Summary below for those that don't want the long version.
Yesterday, Brian discussed some Spring practice bits, within that, he talked about an assumption that Michigan was going to more of a quarters coverage base, similar to OSU and MSU.
I pretty adamantly denied that claim.
Brown has been a single-high base coverage throughout his career. A hybrid-SAM player has no relation to an Over front or a quarters coverage other than some teams use them in that way, just like Under teams and some 3-4 (3-3-5) teams do.
Brown has always been a 4-3 Under/One-gap 3-4 guy. It appears he's running something closer to an Under because of the personnel he has, but even then, I wouldn't be surprised to see Taco in a 2-point stance (though he'll nominally rush the passer 95% of the time). That's Brown's deal.
Peppers will play some SAM. He'll cover some TEs and the safety over the top of him will rotate to deep center field (the far safety will have SKY support in Cover 3 and will have man coverage in Cover 1 over the slot or on a back, and may help check a TE crossing the formation). I would be flat out shocked if Michigan came out running a 4-3 over quarters base, as what I described has been Brown's recent MO and the quarters thing has never been.
However, while I still stand by that being Michigan's base coverage, I wanted to clear up a few things.
Don Brown does have match-up concents within his defense, in particular, two-high safety match-up concepts. He also have Cover 2 concepts in his defense. Brown will play two-high safeties in certain situations. It likely won't be the base, and it won't be the standard coverage throughout games more often than not.
As far as his formations of choice, I did mispeak there in a way. His standard, from what I've seen, is a one-gap 3-4 or 4-3 under principles, but he has often run an over front with what I've called a "Jam" adjustment (it's MSU terminology), but he uses what he calls an anchor. I've also used the term "anchor" in the past as a technique, that technique essentially being that you "anchor a gap". I've used it in terms of anchoring the outside gap or anchoring against zone blocking schemes, Brown uses "Anchor" for the SDE that is needed to anchor a gap in his defense. You'll also notice that the WDE is often in a two point stance.
Here's where Brown uses a different tactic than most.
Here's standard over and under formations from my preview of Brown
Here's how Brown typically runs an Over front, from James Light's blog (which has been linked on the front page several times). This is what Brown calls a "72" formation
This is Brown's "Eagle" coverage, which is essentially a Cover 2 Trap. The CB has no responsibility for the #1 WR, his eyes are in the backfield looking for someone to run a route to the flat. He'll sink to a deep quarter if no one threatens the flat, and he'll essentially bait a throw to the flat by being a bit more flat footed in his technique and breaking down hard on any throw there.
But also notice the "Over" front with the anchor position. The SDE lines up in a 6i technique, or inside the TE. This provides more cover to the SAM, such that blockers cannot get out to him. The SAM is aligned on the inside hip of the SDE. Just as often, the SAM will line up on the outside shoulder of the TE or even wider, in a 5x5 to 3x3 technique. But it is an Over front, because of the shades of the DTs.
This is the formation handling a detached WR, with the SAM playing in an apex position
Note that this coverage is Cover 6. One side is playing "Cloud" leverage ("Side" above) in which he stays in the flat no matter what. The other side is playing the "sight" technique (trap technique in most terminology I've come across) which results in a Cover 2 or a 1/4-1/4-1/2 Cover 6.
This is a formation for handling a knob, in which the SAM plays a "tilt" position (essentially a Under front SAM technique)
And in almost all these instances, unless the Anchor is slanting outside, the SAM has responsibility for that outside gap. The point being, that Peppers, from the SAM position, would not nominally be a box defender (as in, inside the tackle box). He's playing outside the TE as much as anywhere.
As I said, Brown does have two-high safety coverages. He essentially winnows it down to a single coverage, but there are various techniques he runs (from MEG and MOD Cover 4, to trap and 1/4-1/4-1/2). He also has Cover 3 and Cover 1 coverages, which tend to be his base. And he'll have some combo coverages. Why does he prefer single-high looks? Because it's easier to bring multiple pressure looks with a single high safety. The run fits are easier (you rely less on DBs, who are typically limited in their run fits), you can bring pressure from more places, etc. It allows them to stay in their base coverage while doing something different with the front. And much of these pressure games come from his Under front or 3-4 front.
But at the end of the day, he is a "multiple" coach, which Michigan has almost always been dating back a long time. This, in and of itself, makes it very different than what MSU and OSU are doing. Those teams have vastly simplified their coverage (essentially, Cover 4 base, and then Cover 0 or 2-low, 3-high (MSU) or 3-low, 3-high (OSU)). Michigan won't be that. They'll mix and match and adjust the coverage to the opponent.
But, I will also add, Brian isn't wrong here. Michigan will play some Cover 4. They will run what is an Over front. But it won't be base quarters. The "4-high" looks will be a part of the plan (again, Cover 2 Trap, Cover 4 MEG, Cover 4 MOD, Cover 6), it will likely be base single-high, but it will be multiple.
Michigan won't be playing much quarters (Cover 4, like MSU and OSU). They will play two-high safeties in what is mostly a Cover 2 look. In their blitz scheme, they will utilize mostly single-high safeties (Cover 1 and Cover 3). They will run multiple coverages rather than prioritize a single coverage to become great at it (which is different than MSU and OSU).
Also, Peppers won't be playing inside the tackle box much.
Does that clear it up? Or did I just repeat the same thing and not clarify a thing?
Extended preview post of why Wormley and Henry are playing the positions they are, which includes the main reason. Full article can be found here.
Recently on MGoBlog, Brian wrote a piece previewing the defense as far as his expectations. In the past couple days, he's also discussed the Defensive Line and looked at the recently released Michigan depth chart. A question keeps arising, unknowingly getting answered, and then asked again. It's a common confusion, and an understandable one when looking at nomenclature of football.
In this post, I'm going to look at Michigan's DL and why Henry is playing 5-Tech (nominally, from now on called End) and Wormley is playing 3-Tech (nominally, from now on called Tackle).
What is Michigan Running?
I agree with Brian that this is a 4-3 Under. Michigan isn't going out there with a LOLB and a ROLB, and they aren't going out there and doing a lot of two gapping (though a 4-3 under will often two-gap somewhere). It's a 4-3 Under with a standup end sometimes. Furthermore, the defense will not consistently keep two guys in two-point stances and shift the DL every which way, like Wisconsin's one-gap 3-4.
This is a 4-3 Under all the way. Let's remind everyone of the gap assignments:
And let's take a look at what a nominal 4-3 Under looks like, the one most of you are familiar with from the early Mattison years.
Here, we're going to call the Weakside DE (WDE, 7-Tech) the Buck (it's Buck because "B" stands for Backer, like how MIKE is for Middle in middle LB), to keep with Durkin's terminology. He is, in fact, more DE than LB, but he will occasionally drop (see image below). The strongside DE (SDE, 5-Tech) we will simply call the End. The 3-Tech we are going to call a DT (or tackle). The 1-Tech we will call a NT (Nose).
This is close to what Michigan is running, but not quite. Actually, the image above is closer to what Michigan will now run than what Michigan nominally ran with Mattison as the DC. Notice how Beyer (the SAM LB at the top of the screen) is in a loose position. For Michigan fans, this is similar to how Greg Robinson deployed Stevie Brown in his 4-3 Under, when Stevie Brown managed to have a very good Senior year. This is what we call a "Loose" alignment, meaning he's 5-and-5 (5 yards off the LOS, 5 yards outside the offensive EMOL). Ross, the WILL in the picture above, is also playing a Loose technique (in this case, it is to allow the dropping DE to play an inside zone or spy and to allow the WILL to play the outside Flat Zone, where there is more likely to be an immediate threat in the pass game).
With Ross, an undersized SAM LB, Michigan will continue playing more of a 4-3 Under Loose.
Many 4-3 Under teams traditionally move the FS down into the box as the 8th man and rotate the SS to the center of the field. They do this because the Buck and DT generally protect the FS from having to face any wash, something the ILBs (WILL and MIKE) are more accustomed to. It'll look like this:
But Michigan won't be doing that as much this year. Instead, the SS (who always aligns to pass strength) will be the 8th man in the box. He can be inserted like this:
But more often he will align closer to this.
This essentially makes the SAM another ILB. He's protected a bit by the End, and the defense won't get out flanked because the SS holds the edge and the SAM can work over the top to provide additional support.
Wormley and Henry Primer
As a primer, Wormley is a guy that came in as a projected SDE. He was expected to be between 270 and 300 lbs. He has good straight line speed for his size and displays excellent burst when he's comfortable with what is in front of him. Unfortunately for him (and fortunately in some ways), he's also very long and tall. With hesitation sometimes coming when he has to take blocks from different angles, he often stands up. This leads to him struggling to handle doubles.
Henry on the other hand, was always a DT. He was projected as a slashing, penetrating 3-Tech that could also slide down and play the Nose if needed. He's more of a squaty player, but has the first step to beat OL to the spot he wants. This first step quickness gives him potential to be a two-gap player, and his squaty build also gives him the stout base to prevent him from getting clobbered when he's forced to choose one of two gaps. He also stands up too high at times, but has the strength to fight back against it.
Brian previewed these guys well in the DL articles linked above, and there is video there to demonstrate these traits in these players.
So Why The Position Switch
The Double Team
As I said, it's been explained, but never really answered. But the answer is quite obvious once it's pointed out. Wormley struggles more against doubles, and the 3-tech will almost never get doubled. The 5-tech will get doubled, possibly on about half the plays, especially with the way Michigan will align.
Notice the 3-tech isn't doubled on the run his direction.
This means that the 5-tech has to hold up to double teams quite often, it also means the 3-tech can simply be let loose to be a penetrating force on the interior. If you can get that out of your 3-tech, you cut off half the field and give the Buck a lot more options as a pass rusher, because he doesn't have to be as preoccupied with the rush.
Whether the SAM is in a Loose alignment or inside, initially, the 5-tech will often get doubled against zone based rushing attacks.
Here, the 3-tech is doubled, so he has to be able to handle that a bit, but the double likely doesn't last as long as the OL tries to get out to the WILL, and it is on the backside of the play.
Against man blocking schemes, he'll get doubled on essentially every strongside run (Power O and Counter F, for example)
He has to hold up at that position for the rush defense to have success. If he doesn't hold up, he gets washed into the ILB, and large creases in the defense form, particularly when the SAM is playing in a Loose alignmnet.
Again, if you want to read about the other main advantage to Henry lining up at End rather than 3-Tech, here's a link to a full post at my blog.
In the picture pages post today, I feel I noted something of some significance. This isn’t supposed to be a post to puff out my own chest, rather, I merely want to give the
other side of the argument my side of the argument for what it really is.
As an aside, there have been numerous people that have constantly misconstrued my argument lately. I understand that by taking a particular unpopular stance so strongly, that I have opened myself up to criticism. But within this article I also want to make clear up some of my stance, so towards the end I will get into some of that. Much of these will be related to the comments I made earlier (if not copy and pasted), the major difference is that I now have the opportunity to add accompanying pictures and diagrams to go with it. This is of importance because football isn’t really a sport that is best described with words. You can try to be as descriptive as possible, but there will always be a certain amount of failure to accurately convey your thoughts through this medium. So the pictures/diagrams help in that regard. So let’s begin.
Set Up and Play Design
I’m going to copy and paste Brian’s set up to his post as he does a good job getting us there.
Michigan comes out with an H-back and two tailbacks in a twins formation, which necessarily means that the slot receiver is not an eligible receiver. Nebraska responds with 7.5 in the box, with the gray area defender just about splitting the difference between Funchess and the tackle.
I’ll get to the covered receiver part later, I want to start off with the basics here about what the intention of this play is. Let’s first start with the most fundamental concept of any run play: the blocking scheme.
Inverted veer works with a Power O blocking scheme. Power is a type of man/gap blocking scheme, while “O” indicates the pulling of the backside guard. A simple power play looks like this.
The inverted veer meanwhile, takes the fullback and erases him. It utilizes the option read to kick out the DE because the DE must commit to the QB or the RB. If the DE commits to the RB, the QB reads this and shoots through the lane inside of him. If the DE commits to the QB, the QB gives to the RB and the RB attacks the edge. Here’s how the inverted veer looks:
Now, let’s first act like there is no FB involved in the play so we can address the offensive line and TE first. As noted, this is a standard power blocking scheme. No one, from any of the offensive linemen, to the TE, do things differently than they would if this was a Power O run from under center. But the defense aligns in a way that makes running power difficult. This is an even front, stacked front, meaning the DL is aligned 5-2-2-5 as far as gaps. That’s outside shoulder of the OT and inside shoulder of the OG. The stack indicates that the OLBs are stacked over the DEs.
Well, to the front side this is similar to what a 4-3 Under will look like, but instead of the LB brought up on the LOS like Michigan often does with Jake Ryan, they’ve stacked him behind the DE.
This isn’t the exact defensive formation, but the blocking scheme is exactly the same (the only difference is the OC has one less shoulder to down block the backside DT and that the LB are shaded further from playside).
If you’re wondering what some of the things are in the diagram, the green boxes are the blocking calls that should be understood or made. As for the defensive formation, just for reference, the “G” means the NT that is usually lined up in a 1-tech slides out to the guards inside shoulder (often utilized to stop Iso) and the Loose is the SAM position loose from the LOS.
What you see is an adjustment in the blocking scheme. This is automatic and should be called and understood. Any team that runs power should make this adjustment. Why? Because that playside DE is very tight to the formation and becomes extremely difficult to kick out. His position pre-snap is already squeezing the hole that power is intended to go through, so rather than slam into that wall, it’s easier to down block him and seal the outside for the RB.
Now, here is how that applies to the inverted veer.
You see now that the person being optioned is that OLB (SAM) rather than the DE because of the defensive alignment.
Now let’s add the FB in the inverted veer. Power blocking makes another small adjustment when you have two lead blockers. If you remember back in the Tackle Over days, Michigan would utilize the U-back as a first lead blocker and a FB as a second. It was the U-back that was first through and responsible for the kick defender. The FB has some reads, but generally will try to get beyond the kick player and knock the first odd color jersey he sees.
More accurately, let’s look at it with an overhang defender. The way the FB is going to treat this is to go block that guy. If that guy tries to gain depth into the backfield, the FB will just carry him with his momentum. If he tries to go inside of him, he’ll simply arch block him. This is what that looks like:
Now let’s apply that to the inverted veer. It’s the same exact thing. The first lead blocker through takes the kick defender (here, that is the playside OLB). The fullback goes and finds the next off color jersey, typically to the outside. Generally, he will block this in a somewhat similar way, erring on the side of scooping the gray area defender. What that does is give a massive alley for Fitz to run through. It also forces that gray area defender to fight that block, regardless of if it blocks him from DG because he knows he must respect Fitz to run. That means if the blocking up front is done properly, DG has more than enough room and time to go straight up field and beyond that gray area defender before cutting out into the same lane that Fitz would run in.
So that’s how the play is designed to be run. Combined with the slot receiver taking the playside safety, everyone on the playside is blocked and a defined seam is established.
Why Run This Play?
I’m not really going to get into why you run the inverted veer, as that’s just a play more or less that has some pretty clear positives as far as reading a defender and threatening a defense with the RB and QB. But why put in the FB?
A common way teams defend the inverted veer is similar to ways that defenses have adapted to defend the read option: they force the QB’s read to be wrong. Essentially, this is a scrape exchange.
In the instance of an inverted veer, they’ll bring a defender off the edge that the QB can’t read or see because the QB is busy reading his key. The key typically is the DE.
Here’s a give look:
Here’s a keep look:
And here’s how a scrape exchange looks:
See that the read is still the same player for the QB. The QB’s read is to give. What the QB doesn’t see is the guy that is coming right into Fitz at the handoff. The defense is making DG’s reads wrong and there is nothing he can do about it.
So, to counter this, you add a FB. This is similar to what Rich Rod did with a U-back to kick the backside on a read option. Essentially, it’s making the QB’s read right by blocking the exchange defender. This means the QB just has to read his key and is fine. This is an adjustment to take advantage of a defensive look and seal the defense inside. Effectively, it’s acting similar to a bubble screen would act as it’s sealing the defense inside and attack the edge and alley with the RB (rather than a slot receiver). It’s a horizontal constraint on top of the normal inverted veer play.
Why Doesn’t it Work?
I’ll save some time and copy and paste a bit:
So the problem is two-fold: Kerridge completely whiffs his block because he archs too wide. His goal is essentially to scoop that gray area defender like he's trying to do in the MSU clip, note in that clip how he passes off the read DE and tries to get to the second level where he blocks no one because the safety he wants to block shot the gap instead (in theory here, his eyes are in the wrong place, there should be some adjustment that allows for DG to read the safety crashing and for Kerridge to scoop the DE, and DG should give here in that instance, but was likely hoping that guy would just follow Fitz and he'd have a clear path to a TD by having the option essentially block two-defenders, but as expected, it doesn't). The second problem is the fact that two people (Schofield and the TE) aren't on the same page as to what the power blocking adjustment should be.
The Big Picture
So we see this is messed up here. It is an execution issue. Alright. So what’s the deal. Quasi-rant in copy and paste mode:
Now, I don't think as far as the missed communication that it's because the blocking scheme is too complex. Much and most of their run scheme settles around a power blocking scheme. That should be better. The play against Nebraska should be executed better, but there were two huge botched assignments. The play against MSU is tougher and something that clearly wasn't repped enough (on the coaches). The FB nor Gardner made the correct adjustment to a safety shooting a gap. They might have repped it a few times, but clearly it wasn't enough to be familiar with how to adjust it in game.
It's basic Power O blocking fundamentals with two lead blockers (here, the two lead blockers are the option read and then the FB rather than a U-back and then a FB).
This is the problem that I've had with the "too many things that they aren't good at anything" argument. Veer option is based on a running scheme they utilize anyway (essentially a down G) but you don't have to pull because your kick block is the option. Inverted veer is Power blocking all the way. It is their base run play with the same exact assignments and adjustements. Nebraska does absolutely nothing that shows this play is tipped, they don't play it any way other than how a standard defense would play it. But Michigan can't get out of it's own way.
And this is the argument that I've had since PSU. It is execution. This play should work. It is 100% execution. Borges has Nebraska exactly how he wants them. Michigan is missing assignments in their base blocking scheme that they've repped thousands of times from under center, from pistol, from ace, from shotgun. That's not just on the players. Why the hell isn't the coaching staff able to get the players to block their base scheme? Why is it taking so long? Youth is part of it, yes. But at this point they should be able to block the run they utilize 75% of the time, including on their counters. It's on the coaches but it's not because of the play call. The play call is perfect. Why the hell aren't the players able to execute? Part of that, a lot of that, is youth. And part and a lot of that is they aren't getting through to these kids. It's the argument that I've made that's been misinterpreted since the start of all this. It's the same thing over and over again. Why can't they block their most basic, most repetitively run play in the entire playbook?
It’s not that there is too much in the playbook, I don’t believe that. That seems like a plausible answer when you isolate inverted veer from the rest of the offense. But it's not isolated from the rest of the offense. It's a Power O play with Gardner making a read. Blocking is exactly the same as Power O. It's their most repped play in the entire playbook.
So how can you make it easier? They've taken out most of the difficult things. 75+% of the runs are the same damn blocking scheme. Counter Power, Inverted Veer, Veer option, Power, that accounts for the vast majority of the plays and all those plays have their roots in the same blocking structure. They still can't get it done. It's not about reducing the playbook anymore, they literally can't without just running from the I formation or just inverted veer. They can literally only reduce it by having the same blocking scheme and the same run action behind it, and that would only make matters worse because blocking is the primary issue.
And I know the execution thing rings of cliché as well, but it is absolutely true. This grab bag theory that all these plays are independent of one another isn't correct. They do have some tweaks. Zone stretch is now intended to be a constraint. Same with the counter. But the base of the run game comes back to power over 75% of the time I can promise that.
So it’s part youth. Certainly youth is a valid reason for some of these issues. But it’s also coaching. I can reiterate that until my face turns blue and some people won’t accept that I said it. But there is a fundamental flaw transferring the knowledge of this scheme to the players. This is not a difficult scheme. It’s a scheme taught to high schoolers all across the country. Sure, it gets a bit more complex at this level, and it gets a lot faster and you have to be much better at executing, but the basic, mental problems?
Why No Vertical Constraint?
Trust me when I say I would like a vertical constraint (pop pass) out of this look as much as anyone. My goal in this section is to try to explain why it may not be in the playbook right now with so many other issues in this offense.
But I seem to remember a pop pass off of it once or twice last year (I believe with Denard at QB). Honestly can't say why Borges hasn't run a false mesh, slide protection pop pass off of this look yet this year. I would like him too as well unless. My guess is that he's uncomfortable with DG making that read in traffic (he's worried about someone undercutting it or scrapping into it is my guess, and DG not processing it fast enough).
This is intended to argue one way or another if that play should be in there (I would personally like it), it's just trying to give perspective on if it's been run before and why an OC may shy away from it.
Why Cover Funchess?
Again, guesses for the most part, but realistically:
As I said, I hate covering receivers. It is a tip to the defense that it's likely run (where, they don't know). That said, you would be surprised how many defenses will still trot a DB out to cover that guy.
Anyway, the reason here is because Borges wanted a guy to block the playside safety. He wanted to form an alley on that side for Fitz. The FB takes the slot defender, Funchess takes the safety, and Gallon takes the CB. Everyone else is sealed inside. That's the only reason he did it, was to get the play completely blocked playside, which it should have been.
They need to cover the TE or Funchess because he wanted to run to strength and wanted that slot blocker. So the TE or Funchess had to be covered. Now, typically I'd say "alright, cover the TE, don't cover your 2nd biggest threat". But a couple things could have gone into the thinking here.
- But have the TE off the line you open up plays to the backside of the formation with the inverted veer look (including counter schemes and how the FB would leak out into the flat later). So in a way, it keeps the box defenders more honest, which they succeeded in doing (they didn't all crash playside on the snap before reading the play).
- They wanted to know what that slot defender was doing. They didn't want to run him off, they want a clear target for the FB. Funchess covered, that guy comes. Maybe that was something they saw on film and were trying to take advantage of. But there's a real possibility that they didn't want to force the FB to read "is that guy going with the WR, do I pick up the filling alley safety or does Funchess, so do I switch to his guy?" etc.
My guess is more #1 than #2, but it depends on what they saw on film.
So what’s the point in all this? Is it to blindly defend Borges? No. The intention isn’t to blindly defend the coaches. The intention is to look at what is happening and figure out where the issue is. Here is a very, very clear example of a bigger picture. It is execution. The coaches aren’t lying about that and it isn’t a copout answer. This is a play where Al Borges got everything he wanted and more from Nebraska. Nebraska, who had a player say they knew every play that was coming, did nothing to stop this play because of any tip or tendency. They stopped it because Michigan can’t get out of their own way. They can’t execute their most basic blocking scheme that they practice and rep more than any other. This points to youth, and this fails to a failure by the coaching staff to adequately teach these players to do one of their most fundamental plays. Both of those are under the execution umbrella.
And this goes beyond this play. This goes to the pass protection schemes. This goes to how I’ve seen veer option blocked. This goes to how every single run play pretty much ever this year is blocked. There are a few players that seem to “get it”, there are some that get it sometimes and not others, and then there are the young or inexperienced that clearly don’t. It’s a fundamental issue that isn’t play calling, it isn’t scheme, it isn’t about huddling or not huddling. It’s not about if you prefer certain screens (I’d like more screens), it’s not about play action or 3-step drops or hot routes. It is as simple as people continuing to fail at doing their jobs. That’s not just calling out the players; that’s also calling out the coaches for putting out a product, for not teaching their students, in a way that allows them to succeed. They are in positions to succeed, probably positions to the best of what they rep day in and day out in practice, but the mental aspect, the thought process, the confidence to know what they are doing without questioning it or doing it wrong is not there. And that is the major failure in this offense right now. This play only exemplifies that.
This was initially a response to the front page post "Preview 2013: Quarterback". Not in an effort to claim such high self-importance, I do believe the response deserves it's own thread so people can digest it properly. What it amounts to, in principle, is that Devin Gardner still has a long ways to go to becoming a great QB for Michigan, but it's due to subtle things, reps and practice, footwork and trust in his eyes, more than any major overhauls. What I also want to emphasize with this is just how impressive this makes DG's performance last year. He is still raw and is still learning, but has shown great potential for his future. When he starts to improve these small aspects of his game, he'll go from whipping on bad defenses and struggling against faster defenses, to being that QB that can lead you to victory against any defense. Oh, and no trolling from me this time.
Devin tends to make the correct reads... eventually, but he still has a long way to go to make the correct reads timely. This is something that is extremely difficult for young QBs, as the rate at which you digest the fast moving info in front of you is a very complex thing, as you can imagine.
Right now, though, he stays on his initial read or initial progression too long. This also gets into his footwork issues. Footwork plays a large role in throwing power and throwing accuracy; it also plays a huge role in timing. Let's look at this example:
Here, Gardner should drop (off of PA), hitch step, throw to first read or hitch step to second read, throw. Instead, he drops, hitch step, hitch step, hitch step, second read, hitch step, throw. It's at least two hitches too long. The pass play and routes are designed to keep the deep passer and shorter pass nearly in the same throwing lane, meaning when Gardner hitch steps to his second read, it's a very subtle move to the outside and throw. But because Gardner is late, because he isn't trusting his eyes to process the reads quick enough or his feet to take him to his next read, he can't make up the ground with his reset. A reset so deep to the sideline would be difficult anyway, you're asking the QB to get his shoulders, hips, and foot about 40 degrees over and then step accurately (rather than flaring open and throwing across body as Denard often did because of poor footwork) to make the throw accurately, which isn't likely.
Instead, if Gardner trusts his eyes and feet, on the second hitch it's probably less than 10 degrees of a shift in body. This means his mechanics are still under control, his weight is still correct, his eyes still see the field but now at a faster rate. Delivering the ball on time gets him at least 12 yards on the accurate pitch and catch and then probably at least 8 YAC. That's a 20 yard gain wiped out because of not being completely up to speed and not trusting his feet to take him through progressions.
Again, this is something that takes a lot of time and reps. You hope to see it this year if his footwork is as improved as what we're hearing. These subtle things will greatly improve timing and accuracy for Gardner. They'll make it so this is a 20 yard gain, so his pick against Iowa doesn't happen, so his pick toward the end of the Northwestern game doesn't happen, so the slug-go route isn't late to Gallon and instead of a long gain it's a TD. But that's the huge difference something extremely subtle makes. That's reps and trust in your reads and feet. That's where DG wasn't yet last year. If he makes that step this year: watch out.
Now, to those worried about Borges's ability to begin to develop QBs, it's important to see that DG has, as early as last year, made subtle changes to his footwork to improve his ability to throw. He is improving, it's about consistency.
This is a throw to the opposite side of the field and perhaps the best throw Gardner made all year. This is honestly an incredible throw for a college QB to make, far hash, 12 yards down field, with correct timing and perfect accuracy.
But look at his footwork. Gains depth on second and forth drop step. Closes down on step 6 and 7. Step 7 isn't a straight step back, notice how he subtly moves back at a 45 degree angle, pulling his momentum to that sideline. By the time he plants that 7th step, he's in a position to immediately step into the throw, he's balanced with his momentum pulling him to the sideline, and he steps into the throw with good weight transfer to hit the out route.
This is a progress that will take time. But it is happening. There is progress.
FF410: 2012 Spring Game Breakdown - RB Pass Plays - Day 4
In the past I broke down 13 of DG’s pass plays (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3). This included my reaction about how DG and the offense performed, the idea or theory behind the offensive play, and how the defense performed. This helped me get a much better feel for how DG is actually improving and allowed me to evaluate his performance considering the performance of those around him.
Today, we will take a look at how Russell Bellomy performed. Note that it is sometimes difficult to determine the routes and defense being run due to tight camera angles, but I will do my best to grasp what I think is happening. I will once again be taking a look at all of the pass plays, and separate them into 2 separate days. Today, we will take a gander at the first 5 pass plays.
Play 14 – 0:00
The defense appears to be running a cover 0 look out of a their normal over 4-3 look and a safety coming down to help against the run.
Bellomy makes the right read (a fairly easy one), as he sees the DBs drop back into their soft coverage. His footwork looks good and he looks comfortable, and I think the short throw is really a matter of arm strength more so than any fundamental problem (he could get a little more push off his back foot, but that’s about it).
The design of the play and the theory behind it are going to look very familiar to readers of the previous days. The slot is running a corner route and the outside receiver a dig with the idea or running a high low on the corner. As the corner drops, Bellomy knows his play is to the dig route.
On the backside you see a post run. This is designed to do a double move on the boundary corner and get behind the man and into the deep middle of the field. This is to take advantage of teams cheating on the corner route with their safety by hitting the area of the field they vacate. You will seldom see the QB have the time/patience to go through his progression and hit this receiver, but that is the idea behind that route. The route is run well. Note that the boundary corner doesn’t bite hard on the initial slant as he sees the play running away from him (a QB won’t roll opposite a slant route). When the WR sees that the corner didn’t bite and still is step for step with him, he breaks his post a bit more shallow to take advantage of the intermediate zone being open.
The SAM is a little late diagnosing the play. His initial responsibility is leverage and FB coverage, but he could turn and get to the boundary quicker than he does. The outcome of the play isn’t affected because of a poor pass, and the play would have picked up yards regardless due to the design of the defense, but you would like to see the SAM closer to the man as he catches the ball, and preferably that corner as well, though being out on an island the primary responsibility is not to get beat deep.
[More after the jump]
FF410: 2012 Spring Game Breakdown - DG Pass Plays - Day 3
Last time we looked at the second five pass plays from Devin Gardner and analyzed the results. Today will be much of the same. I'll also break down one defensive play.
Play 11 - 4:12
It’s really hard to tell what routes the WRs are running as the camera doesn’t give a good enough look. Based on the down in distance I would assume it’s a verts play, either 3 or 4 verticle routes in an attempt to find an opening between the safeties downfield. In all honesty, I can’t even really tell what the defense is running. You can see that the two safeties are dropping. My guess is that this is a very safe cover 4, in which case hitting any seem pass is going to be difficult. If they were facing cover 3 or cover 2 the play would work very well, as the safety would have to essentially choose a side, however, against cover 4, the WRs are basically running directly at the defenders. If every assumption I made is correct, than DG makes the correct read on the check down.
DG’s footwork here looks alright. You can still see him thinking about his drop a little bit though once he gets set. It’s clearly his natural tendency to escape backwards out of the pocket still (or simply to keep dropping/back peddling). He hesitates and looks a little indecisive with his footwork as he attempts to at least maintain his position (or stand in the pocket). I’d still like to see him actually step in and make his throw though. He “arm throws” it again on the check down pass. It was successful, but it’s still breaking form, which leads to bad habits which leads to bad mistakes. DG looks like he does everything effortlessly (I mean that in a good way), but I think he needs to not be so lax on the shorter throws and stop trying to aim the ball and actually throw it properly.
The RB out of the backfield actually probably has an option route, either check to the outside, inside, or check back (in between gaps in the LB zones). Smith makes the correct read and Ryan does a poor job of getting a body on him. Typically, the LB in this case will essentially want to take away half the field by using his body. If the RB tries to cross the LB, the LB needs to stop the RBs body. If the LB is in the correct position, the RB will have no choice but to break this outside, where the LB’s body is facing and the LB can make a play. Ryan wiffs and thus the RB picks up decent yards. There is some confusion in the zone drops by the LBs as it appears Ryan and the MLB drop to the same point, rather than bracketing anyone coming out of the backfield/crossing the field.
A couple other things I’d like to point out: notice the nickel back over the slot toward the top of the screen. He is lined up inside of his receiver to stop any quick slants to break into the next level. He then forces the WR off of his path (though not exactly well) to disrupt the timing of the play and appears to let him through to the deep safety. He is covering the short zone to the field side, but is dropping deep because of down and distance.
Play 12 - 4:33
Michigan in a pro set I and the defense in their typical 4-3 under look with a safety rolled down. DG appears to almost drop the snap as he is really trying to bail out and get a good run fake. Michigan is doing something that should look familiar, deep post to one side to take advantage of any single man coverage, and a levels concept to the short side to take advantage of any zone look. The defense actually shows a wrinkle, which I can be seen below: a corner blitz.* Note how they roll the DBs so that they are still running a cover 3/ shifted cover 2.
I believe here that the TE is open but DG can’t get him the ball because of the pressure. The X receiver successfully takes the safety covering him out of the short zone. He does so by attacking the safety, which he would do regardless if the corner was blitzing or if it was a typical cover 2. He forces the safety to take him and take away the inside threat, before breaking to the corner. Will bites hard on the PA and gets out of position and the TE is athletic enough to get behind him, which is why I believe he is open toward the sideline. I believe DG was making the correct read as you see him look left when he sees the SS stay high (basically bracketing the Z receiver). But he feels the pressure and can’t make his second read (the TE). I think he actually had enough time to make the read if he stays in the pocket, but it would have been an uncomfortable throw. This is because of the O-line. The LT recognizes the corner blitzing very late but gets enough of a push on the corner to drive him deep. The break down on the offensive line actually comes at LG, as he gives up too much depth which doesn’t give DG a solid pocket. This forces DG to basically run and he makes some athletic plays to gain yards and use his center as a blocker.
The breakdown on defense comes from the WILL spot, as he slips when trying to contain DG. That changes this from a 3 yard play to a big gain.
*As said, Michigan is corner blitzing and turning into a quasi- cover 3 or shifted cover 2. It appears as if the FS is matched up on the X receiver, most likely to prevent any quick play like a quick WR pass so that he has the ball in space. He then follows him deep, so I think it’s more of a cover 3. It could also be a shifted cover 2 which is the second picture below.
Play 13 - 4:50
Slants with a play action fake to get the LBs to clear out from the underneath zones. Very simple play. I like it from the shotgun because it moves the LBs away from the single receiver side. The tightend sells the play action by faking a run block on a power play or a QB read. It also allows DG to see the play develop. The first thing DG reads is the single high safety and single coverage on the X receiver. This means that he is going to the X receiver pretty much all day as his initial read. If the CB over the X receiver had safety help, he would look to the other side initially. At the snap, the WR does a great job getting off the LOS cleanly. He runs a great route until the end, when he starts to fade up field. It doesn’t appear this is really his fault though. Clearly, there is PI on the CB on this play. But even before that it looks like he grabs the shoulder and pulls the WR into him. I guess it’s a good play by the corner as it would have been a TD had he not interfered. The problem begins with the WILL over committing to the run and not maintaining his underneath zone, which is intended to stop the slant. Basically Michigan has two LBs covering one zone that no one on offense is threatening.
The backside is actually more open on this play, but DG can’t know that because he is accurately going through his progression, which reads that the first man is open (which he is for a TD, good read). On the field side, the slot is more or less intended to clear out that underneath zone from the nickel back/ LBs/ safety by running an initial slant. He doesn’t run a great route but it isn’t too important. The outside WR then runs behind that to a news vacated area, which is also wide open. He runs it a little more flat and a little deeper to truly attack the endzone and the opening between the FS and the corners. The corner either needs to play it more inside, as the slant or in is much more dangerous than the fade route if he doesn’t have safety help; or the safety can’t react so much to the run fake and take himself out of position. The corners alignment tells me he thought he had safety help, but the safety’s eyes tell me he was looking run support first and would help over the slot first. There is some confusion there on the defense. It appears he is playing him straight up as if he has inside help, which isn’t there because of the slant from the slot.
This play looks eerily familiar to a great play in Michigan history, where Michigan attacks the 2 WR side with great success:
- Tight end will not be a position of strength this year. The run blocking is their strong area, which is meh. The route running is ugly.
- WR =/= getting separation. This was a worry last year and it gets even scarier this year. They still need to work a lot on their route running, as I think the athletes, while not great, are sufficient enough to get open. Hopefully they’ll be working hard over the summer.
- The O-line is still feeling itself out. Barnum appears to be struggling with some calls, which is expected at this point. LG is a worry. At this point I actually think having a Denard type QB is beneficial for this O-line, as the tackles still struggle gaining depth and any QB that takes deeper drops is risking getting beat up a bit. They are a much stronger unit at run blocking.
- DG needs to improve his footwork. You can tell he’s working at it, but it’s still not second nature. When his footwork is better, it still looks a bit mechanical. Otherwise it slips and you see some poor throws. The worst is that he doesn’t consistently step into throws. He has a strong arm, but needs to improve his mechanics to become more accurate. Also needs to work on getting the snap from under center (he’s bailing early). This is probably a bit nerves to be honest. Very good athlete though (aka get him in at WR).
- I’ll try to discuss the RB position a bit more later, but there is a wide separation between Fitz in the next guy. The depth seems decent, but Michigan needs Fitz to stay healthy this year (knock on wood).
- It appears that Kovacs has moved to more of a free safety position, which is something I haven’t seen pointed out here before.
- It looks like Michigan will run more odd fronts this year to get more LBs on the field as LB appears to be a stronger position group than the D-line, particularly on passing downs
- As many have seen, even during last year, the DBs have improved and continue to improve tremendously. This was partially due to them being so young previously, but also because they are actually being coached properly. You can see them starting to naturally understand why they are doing what they are doing, not just individually but as a group. There is no understating how much better that makes the position group.
- The LBs are still struggling a bit with their zone drops. This is something almost all programs struggle with as there as so many other responsibilities they are being coached to do. Most important is run fits, which they are improving on.
I think these break downs give a pretty good idea of where Michigan is going into the fall. They still have a lot of things to work on, particularly in the pass game. The defense looks decent on pass plays, but there is still some confusion in the zones, particularly from the LBs. Again, we didn’t see anything very interesting from the defense.
I still plan on doing select plays from Bellomy and some select run plays. If you have any questions or suggestions or things to add let me know.