Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

RichRod Learns from Pop Warner

September 25, 2010

Watching Michigan playing Bowling Green today, I saw a formation that looked familiar. In that formation, Michigan’s backs were all in the backfield, arranged almost in a box. Any of the four backs could receive a direct snap from center, at least in theory. It wasn’t the only formation I saw RichRod use in the game and probably isn’t his primary formation. However, he did use it for multiple plays and for sizeable gains. After a few moments’ thought, I remembered where I had seen a similar formation before. I could be wrong about his formation due to not having a diagram of it, but it sure looked familiar on TV.

Page 113 of Pop Warner’s 1912 book, A Course in Football for Players and Coaches, begins a discussion of Warner’s Open Pass Direct Pass Formation (see bottom of this message). The diagram for this century-old offensive scheme is a bit different than the one RichRod uses but provides the foundation upon which his is based. Both offenses feature direct snaps to multiple backs as well as both pass and run plays from the same position in the formation.

A difference between the formations appears to be that Rodriguez moves backs 1 and 2 to behind the tackles where Warner had them behind the guards. One assumes that the wider position helps make backs 1 and 2 more effective blockers for off-tackle plays and end runs. They might even assist with protecting the passer. Warner included a note stating that experience showed that moving the ends closer to the tackles had proved more effective in blocking the defensive tackles than having them set wide as shown in his diagrams.

A difference between Warner’s plays and those used today is that today centers lob the ball back, generally to the quarterback, where Warner’s centers often led the back receiving the snap. Warner’s scheme requires highly skilled centers but gives the offense advantages over those in which the back receiving the center snap stands flatfooted waiting for the ball to arrive.

Carlisle’s First All-America Selections

July 23, 2009

While researching the 1905 Carlisle-Massillon game for an article in an upcoming issue of the Professional Football Researchers Association’s (PFRA) journal, The Coffin Corner, I came across a statement in the late Robert W. Peterson’s Pigskin: the early years of pro football that caught my eye. Of course it has nothing to do with the article but it made me curious.

Peterson wrote, “It was not sectional chauvinism at work when 129 out of 132 All-American berths between 1889 and 1900 were filled by players from those four schools [Harvard, Yale, Princeton & Penn]. The best players were really there.” I recalled that Carlisle’s first Walter Camp first team All-American was Isaac Seneca in 1899. If Peterson was accurate, that would put Seneca and the Carlisle program at a lofty level.

The Walter Camp website lists all of his All-America teams beginning in 1892 when he created the concept of such a team. Sure enough, all the players named were from the Big Four until 1895 when Cornell’s Clinton R. Wyckoff was named to the team. The next non-Big Four player to be named was Clarence B. Herschberger of Chicago in 1898. Seneca became the third in 1899. The fourth was William Morley of Columbia in 1900. Whether Peterson was right depends on the meaning of between. Does between include the 1900 team?

Things changed a lot in 1901 when four outsiders were selected: two from Army, one from Cornell (Pop Warner’s younger brother) and one from Columbia. In 1902, Paul B. Bunker of Army, a repeat from the previous year, was the only non-Big Four player on the list. And in 1903, Carlisle had its second All-American in the person of James Johnson. H. J. Hopper of Dartmouth, Willie Heston of Michigan, and Richard Smith of Columbia were also on that team.

Here’s a question? Did Carlisle have a first Team All-American before any Big Ten school had one? (Disregard when schools entered and left the Big Ten for this question.)