"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Last week we highlighted a couple of power plays on which Jake Ryan Brennen Beyer was out of position to disastrous effect. He screwed up the second one in a totally different way than the first one, though, so at least he's trying something new, and while Michigan got scorched by Cierre Wood I haven't run across too much that's his fault this week. [Ed: uh… because he didn't play. I have a nasty cold that is damaging my brain; bear with me. This is still a good example of where the guy on the end needs to be when power gets run at him.]
I hadn't run across a power run at him, either, until early in the fourth quarter. I wonder how he's doing?
Here's the setup. ND is in its two-TE set; Michigan undershifts their line and has Ryan over their third-stringer in the slot—by this point Mike Ragone is out with an ACL tear:
ND motions the TE in to act as an H-back so Ryan slides down to the more traditional SLB spot.
[SIDE NOTE: I really like what ND does with their TEs. This was a consistent theme: spread it wide and motion the TE in as an H-back. Provides a tough decision for a defense when you've got TEs as athletic as ND does. He's way more of a threat as a receiver than a generic fullback.]
Eifert's going to block Ryan. Presnap:
An instant post-snap:
Check that out compared to Ryan's Beyer's earlier adventures against power:
LEFT: Three yards upfield against WMU. His porridge is too hot. CENTER: At the LOS having lost outside leverage against WMU. His porridge is too cold. RIGHT: One yard upfield w/ outside leverage against ND. His porridge is just right.
He was blitzing in the first still, granted, but I wonder what his angle would be if sent on a blitz this time around.
By the time the tailback gets the handoff he's set up in a good spot. He can release outside on a bounce and string it out for the secondary. He has restricted the available space between himself and Van Bergen:
Unfortunately for Michigan, they've still got problems. Look at Hawthorne(#7) and the ND center currently releasing from Van Bergen. Demens will take the pulling G, leaving Hawthorne as the free hitter…
…unless he doesn't read the play fast enough, runs upfield, and gets blocked by the center.
By positioning himself correctly Ryan takes the bounce away and makes the rest of the defense's job easier. The porridge just right shot means the RB has to start running laterally, even bouncing upfield, if he's going to get outside the tackle. His positioning maybe a yard inside his starting position restricts the available space on the interior, making it easier for the linebackers and three-tech to shut down the hole. This is "squeezing" power.
This is a lot closer to successfully defending the power with a base defense. On the very next play Notre Dame will line up on third and two to run this again and get stuffed thanks to a run blitz that gets Van Bergen penetration and allows Hawthorne to slice through the backside of the line when the guard over him pulls:
That's an RPS play. Michigan needs to get better at defending things without RPS getting involved, because it doesn't always get involved in a good way. Here it's second and ten and Michigan gives up a chunk, but it's not nearly as open as Western's counter power schemes were.
On second down, all Hawthorne has to do is step playside of the ND center and fill that little crease and this play is a minimal gain; Michigan also might have gotten a bit better play from Van Bergen and gotten that crease closed off without help from the linebackers. It's a lot easier to diagnose what went wrong here because the answer isn't "everything."
Given what happened the rest of the game it's obvious they've got a long way to go. You can see the beginnings of improvement.
Jake Ryan is getting better. He does this again on the next play and seems in position to at least string the run out if Wood gets to bounce, which he doesn't because Hawthorne makes the play before he has to.
I've got him with a big minus on a 38-yard counter on which he is crushed inside, but on the next play—the Wood fumble—he's in even better position on an inside zone that goes nowhere. Michigan's defense obviously has a lot of problems but he wasn't the major issue on the line. Heininger, sorry to say, was.
Hawthorne can play. Needs work, but that second play is a thing of beauty. I wonder if that run blitz is specifically designed to hit that gap caused by a pulling OL or if was just a fortuitous occurrence; either way that's beautifully timed and executed. Two plays earlier he got a PBU on Eifert with beautiful coverage. He's ascended to the top of the depth chart; hopefully he secures that over the next couple weeks. That would be an Ezeh to Demens upgrade at the sorest spot on the D if it pans out.
Question: ND has 7 blockers on this play, so is it fair to call Hawthorne hitter? Wouldn't the free hitter be the safety in this case? Should the safety come down into the box when he sees the tight end motion into the backfield?
The point of that motion is to concentrate the S on the run. While majority of times it will follow the power and run the ball, with a WR like floyd you wont make up the ground lost on a 2 step move up if you try to jump the run and they playaction.. (think that the coaches up in the booth for ND we doing exactly this.. daring Mattison to call a S blitz and just air it up.. again.. to floyd)
On the fifth night—possibly the sixth—a breeze arose.
It was cool and dewy.
But there's already another safety back there to help. As Sharik noted this isn't a cover 2. And if you watch the video again you'll see that Gordon does come down when the slot goes in motion... initially Gordon's lined up just behind the 20, but by the time the ball is snapped he's come up to the 17 or 18.
But he is sitll playing pass first, hesistanting/backpedaling on the snap and only committing to the run once he saw blockers come off aggressively.
And the issue I have with the 1 safety back there isse is that if they run twin steaks or fades of a sort, theres no way our S (I assume its M Rob or Kovacs) will have the ability to get to the ball playing center field if Rees doesnt loft it.
I would much prefer a 5 yard gain occasionally because they walled off Roh by accident and hooked Hawthorne than to give up 50 on a fade.
On the fifth night—possibly the sixth—a breeze arose.
It was cool and dewy.
...essentially becomes the 4th LB, all of whom play run first, pass second. The spin-down safety is an underneath zone defender, specifically seam-to-curl-to-flat in cover 3, man on #2 strong in cover 1.
I don't think it changes anything but it was the RT who comes out to get Hawthorne on the first video, the Center gets Roh.
Either way, Hawthorne still gets eaten up and I don't think it matters who got him, unless he is supposed to be reading what the OL is doing. I don't know enough about D to know if it makes a difference.
The gashing might have had a lot to do with the whole defense freaking the fuck out over Floyd. We will not see another receiver of his caliber this season, so hopefully the improvements will not be negated again.
Big chunks came when Mattison got RPSed, MRobinson lost leverage, and Morgan tipped his blitzes. They figured it out pretty well late. On ND's last four drives where running was a possibility they got:
24, 0, 5, -4, 1
8, -2 (these two plays)
That's 3.3 YPC, and the 24 would have been about 10 if not for Robinson messing up.
I think we have to remember, MR is a SS. He was behind Kovacs until we had to put 5 DBs on the field with Wolf out. The you have to move TGord to nickle, Floyd and Avery at CB and your choices left at FS are MR and CJ. I take MR in that choice any day. I think he is learning valuable lessons that will pay dividens when he takes over for Kovacs and mainly lacks the quickness to be an above average FS. (and on some plays and average one)
A;so, as it pertains to this play, MM got singled, RVB was passed off to a TE and still didn't make a play (he was held). and we were still only better leverage by a first time player in hawthorne from stopping this <5 yards. Diffinitely a sign of improvement if you are looking at it with any optimism at all.
Let's not make it seem worse than it was. They scored 31 points, but 7 was at the very end, and most of it was because they had tons of drives with good field position when our offense couldn't move the ball. I'm not saying our defense played well, but ND has a good offense.
I agree with the Floyd point as well - needing to keep an eye on him all game makes everything else a little weaker. We won't see a guy like him again this year.
The story of ND's success in the first two-and-a-half quarters was its ability to make a check at the line. At this point, I'm not sure it is so much classic RPS as it is RPS-with-cheating. Cheating, except in football one must prevent the other guy from looking at what you're playing, and Michigan didn't do that.
Hawthorne played great, and I'm sure part of that was reading during the play. I'm guessing that he also did a better job disguising what he was doing than his predecessors.
I think "improvement" on the defense needs to be based on the last couple of years, not compared to a usual top-30 defense that UM used to trot out. That said, ND has a very good offensive unit, and so I'm not surprised they were able to make some inroads against the line.
Very interested in your takeaways from dropping Mike Martin into zone coverage.....seemed to me there were 2-3 big time Irish runs that took advantage of him vacating his space to cover people. This might set records for minus-RPS
I think defense still lacks pieces to completely counter someone like Floyd with just personnel matchups. So they need to take some risks in defensive alignment - sometime they work (the Kovacs interception) and sometimes they don't (last TD, MM dropping back). However, I am all for it because that makes the defense high variance - and you need a high variance defense to stop drives when you don't have personnel.
When you have low variance defense AND no personnel - then you get the Illinois game of last year - sustained drives after drives. This way we will give an occasional big play but we will also kill drives. Now, it is up to the offense to use those opportunities when we do manage to kill drives.
Floyd is monumentally more competent this year than last, though I know he got beat quite a bit Saturday. He was playing tough and close and made some plays. If we can get some production out of Roh/Black, see Martin return to form, and get some glimmers from BWC, this could go somewhere.
Since we're talking about Ryan, even though this isnt the play....you know what I loved? I loved the way he held his arms up in the air and howled at the moon while standing over the pile as MICH recovered the Rees fumble in the fourth quarter.
We talked about a lot during hoops season about how guys like D-Mo, HAM and even Novak were brining a swagger back to the court that Michigan hasnt seen in years.
Ryan--and even Black (who played his best game at MICH), Hawthorne and BWC--brings that same SWAG. They just need to keep it.
I realize its one of those intangibly things, but its important. There has been no confidence and swag on this D for a couple years, save for BG55. Hopefully their play continues to back it up
Agreed. The psychological ramifications of losing and being beaten down for three years can't be measured, but they surely have compounded the awfulness of the defense. Having the attitude of being an elite defense is critical. We're not elite, but we need to lead with our attitudes while the talent and technique builds back up. Hoke and Mattison have these guys believing. #thisismichiganfergodsakes
"There was a time I could have been mistaken for Burt Reynolds. I had a moustache and so did he. But he was the number one star in the world, so there wasn't really much confusion."
My favorite play from Jake. The 3rd and 1 when we were down 24-21 w/ like 3 minutes left. He blitzed and was on the running back in a split second, forcing a punt. Fantastic play that may have saved the game for us.
Winners expect to win and don't quit until they've won. It's the difference between Michael Jordan and Vince Carter.
I don't even think it's intangible. Attitude, effort, swag are all observable. And, combined with coaching that puts you in position to succeed, you get wins.
RR constantly said he wanted players to think less and react more. There was a study, I think Brian linked it years ago, that pointed out elite athletes don't think, they react based on training and if the start thinking or worrying then it reverts them to beginners learning a new rather than elites relying on muscle memory. This where confidence matters.
First, here's the embed. I'm doing this b/c it's easiest to watch the video ad nauseum and watch each guy play so you can figure out a) what he's trying to do and b) how it fits with his teammates.
Brian is correct, this is 4-3 under with either Cover 1 or Cover 3. The SS is the "spin down" guy, as you can see from Thomas Gordon coming down a run-fit position as the ball is snapped. Against the original trey formation (TE, slot, flanker to strong side, X WR weak, 1 back), the SAM (Ryan) has to displace b/c he has double width (2 WRs). Once the H motions into the backfield, Ryan can adjust to the common 9-technique.
However, it is not quite base. There is an E/T stunt on the weak side. Watch the 3-tech (Washington #76) take an initial slide-step to his outside, then get upfield outside of the OT in the C-gap, while the 5-tech (Roh #88) pops his feet then come inside of the 3-tech. Roh actually does a good job being disciplined here b/c if he tries to beat the back-block of the C, and with the WILL (Hawthorne #7) fast-flow over the top, it would open up the defense to a huge cutback run.
The Big Question: Is this squeeze or spill by Ryan? Well, it's hard to tell. Some coaches tell their D-gap player in base defense to spill the first thing that shows after their key blocks down. Other coaches say they will squeeze or spill depending on from where the block comes. If the kickout comes from their side of the formation, it is considered to happen too quickly to spill, so it's a squeeze. If the kickout comes from the backside of the formation, the player has time to recognize it and spill. In my personal opinion, I think the primary contain player that close has time to attack off the butt of a down block and spill anything but a wing kicking out. However, if it's a wing, that is the primary contain player's key, and since that key is kicking out, it's not a down block read. (Note: I personally believe that a LOS contain player can spill any kickout block; I've always coached it that way and it's always worked.)
Ryan does get his hands extended, and if it were a spill he would rip through the kickout block with his outside arm, then work upfield. However, Ryan's hips and headgear are inside. Therefore, we need to look at where the other players are fitting to help us determine. The best way to tell is where the free hitter is. In a 4-3 under with a "spin down" safety, the safety is either the cutback player or the free hitter. As you can see, there are 7 blockers for 7 defenders until the 8th man (safety) comes into the box.
It is the SAM's job to send the ball to the free hitter, so the safety's position should tell us where the ball should be sent and, thus, if it should be spill or squeeze. Gordon comes down outside, suggesting that Ryan should be spilling here. Now, Ryan could've simply had his head and hips incorrect b/c he's got his eyes in the kitchen looking for a goodie, and Gordon could've missed his assignment and spun down too far outside. After all, if the SAM were supposed to spill, the MIKE (Demens) would've been coached to play off the spill and be outside of it. OTOH, a well-coached MIKE would be taught to play off the SAM regardless of his assignment. That way, the MIKE is in the hole whether or not the SAM executes.
Make your own conclusion, but I believe the evidence points to this: Ryan was supposed to spill the ball to Gordon and used incorrect technique.
However, even so this play shouldn't have gone for more than two yards. The primary culprits for this being a 7-8 yard gain instead of a 2-yard gain are the strongside DE 5-tech (VanBergen #53) and WILL (Hawthorne #7). RVB does not do a good enough job of keeping the OT over him to veer release to the 2nd level. It's okay, but the OT still comes clean late and gets a piece of the WILL. The reason he gets a decent piece instead of little or none is b/c Hawthorne doesn't recognize the OG over him pulling across quickly enough, and makes it easier for the O-Line to wall him off. The well-played combination of the 5-tech keeping the OT at the line and a quick recognition of pull/fast-flow of the WILL keeps the damage minimal.
Possible Conclusion A: Ryan -1 (poor technique), Van Bergen -1 (poor technique), Hawthorne -1 (poor technique)
Possible Conclusion B: Gordon -2 (MA), Van Bergen -1 (poor technique), Hawthorne -1 (poor technique)