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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

There is a book:

This book contains some 15,000 words of mine on Michigan's coming season and their zone running game. The remainder of the words are the work of fine people like Dave from Maize 'n' Brew, Russ Levine of Football Outsiders and The New York Sun, Vijay from IBFC, Michael from Braves and Birds, Joel Pennington, author of the The Ten Year War, Brian Stouffer from The House Rock Built Matt Hinton of Sunday Morning Quarterback, Peter Bean from Burnt Orange Nation -- Mallett, natch -- and Johnny from RBUAS. It is a veritable smörgåsbord of bloggy goodness in book form.

I can't reproduce the whole book for you, but here follow three excerpts to tantalize and amaze.

The Zone Stretch

My excursion into explaining our running game. With some sweet diagrams.


The most important thing on the stretch is to get all the “first level” defenders blocked. Normally these are defensive linemen, who can shoot into the backfield and force the running back to waste time before he gets to the line of scrimmage, but a blitzing linebacker makes himself a first level defender. And sometimes defensive linemen aren't considered first level, usually backside defensive ends who are suffered to run free so that the tackle lined up over him can instead block a second level defender. Our first play features a first level defender suffered to run amok.

It's Michigan's opening drive of the Notre Dame game. Michigan already leads 7-0 after Prescott Burgess's interception return touchdown. On first down, the Wolverines run a zone stretch to the left side of the line for four yards. Facing second and six, they line up in a three-wide ace set (for those who haven't wasted significant swaths of their lives playing EA NCAA Football, an ace set features one tailback lined up behind a quarterback under center as opposed to an I-formation, which has a fullback lined up in front of the tailback). They're going to run another zone left. Notre Dame sticks with seven guys in the box. Please see Figure 1 for the presnap alignment.

On a zone stretch the line moves in unison to one side or the other, blocking whoever they find in their area. But a rote adherence to this concept can leave first-level defenders unblocked. On this play, defensive tackle Derek Landri is shaded to the playside, lined up over the gap between the center and the guard. Asking a center to snap the ball and then get his helmet across a player who is already a step ahead of him is asking for a defensive tackle in the backfield. With the defensive end and outside linebacker shaded to the outside themselves, left guard Adam Kraus has no one in his zone. He could help out on Landri, but he doesn't, instead stepping left into his vacant zone and immediately going out to the second level to block the middle linebacker. Figure 2 shows the actions of all participants immediately after the snap.

Bihl's left alone to block Landri; this works about as well as you might expect. Landri shoots into the backfield, right into the path of Hart. Hart being Hart, he dodges the charging lineman, but the play's timing has been disrupted. The unblocked Abiamiri wraps Hart up for no gain. Figure 3 shows the play's result. It's not a good one. Michigan is stopped for no gain.

The frustrating part of this play for an offensive coordinator is that it was blocked wonderfully aside from the slip up on Landri. By the time Hart was being tackled, Trevor Laws, Notre Dame's other tackle, had been driven five yards downfield by the Riley-Mitchell double team. Riley then completed his zone block by peeling off and hit the outside linebacker. Kraus took out the middle linebacker... if he had just managed to get Landri sealed before he did so Hart would have had a major crease, as you can see in Figure 3.

On the ensuing third and medium, Chinedum Ndkuwe intercepts Henne and returns the ball inside the five, giving Notre Dame their one brief moment of hope in the midst of a wholesale beatdown.

One Last Run

I know this is cruel, to give you an RBUAS article and snatch it away mere paragraphs in, but baby needs to eat.

He sat in his chair with a posture his mother would have scolded him for, his shoulders slumped defiantly forward, his hands hidden beneath a table covered with silver and black tape recorders. He looked like he’d got a haircut recently (perhaps, because, like the first day of high school and dates with pretty ladies, games against Ohio State are worth going to the barbershop for), and though he was not there to talk about things I wanted to hear, it was comforting to see that he’d done so, to see that he revered and cherished this merciless game enough to look nice for it.

It was a little while after Michigan had lost to Ohio State by a score my fragile mind has chosen to forget, and Mike Hart was sitting in a room answering questions which only sought to explain why, specifically, it was that Michigan had lost the most colossally significant game of each of its player’s lives – to their nemesis, less than 48 hours after their monarch’s heart had stopped beating.

Defeated men in this position choose to walk down one of two dusty paths. On one path he will sit motionless, his face still; so miserable that each question collapses to the ground like a paper airplane sailed into a stone obelisk. He is a man of a conquered will; competitive and visibly exhausted, and talking to a room of men he thinks have never played the game he bleeds for, never fought the men he just fought. It’s useless, he thinks – they don’t understand. His responses are brief and he wants to go home and close his eyes. I think this is the man I saw when I would watch Lamarr Woodley talk after Michigan lost.

The other man will offer platitudes lauding the other team and how “they were just a little bit better,” than he was. He’s detached from the game outside of the moments he’s playing it and those he’s preparing for it. He’s far too content with his fate, and the fact that those who have defeated him know he thinks they are superior. To him, a battle is not necessarily lost, because the entire sport is in a struggle together.

But Mike Hart is not like either of those men. He will never give up on himself, and he will never submit to anyone else. It’s doesn’t matter to him that people know by now he’s one of the best college football players in the whole damn country. Or that when his legs churn against the ground as hard as they do on every third and two you almost wonder if the Earth’s rotation has slowed a bit. Mike’s only known of a world in which he has everything left to prove; he’s never known of anything he didn’t have to claw for until his fingernails wore down to the cuticle. So you must understand that if someone had told me about a player in the press room who wanted a rematch and couldn’t stop talking about how good Michigan was and how good Ohio State wasn’t, I would have hesitated only to wipe the grin off my face. Because that man will always be Mike Hart, our Mike Hart.

Those Who Stayed Were Champions

Joel Pennington draws from his extensive interview sessions with Bo undertaken for The Ten Year War to review Bo's legacy.

Bo was born and raised in Barberton, Ohio. And although baseball was his favorite sport as a kid, his talents were better suited to football. “I always pictured myself being a major league pitcher,” Bo said. “But reality took care of that. I was much better at football than baseball and wanted to be a tailback, but reality took care of that too. I asked my high school coach where he needed help the most and he said offensive guard. So that’s where I played. I found out that I really enjoyed the intricacies and nuances of offensive line play and I worked my butt off trying to perfect my technique. Physically, I was only average at best. But my technique was good enough to get me a scholarship to Miami of Ohio to play for Sid Gillman.”

Following his sophomore year at Miami, Bo’s life was forever changed when Gillman left for Cincinnati and a man named Woody Hayes became his new coach. “It’s hard to describe what an adjustment that was,” Bo recalled. “Woody and Gillman were totally different. Woody was a brutal task master. But something just clicked between us and I ended up spending almost as much time with him as his coaches. He’d call me to play racquetball at all hours of the day or night or we’d spend hours looking at film. He was consumed by football, and I think he recognized the same trait in me.”

After Bo graduated from Miami, Woody Hayes took over the Ohio State program and Bo followed him as a graduate assistant for one season before doing his time in the army. His army term was followed by stints at Presbyterian College, Bowling Green, and Northwestern under legendary coach Ara Parseghian. Finally, in 1958, Woody had a spot open on his staff and brought Bo back to Columbus.

“I learned so much as Woody’s assistant.” Bo explained. “I was like a sponge. I tried to absorb everything I could about how to organize and run a major program. Working with Woody certainly wasn’t always easy, but it was an amazing learning experience. Those five years at Ohio State really cemented my relationship with Woody. In 1963, Miami was looking for a new coach and I told Woody I was going after it. He told me I couldn’t leave because he would only coach for a few more seasons and then I would take over at Ohio State. Well, I really wanted the Ohio State job, but I knew Woody wasn’t going anywhere soon. And I also knew that Woody wouldn’t be able to just name his successor. So I went to talk to Dick Larkins, the Ohio State athletic director, and told him that Miami had offered me the job. He just said, ‘You’d better win.’ He knew that I wanted the Ohio State job and that this might be an opportunity to prove myself. But things didn’t quite work out that way.”


In addition to the above articles, the book contains:
  • An extensive preview of the team, position-by-position, player by player, by moi.
  • SMQB breaks down each of our opponents except ND and OSU, because...
  • said opponents are covered in their own full fledged articles by Tom Orr and Brian Stouffer.
  • Peter Bean's article on Mallett complete with comparisons to Paul Bunyan by local talent evaluators.
  • Ten recruits you should know.
  • Dave from Maize 'n' Brew's recap of the Henne era to date.
  • Two ridiculously researched articles from Vijay and Michael; Vijay compares DeBord to Malone and finds evidence for the infamous "scoring offense" while Michael takes a look at the correlation between Michigan's experience and its on-field success.
  • Christopher P. Anderson on Jim Harbaugh's rapid rise to the Stanford HC position, complete with speculation about whether he'll be the new HC here. Yes, written before his multiple outbursts. Still a great article.
  • Russ Levine on Lloyd Carr.
  • Joel has a second article, this one on the 1973 voting controversy that jacked Michigan out of the Rose Bowl.
  • Lots of pretty pictures. Seriously, it's a gorgeous book.
You are probably asking yourself "just six easy payments of 19.95"? And, like, no way, man. That is way too much for a book. You have no idea how much books are supposed to cost. It is way less than that. You can find it at Maple Street's online store or (probably) anywhere fine football publications are sold. Sometimes people ask how they can help out this blogging endeavor; this would be a good way.


yao said...

why do you use the players' names in the descriptions, but label the diagrams with positions? it's hard for me to remember all of ND's player's names... it would help if you stayed consistent from description to diagram.

is this the first of an annual publication? do you sell autographed copies???

Michael said...

Sweet, I'm putting my pre-order in with Amazon. When is the release date?