Hassan Haskins had 28 carries for 169 yards and averaged 6 yards per rush. As a team, the Wolverines rushed 41 times for 297 yards, and averaged 7.2 yards per rush. That attack kept the explosive Buckeye offense off the field by using four basic run schemes.
Let’s break them down:
1. Counter gap scheme
The counter gap scheme allows for big double-teams and great angles for the front side of the offensive line, and allows for multiple players to pull around from the backside.
The first puller will “kick out” or “log” the last person on the line of scrimmage. The term “log” refers to blocking the last man inside.
The second puller will read the first puller and adjust his block accordingly. If the first puller “kicks out” the last man on the line, the second puller goes inside. If the first puller “logs” the second puller will pull around the outside.
There are many variations, but the foundation of the run never changes.
Below is a sample clip of a gap scheme that Michigan used frequently last year against Ohio State.
The right side of the Wolverines’ line will block down and get to the No. 2 linebacker. Left guard Trevor Keegan will pull and kick out the defensive end. Tight end Luke Schoonmaker will get inside the kickout to the No. 1 linebacker.
Throughout the game, Michigan would pull different people based on the front of the Buckeyes. The Wolverines’ strength allowed them to adapt easily.
Below is an end-zone view illustrating an adjustment made by the Wolverines on their gap scheme to take advantage of the well-coached Buckeyes.
As right tackle Andrew Steuber blocks down, Buckeye defensive end Tyreke Smith will close hard inside, instead of going up field. Keegan’s football IQ lets him understand that Smith is too far inside and lets him go, becoming an extra blocker for Haskins. He and the second puller, Erick All, lead the way for an easy 14-yard touchdown.
Additionally, putting the big tight end Schoonmaker at the receiver to block the small corner, assists with the score. The video clip below the pictures shows the same play from the sideline view.
2. Iso scheme
This scheme allows the offensive line to block one-on-one, with one double-team at the point of attack to the first linebacker in the box.
It also allows the fullback or tight end to isolate on the second linebacker in the box.
This scheme gives the offensive line a chance to really get off the football and play physically since the Buckeye linebackers did not move forward, making them easy targets.
Below is a look at the iso play that Michigan had great success with in the 2021 matchup. The entire offensive line blocks the man in front of them, except the center and the left guard, Keegan.
Those two will “ace” double-team block the 2i technique (inside eye of the guard) to the No. 1 linebacker in the box.
On the weak side, tight end Schoonmaker will wrap inside to the A-gap and isolate or “iso” block the the No. 2 linebacker.
The last picture is a diagram of this same play. Michigan used formations and motions to create the look they wanted on this and all other runs.
3. Outside Zone scheme
The outside zone allows the offensive line to create both horizontal and vertical holes on a defensive front. The movement creates lanes and allows the runner a choice on where he wants to go.
The center and guards will double-team defensive tackles to the first and second linebackers in the box.
Against Ohio State, the Michigan offensive line was able to use its feet, technique, and strength to control the defensive linemen and get to the linebackers. Again, there are adjustments to this scheme, but the foundation does not change.
Below is a look at a classic outside zone from the Wolverines.
The left tackle will block the defensive end out. The left guard and center will “ace” double team to the No. 1 linebacker. The backside right guard and right tackle will “deuce” double team to the No. 2 linebacker.
The backside tight end and receiver will run a curl/flat combination to create an RPO (run-pass-option) for the quarterback. On this particular play, Corum gets the ball for a big 55-yard gain. The video clip below the pictures shows the same play from the sideline view.
Here is another variation of the outside zone.
Michigan used it down by the goal line against the Buckeyes to get to the edge. The only difference in a goal-line outside zone is the lack of double-teams because there are more defenders on the line of scrimmage.
Michigan does a great job of sealing the Buckeyes inside on the particular touchdown run from Haskins.
The video clip below the pictures shows the same play from the sideline view.
The wedge scheme has been around since the start of football.
In this scheme, every offensive lineman will step with the foot that is closest to the center. They will protect their inside gap and literally create a wedge for the running back to follow.
In order to be successful, this scheme requires both size and toughness from the offensive linemen. In last year’s matchup, Michigan used this successfully on short-yardage plays and goal-line situations against the Buckeyes.
Below is an example of the simple wedge scheme that resulted in a short touchdown run by the Wolverines. The video clip below the pictures shows the same play from the end-zone view.
How can things be different for the Buckeyes this year
Jim Knowles has brought in an aggressive defensive philosophy that has changed the culture on that side of the football for the Buckeyes. On film, Ohio State’s defense gets lined up properly, plays with great fundamentals and techniques, and consistently has solid run fits. Ohio State uses a 4-2-5 scheme with three safeties on the field almost at all times. This multiple safety look, along with multiple defensive fronts, allows the Buckeyes to disguise their defense and be the aggressor.
This new scheme could cause confusion for the experienced offensive line of the Wolverines. Showing different fronts, blitzes, simulated blitzes, movement, stunts, and coverages will change the blocking rules up front for Michigan, and possibly lead to missed assignments and mental errors. The athleticism of the three safeties gives the Buckeyes excellent run support at the second level, which will be needed against Corum, Edwards, and McCarthy.
All that being said, defensive football comes down to winning your individual battles and running to the football, something Ohio State did not do in 2021.
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