Trench Report: Grading the offensive line vs Minnesota

The trench report gives an overview of the offensive line play during the most recent game.  The top performer gets the Golden Sled, a fictitious award that I give with impunity.  This award goes to the lineman that scores the best on my grading system.

Since I have no idea what they are taught or what the goals of each play are, I am going to go based on what they did and the result.  Each player can get a 1 - 4 grade:

1 - Huge play block.  
This block led to a score directly or a game changing play for the good guys.  1’s are rare, but if they are not rare then you are winning championships.

2 - Mission accomplished.
This block was solid, the block-ee was not part of the play and the technique looked solid. This is a winning level score.  If a lineman averages close to or better than 2, then they dominated..

3. Mission Barely Accomplished.  
The play was ok, but this block didn’t help, or in some cases may have hurt the play.  Or not even been a block.  The closer to 3 a line averages, the less likely they were to have a good offensive day.

4. Fail.
This led to a terrible turn of events, killed a drive, lead to points or ended in a penalty. Averages around 4 will most likely lead to losses.

Players should be aiming for below a 2.25 grade.   That is a consistently high grade that tends to avoid terrible plays (4’s).  Since I don’t give individual grades for technique, start and finish, this is just a general feel of each play. If I knew what play was called and what the goal of each position was, I would do the more accurate 3 part grade.

Team Goals:

2 > : A

2.01 - 2.25: B

2.26 - 2.5: C

2.51 - 3.0: D

3.01 < : F

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Week 1 - Thursday, September 1, 2015.

Final: 30 - 23 (L)

Total Line Grade: 2.72 (D)

Golden Sled Award Winner:

Gavin Andrews : 2.58

Gavin was almost a full .2 higher than the next closest player.  Gavin Andrews was the most consistent player without too many highs but also avoided most of the lows.  He only had one 4 grade and the rest were between 2 and 3.5.  Like the rest of the line, Gavin still has some things to work on and improve on, but he was noticeably the most consistent of the group.  His grade is still a D, but he is close to a C.

Best Play Award Winner:

Dustin Stanton

On a screen in the first touchdown drive of the first quarter, there was a defender in perfect position to blow up the play. Dustin came flying in and laid out to almost fully horizontal on a flying block that not only crushed the defender and sprung Ryan Nall for a huge gain, but was also the most WWF moment of the day.


We all saw the game. The line did not play well. Most games should only have two or three 4 grades for the whole line. The last play alone had 5 fours because  it looked like they just gave up.  The Minnesota defender easily split the double team on the inside and everyone was just standing around watching Garretson run for his life while he basically threw it away on a pass that wouldn’t have gotten them the first down anyway.  The 3 hours before that lead to that play had lots of missed assignments, blown blocks, whiffs, and gave the impression that our offensive line was not ready for their physical play or ready for our own playbook at times.

I expected Yanni and Blake to have some struggles, but there were times where they looked like they were not physically ready for the challenge. There were other times that I wanted to give a veteran a bad grade, but I couldn’t tell if they were just playing badly, or trying to cover for a teammate who had messed up.  In most cases I gave them both bad grades.  

I have now watched about 9 hours of this game. In that 9 hours I realized that a bye week could not come soon enough.  They need a lot of work on their communication and on some basic techniques like their combo blocks and recognizing twist stunts.  I was worried about the line and my fears were realized worse than I thought. Had it just been Blake and Yanni, that makes sense since it was their first action of any real kind. But to have veterans have the same issues was rough to see. Losing an NFL starter and a guy like Josh Mitchell was not going to be easy to replace.  But we need the vets right now to step up and this last game was a struggle.

My guess is that ISU will be a blow out and the grades will be closer to the 2.25 you want for a winning program.  If we are still looking at 2.7’s and 2.8’s, where the effort is BARELY above a losing effort, we are going to see the same results. Only worse because the offenses we play won’t be so bad and most teams won’t lose 4 starters on their defense to targeting penalties and injuries. Make no mistake, Minnesota probably has the 3rd best defensive line we will play all season long.  This was a tough task for team and there were going to be bumps. Hopefully when we start playing a little bit slower, smaller and worse defensive fronts, our line can work out its kinks and get on track for the Stanfords, Utah’s, UW’s and UCLA’s we still have to play.

I expect that we will see huge changes in the weeks to come as the coaches now know a bit of what they have and where they need to go. If they can clean up the mental issues, there is no reason that the next few weeks cannot see a team average closer to B level than D.

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