Michigan Staff Putting Players In A Position To Fail

Joe Milton has committed his share of mistakes, but he's not being utilized correctly either.
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Football is both complex and simple at the same time. It's simple in the sense that certain things work more often than they don't, and it's been that way for a long time. It's also simple because counting to 11 is not difficult. On the flip side, it's very complex because you need everyone to do their specific job on every play for the overall efforts to be successful. 

Coaches can make the game simpler for their players by putting them in positions to succeed and playing to their teams' specific advantages. For some reason, the Michigan coaches don't seem to do that very often as I explained above.

Michigan should've scored a touchdown on that 4th down but instead, the entire offense was essentially asked to do something it likely couldn't do, and on top of that, a few players missed their assignments making it impossible and resulting in what we saw — a turnover on downs.

Instead of running that play out of the jumbo set but with an anti-jumbo tight end at the point of attack, why not spread things out but keep the formation tight forcing Wisconsin to put smaller defensive backs on the field. That's what New England did yesterday against Baltimore's solid defense and it worked so well that former Michigan offensive lineman Michael Onwenu had no one to block on the play and Cam Newton still walked into the end zone untouched.

This type of play would work with Joe Milton. Below, I've labeled and outlined the play as it would look for Michigan. They have the personnel and the situation was almost identical. If you aren't going to quarterback sneak it, this approach is much, much more advantageous for the offense.

new england cam newton play

There are so many things to like about this play. First of all, let's talk about the differences between this play and what Michigan's situation was. This is from the four-yard line instead of the on and it's on first down instead of fourth. I personally don't think those differences would affect the outcome, but they're worth mentioning. 

I've labeled who each player would or should be for Michigan. Obviously Milton is at quarterback and will simply run around the right side of the line and the offensive linemen are based on the initial starting group. If you have Karsen Barnhart, Andrew Stueber and Zak Zinter in there for the injured Ryan Hayes and Jalen Mayfield, it should still work, although it does set up almost perfectly for the starting unit because of Mayfield's athleticism and foot speed in open space.

 You can see who would fit into each spot best and what their assignment is. It's pretty straightforward. 

The key part of the play is the blocking down and washing out by the two wide receivers on the right side of the line. I have Ronnie Bell in there since we know he's fiery, tough and a good blocker, and I also have Cornelius Johnson in there as the biggest wide receiver on the roster. You could theoretically replace him with a tight end, but I think you tip your hand a bit by doing that and might attract a bigger defender to the most important location.

The right tackle, Mayfield or Stueber, would pull around the receivers who are blocking down to take on any scraping defenders. In New England's case, the play was so well designed and the wide receivers did such a good job blocking down, that Onwenu had no one to block.

The center also pulls around a bit to seal off the backside of the line, which was vacated by the tackle pulling. It's a hard block, but if Andrew Vastardis can't quite get all the way there to point his butt to the right, he can simply cut the legs like the lineman did for New England. That might actually be even more effective because it creates a pile on the end of the line.

The right guard releases immediately to get to the second level and cut off the backside linebacker/safety pursuit. The quarterback is fast enough and there's enough of a mess over on the right side of the formation that the backer might not get there, but with a big guard right in his face or even chipping him he never will.

You put your best pass catching back out wide — Chris Evans — to pose as a real receiving threat. He runs a bit of a phantom route and then locks up on the defender, or he could run a fade or corner route to the back of the end zone.

All of the linemen and receivers to the left of the center pretty much block straight up or away from the action of the play. As long as they don't ole their defender, who would have to be a freak of nature, none of those guys are going to catch up to the quarterback on the backside of the play.

If everyone does their job, including the defense, this is a walk in touchdown for most quarterbacks and certainly would be for Joe Milton.

This is just one example of a problem with Michigan's coaching and a solution that better suits U-M's personnel. We've seen it over the last couple of years and at multiple positions and too often it results in bad losses or embarrassing ones.