Big Dan (& Co.) vs. Indiana: Grading the OL

rockford

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The Gophers are pinned on their own 1-yard line with three minutes left in the half. We're gonna run Brooks up the middle to gain a little breathing room. On the right side of the line, T Daniel Faalele opens with a quick jab step to command the inside lane and be in position to counter an outside rush. But the DE counters by jabbing to the same side and exploding around the edge. Big Dan reaches out and loses contact …

This was an important play on what was a vital drive, where we drove the length of the field to go up 21-9 at the half. It was also among a handful of plays that beautifully illustrate the battles along the line of scrimmage that shape the game.

The Hoosiers were anticipating the run and had eight men in the box with a ninth dancing nervously on the edge. Just inside Faalele's postion, G Blaise Andries executed a solid double-team block with C Jared Weyler, chilling a defensive tackle on the line. But Andries alertly saw a linebacker blitzing free on his outside. He slid off the defensive lineman and engaged the LB at the line of scrimmage and took him five yards downfield … and was still pushing him around at the whistle.

A week or so ago, Coach PJ Fleck joked that at 6-foot-9, 400 lbs., Faalele is so big that even if he makes a mistake, it takes defenders so long to run around him that he can still be effective. This play showed it was more than a joke.

Faalele reached out and got a hand on the DE and forced him outside, but the DE was quick enough to run a lap all the way around Faalele and get in on the tackle … after a 2-yard gain.

On the next play, WR Tyler Johnson somehow managed to make his cut into a post route at what appeared to be top speed. QB Tanner Morgan hit him in stride and Johnson was off on a 52-yard sprint.

Then LG Connor Olson contributed his best play of the first half. The defensive tackle across from him got an impressive jump on an outside move. Olson not only stops him in his tracks, but catches sight of the defensive end looping around to the inside. Olson instantly hands off his man to T Donnell Greene and drills the end, using his momentum to take the end well past the hole.

Greene is left at a disadvantage because the DT already has inside postion. He engages with the crashing tackle, but the tackle still manages to get an arm on Brooks as he hits the hole … and Brooks runs through it for a 4-yard gain.

This is the third consecutive game I've re-watched (several times) in order to concentrate on our offensive line. I started just focusing on Faalele, then last week expanded to keep an eye on Andries, as well. This week, I added the third underclassman on the line, Olson. To be honest, Olson had caught my attention on a few plays in previous weeks, but not in a good way. (You've probably heard the old adage that the only time you notice an offensive lineman is when he screws up.) But since that's no way to evaluate a lineman …

I'm glad I added Olson to the “watch” list. Turns out he was the most effective of the three through the first half against Indiana. Here are my first-half scores:

Olson – 86% run blocking, 93% pass blocking
Faalele – 79% run blocking, 93% pass blocking
Andries – 86% run blocking, 86% pass blocking

I think this provides a glimpse of the impact Brooks brought to the running game. We were effective on the ground even though three of our linemen had low to middling performances run blocking.

More later.

JTG
 

Walter323

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Have you went back to grade the games before big Dan played?
Has everybody’s played better since his arrival ?
 

rockford

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Didn't grade the games before Faalele was installed at RT. So can't confirm that "everybody has played better" since his arrival, but I'd be skeptical of that statement anyway.

By most accounts, C Weyler is having a solid season. (I believe some had him on a half-season all-conference list.)

After watching Andries for two straight games, I'm not inclined to believe he was struggling before Faalele. Dude is solid.

Faalele so far has been very good, not great. Above average, but his physical attributes mean he potentially has a very high ceiling.

Olson was the one of the three I was, well, if not "concerned" about, at least most unsure about. Turns out he was the best of the three (by a slight margin) in the first half against Indiana.

I suspect the thing with Olson is that he doesn't appear to be as physically imposing as Faalele and Andries. He gets the job done, but he has to work harder to be effective.

Point is, I really like the direction the OL is headed in.

JTG
 

matt

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Thanks rockford. Your analyses have been interesting reads the last few weeks.
 

Livingat45north

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Thanks Rock. Have you noticed a trend as to when they miss a block, such as it is more common on first down versus third down?
 

rockford

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Thank you, folks. Glad you enjoy the bit.

Thanks Rock. Have you noticed a trend as to when they miss a block, such as it is more common on first down versus third down?
I tossed my notes from previous games, but in this one the misses seem to be evenly distributed. There may be slightly more misses on first down, but then you typically have more first downs than any other down, so it doesn't mean anything statistically.

I'm midway through the third quarter now, and it strikes me that the results of the OL play in this game were much more ambiguous than the last two I watched. I'm seeing more plays where I have to debate myself, "Is that a 1 or a 0?"

Andries is looking a bit more like a freshman, a little hesitant at times. When he goes after a man, there ain't much a guy can do about it. When he has to think, he's a little more vulnerable -- although technically he seems very sound. In other words, better than what you'd expect from a freshman playing only his second year of football. When he gets to the point where he's comfortable knowing he's just going to blow somebody up, he's going to be very entertaining to watch.

JTG
 

WorkingMyTailOff

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Thank you Rockford. Wondering what your thoughts are on Greene. I know he had a bad game earlier (Maryland maybe), but I think he and Weyler are both pretty legit players.
 

rockford

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I haven't focused much on Greene. The little bit I have noticed is good. He appears to have a bit of a temper or mean streak, which is not necessarily a bad thing in a lineman. In addition to the personal fouls he's been flagged for, I've noticed a couple other things that could have been flagged but weren't. I think there was a play where Andries threw his arms around Greene and walked him away from a brewing altercation (which says a lot about Andries).

I also haven't watched much of Weyler, but I see him doing some good stuff in conjunction with both guards. Again, Andries seems to be particularly effective in working double-teams with Weyler. And as I mentioned earlier, I believe someone had Weyler on a half-season all-conference team, so that says something.

JTG
 

hungan1

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Thanks Rockford. That was great analysis. All numbers aside, I think inserting Faalele did something to improve the self confidence and line play.

It is so interesting how much the presence of a Rodney Smith or a Shannon Brooks does to the opposing defense. In the same manner, Antoine Winfield in opposing offense.

You need these impact players because it changes the complexion of game planning by opponents. I am hoping that whoever replaces Jared Weyler can match or exceed his knowledge and skills.

The Offensive Line has been improving ever so slowly and this experience will pay dividends.

It is just hard to be a long suffering fan because sometimes it is difficult to be patient.
 

rockford

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It is just hard to be a long suffering fan because sometimes it is difficult to be patient.
That's partly why I started this nonsense! It appeared the Gophs weren't going to have quite as good of a season as I'd hoped, so I thought I'd focus on Faalele and see what kind of impact he has ... and may have in the future. And once you start going down that route, it made sense to keep an eye on the other underclassmen on the line, Andries and Olson.

If we stay healthy, this offense should be a force to be reckoned with next year ... maybe even by the end of this season.

JTG
 

rockford

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The run blocking by our three guys got a little uneven in the second half. The good news is that the miscues didn't fuel the fourth-quarter fiasco. For the most part, our guys calmly went about their jobs while the house burst into flames.

All three pass blocked at 93% for the half.

Faalele was the top run blocker at 89%, followed by Olson at 84% and Andries at 79%.

There were a handful of unusual occurrences, including a couple outright whiffs. I don't know whether to blame it on the weather, or playing down to the competition, or mental lapses, or what.

So then, for the game:
• Faalele 85% run blocking, 92% pass blocking.
• Andries 82% run blocking, 88% pass blocking.
• Olson 85% run blocking, 92% pass blocking.

I expect this to be a subpar performances for Andries. He definitely performed better the last two games.

Season totals - Run blocking
• Faalele - 86% - 91% - 85%
• Andries - x - 100% - 82%
• Olson - x - x - 85%

Season totals - Pass blocking
• Faalele - 85% - 93% - 93%
• Andries - x - 91% - 88%
• Olson - x - x - 92%

After watching these guys rather closely for the last three games, I think we can feel pretty good about our offensive line for the next several years. It's not yet a dominant unit, but it has the ingredients to become one. The size and mobility of these guys appear to be (if you'll pardon the expression) elite. Pass blocking has been particularly solid lately (and it appears they won't be challenged much in this department by Illinois; the Illini have just 12 sacks -- two fewer than us). The group seems to communicate and work together well, and (particularly against Indiana) there seem to be few occurrences where the scheme left anyone overly exposed. Run blocking, it's a rare occasion when these guys don't get movement up front. When Faalele and Andries block down, most of the defensive line tends to go with them.

JTG
 
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