coaches say you can't, so don't sign a loi
Todd asked me to guest star on the anachronistically named HuddlePass podcast this week while Cato was celebrating a family event. Here it is:
Nothing too surprising to you in there. Lots of love for Jourdan Lewis and Jake Butt, taking things too seriously that we saw in the Miami game, can't scout Utah because they've played only bad teams so far.
Note he cuts me off right after he says time of possession is key. This would not do; the conversation spilled into text messages. Also before we started recording we talked a little about press technique and he said ND was doing a few things to screw with guys who didn’t have it down; practice was needed, and Michigan should have given them some help from the safeties until that was well practiced.
“Publisher”? Apparently “associate editor of MGoBlog and publisher and co-editor of Hail to the Victors” became “publisher of MGoBlog,” which I guess is accurate in that my job entails hitting this button a lot:
…but I mention in case Brian thinks I’m going around making up more titles for myself than those I’ve already made up.
-Seth, MGoBlog Executive Vice President of Consumption and Procurement, Coping Beverages Division
A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
'Is it to be or not to be?'
And I replied 'Oh why ask me?"
It's Korea out there in user-generated content land, and it's my job to triage. The only way to make it through sane is Hawkeye-level satire, and making fun of people who take themselves seriously, and not looking too hard at the antics of certain people from Toledo. Okay Radar, state your business, in one word or less:
- Reshp1: 289 yards for zero points.
One word or less.
- Glewe: Mental toughness.
That is two words.
- Glewe: Mentaltoughness.
Ah, you're a football coach I see. Try an English word.
Didn't you go already?
- Dnak438: I wrote another one.
Oh. Well thanks. I'm still putting it in etc.
[After the jump: the pain grows stronger, watch it grin.]
We shall have to *press* our *quarters*. Ha ha! do you smoke the pun dear Maturin?
We've been talking about how Michigan State's defense worked and how Michigan's this year and in the future could be using that as a model. I've brought up how the 4-3 over works, but the genius of Dantonio's defense is really in how he does coverage. Since it seems this is what Michigan will be doing, I thought a lay understanding of it wouldn't go amiss just now.
Coaches, you can offer corrections or tune out because this is going to be a little more basic. Spartans, try not to be too offended at the butchery I make of your wonderful defense. You are truly our state's top program and in no way does continuing to whine about a statement a 21-year-old made in 2007 make you petty.
Now let's go to the alignment above. We're looking at a 4-3 over; the defensive line is shifted to the "strong" side (technically Michigan's offense is balanced but the side with the two TEs is strong. Also that's the field side). We're also looking at a defense that is really creeping up. The safeties are 7 and 8 yards off the line of scrimmage, the linebackers are 4 yards off, and the cornerback at the bottom of your screen is in press. The variant on the 4-3 over is the defensive ends spread out (the SDE is in a wide-9 tech, the WDE completely outside the RT's shoulder), and the linebackers group in closer to compensate.
This is "aggressive." The guys apparently in charge of the deep part of the field are further off the line of scrimmage than the running back. There's a mismatch on your right, where a cornerback is matched against a tight end (Butt), but that hardly matters since any run is going right into a pile of bodies.
Cover 2 and Cover 2 Man
Getting up and bothersome to any receivers near the line of scrimmage has big benefits. The receiver will have a hard time getting into his route, throwing off the timing of the play and ensuring the offense gets nothing cheap like a quick out or in. A good press corner will prevent his receiver from getting into an easy route like a slant (the old fashioned man-coverage beating route). The danger of this is the press doesn't work all the time and then you've got a receiver accelerating downfield past a cornerback who's facing the wrong way. For this reason press teams would leave the safeties back to help. It ends up functionally not that different from Cover 2.
Of course that has a downside as well. While each receiver has 1.5 guys occupied with him, you've got the safeties and outside linebackers chasing the passing game instead of manning the run gaps. Defensive rule numero uno is don't be easy to run on.
A very popular alternative these days is Quarters. The link will explain further but simply put, with quarters coverage the cornerbacks and safeties have option routes depending on what the receivers do. They watch the inside guy (in a stack it's the back guy). If he goes vertical the safety has him; if he goes into the flat, the cornerback does and the safety plays Cover 2.
Watch this gif from the above link until you get a feel; the left side is the #2 receiver going vertical and the right side is him going into the flat.
"Going vertical" as I learned it, is the receiver going 8 or more yards downfield before making a turn. This is a strong coverage technique to cover the outside and downfield stuff the receivers will do, and leaves the linebackers available to cover short Cov 2 routes and react to the run. It's very base; the best way to beat it is to have your running game outmatch their front seven. The safeties are able to stand back and read, so like Cov 2 they're available to cut down whatever made it through. That's good enough for Virginia Tech, who's been running Quarters and been solid against the run for a decade and a half. But it wasn't good enough for Dantonio.
Very Aggressive Quarters
You may have already smoked out the difference between Michigan State's alignment against Michigan and the Cover 4 look that quarters starts out in. You've got that cornerback pressing a guy, for one. And the other thing: if the coverage is waiting until the inside guy is 8 yards downfield to be sure of their decision, and the safeties are standing 7 yards off the line of scrimmage, aren't they setting themselves up for one of those "hey maybe I oughtta be chasing this guy who just ran by me." things?
State will pack their guys in the box so linebackers and safeties are right there to stop the run. The linebackers squeeze laterally into the box, so the coverage is strongest inside (knowing this, offenses don't typically expect to find open guys there, leaving those LBs free to run Narduzzi's favorite Double-A gaps blitz).
That makes them very stout against the run, but should have a weakness tradeoff against outside passes. If the #2 receiver goes vertical the safety has to turn and go with him, meaning there's zero help for the cornerback.
State's answer to that: "So what!" This is where stretching the boundaries of pass interference comes into play, because the cornerback's job is to grab anything, pay off anybody, or sacrifice however many livestock and virgins it takes to keep that receiver from getting downfield.
Here's where Dantonio's program development comes into play, because it takes a long time for cornerbacks to get to the point where their press will work often enough that the quarterback stops expecting that guy to be open. Also they have to be ready for what coaches will do to screw with them.
It's also where finding good players comes into play. You can't get away with this if you have crappy Indiana safeties. There's tremendous strain put on the defensive backs to play up and still cover deep; if they can't handle it (and the offense has any kind of downfield passing ability) the jig is up.
In the defense's favor: in the college game, especially the game today where Tom Brady wannabes are less common than Denard Robinson wannabes (i.e. guys who are running threats but hardly devastatingly accurate deep passers), an offense that can rip you over the top is a rare cove indeed. The talent-depleted Big Ten has been short on defense-stretching receivers; a good 40% of Big Ten wideouts who'd pose a major threat to this scheme play for Maryland. Braxton Miller has a lot going for him but he tends to sail such passes over his open guys' heads. Devin Gardner, especially a beat up Devin Gardner, has a tendency to underthrow, turning open receivers into a game of Five-Hundred. Hackenberg might have success but his best targets are tight ends; Sudfeld has a similar problem now that his slot dude is the last man standing. And omigod can you just imagine what happens when this thing meets Gary Nova? "Like a Wrecking Ball" don't enter into it!
Last year Borges tried to screw with the Quarters reads by making it unclear who's the #1 or #2 receiver to that side, either with stacks or putting 3 receivers to the same side or like this (watch the WRs at the top of the screen):
Michigan ran just a two-man route, motioning the outside receiver into the inside receiver. Ultimately Funchess leapt a million feet in the air to beat Drummond to the outside, but look how seamlessly the Spartan defensive backs executed this and made it hard.
A novice might have a hard time with who's 1 or 2, but not a 5th year senior. Dantonio built his program, like Wisconsin's, on retention. He'll hold onto guys for three or four years usually before they see the field (or else the kids have to beat out the upperclassmen). It also makes those elders kind of crucial because the depth chart carries a lot of pressmen in training.
So for the first few seconds of the play, it's kind of Cov 2 man with everybody so bunched near the line of scrimmage that the run game will be right there and obvious, and thus easy to stop. Then quarters rules take over. And it can't be cracked wide open because pass interference isn't likely to be called unless you're playing at Notre Dame.
Can Michigan do this? Actually it's probably the best thing for the defensive personnel the coaches have collected, since the one thing we seem to have a glut of is really good cornerbacks, and more in development.
Mailbag: Playing Early, SEC Basketball Vs Big Ten Football Derpoff, Press Pleas, Permissible Jerk Level
INSTANT IMPACT; LATER IMPACT
First, in terms of player development, which position is the hardest to develop a freshman at for them to see playing time immediately. Conversely, which position is the easiest for a freshman to make a significant impact at without needing to redshirt or know the system inside and out? (Excluding punter and kicker)
Offensive line is by far the most difficult. Most incoming offensive linemen are man-mountains who have never seen anyone on their level in an actual football game. That is why almost all OL redshirt even in times of extreme need. See: Michigan last year. The reason OL are so hard to project is because they are so much farther from finished products than everyone else, and technique is paramount.
After OL there is a big drop to the next most difficult spot, which is QB. Freshman quarterbacks are nearly always pick-laden disasters. Next is probably linebacker, which both requires a lot of bulking up to be effective and constant reading of plays to see whether it's run or pass.
The easiest spots to make a freshman impact are the ones where athleticism is paramount and intelligence a nice bonus instead of a requirement: skill positions on offense and cornerback. NFL Wonderlic scores by position are a good proxy for how difficult it is to play position X right away:
I'm surprised LBs aren't higher.
In fact, the post that comes from references Mario Manningham's 6 on that test; Manningham was Michigan's most productive freshman receiver in a long time. (Martavious Odoms has since surpassed his first year production, but in a context of total roster chaos.)
Secondly, which conference is worse: B1G at football or SEC at basketball? I was watching a Georgia vs LSU game and it was atrocious. However, a Purdue vs. Illinois football game would be just as bad. Which conference has the ability to turn the corner and be a nation powerhouse?
They're virtually identical: nationally embarrassing save a couple programs at the top. Big Ten football coaches don't complain nearly as much about their place in the firmament, so SEC basketball wins worst conference.
Seriously. Remember that bit last year where everyone in the SEC whined about their bubble teams getting shipped to the NIT, whereupon they would lose in the first round? It was recently compounded by Ole Miss's coach claiming the reason the SEC is perceived to suck is because they're too good at football:
“I just think it’s an easy company line, and I do think there is a bias in the national media. They get tired of talking about the SEC because it dominates in football. They just get tired of talking about it, so when there’s an opportunity to talk about something else, that’s what they’re going to do,” said Kennedy, who went on to use Kentucky as an example of the nation’s perception of the league.
Kennedy complained that the SEC teams getting snubbed had similar profiles to the mid-majors that got in, which 1) well, yeah, that's what happens, and 2) one of those mid-majors that got in, LaSalle, beat 4-seed Kansas State and then his own damn team to reach the Sweet 16. The committee's decision to pass over SEC teams last year was vindicated in spades and they're still complaining about it. So, yeah. Worst conference: SEC basketball.
WHEN CAN WE JAM AND SLAM MAN
Seattle won the super bowl and (sigh) sparty won the big ten playing virtually the same aggressive, almost illegal, defense. Countess returns, they have two 5 star recruits in Peppers and Thomas, and they have several larger DB on the roster who have had game experience. Have you heard/do you think Michigan will be playing more an aggressive defense similar to those teams this football season?
I know what you're getting at but first let me note that MSU and Seattle run different schemes. MSU is an aggressive cover 4 that keeps two safeties at about nine yards and uses them to hammer down at runs. Seattle is an aggressive cover 3 that keeps one deep safety for centerfield purposes and runs a lot of press coverage on the outside because they can get away with it.
But they do share one very obvious commonality. They have their corners at the line of scrimmage, ready to get in the opponent's grill and reroute them against their will. In contrast, Michigan's defense was a passive bend-but-don't-break unit last year. As per every coordinator in the history of questions about desired changes, Michigan wants to get more aggressive. I bet you one dollar that something along those lines is said at the first spring press conference.
And in this case I think you can see the direction Michigan wants to go is big ol' corners that will put you on the sideline and be generally huge when you try to go over the top of this. Hoke has brought in the following corners after the grab-anyone transitional class:
- 2012: Terry Richardson (5'9")
- 2013: Channing Stribling (6'2"), Reon Dawson (6'2"), Jourdan Lewis (5'10"), Ross Douglas(5'10")
- 2014: Jabrill Peppers (6'0"), Brandon Watson(5'11")
Michigan also recruited Gareon Conley, another rangy 6'2" guy, and has seen enough from their current secondary that Douglas has been flipped to tailback after his redshirt year. Other than Richardson, who is the traditional tiny Cass Tech corner Michigan is duty-bound to take, the only other short corners were another Cass guy Michigan was duty bound to take and a guy no longer at the position.
While grabbing Peppers doesn't tell you anything other than Michigan is not run by complete nutcases, Michigan extending a camp offer to Watson while they still had a number of high profile DBs on the board does tell you something. Watson is a press fiend. Hit 1:40 on this video.
All the buzz from his commitment was that he was capital-P Physical and the only guy in camp with a prayer of checking Canteen, and "physical" is the first word out of the coaches' mouths when he comes up as a signee. That indicates the direction Michigan would like to go in, and it is towards MSU/Seattle-type defenses that are inviting you to try and throw a fade over a big corner.
HOWEVA, I'm not sure we see much of that nose-to-nose play this year. Michigan didn't like it with their personnel a year ago and that personnel returns. The addition of Peppers figures to be a nickel package thing at first, when press is often counterproductive. Even if Peppers emerges into a starter, press + freshman is playing with fire. Seems like Michigan will have to wait for 2015 to seriously amp up the pressure on the outside.
CAN I TELL AARON CRAFT HE'S ADOPTED?
The recent "Marcus Smart pushes loudmouth fan" incident has me ruminating on what is the ideal fan behavior at sporting events. Many of us often decry the laid-back atmosphere at football games with fans showing up late or presenting a "down in front!" mentality throughout, but at the same we look on in horror at stories of verbal assaults or flying trashcans we hear about at Ohio or West Virginia. Where is the line? (Obviously physical aggression is well past the line.)
Does calling someone a "piece of crap" rise to an egregious level where one should remove themselves from attending any live events for a year as the Texas Tech fan is doing or is that overly sensitive? Should sporting events exist in a weird other world where things that would otherwise be off-limits are somehow acceptable (the same way one can wear a bikini to the beach but would be fired instantly if they wore it to work)? And if so, should that be the case?
Basically, I'd appreciate your thoughts on how one should balance their impassioned fan-dom with common human decency.
First, there is no way that guy called Smart a "piece of crap" unless it was part of a larger stream of profanity. The guy in question is apparently a legendarily yappy guy. He got what he was coming to him.
In general, anything that you could fire off at one of your friends while giving them crap is in-bounds. Justin Beiber chants, deport Stauskas, etc.: fine. Anything about a person's game, or lack thereof, is fine. Generalized group insults like "ugly parents" are also fine. No one is going to lose their head over an obviously general comment not individually applicable. And if someone is acting seriously outside the bounds of propriety, you may as well tell them. The Auburn fans in the infamous Marshall Henderson GIF are giving him both verbal barrels; they've been provoked and anything they happen to be saying about Henderson is probably true. It doesn't change anything, but it feels good.
Just don't bring anyone's sister into things. Making things personal is where things start getting into Smart/jerko territory. You can only yell that Aaron Craft is adopted if he's not adopted. Or you're his secret biological dad, because funny is funny.
Omigod omigod omigod omigod omigod omigod omigod omigod—YOU GUYS!
We got a recruit. Like a GOOD recruit. Like the best recruit we've ever got, in the if-he-stays-ranked-as-high-as-he-is-in-May kind of way.
How do we feel about this? Happy right? Extraordinarily happy? Off the roof happy? Roses in our teeth happy? Really really really happy?
Like, the scouting reports are nudging you toward "2016 Heisman!!!" happiness. But then the Buckeyes in your life are reminding you that it's an aggregate science, not an exact one—and oh yeah in ur cass, stealin ur non-smurf dude. And your Sparty co-workers and family members are all reminding you that recruiting ratings don't matter nearly as much as how good your school is at developing players (and exciting new types of dirt). And your brain is like "there's only ever been between four and zero humans in the last 70 years as good at cornerback as HIM."
Stupid Buckeyes. Stupid Spartans. Stupid brain. #yalljustjealous #iknowitsenvyshutupimtryingtohashtaginhere
Alas, you're a Michigan fan, meaning even in moments like these you can never shut these people up. So let's try to come up with a reasonable level of expectation by peering into the careers of the few other consensus 5-star corners in the history of recruiting databases.
Class: 2002. School: Texas. Ht/Wt: 5'10/190. Rankings: #3 CB (after Leon Washington & Devin Hester) to Rivals, #3 CB (Hester, A.J. Davis) to Scout.
Other Suitors: Texas A&M, Miami (YTM), Nebraska, Oklahoma, Michigan State.
Scouting Report: Speed in buckets; one of the fastest-ever high school players in the country. Also a great running back and accomplished track star. Academic and behavioral red flags: has 'em.
College Career: Started immediately at nickel back and kickoff returner. Was caught with pot with a big group of teammate but the case was dismissed. Academic problems forced him to sit out his sophomore year and finally get dismissed from the team, transferring first to a junior college and then signing a letter of intent to play for Oregon State. However he couldn't get academically eligible there either so he stayed at his JC in '05 then went pro.
Pro Career: Signed with Jacksonville as a free agent in '06, released in preseason. Appeared on NFL Europe teams and most recently signed with an IFL team in 2010.
Applicability to Jabrill: Track star and standout running back in high school. McCullough's best 100-meter was a 10.32 (versus Jabrill's 10.83) and Edorian's 21.0 in the 200 meters would easily be the record in New Jersey, where Peppers came close with a 21.37. Peppers is fast but probably not Edorian McCullough fast. Edorian was a pure cover corner and sized like one—his Scout report said he was 5'9, though he appeared on Rivals and on the Texas roster as 5'11. Had a 30" vertical, which is just okay. The academic problems that sank him are the opposite for Jabrill, who wants to be an orthopedic surgeon and has a 3.9 GPA. Notably, nobody called McCullough "aggressive"—he was an okay high school tackler rated highly for his Deion-like skills.
[Hit the jump for the others]
Sometimes I make my girlfriend read me MGoblog articles while I'm doing something else. That way, she learns a little more about football, and I get to multitask.
Today when she was reading to me the Hello: Ross Douglas post, she came up with a pretty good question. She wanted to know: does Douglas project to nickle-corner, vs. boundary or field-corner only because of his size? Her rationale was that with gurus praising his technique and reliability, but not labeling him a star because of his lack of big play risk-taking, wouldn't it serve better to put a CB who is more of a gunslinger risk-taker in the nickel role where he has safety help at all times, and line Douglas up outside at either field or boundary corner?
Don't worry, I know I have a keeper on my hands if she was able to come up with a question like that. :)
Size is a suggestive but not determining factor. When we do these things we're peering at the roster and seeing where player X fits in and trying to figure out how the coaches see their players, but often the coaches are surprised when the kid shows up and they figure out what they actually have. If Douglas is the best guy to play on the outside, he'll play on the outside.
With bigger and more touted corners in the same class it would be an upset if he's the guy tasked with running down the Michael Floyds of the world. Insert mental image of Boubacar Cissoko trying to do that here. Sometimes this happens: Desmond Morgan isn't the ideal size for WLB, Craig Roh is probably going to be a little light for SDE, etc. In an ideal world it seems like Michigan wants six-foot-plus guys on the outside.
That's easier said than done. Michigan is swinging for the fences with Conley and Stribling, hoping they can be 6'2" cover corners the NFL has a riot about. If that doesn't work out, Lewis and Douglas are less risky prospects with lower upside.
In re: wanting more of a gambler underneath with the solid and unspectacular guys outside: I don't think defensive coaches think like that. They give you an assignment and they want you to execute it, and not executing it is always very bad. If player X comes to college doing this thing a coach doesn't want, the coach will try to stop it. In Douglas's case that may be taking advantage of his athleticism and being more aggressive. In hypothetical gambler's case that would be not giving up big plays. Whether a corner is on the inside or outside, I bet they prefer the former.
I'm watching the a rerun of Under the Lights game on ESPN and watching some highlights of the 97 defense on my computer…
…and I can't stop thinking about what would happen in a matchup between Floyd and Woodson. Woodson has the speed and size to keep up with Floyd but then again Floyd looks so much bigger and stronger than CW. I know it's a huge hypothetical but what do you think would happen there?
And what size should we be looking for at corner to stop big receivers like Floyd in the future?
Also, I notice Mattison has a tendency to slant the DL pretty often in the 97 highlights and honestly, it's working. Is this the style of slants Mattison we should expect to see this season?
Thanks for the time and Go Blue!
- AJ, UM 2014
Woodson took on a huge, elite outside receiver in 1997: David Boston. He is 6'2" and went 8th overall in the next NFL draft. Floyd is 6'3" and went 13th overall. Boston had a body-building/roid freakout at the next level, but in college he was at Floyd's level. What happened in the 1997 game between the two was one Woodson slip and fall leading to an OSU touchdown and nothing else. Michigan won with 189 yards of offense.
Woodson's gone on to prove himself an NFL hall of famer (7 times all pro). Let's not forget how ridiculously good he was and is. Woodson probably would have fared a little worse than he did in 1997 since the personnel surrounding him wouldn't have been as good, but you can pick a college receiver in the past 20 years and I'm taking Woodson and the points.
In re: cornerback size, see above. Woodson is listed at 6'1", and Michigan is hoping to put out a steady stream of 6-foot-ish cover corners. Again, easier said than done.
In re: DL slants. Yeah, one of the advantages of the under is that you can have the line go one way, drop the WDE into coverage, and send the SLB. By doing this you've flipped your defense at the snap, and this is often confusing to opposing OL. I don't think it'll be much of a problem for Bama and its veteran, All-American-laden line; others may have a bear of a time trying to figure out exactly who they're supposed to block on any given play.
The upside of having a couple of undersized guys at the five and three is that Michigan will be much better able to play games that shoot guys into the backfield unblocked. The downside is when that doesn't work and someone gets manhandled one-on-one. The linebackers are going to have to take on a lot of blocks this year.
I spotted this graffiti on the back of a stop sign near my office in Los Angeles. Could Taco Pants be considering a transfer to USC?
A "these are my readers" moment.
A little something I made for you guys
Made it for my dad, who lurks on your blog. Thought I would share. You can use it if you like. There are definitely bronies reading the blog.
I have no idea.