a terrible blight on our fine country
Today marks the official first day of the college football season. I can't remember an offseason more fun than the one we just expirienced, but I think we are all ready for some football games.
The last few seasons have been very depressing. Last year most of us were ready to move on to basketball before the season was halfway over (I even celebrated an open practice with a wallpaper). This year has to be different, right?
Here's a wallpaper to celebrate the return of football, complete with the official shades of Maize and Blue.
Jim Harbaugh is back. Football is back. Go Blue! (click to embiggen)
Photo via Bryan Fuller
Extended preview post of why Wormley and Henry are playing the positions they are, which includes the main reason. Full article can be found here.
Recently on MGoBlog, Brian wrote a piece previewing the defense as far as his expectations. In the past couple days, he's also discussed the Defensive Line and looked at the recently released Michigan depth chart. A question keeps arising, unknowingly getting answered, and then asked again. It's a common confusion, and an understandable one when looking at nomenclature of football.
In this post, I'm going to look at Michigan's DL and why Henry is playing 5-Tech (nominally, from now on called End) and Wormley is playing 3-Tech (nominally, from now on called Tackle).
What is Michigan Running?
I agree with Brian that this is a 4-3 Under. Michigan isn't going out there with a LOLB and a ROLB, and they aren't going out there and doing a lot of two gapping (though a 4-3 under will often two-gap somewhere). It's a 4-3 Under with a standup end sometimes. Furthermore, the defense will not consistently keep two guys in two-point stances and shift the DL every which way, like Wisconsin's one-gap 3-4.
This is a 4-3 Under all the way. Let's remind everyone of the gap assignments:
And let's take a look at what a nominal 4-3 Under looks like, the one most of you are familiar with from the early Mattison years.
Here, we're going to call the Weakside DE (WDE, 7-Tech) the Buck (it's Buck because "B" stands for Backer, like how MIKE is for Middle in middle LB), to keep with Durkin's terminology. He is, in fact, more DE than LB, but he will occasionally drop (see image below). The strongside DE (SDE, 5-Tech) we will simply call the End. The 3-Tech we are going to call a DT (or tackle). The 1-Tech we will call a NT (Nose).
This is close to what Michigan is running, but not quite. Actually, the image above is closer to what Michigan will now run than what Michigan nominally ran with Mattison as the DC. Notice how Beyer (the SAM LB at the top of the screen) is in a loose position. For Michigan fans, this is similar to how Greg Robinson deployed Stevie Brown in his 4-3 Under, when Stevie Brown managed to have a very good Senior year. This is what we call a "Loose" alignment, meaning he's 5-and-5 (5 yards off the LOS, 5 yards outside the offensive EMOL). Ross, the WILL in the picture above, is also playing a Loose technique (in this case, it is to allow the dropping DE to play an inside zone or spy and to allow the WILL to play the outside Flat Zone, where there is more likely to be an immediate threat in the pass game).
With Ross, an undersized SAM LB, Michigan will continue playing more of a 4-3 Under Loose.
Many 4-3 Under teams traditionally move the FS down into the box as the 8th man and rotate the SS to the center of the field. They do this because the Buck and DT generally protect the FS from having to face any wash, something the ILBs (WILL and MIKE) are more accustomed to. It'll look like this:
But Michigan won't be doing that as much this year. Instead, the SS (who always aligns to pass strength) will be the 8th man in the box. He can be inserted like this:
But more often he will align closer to this.
This essentially makes the SAM another ILB. He's protected a bit by the End, and the defense won't get out flanked because the SS holds the edge and the SAM can work over the top to provide additional support.
Wormley and Henry Primer
As a primer, Wormley is a guy that came in as a projected SDE. He was expected to be between 270 and 300 lbs. He has good straight line speed for his size and displays excellent burst when he's comfortable with what is in front of him. Unfortunately for him (and fortunately in some ways), he's also very long and tall. With hesitation sometimes coming when he has to take blocks from different angles, he often stands up. This leads to him struggling to handle doubles.
Henry on the other hand, was always a DT. He was projected as a slashing, penetrating 3-Tech that could also slide down and play the Nose if needed. He's more of a squaty player, but has the first step to beat OL to the spot he wants. This first step quickness gives him potential to be a two-gap player, and his squaty build also gives him the stout base to prevent him from getting clobbered when he's forced to choose one of two gaps. He also stands up too high at times, but has the strength to fight back against it.
Brian previewed these guys well in the DL articles linked above, and there is video there to demonstrate these traits in these players.
So Why The Position Switch
The Double Team
As I said, it's been explained, but never really answered. But the answer is quite obvious once it's pointed out. Wormley struggles more against doubles, and the 3-tech will almost never get doubled. The 5-tech will get doubled, possibly on about half the plays, especially with the way Michigan will align.
Notice the 3-tech isn't doubled on the run his direction.
This means that the 5-tech has to hold up to double teams quite often, it also means the 3-tech can simply be let loose to be a penetrating force on the interior. If you can get that out of your 3-tech, you cut off half the field and give the Buck a lot more options as a pass rusher, because he doesn't have to be as preoccupied with the rush.
Whether the SAM is in a Loose alignment or inside, initially, the 5-tech will often get doubled against zone based rushing attacks.
Here, the 3-tech is doubled, so he has to be able to handle that a bit, but the double likely doesn't last as long as the OL tries to get out to the WILL, and it is on the backside of the play.
Against man blocking schemes, he'll get doubled on essentially every strongside run (Power O and Counter F, for example)
He has to hold up at that position for the rush defense to have success. If he doesn't hold up, he gets washed into the ILB, and large creases in the defense form, particularly when the SAM is playing in a Loose alignmnet.
Again, if you want to read about the other main advantage to Henry lining up at End rather than 3-Tech, here's a link to a full post at my blog.
Well, 'twas the night before the season and all through the internet MGoBlog's numbers were about to spike. I've done this in years previous too, but here's some really helpful information to anyone who's new.
First, see that bar up top? Under where Bo is yelling at Harbaugh? Click through lots of those links. You'll learn an awful lot.
For example, Brian's FAQs: http://mgoblog.com/content/mgofaq
Also the MGoBoard FAQs: http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/mgoboard-faq which includes great information such as:
What should I title my threads?
Please make your thread titles as informative as possible: "Justin Feagin" is bad. "Justin Feagin leaving the team?" is good.
Read those. It'll save everyone a headache and you some downvotes. There's a depth chart, Ann Arbor restaurant list, Mod Sticky, and lots of other useful links. Just click them. Go ahead. I'll wait...
OK, and finally, typically the impetus for this thread every year is the 30th "Where can I catch the game in ___________" thread that someone posts, where either they didn't see the first 29 or are making a joke after the horse is quite, quite dead. as such:
That's accessible up top. It's from 2009. There are 300+ replies. There is a map. In Myanmar guy's defense, the Asian area of the map doesn't have many pins.
Welcome to this corner of the internet, enjoy it.
Sincerely yours in football,
I can think of no two individuals more alike than Jim Harbaugh and Napoleon Dynamite. They do whatever they feel like they want to do (gosh!), attack life/tetherball with an Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind and express extremely strong opinions about one's choices regarding milk consumption.
"I see you're drinking 1%. Is that 'cause you think you're fat? 'Cause you're not. You could be drinking whole if you wanted to."
"Drink as much milk as your little belly can hold...the ideal is the whole milk."
The images below are previews only. You can get the widescreen, iPad and mobile wallpapers at The Art. The Art. The Art!.
Follow me on Twitter @thearttheart for updates.
Four Plays – Michigan @ Rutgers 2015
This series examines the probable individual matchups Michigan expects to face against particular opponents on one of Michigan’s key running plays and one of its key passing plays, as well as defensively against a couple of the opponent’s key plays (assuming first-sting personnel in a base defensive alignment).
I did four of these in 2013, and was planning on doing more but was too demoralized by around week seven to keep going. I only made it about half that far last season. Now we have Harbaugh though, so I’m pretty confident I can make it through the whole season.
The first game, of course, is on the road against Utah—a team that has always seemed to get the most out of its talent and has played Michigan tough over the years. Those past games were all played in the friendly confines of Michigan Stadium, but this year the Wolverines go on the road to experience Rice-Eccles Stadium and its 4.657-foot elevation. Evidently the Ute fans, butthurt over Harbaugh’s decision to swap out Alex Smith for Colin Kaepernick in 49er days, plan on welcoming the Michigan head coach with a bunch of Alex Smith heads-on-sticks. There probably aren’t many things less intimidating than Alex Smith’s head on a stick, so that’s all I’m going to say about that. Let’s look at some matchups.
When Michigan has the ball…
1. Counter F
Power O is certainly a well-known part of Jim Harbaugh’s offense, as the White Team famously made clear by coming out on the first play of the spring game and running Power O for 34 yards. Indeed, this off-season you couldn’t click on a “Harbaugh Offense” search window without somebody diagramming Power O and linking clips of old Stanford teams kicking ass with it. So, it might behoove me to choose Power O for the first play here. Yet in an effort to not be redundant, I am instead going wit Counter F, a similar play to Power O that utilizes newly-minted Michigan captain Joe Kerridge as the lead blocker in place of the usual backside guard.
Power O, in case you are new to the schematics, is a classic running play on which the playside tackle and tight end double-team the opposing defensive end, a fullback or h-back “kicks out” (drives to the outside) the “EMLOS” (End Man on Line of Scrimmage), and a pulling guard leads the running back through the “6 hole” (i.e., the gap outside the tackle).
26 Power O:
Counter F works much like Power O; the offense still gets a double-team at the point-of-attack, and the tailback’s initial counter-step hopefully gets linebackers flowing away from the playside. But now, the responsibilities of the fullback and backside guard are exchanged: the guard executes a trap block on the EMLOS, while fullback leads the ballcarrier through the six hole.
26 Counter F:
LT Mason Cole: Down block WDE Jason Fanaika
LG Ben Braden: Execute long trap block to kick-out “Stud” LB Uaea Masina
C Graham Glasgow: Down block DT Filipo Mokofisi
RG Kyle Kalis: Down block NT Lowell Lotulelei
RT Erik Magnuson: Block SDE Hunter Dimmck (away from 6-hole)
TE Jake Butt: With RT Erick Magnuson, double-team SDE Hunter Dimick; move to second level and block WLB Jared Norris
FB Joe Kerridge: Lead tailback through 6-hole, block first red jersey (presumably MLB Jason Whittingham)
RB – Deveon Smith: Take counter-step toward backside (to influence linebackers), then take handoff on playside; run through 6-hole, read and cut off of FB Joe Kerridge’s block
We’re all excited to see what Tim Drevno can do with Michigan’s offensive line. He has a lot of experienced talent to work with, and most of Michigan’s projected OL starters are upper-classmen with several years of college S&C in the books. But as promising as that looks, Michigan’s OL is still potential while Utah’s defensive line has produced. Strongside end Hunter Dimick had 10 sacks and 14.5 TFLs last season, while NT Lowell Latoulelei is an early-entry candidate for the NFL draft. Add to that Utah’s deep collection of junior and senior LBs, and M has a lot to prove here.
Another main theme of the off-season has been that big things are expected of junior tight end Jake Butt. I’m a big believer in this myself, as Butt has both proven himself a gritty, tough player in the Bo/Harbaugh tradition and demonstrated superior receiving skills from day one. One way to get Butt the ball is the Y-Cross concept, an old Lavell Edwards play that has become a staple of Air Raid and passing spread offenses.
Though there are countless variations on the Y-Cross, the main concept is to have an outside receiver occupy the cornerback deep, while the crossing tight end or slot receiver heads for the vacated space. While crossing routes are naturally good against man coverage, Y-Cross is also a good call against 3-deep zones because the crosser and the Z-receiver end up flooding the same deep third. Other variations combine Y-Cross with option routes, or with play-action fakes designed to freeze the linebackers and shake the crosser wide open.
Most versions of Y-Cross also have a third playside receiver—usually a back or TE releasing into the flat, and the quarterback reads deep-to-short (fade, to cross, to flat). But in the Michigan spring game, the White Team ran a version of Y-Cross from a 2 TE shotgun look with only two playside receivers. On that play, White kept back in for protection and got TE Chase Winovich isolated against a safety. Winovich unfortunately dropped a strike from Malzone, but the play would have gone for big yardage if caught.
XWR Amara Darboh: Run fade route vs. BCB Reggie Porter
RB Ty Isaac: Pass protection
LT Mason Cole: Pass block SDE Hunter Dimick
LG Ben Braden: Pass block DT Filipo Mokofisi
C Graham Glasgow: Pass block NT Lowell Lotolelei
RG Kyle Kalis: Pass block NT Lowell Lotolelei
RT Erik Magnuson: Pass block WDE Jason Fanaika
Slot WR Grant Perry: Run dig route vs. NCB Justin Thomas
YTE Jake Butt: Run crossing route (inside release, aim for sideline at 20 yards) vs. MLB Jason Whittingham
ZWR Jehu Chesson: Run fade route vs. FCB Dominique Hatfield
QB Jake Rudock: 5-step drop; “alert” read is Z Receiver (read during drop and throw in case of coverage bust) #1 read is Y-cross; if covered, #2 read is slot receiver on dig route.
According to the position-group previews on Utah blog Block U, it just about every player on Utah is an unstoppable ANFO-breathing football ninja, so perhaps I really should be giving the edge to the Utes here. I think M can hold its own though; not only does the Utah pass rush look significantly less scary with Nate Orchard now a Cleveland Brown, but Jake Butt is an accomplished receiving TE and this type of play appears to be in Jake Rudock’s wheelhouse.
When Utah has the ball…
1. Pistol Inside Zone
Inside Zone, as you probably know by now, is the ubiquitous downhill running play on which covered linemen block the defenders lined up across from them, uncovered linemen head to the second level, and the running back then reads the blocking and cuts north into daylight.
Last season I diagrammed Utah’s Inside Zone Read, a version of the same play but involving an option read at the mesh point. Inside Zone Read gives the offense an extra blocker by enabling the QB run threat to effectively “block” the backside defensive end. But the Utah backfield pairs 1,500-yard, bowling-ball style rusher Devantae Booker with 6’7” Travis Wilson; though Wilson himself has over 300 yards rushing in each of the past two seasons, letting him keep the ball on option reads takes the ball out of the hands of Booker—a fierce back currently projected to be taken in the second or third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. That’s probably why, as Oregon blog FishDuck noticed while previewing the Utes last season, Utah started just using an H-back to actually block the backside pursuer, rather than option him off with Wilson.
WDE Mario Ojemudia: set edge two yards deep and two yards outside, defend C-gap vs. RT Hiva Lutui, constrict B-gap
NT Ryan Glasgow: hold up to double-team vs. LG Isaac Asiata and LT JJ Dielman, defend backside A-gap
DT Willie Henry: hold up to double-team vs. C Siaosi Aiono and RG Salesi Uhatafe, defend playside B-gap
SDE Chris Wormley: Defeat block of H-Back Siale Fakailoatonga, backside pursuit
WLB Desmond Morgan: Defeat block of C Siaosi Aiono, defend playside A-gap
MLB Joe Bolden: Defeat block of LT JJ Dielman, defend backside B-gap
Booker is an outstanding running back. But their offensive line is young and does not appear to have a replacement for graduated star tackle Jeremiah Poutasi. While pass rush remains a question mark for Michigan, the Wolverines remain a stout run defense unit and that should continue in 2015.
2. All Curls
I took an educated guess last year that all-curls might be Utah’s base passing play, mainly because Utah had hired passing spread guru Dave Christiansen as their offensive coordinator and he had shown a proclivity for the play. Though I prefer to make jokes about all the things I get wrong, in this case I actually got it right; here you can see Utah run all-curls repeatedly on a game winning drive against USC.
All-curls is a particularly effective against Cover 3, which leaves only four underneath defenders to cover five possible receivers. But even against other coverages, the play is a reliable chain-mover that provides two distinct advantages as a base play. For one, all-curls gives the quarterback four slow-moving or stationary targets, each facing the QB, and spread horizontally across the field, as well as a releasing back for a safety valve option. Second, numerous other route combinations can be built off the same route stem as all-curls (e.g., slant-wheel, smash-corner, four verticals, etc.)—thus giving the offense plenty of constraint alternatives against a defense that overplays the curls.
BCB Wayne Lyons: Press coverage vs. WR Kenneth Scott
NCB Jabrill Peppers: Press coverage vs. Slot WR Delshawn McClellan
WDE Mario Ojemudia: Pass rushg vs. LT JJ Dielman
3T Willie Henry: Pass Rush vs. LG Isaac Asiata
NT Ryan Glasgow: Pass rush vs. C Siaosi Aiono, RG Salesi Uhatafe
SDE Chris Wormley: Pass rush vs. RT Hiva Lutui
WLB Joe Bolden: Man coverage vs. RB Devontae Booker
MLB Desmond Morgan: Drop into middle zone; read and follow QB’s eyes to ball
FS Jerrod Wilson: Cover deep middle
SS Delano Hill: Press coverage vs. WR Kenric Young
FCB Jourdan Lewis: Press coverage vs. WR Tim Patrick
One piece of extremely good news for Michigan is that Utah’s outstanding 2014 wide receivers, Dres Anderson and Kaelin Clay, have graduated, and there doesn’t appear to have been much behind them. Senior Kenneth Scott caught 48 balls for 506 yards and 4 TDs last season, but nobody else has much in the way of statistics—or even hype on the ridiculously effusive Block U. As for Michigan, the secondary is one of the team’s strongest units, with Jourdan Lewis arguably the team’s best returning defensive player and Jabrill Peppers looking a possible DPOY candidate in the Big Ten. M’s pass rush remains a point of concern, however, and Utah does have a mobile senior QB, so no advantage overall. Hopefully Jourdan and Jabrill prove me wrong about that a few times.
Bonus: EGD’s 2015 Michigan Preview
Almost every year since probably the late 1990s I’ve written a Michigan football preview targeted at my friends and acquaintances—most of whom aren’t exactly mgousers. I posted it here the last two or three seasons and it was reasonably well-received, but on the whole I’d say if you haven’t read HTTV yet, read that; if you haven’t read the front-page UM preview material yet, read that. If you’ve plowed through all that and still have a UM Football jones, click on the link below.