Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Nick Sheridan difference

Nick Sheridan, for everything I've ever heard about him, is a truly great guy. Moments after mentioning to a Michigan insider that I never wanted to see him lead this team again  (despite his positive influence on the program; coaching the young'uns, willingness to stick with the program, etc.) while waiting outside the Brown Jug after the Western Michigan game, he walked up and kindly greeted the insider and seemed congenial.

Regardless, when watching the Delaware State game again, I was looking for things to talk about (there isn't much, and this is just about the last of it), and I finally saw something with Sheridan playing under center that made me thankful for Tate and Denard and freshmen and competent running games. Take a look at Sheridan's 4th down attempt in the 3rd quarter, from the six yard line:

Michigan is lined up in a four-wide set with trips to Sheridan's right. Closest to Sheridan on his right is Terrence Robinson; next to him is tight end Brandon Moore; and the outside receiver is LaTerryal Savoy. The play is a designed roll out to Sheridan's right. Vincent Smith is in the backfield as a blocker. Savoy heads to the corner, Moore runs a square out, and Robinson runs a slant to the pylon.

On the snap, Sheridan immediately starts to his right. Je'Ron Stokes, who is lined up to Sheridan's left, is only there to draw a defender. Smith is looking for a linebacker to block.

Sheridan is now rolling out and surveying his options (kinda). Smith is still waiting to block the linebacker that is crashing into the backfield--Delaware State were scraping a linebacker almost the entire game. Moore is beginning his out route. I believe it's some sort of circle out, the same play that Greg Matthews ran for the winning TD grab against ND. As you can see, Moore is open here, but it looks as though Sheridan is waiting on Robinson to open up. Sheridan can't throw to Moore yet because Robinson and his defender are in the path of the ball, but it looks as though he doesn't even see the route.

Right now, Sheridan needs to throw this ball to Moore who is now two steps ahead of his defender and running away from him. Sheridan, unfortunately, is still staring down Robinson. Savoy is covered up in the back of the endzone, and Smith is cut blocking his defender successfully. Sheridan, however, waits too long and fails to make the pass to Moore. He continues to roll out and look for Robinson.

Still, Sheridan has Moore open and a seam to throw the ball in. He's still staring down Robinson and is, at this point, beginning to tuck the ball and run toward the end zone. It ends like this:

Surrounded by three men with two more coming. Sheridan comes up three yards short, taking a pretty hard hit and never really having a chance to make it into the endzone.

Much has been made about Forcier's tendency to scramble, but continue to look downfield for a pass rather than to tuck and run. Sheridan seemed unable to do this. In this play, Sheridan stared down one route (Robinson), and when it didn't open up, he decided to tuck the ball and run, despite the fact that he had a receiver open for at least five steps in the endzone. Combined with the lack of physical talent that Sheridan has, this inability to properly diagnose plays on the fly shows that his much rumored improvement over the summer is largely suspect--though he has looked a little better throwing the ball, the "not having to think and just being able to play" meme that circled Sheridan et al at the beginning of this year is somewhat fiction.

I don't really want to rag on the kid. He seems very nice and I don't doubt that he'll be a great coach some day. But after that Delaware State game, I need stuff to write about. Sorry Nick.


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