things go poorly
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan actually played their SAM linebacker extensively for the first time this year. Behold:
That is Jenkins-Stone over the slot. This mostly indicated zone coverage; almost everything indicated zone coverage, with the exception of that rolled-up boundary corner, who was often nose to nose with his man. More discussion of this in a bit.
On short yardage Michigan had this press man okie-ish look with one LB back: I called this "Okie one robber," FWIW.
Nickel packages were saved for passing downs for the most part.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Rotation has whittled down to an obvious starting front seven-ish with mostly obvious backups. The line is Clark/Henry/Glasgow/Beyer with Bolden/Ryan behind them and Jenkins-Stone as the SAM when they have a SAM. The primary backups are Ojemudia/Wormley/Mone/Charlton with Godin and Pipkins also fighting at the two DT spots.
The backup ILBs don't play and probably won't until Morgan gets back; Ross does spot RJS regularly.
They are still working through injury and uncertainty in the secondary, and this is a spot that will develop over time. Once Wilson is back it seems like Jeremy Clark is going to be his partner; he's gotten the most playing time of anyone so far and he seemed to be out there while Hill and Thomas rotated. Corner is still in flux but a dollar says Peppers is a boundary corner the rest of the year with Lewis your top field corner option and Countess preferred at nickel; Taylor is likely to spot Lewis and Peppers, or Lewis will spot Taylor and Peppers, to the point where calling two guys starters and one a backup is semantics.
EDITORIAL POLICY: I'm calling Frank Clark just "Clark" and Jeremy Clark "JClark." Jeremy can be just Clark next year.
[After THE JUMP: derp and darts from Miami, mostly derp.]
Brady Hoke in “Everyone’s reaction to this game”
“Number one, it was great to play back at home, first and foremost. It was great to win the football game. We needed to come back and move forward and it’s always better to move with a win. I think from an offensive standpoint we did some very good things. I think the second half, obviously we took care of the football and didn’t turn the ball over and then completed some drives that we had. I think the running game is where-- we wanted to run the ball the whole game but I think the second half we stayed away from some negative plays that put you in bad situations and we were able to run the ball. I thought Derrick [Green] and DeVeon [Smith] both did a nice job. The offensive line worked very hard. I think the guys on the perimeter did a nice job.
“I think defensively holding them to 2-of-12 from a third down perspective is [good for] getting your defense off the field and more opportunities for our offense. The rush for the second week-- looking at our defense we played that very well, the front seven did or if we were in nickel situations the nickel did when he was involved so those were the positives of it.
“We only got the one pick as far as a turnover. We’ve got to do a better job there. I thought we harassed the quarterback and I think Brennen Beyer on the one sack made just a great play because he finished the play, and how he finished it. It was good to be at home, like I said. We’ve got to go to work. Utah’s a good football team. They’re a tough football team. That’s what-- they’ve had that M.O. for a long time and I think Kyle [Whittingham], coaching against him in the Mountain West and coaching against his team, they’re always a physical group. We’ll have our hands full.”
Is that about what you wanted to see, aside from a five minute stretch in the second quarter?
“Number one, I wanted to see—our guys came out with energy. That was something, and I think part of that was the crowd when the game started. I think part of it is they’re a very close team in a lot of ways and so them coming out and playing hard…would we have liked to have had a better first half in taking care of the football? Yeah.”
Devin Gardner and his receivers: what kind of versatility and depth did you see from that wide receiving core in the absence of Devin Funchess?
“I think the addition of Jake Butt helps, getting him back and getting him healthy and we kind of picked our spots with using him in some way. But Darboh and Chesson are both very talented. Norfleet gives you a great spark. Freddy Canteen is starting to get back to where he kind of was last spring, so having some depth there helps. Obviously Devin Funchess can be a difference maker because of his size and athleticism but I think the other guys did a nice job.”
Do you expect Devin back next week?
“Well, we’ll see.”
[More after THE JUMP, including player comments]
Frank Clark, Jake Ryan, Dennis Norfleet
Could you guys talk about the receivers as a group beyond Devin Funchess and what you guys feel like you can give to this team?
Dennis Norfleet: “We’ve become one. Everybody expects everything from one another. We do things as a group so when one makes a play we all make a play. That’s how coach Heck[linski]’s got us and that’s how we’re going to remain throughout the year.”
Dennis, what’s your perception on how people perceive you? Is it as a big play guy, someone who can score at a moment’s notice or are you much more than an explosive player? What else can you bring to the table other than that lightning quickness?
DN: “My role on the team…I know that I’m a guy that can bring spark and that makes everybody happy so I’m just being the teammate that can get everybody going [and] to bring fire. That’s what I do. So if I can continue on doing that to get everybody to be happy and to let them know that the game can go our way at any time then that’s what I can do.”
Frank or Jake, you guys seemed to find more success stopping the run as opposed to getting to the pass. Is that just something that Golson might have been doing differently or that you guys were more prepared for with the run?
Jake Ryan: “That’s just something that we’ve got to work on, the pass game, more. Creating havoc for the quarterback. The run game we played pretty well but we’ve also got to focus on the pass game. Getting more blitzes in and getting more guys to the quarterback is really going to create a different atmosphere for him and create havoc for him.”
[More after THE JUMP]
FORMATION NOTES: They promised it all offseason and they delivered on it:
In your face bro. Note that this was an example of something I started calling "30 slide"*, as the linemen are basically head up on the tackles and center with Frank Clark as a sort of standup end/SAM.
*[The idea being this is a 30 front (three linemen head up on tackles and the center like a 3-4) with three linebackers slid as if they are in an under.]
Another example is even clearer:
Note that in both of these shots, the three-tech is in fact to the bottom of the screen instead of between Clark and the nose as you might expect. I had not seen this before, because Michigan doesn't run it and they weren't spread enough last year for anyone to do it against them but since Appalachian State also ran it…
this was in fact their base D probably
…and they are right in the heart of spread on spread warfare I figure it is the latest fad when you need to account for the QB in the run game. I'll get Adam to ask Mattison about it next week—unfortunately, they moved the coordinator pressers up a day so I was not educated on anything before that time came. I'll try to accelerate my UFRing process, something that is now feasible with fast downloads and the lack of TWIS on my plate.
They also of course ran a lot of standard nickel:
Michigan also debuted a weird 3-3-5-ish package with Frank Clark at "MLB":
This happened twice. On both plays Clark was running at the frontside guard on the snap, impacted him, blew him back, forced a cutback, and then no one was there. More on that later.
Michigan also played some bonafide dime snaps:
These had three DL, two linebackers, and six DBs. Generally it was Delonte Holowell getting the extra nickel snaps but that's more in the…
PERSONNEL NOTES: Deep breath. On the line it was Beyer-Henry-Glasgow-Clark to start with copious substitution. Your nominal second string based on playing time was Charlton-Wormley-???-Ojemudia, with the NT ??? a combination of Pipkins, Mone, and Hurst. Pipkins looked by far the best of those guys; I expect that NT rotation to quickly settle down into Glasgow and Pip alternating with scattered snaps elsewhere. Godin got some real PT early at 3-tech.
At linebacker, Ryan, Bolden, and Morgan seemed to get about equivalent PT. Ross got a number of snaps as the game went along as an ILB. IIRC, Jenkins-Stone only saw snaps as a nickel DE late. Gedeon and McCray got in for the last drive.
Michigan played nickel on I think literally every snap they weren't playing dime. That was Peppers spotted by Hollowell and then Hollowell after Peppers got dinged. Taylor and Countess got starters' minutes at outside CB with Lewis coming in frequently; Stribling did not see time until heavy substitution began in the third quarter. Richardson got in there too.
Starting safeties were Wilson and Clark; Thomas got quite a lot of PT starting in the second quarter, with walk-on AJ Pearson seeing the field on ASU's interminable second scoring drive.
And hamburgers: I thought I was done calling people CGordon and TGordon and just realized we have two Clarks. I tried to clarify who was who below; I imagine you can figure it out if I missed a couple.
[After the JUMP: a big table! and some other stuff.]
Ryan under the microscope [Eric Upchurch]
Hello. As per usual, a game against a tomato can causes me to dig up something negative because I figure that the bad things that happen against weak teams are more likely to recur than the good ones. I'm not being negative, I'm being useful!
After this opening paragraph it may not surprise you that I didn't think Ryan had a particularly good game as Michigan's MLB. There were a couple of opportunities to contrast him with Desmond Morgan on similar plays that didn't come out well for Ryan. To the stillmobile!
Taking on blockers
App State had one drive of any consequence before Michigan started throwing third stringers on the field. That was a 75-yard march on which they ran an old Rodriguez staple, the "belly," repeatedly for good yardage.
Belly is designed to attack the soft underbelly of the backside of a defense facing inside zone. The end gets optioned off and then the goal of the defense is to use the backside DT's natural desire to shoot the gap to the playside against him. This usually sees the backside tackle get a free release on a linebacker on a quick-hitting play. (A quick google search indicates that this is Rodriguez-exclusive terminology, so your local guru's verbiage will vary.)
This was tough for Michigan to defend as aligned because the backside DT saw zone action and went GRRAAAH at it, driving himself way out of the play because he's Willie Henry and he is 1) strong and 2) not yet super disciplined. This put linebackers in bad spots, facing free OL while trying to shut down a ton of space.
Here's Morgan in that situation:
It feels like Michigan is a little misaligned here, with the linebacker shaded to one side against a formation that has no TE.
On the snap Beyer is let go and must respect the keep, so he flows upfield. Henry will get his own momentum used against him and get way out of the play, which I have designated by putting a frown at the end of his line. Morgan has an OT coming at him and a problem.
Beyer plays the mesh point well, inducing a give but forming up near the LOS so he can respond to a handoff. Henry is about to leave.
Here is the the key thing for Morgan on this play: he takes the contact. He in fact initiates the contact despite not having much forward momentum (which it is hard to get on a quick hitting play like belly). He impacts the OL and rocks him back:
Note that the guy next to him is Henry, who is trying to fight back to the play by giving ground. Also note that if Henry was anywhere near where the line would like him to be, Beyer is tackling as people wall up.
The back actually bounces off the OL…
And then a bunch of guys tackle him after six yards.
This is not a good result and I think Morgan's original alignment had something to do with that. He ends up taking the block to the inside instead of square and that gives the back room to the outside when otherwise this could have been a third down coming up. But: tough job in a lot of space. I gave him a half point for slowing down what could otherwise have been bad.
[After the JUMP: Jake Ryan tries his hand.]
“Well, we’re obviously very excited about the next challenge.I know we have a lot of things that we can get better at and our guys will work very, very hard to do that but we’re also very excited about some of the things we saw Saturday out there on that field but now we’ve got to move on to the next one.”
Coach [Hoke] talked about guys getting off blocks and then fits. How much was it of each in the run game when you guys were giving up some yards in the middle?
“Yeah. I’m going to be honest with you like I always am. Some of those runs were on me. There was a situation that was happening where we were walked out and the backer was coming back inside and we had an adjustment and the adjustment that I should have made with them would have been a little different and we did that later and it changed it. I’m not going to put that on our players. That’s something that I should have seen a little quicker and it wouldn’t have been a problem at all.
“A lot of good things from that, though. It shows that we have to get off blocks. One of the biggest things is we have to be able to communicate what’s happening. And I try to tell the guys, not that I haven’t been able to before, but I really trust these guys. I really trust them. But I know that when they’re out there they’re doing everything that they should be doing but if something isn’t happening perfectly then communicate and we’ll get it switched. When I’m thinking maybe this is happening it wasn’t that but we got it squared away.”
Have you guys had a chance to watch any film on Tarean Folston and Notre Dame’s running backs?
“Yeah, we’ve had a chance to watch film on all of them. We’ve spent since that game was really over until just two minutes ago when I came over here we’ve been watching Notre Dame. They have a very, very good football team, like they always do. They’ve got a lot of speed, they’ve got good running backs. They’ve got an outstanding quarterback. [Everett] Golson, he’s a really, really good quarterback and they’ve got good linemen and receivers to go with him so we’re going to get a real test, like you should. Like you should when you play this game.”
I asked Devin about playing against your defense last year in practice and playing against your defense now and asked how was the defense different and he said they were faster and more aggressive. Talk about that comment and are they faster mentally or faster with foot speed?
“I mentioned this and why I’m so excited is these were young babies we had playing two years ago. Nobody cared. Nobody cared who you were playing when you’re playing a redshirt freshman who’s 275 pounds or 215 pounds where two years later now he’s 235 pounds or 300 [pounds] and they’re men now. They play faster when you have experience. When you’ve been out there under the bullets and under the everything that goes on. When you’re a young man playing for the University of Michigan and you’re out there playing in front of 115,000 you better be a man. When you do that at a young age you won’t always do the exact right things on the football field, but every year that you play and every year that you buy in to what coach Hoke and this program is all about you get better and that’s why they play faster and they play stronger. We look forward to them doing that every week that way because it’s going to be another game of experience and that’s why I’m excited about these kids because they have stuck with it and they’ve kept improving and it’s just the beginning. They’re just starting right now and every week will be a huge challenge that way.”
[More after THE JUMP]