2019 Season Countdown: #41 Ben Mason

2019 Season Countdown: #41 Ben Mason


July 23, 2019
Ben Mason (image via Game Time Connecticut)

Name: Ben Mason
Height:
6’3″
Weight:
270 lbs.
High school:
Newtown (CT) Newtown
Position:
Fullback/defensive tackle
Class:
Junior
Jersey number:
#42
Last year:
I ranked Mason #18 and said he would be the starting fullback (LINK). He ran 33 times for 80 yards and 7 touchdowns, caught 1 pass for 15 yards, and made 5 tackles.
TTB Rating:
74

Mason is a fan favorite for a lot of reasons. An old-fashioned tough football player who does a little bit of everything, he came to Michigan in 2017 with hopes to play linebacker and fullback like Owen Marecic did at Stanford. After a freshman year spent as a backup, Mason took over the starting fullback role with Khalid Hill-like season: 7 touchdowns on less than 3 yards per carry. Michigan even lined him up at tailback sometimes and gave him a 7-yard running start at the defense. He scored a career-high 3 touchdowns in the blowout of Nebraska.

This year Mason has plans to do something we’ve never really seen at Michigan over the time I’ve been around. Vince Helmuth was a ballyhooed fullback in the 2007 recruiting class who eventually ended up practicing at defensive tackle once Rich Rodriguez essentially got rid of the fullback position and Helmuth outgrew it, anyway. But Helmuth never actually played in a game on defense. In Mason’s case, he’s listed as both a fullback and defensive tackle on the official roster, and the coaching staff has talked about his ability to contribute at both positions this fall.

Michigan is de-emphasizing the fullback position in much the same way Rodriguez did, but I still expect Mason to get some playing time as an H-back type of fullback. He probably won’t be in a three-point stance four yards behind the center, but he might be in a two-point stance in the guard-tackle gap. The coaches have also talked about him playing 3-tech defensive tackle. It’s not often that someone his size (he was reportedly up to 270 in the spring) plays 3-tech, but Michigan doesn’t have a lot of depth on the interior line, so it’s a possibility that he could get some reps there.

I like Mason, but with the fullback spot losing importance and the fact that he’s learning a new position to be a 270-280 lb. defensive tackle, I just don’t see him having a huge, season-changing impact on the 2018 team.

Prediction: Starting fullback when there is one, backup defensive tackle

28 comments

  1. Lanknows
    Comments: 4968
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jul 23, 2019 at 1:35 PM

    Michigan has so many other options at RB but I would feel pretty comfortable with Mason as one of the primary backs. Especially if there’s a thunder/lightning dynamic with a speed back like Giles Jackson. Can get pretty multiple pretty quick, but more importantly, having a high-end blocker in the backfield is especially critical if the offense is indeed a pass-heavy spread.

    As for any limitations as a runner… a TD every 5 carries? Doesn’t get much more BIG PLAY than that. Give him the rock.

    With RB being a rotating position, there should still be plenty of snaps left for Mason on DL or elsewhere.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 1143
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      WindyCityBlue
      Jul 24, 2019 at 6:14 AM

      Actually, I doesn’t get much more small play than 80 yards in 33 carries with a long of 6. Not that he hasn’t been a useful player, but when you give him the ball, you pretty much guarantee that you’re NOT going to get a big play on that down.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1363
        Joined: 1/19/2016
        je93
        Jul 24, 2019 at 9:30 AM

        TDs aren’t big plays?

        • Avatar
          Comments: 1143
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          WindyCityBlue
          Jul 24, 2019 at 11:18 AM

          1 and 2 yard runs aren’t big plays. Scoring from the 1 isn’t THAT tough for any decent back. The fact that they are disproportionately TDs for Mason has everything to do with how he’s used and nothing to do with any “big play” ability.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 4968
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Jul 24, 2019 at 12:53 PM

            RB production is situational. It’s hard to get 60 yards from the 3 yard line. Opportunity matters. IMO the coaches put Mason at RB in short-yardage because he’s the best option in that role. YPC doesn’t tell the story.

            • Avatar
              Comments: 1143
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              WindyCityBlue
              Jul 24, 2019 at 2:31 PM

              Except that Mason doesn’t get 60 yards no matter where on the field they give him the ball. Or 50. Or 40. Or 30. Or 20. His long running play last year was 6 yards. That’s why he’s not a big play back.

              If he never failed to make 3rd or 4th and 2 or less, or even if there was statistical evidence that he was significantly better at that than most other players, you might have an argument.

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 4968
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Jul 24, 2019 at 2:51 PM
                • Avatar
                  Comments: 1143
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                  WindyCityBlue
                  Jul 24, 2019 at 7:11 PM

                  That’s all fascinating, but it’s the NFL, where the running game has a different status, and your post has nothing to do with Mason in any case, as well as not addressing any of the points I made.

                  Try again.

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 4968
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Jul 24, 2019 at 2:52 PM

                PFF is on the same page. They ranked the top 10 NFL RBs and didn’t refer to YPC once. They talked a lot about receiving skills though.

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 4968
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Jul 24, 2019 at 2:50 PM

              I would flip that argument right back around. RBs get more than 20 yards on just 3% of carries*. For the sake of argument lets say 1 in 20 carries is a big play.

              Mason had 31 carries all year, but as I recall most of them were in short-yardage. So his opportunities to produce more than 20 have been minimal. How he is used tells you more than the results.

              If you base your evaluation on the rare long-yard outliers – which is what YPC does — are your assertions valid? PFF, Football Outsiders, and other ‘experts’ in the statistical evidence game say no.

              *Per football outsiders. Maybe more in college than NFL, maybe not)

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 4968
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Jul 24, 2019 at 5:55 PM

                Extending this further to include passing plays…assume a 50/50 run pass split and an extreme difference of a good big play back (8%) vs a bad big play back (1%). [An example might be 2015 running backs Ty Issac vs Sioune Houma]

                The difference in number of big plays is 3 big runs over 100 plays. That’s multiple games for a RB and might be an entire season for a backup.

                All things else equal that’s great, but in reality there are 97 other plays where blocking, pass catching, converting short yardage and grinding extra yards on a regular basis need to be considered.

                If you’re a big play back who isn’t good at those other things you better be delivering a whole lot of value by drawing attention to yourself and – in NBA terms – bending the defense to pay attention to you.

                In reality no defense is going to freak out about anybody doing something 3% of the time. You better do it more than that and you better do it in high enough volume that you convince defenses it’s worth the tradeoff.
                That’s why coaches get to make these decisions and not people comparing YPC.

              • Avatar
                Comments: 1143
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                WindyCityBlue
                Jul 24, 2019 at 7:16 PM

                What you’re ignoring with Mason is that he never even had the potential for a big play. Tell you what. Try comparing Denard Robinson as a big play guy to Mason. Tell us that defenses didn’t worry about Denard only getting big plays 3% of the time, and we’ll try to keep a straight face.

                Or you could just admit the obvious. That Ben Mason is not a big play back as you claimed.

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 4968
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Jul 24, 2019 at 8:56 PM

                  That your opinion, not based on evidence, albeit commonly held. Denard was a QB and isn’t on the roster. If we have a guy like that – Giles Jackson? – give him a shot, by all means.

                  Until then you’re talking about the payouts on lottery tickets while I’m talking about which investment fund has the lowest cost fees.

              • Thunder
                Comments: 3133
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Jul 25, 2019 at 6:36 AM

                Yards per carry isn’t “based on rare long-yard outliers.” It literally takes every carry into account. In fact, if your assertion is that big plays are rare, it’s based on the non-long-yard outliers.

                That’s like saying you’re on a plant-based diet if you eat meat all day except for a piece of celery with breakfast.

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 4968
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Jul 25, 2019 at 2:29 PM

                  I’ll be honest – I have no idea what you are saying here.

                  The median carry for every back with any sample size is 4 yards. Differences in average (YPC) are based on the rare (long) outliers. The link above lays it out with a specific example.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 1143
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Jul 23, 2019 at 6:12 PM

    God, I hope we don’t see Mason or anyone else shuffling just behind the line of scrimmage try to make the poor defense guess if the run is going between the center and the guard or the guard and the tackle. Because that will be a sure sign that our offense is still mired in the 20th century. I mean, seriously, does ANYONE else still do that? At all?

    • Avatar
      Comments: 56
      Joined: 1/10/2017
      Julio
      Jul 23, 2019 at 10:15 PM

      Agreed. That used to drive me crazy during the Lloyd Carr days.

  3. Avatar
    Comments: 1363
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Jul 23, 2019 at 8:10 PM

    I don’t mind Harbaugh’s manball. The lack of urgency against ND, ohio, and just before the half against Florida was infuriating, but other than that, I thought it was doomed by the lack of Tackles, not hitting a HR on a RB, and three years of QB play that just didn’t make up for the other two

    I have no idea why someone as determined or “stubborn” about Bo ball as JH didn’t prioritize the OT position from day1

    • Avatar
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      WindyCityBlue
      Jul 23, 2019 at 8:27 PM

      You seem to be saying that the only thing wrong with Harbaugh’s so-called “manball” is that it never really existed, except maybe in his head.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1363
        Joined: 1/19/2016
        je93
        Jul 24, 2019 at 9:33 AM

        But it did, everywhere he’s been except here. I started raising an eyebrow about the OL (OT specifically) right away. Then when Peters committed, despite his potential, I questioned if a small town kid would be ready as quickly as we needed

        • Avatar
          Comments: 1143
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          WindyCityBlue
          Jul 24, 2019 at 11:21 AM

          I’ll clarify. It never existed HERE, except in his mind or the minds of his cultists during his first couple seasons. Most of them seem to have forgotten it, and moved on to the next offensive fad.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 4968
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jul 24, 2019 at 12:57 PM

          Manball wasn’t a fad it was an anachronism dependent on elite OL talent.

          Michigan didn’t have that so the experiment to become Stanford/Wisconsin failed, insofar as having a top 25-35 offense is a failure.

          It is my opinion that Harbaugh deserves credit for moving from that failure. Warriner and Gattis are not manball dinosaurs. Harbaugh is betraying Bo’s ghost, but he’ll live with it because it’s how the game has evolved.

          So we can hope anyway. We’ll see come fall how much things have evolved. I would bet we still see the offense trying to mess with gap assignments. Hopefully more with WR motion than FB/H-back but again, we’ll see.

          • Avatar
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            WindyCityBlue
            Jul 24, 2019 at 2:53 PM

            Stanford didn’t have elite Oline talent when Harbaugh got there, either. In his fourth year, they did, because he recruited the kind of guys he needed. Here, he didn’t. He recruited a bunch of guards and tried to make them into tackles.

            And sure, it’s always good to move on from falling short. But at some point in the not-too-distant future, he’s actually going to have to succeed at fielding an offense that can win championships.

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 4968
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Jul 24, 2019 at 5:29 PM

              I agree that the recruiting was inadequate to support the scheme. I thought more scholarships would have helped. Who knows. It seems like they’re on the right track now, but the scheme has shifted.

              Different ways to do it. Could have won with the offenses he had if the defenses had stepped up against tough competition. I don’t think you HAVE to score 50 points to beat OSU or win a bowl game. Would be nice.

  4. JC
    Comments: 240
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    JC
    Jul 24, 2019 at 12:11 PM

    If he can work his way to 280 I think he could be impactful. If he’s 270 and it’s not good weight he’ll still be needed to rotate in. If that 270 is after drinking a gallon of water, he could be used on passing downs as the 3 or 5.

    Interior DL depth is going to be a problem at the end of the season. When thinking about this particular countdown, from a depth standpoint one of Dwumfor/Jeter/Kemp should be top 2, but from a talent standpoint I don’t know if I’d put any of them top 10.

    I’ve spent at least a decade of being hopeful for football, but expectations are settling in for a 10 wins being the max for this season, and Ben Mason playing DT is a reminder of that. The only way to break through that ceiling is if Don Brown earns his paycheck, throws out a 3-4 and has a top 5 defense.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3133
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 24, 2019 at 12:45 PM

      I think too much is being made of Ben Mason at defensive tackle. We’re talking about a guy who MIGHT be a second-stringer but is more likely a third-stringer. My expectations for Michigan football have never really revolved around the second-string or third-string 3-tech defensive tackle.

      • JC
        Comments: 240
        Joined: 8/17/2015
        JC
        Jul 24, 2019 at 1:18 PM

        It’s not just Mason playing there, it’s the entire interior DL situation.

        I like to see 2 dudes and 2 guys at interior DL. We have Dwumfor, Kemp, Jeter, 2 freshmen, and then walk ons or a position changer like Mason.

        I don’t remember seeing Jeter too much last year, don’t know if he was injured or whatnot. He definitely has the size to be a capable body, but the jury is still out on if he’s a dude.

        I would absolutely consider Dwumfor and Kemp guys, but based off production last year I don’t know if I’d call them dudes.

        I’m basing this off of no film or evidence, but I believe if Mason was at a reasonable playing weight (280) for DT, with his attitude and tenacity he could be a guy.

        If we had a Hurst/Wormley dude combo up front with Dwummy and Kemp rotating in I think we’d have a very good season. But our interior DL situation makes me skeptical without a couple dudes.

  5. Lanknows
    Comments: 4968
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jul 24, 2019 at 1:06 PM

    280 seems a bit heavy for a ball-carrier and, as much as some people here hate it, Mason is one of the top returning rushers on a team that loses their top 2 backs and most of the rushing production with them. Harder to be a pass threat at that weight also – critical for H-back.

    I’m with Thunder that the DL stuff is overblown. I think we all can agree that Harbaugh isn’t above doing stuff for publicity and 2-way players are easy money. People still talking about Owen Marecic, nearly a decade later. It’ll get a lot of attention but not have a lot of impact, is my guess.

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