Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Film Review: Shea Patterson and What It Would Mean for Michigan

I’ve fielded a few questions about my thoughts on the Shea Patterson situation. I did something similar for Jake Rudock when he transferred from Iowa to Michigan, so I figured I’d take a brief look at what he would bring to the table. In doing so, it is essentially not to just look at highlights, but also look at his weaknesses and his worst performances.

Let’s make one thing clear, the primary reason, above all other reasons, that Michigan is looking to bring in Patterson is because he is incredibly talented. His game is far from without flaws, but in my opinion, bringing him in is much less about the current roster and the staff’s trust in that roster and much more about what Patterson potentially brings to the table. Let’s take a look, and hopefully this isn't all for naught.

Photo: AP

Monday, November 20, 2017

Film Review: PSU Belly Read and Belly Counter Speed Option

Against Michigan, Penn State pulled out a nice wrinkle to their run action. While most teams that run out of gun incorporate an inside zone read, the Nittany Lions prefer more of a belly read approach. In this post we are going to look at the difference between the more common Inside Zone run, the Belly Option that PSU prefers, and the counter action off of it with the utilization of a speed option. A couple weeks later Rutgers tried to utilize a similar strategy but had much less success. We're going to poke at the difference between teams in this post as well.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Film Review: The OSU Drag and Go Concept

Ohio State has been feasting through in the pass game with one of the core tenets of the Air Raid offense: drag routes. Go into any Air Raid passing playbook from Kevin Wilson (or Mike Leach), or looking back at Chip Kelly's Oregon offenses (the current OSU QB coach is Kelly's former QB coach) and you'll notice that probably 50% of the pass plays contain some sort of drag route. Go to your basic pass game concepts and you'll see that these playbooks are littered with Over, Cab, Crash, Crease, Mesh, and NCAA concepts. Air Raid coaches love these concepts, and so they rep these concepts constantly, because in man coverage their better athletes can run away from LBs or safeties or get beneficial rubs to allow them to run away from CBs. Against zone you can find a void and settle there and wait for the QB to throw you open. In theory, it works against everything. Yet, it still has it's detractors, because if you don't practice it enough, if you don't put in the time, you end up with a bunch of clunky looking routes that struggle to get open against anything: there is no cut to the route to gain separation, you have to be on the same page as the QB on where and how to settle, etc. It is not a cheap system to implement. So by implementing it, you are likely ceding some other things within your offense, meaning that your pass offense needs to be able to build off of the drag route. In this case, the Buckeyes run what is essentially a double move in order to take advantage of the defense cheating the drag.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Written in Chalk: PSU's Direct Snap Power Read

On Saturday, Penn State pulled out a direct snap offense, in which they lined up initially like a normal shotgun snap, and then shifted late such that the RB was behind the Center and the QB aligned off set. This sets up for an offense where the QB can still be utilized as a run threat, but the RB can get the ball into his hands immediately and take advantage of some of the interior run schemes while the fairly mobile QB can still threaten the edge. More specifically in this instance, it allows you to run Power O with your RB without being forced to block the "kickout" defender (he's blocked with the read). It's an interesting wrinkle that puts a lot of pressure on the play side of the defense, but it isn't without it's limitations. Now on film, defenses can react based on those limitations. So how can the Nittany Lions grow this package to take advantage of what defenses may show going forward? Let's speculate.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Written in Chalk: Introduction

Embed from Getty Images

"Written in Chalk", get it? Like Written in Stone" or "Written in Blood" but chalk because chalk boards. Also a 'Buddy and Julie Miller' album, who I never heard of before but here's a plug. In reality it should probably be "Written in Dry Erase Marker or: Accidentally Written in Permanent Marker on a Dry Erase Board because Someone Put it Here and Now Look, I Can't Erase It, Damnit", but that wasn't as catchy.

Anyway, the idea here is absolutely to be speculative. Yes, I'm going to try to ground this series in logic. No, it's not always going to be logical. That's how great ideas are made. "Written in Chalk" was always one of my favorite parts of coaching that wasn't the actual act of coaching. It was collaborating with the staff, it was drawing some things on the board and constantly asking "what if?" And once you did that someone else asked, "and what if we do this?" And sure enough, someone would say "or what about this?" and you'd either erase the previous thing or draw up this new thing adjacent because it was it's own idea. And this brainstorming activity takes you in all these interesting and far-out directions, but sometimes what comes out of it is pretty awesome.

At times this series will relate to something I see from B1G schools. At times it will be something of my own creation. At times I will think it's something along those lines but it's actually something that's already been done. But either way, the idea is to allow a concept to grow, from a play to a package to potentially a core.

Now let's get a few QBs on the field, shall we

Monday, October 2, 2017

Film Review: Iowa vs MSU (and applicability to MSU vs UM)

AP Photo/Al Goldis

I got to rewatch the MSU-Iowa game in some detail. Here's my takeaways with some brevity (most of this comes from twitter with some edits, so sorry for it being poorly written.


  • MSU DL did great job most of the game dealing with the Iowa stretch game. Did a great job getting helmet playside and limiting playside gaps 
  • A bit of Iowa's success on ground game off gap schemes where DL overcommitted to what they thought was stretch; not really replicable for UM 
  • Does mean something to UM tho: MSU is great at identifying/defending tendency. Need to strategically break tendency to get them out of pos (this is a common thing for all of Dantonio's good defenses, well schooled) 
  • LBs/Safeties still flow very hard. Pursuit mostly disciplined but you can catch them out of gaps and can catch open grass away from action 
  • And you can still play formation games to get matchups you want in secondary. Tight splits/TEs = knob adj = Safety on receiver; etc. 
  • I think Morrisey matched up well with TEs. Michigan is going to be much better served attacking with a WR as he's the weakness of the backfield. I think both safeties are relative weak spots in coverage and can be exploited. Morrisey more so, but I think other safeties also left some good openings; need to be smart on how WRs/TEs are deployed in formations
  • New aspect, MSU plays a lot of C1 especially on obvious pass down. QBs need to be smart about reading safeties before going into progression 
  • Can still get favorable matchups, throw away from help, but need to understand cov to get into progression. Need protection to give time. MSU DBs not quite a good in technique in C1; obviously not base, but allow receivers to get leverage at times when they aren't really getting the help they expect
  • I think UM OL will be already against MSU DL on standard downs for most part. Limited games when on pace. Once behind chains, lots of games 
  • MSU will likely break tendency a bit based on UM film. UM needs to be prepared to have hots in place to get receivers free in 2nd level 
  • UM needed to clean up communication issues on OL during bye week or &long will result in heavy, quick pressure, especially from edge


  • W/ MSU on offense, OL lost leverage a lot. Was biggest problem for O all day. Lose leverage and quit moving feet. 
  • Mostly on interior but not limited to it. Iowa DTs able to get into body and control OL at LOS and that clogged up inside runs 
  • The interior looks strong enough, not consistently pushed back, but lost leverage and lose ability to drive. Need to drive w/ gap scheme 
  • Still don't like the hand placement of some MSU interior OL. They love to hug, not punch. Results in little first pop to get D off balance 
  • One player in particular I'm consistently surprised doesn't get more holding calls. Consistently outside frame of body, hugging not driving. Allen had a pretty rough day as well as he got deposited into the backfield a few times and made pulls difficult; Jarvis had some issues with how/where to pull too, which is expected for a FR
  • As far as Lewerke, need to get him to reset his feet. If feet are set and he's releasing w technique, he is very accurate. 
  • When you get into his feet or force him to reset, technique breaks down, accuracy gets v inconsistent, arm strength suffers a lot 
  • If you can get interior pressure and not let him escape immediately up field, it will be very tough for him 
  • Interior OL pretty stout at preventing great push. OTs give some ground but mirror well. Should be an interesting match up

Monday, September 25, 2017

Film Review: Michigan Changing the Handoff Point

At some point on Saturday, the Michigan vs. Purdue matchup turned into a battle of "who can out execute you" vs "who can out scheme you". Jeff Brohm utilized some wonderfully designed misdirection plays to get guys open in space, while Michigan was confident they could line up and wear the Boilermakers down via execution. But as the game wore on and the two teams continued to play nearly equally, Michigan pulled out a change up that allowed them to get a walk-in touchdown. In this post, I want to look at some little things that happen in the Michigan run game that impact the defense's reaction.

Bryon Fuller/MGoBlog

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Film Review: 2017 OSU vs Indiana - Fade, Back Shoulder, and a Coverage Adjustment

AP Photo/ Darron Cummings

For nearly a half of play, the Indiana Hoosiers looked poised to make the Buckeyes sweat out a potential early season massive upset. It wouldn't be the first time a team came out with a great gameplan earlier in the year and caught an opponent looking ahead to the supposed bigger challenge.

With the Ohio State on defense, the Buckeyes wanted to come out in a lot of single-high defensive looks, predominately Cover 1, put bodies near the LOS, and out athlete Indiana. In the battle of the DL vs OL, OSU dominated. But on the outside, despite relatively good position from defensive backs, Indiana executed nearly perfectly. One could argue that the execution was bound to wane, but repeatedly throwing one of two throws - a fade or a back shoulder fade to the boundary - allowed IU QB Richard Lagow to find an easily repeatable rhythm, particularly with big bodied and sure-handed WR Simmie Cobbs.

In this article (and the next) we will look at the basic gameplans going into the game and how the Buckeyes made adjustments to turn a close fought game into a 2nd half blowout.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Inside the Playbook: Michigan State Pin and Pull

Coming off of one of the least productive years for the MSU OL in some time, the Spartans have largely retooled the unit and are planning to press quite a bit of youth into the starting lineup. Their current starting line up and key rotational players look like this:

PlayerC. ChewinsT. HigbyB. AllenD. BeedleL. CampbellD. FinleyK. JarvisM. AllenJ. Reid

I would argue some of these weights are likely getting a "college roster" bump as well. This is not the beefiest of beef units to set foot in Spartan Stadium. Not that long ago though, Michigan State featured one of the most diverse run blocking playbooks in the league, right up there with Harbaugh's Michigan teams. They ran Power, Counter, Sweeps, Traps, Inside Zone, Outside Zone, and yes, Pin and Pull. But as the skill diminished, so did the playbook, and the settled into mostly an inside zone team with some Power to balance things out last year. This year, they feature that undersized but mobile unit listed above, and the emphasis should move away from "let's push people off the ball" and focus more on "let's force the defense to move with us and let's rely on angles to get run gaps". This should lead to more outside zone and Pin and Pull, which will be the topic of this article.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Inside the Playbook: Michigan's Bounce Draw

Jim Harbaugh and Tim Drevno must have been watching their Barry Sanders highlights when they decided to add the bounce draw to the playbook it to the playbook. Or, at least, they were catching up on their Run and Shoot Mouse Davis offense. It’s commonly stated that, at heart, Harbaugh runs a west-coast offense (WCO). More or less that is true, but he has also – like most great offensive minds – borrowed pieces from a variety of other offenses. In that past we’ve seen forays into the spread attack with Colin Kaepernick and some T-offense randomly against Maryland that one time. In this instance, he borrowed from a Run and Shoot offense and integrated it relatively seamlessly into how he utilization trips formations to the field within his nominal WCO (a short, quick, spacing passing attack to the trips side and G Lead sweeps run plays to the trips side) and downfield attack. In this article, we are going to look at how this play functions and why it works within the Harbaugh framework.