Does anyone else have the same hopeful feeling as I do that the D might be pretty damn good this season?
spoiler alert: i linked this
In honor of our annual right there -----> which I expect will get Kickstarted a third year in a row today, I thought I'd share a little sneak peak from it. Brian asked me to create these for the linebackers page:
Click to big. Right-click to open in a separate window so you can reference it as you go.
That's a side by side comparison of Michigan's prohibitive starters this year before and after the "shift" to a 4-3 over and accompanying position changes were announced. Seeing it you can start to appreciate how all of those announcements make sense.
For the lay, what you're looking at are alignments of the front seven. The "under" shifts the defensive line away from the strength of the defense and the linebackers swing the opposite way to compensate. The result is very much like a 3-4 (picture the WDE in the photo above as yellow) and plays like it. In this alignment the strong side is the left because there's a TE there. Michigan would often align this to the hash rather than the offense, shifting the DL toward the sideline.
The "over" shifts the line the opposite way, but not to such an extreme. The linebackers wind up centered over the ball, and the DL spread across the formation. There is nothing 3-4 about it except the nose tackle.
Let's run through the positions to appreciate what's changed and what will be expected of them.
Weakside Defensive End (Frank Clark/Mario Ojemudia)
Ojemudia lined up as a 7-tech in the under [Fuller]
In the Under: The WDE is the leading pass rusher. He lines up so far outside of the backside offensive tackle that he'll wind up getting a 1-on-1 battle with that guy all day. The tradeoff was being further from the point of a attack in the run game. The WDE is further from the run game but in position to drop into coverage, a thing he was tasked to do quite often as the DE-like linebacker opposite him charged into the backfield. Much of the good done by the over shift is it creates double teams elsewhere to preserve the WDE's ability to attack upfield.
In the Over: The weakside end is still outside the offensive tackle, but shaded in a "5 technique," i.e. over the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle.
If you remember your 5-techs from 4-3 under school, you'll get the difference, though unlike your Ryan Van Bergens the weakside end usually doesn't have a tight end lined up to his side (ace even, H-backs and the like do happen) so he needn't be a double-team-eating anchor. The new WDE's biggest change is he's not dropping into coverage all the time. He has to control that OT in the run game, and often he has to cover the B gap. The linebackerity of the position has been removed; this man is a defensive lineman, and not necessarily a flashy one—Michigan State's been plugging their workhorse DE Marcus Rush in this spot for four years while various SDEs make the highlight reels.
The fit: Clark showed signs of being a pretty good player by the latter half of last season and now up near 260 he is large enough to not get kicked by OTs. As a pass rusher he's only like fifth or sixth in the conference, partly because the interior DL couldn't push the pocket very often, and partly because he wasn't great at closing when he beat his guy. Ojemudia and true freshman Lawrence Marshall aren't large men in your memory, but both claim to be up to 250 now. They're all better full-time defensive ends than 3-4 OLBs.
[Jump for the rest of the DL—LBs coming up in Part II]
Strongside Defensive End (Brennan Beyer/Taco Charlton)
In the Under: This position is going through perhaps the most change, and it could be the catalyst behind the whole shift. You'll note in the lead figures above that I even changed the name of Beyer's position from "5T" to "SDE." In the under the 5-tech had to stand up to doubles, had to control the B gap or C gap or at least that OT while a tight end is trying to help. He didn't have the edge; that went to the SAM. The 5-tech was virtually interchangeable with the 3-tech, a defensive tackle.
In the Over: The SDE is now "open," meaning he doesn't have a blocker lined up outside of him. The SDE will line up over the TE or shaded to the TE's outside shoulder, where the SAM used to be in the 4-3 under. His job has changed to be more SAM-like. He has to chip the TE, has to set the edge, and has a route to the quarterback which can get him in free if the OT is focused on a blitz or interior rusher. You'll note MSU's SDEs—first Gholston, now Calhoun—have piled up gaudy highlight reels beyond their actual abilities, since the OL tend to get preoccupied with attacks coming up the middle.
The Fit: SO much better. The SDE is a SAM-like object, and Beyer has spent the bulk of his Michigan career at Michigan's at its 4-3 under LB/DE tweener spot. Beyer is long, not huge, responsible technique-wise, and can generate pass rush better than he can clog a lane. The coaches clearly like him, and this defense gives them a way to put both Beyer and Clark on the field at the same time. I'm also very excited about what Taco Charlton looks like here. Poggi, recruited as a pass rushing interior sort, arrived as more of an RVB-ian 5-tech than the DT he was pegged for; he fits here just fine for the moment.
Three-Tech (Chris Wormley/Matt Godin/Ryan Glasgow/Tom Strobel)
Glasgow will be next to the SDE now instead of Clark [Fuller]
In the Under: Hoke arrived and immediately began accumulating dudes who could grow into 3- and 5-techs. It's a cross between your standard DT and a 3-4 end. As the NT is sucking up double-teams you'd like a player here who can collapse the pocket going one on one with a guard.
In the Over: Now on the strong side of the formation, a lot of the heavy lifting that the SDE used to do has shifted to this guy. The over's 3-tech is still more of a penetrator than the nose, but he's more of a tackle now. He's also a great spot to get added value for players elsewhere, since by lining up in the strongside B gap he's got a whole lot of stuff coming his way.
The Fit: Heininger Certainty Principle don't' fail us now. Michigan has lots of possibilities here, including dipping into the DT ranks. The role hasn't changed too much. You can get by with a sound player here, and can rip things up with a good one. Wormley's added size and had a full year of training finally, but by consolidating the 3- and 5-techs into one position there's suddenly a lot of bullets.
Nose-Tech (Ondre Pipkins/Willie Henry/Maurice Hurst/Brian Mone)
In the Under: Lined up shaded over the center, responsible for taking on double teams and being a generally immovable object right in the middle of the defense.
In the Over: Other side of the center but not much else has changed.
The Fit: Stays like before. QWash's wasting disease and Pipkins's injury saw Michigan trying Ash here then rolling with Jibreel Black, which didn't go well. A lot of the improvement expected for Michigan's defense this year rests upon Pipkins's return for injury, Henry's growth, and/or what they can get out of the freshmen.
I'm outta time and have a hungry 3-month old so we'll catch up on the linebackers in another post.
Does anyone else have the same hopeful feeling as I do that the D might be pretty damn good this season?
Everyone has the same hope, and most have a feeling it'll be alright. The DL and S groups will dictate the difference between frustrating, good and great. The LBs and CBs are deep, experienced and good.
Feeling last year then the coaches played scared and timid with the calls... so hopefully Mattison let's the defense play aggressive
Indeed, though, somewhat out of necessity. We have the pieces on D and with the uncertainty about the offense we'll need them to play above their heads. Kind of like MSUs teams (esp last year), the defense has to carry the team while the offense figures it out. Some games the defense might have to win for us.
Was just thinking the same thing. There are a lot of unknowns right now but if a few things just click for us… We could have an awesome season. And we all know what a little bit of confidence does for a team. I feel like we're teetering right now....let's hope we catch a break this year.
Yes, and beyond that I think we were pretty good already before Pipkins went down. Pipkins getting hurt caused a collapse of the DL and the start of increasingly desperate personnel shuffles, which led to all sorts of other problems. The other problem was our secondary just wasn't very good last year. I think that'll be much improved this year with some of the promising FR from last year getting more experience.
not boring either
Seth, I believe the correct verbage is, "Click to embiggen."
It's a perfectly cromulent word.
Clearest and most thorough explanation I've read so far articulating the difference between 4-3 under/over. This is getting bookmarked for the season.
OK, I'll be that guy--
Well you've certainly piqued my interest
Good breakdown Seth, and good luck with the 3 month old. I feel like one thing that's nice about the 4-3 Over is that it can highlight players skills in many different ways. As a Bears fan I've seen a whole lot of the 4-3 Over and there were 2 big things that may or may not apply to Michigan. First, the DL must keep the LBs clean. The way the Bears play this defense sets up for your 3 main playmakers to be your MLB, WLB, and your 3-Tech. If you can keep the LBs clean, they make plays. Just look at what Urlacher and Briggs were able to do when the Bears had healthy DTs. A disruptive 3-Tech can also drive this defense. He gets to go 1-on-1 with a guard almost all the time. As we saw last year, if there's someone in the middle of the defense who blows up an offensive line, well, bad news for the offense.
I was reading about 4-3 Over last night and wondering how Michigan's personnel would fit. Looks like I don't have to wonder anymore.
Seth is correct on where the WDE is lining up for Michigan, but it isn't necessary that he lines up tight to the OT. For instance, many will be fairly familiar with the Lions running what is known as a "Wide 9" technique, which has the DEs wide rather than lined up near the EMOL. The idea is that they will squeeze every play from outside-to-in and get more straight line rush lanes to the QB. Downside is you don't keep your LBs at clean.
JeepinBen brings up a good point about the 3-tech. He is often singled up for two reasons: in the pass game the TE often releases, leaving the OT to deal with the DE. This can often happen against many run situations, as the OT is doubling to the second level or combo blocking to the second level. Combo will typically see him come down on the 3-tech, but in the case of a zone play run toward strength, the 3-tech will be singled up.
Seth touches on it, but it perhaps doesn't give the weight that it should, but a lot of things can come at the 3-tech do to his position vs the run game. This is why you don't tend to have inexperienced players at the position, and why inexperienced players tend to struggle.
It's optimal, but not necessary, to have a very quick burst athlete at 3-tech (due to being singled up at times), but more importantly he needs to be smart. A great 3-tech can be the catalyst of the defense, but the defense can still be quite good with a good one that does his job (see: MSU '13). That's because the 3-tech will see more blocks from more directions than any other DL. Down blocks, reach blocks, scoop blocks, trap blocks, he'll be optioned, he'll get a "wham", etc etc. Blocks come from right, left, strong, weak, and often times both. They can come from about 5 different positions. If the 3-tech isn't automatic in his keys (V of the OG's jersey, or inside leg of the OG, or inside knee of the OG, or whatever key they are taught), then they won't know quick enough their appropriate actions, steps, techniques, etc. And that is very important, because at a position that leans so heavily on technique to maintain leverage and keep players around you clean, you need to be smart.
You should see a big improvement this year as players on the DL now have some experience and should make a jump. It won't be perfect yet, but it's certainly improving. In the mean time, they can focus on simply getting the job done before looking to be great. The good news is that several of the players have the potential athletically to be great. But they first have to get the mental part down.
You're so wise, a football spirit guide, if you will.
to an excellent OP. good stuff, guys.
Recently Henry Melton was a terror from that spot. Urlacher's stats almost went directly with how good of a NT/3T combo he had in front of him. It's Lovie/Rod M's design, but the 3T really makes that defense go.
Oh man, how could i forget the best damn example: Warren Sapp. That's what you want your 3T to be.
Agree with you completely. A great 3-tech can be a catalyst, because as an offense, you have two options: keep singling him up and he takes away the strong side of the field in the run game (where more often than not you are running); or account for him and force the LBs to do that job, but do it while clean.
A great 3-tech can almost instantly change the complection of the defense. However, it isn't required for the defense to be great. It's like a high-variance, swing position. If the 3-tech is great, the defense is great. If the 3-tech is bad, the defense is bad. If the 3-tech is serviceable, the defense can be bad or good or average, but then it's up to the players around him.
It's been said that hurst has good burst- will he play 3T? I like that four deep at NT and can't help but think they will all play quite a bit this year.
is that a thing? or just a cute thing?
Me being cute. The T is for tackle.
I had heard Henry (Willie, not Poggi) was slotted at the 3-tech and would likely start. Are you putting him at the nose because you know something, or is that your guess?
Wormley said in one of the spring mgoblue videos that he, Godin, and Strobel were the 3T's
Henry is going to be your more traditional 3-tech right now, yes. He's probably a better fit against man-blocking teams as he can shoot forward and cut off pullers with direct penetration and hold up to more combo blocks on him.
Wormley is likely or potentially a better fit against zone teams. He moves a little better (and will try to move with the OG he's lined up over to maintain his gap and get penetration) and can probably do a little better purely beating guys to spots. On true passing downs, he may be a bit better suited as a pure pass rusher as well (his length, athleticism combo), though Henry can be an effective pocket pusher vs some of the quick passing game you'll see on early downs.
Combine that with Pipkins likely being slowly put back into the fold, and Henry is probably slated more for the Nose early due to numbers and need. But if Pipkins comes back healthy and the rest at the position group come along, Henry can do spot duty at both positions depending on match-ups and things.
I've always thought of Wormley as a little slow of foot. He can run sideline-to-sideline when needed, but he's not a penetrator. He does have enormous strength - effortless at times - so he can chuck blockers to the ground or to the side. I do think he'll get better push up the middle this year.
Henry is strong as well, but he does seem like more of a stay low and penetrate guy, or at least has that ability better than Wormley. I've seen him dart through the line more than I've seen Wormley. If they both take a step forward the DL will be very good this year.
At last night's Chicago Alum Assoc "Sports-o-Rama", Brady specifically mentioned Mone and his size as in having a very wide posterior and implying he was a nicely sized immovable object.
Surprised no other comments from last evening have been posted. The "Why Appy State?" question was asked as well as the "Dave Brandon are you crazy agreeing to playing in E. Lansing two years in a row and creating a crappy 2014 home schedule!". The Appy State topic threw Dave for a bit of a loop. Brady said he wants another shot to get payback in support of Dave. Told the Appy State agonizer to not watch TV of the 2007 reruns if that was so upsetting to him.
Henry right now is a nose tackle from the one guy I was asking about the DL. That's extraordinarily tentative. Willie still has technique issues and they still want to rotate two good guys at NT, and don't yet know what in what shape they'll get Pipkins back. Probably not good.
Also the NTs will play some 3T in the natural progression of Michigan's substitutions. But see the note by Space Coyote above about technique. Will Campbell was a kinda similar player to Henry and he wound up a 3T. For now though they want someone not a freshman at nose.
I slotted Wormley because he's the one dude to emerge so far from that pile so far.
Especially Beyer, that is a very good move for him for the exact reasons you said. I've said previously that I hoped Wormley would move outside to SDE, but it doesn't look like that will happen. If he's at 3T and it's as difficult as being described here, they probably won't have him playing both. And his skill set may not match this perfectly either. He will kill people in the passing game this year though, if he gets singled. Not all the time... but at times he will just chuck the OG to the side and eat the QB.
NT depth is insane there as well, albeit very young.
do you think of this scheme, our personnel and how Mich will likely match up to sparty, bucky and ND, obviously the 3 key games this upcoming season?
So am I to understand that our two best linemen in Henry and Hurst, are not starting?
What exactly leads you to believe that those two are our best linemen? Hurst Jr has yet to play a down of football in an actual game at the collegiate level and Henry was a part time situational player in '13.
My EYES.... see for yourself... Henry is the best lineman, and I thought that Hurst was one of the better ones, too...remember this post.
Could be wrong but I think Henry will "start" especially considering pip is coming off the injury, but they will platoon anyway.
Does this now mean that Ross will have more responsibilities in the passing game (covering the TE down the middle)? That was more Morgan's responsibility in the 'under', no?
That's been my biggest question since the switch was announced. No matter what the scheme or what level of football it's always seemed fairly standard to have your long / rangy LB responsible for the TE. This was very helpful but I'm really looking forward to the LB analysis.
Also curious how the coverages will change on the back end, which front 7 player(s) will come out in nickel and how much the job description of the actual nickel back will change (if at all)
Does anyone know what type defense Mattison had most of his success with in Baltimore? was it the over or under? I wonder if this was what he wanted to build for when he got here, but just did not have the horses, or is this adapting to what he has now?
He mixed in quite a bit of 3-4 (very similar to under) in Baltimore, but he has almost favored the under as his base.
He did, in the past, mix in more Over than he has the past few years while at ND and I believe in his time at Florida. But he started mixing it in last year as well.
So maybe this is just being too simple, but could this be the reason for the switch to the over?
this defense gives them a way to put both Beyer and Clark on the field at the same time
That is, the coaches feel that Beyer and Clark are two of their best playmakers, especially up front, and they want them on the field at the same time, rather than platooning.
Also, and this is likely going to be covered in the next post about linebackers, what does this mean for Jake Ryan? Will he be deployed as a terror in the middle coming on an a-gap blitz? Do we have good evidence that he'll be even better in the middle than he was outside? Oh, and he'd cover TEs and slot WRs from time to time (rather effectively). Who will do that now?
to the TE or to the field? This makes it look like its automatically to the strength of the formation, but last year they had the SAM almost always aligned to the field
This is one of your best...very informative, easy to read, and it'll help all the people who think they know what they're talking about - but don't, get on the same page as everyone else.
IMO, you all should repost this before the season because it explains everything perfectly.
Hopefully people can stop bitching about the defensive changes.
I'm very excited to see Beyer/Taco/Poggi on that SDE as well as combining all of the old DT/SDE guys into one DT and letting the best of the bunch rise to the top.
One think I wouldn't be surprised to see is Henry or Hurst playing alongside Pipkins or Mone in run situations or early downs.
If you all recall MSU with the Worthy years playing him alongside a 325 lbs mammoth in the middle to get him in situations to be disruptive, but also not be a liability in the run game.
IMO Henry can fit that role in "down and less than 5 yards to go" situations.
Thank you for this incredibly informative piece.
Your explanation helps me to realize how players are deployed most effectively and I also understand why Pete Carroll had a lot of success running an under front with USC.
FYI, My Madden07 4-3 over is an epic fail unless if shift the linebackers.