Wild Haskins 4th-and-1 Failure

Wild Haskins 4th-and-1 Failure

November 30, 2019

The game was pretty much decided by this point, but on 4th-and-1, the Wolverines decided to run the (a.k.a. my) dreaded Wild Haskins formation. Michigan did indeed throw a changeup at Ohio State’s defense, sending sidecar fullback Ben Mason from the playside to the backside of the play, where he was kicking out the defensive end. (Most Wild Haskins plays have Hassan Haskins following Mason.)

This is one of those plays where I’m not sure who to blame based on the film.

Hit the jump for more.

The game announcers wanted to blame Michigan’s offensive line, which “didn’t get a push.” And…I mean…it’s true that they didn’t get a push.

They did create a giant hole on the right side, where left guard Ben Bredeson pulled through and had no one to hit.

Was that on Haskins himself? Why did he choose not to follow Bredeson? Why was he so quick to try to cut to the backside A-gap?

Was that on Josh Gattis or Jay Harbaugh? Why was Haskins attempting to hit the hole so quickly?

In my personal opinion, I think the play was poorly executed. The timing was off, whether that was an issue from install or whether it was just something that popped up on game day with a guy unready for a big spot.

If I were coaching Haskins on that play, I would teach him to take a position step (basically a lateral step or a delay) in order for the blocks to set up and a hole to develop. With the timing of someone taking a direct snap from 5 yards behind center and then immediately going forward, that hole opening up with Bredeson wasn’t quite fully formed by the time Haskins had made his decision. If he takes a position step and gives the line .27 seconds more, then he can follow Bredeson through the playside D-gap for a chunk gain.

The above paragraph is one reason why I dislike the Wild Haskins formation in general. It’s a play that they surely practiced, but it’s not a bread-and-butter play, and you have a guy who’s a) not highly accustomed to taking a snap and b) not used to following a pulling guard after taking a direct snap.

We played a decent single-wing team this year where the “QB” did a great job of understanding the timing required to run power. You need to give time for the pulling guard to get playside and let the block develop. But he was good at it because that was a huge part of their offense. When they needed a key conversion, they went to their bread-and-butter play. Michigan, on the other hand, is not a single-wing team and its bread-and-butter play – if there is one – is certainly not Hassan Haskins running power.

Great coaches say: “Think players, not plays.” The play design was fine. If you’re a college offensive coordinator, you’re probably pretty good at designing plays. The real difference is fitting your plays to your players, and I’m not sure Haskins was ready for this one.


  1. Avatar
    Comments: 1863
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Dec 01, 2019 at 1:40 AM

    Thanks Thunder

    Last time you drew this up, we discussed not having motion, or a passing option. In addition to that, I don’t like that in a “team game,” you’re relying on one guy – not your fastest, quickest or best – but just a guy to make or break it

    This is on top of your point above, where Haskins isn’t repped enough on this task, and has a fraction of a second to identify his path

    I’m sure some fans will look at a spreadsheet and assign a success rate, but that’s not how football works. It’s about getting your 11 guys in the best possible positions to beat there’s. Having seen the WILDCAT twice before in the last couple drives, ohio was ready

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3642
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 01, 2019 at 7:45 AM

      Yeah, I agree with that. Haskins is basically De’Veon Smith with a little better feet. It’s not like taking your stud running back and snapping him the ball. You’re taking a guy with somewhat minimal success and not much speed. Haskins has done a good job this year of doing what he can with what he’s been given, but he’s not a difference maker.

      Ideally, you want a good inside-outside threat taking those Wildcat snaps. Saquon Barkley was that guy at PSU, because he was tough enough to run inside and fast enough to get the edge. Haskins isn’t that.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1863
        Joined: 1/19/2016
        Dec 01, 2019 at 2:38 PM

        Even with a generational talent like Barkley, that wildcat was not a go to. It killed us on that opening TD in 2017, but went for NOTHING after. It’s not a go to play, at all

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 17
    Joined: 10/31/2016
    Dec 01, 2019 at 11:27 AM

    It was 42-27 and there were over 12 minutes left at that point – the game was not yet decided. A TD there can make it a one-possession game. Of course I didn’t have a ton of confidence in the D getting stops…

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 5949
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Dec 04, 2019 at 1:47 PM

    As with the whole game IMO, the issues were more about player execution than coaching, though obviously they are heavily correlated.

    I think the points about patience by the RB and need for reps are both good. This patience is something that Leveon Bell was great at and got him to be considered a difference-maker at RB (though I would say that hypothesis has been disproved). This is something that can maybe be considered a talent. However, I think it is moreso something to be learned through familiarity and trust (i.e., OL executing consistently). Reps require stability and consistency. Michigan hasn’t had that on offense.

    We all know the offense went through some transition costs this year and changed what they did a lot. Maybe that cost the team here because they clearly didn’t rep their current playcalls all year.

    Does Michigan need to run their bread and butter play on every critical down? Of course not. But they need to rep enough to execute.

    The Wild Haskins – good name BTW – worked on consecutive plays for a TD and 2-point conversion earlier in the game. It was painted as too simplistic but here we got the change in look to throw the defense off balance and it worked in theory – a gaping hole was there behind the pulling guard.

    I think it’s fair to criticize Harbaugh for maybe throwing too many different plays and packages at his players but Haskins should know how to follow a pulling guard through a hole and we KNOW he knows how to be successful with a direct snap. Maybe the failure here was asking him to do both at once but I think he just made a mistake and went to the wrong hole. Some might blame this on ‘vision’ or talent but Haskins has looked pretty good since taking over the starting job.

    I don’t know that this mistake is worth diagnosing further than a dropped pass or missed run fill by a safety playing at linebacker against elite running attacks. Mistakes happen – this happened to be one that came in a high leverage situation. Haskins (and this package) did very well in two other high leverage situations this game.

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