Snapshots: How to Give Up 68-yard Touchdown Runs

Snapshots: How to Give Up 68-yard Touchdown Runs

April 25, 2011
With a couple exceptions, the spring game was largely devoid of big plays for the offense.  This was the longest play from the line of scrimmage.  It’s the second team offense vs. the second team defense, but it gives us a good look at what the defense will be trying to do in 2011.

ABOVE: Prior to the snap, the defense is in a standard 4-3 under look.  FS Marvin Robinson is shifted over to cover the slot receiver, while SS Josh Furman is about 12 yards directly off the ball.  CB Terrence Talbott is walked off the line of scrimmage with only TE Mike Kwiatkowski on his side.  Meanwhile, H-back Ricardo Miller has motioned across the offensive formation and is now offset between the strongside OG and OT.

ABOVE: Initial action suggests it’s a power run.  LG Rocko Khoury is pulling across the formation; Kwiatkowski and RT Erik Gunderson are double-teaming LDE Ken Wilkins, who has stood straight up.  Meanwhile, MLB Brandon Herron reads run and immediately steps up to fill the hole.  NT Will Heininger gets outmuscled and collapsed away from the play.

ABOVE: As RB Michael Cox gets the handoff, LT Kristian Mateus whiffs on DE Jibreel Black, who’s totally and completely screwed if this is a rollout pass.  HB Ricardo Miller impacts SAM Jake Ryan with LG Rocko Khoury coming to help, while DE Ken Wilkins gets driven off the ball.  MIKE Brandon Herron steps up into the developing hole and WILL Brandin Hawthorne (?) flows to the ball.  CB Terrence Talbott has started to come up and support while FS Marvin Robinson follows his receiver across the field.

ABOVE: SAM Jake Ryan completely stones both blockers and stands his ground, while MIKE Brandon Herron meets RB Michael Cox about a half yard beyond the line of scrimmage; this should be stopped for a gain of a yard or two.  DE Jibreel Black missed Cox in the backfield and has run himself out of the play.  CB Terrence Talbott has stepped up in run support, and FS Marvin Robinson appears to see the ballcarrier and can presumably fight through a block to help make the tackle.

ABOVE: Oops.  MIKE Brandon Herron tackles like a middle schooler.  WILL Brandin Hawthorne (?) lies prone on the ground from just being in the general vicinity of football player-sized football players.  Meanwhile, FS Marvin Robinson has completely overrun the play and lost his leverage on the ballcarrier.  And because of his careless positioning, he flummoxes SS Josh Furman, who has finally stepped up to support only to be thwarted by a teammate.  RB Michael Cox sees the cutback and engages afterburners.

ABOVE: WR Martavious Odoms (?) has good position on CB Greg Brown (?) and walls him off.  As RB Michael Cox hits the 45-yard line, he’s a half step in front of FS Marvin Robinson and a half step behind SS Josh Furman.  Speed has always been a question for Robinson, but Furman is a supposed burner who ran a supposed 4.37 in high school.

ABOVE: As RB Michael Cox crosses the goal line with a 68-yard touchdown run, FS Marvin Robinson has gone from half a yard behind Cox to about 9 yards.  SS Josh Furman has lost about 4 yards on Cox.  Of course, both were chasing Cox at an angle as he veered toward the left sideline, but neither ever seemed in danger of catching Cox once he turned on the jets.


  • Well, if nothing else, we know what Michigan’s defensive alignment looks like and how the “power play” works.
  • Ken Wilkins, who just got outmuscled by a duo of walk-ons, will probably not be ready to play this year.  There’s a reason that Jibreel Black was playing some 5-tech DT, and the above type of play might be it.
  • I like Michael Cox, but Giant Mistake #1 was Brandon Herron’s complete and utter failure to even slow down the running back.  If you’re a fifth year senior and can’t slow down a guy who runs smack into your chest, hope is all but lost.  I guess I ought to cut Herron some slack because he did get bumped by Khoury, but still.
  • Angles and positioning are of utmost importance.  It’s one thing if Wilkins lines up in the right spot and gets double-teamed out of the hole.  But Giant Mistake #2 on this play was Marvin Robinson thinking he was in a race with Je’ron Stokes to get to the sideline.  By the time Stokes said, “Aw, I was just foolin’, man, I ain’t gonna race you,” Robinson was the Tie Bomber to Cox’s Millennium Falcon.  Robinson must maintain leverage on the runner, because he doesn’t have the speed to get caught flat-footed and then make up for it.  There aren’t many Big Ten running backs who will be chased down by Robinson if he doesn’t take good angles.
  • Good linebacker play makes this a 1- or 2-yard gain.  Good safety play makes this an 8-yard gain.  Bad linebacker play combined with bad safety play makes this a 68-yard touchdown run.
Fast forward to :56 to see the above play:


  1. Comments: 21383
    Apr 25, 2011 at 6:45 PM

    Great analysis, thanks!

  2. Comments: 21383
    Apr 25, 2011 at 8:24 PM

    This seems to beg the question: "How fast is Michael Cox?"

    He's no burner, but doesn't seem to hesitate to go balls-out in the open field. His speed is decent at least, especially for a 215-pound back. I also think Furman was caught flat-footed and in the snapshot in question, he's just taking off while Cox is full throttle.

    Herron got some playing time last year against Notre Dame before he got hurt and I thought he was doing a pretty good job, which relegated Roh to DE exclusively for a bit.

    Would you rather see Black tee off on Gardner on this play regardless of the exchange? Seems to me like that's his responsibility, seeing as there's a bunch of bodies to help out if there's a handoff.

  3. Comments: 21383
    Apr 25, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    @ GregGoBlue 2:45 p.m.

    Thanks for reading.

  4. Comments: 21383
    Apr 25, 2011 at 8:31 PM

    @ David 4:24 p.m.

    I agree that Cox isn't a burner. I think he's plenty fast, but he's no Chris Johnson. I agree that Furman was caught flat-footed, but I still kind of expected him to make up a bit of ground.

    In a real game, yes, I would rather see Black tee off on Gardner. With Gardner being off limits to contact in practice, obviously that's not an option. Making a play on the RB from the weakside end position would be quite a feat when the ball's going away from him, but if Gardner keeps the ball, there's no one out there to constrict his movement.

  5. Comments: 21383
    Apr 26, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    I'd wager Cox is probably a low to mid 4.5's guy. While that's not elite speed by any means, it's plenty fast enough for a 215 lb guy.

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