Four Plays – Michigan @ ND 2014
This series examines the probable individual matchups Michigan expects to face against particular opponents on one each of Michigan’s basic running and passing plays, as well as defensively against a couple of the opponent’s base plays. I did four of these last season, and would have done more, but after games like Penn State and MSU I eventually just became too demoralized to keep going. Not only that, but Borges would install new concepts every other week and I couldn’t keep up.
A new season is upon us, however, so it’s a nice day to start again. For the first 2014 edition of the series, let’s take a look at Michigan’s visit to South Bend in the (sniff) final matchup of this iconic series.
When Michigan has the ball…
1. Inside Zone Left
The Appalachian State UFR showed that RT Ben Braden struggled with his run blocking technique and RGs Joey Burzynski and Kyle Kalis were inconsistent. Michigan should get some help on the right side of the line with Graham Glasgow returning, but the best bet for running the ball may be to go left behind Mason Cole and Erik Magnuson. Shown here from a “Shotgun Deep” formation, this inside zone play is designed to attack the “3-hole” between offensive guard and tackle, but the back must read the blocks and may attack a different hole if a defender gets caught out of his gap or too far upfield. As for Notre Dame, Bob Diaco and his cats & dogs are out; former NY Jets defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder is in. He supposedly runs an aggressive 4-3, mixing under and over fronts and using lots of pressure.
LT Mason Cole: Covered; block SDE Romeo Okwara, who is covering him
LG Erik Magnuson: Uncovered; release to second-level and block WLB Jaylon Smith
C Jack Miller: Covered; reach block NT Jarron Jones, who is covering him
RG Graham Glasgow: Uncovered; chip DT Sheldon Day, then release to block MLB Joe Schmidt
RT Ben Braden: Covered; block DT Sheldon Day
UTE Khalid Hill: Covered; block WDE
Ishaq Williams (haha) Isaac Rochelle, who is covering him
RB – Derrick Green: Receive handoff and aim for 3-hole between LT and LG; read blocks, make a single cut and head downfield
Though Cole, Magnuson, and Miller graded out well against Appalachian State, this play calls for Cole, a true freshman, to single-block ND’s upper-classman DE and for Magnuson to hunt down Jaylon Smith—one of the best young linebackers in the country. On the backside, expect Braden to struggle with Sheldon Day, even with help from Glasgow.
2. Four Verticals
Cover 3 gets its name from the three defenders (i.e., both CBs and the FS) who play deep 1/3 zones over top of four underneath defenders. Four Verticals is designed to attack Cover 3 by forcing those three deep defenders to cover four receivers. The outside WRs occupy the two cornerbacks, leaving just the FS to deal with the two inside receivers (the Y and the U, as depicted above). In more advanced versions of the play, one or more of the receivers will run option routes, adjusting their patterns after the snap to exploit the holes in the defensive scheme or coverage techniques. Here, the U receiver will run a fly route—but in the event both safeties drop deep (e.g., in a disguised Cover 2 scheme), he will covert to a post route and attack the open middle of the field.
XWR Amara Darboh: Run fly (9) route vs. BCB
KaiVare Russell (doof) Cody Riggs
YWR Dennis Norfleet: Run option fly (9) route vs. FS Max Redfield
LT Mason Cole: Pass protect vs.
WDE Ishaq Williams (blarblar) WDE Isaac Rochells
LG Erik Magnuson: Pass protect vs. DT Sheldon Day
C Jack Miller: Pass protect vs. DT Sheldon Day
RG Graham Glasgow: Pass protect vs. NT Jarron Jones
RT Ben Braden: Pass protect vs. SDE Romeo Okwara
RB Derrick Green: Pass protect, then release to flat
UWR Devin Funchess: Run fly (9) route vs. FS Max Redfield
ZWR Jehu Chesson: Run fly (9) route vs. FCB Cole Luke
QB Devin Gardner: 1-step drop (from shotgun); read free safety to see which of the inside receivers he plays tighter on; read “inside-out” on opposite side of field; if corner plays outside receiver, throw to inside receiver and vice-versa
Successfully defending Four Verticals requires advanced zone coverage technique; the underneath defenders must jam the inside receivers, while the corners and safeties must be able to split their receivers and stay in position to make a play on a ball thrown to either one. Yet ND will be missing its best starting CB due to honor code violations, and starting safety Austin Collinsworth is also out with an injury. To make matters worse for the Irish, starting DE Ishaq Williams is also out because of the academic scandal. That’s a lot of vulnerabilities—and expect Michigan to take full advantage.
When Notre Dame has the ball…
3. Outside Zone
Outside Zone remains the staple of Brian Kelly’s running game. Unlike Inside Zone, a physical running play in which the offensive line tries generally to drive defensive players out of their gaps, Outside Zone calls for agile linemen to step across their defenders and seal them inside (reach blocking). Defenders must fight to avoid being sealed—but in doing so, must also be careful not to flow too far outside, lest they open up cutback lanes behind them.
WDE Frank Clark: Defend backside C-gap vs. LT Ronnie Stanley
NT Ryan Glasgow: Penetrate backside A-gap vs. LG Conner Hanratty (try to demand double team from C)
DT Willie Henry: Penetrate playside B-gap vs. RG Christian Lombard
SDE Brennan Beyer: Fight outside block of TE Ben Koyack to defend playside C-gap; set edge point to force run inside
WLB Joe Bolden: Defend backside B-gap (watch for crackback from invisible slot receiver)
MLB Jake Ryan: Defend frontside A-gap vs. C Nick Martin
SLB James Ross: Defend frontside C-gap vs. RT Steve Elmer
Notre Dame has a veteran line with some quality players, but could be shaky on the right side with a young RT and a new starter at TE. Michigan is stout in the middle, but small at SDE and the move to a 4-3 Over base has shuffled their linebackers’ responsibilities around. No clear advantage for either team on this play.
4. Stick/Draw Packaged Play
Notre Dame’s biggest offensive weapons this season are in the backfield, with several touted RBs and QB Everett Golson returning from a one-year academic disqualification. For Michigan, the greatest concerns with the defense lie in the middle of the field—where distinguished SAM linebacker Jake Ryan has moved to MLB, veteran inside linebacker Desmond Morgan is reportedly out with an arm injury, and new (though talented) players start at safety and nickel. One way ND might test these greener players is through a packaged concept that targets the MLB. The line pass-blocks and the TE runs a stick route; the QB reads the MLB to see if he drops into coverage on the TE or plays the run—and then either hands to ball off to the RB (if the MLB drops) or throws to the TE (if the MLB plays the run). This play destroys zone coverage, but Michigan has moved to primarily man-to-man coverage this season.
FCB Blake Countess: Bump & run coverage vs. SE
DaVaris Daniels (hoohoo) Chris Brown on fade (9) route
NCB Jabrill Peppers: Coverage vs. Slot WR Amir Carlisle on out (8) route; defend C gap vs. run
WDE Frank Clark: Penetrate C gap vs. LT Ronnie Stanley
NT Ryan Glasgow: Penetrate weakside A-gap vs. LG Conner Hanratty, C Nick Martin
3-tech DT Willie Henry: Penetrate strongside B-gap vs. RG Christian Lombard
SDE Brennan Beyer: Pass rush vs. RT Steve Elmer
WLB Joe Bolden: Read pass or run; against pass, cover RB Cam McDaniel; against run, defend B gap
MLB Jake Ryan: Read pass or run; against pass, cover TE Ben Koyack; against run, defend A gap
SS Delano Hill: Cover deep half
FS Jarrod Wilson: Cover deep half
BCB Raymon Taylor: Bump & run coverage vs. WR Corey Robinson
This play puts Michigan’s newest starters (Jake Ryan, who is new to MLB, and Delano Hill, who is new to starting altogether) under stress. But Ryan is, as they say, "a football player." And Hill may be a new face at SS, but he’s reportedly a high-IQ guy who should at least be in position. Having a war daddy at the 3-tech position also helps; Lombard is a well-regarded player but if Henry can 2-gap him then the draw play won't work anyhow.
It's Notre Dame week. More specifically, it's the last Notre Dame week. I wanted to make a few different wallpapers for this game, but only had time finish one. I figure one is still better than none, right?
Anyway. The photo I used is from the 2012 game (I believe it was taken by ESPN). I chose this one because Michigan will be wearing away jerseys this week. It's also just a really cool photo. I used a color pop effect to really bring out the maize and blues. I think it looks pretty cool. Kinda neon-ish.
Anyway, here it is. Hope you like it. Go Blue! (click for full size)
here it is, didn't get a chance to update per the Bosch news and not sure where Glasgow fits in.
SOME OF THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF WEEK 1 IN BIG TEN FOOTBALL
As it is difficult to delve into meaningful statistics after one game of play, although some people try all the same, we shall instead embark on looking at some of the highs and lows on various statistics around the conference in the first week of the new season.
Who scored the most points? That honor goes to Nebraska, which put up 55 (7 TDs, 7 PATs and 2 FGs) on a team which footballs while legally blind and with a broken leg, just so there is perspective here. Incidentally, Nebraska also allowed the fewest points for largely the same reason. Come to think of it, their 784 yards of offense was the most in the conference this past weekend too, and the 498 yards of rushing buried within that number. Who’s up for playing Florida Atlantic?
Who score the fewest points? Northwestern and Wisconsin share the bottom at 24 points each. In the case of Wisconsin, the one thing we know now is that Tanner McEvoy once walked into the path of a bicycle and scrambled but was eventually tackled at the LOS.
Rutgers gave up the most points – 38 of them to Washington State, which managed to move the ball well enough to outgain Rutgers despite losing. The lesson here is that a fade into the end zone might be the most Leach call ever.
Total defense? Here’s something you’ll never see again – Indiana gave up only 170 yards, aided largely by Indiana State’s inability to make intelligible use of the football. It’s actually a wonder that Indiana only scored 28 points, I would think.
Rushing offense? As mentioned, Nebraska was the most prolific, and at the other end of the spectrum, there was Penn State and their 57 yards of rushing. Indeed, 28 carries for 57 yards is the sort of stat that hits far too close to home around here.
Rushing defense is an easy one to cover here – Rutgers gave up 6 yards of rushing to a team coached by Mike Leach. Fail, right? Or is that “mathematically impossible”? Either way, not shocking. Ohio State gave up 370 yards of rushing to a triple option team in Navy, which again shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Penn State threw for the most yards – 454 of them – mostly because Christian Hackenburg and why not, right? Ohio State gave up on 20 yards of passing to a triple option team which….NAVY THREW A PASS?
The most efficient passing games this past weekend? Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan in that order with ratings of 240.1, 237.2 and 218.6 respectively. On the flip side of this state, Nebraska, Maryland and Indiana made the opposing QBs look the worst.
As the games progress and the stats become more meaningful, obviously bona fide analysis and charts will happen, but for now, we are through the first week. Let us make the second a good one as well.
There was a recently deleted thread about concern of the kicking game. I am not in the least concerned about our kickers and punters. What I'm concerned about is coverage. Kickoff coverage once again looked a little suspect. And although Chesson made a nice play on punt coverage, he was the only guy there and if the ball is one of those Hagerup boomers and the returner makes the first man miss, he'll get 10+ yards before he meets the next defender. That is simply atrocious.
The goal of punt return is to get an extra first down; i.e., get at least 10 yards. The NFL style tight punt makes it easier to get that. I mean, how hard is it to look at the statistical leaders in net punting over the last five years and the schemes they run and draw the obvious conclusion?
For example, Alabama runs NFL style tight punt. No team has the depth of talent as Alabama. If anyone should be good at covering punts out of an NFL style scheme, it's the Crimson Tide. Yet in 2013:
I know that some of you are thinking, "This doesn't include punts that aren't returned, and so really it's net punting average that counts." There's some truth to that, so in the interest of fairness, the Tide was #1 in the land in net punting, mostly due to the high punting average and the fact that they only had 25 of their 40 punts returned.
One team that jumped off the page was Purdue, who punted 73 times and only had 10 returned on them. The Boilers averaged 43.3 yards per punt, and despite giving up a meaty 9.7 yd/return, was #2 in net punting average. Purdue even had a punt blocked by Wisconsin. Purdue has a very low talent level, as well as depth of talent. Three guesses as to their punting scheme.
Also, in the interest of fairness, Michigan averaged giving up 6.3 yd/return, good for #37 in FBS. We were pretty meh in net punting b/c we averaged 40.7 yd/punt.
It is my opinion that with a spread punting scheme, very athletic punters who can launch in not only Hagerup but also Kenny Allen, that we could gain a lot of hidden yardage by switching schemes.
I know, I know; preaching to the choir.
For a variety of reasons, this is going to be a (relatively) short edition of this diary. I’ll try to touch on a couple of points, but the fact that this wasn’t Horror II: Electric Boogaloo is all most UM fans hoped for.
Best: They’re Learning
I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.
I never thought UM would have any trouble against Appalachian State. Though 2007 was a mere 7 years ago, even at glacial-pace UM there have been wholesale changes to the football program and its view of the sport’s landscape that it might as well have been 70 years.
Chief amongst these changes has been a necessary expansion in how the program views the college football landscape. Though they still sometimes talk about it with dismissive tones, the coaches today recognize that up-tempo, spread-style offenses are viable and gameplan accordingly, unlike in 2007 when the lessons of Troy Smith in The Game were ignored due to pride, stubbornness, or idiocy, only to be ruthlessly duplicated by proto-Denards Armanti Edwards and Dennis Dixon to start the season.* That doesn’t mean UM can’t be beaten by such a team (OSU did it last year with a variant), but at least now the defense seems suitably equipped to respond, unlike when Johnny Sears was trotted out and led to this prescient outlook from Brian before Oregon came to town.
[Oregon] Will shred us. Our linebackers are clueless, we're going to spend the entire game in a nickel against four and five receiver sets, and the Ducks' talent level is vastly higher than Appalachian State's. Only errors from Dixon will keep us from playing Purdue 2006 opposite them; thankfully Dixon is the kind of guy who makes tons of errors. I figure the preparation levels will be better, but I also don't buy that Michigan can not be prepared to defend 21 instances of a basic running play. The defense sucks.
And that’s the thing – the ass-kicking by Oregon, had it not been preceded by the Appalachian upset, may not have been enough to force the types of changes we saw in the intervening years. Oregon was a major college program, from a power conference, and UM faithful could have waved their hands and justified the loss due to Oregon’s “gimmicky” offense combined with D1 talent. UM had been blitzed by good teams before, and this probably wouldn’t have been viewed as nothing more than a bad day and a bad opponent. But when a body-bag game rises up and Weekend at Bernie’s you, change went from a luxury to a necessity.
That 2007 loss will forever remain a prominent footnote to UM’s history, but I believe it set into motion the type of maturation and evolution that was necessary for the next stage of Michigan football to take shape. It begat RR, which led to Forcier, Denard, and Gardner, and even when Rodriguez was fired the influence of the spread lingered in Hoke’s first couple of seasons. Though the offense itself appears headed to more heavy artillery, with rocket arms and galloping trees replacing super goats, the defense has the types of players you need to compete against a far wider array of offenses than years ago.
This ASU team is a shadow of the program that came to Ann Arbor years ago, but what it embodies hasn’t, and the fact UM dominated them without breaking a sweat shouldn’t be overlooked.
* And from a personal standpoint, I had watched UM struggle against mobile QBs for years, from Donovan McNabb at Syracuse to Jarious Jackson at Notre Dame. While it can be said that players like McNabb could make most teams look bad defensively, it felt like the coaches were the British taken aback by the colonists using clever ambushes and non-traditional tactics to defeat them. Lloyd Carr and co. ascribed to the rules of engagement, and at times it seemed they were incapable of responding if you didn’t follow suit.
Best: Snake on an ATV
I know I’m getting the reputation around these parts as the guy who writes about professional wrestling too much, and I’m honestly trying to cut down on the references because they lead to tangents, but just when I think I’m out of the woods…
Can I get a Hell Yeah!
But honestly, it was fun to hear him talk about football on Gameday, and getting Lee Corso to share a drink on screen is the second-most enjoyable moment I’ve had watching Lee in years. We all know the first.
Best: Ghost Hunters
So before I started writing this diary, I was trying to think of other famous upsets and if there was some parallel between teams getting their “revenge” later on. I’m thinking Chaminade over UVa in 1982, Temple over VaTech in 1998, and the like. I know that teams can’t erase upsets, but perhaps future domination helps to ease the pain from that historic misstep, a balm to soothe the burn.
What I realized, though, is that those upsets aren’t stains as much as they are ghosts. UVa has beaten Chaminade, and Virginia Tech slipped by Temple a couple of years later, and yet I had to look those up games for 10 minutes while I remember both of those upsets (along with James Madison over the Hokies in 2010 and Stanford beating USC in 2007 before we all realized Harbaugh was a dickish genius) like they were yesterday. These losses linger because there is no way to exorcise them, and that’s kind of the beauty of college sports. These upsets aren’t malevolent spirits out to desecrate the affected institutions; they are simply a reminder that on any given Saturday one team can find those couple extra inches** and win the game. And what happens before and after is meaningless for them to remain a part of the teams’ fabrics. App St. will always have that win and UM will always have that loss, and that’s okay.
So I was never bothered by Brandon signing up for this game again. UM shouldn’t “run away” from the past, as if everyone will just forget about the biggest de-pantsing in college football history if the victim always wears a belt and suspenders. I can accept that a better opponent could have been scheduled based on results on the field, but that was never the argument. UM’s now evened up their series with the Mountaineers, and if Brandon wants to schedule them again in the future because it’s an easy win and fills up the stadium, by all means do it.
** I know it’s cliche, but I still love that scene. Dumb movie overall, but that’s a great bit of delivery.
Best: Oh Yeah, The Game
We’re a thousand words into this thing and I haven’t really talked about the specifics of the game. Well, there’s a reason for that – this was a blowout from the opening whistle. UM was up 35-0 at halftime despite not playing amazingly well, holding the Mountaineers to under 100 yards of total offense and a couple first downs (including a penalty-assisted one due to Frank Clark laughing at the mortal construct that is the “punt shield”). Gardner had a great first half (though he had a little arm-punt action on his second TD), going 13/14 for 3 TDs (all to Devin Funchess), and after some early struggles the running game pumped out 350 yards on the ground at nearly 10 ypc. Both Green and Smith broke 100 yards rushing, and the offensive line opened up holes and kept the QBs pretty clean through. Funchess proved his worthiness of the #1 jersey to people who seemed unnaturally infatuated with a number previously worn by a guy with a pretty extensive “Legal issues” section to his Wikipedia page, pulling in 7 catches for 95 yards and generally looking like a first-round draft pick.
Like all games, there were definitely some minor issues. Jake Ryan The defense let up a bit in the 2nd half when Mattison liberally inserted 2nd- and 3rd-teamers and eschewed even token pressure on many downs, and Morris looked every bit the part of a backup still trying to match his physical tools with the mental elements of the game at the collegiate level, but those are minor nits. This was the type of performance you expect from a good team against a below-average Sun Belt squad, and regardless of opponent it was nice to see heading into South Bend next week.
Best: They blocked people!
I’m definitely not an offensive line guru, so I defer to the experts in this estimation, but overall it felt like a positive step for the offensive line marked by a number of lingering issues that will be there for most of the year. The inside of the line struggled early on getting a significant push, and while that can happen from time to time it was still jarring to see guys like Miller and Burzynski get pushed back with (relative) ease. Mason Cole is a true freshman, and while his potential showed he also suffered from the usual struggles of a first-time starter, including giving up an early sack of Gardner. As the game progressed the line definitely seemed to be more in sync, and both Smith and Green showed much-improved running form in no small part due to the fact that they didn’t have guys in the backfield every time the ball was snapped.
Make no mistake about it – as Brian noted in his season preview, mediocre is the bright, shiny beacon in the distance for this year’s line, but it wasn’t a trainwreck and considering this was a team that couldn’t get 100 yards from any of its backs against CMU last year, I’ll take this as a positive. Next week against Notre Dame should be a stiffer test, but that defense looked a little shallow even before the suspensions, so perhaps the not-Morrissey times will keep going in South Bend as well.
Best: The defense
On one hand you’d hope a defense comprised almost exclusively of top-rated players and/or experienced returning starters wouldn’t struggle shutting down a mediocre offense, but on the other it was extremely gratifying to watch UM give up one long-ish run to start the game and then basically close the door on Appalachian State until the contest was very much decided. The box score only shows 2 sacks and 2 more TFLs, but the line was constantly pressuring App St.’s QB and bottling up their running backs in that first half.
The secondary wasn’t tested much, but even with some meaningless drives in the 2nd half that helped to inflate the numbers it held App. St. to about 50% completion percentage and under 4 ypa. It looked like a “vintage” Michigan defense, and the logical maturation of the unit that held up pretty well last year until they played OSU. They really do have 3-4 corners who could be starters on most teams in the conference, and Thomas getting some serious run in the 2nd half was nice to see even though it seemed like the defense was in a bit of a shell. Also, that punt block was McCray was pretty awesome, with Gedeon’s rather athletic return for a TD punctuating a great day by the defense. Just another couple lottery tickets I know, but the young guys looked solid out there.
Overall, it looked like a defense that can win games provided the offense is at least competent, and right now it is probably the 2nd-best unit in the league. Time will tell how they’ll hold up against the more explosive outfits in the conference, but I can definitely see why people were calling it a potential top-10 unit in the preseason.
Best: 100a and 100b
I know people want there to be a clear #1 RB, but right now (a) I don’t think either player has distinguished himself sufficiently to warrant the bulk of the carries, and (b) I don’t think it really matters. Smith definitely looked shiftier and sturdier while Green continued that unnerving trend of going down on less contact than you’d expect, and on Gardner’s first run of the year it sure seemed like he was expecting Green to be there and not running the opposite direction. So it’s a work in progress. But having two backs who can produce at a high level is perfectly fine for this offense. Both are young and still developing; in a perfect world one would have red-shirted last year. I would be fine if UM continues to play a backfield by committee as long as everyone continues to average over 10 yards per carry.
Worst: Just Stop Talking
I’m happy I wasn’t the only one who noticed, but my gawd were the announcers vapid and useless. Mowins was trying out there, but sometimes a lot can be said by saying very little, and telling me that jerseys have numbers on both sides and that throwing passes to wide-open players is a good sign for an offense are probably best left unsaid. Though it was nice for her to wax poetically about Union Hall, that historical landmark on UM’s Brooklyn campus where well-to-do “alternative” parents can play Bocce and talk about their lives before they became saturated with urban beekeeping and baby DJ’ing. She probably felt like she had to compensate for charisma vacuum Joey Galloway, who probably would have had more fun taking selfies and trying to color inside the lines than actually call a football game.
Quick diatribe: I remain flabbergasted that former athletes keep getting recruited for on-air speaking roles based on whatever minimal “name recognition” they have from their playing days. I know Troy Aikman has become a competent announcer, but this was me for years listening to him call a Cowboys-Eagles game.
They rarely bring meaningful insights to the proceedings, and for every Spielman or Collinsworth you get a dozen Robert Smiths and whoever that former Northwestern DB who can’t string two sentences together. Not to make light of the situation, but lots of these guys stopped playing in part because their bodies were breaking down and they had suffered untold cranial injuries. At their best most of these guys were average public speakers, yet every year we keep putting suits on them, handing them a hot mic, and expecting them to be great orators. There’s a reason Robert Smith isn’t a doctor like he always said he would be, and while that’s probably in large part due to him being a f**king pretentious goober, the concussions probably didn’t help. It’ll never change, but one of these days I hope executives wake up and just let people who know about football talk about it and not try to shoehorn in these human props in 3-piece suits.
Worst: You ate my last Fig Thing
I’m pretty down on Notre Dame, even with their solid win over Rice. It looks like a team with talented starters and a huge chasm to the backups. Golson is a weapon, but I just don’t see the playmakers like they had in years past, and the defense is replacing NFL draft picks with question marks in the front 7. It will be close because these games tend to be, but UM should enter this game the favorite regardless of ND’s pre-season ranking.
What makes this a worst is that this is the last scheduled matchup for the foreseeable future between these two programs, and the fact it is should bother fans of college sports beyond the two fanbases. I understand the logistics of why Notre Dame backed out of the last years of the pairing, and neither program has been as dominant as they once were, but it remains one of the more “fun” rivalries in college sports, the right mix of distaste and respect that leaves you enjoying a win without worrying about some fan doing something crazy. I’m sure it will be just as fun playing Virginia and Duke in September.
Anyway, let’s hope the game is as entertaining as past meetings, and that UM one more great win.