2020 Season Countdown: #23 Ben Mason

2020 Season Countdown: #23 Ben Mason


August 28, 2020
Ben Mason

Name: Ben Mason
Height: 
6’3″
Weight: 
254 lbs.
High school: 
Newtown (CT) Newtown
Position: 
Fullback
Class: 
Senior
Jersey number: 
#42
Last year: 
I ranked Mason #41 and said he would be the starting fullback and a backup defensive tackle (LINK). He ran the ball 1 time for 3 yards and made 7 tackles.
TTB Rating:
 74

Mason was probably the most controversial player on the 2019 squad. He came to Michigan as a linebacker/fullback, and prior to last year, he bulked up to play defensive tackle. That seemed somewhat forced – and perhaps frustratingly necessary – because Michigan was both thin at the defensive tackle position and switching to an offense that de-emphasized fullbacks. Early in the season, Michigan messed around with him on the defensive line, and it did not go well. By the end of the year, Mason was basically a “sniffer” fullback, a guy who rarely ran or caught the ball and acted like a pulling guard.

Since last year Mason has dropped 16 pounds and defensive tackle no longer appears to be an option. That was a failed half-year experiment.

I like what Mason brings to the table. He’s tough and loves to hit, and he would have been a stud fullback when it really mattered. The position utilization has dwindled, but it’s a nice change-up in a spread offense. Most teams running a spread use a 10, 11, or 12 personnel, and those tight ends usually hate blocking. Mason gives Michigan a little more toughness at the point of attack, a guy who can effectively kick out a defensive end, wham a defensive tackle, or lead on a linebacker.

Prediction: Starting fullback

11 comments

  1. Lanknows
    Comments: 6182
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Aug 28, 2020 at 10:22 AM

    “Starting Fullback” seems like an oxymoron.

    I don’t know what role Mason will have but I would not be surprised to see more H-back to get him on the field. I think Michigan has some time to integrate Gattis’ playcalling with Harbaugh formation games. I imagine they want to find a role for him and they are probably right to do so.

    That said, I don’t see him as remotely integral and would have ranked him in the 40s or 50s at best. In the end he’s a man without a position, though still useful on special teams and short yardage – places where it’s hard to make a real impact.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 1359
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Aug 29, 2020 at 2:42 PM

    Whenever and however Michigan actually plays next, there’s no way Mason is a more important piece of the offense than he was last year (and that wasn’t much), unless we’ve completely abandoned the idea of “speed in space” and gone back to “I have no idea what I want our offense to look like, but sometimes a brute force play just feels good”. Any snap where Mason is out there on offense is one where we have given away some of whatever speed advantage we may have and reduced our chances of breaking a big play.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 6182
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Aug 30, 2020 at 10:13 AM

      Mason hardly had any role at all on offense (1 touch). Bumping up from that doesn’t mean abandoning speed in space. This is deliberately disingenuous blowhardery.

      Here’s what I’d like to know WCB, in the spirit of solutions not problems. This could come up against, I don’t know, say, Ohio State – an opponent I’m told defines the entirety of the season’s success or failure.

      What should a team do when they’re slower than the guys lining up across from them?

      In this kind of situation would you:
      a) stick to your guns knowing you are outgunned
      b) shoot your commander for he hasn’t outfitted you well enough
      c) try to find a way to exploit another tactical advantage you might have

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1359
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Aug 30, 2020 at 10:41 AM

        We’re either committed to “speed in space”, or we’re not. Running MORE plays with a slow, plodding guy who doesn’t worry defenses and who has no chance of breaking big yardage than we did last year (when we were already struggling to make “speed in space” work) moves us further away from that offensive philosophy, not closer.

        d) Outthink the other side. Run plays that aren’t utterly predictable. Run schemes that make the other team pay a bigger price for mistakes. Run more plays that have a chance to gain big yardage. Use tempo as a weapon, instead of always giving the opposing defense time to adjust and substitute. Be aggressive, especially on short yardage plays. Play to win, not to avoid being second-guessed.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3785
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Aug 31, 2020 at 1:12 PM

          I think you’re too hung up on this “speed in space” thing. Michigan would be “speediest in space” by recruiting a bunch of wide receivers and slapping #73, #74, #51, #50, and #75 on them to make sure you have enough ineligible numbers on the field.

          You can still get speed out in the open field if you have tight ends and fullbacks on the field. If putting Mason at FB brings an extra guy into the box, that creates more space for your wideouts, slot receivers, etc. You can still get Giles Jackson on a wheel route or Ronnie Bell on a snag RPO with someone like Mason on the field. Mason doesn’t have to be the SPEED in order to get speed in space.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 6182
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Aug 31, 2020 at 2:59 PM

            well put

          • Avatar
            Comments: 1359
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            WindyCityBlue
            Aug 31, 2020 at 8:14 PM

            Leaving your rather stupid straw man aside, I’m not the one hung up on speed in space. Gattis is the one who’s been pitching it since spring 2019 as the new big “thing” on offense for us. But you apparently still fail to grasp the simple concept that the more you have Mason out there, the less speed you have. And no, it’s doesn’t mean you’ll have NO speed. Sheesh. But Mason will never create a matchup problem that can lead to a big play, he will never have a big catch and run, he will never stretch the field, and he will never get behind anyone. You can make those things happen if you have a speedy receiver or RB against the other guy’s 4th cornerback, but never if you have Mason against the other guy’s starting LB or SS.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 6182
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Aug 31, 2020 at 3:16 PM

          I think C and D are the same thing.

          Spread personnel and tempo are not unpredictable. These are the convention and everyone expects that. It’s not 2005.

          I think Michigan has a way to go on offense to get from pretty good (ranked something like 25-30 nationally) to excellent (top 10 or 15). I think putting more speed on the field is an important piece of the picture but I hope they don’t lose sight of finding ways to exploit other advantages as well. We’re not going to out-athlete OSU and Alabama right-now and frankly we’re not going to out-athlete PSU or Wisconsin either.

          The team needs to be smart and use the pieces it has wisely. We see that on defense with guys like Uche and Hudson, hell even Furbush and Glasgow were used in roles that suited their skill sets pretty optimally. We see less of that on offense, though a lot was done with Jake Butt.

          Speed is important but it isn’t everything. Mason is the kind of player you want to see utilized in a smart way. I don’t have the answer here but we’ve seen guys like Denard Robinson, Devin Funchess, and Thomas Rawls underutilized during the Hoke era. The Harbaugh era has been less obviously problematic, in part because there’s been less speed inherited from Hoke, but I think guys like Peppers, Patterson, Evans, and DPJ probably could have done more.

          The bottomline is that the transitions have been very costly and it’s still being worked through. We’re going from the 90s west coast power offense that Hoke/Borges wanted to a similar Stanford model to a modern passing spread (first Hamilton and now Gattis). Harbaugh seems to be embracing the change – look at the coaching turnover and roster composition now vs 5 years ago.

          Using a guy like Mason isn’t going backwards. It’s finding a way to use the talent you have intelligently. Though if they use him 40 times a game at FB I admit I will probably think otherwise.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 6182
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Aug 31, 2020 at 3:22 PM

            I think a big problem in the early Harbaugh era was the overconfidence in finding good TEs. They thought they could get multiple Jake Butt types and lean in on 2-TE sets but the guys they got were not difference makers like that and the run game was never strong enough to scare anybody into giving away plays through the air.

            Losing Asiasi and Wheatley might have been a major turning point in the offensive philosophy.

            Hopefully it works out for the best.

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 6182
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Aug 31, 2020 at 3:25 PM

              They put a lot of scholarships into RB, FB, and TE to build on this vision and then it turned out WR was a real problem because skill position scholarships are finite. Hamilton really moved to address this but Gattis is taking it to the next level with focusing on quickness over size.

          • Avatar
            Comments: 1359
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            WindyCityBlue
            Aug 31, 2020 at 8:23 PM

            Mason is at least thirty years out of date as a potential impact player. Really successful 21st century offenses don’t use guys like him in any significant way. Yeah, I get that people like the kind of player that he is, but the “tough”, “scrappy”, “hard-nosed”, “hard-working”, “hustling” guy just doesn’t get it done at the highest level any more. Sentiment loses.

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