I'm feeling quite a bit better about Michigan's DL performance now that I'm actually going over the tape. They're not doing much more than it seems like they did live, but since no actual NT types are getting much time and a lot of the problems rest squarely on the shoulders of things like "let's see if Mario Ojemudia is a 3-4 DE" and "let's see if Frank Clark is a three-tech." They turn out not to be.
Hopefully we can file this under experimentation and things won't be so bad when the big boys are actually in there. If Michigan goes long stretches without Washington, Campbell, or Pipkins on the field against Notre Dame I'll be surprised. And possibly catatonic.
Not everything can be waved away by calling it mad experimentation, unfortunately. Michigan's linebackers, be they beardy veterans or baby-fresh newcomers, are not making plays. One particular example leapt out because I'd just seen the UMass LB read Michigan's sprint counter, shoot past a blocker, and fill.
Thing I'm talking about == watch Mealer and the MLB
UMass gave up seven yards because all their guys ended up downfield but that's not on the LB.
On UMass's next drive they'd run a play that's very close to that sprint counter. It's just the plain ol' counter, but it's got a pulling tackle that leaves for the wide side of the field on the snap, a linebacker who could be but must not be looking at that, and positive yardage for a team that has struggled to find any.
Late first quarter, second and ten, UMass comes out with trips and a TE to the boundary (short side). Michigan is in the nickel look they spent almost the whole day in. Your DTs are Brink and Black; your ILBs are Bolden and Ross. Ryan is the DE who gets run at.
The tackle at the top of the field pulls.
My great and powerful desire in the above frame is for a Michigan linebacker to read that pull, bug out for the frontside, and hit whatever hole the tackle shows up in. I've been thinking of Notre Dame's linebackers this week since Notre Dame is the next team on the schedule, and they do this. If you zone your line one direction or pull a guy, they're gone. They go so hard it seems they leave themselves open to misdirection and counters, but that seems preferable to the steady drip drip of not getting off blocks.
Ross doesn't do this. He's moving, but the wrong way. Everyone else has taken two steps here; he's gone a half yard and drifted slightly to what would be the playside if this was the standard inside zone. Bolden, by contrast, sees what's going on and gets on his horse.
A moment later, Ross is kaput, Bolden is moving at the LOS, and there's a pretty big hole because Black is not a nose tackle.
Bolden makes contact at the LOS. This is a good place to make contact, but the thing that bugs me here is something I can't show you in a still.
Here's a still anyway. Bolden's got to the LOS and he's got this tackle and he forms up. Okay. But even if Ross is here, the RB is going outside of Bolden. All he does is make the gap somewhat small. He has not MADE PLAYS.
As I watched this I started getting frustrated with Bolden's approach. This is a technique thing and I may be wrong, but don't you want this contact to be less dainty?
I want some BOOM at the end of that approach. Bolden just kind of catches the guy, which has two negative impacts. One: he does not go BOOM. If Bolden really whacks this guy he has a good shot at giving Cox no crease, or at least forcing him to slow down and pick another one. Two: he cannot make a tackle because he hasn't hit him hard enough to set up outside. No tackle, no funnel, no point. His ability to impact the OL at the LOS is essentially irrelevant because he didn't turn it into the Situation BOOM [tm shutdown fullback].
Like, I want to insert a little fireball when Bolden makes contact here. Instead, crumpets. There is some amount of control that must be deployed to prevent you from not impacting the play. Here the control makes you… not impact the play.
Anyway. Cox bursts through the hole…
…and is hewed down after six yards.
Things and Stuff
Once you've committed to the run you should COMMIT TO THE RUN. Whenever you're hitting a blocker in the backfield you get a check-plus for your read. But because Bolden just impacts the guy softly, he does not force Cox into a new hole. He doesn't even get the diving arm-tackle attempt Ryan puts in, and Ryan has contain responsibility.
Bolden needs a little Ross in him on this play. Not the Ross on this play. The Ross on other plays. The ones where he meets a guy at the LOS and that guy ends up on his back, antennae flailing in the air.
I don't get what Michigan's reading. You can't chalk this up to Ross being a freshman since he's a freshman who seems in the process of displacing Kenny Demens and Michigan linebackers have been frustrating like this for a year-plus now. Are they supposed to be looking in the backfield? Are they making Mattison chew his lip in frustration? Does Michigan require their DL to fill a bunch of these holes and want to use LBs as a cleanup crew?
I don't know. I hear Alabama LBs talk about what they see before a play even starts…
…and I'm like whoah. It doesn't seem like Michigan's getting much of that.
Big dang hole here. Black gets put away, but I'm not sure that's a problem with him. He doesn't know a tackle pulled. He sees the guy in front of him start inside zone blocking. He wants to get in his gap. He does. This goes back to the questions about Michigan's line slants against Alabama. If the DL controls his gap and you've got the extra guy who knows where the line is going, you should have a free hitter somewhere. Michigan has not gotten that much this year.
Ryan: active. Here he almost makes a great play by coming upfield of his guy and making a tackle attempt without giving up the outside. He did this late enough that his attempt did not open the hole any wider. He's a quality player.
Nice fill from Gordon. This is only six yards despite a tailback running untouched through the LOS because he comes down well and tackles in space.
I was rewatching the game last night since MNF was a blowout (before it wasn't a blowout again) and noticed the same thing pretty consistently with lots of guys on our team. They just kinda stalemate against the blocker and watch as the ball carrier runs right by them without so much as sticking an arm out. There was some of this vs AF too (particularly JT Floyd). One of the Countdown to Kickoffs had extensive practice film of guys practicing block shedding and tackling and they looked good but it doesn't seem to be translating to gametime.
Michigan is in man-free with 3 WR and a safety deep. This makes it 8-on-7 in the box for the UMass run game.
Bolden is responsible for B gap in front of him and he has an open window with a QB/RB mesh. He should know that either the QB or RB will run to this hole. Window open = hit it now (James Ross gangham style).
Furthermore, he spills the tackle instead of squeezing it. Michigan is in man-free, not zone. If M were in zone, the nickel (Avery) would apex the EMLOS and #3 a little more, and Bolden would spill the tackle to send the ball outside to the free hitter (Avery). Since M is in man-free, primary force is Ryan (you can tell by his wide alignment), and since Avery is man on #3, Bolden must squeeze the tackle and send the ball back to the pursuit. Ross isn't free b/c he has the center cutting him off right now. If the 1-tech was shading the center, the guard would be cutting him off. Kovacs is really the free hitter, but he's so far behind the play and in the traffic, he has little chance.
The best chance we have to stop this play is if Bolden sees it and attacks it so quickly that he squeezes the pulling tackle behind the LOS and clogs up running lanes, causing Cox to cut sharply in the backfield and giving the rest of the interior defense time to get off blocks and get to the ball.
Bottom line, it's 8-on-7. RPS -1. Tip your cap, the other guys get paid, too.
Mario Ojemudia not a 3-4 DE you say? I know exactly which play you're talking about. It's the one where a true freshman at 230 lbs lines up, well, as a 3-4 DE and then proceds to get crushed by their RS JR 6'7" 300+ lb starting RT. And then Cox takes a nice stroll to an 8 yard gain with MO on his butt.
Maybe Bolden's 'crumpet's' fill is an artifact of the switch from HS to college? I would think he's used to it after going through spring practice as well, but reversions always happen in pressure/game situations. Basically, I'm assuming Bolden is not used have the above 6'7" OT coming at him while he's filling a hole, followed by a large RB with good speed. Maybe he's used to taking on an HS OT that he can control at arm's length, and almost 'two-gap' him and make a tackle on a much less dynamic RB who won't hit the hole as quickly. At least I hope this is it, and not a sign of future 'crumpets' in years to come. I have noticed that Bolden does come hard on his blitzes, something Demens doesn't seem to do so much.
Looks like Ross is taking the correct the steps based off of the Guard in front of him and RB action his way. When the game "slows" down for him i.e. more experience, he won't flow so hard with the action he is seeing causing him to be out of position.
Bolden makes the correct read as well. Ideally he needs to meet the pulling TACKLE before he has a chance to square his shoulders to the line of scrimmage. When he can't meet the lineman before he squares up Bolden should have taken on the block on the outside shoulder forcing the RB inside to where the help (Ross) should be.
The good behind this is: the LB's are reading and reacting to their reads and the mistakes that are made on this play are easily corrected.
As cps said above, this is more RPS +1. It would certainly be nice if Bolden was more physical, but he's a true freshman who's probably not going to be able to manhandle a collegiate lineman. Some coaches teach their linebackers to put their hands in the chest of the lineman and stuff up the hole. Some teach their linebackers to take it on with the inside shoulder. Either way, Bolden should have been more physical, but maybe he's just not there yet. I don't see this as a long-term concern; he just looked a bit hesitant like a true freshman normally is.
Had he attacked the outside shoulder of the tackle Cox would have been forced to cut it in and likely gotten nothing. I know there are differing opinions on how a LB should attack an OL coming to block them (I played on two different coaching staffs with two different opinions on the matter), but I personally don't like LBs to take a block from an OL head on; hit his inside or outside shoulder and rip through/around the block. With that said, I am happy that Bolden was in the right place, agressiveness will come with confidence and experience.
An old Lloydism is "leverage the football." What this means is attacking the outside of the blockers (the pulling tackle's left shoulder in this case). Get your face across/get to the outside of him.
this forces the ball carrier to break inside toward the middle of the field where the majoriety of your defense is. a back filling LBer (like Ross should have been here). the rest of the DL. The safties take an easier/shallower angle.
First of all thanks for putting a GIF in. It makes it really easy to see what you are talking about. Especially for those of us that look at mgoblog at work and have video blocked.
Secondly, Bolden was in a really rough situation on that Cox rush. It almost seem like he had a case of "paralysis on analysis". He was certainly trying to get off the block but had no clue which gap Cox was taking.
"Wasn't that Michigan drive just great. That's like Patton riding into Berlin." ~Bob Ufer
This is true, but he should know where his help will be thus where he needs to force Cox to go. Often it is better to impact where the RB goes at the expense of making the tackle yourself versus trying to make a play all by yourself in a difficult situation.
The more I watch this play the more I am concerned with the d-line takeoff from their stances. It is true that Bolden needs to get to the B-gap in front of him and fill with more authority but that is only part of the story. There is no one to fill the A-gap. The one technique needs to either spin back and show up in the hole or hold their ground and not get washed which widens the hole for the RB. Also looking at the takeoff or first step of the d-line, was concerning. They are all very straight up and not taking very good steps. Having experience in both a read-and-react d-line and an attacking style d-line, the first step dictates who has the advantage in the trenches. The d-line either needs to be aggressive and get into their run fits faster or control the man in front of them better with their hands. The steps that I see (especially in the third picture with the question mark) the line is too high, not using their hands, and not stepping straight but looping their steps. This type of steps will result in much bigger holes and worse huge cutback lanes against a better team.
This is why Des Morgan has been starting. Say what you will about his athletic ability, but dude destroys fullbacks at the LOS consistently. It seems like Ross and Bolden have that in them, along with superior athletic ability. I'm really hoping they can both develop quickly.