Category Archives: Trench Report

Trench Report: Stanford

WEEK 1:  Weber State
Top Grade Average: 2.95, Isaac Seumalo
Team Grade Average: 3.03

WEEK 2.  Michigan
Top Grade Average: 2.84, Josh Mitchell
Team Grade Average: 2.97

WEEK 3.  San Jose State
Top Grade Average: 2.78, Isaac Seumlo
Team Grade Average: 2.86

WEEK 4.  Stanford
Top Grade Average: 2.89 Isaac Seumlo
Team Grade Average: 2.92

Click here to view the rating system rules.

Week overview:
In recent years, games against Stanford have been tough for the five men up front. Our offensive line has been asked to zone block the best front seven in the conference, and usually with limited success. In the last two years, we have rushed for 17 (2013) and 12 (2014) yards in the whole game against Stanford. Much of the damage was due to 16 sacks in those two games for -111 yards.

Last week, in back and forth battle, against Stanford, the Beavers were able to do something they haven’t done in years: Rush for 100 yards against Stanford.

The Beavers gained 111 rushing yards, and only gave up one sack. Now while Stanford was kind of thin, missing a key starter in Kevin Anderson, it was still the Beavers’ best effort against the Cardinal in a long time. It also was an example of how far they have come this season.

I read a lot of people maligning Oregon State’s offensive line.  While I don’t know everything, I do feel like I have a pretty decent grasp on aspects of offensive line play. One of the big ones is no matter what happens, if a play fails, you will be blamed. Even if all five linemen are blocking great, a tight end could miss his block, a running back could miss his block, a runner could hit the wrong hole or cut into traffic instead of trusting his blockers.

A good example of this would be the second play of the game against Stanford. Below is a link to the play. I have paused it at various points so you can see the progression of the play.

Trench Report: Bad Cut

The first part of the play shows the line locking onto their defenders with Fred Lauina (64) and Josh Mitchell (50) doubling on the defensive tackle in front of them. When Storm Barrs-Woods gets the ball, Mitchell and Lauina are driving their guy toward the sideline and Isaac Seumalo (56) and Dustin Stanton (74) are working on their tackle. So you have four on two at the point of the hand off. You also have Kellen Clute (83) running up to block the inside backer.

Mitchell comes off his double with Lauina and picks up the other backer.  at the point that Barrs-Woods has to decide where to go. All of his blockers have created a lane up the middle, blocking the front five defenders (with Sean Harlow, No. 77, isolating his defender as well).  Unfortunately, Barrs-Woods cuts outside. At this point he is on his own because there is a defensive end in space behind him, and all of the defenders on the right side of the line who are blocking are actually being blocked towards him. There is also a safety or linebacker coming up outside. Because of the drive up the middle and the combo block by Stanton and Seumalo, Storm used their push and his own hard running to get three yards. But had he trusted his blocking, he had five blockers working on five defenders and could have had a much bigger gain.

So you don’t think I am throwing Storm Barrs-Woods under the bus, below is a play where he does the right thing. He cuts back behind the butt of the blocker and gets a big gain:

Trench Report: Good Cut

Trench Report: Good Cut (Second Angle)

If you watch this, he reads the direction of his blocks while Lauina, Mitchell, and Seumalo push their defenders out of the way. While OSU does drive Stanford back a lot this game, the big key to the game is that they push them out of the way, sometimes horizontally, and it opens these lanes in traffic. Once Storm gets free, he carries two Stanford defenders for a few more yards and turns a short yardage play into a double-digit gain.

Both of these plays were blocked very well, the difference was the back trusting his blockers.

What the Heck?
This was a well blocked game. There were struggles in other areas, but players such as Lauina and Harlow really made huge strides. From guard to guard, OSU has been stout for a few weeks, but I felt like this game the tackles took a big step forward.

So with that, my “What the Heck” moment is for the  bane of all offensive linemen’s existence.

Holding.

Late in the game, when OSU was trying to catch up, Seth Collins had an amazing run to put the Beavers in scoring position with a chance to trim the lead to two scores. While still a long shot, the Beavers never quit. Unfortunately, two defenders basically jump on Josh Mitchell and bring him to the ground. This for some unknown reason causes the officials to decide it was holding.  Not only was it not holding, it also had no bearing on the play as Seth was running away at that point and those guys had no chance at catching him.

Fortunately for the Beavers, they got their revenge on the next play, as they repeatedly drove the Stanford defender into the ground.  Unfortunately for the Beavers, that was a bitter sweet victory because they did not score and lost the game. It did make a fun video clip to watch though.

Holding sucks. It is a judgement call by the refs and while it could be called every play, it isn’t.  When it is called, it is usually overturning a great effort by the ball carriers. So boo phantom holds… unless they help the Beavers!

C’mon, you all know I am no objective on these things…

Go Beavs (PRO)

Trench Report: San Jose State

WEEK 1:  Weber State
Top Grade Average: 2.95, Isaac Seumalo
Team Grade Average: 3.03

WEEK 2.  Michigan
Top Grade Average: 2.84, Josh Mitchell
Team Grade Average: 2.97

WEEK 2.  San Jose State
Top Grade Average: 2.78, Isaac Seumlo
Team Grade Average: 2.86

Click here to view the rating system rules.

Week overview: Lets not get ahead of ourselves. There is a HUGE difference between San Jose State’s and Michigan’s defensive fronts.  That being said, we have seen a lot of suspect line play against FCS or non-Power 5 conference opponents.  What we saw Saturday was what we should expect.  There were only 5 grades of 4 this game, versus 12 last week, and we had our first grade below a 2 all year (Isaac Seumalo on a combo bock with a pancake on a backer to boot!).  OSU should have dominated the lines of scrimmage this game and the offensive linemen did just that. I we grade a 2.78 Friday, we will be very happy with the offensive results.

It was also good to see Clarkson get in every other series as well. While he had a few mental mistakes here and there, he shows great finish on his blocks and did a good job of moving guys around.  He is a powerful player with a low base who will be a good player for us in the near future.  I also was happy to see how well Isaac was running around on pulling plays.  Overall, certain skills were much improved.  Our reach blocking on the edges and pulling paths were much improved and there were a lot fewer linemen in space blocking air.

The best play of the day was the Storm Barrs-Woods run to start the second drive of the third quarter.  Not only was it a nice 28 yard run, but it was the line doing things right.  Both tackles were driving their guys to the sidelines, Mitchell and Isaac had a combo block as the hole was supposed to be to the left. They did such a good job, as did Stanton clearing out the edge, that when Storm came to the hole, he did a quick fake the left to seal the combo blocks and then took off to the right and had a whole bunch of green in front of him. The defense fought against the combo block as the interior three linemen had been getting to the second level with ease all game long. Similar to a fisherman setting a hook, Barrs-Woods used a quick cut to get the defenders momentum going left before breaking right. That was just enough to fly through the hole untouched and make the biggest play of the game.

What the Heck?
There were not a lot of What the Heck? moments this weekend.  The biggest one is just seeing how many teams in the Pac-12 North have serious offensive line issues.  Washington had a lot of struggles on the edges against Utah State, especially with their receiver blocking. Even though by and large they were bigger and faster than all of Utah State’s team, they still struggled.

USC looked pretty pedestrian up front, though the Stanford front seven is partly to blame.  The Trojan front five were very athletic in space, but not a lot of violence or aggression in the trenches.  The ducks also have some serious issues along their line, especially on the right side. Georgia State was able to  get quite a bit of pressure most of the game.

This Friday will be interesting.  I think that Stanford’s offensive line is better than Michigan’s.  I felt like Michigan didn’t really get going until our offense failed and they didn’t have to bother passing on any downs because of their lead. I think Stanford’s defensive front, especially without Anderson, are going to be a bit worse than Michigan’s.

As young as OSU is, there is always hope that each week will be much better than the last.  If they can improve over last week, and especially over the Michigan game two weeks ago, I think they will surprise some people.  If Stanford comes out and can get pressure rushing four players, we are going to have a long day.

My What the Heck is an overall condemnation of offensive lines in our conference.

Go Beavs (PRO)

Trench Report: Michigan

So this year I am going to try grade the offensive line for each game. In most cases, a group of five players can get dicey. You can have four guys playing great, and then one blows it and makes them all look bad. So I wanted to use the grading system that I know to not grade their performance, but also to give a shout out to the guys who are consistently getting it done.

GRADES:
The grading system is simple:

1 – The block led to a touchdown or huge game-changing play.
2 – The block was exceptional and led to domination over their opponent.
3 – The block was the bare minimum to make the play work. He did his job, but not in a way that dominated the opponent. So basically, an average to poor block.
4 – This play was a negative game-changer. A hold or other penalty, giving up a bad sack, or whiffing on a player that makes a huge play. No bueno.

An average grade of 2.5 is the goal. You want to dominate your opponent and help all plays work. An average of 3+ means you did OK, and didn’t necessarily hurt the team, but didn’t help a lot either. An average of 3.5 means you got worked most of the game, which probably contributed to a loss.

A team average of below 3 means your team most likely won the game. A team average of below 2.5 and you definitely won — and won big. A team average of above 3 means you might have won, but there is a lot of work to do.

WEEK 1:  Weber State
Top Grade Average: 2.95, Isaac Seumalo
Team Grade Average: 3.03

WEEK 2.  Michigan
Top Grade Average: 2.84, Josh Mitchell
Team Grade Average: 2.97

Week overview: This makes the game hurt more. There was some really good line play. There were 21 2.5 grades and 17 2.0 grades. I never give 2.0s unless big plays are sprung, but the fact is there were some really good blocks out there — lots of great blocks on the second level and lots of great blocks driving guys to the ground at the line of scrimmage, especially by Josh Mitchell.

If I had to give a most improved award, outside of Josh, it would be Fred Lauina. He really moved well in space and had some good blocks. The problem in this game, among many others, was there were 12 plays that earned “4” grades. When you have only 53 plays (56 including penalties) that is almost a fifth of your plays, and 1/5th of the plays had errors that led to sacks, killed important 3rd or fourth down plays, or had costly penalties.

Here is an example:
Early in the game, OSU goes for it on 4th and 7 and runs a receiver screen play, where Jordan Villamin ran underneath the other two wide receivers (it was a trips formation) and caught the ball on his way to the first down. Now everyone (announcers, fans, etc.) got on Villamin’s case about not veering to the sideline on this play. That play was pretty fast and while the throw wasn’t perfect, it was good enough that he MIGHT have been able to angle toward the sideline better. But the play is designed to go inside (towards the center) and that path would have been an exception to how they want it ran.

Unfortunately, that is not what killed the play. What killed the play was the guard not looking inside out to who to block. He was looking to the side where all the other blockers were. Had he looked inside sooner, he would have had a chance to block the first guy in, and Villamin would have had enough cushion to make the first down.

That was a huge play and it is a very, very simple fix to make it more successful in the future.

Ultimately, that is what I saw. A lot of plays where you had a great combo block, and then one missed block by a tight end or a whiff block on a guy, when everyone else is pushing their guys around. There were still too many bad angles by ball carriers, especially on fly sweeps, but overall, there was some really good blocking that was not represented in the final statistics.

Hopefully, they can clean this up, because the first half should have been much more competitive and the Beavers should’ve scored more points. There was a lot of good stuff by the front five that was negated by mistakes, bad reads, drops, or types of decisions that young players make. If OSU gets a 2.9 or lower this next week, it will blow San Jose out.  If the Beavers get below a 2.9 against Stanford, it should be a win for them.  Every week, we are finding new mistakes and every week some of those are getting corrected. Watching the line again gave me more hope than I thought. Our offense line was easily a match for their defensive front.  There were just too many little mental errors to overcome.

What the Heck?
Let’s not just assume the line messed up, OK?  I have read a lot of that, but the reality is even the team graded some linemen as the top offensive performers for any position. When I watched the game again, I realized how close OSU was on a lot of plays. When we just throw out blanket statements about the line, in many cases, we are blaming the wrong people. Running backs, tight ends, H-backs, and the like all contribute to how a play is blocked. Quarterbacks do as well. it serves them no purpose to sit and watch the play, when they could sprint away like they have the ball or drop back like they are going to pass.

What happened in Michigan was the result of a lot of mental errors leading to stalled drives.  The line cannot decide if the defensive keys on, say, a hand off to the running back or keeps focused on a read option. The line cannot block eight people with five. The line cannot catch the ball or throw the ball. Ultimately, the effort and ability of this line was good enough to put a lot more points on the board than the Beavers did. They graded out below a 3.0, meaning by and large, they did what it took to at least make the play run. Usually, when you can get all 5 guys playing at that level, you win a lot of games. I have more hope for this team today than I did several days ago because I realized that the line made huge gains against a much more talented opponent.  That is good for OSU football. Go Beavs! (PRO)

Trench Report – Weber State

So this year I am going to try and do a grade for the offensive line.  In most cases, a group of 5 can get dicey.  You can have four guys playing great and then one blows it and makes them all look bad.  So I wanted to use the grading system I know to grade their performance but also to try and give a shout out to the guys that are consistently getting it done.

GRADES:
The grading system is simple:

1 – The block led to a touchdown or huge game changing play.
2 – The block was exceptional and showed domination over their opponent.
3 – The block was the bare minimum to make the play work.  You did your job, but not in a way that dominated the opponent. An average to poor block.
4 – This play was a negative game changer.  A hold or other penalty, giving up a bad sack, whiffing on a player that makes a huge play.  No bueno.

An average of 2.5 is the goal.  You want to be dominant over your opponent and have all plays work.  An average of above 3 means you did ok, and didn’t necessarily hurt the team, but didn’t help a ton either.  An average of 3.5 means you got worked most of the game and probably leads to a loss.

A team average of below 3 means you most likely won the game.  A team average of below 2.5 and you definitely won and won big. A team average of above 3 means you may have won, but there is a lot of work to do.

WEEK 1.  Weber State
Top Grade Average: 2.95, Isaac Seumalo
Team Grade Average: 3.03

Overview: For the most part, the line did ok.  Lots of mistakes, and not a lot of push. There were plays that looked worse than they were, and plays that looked better than they should have been.

The one that sticks out to me the most is the 4th and inches in the first quarter.  The blocking actually wasn’t bad. It was an unbalanced front, with two tackles on the top of the screen.  From the inside tackle away from the play, everyone was supposed to block down.  The pulling guard was supposed to pull and lead up the hole, while the outside tackle play side blocked down and the full back blocked out.  There was a lane to the outside, but the tackle missed his guy, so the pulling guard had to get him.  That left the player the guard was supposed to get free to blow up the play.  The running back also should have aimed outside a bit more, but cut it right off the butt of the inside tackle.

It looked bad, but it was actually well blocked except for the most important part, the seal by the outside tackle.

So in that case, I gave him a four, and everyone else got 3’s except the pulling guard who got a 2.5 for getting to the hole, cutting up and blocking someone.

What the Heck?
As a former offensive lineman, sometimes I see scheme things that leave me scratching my rapidly balding head.  In this case, the play is the fly sweep.  Someone may know this, but why in the world would you pull the backside guard on a fly/Jet Sweep?  I assume it must be setting something else up, but that player is literally never going to make a meaningful block because the ball carrier is going full speed. If Fred Lauina is catching the ball carrier, then we need to find new ball carriers.  No offense to Fred, but the play is meant to have one player on the field going full speed to the play side. This messes up angles by the defense and allows for easier blocking at the edge.  Especially if you are running a ‘red light’ sweep.

Anyway, that one had me shaking my head, but if someone wants to comment on why you would do it, I would love to hear it!