I did not make this headline up
Q: How did Eastern Michigan run for 4.5 YPC despite having their quarterback attempt five passes all game?
A: There were a few different issues. Here's one of the minor ones.
It's first and ten on EMU's first drive of the day. They've just gotten a first down on a jet sweep. Their second play from scrimmage is POWER they will run with POWER and on the BIG TEN NETWORK they use HUGE WIDE ANGLES instead of REAL TIGHT ANGLES and this was going to be MATT FOLEY but now it's more like a BRAWNDO COMMERCIAL.
Anyway. EMU I-Form, Michigan responds with an even front with three linebackers back. They'll run power at Will Heininger. The images will be a little fuzzy. Tackle box:
On the snap the backside G pulls; linebackers start creepin':
The playside DE is Craig Roh and he'll do a pretty good job. He's at the LOS, his guy is a yard or so behind it, he's able to release either way. He is not sealed. This is what he looks like:
This is the essence of a half-point. You are relevant to the play. You are basically doing your job. When everyone does their job and you don't get rock-paper-scisssored you are not going to give up many yards. Roh will eventually get plastered by a pulling G and tumble to the ground, but that's fine. Two guys blocking you means someone's free to hit.
If the rest of the line did this there'd be nothing. Unfortunately, this is Will Heininger's fate (second from the top in the first frame):
You can see the blue stripe. Roh has his helmet on it. Heininger ends up a yard behind it and sealed away. That middle frame is a butt-kicking, and the third frame is the result: two Michigan players with no hope of making a tackle.
The result of this is a hole with blockers headed out to the linebackers:
Here's the key point as EMU's #13 has to whack Roh, leaving the pulling G for Hawthorne. If there's a crack here the RB is into the secondary:
Hawthorne holds and the RB runs up the back of his blockers. His other option is a bounce outside that Floyd may or may not have covered:
The blob stops moving after about six yards.
I don't think Heininger can hold up. Last week I pointed out a couple instances where one on one blocking handled him easily against ND; here he gets blown up by a couple of dudes from Eastern Michigan. He makes plays from time to time but I shudder to think about what will happen when we play Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio State to close out the year. Those OSU drives against Miami where their interior line whooped that of the 'Canes give me the heebie-jeebies.
So Campbell's pretty important, and every time I see something like this it increments my Rodriguez firing justification meter, especially with Jon Hankins starting as a sophomore for OSU.
The playside DT is probably the most important player on a power. We've explored what happens when DEs aren't in the right spot, but what happens when they are in the right spot is not often impactful. The play kicks you out and you need to restrict the hole; you also need to be prepared for a bounce. This makes it hard to do much* except sit there and maybe try an arm tackle if the running back passes by close enough.
The playside DT is kind of the key to the whole thing. If the DE is in the right spot and that DT holds up to the double two things are going to happen:
- the hole in the line is going to be very narrow or nonexistent.
- one of the linebackers is going to be a free hitter.
If the guy gets caved in it's hard not to give up your three to seven yards. It's hard not to get caved in—that's why they double you—and this is why planet-sized DTs are popular.
*[Exceptions for slants and stuff granted.]
Michigan's alignment exposes Heininger to the double. This is not the "under" alignment that usually allows the three-tech to take on single blocking. Here he's on the strongside between the G and T. Ryan is not on the line hovering over the TE.
That's about it. It's bad if your DT gets his butt kicked. SCIENCE!
Are you glad you scheduled San Diego State? "Uh ... no."
How did this game turn into running Denard 25 times? Was that part of the game plan? “Uh, no, we don’t want to get him beat up. We’re going to play in a pretty physical league, so we have to make sure we get it out of the way. I thought Vince and those guys did a nice job. Vince and Touss’, did a good job running the football. It takes a toll on your body. He’s not the biggest guy in the world.”
How much of defensive struggle in the first quarter was them outscheming you vs. them winning the battle up front? “I think that the jet sweep, which is part of their offense -- it hasn’t been a huge part depending on different things that you watch game-wise, but I thought that was really where they hurt us early in the football game. But after the guys settled down and got used to where they tried to leverage you, they played pretty well.”
Can Vincent Smith be the lead back? “He ran the ball pretty well today. Until you analyze it, look at it, and really evaluate it, I would hate to say that.”
Thomas Gordon made two big plays. Talk about him, please. “Thomas had a really good summer, and it starts there [with] what he did with his weight and how he reported to camp. I think his attitude and Michigan football being important to him, and his teammates being important, and just the way he’s come to practice everyday, I’m really proud of him for doing those things. It’s paying off for him and paying off for us.”
Did the team seem flat early? “No -- [Eastern Michigan’s coaches] are good coaches too. I think they had a good plan. I think a lot of the movement and some of those things, they’re a little bit unconventional as it is from that standpoint. I thought they did a good job.”
What can you do to get passing game going? “I think we just have to be better with our feet. Setting our feet on some of our throws. That’s usually where it starts with our quarterback. We need to do a better job there. It would have helped with some possessions early in the ballgame, if we make a couple first downs.”
This is the third game you started slow on defense. Is there a way to combat that? “If there was, I think we would have tried to do that. We just have to execute some things better. There’s not a real answer to it besides we have to keep working on it and keep playing hard with it. Guys have to do a great job in practice, which they have. That part of our team has really made some good strides. It’s coming along.”
Can you talk about in-game adjustments to shore up defense? “You always have the things that you want to run from a defensive perspective. And there’s also things that may be on the fringe. We were pretty vanilla and pretty base today. But there’s a couple movements Greg called that helped us. A couple adjustments coverage-wise that helped us. More on the run support than the actually coverage.”
When it was 28-3, did you think about giving Devin some snaps? “Not really. I’ve been around this game a long time, and I never feel real comfortable until it’s :00 on the clock. We wanted to down and put the ball in the endzone, and unfortunately we didn’t.”
Assess how the defensive front did today. “I felt them a little more this week. I felt Mike, I felt Craig, and Ryan. I felt those three guys than I have.”
Running game -- what started clicking for you, and how big was it to have Vincent Smith to complement Denard? “It’s huge. I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s not. The offensive staff came in at halftime, and said, ‘This is what we liked, this is how we’re want to align it formationally, this is how we need to tweak the blocking of it,’ and it went pretty well. Vince did a nice job. He made one cut too many on one run, but he did a nice job with his vision, and I thought Fitz did also.”
When you get a tailback going, what does it do for confidence of running backs as a whole? “They’re all very competitive. I also think they all want to play. But I think they also are very supportive of each other.”
Jibreel made a difference out there. Talk about him. “I think Jibreel’s played pretty consistent the last two games. I just didn’t feel him as much as I felt those other guys.”
Another big play by Kovacs on fourth-and-one. What happened? “It was a man coverage situation, and he was locked on that guy, and he did a tremendous job of beating the guy to the edge, to be honest with you. It’s something that Curt Mallory had worked with those guys all week.”
You’re off to a 3-0 start. This happened the last few years, too. Tougher opponents ahead. Cold shower? “Tougher opponents – I think they’re all tough. Believe me. College football – they’re all tough. Every game is such a from-the-neck-up football game. We’re a different team. I mean, yeah, we’ve been there, but we have to improve so much tomorrow when we look at the film and see, maybe we got out-leveraged here on this and why. There’s some urgency things when you’re setting up front, and guys getting lined up and all those things. Not getting technical, but we’ve got to go to work. I am not the funnest guy in the world like I am today, but Sunday to Friday, we have work to do.”
Second week in a row Gallon’s done some good things. Talk about him. “Well I think Jeremy’s another one of those guys who really, you could sense some things in his demeanor. Change in the spring. He had a really good summer, and good fall camp. He’s earning respect because of how he’s coming to work, how he’s playing.”
Denard had some problems passing. What do you want to see from receivers to help him out? “That one interception, that was kind of a bang-bang deal. I think Junior – if he comes back a little bit more, he maybe could have bodied the guy more and been in a better position. We’re pleased with our quarterback and I’m glad he’s at Michigan.”
You talked about Denard setting his feet. How hard is it to get him to set his feet when he loves to run so much? “I think it always is [hard] when you have a guy who can make multiple plays because of his athelticism. There’s no doubt that it’s a little more difficult. It is, and he’s done a nice job, and we just have to keep working, and he’s got to keep working on it and focusing and concentrating on that improvement in his game.”
Are Herron and Cam Gordon close to coming back? “Cam is real close, and so is Herron. I would think they’d both be ready next week.”
We didn’t see a lot of power runs today. A lot of spread instead. Is this by design or just playing more to Denard’s strengths as the game goes along? “It’s kind of what we’ve been since we started in the spring, to be honest with you. The quarterback power is still the power play, the read zone a little bit, and a couple things how we’re blocking that a little bit different depending on front. When we got I-backs today -- and Phil Snow’s a tremendous defensive coordinator, the guy has a tremendous pedigree -- he was going to load the box. That’s when we had a couple opportunities with some throws, because it’s all man coverage. You connect on those and the game changes a little bit.”
Thoughts on next game? “A guy from San Diego would ask that, wouldn’t he? I tell you, we have our hands full. That’s a very good football team, and a wel- coached football team, and a talented team. We’re going to try and get by the next 12 hours and then focus on that one.”
Glad you scheduled them? “Uh … no.”
Craig Roh got some stats today. Talk about him, too, please. “I thought he played more physical today. I thought he played with a little bit of a different mentality. He was aggressive. And you can really tell how he prepared all week he was going to do a great job for us today.”
Michael Schofield made an appearance -- what happened with Ricky Barnum? “His shoe came off. He’s got big feet. To get a big shoe on a big foot, sometimes it takes time.”
The way you guys end the game isn’t how you always start the game. What’s the deal? “I think it’s a little bit of both. I think both units, offensively and defensively … their respective coaches do a tremendous job of gathering information during possessions during the first half and coming in there as a group and each other’s room, taking some things out, putting some things in, making some adjustments, and relaying them to the kids so they can understand it. We [as coaches] can understand it all we want, but it doesn’t do us any good. If they understand it, then you’re going to make progress.”
When Denard struggles in the passing game, do you actively give him more carries to get him into rhythm? “I don’t know if we do that. I think your comfort level that you always want your quarterback to have is important, because he and the center and the only two guys that will touch the ball every play. Al looked at where we were and what we needed to do, and because we have worked on both styles so much, it’s easy to revert back and forth.”
Gratuitous Video of the Week: here's Will Campbell showing men of Thor who Thor really is:
More on him later.
Formation Notes: Michigan ran a lot of nickel against ND since ND ran a ton of three- and four-wide sets; this was usually an "even" front:
IE, both sides of the line are set up essentially the same way. You can see Thomas Gordon over the slot to the bottom of the screen.
When ND went to more conventional sets it was the 4-3 under. Here's an example you might recognize:
They also did their okie thing and nickel eff it, but you know about the latter from momentarily horrifying touchdowns.
Substitution Notes: much less rotation on the defensive line this time around. Roh and Black split time at WDE. Martin was almost always the nose. Van Bergen split time between three-tech and SDE, as did Heininger. Heininger also spotted Martin at the nose when he took a breather. Washington got in for a few plays; Campbell replaced Heininger late to excellent effect. Both were three-techs.
As you can see above, it seemed like Michigan had two different packages on the line:
- Pass rush: SDE Ryan / NT Martin / 3TECH RVB / WDE Black/Roh
- Run D: SDE RVB / NT Martin / 3TECH Heininger/Campbell/Washington / WDE Black/Roh Jake Ryan and Kenny Demens went the whole way at LB. The WLB was Desmond Morgan for the first four or so drives and then Brandin Hawthorne the rest of the way. Ryan also lined up at defensive end plenty when ND went to packages with lots of wideouts.
In the secondary it was mostly Avery and Floyd with Woolfolk rotating in from time to time. Kovacs and Robinson played the whole way at safety; Thomas Gordon got all but a handful of snaps as Michigan spent most of its time in a nickel package.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O43||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||11|
|Morgan starts and immediately gives up a play. Wood's headed straight up the middle of the field but Demens is there, unblocked. Martin(+0.5) was momentarily doubled and then gets the inside guy to release downfield. He then sets up inside of the G. That plus Demens means Wood has to cut outside of the Martin block and inside of Roh. Morgan(-2) fails to read the play quickly enough and does not get outside to stand Wood up in the hole. Have to get here if you're unblocked. If he's there Wood has nowhere to go and this is a no gain. Instead he's late, missing an arm tackle(-1) and sending Wood into the secondary for Kovacs to tackle.|
|M46||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Morgan||5|
|Heininger at the three tech with RVB at the five, except this is an even front with Roh on the strongside. Michigan slants its line away from the play; Roh(+0.5) shoots under the TE quickly enough to bang the pulling G. He's not far enough upfield to stop him cold but does slow him up and prevent him from effectively blocking Morgan. I am not entirely sure but I think Demens may have screwed up here—usually when you see a slant like this both linebackers will flow over the top behind it. Instead Demens goes straight upfield, getting knocked out by a tackle releasing downfield. HOWEVA, Gordon is blitzing off the edge so maybe Demens is doing what he should and it's Morgan who is making the error by not getting inside to bounce the play to his force help. So I just don't know. I think this is Morgan(-0.5) because of the blitz, and he did fall off the tackle(-1), but Demens(-0.5) also comes in for a wag of the finger.|
|M41||2||5||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Waggle out||Floyd?||21|
|Looks like the same slant. Roh(-1) is left unblocked on the end, sees the TE pulling across the line, and crashes down the line at said TE. He gets chucked to the inside as he releases into the route. Rees has no pressure on the corner and finds Floyd wide open for a big gainer. (Cover -2, Pressure -2, RPS -1) Either on Floyd for going deep when he had help over the top or Gordon for not getting over fast enough. I'd be guessing.|
|M20||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||11|
|TE originally spread out before coming in as an H-back over the gap between Martin and Heininger. Both linebackers flow to to the wrong side a step as the RB takes a counter step before cutting backside. Heininger(-1) was easily kicked out of the hole and sealed. Martin(-1) is slanting, I think, and also gets blown out of the hole. Morgan(-0.5) and Demens(-0.5) both get blown up by ND OL on the second level, and Wood just shoots straight upfield. Yuck.|
|M9||1||G||Ace twins twin TE||4-4 over||Run||N/A||Yakety snap||--||0|
|M9||2||G||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel over||Run||N/A||Quick pitch||Black||2|
|Eifert split out. Slightly, Michigan shifted towards him in case there is funny stuff. Morgan telegraphs his blitz, Rees checks. He checks to a quick pitch outside that takes advantage of that blitz(RPS -1). Black(+2) is left unblocked and starts charging up at the quarterback; on the pitch he changes direction impressively, gets out on the RB, and manages to tackle(+1) just as Wood crosses the LOS. Terrific individual play.|
|M7||3||G||Shotgun 4-wide||Okie||Pass||7||Rollout out||Gordon||7|
|Michigan sends the house; Notre Dame rolls away from the pressure and towards the out route Riddick is running on Gordon; Gordon has to set up with inside leverage and has no real chance at doing anything with this. Cover -1, RPS -1.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 9 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O17||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel under||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Morgan?||15|
|This director is very frustrating because his shots are all super-tight. You can see literally three yards downfield. Is this zone or man? I don't know. I believe it's zone given the reactions after the dumpoff. Problem: Morgan(-2, cover -2) takes off on a drag route as if it's man, opening up this stupid dumpoff for a big gain. No pressure(-1), either. On replay, definitely zone except for Morgan.|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel under||Run||N/A||Pin and pull zone||Martin||-3|
|Martin(+3) gets under the blocker assigned to him and shoots into the backfield for a TFL. Roh(+1) had set up outside in good contain position, removing any chance of a bounceout. Heininger(-1) got clobbered, though it didn't matter. RPS+1 for the slant.|
|O29||2||13||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||N/A||16|
|Kovacs and Morgan telegraph a blitz; Rees checks out of it; Michigan does not check out of their blitz. The check is a power play to the strong side of the line, where there are two Michigan defenders and four blockers with the pull. RPS -2. Hopeless. Heininger(-1) makes things worse by getting destroyed. RVB(-1) flew upfield, opening a big hole. Demens is almost triple-teamed as a result. Wood can go to either side. Gordon has to keep leverage and heads outside; Wood cuts in. Robinson(-1) comes up hard, misses the tackle, and gets lucky that Wood is forced into Floyd.|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Out||Demens||6|
|Zone blitz sends Morgan and drops Black. This gets a free run for Morgan and does see Black cover Eifert effectively, but no RPS because ND has a hot route they hit. Demens is in man on Riddick; Riddick runs an out; he was lined up way outside of Demens; all Demens can do is tackle. It is possible Gordon was supposed to be in zone here but I think it's just a tough cover for Demens as Mattison tries to confuse ND.|
|M49||2||4||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Penalty||N/A||False start||N/A||-5|
|Why does ND always have at least two linemen with full-on Viking manes? I can't think of a team more likely to have hair sticking out of their OL's helmets.|
|O46||2||9||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Drag||Kovacs||11|
|Washington in. Morgan(+1) blitzes and gets in clean, lighting up Rees as he throws (pressure +2), but Demens has been run off (cover -1) underneath and a short crossing route is turned up for 8 YAC. This is not Demens's fault—he actually did a great job of passing Floyd off to the safety. Kovacs(-1) is the culprit I think; two ND receivers jumped inside and he was the nearest available defender.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Bubble screen||Demens||8|
|Gordon(+1) does a great job of avoiding a cut block and is right there; Demens(-2) is flowing from the inside. He overpursues and lets Floyd back inside of him when the two of them had him pinned for a minimal gain. (Tackling -1)|
|M35||2||2||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||6||TE In||--||13|
|Morgan and Ryan blitz and are picked up(pressure -2). Once that happens it's an easy matter to find the hole in the zone. Kovacs and Demens were the guys nearest but this is on the blitz not getting close to home.|
|M22||1||10||Shotgun empty bunch||Nickel even||Pass||4||Slant||Morgan||14|
|Morgan(-1) again telegraphs his blitz, Rees checks, Michigan does not check, and it's easy as pie to throw it where Morgan blitzed from (RPS -2.) It's a matter of picking the wide open WR. Mattison getting torn apart so far. Kovacs(-1) misses a tackle(-1), ceding another half-dozen yards.|
|M8||1||G||Ace Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Ryan||5|
|Michigan still slanting these. Unlike Roh earlier, Ryan(-1) does not get underneath his blocker. He's kicked out. The slant isn't helping Heininger but he gets annihilated(-1). Big hole. Morgan(-0.5) gets pancaked, but he wasn't done any favors. Held down by safety help near the goal line.|
|M3||2||G||Ace Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Black||3|
|Same play they ran for 11 yards on the first drive. Black(-1) blown out by a double. Martin(-1) fights to the wrong side of his blocker; Morgan(-1) again goes with the counter step and again gets pancaked in the end zone. Demens(-0.5) can't do much. This is easy, yo.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-14, 1 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M39||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Trap?||Van Bergen||2|
|Hawthorne in. G pulls around Martin(-0.5) as the C kicks him upfield. Tough job to stay disciplined there but Martin could have done better. Hawthorne shoots the gap outside and misses but does get an arm on Wood, causing him to stumble. RVB(+1.5) fought inside a double and now gets in the way, forcing a spin; Demens(+0.5) and Kovacs(+0.5) converge to thump him down.|
|M37||2||8||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Out||Floyd||Inc|
|Zone blitz sees both DEs drop off as the MLBs blitz and Kovacs comes from way back. Rushers get picked up and Rees has a guy wide open on an out for the first (pressure -1, cover -1, Floyd -1), but instead of throwing it at the WR he throws it in the direction of Floyd five yards deeper. That's a letoff.|
|M37||3||8||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Hawthorne||Inc|
|Hawthorne(+1) sent on the same blitz Morgan was earlier, but he doesn't tip it off, getting in free right after the snap (pressure +2, RPS +1). Rees chucks it in panic. General direction of a drag that probably won't get the first down; turfed. I have a new respect for giving free rushers +1s after watching Morgan earlier.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-14, 14 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O14||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel over||Pass||5||Bubble screen||Gordon||22|
|Blitz from JT Floyd in the slot and ND bubbles right at it (RPS -1). Gordon gets a chuck in press man on Riddick, then disengages as Kovacs comes up. Riddick takes Kovacs. Gordon is now alone with Floyd on the edge. Floyd smokes him(-2, tackling -1) to the outside and turns a moderate gain into 20 yards.|
|O36||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel over||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Martin||0|
|RVB(+1) stands up to a double right at the LOS. This allows Martin(+1) to read the pull and pull himself, getting into the hole. Demens attacks and gets there at about the LOS; he turns it inside but I think he got bashed out the hole and would have given up a lane if not for Martin. Black(+1) set up, chucked the DE, and dove at Gray's feet as he passed—he's actually the first guy to tackle(+1). Well done all around by the DL.|
|O36||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Fade||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Hawthorne as a standup DE-ish thing and Ryan as an MLB. Blitz telegraphed? I don't remember this play. Survey says... yes. Ryan blitzes, Hawthorne drops into coverage, ND picks it up. Rees wants Floyd on a fade covered by Woolfolk. Woolfolk(+2) is step for step and uses his club to knock the ball away as it arrives. Robinson(+0.5) was there to whack him, too. (Cover +2)|
|Massive coverage bailout: the one that worked. ND rolls away from pressure that doesn't exist and still lets the backside DE roar in free. Rees has a timer in his head and needs to chuck it; he does. Kovacs(+3) backs out into a zone, reads the roll and the QBs eyes, and undercuts Floyd to intercept. Only problem: Eifert is wide open in the seam for a touchdown. Um (cover +1, RPS +1). I guess. Picture paged by dnak438.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 0-14, 11 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Screen||Black||Inc|
|Black(+2) reads the screen, gets upfield, shoots out on the running back, and tackles him as Rees turfs the ball. (RPS +1, cover +1)|
|Michigan shows the okie package on second and long; Rees checks, Michigan does nothing, and even after it's like “they called a play where they think we have no MLBs,” they still drop Mike Martin into a zone like it's third and twenty. Black did try to stunt inside and get crushed to the ground, so that's a -1. Everything else is on Mattison here. RPS -3. Little chance to defend this. I do wonder if the draw defense here was supposed to be Fitzgerald plunging down the line from outside.|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Fade||Avery||Inc (Pen 15)|
|No question about this. Avery shoves Floyd OOB on a very catchable fade (-2, cover -1).|
|M41||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel press||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|I bet they all saw “Thor” on opening night.|
|M46||1||15||Shotgun trips||Okie||Pass||5||Tunnel screen||Fitzgerald||3 – 15 Pen|
|Michigan drops a couple linebackers and sends five. The blitz prevents any ND OL from getting out just because they're getting blocked, essentially, and Fitzgerald(+0.5) just has to form up; RVB(+0.5) tackles from behind. RPS +1. Thor gets a personal foul.|
|Floyd on Floyd action. Floyd(+1, cover +1) has excellent, blanketing coverage on Floyd but the back shoulder throw is perfect and his hand is a half-second late. Floyd stabs a foot down and Floyd can't do much other than ride him out of bounds. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat. This is one of those times. That is hard. That is why Floyd (not our Floyd) is going to be rich in about nine months.|
|M36||3||In||Goal line||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Dive||Hawthorne||In|
|Linemen just fall all over each other, leaving Hawthorne(+1) to leap over the pile with beautiful timing and nail Wood in the backfield. Could be a stop but Wood does burrow for the first. Refs got this spot on the money.|
|M36||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Heininger||5|
|Heininger(-2) crushed out of the hole. He has to take the double there; he does not. He gets sealed instantly and in one motion the T is out on Hawthorne. LBs have blockers in their faces. Demens(+0.5) sets up well and gets Wood to commit inside, then pops off and falls backwards and causes Wood to fall; Hawthorne(+0.5) had taken the hit and gotten playside. Not heroic work but they held this down without involving a safety despite both getting blocked.|
|M31||2||5||Ace trip TE||Base 3-4?||Run||N/A||Down G pitch||Demens||3|
|Ryan(-2) is on the edge against three freaking tight ends and doesn't try to not get sealed. He's not even slanting. He rushes straight upfield, gets sealed by Eifert, and doesn't delay the puller. Hawthorne(-0.5) is on the LOS inside of Ryan and meets the same fate. Hard to blame him. Floyd sets up outside to force it back; Demens(+2, tackling +1) is running his ass off to beat the blocker coming out on him and catch Wood. He does just as Wood tries to break outside of Kovacs(+0.5), who had taken on the last TE and gotten outside all textbook and stuff.|
|M28||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Penalty||N/A||Delay of game||--||-5|
|Brian Kelly thinks he's coaching basketball yo.|
|M33||3||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel stack||Pass||4||Out||Avery||15|
|Avery on Floyd; I think Floyd pushes off here to get separation but there is no call. Avery -1, cover -1.|
|M18||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||4-3 under||Pass||5||Rollout dumb||Floyd||Int|
|Rees goes “FLOYDFLOYDFLOYD” and throws it to him despite Floyd having three defenders around him, one directly in front of him. JT Floyd(+2, cover +2) picks it off.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-14, 5 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|50||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Slant||Avery||12|
|Play action fake with a pull does suck Hawthorne(-0.5) out of position, but it's hard to not suck up given what's been happening. The bigger problem is Avery(-1.5, cover -1, tackling -1), who has no other threats than Floyd and would be fine if he just tackled on the catch here. He doesn't; Floyd breaks the tackle and turns five yards into a first down.|
|M38||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Down G pitch||Black||3|
|Black(+1) slants inside the TE assigned to him, getting into the backfield. He draws one of the pulling OL and cuts off the outside, forcing a cutback. The TE peels back to try to deal with him and then thinks better of it. Wood cuts inside the Black engagement and would be in trouble if Heininger(-1) hadn't been completely handled by one-on-one blocking. If Heininger is just okay here this is no gain. Instead he's crushed, leaving a gap. Hawthorne(-0.5) was cut as well but gets up crazy fast; Demens(+1) avoided his cut and fills to thump.|
|M35||2||7||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Heininger||2|
|Good fightback from Heiniger(+1.5) here. He takes a one on one block and gets playside. This is definitely not supposed to happen since the H-back is running straight at this gap. Heininger is there; H-back runs into him. He holds. Running back now hits the pile; he starts to yield a little bit. He's still taken on two blockers and forced a bounce. An unblocked Demens(+0.5) is in the right place to lead the tacklers.|
|Same thing that went for 20 on an earlier drive, with Martin backing out into a zone as ND runs a draw right at it. It's even worse this time as there is no one in the center of the field not dropping into a zone. RPS -3.|
|M21||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||Rollout throwaway||--||Inc|
|Good coverage(+2) causes Rees to throw it away as he nears the sideline.|
|M21||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Okie||Pass||5||Fade||Van Bergen||Inc|
|They back out the MLBs this time and send the DL plus the OLBs. RVB(+1, pressure +2, RPS +2) is instantly past the G assigned to him because of a poor pickup; Rees chucks a ball off his back foot that's not catchable. Eifert gives it a go, though.|
|M21||3||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Slant||Gordon||Inc|
|Gordon(+2, cover +1) gets an excellent jam at the line and disrupts the route. I think this was destined for the slot but it could have been Floyd. Throw was less awful if it was the slot.|
|Drive Notes: FG(38), 7-17, 1 min 2nd Q. Greg Mattison's getting a little fancy here.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Roh||4|
|Heininger out, Campbell in. I think Mattison knows Heininger has been getting manhandled. ND tries to run at Campbell; his(+0.5) response to a double is to burrow his way straight upfield. This does occupy two blockers for the duration of the play but I'm a little worried he went too upfield and didn't go down the line. This is still better than Heininger's output. Roh(+0.5) is also doubled and manages to split it after giving ground. This forces the RB outside, where Hawthorne can flow; Roh couldn't tackle but his penetration robbed the G of any ability to block Hawthorne. Would like Hawthorne to get to the hole quicker to hold this down a bit.|
|O24||2||6||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||Quick out||Floyd||7|
|Martin(+1, pressure +1) beats the center and threatens Rees up the middle. Doesn't matter because Floyd(-1, cover -1) is in the parking lot on a quick out for Floyd. Way too easy.|
|O31||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||19|
|TE as H-back and lead blocker. Martin(-2) is clubbed, getting hit by a single momentary double and then sealed away by one guy after the G releases downfield. RVB(-2) gets upfield and is pancaked. Linebackers really have no chance here. Floyd(-1, tackling -1) is in overhang mode; he misses a tackle near ten yards and Wood ends up picking up 10 more.|
|50||1||10||Ace 2TE twins||4-3 over||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|I bet they're all drummers, too.|
|O45||1||15||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||--||8|
|Tough to defend as aligned(RPS -1), with Woolfolk bailing out and Gordon trying to hold his ground at about five yards getting blocked. Gordon does force it back inside, where Demens and MRobinson tackle.|
|M47||2||7||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||5||Hitch||Floyd||6|
|Heininger back in; they've flipped him to SDE with RVB at three tech. Hawthorne blitzes and is picked up (pressure -1); Rees hits Floyd on a hitch near the sticks in front of Floyd. Floyd probably gets the first down if he doesn't fall, but he does fall, so he doesn't. (Cover -1)|
|M41||3||1||Ace twin TE||6-2 Bear||Run||N/A||Iso||Van Bergen||-2|
|Bear? Why the hell not. This is a line of six dudes across ND's line with the DL shifted one way and two linebackers lined up above SDE Heininger. Demens is the lone LB; Kovacs also ends up in the box at LB depth as Eifert motions in. RVB(+2) blows through his blocker and is into the backfield; Ryan(+1) blitzed untouched from the outside; Martin(+1) avoided a submarine block from the center and leapt into the path of Eifert up the middle, allowing Demens(+0.5) to charge through the gap unmolested and finish off the tackle RVB and Ryan started. RPS +3; big big stop.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-17, 10 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Counter||Ryan||38|
|Man, we suck at counters. This one is tough as Michigan has just six in the box against six blockers. Ryan(-2) plunges down the line and get annihilated by the RT. He is gone, he is being shoved into Martin, game over for the DL. Hawthorne(-1) sucked up to the LOS and gave the C a great angle to block him. I would be interested to know why Mattison doesn't key on OL pulls. There's got to be a reason. Anyway, with Hawthorne and the DL out of the picture, Kenny Demens(+1) is one on one with the pulling OL in acres of space. He sets up inside, realizes Gray is going outside of him, gets out to force a slow-down and cut-back, then gets plowed. Valiant effort there. Marvin Robinson(-3) then turns ten yards into many more by losing leverage. Kovacs had this covered at the sticks if Gray does not get outside.|
|M30||1||10||Ace 2TE tight||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ryan||0|
|Excellent work by the entire DL here, as they flow down the line in textbook fashion. Martin(+1) controls the center and drives him back, flowing. Campbell(+1) takes a double but stays playside of it and occupies both blockers for the whole play. Ryan(+2) dominates the TE assigned to him, not only driving him into the backfield two yards but shoving him into Martin's lineman; Woods has nowhere to go except up his blockers' backs. RVB took a double too; he gave ground but it didn't matter. Wood then puts the ball on the turf; Campbell recovers.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-17, 7 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O29||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||MRobinson||24|
|Simply untenable, this. RVB(-2) shoots straight upfield. He does bump a puller and delay him, but he falls to the ground and is useless. Martin is on the backside and wasn't going to be able to do much but now he's totally out of the play. Black(-2) locks in with Eifert and then makes a critical error: instead of bulling him back and stringing the play out he attempts to disengage. He gets playside but gives up two yards of penetration and gets way too far outside in the process, now getting caught up with Hawthorne. Then he falls. Big cutback lane. Robinson(-2, tackling -2) whiffs so bad he hardly slows Wood, turning a nice gain into a huge one.|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Black||0|
|Floyd(-1) telegraphs blitz, no check. ND runs away from it and might have a big gainer if they can get the edge sealed. This time Black(+2) stands up, chucks Eifert inside of him, and pops up on the edge a yard into the backfield, forcing a cutback. Martin(+0.5) has flowed down the line to cut off the immediate cutback and Demens(+0.5) comes in from behind to tackle.|
|Michigan sends Ryan and Kovacs from the outside while dropping Demens and Hawthorne back to linebacker depth. This initially fools the LT, who ends up having to chase Demens(+1) as he scrapes to the hole to tackle. Demens ends up missing the tackle because the OL blocks him in the back (refs -1); Martin(+0.5) set up well and came off a block to finish the tackle. Should have been two yards or negative ten, but that's life. RPS +1|
|M42||3||5||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel even||Pass||5||Rollout out||Floyd||16|
|Floyd(-2, cover -2) gets killed on this little rollout out. Giving up the first down is one thing. Getting so far out of position on a five yard out that you can't even miss a tackle until the safety comes up and the WR has to delay is another. Easy.|
|M26||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Van Bergen||-4 (Pen +10)|
|M waits to tip its blitz until after the check, getting Gordon(+1, RPS +2) in off the edge on the playside. Michigan slants under the zone blocking and RVB(+1) gets through to tackle immediately on the cutback Gordon forces. Heininger(-1) erases all of that by yanking an ND OL by the jersey as he's cut to the ground.|
|M16||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Fade||Floyd||Inc|
|Floyd(+2, cover +2) in press here and stays step-for-step with Floyd on the fade, breaking it up as it arrives. Fade is not well thrown, which helps.|
|M16||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 two deep||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||1|
|Three man line with Ryan as a Crable DT; they send him and Demens at the same gap. ND runs away from it. Trouble? Maybe. Martin(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) flow away from the blitz against single blocking and hold up; Demens(+2) keeps his head up, reads the play, gets into his blocker, and then releases down the line to tackle.|
|M15||3||9||Shotgun empty||3-3-5 two deep||Pass||N/A||Drag||Van Slyke||15|
|Three man rush leaves Rees all day(pressure -1) but does force a checkdown. Slot WR is running in front of Van Slyke(-2, tackling -1), who's too far behind to do anything but make a desperation dive that does not bring the WR down. That's the first down; the TD is mostly due to a stellar block by an ND WR that cut off three guys.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-24, 2 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O10||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||TE out||Hawthorne||Inc|
|Herbstreit is now circling our telegraphed blitzes. Rees is still checking out of plays. This time it's Kovacs rolling up and blitzing; ND rolls away from it. Rees seems to have a WR open but goes to Eifert, who is blanketed by Hawthorne(+2, cover +2). Hawthorne comes over the top to break it up. Impressive.|
|O10||2||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Hawthorne||8|
|Van Bergen(-1) is battered out of the hole but Ryan(+0.5) sets up right this time and Demens(+0.5) scrapes to hit the lead DE at the LOS. Narrow gap for the tailback that should be filled by Hawthorne(-1) but isn't because he shuffled to the LOS instead of flowing over the top and allowed the C to block him. Picture paged.|
|O18||3||2||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Hawthorne||-2|
|Same play. Michigan sends Hawthorne on a blitz this time. RVB(+2) shoots upfield, getting his blocker in trouble and picking off a pulling G. He is surging through both these guys two yards in the backfield as Wood approaches. Ryan(+0.5) again sets up well on the edge. Wood is going to try to bounce, which will test Ryan severely because Demens(-0.5) is not in position to bounce with him. Moot, though, as Hawthorne(+2) has zipped through the crack provided by the pulling G and tackles for loss. RPS +2.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-24, 13 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O40||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||PA TE drag||Hawthorne||5|
|Rees goes play action and then finds his tight end for a moderate gain. Hawthorne tackles immediately. Pressure was getting-there-ish, coverage was okay, throw could have been better... this is average all around.|
|O45||2||5||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||2 (Pen -10)|
|Campbell(+1!) bowls over the backside G. RVB(+1) has cut through his blocking on the frontside, which forces a cutback. Campbell might have as shot at a TFL but is held, allowing the RB past; Demens(+1) reads and slices through a gap to make an ankle tackle as Wood gets to the LOS. Black(-1) got blown up and pancaked by Eifert on the backside, which is why this became dangerous.|
|O35||2||15||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||3||Tunnel screen||Black||0|
|Hawthorne sent; Black drops off. Think Rees puts this too far outside but Black(+2) takes advantage. He's chucking a TE on his drop who turns into his blocker; Black shucks him and tackles Floyd at the line. (RPS +1, tackling +1)|
|O35||3||15||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||TE post||--||21|
|No pressure(-1) on a four man rush allows Rees to step up and sling it in a very small gap between Hawthorne and Demens(+1); this is good coverage(+1) that Rees beats with a fantastic throw. Demens was right there, man.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel spread||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Gordon||2|
|Hawthorne split out in man and I think this baits ND since it looks like Demens is the only LB. On the snap, Gordon blitzes and the line slants. RVB(+0.5) gets some penetration and Wood cuts back. Gordon(+0.5) is there to contain; Demens(-0.5) gets too far outside and doesn't provide a thump to hold this to one yard. RPS +1|
|M41||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Slant||Ryan||11|
|ND is taking a long time to get their plays called and M takes advantage, sending Gordon and Demens and dropping off Ryan. This is almost deadly. Rees hurries his throw and it's right at the zone Ryan(-1, cover -1) is dropping into except he's too far into the flat, so instead of going right to him it passes just by his outstretched hand. He drops properly and we could be talking pick six. (RPS +2)|
|M30||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||3-3-5 two deep||Pass||5||Slant||Woolfolk||8|
|ND runs double slants and Woolfolk(-1) is beaten to the inside; he does tackle immediately. (Cover -1)|
|M22||2||2||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Fade||Avery||Inc (Pen 15)|
|Kovacs rolls up; check. They take advantage of the man to man to take a shot at the endzone. Avery(+1, cover +1) is right in the WR's face as the ball comes in; it's low and to the outside and Avery can't do anything about the futile one-handed stab the WR makes, but it's a futile one-handed stab. Avery is hit with a terrible PI flag (refs -1)|
|M7||1||G||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||6||DERP||DERP||DERP|
|DERP. Michigan had blitzed and gotten Black(+1, pressure +1, RPS +1) in Rees's face so if this goes forward it's almost certainly getting batted anyway.|
|Drive Notes: DERP, 21-24, 6 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell?||3|
|Campbell does okay with a double but only okay and starts getting shoved back. ND RT releases downfield into... no one. Weird. I guess I have to give Campbell +0.5 since one of his guys was probably supposed to get Hawthorne. Hawthorne is now unblocked so he is headed to the frontside gap; Wood cuts behind. Demens(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5) combine to tackle.|
|M23||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||Out||Woolfolk||6|
|No pressure(-1); easy throw for Rees as Woolfolk is in man. No minus here since it's a six yard completion with an instant tackle. That's kind of a win for the cornerback.|
|M29||3||1||Ace trips TE||6-2 Bear||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ryan||-2|
|Credit could go to either Ryan or Campbell. Campbell(+2) destroys the RT. He gets under him and pancakes the dude. He dead. This constricts the hole and picks off the pulling TE. Wood has to take it inside slightly, where Ryan(+2) blazed past the other tackle on an outside blitz and took a perfect angle to Flying Squirrel Tackle Wood; Demens(+0.5) was there to clean up if necessary. Either Ryan or Campbell was enough to stuff this. Both and you look dominant. (RPS +3)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-24, 2 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||5||Fade||Floyd||Inc (Pen 15)|
|Hawthorne(+1, pressure +1) gets a free run at Rees so he chucks it to Floyd, Floyd(-2, cover -2) is beaten instantly and starts yanking the jersey in a desperate bid to not be an instant goat.|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||3||TE In||Demens||12|
|All day (pressure -2) on a three man rush; Rees patiently waits until he finds Eifert for a first down. Demens right there to tackle.|
|M34||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||3||Rollout out||--||5|
|No pressure on the roll but lots of coverage(+1) in the area because of the extra defender means Rees has to check down for a few yards.|
|Miscommunication between QB and receiver means pass is nowhere near anyone. Blitz was just getting home.|
|M29||3||5||Shotgun trips||Nickel eff it||Pass||3||Seam||MRobinson?||29|
|This has to be a bust by someone but it's also hugely risky in an area of the field where you have another ten yards before you can really start bringing the heat. It must be Robinson(-2), but this is such a ridiculously hard thing to ask this kid to do that an RPS -3 is warranted. Picture paged by dnak438.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-31, 30 sec 4th Q|
So how was that?
I don't know, man.
I sentence you to death!
I'm already a condemned man.
I sentence your face to death!
Great. So Michigan gave up 31 points and 513 yards on Saturday. They acquired four turnovers, only two of which could plausibly be declared forced—the two fumbles were just ND players dropping the ball—and one of the plausibly forced also featured a hand-wavingly open coverage bust. Without Notre Dame literally handing the ball to Michigan they likely score between 37 and 45 points. Yeesh.
There is one major mitigating factor: drives. Notre Dame had 13. That's a lot, even more than last year's opponents averaged (12.4) during a time when every other play was a long touchdown. It's still tough to be encouraged when the opponent threw for 8.1 YPA and ran for 6 YPC.
But Notre Dame's offense is really good!
This I buy. Eifert and Floyd are a hell of a receiving combo, their line consists entirely of veterans who Michigan would have loved to have, Brian Kelly is an established offensive super genius, and I love Cierre Wood. If Rees ever stops turning the ball over they could rack up some silly numbers. Big if given Rees's tunnel vision for Floyd, granted.
A quick glance at the schedule suggests the only offense that looks anywhere near as talented is at—ugh—Michigan State. If your line coming out of this game is "this is the most talented offense we'll face," I'm inclined to agree given the dodgy nature of the State offensive line.
And we got a lot better late!
Also true, but first let's get some context, let's get—
He does make an appearance.
Will Campbell chart.
SAY IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT
|Van Bergen||11||6||5||Two huge plays on third and short pull him above average.|
|Martin||9||4.5||4.5||Had one trademark slash for TFL, was otherwise kinda eh.|
|Heininger||2||8||-6||Consistently blown up by single blocking.|
|Black||11||5||6||Made a lot of plays on the edge.|
|Campbell||5||-||5||Please be real.|
|TOTAL||40||24.5||15.5||Decent but the "pressure" metric below is a downer.|
|Demens||13||4.5||8.5||Twelve tackles and few errors.|
|Ryan||6||6||0||Had some trouble holding up on the edge when asked to slant|
|Fitzgerald||0.5||-||0.5||About two plays.|
|Hawthorne||6.5||4||2.5||Alternated nice plays, coverage, with slow reads.|
|Morgan||1||7||-6||Yanked. Back problem time?|
|TOTAL||27||21.5||5.5||Can Hawthorne hold up?|
|Floyd||5||8||-3||Good PBUs deep, couldn't keep on the radar underneath|
|Avery||1||4.5||-3.5||Struggled, but PI unfair.|
|Kovacs||4||2||2||Less explosive day, rarely blitzed, but didn't get beat.|
|T. Gordon||4.5||2||2.5||I like him.|
|Robinson||0.5||8||-7.5||Lost leverage twice, blew deep coverage twice.|
|TOTAL||17||25.5||-8.5||FS play killing them.|
|Pressure||7||13||-6||Front four not getting anywhere.|
|Coverage||17||18||-1||Good deep in press man.|
|Tackling||4||10||-6||Very poor day.|
|RPS||22||18||4||Big recovery late with third and short stops worth +8.|
The defensive line generally emerged positive but throw in that pressure metric and it's a below-average day. No one is getting to the quarterback. Their big positives came when ND could not pick up third and short.
I struggled with what to do with plays like the Kovacs interception, on which I gave Kovacs a big plus and Mattison/coverage a small one. (Given Rees's rolling out the TE throw would have been tough.) The surprising net result: a positive RPS day after a lot of big minuses. That is due in large part to Mattison bringing out blitzes that stoned Notre Dame on third and short three times. Those are critical turning points that, according to the Mathlete, swung Michigan's run defense from –4 points above normal (PAN) in the first half to +4 in the second.
Would you like to debate the semantics of the word "sound"?
There's been some pushback (at BWS and also on twitter) on my declaration the defense is not "sound" after pointing out the various ways in which Mattison plus Michigan's inexperience yield a bunch of holes in the D. Some of this is my fault since I did not make it clear that when I was describing something as unsound it was the defense as a whole, not necessarily any individual play. I say this because of plays like this:
Is this a massive missed assignment that leaves essentially no one in the middle of the field? I suppose that's possible, but it doesn't sound like it:
Longer runs when Mike Martin dropped into coverage. How do you protect the middle of field? “The same blitzes that hit the quarterback from western -- [Notre Dame] obviously saw that and didn’t want that pressure to come at them, so what they did was check to a run whenever they saw that look. We have defenses that look exactly the same that are run defenses, and it’s the same thing. I called the pressure thinking it was pass, and in the back of my mind, I’m thinking I should have called the pressure for the run because maybe they’re going to do that, and sure enough they did do it. And the next one they ran it on third-and-seven. If a team’s going to run it on third-and-seven, you aren’t ever going to pressure if you’re worried about it. And some of the overloads on both sides -- they aren’t great run defenses.”
Sometimes Mattison runs sucky run defenses on second and ten. Sometimes he calls plays where there's no one deeper than five yards and would like a true sophomore in his first extended playing time to cover not only the deep middle but a seam route he's not even looking at. Sometimes he asks the WLB to run hash-to-hash with his back towards the QB and then do something about a seven-yard hitch. Are these plays sound? Maybe some of them are… on paper. In practice the kinds of zone blitzing Mattison uses give certain defenders massively difficult tasks.
Is that sound? Yes, technically, but only technically.
I don't have a problem with this, by the way, since it's the equivalent of taking over Michigan's 2008 offense. Do whatever you want. Caviar dreams appreciated.
Do we have a weakside linebacker?
I think we might. Desmond Morgan got a shot and looked like a true freshman. He tipped his blitzes, failed to scrape to the hole despite being unblocked, and had at least one instance in which he did the "I'm in man, everyone else is in zone" thing we saw too frequently last year and from Herron in the opener. Sad fugee faces.
Then Hawthorne came in, and while he had his errors he also flashed impressive coverage skills…
…and the ability to Ian Gold his way into the opponent's backfield:
[update: wrong video. fixed.]
The sample size is small but in retrospect that practice where everyone freaked out because Campbell wasn't starting, then breathed a sigh of relief because Brandin Hawthorne was in there at WLB so it couldn't have actually been the first team defense, was prescient. Hawthorne leapt to the top of the depth chart in the aftermath of his performance and will likely stick there until Northwestern, Michigan State, and Iowa test him down the road.
Do we have a three tech?
Come on, baby. It eventually became clear to Michigan's coaches that Will Heininger was a problem on the interior and they started rotating other options into the game. Quinton Washington got a few snaps and didn't do anything of note. Will Campbell, though, not only features in the above Gratuitous Video but a couple other instances where he all but threw Notre Dame offensive linemen into the ballcarrier. Here he's held!
By the end of the game he'd racked up a +5 with no minuses. This came a week after WMU lit him up and he got promptly yanked.
What changed? Michigan's scheme probably helped. Against WMU they ran a lot of three-man lines with a nose tackle and a couple ends. Against ND it was all four-man lines in which Campbell was the three-tech. That makes him harder to double and apparently allows him to chuck a three-hundred pound redshirt senior like he's Sam McGuffie.
This almost can't be real, so let's say it's not. Likely scenario: Campbell is making some progress but needs to be constantly reminded of his technique, applied in limited situations in which he can succeed, and gets tired really quickly.
Do we have a free safety?
No. Best hope there is for one of the corners to take over at nickelback and get Thomas Gordon back there.
Do we have a weakside defensive end?
Maybe, but it's not the one people expected. Jibreel Black didn't get any quarterback pressure on his own but he still racked up a nice day thanks to athletic plays like this:
He's chucking tight ends out of his face and holding up on the edge (usually) and may have passed Roh. Now about that pass rush…
Kenny Demens was probably Michigan's best defender on the day, and when Campbell and Hawthorne's powers combined on the final four drives Notre Dame averaged 3.3 YPC on twelve attempts.
Marvin Robinson lost leverage frequently and busted the final TD. Anyone covering Floyd on anything but a fly route was helpless, but that can't really be held against them. Morgan and Heininger were poor before being lifted.
What does it mean for Eastern Michigan and the future?
The next three weeks will be spent consolidating a starting position for Hawthorne, working out what Campbell's role can be, working on reducing the number of busts, and hopefully finding someone to play free safety. IME this has to be Thomas Gordon, so look for Blake Countess to begin rotating in as a nickelback so Michigan can develop the corner depth they'll want to keep Gordon at safety full time.
They could look okay by the end of that period. I'm extremely worried about the pass rush from the front four, though. I assumed that would be a strength and it has not been anything close. If they don't get more they'll be totally reliant on wacky blitz packages Michigan's transitioning defense clearly isn't doing a great job of executing. That will make for a rollercoaster.
9/10/2011 – Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31 – 2-0
is this real life?
Not only can Denard Robinson redefine All-America teams, average nearly 500 yards per game against Notre Dame, and pilot the most insane fourth quarter Michigan Stadium has ever seen, but he can sum up what happened on Saturday in a single word:
If you still need evidence that Denard can do things other people can't, there you go. Because I've got nothing. I can gape, slack-jawed and twitching, if you'd like. Oh, and I can put my finger between my lips and go "brrrrrrrrrbbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrrbb" with crazy googly eyes. Also I can spin in a circle going "yip yip yip yip yip."
These are my capabilities. All other functions are currently offline. Attempt to access higher cognition and you will receive 503 Gateway Not Found.
That's fine. There's nothing to say that "brrrrrrbrbrbrbrbrrbrbrb" doesn't cover anyway. I am so high, you guys. I don't even know what I'm saying.
Seriously. I'm really struggling here to put words in the computer. I guess… okay.
The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.
I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:
Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field. I couldn't block them from my phone. The tweets sat there, whispering evil things into my ear.
As I projected Denard's state of mind my own got inky black. The road ahead seemed like another two years of painful rebuilding towards a goal Denard will never see, his career relegated to that of Brandon Graham when Desmond Howard seemed in reach. It's going to kill me if Denard ends up a really good player on a mediocre team for the duration of his career and Michigan doesn't end up making anyone who wants 16 in the future wear a patch with dreads on it. It's going to be worse if he's not even a really good player. Someone is at fault for this travesty.
I was running advanced equations of blame assignment amongst Bill Martin, Rich Rodriguez, Al Borges, Dave Brandon, and bloody fate when Denard rolled out. Corralled by a Notre Dame defender, he stood perfectly still but still delivered a game-changing dart to Junior Hemingway before two more ND players could close in.
From there the delirium took over.
That game was delirious because of the many improbable events stacked on each other. Jeremy Gallon jump-ball touchdowns. Tommy Rees's aiming device locked on Michael Floyd. Tommy Rees throwing a ball backwards for no reason. More jump balls to Junior Hemingway and Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon turning invisible with 23 seconds left. All the reasons it left you with your finger between your teeth are reasons to wonder about the smoothness of this transition (not very), the repeatability of such miracles (even less).
This isn't to blame anyone—it seems that coaches are who they are and as much as I want to, you can't hire a guy based on the two years left you've got with Denard. But I hope I'm not the only one who felt a sense of foreboding in the midst of the joy and relief. We've seen this script the last two years, and never has it been as rickety.
Michigan has to fix some stuff—lots of stuff—by the Big Ten season. The stakes are only Denard's career, everyone's faith in the Ethical Les Miles theory of Hoke's success, and the very survival of pandas in the wild. I'll take the escape. I wonder what happens when the drugs wear off and real life reasserts itself.
For now, though:
The game is ova!
Non-Bullets Of WHAT?
Pantheon placement. I think this is below Braylonfest—but only just—in the competition for Best Comeback Ever (that people 32 or under remember). For Michigan to pull Braylonfest out they had to recover an onside kick and survive not just triple overtime by an oft-forgotten 50-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation that was set up by a horrible pass interference call.
A good proxy for the level of kickass in your comeback is how many people left the stadium early. While there were some people who took off when ND made it 24-7, they don't compare to the legions who left early during that MSU game. And winning that eventually got Michigan a Rose Bowl appearance. The season-long significance of this ND game is going to be lower.
It easily beats out the Buffalo Stampede game, since it's not against Minnesota or in the Metrodome, and then it's a long way to fourth place.
As far as best game ever… it depends on what you're rating it on. I like my defining victories to be well-played and not hinge on the opposing quarterback throwing the ball backwards for no reason. In terms of pure drama it's up there but with both teams unranked and not looking likely to defy that I'd say most Ohio State games before we stopped being competitive had more salt to them. We lost all the ones that came down to the last play, though.
The entire Denard interview. If you missed this, you should fix that:
Commence the bitching about the offense. Watching Michigan run a play-action bomb from the I-formation after averaging exactly two yards per carry out of the I on previous attempts was exactly what I was beating into the ground over the offseason. No one is scared of Michigan's crappy backs running power out of the I-form so no one has to cheat to it. Thus instead of Worst Waldo plays featuring Roy Roundtree and twenty yards of grass we got a lot of hopeful downfield jump balls into excellent coverage.
Michigan was lucky as hell to get most of those. That was a Jeff Bowden special right there. I'm not alone in this. There has to be some adaptation now that we know the relative success rates of manball and Denardball. When Denard's averaging 7.5 YPC (sack excluded) and the rest of the backs under are 2, power is a lost cause.
Denard has to be the focal point of the offense, fragile or no. And the new offense seemed to remove Denard's legs as the primary threat without actually reducing his carries: he had 15 carries* in just 50 snaps. Project that to last year's 72 offensive snaps per game and Denard would have carried 22(!) times. What's the point of throwing away snaps on two-yard runs from the I?
Primary thing that may just work. "Chuck it up to Hemingway" may be the world's most primitive passing game but dang if it doesn't work. Hemingway not only has great leaping ability, he's enormous and therefore capable of boxing out opponents. Add in an uncanny knack for being able to high-point the ball and he's a hell of a lot like Marquise Walker before Walker got the dropsies as a senior.
Primary thing that did work from under center. Vincent Smith's throwback screen touchdown was a great call since it used Denard's legs. He rolls, defense freaks, he throws back, Smith should have an easy touchdown if any of the offensive linemen block that one linebacker, Smith makes it happen anyway. Contrast with the earlier screen where a short Denard has to float a ball over a guy leaping in his face and ends up throwing it eight yards too far and getting it picked off.
And introducing… Facepalm Guy. The facepalm guy from the sad fugee face picture in the "So I Was Like" post: the the new Lloyd Brady? He's already won an award for "Media Criticism" from Doctor Saturday.
1) He caught ESPN's camera's capturing his facepalm moment and gave them an oh-no-you-di'in't:
2) After the game he… well, he did this:
Can a brother get a Facepalm Guy touchdown Jesus photoshop?
(HT to MGoUser Haterade.)
Defensive events. Brandon Herron and Mike Jones were supposedly out with injury but if I had to guess they were not so badly hurt they couldn't play and Michigan was trying out their other options at WLB. Desmond Morgan started, played poorly—he got trucked like he was in a BTN practice highlight-type substance—and was yanked. Then Brandin Hawthorne came in and may have been plausible. He knifed into the backfield for one key TFL on third and short. I'm guessing he was at least partially responsible for a number of Cierre Wood runs that went for big yardage, but we'll see. WLB remains a sore spot.
The other sore spot is an alarming, unexpected one: WDE. Craig Roh had zero tackles for the second straight week and while he did get a QB hurry or two he seems less impactful from that spot than he did last year. I mean, last year he split two ND linemen and picked up a huge TFL en route to a +11 day. This year he'll be lucky to break even. Hopefully he's still sick. I wonder if we see more Black in the short term.
How did Jordan Kovacs only have eight tackles?
BONUS: Will Campbell got held! By an offensive lineman!
Special teams. Matt Wile has been at least average spelling Hagerup, and with only one more real-ish game left before the latter returns it looks like Michigan will escape that suspension without much real damage. I still hate the regular punt. If ND's John Goodman hadn't made inexplicable fair catches he had tons of room on two of Wile's five punts despite Wile's excellent hangtime.
The patch thing. It's pretty cool. Some potential tweaks and additions:
- Should we un-retire numbers? I could get behind a 98 if it meant someone was going to be sitting in front of a locker that said Tom Harmon. You'd have to ask whoever the nearest relative is.
Further locker room additions. Everyone who's been an All-American should have their name engraved in a fashion more understated than this legends designation…
...but still be there. Having Chappius and Oosterbaan and Friedman and McKenzie and Dierdorf and Long's names up in the locker room would be a nice way to recognize All-Americans past.
- Next up. AC and Woodson. If they don't put the retired numbers back in circulation. Jake Long would probably be next up way down the road.
- The patch is too big. That's just, like, my opinion, man.
So there's this. Exploit your children for fun and profit:
Profit not applicable.
Pom-poms and RAWK and crowd noise. Is it just me or was the stadium not actually very loud when it would help out the most? The pom-poms encouraged people to use their hands shaking pom-poms instead of making noise and while the piped-in music was indeed loud, when it cut out the people in the stadium making noise were largely going "OH oh oh oh oh, OH oh oh oh oh" instead of "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA." The latter is louder.
Putting aside the insults to the Great Tradition they represent, is the noise level created by the frippery mostly cosmetic? It has seemed much louder in Michigan Stadium—I was frustrated as I was screaming myself hoarse on the last drive while people around me shook their little plastic thingies. Plastic thingy shaking is not that intimidating, people.
And then there's the guy two rows in front of you who's shaking the thing constantly so you can't see the game. In the South they have a protocol about these things: raise that thing above your shoulder during a play and you're not getting that arm back. Here we get them every five years or so and there's always someone who thinks row 14 is the last one.
ST3 goes inside the box score. Michael Scarn says trying to describe that game was like taking a picture of Bigfoot. Post-ND MonuMental riff by ppToilet. (You can't choose your username, man, it chooses you.) MonuMental himself shows up to modify his Denard action figure for the occasion.
Pretty much the best. An obviously drunk Jeff at Maize Pages digs up the fantastically entertaining Roundtree-Shaw Newlywed game BTN video in response to the delerium.
Photo galleries and assorted media. Pregame shots from MNB Nation. Other shots from MNBN. The Shredder took a zillion shots. Tailgating from AnnArbor.com. Also the game. Here's a great stadium shot from Melanie Maxwell:
Also here's this dude:
The whole gallery is worth checking out.
Wolverine Historian put together a 28 minute highlight reel.
Column-type events. Wojo. More Wojo. MVictors also fills you in on the techno viking behind Hoke: yes, it's Steve Everitt, and no, you do not want to get between him and his cubs. Kyle Meinke says Denard was a big part of the offense and the running backs weren't and that's not so cool. Florek in the Daily.
UGA/M dual-fan Michael at Braves & Birds wonders whether it's better to play poorly and win (as Michigan did) or play well and lose (as Georgia did).
Entertaining serieseses of bullets. MVictors:
On the sunny side, they pulled out all the stops in the press box for the media on hand. Witness the butter dish of victory:
This might have been Brandon's special bonus.
[Robinson's] total of 446 yards and 5 touchdowns was excellent, but how he got there was strange. Through three quarters of football, he was 4-for-14 passing (if that accuracy rate sounds familiarly horrible, that's because it's the same as Michigan's kickers circa 2010) for 136 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. In the fourth stanza, Robinson went 8-for-11 for 217 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception, plus a recovered Stephen Hopkins fumble that he turned into a touchdown.
That graph is intended as a baseline estimator for a team's real-time win probability and is independent of situation, but the site also offers a crude win probability calculator, which, while it's calibrated to an NFL scale, can at least give us a decent estimate of how unlikely Michigan's victory was: four percent, Michigan's win probability after Notre Dame's slot receiver scampered into the endzone without a defender in site. Denard Robinson laughs at your probabilities and says, "Really? Oh man, that's crazy," and throws the ball to Jeremy Gallon standing alone in the Notre Dame secondary.
Maize and Blue Nation wins best headline: "The Denard. The Denard. The Denard."
National takes: Adam Jacobi marvels and notes that Robinson couldn't throw the ball even when he was completing passes; he also points out that uh… the Big Ten is not so much this year. Doctor Saturday:
Here, instead of merely covering poorly, Notre Dame subsequently failed to cover Wolverine receiver Jeremy Gallon at all, incredibly freeing him for a 64-yard sprint to the Irish 16-yard line with eight seconds left for a) A couple shots at the winning touchdown; b) A shot at a field goal to tie; or c) A confused catastrophe that left 110,000 people contemplated mass hara-kiri. With all of every one of those people secretly fearing c), Robinson delivered the dagger.
Robinson was, again, heroic for Michigan. He has brutalized the Irish the past two seasons, rolling up a mind-boggling 948 yards of total offense to go with eight TDs. His performance in the fourth quarter Saturday night was downright epic: 7 of 9, 202 yards, three passing touchdowns to go with six carries for 24 yards and another TD. In all, he accounted for a staggering 226 of his team's 229 yards.
In Case You Live Under A Rock
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||THREE-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Will Heininger||Sr.*||Mike Martin||Sr.||Ryan Van Bergen||Sr.*||Craig Roh||Jr.|
|Nate Brink||So.*||Richard Ash||Fr.*||Will Campbell||Jr.||Jibreel Black||So.|
|Chris Rock||Fr.||Quinton Washington||So*||Kenny Wilkins||Fr.*||Frank Clark||Fr.|
We'll start with the good. Last year, freshman Jibreel Black showed up and got an eyeful of what college defensive linemen were like when he laid eyes on Mike Martin. He came away from the experience with his eyes opened and his grammar damaged:
"When I see some plays that Mike (Martin) makes in practice, I be like dang. His explosiveness, his technique that he uses. You can tell the work that he put in with it.”
|LOL single block|
|LOL zoning him|
|LOL double block|
|LOL triple block|
|blasts through line|
|driving the center|
|zips between the C and G|
|consumes Chappell's soul|
|made every play|
In the right situation (three-technique instead of the nose) with the right amount of healthy ankles (two instead of zero), Martin could make All-America selectors be like dang.
Unfortunately, it seems like Martin is never going to get to move to that three-tech spot it seems he was made for. It's not that he's a bad nose tackle. Martin is big and strong and can take on double teams just fine. But he's also amazingly quick for a 300-pound squat-beast, so much so that the first thing Greg Mattison thought when he saw him was "we should use him like Shawn Crable." In the spring game passing downs Martin was in on often featured him in a two-point stance, hopping around like a linebacker. This is not your typical nose tackle.
If permitted to go one-on-one with guards used to holding off slugs and the results could be spectacular, like Jonathan Babineaux 28-TFL spectacular. But with no one else on the roster who won't get annihilated at the nose, Martin will have to tough out the double teams.
If you flip through the videos at right you'll see an awful lot of Martin crushing people until the Michigan State game, and then hardly anything. That's because a Spartan lineman chop-blocked Martin at the end of a game that was well in hand. Martin limped off and was diagnosed with the dreaded high ankle sprain. From then on he was not himself.
Sometimes this manifested by not being on the field at all. Martin missed most of the Iowa and Penn State games, big chunks of Illinois, and didn't play at all against Purdue. He started to get his mojo back afterwards but only gradually. You can see the effect in his UFR chart:
|UConn||8||3||5||Late minuses for getting too pass-rush-y. Demands doubles. Good start.|
|Notre Dame||12||0.5||11.5||Beast mode. Best game of career.|
|UMass||25||-||25||I just write the numbers down!|
|BGSU||7||1||6||Quick passing offenses reduce DL impact; still did well when called upon.|
|Indiana||11.5||3||8.5||Actually got beat out by someone, also round this down to +7 or so.|
|MSU||8||1||7||A good performance, but coming down from his ridiculous nonconference level.|
|Penn State||-||1||-1||I'm going to throw myself off a bridge.|
|Illinois||8||1||7||Was more back than it looked live, but still out a lot more than usual.|
|Wisconsin||8.5||2||6.5||One old-style "I destroy this play" plus a few more scattered good bits and some half points.|
Martin was a nonfactor the next two weeks and only moderately effective against Illinois (remember that the wacky nature of that game meant more plays for DL to rack up points). To preserve my sanity I didn't UFR the dismal final two games of Rodriguez's career. Martin had two tackles and four assists against OSU and one measly assist in the bowl game; none of those were behind the LOS.
Healthy again and less abandoned in the middle of the defense, Martin's numbers should soar. Before the sprain Martin was on pace for 11 TFLs and 4 sacks; after it he got just a half TFL the rest of the year. While the front of the schedule is a bit easier, Martin had 8.5 TFLs and 51 tackles a year ago. Reasonable progression should have gotten him to 11. Add in further progression plus three DL coaches plus a bit more help on the line plus a free-roaming QB attack role and 15 to 18 TFLs plus a little more QB terror should be within reach. He should be All Big Ten. He might be better.
Ryan Van Bergen is your new starting three-tech. Great at nothing but consistent and durable, Van Bergen is a lot better than he gets credit for. As a put upon 3-3-5 DE last year he had 5 sacks and 9.5 TFLs despite getting very little help from the structure of the defense. He was often left by himself against two defenders, especially when it came to the passing game. GERG loved him some three-man rush.
Van Bergen graded out almost as well as Martin over the course of the season thanks to his steady acquisition of points and half points for standing his ground against doubles or pushing offensive linemen into places they don't want to be. The UFR chart is really impressive:
|UConn||3||-||3||Not exactly BG, but I don't think he has to be if it's a stack.|
|Notre Dame||4.5||3||1.5||Unproductive until late; irresponsible on midline zone read.|
|UMass||5||1.5||3.5||Lots of half points for doing decently on run plays.|
|BGSU||5.5||2||3.5||Decent impact in little opportunity.|
|Indiana||12||-||12||Excellent against the run, got some pass rush, mentally round this down to a +8.|
|MSU||9.5||1||8.5||One impact sack, some additional pressure, solid against the run. Good player.|
|Iowa||5.5||1||4.5||Best performance on the day but that's just average.|
|Penn State||10||3||7||The solitary player to have a good day.|
|Illinois||10.5||3.5||7||Developing into a fine player. Now consistently putting up points.|
|Purdue||7||3||4||May have been unfairly blamed for the big Henry keeper.|
|Wisconsin||3||6||-3||Did not make many plays; seemed to give up big cutback lanes easily. Maybe an RPS thing.|
Van Bergen got better as the season went along and kept playing well in the face of total annihilation. He produced, and then Martin went out and he kept producing. A lot of the things he did were not explosive look-at-me plays, but the meat-and-potatoes grunt work required to keep your linebackers clean. This is emblematic:
That's not even an assist but by slanting past his blocker and then holding his ground he occupies two blockers and closes the hole so far that the RB runs into one of the guys trying to block him.
There were also a few explosive look-at-me plays, like this one:
|RYAN VAN BERGEN|
|annihilates guy trying to downblock him|
|slants into the lane|
|swims past Iowa OL|
|bounces off to tackle|
|picks off a pulling guard|
|all too easy|
|needs more beef|
|Wisconsin too much|
That is Van Bergen lined up as a three-tech between Craig Roh and Mike Martin smoking MSU RT J'Michael Deane. Deane was apparently not much of a pass protector, but he's representative of the sort of guys RVB will be going up against this year—guards who are crushing run blockers but maybe not so good at pass pro.
His rushing isn't on Brandon Graham's level—last year's prediction he would "brush up against double digit sacks" fell three or four short. As the third-most-threatening guy on the line he's pretty good. If Michigan can get him single blocked by rushing more than three guys he might get there this year. He had five sacks from the three-tech spot as a sophomore; two years of experience and the luxury of being flanked by Martin and Roh will give him opportunities to slant past one-on-one blocking.
What's more, Van Bergen was an ironman last year. On a defense saddled with mediocre or worse backups at every spot, Van Bergen saw more snaps than any DL, often going entire games without being substituted. This year's line has no depth, either. That trait is going to be useful.
The move to three-tech won't be an issue. He played it two years ago and when Michigan went to a four man front last year they stuck him back inside. He's now 290, a three year starter, and a senior. He's a good bet to crack double-digit TFLs and get some All Big Ten mention.
Come On Backups
yes, I wrote this section when I thought he was going to start
Well… there's Will Campbell. The all-everything recruit (except to ESPN, where he was their #22 OT) has languished on the bench, bounced to OL, and then gotten bounced from the starting lineup by a walk-on.
ESPN's skepticism about Campbell's tendency to stand straight up turned out to be right. When placed on the field as a freshman he struggled badly. Canonical example recycled from last year:
Description recycled from last year:
I'm not at the point where I can tell you the ten different things Campbell did to get blown four yards downfield, but I can blather on about pad level: man, pad level. Am I right?
You'll note that Campbell was playing a three-tech and got smoked one on one. The hype about how Campbell is an obvious three-tech and having him at the nose was another symptom of GERG's madness still has to combat Campbell's pad level, man.
At least his weight is back on the downswing. Last year he was listed at 333, significantly up from his freshman weight. Rodriguez was openly displeased with his conditioning last year, and he never saw the field outside of the goal line package. That's not good; it's even worse when Greg Banks and Renaldo Sagesse are the guys getting time instead of you. He's down eleven pounds this year and it's safe to say that's for the best. There is no good weight above 320.
Teammates and coaches have started talking Campbell up. While anyone who remembers the three weeks that Ron English spent talking up Johnny Sears knows that's not necessarily an assurance the player in question will be good, or even not-awful, at least this time around the conditioning grumblings are being directed elsewhere. Nose tackles do tend to take some time, as last year's West Texas Blue diary on Campbell's DT classmates demonstrated. Most redshirted as freshmen; few of the ones who didn't had any impact. (DeQuinta Jones was instantly productive for Arkansas, of course. That's just what happened under Rodriguez.)
He's further behind the curve now but even fellow uber recruits like LSU's Chris Davenport (one tackle), and Texas's Calvin Howell (two tackles) are struggling to find the field. They're not idling behind Greg Banks, sure, but Campbell's not dead yet.
He can be okay if protected. I spent large chunks of the spring game focused on him and he was mediocre:
All eyes were on Will Campbell and Will Campbell was all right. He got single blocked the whole day, alternating his time between pushing into the backfield to force cutbacks on unsuccessful runs, getting blocked out of rushing lanes, and (on passing downs) sitting at the LOS being the guy who looks for screens and scrambles. Unsurprisingly, reports that Campbell was "unblockable" as a three-tech turned out to be fiction—Campbell didn't beat a block all day. His contributions were limited to getting a moderate amount of penetration when single blocked on running plays. It was far from dominant; it could have been worse. I'm still pretty worried about what happens on stretch plays.
A moderate amount of penetration is worlds better than that clip above. He'll feature in the goal line package and against teams that want to run.
Past Campbell the only player anyone's seen on the field is redshirt sophomore Quinton Washington, who Rodriguez flipped from guard during the bye week last year. Washington got in on a few goal line plays, proceeding to drive his guy back and fall over.
That's fine on a goal line play. Taking that limited skillset and expanding it to the point where he can play defensive tackle on the other 98 yards is going to be trickier.
With Terry Talbott's medical redshirt there are just two other options, both redshirt freshmen who have survived the harrowing that's befallen much of Rodriguez's recruiting classes. Richard Ash is a nose tackle sort from Pahokee who briefly featured offers from USC and Florida before abruptly losing those. Over the course of a year he went from 260 to 320, which scared a lot of people off. Last year his corpulence was notable even amongst the defensive tackles. He's back down to about 300 now and will have to see some time spelling Martin. The sum total of Ash knowledge other than his weight loss is still in his recruiting profile.
The other option is Kenny Wilkins, who was initially supposed to be a weakside DE but showed up at 270 and is now 280. He's now listed as a DT and presumably will back up the three-tech spot. Wilkins was memorably pwned by walkons in the spring game on Mike Cox's long touchdown and has been called out by the coaches as a guy who needs to get his act together; if he plays this year he probably won't play well.
Strongside Defensive End
This was Van Bergen until Campbell's failure to emerge sucked him back into the interior. Now you get your choice of walk-on. First on the depth chart is senior Will Heininger, who missed last year with an ACL tear and used that opportunity to expand alarmingly fast. After adding six pounds two years ago he threw on 28 over this offseason to end up at 295.
My assumption was that kind of weight gain from an injured guy who'd been in the program for years was a Posada-like sign, but after being all but ignored during fall camp he popped up on the two-deep as a starter and Hoke said that was a real thing. He must have spent every waking hour in the weight room.
"Experience" was why he got the nod; that experience consists of backing Brandon Graham up. In is time on the field he rarely did anything wrong; he rarely did anything right, either. He was a non-factor. As a guy spotting Graham from time to time that's cool, but as a starter or a guy rotating with another equally obscure walk-on that's a recipe for zero production out of a spot that should see its fair share of plays. If this spot averages out as a zero next year that's probably good—and that's not good.
One mitigating factor here: Michigan showed a three-man line in their two-minute defense. That package removes the walk-ons in favor of a zone-blitzing 3-4. These guys aren't playing on passing downs and may not see a lot of time against spread outfits. All these guys have to do is not get pounded on the ground. Pass rush is a bonus.
Nate Brink; where Nate Brink came from
More walkons! Sexy. With Van Bergen held out, Nate Brink was the starter at SDE in the spring game. Everybody assumed that didn't mean anything and focused on Campbell, so no one can tell you word one about how he did.
He faded back into Bolivian until the Van Bergen move, whereupon press conferences started talking about him and insiders started dropping what knowledge they had. The insiders said their usual bits about Brink being a diamond in the rough—one report claimed Mattison said he'd be in the two deep of any college team he'd coached. The press conferences were similarly predictable. This bit from Mattison is the most encouraging:
He's played like a Michigan football player. I hate to talk about a young man because I think when I do that they go right down in the tubes but this guy has come out every day as tough as he can. He listens to Coach Montgomery on every word. When he tells him to step a certain way, he tries, and he's really, really physical.
I think he was probably 250 in the spring and we told him to get to 265 and when he was reporting, I yelled, 'What do you weigh?' He said, '265' and I told him to drink some water and sure enough he started drinking water. Now I think he's 267 or 268.
In the spring, his toughness showed up and he was only 250 at that time. But his want-to and toughness stuck out like crazy. And that's what we want - 11 guys that play with that kind of attitude.
He's a guy that if he keeps doing what he's doing, Michigan people are going to be very happy with him.
I know this will end in tears but that's actually coachspeak that seems meaningful.
Holding The Rope has the complete presser dossier and all of his other biographical information. It adds up to:
- is 265 pounds, up from 220 in high school
- is a redshirt sophomore
- coaches have said nice things about him
- named "Nate Brink"
Brink will play. After mentioning Heininger's experience he said Brink has "practiced very well, played well, been productive" and promised to rotate six guys on the line. Six is a weird number because it means one of Black, Campbell, or Brink is on the fringe. Given the lineups Campbell seems the most likely even though that seems unlikely.
There's obviously no depth when the first two guys are walkons. In the event injuries hit them, Michigan will grit its teeth and slide Van Bergen back outside. True freshmen Chris Rock (Not That Chris Rock) and Keith Heitzman should be headed for redshirts (Heitzman actually might be headed for TE). If they don't it's a Ray Vinopal situation.
Weakside Defensive End
Rating: a speculative 4.
what do you mean by "I don't want to play corner" again?
The only thing Michigan fans will miss about the deathbacker position is the name, and even then the group of people who know its true nomenclature is even smaller than the already-pretty-small group who know Craig Roh was a "spinner" and vastly smaller than the masses who know Roh is "that defensive end Michigan insists on pretending is a linebacker."
Craig Roh is not a linebacker. He has never been a linebacker, and this year he cranked himself up to 270 pounds to evaporate the last vestiges of confusion. Look at my giant skull crushing muscles, he says. Just try to put this in a two point stance.
|you can't see me|
|avoids a cut|
|speed rush for sack wsg Martin|
|smokes Illini T for holding call|
|sweet spin move|
|crunch, fumble, TD|
|not a lb|
|no depth on drops|
|dl run game|
|comes through TE|
|slants into lane|
|slants under TE|
|power right at him|
And the thing is, last year Roh wasn't that exploitable as a defensive end. He was certainly no more so than the other non-Van Bergen options, and when Michigan put his hand in the dirt against Notre Dame they got dividends from it:
Hit up those videos on the side to confirm. For a guy who was supposedly a liability he made his share of plays against the run in trying circumstances. Notable is that many of those were plays on the backside where he got under his blocker in a flash and sped down the line. On the weakside in the 4-3 under this is what he's going to be doing a lot.
Roh was so badly misserved by the previous defensive staff that he had to tell them what the hell he should be doing on defense. He requested a move back to the DL and got it, whereupon he was decent despite all this 3-3-5 business not suiting him at all. Talking about what happened to Roh last year makes me stabby. I called him the "Denard of the defense" because he was a uber-touted recruit forced on the field way too early by necessity; Denard became Denard and Roh dropped into short zones. Other than everything else, that was the clearest evidence GERG was sacrificing our defense to Xenu.
This year, though… this year Craig Roh is 270 pounds and will be playing the spot literally every scouting evaluation ever issued about him has begged—demanded—plead for him. This could yield one of those breakout year things. Here's what he did in the games Michigan played him mostly as a lineman:
|Notre Dame||11||-||11||By far best game of his career.|
|MSU||6||1.5||4.5||Wasn't a liability in the run game against a pounding team.|
|Iowa||5||1||4||Okay, but not making a big impact.|
|Illinois||10.5||8||2.5||Eventful; some minuses may be someone else's fault.|
|Wisconsin||3.5||2||1.5||Basically one nice play and then not much.|
He was much less a part of the tire fire when he had his hand in the dirt, and that was frequently as a 245-pound DE on a three man line. He is now 270 and going one-on-one with weakside tackles. He should improve from average-ish (remember that UFR slants towards the DL) to good.
At least good. We've yet to see the much of the pass-rushing skill that made Roh a top 50 recruit. He's displayed hints of the ability to zip past tackles before they know what hits them when suffered to rush the passer—there's a chance that when he puts hand to ground and is told to let it rip that he goes bonkers. Roh is the biggest X factor on the team. He could end up with anywhere from a half-dozen to twelve sacks.
There is one. Hooray. The aforementioned Jibreel Black saw time spotting Roh last year; he showed some pass rush flair. His run defense was abject. He prominently featured on a Michigan State touchdown drive where cutback lanes were always open because Black wasn't flowing down the line. He was targeted for dismantling every time he hit the field, and more often than not opponents got exactly what they wanted. Except Penn State, weirdly.
- True freshman and all that, though. Black should be significantly better this year. Like Roh he'll benefit from the extra protection afforded the WDE in the 4-3 under and the triple threat DL coaches in the Hoke era. There is a significant downer, though. Black actually lost weight over the offseason, going from 265 to 260. This is one weight gain/loss that is not always good. After the spring Black was a guy who needed to change his body:
"Jibreel is a guy that, as his body composition changes a little bit, he's gonna be a good football player. I think him and Craig at the rush have had pretty good springs."
- Though I can't find the quote I'm thinking of, the coaches seemed irritated when he came into camp five pounds lighter than he was as a freshman. Early in camp, Mattison responded to a question about Black by highlighting his inconsistency:
“Jibreel has a lot of talent, but right now, Jibreel is a little inconsistent. … That’s not a knock on him, but he’s just like a lot of talented young guys. I’m not ready to say this guy is the next Terrell Suggs (of the Baltimore Ravens)."
- They have to play him; he might need another year to get his head right and muscles all powerful and stuff. Brandon Graham, who everyone has compared him to, took a couple years to get his head and body right, too.
Clark @ Glenville; the only extant photo of Paskorz on the field
But wait, there's more! On scholarship, even! True freshman Frank Clark defied his middling recruiting rankings and status as a WR/TE/LB/DE tweener to feature on the depth chart at WDE. He's supposed to be fast—very fast. An insider I've corresponded with noted that players say "he can catch Denard." He "just has a lot of athleticism" according to Van Bergen.
Clark's quick rise caught Mattison's eye when he was asked about freshman in general, not Clark specifically:
I think Frank Clark has a lot of ability. You can see a different speed at which he goes.
In his recruiting profile I said he had a long road ahead of him to productivity. Clark drove fast.
- Redshirt freshman Jordan Paskorz may as well have been in the witness protection program since he enrolled. Not a peep has been heard about him since he arrived, and I have no recollection of the guy even playing in the spring game. But he is totally a defensive player on the roster who is not a true freshman. So we've got that going for us.
- Paskorz was a generic three star coming out of high school; his recruiting profile is where the infos are. I wasn't that enthused about him a year ago but just by remaining on the roster he's ahead of a lot of his classmates. With Clark impressing and a serious need at TE he's another candidate to switch.
(First post! So we're trying to use more direct quotes from now on. Let's see how it goes.)
General: Seven [practices] left ... Proud of attitude and effort to improve. "Where we are? I don't know ... I see times out there when we're approaching a Michigan defense. And then I don't see it enough times. We gotta see it on a more consistent basis."
Seeing more of what you like? I am seeing more. "What I look at at every single position is technique. I'm seeing great improvement on their technique. I can't accept [excuses like] being a long camp and a lot of hitting, why I get tired and why I don't use my technique. There's going to be games when you're going to be out there more than you have to be. You got to rely on your technique."
Two-deep: "We have not filled out a two-deep. The scrimmage tomorrow, that will be a big key. We're going into our house -- we're going to the Big House -- and if you can't play like you have to play, then you're telling us a lot."
How many guys do you feel comfortable playing? For next weekend, "I hope it's 22." Needs to have 22 capable guys, and have seven more days to get 22. Won't ever be a coach who says we lost a game because a guy got injured.
What are your impressions of Troy Woolfolk? "I'm really, really impressed with a senior -- with a new staff, with a new system -- with a guy that comes out every day and says 'I'm going to do what you tell me to do, I'm going to do it how you tell me to do it, and I'm going to try as hard as I can to do it.' ... I think his technique is improving."
"I don't see any signs of (the ankle injury) at all."
On cornerback competition: "We've got a number of guys still battling for it ... One day you might say, 'this is the guy,' and then he may not be as consistent the next day." Happens to just about everyone. Can't name anyone in particular. Have to wait another week. "They're all in same boat."
On defensive standouts: "A lot of guys, different days." Mike Martin, Troy ... "probably would leave it right there" ... are guys that have more good days than bad. Needs everyone to be consistent all the time. "Those two guys haven't done it every day, either."
Marvin Robinson and Jake Ryan ... haven't heard about them in a while: "Marvin was a little bit sick, got through that. He's a guy, two days ago, [had me saying] 'yeah that's how I want you to play.'" Maybe today too, but hasn't watched film. Jake was out with minor injuries for almost a week, but came back yesterday. "(He) right away had a great hit." He knew what to do when new defenses went in, because "when he came back he didn't miss a beat."
"Our SAMs would also be guys that, in our sub or nickel packages, would be pass rushers." As such, Jake is playing SAM and big part of sub/nickel package.
Josh Furman? He is inconsistent.
Harder than anticipated to improve defense? "No, it's Michigan."
Battle at WILL linebacker: "A young man by the name of Desmond Morgan has shown some great signs." He got a little nicked up the past couple of days. They do a thing called "production points" where the coaches gives players points whenever defensive plays are made: interceptions = 10 pts, fumble recoveries = 7. tackles = 3.
"Hawthorne was in 10 plays in the live scrimmage, and I think he had 24 or 25 points. So I'm sitting here thinking, 'Wow, we got a guy right here.' And then he twisted his ankle a little bit, but he'll be back."
"A defensive player can have his technique be perfect every play, but if he doesn't make plays, you're not going to have a great defense."
"Jones showed some great things." Morgan, Hawthorne, and Herron. "All of them had their moments ... Now who's going to put the moments all together? That's what we've got to figure out."
Demens? Demens has been running with ones, had some good hits, but still not completely consistent.
Scrimmage: "I was pleased early." Got to be consistent. "When you're into your 60th or 65th play, what are you going to be like then? And that was what bothered me: I didn't see them stay the way they started out all the way through."
Is Craig Roh on the D-line? "Craig Roh is a rush. He's a rush outside linebacker for us. [Ed-M: This is a term for a 3/4 OLB with his hand on the ground. #FEARSOFGERG] Craig, Jibreel Black, and even the young kid Frank Clark. All three of those guys are working hard at that position."
Rapport with Denard: "I got on him today. He didn't play every play of yesterday's practice, and I yelled at him during stretch today: 'Boy, you must be as fresh as a daisy today,' and he gave me something back.' I love him."
The wide receivers are his adopted children. Goes over and talks crap to them every day.
General: "Our practices are not for the faint of heart. We get after them pretty good." It has been a real real grueling training camp. (We want to) see what they're made of when they're tired." But they're going to taper the intensity as gameday approaches.
On Denard: "He's picked it up. What we're trying to do is wean him a little bit. From the pass game perspective, we're not giving him so much that he's overwhelmed. It's what I call a starter set."
Right now this "starter set" of plays is about 65-70% of the SDSU playbook.
"As he feels better about it, we'll feed him a little more, particularly in the pass offense."
Chris Barnett? Talk to the hand. Or Hoke.
Starting RB: "Mike Shaw is definitely one of our ... if we played tomorrow, he'd probably be our starting running back." Has had a "heck of a camp, as has Fitz, and Stephen Hopkins, and Vince Brown" -- oopsies -- "Vince Smith." Smith is doing more situational stuff (aka 3rd down) but can still "run from the home position. We're not eliminating him from the fold that way."
There wasn't a lot of hype on Shaw before camp because of his hand injury. "He was not a participant in a big part of spring football ... I didn't really have a good bead on him other than what he had done before."
Freshmen? "We have two kids that are going to have a great future, but at this point, Justice Hayes is still developmental, and Thomas has had an injury that set him back ... Probably somebody will redshirt, but it's still too early to tell."
Expect to see just Shaw, Fitz, Hopkins, and Smith at this point. Rawls has missed a couple weeks with the injury, but he's back.
O-line: "We feel pretty good about our first five guys, first six guys, maybe even seven guys." It's a chemistry position, and likes the way it's shaking out. Funk is a very good technician. "He coaches them to the bone on the steps and all the things you gotta do to play that position, and they've come around."
Receivers: "I think you're going to see more than Junior and Roy out there." Hemmingway and Roundtree will start outside. Grady has done good job, and so has Gallon. Jeremy Jackson has good range because of his size. "Drew Dileo, he'll go in the middle and catch the ball. He's fearless." Will rotate often to keep players fresh because injuries occur more often when players are tired. WRs run a lot in camp, especially, but the coaches will be backing off on them for this last week.
Right tackle battle: "Mark Huyge has been very consistent. Mike Schofield has developed a great deal since spring - athletic, runs well. There will be a role for him, too." Feels good about the position. Good depth.
On Barnum: "Ricky is as athletic as anyone on our line. Ricky is a tough guy." Biggest problem is that he's a little underweight, but he's gotten stronger, doesn't get pushed around, and "looks like a back out there sometimes when he runs."
On scripting opening plays: "In the old days I used to script a lot more." Would script up to 25 plays, but is doing less these days. Never got to the last 10 plays, so stopped scripting so much. Just wants to call what they practice. "If you practiced it, you should do it in the game, otherwise that's bad economy of offense."
An esteemed Big Ten Network analyst said that Denard is going to be out of the shotgun more. "Dinardo said that, didn't he. Esteemed? Nah ... " JK. "Gerry if you're out there, you know I'm kidding."
"Shotgun is not deuce(?). We're tailoring the gun more to his skills ... We're going to use Denard the way he can best exploit the defense."
Which of his past offenses will this resemble most? "None." Nucleus of offense still same as when he started in 1986. QB skill set still most important aspect, so gotta tailor to that.
Thoughts on giving Devin PT? "I'm not promising anything on that, and if I was I wouldn't tell you anyway."
On last weekend's scrimmage: "Physical nature was good on both sides of the ball." Saw ability to create big plays, but too many self-inflicted wounds. We have to remedy that before we play. "When you're transitioning offenses -- and trust me guys I've done this a bunch, OK? -- you can survive if the damage you do (to yourself) is not excruciating ... you're going to have some pain, but if those aren't things that are catastrophic, you can survive."
Ryan Van Bergen
General: "We've had our ups and down like anybody would in camp." Still striving for consistency. "You probably question your commitment if you're not fully into it in practice. We go full pads every day. We bang everyday."
How much more physical, maybe percentage-wise, are the practices compared with last year? "I don't have the stats in front of me [zing!] but statistically offensive line and defensive line, we bang everyday. We probably have periods of five minutes each. We probably have close to ten periods that are full-go offensive line (vs) defensive line, and that's not counting individual periods where the defensive line is servicing the defensive line and we're going against each other. We're very physical." Very.
Are you 5-tech or 3-tech? Currently playing both "depending on situations, who we're playing. Right now I've been repping both of them, and I'm comfortable with both of them. I've played both of them in the past. Fortunately I'm 290 lbs now. The last time I played 3 technique I was 260 and I don't think that went too well. I'm much more comfortable with the weight I'm at."
"I prefer 5-technique because I get to go against my bud back there." (Hi Taylor!) "Me and Taylor, we're real competitive. You know, we're good friends -- best buds. We got rings. It's no big deal."
Does moving people around hurt D-line chemistry it at all? "I can see how that's the perception, but that's not the case at all. The D-line has been together for so long. When you have that many reps with each other, regardless of what positions you're playing, you're still pretty comfortable with each other. Everybody has been together long enough that we feel chemistry regardless of who's in."
On Frank Clark: He's got raw athleticism. He's a fast guy, did track in high school. Coaches have been impressed.
Did you say something about rings? "No, it's just that me and Taylor, we're best buds. We talk about it sometimes."
Personal record between him and RVB? "It was 2-1 (Lewan) before today, and then we did 1-on-1 drills. He beat me today. But a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, right? So it's all good."
How's the O-line chemistry? Good. Lots of guys competing for positions. Mike Schofield especially. "He's everywhere. Right guard, right Tackle, left tackle, he's all over the place. It only makes everybody better. He pushes me, he pushes Huyge, he pushes Patrick Omameh, and that's awesome."
On Chris Bryant: "He's shown a lot of improvement. He got his weight down a lot, he's shown a lot of athleticism for a big guy. As far as playing this year, I'm not positive -- I'm not a coach, but I think he's doing some really good things, and I'm excited about his future."
Is this offense as efficient as last year? "We'll get four yards, and that's successful for us. We're much more into nickel and diming it, just moving the ball up and down the field. Controlling the game. That's a big part of us now, and how Michigan has been for a while."
On Barnum: "He's improved so much. He's playing like a redshirt senior." With Schilling gone, Barnum picked it up. NBD.
Molk's leadership? Quiet, sturdy. Like a rock.
Borges' coaching style: "There will be times in practice where he'll get up in our faces and tell us you need to do this this and this. Other times sit back, he'll get up on the thing where you film practice, what's it called?" The lift. "The lift! Thank god, you guys are smarter than me. He'll get up on the lift, and he'll call the play, read the defense, and he'll be out of it." Doing both is good for the offense.