|The California Golden Bears use a zone blocking system|
I’m curious as to how you think the Michigan offensive line will perform in 2011. What are the main differences in zone blocking vs. man blocking schemes, and do you think Michigan’s current group is up to the task? I’ve never coached offensive line (or defensive line) in my brief career, so I’m curious. Thanks!
To first get some terminology out of the way, no team out there runs a true “man blocking scheme”, at least not the way many people interpret those words That phrase can be disingenuous.
When one talks about zone blocking, it usually refers to a play in which a running play is intended to go in a general direction, not necessarily to one particular hole. The offensive linemen do follow some rules about who to engage, but generally, a linemen tries to lock on to a defender, take him in whichever direction he wants to go, and then let the running back find a lane to follow. A good explanation from a blog I like comes from Smart Football’s post on the matter.
When one talks about man blocking, it often refers to rule blocking. There are some plays within man blocking schemes in which the offensive linemen choose who to block based on counting the number of defenders to their side of the ball. For example, on a running play to the right, the center might block the #1 guy to the right of the ball (whether it’s a defensive lineman or linebacker), the guard takes #2, the tackle takes #3, and the tight end walls off #4. In that type of situation, it doesn’t matter how the defense aligns – the linemen just count at the line of scrimmage and then try to drive defenders off the ball. A post from footballcoaching.com provides a list of pros and cons for each type of scheme. Man blocking schemes do have the ability to run complicated plays, such as the counter trey, on which the backside guard and backside tackle pull and lead through a hole. Unlike zone plays, these plays typically are intended to go to one particular hole.
As for how Michigan’s linemen will fare in what we can only assume will be a more man blocking-oriented scheme, I think they’ll be just fine. Rich Rodriguez and Mike Barwis realized last year that 290-pound linemen can’t get the job done at Michigan, so several of them bulked up to 300 pounds for the 2010 season. I don’t expect that Michigan will return to having oodles of 320-330 lb. behemoths, but some of these guys should be able to hit 310-315. New strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman has talked about keeping down his players’ body fat percentage, so I don’t expect Michigan to turn into a bunch of Wisconsin Badger-like fatties.
Individually . . .
LT Taylor Lewan. He was somewhat light this past season due to his youth, but I think he can be successful in any scheme. He’s strong, nasty, and athletic. I’ve said since he was recruited that he plays like Jake Long. He’ll continue to add some weight and continue to be a mauler.
LG Ricky Barnum (?). I’m operating under the assumption that Barnum will replace the departed Steve Schilling. Barnum has flirted with playing offensive tackle in the past, but he doesn’t have the length to play tackle. To me he’s a prototypical bowling ball of a guard.
C David Molk. Molk might be the lightest guy on the offensive line, but he’s also the strongest. Centers are typically the smallest offensive linemen, so I’m not concerned about his lack of size.
RG Patrick Omameh. I still think that Omameh would be a good fit at offensive tackle, although I’m not sure he’ll switch positions at this point. He doesn’t have the prototypical body type for a guard in a man blocking scheme; he might be heavy enough, but he’s more the athletic guard type than a straight ahead mauler. He’s excellent on the move, like former UCLA Bruin and Baltimore Raven Johnathan Ogden (although obviously not as big and probably not as good), so I expect offensive coordinator Al Borges to run counters, waggles, and traps to utilize Omameh’s athleticism.
RT Mark Huyge. I’ve never been impressed with Huyge, but maybe he’ll take a leap as a senior. He’s got the size, but I’ve just never thought of him as a great athlete. If another guard steps up (Rocko Khoury, maybe), I wouldn’t mind seeing Omameh bump out to RT and having Khoury step in at right guard. We’ll see what happens.
These guys probably won’t be the equivalent of the mean, nasty, road grading offensive linemen that populated Michigan in decades past, but they should be able to hold their ground. If Borges and Brady Hoke hold to their promise of making changes to the offense based on personnel, then they should be able to take advantage of this line’s strengths. I don’t want to see Borges forced into zone blocking if that’s not his specialty, but he needs to get these guys on the move.
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