Orange Bowl Preview: Michigan Offensive Line vs. Florida State Defensive Line

Orange Bowl Preview: Michigan Offensive Line vs. Florida State Defensive Line


December 28, 2016

DeMarcus Walker (image via Jacksonville )

MICHIGAN

Starters:

  • LT: Fifth year senior Ben Braden (6’6″, 335 lbs.)
  • LG: Freshman Ben Bredeson (6’5″, 310 lbs.)
  • C: Junior Mason Cole (6’5″, 305 lbs.)
  • RG: Fifth year senior Kyle Kalis (6’5″, 305 lbs.)
  • RT: Fifth year senior Erik Magnuson (6’6″, 305 lbs.)

After suffering a mid-season injury at left tackle, the offensive line was in flux for a while after trying a few different combinations. The players above played the several games together, and they did . . . okay. Michigan is #49 in Adjusted Line Yards and #41 in Power Success Rate, but #114 in Passing Down Line Yards and #80 in Opportunity Rate. They fare better in the passing game (#27 in Adjusted Sack Rate, #26 in sacks allowed), but it’s just a mediocre line altogether. Magnuson was named the team’s lineman of the year by the coaching staff, and Kalis earned some post-season accolades, but that might be more of a lifetime achievement award. Most of the time, the linemen block the right people and stay engaged, but they don’t get a lot of push in the running game and lack some athleticism at the tackle spots.

Key backups: The Wolverines have found a couple solid blocking tight ends in Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. and Devin Asiasi, so the need isn’t there quite as often to play six or seven offensive linemen at a time. However, redshirt junior center/guard Patrick Kugler (6’5″, 303 lbs.) and redshirt sophomore tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty (6’6″, 311 lbs.) are the primary backups, and Bushell-Beatty has donned an eligible number at times to play a jumbo tight end position.

Hit the jump for a look at Florida State’s defensive line.





FLORIDA STATE

Starters:

  • DE: Senior DeMarcus Walker (6’4″, 280 lbs.)
  • DT: Redshirt sophomore Demarcus Christmas (6’4″, 308 lbs.)
  • NT: Junior Derrick Nnadi (6’1″, 312 lbs.)
  • BUCK: Sophomore Josh Sweat (6’5″, 250 lbs.)

Walker is the standout as a First Team All-American. He has 63 tackles, 16.5 TFLs, 15 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles on the season using a combination of power and quickness. He will be a handful for Michigan’s tackles to counter, and they’re going to need help from tight ends and play action to keep him off of Wilton Speight. Christmas has 20 tackles, 2 sacks, and 4 passes batted down on the season. Nnadi has 44 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, and 5.5 sacks. Both of those guys are quick and can push the pocket. Sweat is a former 5-star recruit with 38 tackles, 10 TFLs, and 5.5 sacks this year. He plays the hybrid DE/LB position that Michigan has employed in the past, including last year under D.J. Durkin. This is the biggest mismatch in the game, because Michigan’s offensive line isn’t solid to begin with and will be facing a line full of stars. The only defensive line better than FSU in Adjusted Sack Rate is . . . Michigan. They are in the middle of the pack when it comes to stopping the run (#61 in Adjusted Line Yards, for example), but they can get after the passer.

Key backups: Freshman defensive end Brian Burns comes off the bench and has 23 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, and 8.5 sacks on the year. He’s 6’5″ and only 218 lbs., but his speed is the difference maker off the edge. Sophomore defensive tackle Walvenski Aime’ (6’5″, 300 lbs., 17 tackles) and redshirt sophomore nose tackle Fredrick Jones (6’3″, 298 lbs., 14 tackles) rotate in, but they’re not the penetrators the starters are.

Advantage: Michigan is a mediocre run blocking team and Florida State is mediocre against the run, so that should be a wash. Michigan has been solid protecting the passer, and FSU has been very good at getting home with just three or four rushers. The Seminoles are tied for #1 in sacks (47) with Boston College despite playing one fewer game so far. It will be a huge struggle to keep Speight upright, and the shoulder injury he suffered against Iowa might still be a factor if and when FSU gets home with their pass rush.

39 comments

  1. Comments: 238
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Dec 28, 2016 at 9:38 AM

    This to me is the game. Win on the line, and we’re good. Let Speight get rattled, and message board meltdown will begin

  2. Comments: 141
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    crazyjoedavola
    Dec 28, 2016 at 10:05 AM

    This is a mismatch where we absolutely have to minimize the damage. The O-line will get worked against maybe the best pass rushers they’ve seen all year. I wouldn’t mind seeing a 3 yards and a cloud of dust approach to see if we can wear them down.

    • Comments: 2038
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Dec 28, 2016 at 12:05 PM

      I thought Michigan went away from 3 yards and a cloud of dust too often this year. That was the best strategy against Indiana for example, and they probably went away from it too often against Iowa too. Playing in Florida won’t have the same weather impact and Michigan will need Speight to deliver, but this seems like it will be a defensive-oriented game where steady progress forward, even in small increments, is advantageous.

      • Comments: 275
        Joined: 8/12/2015
        DonAZ
        Dec 28, 2016 at 1:35 PM

        I went to cfbstats.com to see if I could glean any meaningful information about MIchigan’s “situational stats” on rushing. In particular, I was looking to see what Michigan’s 1st down rushing yards were, and whether we found ourselves 2nd and 8 a lot.

        Michigan’s average yards rushing on 1st down is 5.1 ypc, and on 2nd down it’s 5.6 ypc. If that held true every play, then they’d never face 3rd down, which clearly was not the case. So there’s more to the numbers than average. I seem to recall more than a few 2nd and 8 situations which then turned into 3rd and 4, etc. Michigan’s average yards when 3rd and 4 to 6 yards was only 0.09 yards … meaning, stuffed and punt.

        So my heart — not my brain yet, but my heart — tells me Michigan’s ability to live off the “3 yards” approach is spotty. Probably due to OL and RB collectively. Maybe due to a certain predictability (?) in play calling. Not sure.

        At any rate, I’d love to *know* Michigan had the ability to move the chains when they absolutely have to, but I’m not sure I can believe that.

        • Comments: 2038
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Dec 28, 2016 at 3:45 PM

          The advanced stats for OL are better in examining this stuff I think. I suspect the 3rd down rush stats you are looking at include sacks. The 1st and 2nd down stats are certainly inflated by weak competition. And the advanced stats agree with your skepticism about our run game.

          I don’t think this team is good enough to run 3 yards and a cloud of dust and score a lot of points. But the passing game has been shaky too – and downright bad against good defenses. With our defense being as good as it is, it may make sense to take a conservative approach on offense, let DeVeon try to turn 2 yards into 4 or 5, and keep Speight from turning it over against a talented secondary.

          More likely though, they’ll come out firing and try to relive last year’s bowl game.

  3. Comments: 275
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    DonAZ
    Dec 28, 2016 at 10:22 AM

    So what’s the best game plan?

    • Comments: 1718
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 28, 2016 at 11:11 AM

      I think the best game plan is to try to establish the run (which I’m sure Harbaugh will do), and then work play action off of that with bootlegs. I would put Wheatley or Asiasi to Walker’s side to give the OT some help. I would also work in some quick throws like bubble screens, smoke screens, crack screens, etc. to negate the pass rush.

      Hopefully Michigan can run the ball well enough that they won’t have to rely on Speight sitting in the pocket for obvious 3rd-and-9 or 3rd-and-12 passes.

      • Comments: 2038
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Dec 28, 2016 at 11:57 AM

        well put!

  4. Comments: 2038
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Dec 28, 2016 at 11:49 AM

    People keep saying numbers in the 40s are OK for the OL. I don’t get it. Would it be “OK” if we finished with a recruiting class in the 40s? Would we be an “OK” team if we finished overall 40th in the country?

    To put it in perspective – the #40-43 teams in FEI this year are Tulsa, Notre Dame, Northwestern, and Kansas State. The 2013 Michigan team (7-6) finished #36.

    40s is not OK for Michigan. 40s is very bad for Michigan, or any power conference team that fancies themselves anything better than mediocre.

    Michigan’s OL has been a disaster the last few years and this year is barely inching forward. I have to be honest that I thought things would be much better in Drevno year 2. Pressure’s on for 2017. Michigan will likely need some of the kids from 2015 and 2016 classes to step up bigtime.

    • Comments: 141
      Joined: 8/13/2015
      crazyjoedavola
      Dec 28, 2016 at 1:49 PM

      The lack of major progress on our OL is really the only disappointing aspect of Harbaugh’s tenure thus far. I’ll agree with Thunder that the current OL is clearly better than the disaster we saw under Hoke/Funk, but it’s still a long way away from where it needs to be. Having said that, the defenses in the Big 10 are better than what Stanford’s butt-kicking OLs faced, but this outfit is clearly not in the same conversation with what Stanford brought to the Orange Bowl.

      • Comments: 2038
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Dec 28, 2016 at 3:47 PM

        This year ‘felt’ like progress. Michigan was dominant running the bowl at times, against soft defenses. But they weren’t there yet against quality defenses. The Iowa game was especially frustrating. Quality D, but they focused to stuff the run and Speight never made them pay.

        • Comments: 141
          Joined: 8/13/2015
          crazyjoedavola
          Dec 28, 2016 at 4:17 PM

          In the latter stages of the previous regime we couldn’t run the ball even against the softer defenses… Iowa game is not a great example because both play-calling and the execution was off. Harbaugh put way too much on Speight’s shoulders and the latter was wildly inconsistent… and then the receivers would not bail him out when they had a chance to do so. Just an all around disaster, it happens, luckily with this coaching staff this is a rarity.

          • Comments: 238
            Joined: 1/19/2016
            je93
            Dec 28, 2016 at 5:05 PM

            Exactly!

            “In the latter stages of the previous regime we couldn’t run the ball even against the softer defenses… “

      • Comments: 16
        Joined: 8/21/2015
        AA7596
        Dec 29, 2016 at 8:36 AM

        It’s been said a thousand times but it still needs repeating: The OL won’t be fixed until the Hoke-era OL roster turns over.

        Aside from the obvious issues (poor development and lack of scheme continuity), the OL that the Harbaugh regime inherited was virtually devoid of tackles. The Hoke staff signed a boatload of guards and tweeners but almost no actual tackles. And then LTT washes out and Newsome gets hurt.

        i wouldn’t fault Drevno in the least. This was a broken group they took over, and they at least got competence out of it. For instance, compare how Newsome and Bredeson looked as redshirt/true freshmen this season to Kalis and Braden’s first year on the field.

        • Comments: 16
          Joined: 8/21/2015
          AA7596
          Dec 29, 2016 at 8:39 AM

          Sorry—Newsome was a true SO this year, not redshirt FR.

        • Comments: 2038
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Dec 29, 2016 at 12:34 PM

          I think Drevno can take SOME blame after 2 years, and next year will be mostly on him. Magnuson, Glasgow, and Cole are good players. Drevno made them all better (considering Cole had a big move from OT to OC). What they did to turn Braden into a viable option was perhaps their impressive achievement. Still – Hoke’s staff probably deserves some credit for seeing the talent and potential. And not getting Kalis to be consistent also counts as a negative for Drevno.

          The cupboard wasn’t entirely bare, it was just thin and flawed. The problem is that it hasn’t been restocked fast enough and that the change in scheme has been too dramatic to allow it to be.

          Right now, the 2017 O-Line might not have a single RS SO starter. In year 3, that would count as a Drevno problem.

          Compare to what Rodriguez’s OL in his 3rd season (2010) looked like it’s pretty similar. Rodriguez had 2 plus starters (Schilling and Molk) leftover, while Drevno will only have 1 (Cole).

          Does Drevno have a version of Lewan, Omameh – 2nd and 3rd year guys stepping up to play at a high level and destined to be NFL starters? Does Drevno have veteran backups who he can coach up to be serviceable starters (e.g., Huyge, Dorrestein)? Maybe maybe not — we’ll find out more next year.

          I think we can say the raw ingredients are there. There is talent (Cole, Onwenu, Newsome, Bredeson, Ruiz) and there are a few veterans (Dawson, Kugler, JBB) who should be good enough to help. Drevno’s job isn’t easy but it’s also far from impossible.

          Next year will be a big test for Drevno — is he a guy riding Harbaugh’s coattails or is he a guy who can turn a situation around and deserving of chance to become a head coach.

          • Comments: 238
            Joined: 1/19/2016
            je93
            Dec 29, 2016 at 3:32 PM

            Is RR’s 2010 season is the bar for success? Even with all the youth we’ll put on the field, I still think we win (at least) 9 games… I’d take that over any argument making the RR OL seem ahead of Drevno’s

            • Comments: 2038
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Dec 29, 2016 at 3:40 PM

              It’s the bar for success on the OL.

              If the OL’s performance was a team’s overall performance it would be something like this year’s Notre Dame.

              The 2017 Michigan D is going to be a helluva lot better than the 2010 D.

            • Comments: 2038
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Dec 29, 2016 at 3:45 PM

              That 2010 team ran for 5.6 ypc. That’s a good target for this team, which ran for 5.0 ypc.

              • Comments: 238
                Joined: 1/19/2016
                je93
                Dec 29, 2016 at 6:46 PM

                I don’t do all the advanced stays stuff, but am pretty sure the stats were HEAVILY skewed against the Delaware St type teams we played, but didn’t move at all against any team half decent
                This year, our O got stopped in 4Q at ELansing, 2-4Q at Kinnick, and 4Q in CBus… still, even in those three games our Offense showed signs of a JH/Drevno progression

                “That 2010 team ran for 5.6 ypc. That’s a good target for this team, which ran for 5.0 ypc”

            • Comments: 714
              Joined: 8/13/2015
              Roanman
              Dec 29, 2016 at 4:56 PM

              That was a very good offensive line, particularly at tackle and center, better than any we’ve had around here in quite a while.

              You hear a lot about system QBs. I’ve never heard about a system offensive lineman, but that line had guys that were perfect for blocking RR’s schemes for Denard, particularly Molk who maybe wasn’t quite specimen enough to take on and root out your big assed nose tackle, but he could chip him and go blast your second level like no other, might even pop a safety a second later just for fun.

              • Comments: 2038
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Dec 29, 2016 at 6:17 PM

                I think one of the big advantages of some spread offenses is the ability to quickly prepare their OL. This seems due to both simplicity in blocking schemes and an emphasis on mobility over girth.

                The traditional power blocking schools tend to demand more individual development and require collaboration, consistency, and cohesiveness in the OL as a unit.

                Michigan loses 3 guys after this year, but it will be Drevno’s third season next year. They should be able to at least maintain the subpar performance we’ve seen these last 2 seasons, if not improve somewhat. Magnuson will be missed but Braden and Kalis should be replaceable if Drevno is developing players as he should be.

                • Comments: 1718
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Dec 30, 2016 at 12:51 AM

                  I agree with this somewhat. Teaching a zone system is complicated, but if you run it over and over and over again, it becomes ingrained. When you have 40 different blocking schemes, it’s tougher to get everyone on the same page. If four linemen and the tight end identify the right defender, but the fifth lineman screws up, you’re in trouble.

    • Comments: 1718
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 28, 2016 at 9:16 PM

      I’m not sure what specifically you mean by “okay,” but I tend to be a pretty literal person when I say stuff like that. In my parlance, there’s Good, Okay (or Mediocre), and Bad. You can get into other categories if you want (Great or Elite is a division of the Good category, Terrible is a division of the Bad category, etc.), but “okay” means middling to me. I think you and I have discussed this before, but there are 128 teams in the FBS. About 43 of them are Good, about 43 of them are Okay/Mediocre, and about 43 of them are Bad. If you’re #40-43, you’re on the low end of Good.

      It’s not acceptable for Michigan to be that low if they want to win a national championship, but Michigan isn’t a national championship-caliber team. We have holes. If we had an elite line, we would be in the playoff. Hell, we’d probably be undefeated and be the #2 seed behind Alabama.

      • Comments: 2038
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Dec 28, 2016 at 10:34 PM

        I don’t even consider the non-power conference teams to be legitimate competition. It’s MLB vs AAA. It’s Premeir league vs MLS. Sure, they might win some games here and there and there are always a handful of elite teams that do belong firmly in the power conference class, but the level of play is significantly different in aggregate.

        There is a different definition of ‘bad’ for Michigan and for Louisiana Lafayette.

        Michigan IS absolutely a national championship caliber team. They were literally one play away from being in the playoff and have a good shot at finishing 3rd in the country. The OL is the only real hole on the entire roster. We would be in the playoff with just an average/mediocre line — this OL was below that. With an ELITE OL, this team might be the #1 seed.

        • Comments: 1718
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Dec 29, 2016 at 7:45 AM

          You can consider non-power conference teams however you want, but part of the purpose of the advanced stats you tout is that they adjust for opponents. So beating up on a low-level team doesn’t get you very far. New Mexico leads the country in rushing yardage (350 yards/game) and they’re second in rushing average (6.61 yards/carry), but they’re only #39 in Adjusted Line Yards, for example. It’s not like every tiny team that gains yards on the ground gets put at the top of the heap, and every power conference team having a bad year gets thrown down to the bottom. There are checks and balances within those stats to prevent people like you from making some of these judgments, and yet you still are. Michigan has a good-to-mediocre line.

          Michigan isn’t a national championship-caliber team. The offensive line would have been destroyed by Alabama, just like they were handled by Iowa, Ohio State, etc. And maybe just like Florida State has a chance to handle them up front, too.

          • Comments: 2038
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Dec 29, 2016 at 11:52 AM

            What are you talking about? The advanced stats help support my claim because they offer an unbiased assessment.

            30 of the top 40 teams are from the power 5 conferences.

            If Michigan is outside the top 40, it’s fans call that a bad season. If it happens twice in a row their coach gets fired. This isn’t about semantics. Michigan’s success is judged against its peers, not EMU. Michigan is judged in comparison to Notre Dame, Ohio State, Alabama, USC and the other elite high prestige programs. 40 in anything is not OK.

            • Comments: 1718
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Dec 29, 2016 at 2:20 PM

              So out of 64 teams in the Power 5 conferences, Michigan is…smack dab in the middle. That’s a group that doesn’t include Louisiana-Lafayette, which was your example. As I’ve said before, that’s okay/mediocre.

              • Comments: 2038
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Dec 29, 2016 at 3:05 PM

                Smack dab in the middle would be the 32nd. The OL is performing well below that.

                Michigan is 49 in Adj Line Yds, 80th in opp rate, 41st in power success rate, and 64th in stuff rate. As a run-blocking outfit it would be fair to give them a ranking in the mid 50s in aggregate.

                The pass block stat is better (28th), so if you consider the OL’s job to be 50% running and 50% passing, a ranking somewhere in the mid 40s would be reasonable.

                Mid 40s means you are in the lower third of the 64 best teams. For Michigan – that is woeful. Again, if this is how the team performed as a whole, or how the recruiting class was shaping up, the fan base would be irate.

                But because the OL is so low profile they mostly get a pass from fanbase scrutiny.

                • Comments: 1718
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Dec 30, 2016 at 12:53 AM

                  I think we’re talking past each other a little bit, and I don’t really care to further the argument. I’ll just agree to disagree on the point you’re trying to make.

          • Comments: 2038
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Dec 29, 2016 at 11:55 AM

            Now to talk semantics… “national championship caliber” to me applies to any team that makes the playoff (or is good enough to deserve it).

            Michigan is as good or better than 2-3 of the 4 playoff teams. They outplayed Ohio State and had a more impressive season than Clemson. Washington has a little more uncertainty because they’ve played a less rigorous schedule, but I’d like our chances against them too.

            if your definition of “national championship contender” reads “is Alabama”, then I’ll agree with you. Otherwise, Michigan is.

            • Comments: 2038
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Dec 29, 2016 at 12:05 PM

              That is not to say Michigan deserves to be in the playoff – they don’t IMO. They lost 2 games to inferior opponents. College football (like most other sports) does not always put the “best” teams at the top.

              Still – Michigan will get a shot at finishing #3. They can finish the season as an elite team.

          • Comments: 2038
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Dec 29, 2016 at 3:37 PM

            I would say the same thing about the OL that I would about the other positions and the recruiting class.

            If you are in the top 5-10, things are going well.

            If you are in the 11-25 range, you are meeting Michigan’s expectations more or less. Things are OK, acceptable, nobody is too angry, but you want to do better soon.

            If you are in the 25-40 range things are below expectations and you better turn it around.

            If you are below 40 this is very bad – a big trouble spot and unless there should be a good reason for it (exceptional attrition, coaching turnover, etc). Someone is likely to get fired if they don’t turn it around ASAP.

            Below 70 – unacceptable. Someone is getting fired.

  5. Comments: 2038
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Dec 28, 2016 at 11:56 AM

    Good preview but it makes me upset to see such a mismatch for Michigan. I think our DL vs their OL is a bigger mismatch than this, but this isn’t real pretty either.

    I am crossing my fingers that the ‘christmas camp’ gets the OL run-blocking back on track. With the mismatches for both sides favoring the pass rush, the key to the game will be if Michigan can contain Cook and if FSU can keep Michigan’s mediocre run game locked down (or if Michigan can get it going again like they did against Colorado).

  6. Comments: 714
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Dec 28, 2016 at 12:49 PM

    Excepting Speight, I think Braden is our most improved player on offense this season, maybe on the entire team. To my way of thinking, way most of that improvement came after the move to LT. I’m thinking that Walker is going to cause some problems because he is that good, but I also think that when this is over, Braden will do among the best jobs that anyone has done on him all season.

    The guy i worry about against our offensive line is Nnadi, he is very Glasgowesque, maybe even moreso than is Glasgow. I’m not crazy about Glasgowesque when it isn’t my Glasgow. I don’t think any of our inside guys can handle him consistently.

    • Comments: 2038
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Dec 28, 2016 at 3:39 PM

      I’m worried about the interior of that DL too. And Walker. And their edge rushers… yikes

    • Comments: 1718
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 28, 2016 at 9:19 PM

      I thought Braden struggled early in the season when he came back from injury, but he got better during the last third of the year.

      I agree with you on Nnadi. He’s going to be tough for the interior guys to handle.

  7. Comments: 13
    Joined: 12/21/2016
    Fab5ive21
    Dec 28, 2016 at 11:06 PM

    It may have been Florida’s entire team not really coming to play last year, but I thought our O-Line improved immensely in the bowl game last year. Their struggles have never been physical. I’m hoping the extra bowl practices will give them a chance to recalibrate their technique which will help with all of the mental issues and missed assignments.

    I’m really hoping that our unique pro style offense in combination with an improved o-line will help establish a run game. I’ve heard they are all super fast but not great tacklers. If we can get Deveon into the 2nd level on a regular basis we can really run away with it. Realize that is a big “if”. Also, I assume it will be Deveon because of his pass blocking and ability to shed tackles.

    • Comments: 2038
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Dec 29, 2016 at 11:42 AM

      I thought they did too. Florida probably didn’t give 100% and almost certainly quit by the second half, but there was still progress evident relative to the OSU game .

      Hopefully we see the same progress this year.

      Unfortunately we did not see progress in an apples to apples comparison against OSU in 2015 (21 carries/65 yards) vs 2016 (40 carries/108 yards). Michigan actually ran for a lower ypc this year than last year.

      An optimist might say there is more room for improvement.

You must belogged in to post a comment.