Everyone's got their recruit they're over-excited about, but I've fallen hard for the first Don Brown potential dude, Joshua Uche. I figure I should explain why.
So we all remember this, right?
This is now run 100 different ways, with all sorts of guys to read and all sorts of places to attack. The idea is usually the same: leave an edge defender unblocked and read him off while the QB is holding the ball in the RB's breadbasket. It's "zone" because you're watching that blue circle, not the guy in it, since defenses will screw with you otherwise by having the end dive in and a linebacker appear or something. It's "read" because once you've ID'ed the unblocked defender, you watch to see if he's going to take the RB or the QB, then make him wrong.
Now that it's approaching 30 years old, defenses have had a long time to adjust to it. But like the option, or Power, or the Veer, or west coast passing route combinations, it's a good enough base play to remain a standard feature in most college offenses. That means every college team has to spend practice time learning multiple methods to stop it, and probably will as long as the sport lasts.
Don Brown's BC playbook was no exception, devoting over a tenth of the document to beating spread things. Today I'd like to introduce Brown's particular version of zone read defense, then zoom in on the vanilla zone read stopper play and what it means for the kind of player he wants at "End", i.e. the weakside defensive end. I don't want to get into all of the run fits and stuff, but since we just ran Josh Uche's recruiting profile I thought it would be cool to go over exactly what he was recruited to do.
ZONE READ STOPPERS
Every coach has his own tweaks, but strategies for defending the mesh (that handoff decision) usually follow along a few similar ideas:
1. Delay the mesh for so long that the rest of the defense can react, beat their blocks, and corral the ballcarrier.
- Pros: Doesn't use an extra defender/vanilla response.
- Cons: Hard to do, requires the rest of the defense to win blocks, extra time for play develop can also work against you.
2. Scrape exchange. Attack one or the other to force a fast decision and bring another defender (usually from somewhere he's not expected) to bring down the other guy.
- Pros: The paper to this particular rock.
- Cons: You're using two defenders, opening up scissors.
3. Blow it up. Send that unblocked guy right at the mesh point itself.
- Pros: Aggressive. Against college quarterbacks this may trigger all sorts of bad reactions. May give you a few extra opportunities to hit the quarterback.
- Cons: A good ZR team will calmly hand it off.
A lot of teams will have one they feature more than the others, depending on the abilities of their personnel and what kind of team they're facing that week. Like, if you're more worried about the QB running than throwing you may scrape them all day. If you're facing a true freshman 3rd stringer they just ripped the redshirt off of maybe blow it up. If the zone read is just a sideshow and the real threat is the RB you may go in with just the delay. If you're facing a team that uses the zone read as a big part of its offense you really ought to have all three, and different variations of them perhaps, so the offense won't know what's coming.
Of these, the delay is good ol' rock-on-rock.*
[After the JUMP: why Uche looks like he will excel at rock]
This would not go over well.
After the injury to Ryan Glasgow Michigan has struggled to stop zone running. Indiana and Penn State tore the defense to shreds on stretch or outside zone, until Penn State decided the thing that got them two huge gains in three attempts wasn't worth using again (please keep James Franklin forever kthx). I drew that up last week and found Michigan was still trying to defend runs by shooting the DL upfield and dominating one-on-one matchups up front, as opposed to soundly preventing guards from releasing onto the linebackers.
With Urban Meyer, one of a few true masters of modern running attacks, doing the planning for the Game, we knew Michigan's defensive coaches would have to pull something out of our butts to stop it. Here's what we found in our butts:
Michigan broke out a 3-3-5 defense with an "even" front. Offensive coaches have different names for fronts but the basics are:
- Under: NT on the center, shaded to strong. DT on a guard. (aka Weak, 50)
- Over: NT on the center, shaded to weak. DT on a guard. (aka Strong)
- Even: DL are lined up over guards, none over the center. (aka Split)
- Okie: Center is covered, guards are not. (aka 30)
- Bear: Center and guards all covered. (aka 46, Eagle, Double Eagle)
These can be split into "Odd" (under/over) and "Even" (Even, Okie, Bear). It is usual for just about any defense to come out in multiple fronts over the course of a game, though Bear and Okie are more rare than the other three.
Anyway that's what that means. By putting guys over the guards it makes it tougher for them to release to the next level. Michigan State used to love their even fronts back when Bullough was their best run defender, and that tells you something about the design of this defense. Tweaking your defense is about making life hard on your better players so things are easier for the rest of your players. "Even" makes life hard on the MLB, since that center is getting a free release unto him.
There's nothing 100% unsound about this defense. Depending on the offense's play, one LB is likely to get a center on him but the other is often a free hitter. If your LB eating the block is good at beating those consistently, or your free hitter is a ninja who sniffs out the play and attacks ferociously, or your unblocked guy is coached to play aggressively against an option you can defeat a basic run play regularly.
[After the JUMP, we totally can't]
"Every football team eventually arrives at a lead play: a "Number 1" play, a "bread and butter" play. It is the play that the team knows it must make go, and the one its opponents know they must stop. Continued success with it, of course, makes your Number 1 play, because from that success stems your own team's confidence." –Vince Lombardi
As we discuss coaching candidates we'll invariably get into the same old discussions on what kind of base offense said candidate might want to run. There was some discussion on the board this week and I wanted to expand that discussion into some basic "Rock" plays of various offensive schemes.
It is incorrect to identify any one play (and even more incorrect to identify a specific formation or personnel group) as a complete offense. You always need counters to keep doing the thing you do, and the counters will often borrow directly from some other offensive concept's rock. All offenses will borrow from each other so no breakdown is going to describe more than 60% of any given offense. Most zone blocking offenses throw in man-blocked things (example: inverted veer) to screw with the defense. You can run most of these out of lots of different formations. You can package counters into almost all of them (example: The Borges's Manbubble added a bubble screen to inside manball).
Really what you're describing when you talk about any offense is the thing they do so well that they can do it for 5 or 6 YPP all day long unless defenses do something unsound to stop it (like play man-to-man, or blitz guys out of coverage, etc.). Some examples of offenses and their formation needs (where a need isn't specified, figure they can use any set or formation: spread, tight, 23, ace whatever). I've given the rock plays, and left out the counters and counters to the counters because that gets into way too many variants.
Finally, the terms "pro style" and "spread" are meaningless distinctions. NFL offenses have the luxury of getting super complex: they have passing game coordinators who teach the QBs and WRs Air Raid things then run zone or power blocked things. The spread refers to formations and personnel—it doesn't say anything about whether the QB runs, if it's an option offense, or what tempo it runs at, or even what kind of blocking it uses. What I've done here is break up the offenses into "QB as Run Threat" and "QB Doesn't Have to Run" since the construction of these base plays usually stems from that. Remember, however, that QB running offenses can (and often do) still use blocking right out of Vince Lombardi's favorite play.
QB as Run Threat Offenses:
The FB dive will hit too quickly for anyone but the DE to stop; once the DE bites, the RG moves down to the second level while the QB keeps and heads outside, with the RB in a pitch relationship to defeat the unblocked defender there.
Concept: QB makes a hand-off read then a pitch read.
Makes life especially hard on: Edge defenders who have to string out plays against multiple blockers and maintain discipline.
Formation needs: Two backs.
Helpful skills: QB who can consistently make multiple reads and won't fumble, highly experienced, agile OL, backs who can both run and bock.
Mortal enemy: The Steel Curtain. Stopping the triple option is a team effort; if everybody is capable of defeating blocks, challenging ball-carriers, and swarming to the pitch man there's nowhere to attack.
Examples: Air Force, Nevada, Georgia Tech, Bo's Michigan
[Hit the jump for ZR, QB power, Air Raid, West Coast, Manball, Inside Zone, and the Power Sweep].
Shane's not Gardner enough to be worth changing the offense to take better advantage of his legs, but the offense might be? [Upchurch]
Ace: What type of offense do you want M's coach to run next year? Explain how you're factoring current personnel vs. ideal scheme when coming to your decision as well, if you could.
Brian: Whatever the coach is good at. This was the right move for Rodriguez in 2007 when there wasn't much talent no matter what you did with it. It was not in 2011 when you had a sui generis talent like Denard at your disposal. 2011 Michigan fought it at times (Notre Dame, Iowa) but for the most part shrugged and tried to adapt.
I'm not seeing a whole lot that's worth adapting to at the moment. Morris looks far away from viability, Speight's a redshirting unknown, and Malzone will be a true freshman (unless he decommits). The OL is going to be the OL still, and the main distinction between OLs is what you try to run a lot of, not whether there's a fast QB behind you or a slow one.
So, yeah, whatever your bag is, man. Obviously you can't run a spread 'n' shred with the available personnel but you've got enough mobility in the QBs to keep 'em honest Forcier-style if that is your bag, and as Mississippi State and Ohio State have demonstrated in recent years there's quite a lot of power in spread offenses that want to go that route.
And unless it's Harbaugh it's likely to be a spread guy. Broken record time: pro-style coaches attractive enough to get the job and poachable are hard to find.
[After the jump: sirens]
Let's check in with Iowa City. Hell no they ain't happy after a narrow escape against Ball State and then the missed-it-TO-made-it sequence to lose to Iowa State for the ninth time under Ferentz. The ninth time!
borrowed from a great American pic.twitter.com/9APTZQtYLZ
— PlannedSickDays (@PlannedSickDays) September 16, 2014
It's kind of like Michigan if Brady Hoke was permanently unfireable. They're probably going to be okay-ish, they are frustrated with their archaic program (and Iowa is way more archaic than Michigan except when Iowa plays Michigan), fans would probably like to move on. But, uh, not happening:
If Iowa were to fire Ferentz for convenience, the school would continue to owe him 75% of his annual guaranteed salary for the remaining years in his contract. …
Ferentz’s base salary has climbed each year since 2010, hitting $2.07 million for the current season. It stays at that level for the next five years. Ferentz also receives supplemental income in the amount of $1.48 million per year, bringing his total salary up to $3.55 million per season. That means if Ferentz were fired at the end of this year, Iowa would owe him $13.3 million, to be paid in monthly installments between now and 2020. That amounts to
roughly $2.7 million per year.
And this is a guy arguing that Iowa can totally afford to dump him. It is possible. Charlie Weis is still getting paid by Notre Dame; the Irish offered him a total of 19 million to go do anything else. (All will be forgiven if one day Weis cites Foul Ole Ron as one of his inspirations.) It's just hard to see Iowa pulling the trigger given that they've put up with all the stuff they've already put up with from Ferentz so far, including the rhabdo event and going 4-8 more than a decade into your tenure.
And then there's the question facing Michigan fans who want a change: is there anyone out there who seems like a good idea? Or is it Terry Bowden sweepstakes time again?
Alabama will just tell you stuff. Because it doesn't matter if you get the kind of stuff that laymen will understand, Alabama's just like "okay here let's talk about it," which makes for interesting articles about the Tide facing a blizzard of screens in their early games against overmatched foes and how you go about dealing with that:
"When they're throwing fast, get your hands up," defensive end Jonathan Allen said. "If they throw a screen, you have to retrace. That's what really defeats the screen is when the linemen retrace and run to the ball. That'll really take away from the screen. So our job's just beginning as soon as he throws the ball."
This is not rocket science. It is part of a respectful-seeming conversation happening about football in front of the media that the media can then go use to write interesting stories, thus increasing the overall happiness around the program slightly.
And this is Alabama, home to the notoriously prickly Nick Saban. I can't imagine how frustrating it must be to be on the Michigan beat. I can count the multitudes who have fled.
Meanwhile at Michigan. The university's notoriously expensive FOIA department strikes again:
Michigan attempted to charge CBS $410 for a FOIA request looking for data into basic 4-year scholarship #'s. More than anyone else, by far
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) September 16, 2014
The only two possibilities here are that Michigan is breaking the law or that they run the most inefficient FOIA office in the country, which implies things about the efficiency of the rest of the unduly-closeted operation. Either way this should change. If you end up talking to Schlissel ask him which possibility is the truth.
And yes more dead horse spread punt stuff but this answer is just …
Hoke asked about why he doesn't use the spread punt: "I've always been a pro style punt (coach). ... I really don't want to talk about it."
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) September 10, 2014
Okay. What would you like to talk about?
One of the ultimate people in charge of things. Spencer Hall roasts Goodell and shows why the people in charge of things are just in charge of them:
Remember now what a blank social boffin the NFL strapped to its face to begin with: a Senator's son from a safety school who quite literally never worked anywhere else but in the sports job he got directly out of college. Roger Goodell's resume is a hollow blandishment of institutional servitude. He fought in the arbitration wars; he coordinated the events. Calendars were heroically arranged.
Do not expect that having a job means anything. Every great organization will one day hire the moron who will destroy them.
People in charge of coin tosses are just in charge of them. If you missed this from Saturday, whoah:
That's Texas electing to kick after UCLA deferred, the ref explaining this, and Texas's captains going "sounds good to me!" Shockingly, Charlie Strong did not kick them off the team immediately. I would have.
Apparently this happens about once a year? I could never be a coach. I would assume that things like brushing your teeth were outside of my purview and lose games because of it.
Also in CFB oddities. So this was a trick play:
"What should I do on this play to draw attention to myself, coach?"
"Have you seen Showgirls, son?"
"No. Unless the answer is supposed to be yes. Then yes."
"Son. I'm going to need you to flop around like an electrocuted fish like when Nomi—"
"How about I just fall over?"
"I am just going to fall over."
Arkansas threw at the "tackle", who was eligible, and two different guys on Miami intercepted the same pass. Should have flopped around like an electrocuted fish.
And the oddest oddity. Boston College ran for 452 yards against USC! That is not the grand total of Eagle rushing yards in all Boston College games against USC ever! It is one game from Saturday! What?
you could see the Eagles wear down USC's discipline and will with one play in particular, applied heavily over the course of the game: the zone read with a lead arc block by a tight end.
The common way this play is run is with the QB choosing to handoff or keep the ball. If he keeps, he's attacking the edge based on a read of an unblocked defensive end, with a lead blocker for him on the edge.
BC kept USC off balance with a bunch of other stuff; it was an arc block on the zone read keep that was the killer time and again.
Etc.: Matt Hinton's weekly has landed at Grantland, and is recommended. We don't feature because no one pays attention to 34-10 MAC games. That UGA-SoCar first down is the definition of margin of error.
Guy with name as difficult to spell as Coach K bombs Coach K. I don't really know why Paul George exploding is a big deal in this context; if not playing for USA he would have been doing something else that put his leg in danger.
read option [Fuller]
I am determined this spring to mine every possible stat for every possible insight. This week I delved into quarterback rushes. Not sacks. I wanted to know which offenses tended to have their quarterbacks take off, or planned runs for them into their game plans.
Baseline: here's Michigan and their opponents last year. Sacks and yardage lost to them are not counted, but I couldn't tell from scrambles and QB sneaks, or stuff like if he took off for 10 yards on 3rd and 15 that defenses are happy to give up:
|Season Avg||vs Mich|
|Opponent||QB Rush||Yards||QB Rush||Yards|
Indiana, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Kansas State ran option games. Minnesota's offense was QB power running (thing it is like: Michigan's 2010 offense when Rodriguez gave up on trying to make Denard into a zone reader). According to the UFR database Minnesota quarterback running plays vs Michigan were as follows: 7 QB powers; 2 draws; 2 zone read keepers; a false zone arc sweep thing, a QB sneak, and 7 scrambles.
The stats can't tell the difference between this kind of offense and a dedicated Richrodigan spread 'n shred. There aren't many teams who run this as their base offense, as simple as it may be, but a lot of teams have a mobile change-of-pace quarterback and a small package built around him. Notable teams who deployed a second guy:
|Player (2014 Elig)||Team||% of Snaps||% Will Pass||Rush||Pass|
|Austin Boucher (graduated)||Miami(NTM)||51%||73%||80||211|
|Austin Gearing (So.)||35%||35%||129||70|
|Drew Kummer (Jr.)||14%||71%||22||55|
|Nate Sudfeld (Jr.)||Indiana||61%||94%||22||338|
|Tre Roberson (Jr.)||38%||62%||84||139|
|C.J. Brown (11th year Sr.)||Maryland||73%||72%||119||303|
|Caleb Rowe (Jr.)||26%||91%||14||136|
|Philip Nelson (transferred)||Minnesota||59%||72%||79||200|
|Mitch Leidner (So.)||38%||51%||89||91|
|Gary Nova (Sr.)||Rutgers||68%||93%||25||328|
|Chas Dodd (graduated)||32%||87%||21||143|
|Tommy Armstrong (So.)||Nebraska||39%||68%||63||135|
|Ron Kellogg III (graduated)||31%||90%||16||141|
|Taylor Martinez (graduated)||30%||77%||34||116|
|Trevor Siemian (Sr.)||Northwestern||63%||92%||29||315|
|Kain Colter (graduated)||36%||50%||98||99|
|Braxton Miller (Sr.)||Ohio State||72%||65%||150||276|
|Kenny Guiton (graduated)||25%||74%||39||110|
I included Rutgers to show Chas Dodd wasn't a Drew Henson-ian run threat except in comparison to Gary Nova.
[Jump: Okay spread zealots, do teams with running QBs have an advantage?]