Snapshots: Inside inside zone

Snapshots: Inside inside zone


October 8, 2019
Zach Charbonnet

I barely have time to write my regular posts during the week, so here’s a quickie post about inside zone and some of the struggles Michigan is having.

First, here’s a bird’s eye view of Zach Charbonnet running inside zone:

Next, here’s a look at senior Tru Wilson running split zone:

Hit the jump for more.

Those aren’t the same play. They’re different formations and game situations, so not all “inside zone” plays are equal.

The inside zone play basically has three options for the tailback when given the ball. They can either “bounce” it to the playside, they can “bang” it up behind the center, or they can “bend” it backside. This all depends on how the defensive line and linebackers play the blocking scheme. Those reads can depend on the coach, as some read the offensive line, some read the playside defensive tackle, some read the middle linebacker, etc.

Regardless, what I’ve seen too much of from Zach Charbonnet – and why I mentioned more playing time for Tru Wilson in the Iowa wrap-up post – is the “bang.” Just like the first play tweeted above, Charbonnet gets downhill immediately. He doesn’t make reads quickly enough, and he has tunnel vision; unfortunately, the tunnel he’s seeing has often collapsed.

Meanwhile, even though the playside 3-tech takes a similarly bad path in both plays, Wilson is decisive enough, quick enough, and smart enough to make the read on the fly. When the “bounce” opens up for him because the playside ILB gets caught in a stunt, Wilson hits it for a gain of 11 yards. Charbonnet would have either got caught up behind the center’s butt or tried to “bend” it backside.

This is one reason why I believe Michigan needs Wilson to get healthy. Charbonnet is a talented back, but he’s just a freshman, and the speed of the game is still problematic for him. The offense will get a boost if/when Michigan starts to rely a little more heavily on Wilson, or when you start seeing Charbonnet recognize the different cuts that are available on inside zone.

21 comments

  1. Avatar
    Comments: 1575
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Oct 08, 2019 at 8:13 AM

    It’s almost like, decisions from the RB matter …

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3317
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Oct 08, 2019 at 8:25 AM

      Yes. Yes, they do.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5445
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Oct 08, 2019 at 12:50 PM

      Hmmm, some might take the suggestion of replacing a 5-star back with a walk-on as a counter argument to this theory.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5445
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Oct 08, 2019 at 5:26 PM

      FWIW I agree that decision-making is an important for RBs. My thinking is the way you get good at it is consistent blocking and play-calling. RBs need to know what is happening and trust their blockers to execute. They have to be comfortable to react quickly. This is as much a team trait as anything else.

      If you change scheme every year, if your OL isn’t blocking consistently, your RB will not be successful.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 111
    Joined: 10/22/2015
    SinCityBlue
    Oct 08, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    Pretty cool stuff! So if i understand this correctly, the proper read would’ve been to “bend” to the backside for the Charbonnet run?

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3317
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Oct 08, 2019 at 2:13 PM

      I think Charbonnet could have done the bend or the bounce; the bang was probably the third-best option, and that’s the one he chose. Once the playside DT folded back inside, I think the bounce was there. That’s why running backs are taught to be “slow to the hole, fast through it” on zone runs. Otherwise, they make a decision before the defense has really declared.

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 5445
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Oct 08, 2019 at 1:00 PM

    Death, taxes, and Thunder calling for the backup RB.

    I don’t mean any disrespect but this happens every year and this blog is in something like year 10. Thunder – what do you think are the successful examples that validate this perspective? Have there been backup RBs you’ve called for come in who have replaced the starter successfully?

    I’m trying to remember guys who have done this since Hart. 2017 had Higdon successfully replace Isaac which you didn’t like. 2014 had Smith and Johnson replacing Green. I can’t recall if you had a take on that one. What am I forgetting?

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3317
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Oct 08, 2019 at 2:08 PM

      I don’t really know what the question is, but plenty of “backups” or lesser used running backs have come in and have been more successful.

      I wanted more Fitzgerald Toussaint and less Vincent Smith. I wanted more Brandon Minor and less Sam McGuffie. I wanted more Michael Cox and less Vincent Smith. I wanted more Ty Isaac and less De’Veon Smith. All/most of those perspectives have been validated. Toussaint played in the NFL, and Smith never did. Minor was a solid college RB while McGuffie was so-so even after a step down to Rice-level competition. Cox played in the NFL, and Smith never did.

      Isaac’s pro career has been virtually non-existent other than being on an AAF roster, but De’Veon Smith has a small leg up on him; regardless, in college Isaac ran for 6.1 YPC throughout his career with 4.3% of his carries resulting in touchdowns, while Smith ran for 4.5 YPC and 4.4% of his carries resulted in touchdowns. That’s a minuscule difference in percentage, especially considering that Smith was a goal-line back, something Isaac never was.

      Is Tru Wilson the backup RB? I heard him named the starter multiple times. Charbonnet’s role as starter was a surprise, especially to those who backed Christian Turner, who did not have an injury holding him back to start the season. Maybe if Wilson didn’t have a broken hand, he would be starting. Regardless, Charbonnet isn’t very good at running inside zone right now. Call it what you want, but I want the inside zone play to be successful, and Charbonnet isn’t getting it done right now.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5445
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Oct 08, 2019 at 5:20 PM

        Toussaint is a good example* I can’t remember who started first in 2008 but I’ll give you Minor over McGuffie too.** Cox never started at Michigan and transferred, so no. Issac? Hell no. He is the ultimate the counter example – a guy you advocated loudly for, got to start, failed, and was replaced by more effective players. You were dead wrong there.***

        Now let’s talk about the evidence you apply to make your argument. It’s all over the place. Do we care about YPC or NFL success or how people do after transferring or what?

        You say “Cox played in the NFL, and Smith never did.”
        I retort Deveon Smith made the NFL and Isaac never got invited to try.

        You say “Minor was a solid college RB while McGuffie was so-so even after a step down to Rice-level competition.”
        I retort Vincent Smith was a solid college RB while Cox was bad even after a step down to UMass-level competition.”

        Note that Smith and Minor had very similar college production in terms of yards and TDs.

        Note that McGuffie ran for 4.5 ypc at Rice while Mike Cox went to UMass and averaged 3.4 ypc.

        Now lets keep talking YPC. Interesting that doesn’t come up with all the talk about Minor and Smith conversation. The one year Minor and Smith overlapped Minor averaged 5.2 ypc as senior compared to Smith’s 5.8 as a freshman. I don’t think Smith was a better ball-carrier than Minor but hey YPC PROVES IT.

        *It’s a bit strange to question the 2010 offense when it was the best one Michigan has had in a long time. Smith probably fit better beside Denard with what Rodriguez was doing though I agree Fitz is the better overall RB.

        **I recall a season long rotation.

        *** I don’t hold this initial assessment against you and nobody else should. Predictions are hard and if you write a blog team for over a decade you will say a lot of things and some will be wrong. No shame in that. But to keep insisting you are right when clearly you are not is something else. USC, Michigan, NFL, and AAF coaches all reached the same conclusion. Thanks but no thanks to Ty Isaac the running back. Maybe there’s an alternate reality in 1982 where Isaac is a good RB but in this world he isn’t. The nicest thing anyone can say about Isaac as a running back is that people see enough potential in him to keep giving him chances again and again.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3317
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Oct 08, 2019 at 7:19 PM

          Yes, you disagree. I am not surprised.

  4. Lanknows
    Comments: 5445
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Oct 08, 2019 at 1:02 PM

    I don’t mean any disrespect but this happens every year and this blog is in something like year 10.

    Thunder, what do you think are the successful examples that validate this perspective? Have there been backup RBs you’ve called for come in who have replaced the starter successfully?

  5. Lanknows
    Comments: 5445
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Oct 08, 2019 at 1:02 PM

    I’m trying to remember guys who have done this since Hart. 2017 had Higdon successfully replace Isaac which you didn’t like. 2014 had Smith and Johnson replacing Green. I can’t recall if you had a take on that one. What am I forgetting?

  6. Avatar
    Comments: 248
    Joined: 12/19/2015
    Extrajuice
    Oct 08, 2019 at 5:32 PM

    Very small sample size. The one example is of the ONLY successful run of the game. It happened to be Wilson getting the ball and having a seam to run through. Wilson, who was tackled by the only one to touch him. You show 1 play with limited view and say Charbonnet should should have bounced, etc. I’ve seen 2 years of HS film that shows Charbonnet has some of the best vision and patience we’ve ever recruited at UM. I think the lack of production is more of coaching/Oline play. Or, he’s just limited with lateral movement by his injury.

    Should Charbonnet be more patient? Absolutely. My suspicion is that UM coaches (calling Jay Harbaugh) preach gaining “positive” yards. It also takes away from the RB’s natural running ability. I think there’s a bit of frosh RB running scared and doing as he’s told and not running as he could.

    Can Wilson spell the occasional run play? Absolutely. Won’t matter with the offensive line play anyway. Onwenu and Ruiz have been mostly pathetic.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3317
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Oct 09, 2019 at 5:55 AM

      It’s not really a small sample size. It’s happened all year with Charbonnet, and we’ve seen Wilson run inside zone not only this week, but in past seasons. The two real positives with Wilson are his toughness and his vision.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5445
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Oct 09, 2019 at 11:34 AM

      I think vision is a lot about system. Familiarity, consistency, comfort. Knowing where your blockers are going to be and trusting that they will execute. Acting without even thinking.

      The biggest criticism I have of the Harbaugh era is that Michigan tries to do too many things on offense before they do one thing well.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5445
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Oct 09, 2019 at 11:56 AM

      It’s definitely a small sample size. Wilson has fewer than 80 carries his entire career. To put that in perspective, Mike Hart had more in his first 3 games his senior year. And 44 the week after.

      Wilson has all of 10 carries this year and is down a full yard in YPC in that small sample. We could draw some conclusions about that but they probably aren’t meaningful for anything about Wilson. The overall team trend is demonstrated in all the RBs.

      • Thunder
        Comments: 3317
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Oct 09, 2019 at 12:13 PM

        LOL. Yadda yadda yadda.

        “All we have is the small sample size of this player’s entire career. How can we reach any conclusions?”

        How many carries are necessary before a “small” sample size is just a sample size? 500? 1,000? 10,000?

        Sorry, guys. Tru Wilson has only done a thing 73 times so far. We can’t reach any conclusions based on seeing a thing happen 73 times.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5445
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Oct 09, 2019 at 12:33 PM

        Well I can run the numbers for you if you really want. There’s a high degree of variance even if you completely ignore context. Which you can’t do, because that’s far more meaningful than the player.

        So yes. For a stat like YPC to be meaningful it probably involves hundreds of carries. The coaches see this in practice. We don’t.

        You scoff but you can grab 80 consecutive carries from Mike Hart and find that he averaged 3 ypc or 7 ypc. You draw conclusions like this at your own peril.

        Any idiot can declare global warming exists/doesn’t based on a hot/cold day.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 5445
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Oct 09, 2019 at 1:11 PM

          The OL didn’t forget how to block. The QB didn’t forget how to throw. The returning RBs haven’t forgotten how to run to holes, despite their lower YPC.

          The regression in offense is happening across the board despite more or less the same personnel. This isn’t a personnel problem. The offensive issues can’t be solved by putting in a backup or three. I wish it was that easy.

          • Thunder
            Comments: 3317
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Oct 09, 2019 at 1:30 PM

            …and Charbonnet isn’t a returning running back.

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 5445
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Oct 09, 2019 at 3:41 PM

              Here we agree!

You must belogged in to post a comment.