Friday, March 7, 2014

Michigan Friday: What To Expect From Coach Nuss vs. Big Al

When Doug Nussmeier came to Ann Arbor he left a few things back in Alabama: his family, warmer weather and a national championship quality team.  

In Ann Arbor he got a few extra dollars, a 5th year QB and an offensive line with a combined 31 starts.   SB Nation did a very nice piece on what to expect from a Coach Nuss offensive vs. a Big Al offense.  I have taken a few excerpts from the article but I recommend you read the entire thing.   It's very detailed and starts to answer why our 5 star offensive lineman struggled last year under Big Al:

Borges' offensive system is one that is fairly complex. It involves a massive collection of plays designed to take advantage of a defense at critical times. The Michigan OC excelled at setting up defenses for devastating play-action passes after noting their overplays of other concepts. Borges' particular methods for doing this also involved a fairly sizable number of overall concepts.
For example, the Michigan offense involved six primary run schemes: power, iso, draw, horn (a tackle lead play), inside zone, and outside zone. It's worth noting here, just for comparison, that NFL run-game guru Alex Gibbs believes that a ground attack should be built almost entirely on just inside and outside zone.

Borges' run game for his baby-faced interior line involved those two schemes plus four others. That's a lot of footwork, technique, and reads for the players to master in any of those concepts. Consequently, the Michigan run game faltered and often failed to set up the team for play action. In fact, Devin Gardner frequently executed a play-fake to the running back only to turn and find not a wide open receiver in his sight lines, but several defenders in his face.

Under Nuss:

The run game will likely be built around inside zone and remain committed to the concept from week to week. Whereas Borges would build a million different constraints and play calls around multiple different run and pass schemes, Nussmeier will run inside zone in multiple ways, from multiple formations, and with different constraints built off of it to counter defensive responses. At Alabama, players would rep inside zone against every single defensive look that might come up, ensuring it could be called against any opponent.
Ideally, Michigan's young linemen can focus on their footwork and assignments without being asked to master several different techniques in order to have a dynamic gameplan.
To be a great college football coach you have to develop your talent.  Charlie Weiss struggled with that at ND and it seemed Big Al did at Michigan.   There are concepts and techniques that Taylor Lewan could do as a senior that Kyle Kalis couldn't.    This article finally started to answer the question, "How can true freshman step in at other programs (on the offensive line) and play well and at Michigan they are lost?"
I'm not sure what Big Al was thinking or trying to do with his approach.   Yes, it's important to come up with good plans but it's more important to execute things your team is able to execute.   I love the approach Coach Nuss has, he is simplifying the offensive line and adding help from H-Backs and Tight Ends.   He is creating a simplified power baseline and building off of it as the guys mature and are able to handle more complex techniques.
I'm a big Devin Gardner fan and I thought he had zero chance to be successful last year.   I sure hope he gets a running game and some time to pass this season, so he can get a chance at a career in the NFL.
Here is to a fresh approach and hope for a better 2014 season!

1 comment:

Big35Hurt said...

One of the best posts I've read on this site. Great job! I've commented here many times over the past 2 years with the theme being, if the O-Line doesn't improve exponentially then we don't have a chance to be an elite program. It's very apparent that we've brought in the necessary talent at many positions to compete with the top teams, but the player development has been lacking. The OLine and running game is the key to fixing it all. If we can run it, we will play ahead of the chains. If we are winning the down and distance, then we are putting together drives. if we are putting together drives, then our defense gets some rest. It all feeds off the OLine and the ability to run the ball. It sounds very easy, but as we've seen, it has been anything but easy for us the last few years.