talk to caris yo
Unfortunately Michigan still has seven more games to play this season, including one tonight at Rutgers. For some reason I am previewing this one (probably because I wrote half of this before the Minnesota game, back when I considered it realistic that M might turn the ship around, and don’t want that work to go to waste). Out of a coping mechanism I’m only going to DVR the game, and will spend the afternoon picking Asian pears in the Cascade foothills; then I’ll decide whether to actually watch the thing when I get home. Anyway, I am going to have to cut this intro short on account of a screaming child and the fact that I’m not sure anyone really cares this week anyway.
Well, Go Blue.
When Michigan has the ball…
Run and hide and close your eyes.
1. Inside Zone
With Magnuson injured, Michigan moved Graham Glasgow to LG last week and inserted Kalis. Nobody really noticed because the problems on the field seemed to be the least of M’s problems. Anyway, usually when a team is constantly getting its ass kicked, it’s best to stick to basics (c.f. Al Borges; sigh).
Rutgers runs a 4-3 Under front and usually gets decent penetration with their undersized guys.
LT Mason Cole: Covered; block DE David MIlewski
LG Graham Glasgow: Covered; block DT Darius Hamilton
C Jack Miller: Uncovered; chip DT Hamilton or NT Kenneth Kirksey, block WLB Steve Longa
RG Kyle Kalis: Covered; block NT Kenneth Kirksey
RT Ben Braden: Uncovered; chip DE Djwany Mera, block MLB L.J. LIston
TE Jake Butt: Covered; block DE Djwany Mera
RB – Derrick Green: Receive handoff and head for B-gap outside LG; make one cut and turn N/S
Probably gonna be ugly.
Though Michigan isn’t likely to enjoy much success on the ground against Rutgers, it could be a different story through the air if Devin Funchess is healthy enough to play. Rutgers likes to run Cover 2, which is designed to ensure that corners get help over the top on deep routes. But plays like the Post-Wheel can beat Cover 2 by pairing an inside-breaking route (to occupy the safety) with a deep sideline route (which the corner or other man defender must play one-on-one).
XWR Devin Funchess: Run post route vs. BCB Nadir Barnwell, FS Andre Hunt
RB Derrick Green: Run wheel route against SLB Quentin Gause
LT Mason Cole: Pass protect vs. SDE David Milewski
LG Graham Glasgow: Pass protect vs. DT Kenneth Kirksey
C Jack Miller: Pass protect vs. NT Darius Hamilton
RG Kyle Kalis: Pass Protect vs. NT Kenneth Kirksey
RT Ben Braden: Pass protect vs. WDE Djwany Mera
UTE Jake Butt: Pass protect vs. WDE Djwany Mera, then release to flat
YWR Dennis Norfleet: Run wheel route vs. NCB Anthony Cioffi
ZWR Jehu Chesson: Run post route vs. FCB Gareef Glashen
QB Devin Gardner: 3-step drop from SG; read is on free safety; the post should hold him to the middle of the field—if so, then look for YWR to come open on wheel; if FS widens to pick up wheel route, then XWR should come open on post. If covered, check down to TE in flat.
Funchess & Co. have to like their chances against a Rutgers secondary that’s been banged-up and may have a freshman backup playing FS, but Rutgers has a strong pass rush and has to be equally excited to face the rickety Michigan offensive line. As always, the X-factor is Devin Gardner: if he’s on, M could put up 300+ yards on this D and win going away, if he’s off, well, you’ve seen what happens when he’s off.
When Rutgers has the ball…
3. Outside Zone
Smart Football broke down Kyle Flood’s Outside Zone play in detail before the 2012 Russell Athletic Bowl, in which a 6-6 Virginia Tech team squeezed out a 13-10 victory over 9-2 Rutgers.
Yes, Rutgers really does leave the backside DE unblocked on its Outside Zone play. I don’t know how common this is, but here’s an example of Rutgers running it against Arkansas from a few years back. Guess who makes the tackle? That Arkansas DE looked a lot bigger and slower than Frank Clark; I wouldn’t be surprised if they do things a little differently against M.
WDE Frank Clark: backside pursuit of RB Desmon Peoples
NT Ryan Glasgow: defend backside A-gap
3T Willie Henry: defend playside B-gap
SDE Brennan Beyer: defend playside C-gap
WLB Joe Bolden: defend backside B-gap
MLB Jake Ryan: defend playside A-gap
SLB James Ross: defend playside D-gap (outside TE); set edge (2 yards wide, 2 yards deep) to force run back in, or spill to sideline
I’d probably call this even (or, after last week, maybe even advantage Rutgers) if Paul James was still at RB, but unfortunately he tore his ACL a couple weeks ago and won’t be available. Kyle Flood is a respected OL coach and I expect his guys to play with good technique, but M has a pretty serious edge in raw talent.
4. Smash Corner Flat
The smash-corner concept is ordinarily thought of as a way to hi-low a cornerback against a Cover 2 scheme: the corner route will put a receiver under the safety help, so the CB must decide whether to “sink” and take away the corner route (leaving a receiver open in the flat) or play tight on the flat receiver (opening up space for the QB to hit the corner route). But as Jimbo Fisher explained in a tidy little article , the smash-corner becomes an effective concept against practically any coverage scheme if the slot receiver is able to adjust his route based on how the defense is playing him.
In their last game (against Tulane), Rutgers ran a smash-corner concept off play-action; they caught Tulane in a blitz, and Nova hit the back in the flat for a big gainer. The diagram above shows the same play, as defended by Michigan in its "Quarter-Quarter-Half" scheme (Cover 4 to the field side, Cover 2 to boundary).
BCB Jabrill Peppers: Man coverage vs. WR Janarion Grant
WDE Frank Clark: Pass rush vs. LT Keith Lumpkin
3T Willie Henry: Pass rush vs. RG Chris Muller
NT Ryan Glasgow: Pass rush vs. C Betim Bujari
SDE Brennan Beyer: Pass rush vs. RT Taj Alexander
WLB Joe Bolden: Defend curl/flat zone on weak side
MLB Jake Ryan: Defend underneath middle zone
SLB James Ross: Defend curl/flat zone on strong side vs. RB Desmon Peoples
FS Jerrod Wilson: Cover deep ½ zone vs. WR Janarion Grant
SS Jeremy Clark: Man coverage vs. TE Tyler Kroft
FCB Jourdan Lewis: Man coverage vs. WR Leonte Carroo
Say what you want about Michigan’s defense not quite living up to expectations, but from what I’ve seen the corners are the real deal. A better QB than Nova (such as Mitch Leidner, groan) might be able to pick on Michigan’s LBs and safeties, but with Nova I expect a few balls to wind up being caught by guys in yellow pants.
Okay, here is my contribution...
Dan Quinn is currently the defensive coordinator for Pete Carroll and the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. He’s known for being flexible with scheme and looking for ways to feature the talents of his best players. Interestingly, in a 2013 article on NFL.com, Quinn and two other NFL assistants (Mel Tucker and Greg Roman) were named by anonymous NFL executives as being the most likely NFL assistants to make great college coaches.
PROBLEM IS... Quinn is one of the most highly-regarded assistants in the NFL right now, and was apparently a top candidate for the Cleveland Browns job last off-season (but the Browns hired a different coach while the Seahawks were still playing en route to the Super Bowl). He was also a finalist for the Minnesota Vikings job and reportedly considered for other NFL vacancies as well.
From: Morristown, N.J.
College: Salisbury Steak, er, State (1993)
William & Mary (DL)
Other coaches he has worked for/with include:
· Kyle Flood (with Hoftsra)
· Nick Saban (with Miami Dolphins)
· Pete Carroll (with Seattle Seahawks)
· Will Muschamp (with Florida Gators)
· Recent major college experience as DC with Florida
· Super Bowl ring
· Flexible and acquainted with modern schemes
· May be difficult to sign (or keep for long), given demand from NFL teams
· No HC experience at any level
Yeah, so, I wrote this today:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Scene: a futuristic computer room, ringed with terminals and transparent screens. A single, long-haired blogger dude stands in the midst, wearing an electric glove, wired with electrodes, and manipulating data. Suddenly the man stops, and waits. A small, coral-colored ball emerges from a tube in the ceiling, bearing a cryptic imprinted message:
Scene: an outdoor dining table behind a palatial country club. A fifty-ish man in corporate chic [DAVE BRANDON] snaps a slice of Negihama roll from the hip of a nude prostitute, prompting a giggle.
PROSTITUTE: Are you ready for me, Ralph?
DAVE BRANDON: Actually, you can just call me “Dave.”
The shadow of approaching guest [RICH RODRIGUEZ] darkens the foreground.
DAVE BRANDON: What now? Rodriguez. And what, may I ask, is it I can do for you today?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Well as you know, our defense ain’t been ‘zacly what people expect.
DAVE BRANDON: You don’t say. And this is my problem becauzzzz? [exchanges glances with sushi-bearing prostitute]
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I’s just hopin’ maybe, if I could get a little bit-a more money--
DAVE BRANDON: More money? MORE money?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, well, see, there’s this guy I know, Jeff Casteel—
DAVE BRANDON: I see. So you want ME to give YOU more money so you can hire “some guy you know.” [making air quotes] Great plan, southern man.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: That’s basically the gist of it. But we was top ten at West Virginia.
DAVE BRANDON: Okay. But you gotta ask me nicely. [Prostitute smiles again.]
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Say what?
DAVE BRANDON: You gotta ask me nicely. You come here, asking me for more money to spend on your spread offense and your ‘traditional’ white road uniforms. You gotta ask me nicely.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Alright then. Pretty please, can I have money to hire Jeff Casteel?
DAVE BRANDON: Ha ha. Let me give you a little advice, so you know. In times of economic uncertainty, never, ever fuck with another man's livelihood. Go have fun, now? You know fun, time of your life? And don’t ever come back here. [Brandon and prostitute laugh diabolically}
Scene: a rural linebacker farm in the rolling Virginia hills, west of Baltimore. The aging proprietor [GREG MATTISON] stares excitedly as the beak of a new hatchling pokes through its shell. Above the incubator, a strip of masking tape says “Hybrid Space Player.” Suddenly, the barn door swings open, to reveal a lone figure [BRADY HOKE]—corpulent, with bare arms in winter.
GREG MATTISON: No, no, no, no sir. Can’t use him, don’t want him, couldn’t afford him if I did.
The figure [BRADY HOKE] approaches.
GREG MATTISON: I heard all about you and Dave Brandon. Me though, I’m retired, don’t want none of that. But you’re welcome to come in, have a beer, and play some euchre.
Scene moves to dim living room. A flickering old CRT televisions set murmurs in the background, children sleep among cookie crumbs and empty soda bottles. Two men [GREG MATTISON and BRADY HOKE] slide the coffee table against a wall.
GREG MATTISON: You sure you want to do this? I was All-American, remember?
BRADY HOKE: [slurred] I’m taking you down this time, biy-atch.
The men begin wrestling. Much furniture is smashed. Camera pans around to capture championship trophies from the Florida Gators, Baltimore Ravens, Michigan Wolverines. GREG MATTISON eventually gains the upper hand.
GREG MATTISON: You coach that team, Brady, and you’ll FAIL! You’ll fail, god dammit! Dave Brandon is no particular friend. He’d put you in the wall today if he could get Harbaugh tomorrow.
BRADY HOKE: [Out of breath] But I need this, Greg. I haven’t got anything else.
Scene: The Big House, Ann Arbor, Michigan--a roaring football stadium at night, fans waving yellow pom-poms and chanting along to piped-in techno music. Down on the field, DEVIN GARDNER confidently steps into the Michigan huddle. A voice [AL BORGES] crackles on his helmet mic.
AL BORGES: Maverick, this is Ghost Rider. Take angels 10-left-three-zero.
DEVIN GARDNER: Roger.
Looks up at teammates
DEVIN GARDNER: Angels 10-left-three-zero. Jeremy, you got him?
JEREMY GALLON: Roger.
DEVIN GARDNER: Okay—you hook’em. Jehu will clean’em and fry’em.
Players line up in a shotgun formation.
DEVIN GARDNER: Contact, 20 left at 30! Nine hundred! Nine Hundred! Set, hut!
Players begin running, pads begin popping, Gardner throws a pass to Jeremy Gallon. Gallon catches it, spins off two defenders, and scores. Crowd goes absolutely wild. Meanwhile, Jehu Chesson blocks three defenders into a pile, then stands over them.
JEHU CHESSON: “Watch the birdie!”
Snaps a Polaroid. Scene fades
Scene: Jubilant locker room. Sweaty Michigan football players gather around Head Coach BRADY HOKE, clap and sing “The Victors.”
BRADY HOKE: I’m really proud of the way this team practiced, this team executed. Enjoy this one. But we’ve still got ten more to play—
Hoke pauses momentarily, as a grinning DAVE BRANDON shuffles through the crowd
BRADY HOKE: So yeah, I want’chall enjoy this one, then we’ll be right back to work tomorrow morning.
A cheer goes up from the players, who begin turning away…
DAVE BRANDON: One more thing, well done, gentlemen. You really kicked some ass tonight.
Slight sighs are heard from the annoyed players.
DAVE BRANDON: In this big game that we play, life, it's not what you hope for, it's not what you deserve, it's what you take. I'm Dave muthaf*kin Brandon, a master of the muffin and author of the “Avoid the Noid” advertising campaign for Domino’s Pizza. No I wasn’t an All-American when I played here for Bo Schembechler. But I was able to become an All-American at business, because I learned one thing: Respect the cock! And tame the cunt! Tame it! Take it on headfirst with the skills that I will teach you at work and say no! You will not control me! No! You will not take my soul! No!
You will not win this game! Because it's a game, guys. You want to think it's not, huh? You want to think it's not? Go back to the schoolyard and you have that crush on big-titted Mary Jane. Respect the cock. You are embedding this thought. I am the one who's in charge. I am the one who says yes! No! Now! Here! Because it's universal, man. It is evolutional. It is anthropological. It is biological. It is animal. We... are... men!
Players stand in stunned silence.
Scene: Michigan LSA student SAGAR LATHIA enters the Arcade Barbershop and takes a seat in an empty barber’s chair as the door creaks shut behind him.
SAGAR LATHIA: How's it going, Luther?
LUTHER: Another day, another dollar, captain.
SAGAR LATHIA: You gotta play them as they lay.
LUTHER: What goes around comes around.
SAGAR LATHIA: Can't beat 'em, join 'em.
LUTHER: At least I got my health.
SAGAR LATHIA: Well, then you got everything... See you tomorrow, Luther.
LUTHER: Not if I see you first.
SAGAR LATHIA: Sometimes you gotta say, "what the fuck." Make your move. Luther, every now and then, saying "what the fuck?" brings freedom. Freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future.
Scene: Big House for early game vs. Akron. Quiet hum from crowd as Michigan offense breaks huddle.
DEVIN GARDNER: Red 90! Red 90! Hike!
Gardner receives shotgun snap, drops back to pass. Pressure comes up middle. Gardner retreats, spins, reverses field, and is blind-sided by an Akron player. Gardner throws ball—but the wobbly duck lands right in the chest of an Akron player and is run into the end zone for a TD. Gardner lies on turf, mystified.
Scene: luxury suite above Michigan Stadium. DAVE BRANDON grabs telephone receiver and lifts to ear.
Scene: Michigan sideline. A phone rings. A team manager answers and bring the phone to BRADY HOKE.
BRADY HOKE: Consider yourself in Contempt!
GREG MATTISON: [standing beside BRADY HOKE] You don’t have to answer that question.
BRADY HOKE: I'll answer the question! [Into phone] You want answers?!
Scene cuts back to Brandon’s luxury box
DAVE BRANDON: I think I’m entitled!
Back to sideline
BRADY HOKE: You want answers?
Back to Brandon’s luxury box
DAVE BRANDON: I want the truth!
Back to sideline
BRADY HOKE: You can’t handle the truth!
Scene: a classroom in Mason Hall on University of Michigan campus. A female professor jots information on the white-board, then looks up.
PROFESSOR: Excuse me, Mr. Lathia, is there something wrong?
SAGAR LATHIA: Yes ma'am, the data on the coaching search is inaccurate.
PROFESSOR: How's that, Mr. Lathia?
SAGAR LATHIA: Well, I just happened to read Dave Brandon’s actual itinerary from “The Process,” and he never actually met with Miles. Never offered Harbaugh the job.
PROFESSOR: Where did you see this?
SAGAR LATHIA: Got it from John U. Bacon.
PROFESSOR: From who?
SAGAR LATHIA: John U. Bacon. I would introduce you to him, but then Dave Brandon would have you fired.
Scene: Road game at Penn State. White-out, fans yelling hostile obscenities. Michigan trailing on the scoreboard. Nervous-looking DEVIN GARDNER approaches the huddle.
DEVIN GARDNER: Twenty-one right Bogey on three.
JEREMY GALLON: What? Again? It hasn’t worked the first twenty-six times we’ve run it.
DEVIN GARDNER: It’s what the man said. Twenty-one right Bogey on three. Readee-break!
Michigan offense steps to line against Penn State defense, which has inserted extra defensive tackles. The wall of defensive humanity nearly blocks out the lighting.
DEVIN GARDNER: Set…hut! Hut! Ready….hut!
[DEVIN GARDNER] takes snap, retreats into backfield, shoves ball into running back’s arms. The back is promptly swallowed by several tacklers before reaching the line of scrimmage. Dispirited Michigan players walk back to the huddle.
AL BORGES: Dang-it. Okay, Maverick, let’s go Angels 10-left-three-zero.
DEVIN GARDNER: Roger that.
Gardner faces offensive teammates, gives play. Unit lines up in shotgun formation.
DEVIN GARDNER: Red 90! Red 90! Hut!
Slo-mo shot as shotgun snap approaches. DEVIN GARDNER catches snap. Heavy breaths and foot-falls. DEVIN GARDNER retreats one step, camera pans to primary read. JEREMY GALLON is open in seam.
DEVIN GARDNER: It’s no good.
Camera closes-in on [JEREMY GALLON]
JEREMY GALLON: God dammit Maverick!
Camera follows Gardner’s eyes as he moves to secondary read. DEVIN FUNCHESS is open on sideline.
DEVIN GARDNER: It’s no good!
DEVIN FUNCHESS: God dammit!
Penn State defenders arrive. Gardner slammed to turf, ball comes out. Penn State players rejoice as crowd erupts into frenzy. A crumpled Gardner sits motionless on the field.
Scene: an austere, tropical barracks. Banana rats scurry as hooded figures slip into a darkened room. Inside, a rotund figure of a snoring man [AL BORGES] heaves upon the bunk. Suddenly, the figures pull a blanket tight over the man’s chest; a pure grey bar of soap is shoved into his mouth, and the man is pummeled repeatedly with oversized macaroni noodles.
AL BORGES: Whaahhh—[choking sounds as soap enters mouth]
The beating continues for several seconds
HOODED FIGURE: Get an identity, fat man!
The figures rush out of the room as AL BORGES passes out.
Scene: anti-septic military-style interrogation room. Young lawyer [SAGAR LATHIA] in dress uniform enters the room. five hulking men, each wearing a jump-suit marked with a non-eligible number, immediately rise and salute.
SAGAR LATHIA: [timidly] At ease?
The men sit. SAGAR LATHIA sits at folding chair across the table.
SAGAR LATHIA: So, can we start with what happened?
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! What happened when, sir!?
SAGAR LATHIA: Well, I understand the five of you beat a guy with noodles—
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! It was a ‘miscommunication,’ sir!
SAGAR LATHIA: A miscommunication?
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! That’s what we call it. A ‘miscommunication,’ sir!
SAGAR LATHIA: Well, I’m just trying to understand—
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! Must protect the brand, sir!
SAGAR LATHIA: The brand?
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! Yes, sir! Must protect the brand. That’s our code, sir!
SAGAR LATHIA: Who put you up to this?
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir?
SAGAR LATHIA: You better tell me. I’m the only friend you’ve got.
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! I am on specific orders not to disclose that my commanding officer, Dave Brandon, instructed me to perform the miscommunication, sir!
SAGAR LATHIA: …
Scene: DEVIN GARDNER meets with BRADY HOKE on an isolated path along the Huron River.
BRADY HOKE: What I’m about to tell you is classified—could end my career. I loved coaching that Denard, even if he wasn’t a pocket-passer. You're a lot like he was. Only better... and worse. He was a natural heroic son of a bitch that one.
DEVIN GARDNER: So he did do it right.
BRADY HOKE: Yeah, he did it right... Is that why you play the way you do? Trying to prove something? Yeah, Denard did it right. We were in a rebuilding phase. There were walk-ons and freshmen like fireflies all over the roster. His ulnar nerve was hit, and he was wounded—he could have not dressed. But he stayed in it, won three games before Nebraska got him.
DEVIN GARDNER: How come I never heard that before?
BRADY HOKE: Well, that's not something the Athletic Department tells fans when a player belongs in a spread offense, isn’t ‘Manball’ enough.
DEVIN GARDNER: So you get it?
BRADY HOKE: I get it. What's on your mind?
DEVIN GARDNER: My options, sir.
BRADY HOKE: Simple. You've already acquired an undergraduate degree. You can soldier on in our pathetic offense, or you can quit. There'd be no disgrace. Last year’s offensive line was hell, it would've shook me up.
DEVIN GARDNER: So you think I should quit?
BRADY HOKE: I didn't say that. The simple fact is you feel responsible for Notre Dame and you have a confidence problem. Now I'm not gonna sit here and blow sunshine up your ass. A good quarterback is compelled to evaluate what's happened, so he can apply what he's learned. On the field there, we gotta push it. That's our job. It's your option, Devin. All yours.
DEVIN GARDNER: Sorry to bother you on a Sunday, sir, but thank you very much for your time.
BRADY HOKE: No problem. Good luck.
* * * * *
Scene: a ceiling panel slides open in a bright, institutional storage closet. Motion-detecting lasers criss-cross the room at odd angles, and alarmed panels cover the floor. A lone computer terminal sits unoccupied at a desk built into the wall. Suddenly, SAGAR LATHIA drops from the ceiling. He almost strikes the floor, but spreads-eagle inches above it. SAGAR LATHIA moves through the air to the computer terminal, pulls up a screen that says “COCA-COLA TICKET PROMOTION,” and inserts a USB drive to download the data. A lengthy status bar appears on the screen while the data is slowly copied.
Meanwhile, outside the room, DAVE BRANDON speaks with [ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER].
DAVE BRANDON: How many tickets have you sold today?
ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER: Fourteen hundred, sir.
DAVE BRANDON: Very good. How much is that?
ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER: Well, with the Coca-Cola promotion, that’s twenty-eight hundred dollars. More importantly, we can keep our streak of 100,000 fans alive.
DAVE BRANDON: Whatever. You know what I say? If it ain’t broke, break it—that’s what I say. So go ahead and break that streak.
ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER: Whatever you say, sir. Don’t want to be fired like every other person I used to work with.
DAVE BRANDON: Yeah. Hey, didn’t those skywriters give us a half-off coupon for our next purchase? I think $2,800 ought to cover it.
ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER: I think the coupon is in the storage room, sir.
DAVE BRANDON: Well don’t just sit there. Bring me skywriting coupon!
Camera returns to storage room. SAGAR LATHIA finishes downloading marketing plan data and is pulled back through ceiling, just as ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER opens the door.
Scene: Ornate banquet room at Detroit’s Downtown Athletic Club, for annual Michigan Football Bust. Team, dressed in suits, has finished its meal and is looking to podium. Camera pans room to see several players carrying or wearing medical equipment, DEVIN GARDNER in full-body cast with oxygen tank. BRADY HOKE exits podium to moderate applause, as DAVE BRANDON steps to podium.
DAVE BRANDON: And I just want to thank Brady for the wonderful job he’s done. Really, really wonderful job. But you know, 7-5 really is not Michigan Football. I mean, let’s face it: you men are shit. What? Yes: you men... are... shit. Horrible, heinous, *heinous*, terrible football players. That’s you. Fuck this bullshit. What is it that we need? We need Michigan Men! You see what I'm getting at? What’s your problem, anyway? “Mommy wouldn't let me play soccer... and Daddy, he hit me, so that's who I am, that's why I do what I do?” We will not apologize for who we are. Michigan will not apologize for what it needs. I will not apologize for what I want! And that’s why I’d like to introduce the new head coach of the Michigan Wolverines—
Just then, SAGAR LATHIA and JOHN U. BACON rush into the room
JOHN U. BACON: Stop!
DAVE BRANDON: What the hell is this?
JOHN U. BACON: Stop, this man [points to SAGAR LATHIA] has something to say.
DAVE BRANDON: I’m outta here.
GREG MATTISON: [rises from the back of the room]: You're not going anywhere, Brandon. DTs, guard the Athletic Director.
DAVE BRANDON: Am I being charged with a crime? Is that what this is? I'm being charged with a crime? This is funny. That's what this is.
SAGAR LATHIA: You brought in Special K and left the band at home. You paid pilots to skywrite “Go Blue” over an empty Spartan Stadium. You masterminded the general admission fiasco. You undermined Rich Rod and botched the hire of Brady Hoke.
DAVE BRANDON: Son, we live in a world that has college football, and college football has to be played by men wearing uniformz. Who's gonna do it? You? You, hockey boy? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for our tradition, and you curse the rawk muzak. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That the loss of Michigan tradition, while tragic, probably won games. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, wins games. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me in that luxury box, you need me on in that luxury box. We use words like brand identity, brand equity, sub-brand, and brand loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent marketing something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very revenue that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a pom-pom, and wave it to piped-in techno. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.
SAGAR LATHIA: Did you order the miscommunication?
DAVE BRANDON: You’re goddamn right I did!
Audible gasp arises from the team and boosters in attendance
DAVE BRANDON: I'm gonna rip the eyes out of your head and puke into your dead skull, you messed with the wrong AD!
BRADY HOKE: I think you’re in deep shit, Brandon, I guaran-damn-tee you.
DAVE BRANDON: You have no idea how to run an athletic department. All you did was weaken The Team today, Lathia. That's all you did. You put Rose Bowl berths in danger. Sweet dreams, son.
SAGAR LATHIA: Don't call me son. I'm a Michigan student, and an officer in the LS&A student government. And you're fired, you son of a bitch.
Scene: Schembechler Hall. Square-jawed John Harbaugh stands at a podium, beside an academic-looking man [BRAD BATES] in a muted blazer. Cameras flash as BRAD BATES steps to the microphone bank.
BRAD BATES: I’d like to announce some exciting new changes for Michigan Football. We thank Brady Hoke for his distinguished service as the head coach; he’ll be staying on with the athletic department as an advisor and assistant euchre and wrestling coach. We’d like to welcome John Harbaugh, most recently of the Baltimore Ravens and the son of former Michigan assistant Jack Harbaugh, as our new head coach. And we’d like to extend our congratulations to Devin Gardner, who has made a full recovery from his injuries and was drafted 199th overall by the New England Patriots. Thank you, and Go Blue!
Four Plays – Utah @ Michigan 2014
I’ve always respected Kyle Whittingham’s Utah program. Whenever I watched his teams play in the past, they impressed me as tough, physical squads that got the most out of their talent. The Utes took down BYU on the road last season and followed that up with a stunning upset against Stanford, so they've shown the ability to compete with anyone. Even so, I wasn’t particularly worried about this game heading into the season. The Utes ended up 5-7 the past two years and haven’t finished in the AP top-25 since 2009.
That changed a bit after I read up on ths year's Utes. Utah’s quarterback, Travis Wilson, is a 6’7” (!) dual-threat (386 rushing yards in 2013) coming back from an intra-cranial artery issue. They have talent at WR and RB, and in the off-season landed spread guru Dan Christiansen--i.e., the guy who ran Mizzou’s offense in the Chase Daniel era--as their offensive coordinator. They've already put up 115 points in their first two games, plus they have a serious playmaker on defense in DE Nate Orchard.
But while Utah looked pretty formidable on paper, I was a bit less impressed after watching some of their game against Idaho State on video. The Utes really are not stout against the run, and while they have a few outstanding playmakers I just didn’t see the usual physicality that I associate with vintage Utah teams. This game should be a good all-around challenge, and Michigan isn’t going to win with a -4 turnover margin performance--but I’m still pretty confident Michigan gets the win so long as they take care of the ball and find a way to cope with Nate Orchard.
Now, let’s look at some matchups.
When Michigan has the ball…
1. 26 Power
Somewhat ironically, Michigan’s best running play this season (not counting the jet sweeps to Norfleet) has arguably been not Inside Zone, but the play Michigan could never really get off the ground despite years of trying under Al Borges: good ol’ Power O. Maybe it has something to do with catching opponents by surprise, maybe all the years of practice are finally paying off, who knows? But the play is easier (mentally) on the running backs and Magnuson has looked good pulling this season, so hopefully the success continues.
Shown here from an offset I formation against Utah’s base 4-3 Under, Power O attacks the “6-hole” between offensive tackle and TE. Key features of the play include: (i) the RT and TE will double-team the opposing SDE at the point-of-attack; (ii) the LG pulls and leads the tailback through the hole; (iii) the tailback cuts off of the LG’s block. Note that Utah runs a 4-3 Under front and calls its strongside LB the “Stud” and the weakside LB the “Rover.”
LT Mason Cole: Down-block WDE Nate Orchard
LG Erik Magnuson: Pull and lead through hole; block first defender (likely MLB Jason Whittingham)
C Jack Miller: Down-block 3T Sese Ianu
RG Graham Glasgow: Down-block NT Clint Shepherd
RT Ben Braden: Block SDE Hunter Dimick (try to seal him inside)
TE Jake Butt: Double-team SDE Hunter Dimick; then pop-off and progress to second-level
FB Joe Kerridge: Kick-out block on “Stud” LB Uaea Masina
RB – Derrick Green: Counter step, then receive handoff and aim for 6-hole outside RT, cut off of Magnuson’s block
While Michigan’s running game remains a work in progress, Utah (i.e., Nate Orchard) has 21 TFLs and a nation-leading 11 sacks through just two games. Despite the impressive statistics, however, the Utes’ interior DL looked soft against FCS Idaho State. With Jake Butt taking another step toward a full return, Kerridge off to a strong start, Magnuson exceeding expectations, and Green starting to live up to his billing, I am cautiously optimistic here. Orchard is a beast though, and Michigan’s young line still makes too many mistakes to warrant the advantage.
2. Shallow Cross
As even the most casual football fans can tell you, there are few better ways of attacking man coverage than with crossing routes. And when it comes to crossing routes, there are few better concepts than the shallow cross—a quick-developing, safe play with an easy triangle read for the QB. So it’s no surprise that the shallow cross is among the most popular passing plays in football, and reportedly a long-time staple of Doug Nussmeier’s playbook.
Shown here from a shotgun look, the TE and flanker will cross on the right side of the formation, while the slot receiver runs a “choice” route in between them (the choice route is a fade, which the receiver converts into a comeback route if he can’t get over the top). This route combination promises to generate a massive amount of traffic in one spot on the field, which will hopefully catch up at least one defender.
XWR Amara Darboh: Run post (7) route vs. BCB Eric Rowe
RB Derrick Green: Run flat route covered by Rover LB Jared Norris (or, help Cole pass protect vs. WDE Nate Orchard, then release to flat)
LT Mason Cole: Pass protect vs. WDE Nate Orchard
LG Erik Magnuson: Pass protect vs. 3T Sese Ianu
C Jack Miller: Pass protect vs. NT Clint Shepherd
RG Graham Glasgow: Pass protect vs. NT Clint Shepherd
RT Ben Braden: Pass protect vs. SDE Hunter Dimick
UTE Jake Butt: Run flat route, covered by MLB Jason Whittingham
YWR Dennis Norfleet: Run choice route vs. NB Justin Thomas
ZWR Jehu Chesson: Run 5-yard in route vs. FCB Davion Orphey
QB Devin Gardner: 1-step drop; read “inside-out” from Z to Y to Y; if Z open, throw as back foot hits on pass drop; if covered, hitch and throw to Y if open; if covered, hitch and throw to U if open.
Utah is reportedly strong at safety, but its corners and LBs are suspect. A play like this matches Michigan’s quality receivers against that weakness. The primary reads come open under the safeties, and as a quick-developing play it limits Orchard’s chances of getting home on a pass rush.
When Utah has the ball…
3. Inside Zone Read
Still probably the quintessential play of the Chip Kelley/Urban Meyer axis of spread offense, the Inside Zone Read works just like the regular Inside Zone, but buys the offense an extra blocker by using the QB run threat to option-off the backside DE. That means covered linemen will block the defenders lined up across from them, while uncovered linemen will head to the second level.
The general rule in defending zone read plays is to make sure the ball winds up in the hands of the less-dangerous threat. In Utah’s case, the backs (Devontae Booker and Bubba Poole) are considerably better runners, so Michigan will want QB Travis Wilson to keep. The simplest way to accomplish that is to have the WDE, who is normally responsible for defending the C-gap (outside the LT), exchange gaps with the WLB, who is normally responsible for the B-gap (between the LG and LT). That way, the WDE can crash down on the running back—and when the QB pulls and attacks the C-gap, the WLB will be there waiting for him (in theory, anyway).
WDE Frank Clark: Gap-exchange with WLB Joe Bolden; backside pursuit of RB Devontae Booker
NT Ryan Glasgow: Defend backside A-gap against LG Junior Salt
DT Willie Henry: Defend playside B-gap against RG Isaac Asiata, constrict playside A-gap
SDE Brennan Beyer: Defend playside D-gap (outside TE) vs. TE Westlee Tonga; backside pursuit if QB keeps, set edge point and force run back inside if QB gives
WLB Joe Bolden: Gap-exchange with WDE Frank Clark; defend backside C-gap vs. LT Jeremiah Poutasi, set edge point and force back inside if QB keeps, backside pursuit if QB gives
MLB Jake Ryan: Defend playside A-gap vs. C Siaosi Aiono
SLB James Ross: Defend playside C-gap vs. RT J.J. Dielman
This is the first of two games that will tell us whether Michigan’s stout run defense is the real thing or just fool’s gold. Both of Utah’s featured RBs have big-play speed, and can beat you both between the tackles and on the edge, so it’s a true matchup of strength vs. strength.
4. All Curls
Different teams run All Curls different ways, but the basic concept is to attack Cover 3 by having four receivers occupy the four underneath defenders, then stress one of the flat defenders by sending a fifth receiver (i.e., the running back) into the pattern. Of course, that means the play is not particularly effective against man coverage or even against zone schemes that leave five underneath defenders (e.g., Cover 2 Zone). But Utah ran All Curls to good effect against Idaho State, using the play to stretch the Idaho State defense horizontally and create one-on-one match-ups for the Utes’ superior athletes.
As Space Coyote explained in the comments to the Miami UFR, Michigan ran Cover 4 as its base scheme against the Red Hawks. All Curls is not a particularly good call against Cover 4, because the CBs stay in man coverage on the outside WRs and the WILL picks up the RB releasing into the flat. But the only other downfield Utah pass play I was able to discern from Pac-12 Network’s broadcast looked like a version of Levels, and that play isn’t particularly effective against Cover 4 either. So, FWIW, here is Utah’s All Curls play against the Cover 3 scheme we hope to see Michigan run very little of.
Before the snap, the QB chooses one side of the field to attack (based on the defensive alignment). At the snap, each receiver runs a 5-10 yard curl, attempting to sell the vertical routes before settling into open areas. The quarterback reads outside-in, and has an outlet to the releasing RB in the flat.
BCB Jabrill Peppers: Drop to cover deep 1/3 zone (sideline to hash on weakside)
NCB Blake Countess: Cover weakside flat vs. WR Dres Anderson, RB Devontae Booker
WDE Frank Clark: Pass rush vs. LT Jeremiah Poutasi
3T Willie Henry: Pass rush vs. LG Junior Salt
NT Ryan Glasgow: Pass rush vs. C Siaosi Aiono
SDE Brennan Beyer: Pass rush vs. RT J.J. Dielman
WLB Joe Bolden: Cover hook/curl zone on weakside vs. WR Kaelin Clay
MLB Jake Ryan: Cover hook/curl zone on strongside vs. TE Westlee Tonga
FS Jerrod Wilson: Cover deep middle 1/3 zone
SS Jeremy Clark: Cover deep 1/3 zone (sideline to hash on strongside)
FCB Jourdan Lewis: Cover strong side flat vs. WR Kenneth Scott
The Michigan secondary has the talent to stick with Utah’s receivers and Travis Wilson is not an overly-impressive passer. But Michigan’s pass rush still can’t seem to get home, and that same vaunted secondary had a rough outing in South Bend and now face an at least comparable set of receivers in Dres Anderson and Kaelin Clay. Deep-down I think M really has the advantage here, but I’m calling this even until the young DBs prove they can perform up to their talent level in a big game.
Four Plays – Michigan @ ND 2014
This series examines the probable individual matchups Michigan expects to face against particular opponents on one each of Michigan’s basic running and passing plays, as well as defensively against a couple of the opponent’s base plays. I did four of these last season, and would have done more, but after games like Penn State and MSU I eventually just became too demoralized to keep going. Not only that, but Borges would install new concepts every other week and I couldn’t keep up.
A new season is upon us, however, so it’s a nice day to start again. For the first 2014 edition of the series, let’s take a look at Michigan’s visit to South Bend in the (sniff) final matchup of this iconic series.
When Michigan has the ball…
1. Inside Zone Left
The Appalachian State UFR showed that RT Ben Braden struggled with his run blocking technique and RGs Joey Burzynski and Kyle Kalis were inconsistent. Michigan should get some help on the right side of the line with Graham Glasgow returning, but the best bet for running the ball may be to go left behind Mason Cole and Erik Magnuson. Shown here from a “Shotgun Deep” formation, this inside zone play is designed to attack the “3-hole” between offensive guard and tackle, but the back must read the blocks and may attack a different hole if a defender gets caught out of his gap or too far upfield. As for Notre Dame, Bob Diaco and his cats & dogs are out; former NY Jets defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder is in. He supposedly runs an aggressive 4-3, mixing under and over fronts and using lots of pressure.
LT Mason Cole: Covered; block SDE Romeo Okwara, who is covering him
LG Erik Magnuson: Uncovered; release to second-level and block WLB Jaylon Smith
C Jack Miller: Covered; reach block NT Jarron Jones, who is covering him
RG Graham Glasgow: Uncovered; chip DT Sheldon Day, then release to block MLB Joe Schmidt
RT Ben Braden: Covered; block DT Sheldon Day
UTE Khalid Hill: Covered; block WDE
Ishaq Williams (haha) Isaac Rochelle, who is covering him
RB – Derrick Green: Receive handoff and aim for 3-hole between LT and LG; read blocks, make a single cut and head downfield
Though Cole, Magnuson, and Miller graded out well against Appalachian State, this play calls for Cole, a true freshman, to single-block ND’s upper-classman DE and for Magnuson to hunt down Jaylon Smith—one of the best young linebackers in the country. On the backside, expect Braden to struggle with Sheldon Day, even with help from Glasgow.
2. Four Verticals
Cover 3 gets its name from the three defenders (i.e., both CBs and the FS) who play deep 1/3 zones over top of four underneath defenders. Four Verticals is designed to attack Cover 3 by forcing those three deep defenders to cover four receivers. The outside WRs occupy the two cornerbacks, leaving just the FS to deal with the two inside receivers (the Y and the U, as depicted above). In more advanced versions of the play, one or more of the receivers will run option routes, adjusting their patterns after the snap to exploit the holes in the defensive scheme or coverage techniques. Here, the U receiver will run a fly route—but in the event both safeties drop deep (e.g., in a disguised Cover 2 scheme), he will covert to a post route and attack the open middle of the field.
XWR Amara Darboh: Run fly (9) route vs. BCB
KaiVare Russell (doof) Cody Riggs
YWR Dennis Norfleet: Run option fly (9) route vs. FS Max Redfield
LT Mason Cole: Pass protect vs.
WDE Ishaq Williams (blarblar) WDE Isaac Rochells
LG Erik Magnuson: Pass protect vs. DT Sheldon Day
C Jack Miller: Pass protect vs. DT Sheldon Day
RG Graham Glasgow: Pass protect vs. NT Jarron Jones
RT Ben Braden: Pass protect vs. SDE Romeo Okwara
RB Derrick Green: Pass protect, then release to flat
UWR Devin Funchess: Run fly (9) route vs. FS Max Redfield
ZWR Jehu Chesson: Run fly (9) route vs. FCB Cole Luke
QB Devin Gardner: 1-step drop (from shotgun); read free safety to see which of the inside receivers he plays tighter on; read “inside-out” on opposite side of field; if corner plays outside receiver, throw to inside receiver and vice-versa
Successfully defending Four Verticals requires advanced zone coverage technique; the underneath defenders must jam the inside receivers, while the corners and safeties must be able to split their receivers and stay in position to make a play on a ball thrown to either one. Yet ND will be missing its best starting CB due to honor code violations, and starting safety Austin Collinsworth is also out with an injury. To make matters worse for the Irish, starting DE Ishaq Williams is also out because of the academic scandal. That’s a lot of vulnerabilities—and expect Michigan to take full advantage.
When Notre Dame has the ball…
3. Outside Zone
Outside Zone remains the staple of Brian Kelly’s running game. Unlike Inside Zone, a physical running play in which the offensive line tries generally to drive defensive players out of their gaps, Outside Zone calls for agile linemen to step across their defenders and seal them inside (reach blocking). Defenders must fight to avoid being sealed—but in doing so, must also be careful not to flow too far outside, lest they open up cutback lanes behind them.
WDE Frank Clark: Defend backside C-gap vs. LT Ronnie Stanley
NT Ryan Glasgow: Penetrate backside A-gap vs. LG Conner Hanratty (try to demand double team from C)
DT Willie Henry: Penetrate playside B-gap vs. RG Christian Lombard
SDE Brennan Beyer: Fight outside block of TE Ben Koyack to defend playside C-gap; set edge point to force run inside
WLB Joe Bolden: Defend backside B-gap (watch for crackback from invisible slot receiver)
MLB Jake Ryan: Defend frontside A-gap vs. C Nick Martin
SLB James Ross: Defend frontside C-gap vs. RT Steve Elmer
Notre Dame has a veteran line with some quality players, but could be shaky on the right side with a young RT and a new starter at TE. Michigan is stout in the middle, but small at SDE and the move to a 4-3 Over base has shuffled their linebackers’ responsibilities around. No clear advantage for either team on this play.
4. Stick/Draw Packaged Play
Notre Dame’s biggest offensive weapons this season are in the backfield, with several touted RBs and QB Everett Golson returning from a one-year academic disqualification. For Michigan, the greatest concerns with the defense lie in the middle of the field—where distinguished SAM linebacker Jake Ryan has moved to MLB, veteran inside linebacker Desmond Morgan is reportedly out with an arm injury, and new (though talented) players start at safety and nickel. One way ND might test these greener players is through a packaged concept that targets the MLB. The line pass-blocks and the TE runs a stick route; the QB reads the MLB to see if he drops into coverage on the TE or plays the run—and then either hands to ball off to the RB (if the MLB drops) or throws to the TE (if the MLB plays the run). This play destroys zone coverage, but Michigan has moved to primarily man-to-man coverage this season.
FCB Blake Countess: Bump & run coverage vs. SE
DaVaris Daniels (hoohoo) Chris Brown on fade (9) route
NCB Jabrill Peppers: Coverage vs. Slot WR Amir Carlisle on out (8) route; defend C gap vs. run
WDE Frank Clark: Penetrate C gap vs. LT Ronnie Stanley
NT Ryan Glasgow: Penetrate weakside A-gap vs. LG Conner Hanratty, C Nick Martin
3-tech DT Willie Henry: Penetrate strongside B-gap vs. RG Christian Lombard
SDE Brennan Beyer: Pass rush vs. RT Steve Elmer
WLB Joe Bolden: Read pass or run; against pass, cover RB Cam McDaniel; against run, defend B gap
MLB Jake Ryan: Read pass or run; against pass, cover TE Ben Koyack; against run, defend A gap
SS Delano Hill: Cover deep half
FS Jarrod Wilson: Cover deep half
BCB Raymon Taylor: Bump & run coverage vs. WR Corey Robinson
This play puts Michigan’s newest starters (Jake Ryan, who is new to MLB, and Delano Hill, who is new to starting altogether) under stress. But Ryan is, as they say, "a football player." And Hill may be a new face at SS, but he’s reportedly a high-IQ guy who should at least be in position. Having a war daddy at the 3-tech position also helps; Lombard is a well-regarded player but if Henry can 2-gap him then the draw play won't work anyhow.
Four Plays – UM @ Penn State 2013 (Surprise!)
This series examines the probable individual matchups Michigan expects to face against particular 2013 opponents on one of Michigan’s key running plays and one of its key passing plays, as well as defensively against a couple of the opponent’s key plays (assuming first-sting personnel in a base defensive alignment). This is the fourth installment of the series; previous: Notre Dame, Connecticut, Minnesota.
There wasn’t any way I expected I’d have time to do another of these diaries in time for the Penn State game, but a number of things came together to make it much less difficult for me this week. See, it’s usually tough to find a whole lot of good material on the specific plays I’m looking at. But I started off looking at the mesh play M ran against UConn a few weeks ago, and in studying that came across a terrific Space Coyote piece discussing not only the mesh passing concepts but also noting that Penn State’s running game basically consists of three plays: inside zone, outside zone, and the draw. That gave me an easy PSU running play to go with M’s mesh. Next, I saw that Black Shoe Diaries had gone and diagrammed every single Penn State pass play from their game against Kent State, so I had plenty to choose from in the PSU air attack. Then Michigan made the incredible Lewan-Williams flip, which resulted in two outstanding front-page items on mgoblog for me to digest (read those ASAP if you haven’t already).
All these great sources made it easy for me to put this together, plus I settled a big case this week and thus had some extra time, and admittedly I may have had a bit more motivation after that most excellent front-page bump last week (seriously—that felt awesome). So, in a way this is kind of the least I could do.
Anyway, Michigan returns to Happy Valley for the first time since the 2010 debacle. This year, they face a proud Nittany Lion team led by their indefatigable head coach, Bill O’Brien. But after a surprising 8-4 campaign a year ago, Penn State’s ship has already begun taking on serious water this season. Already Penn State has fallen to the Central Florida Knights and the Indiana Hoosiers, and Michigan looks to compound their misery this weekend.
Schematically, Penn State runs a 4-3 over base defense and a passing spread offense uncannily similar to Notre Dame’s (except with a likeable, seemingly down-to-earth guy coaching them instead of a petulant purple Nazi). But they’re short on talent and even shorter on depth and experience, so Michigan should find itself on the favorable end of many individual matchups on Saturday.
When Michigan has the ball…
Passing offenses have long used shallow crossing routes to attack man-to-man coverage because there’s no better way to shake a receiver loose than by forcing his defender to wade through traffic in the middle of the field. One of the most successful versions of this scheme is an old LaVell Edwards BYU play called “mesh,” which is designed to free the X receiver by rubbing his defender off against the Y receiver, the Y receiver’s defender, the MLB, and maybe even the umpire. Hal Mumme and Mike Leach improved mesh in their Air Raid offense, by assigning the Z receiver to read the coverage after the snap and run either a post or a corner pattern depending on whether the defense vacates the deep middle (the Z receiver always ran a post in Edwards’ design).
Shown here against a Cover 2 defense with man underneath, the X receiver will “mesh” underneath the Y receiver at a depth of 4-6 yards downfield. Meanwhile, the Z receiver will identify Cover 2 from his post-snap read; because Cover 2 has a hole in the deep middle, this means the Z receiver should run the post—a route that will likely draw the safety to him just as the X receiver emerges from the mesh point.
LT Taylor Lewan: pass protect vs. WDE Deion Barnes
LG Christian Bryant: pass protect vs. NT DaQuan Jones
C Graham Glasgow: pass protect vs. NT DaQuan Jones
RG Kyle Kalis: pass protect vs. DT Kyle Baublitz
RT Michael Schofield: pass protect vs. SDE C.J. Olaniyan
TE Devin Funchess (I know, I know): run flat route (covered by OLB Mike Hull)
YWR Drew Dileo: run crossing route at 4-6 yard depth, cross over XWR (covered by NB Stephen Obeng-Agyapong)
XWR Jeremy Gallon: run crossing route at 4-6 yard depth, cross under FL Drew Dileo (covered by CB Jordan Lucas)
ZWR Jehu Chesson: run post (8) route (covered by CB Trevor Williams)
TB Fitzgerald Toussaint: pass protect, then release to flat (covered by MLB Glenn Carson)
QB Devin Gardner: pre-snap, use motion to determine whether underneath coverage is man or zone; recognize man coverage underneath; receive snap, read deep-to-shallow on Z (post), to X (cross), to tailback (flat).
Michigan’s passing game showed definite improvement against Minnesota, with Gardner avoiding the turnover bug and Devin Funchess emerging as a dangerous outside threat. But the turnover fest isn’t quite old enough to laugh about yet, while mesh is a slow-developing play that will give Penn State’s defensive line as good a chance as they’ll ever have to get pressure. While Taylor Lewan should handle Deion Barnes, Penn State has to like their chances of getting penetration up the middle with DaQuan Jones going against new starter Christian Bryant. In the secondary, Penn State is shaky at corner but has two veteran safeties with Adrian Amos (free) and Malcolm Willis (box).
26 Power O (Unbalanced Line)
According to the UFR, Michigan ran Power O eleven times against Minnesota, all but one of them from the “tackle over” formations with Lewan lined up outside Schofield. The keys to Power O, as you’ve undoubtedly heard before, are (i) double-team at the point-of-attack, (ii) kick-out block on the EMLOS (end man on the line-of-scrimmage), and (iii) pulling backside guard who leads tailback through the hole. Swapping Lewan for the TE lets Michigan’s best blocker either participate in that double-team or make the kick-out block (while the TE has the much easier task of down-blocking and sealing the backside DE), but at the cost of practically announcing the play-call to the defense. Penn State is obviously going to prepare for this; expect to see Borges run this play in his opening script to diagnose John Butler’s adjustment.
LT* A.J Williams: down-block WDE Deion Barnes
LG Christian Bryant: pull across formation, lead through 6-hole, block first defender (likely MLB Glenn Carson)
C Graham Glasgow: down-block NT DaQuan Jones
RG Kyle Kalis: drive-block DT Kyle Baublitz (double-team with RT)
RT Michael Schofield: down-block DT Kyle Baublitz (double-team with RG)
TE* Taylor Lewan: kick-out SDE C.J. Olaniyan
FB Joe Kerridge: lead block on SLB Mike Hull
RB – Fitzgerald Toussaint: execute initial counter step (toward back side), then follow LG through 6-hole, cut off LG’s block.
Advantage: Penn State
Michigan can expect consistent performance from Lewan and Schofield on this play, and Toussaint’s play has been much better over the past few weeks. But Penn State is stout in the middle with DaQuan Jones, has a veteran linebacker unit, and (unlike Minnesota) has formidable defenders at both defensive end positions. Olaniyan, a guy Michigan wanted, is an established veteran who specializes in run support, Barnes is a speedy edge defender coming off an impressive All-B1G freshman team campaign, and Anthony Zettel (another guy Michigan wanted) gives them a third quality option off the bench. Perhaps most importantly, Penn State will absolutely know this is coming and Michigan really hasn’t shown they’ve got a constraint play to keep the defense honest against it (indeed, I have my doubts as to whether Borges even subscribes to the constraint theory)—and the options may frankly be limited if Williams can’t handle Barnes in pass pro. I’ve always believed in Borges and remain optimistic—but for now I have to call this play in the Nittany Lions’ favor.
When Penn State has the ball…
Pistol Inside Zone
You know the deal: covered linemen block the guys covering them, uncovered linemen work to the second level (maybe helping chip a DL along the way), the tailback picks a hole and then cuts north.
WDE Brennen Beyer: Engage TE Kyle Carter and constrict backside C gap, backside pursuit, “fence” ballcarrier inside
3T Jibreel Black: Defeat drive-block of LG Miles Dieffenbach, penetrate through backside B-gap, hopefully drawing double from LT Donovan Smith (thus keeping Smith from reaching James Ross)
NT Quinton Washington: Defeat single-block of C Ty Howle, defend frontside A-gap, draw double-team from RG John Urschel (who Bacon says is a genius, FWIW)
SDE Keith Heitzman: engage RT Gary Gillam, keep outside arm free, defend frontside C gap
SLB Cam Gordon (or J.M.F.R.): Defeat reach block of TE Jesse James, set edge point 2 yards deep, 2 yards outside and force run back inside
MLB Desmond Morgan: Defend frontside B gap, attack ballcarrier through alley
WLB James Ross: Defendant backside A gap, pursue ballcarrier from backside, allow no cutback lane
I can’t see Penn State being any more successful at this than Notre Dame was; the Irish have at least as good a line and much more dangerous tailbacks. With Pipkins out of the lineup, I could maybe see Penn State trying to exploit Ash or another backup they think might be vulnerable, but mostly I imagine BOB is planning on throwing about 55 passes this week. Or 70.
Empty Set Go-Option Routes
If you’re like me, when you close your eyes and think of the New England Patriots, the image that comes to mind is one involving Tom Brady in shotgun with five WRs and no backs. Well, Christian Hackenberg has a long way to go if he wants to be the next Tom Brady, but BOB’s at least got him looking the part. Here’s an empty set play that Penn State ran to good effect against Kent State; go routes to either side of the formation clear out the flats, making room for the slot receivers to get open on (what I presume are) option routes underneath:
Empty formations are vulnerable to pressure, especially against non-mobile quarterbacks—and here the Kent State defense simply outnumbered the offensive line by bringing six rushers. This didn’t work for them, however, because Kent State’s sixth rusher was the DB aligned over Allen Robinson. Hackenberg simply threw back in the direction of the blitz and found Robinson (who was never going to be covered by a safety aligning on the opposite hash) on a quick out for an easy first down.
An empty formation stretches a defense horizontally to the maximum extent possible, limits the defense’s ability to disguise coverage, and can force a defense into Hobsonian personnel choices that create inevitable mismatches. Michigan faced empty formations numerous times against Notre Dame, and never brought in more than five DBs—though ND never aligned with more than four WR (always keeping at least one TE on the field). Certainly Mattison is not going to put his LBs in man-to-man coverage against WRs on the edge and he’s also unlikely to unnecessarily risk big plays over the top. So unless Michigan is prepared to roll out a dime (i.e., six DB) look this week—unlikely as either Morgan, Ross, or a DL would have to come off the field—we can expect to see Michigan primarily play zone coverage underneath.
Whereas outs or crossing patterns were effective against Kent State’s man-under coverage, the slot receivers will likely run curls against a zone—trying to find and sit down in the holes between defenders.
To defend the play, Michigan’s man-to-man underneath defenders should align inside their receivers and play a “trail technique” to force any throws to the outside or to safety help over the top (Edit: doh. S'pose to be zone. Deep as the deepest, wide as the widest, yo).
WDE Brennan Beyer: rush passer vs. LT Donovan Smith
DT Chris Wormley: rush passer vs. LG Miles Dieffenbach
DT Jibreel Black: rush passer vs. C Ty Howle and RG John Urschel
SDE Frank Clark: rush passer vs. RT Gary Gillam
WLB James Ross: cover short zone from hashes to numbers on boundary (over YWR Matt Zanellato)
MLB Desmond Morgan: cover middle short zone between hash marks
NCB Blake Countess: cover short zone from hashes to numbers on field side (align over FL1 Brandon Felder, pick up ZWR Allen Robinson)
BCB Raymon Taylor: cover short zone from numbers to sideline on boundary (over XWR Eugene Lewis)
FCB Courtney Avery: cover short zone from numbers to sideline on field side (over FL2 Alex Kenney)
SS: Thomas Gordon: play deep (>15 yards) half to field side (I think)
FS Jerod Wilson: play deep half to boundary side
Michigan goes deeper at DB than Penn State goes at WR, but Allen Robinson working the middle of the field against M’s linebackers and safeties is a definite concern. Michigan’s pass rush hasn’t been great this season, but may get a shot in the arm from the return of JMFR—and facing a true freshman QB it’s also a good bet Mattison will blitz a fair amount this week. The empty formation does limit the ability to disguise those things, and that helps give Hackenberg a chance—but until he proves he can hold his own in mind games with Mattison and consistently get the ball out, the edge must go to the D.
Based on the foregoing, Michigan will win obvs. It looks like the most votes for my next diary were for the Northwestern game, and I have some extra incentive to do that game since I’m actually going to make that one in person, so it all works out. Thanks for reading!
PS-- So, Gameday is in Seattle this weekend for the UW game against Oregon, and ESPN happens to be using the building on UW's campus where my wife works to do their interviews and stuff. I told my wife to say hi to Desmond for me if she ran into him, not really thinking she would. But then she sent me this pic of she and him from earlier today: