One issue I have mentioned multiple times in my game recaps and such is the “Wildcat” or “single wing” that has appeared this year with Zach Charbonnet and then Hassan Haskins getting direct snaps behind center. Michigan has used it almost exclusively as a short yardage or goal line changeup. It frustrates me because there’s no imagination or creativity involved in Michigan’s versions. At least when Jabrill Peppers was lined up in the “wildcat,” the coaching staff used motions to mess with the defense, even if it always resulted in Peppers keeping the ball.
Hit the jump for more.
Michigan has eschewed diversionary tactics in favor of just trying to overpower opponents, and that’s not very productive.
A note on terminology: This personnel package/formation is neither “Wildcat” (typically where a QB stays in the game but lines up as a wide receiver) or “single wing” (typically where a runner lines up behind center with an unbalanced line and a variety of blocking backs, along with a wing). This is just a regular offensive package with 2 tight ends, 2 wide receivers, Ben Mason as a sidecar back, and tailback Hassan Haskins lined up as the quarterback.
Wait, this one? It’s not single-wing. Just a shotgun 12 with Haskins at QB. pic.twitter.com/kjA3n9wD4G— Seth M. Fisher (@Misopogon) November 24, 2019
Michigan was up 32-14 in the third quarter, so I wouldn’t expect the Wolverines to reveal any wrinkles with the game in hand. There’s 2:53 remaining in the quarter and it’s 3rd-and-3.
Here’s how the play is supposed to look:
Michigan wants to capture the edge and get Haskins outside the defensive end, OR they want the end to fight outside and allow Haskins to cut up in the B-gap for a downhill run.
Here’s how it ends up:
Right tackle Jalen Mayfield was supposed to reach the defensive end on an outside zone blocking scheme. Normally a 5-technique (outside shoulder of tackle) defensive end has outside contain, meaning he’s going to fight to stay outside and keep contain. Instead, the defensive end spikes inside to the B-gap, and the strong safety scrapes outside to keep contain. Fullback Ben Mason is responsible for the second level defender, regardless, but Mayfield gets surprised by the inside move and essentially whiffs on his block. That allows the Indiana defensive end to tackle Hassan Haskins for a 3-yard loss on 3rd-and-3, making it 4th-and-6 and a punting situation.
Okay, that’s the setup and what happened.
Here’s why I don’t like it:
I’m a big motion guy, because it effs with the defense. I’ve coached on some teams that maybe haven’t been the most talented, but our staff has traditionally done a great job with formations and motions. Motions and shifts make the defense think quickly and adjust on the fly, and sometimes getting one guy confused is enough to create a big play. Michigan is and has been pretty vanilla with its shifts and motions this season, running some jet motion, some orbit motion, and shifting the second tight end across the formation.
Motion occupies eyeballs, makes defenders take false steps, and gets them out of position. Michigan could very easily have run jet motion to Donovan Peoples-Jones, lined him up in the backfield before motioning him out, shifted Ben Mason from one side to the other, etc. to play with the defense before snapping the ball. Otherwise, if I’m Indiana, I’m following 270 lb. Ben Mason to the hole to find the point of attack.
The way to beat zone plays (inside zone or outside zone) is to get penetration in the interior gaps, typically between the tackles. As a defensive tackle or stunting defensive end, if you can get penetration in the A- or B-gaps, you can mess up zone blocking. If we’re facing a zone running team, we preach about get-off and penetration. If you make a defense think, “Well, maybe I shouldn’t get 4 yards upfield because what if…” then BOOM! you might have a chance to get those 3 yards you need, or more.
Here are some ways Michigan could run the same concept while giving the defense some more eye candy that might force the 5-tech to fight outside, leaving the interior gap open for a downhill run by a north-south runner, or slow up his penetration.
I expect Michigan to use Haskins behind center a little bit against Ohio State, but they’re going to have to be more creative with it in order to beat one of the country’s best defenses.
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