The running game is not great - not much separation between RB's

Submitted by The Mad Hatter on April 13th, 2015 at 9:24 AM

Not much in this article that we don't already know (as per usual with Nick).  Personally, I was too busy panicking about the WR's after the Spring Game to worry about the run game, which was not great, to put it charitably.



April 13th, 2015 at 9:28 AM ^

My biggest hope is that since the spring game was such a big shuffle of different players who aren't necessarily used to playing with each other that the game didn't show what the team's potential is. For example, offensive lines typically require some kind of chemistry between players. You're probably not gonna get much of that when you have starters next to walkons.


April 13th, 2015 at 10:10 AM ^

Depth is much greater on the D-line, which is also accustomed to platooning.

O-line lacks the depth, and guys were not playing with the folks they usually would.

To me the spring game only confirmed that we have much more depth in run defense than o-line, but not much more. 


April 13th, 2015 at 10:36 AM ^

As much as I hate the saying "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link" because it's usually deployed in situations that aren't applicable, that is certainly the case with the OL. You can have 3-4 guys that look awesome, but of the other 1-2 aren't ready for prime time (like in the spring game) the blocking schemes won't work. Don't glean too much from a game where every OL group only really had 2 starters.


April 13th, 2015 at 11:26 AM ^

...let's also not forget that the offense is scripted in that what they do on any given play is pre-determined (unless it is an option route) and the defense is reactionary to the play in front of them. The defense saw those plays for 14 practices, this combined with the fact that they are simply better players, at this point, and have more depth means they were probably going to dominate the line of scrimmage, and they did.


April 13th, 2015 at 10:25 AM ^

Seriously. They should have had entire units as one selection (i.e. first team OL, first team DL) and that way the supposed starting group gets time to play with each other. 

As far as the running backs go we will be fine. Isaac will start if he gets healthy with a heavy mix of Smith. If Isaac isn't healthy, Smith is much improved from last year and a fine option for a starting RB in the B1G. People are also optimistic about Drake's timeline with his knee. Our running backs will be fine. 


April 13th, 2015 at 11:56 AM ^

Exactly.  What people tend to forget is that the spring game is not designed to provide us with a clear indication of the team's strengths and weaknesses.  In fact, it's liklely designed in part to avoid showing that.


April 13th, 2015 at 10:29 AM ^

The first string offense in the fall isn't going to look remotely like what we saw in the spring game.  Not only is the defense ahead of the offense, but they pretty much know all of the plays that Harbaugh has had a chance to install so far.  

I am not panicking about any of it.  

Gucci Mane

April 13th, 2015 at 11:14 AM ^

If Harbaugh thinks a draft is a good idea, then so do I. I'm sure it paid some benefit to get them out of their comfort zone and play with new people, even if it didn't show results in terms of spring game performance.

Honk if Ufer M…

April 14th, 2015 at 10:47 AM ^

From a fan evaluation point of view that would be better, however if what one of the Oline told me on the night of the game is true then it fits in.

I asked him if he would've rather played as the offense against the defense with a real lineup to see what they could do? He said yeah it would've been fun but that it's also good that they can get used to not playing with the regular guys and play other positions. Then he added that another issue was that they were only running 5 plays! I asked if that was to keep the offense under wraps for Utah or... & he cut me off and said yes, we didn't want to show anything yet.


So given the offense has to get their timing down and build chemistry whearas the defense can just react, the split lineups, that fact that the coaches said it always takes the running game the longest to get going, that the D knows the plays and has practiced against them all spring and then faces a 5 play gameplan (outside of the couple of trick plays), Isaac & Drake hurt, & that there was an outbreak of dropped passes, I think it's too early to judge and that it was just one day out of 15.

We hadn't heard anything about a lot of dropped passes during the spring so hopefully it was just a bad day. We did hear a lot about Cole making great plays, he didn't do anything in the game though, so if he usually does more and will improve by the season that's an extra weapon. We also didn't see Norfleet on offense, so if they figure out a way to make use of him that's another thing held back that made it look worse. & given the philosophy of experimenting with positions switches and going two ways, and especially if the recieving core is not getting it done, I can't imagine not seeing Peppers on offense sprinkled in.

There will also be summer workouts and conditioning, studying film and playbooks, 7 on 7's and then all of fall practice to get their shit more together.

If you remember how the line played at the smelly shoe, how the whole team did, they are going to be improved from that under the new coaching on top of the natural progression, strengthening and aging. They're going to play at least that hard and that focused all the time now.

If no one else is doing it better, then at worst we'll have Rudock being a game manager instead of a turnover machine. My lineman also told me he thinks Harbaugh will try to get him to be a little more daring.

Add in a healthy Drake if we're lucky, a healthy Isaac if he's any good, the freshman back if he can play & we might be a team to reckon with.

The D should keep us in every game. The special teams should turn into a weapon instead of a nightmare. The new punter, the new kicker who hits from over 50 on the reg, Peppers or someone who beats him out returing kicks and punts. One of the best special teams coaches in the country compared to no ST coach.

Don't be shocked if this turns into a much bigger year than people are expecting, while I won't be shocked if it doesn't work out as well as hoped for, but I will be bummed!

Not to say we should expect the same results, but don't forget that '97 was all about a great D, dangerous special teams and a low scoring offense with a game managing qb that didn't turn the ball over. Not until the Rose bowl did he show he could throw it downfield and wing it all over the place.



April 13th, 2015 at 9:28 AM ^

Not too worried. Between Wheatley and Drevno, we have the right guys to turn things around. I'm sure there are a lot of bad habits to overcome.


April 13th, 2015 at 9:51 AM ^

I totally agree with you.  I really have confidence in our coaches to mold the running game.  I expect it to be well above average by the end of the year.  The RB's averaged 5.4 YPC last year according to the article.  They were tremendously improved last year and I expect them to be even better this season.  It is a luxury having a lot of guys coming back even though it will be a different system.

The Baughz

April 13th, 2015 at 9:32 AM ^

It's April. The new staff has been in place for only a short period of time. Things will get better.


(knocks on every piece of wood in the office)


April 13th, 2015 at 9:35 AM ^

Running game is the least of my worries on offense. It probably won't be great because our passing game is most likely not going to open much up for the running game. But I think between Isaac-Johnson-Smith-Green, we will find someone that can be decent. OL got better as the year went along and we return four starters in that group, plus a couple that have played a bit. 


April 13th, 2015 at 11:36 AM ^

I think I heard that Green was 235.  I wonder if that weight, which is what he was his freshman year when he didn't show much, is too heavy for him.  Last year, I think he played about 220.  I remember hearing that Isaac had gotten bigger.

I appreciate that Harbaugh likes big, bruising backs, but I wonder if in Green's case, the extra weight compromises his quickness.  I also wonder just how they will be using Isaac. How good are Isaac's hands...with our receiver issues, I wonder if Isaac might be used as a WR.

Honk if Ufer M…

April 14th, 2015 at 11:04 AM ^

He's never looked speedy to me. Even on his couple of long runs he was caught from behind or by the hand of a guy lying on his back who reached up as he ran by. He tried to jump over it but couldn't jump quick enough or high enough & couldn't blow past or through him.


April 13th, 2015 at 9:35 AM ^

because I truly don't know, but it seems to me that the coaching staff wouldn't necessarily show all their "best stuff" in the Spring game, yes?  I mean, there has to be a number of goals or approaches to the game itself, some are different from others.  So, giving other guys reps, making sure they simulate a game atmosphere, etc....doesn't have to add up to having the most potent offense on the field at any one time or at least not care how often they score, just that they do what they're told....I'm babbling, but hopefully my question is clear enough.

Anyone have any experience in this that can lend a hand?


April 13th, 2015 at 10:36 AM ^

as a professor, I'd say the most important thing is to let them have some fun at that point, after working hard for three weeks or whatever it is. That's the point of having a game. It's too late at that point to get through to the ones who haven't been pulling their weight in the classroom (i.e., practice) format. But maybe holding a game can remind them of why they are there.

Sometimes you just need to get out of the classroom. Holding a game does that, by getting away from the practice format.


April 13th, 2015 at 9:38 AM ^

I'm reserving all judgement till the fall. But I also expect Issac to be the #1 RB. Hard to get too worried about the run game when one of the players is out with injury.


April 13th, 2015 at 12:13 PM ^

The problem is that injuries are a fundamental part of football. Someone will be hurt, and it could be someone very important. If our running game relies on one guy, we are in trouble. Isaac might be our best option, but we will need to get production from whoever is taking reps. The expectation is for the position.


April 13th, 2015 at 4:25 PM ^

Yeah, the point is just that a healthy running game should be able to do something even if the top guy is out. We're not talking about Barry Sanders missing time with injury. We're choosing between 3/4 players of similar levels of ability. That's why the expectation being for the position is particularly fitting here -- its not like Hart or A-Train is out and we're left with unknowns.


April 13th, 2015 at 9:40 AM ^

The OL will be good if there are no injuries, the problem was what the article states and others have noted: the line was split.  

I've been looking through a chunk of the game (but what the hell do I know), and the problems are similar to last year's stumbles: a lot of good blocks, but one guy blown up means the play is dead.  A lot of the time, that one guy is Blake Bars (though he's not terrible) or someone else who won't be in the starting five, or someone playing out of position.  

The RB's also had some terrible cuts, as we've seen the last two years.  It's true that someone needs to step up.  Higdon has a real opportunity to get playing time, if he has vision and can just take the yards that are available in the creases provided.  


April 13th, 2015 at 10:33 AM ^

I think we have 3 tackles: Cole (though I personally don't think he's as good as a lot of others seem to - he still needs to get stronger, which is to be expected from a player who really should be a RS freshman), Braden, and Magnuson (he's got the feet, but he's not real stong either - though I think he had shoulder surgery after the season (?) so that may be an issue).  LTT still has a lot of potential, he could be ready if need be.  

But with him, as with several of the back-up guards, the team is going to suffer as they learn and blow plays.  Which is stating the obvious, but I don't think the situation is as dire as last year.  Yes if we have injuries and have to go to back-ups, LTT will give up a sack in a big game, or Dawson will blow a block on what could have been a TD, or something along those lines.  But I don't think they'll be gaping holes of doom.  They'll be serviceable and the O will still be able to operate. 

But what the hell do I know. 


April 13th, 2015 at 12:21 PM ^

One thing that you also have to consider is the guy lining up next to the replacement. I dont think any of our reserve linemen are ready for prime time yet, but if Dawson comes in at LG, his weaknesses can be mitigated by Cole and Glasgow to a large degree, as we are going to feature a ton of combo blocks.

I think the rotation should be as follows: Dawson is our 6th guy and should come in no matter who goes down. If it's a T, kick Braden out there and have Dawson play his LG position. If the C goes down, move Cole in there, kick Braden out to replace Cole, and put Dawson at LG. If a G goes down, make a straight replacement.


April 13th, 2015 at 9:44 AM ^

So, here's the thing about the OL. If we have 7-8 guys that could potentially start, splitting them up for the spring game means that you likely have 3-4 guys on either team that are potential starters. That means you have 1-2 that probably won't and shouldn't see the field come fall. So, now you have 1-2 spots that are completely overmatched by our (what looks like it will be) very good defense. I think that if we had gone O1s and D2s vs. O2s and D1s so that your starting OL was in tact, we would have had a consistent run game and we'd all have a much better idea of how good we will end up being next year.


April 13th, 2015 at 9:48 AM ^

Run game is expected to be a struggle at this point, as is QB. The spring game format definitely didn't help things. I think people are freaking out more about WRs because that position is more based on individual athleticism vs chemistry and timing.


April 13th, 2015 at 9:48 AM ^

The spring game was very vanilla as far as the playbook was concerned. They didn't show much and the defense is always ahead of the offense this time of year. 
Couple that with the fact that the best lineman were split up and one of our feature backs (Isaac) really didn't play much and you have a lack of production. If those same problems persist in the fall, then we can sound the alarms again.

Now, as far the WR's were concerned, there may be cause for concern. Lots of drops, and poor routes along with a lack of speed and playmakers do have me worried a bit. Let's just hope the off-season remedies he dropsies.

I dumped the Dope

April 13th, 2015 at 6:59 PM ^

Spring game is not a forum to show off your baddest weapons for the whole world to gameplan against for the entire summer.

Hence why the draft to keep it an oddball mix of personnel, people playing a different side of the ball than we are used to, and why Carr and Moeller are calling the plays.

Just a fun way to enjoy some gamelike competition and invite the community out for a free event fully geared towards kids.

I take nothing serious away other than I'm glad that nobody got seriously injured.

Some odd observational tidbits linked to nothing else.  Derrick Green seems to have good footspeed.  Wyatt Shallman seemed to be the biggest load to bring down.  I personally feel like Isaac is purposefully being held under wraps to disguise his destructive force that will be unleashed in the fall.  Malzone did a good job of not locking onto one receiver the entire time.  If one wasn't open he snapped over to another quite fast.  Morris has a decent touch on the deep ball, if given the time to throw it.  I feel like Norfleet while a potential liabiility in deep cover, would be an asset in run support due to his strength.

Thats all.


April 13th, 2015 at 9:54 AM ^

I think the run game will be solid.  Our interior DL/LB combo is probably the toughest they'll face all year, and they did that with a split offensive line (not to mention Johnson was out and Isaac was hurt - I still think that if Johnson comes back healthy that he is better than Green or Smith.)  Furthermore, this offense's blocking schemes can be complex, and it's not going to be executed at a high level after a couple weeks of spring ball.


I don't want to overpraise the DL anymore than I want to panic about the offense based on a spring game.  But I betcha more than a couple teams struggle to block Henry, Hurst, Mone, and Glasgow.  That rotation on the inside is gonna be a load to deal with.


April 13th, 2015 at 9:59 AM ^

I hope Michigan wins every game they ever play, but anyone who thinks Michigan is going to win more than eight games this season needs to rethink their belief.