The 2006 defense was fierce and hopefully the 3-3-5 will be too. Go Blue!
Stack To The Future
Earlier in the year I took a cue from Michigan's odd announcement of Adam Braithwaite as an OLB/safeties coach to theorize that Michigan was adopting something half 3-3-5 stack, half 4-3. You can put whatever label you want on it, but it's apparently similar to what Virginia Tech runs. After yesterday's press conference, though, the prevailing opinion is that Michigan's defense is going to be half 3-3-5, half 3-3-5. This, for the Ohio State fans stopping by, is 100% 3-3-5.
Wha? Aigh! Justin Siller! No—
Evidence for the switch is plentiful. In this episode of "Inside Michigan Football," Troy Woolfolk talks about "the new defense":
In yesterday's press conference the players all made references to the 3-3-5. The usual array of practice reports coming from shadowy trenchcoated internet folk all say that not only is Michigan running the 3-3-5 in practice, that's all they're running. This is no longer in the realm of rumor.
Is it in the realm of sense? I don't know. The major reasons I and other tea leaf readers were banking on an aggressive 4-2-5 were threefold: it's basically what Michigan was trying to run most of last year, available bodies on the defensive line point towards an undershifted four-man front, and Michigan's latest recruiting class features a zillion guys who were told they would be "quick" ends a la Roh.
The 3-3-5 as a base set obliterates the quick. Michigan cobbles theirs together by dropping Roh back to one of the outside linebacker spots. The defensive end spot not occupied by Ryan Van Bergen is now going to be a Banks/Patterson platoon or a 294-pound Mike Martin. Since 3-3-5 defensive ends are not lumbering quasi-DTs like 3-4 defensive ends (more about this later), Martin seems like a questionable fit at end; the alternative is platooning Martin and Campbell, two of the most physically dominant players on the team.
The Unresolved Questions
Is this an alternate look or a base set? If it's a base set, how often will they deploy a four-man front?
Early indications are that Michigan will use it as a base set. One theory out there is that Michigan is running the 3-3-5 to the exclusion of other defenses because Mike Martin is out for spring. I don't think that makes sense. A team that spends all its time learning one set of responsibilities because one player is out for spring practice only to switch to a considerably different set in fall is a team that is going to get its coach fired at the end of the year. Teams don't devote the entirety of spring practice to a "new defense" that is then a changeup when the season comes.
Michigan used the 3-3-5 from time to time last year, most prominently in the Ohio State game when it was an effective base set that shut down Ohio State's I-formation running:
This is actually more of a 5-3 since the DEs are lined up over the guards and the box safeties are rolled up tight to the line of scrimmage, FWIW, but that's a matter of alignment against a run-heavy team. Note that Roh is an outside linebacker here.
This forced OSU into some bunch formations that forced Michigan out of the stack; OSU also attacked it by running single-back formations that are inherently strong against single deep safety defenses because of old-timey football wonk stuff. Buckeye Football Analysis has a deeper analysis if you're in the mood.
When OSU went unbalanced, Michigan responded by putting Roh's hand down and going back to their usual undershifted four-man line. For Michigan the personnel will be exactly the same, allowing them to shift between fronts at will. So if the 3-3-5 isn't working in a particular game or just turns out to be a bad idea, they aren't totally screwed.
They would be at least partially screwed, however, since they're piling more and more on the plates of linebackers who spent a lot of time last year wondering what to do (or decisively doing the wrong thing). The way West Virginia ran a 3-3-5 allows linebackers to be blitzing players who have to do a minimal amount of reading, but if it doesn't work then all that time will be time that could have spent fixing what ails Ezeh and Mouton in a 4-2-5.
I'm not thrilled that Michigan seems to be changing its defense again, especially since I've been pitching defensive coordinator continuity as a major reason Michigan's defense will improve in 2010, but given what they ran most of last year the only players who will be making major changes are the linebackers. In the West Virginia version of the 3-3-5, defensive ends are basically the same as they are in a 4-3. The nose tackle is more of a two-gap player if you can make him one, but that's not something that requires a lot of reading. So… yeah. Maybe it will work.
I'm not thrilled there changing again but if they play like they did against OSU then we should be in every game!
I mean, what are the personnel differences between a 3-3-5 and a 4-2-5?
The 6 up front will be (barring injury, bad play...):
Martin, Campbell, RVB, Roh, Ezeh, Mouton
Is that correct? Roh is the guy who will play more of a true LB position in the 3-3-5, and more of a hybrid DE/LB in a 4-2-5.
The back half (the 5 DBs) would be the same regardless of 3-3-5 or 4-2-5, correct?
I got out of it. Roh on 2 feet...3-3-5. Roh with a hand down...4-2-5. I think these tweener guys that we are bringing in are needed for the positions currently filled by Roh, Williams and Kovacs. I know that Brian thinks that Martin isn't a typical 3-3-5 DE but I still think that our Dline is going to be Martin, Campbell and RVB.
I think Brian's point was that in the 3-3-5 Martin would be a bit too large to be an effective DE. His size is more suited to playing in the middle. In the 4-2-5 Martin would be playing next to Campbell at one DT position. In the 3-3-5, if Martin were to play on the outside, he would be expected to play more of the DE role where his size could be a disadvantage.
In other words, Brian's thought was that Martin and Campbell would be rotating at the DT position rather than have your two biggest monsters on the field at the same time.
Martin is quick enough to play a DE in the 3-3-5. As others have mentioned, Roh is the key to giving the D the flexibility to play both the 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 which will help the team adapt to down-and-distance and the opposing team's Offense. I think this move allows the D to have multiple looks and "keep it simple" at the same time.
I don't care how many talented true or redshirt freshmen we have coming in, we lost our best (only?) corner and the best DE in the country. That is usually not a good recipe for improvement.
The quality of a defense (or offense, for that matter) is not based solely on how good the guys were that we lost. BG was very, very good. Warren was a good CB, but was never really a game changer for us, and Stevie Brown was a solid player at his position, but nothing more. To begin, we return 8 of 11 starters, and everyone one of our depth guys. People focus only on the starters, but we didn't lose any back-ups on that side of the ball.
Also, take a look at the ages of the guys returning. Football players improve most when they're young and less and less so as they get older (i.e. a kid improves more from year Fr. to Soph. than from Jr. to Sr.). We had a disproportionately high number of underclassmen starters and contributors last year, and we can expect that they grow and improve more than your average returning starter. Some guys that come to mind are Roh, WC, Kovacs, and to a lesser extent MM, RVB and Mike Williams.
Add in the fact that we replaced our weakest position coach, and even though the defense is being tweaked, we are in our second year of a DC for the first time in a while.
All these factors (combined with the likelihood of our O holding onto the ball better and giving our D a little more rest) point, IMO, to a better defense than in 2009. Losing your best player doesn't mean the unit as a whole gets worse.
The year after Peyton Manning graduated, Tennessee won the national championship.
I agree 100% with this.
Can you unpack "standard vanilla defense" for me?
While I am not thrilled with this formation, and my confidence has been somewhat shaken, I think that we still have to assume that GERG and RR know at least something more about this team than we do. These guys have had long enough careers that it is foolish to say that they know nothing about the game of football. If they are going this route, there is probably a reason behind it, and the reason is probably something other than that a magical unicorn told them to do it.
I am not saying that this will work and that our defense will dominate all comers - I think that the talent / experience level will prevent that regardless of what scheme we run - but I am willing to accept that the coaches know more than me and that there is probably a good reason for this decision.
I think that we still have to assume that GERG and RR know at least something more about this team than we do.
Does anyone know if G-Rob went to VT to learn about what they do or have his D's been along these lines before? I would guess that he's coaching/teaching something he's quite familiar with and not just doing what RR wants. He didn't need to take the DC job but wanted to and I would be hard-pressed to see a former HC and successful DC at the college and pro level coming and teaching something he's not too familiar with. Any insight is appreciated.
to have a very good idea of what he's trying to do. football just keeps on recycling itself anyway. old is new, etc.
good Q's, we should ask the HC ASAP if G-Rob got down on the QT with VT's HC or DC. OMG WTF LOL, etc.
thanks, that was fun.
If it's like that all year, and it will help us beat OSU, then I'm all for it.
if they don't seem to be running that kind of stunting philosophy, then it's really all just small adjustments to provide best fit. whether or not craig roh's hand is down or not isn't that big a deal. especially since i think he's probably better than Obi in running with a TE, which goes back to the best fit/small adjustments category.
two major questions: can we find enough defensive backs to play a real C2? and is Will a legit two-gap defender? if both are operative, we'll be a pretty good defense.
How the is removing a defensive tackle in favor of a linebacker and turning all your LBs into interior rush defenders with A or B gap responsibilities not a big frickin' change?
RVB, Campbell/Sagesse and Martin have all played tackle and will be on the field at the same time. If Roh is lined up in a stack over one of those three for 2/3 of a game, I'll give you a dollar. So that's 4 DL. 5 defensive backs is the norm and the way our roster is set up, so that's two inside linebackers. Roh already had pass coverage responsibilities last year and was referred to as a linebacker often enough.
The difference between last year and this year is the possibility of a legit two-gap nose. That could make our linebackers look way better than we are now.
the buckeye football analysis clips show the DEs in 3 techs, which is perfectly fine for our talent group and what I'd expect Gerg to do in the future. also:
Michigan's 3-3-5 (or 5-3), however, is predicated on balancing the front 8 on both sides of the center and then adjusting the secondary accordingly. They could not do that against the tight trips, however, because they could not do so and get 7 men to the formation's strength. Thus, as you can see above, Michigan had to go to a different look against this formation to be structurally sound.
this is also the formation we gave up the Quarless 60-yarder to and i think, like BFA notes, it's a structural defense problem. one of the things WC's 2-gap potential means is being able to drop a man out of the front and into the secondary to oppose these kinds of sets. the other is that we wouldn't have even had the problem if the talent had been such that we could have just had another package for that look. both are the sorts of things that i hope/expect Gerg will be able to take advantage of this year.
This debate reminds me of men and women in conversation. Usually us guys are pretty simple in that if we are asked a question we answer it pretty clearly with no hidden agenda or conspiracy theory.
What do you want for dinner? Pizza. Done.
Women could spend a week breaking this down over coffee. Does he hate your cooking? Does he not like our china?? Why doesn't he take me out anymore?? Does he think I'm too fat to be seen in public?? We could have had pizza at a restraunt. Maybe that's where he takes his slut and doesn't want other people to see me?
Nah we just felt like pizza.
RR has recruited defensive players that could play multiple positions, he has said time and time again he wants a multiple defense that can adapt to all the different offenses we see on our schedule. Maybe we are going to do exactly what he says, because that is what he is doing.
Should we believe they recruited players that don't fit the system RR wants to run and RR believes that changing that system every year will be a good thing or should we believe they have a plan in place and are going to execute it?
My main concern is that with limited practice time and youth in age and the system it may be information overload again. For those thinking we are doing something bizarre many teams do this, most prominently Bellichik(who kinda knows what he is doing) in that he changes his defense week to week to combat different offenses. I'm just not sure in college where time is limited if this will be better or not.
It is an interesting debate and it is one many coaches struggle with. Is it better to be Iowa who plays the same thing over and over and knows it down cold, but are sometimes put at a schematic or personnel disadvantage or do you constantly change up to match the offense and risk having your players not know what they are doing??
I think this ups your variance, matching up allows for spectacular defensive performances, but it also leaves you open for more devastating breakdowns.
So you're saying we're all worrying like a bunch of women?
pizza for dinner.
Which, by some strange coincidence, is what I had.
I don't really know what to expect from this year's defense, given how the 2009 unit played. I'm scared to think that we could endure another year of missed asignments, bad LB play, etc.
The good thing is the defense is finally getting depth, and things should improve. I hope.
Either way, I think the offense needs to take ownership this year and control the clock, score early and often, and so on. We will probably be in several shoot-outs this year, so my hope is the offense can do enough to win close games it found ways to lose late last year.
nervous about the D. However we saw signs from different players last year that this could be a good to average defence. RVB, Martin and Big Will all had moments where they showed domination. Obi and Mouton have flashed (brief) glimpses that they can be good linebackers at points over the last couple years, and Woolfolk will be good wherever he ends up. I think GERG is a great teacher and if Mouton and Obi can make similar improvements under him as Stevie Brown did this defence may have the potential to be good (but far from great).
does this overload you guys with DTs now
Ash, talbot, Black in 2010
Campbell in 2009
Martin in 2008
plus Sagesse who is still on the team from 2007 right? 6 guys for 1 position seems heavy
In this D Ash, Talbott, and Black are all DEs. Possibly Martin, too.
thats interesting, thanks
I know that MgoBlog did a piece where they showed the different positions and who would occupy them with "hopeful for"s and "most likely"s. I'm wondering if this can be updated to fit the obvious 3-3-5 formation that is going to be our new base? Or maybe should we wait til the end of Spring practice to actually "see" it on the field. My real name says the latter, but my anonymous on-screen message board username says the former.
or is it simply a move toward Rod's philosophical belief in that as a base?
"I'm not thrilled that Michigan seems to be changing its defense again, especially since I've been pitching defensive coordinator continuity as a major reason Michigan's defense will improve in 2010"
i felt the exact same way but at this point i think im numb to these sort of changes. this is the watershed year for rr: either he gets it done with this crazy 3-3-5 stack or he gets the hell out.
As in, who is teaching the defense how to tackle. The defense alignment won't matter much if they tackle like the last two(three?) years. The added weight of some players will help - I'm thinking of Roh in particular, who has great tackling form but got overwhelmed last year by larger players.
i wonder why you were negged for this?? i totally agree...tackling has been abysmal!
1. Our defense sucked last year, in part because of confusion over assignments (this was mentioned constantly by players) and poor reactions/decisions
2. We lose our 3 best defensive players -by far- and are very young elsewhere, making continuity of scheme the main contributing factor to improving from awful to average
3. So in response, we run a NEW defense?
4. Stop the "it's not really that different" responses right now. When players all say "our new defense," that pretty much means were running a new defense.
5. Most observers felt Roh's future was with his hand down, rushing the passer. So we move him back and stand him up?
6. Martin is great as a space eater pushing the middle in--so he moves outside?
WTF am I missing here?
(1) there have only been 4 practices so far in 2010, but the defense is excited and practicing better than 2009 according to reports.
(2) Virginia Tech has had a pretty bad ass defense for decades.
(3) If this works, your concern will have been for naught.
(4) If it doesn't, no skin off your back. All skin off RR's and GERG's, however, and you'll get boring defense in 2011.
(5) GERG has lots of versatile athletes on the team, and the fact he wants to innovate excites me as a fan.
1. Fair. 2. I may be incorrect, but my understanding is that this defense is in fact different than VT's. Also, I'm not upset at the 3-3-5 specifically, I'm questioning whether any new defense is this year is the right way to go. 3. Absolutely. 4. The skin will be off all our back's since a firing will be terrible IMO. 5. I want innovation, but even more than that I want fast reaction and no missed assignments. So we'll see.
1. Our defense ran well against OSU, which was the closest thing to this system we saw.
2. We more of lost our 2 best, Brown and Martin were probably equally awesome.
4. If you look at the personnel, it's just a shift, without any huge implications relative to last year. Roh will be standing more, the other two LBs will have slightly less on their plates.
5. I think this will make Roh more dangerous on downs where he puts his hand down, which will happen once in awhile. They won't expect it as much if he's not doing it every down.
6. Campbell is better as a space eater pushing the middle in.
they're wrinkles, not overhauling anything.
If I just wanted to know that Michigan is practicing a 3-3-5 I could read Angelique and the Detroit News online.
But the reason this site becomes an added resource is that people want to discuss these topics that attempt to get in the coaches head.
I agree with and respect the comments of RR knows what he's doing. But just saying that doesn't make for something interesting enough to blow off some work time to check in on.
Now personally at the strategic level, the risk of using 3-3-5 as a base set for all teams in the Big Ten conference is a risk against the teams that will pile up their power on the line and try to run their tank through (Wisconsin). But the great mitigating thing about that is those teams take so long to score points.
So assuming the Offensive line takes the step forward in dominance that we are hoping for, I'm willing to take on slow offensive drives that end up in field goals two times out of three (the other being a touchdown so 13 every 3 trips) as long as the offense can score two touchdowns out of three attempts (so 14 points every 3 trips). Now add in times the defense still gets a stop/turnover plus the fact that the defense wears down more than the offense toward the end of the game and this "think blue line" approach to the defense is worth it for those 1-2 opponents,
Since it will be exactly what we need to stop such innovative teams as Penn State from giving up on the run game to simply lob the ball 15 yards to one of 3 receivers bumping around with the LineBackers who are wondering why the running back they just stuffed in the whole doesn't have the ball?!?
I mean I'm still shocked that Penn State was the first one to figure out that weakness last year.
But once they figured it out, we couldn't stop anyone.
Also, the biggest thing for me is the 3-3-5 gives Obi exactly what he needs. No decision, it's basically "go fill that hole regardless and let all youngins' track down the receivers"
I really don't think it's that complex, it's basically a statement of "pull two guys off the line and put them in space". with a corollary of, well if they are determined to run, then just jam the line with everyone. Will they still power forward for 4-5 yards, probably, but they better not risk an incompletion because they'll be punting, and if an offense is single minded, it's going to end up being less effective over time.
or did I mis-interpret 99% of the analysis from 2007?
love him or hate him RR gonna do wha' he do.
and dang I love trying to predict it when there's absolutely no game to see it in real-time.
hmm, now where did I save that Ohio State game...
I probably haven't been paying attention. But I was surprised to see that the practice jerseys only have the numbers, and not the players' names. Is this new this year? New with Rodriguez? Or has it always been thus?
Practice jerseys never had names. Only numbers. This has always been the case.
The supposed line-up, at this point, according to insiders looks like this for the fall:
DE: Martin and Van Bergen
LB: Roh, Ezeh, Mouton
Spur: Mike Williams
Box Safety: Kovacs, or M-Rob.
Deep Safety: Emilien, or Cam Gordon
CB: 2 of Woolfolk, Floyd (playing well this spring), Turner, Dorsey and Christian.
The versatility here is what's key and what can confuse other teams. Rich Rod has stated they are creating packages based on what they will see in other opponents. SO:
when they play obvious rush first teams (Wisconsin, Iowa, UConn come to mind), you can bring Roh into the line, move that box safety up closer to the line for run support, and use Williams similarly.
On obvious passing downs, you can take one of the D-linemen out, put Roh and Jibreel Black (who was told to be ready to play) on the field as pass rushers, and the other seven have pass defense duties.
With the three DL front, you've got an obvious two-deep this fall that looks pretty good:
Martin Campbell Van Bergen
Sagesse Banks/Patterson Jibreel Black
not to mention that LaLota has impressed the coach and may play 5 or so snaps a game.
I love the versatility of this defensive package. GERG has enough players now that he can prepare from day one, for example, Jibreel Black to be a situational 3rd down pass rusher, OR, Kovacs to be an obvious rushing down box safety, or Cullen Christian to be a nickel-back. The DBs won't likely have to play 70 snaps out of need this year. GERG will have a ton of pieces, albeit young, but quick, talented, and prepared.
This is exciting, not something to be concerned about. If it blows up we'll be back to boring ass (and effective) Michigan defense in 2011. But if it DOES work, the team will win 10 games this year.
You get a +1 and the satisfaction that you gave me a football-rection. I'm all hot and bothered.
I gotta say, I like that line-up. Seems like a good way to get as many of our players doing what they do best.
I think this best explains what we will see and what the philosophy will be this year. The direction they are going will work...
So forgive my ignorance on the subject but is the reason for this defense being so scary in the big ten because of all the power running that goes on from teams like Wisky, Iowa, and to some extent PSU, OSU and MSU?
Is this kind of defense not equipped to deal with that kind of offense?
it's your talent.
Has an excellent little post on the switch to the 3-3-5 as well, highlighting four players that should benefit from the change and why.
The more I read about it, the more I like it. This truly does simplify the defense, especially for the linebackers that had problems last year. It looks like the rule for them is "whatever gap your lineman doesn't go into, you do." So the only read they need to make is which way the guy in front of them runs.
I also like the 5 in the back with two playing up on the line. That'll be a big help to guys like Kovacs, who is very smart, but maybe can't run all that quick, and the deep field that will have a little less overall responsibility and should be able to play closer on their man.
i.) I think we'll be running a combo of 3-3-5 and 4-2-5; the learning gap between the two is not that significant IMO.
ii.) I voiced this earlier (see video from first spring practice); Big Will was looking at the sky because he plays high, his technique is questionable, and his burst off the snap is not where it needs to be. In the M-Drill (again I'm not expecting the world, but I am expecting someone of Will's size to perform a basic bull rush) his feet weren't moving and he had no leverage.
iii.) my later point suggests that Martin will be nose....and that maybe Will's just not ready to be a consistent down linemen yet. Martin can hold his own in a bull rush....hell he can probably benchpress the weight of the opposing o-line in its entirety!
iv.) in a 3-3-5 I'm guessing you see the same DB's and maybe Roh/Martin/VB down, which with Will swithes to the 4-2-5 package. I know Roh practiced with the LB's so we could have a different end playing (i.e. Wilkins, etc.)
v.) BIGGEST ISSUE: we had a crappy secondary last year, talent has improved but will be young. . . .athletic enough to cover but smart enough (due to youth) to run playbook?