needs moar usage
Michigan Museday is Just Big Boned, Part II
This is the continuation of last week's glance at the defensive line prospects from the perspective of body size against M linemen of yore at the same age. The point was to try to project what a certain body size and shape becomes and use that to relate the huge DL crop of 2012 to players we're maybe more familiar with.
This came about when I figured tried sorting the BMI (metric weight divided by height squared) of past players and found similar guys of memory ended up beside each other. Again, BMI is really for assessing whether normal people who are not 18-year-old athletes are overweight; do not interpret the numbers as any measure of how "in shape" any of these guys are.
Last week I did the nose tackles. Moving up the line is the DT, or the 3-tech. A quick technique refresher:
Mentally shift the "1" in a 4-3 under to shaded over the center. In Mattison's defense the 3-tech is the guy lined up in the "3" spot on the line, shaded on the outside shoulder of a guard. He's the "4-3 Pass Rush Tackle," and this defense is designed to let him be more of an attacker than a "plugger." Pursuant to our discussion, greater heights that create leverage problems at the nose are not so much of a problem at 3-tech, which makes this guy more of a 3-4 DE than your traditional over-the-guard tackle. And lo the heights climb—a good 2 inches more than NT among Michigan's DTs.
I thought about sprinkling in the SDEs since there's considerable overlap. Mentally start 5-techs around Willie Henry (B.Graham is above that). I'm leaving in the current players nominally slated for DT.
|3T/5T||Ryan Van Bergen||2007||6'5||260||30.8||34.1||9.7%|
You can see there's a lot of overlap, but in general the big dudes end up inside and the leaner guys are out. Latest recruit Willie Henry is right with Kenny Wilkins as kind of tweeners between NT and DT, comparable to Will Johnson, who maintained his weight (though it was much Barwicized), and Larry Harrison, who added a lot of it and played beside like-massed Watson in a more even front.
So long as Michigan runs a 4-3 under you need to stop looking at a 265-pound freshman "DT" and imagine him lifting his way to 300. The talk of "frame" and "carrying more weight" could matter if you're expecting Henry to be a breather for Pipkins (he might be) but not if he's a 3-tech.
After a drop-off you get to the RS freshmen Rock and Heitzman, and incoming Wormley and Godin. This is the Ryan Van Bergen/Norman Heuer*/Grant Bowman region which slowly drifts down a list of tweener 3- and 5-techs like Biggs, Zenkewicz, Banks, and Feazell, then Normal Heuer.*
Those guys were a little smaller than seems optional at the position, but they're also both quintessential Hoke DTs; if Wormley becomes RVB2 and Godin is Bowman, that would be win. Quinton Washington was a larger freshman than any of these guys, much larger than even Alan Branch or 22-year-old freshman Renaldo Sagesse. Q has dropped his BMI by 7.6% to reach a playing shape still large for 3-Tech but not as big as Branch (who was 6'6) played. A freakmonster like Branch or (pro comparison) Shaun Rogers/Tommy Kelly can do well here by bull-rushing hapless guards on a direct route to emptying a QB's alveoli…
(after the jump, you know what's coming)
…but if you size that guy down a bit the ideal here is Warren Sapp or Ndamukong Suh—someone who is unblockable by a guard and can wrack up a lot of sacks. If you've got height here without the strength to beat defenders, you have Pat Massey. Here's Pat Massey playing a DT in that smash 2005 hit, "Now Appearing Beside Gabe Watson:"
The primary issue with Michigan's run defense in '05 was that Watson would drive his guy yards into the backfield, forcing the tailback to cut upfield into the gaping hole left because Pat Massey was 6'8" and therefore getting crushed backwards as far as the guy futilely attempting to contain Watson.
Never finding a spot that Pat could succeed is inexplicably high on my list of things that still irk me about the Carr era. My list is far stranger than yours, and has Roy Manning on it.
* Yes trivia team, I remembered his name change to count his frosh stats.
Rumishek, Graham, RVB
The overlap with the 5-techs, or strong-side defensive end, or SDE or LDE or whatever isn't by accident. A lot of the dudes at the end of the middle range are your proverbial guys listed on the roster as "DL," case example, RVB-of-the-late-'90s Juaquin Feazell (shout-out!). Mattison speaks often of the need to be able to plug guys into either position. Why is this? For your answer think back to 4-3 Under alignment…
…and then think what happens when the offense shifts the strong side of the formation. Remember earlier last year when this would happen and the defensive line would go into full-on fire drill to get RVB, Heininger and Roh/Black/whoever to match it? That is sub-optimal. What you'd rather be able to do is shift everyone down. The nose is still the nose, but the 5-tech is now lined up in the 'B' gap; he's now the DT.
This will be relevant again when we get to the weakside ends. This doesn't make your 3-techs and 5-techs interchangeable, but it does mean the net effect of switching roles down the line can't be worse for the defense than the net effect on the offense of overloading the short side of the field or covering a guy. When it was freshman Roh instead of Graham facing a double-team, shifting the strongside was an effective strategy.
Tackle/Tight-End double-teams are part of life for the SDE position, and that may be why the position seems to favor larger guys.
|3T/5T||Ryan Van Bergen||2007||6'5||260||30.8||34.1||9.7%|
|5T||Jeremy Van Alstyne||2002||6'4||224||27.3||32.4||15.8%|
The bottom group of dudes as freshmen were walk-ons, Van Alstyne, and Sarantos the Younger. Strobel is safely past this group (and larger by 2 inches and 20 pounds). He's more like a Patrick Kratus, Jake Frysinger or Dan Rumishek, taller guys who were "solid," prototypical SDEs. Here all of a sudden height seems to become somewhat of an advantage. Pro Football Focus on why that is:
He has to be able to stack tall offensive tackles and shed blocks to make the stop in either of his gaps. Nose tackles rely largely on their mass to control blockers and gaps, but defensive ends from the 5-technique have to be able to handle offensive tackles, who have grown into man mountains over the past decades. This is why part of the scouting profile for these players isn’t just size, but ‘length’ (height and arm length combined).
The middle group is Rumishek, Kratus, Feazell, Zenkewicz, and Biggs, all dudes you might call "solid." The big 5-techs were Brandon Graham, who by BMI would be in the upper quarter of the 3-techs or middle of the nose tackles as a freshman, and some old school guys.
All of Michigan's freshmen this year will be built larger than the typical SDE. But none should really be expected to produce right away. Look at the gains in this chart; only Brandon Graham (who ballooned in '07 before Barwicizing into the best defensive player at Michigan since Woodson) and Zenk had a listed playing weight anywhere near their freshman size. They're all close, but all small for starters.
Roh in high school, Woodley, Steele
The Rush DE or WDE, DLE, RE, 7-technique, or weakside defensive end is the dedicated edge rusher, but it's easy to get carried away with that distinction; on most running plays he has to do very DE things like take on blocks, maintain leverage, and get off blocks to tackle. This is not a linebacker with his hand in the dirt; he is often a power rusher. In fact the great ones like Woodley at Michigan, and Ray Edwards and Terrell Suggs in the pros are excellent at getting low and driving the pocket to collapse from the side. However there decided 3-4iness of a 4-3 under means the rush DE has some 3-4 OLB roles, including dropping into coverage more often than other DL.
The 4-3 under has some flexibility with the WDE, who can line up as a 7-technique (just outside the OT) or "wide 9" just outside the TE (but can it can go to 11?), since the 3-tech should have the OG occupied. Doing so gives the other team's best tackle an easier time of run blocking, but also lets the WDE Dwight Freeney his way into the backfield immediately against the pass.
The point is to keep him away from double teams, though he has to be able to handle them or else the alignment thing. Whether one-on-one with the left tackle or shooting the tackle/tight end gap, your WDE is probably going to live and die with his athleticism as much or more than his build.
Woodley and Jibreel Black are not much smaller than Brandon Graham; Black may be headed to SDE as soon as this year. James Hall was similar to Woodley, a linebacker in high school who gained a few pounds and became a terror off the edge with a long NFL career. Glen Steele, who was often opposite Hall, was more like an SDE, and moved in- or outside based on the situation. Michigan has had few like him since, but lots of littler guys who get low and try to go around tackles.
Again, the bigger the more successful. Clark played this year at a BMI inseparable from a group of (freshman versions of) Craig Roh, Shantee Orr, Glen Steele, and James Hall. But at 228 lbs. he's smaller even than Roh was. The SAM-like rush ends, Tim Jamison, Larry Stevens, and Alain Kashama all had height and played around Roh's weight—Craig seems to be more Stevens, who had a decent power move, than Jamison or Kashama who relied more on speed. Little Shantee Orr* was effective after bulking up from about Clark's size. I have to go back and watch how he and Rumishek made it work (first two Youtubes were Clockgate and that blocked FG that went right to Washington's fast guy /Youtube) but I believe Frysinger and Stevens rotated in a ton.
Anyway everybody smaller than 250 gained weight until they got there, then got into the rotation, unless they were played before then. Clark is on that same trajectory.
Then I come to Ojemudia. He's a good BMI point behind Kashama as a freshman, and the closest comparable I can find to him that had any success at DE is Heininger. Ojemudia's closest comparisons by BMI are Pierre Woods, Brandon Herron, and Shawn Crable, all skinny dudes who were projected as small DEs and ended up at outside linebacker. I realize he played some DT for Farmington Hills; I still expect he would redshirt. It's conceivable that Brennan Beyer may move down here as well but unlike the interior spots the luxury of a returning starter and two returning backups with experience means don't worry about this spot now.
* That 6'1 is a lie. I'm kindly 6'0 and c. 2001 he was a little bit shorter than me, unless the line for Wendy's in the basement of the Union sloped downward.