“The more you tighten your grip, Governor Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” –Princess Leia
It is one of the easiest ways to sound like a knowledgeable football watcher: The pass rush is closing in. The receivers are all covered. Then suddenly the quarterback is running through air. “Contain!” you yell with appropriate obviousness to the people who obviously aren’t paying attention. “You must keep contain!”
Contain is a concept put in every play design, a plan to be understood before every snap, and a mantra to keep in mind. “Contain” isn’t limited to pass rush; in fact it’s exactly what a Force Player is doing on any given run. Coaches don’t use this term so often—rather you’ll hear them talk about “lane integrity” or “leverage”.
Before the snap, every play is a running play, because that’s where the ball is. No matter the defense, the defenders will have gap responsibilities, sometimes more than one.
GAPS: Are usually labeled A to whatever. Brown doesn’t go beyond D (which he defines as off a tight end’s butt). The A gaps are between the center and the guards. B gaps are between the guards and tackles. C gaps are between the tackles and whatever tight ends or backfield material exists.
[Hit THE JUMP to solve the mystery]
SPONSOR NOTES: Homesure Lending returns to sponsor this post, and as a bonus he's sent the blog to Iowa by finding us a block of five together. This will create glorious road trip content. (Matt has stipulated that I clarify he is not to blame if the Iowa game turns out like that stupid triple overtime Penn State game; we have agreed to collectively blame the first commenter on this post.)
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, he is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.
PRO FOOTBALL FOCUS NOTES: Good news, everybody: we've purchased PFF's Michigan and opponent data for the season, which will allow us to do a bunch of things previously impractical. We've got snap counts, for one, and their grades, and some drill-down stuff I'll reference when it seems relevant to what I'm saying.
One important disclaimer: I'm not looking at this stuff until I go over the game myself, to prevent confirmation bias.
FORMATION NOTES: Normal Brian is super happy Don Brown is Michigan's defensive coordinator. UFR Brian is frickin' pissed. I'm going to split the next UFR's "Formation" column into "personnel" and "formation" because I give up trying to jam that all into a few words. Even that figures to be insufficient.
About halfway through this game I decided that:
- Michigan is a 4-2-5 defense.
- Sometimes they run a 3-2-6.
- I need a "box" column denoting persons in said box with maybe a .5 for gray area guys.
- I need to stop bothering with even-odd stuff since that's not actually important for this level of analysis.
And then momentum carried me through. You improve the most between week one and week two; I'll endeavor to do so.
Anyway. I'm going to try to call out safeties and depth, insofar as this is possible. This is nickel one-high:
And this was 4-3 over two high:
These are the same personnel packages. Hill is the gray area guy kind of over the slot and Stribling has dropped to be the nominal second safety. Everyone in this secondary has to be able to play multiple roles.
Nickel two high:
And honestly I don't know what to term this:
That is two "safeties" at like six yards. Peppers would bail into a deep zone until he read run, FWIW. Nickel two low, I called it. /shakes fist at Don Brown.
I don't even want to get into the various fronts yet.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Deep breath. The back seven was pretty static and has a clear depth chart. Without Lewis, Stribling (45 snaps) and Clark(51) went just about the whole way until garbage time. Ditto Thomas(54), Hill(54), Peppers(54), McCray(44), and Gedeon(54). Brandon Watson (28 snaps but most of those late) had scattered snaps as a nickel corner on passing downs. Usually Michigan lifted a DL when this happened. Tyree Kinnel did get five snaps before the backups came in en masse.
The backups at all these spots are also clear: Kinnel and Hudson at safety, Long and Lavert Hill at corner, Devin Bush and Wroblewski at LB, File Not Found for Peppers.
The line started out with Wormley, Glasgow, Mone, and Charlton across it. Once Mone was out Michigan played a lot of Matt Godin, and they yanked Chris Wormley early. Gary actually got 32 snaps to Wormley's 27. Winovich went the whole way after Taco exited and actually racked up more DL snaps than anyone else with 40.
About midway through the third quarter Michigan unearthed Lawrence Marshall, Michael Dwumfour, Michael Onwenu, and redshirt junior walk-on Garrett Miller. Miller actually played 21 snaps and graded out well per PFF but at 271 on the roster it is highly unlikely he's going to be a contributor going forward unless things are in the darkest timeline. I didn't grade him well, FWIW.
[After THE JUMP: Viking raiders from across the sea / they've come to plunder you and me / oh no i've been stabbed / but our defense makes me glad]
The question: Biggest takeaway from the Hawaii game?
Goooooo sports team!
Brian: The thing that leaps out at me is *how diverse Don Brown's defense is*. I've just about thrown my hands up on accurately describing one formation versus another. The safeties seem to line up at any depth from 15 yards to 6(!), which Jabrill Peppers did once...
...on a play where his first steps were backwards and Delano Hill's were forward. Hill is lined up at 11 yards. There were ludicrous splits, plays where both LBs sat between DL in a three-man front, plain old nickel stuff, and a wide array of gray area defenders doing all kinds of stuff. I have no idea what I'm looking at. I gather that's the idea.
Meanwhile Peppers is another monkeywrench on top of everything. I'd say that for a good third to half of his snaps he was functioning as a safety. He was a corner for another chunk, and then there was some linebackery. Michigan's nickel package is the same as its 4-3, and Peppers can do damn near anything in the back seven from play to play. I'm fascinated to see how Michigan deploys their safety trio this year, but it's 50/50 if I'll ever be able to figure anything out.
David: if he can fool you, 90% of B10 coaching has no chance, right?
Kirk Ferentz can guarantee himself nearly his full 10 year salary by winning 7 games a year each of the next five. https://t.co/taoAyyuq3y
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) September 6, 2016
Nevermind. They're boned.
[Hit THE JUMP for takes that will melt your cool heart with a fresh island song.]
Can you talk about the kind of depth you were building on Saturday with all the guys that got in the game?
“Well, first, to start with, many players played and played well. Tremendous for morale. Guys that worked extremely hard all along just got to contribute, so it was good for our team.”
Along those same lines, in the past few years before you arrived the ‘wait until they get experience’ thing was kind of a common theme. Seventeen guys play Saturday. What has been the difference when you look at the ability to play young guys when you look at a few years ago and those young guys weren’t really getting a lot of reps?
“I can’t comment specifically about a couple years ago. Probably as you know, we talked about it. It’s a meritocracy in who plays. By your effort, by your talent you will be known. Positions on the depth chart when you go in the game, what the roles are, are based on that.”
The team struggled a little bit, maybe the first series and half, to run the football. What changed for you guys? It just seemed like all of sudden once Wilton completed that one third-down pass things just started clicking for the offensive line and clicking for the blockers on the outside. What was the difference?
“Uh…the third down, the fourth play of the game?”
Yeah, he connected on the pass but it seemed like as soon as that happened everything started working for the running game, too.
“Yeah, that was the fourth play of the game.”
Do you have any updates on Bryan Mone and Taco Charlton and if they’re going to be available this week?
“I don’t think either one will be available this week.”
If they’re not available, how does the defensive line need to regroup depth-wise and get ready for this game?
“I think Mo Hurst will return to action. Ryan Glasgow played very well in the football game. So did Chris Wormley. There’s talented players at that position. I don’t think that Bryan Mone and Taco will be out…it’s hard to say at this point. I don’t have an update on how long they’ll be out, but I don’t anticipate them playing this weekend.”
With that, you guys had Onwenu play a little bit of offense and a little bit of defense. With a couple guys out, do you think he’ll get more on defense at this point?
[After THE JUMP: even more injury updates, and Jim Harbaugh verbally assassinates a character assassin]
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starts at 1:00
Highly anticipated season begins with highly anticipated Harbaugh fireup beating, highly anticipated Wilton Speight bad moment, highly anticipated awful ESPN announcers, highly anticipated Hawaii is awful, highly unanticipated Shane Morris rocket, highly anticipated McDOOOOOOOM cheer, highly worthy credit given to performance by Carl Grapentine, highly unanticipated Kugler start at left guard.
starts at 23:35
Already half the way to 2015's backfield chaos stats: Don Brown is a dude. Jabrill Peppers's teleportation block avoidance system seems operable. Delano Hill as HSP is a good fit. Clark was ignored; picking on Stribling worked until it didn't. Please please baby football jeebus return our defensive linemen safety by Big Ten season.
Also special teams: Boooooooooo 55-yard-kicking kicker/punter.
Redshirt Lightning Round
starts at 44:18
Really, Sean McKeon is the one you choose to start with? The rest are either obvious or necessitated by the injury situation.
Talking Big Ten w/ Jamie Mac
starts at 52:38
Wisconsin over LSU was the most impressive early season Big Ten victory since…Michigan over Notre Dame in Bo's days? We remembered Northwestern/Stanford last year and IU/Mizzou 2014 right after we finished recording so don't @ us. Good weekend in general for Big Ten teams against good competition, except that one team that looked pretty bad against Furman.
"I'm a Werewolf, Baby" — The Tragically Hip
"The Next Movement" — The Roots
"Walking on a Dream" — Empire of the Sun
"Across 110th Street"
THE USUAL LINKS
9/3/2016 – Michigan 63, Hawaii 3 – 1-0
this elevator goes all the way up buddy [Bryan Fuller]
I wonder if Michael Jordan has an internal insincerity meter for crowd reactions he gets. It's 50/50. Jordan is the kind of transcendent athlete who could legitimately go through life thinking that 100,000 nearly random people would burst into rapture at his mere presence. But to get to that level you have to be completely unstinting in your self-evaluations. To be Michael Jordan you cannot have anything but an infinitely precise vision of yourself in your head.
Anyone who went to North Carolina and was once pictured four feet tall next to Joe Dumars on a Sports Illustrated cover cannot have many misconceptions about the general feeling of southeast Michigan towards his person. So I wonder if Michael Jordan got thrown up on the big screen at Michigan Stadium and heard what the reaction was and thought to himself "I don't know what these people are one thousand percent rabid about, but it ain't me."
Because that happened. Michigan put Michael Jordan on the big board and people went nuts and if Michael Jeffery Jordan was any part of that you'd have to get down to the third derivative, where damn near everything is in the +c. Happy to have you and all that, but if you're not down with being an emblem for a bunch of other stuff we cannot help you. Emblem you are.
Same thing with all the Jumpman stuff a few weeks ago. Part of that may be genuine excitement that a different company is making tubes with holes for your arms, but most of it is because it's a place to put your enthusiasm. It is a tangible thing you can do
I mean, the students showed up on time.
Let us consider the situation. It is noon. Michigan is playing Hawaii, a 42-point underdog. The sun is unfettered in the sky, at maximum hangover-beatdown wattage. It is Welcome Week. And despite being the same age as Will Smith's kids, the students are in their section at kickoff.
Anywhere you look you'll find evidence that Michigan fans are amped for this season, including this here blog that predicted 12-0 like an idiot and sold out of its season preview magazine. I don't think anything can top assembling nearly 30,000 students in 2016. As a reminder, this is what MSU's stadium looked like at halftime of a Big Ten game last year:
MSU fans. They gone. pic.twitter.com/X8c8Fh9e9i
— Tony Paul (@TonyPaul1984) October 3, 2015
Harbaugh's got a shot at canonization now, after The Miracle Of The Full Student Section At Noon During Welcome Week 2016.
The team did their best to keep the party going. Even Wilton Speight's interception gave the defense another three plays on which to establish that Hawaii was going nowhere, and tack on stats when Michigan got the ball back. Like when you're running punts back to the one in NCAA football so you can make your absurd numbers even more absurd.
Michigan did not punt, scored seven touchdowns on offense, and would have won this game by two scores if none of those counted. It took Hawaii 25 minutes to get a first down and about that long to scrape above zero yards of offense. Jabrill Peppers jumped over a guy for fun. The only time anyone booed was when Hawaii broke the shutout with an audacious 55-yard field goal.
There wasn't anything they could do against Hawaii that would change opinions positively; they held serve.
This allowed the crowd to continue losing their mind for flyovers and Charles Woodson and Lamarr Woodley and Jim Hackett, who got the biggest cheer of anyone they introduced because he did one thing very well. Never in the history of interim athletic directors has one been greeted so rapturously.
And even that was kind of cheering at something because it's there, not for something. The yelling in Michigan Stadium was about things yet to happen. It's on the way.
HIGHLIGHTS & SUCH
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Mike McCray led the way with 3.5 TFLs, two of them sacks, and a total of nine tackles. His impact is even a little understated by those numbers, as he also picked up a holding call on a play that still ended with the QB buried under a pile.
#2(tie) Delano Hill and Jabrill Peppers. Hill had a pick six, a nice PBU on a deep ball, and a TFL on which he displayed his trademark open-field tackling. Peppers had two TFLs, a sack, and an absurd punt return ending in a hurdle of a dude damn near standing up. I also think he was shorted a TFL on the first play of the game, as that went (very slightly) backward.
#3(tie) Chris Evans and Mason Cole. Evans cracked 100 yards on just 8 carries. Cole helped spring a big chunk of those with a lovely reach block and looked like a very good center indeed.
Honorable mention: Eddie McDooom; Ben Gedeon; Ryan Glasgow; all persons living and dead.
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii)
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Jabrill Peppers (T2, Hawaii).
0.5: Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii), Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
No I don't care that this was called back.
Any GIF requests? As always, noting the time is helpful if possible. This one's covered. pic.twitter.com/xGiOubHLJ4
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) September 4, 2016
Honorable mention: Evans bursts down the sideline; Evans bursts up the middle; various blitzes on which the only response was HALP; pick six; other pick six; Carl Grapentine pronouncing "McDoom"; Grant Perry's sinuous corner route; Michigan introducing Jim Hackett to thunderous approval as someone else plots a corporate Facebook page response.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Another Bryan Mone injury of some severity is the worst both for him and Michigan's DT depth.
Honorable mention: Wilton Speight momentarily panics everyone with a pick on his first snap; that one drive when Stribling was getting the business a bit; jerko Hawaii kicker ruins the shutout with a 55-yard FG.
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again.
[After THE JUMP: and introducing Chris Evans]