Question for coaches and O-line experts (Also, Sunday Snowflake Thread)

Submitted by patrickdolan on September 22nd, 2013 at 10:38 AM

So is this what the interior of the line is trying but failing to do? It seemed to me that on a lot of that run to the left, the interior d-line was just beating attempted combo blocks by the center and left guard.….

MOD EDIT: Because of a fear of an onslaught of excessive individual posts regarding this and other topics, this is now the Sunday Snowflake Thread. - LSA



September 22nd, 2013 at 3:09 PM ^

A brain cramp is part of being young. Lots of kids (and adults) can point to open receivers, call penalties, find open holes, etc. on television. Clearly, it's tougher when you're on the field actually trying to do those things. Are you suggesting that experience doesn't matter? Everyone knows that you shouldn't false start, either, but Graham Glasgow has done so 3 times in 4 games. Does that mean he'll have 9 false start penalties every year from now until he graduates?

Cold War

September 23rd, 2013 at 7:01 AM ^

Sure, experience matters. And I'll buy experience as a factor in false starts. A split second reaction by a younger player still adjusting to  the  complexities of blocking schemes, audibles, and the quarterback's cadence is understandable. But in the case of a punt returner deep in his own territrory, he knows what to do and has time to think it  through. From the neck up, he isn't doing anything he wasn't doing in high school. Keeping track of the ball, not wandering inside the ten, and steering clear of a ball you don't field is basic stuff at any level.

Cold War

September 22nd, 2013 at 1:56 PM ^

Just a pet peeve of mine - I hate this business of penalizing players who block someone "too far from the play". Being 15 yards behind doesn't mean you can't make a play on a return. There's always the possibility a guy will cut back and you can close. If you're pursuing a play, expect to be blocked. If you don't want to get blocked, stop pursuing.


September 22nd, 2013 at 11:33 AM ^

Not a coach, but a coworker played Oline at a high enough level to be a projected draft pick at center (didn't go because he was already badly beat up from his college career). He's taken the time to explain a lot of things to me, the big one being how long it usually takes to develop offensive lineman. He's pretty clear that until the junior year, most offensive lineman aren't very good. His rants about which should be called "skill" positions are the best.

The O line is pretty terrible, but perhaps the best that can be hoped for is minor and gradual improvement over the course of the season. All of the interior being young, inexperienced, and even a walk-on isn't likely something that can just be corrected in practice.

This is not an excuse for Funk. It's likely just the law of averages. The right players with the right coach might develop faster. And we all know what kind of difference a good center makes, with much more of it being between the ears than strength and technique. As it stands, most of the offense's problems stem from poor line play. (And i'm including TE blocking as line play.) Individual players haven't reacted well to the line breakdowns and problems, but those are symptoms rather than diseases.



September 22nd, 2013 at 12:18 PM ^

1. What's academics got to do with it? It's practice reps and game experience that matter.

2. Glasgow is "getting it". He's damn good for a walk-on sophomore four starts into his career. He shouldn't be the third best lineman on a championship-contending team, but that's not his fault.

This is reminding me of Navarre's freshman year. It wasn't his fault he was out there and he deserved absolutely none of the crap he got. If you need to point fingers at somebody, point it at the people handling O-line recruiting for 2010 and 2011. It's not so much whether the guys out there are good or not, it's that they're all we've got. You can't handle an offensive line that way--it's the hardest position to project and you've got to leave yourself room to manuever.


September 22nd, 2013 at 1:06 PM ^

Well yes, to some degree that's correct. But keep in mind that they're being asked to get with a total of 12 starts covering the entire interior offensive line. It's not as if these guys were getting some playing time here and there over the course of those three years.

It's also worth keeping in mind that in many (maybe most) cases, good offensive line play is somewhat invisible while mistakes are glaring. Some of these guys are getting it some of the time, but if one gets it on a play and another doesn't, there's trouble. Furthermore, opposing coaches now know what and how to exploit the issues which steepens the learning curve for those kids.


September 22nd, 2013 at 11:34 AM ^

If you take the total yardage of all non-zero rushing plays regarding of whether they were losses or gains, you get an intriguing trend, to say the least.

Against CMU, we had 252 positive yards against 10 negative yards, making negative yardage 3.82% of the total. With ND, we moved forward 194 yards and 28 backwards, making negative yardage 12.61% of total rushing movement. This increases to 15.56% against Akron, then 18.63% last night. 

Nosce Te Ipsum

September 22nd, 2013 at 11:58 AM ^

That lends evidence to what exactly? I would argue that it says that the team was not up or as enthused about playing these last two opponents and expected to win rather than being ready to fight. Who are the ones who prepare the players and are able to influence their mentality? This team has all of the ability physically, but they seem mentally weak to an extreme. 


September 22nd, 2013 at 12:35 PM ^

about the very practice of scheduling tomato cans.

I think the "weak" mentality originates in the very idea of scheduling a team just to run up the score on them.

In Alexander Technique, the distinction is made between "end-gaming," ie, "the ends justify the means," and "means whereby," ie, the means you employ are the the blueprint for your ultimate outcome.

I think scheduling tomato cans smells of the mentality of puffing up season numbers in order to get scheduled into a prestigious post-season destination. Or alternatively, it represents the effect of money trumping the fan or player experience as the determinant of scheduling decisions.

The 18- to 20-year-old mind, I think, senses without fully consciously grasping that (to paraphrase MLK's "Beyond Viet Nam" speech, 4-3-67) the adults in charge have piled calculated cynicism on top of the inherent physical hazard of playing the game, and they have a sense that greed has turned the game they love into something a little twisted as well as potentially dangerous. And so, subconsciously, they can't help but approach these debased demonstration games without their full enthusiasm, even if they don't know why this is.

We expect them to put their health and well-being on the line in exchange for the team experience and, often, help in paying their college tuition. I think, in return, they have a right to expect the people, for whom they are bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue, to at least go through the motions of making the regular season a reasonably meaningful football experience.

At any rate, they must know that the scheduling wasn't made with an exciting athletic contest in mind, and this may make it difficult for the eighteen-year-mind to cover for adult cynicism with youthful enthusiasm.

oops tl;dr but this thought started to form as I was watching the game.


September 22nd, 2013 at 12:42 PM ^

But this wasn't a scheduled tomato can. UConn was in the middle of a run of four straight bowl games when this was scheduled and was a perfectly reasonable non-conference opponent (would anybody have said "tomato can" if we'd scheduled the equally plausible Louisville instead?).

You can't look five or ten years into the future and know where everyone's going to be. Sometimes you get undefeated Utah, sometimes you get someone when they're down.


September 22nd, 2013 at 1:24 PM ^

This would be more apropos of last week. It was easy to forget the path UConn has taken after the loss to Towson State and the light regard they were getting since.

Since Appy State, it seems that UM has more-frequently-than-average unfortunate outcomes with lightly-regarded opponents.

I don't know how this plays into the psychology of the current team, but I hope it helps to have these two "learning experiences" this early in the season without having to pay for them with a loss.


September 22nd, 2013 at 11:37 AM ^

To remove Jack Miller from his position. He is a downgrade from Mealer last year. This is showing us why we didnt get a sniff of him last year. Need to give our backs the opportunity to make it back to the LOS. Use this bye week to install Glasgow or hell even Burzinsky if he can hold the POA. We were getting smoked by the JV squad. Where do you think MSU will be coming from? A gap blitzes all day baby. Please the writing is on wall need to stop the bleeding before it's too late


September 22nd, 2013 at 11:41 AM ^

I've said it every week but it seems like our linemen have terrible spatial awareness and the last two weeks have just straight up sucked blocking one on one. Even Lewan and Schofield have been getting blown by a few times a game. It's maddening that they haven't given some of the other guys like Bryant, Braden, Burzynski etc any play.


I would have thought they would have made some changes after they looked so bad in the first game but here we are 3 games later and still no changes. Honestly Bryant looked like our best linemen when he got in against Central. He really had the dominant strength and agressiveness our other linemen don't have and wasn't missing blocks and having blatant mental errors every other play like Glasgow and especially Kalis and Miller are doing left and right. Also doesn't help our Fullbacks and TEs are lost more times than not.


September 22nd, 2013 at 11:44 AM ^

It really comes down to turnovers.

  • Gardner's first INT was with Michigan deep in UConn territory, possibly robbing MIchigan of 3 or 7
  • Muffed punt that required UConn to make all of an 8 yard TD drive
  • Fumble recovery that UConn took for a TD

Eliminate the turnovers and it's much closer to 31-7 or something similar.  Of course, there are other issues, but I feel those may be ongoing and slow to resolve, whereas turnovers can (and should be) immediately addressed.


September 22nd, 2013 at 12:11 PM ^

I agree with this completely. Let's say Gardner was going to have those two picks anyway. If those two flukier TOs don't happen, UConn finishes with 7 points and the game is never in question. Additionally, we probably score on one of those drives, wear out their D even more and the final score is 27-7 conservatively. Even with the bad OL play and the shaky passing from DG.

Those two weird plays changed the entire game.


September 22nd, 2013 at 1:19 PM ^

Sure, great idea.  How?  Turnovers are a reflection of both physical skill levels and mental skill levels that are possessed by players.  People keep talking about making changes, but the real answer might well be that we don't have anything better to change to except to keep teaching and coaching the players and expect that with each snap and each experience they will get better.


September 22nd, 2013 at 11:49 AM ^

These are just kids, everyone. They're going to make mistakes.

From what I saw, most of the problems were missed assignments: failure to identify the correct person to block. I think that is understandable from a young offensive line, and it is correctable with coaching and repetitions. For the guards and the center, it's a split-second decision of figuring when to chip, when to double, and when to release to the next level. If they make the wrong decision or make it too late, then they're lost. You fix this by giving them hundreds of repetitions until it's second-nature and they don't have to think about it... you can't expect them to reason it out in their head in a game situation as the play unfolds.

Obviously we're all disappointed in the performance of the line, but suggesting that we put in an even less experienced player doesn't make a lot of sense to me. The problem is not with their physical skills.

Billy Ray Valentine

September 22nd, 2013 at 11:51 AM ^

Without you, I would roam around my house muttering non sequitors to my dogs and kids.  I just know the the coaches will seemlessly fix all problems, and the past two weeks will be nothing but a distant memory.  (Said as I search for a container to drink my Maize and Blue Kool Aid ... oh ... look over there ... it's a Brown Jug ... perfect for Maize and Blue Kool Aid ... thank you, Mr. Falk)



September 22nd, 2013 at 12:01 PM ^

The concepts are similar, but Michigan runs more outside zone than inside zone. The combo blocks are important in both plays. Personally, I don't think the post you linked is very helpful to understand the zone stretch, but I haven't searched for a better one just yet.

I think the biggest problem with Michigan's outside zone has been the edge blocking by Devin Funchess, AJ Williams, etc. If Michigan wants to run outside zone, I really think Funchess should be taken off the field or split out wide in favor of Williams and Butt, who are both superior blockers (but not yet great).

Magnum P.I.

September 22nd, 2013 at 12:27 PM ^

I would absolutely give Kugler a shot at center. I know it's uncommon for true freshmen to play on the line, but Kugler is touted as the best center in his class. I'd take David Molk as a high school sophomore right now. 

My point is that you might as well try something. Our OL is just embarrassing. Try things. Things! Kugler at center! Glasgow at center! Braden at guard! Bryant at guard! Pipkens at center! Things!


September 22nd, 2013 at 12:38 PM ^

I agree with trying something, I just don't think Kugler is it (and I'm sure the coaches have taken a look at that in practice). Kugler probably has great technique, but I'm sure his strength lacks the other guys simply because of his age and weight. He won't get more push than Miller, and that's our main problem.


September 22nd, 2013 at 4:17 PM ^

Kugler may/may not be as physically developed, but at the moment, we're asking for the interior line to put a hat on anyone other than air and deadspace. I'm more worried about just having someone in the right place than whether they are physically dominant yet.

Can Braden/Bars figure into this equation? Hell, can Bryant play center?


September 22nd, 2013 at 12:10 PM ^

I'm asking for your personal opinion.  I think there can be three answers to the question: Yes.  No.  The question oversimplifies things.

My question: Over the bye week, would Michigan benefit by replacing Miller at center?  Does he seem to be a liability?

If the question seems rude ("calling him out," "throwing him under the bus"), just ignore it.


September 22nd, 2013 at 12:16 PM ^

I usually need to let myself sleep on a win (I subconsciously almost just typed loss) before I can pour my emotions out onto an Internet message board. Before rewatching here is what I think I saw:

-Devin was badly inaccurate and this massively hindered out first half O. He had some wide open receivers and he was just missing them

-Our O line was poor until late in the second half (more on this later) and running from under center was like burning a down. Why the staff refuses to run their best (by far IMO) running play (the inverted veer) is beyond me

-Our D was very good. Not a ton to comment on, d line got push on runs and passes, LBs filled well (and covered decently) and our CBs played well also

-Devin should only be blamed for 1.5 turnovers (this is still not great but hear me out). Chesson should have caught that long ball. At worst that should be incomplete, at best he should be pulling a Hemingway and boxing that dude out. 100% on the receiver. The int that was thrown to Gallon is 50-50 receiver vs QB. It was a difficult, high throw but it wasn't uncatchable. Devin's fumble on the option? That's on him I think

-Jesus they need to practice punt coverage more

-There must have been some tweaks made to the run game in the second half because we just started mauling them and let Toussaint go win us the game as Devin couldn't. Great showing at the end by him and the line

-We got kind of unlucky on this one guys. The punt return turnover was fluky as was the fumble scoop and score. Not as bad as it looked on paper. The first half O was much worse than expected and the D was prob better than expected throughout (think you only can really blame them for 7 points)


September 22nd, 2013 at 1:27 PM ^

You're being overly harsh. Chesson certainly made an effort, and more than a cursory one. Did you not see him jump up and over the defender? The problem was that he tried to keep running while reaching back, instead of planting his feet and trying to go up and get it at its highest point. It's a lack of understanding of the game, something that can be fixed with time.


September 22nd, 2013 at 12:17 PM ^

in the box if we just ran those 5 yard passing routes and gardner picked a receiver?  i know he was off last night but normally he'll hit those and he won't have to scramble because it's a quick pass. 


September 22nd, 2013 at 12:23 PM ^

A lot of comments I see about the O-line problems regard the interior part of the line and its inexperience. I think the outside deserves a lot of blame as well. Lewan particularly didn't play well last night. Off hand I can remember him allowing one of the sacks and also picking up a bad penalty in the first half. He hasn't been the all-american we expected so far this season.


September 22nd, 2013 at 12:36 PM ^

Lewan was limping heavily during the third quarter (maybe he retweaked it somewhere in there? he looked a little better late in the game) and it was clear to me that his booboo, whatever it is, was impacting his play.

The sack was a bad line shift and not Lewan's fault. Maybe if healthy he's able to get back to get some sort of chip on the guy but it was asking a lot.

UM Fan in Nashville

September 22nd, 2013 at 12:41 PM ^

I'm with you on this one.  He didn't look 100% and that sack was not on him at all (despite what Spielman was saying).   It was a bootleg to the right where Lewan had only so much time to slow the outside DE.  No tackle has the ability to stop a DE when you're given that much space and time in a one on one situation.   When I watched live, I tacked this sack to Devin's hesitancy, lack of confidence and lack of an internal clock.  He looked shaken at this point.  


September 22nd, 2013 at 3:31 PM ^

I'll concede that play to you guys. I don't have a whole lot of knowledge about the schematics of football, especially when it comes to blocking schemes and such. More of a basketball guy. I guess I'm just quite frustrated with the O-line play in general. Thankfully the season is young and I do know that experience will only help improve. Go Blue!

UM Fan in Nashville

September 22nd, 2013 at 12:38 PM ^

One reason I sitll have faith in Funk is because Kugler's Dad, an offensive line coach/guru, had more than enough faith in his son's decision to get coached by this staff.   If Funk was not a good coach, I don't think Sean Kugler would be sold on his son going to a team with a below average line coach.   This guy coached one of the best O-lines in the NFL and knows what it takes to have a successful O-line.  I'm sure he did his due diligence when his son was looking at schools.   

I really don't think this falls on Funk.   This falls on the inexperience of the line.  We have 2 solid guys on the ends, but confusion, youth and inexperience in the middle.  It will get better with time, hopefully, or they are going to go into "try anything" mode and start putting in younger guys and switching up positions to see what works best.   From what they see during the week, these are the best guys.   

If we fix the line, the O will be MUCH better.  Devin's confidence will go up.  Fitz will run better.  

link to Sean Kugler's bio:



September 22nd, 2013 at 12:46 PM ^

Two other things that are helping me stay sane:

1) things are never as bad or good as they look early in the season. ND and OSU both squeaked by a pretty bad Purdue team last year and both went undefeated last year. Not saying we will go undefeated but these games happen

2) Road openers and Michigan, man. Just be glad that's behind us and we won