo in coming years.


November 5th, 2012 at 12:57 AM ^

OP means the play Chris Brown from Smart Football dubbed "Inverted Veer":


Most(ish?) teams run it with power blocking, but it's functionally similar in read since you get downblocking and a frontside DE read.  It's "inverted" because it's not the B back smashing up the middle and the QB taking the edge but vice versa.  

You could run it either way, but the teams that have used it in this fashion have often had larger QBs like Tim Tebow or Cam Newton to run it.  We use it because Borges likes power blocking and Denard is a very good north-south runner.

Since like the middle of last year, it's been our base running play.


November 5th, 2012 at 7:35 AM ^

He means inverted veer. Brian's just been calling it veer lately. I didn't notice it until my friend started to call it veer. I corrected him, then started noticing Brian calling it veer. It's a lot harder to correct Brian, especially when he already knows the difference and chooses not to make the distinction.

FWIW, a veer from pistol or shotgun would have been a fantastic play to setup the screen to Gallon.


November 5th, 2012 at 10:49 AM ^

Actually, I just saw some video of a team running veer out of pistol and shotgun, but I can't remember which team it was. Regardless, that's still a bad reason to drop the distinction. If he wants to shorten it up, then call it dash as that's what a good number of teams call the play.


November 5th, 2012 at 6:29 AM ^

The Veer can be run out of gun, it's not just a split back thing (although thats most common, espcially in HS). You can run veer out of I, Gun, even single back with WR motion. But, you are correct in the sense that our option isn't a veer. Our version of the spread option isn't a veer at all, in fact. A veer is 3 frontside reads (Normally 3 tech in an even front, DE, OLB). We use MLB,  backside DE reads, and 1 tech reads...which aren't truely veer plays (not even inverted). If anything our version resembles more of an inverted mideline option (in the mideline 1 techs get read, and the MLB could be considered a second level 1 tech, as well). So, if you want to compare our option to anything it would be mideline option, which isn't veer. The orginial triple option is the mideline option run out of wishbone/double wing (Georgia Tech, Navy) and you're only reading 2 players really. In the veer there is 3 reads, our option is innovative in the sense that we read 2nd level defenders too, as opposed to just first level defenders. I don't mean to be a technical Tom, but I'm a football coach and it annoys me, lol. I love the spread option, and if you really are bored Youtube Oregons guru his name is fish something (just type fish oregon into the search bar), and he complains about people calling their option an inverted veer too. It will give you some insight into Borges thought process. I guess I understand it a little more now (I know we all complain about it). Obviously, our S.O. is different than theirs, but you  get a much better sense of how exactly it works, and coaches mindsets. It's good for any of you hardcore technical fans out there, like myself. I agree that Devin doesn't get enough reps at QB in practice (spending the majority of the season at WR) to run the S.O. It takes timing and a million reps in practice to get it right. I thought Borges had some nice plays (like roll out double lead out of I) to get Devin going in the run game a little. Plus, Devin is better than Denard at knowing when to take 3-4 yards when he's in gun and the pass isn't there, rather than just throwing the ball up and yelling "500" in his head. But, I still love Denard though. 


November 5th, 2012 at 12:48 AM ^

You don't want to run your only serviceable qb unless you need to. I think the veer would've come out had it been a close game in the 3rd quarter. Maybe they will brim it back out if the next game is a close one


November 5th, 2012 at 1:04 AM ^

I think risk aversion and Devin's limited practice probably coincided.  We ran what looked to me like the base offense minus the IV.  

...Not exactly on topic, but I think the UFR is going to be ugly.  Our interior line, especially Barnum and Mealer, are really hurting us right now.  In the Nebraska UFR there was some speculation that Mealer isn't nearly as good as Molk in calling the blocks.  I could be wrong, but I think that's decided on between the two guys who need to communicate.  But the sacks iirc all came up the middle and were perhaps the result of bad declaration by Mealer.  

I also wonder if Barnum's knee issues have hurt his ability to play.  Thanks to our depth issues, we really don't have anybody who can really push them or give them time off if they're not seriously hurt but are still impaired.

Blue in Yarmouth

November 5th, 2012 at 8:01 AM ^

This is the first game I really watch the line as the last UFR was really the first one that gave me any indication that there was something wrong there. What I saw was atrocious. The interior of that line and really everyone other than Lewan seemded to be letting guys through like nobodies business. On the run plays, there literally no holes for the back to hit.

I thought when A.B.  and Hoke were saying there weren't any holes for Toussaint and that was the reason he was struggling I thought they were just trying to be nice, but after watching that game I agree. There simply is no running room at all. I think the line is at least decent, I just wonder what they are being taught to do in pracitce.


November 5th, 2012 at 1:19 AM ^

We were playing Minnesota.

We don't really know how much of the playbook Devin is comfortable with or what they really worked on in practice. All we know is he took more snaps in practice. My hope is that Borges thought we didn't need to run Devin or run the inverted veer to beat Minnesota.


November 5th, 2012 at 1:35 AM ^

Who really cares, our 1 QB is hurt, our 1 RB is afraid to hit the hole, we don't have a number 1 WR, the closest thing to a number 1 is the new QB, our game plans look more and more predictable.

I personally think the game we played vs Minny was the future of Michigan, minus the crappy O Line play. Seriously I'm sick of them being pushed all over the place every fucking week. Lewan is not ready for the pros and I don't care what people say here. Just my opinion


November 5th, 2012 at 6:10 AM ^

I remember when, just a year ago, most of us thought that between DRob and DG, the QB position was an embarrassment of riches. This year, not so much, obviously.

The TD to Dileo was awesome, and showed that DG had great vision, but it looked to me like he threw the ball off his back foot and - hard to tell - but its possible he was actually in the air when he released it. Ugh.

So, Borges is probably trying to play with the cards he's been dealt. He doesn't have a great OL, his #1 QB is hurt and even when healthy, is no one's idea of an elite passer. His primary backup, now hurt, is also an INT machine. His new back up is his former #1 WR. His RBs haven't been effective and, along with his remaining WRs, aren't the speediest bunch.

Net net, no veer.

STW P. Brabbs

November 5th, 2012 at 7:14 AM ^

Maybe I'm wrong, but this sounds like a post where you've heard a lot about throws off the back foot, so you're applying that newfound knowledge to Gardner. Gardner, a right-handed quarterback was rolling hard to his left under pressure, had no time to set his feet, jumped and threw the ball across his body ... 55+ yards in the air to an open receiver. Let's criticize his technique then.

Blue in Yarmouth

November 5th, 2012 at 8:08 AM ^

you must not know what you are talking about. Basically, given the play there was literally no possible way for Garnder to NOT throw off his back foot. We hear it here all the time because Borges is so set on having Denard being a pocket passer who throws when his feet are set, but that ignores the fact that many times, when you have a mobile QB who is scrambling and looking downfield they almost always throw the ball on the run without setting their feet. If you are moving toward the line of scrimage (which Devin was) starting the throw on your back foot is the only technique that will work. His momentum is carrying him forward so it isn't the same as a guy in the pocket, backing up and throwing off his back foot with his momentum going backwards.

I guess what I am saying is Devins technique on that throw was spot on IMHE. I also think that what the guy above you is saying as well.


November 5th, 2012 at 8:08 AM ^

He's talking about the fact that criticizing a QB who was in the middle of a scramble, throwing against his body, putting a ball 55 yards in the air on the dot to a wide open reciever is kind of vapid. That was an excellent play by Gardner, and criticizing him because you didn't think his throwing motion was perfect seems a bit short sighted.


November 5th, 2012 at 8:33 AM ^

Well ... that same throw with those same mechanics with tighter defensive coverage could easily have been a pick.  There was air under that throw and the receiver just camped out and waited for it to come down.  Good thing he was all alone.

It's not criticism of that particular play's outcome ... it's a cautionary warning that when a QB throws like Gardner did on that play then the odds of success go down.


November 5th, 2012 at 8:58 AM ^

In watching the play again, it's pretty clear that DG stepped into the throw and delivered on target to Dileo, so perhaps his accuracy wasn't as much in question. However, Minny doesn't have the same calibur DBs as other teams we have faced and will face again this season. I'm not sure the same play would have turned out as fortuitously for DG had he been facing a better defense.


November 5th, 2012 at 9:30 AM ^

The play where DG is throwing from our own endzone and launches a rifle off of his backfoot to a tightly covered receiver (forget who) for a huge 15 yard pass.

Minnesota grains of salt apply, but it could be that Gardner has the gunslinger mentality and the gun to make some of those plays.


November 5th, 2012 at 11:12 AM ^

"Minnesota grains of salt apply, but it could be that Gardner has the gunslinger mentality and the gun to make some of those plays."

And the chance of throwing a pick-6 if not careful ... particularly against better defensive backs who know how to give the illusion of openness but then close on the ball when thrown.

The issue is whether it's better on the whole for a QB to have good throwing mechanics.  The answer is clearly "yes". 

Does that mean Gardner's mechanics invalidate him as a QB?  Absolutely not.  Does it mean Gardner has room for improvement?  Yes, of course ... who doesn't?.  Does it mean he should abandon all gunslinger risk-taking?  No, of course not.  Does it mean the better a player is at mechanics and decision making the better the QB he becomes?  Yes, of course.


November 5th, 2012 at 11:55 AM ^

But on that play it was 3 and 17 from outside field goal range and Dileo was hand waving lay open. I'm totally okay with an arm punt in that situation, especially when it's a pretty accurate arm punt.

If the coverage was better I don't think Devin attempts the throw. If it wasn't 3rd down he probably never cuts back to his left in the first place.


November 5th, 2012 at 7:54 AM ^

I went back through some of my own notes on this year,  and for the last several weeks anyway, we've run the "inverted veer" about 6-7 times per game (at least, up to and including Nebraska), so it is occasionally in the mix. I think that many of these plays this season, especially lately, have been gives to the RB, however, or at least this is what I noticed - as the season has progressed, it seems fewer of them have been keepers for Robinson. It also seems like there have been quite a bit more inside zone runs and some off-tackle plays in the calls in order to get the RBs involved more, especially this season. As others have mentioned, having watched the  Minnesota game, we ran the base offense virtually the whole game, so my assumption as well is that the inverted veer was just not an  option in this game given the situation. 


November 5th, 2012 at 6:55 AM ^

On Saturday, for the first time in Michigan history, Michigan put together back to back 90 yard scoring drives.  Borges is the Man!  Borges for president!  Whatever he's doing, keep doing it, man.  I know, man, right!?  Borges, you freed my people to run downfield and catch passes!


November 5th, 2012 at 6:55 AM ^

I think it is also because DG is not the home run threat that Denard is. He's a big athletic guy but doesn't possess the kind of speed that makes the read plays as dangerous. Because of that, it is more effective to have him use his arm first, and his legs when he sees fit. And obviously, keeping DG healthy was part of the thought process.


November 5th, 2012 at 7:09 AM ^

My guess is that, despite those who whine to the contrary, Borges has done everything he can think of within his system to help accentuate Denard's strengths.  When Devin is in, he can see over the line of scrimmage, and more traditional WCO plays are more appropriate.

 Besides, unless Bellomy plays a lot better against live competition, it would be stupid to send Devin on too many runs due to risk of injury leaving them with their #3 as their starter.  I know it's human nature to second-guess the playcalling when "our" team loses, but they did just win pretty handily with a second-string QB at the helm.

I hope to see both QB's play against NW.  It would be a great change-of-pace having one guy as dangerous as Denard and another who can pass from the pocket and actually see what he is throwing at.



November 5th, 2012 at 7:14 AM ^

I think its because DG doesnt need to run to be effective like Denard and he was able to easily beat Minnesota without running a lot and risking injury


November 5th, 2012 at 7:41 AM ^

Gardner is a dual threat QB, but his size is better then Denard and he is more a passer then a runner. He can make plays with his legs, but seems better in a drop back setting and not trying to run. DG is much more a pro style guy then a spread guy in my opinion.


November 5th, 2012 at 8:12 AM ^

if Gardner goes down, we are down to Jack Kennedy. Also, given our D, Minnesota's poor O Borges probably believed we don't need to win a shootout, so why take the risk (and while Gardner is fast, he's more of a traditional QB, who can run as opposed to a running QB, who can pass).


November 5th, 2012 at 8:17 AM ^

Devin himself say something to this effect?) Will be interesting to see what we do against a Northwestern team that's 103rd in passing defense but 24th in rushing D. Maybe more of the same, but I'm sure the coaches believe they need to get rushing production out of this O line, get better organized before OSU. 

Blue in Yarmouth

November 5th, 2012 at 8:18 AM ^

and after this season I will miss seeing him in the Michigan uniform on Saturday's. The guy has been through so much and I have been a huge fans since he signed with us four years ago. 

Having said that, I would like to see Devin remain in the mix at QB for the rest of the year. Not taking every snap or anything, but getting significant snaps to further prepare him for next season when he should be our starting QB. 

If Denard was in the running for the heisman or something I wouldn't be saying this. If Denard was good at taking care of the ball on each and every possession I wouldn't be saying this. The fact is though, he hasn't shown that all year. I still want him to get the lions share of the snaps at QB, but would like to see Devin out the quite a bit too so he can really start getting some game experience before next season. 

He has shown some real signs of progress, and I don;t think there is much (if any) drop off when he is in there as opposed to Denard. You lose a little speed and gain a little in other areas. I would just like to see him get some more snaps going forward.


November 5th, 2012 at 9:20 AM ^

We literally cannot run the ball without Robinson on the field. Minnesota's rushing defense is THE WORST, and we were a garbage-time carry away from racking up under 3 yards per carry - a full 3 yards per carry WORSE than the next worst performance Minnesota allowed (6.4 YPC to Northwestern).

Gardner's ability as a passer does not outweigh the fact that Denard is the only person that makes our rushing game function. If people would look at our yards per play and total yards, they'd see that this was not, actually, a good offense performance (and I don't blame Gardner for that, at all).

Blue in Yarmouth

November 5th, 2012 at 9:49 AM ^

so I guess you missed the part where I said I hoped Denard would get most of the snaps but Gardner would see some playing time at QB the rest of the season.

Honestly, I'm not trying to be a dick, but having seen you around here for some time it often seems as though the majority of your post are just trying to play devil's advocate with what ever post you choose to respond to. I mean, I didn't say I wanted Devin to replace Denard, I simply said I wanted him to get some reps at QB the rest of the season.


November 5th, 2012 at 9:51 AM ^

I'm disagreeing with this statement:

"He has shown some real signs of progress, and I don;t think there is much (if any) drop off when he is in there as opposed to Denard."

What we saw was a minor upgrade in the passing game (if the receivers were as competent for Denard as they were for Gardner (of course, Gardner didn't have himself out there to drop passes) and a dramatic decline in the running game.

I think the idea that there is no drop-off when we put up as many yards on Minnesota as we did against Michigan State is silly.

Blue in Yarmouth

November 5th, 2012 at 12:20 PM ^

I can accept your perspective, but I just don't see the same thing. If you are talking about the dropoff in the run game from strictly a yards from the QB perspective on QB runs than yeah, anyone is going to be an immediate downgrade from Denard. What I saw though, is Devin not getting more than a couple of chances on designed QB runs and the major part of his production coming when he had no other option. 

See, that is where I think he is a little more dependable than Denard. If Denard would just run when no one was open, he would probably be the most dangerous player in CFB, but for some reason he won't do that. He sits and waits until the last second and if no one is open, he throws up a prayer (he won't even throw the ball away). 

I think when you combine how well Devin did as a passer, his decisions (which to me was the biggest difference) and his athletic ability it isn't much of a downgrade between the two. If we're just looking at running, definitley a noticable dropoff, but with the rest of it factored in, not so much IMHE. 

Keep in mind also, I wasn't advocating for Denard to be hauled out in favour of DG as the #1 QB. I was saying that in light of everything we saw Saturday that he should get more snaps at QB in real games to give him a head start on next season, nothing more.

Der Alte

November 5th, 2012 at 8:25 AM ^

Given the consensus --- as I understand it --- that DG’s lack of QB PT would affect his ability to make the split-second reads that make the option go, Borgas seemed to focus DG’s run game on straight handoffs, quick pitches, and an occasional keeper. In the passing game, however, DG seemed to have more creative control.

On the highlight-film, reverse-direction rollout, Devin spotted an arm-waving Drew Dileo in the endzone and delivered a 40+ yard pass that Drew didn’t have to move a foot to catch. That whole sequence was far more talent that coaching. It showed why coming out of high school Devin was such a hot QB prospect.

In looking for some comparison to Devin I thought of VaTech’s Logan Thomas: a big, rangy guy with good speed, a good arm, who can see over defenses, who can make plays with his feet and who seemed genetically predisposed to playing QB. In fact, once he settled down after the first quarter, Devin really did make playing QB look easy, which is what great athletes do.