DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE
Van Bergen and Martin, Heininger
- NT Mike Martin. Penetrating, active nose tackle a major factor in Michigan's massive improvement in run defense; forced a pitch on a speed option; late-season run was absolute dominance; backed up by air, hope, and freshmen.
- SDE Ryan Van Bergen. Crafty veteran and iron man was less explosive than Martin but not by much; turned in huge OSU game; consistent production in UFR even if the actual numbers aren't that amazing; backed up by walk-on.
- DT Will Heininger. Walk-on evolved from liability against MAC teams to solid, maybe even better than that, Big Ten DT; made a play or two every game after the nonconference schedule; replacement will be Will Campbell and the hope he can finally play some football.
CB/S Troy Woolfolk. Bounced from CB to S throughout career; basically a NEVER FORGET poster all to himself after series of injuries robbed him of all or much of his senior year twice; marginalized by injury and burned by Posey; did not start Sugar Bowl.
- JB Fitzgerald. Touted recruit never managed to see the field except on occasional snaps spotting Demens or playing DE under GERG.
- Brandon Herron. Scored two touchdowns against WMU and was never heard from again.
- Jared Van Slyke. Saw some snaps due to injury over the course of his career.
Kovacs, Ryan, Roh
- SS Jordan Kovacs. Never going to be a great deep half guy but the best damn tiny linebacker there's ever been; great tackling in space; great angles; huge part of Michigan's lack of big plays given up; best safety since at least Marcus Ray and probably further back.
- SLB Jake Ryan. Explosive edge athlete with a burst opponents are unprepared for; did get confused sometimes as a freshman; outstanding flow; nickel DE.
- WDE Craig Roh. Solid, but did not provide the explosive edge rush Michigan was hoping for. May end up moving to SDE, but his size and body type seemingly disqualifies him from that.
- CB Blake Countess. Touted recruit stepped into the starting lineup when Woolfolk was struck down and played very well; crappy edge tackling needs work; had tough close to the season against OSU and VT.
- CB JT Floyd. Resurrected his career and even turned in a big play or three along the way; jumped a route against Illinois to salt that game away; best technique amongst cover guys; still not that fast; also crappy edge tackling.
- MLB Kenny Demens. Ate a lot of blocks after move to new system; hopefully will get more decisive in year two; highly underrated cover guy; not much of a blitzer; may seem a lot better if the NT in front of him is a space eater instead of a penetrator.
- FS Thomas Gordon. Also a big part of Michigan's excellent big play prevention; largely exempted from secondary criticism after OSU game because he was not on the field for the worst of it; sweet-ass interception against EMU; probably a better fit at SS.
WLB Desmond Morgan. Wrested the job away from a couple veterans once he got healthy, whereupon he was okay for a freshman; problems in coverage; problems with misdirection; a big chunk of Michigan's outside vulnerability; will either improve or see someone yoink his job.
- Nickelback Courtney Avery. Diminutive but quality underneath cover guy; PBU and INT sealed OSU game; also a crappy edge tackler; fine option as a third corner.
- WDE Jibreel Black. Spotted Roh, could not take his job; may be a candidate to move to SDE if he can put on the weight; emergence of Frank Clark threatens to cut into playing time.
- DT Will Campbell. Alternates tossing his man into the quarterback with passive acceptance of blocks. Conditioning and effort an issue.
- WLB Brandin Hawthorne. Tiny safety-sized LB a man without a position after Michigan ditched the 3-3-5.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
please don't be our DT.
Most of the DL. YAYAYAYAYAYAYYYYYYYYY. The best unit on the team is strip-mined by eligibility expiration, leaving the next generation to… oh, right, the next generation doesn't exist. Fantastic.
Michigan's options at SDE are redshirt junior walk-on Nate Brink, who saw occasional snaps this year and was blown up on 80% of them, guys no one has seen or heard from like Jordan Paskorz, or true freshmen. At defensive tackle they've got two spots to fill and two guys who have seen meaningful snaps, Quinton Washington and Will Campbell. Kenny Wilkins and Richard Ash exist, Chris Rock will be coming off a redshirt, and there are some freshmen arriving. The most prominent is 330-pound tank/battleship/Hoke impersonator Ondre Pipkins.
I'll wait for you to finish retching.
All right! We retched it real good! Anyway. Massive dropoff is all but inevitable here. I'm betting Brink, Pipkins, and Campbell are your opening-day starters with Washington a guy who rotates in on the interior; Godin, Strobel, and Wormley will all play immediately due to necessity, leaping past Wilkins and Ash. Rock may also get some PT.
Nothing else. So we've got that going for us. Except…
Maybe WLB. Desmond Morgan is far from invulnerable at WLB, especially with Joe Bolden and Kaleb Ringer enrolling early. James Ross is extensively praised for his play identification ability and should be a candidate for early playing time. Teeny-tiny Antonio Poole is coming off a redshirt and is presumably less teeny-tiny.
That is a lot of guys vying for a single starting spot, many of them more athletic than Morgan at a spot that puts a premium on athleticism. Meanwhile, Kenny Demens is backed up by Mike Jones and more freshmen. Like Omameh, displacing him from the starting lineup provides an ancillary benefit by creating a quality backup where there is none already.
WHAT'S THE FIRST FOUR SEASONS OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
Sanity. O Mattison, without whom we are naught, yea, verily doth we bring these burnt offerings to your lustrous feet. May they keep your pecs jiggling as they command our forces to do something wondrous.
Experience. Michigan has it with eight starters back. For the first time since Carr's final season Michigan will go into the year running the same thing they did the year before. Run and tell that.
Depth at linebacker and quasi-linebacker. Michigan may have to pirate one of the three valid options at WDE to help out on the other side of the line but right now you can have decent confidence in any of Roh, Black, and Clark. At SLB, Ryan is a bust-out star, Brennen Beyer is coming off a freshman season with some promise and a role in short yardage, and Cam Gordon's still hanging around. In the middle, a flood of touted freshmen arrive to back up returning starters; Poole is also around.
Bending but not breaking. Kovacs and Gordon gave up vanishingly few big plays over the course of the season; both return.
WHAT'S THE LAST SEASON OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
The line, obviously. There's some talent there but if Michigan doesn't experience a massive backslide it's time to assume that Michigan's DL will be great as long as Hoke and Mattison and Montgomery are around.
okay, but what about, like, teams other than Western Michigan?
Getting to the quarterback. Roh did not blow up as we hoped and most of the options to replace other guys are ponderous. Campbell and Washington and Pipkins are going to be the sorts of guys who shove a couple dudes at the LOS on passing plays. Michigan got away with a lack of pass rush from the outside last year because a couple of their inside guys were great penetrators; next year Michigan needs their outside LB types (WDE and SLB) to MAKE PLAYS or opposing quarterbacks will be able to grow small businesses in the pocket.
Secondary athleticism. I love Kovacs with all of the hearts and think whatever athleticism he lacks is more than made up for by his smarts. At this point I'm not sure athleticism is even an issue. I can't remember the last time it came up in a game.
The rest of the secondary… we don't know about. Sometimes you're going to get burned over the top. When you have great recovery speed you can live. When you don't you die, which happened to Michigan time and again against Devier Posey. JT Floyd is much better but isn't likely to get a sniff from the NFL; Countess and Avery are faster but little buggers ill-suited to take on the Michael Floyds of the world. Thomas Gordon has decent to good speed; he still got burned over the top big time by Nebraska.
There are no blazers and the big guy in the secondary is almost kind of maybe outright slow. Yeah. So… could be an issue.
WHAT'S INEXPLICABLE JIMI HENDRIX
Can these coaches salvage the line? Tell me lies, baby.
How ready to play are some of these freshmen? If Bolden comes in and rips Morgan's job away from him that's probably good, but we're really talking about Ondre Pipkins, Chris Wormley, Tom Strobel, and Matt Godin here. Pipkins all but has to start from day one and two of the other three will be frequently-used depth guys.
Are the cornerbacks for real? They seemed fantastic over the first 11 games but the results against OSU and VT are alarming.
MANDATORY WILD-ASS GUESS
I'm torn. There is a case for a backslide despite returning eight starters. For one, the fumbles will not be as plentiful. For two, a lot of Michigan's weakness was covered up by Mike Martin being essentially unblockable the back half of the season and Van Bergen being so reliable. I'm worried that without those two, Michigan is going to have issues. In the best case scenario the new guys prevent OL from getting to the second level, making a lot of plays available for the linebackers that the linebackers might not make. I also don't see where the heat comes from.
But they do return eight starters and go from year one to year two in the same system. They seem pretty injury-resilient at spots that aren't Jordan Kovacs and bring in a lot of talented freshmen. They will be much older at just about every spot.
It's mandatory, though, so… yeah, they'll be worse. The lack of consistent pressure will be a year-long problem that exposes some of the issues in the secondary and the linebackers are not at the level they need to be to benefit from planetoid DL.
Sacks backslide into the bottom half of D-I after finishing 29th, total defense slides into the 30s, and the scoring defense does not repeat its top ten performance from a year ago.
Is this not what you expected to see?
This week we're going to try a little Michigan defense word association. I'm gonna say a phrase and you're going to tell me what you're feeling. All set? Okay:
3rd and 1.
Lemme guess: Confidence? Excitement? Anticipation? A center sent airborne by a launching pad named Martin?
It is that, and Jake Ryan coming off the edge and hugging an opponent's running back two yards behind the line of scrimmage. And then it is RVB past his block and stopping all forward progress even though the running back's legs are still moving because Ron Zook told him if he keeps his legs moving he can still get yards. Then Heininger arrives. And maybe Demens, or a safety, and you know for certain it is over. You know, and now you've seen it so many times you think you knew before they even snapped it...
Dragging behind you the silent reproach of a million tear-stained eyes…
You slip out of your depth and out of your mind
Now I want you to wind your mind back one year. Michigan has just defeated Purdue to get to 7-3, with Wisconsin and Ohio State left. Same exercise, I say a phrase, you tell me what your last year brain is feeling:
3rd and 1
Did you ever wonder why we had to run for shelter?
This isn't just your imagination. Opponents' conversion rates on 3rd- or 4th and 1 the last three years, from UFR-ed drives plus Illinois (:
- 2009: 15 for 22 (68.18%)
- 2010: 20 for 28 (71.43%)
- 2011: 12 for 27 (44.44%)
What shall we use to fill the empty spaces?
The going rate, I've been told, is generally 70% so those '09 and '10 numbers are average-ish (help me Enjoy Life, Mathlete, anyone?) That would make sense with RVB and Martin around both years. But it makes this year's numbers just ridiculous. Michigan has stopped their opponent at least once in every game this year. Two of those conversions were from Illinois's 4th quarter drive down 24-7 versus Brink-Campbell-Heininger-Roh-Beyer.
This isn't a competition thing either. When I excise MAC and FCS opponents from all years it's far more pronounced:
- 2009: 10 for 13 (76.92%)
- 2010: 15 for 19 (78.95%)
- 2011: 6 for 19 (31.58%)
Notre Dame (0 for 3), Michigan State (0 for 1), and Iowa (0 for 3) have extant pound-it tailbacks and went a combined zero first downs in 7 attempts. Thanks to the above-mentioned Letterman-collaring 4th quarter TD drive, the Illinois game actually made Michigan look worse than they've been since conference play started.
Of all the things Michigan's defense is doing this year, the sudden and remarkable ability to stone teams on 3rd and 1 is likely a big part of the Mattison Renaissance. Using a simple calculator (made for the NFL), that stop in the 1st quarter was worth 1.56 expected points for Michigan, the equivalent of a 28-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage.
Who could be responsible for such success? Just a couple bricks in the wall:
Don't leave me now. How could you go, when you you know how I need you
to beat to a pulp on a Saturday night? (Greilick|DetNews)
We are really, really going to miss these guys next year, period. But a glance at this year's UFR tracking of 3rd and 1, 4th and 1, and anything from the Michigan 1—not a perfect resource but useful for this at least—and it shows those aren't the only two guys showing up in the hole this year:
|Kenny Demens and Ryan Van Bergen each||6.5||0|
|Campbell, Hawthorne, and Heininger each||2.5||0|
|Black, Morgan & Woolfolk each||1||0|
Just a little pinprick. There'll be no more aaaaaah!
Keep in mind these sorts of plays make guys look overly good in UFR since giving up one yard generally doesn't net anybody minuses while stuffing them in the backfield causes them to rain. The encouraging part is many of these plus-earning pieces will be around next year. Even Campbell (who moved the line backwards in two chances v. Illinois) looks to be an asset in short situations. The cleanup crew of Demens, Roh, and Ryan should be around next year. Of course with freshmen etc. at the big man DL positions next year I expect this outrageous level of success to regress. /shakes Brian's fist at Rodriguez DT recruiting.
After the jump you can re-live the UFRs of every 3rd/4th and short since 2009 (but not Illinois 2011 'cause it's not written yet). This is entirely optional since hopefully my point has been made already. By clicking you agree to absolve MGoBlog of all damages from GERG-related coronary failures, strokes, embolisms, and/or cranial pyrotechnics. Fortunately, I have become comfortably numb.
Formation notes: Michigan debuted a big set that features two SLBs. Here Ryan is to the top of the screen and Beyer the bottom; Countess was lifted.
Michigan was in this set for both of the late third and ones on which Michigan punched Iowa off the field, though on the second they put Beyer and Ryan in a bear front.
Michigan also showed a fair number of over fronts with the line shaded strongside and the SLB off the line:
They've dumped the flipping seen earlier in the year in favor of sucking it up and running this from time to time. I assume the flipping was a sub-optimal thing Mattison felt forced into because his defense couldn't run an over front effectively what with all the freshmen at SLB and WLB.
Substitution notes: Secondary was Countess/Floyd/Woolfolk/Kovacs the whole way with Avery the nickelback. The linebackers were Demens and Morgan for the most part—Hawthorne got one drive right after the "Morgan is killing us" touchdown drive.
Ryan picked up a stinger on the first play and sat out a big chunk of the game. Cam Gordon was in briefly before being replaced by Beyer for the bulk of the extra playing time; Clark assumed Ryan's role as a nickel DE. As noted above certain short yardage plays late Beyer and Ryan were on the field at the same time as Michigan lifted Countess.
There was less substitution on the line than usual. Campbell only got a few plays, I did not see Brink, and Black was an infrequent participant as well. It was mostly the starters. I don't think RVB and Heininger came off the field.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Van Bergen||3|
|M linebackers seem misaligned, too far to the weakside. On the snap Michigan slants strongside. Martin(-1) is doubled and gives a ton of ground—way too much. He does take both blockers the whole play. RVB(+2) drives his man down the line, eventually shoving him so far that Coker bangs into the left tackle. Morgan(-1) flew up past the Martin double to meet a G and gets pancaked at the line; Demens(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) manage to tackle thanks to the delay.|
|O27||2||7||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||-1|
|Ryan out with stinger; Cam Gordon does come in. This time the center ignores Martin(+2), leaving him to get cut by the backside G. This does not happen even a little bit. Martin contacts Coker three yards in the backfield; dude manages to burrow his way back to the LOS. Morgan(+1) did blitz effectively inside of a tight end and was the second man on the scene; even if Martin isn't here instantly Morgan is probably making contact behind the LOS. RPS +1.|
|O26||3||8||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Countess||44|
The obvious problem on this play is Countess(-2, tackling -1) turning this from a first down into 44 yards by letting Davis outside of him. Then I had Heiko ask Mattison about what happened to open up the completion, whereupon Mattison answered:
So Countess gets the ding there, too(-2, cover –3). Harsh, but if Avery's doing what he's supposed to do and the cover-two corner doesn't even tackle the guy after the first down it's all him.
|M30||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 over||Pass||4||PA slant||Demens||20|
|Iowa motions Davis outside of McNutt, drawing Countess wider and getting Morgan matched up over the slot. Not good. They run play action that sucks Demens(-2) up and Morgan(-1) lets McNutt inside of him after starting with a four yard head start to the interior of the field. Demens makes things worse by moving out on a nothing dumpoff, opening the center of the field like whoah. Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) makes a tough tackle on the catch; this was such a quick hitter that it looked like it might go the distance. RPS -1, Cover -2)|
|M10||1||G||I-Form big offset||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Down G||Black||6|
|Narrow WR, TE motion to wide side, offset FB. They're trying the same stuff MSU did. Black(-2) fails to understand this and gives up the edge by moving straight upfield; he gets sealed out of the play. Heininger will end up closer to Coker than he does. Martin(+1) tears through the line and would kill this if there was any delay on the edge. There isn't. Morgan(-0.5) stood up by a cracking WR; tough with that guy's angle but still a missed opportunity to do something. Kovacs and Countess maintain leverage against two guys; Woolfolk is there to tackle with help from Heininger(+0.5) and the aforementioned Martin.|
|M4||2||G||I-Form big offset||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Morgan||4|
|Same setup with a widened WR; they run power at the same place that just ate the outside run. Black(+1) dives inside to cut off the intended flight path, taking out both the puller and the lead back. Morgan(-2) is a free hitter on the outside. He takes a crappy angle and sees his arm tackle run through(-1 tackling). Woolfolk(-1) was sitting in the end zone wondering what to do too long; by the time he makes a decision it doesn't matter what Coker picks because he can't do anything until the guy is already in the endzone. More on this later.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 10 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M48||1||10||Ace||4-3 under||Pass||4||Quick out||Floyd||4|
|Three step drop against soft coverage with an immediate tackle from Floyd(+0.5) to keep it down. Push.|
|M44||2||6||Ace twins TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Kovacs||3|
|Motion of a twinned TE to the two WR side. Kovacs starts signaling others but no reaction. Morgan(-1) doesn't react to the motion at all and runs too far upfield instead of widening out to cut off the outside. Roh took a double and didn't win; he also didn't get beat up enough to allow a linebacker out on Morgan... not that it mattered. Push. Kovacs(+1.5) avoids a cut block from the slot receiver and gets out on the corner himself, saving Morgan considerable blushes. He can't quite tackle; Countess(+0.5) finishes it off. Excellent edge play by the secondary. Martin(+0.5) again blew through the line.|
|Jesus, Iowa can't block Martin(+1) . This time he slants under the G in the intended hole and comes underneath him quickly enough to also take out the fullback. Michigan is in their nickel package with only six in the box so both linebackers still get blocked. Demens(+1) beats his and gets to the hole. Coker meets him a yard and a half short of the first; Coker pushes the pile because he is Coker. Morgan did a pretty good job too, and RVB beat a block and almost made a play in the backfield. RPS -1; an actual 4-3 against this I-Form and this is potentially a loss.|
|M38||4||In||I-Form||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB sneak||Van Bergen||0|
|Excellent coaching for Michigan to know Iowa does this and show up in force on the interior of the line when Iowa hurries to the line. RVB(+2) is the key guy, getting under the G and push him back; Martin(+1) also got key push. RPS +2. Huge swing play due to coaching.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 0-7, 7 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O23||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||10|
I'm not 100% on this. What happens is Iowa runs a zone at the short side of the field, away from Beyer (over the slot) and at the overhanging Floyd. Roh ducks under the tackle at the snap, which gets him in the backfield. That and total inability to block Martin means Coker has to bounce, which he does. That duck inside should mean a LB is exchanging over the top, which would be Morgan, but Morgan sucks inside. Heininger is moving out but can't make the diving ankle tackle, leaving Coker the corner. Morgan recovers to tackle from behind after a big gain.
Heiko asked about this. Mattison's answer is below; in short, this is an RPS –1.
|O33||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||0|
|This is nuts. Every play Martin(+2) is beating blocks. This time he momentarily takes on the C before shedding him to the playside, which forces an uncomfortable cutback. I think Martin actually grabs a foot; either that or he trips. Heininger(+0.5) and Morgan(+0.5) did well to constrict the space so he could not fall forward for a gain.|
|O33||2||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Deep hitch||Martin||Inc|
|Michigan brings a safety down as a withdrawn MLB type person when Iowa motions a TE into an H-back spot; pass anyway. Martin(+1, pressure +1) beats the LG and forces a throw; Vandenberg has a guy open in front of Floyd(-1, cover -1) but airmails it.|
|O33||3||10||Ace 3-wide||Okie||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|Martin as quasi-LB. LT moves early.|
|O28||3||15||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Slant||Roh||11|
|M stunts the DTs. Roh(+1, pressure +1) drives the RT back into Vandenberg as RVB(+1) arrives; he has to throw. Despite going to the ground as he releases this he gets off a dart to McNutt on a slant that Countess(+0.5, tackling +1) is there on; he tackles. Great play by Iowa just to get the completion.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 6-7, EO1Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O22||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||27|
|I blame Morgan less for this than I did live because M was pretty screwed either way once Campbell(-2) was slashed to the ground. This is their first play without Martin. But... that just means he gets -2 instead of -3. When he shoots the interior gap he gives up the outside; Heininger is flowing well but once the tackle realizes he's got no one showing in his gap he doubles on Heininger and seals him; no chance. Even if Morgan pops out Coker probably picks up a big gain because not only Campbell but RVB(-1) got cut. It wouldn't be nearly as big because forcing him back inside makes Kovacs relevant. Coker runs through a Woolfolk(-0.5, tackling -1) tackle attempt at the end, getting five or so additional yards.|
|O49||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||Waggle deep hitch||Kovacs||14|
|Michigan burned on play action; Kovacs(-1, cover -1) does not get enough depth as he's running to the sideline and opens up a deeper route when he could have mitigated the damage that was coming. Countess has no chance; he does tackle immediately. RPS -1.|
|M37||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||2|
|I keep using "inside zone" but the formations and motion provides subtlety no one other than the coaches will ever pick up, which is my way of saying this is kind of an iso. The TE motions back into a FB spot and then heads straight upfield as everyone else zone blocks. This clears the frontside as Martin and others fight to defend the zone; RVB(-0.5) gets sent upfield, though I think that might be part of a playcall. This leaves Demens(+1) one on one with the TE in a fairly big space. He stands up the guy; Coker bangs into the guy from behind. Morgan(+1) crushed his blocker backwards and now peels off to help tackle. Rare play from the LBs here.|
|M35||2||8||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Heininger||1|
|Michigan blitzes Floyd off the edge and stunts the DTs. Heininger(+1) ends up blowing up about three guys; Martin and Morgan flow to the hole. Coker has to cut back; he does. RVB(-0.5) has been blown down the line a bit too much and can only make a hopeful diving attempt on Coker. He runs through it; Martin(+1) does the same and manages to trip him up. Beyer(-1) took a turrible angle and is the main reason this is scary. RPS +1.|
|Martin LB thing. Michigan doesn't get there with six(pressure -2) and Floyd(-1, cover -1) is beaten for the first down; dropped.|
|M34||4||7||Ace 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Out||Avery||8|
|This is tough; Avery is in inside leverage, takes a shove, and has man on an out route. He gets beat. Sometimes that's life. I don't get what Morgan's doing; everyone else is in man and he's sitting in a short zone not getting after the QB or doing much of anything. Could be a call; who knows with Mattison. (Cover -1, RPS -1)|
|M26||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA deep hitch||Countess||Inc|
|Plenty of time(pressure -1) albeit on first down play action. Vandenberg looks for McNutt on a deep-ish comeback route that is low and difficult to catch; Countess(+1, cover +1) is there making life difficult and possibly getting a PBU.|
|Martin(-2) gets locked onto by Ferentz and blown out. He tries to chuck after he's given up a bunch of ground and still can't manage it; backside G peels off on Demens as the FB kicks Morgan. Both LBs hold their ground well enough but Martin getting blown up means a big crease and a first down. Kovacs comes in to tackle.|
|M13||1||10||I-Form Big||46 bear||Run||N/A||Iso||Demens||3|
|Vandenberg sees the bear front and checks. They run away from it, to ungood effect. Campbell(-0.5) gets kicked and pancaked. Morgan(+1) is moving to the play at the snap and takes on the FB at the LOS, funneling back to help. Demens(+0.5) does not get a blocker because RVB(+1) tripped his dude, whether accidental or not. Demens makes a decent tackle attempt but does give up a yard or two YAC before the rest of the defense arrives.|
|M10||2||7||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||Waggle TE flat||Kovacs||9|
|Kovacs(-1, pressure -1) is sent on a backside blitz and sucks in on the run fake instead of getting in Vandenberg's face. Morgan(-1, cover -1) does the same thing on the TE drag route, opening it up; Woolfolk(+1) does a good job of reading it and almost getting to it but can't; he tackles at the one.|
|M1||1||G||Goal line||Goal line||Pass||N/A||PA TE flat||--||1|
|If you're going to call it, first down is the time. Damn you Ferentz. No minuses assigned for a difficult job not quite done.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 6-14, 7 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||WR pass scramble||Demens||7|
|Hawthorne comes in. Iowa goes for the jugular by running an end-around pass; no sale from the secondary(cover +1). McNutt runs. Ryan(+1) does a good job of stringing it out and live I was mad at Hawthorne but he is the LB away from this play and he beats Demens(-1) to the sideline by yards. He still takes a crappy angle(-0.5) and gives up an extra couple yards.|
|M24||2||3||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Van Bergen||-3|
|Iowa derfs on their blocking and lets RVB(+3) through clean. He does take a good angle under the tackle and to the ballcarrier, getting the TFL by himself, so nice job. RPS +1.|
|M27||3||6||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Avery||2|
|Not sure what Iowa is thinking here but they've got no one to block Avery on this play, so Avery(+1, cover +1) shoots up into McNutt and grabs him. He ends up missing the tackle but takes so long to do so three guys grab McNutt after two yards. I think Iowa might have screwed something up here.|
|Drive Notes: FG, 6-17, 2 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||Scramble||Van Bergen||6|
|Coverage(+2) is good but pressure(-2) is stoned; Van Bergen(-1) is trying to get to Vandenberg and gets out of his lane, opening up a scramble.|
|O31||2||4||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Van Bergen||9|
|RVB(-1) sealed quickly; Demens(-1) gets locked away by a guy releasing off RVB, and that's enough for a crease. Coker picks up like 4 YAC on the Woolfolk(-0.5) tackle.|
|O40||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||Sack||Heininger||-8|
|Martin(+2) chucks a center by him and starts attacking vertically once he reads the PA,which draws attention from the G and FB. His motion upfield accidentally takes out the legs of the guy blocking Heininger. Heininger(+2) takes advantage of the opportunity to sack. (Pressure +2)|
|Running at the gap between martin and WDE Black. Morgan(+1.5) runs downhill at the FB and meets him at the line; Black(+1) chucks his blocker to the outside. Martin(+0.5) does a decent job against a double to not provide a cutback lane. Play goes nowhere.|
|There are like two DL with Kovacs, Morgan, and Demens hanging around the line and Martin a quasi-LB. Michigan zone blitzes, sending only four. As Martin drops into a short zone right in front of a TE slant. Vandenberg pumps, freaks out, starts running out of the pocket, and gets sacked by Roh(+2). Cover +1, Pressure +1, RPS +2.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 6-17, 11 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O40||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||4|
|Running away from Martin at the overloaded side of the line; Roh(-0.5) manages to get outside and does not give ground but ends giving too much width. Morgan(+0.5) takes on a block okay and funnels to help; Demens(+0.5) fights through a block to get to the hole and tackle. Heininger may have had a play a couple yards further upfield but he was held. Refs -1.|
|O44||2||6||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||-3|
|They again run away from Martin; Martin(+2) slants under the guard as the C releases immediately—not a good idea—and runs right into Coker's path. Heininger(+0.5) also beat his block and would have been there to finish the play if necessary.|
|O41||3||9||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Slant||Morgan||Inc|
|Michigan tips a zone blitz early. It looks like it's about to get picked up when Vandenberg releases the ball seemingly too early. He's got two receivers within about a yard of each other. Morgan(+2, cover +2) makes the hash to hash zone drop with aplomb, getting a PBU on a ball that if better thrown could have been a pick. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 9-17, 4 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O38||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA hitch||Countess||8|
|Easy pitch and catch that Countess(-1, cover -1) allows to be turned up for 4 YAC.|
|Heininger(+1) fights through a single block to the hole and absorbs the FB. Coker has to cut behind. Morgan(+0.5) scrapes to the hole and hits at about the LOS; Coker falls forward. That's life against Coker. Martin(-1) was blown out by a double, which gave Coker the room.|
|O49||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||4|
|No real creases. Martin(+0.5) fights through a double okay and Demens(+0.5) pops a releasing G near enough to the LOS to convince Coker to cut back. Heininger(+0.5) also deals with a double in a moderately effective way, preventing the second guy from really doing anything to Morgan. Coker falls as he passes the LOS; Morgan probably would have stopped this for a similar gain anyway.|
|Vandenberg checks when he sees bear + man coverage. He goes after Countess on a McNutt hitch; Countess(+2, cover +2) is right there to break it up. Nice play. RVB(+0.5) was getting some pressure, perhaps forcing an inadvisable throw.|
|M47||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Hitch||Floyd||15|
|Michigan shifts late and blitzes. Avery(-1) doesn't time it that well and is about a yard or two away from crushing Vandenberg from behind when he gets the ball off to McNutt. McNutt got separation from the press coverage of Floyd(-1, cover -1)|
|M32||1||10||Ace big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Van Bergen||2|
|Third TE motions over Beyer and then runs straight to the safety. Weird. Iowa doubles RVB and looks like they will seal him and get a crease but he manages to get playside of the interior guy(+0.5) and force a cutback. Beyer(+0.5) fends off a block and starts tackling from behind when Martin(+1) and Demens(+0.5) meet him in the hole.|
|M30||2||8||Ace twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||Hitch||Countess||6|
|Countess(-1) is a little late here and is very fortunate his desperate lunging arm tackle(-1) brings McNutt down. A little more balance and this is six on a nothing hitch.|
|M24||3||2||I-Form Big||46 bear||Pass||5||Quick out||Floyd||4|
|This is tough to stop if executed well; it's a three yard route. Floyd can't do it, but I won't ding him.|
|M20||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||7|
|Campbell(-2) in; he is easily slashed to the ground by the backside G. Heininger(+0.5) does a good job of cutting off the frontside but that cutback is there all day with the NT on his knees at the LOS. Morgan, getting blocked to the other side, reaches out an arm and slows Coker down but there's no way that's actually going to get him to the ground. Kovacs comes up and gets plowed over, but that's not his fault. That's physics.|
|M13||2||3||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Pass||4||PA throwaway||Demens||Inc|
|Kovacs rolls up. Iowa goes play action with essentially a one-man route... McNutt jogs off the LOS as a TE releases. No sale from Demens(+1); Woolfolk(+0.5) is over the top and Vandenberg chucks it OOB. Weird call. Cover +1.|
|M13||3||3||I-Form Big||46 bear||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Roh||13|
|Beyer and Ryan in the game at the same time, with Beyer the rolled up LB on the line. Kovacs is going in man with the TE coming across the formation. Roh(-2) gets blown up by that TE; crushed to the inside that is it for the line. Morgan(-2) runs straight into the LOS. Kovacs has to keep contain and gets kicked out; TD.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 9-24, 10 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA Dig||Floyd||24|
|Floyd(-0.5, cover -1) beaten on a dig route for a round first-down yardage; Woolfolk(-1, tackling -1) whiffs embarrassingly on the tackle, running right by the dude without even getting a hand on him and banging into Demens. Morgan(-1) vacated his zone by biting on the PA as well.|
|An I form version of QB oh noes with the entire line blocking as if it's a run and Iowa throwing a wide open slant against Floyd(-1, cover -1); dropped. RPS -1.|
|Iowa runs at the strong side of the line. Martin(+1) beats the G and takes out the FB. Heininger(-1) is kicked out big time; Demens(-1) takes a block a couple yards downfield from a releasing G. Beyer(-1) fails to read the play and gets himself out of position, then absorbs Coker, falling backwards and giving up near first down yardage.|
|M43||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Demens||0|
|Beyer and Ryan in. Beyer rolls to the line when Iowa evens its strength so you've got a 4-3 under with SLBs on both sides of the line, basically. Heininger(+0.5) and Morgan(+1) do well enough on the playside to force a cutback, with Morgan impacting the FB at the LOS and removing any hole. Demens(+3) sees the iso and roars at the line, taking on a block from the second guy releasing off Martin at the LOS and getting outside of it. Coker runs into him and Demens friggin' sticks the guy, holding Coker not six inches from where the impact happened until the cavalry arrives. That is almost unbelievable.|
|M43||4||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|Illegal snap prevents Ferentz from going for it here in a horrifying, exactly-right game theory play.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 16-24, 5 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O36||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||4|
|Beyer(+0.5) sets up well on the outside, restricting space but not offering a bounce. RVB(+0.5) is blown out by a double but recovers after the second guy releases downfield to trip Coker a couple yards downfield. Need Demens(-1) to do better here; he took a block and got shoved back, eventually doing nothing.|
|O40||2||6||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||5|
|Demens(+0.5) hits the LOS quickly and Martin(+0.5) shoots to the intended spot, forcing a cutback. Heininger(-1) has been blown off the ball by a double, so it's there, but he fights through the block; Morgan(-1) is the bigger issue since he took the block of the other guy and lets Coker outside. He gets off it to tackle but momentum carries them both forward three yards before they run into Kovacs and his blocker.|
|O45||3||1||Goal line||Goal line||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Ryan||-1|
|Beyer and Ryan to one side of the line in a bear front. Iowa runs power at them. It is a heap of bodies. Ryan(+2) takes on a TE's block and sheds it to the outside, falling into Coker's feet in the backfield as Demens(+1) reads the G pull and scrapes to the hole on the outside; he's not needed because Ryan tackles but he would be there if needed. RVB and Martin(+0.5 each) help by standing up to double well enough that Coker couldn't try to cut it inside.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 16-24, 2 min 4th Q. Michigan's next drive is the rest of the game. EOG.|
That was totally acceptable.
Was it better than acceptable?
No. It was exactly acceptable despite the low yardage totals. That was a short game. Iowa only had nine drives and scored long touchdowns on three of them; they did not turn the ball over. They didn't even come particularly close—the closest thing was a Desmond Morgan PBU (about which more later) that would have been a spectacular catch.
Iowa averaged 6.7 yards per passing play* and 4.6 per rush. That's meh. Vandenberg's actual YPA was 8.1—not good; Iowa averaged 5.3 yards a play. Etc. It all points to an average performance against an average offense. Iowa is hovering around 60 in all the yardage metrics and is 29th in FEI, Michigan gave up an average number of points, etc. etc.
*[IE: I added in Vandenberg's rushes to get 167 yards on 25 attempts]
But acceptable is good?
Excellence is good. Acceptable is acceptable, which is unbelievable in this context.
This is what it's like to live in GERG's head, I think.
Okay, yeah, that's a good idea. Chart.
|Van Bergen||11||4||7||Busy, busy. TFL or two and usual level of stoutness.|
|Martin||17.5||4||13.5||Essentially unblockable. What we expected from him the whole year. Think Iowa's inside zone game plays into his strengths.|
|Roh||3||2.5||0.5||Sack was kind of a gift from freaked Vandenberg. Didn't do much else.|
|Heininger||7.5||2||5.5||Quality day. Will take this the rest of the year.|
|Campbell||-||4.5||-4.5||Got cut to the ground and was a major culprit on two long runs.|
|TOTAL||41||19||22||The Mike Martin we've been waiting for; 2:1 ratio is the usual at this point.|
|Morgan||9||12.5||-3.5||Not as bad as you might think, but still a problem.|
|Demens||10||6||4||Stuck Coker cold a half yard from a critical third down conversion. I be like dang.|
|Ryan||3||-||3||Michigan missed him.|
|Beyer||1||2||-1||Lacks the impact of Ryan, didn't do anything too obviously wrong.|
|C. Gordon||-||-||-||One play, I think.|
|TOTAL||23||21||2||Average average average.|
|Floyd||0.5||4.5||-4||Struggled with McNutt.|
|Avery||1||1||0||Seems quality at nickel.|
|Woolfolk||1.5||3||-1.5||Tackling questionable, not tested deep.|
|Countess||4||6||-2||Great day except for the 44 yards that were all on him.|
|TOTAL||9.5||16.5||-7||A bit of a letdown, but expected given opposition.|
|Pressure||8||6||2||Decent job; few blitzes.|
|Coverage||11||14||-3||Good recovery after weak start.|
|RPS||7||6||1||Old school push.|
Martin was crazy good. Just 1.5 TFLs but was the primary force for a large chunk of Iowa's other not-so-good plays, including the Heininger sack on which three guys tried to block Martin and Heininger squeezed through some befuddled dudes. This was all day:
Heininger, meanwhile, had his best day as a Wolverine. He looked like an above-average Big Ten player. I wonder if Iowa's interior line is not very good.
The linebackers felt Ryan's absence mostly in his lack of playmaking—both ways. Beyer was out there but not tested often. Demens seems to be topping out at just okay, but he had one of his better games of the year. Twice he took on a lead block and came off it to tackle Coker, and the second was a critical play I still find hard to believe:
If you could freeze time at the moment it became clear Coker was going to cut back into a blocked Demens a yard from the first down, what kind of odds would you get on a stop? I submit the odds would be very low.
The secondary… well, I think we knew something like this was coming. Countess froshderped that long completion on Iowa's first drive and Floyd is just never going to do well against top flight receivers. That's life.
ARGH MORGAN AWFUL ARGH
He obviously had some problems but since we can now ask the coordinators direct questions and get straight answers we know it's a little more complicated than just that:
The first play of Iowa's third drive was an inside zone that bounced outside the end for ten yards. Roh dove inside the tackle. Was that something you called? “That would be me. In coaching Craig and watching everything they did -- I know exactly what you’re talking about -- every game that they’ve played so far this year, they’ve brought the tight end in motion, and he blocked out on the end man. Well when that tight end is in Craig’s area right there, most times you have him attack that tight end. Well they kind of wanted you to do that in other games, so now the tackle has an angle on you and he can knock you out farther. So I just told him, I said, ‘Craig, don’t mess with that. When that guy comes over in motion, just attack the tackle and hold the edge on the tackle.’ Looking back on it, I told him straight out, I said, ‘Craig, they changed. They did the same thing Michigan State did and they hadn’t done it all year. They kind of influenced him to keep him from being able to attack that tight end. That’s not him.”
MGoQuery: Was Desmond Morgan supposed to scrape over the top? “Desmond Morgan’s supposed to stack behind him. He’s not running outside of him. Because Craig didn’t play through the tight end like he probably thought he should have, and I wish I would have told him to do that, the guy got knocked back a little bit and got kind of in Desmond’s way and he got caught up in the trash. That’s what happened on that one.”
My natural inclination on that play is to ding Morgan because a junior dives inside and a freshman doesn't come over the top to pick up the trash. It turns out this is one of those hidden RPS things that we can never know, or at least couldn't before the Great Hoke Coordinator Presser Revolution, and that this is somewhat on Roh but mostly an RPS thing.
I do think Morgan has the opportunity to read what's going on in front of him and adjust to the changing situation to make a great play… when he's a junior, and if he's an All Big Ten level player. So I don't know if giving Morgan a –2 on the first Coker touchdown is actually right since Black might be freelancing inappropriately and Morgan's assignment is not something that matches my expectations. This is a necessary limitation of not actually being Greg Mattison. As always, numbers in these posts are helpful summaries and useful… but not gospel.
Anyway, Morgan did some good stuff. He actually executed a successful hash to hash zone drop:
I've seen a bunch of people try that this year. No one has actually done it until then.
Now that we've got the defending out of the way… yeesh, Morgan had some problems. This is not even a little bit of a surprise when you run a freshman out against Marcus Coker and Iowa's zone running game. It's a sore spot, though:
That is not good. /science!
Is there anything you have ever loved in your whole life more than the coordinator pressers?
Not related to football media. I think they even beat out Star Control II. I mean, you can ask Mattison about a specific ten-yard run in the first quarter and he knows exactly what you're talking about and can explain what happened. No longer do we have to have months-long arguments about whether Kenny Demens or a corner was the problem on a 44-yard drag. We can just ask.
I know I've been critical of Borges but Borges's pressers are about 95% as awesome as Mattison's. While I'm frustrated with the steep costs of the transition (on offense, anyway), reading the presser transcriptions from Heiko fills me with confidence this is going to be a national program once they get the pieces they need in. The contrast between this and GERG is immense.
Any other worries pop up?
Yeah, this was not a good game for Campbell. Contrast the above video, where Campbell gets put on his knees, with anything Mike Martin did. Campbell went down on two of the few snaps he was in and both of those turned into big runs. If Campbell is on his feet and moving on the above, does Morgan still run up into that gap? Maybe, maybe not. The dropoff from Martin to Campbell in this game was ominous. With Heininger established Michigan is now replacing 3/4ths of their defensive line with not a whole lot of playing time going to backup options.
Martin had his best day of the year; Heininger and RVB also played well. Mattison's short-yardage attack is killing people.
Countess is going to be a real good time, with emphasis on going to be. Floyd can't quite check McNutt, and the wildly oscillating item that is Desmond Morgan ended up considerably in the red.
What does it mean for Illinois and the future?
I'm sure the Illini will test Michigan with the triple option after watching them struggle with it against Northwestern… but I think Michigan will have ironed out many of their issues.
Unfortunately, AJ Jenkins is going to be an issue. I assume Woolfolk will be over the top on him. That will be a test for a guy who's bounced back and forth from safety and hasn't really gotten his feet under him since returning from his ankle injury.
As for the near term future, it looks like Cam Gordon is way down the depth chart and the defensive line is going to be an issue next year. On the bright side, for the rest of this year it looks like we may be getting an improved (healthy?) version of Mike Martin and Will Heininger seems to be approaching average.
News bullets and other important items:
- Delonte Hollowell had his redshirt burned two weeks ago.
- There will be some rotation between Thomas Gordon and Troy Woolfolk vs. Illinois regardless of which one wins the spot in practice.
- Ricky Barnum still limited in practice. Hoke says he "will play," however.
Opening remarks: “I’m going to make a brief statement just regarding everything up at Penn State. One thing I can tell you, we have an utmost respect for what coach Paterno’s done on the field. It’s really a situation that’s obviously unfortunate, but it’s one that doesn’t affect us. We’ve got to worry about Michigan and the decision that we make in getting ready for this week and going to Illinois and winning a football game.
“Now practice yesterday was good. I like it. I liked how they competed. I liked how they came out, had a lot of energy, and they fought like heck.”
(more after the jump)
Michigan pull out the inverted veer for the first time in the Hoke era over the weekend and got a couple of nice gains off of it.
I suspect that this was an effect of playing Purdue, which has made the veer a staple of its offense ever since Perry the ACLephant started striking down their quarterbacks left and right. When Michigan ran the veer in the Rodriguez era it was invariably against Illinois, which was veer-mad at that point. The theory behind that is Michigan's practicing against it as a defense, it works a bit, it moves from the scout team to the first team, and hey—this thing kinda works good. Let's use it.
But that's another post. This is this post. This post is about the opponent running the veer (sort of, anyway) and Michigan scheming it to death.
It's third and five on Purdue's second drive, and Purdue screams both "run" and "doom doom doom" by lining up Justin Siller at quarterback.
Michigan is in its nickel package with Ryan as a DE and Avery hanging out over the slot. You'll note the odd positioning of the DEs: Roh is standing up and Ryan is a yard or so behind Martin. BWS has pointed this out before. It's a tip as to what Michigan will do. They're going to drop Roh and stunt Ryan.
On the snap they… drop Roh and stunt Ryan, except Roh is reading the mesh point and flying out on the edge. Morgan blitzes from the backside:
At the mesh point Siller makes his read, which is keep.
Why does he keep? It looks like he's reading Demens, who is bugging out for the tailback. With no other linebacker to read and two guys headed out for the tailback Purdue should have numbers to head up the middle.
But Purdue has problems. Van Bergen is in a spot where he ends up taking two guys and Demens is not going to get blocked so that spot inside the playside DE that the veer attacks is not open. Ryan is now stunting through the gap. So you've got two guys getting doubled and one guy blocking air.
When that happens you can option off a guy and still find another in your face. Van Bergen helps out by beating a block. Roh reads the pull and forms up.
One block beaten plus one RPS+2 playcall results in a zillion unblocked guys in the backfield.
That is all she wrote.
Items of Interest
I might lack a name for this or it might be a screwup, but probably the former. So usually on this veer play you see a pulling lineman get outside the playside DT and block whoever shows up. Here the guard pulls and ends up inside of the playside tackle, which is not how things are supposed to work normally. This could be a variant, a screwup, or an improvisation once the G sees the center release into air.
If I had to guess I would say variant intended to hit it up inside of the tackle. Siller appears to be looking at Demens to make his decision, not the playside end.
This is the ideal result from a stunt/slant. So we talked about a slant Michigan ran against Eastern Michigan on which Hawthorne did not get the message and ended up getting blocked by a guy. Here the center ends up blocking air and the pulling G ends up doubling a guy because of Michigan's playcall.
The difference in the linebackers is in the reaction and angle. Hawthorne vs Demens fight:
Hawthorne doesn't know where to go and sits until he's blocked; Demens moves out decisively. This puts him in a position where no one can block him. That is the kind of instant movement that defenses like this depend on to remain gap sound.
Ryan is also unblocked but that's just an effect of the stunt call that was inevitable once Purdue failed to pick up on it pre-snap. Speaking of failing to pick up on it pre-snap…
I wonder if this alignment is coached or a freshman mistake. As noted above, BWS has previously caught Michigan defensive ends lining up well off the LOS, thereby tipping pass drops. Here Roh isn't even in a three-point stance and Ryan is a full yard behind Martin.
Purdue is advertising run. Michigan is advertising a zone blitz paired with a stunt. Purdue does not recognize this and gets it in the face.
If random bloggers are catching it, opposing offensive coordinators are catching it. If Michigan does this in the future and gets stoned after extensive pointing by the QB or OL, you'll know this has migrated from the brain of the coaches to the field. These things are subtle, but not subtle enough to go unnoticed, I think.
Some player did some things well. RVB beats a block to provide a not-strictly-necessary third guy in the backfield and Ryan tackles. This is a rock-paper-scissors win, mostly, but you still have to execute.
Michigan did several things like this over the course of the day. Purdue's run game was basically nonexistent (just over 70 yards at less than three yards a carry, sacks removed) until Frank Clark came in and busted a zone read huge. Whatever Purdue tried they got nowhere with thanks in part to Martin dominating but also thanks to excellent edge play(!) from Ryan and Mattison putting his players in positions to succeed. After the screen touchdown Mattison pushed all the right buttons.
Picture Pages on a bye week? Sure. I generally take more snapshots than I can reasonably cram into one week of posting what with all the other whatnot that goes on in this space, so this is a perfect spot for some reheated leftovers.
Yesterday I tagged Whoever at WLB as one of the main trouble spots on the defense; last week I criticized the linebackers for a particular Edwin Baker run that popped big despite Michigan seemingly having it covered. I caught some criticism myself for not being harsh enough with Mike Martin on that particular play that I'm still not sure about.
In any case, I pick the individual plays after the game (or season) has developed enough for me to identify a trend, and I grabbed that specifically because of the WTF behavior of the linebackers. Here's a play from earlier in the season that got in my thought processes and may have compelled me to pull that baby out of the bathwater. Metaphors not guaranteed.
It's late against Eastern. The starters are still mostly in; the Eagles have been driving a bit. It's first and ten. They'll run a power play to the strong side of their formation*. Michigan is in their usual under.
*[People have told me this is a "Down G", not a Power O, because the guard blocks down—I see what you did there—and it's actually a frontside tackle pulling, along with the center.]
USUAL UNDER IS USUAL
Ryan to bottom of screen, Frank Clark to top.
The key guy to watch is Hawthorne, who is the topmost of the MLBs.
On the snap everything happens!
By this I mean three things.
- the center pulls
- the frontside tackle pulls
- Michigan slants away from the play
You can see the entire line headed inside away from the playside. Brink, Ryan, Martin: all are oblivious to the idea of containment. This is fine.
wsg Slanty, the football-playing, jean-vested gecko who is inexplicably the first hit in Google images for "line slant football."
Why do it? To get a free hitter. Your slant should make life difficult for anything run to its side. The downblocks are key in the power. They're the easy bit for the offense. If one gets beat your play is going to not work very well. In all likelihood your pullers are going to take defensive linemen in the backfield, leaving linebackers free to run up and smash face.
If the opponent runs away from your slant it should be okay because the linebackers know there's a slant on and can chase playside as soon as the offense gives any indication there is a playside. This gets the backside tackle/guard/whoever—the guy assigned to the WLB—blocking air. The WLB gets to scrape down the line to tackle.
This gets the backside tackle… guard… whoever…
…awww, come on, Hawthorne.
In the wider view you can see huge numbers of players on the backside:
Cutback == doom. Hawthorne has no responsibility but to get down the line to the POA. Note the difference in the disposition of the linebackers. Demens is hauling for the frontside; Hawthorne is in full block-catching mode.
Now, Michigan's D can bottle this up without needing a WLB if Ryan gets a two for one on these pullers. He's the guy currently inside of #68. The other puller is running right by him. He's already given up the bounce because of the slant; if he gets into the other blocker Demens has a free run.
Ryan doesn't. He gets knocked to the inside and pancaked, which erases backside help. The other puller gets out on Demens:
Demens has maintained outside leverage, forcing it back to his help, which is three yards downfield and getting farther away.
First down on a basic power run.
ITEMS OF INTEREST
Hesitation is a killer here and it does not seem explicable. Hawthorne does not quite know what he's doing yet, especially earlier in the season. The hesitation gets a little more explicable when you look at the previous play, when one Brandin Hawthorne got burned on a counter:
Even so, with the line slanting in front of him he should know to take off playside at any hint of a pull or any hint of a guy releasing to block him. Slanting should make LB decision processes easy.
This play is one of the archetypical examples of why the WLB is hard to block and can get away with being a slight fast guy… so don't get blocked.
This is especially bad for a player like Hawthorne. Hawthorne looks like Leo Messi out there. He has a hard time getting off blocks and has basically no chance if he's not thundering at whoever is coming out to block him. At least in that situation his momentum can pop the guy back and he can come off to tackle. He's done if he pulls the [REDACTED] Memorial Block Catching Dance.
Ryan missed an opportunity to MAKE PLAYS. The other thing a slant like this can do is take the playside DE/LB and make two guys block him. You see Ryan dive inside the first puller. This means the RB is going to bounce, which means Ryan's basically done. Also done is Ryan's blocker.
Ryan has one way to impact the play left: try to pick off that other puller, leaving Demens unimpeded on the edge. Here he takes the block and appears to try to fight back outside, which ends with him in a heap. This isn't the worst thing in the world but great defenses that swarm these kinds of plays with two guys get both the 2-for-1 and the WLB in the hole.
This is one of the reasons I'm looking owlishly at the WLB whenever something goes wrong. Picture Pages are attempts to thematically summarize trends I see as I'm UFRing, so when I pull a play to illustrate something it is a complaint/credit I've seen quite a bit of. That may mean I focus on the linebackers on a particular play that may or may not be Mike Martin's fault for not shedding his guy and tackling for loss.
Google images can be weird sometimes.