will be michigan's highest pick in a while
Hockey Special Teams 2: The Neutral Zone and Penalty Kill
In honor of the Stanley Cup Playoffs starting tonight, here’s Volume 2. I saw the Wings utilize both the Umbrella PP and the Diamond PK, so I was inspired to write tonight.
For the first diary in this series, look here: http://mgoblog.com/diaries/hockey-special-teams-1-powerplay-basics
As was covered previously, there are many situations that can lead to a power play during a hockey game:
Any excuse for a SlapShot Clip
The job of the penalty kill is simple:
1. Don’t let the puck into your zone
2. If the puck gets in your zone, get it out ASAP
3. If the other team possesses the puck in your zone, keep it out of the middle and get it out of your zone ASAP.
In this Diary I’m going to talk mostly about the neutral zone, only some about in zone formations. I mentioned that the obvious advantage of a powerplay is the extra man. The advantages of the defense are that 1, you can ice the puck with no penalty to kill time and 2, you can just focus on defense.
2 may seem obvious, but it’s not. Even-strength hockey is a lot like basketball. It’s a very fluid game, transitions happen instantly, scoring chances are often even, games can be up and down or slow. Suddenly with a penalty, the gameplay turns. There is a defined offense and defense. The offense should score. The defense is trying to stop them. Occasionally the defense scores (anyone have numbers on shorthanded goals per pk vs. defensive touchdowns per drive?) but the main goal is just to stop the offense from scoring. The other thing to keep in mind is the line rules. The offense has to cross the red line to dump the puck (or they ice the puck) and the puck has to cross into the zone before any offensive players do (offsides). The PK can use this to their advantage as I explain below.
In the defensive zone
This is your most common defensive formation. A simple zone box, you try to keep the puck to the perimeter and prevent the offense from getting high quality shots. The arrows above illustrate the coaching adjustment if the Powerplay wants to play an Umbrella (see previous diary). The PK plays a diamond rather than a box. This pressures the QB and wing players and prevents the Umbrella from doing what it wants. If the PK shifts to a diamond, the PP shifts the PP, typically trying to create a 2-on-1 out of the corner.
General PK Bullet that belongs here:
- On the PK, you play under extreme control. If a defender gets out of position and makes a mistake, goals happen. That said, the PK has to play with controlled aggression. A good PK can dictate play. The easiest way to kill a penalty is to not allow the puck into your zone (segue alert) but importantly, the PK MUST capitalize on any mistake the offense makes. If a pass isn’t crisp, if it’s bobbled, if it’s dribbling off a stick into a corner the penalty killer should attack and ice it ASAP. If the offense is able to repossess the puck, get back into your formation and wait for your next chance.
Neutral Zone Play
Here is where it gets really interesting. Most of Michigan’s Powerplay problems stemmed from 2 things. 1, they didn’t have an elite scoring defenseman (H/T to JimLahey, read his comments on the last diary) and 2, they couldn’t get the puck into the zone. My high school team ran 4 different neutral zone penalty kills. I’m going to (quickly) go over 3 of them. Critical in special teams Neutral Zone Play are the lines. The offense doesn’t want icing or offsides.
We called this the I, just like the football formation (or something). In it when the PP begins their breakout, the first man waits between the tops of the circles and forces the defenseman to move the puck to one side. The second forward waits outside the zone and reads the first and pinches on that pass, trying to disrupt the break out before it reaches the red line. These players have to be patient and react to the breakout.
Again, your players need to be patient. You have 1 on the offensive blue line, 2 on the red line (or a step towards the offensive zone), and one near your own blue line. Again your front man has to read the breakout, and force it to one side. Once it’s forced the man on the red line steps up before the puck gains the red line. This prevents the offense from chipping it in. Also you always have 2 men back since the man on the weak side should back up and become a defenseman. This formation is beatable though, most simply by sticking an offensive player at center ice. If the man who catches the first pass can make a good touch pass to the man at center, the offense has a 3-on-2 or better. If the PP doesn’t have the passing ability, or a coach who wont adjust his breakout, this formation works like a charm. It was dominant on the high school level, and I just saw the Wings running it tonight.
This formation is extremely passive and can give offenses fits. What this formation says is “you’re not carrying the puck into the zone against us. You have to dump it.” By challenging between the red line and defensive blue line, you invite the PP to dump the puck in. If you have fast defensemen, you can bait the offense into dumping it, win the race to the puck, and then ice it. Many pro teams use this to just slow teams down through the neutral zone. This gave Michigan fits, as they didn’t have an elite puck handler a la TJ Hensick who could beat this with the puck on his stick. This makes the offense work to gain possession in the zone, and can wear down a first powerplay unit.
Those are some basic Penalty Kill set ups. Now for some general penalty kill bullets:
· The Wings ran a bunch of this tonight
I’ve gotten feedback here and on twitter that this has helped some folks already, hope you enjoy the playoffs. I’m a Blackhawks fan, but I’d love to see us meet in the WCF. And hey, I found out that I get CNBC. Who knew?
· The powerplay is a lot like football plays – constraints are huge
As I showed above, a lot of the formations are a chess match against each other. As I write this the Wings were in an umbrella look while Nashville ran a diamond in the zone. Forced a shot from wide.
· While on the Penalty Kill, keep the puck out of the middle
At all costs. Let the other team waste all the time they want in the neutral zone or near the walls in your end. Players don’t score from behind the net (often). Players score from the hashmarks. Always defend inside out, and if it’s close, be patient and stay defensive.
· 5-on-3 situations
The typical defensive formation is a rotating triangle. Think the Box, just with 3 guys. Depending on what the offense runs, you’ll have 1 high 2 low, or 2 high 1 low. The triangle should rotate (you rarely recover to the zone you were in, you just keep moving). Ice it and get whistles. From the other diary: A 5-on-3 is a goal one way or the other. Everything mental I just mentioned about a normal powerplay is turned up to 11. A goal is scored, either by the offensive team or by the team that shut down the 5-on-3. The momentum swing and huge boost is as good as a goal, and I am not exaggerating. Many teams will run their normal powerplay, just condensed.
· From the other diary, still true: A Good goalie can muck all of this up
A team’s best penalty killer is their goalie. Done. At 7:37 central time they even said this during the Wings game.
- A note on individual play
If you’re coaching at all, or just watching, watch the front of the net during a PK compared to 5 on 5. In 5 on 5 you often see players tie each other up and wrestle for position. On the PK the defenseman should NOT lock up with the offensive players. You’re already down a man, don’t get stuck and create a 4-on-3 situation.
There’s the PK diary. Again, please ask questions in the comments and add insight to it. A detailed breakdown of Michigan’s struggles will come as I can get the pictures and videos together. Hopefully you’ve got some of the concepts to work with now.
[Ed-S: Gee golly willickers this guy knows his hockey. Bump Elliott'd]
I know it's not about Trey Burke... but Brian suggested I post it Monday night:
Hockey Special Teams 1: Power Play Basics
Brian recently asked me “What’s wrong with Michigan’s powerplay?” Since that is a complicated answer, I’ll answer it in a 3 part Diary. This one focuses on the Power Play, the next will be on the penalty kill, and once I’ve explained those basics I’ll dive into Michigan’s specifics. There are many situations that can lead to a power play during a hockey game:
First, my hockey resume: I’ve been playing hockey for 20 years. I tried out for the club team at Michigan and was told I was the 2nd best goalie trying out, but they were only taking 1 that year (they might have told that to all the goalies). I played on Sunday nights at the Cube from 2006-2009, so if you played in that student league you probably played against me. I’ve done some coaching since graduation but had to take a break from that when I changed jobs. OK, enough about that. There are plenty of better hockey minds on the board (JimLahey comes to mind) who will hopefully chime in and add to what I’ve put together here.
All powerplays have 3 parts:
1. Establish possession in the offensive zone
3. Profit! Er. Score.
In this Diary I’m mainly going to focus on #2. In my diary on the penalty kill I’ll talk more about #1 (and how to stop it). The obvious advantage of a powerplay is that you have an extra man. The objective becomes taking advantage of that extra man and getting him a scoring change in space. It comes down to spacing and angles. Forgive the Word Art, but a basic offensive zone powerplay formation is the “Umbrella”
In this formation you have 3 players high in the zone, with one in the middle. This formation works best if the man on the left circle is a right-handed shot and the man on the right circle is a left-handed shot as seen here:
Right now the wing players are on their “opposite” sides, which allows them to be open to a pass from the middle and one-time the puck right away. We used to teach our “Quarterback” – the player at the top of the umbrella – to shoot it right away the first time he got it and establish himself as a threat. You make the PK commit to the middle player and he’ll have options on either side. In the above frame against Western, the WMU penalty killer approaching the puck is doing so after challenging the QB up top.
If you’ve got 5 minutes, this video does a good job of breaking down the Umbrella:
In the frame above, Michigan actually ran a different set off an umbrella look that lead to a goal. Rather than just cycling the puck among the top 3 guys, Michigan flipped the puck low and took advantage of what Western gave us. The same principles apply here though – get a scoring chance to a guy in space.
Another powerplay set up I learned as the “Swedish” play. This works well if you want to have 2 defensemen on the ice for the powerplay (like Red does) and you don’t want to have them switch sides (right D man is on the right side)
Again, forgive the word art. This set up lulls the defenders to sleep and sets up a quick one timer for one of your defensemen. The play starts at the top middle with a right handed defenseman. The puck should move between the top 3 players for a while until the play starts. The top defenseman passes to his partner, who passes down the wall, who passes to the man in the corner – who should be a lefty in this case. As the puck works around to the corner a few things can happen depending on what the defense gives you. The player in the corner can drive the puck to the net, look for the man directly in front of the net, or drive hard around the net and find the crashing defenseman for a one-timer. This works because the puck has been busy rotating on the right for a while, and your top left penalty killer can be caught sleeping when the defenseman crashes. Again, creates a scoring chance in space.
Those are 2 basic powerplay set ups. Now for some general powerplay non-bullets:
You have to establish possession in the offensive zone
I mentioned this above, but that is really where Michigan struggled this year. This isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds, as I’ll try to show you in the upcoming “Penalty Kill” diary. It’s a lot like breaking a press in basketball. There are a lot of different neutral zone kills, and the offsides rule really helps the defenders out.
The powerplay is a lot like football plays – constraints are huge
This will come into view with the “Penalty Kill” diary, but depending on what the offense is doing, the defense does something and vice versa. There are ways to break kills, kills designed to stop specific powerplays, etc.
Powerplays can be very mental and high pressure situations
You're supposed to score, you can press, you can play tight, and you can fail. Especially if a powerplay is struggling. Like THJ - when he was in his slump, everyone knew it, when he was open for a 3 he should make it, and stuff like that can become a self fulfilling prophecy. That's the mental part. The physical is more akin to the red zone or goal line football. Everything gets turned up a notch. Again, you're supposed to score and the defense turns it up too. Every little mistake gets jumped on - if you don't have a perfect clean pass the D pounces and you have to try to gain the zone again. As an aside, Michigan’s PK was dominant against Ohio State in Cleveland, we were on every loose puck.
A 5-on-3 is a goal one way or the other. Everything mental I just mentioned about a normal powerplay is turned up to 11. A goal is scored, either by the offensive team or by the team that shut down the 5-on-3. The momentum swing and huge boost is as good as a goal, and I am not exaggerating. Many teams will run their normal powerplay, just condensed. So rather than the umbrella being near the top of the zone, your middle guy is even with the top of the circles and your wings are closer to the dots.
A Good goalie can muck all of this up
A team’s best penalty killer is their goalie. A goalie can affect a series more than any other player in any other sport. Some nights no matter what happens you’re not scoring on a goalie. Sometimes this is awesome and Hunwick takes us far. Sometimes we run into the hot goalie and can’t do anything about it.
Powerplays can get too fancy
Just like a basketball team trying to get a pretty play on a 3-on-1 break, the powerplay can be over thought and fail. Sometimes you just need to make the smart pass, or throw the puck at the net. Dirty goals are still goals. On the powerplay often players will try to go for the beautiful pass for a seamless one-timer… when what they should have done is throw the puck at the net at crash it.
That’s it for my Powerplay Overview. I’ll try to get the penalty kill diary up within about a week, followed by a breakdown of where exactly Michigan struggles.
Brian's front page post got me riled up enough to try to bang out a diary over my lunch hour. Please critique and suggest ways to make it better in the comments, I might mess up some numbers as I'm doing this quickly from memory. Here we go:
What is the most entertaining playoff in all of sports? March Madness. (MM for short in the diary) The NCAA already hosts (and keeps the revenue from) a ridiculously exciting tournament every year that has huge interest and kills productivity all over the US. It leaves us with an NCAA National Champion - something we don't currently have in football. So, since the NCAA has a very successful playoff structure, my playoff proposal is to simply scale it down and apply it to football:
BCS Problems: Small group picked, way of picking extremely messed up (see coaches' poll numbers etc.) Voters decide only 2 teams to "decide it on the field". Teams 3-8 in any given year are pissed, Ticket sales are down, TV #s are down, the NCAA receives no money from it, conferences lose money on it, etc.
MM Problems: Low attendance at early rounds, the refs still love Duke, Teams #65-68 (or whatever, I think of it as a 64 team tournament) are pissed and... ??? Please add more in the comments, I'll add them.
Remember, the NCAA takes 430 some BBall teams and slots 64 (ish) into a tournament. I'm going to attempt to do that with 120 football teams into 8-12. (Once I drew up my proposal I had 11... which seems like as weird a number as 65 or 68). May I present... December Madness
Schedule: Conf Champs all decided 1st week of December. 2nd week is Bye week/play in game. December week 3 is 8 team tourney. Week 4, 4 teams left. New years day (ish) Champ Game. December Madness
What works well from March Madness and we're going to try to take with us:
Conference Champ Auto Bids - 33 in Bball, we'll take 5 in Football. B1G, SEC, ACC, BigXII and PAC12 Champs - you're in the tourney. Lets the Conference championship game matter (Like the BBall Conference tourney). I also wouldn't be adverse to a "play in game" or two for the little-guy conference champs.
Selection Committee: They do it in hoops, do it here. The polls still matter as that'll be part of the "resume" like RPI and Sagarin ratings are in bball. You could use the polls to help rank the tournament (like in basketball). There would be 3-6 "At Large" bids used here to get your 8 - 12 teams. Would the last team left out be pissed? Yes sir. Sucks for the 65th basketball team too. One week into an awesome tournament no one cares.
Site Locations: Here's where I'm not 100% sure on what to suggest. I've been to NCAA Regional games and they're always half empty. It's hard enough to have fan bases travel to 1 bowl game much less the 3 it'll take in my proposal so at least Round 1 is a home game. Conference Champs get to host the home games, rotating 1 every 5 years on the road (Pic below). The big Bowls will host Round 2 and the Championship rotating every year (I realize that's 3 games for the current Big 4 Bowls... but the last bowl can choose any two teams not in the tournament to invite. the 1 bowl can get shafted every 4 years).
money grabs bowl games are free to invite whomever they want to whatever they want. I love that Lloyd got carried off after we beat florida, teams not in the tournament should be able to end their season with a win. Hey, there's still an NIT out there.
Hopefully this graphic works and sums up my proposal nicely. Why is this a bad idea? The NCAA already does most of it. What do you think?
|Play In Games (2nd week Dec)||1st Round (3rd week Dec)||Final 4 (4th week)||Champ Game|
|At Large #1||NYD Ish|
|AT||Game 1 Winner|
|AT MWC Champ||AT||SEC Champ|
|Large 2||B1G Champ|
|AT||Game 2 Winner||AT Sugar Bowl|
|Big East Champ||AT||B1G Champ|
|At Large 3||PAC12 Champ|
|AT||Game 3 Winner||AT ROSE BOWL|
|At Large 4||AT||Big12 Champ|
|ACC Champ||AT Fiesta Bowl|
|(ACC Hosts next year, someone else gets shafted. Rotates)||(Orange Bowl hosts national title next year, someone rotates off)||(Again, site rotates between bowls)|
[Ed-S: Festivus Bump!]
In modern football, there are 2 popular base defensive sets. Most teams run either a 3-4 Base or a 4-3 Base.
The quick explanation of these defenses is that the first number (“3” in a 3-4) is your number of Down Linemen (literally people who line up with their hand on the ground in a 3 or 4 point stance on the line of scrimmage) and the second number (“4” in a 3-4) is your number of linebackers (people who line up in a 2 point stance, behind the down linemen).
This diary will discuss the 4-3 Under, its similarities to a 3-4 set, and make sense of our defensive line recruiting. For the purposes of this diary I’m ignoring the secondary. You need corners and safeties. They’re all similarly sized players, get fast ones. The front 7 is where you need guys over a 100lb range and some more major differences show up.
Here’s a base 4-3:
Here's a base 3-4:
Both of these defensive base sets have advantages and disadvantages, and both lend themselves to different styles of players. When it comes to what Michigan is running as a base defense, the 4-3 Under, recruiting starts to make sense if you look at it as a 3-4 defense.
The 4-3 Under:
First, look at the D Line from the middle out. In a 4-3 Under you have a defensive tackle on the Nose, in a 0 or 1 Technique (NT) (Technique definitions:
You then have 2 players lining up at the 3 tech (DT) and 5 tech (SDE). Then you have 2 players further out on the line, at a 7 tech (WDE) and 9 Tech (SAM). Finally, you have 2 linebackers off the line of scrimmage (MIKE and WILL).
Now, compare these positions to the 3-4 Base. You still have a huge space-eating Nose Tackle (NT) who lines up at the 0 or 1 tech, 2 Defensive Ends over the guards, tackles, or in between (4 tech... hmmm, just a slight shift from the 3 or 5 tech...) and 2 people outside of them near the line of Scrimmage (OLBs). Finally you have 2 linebackers off the line of scrimmage (MIKE and WILL).
If you look at these two defenses, the only main difference is one of your 3-4 OLBs has his hand on the ground. That’s it! There are minor shifts on the line and other intricacies, but big picture the 4-3 under has personnel requirements very similar to a 3-4.
For the 4-3 Under OR the 3-4 in your front 7 personnel you need:
- 3-Tech DT and SDE (5-Tech)
- WDE and SAM
Michigan is recruiting the right numbers for the scheme they run. These are 17-year-old guys we’re discussing with recruits. Some will get bigger, some are maxed out. Some of the WDE/SAM types will be better at coverage and will play SAM. We saw Frank Clark and Beyer make this switch this year, one was a LB, one a DE in High School, and they switched at Michigan. Some will be better pass rushers and will drop into coverage less at the WDE.
The “Glut” at SDE doesn’t exist since the 3-Tech DT is a very similar position in the 4-3 Under, so some of these guys will play there. The coaches know what they need to run the 4-3 under, and hopefully this diary provided some insight into the personnel requirements so we can somewhat understand the method to the madness.
A very observant MGoUser (I can’t remember who it was though) mentioned in a thread about the Sugar Bowl Jerseys that ALL of Michigan’s athletics jerseys now sport a Block M, across all sports. This wasn’t always the case. The Block M just found its way onto the “normal” home and away football jerseys this year (on the neck)
Not just with Football Jerseys, we’ve seen Block Ms appearing all over campus like never before. No longer is the “split M”
Acceptable, at this point, it’s Block M or Bust.
Old Scoreboard front:
Old Yost Scoreboard:
Now this isn’t a rant, and I’m not trying to criticize Michigan for the proliferation of the Block M. In fact, Michigan is just following current marketing and branding trends. All over the corporate world the trend is towards the simple. Get rid of words, use symbols, and use them everywhere. Simplicity is king.
A few examples of the corporate world:
Michigan is just following industry trends at this point with the Block M. One simple symbol. Everywhere. Get used to seeing this, it’s not going anywhere.
The “46” or “Bear” Defense
So we’ve seen a lot of different defensive fronts, and quite a few people have talked about how to play the 4-3 Under that is Michigan’s base set. With our D getting gashed recently by MSU the question has been asked “Why not play more 46?” In this diary I hope to go over the strengths, weaknesses and a little history of the Bear Defense.
First it’s a Forty-Six (46) not a Four-Six. Most Defenses talk about personnel from the line back. A 4-3 has 4 down linemen, 3 linebackers. Same with 3-4, 3-3-5, etc. The 46 doesn’t talk about personnel on the field, it refers to one man. Doug Plank wore 46 and was the starting safety for the Chicago Bears when Buddy Ryan (yep, this guy’s dad)
designed it. The 1985 Chicago Bears were (agruably, but you’d be wrong if you disagreed) the best NFL defense ever. They gave up 10 points in their 3 playoff games. 198 in their 16 regular season games, or under 11 a game, under 4 in playoff games against the other elite teams! They were 15-1 on the year, their only loss to Marino’s Dolphins. Their playoff scores were 21-0, 24-0, and 46-10. Not too shabby against the NFL’s best. They also made the Superbowl Shuffle which might be the most 80's thing ever.
So, how does it work? How do you beat it? The 46 uses the same 4-3 base personnel that Michigan does. 2 Defensive ends, 2 tackles, 3 linebackers, 2 safeties and 2 corners. The first thing we’ll look at is the line
D-Tackle right on the nose (For Michigan this is Mike Martin, for the 85 Bears it was William “Refrigerator” Perry). You cover up the center to make him block every play. 3-4 Defenses use similar players here.
D-Tackle right on the guard (For Michigan this is BWC/Heininger in the picture, for the 85 Bears it was Steve “Mongo” McMichael). Same as the nose, you cover the guard and make him block. You don’t want a covered defender to pull, as it allows instant penetration into the backfield. The inside Tackle (and End) have to make sure that they don’t get pinched inside.
D-End right on the other guard (For Michigan this is RVB, for the 85 Bears it was the “Danimal” Dan Hampton). Just like above. This would be your larger end (called “strongside or 5-Tech in other defenses, but he’s not playing a 5 tech here).
D-End outside the weak OT (for Michigan this is Roh/Black in the picture, for the 85 Bears it was Richard Dent). Main job is keep contain and pass rush. This position is very similar to the 7-Tech or Weakside end, or Rush End in a base 4-3.
SAM - Line up on the outside shoulder of the Tight End (9-Tech). (For Michigan Jake Ryan, for the 85 Bears Otis Wilson). Very similar to a Sam in a 4-3 Under but in a 46 he’s typically in a 3 point stance (Ryan's ina 2). Make sure nothing gets outside on the edge. Often referred to as JACK in a 46
QUICK BREAK - Only differences so far from a 4-3 Under:
|46 Defense||4-3 Under|
|Martin||Nose (0 Tech)||Shaded (1-Tech)|
|BWC||Face up on Guard||3 Tech|
|RVB||Face up on Guard||5 Tech Strong|
|Roh||7 Tech Weak||7 Tech Weak|
|Ryan||9 Tech Strong, 3 point stance||9 Tech Strong, 2 point stance|
Not so different thus far. Pretty much only where your interior linemen line up.
WILL - Inside shoulder of Tight End (7-Tech). (For Michigan Fitzgerald, 85 Bears Wilber Marshall). 2 point stance. This is also a similar alignment to a SAM in a 4-3 under at times. Not responsible for contain however, that falls on the JACK. This linebacker (CHARLEY) covers up the tight end in pass plays or can blitz.
MIKE - 4-5 yards off the line of scrimmage, shaded to the strong side. (for Michigan Demens, 85 Bears Singletary)Near identical responsibilities as in a 4-3 under. Make tackles. Have Crazy Eyes
SS - 4-5 yards off the line, shaded weak side (for Michigan Hawthorne, 85 Bears Dave Duerson, RIP). Near identical responsibilities to the WILL in the 4-3 under. Make Tackles. (IMO Kovacs would fit well here)
FS - Play 12 yards off the line, play center field. (for Michigan Gordon/Kovacs in this picture, for the 85 Bears Gary Fencik)
Corners - Either bump an run or just basic man coverage. You’re on an island, don’t get beat. (For Michigan Woolfolk/Floyd, for the 85 Bears Mike Richardson and Leslie Frazier).
So that’s the main alignments and responsibilities for the defenders.
Why it’s good for Michigan on rushing downs:
Neutralizes the interior O Line. When there’s a D lineman face up over you, you can’t pull, trap, get to the 2nd level, or do many of the things interior O linemen do. For Michigan, this prevents Martin from getting double teamed, and lets BWC bull rush a guard 1 on 1.
Gets the Beef on the field. Michigan runs this with BWC and RVB and Roh in the game. With Martin and Ryan down that’s a 1450lb D line.
So why don’t we see this Defense often anymore? Well offenses adapt. 3 step drops and the horizontal West-Coast attack eat this defense alive. The 46 is based on pressuring the QB (you almost always rush at least 5) and if the QB is throwing within a second of the snap, you can’t pressure him. Offenses rarely ran 5 wide, but now they do it often. 5 wide would mess this up as well. The other main reason? Personnel. The 85 Bears had 3 future NFL coaches on the defense alone (Rivera, Signletary and Frazier). You need 2 shutdown corners who can survive on an island (which is why we see the Jets run this D every so often). In the modern NFL a QB would audible to a slant and the WR would be gone without a good corner. Also, you need a SS who can live in the box, still make plays in the passing game, dominate, and be so good there is a defense named after you. This is what Wikipedia says happens against 3 wide:
“When three or more receivers are used by the offense, the defense makes what is called a jayhawk adjustment. The charlie linebacker will step back to where the middle linebacker was in the normal alignment, the middle linebacker will move to where the strong safety was aligned and the strong safety will move out to cover the third receiver. If the offense uses a fourth receiver, the middle linebacker lines up in front of the center and the charlie linebacker would cover the fourth receiver.”
Sounds like the 4-3 Under at this point no? The problem is do you know many Strong Safeties who would do very well in man coverage in the slot? Or how about corners that can play on an island every play? or a FS who is good enough you just play cover 1 all day.
Anyway, hopefully this diary helps you understand a little about the Bear front and responsibilities when Michigan uses it. Go Blue.