Snapshots: Haskins Wild

Snapshots: Haskins Wild

November 25, 2019

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.

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:

(apologies for the Screen Shader, which is set up to reduce blue light)

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:

(fixed the Screen Shader)

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.


  1. Avatar
    Comments: 25
    Joined: 9/25/2019
    Nov 25, 2019 at 2:46 PM

    Really enjoyed this, thanks for taking the time to draw it all up.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 1298
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Nov 25, 2019 at 3:36 PM

    Good stuff.

  3. DonAZ
    Comments: 510
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Nov 25, 2019 at 7:36 PM

    I wonder where this play came from? Meaning: does it have a history in the Locksley / Gattis tradition? Or does this seem like something that’s bubbling up from Harbaugh and his tradition of smash-mouth football?

    • Avatar
      Comments: 1298
      Joined: 8/13/2015
      Nov 25, 2019 at 8:25 PM

      It’s as old as lime on grass.

  4. Avatar
    Comments: 286
    Joined: 12/19/2015
    Nov 25, 2019 at 10:06 PM

    Yeah, from the 2nd time they ran a play out of this formation I knew it sucked balls. He’s not gonna throw it! It’s 100% run. We’ll be complaining about it during the game on Saturday, I’m sure of it.

  5. Avatar
    Comments: 1863
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Nov 25, 2019 at 11:51 PM

    I don’t like it because it ignores the other playmakers. As you stated, at LEAST make them accounted for

    No speed, no space. Little to fuss about the last two weeks, bit stuff like this won’t beat ohio

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5941
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Nov 28, 2019 at 7:18 AM

      haha. You’re back! Guess I was wrong to give you credit for being a man of your word. I’m surprised you even made it 25% of the way through the bet before welching.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1863
        Joined: 1/19/2016
        Nov 28, 2019 at 11:10 AM

        Of course you’re surprised. You want & expect everyone to think and act like you

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3639
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Nov 28, 2019 at 11:42 AM

          Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

  6. Avatar
    Comments: 48
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Nov 26, 2019 at 9:02 AM

    I agree that I am not a fan of the few times they have run this formation. I do like this formation if there is going to be a wrinkle thrown in at some point during a big game when a play is needed. Could we see the motion that you are talking about against Ohio State, could we see Haskins step back into the pocket with the football and loft one to Collins/DPJ/Black sitting on the outside against the DB? I don’t understand the coaching with this play because it is so generic that it feels a little like banging your head against the wall, but it could produce with some additional things added to it.

    Appreciate the write up. It is good to see what goes on in the minds of coaching.

  7. Lanknows
    Comments: 5941
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Nov 28, 2019 at 7:16 AM

    The bottom line is that the play is working. I think the one time it didn’t is here and you are saying Mayfield whiffs on the block, so that’s an execution issue not a bad playcall.

    I think adding motion is a fine idea but you don’t need it on every play.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5941
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Nov 28, 2019 at 7:55 AM

      We have a big beefy OL, one of the biggest and best blocking FBs in the country, a good blocking TE, and a big back that runs with power and balance. I know this is supposed to be a speed in space offense but I like being able to flip the switch and run it down the oppositions throat.

      The extra blocker makes it all work.

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