Random Collection of Football Thoughts. Comments welcome

Submitted by Nemesis on January 2nd, 2019 at 2:17 PM

Here is a random collection of Michigan football thoughts.  While some of this may be "statements of the obvious," your comments are welcome.  Note that I love Michigan football and do have many positive things to say about them.  However, this post is meant to be a "look in the mirror" with an eye toward getting better. 


1)  Jim Harbaugh is a lot like Bo Schembechler.  Both ran a run-heavy offense that was predicated on having a dominant man on man advantage over your opponent.  As was the case with Bo, this will work against much of the Big Ten/the non-conference schedule, but will often fail against OSU, at least 1 other B1G opponent, and many likely bowl opponents.  With more parity in college football these days, JH will do slightly worse than Bo if things continue this way.  A National Championship is out of the question, but finishes near number 10 nationally (with a bowl loss more often than not) will become the norm.  Just like Bo.  We can do better.


2)  JH and staff are great teachers of fundamentals.  Marginal players often become Solid players.  Huge gaffes are much less common than they were under Brady Hoke.  What disturbs me is that Good or Very Good players do not become Great players.  Great players do not become Superstars (although I appreciate him, I consider Rashan Gary a disappointment).  We desperately need people to make big plays.  I wonder if the emphasis on "doing your job" is taken to such an extent that people in this system are just not free enough to make big plays?


3)  The weakness of Wisconsin and MSU this year makes our season look even worse.


4)  We have a good QB and good receivers.  Our O Line has improved.  At this point, our offensive issues look increasingly schematic.  I like how the offense is simpler this year, but we still have too many plays that require multiple things to go right vs a quick hitting offense that uses misdirection to quickly get people the ball in space.


5)  Every year the team peaks after the first third of the season and then looks bad in the final third of the season.  This is even after adjusting for the end of year strength of schedule (e.g., we always seem to struggle with Indiana).  Is our team tired and worn out at the end of the year?  Are 4 hour practices good at the start of the year and counter-productive at the end?  Is there another issue that contributes to this end of year physical and mental fatigue?


6)  I did not care for the outright arrogance of the players after the big win streak that they had this year.  Guaranteeing wins and blabbering about the Revenge Tour.  I thought the coaches showed this same arrogance in the uncreative game plans vs OSU/Florida that smacked of arrogance.  The 2017 OSU game plan was VERY creative because we (correctly) assumed we were the underdog.  The 2018 game plan seemed to assume that we were just the better team.  We need to smack this arrogance down and create an "underdog with a chip on your shoulder" mentality like Saban and Dantonio do.  I know that these efforts often seem silly and fake, but I prefer the coach that is constantly saying "we can do things better."  Alabama has a right to be arrogant, yet shows far less arrogance than we did.


7)  We are taking some really good players for granted (particularly the WRs) and now I am betting that we are going to lose some of these players to transfers.  This is just sad.  Losing Oliver Martin or Tarik Black would be tragic.


8)  Don Brown can just assume that opponents will put two WRs in a stack on one side (overloading one side with talented players and making it harder for the corner to get his hands on the trailing WR) and run picks / inside slants off of this.  Starting with Northwestern, everyone has done this to us.  But the good teams have gashed us.    They have also found ways to match fast RBs on our slower linebackers fairly consistently.  We dodged A LOT of bullets this year in that regard.  


9)  By the end of the year when opposing offensive lines are working well together as units and Don Brown blitz packages seem to lose their effectiveness.  The chaos created in the first 6 weeks seems to disappear at the end of the year.


10)  Nepotism (Jay Harbaugh) and not firing or being slow to fire your friends (Pep and Drevno) are not good things.  It may be "classy" to let these guys find another job first, but they are probably not doing their current jobs in the meantime.  We lost Dan Enos to our slowness in dealing with Drevno.  I am betting that Pep will struggle to find a job and this will affect our ability to land a good OC.


11)  We need one mind directing the offense on game day.  Offense by committee will result in dysfunction that would take a very long post to fully explore.  Don't do it.





January 2nd, 2019 at 2:31 PM ^

During the game?  They confer prior to each play as to what play should be called?

If so, that's surprises me.  

I get that during the game there's headset chatter about things ... and that may shape play calling ... but I would think in the immediate heat of battle there's one guy calling the plays, especially when time is a factor.  I could be wrong.


January 2nd, 2019 at 2:39 PM ^

Everything that you wrote happens, and that is how Michigan operates. 

Jim listens for multiple inputs - mostly Pep and Ed - and then Jim calls the play himself.

There's multiple inputs before each play, then one guy calls it. Sometimes he might totally defer and take a suggestion, sometimes he might allow an input to inform his decision, sometimes he makes the call entirely by himself. That's how every program runs their offense, I promise.


January 2nd, 2019 at 3:18 PM ^

Weirdly, we ran it fairly effectively on the last drive of the half in the bowl to lock Florida's defensive personnel on the field for a while.

I'm assuming it just comes down to philosophy and what they practice. I think that's something philosophically Jim can/should/will change. I think clock management has been the most fair criticism of Jim's tenure. I don't blame him for not wanting to be a high tempo team, but I hope that series against Florida shows a new willingness to go tempo randomly for spurts to catch the defense off guard or to lock their personnel on the field when we have something we like.

I think there are a lot of advantages to huddling and not normally being a high tempo team if you have the ability to catch the defense off guard every once in a while and rush to the line with another quick play.

Maize and Blue…

January 2nd, 2019 at 7:59 PM ^

Well then our guys are awfully slow deciding because OSU runs a play almost 6 seconds faster than we do as does ND, Clemson 5 1/2, OU 3.25, and MSU 3.2. The closest is Bama at 2.3  seconds faster, but some of that may be attributed to most of their games being over by half.

We are #3 in TOP but 74th in plays run per game.  Wake Forest runs a play every 19.9 seconds, Cuse every 20.1 seconds, and Texas Tech at 21.9 seconds. We are at 29.1 seconds.  Either some of these schools are making really quick decisions, they are not by committee on game day, our play calls are really long (overly complicated), or as I said earlier JH is slow (intentional or not) deciding what to call.


January 2nd, 2019 at 2:22 PM ^

Too much to unpack here to be honest...my only comment to your thoughts is that the player performance is directly attributed to coaching.  We cannot fault players for not making the plays all the time...it is up to the coaches to put them in a position to make plays.

I think we have a very bright and talented group of kids who are try hard, to their credit, to take responsibility for the final two games outcome.  It is, however, Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff that is responsible for the success and failures of 2018.


January 2nd, 2019 at 2:34 PM ^

So Brad Hawkins failing to break up the pass in the end zone at Notre Dame. Do you blame the coaches or the player?


How about Metellus on the 3rd and long pass against Florida, where he for whatever reason stopped running allowing Franks to throw over him to the receiver for the 1st down? The one where they ran a one man route for the yardage and the safety didn't get depth. Coaches or player?


Or Patterson underthrowing Collins on the interception. Coaches or player?


Black not coming down with the ball in the end zone. Coaches or player?


January 2nd, 2019 at 5:37 PM ^

I've gone from being a huge Harbaugh defender to a huge critic.  That said, those plays, and others, DID lose the game.  If a few of our dropped passes are caught, or if Black comes down with that TD, or if any of about 15 other poor plays by players didn't happen, the whole complexion of the game changes.  We were close at the half (under a score, I believe).  A few plays being better executed and we could have gone to the half up.  That's on the players.

However, when an entire team looks lethargic and defeated (sans Chase and Hudson), there is something wrong with the locker room and THAT is on the coaches.  


January 2nd, 2019 at 3:45 PM ^

Wow. If you seriously blame the coaches for each and every one of those missed opportunities, then any moment I spend trying to discredit you would be a waste.


You've done it yourself, and in spectacular fashion.

The Pope

January 2nd, 2019 at 3:40 PM ^

The direction of the program will be determined by Harbaugh’s decisions this offseason.  The roster is loaded with talent, with returning starters in key spots all over the place, including QB, OL, WR, and DB.  There are obvious issues with play calling, scheming, and defensive adjustments, and if Harbaugh can fix those this is a team that can challenge for B1G championships and playoff spots.  If he doesn’t make those changes...well...


January 2nd, 2019 at 5:05 PM ^

We can hope for changes all we want, but honestly until I see it on the field in several games I won't believe any changes have actually occurred. The most I see is canning Pep, and implementing a bit more RPO stuff.

Harbaugh wants to run the old school power O, and I'm cool with that.. problem is we don't have the OL to pull it off the way he wants it run.. which OK, I get it to a certain extent. But other programs have shown you can be spread and still be a power run team.

I honestly thought we'd have seen the shift in offensive philosophy this year (and we absolutely have the talent to have an elite offense) but we didn't and while I love Harbaugh and don't wish anyone else to be our coach, I just don't think he's gonna make enough changes to make a real difference.

I hope I'm wrong, but right now it seems like the ceiling is 9/10 win seasons and rarely, if ever, beating OSU is where we're staying. 

Maize and Luke

January 2nd, 2019 at 2:26 PM ^

Sorry OP but I swear some posters visit this board once every other week. This is the same shit we have talked about adnauseam for over a month now. Even more so in the last week.

The Baughz

January 2nd, 2019 at 2:26 PM ^

#5 is a valid point that I don’t think gets discussed enough. Rumors circulated after the OSU game that the practices were the hardest of the year. Extra conditioning, lifting sessions more intense, hitting more in practice. This is a prime example of Harbaugh and his 1980s mentality.

Everyone knows how important THE GAME is, no need to prove their toughness by having insanely hard practices during that week. Not sure how true that is, but again, very plausible that this coaching staff would do something like this. I am all for tough minded players, but these guys looked gassed by the 2nd qtr. I’m sure getting burned by OSU early helped cause that, but something definitely looked off.


January 2nd, 2019 at 3:19 PM ^

Michigan has collapsed late in 3/4 seasons that Harbaugh has been here. That matters a lot more than what he did 10 years ago at Stanford or what he did in the NFL. 

Michigan doesn't get credit for SF's Super Bowl appearance. We get credit for what Harbaugh can do here/now. 


January 2nd, 2019 at 10:26 PM ^

Coach called it Christmas camp and my understanding was that it was brutal.  Heard that players had a hard time walking their legs were so sore.  I think the hard nosed atttide is JH has worn thin with some players as seen by the transfers.  This next season will be critical to the success of this program.  

You Only Live Twice

January 2nd, 2019 at 10:52 PM ^

This seems to be one of the latest memes people have latched on to.  It doesn't make sense.  People overlook actual injuries to speculate about players being overtired from too much running.... they can handle running.  If our guys look "gassed" especially on defense they have been on the field in a hard fought game.  Muscle cramping is basically caused by intense exertion/exercise, is it not?   Every time we go 3 and out the defense is dragged back out on the field to try and save the game again.  For most of the season it worked.  When it stopped working our lack of depth was exposed which was just as much of a factor, maybe even more of a factor, than lack of scheme, execution, etc., etc., etc.  Whatever offensive scheme people think is optimal, it isn't going to work without an elite OL and that is the most difficult, and time consuming unit to build. Every QB will take a hit now and then but we had two damn near killed last year, and Shea was starting to get hit more and more as the season went on.  Baker Mayfield would not look as good with Michigan OLs last year and the years before that.  I have read here, so many times, that players don't arrive fresh out of high school ready to play the OL position.  Warriner has accomplished so much in just one year with these guys, look forward to continued progress.


January 2nd, 2019 at 2:34 PM ^

Lost me at same as Bo and will fail against OSU.   Bo did not fail vs OSU.  I question if you are even a Michigan fan.        Please stop would be my comment,