[Shoddy iPhone photo via me]
Durkin wants to play multiple fronts and thinks they have the athletes to handle that
Greg Jackson is working more with the safeties and Mike Zordich is working more with the corners
Everyone has an opportunity to earn snaps based on what they do from spring on; how much a player played last season is irrelevant
It’s too early to tell if there’s a player who didn’t play much last season who’s going to get significant playing time this season or who the leaders of the defense will be
Durkin’s goal is to know what the defense is good at, what needs to be improved, and what they can handle schematically by the end of spring
Jabrill Peppers will be moved to several spots during spring to “find the best fit and the best mix for everyone”
What does a defense look like under you? Everybody wants to know with scheme, etc. What does it look like? What is a DJ Durkin defense?
“I’d say I want it to always be a blue-collar, competitive group. Play hard and compete for everything you get. Scheme-wise and all that, we’re a little different from game to game and a lot of it’s based on our personnel from year to year, too so we’re multiple with what we do schematically, but I just want a group of guys that are going to play hard, be blue-collar, and always compete for everything they do.”
How much can you tell after two days?
“We haven’t had pads on yet and that’s obviously a huge part of the game, so we’ll see. I’m reserving judgment for all that. Our guys have worked hard. I like their approach to the game, to practice- they’re locked in. I like their approach to meetings so I’m encouraged by all that and we’ll see as we get going with the pads on.”
When you watch the film what stood out to you? Were there individuals that stood out in particular?
“The film from practice?”
The past, getting ready for this and I guess the last few days.
“Yeah, but what I want to do is make sure all these guys, and I told them this when we met with them, that they have a clean slate to start from. It was good. I came in and watched some games and tried to see where our needs were for recruiting, but in terms of one by one, individuals, I want guys to know that maybe you’re a guy who hasn’t played much- you have an opportunity to do that. Maybe you’re a guy that’s played a lot, but it’s not just going to be given to you- you have to go earn it. That way I think the whole room understands they have equal opportunity to go earn some snaps on the field.”
Is there anyone in particular that fits that bill of somebody who hasn’t played much that you’ve seen and been like, ‘Oh, I didn’t expect that. Maybe we have something here.’
“Yeah, I mean, it’s too early to tell that. I have been encouraged by a lot of guys. I think, like I said, I like our approach to practice and what we’re doing. I think the guys have a good energy and enthusiasm about it, so when we get the pads on and keep going I’m sure some of those guys will emerge.”
How long does it take you as a coach to figure out what you have?
“I don’t know. I’d like to say by the end of spring we can sit back and have a really good idea, ‘Okay, these are the things we’re good at. These are the things we need to keep working on. This is what we’re going to be talking schematically.’ That’s the goal, by the end of spring to have a lot of things answered. We’re going to go through and install quite a bit and a lot of stuff that I’ve done before and then, like I said, we’ll just sort it out and see what we’re best at.”
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
Five on five. [Upchurch]
When news broke recently that Jabrill Peppers was moving to safety, Brian threw up a quick explanatory post, Why Peppers Might Be A Safety, talking about how modern spread offenses dictate modern quarters defenses, which in turn dictate that the safety over the slot is the glamour position du jour.
An offensive innovation like the zone read will open up the entire book again as coaches figure out ways of running all the things they already like out of new looks, new play-action, etc. But defensive innovation, with a few notable exceptions, is much more reactive.
Often what we call a "new defense" is just rediscovering an old, unsound thing that takes away the thing offenses are doing these days. The 46 defense was bringing a safety down. The zone blitz was having a defensive end playing coverage. The Tampa 2 had a middle linebacker responsible for deep middle coverage. The 3-4 made three linemen responsible for six gaps. And the hybrid man/zones of today put your deep coverage into the middle of the run-stopping game.
The way a defensive innovation becomes a sustainably great defense is great players. Dantonio's quarters dominated college football with a string of NFL-bound defensive backs. The 3-4's proliferation through the NFL was accompanied by a rush on anything that looked like Vince Wilfork. The Steel Curtain (the first Tampa 2) was built around Jack Lambert. Miami (NFL Miami)'s "No Name" zone blitz defense had a 6'5/248 lb. track star named Bill Stanfill at WDE. And the '80s Bears could pull off this crap:
…because that "46" was the jersey number of one Doug Plank.
You don't need to be a football guru to see what made the 46 defense tough: there are eight dudes in the box, six of whom are just a few steps from the quarterback. Running into a stacked box is futile (DO YOU HEAR ME? DO YOU HEAR ME, AL?!?). You can try to identify who's blitzing and throw to holes in the coverage before they arrive, but you'd better have Dan Marino.
[After the jump: how to 46 a modern offense]
The dumbest thing in the world. We are all very fortunate that we experienced the overblown seriousness of NFL reporters for a solid month before ballghazi hit. Otherwise the sheer concentrated stupidity of it would be killing us all right now. People who have tested these things tell you that it's extremely hard to distinguish between 10 PSI and 12, and yet:
And that's from Peter King's site. King is the unofficial voice of the NFL, and even he's reduced to throwing a million different articles on his site about a nothing issue.
Elsewhere lunatic screechers have demanded the Pats' removal from the Super Bowl and the ejection of Bill Belichick from the Earth's gravity well. It's enough to turn yesterday's press conferences into bravura performance pieces by the Patriots even though they were the legal crap-speak version of "both teams played hard." I'm down with anyone expressing open contempt at the assembled NFL press corps.
When this happened in college football, the Pac-12 fined Lane Kiffin and we all rolled our eyes at him, then got on with our lives. The NFL has to be so damned serious about everything, though, so we get a solid week of questions like "what can you possibly say to the children about this travesty?"
And there but for the grace of Dave Brandon's uncontrollable urge to email go us.
Harbaugh in the Orange Bowl. I enjoy the bit where he tells Tyrod Taylor that he did indeed throw a spectacularly unlikely touchdown.
Interesting times in Knoxville. A day after Tennessee (and former Michigan DL coach Steve Stripling) cut loose defensive end Marques Ford for no reason whatsoever two weeks before signing day…
"It's an ugly business," LaRosa said. " … In the nasty business, they kept it sort of honest by at least saying that they had other commits and they were pulling his commitment."
…their offensive coordinator pulls up stakes and bolts for the NFL. Turnabout is fair play there. This would be going too far in penance, though:
Jones always has maintained a tight relationship with Mike DeBord, a longtime college and professional coaching veteran, whom NFL sources told VolQuest.com this week could depart an executive-level post in Michigan's athletics department for assistant coaching opportunities back in the NFL.
That would be bonkers. DeBord hasn't coached since 2012 and hasn't had a coordinator spot since 2007.
Ford immediately committed to Rutgers, FWIW.
Angelique on Drevno. Former players are fans:
"We were a team that was pretty beaten down," former Stanford offensive lineman Chris Marinelli said. "Their first order of business was getting us stronger and we pretty quickly became a pretty scary, forceful team. We mauled people. I think people (who follow Michigan) will see that pretty fast. He will get all those guys in tune very quickly. He's one of those people who gets people in line, especially the young guys in terms of breaking habits. It will be a pretty quick turnaround."
FO and SB Nation writer (and former All-Pac-12 OL) Ben Muth:
"Drevs is O-line through and through," Muth said. "He's going to impart toughness on that offensive line. Michigan's offensive line is going to be tough and play physical.
"The great thing about that staff -- they have an identity, and they're going to impart it on you. That's something we didn't have at Stanford, and when Harbaugh got there. He said, 'This is what we run, this is how run it, and other teams are going to have to adjust to us.'"
Having an identity is going to be a welcome change after years of turnover going back even to the Lloyd Carr days, when DeBord came in and went to an exclusively zone stretch system.
HAIR. Via Dr. Sap, here's Rick Leach and Kirk Gibson chatting with each other on a 1979 edition of Michigan Replay:
Another thing on Peppers to safety. Marcus Ray points out something I'd forgotten:
In fact, Ray got an early signal from Peppers in his true freshman season.
"During the season, he told me, 'Hey, I would have preferred to play safety, but I'm a team player,'" Ray recalled. "He said he made a lot of plays at safety in high school. He said he just feels more comfortable there. I think that's a great move.
He played the spot in high school. Ray also thinks he can be Michigan's best there since… 1997. But definitely no longer than that.
coming to a slot seam matchup near you?
I'm a tiny bit skeptical here since the source right now is recruit Iman Marshall (and Freddy Canteen if Canteen isn't just reacting to that) and Michigan's coaches other than Mattison haven't seen Peppers take a snap, but it's out there:
@JabrillPeppers moving to safety is good, can scrape the field left to right .. And is 2nd to none at it, peppy pep
— OneSeven (@FreddCanteen_) January 21, 2015
Michigan does return Countess and Lewis at corner, plus Channing Stribling, Terry Richardson, and Brandon Watson. If they find a third guy there's enough depth there to make the move. Meanwhile Michigan never settled on a safety opposite Jarrod Wilson last year, rotating through Delano Hill, Jeremy Clark, and Dymonte Thomas with middling success.
"But why?", you ask?
We have seen a lot of defenses move to a quarters system of varying aggressiveness as a response to the spread, and depending on how good and deep your safeties are that's either gone really well (Michigan State two years ago) or gotten you blazed down the slot whenever you run up against a good offense (Michigan State last year). OSU is also playing quarters for the most part, and when they're not they're putting a lot of pressure on a single high safety.
This trend comes from the NFL, where passing offenses were more advanced and you could unearth a freak of nature more often at safety. Chris Brown on quarters:
At first glance, Cover 4 looks like an anti-pass “prevent” formation, with four secondary defenders playing deep. But therein lies its magic. The four defenders are actually playing a matchup zone concept, in which the safety reads the tight end or inside receiver. If an offensive player lined up inside releases on a short pass route or doesn’t release into the route, the safety can help double-team the outside receiver. If the inside receiver breaks straight downfield, it becomes more like man coverage. This variance keeps quarterbacks guessing and prevents defenses from being exploited by common pass plays like four verticals, which killed eight-man fronts. The real key to Cover 4, however, is that against the run both safeties become rush defenders (remember, the outside cornerbacks play deep). This allows defenses to play nine men in the box against the run — a hat-tip to the 46’s overwhelming force.
The problem college teams often face is what happens when that man coverage from a vertical receiver comes from the offense's best WR against your third-best cover guy: the touchdowns linked above.
In a spread-oriented world, a safety has to be a corner and a linebacker at the same time. This is very hard, and modern offenses are targeting them more than anyone else for their big plays. After decades in which cornerbacks were the glamor players in any given secondary, the way many teams are playing and the shortcomings against slot receivers exposed this year demands a new, crazy athlete safety, even at the college level.
That's Peppers. If Michigan is set on quarters coverage, he's a guy who can sit over that "slot" receiver and not give up a major athleticism mismatch.
UPDATE: Peppers seems to confirm on the twitters.
News bullets and other items:
Jabrill Peppers will redshirt. He was initially supposed to be out 6-8 weeks but isn’t where he needs to be to play again this season. He’s 4-5 weeks away from being healthy and will be fine for spring practice
Derrick Green is 2-3 weeks away from “doing things” despite initially being ruled out for the season
Noah Furbush had surgery to fix an injury that occurred in an All-Star game and has only participated in meetings this season
Drake Harris is slowly getting better and able to do more things, but we won’t see him this season
Hoke met briefly with Hackett this week, and they talked about day-to-day aspects of the program and how the team has stayed together
Hoke said the one change they’ll make as far as road games go is not turning the ball over, which I personally am a proponent of
“I think we had a really strong, energetic practice yesterday outside. Trying to get as many of the elements as we could because weather could be a factor. Wind will be a factor at Northwestern. Excited about the opportunity to go back to Chicago. There's quite a bit of Michigan alums that will have an opportunity to come to the game. It's important that we, in the football game itself we've got to start fast. Got to start and then continue that throughout the entire game.
“With Jabrill I had told you guys I would probably have an answer a little bit and we are going to redshirt him for this year. Him and I have had a lot of different conversations. Talked to his mother, talked to the doctors, trainers, and everybody who should be included in the conversation but a couple things that he's done very well is take care of himself. He's done great with the treatments, great with the rehab and all those things. He's done a tremendous job in school right now academically and he's excited about when he can get back on the field. He's improved but he's just not going to be where you want a guy to be who has that kind of ability. So as far as that goes– obviously we’re excited about this weekend.”
What's Jabrill’s injury?
“He's got a leg injury. That's probably as specific as all get.”
Well, he had the ankle earlier. Is it the same thing? Is it a different injury?
“It's a leg injury.”
Will that require surgery or can you not elaborate on that?
“Well, he doesn't need surgery. It's one of those things that just if I could tell you exactly the medical diagnosis I would but he's improving as we go forward.”
He's expected to make a full recovery?
“Oh yeah. No question.”
About Northwestern's offense. They've struggled. We talked about this a little bit Monday, but what did they do that's similar to Indiana and what did they do better?
“Well, I think they struggled with Iowa but Pat [Fitzgerald], I heard some of his comments and it was one of those games where nothing kind of got put together. They beat Wisconsin and they beat Penn State at Penn State. Played Nebraska very well. They were ahead in the football game and then Nebraska came back and did a nice job. From an offensive standpoint, I think Jackson, the back, is a guy who is awfully good. He has very good burst, very good speed. The offensive line, basically all but one is the same line we faced a year ago. I don't think we slowed them down a whole lot a year ago like we’d like to, so from that standpoint– then Siemian. He was off a little bit on Saturday and give Iowa credit for that but you look at other games, you watch the Minnesota game, you watch other games and he can really, really be effective.”
With Jabrill, would you expect that he be ready for spring practice?
“Yeah. Yeah, I think he'll be, you know – initially it was 6 to 8 weeks we thought was kind of the timeline on it and so I think he'll be in good shape probably in the next 4 to 5 weeks.”
When do you expect to have a timeframe for when Derrick [Green] can start doing things again?
You know, I think it's going to be another 2 to 3 weeks as far as I can tell with what we've talked about. He's getting better. He's doing a lot of alternate conditioning and things that you want him to do. Both of them and all of the guys when they’re banged up a little bit is they’re in meetings. One of the things Jabrill has done a nice job in the meetings, and making sure he understands the checks that are made, stuff like that out on the field. So I think Derrick, he's getting better. I can't give you an exact time[frame].
[After THE JUMP: Injury-infopalooza rages on]
Twenty-four passing yards allowed and Tevin [Coleman] did break 100 yards but it didn’t hurt you guys. Talk about that rush defense, it didn’t break, and then also the pass defense with only giving up 24 yards.
“Well, the pass defense… let’s be honest, that’s a product of them not throwing it very much. The rush defense: I was very pleased with the attitude and the resolve our kids had as far as keeping the ball inside and in front. If you noticed the great production that they had had previous, a lot of it came on huge plays. Eighty yard runs, 70 yards runs and I think our kids did a real good job of making sure we kept it inside and in front and everybody got to the football.”
Northwestern’s offense [and] the challenges they pose?
“Yeah, Northwestern, obviously we really respect them. I personally really respect them and their staff, the way they coach. They will be really aggressive. It’s- when they play they play, and the quarterback has a very good arm. They’ve got good wide receivers. Their offensive line has got some experience. They’re a team that has done very well throughout this year. Records, I don’t even look at records. I just know anytime you play Northwestern you better be ready to play because they’re going to play you strong and they’re going to play you hard and we’ve got to come with our “A” game on defense.”
Will you watch film of Iowa, for example, or just kind of stick to what you do?
“No, I’ll watch them very, very closely. That’s what we’ve been doing. That’s what I just came from. We study our opponent every little thing we do. We sometimes study them too much, I think. We study their last four games as closely as we can and then we go back and look at other games and see if there’s anything there. No, but we watch Iowa very, very closely. And Nebraska we watch closely. Wisconsin we watch closely. They’re very good games to watch.”
You see a kid like Mone doing what he did on Saturday, [does] that get you a little bit excited for his potential for the future?
“Oh, definitely. He did some very, very good things and he got the reward. Everybody sees him getting the fumble recovery and him doing some things, but there was other young guys that deserved an award also that played that allowed him to do that. That was neat. It was- I could go through every one of those guys. You saw some of the plays Wormley made in there. Godin keeps stepping up. Frank, Brennen Beyer [and] some of the plays he made you don’t see sometimes but it’s because of what he does that allows somebody else to play. I could- there was a lot of good play in there. There had to be to do that against a great runner like him. There’s some young kids. I mean, Ryan Glasgow. To strip the ball and recover the ball, to do that- I could go on and on. That wasn’t just the game they’ve done that. These young kids have done that and this might have been the game where they all kind of did it together or a lot more of them, and that was a good offensive line. I didn’t know how good they were but when I watched it and saw them come out on our backers a coupe times and they had some pretty good offensive linemen and for them, for our kids to have that success I was proud of them.”
[After THE JUMP: Greg Mattison is like, ‘Steal my signals, bro’]