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BB's Answer Regarding OL question

  • I received a question on tBB about what Michigan's issue is up front. If zone blocking is the easier path for young players, or if it doesn't matter, we just need to wait for them to grow up. I guess since I write here, I can probably post topics to some of the questions I find relevant and interesting. Here was my initial response:

    "I Don't think it has anything to do with zone/gap/man blocking specifically as far as struggles. Wisconsin zone blocks, so does Bama (with occasional counter). Stanford man blocks; I think LSU does too but I don't really remember and can't be certain on that. I don't think you have to wait for everyone to become a senior, the issue is that you have 3 guys right next to each other that have next to no experience and are young. You can't hide anyone. Inconsistency right next to each other is going to be an issue in that case, it just is.

    Now, I do think Michigan needs to define what it is. It doesn't need to be only man or only zone. But right now Michigan's primary play is outside zone, yet they have rarely run inside zone and suck at counter. So they aren't really a zone team. Yet they can't really run power and are decent at Iso. What are they? In my opinion, you need to choose. You can do it all, but one has to be your bread and butter, the other a change up. Michigan has no bread and butter; no change up. They just have stuff. And I think, combined with just being young and inconsistent at three spots side by side, doing everything does help them out, because they do nothing well. If they actually did something well, then the rest of the stuff would be easier because teams have to play the other thing, right now though, defenses are dictating Michigan up front. I've said it several times, but a stalemate at the line is a win for the defense in the run game.

    It'll get better. I expect over the next two weeks Michigan really works on inside zone, because I think they are more of a zone blocking team right now with what they have up front. That'll help if they can do that. But they need to get better at something, they need to have something to go to, otherwise it'll be a long season for them in the run game."

    To add to that, experience is always going to help. They don't need to be seniors, but being in a system 4+ years is a huge help for OL, at which point sprinkling in youth can be covered up much more. I don't think either system is easier for young players. In fact, most high school teams gap block (man block) because it's a bit easier to teach them an assignment and have them do that assignment. Zone blocking is probably more adjustable, easier to fix on the fly, stuff like that, but takes more reps and more feel to get correct. Gap blocking is probably easier to pick up but requires more calls and understanding to do right against a variety of fronts. So both have stuff that's easier and both have stuff that is more difficult.

    If you have questions for me, feel free to DM me, send me a tweet (tell me you come from 247 so I can bring the answer back over here), or you can post it on the board but it might get lost. This is an easy and quick way for me to respond to you guys in the future.

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  • The guys just don't know what they are doing, and I expect its a coaching issue. Whether they are being instructed techniques that are just to difficult to establish with their limited practice time, or they aren't being taught crap.

    The "experience will help" line doesn't ring true to me, because last years interior was just as bad week 14 as it was week 1. And the entirety of the line last year never became good at picking up their assignments.

    And how much does their inability to turn a single offensive lineman into an effective puller have to do with the reliance on the zone stretch?

  • Experience will help is extremely true.

    Like it or not, a lot of the guys even on last years line weren't overly experienced in the interior except for Omameh, who was horribly put into a system that didn't fit him. And frankly, they just weren't that good.

    But you know what OL isn't very good this year either? Alabama (actually watch their games, certainly they are better than Michigan's right now but they also have a lot of breakdowns get bailed out by great players surrounding them, something Michigan doesn't have a luxury of). But they were great last year with a ton of experience. Wisconsin always has a ton of experience.

    Look, I know from experience, OL is the most difficult position to play when you're young, and it's really not even close. Maybe interior DL, but even that isn't as close. Putting three young guys right next to each other will cause a team to struggle. You can't just say "but look at last year, we weren't good then, so experience means little". Experience is one of the most important factors on the OL.

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  • To somewhat build on the experience part you're talking about BB, last year even though Mealer and Barnum were seniors, the still had very little in-game experience.

    I also agree that experience is a big part of it.

  • But that isn't what I said. I said "last years interior was just as bad week 14 as it was week 1".

    I have no doubt experience is extremely important. I do doubt that it will result in dramatic improvement, or that Michigan's offensive front will gain more as the season goes along than other B1G teams defensive fronts.

  • Game experience vs. practice, which matters more here?

    Maybe I'm wrong here, but gametime accounts for, what, maybe 5 or 6 reps of any particular play. They may run Power O eight times in a game, but by the time you have broken it down by direction and opposing front, a lineman may only see the same assignment once or twice in a game.

    It seems the majority of the improvement would be found in the film review and repetition in practice.

  • I don't know what line of work your in, but to continually turn out sub par product and performances should not be acceptable in any line of work. Our OL has been sub par going on the second straight year. That is unacceptable. I question the system put in place to coach these kids on what their responsibilities are like you stated in your OP.

    Last year Wisconsin fired their OL coach after the first or second game of the year. They miraculously came out of it with resounding positive results.

    Please explain why Wisconsin can make a change and come out better off, but at Michigan it would be a bad idea with nothing but negative results?

  • I think it is very different thinking 3 5th years will grow a ton from week 1 to week 14 when throughout tow of their careers they struggled to crack the lineup. Thinking 3 underclassmen will grow from week 1 to week 14 is a different proposition. Especially, when one G is a 5* and the other G didn't start playing FB seriously until his junior year in HS. Barnum, Mealer and Omameh had pretty much hit their ceilings. I don't think that's the case with Glasgow and Kalis. I do think Miller may have done so.

  • They will certainly learn more in practice, but they have to apply it in a game. It's like studying engineering in school and then putting it into practice during your career. You need both to really get better.

    I don't think the OL will be great by the end of the year, and I didn't say as much. What I said is that it takes experience to get better, and that's what Michigan is missing right now. Putting three inexperienced guys side-by-side is going to result in inconsistencies and difficulties. What I was claiming is: 1) it doesn't really matter if you man block or zone block, but you should choose an identity; 2) it will get better because of experience, they won't just continue to suck, but they need to practice on things to get there, they need to get an identity to get there, and they need to simplify things to get there; 3) Experience is always going to help, which should be obvious. More than that, having experience to mask weaknesses where you don't have experience will be even more helpful.

    Now to answer your concerns, I don't think there will be drastic improvement either, what I think is there can be improvement to not giving up top 10 most TFLs in all of college football. Inexperienced players can soak up more, learn more, and get better faster than other players. They aren't going to go out there and be 2012 Alabama, but they also won't go out there and be game 1 Michigan.

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  • Last year was vastly more unacceptable, with players that didn't fit a system but didn't perform up to the standard they should, then what has happened this year. I think you are reaching here, and this is from a guy who was critical of Funk before this year.

    You have completely twisted what I said into something I didn't say. No where did I say Funk can continue to not have his players improve. No where did I say that I was happy with the OL performance. But you don't know how far any of these players have come, how much they've learned, how much better they've gotten, and how much they still need to learn. I don't know either, but you can't simply tell based on what your standard is. As far as we know, Funk has done a tremendous job even getting them to where they are. I'm guessing he hasn't done a tremendous job, I'm also guessing that he's not going out there and teaching them nothing. They need to improve, there is no doubt about that and I didn't say otherwise. Experience is a huge factor in that. But the fact is that in these cases, you shouldn't have RS Sophomores and RS FR backed up by younger players on your OL, that's why you don't see it elsewhere. You should have upper-classmen, and if younger players outperform them then they play and you have true depth and can actually play players that are capable of doing the things you task of them. Michigan doesn't have that luxury yet, they simply don't, and I really don't think you can adequately judge Funk's worth based on this year.

    Where are you getting any of the "Funk is untouchable" claims from my posts, where I never once even said his name? FWIW, Wisconsin had an extremely experienced line that was pretty much established and good the previous year. They knew their baseline and were performing well below that. These are three new interior players that we, as fans, simply don't know their baseline. In my experience, more harm typically comes from firing coaches mid-season than good (which is why so many made fun of Wisconsin when they initially fired the guy). Sometimes it's not true, but typically it is. But you are talking about a completely different set of circumstances with Wisconsin.

    This post was edited by BeerBaron 7 months ago

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  • I don't know what line of work you're in, but I bet you've had struggles, and I bet there were cases in which those struggles were understandable due to circumstances, and were not directly due to your personal incompetence.

    Football is extremely complicated. The vast majority of posts about it on the internet consist of incorrect logic based on incorrect premises. We could all do with a little more humility.

  • Wisconsin has always made offensive line a priority from Alvarez to Andersen. They seem to always have guys ready to go. I've never seen them caught in the situation Hoke is in with 3 brand new interior starters. Wisconsin hasn't gone through a huge offensive change like Michigan has either. I hate bashing on RR but he didn't exactly hand Hoke a good situation. I don't know how they would fix this quickly. If we had any experienced talent to put on the inside it would have been done by now. They have to find something they're good at and build off it. Until everything slows down for these guys its going to be a rough road. Imho.

  • Can't agree more. The talent is there but since that talent has very little experience it is going to be rough. Honestly, it will probably be rough for at least the next few games. This bye week probably couldn't have come at a better time. It gives these guys and the coaches time to work through some things before having to solely work on playing Minnesota.

  • Question for BB...

    If Glasgow was more a basketball kid in HS until his Jr year, is it reasonable to expect that he'd be ready to play OC and make the calls necessary to help this OL perform at a B1G level? I like the idea of having three physically dominant guys in there, but it seems impressive enough that Glasgow is game-ready at G, much less at OC given his limited FB career.

  • That brings up a question for me.....was the OL worse in game 1? We romped over CMU so I honestly didn't pay any attention to the OL. If so, what accounts for the drastic difference in results? Was it primarily Gardner's confidence level allowing him to overcome? I do think that was the main difference between the ND game and the last 2. I thought Gardner was playing REALLY well to overcome the defensive pressure he was facing in the ND game. I didn't have that same sense of Gardner being the savior during the CMU game.

  • You'll pick up some things by playing football more in HS (as far as calls and such), but for the most part that will be limited, much more limited than even technique. In college, by nature, you're seeing many more things and have to be much more prepared to do things on your own, because a screw up because very apparent very quickly. The vast majority of learning will come in the first couple seasons in college.

    He can probably make the majority of the calls right now, but at center sometimes that isn't good enough, and it's a fine line where you reach "acceptable". It's also not just snapping. I'm sure just snapping Glasgow is just fine. But making calls, snapping and blocking is extremely difficult. The fact that he only really started getting good reps at the position this spring means he's probably a bit behind in being up to game speed in doing all the things an OC is tasked with doing. I wouldn't say it's out of the realm of possibility to get moved to center, but it's pretty much during this bye week or not this season. You certainly don't want to make that change mid-game week at this level.

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  • CMU had no idea we were running outside zone. It caught them completely off guard. They had schemed for Power O, and as such, pinched their DEs almost instantly. This allowed them to very easily be reached and sealed. And still the blocking didn't really get going until CMU just got worn down in the second half. ND was the first team that had schemed for Michigan primarily being an outside zone team.

    Also, Gardner's ability to throw the ball under pressure, or at all, is a huge issue right now. Teams are stacking the box. The OL and TEs actually performed better against UConn. I know most didn't see it, but it's true. But UConn constantly brought people from the second level off the edge. They simply had to many defenders for blockers and unless the OL did drastically better, you wouldn't see the results. They can do this because, when they stacked the box, reacted down hill quickly, and brought pressure, Gardner was not able to back them off with his arm.

    In the article last week I talked about how the DL has to work as a unit within the defensive structure, and everyone working as a unit is how you get defensive success. Well the same is true about offense. The QB passing the ball has a ton of weight for how good the run game will be as well. But I'm telling you, the OL did improve as a group against UConn; at least on first watch they did look better, and I bet it shows a bit during the UFR even if the run game itself wasn't better.

    This post was edited by BeerBaron 7 months ago

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  • I'm glad these ol problems occured now when we played Akron & UConn rather than OSU and MSU. What I don't get is all 3 played decently against Nix, Tuitt and ND but they had mental breakdowns against the next two teams. The bye and upcoming Minnesota will give them a chance to become cohesive and learn to depend on each other. The competition for these interior spots wasn't exactly the hardest. Kalis had noone that was going to beat him for a spot really and there were only a few battling for the other 2 spots. With the freshman on the team plus guys in future classes will ensure that we don't have to deal with 3 new inexperienced guys on the inside again. It seems to me that this future can't come fast enough.

  • Thanks for the insights BB. Unfortunately most fans are purely results oriented and have no feel for all the time and hard work that goes into making a good football team. So when things aren't working some fans want immediate and drastic changes which is usually counter productive in a long football season.

  • I could be wrong, but I thought Gardner bailed out the OL in the ND game. I think if we had that confident Gardner in the last 2 games, the outcomes would have been far different. Even if he made the occasional bad decision as he did in the ND game, I thought his positives far outweighed those negatives. Let's hope he can regain that confidence in such a way that the bad decisions go away, but his accuracy and decisiveness return.

  • I agree Gardner played quite well in the face of pressure (minus the worst play in football history) vs. ND, but I also think the OL played "okay". They were adequate, and ahead of Akron and UConn. If DG plays half as well vs. UConn and Akron the OL woes would be perceived differently (although, still woefully).

  • Gardner has to get his confidence back and can't let mistakes haunt him the whole game. Our line play must get better so we can run the ball effectively. We cannot live and die by Gardners play either. We have to find something to be good at. I guess we couldn't be called one dimensional when we can't run or pass at will.

  • BeerBaron, what would you expect from the OL as a realistic best case scenario? I know you're not at the practices or team meetings but your coaching gives you more insight than my untrained eye.

  • For this year or going beyond that? For this year, I think they can be a competent bunch that is generally good in pass pro and can do their job. I don't think this unit will get to the point where they are just running over lesser opponents, but if they can get the communication down, the footwork, and understanding of the plays, then they should at least not give up penetration.

    Now, that still isn't good enough. To be a good offensive line you need to start getting push. I think you'll continue to see flashes of that, but it won't be consistent, and it especially won't be consistent as a unit - just too many young guys.

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  • I was originally asking about this year and your answer is kind of what I was expecting. Following up though, how do you feel going forward? I think it boils down to: do we have the right players and do we have the right coaching?

    Players: Per Seth's review on mgoblog, guys typically hit their stride in their third years. Going forward, we lose our two tackles, but will have third year Magnuson, Bars, and Braden as potential replacements. I am optimistic on this front.

    Coaching: Tough to accurately judge Funk based on the hand he was dealt, but have you seen enough from the OL in the three years he's been here to give you confidence that he's the right guy?

    I know people are clamoring for results NOW, but it's not realistic to expect redshirt freshmen to dominate seniors. I'm just hoping you tell me there's a light at the end of this tunnel.

  • As far as going forward. I do think they will be in the system eventually. Based on what I've seen of the kids high school tape and their potential, even if some bomb out, there are enough bodies now that a solid OL unit should be able to put together.

    But I'm not exactly confident it's next year either. I do anticipate improvement next year as a whole and as a unit, and while it won't have a dominant player like Lewan, it should be much more consistent and they should work better as a unit. But even next year it will be incredibly young as far as depth, so the starting positions aren't getting pushed from behind to a huge extent. If they aren't significantly better by two years from now, then yeah, there are some huge issues.

    As far as coaching, I'm not willing to say I'm confident Funk is the guy right now. I'm also not going to write him off right now. He's still right in limbo. I think next year we'll get to see how he has started to improve his guys from year-to-year and that will give a better idea of the trajectory of the line and the ability of Funk.

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