What is the source of our run blocking issues?

Submitted by Elwood on October 13th, 2013 at 5:08 PM

Is it youth or coaching?


As Brian pointed out in the Minnesota game, we were very close to a few huge running plays. Yet, PSU was a tire fire. Part of it was losing Lewan, another part was the heavyside formation (which we ran PA out of to see AJ Williams get burned...). 


EDIT: and Coaching is your winner!




October 13th, 2013 at 5:12 PM ^

I don't like the scheme. Our line doesn't get to the second level well. I think utilizing full backs/ H backs more would help when running under center. If we can't run we need to get the screen game rolling.


October 13th, 2013 at 5:18 PM ^

into the hole.  We have been hearing 'youth' as an issue for 5 years.  Sooner or later youth isn't the problem.  It has been youth or depth or both since Lloyd retired.  If it weasn't for Denard's speed and Gardner's occasional elusiveness, this team would be 3-3 at best right now.

Our Oline is supposed to have the best LT in college football, but we can't run that way or any direction.  There isn't enough speed in the backfield to get outside or run strecth plays and the interion Oline is young and not strong enough to get a push.  Fitz has a tougher time finding a hole than Barry Sanders did with the Lions.

There are so many issues with the line that Borges' 'play-calling' isn't even the main problem.   Based on the Akron, UConn and PSu games, it seems that Indiana might beat us, MSU SHOULD beat us and the rest of the games look very scary.


October 13th, 2013 at 5:44 PM ^

We have not been hearing "youth" for five years. Last year our youngest starter on the OL was a RS junior. Last year the problem was talent. This year it's youth. I'm sorry if you disagree, and that might not be the entire problem, but it's certainly a big part of it. Next year we will not have any RS frosh on the OL unless he really earns it. It will still be young, but it will be a little more experienced at least.

coastal blue

October 13th, 2013 at 8:22 PM ^

I tend to agree with this to a point. Its a bit like the 2010 defense though: Youth was a huge factor in their performance, but coaching had to lug its fair share of the blame. 

Should we be great this year with three guys making their first starts in the middle of the line? No. But we should be able to perform at a higher level than we are currently seeing on the field. 


October 13th, 2013 at 11:40 PM ^

It's maddening and I don't know what the anwser is or even the problem to be honest.  We seem to have more complex and constantly changing problems than I have ever heard for what would seem like a really straight forward thing...push the guy in front of you backwards.  But, I am just not knowledgable enough to know what we're doing wrong, why other teams don't seem to have to deal with it, and why it's taking so long to fix.  Ultimately though because we've had such bad o-line recruiting for a number of years I won't judge until the class of '13 o-line haul is in their 3rd year (2016).  If by the time we are running all that talent out there on the o-line, they are not freshman or sophomores, and we're still having trouble then it's definately coaching/scheme.  If that talent fixes the problem then the current and previous problem has probably been talent.  Unfortunately it just takes so damned long to develop o-lineman and our current guys are so different than what we want.


October 13th, 2013 at 5:26 PM ^

Every opponent has sold out on the run on first down and 75% of those first down runs are up the middle into the experienced part of the line.

I Like Burgers

October 13th, 2013 at 5:35 PM ^

When you see the opp is selling out to stop the run, and you know you can't run, and then run the ball anyways, that's just stupid. They don't have a single counter punch to anything at all.

Its like watching someone get punched in the face and thinking "dude, maybe try and move away from the punch." And then having them say "naw man. My face just has to out execute the punch."


October 13th, 2013 at 6:46 PM ^

True, but the only way to actually learn and to be successful at run blocking is to do it, or in this case try to do it.  Clearly doing this during the week isn't helping.  I don't think any coach is just gonna abandon the run because it hasn't worked in the past.  One day it will click and the coaches will keep trying until it does.  

My son would have never learned to ride a bike if he would have stopped trying after the 100th time he fell off it.  On try number 101, he nailed it and has been riding ever since! (with a boo boo here or there!)

I, just like the coaches, am waiting for the moment when it "clicks" for the oLine.


(edited for personal grammar-policing)


October 13th, 2013 at 8:27 PM ^

You are correct that we need to run block in order to be successful at it.  But the time to do that is in practice, and once it is successful there, then use it in game.  Now I'm not saying abandon the run completely, but I think we were beyond stubborn with our play calling.

I Like Burgers

October 14th, 2013 at 10:50 AM ^

I'd love to know how successful the team is running the ball in practice.  Since our run defense isn't terrible, you'd have to think they are just as bad in practice.  Which makes you wonder why they think they'll have success during an actual game.  Either that, or they are decent/good at running in practice and its not translating to the game.  Both scenarios are bad.

I Like Burgers

October 13th, 2013 at 5:30 PM ^

It's coaching. Plenty of other schools have less talented lines and they do fine. This staff hasn't been able to develop any of the lineman and they continually call plays that play into all of those weaknesses. They are the kinds of trying to jam a square peg into a round hole.

Sten Carlson

October 13th, 2013 at 6:49 PM ^

And yet his offense scored 31 points after turning the ball over 3 times in the first half. 

This is what is so befuddling to me about all this.  Even when little to no running game, we've shown that we can score through the air -- with the emergence of Funchess even more so.  But, Devin has been Jekyll & Hyde out there, and Borges seems obsessed with running the ball.  It's very confusing.  I am wondering what would happen if they came out in "Air Raid" one game.  Just throw and throw and throw until the defense drops back, and then slip the draws and such in there.  It's all very weird.


October 13th, 2013 at 8:33 PM ^

This is basically what I think they ought to do.  Throw the damn ball.  If Gardner gets picked off, oh well--at least we tried something that had a chance.  But frankly I think Gardner would do a lot more positive stuff than negative.  We have good receivers, it brings Gardner's scrambling ability into play, and with draw plays (and manballish lead-draws) we'd have a chance at getting Fitz the ball with some room to operate.  Plus, throwing more might just back off the defense enough to where we can run the ball.

I doubt we'll see it though.  Can't have the basketball-on-grass/communist football/wimpy spread etc....



October 13th, 2013 at 10:37 PM ^

We do have an actual case study:  The CMU game.  We came out in NASCAR the first half and aired it out to loosen them up.  It worked very well even while Devin threw a pick.  We stayed with it until CMU could not keep up and they finally imploded trying.

This is the only hope we have for the rest of the year.  We have to go back to this and save Manball school for the offseason.  


October 13th, 2013 at 6:56 PM ^

Look, RR went all-in on the spread with SheriThreet when it was obvious as hell neither kid was talented enough to execute the zone read nor athletic enough to out-run the pursuit.  We screamed and yelled - pleaded to use the system that fit his players.  But nope, wasn't gonna happen.

This is what coaches do. You commit to a system and you try your damnedest to engrain it into the players - even when it appears as though it's not working.  Smetimes that square peg rounds off and fits into the round hole. Or the peg transfers, graduates, and then you recruit a round peg.

Hoke ramming Fitz into the line time after time - touching the hot stove as you put it - is part of the process. This is what DB hired and the system this school wants to run. It's painful, but its what it is right now.

coastal blue

October 13th, 2013 at 8:27 PM ^

Yes, but Devin Gardner is much better than Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan were in 2008. It makes sense to tailor your offense to your players when you have talented players with actual achievements to play for during your season. In 2008, we weren't going to win the Big Ten. It was just a fact. In 2013, the Big Ten is legitimately flawed enough to where you don't have to be great to at least win your division. 

I Like Burgers

October 14th, 2013 at 10:53 AM ^

RR knew the hand he was dealt in year one and just opted to go round peg in square hole to get a year of practice with his system in.  Clearly the offensive results in year two and three show that was a good choice.

But with this staff, its year three and I have no idea what their offensive system is.  They're a jack of all trades master of none offense.


October 13th, 2013 at 5:37 PM ^

the "part of the failure in running successfully was Lewan was out" BS. ARE YOU FRICKEN KIDDING ME? They ran the ball just as bad with Lewan in as they did with him out.

I personally think they have those kids thinking way too much. If you going to try and play man ball, then man up and knock somebody on their ass, and stop with all hybrid pussyfoot business. If you haven't the ability to do that then STOP TRYING FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. Use what works, and the thing that seems to work is zone read running.


October 13th, 2013 at 5:54 PM ^

I've been thinking the same thing.  We try to do/be too multifaceted IMHO, guys start thinking too much.  Doesn't help that for some reason Fitz continues to dance in the hole and not RUN FORWARD!!!  The OL doesn't help, but Fitz isn't the answer at RB.  I'd like to see Smith get some touches, he's a north-south guy with great balance that's shown he's tough to bring down. In reality he might not do any better than Fitz or Green, but I think he deserves a shot after what I've seen out of Fitz.


October 13th, 2013 at 5:55 PM ^

I think offensive line is one of the places where working as a unit makes the whole much better than the sum of its parts and by extension the offense is better or worse from it. Right now every little mistake any player makes is magnified because others are making mistakes too. Lewan is a great tackle but when he makes the right read and executes his assignment, others are not and it makes the whole look bad. Some of that is coaching and some is in fact youth and inexperience. Same sad song but that doesn't make it wrong.


October 13th, 2013 at 7:33 PM ^

And what's more. . . YOU'LL SHOW THOSE SISSIES HOW TO DO IT!!! Cause you ARE a MAN!!! Thinking is what got AMURRICA in trouble in the first place (etcetera). 

sadass. Nothing says I'm an impotent little fan more than the guy who runs to the middle of the street and shakes his fist at the heavens. Lotta that going on right now, though. 



October 13th, 2013 at 5:42 PM ^

without any chemistry. 

I assume that Lewan, who Hoke said will be OK, suffered some kind of concussive hit that left him dazed and groggy, and rightly, he was not reinserted in the game after trying to play again after initially coming out. 

The irony, of course, is the stats show Michigan outgaining PSU on the ground and claiming a 13-minute plus differential in TOP, meaningless in an OT contest, and only significant because it fails to reflect the utter frustration of running the ball 54 times and gaining only 148 yards, almost all of it the result of yardage attained by Gardner either through scrambles or designed runs. 

I don't understand why Michigan doesn't opt to pressure the perimeter or make quick throws that force the defense to honor the outside, instead of continuing to run power against a stacked defense. 

Spreading PSU out, and then using Gardner's threat to run while forcing man-to-man coverage, which is what they did on the final pass play to Hayes before his unsuccessful 52-yard field goal try at the end of regulation, would have worked in OT as well. 

There are no excuses for picking up 9-plus yards on first down and then failing to convert. 

Michigan lost not because of failed execution in OT and even conservative play-calling whne it had the lead, which became the strategy to win only because it never converted its chances to score touchdowns. You don't beat scrappy teams with field goals, you beat them by crushing their will with finer execution. 

If Michigan can't run block, and can't hold off the pass rush for long throws downfield, then it must attack through a short range game that forces the defense to make plays  in space, and throwing the ball to backs out of the backfield, which have been effective but were never called on Saturday. 

For example, why no toss to a fullback near the goal line or a tightend screen or a trick play just to loosen up the LOS? And I can't harp on this enough, Michigan never has had any imagination in special teams play. Never.

Well, from now on, it will take tricks and highly improved execution to win or the countdown to basketball season won't begin soon enough. 


October 13th, 2013 at 5:47 PM ^

It's pretty simple really. Our O line is not very good and is not getting better. We tried different personnel and that did not improve the situation. Unfortunately the team can not be successful with the current line. No football team can consistently win with an ineffective offensive line. All the other complaints, coaches, Gardner, etc, are just noise relative to the line issue. Any future wins this year are gifts if the current line play continues. Hopefully our linemen will improve next year.


October 13th, 2013 at 5:51 PM ^

Scheme. We're trying to run over teams as if we have a powerful, skillful offensive line. However, we do not. We continue to operate as if we do. Most coaches would play to their strengths and spread things out. There should probably be a lot more read-option, and plays that build off of that. Instead, we try to establish a power run game, until we are in a massive hole; which is when Borges hits the "break-in-case-of-emergency" glass and starts running Gardner like crazy. Our offense is reactionary, not proactive.