things go poorly
The 4-3 is back, like it never sort of left and then really really left against Purdue and then came back and then altered into a slightly different version of itself and then mutated into a bizarre thing that was like the thing against Purdue but wasn't really because the person doing the mutating spent all his time watching his "Best of Just For Men Commercials" DVD. It will not suddenly be replaced by things that start with the number 3 and end with razorblades and pain. In the long term, this is delightful.
In the short term… eh… there might be some issues. This series is an attempt to fit Michigan's noses, ends, spurs, bandits, spinners, deathbackers, doombackers, dipbackers and frosting-covered gnomes into their new homes.
We start with the defensive line.
What we were forced to watch last year
Michigan stemmed into four man fronts occasionally but spent most of its time with a three man front featuring a traditional nose tackle who lined up directly over the center and two defensive ends. It was unclear to me if these defensive ends were intended to slant one way or the other at the snap—an aggressive "one gap" system—or if they were reading and reacting—a "two gap" system—because of the massive confusion surrounding them. It was hard to tell if Greg Banks was trying to cover two gaps unsuccessfully or just getting single blocked all the time.
They did typically line up slightly outside (lingo: "shaded outside") the tackles, indicating that it was probably the former:
You'd have to be the sort of idiot that would have Craig Roh play linebacker to play Craig Roh as a two-gap DE at 235 pounds, but… yeah.
At other times Michigan would switch to a four-man front in which their linebackers did things that made no goddamn sense at all, like on this soon-to-be 61-yard-touchdown…
…but that's another show. I bring it up to point out that in this situation you see Greg Banks as the weakside(!) defensive end, Craig Roh as the strongside guy, and Ryan Van Bergen folded inside to be the three-tech defensive tackle. This is a shifted line rather than an 'even' line, but more about that later.
What we were forced to watch the year before
Michigan ran mostly four-man lines and while they varied they usually put Brandon Graham on the weakside-ish of the formation. Here Illinois presents a balanced line with two TEs but you can see Martin lined up over the nose tackle and Graham to the bottom of the screen with a big gap between the two. Banks and Roh are to the top of the screen:
The linebacker walks down to the LOS in an effort to prevent Graham and Martin from getting double-teamed. When there is no TE on the weakside teams had a choice between singling Graham or Martin, which is why Graham got to eat the universe so often.
Sometimes they would line up differently. Here's another play on which Graham is on the weakside, well outside of the tackle as Martin lines up directly over the guard:
This is actually an "even" look where Michigan's not shifted. The DTs are over the guards, the ends line up outside the shoulder of the tackles.
They did occasionally stem into 3-3-5-ish looks, but note here that the defensive "ends" are lined up inside the tackles—this defense is designed to push runs to the outside.
Michigan ran this front most of the day against Ohio State and had success against their traditional I-form game, but struggled when the Buckeyes went to unbalanced spread sets. USC ran this quite a bit in the last few years of the Carroll regime; they called it "double eagle".
What can't possibly be quite as bad next year
My assumption is the defense is going to look a lot like the 2009 one did. That was a 4-3 under. I was going to go dig up old Michigan rosters featuring the "rush linebacker" to demonstrate that Michigan's old school defense also tended to have a guy hanging out on the edge made of menace and sacks while the other guy enjoyed fighting off tight ends but then I remembered Hoke obviated the need for circumstantial evidence:
“We’re going to be a four-three defense, either an over or under front.”
Those sound like two totally different things but they're not. This from above is an "over" front:
This is an "under" front:
And you're probably like "that's the same damn thing except Craig Roh is standing up." You're right. The difference in the pictures is the offense. In the MSU still there are more DL to the side with the TE and FB; in the Western still there are more DL away from the side of the formation with more dudes. Both have a one-technique DT and a three-technique DT. Both leave a big gap between the one-tech DT and the DT to his side. They're just mirror images of each other. A couple of helpful graphs from Shakin' The Southland to clarify. Michigan's overshifted line in the State image:
And the undershifted line against WMU:
The only player that ends up aligning differently is the strongside DE; it's really just flipping the tackles over.
That's still a useful distinction Hoke made for us, though, because a team that is under/over is going to have different requirements than a team that aligns even like Michigan did on that Iowa play above. We get to keep our terminology from two years ago when we talked about the three-tech DT and the one-tech DT.
Every team is "multiple" these days and will run under/over/even fronts as changeups. Also, the generally accepted theory is that under is better against pro-style teams that will bang your head and over is better against spread teams that will take your strongside linebacker into the slot. So when Hoke says "under/over" he probably means Michigan is going to run both depending on situation, not that they'll pick one when they figure out their personnel a bit better.
What you need at each spot
From right to left in the second graph above:
- The weakside defensive end is going to get a one-on-one matchup with the tackle most of the time and needs to turn that opportunity into plays. Think Shawn Crable, Pierre Woods, etc.
- The three-tech DT also usually gets a one-on-one matchup with the guard. He should be a penetrator that gets into the backfield with regularity. NFL DTs you've heard of (Warren Sapp is the canonical one) who aren't barely mobile piles of goo are probably three-techs.
- The one-tech DT is going to experience a ton of double teams as the offense attempts to attack the "bubble" in the front the defense leaves but not putting someone over the other guard. You know all those successful zone running plays the site has explained over the years that start with a guard blocking some DT and end with that guard plugging a linebacker as someone else slides over to finish the job on the NT? That's what you don't want your nose tackle giving up.
- The strongside DE should be Brandon Graham. Failing that, he should be a big, strong guy who's good against the run and can add some pass rush here and there.
A post from Battle Red Blog provides more detail on what your 4-3 under requires—at least on an NFL level—if you're interested.
Who goes where
Craig Roh is the weakside defensive end and will be backed up by Herron/Paskorz/Beyer/Heitzman. Attempts to move Roh elsewhere will be thwarted by a plucky band of kids and their dog ripping the Mattison mask off of a dastardly Greg Robinson.
There are two scenarios for the rest of the line. In the happy fairy dance scenario, Mattison, Hoke, and Beyonce are so much better than Bruce Tall and Greg Robinson that they transform the platoon of Will Campbell, Quinton Washington, and Richard Ash into a functional one-tech DT. Here's what happens if they don't and they move Martin:
Yeeargh. I'll believe Will Campbell can play D when I see it but Ash and Washington got some praise last year so you've got three bullets. It's possible this happens, if not probable.
If you can assemble a frankentackle in the middle then you can slide Mike Martin out to the three-tech spot he doesn't know he's been coveting for years. Imagine senior Martin getting single blocked on most plays. Tingling is normal when contemplating this scenario.
As a bonus, successfully moving Martin to the three tech allows you to leave Ryan Van Bergen at DE, where he is the kind of solid run defender you need on the strongside. He'll chip in a half-dozen sacks and be the B+ version of a strongside defensive end and that will be fine.
The realistic-thing-that-will-be-called-pessimistic-in-the-comments scenario is that Campbell/Washington/Ash produce a guy or two worth platooning but actually running those guys out as starters is asking to be smashed. This strands Mike Martin at the one-tech and essentially forces them to move Van Bergen back to the three-tech spot he occupied in 2009. Redshirt freshman Terrance Talbott is the only other three-tech on the roster until fall. Neither of these things are necessarily bad. RVB graded out decently in UFRs a couple years ago and picked up six sacks; Martin is good enough to play either spot.
What is bad is what that does to the strongside defensive end spot, where Jibreel Black would be an all-but-certain starter as a true sophomore. Black had some promising moments last year… as a pass rusher. He had many more in which his terrible run defense hurt Michigan, and while he'll get better it seems doubtful he'll get better fast enough to be an asset. The only other option at SDE is redshirt freshman Ken Wilkins.
It is possible that in this scenario they put Roh on the strongside since he'll be a junior and he's been less prone to crippling mistakes against the run. His main problem has been a lack of size that the offseason should come close to erasing. That would take a guy who's presumably going to be Michigan's best pass rusher and put him in a position to get doubled lots, though.
Awkwardness Rating On A One To Rodriguez-Interviews-Hoke Scale
Depends on scenario but this shouldn't be too bad. In the happy fairy scenario Michigan's personnel fits a shifted line like a glove. You've got three battleship type NTs, two guys on the weakside who will wreak havoc, a solid guy at SDE, and a scattering of decent backups.
Even in the regular non-fairy scenario you've got good personnel at three spots. SDE would probably be an issue. Either way it's way better than trying to use Craig Roh as a LB or three-man-line DE.
In a van down by the river. Yes, okay, in a van down by the river. You can stop emailing me this.
In a van down by the river. Hoke's talked to Adam Rittenberg. Here's yet another image of Brady Hoke pointing at stuff:
This is good. This makes him basically Urban Meyer.
As far as the actual WORDS Brady Hoke was SAYING, I get the feeling that in six months we're going to be able to do this in our sleep:
I want to make sure we're crystal clear on the direction we want to go. They have to understand the goal of the program and how we're going to go about achieving that goal, the accountability to each other, the toughness that we want to play the game with, the mentality we want to play the game with and the demeanor that you play the game with.
He also says Denard is definitely staying and will be "the lead part of our offense." In part two he says "represent Michigan," "represent the University of Michigan," and "play Michigan football." This man is on message.
Dollarz. Michigan's buying out the remainder of Hoke's contract for a million dollars, which you knew. They're also going to be paying out an extremely precise sum for next fall's game against the Aztecs:
Michigan agreed to pay $1,016,800 for SDSU to play the game in Ann Arbor. “That will be a fun one,” Sterk said.
The tomato cans are getting expensive these days. Actually, with SDSU sporting a senior quarterback in 2011 and Michigan's secondary still trying to figure out which way "left, left, LEFT GODDAMN LEFT AAAARGH" is dubbing SDSU a "tomato can" might be getting ahead of ourselves. The last time they came to town it took a who-dat freshman tailback named Mike Hart to pull Michigan's ass out of the fire in a too-narrow 24-21 win.
Also from that article: SDSU's 22 verbals are not wavering according to their new coach. Just in case you were wondering if we could pick off players from the fifth-ranked class in the MWC.
A (the?) defensive coordinator candidate. The name being thrown around at the moment for Michigan's open defensive coordinator spot is former Michigan assistant Vance Bedford, who was the DBs coach from 95-98. After that stint he had a six year tenure as a DB coach with the Bears, was hired by Oklahoma State to be DC, was fired after two years, returned to Michigan for Carr's final season, left for Florida to be DBs coach, and was named Louisville DC when Charlie Strong got that job.
Louisville put up some nice numbers this year but when the head coach is Charlie Strong it's questionable how much impact you're having. Also, playing in the Big East had an impact on that—they're a good-not-great 40th in FEI, one slot behind UConn. Bedford's previous tenure as a DC did not end well. Just a few games into his second season as AD he unleashed this…
Monday, after OSU's defense surrendered 509 yards in a loss at Houston, Bedford said: "People are saying, ‘Well, same 'ol Oklahoma State.' Go tell those people that told that same 'ol lie to go ahead and jump off the ship like a bunch of roaches. That's OK because that's what they are, a bunch of roaches.
…and then refused to back off of it later. This probably did not help his case to keep his job; neither did finishing 95th and 89th in total defense in his two years. Oklahoma State got worse after he left, FWIW.
Hiring Bedford would be another shrug-your-shoulders moment. There's no reason to expect he's awesome but he's not Greg Robinson.
Campbell spins like a top. According to ESPN—weird source for this obscure news—Will Campbell will move back to defensive line. That might be an indication Hoke is planning a 4-3, where Campbell might fit better as a planetoid-sized NT whose job is to be the unmovable object.
The problem with this is that Campbell was very moveable in his brief stints on the field and people generally thought Bruce Tall was the one defensive assistant who could find his ass in three tries. Since Michigan has a couple of quality candidates to replace Steve Schilling they might as well try Campbell out in a scheme that fits him better than the 3-3-5 did. I'm still doubtful he's going to suddenly figure things out.
The Hoke file. Your long fluff piece on new coach X fell to Lynn Henning and reveals a strange opinion about vegetables:
"He didn't like vegetables. His favorites were two of the dumbest: cooked spinach and Brussels sprouts."
What's your problem with spinach and brussels sprouts, Mother Hoke?
BONUS: Phrases deployed include "crackerjack recruiter," "sublime hire," "astonishingly pure love for Michigan," and "the fun, the glory."
Etc.: Headlines you'll see. MVictors has handy sound clips you can embed whenever a thing Brady Hoke said in his introductory press conference aligns with your thoughts and feelings. Podcast appearance on Bucknuts, though you still have to login to hear it. San Diego is slightly more laid back than West Virginia about football.
On Will Campbell and Quinton Washington:
"We made a couple moves with some big guys, some backup linemen. Quinton Washington was a backup lineman; we moved him to nose guard. We kinda traded Will Campbell over to offense, where I think he's going to be a natural offensive guard. After a week and a half I think both of those moves will probably stick for now. I think Will's got a future at guard, I think Quinton Washington's got a future on the D-line."
On the secondary:
"We moved around Cam Gordon. We wanted him to learn—well, he played the deep safety, we wanted him to play the safety up tight. That was a process; he was able to do that. We got Ray Vinopal and Carvin Johnson some more work at the deep safety position to get some flexibility. We have Marvin Robinson, who's been a safety, playing a little bit of linebacker for us. He can help us in nickel packages."
On the D-line:
"We moved the D-line around a little bit as well."
Brandstatter asked "are these kids going to play?" and Rodriguez sayeth:
"Oh, yeah. You'll see Carvin Johnson and Vinopal playing. Ray is at the same position anyway, but it's a new position for Carvin. You'll see Cam Gordon playing more at both safety positions where as before he was just playing one. I don't know if Will is ready yet at offensive line or Quinton at defensive line but we tried to get them as prepared as we could for this ball game. We'll see what happens."
Obviously they saw the issues with Gordon had persisted too long and are trying to get some better play out of the FS position right now. Also, Cam's going to threaten Kovacs's job—could be a run/pass split there—and Robinson will probably displace Demens in nickel and dime packages.
Campbell's not going to play unless a bunch of people go down on the interior line, but Washington might. This would be alarming. It might not be much more alarming than seeing anyone other than Martin at NT.
Right: Marvin Robinson moves from safety to
No surprises, and no Denard:
University of Michigan Football Injury Report
Thursday, Oct. 28, vs. Penn State
OUT (0% PLAY)
Jones, Mike Leg
Odoms, Martavious Foot
Toussaint, Fitzgerald Shoulder
Van Slyke, Jared Clavicle
Williams, Mike Head
Woolfolk, Troy Ankle
More interestingly, Rodriguez dropped some science about position switches on his coaches show that is either earth-shaking or wildly misinterpreted by the internet. These are the supposed moves via the somewhat confused twitter feed of Angelique Chengelis:
- Marvin Robinson to linebacker. I have a source who tipped me off about this a few days ago, so that's for real. Robinson's likely to compete at WLB for the job Mouton vacates after the year.
- Will Campbell(OG) and Quinton Washington(DT) are sticking at their new positions. Since these moves had already been confirmed, that's legit, too. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but there's some insider hype about Washington being a "beast" on Rivals. So we've got that going for us. Not likely to impact anything until next year unless Washington is a miraculously fast learner.
- Cam Gordon to "both safety spots" and Ray Vinopal to "deep safety". Since Vinopal is already a free safety this position switch is more a depth chart thing. There have been rumors floating around about Vinopal playing with the ones and either starting (fanciful) or getting real playing time (apparently likely) on Saturday. These are confirmed now; the source also dropped that Vinopal was getting a serious look at deep safety. The Cam Gordon bit there presages a move closer to the LOS, whether it's spur or bandit, eventually. (ATTENTION BYRON MOORE: duuuude. Seriously.)
- They "moved defensive linemen." Vague but the only thing that makes sense here is putting Sagesse back inside at NT and moving Patterson to a backup DE position.
Also, Rodriguez promised more carries for ham fiend Stephen Hopkins and said Teric Jones(!) would see the field. I looked for podcasts on WTKA's site but couldn't find them; maybe MVictors will be able to dig out exactly what was said so we can parse that into molecules. He's clutch like that.
Formation notes: A couple new formations. One was a 3-2-6 dime package on which Banks and Ezeh were pulled for Avery and Talbott:
Roh moves down to DE and Leach was usually in for Gordon for whatever reason. Sometimes this was a 4-1-6 with Mouton at DE, sometimes a 3-2-6 with Mouton a linebacker. Floyd would drop back to play safety when they went to this. The other was a nickel package where Avery would replace Gordon. This aligned just like Michigan's usual defense.
Substitution notes: plentiful. The usual rotation on the DL. Cullen Christian got a couple drives in place of Rogers (he struggled). Leach played a lot in place of Gordon; Fitzgerald and Demens saw some time at linebacker but less than I expected and neither did much of anything.
Charting note: I've changed up the points distribution to be more generous to CBs who make a play. Usually a zero-yard run will be +2 or +3 to the defense. When a CB breaks up a pass that's a zero yard play I've been giving a +1 to; I'm bumping that to at least +2 unless it's clear the offense is more responsible for the incompletion than the D.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O28||1||10||Shotgun trips||Base 4-3||Pass||NA||PA out||T. Gordon||Inc|
|Michigan sucks up on fake and Pankratz has two receivers running wide open (cover -2) as Mouton(-1) doesn't get anything resembling a zone drop. Could this be man to man? I don't know; Rogers is looking at the QB but hops up on the curl, leaving T. Gordon chasing a WR on an out that he lined up inside of. His guy is open but he really had no chance to cover this. I'm not sure which guys to individually minus since the coverage doesn't make sense to me. (RPS -1.) Oh, right: Pankratz chucks it wide.|
|O28||2||10||Shotgun heavy something||Base 4-4||Run||?||Dive||Martin||1|
|BGSU deploys two H-backs directly in front of their tailback and goes right up the middle. Martin(+1) engages his blocker and then discards him behind, popping up in the hole the H-backs are hitting. He does this despite being lined up outside of the C. He takes out a second blocker. T. Gordon(+0.5) is rolled up to the line and is now free; he forms up to tackle with help from Kovacs(+0.5), who was free on a backside blitz and leaps on the RB's back after making sure the handoff was actually made.|
|O29||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||3-2-6 Dime||Pass||3||Dumpoff||Van Bergen||4|
|DL: Roh, Martin, RVB. LB: Mouton, Leach. Normal DBs plus Avery and Talbott. This is kind of rushing two since Martin just sits at the LOS after taking two blockers. Screen coverage? M covers the first read(+1) and then RVB(+0.5) gets upfield and harasses the QB into moving. Martin starts charging the QB down as he rolls, forcing a dumpoff as downfield options are covered(+1).|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 11 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O30||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide bunch||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||Hitch||Mouton||3|
|Martin(+0.5) plowing through blocks to force a throw here; Kovacs(+0.5) covered the flat route, so the QB throws a hitch that Mouton(+0.5) was in position on, tacking immediately (cover +1)|
|O33||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||3||Flanker screen||T. Gordon||6|
|Major overload with a TE covered up and a WR in motion so everyone is to the right side of the field. They throw a screen out there. T. Gordon(-1) and Rogers(-1) are both cut to the ground but good flow from Mouton(+0.5) and Ezeh(+0.5) runs the play down before the WR can test Cam.|
|O39||3||1||Wildcat||3-3-5 stack||Run||?||QB lead draw||Banks||4|
|Think the RB takes a bizarre cut here since it looks like the play design has the first easily. Banks(-1) was blown way out of the hole and Mouton(-0.5) took a weird angle right into Kovacs, giving BGSU a lot of space and blockers for everyone left over. So of course the RB cuts back behind everything, getting tackled by unblocked guys on the backside including Banks, who got really, really blocked. M fortunate to not give up more here.|
|O43||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 stack||Pass||5||Sack||Mouton||-10|
|WRs to the paired side are stacked, and Rogers(-1) starts covering the same guy Gordon is(cover -1), so this post should be open. Qb decides not to throw it, though, and rolls right into a very blocked Mouton(+1.5), who to his credit does get off that block, close the space quickly, and tackle for a sack. Maybe Cam had this covered but I couldn't see it; I really doubt it. Think M got lucky with the n00b QB here.|
|O33||2||20||Shotgun 2TE||Nickel 4-3||Pass||4||Slant||Avery||Inc|
|Avery in for T. Gordon. TE motions well outside to be a flanker. Avery(+2) is in man on a receiver and looks like he's biting outside as the WR takes a step out then slants; Avery recovers to get a hand in and break the pass up (cover +2).|
|O33||3||20||Shotgun 4-wide||3-2-6 Dime||Pass||3||Throwaway||Roh||Inc|
|No one open(cover +1) as M drops everyone deep; Roh(+1, pressure +1) comes around the corner and his held, drawing a flag. QB scrambles out and chucks it away.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 6 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O35||1||10||Ace twins||3-3-5 stack||Run||?||Inside zone||Martin||1 (pen -10)|
|Demens in for Ezeh on this drive. Martin(+1) again through the line before anyone can think of blocking him; Banks(-1) single blocked and easily sealed on the edge. Martin makes that irrelevant; Mouton(+1) gets into the lead-blocking TE at the line and erases any creases, forcing a bounce outside that Floyd(+1) has covered; he's held, giving the RB the corner, except for Kovacs(+1) roaring downhill and tackling at the LOS.|
|O25||1||20||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||Out||Mouton||Inc|
|No pressure(-1) but no one open (cover +1) and the BG QB airmails a checkdown (cover +1) that wasn't going anywhere.|
|O25||2||20||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||Hitch||Floyd||Inc|
|No pressure(-1) again; this time a 10-yard hitch is blanketed by Floyd(+2, cover +2) and broken up.|
|O25||3||20||Shotgun 4-wide||3-2-6 Dime||Pass||3||Dumpoff||?||15|
|Again little pressure but Roh(+0.5) does come through quickly enough on a three man rush to prevent a minus; this forces a dumpoff(cover +1) in front of the coverage that Talbott and Mouton run down.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-0, 3 min 1st Q. On the next drive lots of backups. Patterson, Black, and Sagesse are the DL for most of this drive, with Demens and Leach playing LB and Christian coming in for Rogers.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O36||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||Base 4-3||Run||?||Inside zone||Kovacs||2|
|Three guys block Patterson so Kovacs(+1) can come in and thump the ballcarrier (tackling +1) without anyone bothering him.|
|O38||2||8||I-form big||3-3-5 stack||Run||?||Counter||Patterson||4|
|It's hard to tell how the linebackers actually did on this play because Patterson(-1) is ejected from the center of the defense like he's Kovacs and Sagesse(-1) doesn't read the pull. He goes down to cut the lead blocker and create a pile but starts moving upfield and gets pancaked. So Mouton and Demens have blockers all over them and can't possibly shut down all the space. Both get blocked and Mouton gets pancaked, though, so -1 for Mouton; Roh fought through blockers to slow the tailback a little bit but it's an authoritative fill from Cam Gordon(+1.5, tackling +1) that holds this down when it could have been ugly.|
|O42||3||4||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 stack||Pass||6||Out||Kovacs||5|
|WR motions from trips side to create a 2x2 formation with two guys stacked, and then runs a pretty blatant pick on both M defenders, opening up an out. Kovacs(+0.5) is still right there to tackle, but just beyond the sticks. Blitz did not get there(pressure -1).|
|O47||1||10||Ace twins||Base 4-3||Run||PA draw||Sagesse||7|
|Screen fake to draw. DL slanting, getting Patterson(+1) in and disrupting anything up the middle. Problem on the backside is Sagesse(-2) getting way too far down the line and opening up a cutback lane. Mouton reacts and attempts to tackle but gets hit by a G peeling off Sagesse and has his tackle run through. I will -0.5 him but this is tough (tackling -1). Demens runs the guy down.|
|Starting DL back. BG goes play action and finds a wide open receiver on a corner route because Christian(-2, cover -2) completely whiffed a chuck and got beat by yards. QB throws it long. Decent pressure and coverage everywhere else; coverage from Christian might force a sack.|
|M46||3||3||Shotgun 4-wide||3-2-6 Dime||Pass||6||Slant||Kovacs||20|
|This one is on Kovacs, who is in man on the second stacked receiver and gets smoked(-2, cover -2) to the inside so badly he can't even make a tackle on the catch. Mouton(+1) was flying over a cut block from an RB on the blitz(pressure +1) and hit the QB; an instant more coverage and this is end of drive. RPS -2 for getting Kovacs in single coverage for 20 yards.|
|M26||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Martin||2|
|Christian exits for Rogers. Martin(+1) absorbs a double team without giving any ground, allowing Mouton(+1) to attack unmolested and tackle.|
|M24||2||8||Shotgun trips TE||3-3-5 stack||Pass||4||Rollout hitch||?||6|
|Ezeh back. Roh running out on the edge but the little hitch here is wide open; not sure why but it just looks like this is a hole in a cover three. (cover -1). BWS disagrees.|
|M18||3||2||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||Post||Fitzgerald||17|
|Ezeh gets sucked up to a little drag route which is understandable, but Fitzgerald(-1) doesn't get any depth on his drop despite not having anyone in front of him and C. Gordon(-1) reacts late and there's a monster hole in the zone that's easy to hit for first and goal. (Cover –2.)|
|M1||1||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||Power off tackle||Van Bergen||-2|
|Campbell(+1) drives his man backward, gets lower than him, and falls in the backfield. Van Bergen(+2) does the same, stalling the RB and allowing Demens to run downhill at him for the stop.|
|M3||2||G||Wildcat||3-3-5 stack||Penalty||False start||?||-5|
|M8||2||G||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||6||Scramble||Van Bergen||7|
|House sent and gets there (pressure +2), with Leach(+1) immediately in the QB's feet after getting cut, forcing a scramble from a not-mobile QB that RVB(-2) badly overruns, turning a sack into a scramble down to the goal line.|
|M1||3||G||I-form big||Goal line||Penalty||Offside||Martin||0.5|
|M1||3||G||Wildcat trips||Goal line||Run||QB draw||Banks||0|
|QB motions out, no one covers him, it's a wildcat formation. Banks(+1) shoots past blockers into the center of the defense, eating blockers and creating a pile; Ezeh(+1) cleans up.|
|M1||4||G||Wildcat trips||Goal line||Run||QB draw||Campbell||1|
|Just a wad of bodies I can't make much out of; Campbell was right there but the guy managed to slam it up into his OL and fall forward into a massive pile of bodies that no one has a good view of. The refs eventually signal TD, but it's not like they have any idea.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-7, 8 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O29||1||10||Shotgun empty||3-3-5 stack||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||C. Gordon||71|
|The big bad thing from the day. I'm not actually that mad because this is kind of a freak thing. T. Gordon takes a good angle to the ballcarrier only to see the guy bang into one of his own OL and sort of get tossed upfield, which Gordon was not expecting; he ends up whiffing an attempted ankle tackle. I will give him a -1 here, but only 1 (tackling -1 as well). So now he's on a totally different vector than would otherwise be possible and there' no contain because Rogers is held and can't get outside and force it back into Cam Gordon. Cam gets a -2 for fighting to the ball too much when he had the other Gordon, Kovacs, Ezeh, and a billion other guys; he should never have been that eager to close down the space he tried to. So that's it. -3. The other -3 you can tack on the refs who missed the Rogers hold. I mean, the WR grabs the back of Rogers's jersey and pulls him four or five yards infield.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-14, 5 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||Screen||Mouton||0|
|Very slow developing. M only rushes three but Mouton is the only player in the area with Ezeh and the safeties very slow to read the play. Mouton(+2) evades a blocker and tackles the RB just as he catches the ball for nothing. Timing seemed off for BG so this is only +2 because part of the screwup is on the QB.|
|O20||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel 4-3||Pass||5||Out||Floyd||4|
|Avery in. M sends five and doesn't quite get there but does force a throw; this out is open just in front of Floyd(+0.5). He's there to tackle, which is good enough on a four-yard pass on second and ten.|
|O24||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||3-2-6 dime||Pass||4||Sack||Van Bergen||-7|
|The four man line with Mouton down. Martin and RVB stunt, with Martin(+1.5) driving the center back and threatening to sack as RVB(+1.5) comes around in the lane he's moving into to tackle(+1) for a big loss (pressure +2). Martin also draws a holding call.|
|Drive Notes: Safety (on terrible snap), 23-14, 13 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O10||1||10||Ace||Base 4-3||Run||Power off tackle||Ezeh||-2|
|This is completely obliterated by everyone, with about four M players in the backfield. Ezeh(+2) saw a gap and attacked it, blasting a pulling guard two yards in the backfield and slowing the RB, at which point he's dead meat. Banks(+1) was just behind cutting off any lanes to the back and Leach(+1) beat a tight end, almost getting held; those two combine to finish the TFL.|
|O8||2||8||Shotgun empty||Nickel 4-3||Pass||3||Tunnel screen||Kovacs||24|
|Guh, Ezeh(-1) gives it right back by dropping out of a threatened blitz into a short zone and then running well upfield and out of the play when he reads screen. There is room as a result. Floyd(+0.5) does a good job of forcing a cutback inside, but Kovacs(-2) doesn't have faith his CB will do this and ends up overrunning the play in an embarrassing fashion. (Tackling –2.)|
|O32||1||10||Ace||Base 4-3||Pass||4||Waggle deep out||Mouton||Int|
|Mouton(+3) bites on the play action a bit but then gets a great, great drop, going from two steps towards the LOS to 12 yards deep before the route can develop. By the time the QB throws it's right to him. +0.5 to Martin for getting in on the QB and possibly forcing a bad throw. (Cover +2.)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 37-14, 7 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||TGDCD||Mouton||16|
|Ezeh starts charging upfield to contain what looks like a rollout and Mouton(-1) sucks out of position to the frontside of the play; Martin(-1) is also handled and gives up a gap to the outside when Mouton may have had a chance if it was forced inside. This always works, I want us to run it so bad.|
|O47||1||10||Ace||Base 4-3||Run||Quick pitch||Black?||8|
|Floyd(+0.5) cuts off the outside well and Banks(+0.5) reads the play quickly enough to seemingly close down the hole; Geter pauses, then stumbles, then cuts back across the field—and I'm not sure who to blame. Roh(-1) definitely eased up when he thought the play was going away from him and I think Black(-1) took an angle too far downfield instead of a proper cutback pursuit one. But I'm really just guessing here. Gordon and Christian converge after a nice gain.|
|M45||2||2||Shotgun twins 2TE||Base 4-3||Pass||4||Rollout scramble||?||5|
|Excellent coverage(+2) from Christian and Gordon(+1 each) forces the QB to pull it down; Black(-2) again gets out of his lane fruitlessly, giving the QB an alley when he was about to be sacked. He scrambles for the first.|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||5||Sack||Banks||-5|
|A quick look to one side is a feint and QB comes to the bottom of the screen where Mouton(+1, cover +1) has the first read covered, which gives the rush time to get home; Banks(+1) fights through a blocker and reaches out to grab the QB as the pocket collapses and Leach(+1) blitzed from the outside, coming around to finish the tackle.|
|M45||2||15||Ace||Base 4-3||Pass||5||Waggle deep out||Christian||12|
|Roh(+1) quick out to the edge, cutting the QB off and forcing a throw that's short and lofted (pressure +1), but Christian(-1, cover -1) is easily beaten in man coverage and should give up the first down. The BG player drops the ball, boots it skyward, and sees one of his teammates come down with it.|
|M32||3||3||Shotgun 4-wide||4-1-6 dime||Pass||6||Slant||Floyd||11|
|Blitz picked up (pressure -2) and Floyd(-1, cover -1) gets beaten on a slant for the first.|
|M21||1||10||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 stack||Pass||NA||Flanker screen||Leach||20|
|Michigan is misaligned with no one shifted to the trips side. Given earlier formations this is on Leach(-1), who compounds his error by getting cut(-1) to the ground; Cam Gordon(-0.5) has to take on a blocker and attempt to make a diving tackle off of it and can't, allowing the WR to get down to the one. (RPS –2.)|
|M1||1||G||I-form big||Goal line||Run||Iso||Campbell||0|
|Campbell(+1) runs over his guy, essentially pancaking the OL(!) and ending up two yards in the backfield, forcing a cutback since Martin(+0.5) and Banks(+0.5) clogged the middle; Mouton(+0.5) fills unblocked and tackles with help.|
|M1||2||G||I-form big||Goal line||Pass||NA||Fade||Floyd||Inc|
|Overthrown; Floyd doing okay enough I guess.|
|M1||3||G||I-form big||Goal line||Pass||NA|
|RVB(+1) is lurking on the edge of the line and shoots out on the QB when he sees the roll, forcing a quick pass that ends up being inaccurate. It would have had to be just right with C. Gordon(+0.5) sitting there in proximity to the target. (Pressure +1, RPS +1)|
|M1||4||G||Wildcat twin TE||Goal line||Run||Power off tackle||?-||1|
|Michigan totally stuffs this, with RVB(+0.5) and Campbell(+0.5) driving blockers backwards and Mouton(-1) giving the thump that ends his forward momentum but not wrapping up. RB bounces backwards, rolls out, cuts inside of a block, and scores. C'est la vie.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 44-21, 2 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 stack||Pass||NA||Rollout out||T. Gordon||5|
|Starters still out there; weird. M not fooled by the PA and has good coverage on both these receivers from T. Gordon(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5, cover +1), who converge to tackle the receiver immediately.|
|O40||2||5||Shotgun trips TE||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Mouton||4|
|Mouton(+1) hops in the hole before any one can peel off on him, which is good because he ends up cutting off the hole and drawing two blockers as Ezeh(-1) was dropping into coverage without so much as reading a key. RB cuts back where Kovacs(+0.5) fills quickly, causing the RB to delay and allowing Banks(+0.5) to come off a blocker and help tackle.|
|O44||3||1||Ace twins||Base 4-3||Run||Power off tackle||Ezeh||-2|
|QB stumbles and this throws off the RB but this was dead anyway with T. Gordon(+1) setting up his blocker with the right shoulder and Ezeh(+1) clubbing the pulling guard in the hole, leaving nowhere to go; Banks(+1) takes the opportunity from the stumble and the jammed up front to tackle(+1) in the backfield.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 51-21, 12 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||4||TE out||Moundros||6|
|Scroobs finally come in with the score 58-21. At this point I'm just looking for individual performances and will discontinue metrics. Here pressure is poor but coverage is right there to tackle on the catch, with Moundros(+0.5) there. Campbell is not exactly Martin when it comes to pass rush. He just kind of sits at the line.|
|O33||2||4||Shotgun 2TE twins||Base 4-3||Pass||6||Batted||Campbell||Inc|
|Rush is picked up as BG leaves a couple extra guys in to block. Campbell(+1) gets a hand up to bat the ball down.|
|O33||3||4||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||6||Out||Avery||Inc|
|Moundros(+1) does bash the tailback and get to the QB but Avery(-1) has been beaten in coverage and this should be a first down. Pass is too far upfield and bobbled, allowing Avery time to close and break it up. This bobble was super-slow-mo extended, which is why no plus.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 58-21, 6 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Demens||0|
|I'd love it if Demens did something awesome here but no one even thinks about coming out to block him so it's pretty easy for him to step up and tackle. +1 for the hell of it, and +0.5 for Black, who came around a tackle and helped.|
|O31||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||Out||Anderson||6|
|Good coverage, quick tackle.|
|O37||3||4||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Out||Moundros||13|
|Moundros is actually in pretty good coverage here for an out ten yards downfield but the throw is low and to the outside where he can't do anything about it. Campbell did beat a blocker and then sort of lumber in at the QB.|
|50||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Campbell||7|
|Campbell(-1) sealed as two guys release downfield into Demens, so he can't do anything about it; Marvin Robinson comes up to make a good open field tackle.|
|M43||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Robinson||5|
|Moundros(+1) shoots upfield into a blocker as he tries to disengage from Campbell and delays the RB, allowing Robinson to come up and tackle, but the RB pops off and manages to drag Robinson forward past the sticks.|
|M38||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||3-3-5 stack||Pass||PA post||Vinopal||Int|
|Play action leaves seven blockers against three rushers so the QB has all day; he fires a post that Vinopal(+3) steps in front of and intercepts, immediately sending everyone back to videos of Michigan safeties of the last 20 years to find out the last time that happened. Vinopal fumbles, of course, but whatever.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 65-21, EOG. There is one more play but I can't believe I stuck around this long.|
I'm so confused. Was that good or not?
I kind of think it was, though extreme caution should be read into that given the epic suck of the backup BG QB. I saw a number of missed opportunities that I duly minused; there were probably a half-dozen more I could not see or did not notice. Here's one; watch the two receivers at the top of the screen…
…and also the guy on the drag there. Problems: we haz them.
Even so, BG tailbacks combined for 21 carries and averaged 2.8 YPC on them. Part of that was their inability to slam it into the endzone from the one, but stopping tailbacks for no gain or a loss five times on the goal line is a good thing.
Meanwhile, Spankratz had one screen pass for 71 yards and 27 other attempts on which he netted 5.9 YPA. That screen should have been about 20 yards, IME, as on replay the holding committed against Rogers is both flagrant and the main reason the play broke very long instead of sort of long:
Also the pinball game with the OL was a fortunate thing. Cam Gordon did screw up by fighting inside and not having faith that his teammates would deal, and then was outrun to the endzone, and these things add to the Hill of Cam Gordon Worry founded in the Notre Dame game.
That isn't exactly reassuring.
No, but at least this year our safeties are getting outrun by an actual wide receiver instead of a thumping Indiana tailback. So far. Still, the—
--is decent. Also chart.
|Van Bergen||5.5||2||3.5||Decent impact in little opportunity.|
|Martin||7||1||6||Quick passing offenses reduce DL impact; still did well when called upon.|
|Sagesse||-||3||-3||Seems I was wrong about him.|
|Patterson||1||1||0||Occasionally blasted to moon.|
|Black||0.5||3||-2.5||Got out of rush lanes a couple times.|
|Campbell||3.5||1||2.5||Impact in short yardage.|
|TOTAL||23||13||10||Three step drop city.|
|Ezeh||4.5||2||2.5||STILL VERY HOPELESS I HATE HIM THIS IS NOT AN ANTIJINX|
|Mouton||13||5||8||Sacks, TFLs, INTs.|
|T. Gordon||1.5||2||-0.5||Banks at linebacker, except a freshman.|
|Moundros||1.5||-||1.5||Only played in garbage time.|
|Demens||1||-||1||And that +1 is generous.|
|TOTAL||29||13||16||Much, much better.|
|Floyd||4.5||1||3.5||Been solid except for run support issues vs UMass.|
|Kovacs||4||4||0||Burned in man coverage a couple times.|
|C. Gordon||3||3.5||-0.5||I feel like these numbers do not give him enough credit for not screwing up on run angles.|
|Talbott||-||-||-||Did play, did not register good or bad, which is probably good.|
|Christian||1||3||-2||Seems like the other two are ahead.|
|M. Robinson||-||-||-||Scant time.|
|Ray Vinopal||3||-||3||Go, Spinal Tap Drummer. Go.|
|TOTAL||15.5||13.5||2||Did what they should against a team like BG.|
|Pressure||9||5||4||Revenge of the three man rush.|
|Coverage||18||12||6||Could be an artifact of confused QB.|
|RPS||-||5||-5||One misalignment, no free rushers.|
[RPS is "rock, paper, scissors." Michigan gets a + when they call a play that makes it very easy for them to defend the opponent, like getting a free blitzer. They get a – when they call a play that makes it very difficult for them to defend the opponent, like showing a seven-man blitz and having Penn State get easy touchdowns twice.]
Looks about right to me. The line didn't have much impact except when good coverage downfield allowed them to get to the QB or it was time to man up around the goal line. The linebackers made few errors, though part of that is no doubt BG's reluctance to test them in coverage with the backup QB. Mouton had an impact day and didn't do much to criticize, nor did Ezeh. And the secondary made about as many plays as they did errors.
I do chalk this up largely to the competition and expect that we'll be looking at some tattered numbers after Chappell gets done with Michigan's back seven.
Did we learn anything about new players?
Despite contrary indicators from the passing skeleton in the pregame, your #3 corner appears to Courtney Avery, a part of both the nickel and dime packages. Avery had an impressive recovery and PBU early:
We still don't know much about him but that's a good start. He seems obviously ahead of Cullen Christian, who did not have much to the good Saturday. Terrence Talbott was not tested.
Campbell was the other guy who leapt out as potentially useful. Though his strategy in the pass rush is "sit at the line of scrimmage and maybe raise your arms," he was a major reason that Michigan's goal line defense was so stiff, consistently driving his guy in the backfield and falling over. He's never going to be Mike Martin and has a long way to go if he's even going to be Gabe Watson, but for the first time he looked useful.
What about the so fresh, so clean linebackers?
Yeah… I've heard a lot of people talking up Kenny Demens after the game but I didn't see him do anything of note until the last drive when he was able to stroll into the BG backfield and make a tackle since three Falcon OL decided to block the same guy. It's possible I got 25 and 45 mixed up on a couple plays but since whenever Ezeh did something aggressive and successful I said "is that Ezeh?!" and double-checked, I don't think so. Talking up Demens seems to be a case of hoping something is true instead of thinking it.
And the old hands did have a good day. Mouton got an easy pick on a great pass drop after play action for the second time, and at no point did I get frustrated with Ezeh.
Hey, how about a special teams digression?
Yeah, I never ever cover special teams and so haven't systematically quantified how much additional suck there is this year in the unit. There is lots, obviously, but by virtue of not kicking anything but a point after and deploying that three-man punt return formation Michigan had its best week of the season. We heard all about how Drew Dileo was being recruited mostly as a returner, thus justifying yet another slot receiver, and the early… uh… returns are good. This is slick:
That's a punt a lot of guys would fair catch; Dileo WOOPs two gunners and then a third guy before getting taken down. That's a twelve yard return and potentially a 20- or even 30-yard swing in field position compared to a single returner like Gallon watching that thing bounce. Dileo is not that fast but he's got some skills.
Dileo === PR win.
Suck on that, low-rated-white-guy-offer complainers!
Yeah! And we totally weren't those guys. As long as we're on the topic of low rated white guys who the internet wasn't happy to see commit, how about Ray Vinopal?
Enormous disclaimers apply since by that point BG was down to their third-string walk-on but damn if that isn't the best play I've seen a Michigan safety make in a long time. This caused everyone to get way ahead of themselves about moving Gordon to bandit or linebacker in 2011; while I'm still keeping my hopes for an anonymous two-star in check that was about as good a start as you could hope for minus getting clocked and fumbling.
Maybe these guys really do have a knack for unearthing uncut gems.
Jonas Mouton was the most productive Wolverine on the day, notching a sack, an interception, and failing to notch any Mouton brain meltdowns.
No one stands out as a huge problem. The backups on the DL made some crappy plays, but that's to be expected, and some of the freshmen in the secondary had issues. Those guys aren't likely to play unless injury strikes, however. If I had to pick someone it would be Cam Gordon, who was one of three reasons Bowling Green hit the big play. That's weak, though, on a day when you hold the opponent under 300 total yards.
What does it mean for Indiana and beyond?
Not much, I'm afraid. Spankratz (in his first start, no less) is likely to be by far the worst quarterback on the schedule at year's end. Even second stringers or freshmen like Nathan ReallyDutchLastName at Illinois or Robert "Rob" Henry at Purdue will have way more experience when Michigan rolls into town, and there's no comparison between that guy and Indiana's Ben Chappell, who was genuinely impressive against Western Kentucky even when you take the opponent into account.
At least Michigan seems comfortable enough with the freshmen corners that they can throw them out there on passing downs—which will be most of them against IU—and get guys like Banks and Ezeh off the field. Avery showed well and the rest of the secondary kept it safe. I can see Michigan trying to get to Chappell with a four-man rush of Roh, RVB, Martin, and Mouton all day, content to take their chances when IU runs and bleed yardage until Michigan gets a sack or a couple incompletions, and I can see this working somewhat frequently. This year's IU team is far less of a threat on the ground than last year's, which still wasn't much of a threat.
UMass will probably be Michigan's worst defensive performance of the year; if the linebackers just play it safe and Michigan makes Indiana kick some field goals—probable once the field compresses and IU's total inability to run block comes to the fore—Denard and company should get a comfortable distance by game's end.
As far as beyond… not much. Indiana will give us way more information.
As a side note, I'm happy that the staff put in two new packages (the dime and the punt return) this week that are creative ways to address deficiencies. Minus punt fumbles, special teams has been a strength at Michigan under RR; moving towards a rugby-aware punt return system is another way in which Michigan's current coaching staff displays their willingness to adapt on a year-to-year basis. (The most powerful example this year is the near-shelving of the zone stretch in favor of QB lead draws and a lot of inside zone).
Note: the confusion about if Michigan is actually running a 3-3-5 this fall or if it's more of the 4-3 with deathbacker hybrid, or if it's "multiple" or whatever leaves the previewer at a loss when attempting to slot players into familiar roles. I've decided to take Greg Robinson and Rich Rodriguez at their word and will treat Craig Roh like a defensive lineman who frequently fakes playing linebacker and occasionally (or more than occassionally) does. This may be off.
|Craig Roh||So.||Mike Martin||Jr.||Greg Banks||Sr.*||Ryan Van Bergen||Jr.*|
|Brandon Herron||Jr.*||Will Campbell||So.||Renaldo Sagesse||Sr.*||Jibreel Black||Fr.|
|JB Fitzgerald||Jr.*||Richard Ash||Fr.||Terry Talbott||Fr.||Anthony LaLota||Fr.*|
|GET IN THE CAR|
|splits a double team|
|blows past the down-block attempt|
|zips around the center|
|SLASHING PAST OL|
|deep into the backfield|
|darts past attempted down-block|
|does attack on this one|
|drives blockers backwards|
|drives the opposing center back|
Martin blew up against Wisconsin, not that it ended up mattering.
Mike Martin was a promising freshman backup and promising sophomore starter. Now entering his true junior season, it's time for Martin to shed the promise and become the beast he has to be if Michigan's defense is going to tread water this season. With a position switch starter behind him at linebacker and Brandon Graham elsewhere, he goes from sidekick to superhero.
As you can see at right, Mike Martin is at his best using his agility and strength to zip past opposing offensive linemen and do mean things to ballcarriers in the backfield. The clips have a distinct lack of Watson-esque offensive lineman crushing; similarly, much of Martin's high school highlight video features him zipping around, not through overmatched kids. Though he can fight through opposition blockers from time to time and doesn't get blown back often, deploying him as a one-technique nose tackle exposes him to a ton of double teams—most of the highlights above feature him splitting two guys trying to zone him—and limits what he's able to accomplish. A switch to more of a 3-3-5, if that actually happens, will either mitigate this or provide outside linebackers windows to exploit; Martin's iron grip on the NT job is an indication that could be the plan. (More scheme discussion will take place later in the week.)
A quick survey of his UFR results from last year shows a guy who doesn't often end up in the minus column but also doesn't consistently produce like the star he has to be if Michigan's defensive line is going to maintain their productivity of a year ago:
|WMU||5.5||1||4.5||Two great pass rush moves on the interior are most of those points.|
|Notre Dame||2.5||-||2.5||Decent tracking down the run but zero pass rush.|
|EMU||7||1.5||5.5||Much better job getting off blocks this week and more active; this is probably because of the competition. Still, he's promising. Probably needs another year before he's truly an anchor.|
|Indiana||4.5||-||4.5||Indiana could not move him.|
|Michigan State||7||5.5||1.5||Mental issues on the Cousins run and the final Caper run.|
|Iowa||9||4.5||4.5||Demonstrated great agility several times and had a couple good pass rush moves but got crushed off the ball four times, too.|
|Penn State||2.5||2.5||0||Off day.|
|Illinois||7||1||6||No frontside creases all day; too bad about the linebackers.|
|Purdue||4.5||0.5||4||Relatively quiet; not getting much pass rush this year.|
|Wisconsin||12.5||2||10.5||Huge day, especially early.|
This, and the brief snippets of talent from Martin's freshman year when he was a backup to Will Johnson (after he snuffed out Wisconsin's second two-point attempt in 2008 I said he was "already kind of great" as a pass rusher), has seen this blog suggest/push/plead for Martin to slide to the three-tech spot made famous by Warren Sapp and occupied by backfield inhabitants Ryan Van Bergen and Alan Branch recently. In his third year in a college program, Martin has the potential to put up serious numbers if he can find himself one-on-one with sluggish guards. This requires a move away from the nose. It's also not going to happen, so you can put away your fancy dreams about Martin going all Babineaux on the Big Ten and dropping 28 TFLs.
Even so, it's time for Martin to make the same leap Brandon Graham did between his junior and senior years. I can't offer anything more powerful than this wonderfully ungrammatical assessment from Jibreel Black:
You look at the rest of this defensive line and there’s a lot of talent there, but is there anyone in particular that you look at and say, ‘wow man this dude is better than I thought he was? ‘
“Not necessarily better than I thought he was, because I know all of them are good, but 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.”
I hope to be like dang for large sections of the season.
Martin's reached the point where he's being held out of hitting because he's Mike Martin…
“Defensively, Mike Martin has had a tremendous camp. We limited him yesterday because we know what he can. He has been really good and probably our most consistent defensive player since camp started.”
…he's in good enough shape to crush the rest of his position group when Michigan does post-practice runs, he's an upperclassman with a year of starting experience under his belt… now is the time. I'm not sure if Martin will be on All Big Ten teams after the year, especially at a position at which statistics don't always tell the tale, but I'm confident in asserting he should be on them.
Banks left; Sagesse right
|burst past blockers|
|knifed through the line|
|cuts under his blocker|
The other tackle spot will be manned by the two seniors. Michigan lists Greg Banks first on its UConn depth chart but moved 289-pound Renaldo Sagesse away from the nose tackle spot he played decently at a year ago to back him up; to me this signals an intent to wear Martin out and keep the three-tech/DE spot fresh with constant platooning. We'll address the two as co-starters.
Sagesse and Banks are like senior versions of the two 5'10 freshman corners. They were middling recruits; they've established themselves solid but uninspiring Big Ten players. The closest comparison I can think of in the recent history of Michigan linemen is Rondell Biggs, the other guy on the ridiculous 2006 line.
|blasts the LT back|
|forcing a cutback|
|shoots past the center's block|
|both blow into the backfield|
Last year Sagesse was a "mysterious entity locked on the bench" after arriving at Michigan from the wild hinterlands of Quebec pegged to provide "functional depth." He actually did a bit better than that, as the clip reel shows: nothing negative enough to be worthy of pulling off, a few impressive plays, albeit against lower-level competition. The worst thing I've seen Sagesse do to date is get sealed and pancaked by Patrick Omameh in the spring game but we'll just chalk that up to Omameh being wicked sweet.
I was openly campaigning for Sagesse to get more playing time:
So this Sagesse guy is okay?
He hasn't seen much time but I have him down for +5 in that time with no minuses. Given the depth situation at DE and RVB's seeming inability to hold up—not surprising at 6'5" 270 something—doesn't it make sense to try Sagesse out as a starting NT and slide Martin over to the 3-tech? RVB can then back up the 3-tech and Graham. The line adds 30-40 pounds and doesn't have to roll out a walk-on when Graham needs a blow.
Van Bergen found his footing on the interior and that never came to fruition, but I remained on Sagesse's side to the point where I was campaigning for him to start this year, again so Martin could slide out.
Last year both started out well, with Sagesse picking up a total of 9.5 to the good against just one minus in the three nonconference games before Indiana; Banks had plus 6.5 and minus 0.5 in the same timespan. But from there both went radio silent, playing regularly but getting little in the way of up or down recognition. Sample reactions from the Big Ten schedule: "quiet," "meh," "played little," "also played little," and "one nice play for naught."
This isn't a terrible thing for a sparely-used defensive tackle, especially the nose spot Sagesse was at. Ideally you'd like some plays from the interior, but if Mike Martin is going to provide those you can deal with the other spot being functional. On the '06 Line of Doom, sophomore Terrance Taylor wasn't a star and that worked out okay. It is concerning that I didn't see either play in the Purdue game and Sagesse remained totally absent for Wisconsin.
Michigan's formations will go some way to determining which player gets more time. In three-man lines Sagesse is clearly going to be a pass-rush liability as a defensive end, but when Michigan goes to four (or brings in the "double eagle" package with the DEs lined up over the opposition guards) Sagesse's got more heft. I wouldn't be surprised to see both lifted for Jibreel Black or maybe Craig Roh on passing downs.
Take your pick of adjectives: workmanlike, yeoman, gritty, etc. Expect something okay here; the upside is low, but so is the downside.
And now everyone's worried about Will Campbell since his '09 cameos were unimpressive and he's stuck behind Adam Patterson on the depth chart. He's back on the upswing with his weight after losing a ton between the end of his senior year and fall camp, adding 15 pounds from '09 to '10. He now checks in at 333, the heaviest guy on the roster.
That could be good as Michigan starts putting good weight back on Campbell after his freshman year slim-down. It could be bad. Rodriguez complained about the conditioning of a "small handful," and Campbell seemed like an obvious candidate for the wingless doghouse. He wasn't in it, but that doesn't mean Rodriguez is pleased with his conditioning:
"He got a lot of reps in the spring with Mike Martin [out], and I think he got better. he's still got some things to work on, but he's a big, strong guy. Depending on what kind of shape he's in when we start will determine how quickly he can battle for that job.
"If he's in great shape when we come in, he can battle to start. If he's not, he'll struggle until he gets in shape."
On the field, Campbell lived up to his reputation as a very large guy in need of serious technique work. I've seen a lot of zone stretches by now and rarely has a nose tackle eaten it like he did against Iowa:
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?
That happened about midway through the year and Campbell virtually disappeared after it; the only other clip I've got on him is what seems in retrospect to be an excessively harsh evaluation of a big Baby Seal U run on which Vlad Emilien got pancaked and Kevin Leach blasted out of the play, too. But even so he did get sealed by the BSU center all too easily. There wasn't a lot of buzz about Campbell coming out of spring, and he failed to live up to this blog's expectation of a regular job in the rotation with an "an eye on maybe starting when Michigan goes bulky for games against ground-pounders like Michigan State and Wisconsin." As the Iowa cameo showed, that would have been a bad idea.
HOWEVA, planet-spanning defensive tackles take time, as West Texas Blue demonstrated in a diary running down the fates of Campbell's DT classmates. None of them did anything save OU's Jamarcus McFarland and (sigh) Arkansas's Dequinta Jones. Most redshirted, like Campbell should have. Since he's third team right now don't expect much more than short-yardage duty early in the year, with the hope being he can emerge into a competent Martin backup by midseason,
Meanwhile, Adam Patterson's odd Michigan career has taken another turn in his fifth and final year: he's now a nose tackle. An easy top-100 recruit out of South Carolina whose selection of Michigan was almost as surprising as Carlos Brown's, Patterson's been locked on the bench his entire career. My assumption was that the nose move ended any chance he had at regular playing time, but he's now second on the depth chart at a position that sees a lot of rotation. He'll play; I don't think he'll be much good. The dropoff after Martin will be similar to that Michigan experienced when Graham came off the field, though less severe since Martin won't be Graham and the backup is at least a senior.
There are a couple freshmen, about whom we know nothing that hasn't been covered by their recruiting profiles. Pahokee native Richard Ash went from 263 pounds about a year ago to 320 on the fall roster; with concerns about his fitness and drive dogging his recruitment he is a guaranteed redshirt as Barwis attempts to whittle him down to something approximating the player who briefly had Florida and USC offers before the weight got too sloppy. Everything the blog compiled on Ash is located at his recruiting profile.
Finally, Terry Talbott is a three-tech in the making. He's got the inverse issue: listed at 248 on Michigan's roster, he'll need a year and 20 pounds before he's viable. Neither appeared on the UConn depth chart; redshirts beckon.
Strongside Defensive End
RYAN VAN BERGEN
|DRIVING BACK OTHERS|
|blows the RG back,|
|gets under Stewart|
|gets playside of his guy|
|tearing around the corner|
|drives LG three yards back|
|blows into the RG|
|blasts into the backfield|
|CRUSHED BACK HIMSELF|
|drives RVB out of the hole|
|Tackle blocks down on RVB|
|Ezeh(?!?!) follows him|
|trouble holding up|
|AGILITY FOR DE? POSSIBLE|
|deep into the backfield|
|slices through two blockers|
|again through the line|
|splits a double team|
|gets playside of his guy|
|tackling(+1) at the LOS|
Brandon Graham is currently racking up defensive rookie of the year hype in Philadelphia, but the position is seemingly in good hands. Redshirt junior Ryan Van Bergen slides outside after a year starting at the three-tech defensive tackle spot. He was productive there, acquiring 40 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, and five sacks in his first year as a starter. He even tacked on four pass breakups, presumably on bat-downs at the line of scrimmage.
His season in UFR was okay for a DT:
|WMU||5||0.5||4.5||More effective on review; did not give ground, albeit against a MAC team.|
|Notre Dame||2.5||3||-0.5||Looked a lot like an out of position DE.|
|EMU||1||2.5||-1.5||Not holding up very well against doubles.|
|Indiana||8||1||7||Did virtually nothing until the 85-yard run, then single-handedly killed the next drive.|
|Michigan State||9||4.5||4.5||Great day against an MSU OL that planned to turn him into dust and could not, but irresponsible pass rushing cost Michigan more than once.|
|Iowa||5||-||5||Very competent against a day of single blocking, which got him a lot of half points.|
|Penn State||4||3||1||Also not a great day.|
|Illinois||2||-||2||Not a major factor. [here this just becomes true so i say it again]|
|Purdue||2||2||0||Not a major factor.|
|Wisconsin||1||1||0||Not a major factor.|
Disclaimers about UFR being a DL-friendly grading system apply; even so, that's pretty good for a redshirt sophomore entering the lineup for the first time. The drive after Indiana's "doomed from the start" 85-yard touchdown you may have seen on the sidebar when Jordan Kovacs or JT Floyd was discussed was probably my favorite series in last year's UFR process. Michigan desperately needed a stop and RVB provided:
Do you know what I did when Indiana had that 85 yard run?
I thought to myself "I bet Ryan Van Bergen missed a check and will spend the rest of the game personally destroying the Indiana offense."
No. I threw the cat at the TV and vowed to find Jim Herrmann and find a way to blame it on him.
His hulk up after that play continued through Michigan State (when he was "going from a non-entity to a guy who's making plays") and Iowa, when he "only got a +5" because of an array of half-points. Unfortunatley it evaporated on a meh day against Penn State and for the rest of the year Van Bergen was hovering around the zero that is not a good day for a DL. I think some of that has to do with the rest of the defense: Illinois just kept going outside and Wisconsin passing over the middle, leaving few opportunities for him to make plays.
The move outside is a complicating factor, though it remains to be seen just how much of one it is. In the clips at left there's a section in which RVB gets MASSEY'D back; understandable since at 6'6", 271 there's only so much you can do to avoid getting blown back on every play. The ratio of good to bad there is encouraging, but more encouraging for his future as a defensive end is the section on agility and those five sacks. As a bonus, before he slid into the starting lineup he was Graham's backup.
Van Bergen knows the position, was recruited to play it, and is entering his fourth year on campus with a season as a solid starter under his belt. Least useful phrase ever: he's not going to be Brandon Graham. Mitigating phrase: but he should be solid. At a spot more amenable to pass rush and with more experience, RVB should brush up against double-digit sacks and see his UFRs climb into the consistently good realm inhabited by, say, Tim Jamison as a senior.
Here's a change: instead of massive attrition and injury bringing a walk-on into play, at this spot a walk-on's unavailability is a problem. Will Heininger tore his knee up in spring practice and will miss the season, leaving Van Bergen backed up by… some guys… I guess.
The guy who most prominent in the fall practice was true freshman Jibreel Black, a stocky 6'1" 262 pound pass-rush specialist who was issued the just-vacated 55 and has a special section in his recruiting profile in which people either say things that sound like Brandon Graham or just flat-out compare him to probably the best defensive end ever to play at Michigan. Here's Rodriguez:
“He wears No. 55 and looks a little like BG at times. But he’s got a burst and some natural athletic ability. I’ve been really pleased with his progress.”
No pressure, kid.
Rodriguez further called out Black as "the freshman lineman most likely to have a chance to play." Black won't be much of a factor as a true freshman; hope for a year in which he holds his own when RVB needs a breather and maybe makes a couple of MAC offensive tackles look silly.
Redshirt freshman Anthony LaLota is also in the mix for playing time behind Van Bergen; he was a high four-star to the recruiting sites (recruiting profile) before a disappointing week at the Army game saw his rankings take a significant hit. He still checked in as a Rivals 250 guy and was just outside the Scout 100, so it wasn't too bad. Unfortunately, his height and weight were significantly overstated by the same sites and when he hit campus two inches and 30 pounds short of expectations, he was destined for a redshirt. He got that redshirt, got up to 256 by fall of last year, and is now listed at 270—possibly time to play, possibly in need of another 15 pounds since he's a couple inches taller than Black. The coaches have been radio silent on LaLota (a Google news search turns up zero, whereas Black is getting some pub), so it might be the latter.
Former tight end Steve Watson is also here, but he's pretty much David Cone on defense. I imagine if push comes to shove LaLota will see the field before he does despite the initial depth chart. That seems like a nod to seniority.
|IRRESPONSIBLE BUT EFFECTIVE|
|blows up WMU draw|
|making an ankle tackle|
|JUST THE FORMER|
|dropping into coverage|
|spinning inside of the OT|
|Incredibly open dig/seam|
|hit Cousins as he throws|
|excellent on the stunt here|
|murders this dead|
|reads the pull|
|gets outside and avoids a cut|
|two guys double Roh|
Roh against Purdue.
Craig Roh is the Denard Robinson of the defense: a highly touted recruit that should have spent his freshman year redshirting and sucking up Breaston-level practice hype before debuting as a promising but still so raw redshirt freshman in 2010. Since it's the Age of Doom, Roh had to start as a 225 pound defensive end in the Big Ten.
The results were mixed, trending towards negative. When opponents got a solid block on him he was done, something Michigan tried to prevent by slanting him extensively. That worked well enough, but since there's only so much you can do with a defensive end that small his pass rush repertoire shrunk from the Swiss Army Knife set that saw Roh rise to become a top 50 prospect on at least one site to the hope he could run around guys.
There was one major positive the clips at right don't show: he was seemingly better in coverage than Michigan veteran linebackers, able to track tight ends up to 20 yards downfield and surprisingly capable of doing something about it if and when the ball arrived. The hope at linebacker is that Roh's advanced coverage skills were Greg Robinson's doing.
But without further adieu, Roh's '09 numbers, keeping in mind that UFRs are slanted towards defensive ends and getting a small positive is treading water there:
|WMU||5.5||1||4.5||Pretty good debut; showed a variety of pass-rush moves including a sick spin.|
|Notre Dame||2||3||-1||Drew a key hold but mostly neutralized. Looked like a freshman.|
|EMU||6.5||3||3.5||A couple of nice plays when EMU put him on the edge and tried to fool or read him. Athleticism should be an asset against zone read teams.|
|Indiana||3||1||2||Not really in on much.|
|Michigan State||4.5||0.5||4||Not getting as much pressure as you'd like, though.|
|Iowa||5.5||1||4.5||Had a couple hurries, used his athleticism well from the backside on a couple runs.|
|Penn State||4||1||3||Got a sack against the real side of the PSU D.|
|Illinois||7||2.5||4.5||Effective slanting all day; not great in pass rush yet.|
|Purdue||6||4.5||1.5||Extensive discussion below.|
|Wisconsin||4||6||-2||Wisconsin was always going to be the team to own him.|
The Purdue game exposed Roh's limitations more obviously than any other. The Boilers lined up in an array of 3x1 sets and got big gains by running right at Roh when he lined up to the open side of the field:
Michigan flipped Graham to that side of the field and Purdue started rolling away from him to the receiver-heavy side of the field, completing a bunch of wide open passes. Michigan flipped back and Roh was again unable to fight through blockers to maintain his edge:
As the UFR made clear, there are a lot of reasons Michigan's defense was so porous last year but running out a freshman defensive end was one of them. The end result:
Roh did some good stuff on slants and was responsible when he had an opportunity to overrun plays, which gives him that modest positive score above, but big minuses in pressure fall mostly on the shoulders of the DEs and when one of the DEs is Brandon Graham they fall mostly on the shoulders of the DE who isn't Brandon Graham. So if you apply a chunk of that pressure metric to Roh, you get a solidly negative day.
This year Roh is better prepared for the rigors of the Big Ten. Rodriguez:
“He played last year at about 225 as a true freshman and did a good job. Now, he is probably closer to 240 to 245 and running just as well if not better. I think that and the experience that he has been out there before, you can see. He’s guy that we want to move around a little bit. Craig is a very active, high-motor player and being able 245-250 pounds is going to let him hold up…especially with those big physical team, starting with the first game.”
Going from 225 to 245 and from freshman to sophomore means Roh should make a greater leap than anyone else on the defense. He came to Michigan with a mountain of recruiting hype based on his diabolical array of pass rush moves and dominating Under Armor Game performance. He's got the hype; he's got the weight; he's got the experience…
Sort of! The catch in the Craig Roh explosion is this niggling move to the 3-3-5, where he's a strongside linebacker:
As Michigan's defense worked more in the 3-3-5 set during spring ball, Roh divided his time between linebacker and defensive line.
"There’s some changes," he said. "I’ve never been in a linebacker [position], second-level, setting up there. Some guys are playing basically the same position they played last year. For me, this is something new and different.
"[Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson] is helping me a lot with the learning curve."
No one's sure how much Michigan will be running a three man line this fall but it will be some, which will give Roh the ability to attack from surprising angles and use his vertical speed to get into the backfield. It will also expose him to play action, counters, and other plays he's not used to dealing with much that can take advantage of the inability to change direction that had everyone projecting him as a defensive end despite being linebacker size. Now, you could just say he'll blitz all the time but that would get predictable; it would also impinge on Jonas Mouton's ability to do the same thing, and Mouton's a guy who has the exact same strengths Roh does. They'll have to split the fun bits where they tear into the backfield.
All this makes it difficult to project what Roh will do this season. A guess: doubling his 7.5 TFLs and significantly adding to his two sacks is a good bet. I don't think he'll be a crazy star just yet, but I expect to be saying the same things about him next year that I'm saying about Mike Martin this year.
It's here more than anywhere else that confusion about exactly how "multiple" the defense is going to be wreaks havoc with position projections. One man's guess at the setup here: Roh will be able to flip from linebacker to defensive end with some aplomb, but his backups are likely to be one or the other.
The defensive-end-ish backup will probably be redshirt junior Brandon Herron, Roh's backup last year. Though he lost his job to the touted freshman he got a regular shift like Sagesse or Banks; unlike Sagesse or Banks his performance didn't register even the brief slices of notability the aforementioned seniors managed. The only clip I got that involves him is a single passing play against Indiana on which he successfully walls off a TE seam, and his UFR notes read "did make one good tackle," "eh," "some good run defense," "nonfactor," "meh," and "eh, ok." You get the idea.
That's not good because of Herron's position, which is supposed to be a source of big plays. As long as a guy like Sagesse holds the fort at his position things are pretty much good. If Herron does nothing positive or negative that's a much greater opportunity spurned. Gradual improvement is likely; Herron will remain a guy Michigan kills time with until Roh can get back in there.
While Herron was out in spring and Michigan was running something approximating a 3-3-5, JB Fitzgerald acted as Roh's backup. The linebacker preview already addressed his shaky '09 performance. As a backup here I imagine Michigan will always be in a three-man line so Fitzgerald can play linebacker; he's never played DE. His best shot at playing time is if Michigan has a passing-down package that sees Roh put his hand down.