After all that talk about the counter as a possible reaction to their pursuit of the zone run plays, I was hoping we'd ask Al about that.
this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
MGoIcebreaker: Big win. Does that mean we get to have a word of the day? [MGoContext: Al stopped doing words of the day because "It's only cute if you win.']
" 'Big win.' Two words."
Other than the big mistake, the offense seemed to execute flawlessly. Were you pleased?
"Oh I wouldn't say flawlessly. But I think I was pleased with the result. I was certainly pleased with the effort. I mean we played pretty hard from the beginning to the end, and that was nice. We had a time during the game when the football gods were kind of frowning on us a little bit. We recovered nicely. That was probably as good as anything. That one part where we turned the ball over, had a couple bad things happen, but we recovered nicely from it, and all the coaches felt good about that."
What did you think of Jeremy Gallon's game, and how do you feel about the receivers in general?
"Well, uh, Jeremy just had a lights-out game. He's a good player and he knows how to run routes and he knows how to get loose, and he's obviously a good run-after-catch guy. Him and Devin have worked together a lot, not just out here but in the offseason. They have a little chemistry. That's nice. Threw a couple nice back-shoulder throws that were right on the money. The routes were well run. But he did what he's capable of doing. I've been saying it from the beginning. He's not very tall, but he plays a lot taller than he is. And he's a tough guy that has explosive strength. That makes a big difference. But our overall receiving corps, we still need to get more guys involved, I think. Jehu Chesson hasn't caught a ball yet, but we're going to work on getting him more involved. Jeremy Jackson's been solid and steady. So you know, we're doing okay, but that can always get better."
Looked like Jake Butt was pretty involved.
"Yeah I thought Jake Butt was probably our nicest surprise because after spring football -- he came in kind of light, so we assumed it would probably take a year and we would redshirt him. But he came back bigger and stronger. Jake's always had good football awareness, even from the first day he got here. So he's made a contribution much faster than we had anticipated after spring football."
Do you think opposing teams underestimate Jeremy Gallon because he's so small?
"I don't think that anymore. I think that might have been maybe early, but now they've seen enough. I don't think his height's a factor anymore in terms of their thinking. He's just a crafty route-runner. He's strong, he's hard to press. He knows the tricks of the trade because he's played the position a lot and he's got a lot of balls thrown in his direction. He's gained confidence. All those things combined have made him what he is now. And he's still -- he'll tell you -- there's still a few things he needs to improve. There were a couple of routes where he fell down and just run with a little more control, get his feet underneath his pads. He's not a finished product either, but he's certainly a threat."
Did you coach Devin to target Gallon so much? Was that part of the game plan or the play calling?
"No. No. Everything's a progression. You call a route and he goes through a progression and he's got certain things within a route, where if he sees single coverage he can take it and other routes if that's not the case. It just depends on the play. That's really the way it is. Every pass pattern's got a first look, second look, third look, and you may have something that can trump it if you see man-to-man in a certain coverage. That's the way it is. But no, we don't tell him, 'Look for Gallon' or 'Look for this.' "
Physically, how did the offensive line hold up? Seemed like some of the mistakes were assignment-related.
"Yeah there were a couple of blitz issues that we screwed up a little bit, but they played hard. But we had some things that showed up -- our inexperience showed up. We had some linebackers run through some zone plays, where that shouldn't have happened. We messed up a couple of blitz pickups because we'd take our eyes off a guy and he's slip through us. But everything is very fixable. Not major issues where it looks like a guy was just lost. That part of it was good, and like I said, the effort was good. As long as they're trying hard and listening to you telling them what to do, you can always fix it. These guys are going to get better and better as they play more. I don't think they did a bad job. There were a few deals -- [Notre Dame] is good up front. The nose guard is hard to block. All of them, not just him. But he's particularly difficult to block, but I thought Jack Miller did a nice job of fighting in there and holding up the best he could hold up in a game he was tested."
MGoQuestion: How do you adjust to aggressive linebackers, particularly on the zone stretch?
"Well you have to keep your eyes on them as you zone so you can retrace back and pick them off. Once you step to your zone, the area of your zone, you always have your eyes on the guy that's over you. If you've over stepped your zone, they can undercut you in the run through. Manti Te'O did a lot of that. He kind of mastered that thing. So you know, just have to get more reps. Have to do more. Very doable."
MGoFollowup: So it's an assignment, targeting thing?
"No no. Assignments stay the same. It's just the technique within the assignment. Occasionally switching schemes, which we did later in the game. We switched schemes a little bit and started running more directly at them, which kind of keeps them a little more honest. We were running wide zone a bunch during the game, and that's one of our plays, but it's not our only play. Having the ability to run the ball at them in home position and some pistol runs that will hold them inside a bit better. That's always -- you have to vary your schemes enough so that they can't just run outside or run under you."
Does Devin have more leeway to take more chances throwing at Gallon than other receivers?
"I don't know about that. I think if all things are equal, then I think yeah, you're going to lean more toward the guy you have more faith in. There's no quarterback in the world who wouldn't do that. But he's not independently throwing the ball to Jeremy Gallon if I call a pass play that's not designed to go to Jeremy Gallon. As long as he's working within the realm of the offense -- "
That back shoulder fade. You wouldn't throw it to Chesson at this point, right?
"Well yeah. That all is absolutely, that's all built in we'll put them in certain situations where he can throw the ball to Jeremy knowing that Jeremy's going to be a little more reliable. There's no doubt about that. But in terms of just saying, 'I'll call this play, but I'm going to throw to Jeremy Gallon,' we don't do that. If we do that we end up on the bench. But he isn't doing that and isn't going to do that. A lot of times you look at the situation, and you have this matchup or that matchup. Which matchup gives you the best chance for success? A lot of times it's Gallon, so we can't say the quarterback's wrong there."
What does Fitz Toussaint give you as a running back, and where can he get better?
"Well he was explosive on some runs. He didn't get started a couple times because of the run throughs I mentioned earlier, but he had a couple -- he had one cut on an isolation play that was unbelievable. I mean he juked an unblocked safety in the hole. Quick as a cat. It was a great run. Early in the game he bounced outside on a stretch run with an unblocked safety and had a nice gain there. He played solid. He played pretty good. Nothing that necessarily brought everybody out of their seats yet, but he's getting close. You'll see that before it's all said and done."
That wheel route to Toussaint, was that something you knew was going to be open? Or did they miss an assignment?
"I don't know if they missed an assignment or not. I just know that he came out the short side on a three-by-one. We had a three-by-one to the field. Three to the field, one to the boundary. He came out short side and the outside guy squeezed the stick and he was just open. He wasn't the primary receiver. He was a second look, really. It's just one of those deals where you look here and with your peripheral vision you can see something else, and he saw him so he gave him the ball. He's in the progression. It wasn't an independent throw. I don't know if he blew the assignment or not."
Is the depth chart for the interior offensive line in pen now?
"No. Never is. No. Not yet. I won't say that. I think it's starting to solidify a little bit more, but we're always -- the good thing about this game in that regard, and in so many regards, is that we got tested. We'll find out not necessarily how good we are but where we are. Whether we can match up with a team that's got a good front and all that. We didn't play fabulous, now, but we didn't play terrible, either. So it was a good next step. It's a lot more battles, a lot more tests out there that will be just as tough as this one."
Two games in though, do you really want to start tinkering with the offensive line?
"No, you really don't, but you still have to make sure that the five you have out there are the right five. Eventually it'll shore itself up, and it's on its way to that, but I'm not going to commit to saying, 'This is the five guys.' Not yet."
Would we be able to print what you might have said when Devin threw that interception in the end zone?
"Uh ... no."
What do you tell him about that, and what is your frustration with that sort of mistake?
"We did some research about this years ago -- what are the major causes of interceptions? The number one major cause of interceptions is late throws in the middle of the defense. That's number one. Number two is trying to throw the ball through flat defenders that are backing up. That happened to [Notre Dame]. And number three is desperately avoiding the sack. I've said. He knew right away. I mean, I could yell at him -- I wasn't very happy, but he knew right away. He didn't need to be told what he did wrong. He's been coached on that."
Did you do anything unique to scheme against Nix and Tuitt?
"A couple things, yeah. Trying to help our guys as best we could. Yeah. We did a couple things different."
Can you say what they were in general terms?
"I'd rather not because the same thing's going to come up later. We're always trying to help our guys as best we can, knowing we can't help them every play. You can't double team three linemen on pass plays the whole game. You do the best you can to help them the best you can, but there's a point in time where you have to block them. That's why we give you scholarships and that's why we expect you to perform here."
MGoQuestion: What did you make of the pass to Jake Butt in end zone? It was a corner route that got broken up.
"Just threw it a little short. Yeah. Just threw it a little short. Had him singled up. So yeah. It was just a little short, and Jake's got to attack it a little more. Between the two. It wasn't a godawful throw, but it wasn't a perfect throw either."
Talk about your tackles?
"I thought our tackles were very solid, particularly Taylor [Lewan]. Taylor was really good in the game. Really good. I mean he was -- nobody went by him. Mike [Schofield] was darn near as good. Mike gets overshadowed a bit because Taylor's such a good player, but Mike Schofield is -- we're good at that position. It's nice to be good at that position because you feel much better about the edges and all those issues that come."
After all that talk about the counter as a possible reaction to their pursuit of the zone run plays, I was hoping we'd ask Al about that.
He touched on mixing up the looks in the second half away from just outside zone. Michigan never went counter, I suspect because they've struggled at it, so I believe they went more Iso when they did switch it up. But that switch does go from zone blocking to man/gap blocking with down blocks kind of slowing down the LBs a little bit. That's what Borges was talking about there.
SC, can you explain the difference between running the ISO and the counter in a situation where they are trying to keep them honest and expose the overpursuit? Is one better than the other? Is the counter difficult to master? Thanks in advance!
Simply because the RB will also take the LBs in the incorrect direction, so if they fast flow you are really exploiting them. Iso works not because of the RB key, but because of the down blocks from the O-line. If ND's LBs are reading OGs to RB, and are reading zone, their initial step will be what they perceive as playside, or in the same direction as the O-line. But the O-line isn't stepping playside, they're down blocking. So it still forces the LBs to hesitate, but it doesn't necessarily exploit their over pursuit as much.
The counter really all comes down to effectively being able to pull and hold blocks for a little bit longer. Iso is a bit more straight forward, right at them, and attacking the D quicker. Probably a bit easier all around for the O-line.
"He knew right away. I mean, I could yell at him -- I wasn't very happy, but he knew right away. He didn't need to be told what he did wrong. He's been coached on that."
There's the difference between our coaching staff and Brian Kelly.
I mean, sometimes you get pissed off at a guy because he made a bad play, alright, that's coaching style. But with something like DG did, like Borges said, he knows, you don't even need to bring it up, move on to something else.
And when Kelly was yelling at Rees for his last INT, Rees put the ball in his receivers hands. The fact that the receiver tipped it up and then it got kneed into the air isn't really the fault of Rees. I thought Rees put the ball where pretty much only his receiver could get it or it was almost surely - outside of a freak play - going to be an incompletion. Instead Kelly yells at Rees because a freak play happened. Makes no sense to me.
I think you pretty much summed up what I had been thinking about BK and a few other coaches you see out there. No need to yell, when an obvious error was made. If Gardner didn't realize that his Int was a bad play and he should have just taken the sack, it really means you and your assistants haven't been doing your jobs.
I doubt Kelly was upset with Rees about the execution of the throw, but rather the decision to throw into tight coverage on 1st down. It was well placed ball, but there was no need to force it.
I mean, he can't take a sack in that situation, he placed the ball in a safe spot away from the defender so it was only the receiver that had a chance to catch it initially. He was open enough to make a play on the ball and then a freak thing happened. If I was a coach I would be happier with that throw, regardless of down, than taking a sack. And while I wouldn't be upset with a throw away, I think the throw, and where it was placed, was better than a throw away. It was simply bad luck (or karma if you will).
It was first down, which I believe was part of why Kelly was critical of Rees, but ND needed two scores at that point. Rees had to take every reasonable chance to get a touchdown.
Then maybe Kelly shouldn't have called a pass play on first down.
(Or his OC. It still falls on him.)
You know, I agree with you in general. I don't appreciate coaches who embarrass their players on the sidelines by screaming at them. At the same time, I have/had incredible respect for Bo and he would go off on his players from time to time. I feel like Kelly is a prick, but I can't quite put my finger on the difference between his sideline antics and Bo's. Thoughts?
Kelly looks like he's whining, almost pleading with his players, Bo came off more demanding, like a General. One was a strong yell, the other is a not.
I think you also have to look at the situation. I honestly don't mind yelling at players sometimes. As a coach, more than anything, you have to be true to who you are. If you're a yeller, you should yell. If you're not, you probably shouldn't.
For whatever reason, I've always been a big Bobby Knight fan. Bobby Knight yelled at players when he needed to yell at players. But if a player knew he messed up, then there isn't a reason to yell at him; give him an evil glare if you want, but the player has already figured it out. Now you can look at some of the other things and make different points about Knight that aren't some of his best qualities, but the point remains, you need to know how to yell and when to yell if you're that type of coach. I feel like Kelly just yells for the sake of yelling because he can't keep emotions in check; it's not always about coaching, it's about him pleading for people to understand his emotions.
I don't think Bobby Knight is a great example to use to contrast with a coach who yells "because he can't keep [his] emotions in check." I agree that there's an element of personality type involved, and that "if you're a yeller, you should yell." As a coach, however, you have to make sure your approach actually gets across to the player, as opposed to just berating and belittling him. I can't say that Bobby Knight holds up well under that standard, although I suppose the bottom-line results suggest he got his point across. I know if it were me (or my kid), I'd sure prefer the Brady Hoke approach over Bobby Knight.
The difference to me (and I'm obviously biased) is that it seemed to me that Bo was yelling at kids that needed to get their heads in the game because they were screwing up due to a lack of mental focus. Like guys who were taking false start or personal foul penalties or doing really stupid stuff. It was unrelated to being mad about whether he was winning or losing, he was mad that the player wasn't properly focused on his task and was showing a lack of discipline.
Kelly on the other hand yells just because he's he's mad that he's losing, so he needs to take it out on someone. So he grabs the easiest guy to take it out on and then just lets him have it. It's really immature, IMO.
Of course I'm biased towards Bo because he was ours, but most of the time I remember Bo chewing guys out it was because they needed to get their heads in the game, not because they had played a pretty good game and just thrown a tough pick at the end while trying to bring the team bac.
That's how I see B. Knight when he yelled at players (note, he yelled at refs no matter what, I'm only speaking when he talked to players directly). It was more a "get your head out of your ass" thing, rather than just looking for someone to take out your emotion on.
I think Bo and Knight also had more of that "General" feel about them, rather than the whiney way Kelly acts. FWIW, Knight and Bo were somewhere between good and really good friends. They talked often, after games, in the off season, etc.
Points where he realized yelling wouldn't do any good, and it was an "arms around the shoulder" moment.
All I get from Kelly is tea pot boiling all the time, but then I don't watch enough ND games to say that is always the case. It just always seems to be the case vs. us.
The difference is yelling with a purpose. Bo was old school. He definitely was a yeller. But it was a teaching technique to him. He was trying to get a message across.
Kelly is just mad, in an "I taught you all this great shit and now you just fucked it up, you imbecile" kind of way. That's him. He can't control it, TV cameras be dammned. You just know he does the same thing with his wife, his kids, his dog . . .
I've seen plenty of coaches yell, but Kelly always looks like he's basically yelling "Why did you screw this up. I had it laid out perfectly". It never looks like 'constructive yelling' if you will, just like he's a arrogant ass who is taking his frustrations out on his players. I don't think you can really call that coaching, it's just knocking your own players down a notch.
As just a random discussion, as a coach, I'd love you. As a member of the media, as a coach, I'd be annoyed with you.
As a guy sitting behind a computer screen, the MGoQuestions are always the best of the bunch.
I think all media questions are supposed to start with "talk about..."
Talk about how Trix are for kids, and "Jarrod Wilson?"
"Well, when it comes to Trix, and I don't want to get too deep into this because I don't want to give away all my thinking, but, when it comes to Trix, they've done some things over the years to change it up. You know, it used to be, and I have to say this carefully so you guys don't take it the wrong way, but they used to be flavored balls, or pebbles, basically spherically shaped. At some point along the line they adjusted to the market and made them fruit shaped, again, don't take that the wrong way, what I mean to say is that they changed the shape of the cereal.
Now I'll eat Trix from time to time, 4 to 8 bowls if I'm craving a snack, and recently it seems they went back to the original concept. You know, these things, they come full circle, and you just have to read what's in front of you. You can't say for sure, it's going to be this, or it's going to be that, you have to read what's in front of you. These kids, I mean, things just happen so early for kids these days, but they're here, and you know, the Trix have to adjust and the kids have to adjust. I like cereal, Trix are good, I'd say the just for kids is more a rule of thumb, but you still have to make your reads.
I don't know if I answered your question, but there you go."
Even when we had moderation, we didn't have the Brilliant option.
Awesome. This is a conversation that you just know Gorgeous Al actually had sometime in his life.
I like that each coach (Hoke, Borges, Mattison) has a distinct enough personality that you can come up with a realistic answer for each of them.
Hoke: "Well, you know, I don't know how much it's that. Um, you know, yeah, kids probably enjoy Trix. We've had some kids enjoy Trix. But we'll enjoy Trix sometimes too, um, not all the time, but yeah, some of the time."
Mattison: "The thing with Trix is that they can really be used by anyone. Now, you don't want to eat Trix too often because they are kind of sharp and they'll kind of cut your mouth. Maybe that's why kids enjoy them more. But you can eat Trix on occasion. It just boils down to risk/reward and if it's in the game plan. If the the breakfast is giving you a reason to eat Trix, you won't just eat Trix for the sake of eating Trix. That's something you pick up with age, and I've seen it all. When I was in Baltimore, you know, those guys weren't just eating Trix, they'd been around the block. Now I'm trying to teach these kids that. I like to be able to teach that sort of thing. But, maybe you'll see us eat Trix sometimes, yeah."
Jackson: "Trix are like Fruity Pebbles, but fruitier!"
I'm coming back to this thread to posbang your above two comments.
Mattison: "When eating Trix, you got to keep them in front and inside. We try and teach the kids that, and they are picking it up. But, always room to improve, yeah.
I'm glad I came back for more. [inner redundancy allowed without moderation]
Another excellent example of why we need posbangs back. This thing should be posbanged into low Earth orbit.
Research regarding interceptions and description of Toussaint's leak out of the backfield are interesting. Strange that he calls it a "stick" though. I always thought that referred to the route combo, not the route itself.
The stick route is something that has kind of morphed into a concept based on that route. A stick concept will pretty much always involve a WR pushing inside between the hook and curl zones in a defense and some sort of underneath route (swing or flat by a RB, bench from a slot) to work as an easy read on the flat defender. By squeezing the stick, he's saying he really took it inside and the defender to followed hard inside.
Gardner, once he saw the flat defender really follow the stick inside knew right away to hit Fitz on his swing route. It is an easy 1 to 2 progression based on a single defender. Michigan will pick on that underneath zone defender on that route concept. Maybe it'd be a good thing to draw up sometime.
And then you add a corner/flag to get a vertical stretch. Fun times. Do you know what Michigan ran to the field on that play?
And if I remember correctly you can't even see it on the tape. My guess is some sort of man beater. Slants or hitches. That's usually what you put to the backside of that concept (the better view would be the same play from earlier, in the 1st Q I believe, where ND went man and DG didn't read it correctly and tried to read the stick concept. I believe on that one you should be able to see the routes on the other side on the top of the screen before DG takes off on his scramble for a first down.
No mention of Green's one carry and why he didn't get more, or bubble screens...
After calling a game as good as the one we saw on Saturday, I think we can give Al a reprieve on the "bubble screens" meme. The man chessplayed the hell out of the Irish coaching staff.
As far as Green is concerned I would say it involves pass protection (something Toussaint is more experienced with - though he has missed targets in the first two games) and speed. Green I'm sure will be fast enough as he gets slimmed down and knows the plays better but that was a fast ND defense and the one carry he had he was run down by Nix.
to not fumble.
Regarding Fitz's wheel route or whatever, that was open a couple other times, once on the opening drive. I think Al is being coy there, I would be kinda surprised he didn't see it and exploit it at the right time.
Seems a Natural call to counter crashing LB's with some middle screens or some RB slip outs. I was excited to see him finally hit that as it appeared whenever the LB's crashed on a play action fake that the RB could bump LB and then continue out into a wide empty zone.
Because ND was playing man and picked Fitz up out of the backfield. It was one of Gardner's third down scramble conversions. Gardner made a read to the stick concept side and both were covered by man (in which case Jackson shouldn't have stuck, should have probably continued on his drag look), but Gardner made his quick 1 and 2 progression and then picked up the first with his legs.
Perfect example of the threat that is Devin Gardner and probably why people compare him to Vince Young. Not that he's at that level, but those kind of scrambles are psychological killers to defenses.
Defense tricks QB into wrong read. Plays good coverage on the outside. If I remember correctly they even had he pretty well contained with the DL. Gardner stepped around contain and picked up 3 yards for a first down. A play where the defense did everything possible correct and still got beat. Those really drain a defense.
It's so much more fun to watch us do it to somebody else than to have it done to us. We need to cherish these times with Gardner under center folks....cherish them.
I was really hoping someone would ask about Funchess being loaned out to the defense as the safety destroyer of worlds.
Funchess makes me nervous with his lack of growth in blocking ability and the increased presence of Butts. I'm all for Butts being a world destroyer TE but I hold out hopes that Funchess grows as a blocker and solidfies the top TE position. Manly because I believe he brings more dynamics to the offense with his size/speed. Aww 1st world top 12 ranking problems, having a blossoming TE and still wanting two all world TE's...
I have it on good authority that Gallon doesn't play "a lot" taller than he is, only a half inch...
You do the best you can to help them the best you can, but there's a point in time where you have to block them. That's why we give you scholarships and that's why we expect you to perform here.
I don't know if you all noticed, but Jeremy Jackson did indeed receive a "bubble screen" of sorts.. I can't remember if he received it from the slot or from the outside position. You've gotta think that a play-action flanker iso would have been a great counter to the hyper-agressive linebackers.
Not a good sign - when asked about Chesson, Borges completely avoided talking about Chesson.