The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
[Ed: Excellent diary that helps orient everyone to the 3-3-5.]
One of the greatest difficulties Michigan faces in the Big Ten is that there are a vast array of offenses deployed. You have the Wisconsin’s and Michigan State’s of the world still running two TE with a FB and slamming down your throats, and Northwestern and Purdue on the opposite end of the spectrum. Then you have all those teams in between, the single back look from Iowa, the mixed attack of Penn State, and the offense that periodically exists in Columbus and Champaign. Because it is unfeasible to switch defenses to match offenses in college football (see move to 3-3-5 against Purdue in 2008), it is important to find a base defense that can be implemented to at least some degree of success against these different teams. >
This means two things, one, you need some versatility in your players. Two, you need to put your players in the situation that helps them the most. I’m not going to say either way that the 3-3-5 is that, I just want to give a brief overview of the defense and then make a few points at the end.
First I’ll cover some basics.
This is the numbering system I’ll be using, where the dark circle with the X is the center:
Note, that for linebackers, the numbering system adds a zero to the end. For example, if a LB is lined up off the line, but stacked above a 4-tech DE, he would be playing a 40 technique. Pictured below is the base formation.
Defensive ends (DE) are in 4-techniques, or head on with the offensive tackle. Nose tackle (NT) is on the nose of the ball. Outside Linebackers (OLB) are in a 40-tech, while the middle linebacker (MLB/Mike) is in a 10-tech. The strong safeties (SS/Spur) are three yards off the line and three yards outside of the last man on the line. Corners (CB) are 5-9 yards off the line over the wide receivers, and the free safety (FS) is deep center. While this seems like a 2-gap system for the NT, it will be typical to apply some sort of slant to make it actually more of a 1-gap system.
Next you will see a basic coverage that will be run. This is a cover-3, zone under. Notice that there are no stunts or blitzes here. This is a very vanilla defense and would only be run in obvious pass downs most likely. Red is deep zones (in this case thirds), yellow indicates flats/seems, and green is underneath zones for hooks and curls (the MLB in this case covers the “hole”).
The next look is at a very simple outside linebacker blitz. This is still a cover-3, zone under. [Ed: continued after the jump, with lots more diagrams and some simple bullets on pros and cons.]