Mike Lantry, 1972
Promised last week but Wife Day occupied the designated space.
This week's great linebacker debate is about how I'm sitting in a tree with Kenny Demens, finding reasons to posbang him that would not be reasons to posbang Ezeh or Mouton. That's not really how UFR works on defense. A three-yard run is a usually a +1 for the D, a zero-yarder +2, and a TFL +3—though it's context dependent—and I try to assign credit and blame to get to those numbers. There is wobble when the other team makes an error or there's a rock paper scissors play. If I was going to give Demens positive he didn't deserve they'd be coming off his teammates in the front seven and the only guys to suffer relative to expectations were Rotating Ineffective Nose Tackle and the Banks/Black combo.
Mouton also come in for a big minus and clucking, but I thought that was easily justified by the clips provided. If it's not here's another one. It's late in the third quarter and Iowa has third and three from the Michigan eleven. They come out in an unbalanced formation with a covered TE; Michigan responds with a 4-4:
Iowa will run off the right tackle. At the snap Kovacs blitzes. Banks, the DE to the bottom of the screen, takes on a double team from Iowa's LG and RG; Renaldo Sagesse is getting single blocked by the center:
A moment later Banks and Patterson have both gotten in bad situations. Sagesse is a yard downfield and sealed to the inside. Banks has managed to stick at the LOS but he's about to be effectively comboed and sealed to the inside:
Kovacs gets picked off by the fullback. Roh's gotten a cut on the backside but Gordon is flowing behind him; RVB has gotten down the line to cut off a hole; Sagesse is getting buried by a double downfield. Mouton has set up on the Iowa RT as Banks just kind of sits there at the LOS:
Here's an endzone angle of the last moment:
That's a lot of grass to Mouton's right there. I wonder what he's going to do about that:
Dios ffuuuu, man. This will be clearer on the video but this was not some crazy block by the right tackle here—Mouton fought inside of the guy, sealing himself. The sad thing is that Kenny Demens has cleared the trash from the Sagesse double and is showing up in the hole:
If Mouton is outside the guy he's almost certain to tackle short of the first down…
…but he's not:
Another third-down touchdown from the ten given up by a combo of players but especially one in particular; another four points on the board because of a basic mental error from a Michigan defender. This one is ten times more frustrating than Courtney Avery's because Mouton is a fifth year senior who's been doing this his entire career, including earlier this year against UMass on another egregious play that was picture-paged.
- Either Mouton has suffered the worst kind of coaching malpractice during his career or he's just not all there. Or both, I guess. He should not be making this mistake. He has made this kind of mistake dozens of times. Maybe there's something in the scheme that makes it confusing as to when he's supposed to be the contain guy, but I don't think so. WLBs should know this as part of their DNA. There's a theory floating around that Mouton has gotten used to playing next to Ezeh and now assumes he has to do everything himself and may get all clueful now that he's playing with a linebacker that usually shows up in the right spot at the right time, but I don't think so. It doesn't matter who you're playing next to since hopping inside that tackle is guaranteed doom.
- The defensive line didn't do the linebackers any favors… Other than some sporadic help from RVB and Roh this was par for the course. Here the NT is Sagesse instead of Patterson but the end result is similar to what happened all day: effective combo on Banks gets him passively single-blocked and gives Mouton a tackle to deal with. Combo on whoever the NT is crumples and/or seals the guy.
- …but could this actually be something resembling okay from Sagesse? It's not good by any stretch of the imagination but the reason Demens is flowing into the gap unblocked is because the C could not pop off of Sagesse after shoving him downfield. That mess falls in a heap, meaning that the nose has taken out two blockers. I didn't plus the guy because I thought it was more luck than anything and ending a play on your knees two yards downfield doesn't seem like a strategy sustainable in the long term. I didn't minus him either because he kinda sorta just managed to do his job.
- More good Demens play. He doesn't get blocked but because Sagesse is blown off the LOS this isn't the world's easiest scrape. He makes it and should have an opportunity to tackle if everyone else does their job. It's impossible to say whether or not Ezeh would have made the same scrape, but we've seen enough of him to know that he doesn't do it consistently. He might be standing right where he was at the snap, or he might not have the agility and recognition Demens does to get around the garbage. (FTR, Demens did not get a plus here; Mouton was –2, Banks –1.)
We don't know whether or not Demens does execute this consistently, or whether his run-fill gusto is exploitable with misdirection or play action. His Iowa game was promising, though. I'm sure he'll have some wobbly games during the second half—Iowa was not one. I repeat my stat of wonder and alarm: when Demens was on the field runs that did not pop outside contain because of mistakes by Mouton, Black, and Banks averaged under 2.5 YPC. This happened essentially without Mike Martin. Whatever problems existed with the run D had nothing to do with him.
Mouton, meanwhile, is incredibly frustrating. This year he's turned "big positive, bigger negative" into "big negative, bigger positive" but I'm not going to spend 2011 pining for him. Michigan can't and shouldn't pull him since he makes a lot of good plays; I don't think Michigan's run defense is going to suffer greatly without him.