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11/13/2018 - 1:36pm I don't think Brown really…

I don't disagree in theory, but I don't think Brown really emphasizes shuffling.

Typically, what we've seen, is one or two read steps and then attack. I haven't at all worked with Brown or heard him talk on this, but based on what other players have done on film, Gil should be taking probably one read step right and forward, and then attacking, but not attacking direct down the LOS (instead attacking at about 45 degrees to maintain his gap and leverage). Different technique, but same idea with regards to maintaining leverage.

11/13/2018 - 1:24pm Seth describes it pretty…

Seth describes it pretty well. Gil's responsibility is the backside B gap. He's trying to get playside of the OT, who is releasing directly out to him. He's also putting himself in a position to scrape over the top if something happens further playside. The problem is he gets a little over aggressive on the backside trying to avoid the OT from cutting him off (because that's just as much of a killer) where he should probably be using that speed to get down hill a bit more instead of scraping.

11/13/2018 - 1:22pm Great write up here. Good…

Great write up here. Good catch from the end zone view that Gil got too far playside. He's trying to run around the LB, but in doing so, opens up a gap wider. This combined with Winovich really makes life extremely hard on the third level because the RB is able to get immediately vertical with no one in his way.

I don't mind Hawkins not getting all the way to the center of the field because of the flow of the zone run. But with the RB not being slowed at all, he needs to take a much better angle. He's taking an angle like he probably usually does when the ball carrier actually has to maneuver a little bit, and that leaves him completely burned. Would like to see a little more make up speed out of him, but that wasn't his strength as a recruit either. 

With Kinnel, he's fluctuated between great and bad plays this year, and overall has probably been the weakest link in the defense, but this isn't his problem here. You note a few key things: 1) the late communication in the motion coming back; 2) his starting angle in the center of the field makes it very difficult for him to read the backfield handoff; 3) the reaction needed to cut off Rutger's best player should be noted in his pursuit; 4) that he is likely also influenced by Winovich who should have a good view of the backfield. 

I know not as many people like "what went wrong" articles, but I really enjoyed this one. Good level of detail and shows the issues, what needs to be cleaned up, but why it can be cleaned up going forward.

11/12/2018 - 5:10pm Just to be clear in case it…

Just to be clear in case it isn’t, because I’ve been accused of doing it, this is far from a critique of Brian alone. I first tweeted yesterday about this play when JDue did his Sunday recap because I saw complaints about it then and during the game. And look at it from the end zone view, it looks bad to the layman. I get it.

 I had a discussion with a blog analyst earlier this year (an LSU one) that talked specifically about learning just how bad most of these freeze frame takes were. He specifically talked about learning just how awful people in the Internet were at critiquing zone runs were once he heard Joe Gibbs coaching clinic on zone running.

It’s a very very common critique of Internet fandom of all football teams. It’s just that these things gain legs and become repeated and sometimes are wrong. In this case, Higdon is following his read (that’s not to say it’s not a play that can’t be made, but it is a play outside of what he’s taught to do; and what he’s taught will lead him correctly 9/10 times)

11/12/2018 - 4:13pm This is my take as well…

This is my take as well. Chase got pulled out of his assignment by reacting before finding the ball

11/12/2018 - 2:25pm I’m going to agree with…

I’m going to agree with Brian. It’s pretty crazy to put the most blame on the guy that’s actually doing his job - specifically so those other guys can do there’s - only to watch them fail in their assignment and blame the guy that did his job. You say he can redirect if he reads the play faster, but if his assignment has the ball then it’s Rutger’s most dangerous player with the ball in his hands on an end around with Kinnel hesitating and getting out of position to complete his assignment because he doesn’t trust his teammates to do theirs. 

11/12/2018 - 2:16pm That may be part of it but…

That may be part of it but would be handled to a greater extent in practice if that were all of it. They wouldn’t be splitting reps just to play both. If it were mostly that, some of the other younger LBs would also be getting additional reps.

More than likely they like the idea of keeping both fresh. Also, both have strengths and weaknesses, and this avoids the O keying on them as much (though they aren’t drastically different players). More than anything, it gives both a shot to see action then come to the sideline and get coached and see things from a different perspective. In that way, along with being fresh, it helps the WILL spot be much stronger on a down to down basis.

11/12/2018 - 2:10pm Higdon does miss some holes,…

Higdon does miss some holes, mostly when to get vertical when bounces. The play above looks bad because the right side opens a hole, but to complain about Higdon’s vision in the play you have to understand his read.

It was a Duo play, his read is the MIKE. If the MIKE inserts himself vertical he works playside. If the MIKE scrapes, the RB goes vertical. The MIKE immediately shot to the backside A/B gap area. Higdon bounces playside. He did what he is supposed to do on that play call. The CB made a great play, literally the only way he could get a tackle and prevent a first down and not give up a broken tackle in space for a whole lot more.

This, by the way, is a common flaw when complaining about vision; you see it all the time on twitter. Freeze frame a throw and show a guy open who is opposite the QB’s progression; this isn’t the QB’s fault, this isn’t Madden, he isn’t seeing the whole field. Complain about zone runs where ‘this hole is open’ but not understanding the first read that sends the RB opposite. It’s missed context because something looks open - and might be - but a RB has keys for a reason: because the majority of the time it puts them to the right spot and they can’t see everything because it’s physically impossible

Regarding Uche and Furbush, they have different roles. Both those roles come from the SAM position, but note Furbush still gets the majority of snaps in SAM coverage, which is mostly what the coaches were utilizing the SAM for until Gary got hurt. The biggest takeaway at LB in this game was that when the backups started rolling in they moved Ross to MIKE. Likely you see Gil and Ross together at ILB next year

11/07/2018 - 4:37pm My understanding was that it…

My understanding was that it had something to do with the women's basketball team but then basically the story fell through for various reasons. But there was something in the works at one time

11/07/2018 - 6:56am Yoder isn't right most of…

Yoder isn't right most of the time unless: A) it's stolen; B) it's Occum's Razor

A few examples:

1) Claims he was the first to say Walker was transferring. Occum's Razor and common knowledge was that Walker was in the dog house and had work to do. He wasn't kicked off the team when Yoder claimed he was, he was still trying to work his way out of the dog house. I think most people (which included tons of rumors) understood that there was a decent chance Walker wasn't going to make. Eventually he didn't. Just because Yoder knew a guy was on thin-ice, like just about everyone else, doesn't mean he had any real info.

2) Yoder claims something of his own, represents it as his own, and then when it's later proven wrong, claims he got it from the pay sites (which he doesn't pay for, he says) and it was them that was wrong. He would have had a case if he originally attributed to them the first time, because in this case (it was something over the summer) they did get it wrong. But you can't use that later to demonstrate "see, I was always right and these pay sites are wrong". Basically all that it showed is that he steals info and represents it as his own (for the record, I don't pay for any of the pay sites, so I can't confirm other instances, but this one stood out).

3) Yoder claimed the starting tackles would be the two young guys which disagreed with most insiders but leaned toward plausable take eventually given what people knew about the veteran OTs. This site, for instance, I think guessed the young guys would take over at some point in the season. But they admitted it was a guess, based on the best available evidence to them, and never claimed it as fact. That is the proper way of doing it. This is one of those "it seems like a hot take but is pretty safe" given what the casual fan knew. If he's right, he claims he had inside info (which he did not), and gets more followers. If he's wrong, it's likely be when and not if. But even that didn't happen. So it was a relatively low-risk claim that he could have been "first" to improve his credibility. But it was wrong, so just ignore it. These are the kind of claims he generally makes. I'm sure there were people 1.5 years ago claiming Kurt Taylor was going to transfer. There were some pretty obvious signs, after all. It doesn't mean they had inside info, but saying it 1.5 years ago gives you the option of being "first" with very low risk.

11/06/2018 - 3:23pm It's not traditional pin and…

It's not traditional pin and pull. In that scenario, the Wing would be responsible for the edge player. This is still a down scheme, but the "covered"/"uncovered" applies to the front side of the play still the same, just the first puller always kicks the defensive EMOL and the second one pulls up and through.

11/06/2018 - 2:01pm It's a form of pin and pull…

It's a form of pin and pull but it's effectively still the "Down scheme", or what some people call a "G scheme", kind of like there are various ways to run Counter or Power or Iso, or a bunch of other gap/man schemes. But it's about getting a frontside player to kick out and down blocking where possible.

11/02/2018 - 11:49am I have a different way of…

I have a different way of looking at it, they are charging the MIKE because of the undersized front. I really think their run defense is designed around the fact that they cannot hold up at DT enough to be a read and react defense, they need to shoot gaps and form a wall. Read/react puts OL in LB's laps down field, essentially.

So the result is similar to what you said, but my interpretation based on limited film is that they are getting to that result as more a function of DT play than MIKE play. My two cents.

Like you said (and the PSU fan said), the key here for Michigan is really latching and driving that DL. PSU is very undersized. But Michigan's OL has tended to have more issues with these sorts of fronts, that shoot gaps and crash the LOS. They aren't the type of OL that just pins and opens holes, so they have to meet these slants and run blitzes with aggression much better than they did earlier in the season. If they can, they can get a lot of success on the ground for the reasons you said. Otherwise, like you also noted, it might be a long day up front running into a wall because PSU was able to get their head in the gap and create a pile of bodies.

The other concern I have, that plays into PSU's hands, is that Michigan generally struggles to attack that middle intermediate part of the field that is available through the air because of the way the LBs crash in the run but safeties play deep. Will be an interesting match up overall, and will really show just how much Michigan has or hasn't improved overall.

10/30/2018 - 3:31pm The easiest way to explain…

The easiest way to explain it is that the number in the name is the number of players deep in coverage. Cover 1 has a single deep safety. Cover 2 has 2 deep safeties. Cover 3 has three deep zone defenders.

More detailed:

Cover 1 Basics

Cover 2 Basics

10/30/2018 - 1:51pm Traditionally, there are two…

Traditionally, there are two scenarios when Brown wants to run "Invert", where the safety has flat responsibility and the CB takes the deep 1/2

1) When the offense is in a nub formation (i.e. there is only a single, in-line TE to that side of the formation, with no receivers outside of him). This limits the offense to one vertical threat to that side of the formation, and Brown will often "invert" the coverage pre-snap (i.e. have the safety aligned 5x5 yards off the end man on the LOS and the CB aligned deep). This gets a better run defender near the ball and allows a CB to do what he's best at: cover.

2) When there is only a single vertical threat to the side of the formation that can't be covered by a LB. So in a lot of 2x1 formations, for instance, you may see the coverage become inverted because, again, it allows a safety to come down in run support (better for angles) and allows a CB to do what he's generally good at: cover. 

The reason for this is inverting the coverage against two vertical threats really puts the safety in a bind he can't win. The idea with trap coverage is that it converts to man if both #1 and #2 go vertical. That can happen because the CB has outside leverage reading the release of #2. It is much more difficult for the safety to play both the flat and vertical with that read. I thought Michigan ran it at least twice in one game (think it was in non-conf but struggling to find it) in which Hawkins was late buzzing down; may want to check there.

Michigan also ran a lot of trap against JT in last year's OSU game that caused a ton of early game issues for OSU. LINK

10/26/2018 - 9:22am This is hyperbole. In no…

This is hyperbole. In no world was Green a 2-star recruit coming out. Green lacked top end speed, which likely meant he shouldn't have been a 5-star and was a big reason why other big schools that had other prospects wrapped up passed on him. But it is reasonable to see him as a 4-star type recruit as a recruit (not hindsight).

While he lacked top end speed, he had great feet. His tape shows very good vision and ability to pick through holes in the LOS and get north-south. And with his size, had he learned how to run to his strengths, he could have been a very good between the tackles RB. But like with all recruits, there is some projection and a learning curve and things they need to improve on, and sometimes you can't predict that. That Green was never able to appreciate the physical nature of the game, that his size and frame would have flourished with, is a very difficult thing to project.

The other "high-stars, low-talent" guys you named are similar. Morris had high talent. Extremely high talent. He also had some rough edges he needed to clean up. They couldn't be cleaned up. Lots of schools were interested in him. Hayes had some ability that was probably better utilized in a different system, but there was some Demarco Murray traits in there. I could go on and on, but it's a bit revisionist to just claim Hoke went after stars and not talent when lots of schools wanted those same recruits for their talent. It is much more the lack of the staff's ability to develop offensive talent and some bad breaks/fits that some of the talent didn't develop as you'd hope.

10/24/2018 - 5:30pm Denard rarely actually made…

Denard rarely actually made reads in Rich Rod's offense. It was much more of what he called "QB Power" (actually just a zone play with a lead blocker) and Iso Draws, combined with true RB handoffs and maybe some window dressing. Denard didn't really read defenders often until Borges started doing it a bit early in 2011 (and I think they eventually found out what Rich Rod already knew, in that Denard struggled making the reads correctly). 

But if you go back to early 2011, and watch the 2nd half of the ND game, there are some true zone reads which Denard made work because he was a great runner as much as anything. It took a while (probably too long, but every announcer also assumed Denard was doing a bunch of zone read when he wasn't) to just start running the gap equivalents to what Rich Rod was doing in 2010 (Michigan mostly ran Power O with Denard as the ball carrier once they went that way in 2011).

10/24/2018 - 5:26pm He isn't. McKeon only blocks…

He isn't. McKeon only blocks the split belly zone here. Like the rest of the box players, their blocking assignments are all that of the belly play. Only the two receivers on the right side of the play are blocking for the keep (and actually only one of them is truly blocking for the keep, the other is blocking the safety but is aligning himself to block the belly play). Patterson makes it work because MSU crashes the DE to meet the split zone inside and there is room to the outside, but it's the read that allows him to make the play right. 

Some teams may have the H read the DE crash and arc, but then you are requiring the H and the QB to be on the same page (i.e. it's expensive to install and takes lots of reps vs lots of looks, which given Harbaugh's offense and the variety it has, isn't worth the cost of implementation).

Maybe it's easier to conceptualize a standard zone read with outside zone. The entire OL is blocking outside zone for the RB, no one (potentially) is blocking any different if the QB keeps. It's the read that makes the QB right. That's also, to Seth's point, what can make these plays bust rather easily. If the QB makes the wrong read, there's no one really blocking for him and the play is pretty instantly dead.

10/24/2018 - 5:18pm Not really fair to the WR…

Not really fair to the WR. Like the defense, the WR doesn't know where the ball is going. He's setting up to block the safety for the belly play. He could possibly close down the gap between himself in the safety more to block either way, but that's a block in a lot of space. 

10/24/2018 - 5:15pm These are the kind of…

These are the kind of concepts that made Harbaugh's San Fran offense one of my favorites. It applies spread principles in the zone read game, but utilizes condensed formations to allow for the application of a wide variety of blocking schemes.

Where a true spread has strength in spacing, it has a bit of a weakness in sending blocks from a variety of directions. Here, with this condensed formation, Michigan can arc with two front side players to assist the Patterson keep run, while effectively still running the split belly play with the FB. But they can also run this same play in both direction. They also are in good position to run stretch, or wham, or Iso, or pin and pull, or Down G. They can block this in so many ways. And by mixing both these condensed formations with read football, you become increasingly difficult to stop.

10/24/2018 - 12:38pm I'll disagree here.

I'll disagree here.

Patterson is not conservative by design. He has missed pulling the trigger multiple times this year when guys were open. A coach isn't designing for that. Harbaugh is stressing taking care of the ball, which Patterson does, but often times to a fault.

Now, he is conservative, which is better than reckless. Being more on the conservative side of the spectrum compared to last year is preferred (and one reason why Peters was preferred over JOK eventually). So yes, he's being coached to take care of the football. But being conservative also isn't the optimal balance between aggressive and conservative.

Patterson has room for improvement. He does need to read coverage quicker. He does need to get confidence in his reads of what is open and what is covered. It's ok to admit that and also consider him a superior alternative to what Michigan had last year, especially given the talent around him and on defense. Harbaugh would prefer that alternative, certainly, and stresses it more than other coaches, but he also wants to get him to the point where he's seeing and hitting those open targets down field. His conservatism, for one thing, is a major part of Michigan's lack of success on 3rd and long.

10/23/2018 - 3:13pm Alabama's QB hasn't taken a…

Alabama's QB hasn't taken a 4th quarter snap this year, that's how dominant they've been regardless of "quality wins". Alabama has appeared in the last three championships, winning two, and has yet to miss the playoff. Alabama has, without question, the most talent on their team annually. 

One loss Alabama ain't getting left out.

10/23/2018 - 3:06pm Feels like there is some…

Feels like there is some sunshine in this thread.

1. If Alabama loses they are still in, regardless of how bad the loss is. Alabama has been dominant this year, regardless of how you quantify their competition. One loss to LSU or in the SEC Championship game almost certainly results in two SEC schools getting in. Alabama needs to hold serve.

2. Clemson has recent history on their side. They've made it the past three years. While their strength of schedule is very weak, if they lose one close game, they could still stay ahead of Michigan.

3. If Notre Dame loses one close game, the playoff committee has some questions to answer, and unfortunately, the criteria for the committee seems to change every year based on nothing. Notre Dame brings just as much to the table as Michigan as far as prestige and fan base (and people who hate them). They beat Michigan head-to-head. So how much does the committee value head-to-head compared to when you lost? Lots of questions there.

4. Texas/OU both only have one loss. I really don't see the argument for Texas given the loss came the same week, and while the transitive property sucks for football, you have to see one team losing to a team the other blew out. Texas has also been wildly inconsistent, even more so than Michigan. OU lost to Texas, a good team. If they win out, they'll have a later loss, but recent playoff appearance plus a compelling player to watch is a real threat if Michigan looks sloppy down the stretch.

5. SEC Champ - The SEC champ is getting in. Whether that's Florida or Georgia (or Kentucky, hahaha) or LSU, they are getting in with one loss. 

So no, Michigan does not control its own destiny to the playoffs. They do control their own destiny to the B1G. Just win, let what you can't control handle itself. 

10/23/2018 - 2:25pm Good content here. Thanks…

Good content here. Thanks for pulling this together.

10/16/2018 - 2:49pm Good comment and I…

Good comment and I appreciate it. It is sometimes hard with the character limits on twitter to get back to basics (and I get into enough "twitter threads" because of a lack of effort in staying succinct anyway), but it is a good reminder that sometimes you need to return to basics. I try to make sure in my actual blog posts that I link back to basics, but even there I think I need to spend some time in the off season re-creating some content that helps set a stronger foundation (which was part of the intent of my blog to begin with).

10/16/2018 - 1:37pm Michigan already utilizes…

Michigan already utilizes split flow looks to generate a lot of their play action pass offense.

As noted above in the RPO discussion, you could turn this into a wheel route to get a true "arc block" play action pass.

This play (along with the split flow) is a lot like what we saw OSU take to a national championship in 2014. What I'd like to see Michigan adapt is the quick attacking vertical routes that OSU utilized as part of that package. UM uses the longer developing pass concepts well out of play action here, but attacking the seams quickly would add to the difference in timing the defense has to face.

I wrote about the concept OSU leaned on here: LINK

10/16/2018 - 12:38pm Because it takes time to get…

Because it takes time to get the H across the formation and into a route. So the flat allows 1) for it to be quick; 2) a clear read to the conflicted defender; 3) actually behind the LOS so they don’t have to worry about illegal downfield.

They could do what you’re asking, but I think it would be better as a true play action pass than an RPO, which I think would be expensive to implement because  of what you’re asking from your OL compare to how they’d traditionally block this run play

10/16/2018 - 12:33pm Teams can do either. I’m…

Teams can do either. I’m almost certain this is not a read by the H back though. Michigan doesn’t rep it enough to warrant the cost of implementing and runs split zone regardless of EMOL response to make me think they’re reading it

10/16/2018 - 11:43am The RPO version of this is…

The RPO version of this is really with the arc blocker, not the Y-TE. 

Rather than arc up, the TE simply runs to the flat once he by-passes the DE. "Slide" RPO is what a lot of teams call it. OSU and PSU both run a version of it. I talked about it at the end of this post: LINK

10/16/2018 - 11:29am Good stuff here.

A few…

Good stuff here.

A few other things I noted it in my own article on the same play, but I think are important nuances as well:

1) They ran this arc block out of pistol, which I don't think they had shown this year (but as you noted, they had shown previously with Peppers). Before, it was all split zone or some form of stretch/pin and pull/down G action from pistol

2) The formation helps this play out a lot

3) This play wasn't even blocked great as the TE/OT combo that downblocks the DE into oblivion never comes off onto the ILB that it should be blocking despite the gap exchange. Still works because, as you noted, everyone is expecting split zone because that's what Michigan does.

As I also noted in my post, as soon as Michigan ran this, that split zone action became a lot more effective too, as the DE started staying out wide. It's really a great additional wrinkle for them to have in the bag.

10/12/2018 - 11:23am Yeah, that's my recollection…

Yeah, that's my recollection too. 

The initially hire was perceived as anywhere from underwhelming to not liked. Then there was the first presser, which say what you will, Hoke knocked it out the park. That got people on board at least. Leading up that first year, Hoke at least talked-the-talk and seemed to walk-the-walk. People were still hesitant, though Under the Lights got some people on board (probably incorrectly, due to the sheer luck involved in that game) but then he kept winning. Things got a little shakey with losses to MSU and Iowa, but the Nebraska game I think was a high point and ended with a win against OSU and a BSC win (both of which you take however you can get them). 

2012 started out showing just how far Michigan still had to go. The results themselves were up and down, but how Gardner looked at the end of 2012 and the continuing solid performance of the defense showed promising signs, even if the love for Hoke was starting to plateau. Then 2013 happened. Cause for concern with some closer than expected wins, and then it all fell apart at MSU. From there it was anywhere from a gradual to a immediate down hill, depending on the person. I don't really think there was anyone fully on the bandwagon post 2014-Minnesota (still people that supported Hoke, but no one I think arguing that he for sure should keep his job).

10/12/2018 - 11:05am This perspective I thought…

This perspective I thought was always highly flawed by hindsight.

Hoke was doing what he thought was best for winning. Denard was the starting QB. Gardner moved to WR and was immediately the top WR on the team. As a coach, you don't play expecting an injury to the point of removing your best WR to sit on the bench the majority of snaps and get limited reps during practice (and Gardner needed reps at WR because up until that point he had been playing QB).

It backfired in the Nebraska game, no one doubts that. But you never really know what you have until someone is under pressure. Bellamy very easily could have looked adequate in practice. Many really liked what they saw from him the previous Spring Game. That he got thrust into his first real game action at Nebraska, at night, against a top 25ish team and a top 25ish defense, it was a terribly tough first action to be under. The solution is not taking a guy that wasn't practicing at that position, the QB position of all places, and telling him to run the offense is completely unfair. Unfair to that player, unfair to the team. You just don't do that. You don't play a guy who isn't practicing QB at QB in a game.

It's complete hindsight to look at that as one of Hoke's major blunders. That itself is one of the most easily and justifiable things that you can defend about Hoke's time, yet it gets brought up because it's easy to say in hindsight. There are many other blunders you can point to that are much worse.

10/12/2018 - 10:58am This is how I took it too…

This is how I took it too. That he didn't care about the outside things anymore (fan perception, media coverage, Brandon, etc.) and that it freed him up to be more open and comfortable during the pressers. But I highly doubt it was ever directed toward the team itself.

10/11/2018 - 12:44pm Yup, think this is the more…

Yup, think this is the more correct answer. If depth is really needed at DT, you try someone lower on the depth chart that you may be able to plug in for a handful of snaps. Because they aren't used to the position, they need all the reps they can get, and can't, at this point, be splitting with offensive reps (which Hudson needs because he's the primary backup). Ulizio, Honigford, Vastardis, those types. And that assumes those guys can be better than the depth that already exists at the position (all the way down to Meyers).

10/10/2018 - 8:04pm What worries me about…

What worries me about Wisconsin is that they are still good on D and somewhere in there most of the pieces still exist to be great, it's just when it comes together. Their O is still efficient as well. They'll be very tough on Saturday.

10/10/2018 - 8:01pm Noticed this too and it's…

Noticed this too and it's something Michigan did more of earlier in the Harbaugh era and that Harbaugh has done a lot elsewhere. It appears it's another aspect of the O they're growing. I will add on those early snaps it shows a lot of what the defense is doing (how they plan to align vs various formations, react to motion, etc) that help guide your gameplan throughout the game. Nice touch

10/10/2018 - 7:57pm He didn't a little in the…

He did a little in the NFL, I just don't think installing it is a high priority to him compared to other things to spend limited practice time on. There are a lot of calls and tags in this offense that you don't get with a lot of the one word play calls that he prioritized over the benefit of pace. Maybe we get it for a series or two with a script or two calls in one huddle, but right not its not the priority over other things

10/10/2018 - 7:53pm One thing to look out for in…

One thing to look out for in the "open it up" logic: Michigan was able to scheme, formation, and motion a lot of coverage checks and well understood coverages. One reason Patterson looked so much better on the underneath stuff is because he was getting exactly what he was expecting (and what the coaches were expecting as they repeatedly dialed up things to get those checks, see: Maryland running Cover 3 every time Michigan motioned empty with pro personnel on standard downs and distances, etc).

But, for instance, on DPJ's TD in wasn't actually a protection bust. The LB was left free by design from an empty pass pro. It's ok that he was left free though because DPJ is running a hot right to where the LB vacated. But Patterson didn't see it. Luckily he was able to make magic and it probably turned out better for it. But the point being is that Patterson is still who we thought he was: decisive when he sees what he expects, hesitant when he otherwise has to figure it out.

Other defenses may not be as easy to scheme in this way. UM likely can't win conservative, so to a degree with have to open up a little, but the O likely isn't ready to become pass first and if it's straight 50-50 that may even be a bad sign.

10/10/2018 - 11:47am This won't get rid of that…

This won't get rid of that narrative, because people will just point to "ranked teams on the road". This also isn't a rival, so won't get rid of that narrative.

This game isn't as big as 2016 OSU because that game would have nearly directly set Michigan up for a playoff spot (with only Wisconsin in the way, a team Michigan already beat more handily than the score indicated). Even if Michigan wins against Wisconsin, they still have @MSU, they still have vs PSU, and they still have @OSU, and the B1G championship game. This would only make a minor dent in the national perspective. It's a big game, no doubt, it would help the perception of the program, but there are several that were bigger than this game.

10/05/2018 - 6:26am It could be part of it but…

It could be part of it but we saw the same thing at Ole Miss at times when he wasn't turnover averse. There were pre-snap reads where he knew pre-snap he was throwing a go or not, and that's was part of the TO issue there, but when asked to read defenses, he was always a bit slow pulling the trigger. I just don't think he trusts his reads consistently to throw open

10/05/2018 - 4:15am They run their fair share of…

They run their fair share of zone (stretch and inside zone), but where the TEs really come into play is all the stuff they do from the H-back position. They pull across and lead a ton from the backside and down block a ton from the front side in the their Power/Counter game. So while I'm not sure he was their most important blocker, good blocking TEs are really significant in their offense.

10/05/2018 - 4:01am I don't think flash screens…

I don't think flash screens or RPO is the answer for the offense.

I'm not a subscriber in "CB starts 8 yards off so flash screen is open" because that isn't really the reality most of the time, particularly when you see CBs with open hips facing the QB. That means he's got eyes through the QB and he's generally pretty flat footed, he can break on the throw and be in good position around the LOS for a tackle. That's not as free yards as it seems with the way the CBs are aligned.

I also hate the idea of the pre-snap defensive formation always dictating play calls. Just like offenses, pre-snap formation, placement, and alignment doesn't always tell the tale. You can't just say "safety at 8 is a box player" because even within this game there were instances what they immediately bailed out. 

Third level RPOs are generally pretty nasty for safeties that are playing like Northwestern's are, but those are generally pretty expensive to install. That's not the basic RPOs Michigan is running, and most teams outside the most RPO-dependent teams aren't running them. Generally, reading a reaction of a 3rd level player, who has more time to react and therefore is in a gray zone significantly longer, takes a ton of reps, reps that you don't get elsewhere. In this case, basic slant-RPOs (which Michigan hasn't run yet) aren't really a great option either because safeties are sitting right where the LB you're reading would vacate.

Where I agree with Brian is that Michigan has to start threatening over the top of the safeties with quicker vertical routes. Hard PA with a skinny post. 5 step and out. Part of the problem, I think, is that Harbaugh doesn't trust 1) The OL to sell hard PA and still pass pro (the trick is you really have to trust your sell and then ability to recover; if you half ass it you're toast); 2) That Patterson will unleash the dragon. Patterson seems willing to take 1v1 deep shots, but he seems unwilling to take them early. He stares them down, deliberates, which means he isn't really trusting his reads. He did this at Ole Miss too where it wasn't a pre-determined throw. But that's what it feels like Michigan needs in this situation, something that develops more quickly but vertical to stress the safeties a bit more.

All 9 man boxes aren't created equal, and I think there were a few instances where Michigan picked up yards on the ground despite down safeties that show that. The jet stuff is intended to twist those safeties out as well, and to a degree it worked (the timing of it is still generally awful; but that is a tactic used a ton by both the 49ers and Rams now that Harbaugh is bringing even more into the playbook). But with the athletes Michigan has at receiver they need to trust more that if a safety is playing down and flat that they can win over the top and force them to provide more space. That's my biggest complaint after going through this.

The 2nd thing I think they need to stress is more levels to their route concepts. From what I've seen, this is something Patterson struggles with. He lacks the trust in his read to fire it in the windows, and when he does, he often over throws. They have to rep that more though because the deep LB drops are really bottling up the middle of the field and basically forcing a scramble or long developing deep shots.

10/05/2018 - 3:47am I'm more agnostic to the…

I'm more agnostic to the style of pull, both have advantages. The skip pull is typically easier for OL to identify second level blockers because they are higher, and it tends to allow them to better keep their shoulders square.

But I agree with some of your complaints about it. As you noted, the play where "the Gaz" is unblocked is on Onwenu, and it's because of two things: 1) he's slow getting out, and 2) I'm pretty sure he ID'd the wrong guy to kick (see how late he reacts to the DE shooting up field, he remains on track to kick the edge). Both of those things are easier with your standard drop pull.

10/05/2018 - 3:42am Similar to what Michigan…

Similar to what Michigan does on Down G, but they pin and pull on the backside to try to improve angles rather than running outside zone on the backside. It's good on plays like the one above where the LB and NT are relatively stacked, making the zone blocks difficult to get out to the 2nd level. So Down with the C and pull the G around through the hole.

10/05/2018 - 3:32am I tend to agree with this,…

I tend to agree with this, FWIW.

And to your point about tipping run/pass, without looking into it deeply, my guess is it's personnel + formation that are doing it. Hopefully Michigan's analysts are looking into it so Michigan is better prepared next week.

10/04/2018 - 1:47pm McFarland's size, build,…

McFarland's size, build, stride, footwork, cutting, and dreads remind me a lot of Denard playing RB.

10/02/2018 - 11:24am The bigger problem with Down…

A lot of really good stuff here.

The bigger problem, IMO, with Down G against Northwestern (similar to MSU) is how they play their safeties. The way to stop Down G is to shoot that outside gap. If the EMOL can prevent getting kicked, that alley filling safety can really hold things down, especially because it makes it very difficult to crack him.

The other thing with a 2i technique NT is it's a bitch to zone. It really forces the Center to work laterally in his zone step. That's another reason Down G stuggled here, is that Center has to reach that 2i or the OT has to block down to that 2i which isn't easy on the playside (it's not like blocking back on Power where you can allow upfield penetration because it's away from the play). So a play like this Weakside Iso, where you can just blast that 2i out with a combo to the LB (and here, it will almost always be Ruiz that leaves for the LB, where as zone it would typically be Bredeson) is a great call given the defensive formation/tendency.

Weakside Iso, by the way, does nominally double the NT to strength. On these plays, Ruiz and Bredeson doubled to the MIKE. On the first play, they crush that guy right into the MIKE's lap, which is exactly how you draw it up. That's really one of the best doubles we've seen this year. Just blasted that guy back.

When you talk about how you can "zone it" (may want to check the name; think there's a typo and you meant Onwenu not Ruiz as can be figured out with how you're describing it, but may be confusing to people on first read), you do want to keep that guy in the B-gap and because you do want to keep this an A gap run if at all possible. But most important is to seal him somewhere to give your FB a clear read off your butt. You don't base block with the weakside guard. You try to seal him in the B-gap, and if he crosses face, you better carry him past the A-gap. Part of the problem with that play is Onwenu let him cross his face, which slowed down Mason so that the (now attacking) LB wasn't met with the same force, but the play can still have some success because Mason doesn't have to redirect all the way to where the initial B-gap was, because Onwenu keeps shoving his man down.

Ian Boyd did a nice post about how the Insert Iso is one of the most popular spread schemes. The FB is coming back all over football, and particularly to the weakside, he makes the run game much, much more potent. I love that this is actually from FB depth though (out of gun) and not wrapping an H-back. Think that extra bit of down hill really helps crush the LB on this play.

10/02/2018 - 9:47am I don't know specifically if…

I don't know specifically if Harbaugh scripts plays. Not all coaches do, and some coaches script situationally. But even though Michigan wasn't successful during their early plays, doesn't mean there weren't a number of things they were showing to get a defensive response, and doesn't mean they weren't running plays that were likely to be successful. I don't think Michigan comes out the way they did if they didn't have some plan in mind.

But based on the first drive alone, I'm pretty sure Michigan got a feel for early down coverage, check for 5 wide, how they adjusted to jet motion, etc. By about play 10, they had a feel for what Northwestern was doing to the point that they were quite efficient and effective on offense. The initial scout and the initial execution might not have been great, but overall they got out of the first 10 plays what they needed to adjust and move on.

10/02/2018 - 9:42am Agree, this is another…

Agree, this is another advantage. This is also why you tend to see a lot of teams use more formations and motions (so that they can get into multiple formations) to see how teams align and if they check coverage/defense given specific motions (RB out of the backfield, motion to trips, motion to 5 wide, etc.).

You're trying to do what you do well, against tendencies you've seen from the defense and their weaknesses, and trying to show a lot of things so that once your script is over you have an idea where to go next.

10/02/2018 - 9:39am To add to this, the scripted…

To add to this, the scripted plays are also practiced much more. They are repped because the staff has seen something on film to give them some sort of confidence in those plays based on what the opponent does, what they do well, and what they don't do well.

So it's a combination of identifying opponent weakness (especially before they make adjustments), executing at a high level, and then adding wrinkles that you will anticipate to be more successful based on what you've seen (screwing with keys, etc.).