Jim Harbaugh is unique. And this formation Harbaugh had Michigan stand in at times in 2016 was, well, unique:
That right there is what we call the Wolverine Centipede. Michigan’s coaches don’t call it that -- they call it “trains” — but we’re not Michigan’s coaches.
Of course, they didn’t run a play out of that formation. That would be highly illegal, as the rulebook states you have to have seven players on the line of scrimmage, and this formation has one. It was just a bit of pre-snap confusion.
Here’s how it worked, the first time Michigan used it.
Needing two yards, Michigan came out with five linemen, three tight ends, a fullback, and a running back. That’s essentially a goal line offense, so the personnel should’ve tipped Wisconsin off to the fact that Michigan was planning a run up the gut.
So to make the Badgers think a little harder than they needed to, the Wolverines lined up in a way that doesn’t resemble any football formation. What were they going to do? Are they going to play leapfrog? Snap the ball to guy who snaps the ball to a guy who snaps the ball to a guy who snaps the ball to an RB with nine fullbacks ahead of him?
And then QB Wilton Speight signalled, and the team got into a normal football formation. The play was successful, a 5-yard run on 2nd-and-2. Maybe it was because of the trickeration, although it’s quite possible the play would’ve worked without this beauty.
A Harbaugh did come up with it the idea of using it.
“The (offensive) coaches came into a meeting one day earlier this week, all with a big smirk on their face, so we knew something was going in that they liked and it happened to be that play,” Speight said.
Was it offensive coordinator Tim Drevno’s idea? Maybe quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch’s? Or did it come from the top, another brainchild of the ever-creative Jim Harbaugh?
None of the above.
“Just something that my son Jay found and came up with,” Harbaugh said.
Jay Harbaugh, 27, is Michigan’s tight ends coach.
“But it was good, the guys had fun with it,” Harbaugh continued. “We put it in this week and executed it well.”
It kept going, all throughout 2016.
They did it again later in the year, against Illinois:
Michigan used this formation again on the touchdown play. pic.twitter.com/evpPXk1aup— Curtis (@Curtos07) October 22, 2016
And again in Week 9, against Michigan State. Not even in the red zone this time!
Now here was the centipede in the second quarter of Saturday’s huge game against Ohio State. No game is too big for Michigan to do this.
Only problem is that it didn’t exactly work:
And even in the Orange Bowl against Florida State in December:
In 2017, it’s since spread to UCLA.
New Bruins offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch was Michigan’s quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator under Harbaugh.
Can’t wait to see the centipede formation again soon, I guess!
Also, it’d be nice to see a team really go all out and do this: