Tuesday, September 7, 2010

QB draw comparison: 2009 vs. 2010

As I mentioned in my UConn game column, one of Michigan's more effective plays on Saturday was the oft-lamented Totally Surprising Quarterback Draw that Michigan used Denard Robinson for last year to middling effect. The offensive line came in for a lot of praise on Saturday and you can look no further than this play to see why. I did a little digging and found comparable plays from 2009 and early in the game against UConn to see the differences. In short, they're drastic, and you can now see why Rodriguez wanted to run this play so much last year. Simply put, the running backs and offensive line just didn't have the play down last year to run it effectively. So without further ado:

Iowa 2009
This play was on Denard's touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Michigan is set up in a 4-receiver set (trips to Denard's left) with Brandon Minor in the backfield. Iowa is essentially playing a 4-3, cover-1 with one of their linebackers shaded over Michigan's slot receiver.
After the snap, the two offensive guards and center look to move Iowa's defensive tackles. The left tackle is supposed to seal Iowa's defensive end to the outside and Brandon Minor is the lead blocker charged with taking out the play-side linebacker. Denard is supposed to zip through that hole and take on the deep safety one-on-one in space. The receivers are all charged with getting downfield and blocking the men who are lined up over them. In theory, this is how the play should work.
It's difficult to see below (sorry, there are YouTube'd screen shots), but the left guard and center are still tied up on one of Iowa's defensive tackles. This becomes problematic, because the left guard is supposed to leave that block and get to the second level to take out the weak side linebacker. He never does. Meanwhile, Minor is entering the hole and about to take on the playside linebacker. Minor doesn't execute particularly well and Denard's hole becomes restricted.
Now, Minor has completely whiffed on his block, the left tackle's block is slipping, and Denard is running directly into the playside linebacker in the hole. He's about to be engulfed by three Iowa players who have all beaten their blocks. Doom lurks.
Doom. Denard is wrapped up by #43 (2nd round draft pick Pat Angerer) and headed to the ground despite a decent gain. Regardless, this is not how this play is designed to go.
So that was last year. Michigan's linemen were unable to hold up their blocks long enough, Brandon Minor whiffed terribly on his block, and Denard was wrapped up for a short 3-yard gain, not to mention being pounded by several different Iowa players. The same play against UConn is after the break.

UConn 2010
This exact same play worked significantly better against UConn on Saturday--say what you will about the relative level of competition, you can see Michigan's linemen and skill players doing a much better job executing the play.

There are a few slight changes in the presnap alignment, but not many that drastically change the outcome. First, instead of the fourth receiver to the weakside of the play, Michigan instead inserted a tight end on the weak side of the play. UConn's corner is shaded over the tight end. Otherwise, UConn is playing in a 4-man front with two linebackers in the middle of the field. All of the receivers are covered up (and each will once again be responsible for their man downfield) and there's one deep safety.
After the snap, Michigan's guards and center once again look to block off the defensive tackles. Except on this play, Steve Schilling (LG) and David Molk (C) do a much better job blocking and getting to the second level. You can already see Schilling pulling away from his block and getting to the linebackers. Michael Shaw has the same responsibility that Minor did in the above play: act as the lead blocker and hit the playside linebacker. The receivers are running to block off their men downfield. If everyone makes the proper play here, the only man with a chance to stop Denard is the deep safety who's currently standing 15 yards off the line of scrimmage at the 31 yard line.
Schilling has blown through the defensive line and is now taking on the weakside linebacker. Shaw is in perfect position to take on the playside linebacker. Molk is locking up the playside defensive tackle and Denard has a lot of daylight to run though. Mark Huyge also comes in for praise for sealing the defensive end to the outside. The deep safety (not pictured) will have to come downhill to make the tackle as long as these blocks hold up.
Fortunately for Michigan, the blocks hold up. You can see that there's a Michigan blocker on basically every UConn defender. Denard is about to break through the hole. Michigan's slot receiver (I believe it's Roundtree) needs to block the safety that was covering him up (at the 25 yard line in the picture below), and if he does so, Denard is one on one with the deep safety who now realizes the difficult task he's been shoehorned into.
Roundtree makes his block and Denard is off to the races. Perry Dorrestein (RT) was given a free release to get to the corner downfield, he's about to engage his block. If Dorrestein holds this block long enough, Denard is off to the races against the deep safety. Unfortunately, Dorrestein can't quite get to his block in time and Denard is forced to cut back.
Here, Denard is cutting back to get behind Dorrestein and to get away from the deep safety charged with tackling him one-on-one in space. If Dorrestein pancakes his defender here, this play probably goes for a touchdown. But as we're about to see, he can't quite get that block off and Denard is brought down after a solid 10-yard gain.
Dorrestein gets ahead of himself and doesn't complete the block. Denard is brought down when there was nothing but green grass ahead of him.
Looking at the difference between 2009 and 2010, you can see exactly what Rodriguez has been looking for out of his team. It appears he finally has it.

I hadn't taken notice of it, but my brother said to me before the UConn game, "In the past, Rodriquez has been really honest about how the team wasn't performing like he wanted them to. His confidence gives me a little bit of hope." (Or something to that effect.) The point is well made: It looks like Rodriguez finally has the pieces in place that he wants and we've seen tangible evidence of it in week one. It will be interesting to see how the team progresses as the season goes on, but this is nothing short of a windfall for the offense.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this.

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