Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Air Force

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Air Force

Submitted by Brian on September 20th, 2017 at 3:45 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTES. Oh man yes I am still on that kick about advertising, which we try to do respectfully. HomeSure Lending supports our content and keeps us from going behind a paywall like the rest of sports media, at least that section of it dedicated to something other than clickbait. No autoplay videos, an advertising ratio of about 1:10 compared to TV, and Matt regularly buys people beer and food. So, yeah, man. A mortgage is basically one number, and Matt will get you that number super fast. It's either him or Larry Culpepper. CHOOSE YOUR FATE.

FORMATION NOTES. Michigan spent virtually the entire game in the stack. Most of the time they had Hudson aligned as the "pup" linebacker, as discussed in the game column.

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Hudson on the hash farthest back.

Michigan had been using their DEs in a five tech (IE, lined up outside the tackles) in their first two games. Here they moved them into "4i," which is shaded just inside the tackles. The wing players are Metellus and Kinnel, with the corners flanking Hudson.

Air Force is of course in the flexbone. I called the above look "flexbone tight" and this one "flexbone twin TE":

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Michigan did not slide in response and a lot of Air Force's successful runs came by hammering doubles down on both Furbush and Gary, but more about that later.

When Air Force went three-wide Michigan responded with a more conventional-looking press with two high safeties—for a given definition of "high."

Michigan had a four man front with Bryan Mone on two snaps. Oddly these were both first and tens; Air Force gained 1 and –3 yards.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES. The back eight was nearly immutable. J'Marick Woods got one snap when Metellus was dinged up and Michigan rotated Watson, Hill, and Long through their two CB spots. The LBs, Kinnel, and Hudson did not depart for any reason aside the two Mone snaps on which Hudson left.

The line was mostly Winovich, Hurst, and Gary. Kemp got maybe a half-dozen snaps; Solomon spotted Hurst for a similar amount of time. I think there was one Reuben Jones snap, maybe a few. Mone got the aforementioned two snaps.

[After THE JUMP: the bone!]

Beet-Red And Nude

Beet-Red And Nude

Submitted by Brian on September 18th, 2017 at 12:35 PM

9/16/2017 – Michigan 29, Air Force 13 – 3-0

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also this happened [Eric Upchurch]

I have ceased being a person who gets seriously exercised about the shortcomings, real or imagined, of Michigan's coaching staff. I will get my grouse on when it's fourth and a half yard and Michigan punts, because if I tried to hold that in I would literally die. There's some stuff later in this post about giving the ball to the Hammering Panda on short yardage and how it's dumb and stupid not to. There will always be niggling details that grate.

But I'm not going to freak out because Michigan's offense is struggling. If my mentions, or Ace's, or poor damn Nick Baumgardner's are any indication the Air Force game was HONEYMOON OVER for a healthy section of Michigan's fanbase. No doubt Sam and Ira have just completed four hours of radio where 75% of the callers were spittle-flecked, nude, and beet-red, proclaiming manifestoes about the personal embarrassment they were caused when Michigan could not score an offensive touchdown in the first 59 minutes of a game against a Mountain West team.

And... eh. I mean, nobody sane could disagree with propositions up to and including "this offense is butt and probably going to cost Michigan any chance of silverware." I wish the offense was not butt, too. In previous years I might be nude and beet-red, writing a manifesto about how I suffered personal embarrassment when Fitz Toussaint ran 27 times for 27 yards.

I am not. I'm going to see how this works out.

I'd like to think this is because I am so good at looking at football that I know that Michigan's problems under Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke were clear, severe, and systemic coaching issues while Harbaugh's are not. To some extent this is probably true: Harbaugh has not switched his base defense midseason in a panic (twice!), or decided that "tackle over" was an offense instead of a gimmick, or continued inserting a quarterback without an ulnar nerve in the second half of an Ohio State game. The worst tactical issue he's had so far was the increasingly disappointing Pepcat package last year, which is a speeding ticket compared to the grand felonies perpetrated by Michigan's last two coaching staffs. Check that: three coaching staffs.

But I'm also extrapolating based on track record. There is an element of faith that Harbaugh engenders, because... uh... I mean, obviously? If you need numbers, here's Stanford, with Harbaugh in bold:

Team Year Record FEI S&P YPC YPA YPP
Stanford 2006 1-11 N/A 113 2.1 (118th) 6.3 N/A
Stanford 2007 4-8 61 83 3.0 (113th) 6 N/A
Stanford 2008 5-7 48 31 4.9 (20th) 6.4 (82nd) 59
Stanford 2009 8-5 1 6 5.2 (7th) 8.7 (7th) 9
Stanford 2010 12-1 5 3 5.2 (16th) 8.9 (10th) 13
Stanford 2011 11-2 6 8 5.3 (13th) 8.7 (7th) 6

Harbaugh embarked on a similar project at San Francisco. The 49ers were 25th in Football Outsider's DVOA fancystat the year before his arrival. They improved to 18th in year one and then had consecutive top ten years (fifth and eighth) before a dropoff in Harbaugh's final season under Jed York. That last season is the only one in Harbaugh's pre-Michigan coaching career where the offense isn't either taking a significant step forward or an elite or near-elite unit, and it's saddled with a bunch of confounding factors. (SF got hit with a blizzard of injuries that year, oh and the owner was trying to force out a guy who'd gone to three consecutive NFC Championship games because reasons.)

At Michigan he immediately took the dead thing that was the Brady Hoke offense and made it okay, leaping from 89th to 38th in S&P+. Last year plateaued largely because the starting QB inexplicably went in the tank in Iowa and then did something nasty to his shoulder.

If the late slide a year ago and early sputters from a team that lost seven starters is enough to overthrow Harbaugh's long career of mostly great offenses in your mind, please go away. Yes, there are problems. No, this isn't Lloyd Carr turning Tom Brady, David Terrell, Anthony Thomas, and four long-term NFL starters into the 60th-best offense in the country. Bitching about Harbaugh's offense makes no sense after two years of inventive game plans, plays I have to invent terms for after a decade of doing this, and mostly solid results despite Brady Hoke's abominable late offensive recruiting*.

This feels bad man. But put your damn clothes on and stick to not sports.

--------------------------

*[Deep breaths. Ready?

The only offensive recruit to even make it to year five from the 2013 class are Patrick Kugler and the fullbacks. De'Veon Smith and Jake Butt were productive and graduated. Da'Mario Jones, Csont'e York, Jaron Dukes, Dan Samuelson, Wyatt Shallman, Chris Fox, David Dawson, Kyle Bosch, Shane Morris, and Derrick Green all burned out without making any impact.

Hoke's miserable 2014 class has Speight, the starting QB, Mason Cole, Ian Bunting, and nobody else even contributing. Moe Ways, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Freddy Canteen, Drake Harris are all gone or benched.

And literally the only offensive recruits Hoke left Harbaugh in the transition class were Alex Malzone, John Runyan Jr, and Grant Newsome. That is three recruiting years producing four starters.]

[After THE JUMP: but hey the defense though]

What Is: The 3-3-5 Defense

What Is: The 3-3-5 Defense

Submitted by Seth on September 14th, 2017 at 12:47 PM

This series is a work-in-progress glossary of football concepts we tend to talk about in these pages. Previously:

Offensive concepts: RPOs, high-low, snag, covered/ineligible receivers, Duo, zone vs gap blocking, zone stretch, split zone, pin and pull, inverted veer, reach block, kickout block, wham block, Y banana play, TRAIN, the run & shoot

Defensive concepts: The 3-3-5, Contain & lane integrity, force player, hybrid space player, no YOU’RE a 3-4!, scrape exchange, Tampa 2, Saban-style pattern-matching, match quarters, Dantonio’s quarters, Don Brown’s 4-DL packages and 3-DL packages, Bear

Special Teams: Spread punt vs NFL-style

----------------------------------

We’ve been writing under the assumption that our readers were all around for the early Rich Rodriguez years, and bought the edition of HTTV where Chris Brown described how Rodriguez-era West Virginia DC Jeff Casteel’s version of it worked. Now that it appears to be Michigan’s base defense (at least versus spread and option teams), maybe it’s time for a refresher.

----------------------------------

A PLAY:

Here’s the most common offensive play in football, Inside Zone, getting straight-up murdered:

The idea here is there’s always (mostly) a linebacker blitzing to be the 4th DL. Functionally McCray is a lineman, but if you’re the offense you don’t know that. Watch the right guard, #74, get totally discombobulated at this discovery.

image

My drawing here shows the run fits and the Don Brown version of the terminology. This particular play had a few variants:

  • The two ends are a little offset and Winovich motions inside on the play: that’s because those guys are both taking interior gaps.
  • The CB blitzed.

Only the first thing is interesting for understanding a 3-3-5. This defense, at its heart, is a one-gap, 4-2-5, except it trades the beef up front of a 4-man line for never knowing who’s in what gap or even who’s going to be the 4th lineman.

[Hit THE JUMP for a very short explanation of the jobs]

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Florida

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Florida

Submitted by Brian on September 8th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

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SPONSOR NOTE: Matt also bought a very silly Michigan bus this offseason. For no reason, really. Just to have a giant bus with a winged helmet painted on it. And other stuff, sure. An engine, probably. Twitter handle painted on the side because that's how we do.

So you can get a mortgage from a guy with a giant Michigan bus or a guy without a giant Michigan bus. Homesure Lending is the guy with the bus. This is an easy choice even if you don't need a term sheet in 15 minutes because you're a bigshot lawyer who is very bad at promoting your own books.

FORMATION NOTES: Hoo boy.

vlcsnap-2017-09-06-12h13m09s706

Michigan played almost the entire game in a 3-3-5 stack. Copious discussion below.

PERSONNEL NOTES: Exact snap counts are not available right now but the general picture was clear. On the DL, Michigan started Gary, Hurst, and Winovich. Those guys got the lion's share of snaps. Marshall and later Solomon rotated in at NT. Kemp got a few snaps when Gary needed to get told something. Winovich went the distance until garbage time, when Reuben Jones and Kwity Paye got in.

At linebacker Furbush and McCray were the OLBs with Bush at ILB. Gil got a couple early series as Michigan rehydrated McCray; that was the only rotation until late. On the last drive the LBs were Gil again, Mbem-Bosse, and Uche.

Secondary was Metellus, Kinnel, and Hudson the whole way at safety with Hill and Long generally first choice at corner. Long's injuries and solid play from Watson got him a healthy number of snaps. Thomas got in a little bit in the third and fourth quarters. There was no dime package. Also yes I'm lumping Hudson in with the safeties since he will split over the slot and occasionally play FS.

[After THE JUMP: do the rich rod!]

Just A Shirt I Wear To Work

Just A Shirt I Wear To Work

Submitted by Brian on September 4th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

9/2/2017 – Michigan 33, Florida 17, 1-0

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can you target ribs though [Christopher Cook]

I felt pretty good about this game for a long time, and continued to feel better as we approached it. First Jim McElwain freaked out about someone on the internet facetiously claiming that he laid upon a shark in the nude. Then some Florida guy said this about the Michigan defensive line:

"They don't move well sideline to sideline, so I think we should take advantage of things like that."

Allegedly paying some SEO outfit 70,000 clams to scrub your Google results of a twitter joke that nobody would have remembered 24 hours later if you hadn't gone full Streisand Effect is one thing. Declaring Michigan's defensive line to lack Southern Speed is another.

The former is insane, yes, but insane manias are not just encouraged but required for high-level college football coaches. Telling your team that Mo Hurst, Chase Winovich, and Rashan Gary can't run is plain old laziness.Gary and Hurst made tackles on WR screens...

And Winovich, well:

A Michigan team that sent so much to the NFL a year ago could have been the subject of many, many legitimate critiques to be expressed in the media. For Florida Man to settle on that one, and say it out loud, was proof that the Gators' internal monologue was indistinguishable from any random SEC SPEED message board. Before this game they talked like one; during this game they played like one; after this game they probably imploded like one. Florida talked that work, got that work, and talked about getting worked.

-------------------------------------------------------

Reporter: I saw you had a work type shirt with your name on it? What's that?
Harbaugh: It's my work shirt.
Reporter: Is there more of a story to it?
Harbaugh: No, just a shirt I wear to work.

Jim Harbaugh is accused of stunts, antics, and bids for media relevancy on the regular. These are mostly true. The subtext, however, is that Harbaugh's profile-raising activities eat into time otherwise spent on the boring work of making a football team. That is not true. Harbaugh and his coaches are also doing that.

Michigan spent most of this game in a bonafide 3-3-5 that they had hardly shown on film last year, baffling Florida's blocking schemes and showing two unprepared quarterbacks a glimpse of hell. Hell is Rashan Gary closing on you unblocked. The proper response is to fall over and pretend you died of rabies, as Felipe Franks did.

On offense Michigan's backs repeatedly burst outside to find that Florida had neglected to deploy a force player. The consistency with which this happened was baffling at first and then felt like a thing Michigan saw and prepared to exploit. Probably 60% of their rushing yards came on the 10-12 carries that started inside and ended outside. At one point I thought about that sideline video from the Stanford-VT Orange Bowl where Harbaugh's telling his back the backside cut is there, and sure enough.

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Mike Shaw would have kicked ass in this game [Cook]

In the aftermath, McElwain talked about how his team got beat up and pushed around by a bigger, stronger Michigan team... you know, the one deploying 10 new starters on defense and a receiving corps consisting entirely of baby lambs stretching their legs. That's default coach talk after taking it on the chin, but Florida didn't lose a bench press competition. They lost because Michigan presented them with a puzzle they could not solve.

Many teams have done that to Florida these last seven years. The Gators are now in the exact same place Michigan was during the dolorous late Hoke era. Spencer:

This is laughable, like openly contemptible. Consider the list of teams that with meager resources and worse recruiting footprints and every other curse imaginable have built top 30 offenses out of nothing. That list based on 2016 alone is hilariously bad given what Florida spends on their head coach alone, not to mention the resources surrounding the football program, one that even after all that spending has topped out at a recent ceiling of “sort-of fleshed-out secondary character with an inflated reputation who makes it into the second act of the Western before being killed in a gunfight when he runs out of bullets.”

Michigan is now on the other side of this equation and when Florida hires Jeff Brohm next year they will be too, and if you're not pulling for that you are a cold person indeed.

For Michigan, a fog of nervousness now evaporated. Your author spent 50k words talking about why he wasn't worried about Michigan's incredible outflux of starters, but as some guy named Foug walked up for the opening kickoff there were butterflies all the same. The difference between "should be" and "is" has bitten Michigan fans too many times in the last decade, and at kickoff all that practice talk is just talk.

Foug could have put that ball straight out of bounds and kicked off a clownshow. At one point, after three separate game-losing disasters in a row, it felt like he had. Michigan did not waver, and once the disasters stopped raining down they asserted themselves as one would.

"This is Michigan" no longer feels like a cruelly oblivious thing to proclaim. They lost the world, and they are still here, being Michigan. Working at it every day.

HIGHLIGHTS

Parking God:

Full game tight cut:

Postgame presser from Harbaugh:

AWARDS

Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

-2535ac8789d1b499[1]you're the man now, dog

#1 Devin Bush. This space has asserted that Devin Bush was accidentally the perfect Don Brown linebacker recruit, and it took one game for that to become obvious. Bush got two sacks in this game and had a few more instances of QB terror; he takes angles that normally mean you lose and wins with them; he shows up in the QB's chest with a quickness that seems to shock them. He is a missile.

#2 Ty Isaac. Not sure how much this is going to translate to opponents that either make sure to have a force guy and pay attention to a run threat on third down, but Isaac was mansome in game one. He converted two third and longs on the ground, embarrassed a couple of would-be tacklers, and kinda looked five-star-ish against a very fast defense.

#3 Quinn Nordin. Nordin missing a 32-yarder was the only thing preventing him from ending up #1 on the list. One game into his Michigan career he's already tied for third in career 50+ yard field goals, with 50 and 55 yarders to his name. He also grooved a couple shorter ones down the middle. His other miss, from 52, was eminently understandable.

Honorable mention: Tarik Black's two catches went for 80+ yards; DPJ nearly broke two different punt returns; Winovich, Hurst, and Gary were all between good and dominant, also the entire rest of the defense.

KFaTAotW Standings.

3: Devin Bush (#1, Florida)
2: Ty Isaac (#2, Florida)
1: Quinn Nordin (#3, Florida)

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

Embedded above: Chase Winovich seals the game in the most appropriate fashion possible.

Honorable mention: Nordin bangs in 55-yarder; Nordin bangs in a 50-yarder; Tarik Black is wide open for a deep touchdown; Nick Eubanks is a very fast quasi-TE; Ambry Thomas rips the ball out on a kick return; various and sundry assaults on Florida QB sanity.

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

Pick six #2. This was the moment during the game when a loss felt most plausible, because every subsequent Michigan drive was destined to end in a pick six. Feels bad man!

Honorable mention: Pick six #1; punt block after pick six #2; Speight checks Michigan into the perfect play and he misses an easy TD; a couple of completions where Hill was in good position but couldn't get his head around and react.

[After THE JUMP: a play from the 2012 Nebraska game.]

Ghosts Of Gergmas Past

Ghosts Of Gergmas Past

Submitted by Brian on November 30th, 2015 at 11:51 AM

11/28/2015 – Michigan 42, Ohio State 13 – 9-3, 6-2 Big Ten

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[Bryan Fuller]

I did not make a list of the things I was hoping to avoid thinking on Saturday, but if I had "This reminds me of Greg Robinson" would have been near the top of the list. It probably doesn't beat out "I hope I can find that limb again" or "so that's what a velociraptor looks like", but it's a close thing.

But there I was, watching 225-pound James Ross line up just behind a nose tackle and thinking about Kenny Demens. Poor damn Kenny Demens.

kovacs-1

The last time Michigan installed a 3-3-5 on short notice that didn't look like the way other teams run a 3-3-5 it looked like that. Michigan gave up 41 points on just nine drives to Matt McGloin. I'm sure someone has run this at some point in the history of football and had it work, but I'm still at a loss to explain how that might happen. Whenever it's raised its head at Michigan it's been a debacle.

This was a debacle.

-------------------------------------

The 3-3-5 wasn't a constant and may have been a misguided attempt to save the DL's legs since they had been whittled down to the starters over the course of the year, but as potential game-changing responses to the Ohio State approach to footballin' go… well, it did change the game.

Michigan did need to have something in their back pocket. I spent big chunks of the preview speculating about what might happen if and when Michigan was forced to abandon the defense it has played for much of the season. Playing man coverage with a deep safety against a team with a heavy QB run game and a superior tailback is only viable if you can win one-on-one battles up front.

Michigan has won those all year, but when Ryan Glasgow got knocked out of the lineup, Indiana exposed the remaining guys with tempo and a bunch of stretch plays, but they were still individually dominant against inside zone. Ohio State runs a lot of inside zone. Michigan got ripped on it.

Since OSU uses their quarterback as a runner extensively, Michigan spent most of he day with one fewer guy in the box than Ohio State had blockers. Often they lined up with one DL between Ohio State's tackles. After a reasonable start they got gashed towards the end of the first half, just in time for adjustments.

There were no adjustments. Michigan got its face caved in. When Michigan put three DL out there they got locked on the field; when OSU faced a third and short they went tempo and ran inside zone. Michigan had no response for this OSU tactic that dates back to the dawn of the Urban Meyer era.

The overall narrative of this season is still a highly encouraging one, but here Michigan has a choice: wake up like OSU did after their own debacle a week ago, or keep showing up in the most important game of the year completely incapable of holding the opposition under 300 yards a game.

DJ Durkin is indeed a promising defensive coordinator but the failure to respond when Indiana was ripping Michigan late and during this entire game should have us pumping our brakes on just how good he is. This is a punch in the mouth. We'll have to wait a year before a response, if Durkin hasn't already left town for a head job elsewhere.

---------------------------

But hey, we're disappointed about 9-3 that isn't 10-2 because of a galactically unlikely outcome at the end of the Michigan State game. Since 99% of Michigan fans predicted 8-4 or worse, that's something. Turning Jake Rudock into a killer quarterback is something. Three consecutive shutouts are something, and Michigan goes into the offseason with a lot of anger to fuel improvement.

Forward, and never look back at this one.

AWARDS

blf_8505_23302757571_o

[Fuller]

-2535ac8789d1b499[1]

Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

you're the man now, dog

#1 Jehu Chesson had 111 receiving yards and Michigan's touchdown on a series of catches ranging routine to excellent. Darboh struggled to get separation; Chesson was generally open. That's a great sign for his ability to shake anybody and hopefully presages a big-time senior year.

#2 Jake Rudock completed his incredible in-season turnaround with an 8.2 YPA day against one of the best pass defenses in the country, and that was without a whole lot of help after the catch. Rudock placed a  bunch of throws just in front of the safeties, didn't throw anything approximating an interception, and dealt with a lot of pressure heroically. Just a stunning reversal, and a tribute to Harbaugh's QB coaching ability.

#3 Jake Butt caught five passes and further separated himself from the Big Ten tight end pack; he has still dropped just one vaguely reasonable pass all year. You might notice that all of these things are related to Michigan's passing battery, because that was the only good bit from the game.

Honorable mention: the refs for not calling holding a half-dozen times against whoever was trying to block Bosa. Peppers, I suppose.

KFaTAotW Standings.

10: Jake Rudock (#3 Northwestern, #1 Rutgers, #1 Indiana, #3 Penn State, #2 OSU)
9: Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV, #1 Northwestern, #1 MSU), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU, #2 Northwestern, #2 MSU, #1 Minnesota)
8: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State, #3 Rutgers, #2 Penn State)
6: Jake Butt(#1 Utah, #2 Rutgers, #3 OSU)
5: Jehu Chesson(#2 Indiana, #1 OSU)
4: Maurice Hurst (#2 Maryland, #2 Minnesota),
3: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU), Desmond Morgan (#1 Maryland), Amara Darboh(#1 PSU)
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Willie Henry(#3 Utah, #3 MSU), 1: AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV), Blake O'Neill(#3 Maryland), Drake Johnson(#3 Minnesota), Delano Hill(#3 Indiana).

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

This week's best thing ever.

Jehu Chesson scored a touchdown, so that was cool.

Honorable mention: Michigan was pretty competitive for 30 minutes.

WGIBTUs Past.

Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
Oregon State: #tacopunts.
UNLV: Ty Isaac's 76 yard touchdown.
BYU: De'Veon Smith's illicit teleporter run.
Maryland: Jehu Chesson jet sweeps past you.
Northwestern: Chesson opening KO TD.
MSU: the bit where they won until they didn't.
Minnesota: form a f-ing wall.
Rutgers: Peppers as Denard.
Indiana: Delano Hill seals it with a PBU.
PSU: Jourdan Lewis breaks their back on a kickoff.

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

This week's worst thing ever.

The second half.

Honorable mention: The first half.

PREVIOUS EDBs

Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game.
Maryland: Slog extended by deflected interception at Houma.
Northwestern: KLINSMANN OUT
MSU: Obvious.
Minnesota: The bit where the lost it until they didn't.
Rutgers: KO return given up.
Indiana: run run run run run run run run run run run run.
PSU: OSU's WHAT ARE THOOOOOOSE gameplan against MSU.
OSU: the second half

[After THE JUMP: Rudock exponential improvement path, box numbers, sad things.]

Unverified Voracity Comes Up Milhouse

Unverified Voracity Comes Up Milhouse

Submitted by Brian on March 1st, 2011 at 11:16 AM

Everywhere you go. A reader sends along this BBC news piece on goings-on in Libya featuring this guy at prayer:

image

CCHA champs and rid of Qaddafi in the same week*—everything's coming up Milhouse!

BONUS: random Mississippi State sweatshirt in different protest. The 2011 Gator Bowl is coming for you, Qadddafi.

*[Michigan hockey guy lives in the liberated east; Qaddafi's still hanging on in the west.]

Vada latest. Vada Murray is home after radiation treatments:

We have never, ever, in our lives felt so scared.  We also have never felt so loved.  Thank you for the cards, emails, text messages, phone calls & messages on this website; thank you for your continued expressions of love & support.  Thank you to the Ann Arbor Police Department for their unwavering love.  They give true meaning to the phrase, "Whatever you need, whenever you need it." Thank you for understanding if we don't personally return your message.  We both want you to know, we love you back.

Moves. Touch The Banner relates that Rivals relates a couple of position switches: Steve Watson has moved back to tight end and Will Campbell to the defensive line. You're probably thinking "meh" and "duh," but there's an interesting wrinkle:

But unlike Rodriguez and his clunky defensive staff, Campbell will actually be playing the 3-tech defensive tackle position.  I can't imagine the conversations in the former defensive staff's meeting rooms.  "Well, we've got this 6'5" behemoth with loads of talent, but his one problem is that he can't stay low and get leverage.  We just can't figure out what to do with him."

There wasn't a three-tech DT in the 3-3-5 and Campbell wasn't going to play DE, so since he's not so good at NT it's off to offense. I'm not entirely sure this is as much of a slam dunk as TTB does—Campbell has fallen prey to single blocks plenty—but it's at least worth a shot. I'd rather he became an awesome NT but I think it's far more likely he becomes an acceptable three-tech, and either one of those allows Ryan Van Bergen to be the SDE I think Michigan needs him to be if their defensive line is going to be good against the run.

FWIW, Campbell was pretty effective in the goal line set when he could just plow into the backfield. He'll have to do a bit more than get under a guy and drive him back as he falls down if he's going to be an effective player in the other 98 yards of field, though.

Well, yes. It's natural for people to explode when your floppy-haired gritmonster makes two enormous plays that turn a probable loss into a certain win. As the morning's post indicated in the "elsewhere" section, if you don't have a post extolling Zack Novak today you probably don't have a Michigan blog. The Wolverine Blog says "what about the awesome guys?"

Tim Hardaway, Jr. locked up his third straight Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor — no small feat in a conference featuring Jared Sullinger — with a first-half outburst of “en fuego” proportions: four three-pointers in the first five minutes gave Michigan an early cushion that would allow them to weather a big Minnesota run and still enter halftime with a 35-33 lead. Hardaway finished the game leading all scorers with 22 points on 7-11 shooting (5-8 from three) …

It was Michigan’s other difference-maker, Darius Morris, who came through with 11 second-half points — continually finding his way into the paint among Minnesota’s massive front line and finding a way to create baskets — en route to a 17-point, 8-15 shooting, 7-assist performance while committing just one lone turnover.

That's ridiculously efficient and very efficient with ridiculous assist-to-turnover; Morris is also ~60% responsible for Jordan Morgan leading all D-I players in FG% in the last five games. I hesitate when TWB calls Novak a "role player"—Vogrich is a role player—but he's not one of the two lights-out stars that keep Michigan around so Novak can declare winnin' time.

Hardaway's stats are now gross. In his last five games he's made 60% of his threes. Okay, that's a hot streak. It's more than that: since January 9th he's pulled his eFG% up from 42% to 52%. In that stretch of 14 games he's made 48% of his threes. Even if you chuck out the last five games in the other nine he's hit 42%. Over essentially half of Michigan's season—the tough half—Hardaway is hitting half his threes.

!!!

30 for 30 on black socks. Jalen Rose tweets this:

fab-five-30for30

That is an ESPN documentary on the Fab Five smack dab in he middle of March. Prepare to be massively conflicted.

God, the Penn State game. That's when it all came crashing down. After a somewhat encouraging performance against Iowa—at least it was encouraging on the ground—Michigan hits the bye week, dumps the mostly 4-3/3-4 sets they'd been using, and comes out in a 3-3-5 that Penn State gashes all day. Before that game PSU couldn't run if you spotted them two guys and three yards, and in the aftermath I blew up. UFR tags included "fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu," "fire coach x," "greg robinson," "i want a staple gun," "i've got a feeling i'm going to punch the black eyed peas," and "idiocracy."

This bit was particularly painful:

Line Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
M1 1 G Goal line 3-3-5 stack Run Dive ? 1
Whatever. This isn't even M's to-date successful goal line package. RPS -1.

That's right: Michigan ran a stack on first and goal from the one. I bring it up because a reader hit up a coaching clinic featuring PSU's Mike McQueary and reports back:

He used Michigan as an example of the importance of finding a few things as a coach that you can connect with your players on re: scheme, rather than trying to run every kind of scheme with minimal understanding (Less is better).

The hardest thing to watch was a near-goal line stand where PSU ran a Fullback draw into a 3-man front and barely needed any blocking to get the TD. He referred to that as "some knuckleheaded goal-line defense".

I still can't believe RR screwed up his defense enough to get fired. I mean, of all the epic fails in the history of epic fails. All they had to be was mediocre in year three. This is painful:

"This clip makes me feel a little sad for Coach Rodriguez. His offense is nearly impossible to gameplan for, but the defense couldn't get it done"

Fffffuuuuuuu.

Etc.: The Wolverine Blog rebuts the Rodriguez-attrition meme. I think the truth lies somewhere in between it and the MNB piece. The problem was that Michigan needed to have a run of below-average attrition after late Carr-era departures and didn't get it. Robocop speaks to the city of Detroit: statue yes. Denard Robinson was a clue on Jeopardy.

Picture Pages: Lack Of Massive Cutback Lane

Picture Pages: Lack Of Massive Cutback Lane

Submitted by Brian on November 24th, 2010 at 11:55 AM

Yesterday I put up an analysis of a simple iso that cut back behind Mike Martin and picked up ten yards. In the comments Magnus mentioned he thought this must be a mistake on someone's part because when you have the DT and MLB both heading to the playside A gap your defense is no longer "gap sound"—ie does not have one guy in every place a tailback can go—and things like ten yard iso plays result.

This resulted in some discussion about how the MLB's job in the 3-3-5 is to "make the nose right", IE fill the other A gap depending on what the nose does. This is a phrase unleashed to the world by Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 DVD, and I think it's what West Virginia does with its middle linebacker. It's evidently not what Michigan is doing with Demens when he's aligned in what I've come to think of as the Gergbacker position. Demens doesn't have time to make anyone right because he's too close to the play; he picks a side of the line and goes into the guard.

Another commenter complained that I shouldn't criticize Van Bergen for getting locked out upfield on this particular play because I can't be sure what his assignment is. That's true and a frustration I often have but amongst Wisconsin's brain-melting array of second half runs there is a serendipitous iso that Michigan stops that demonstrates the trends from yesterday's post and suggests that the key guy on a cutback is indeed the backside DE.

It's first and ten on the Michigan 41 in the midst of Wisconsin's first soul-crushing ground based touchdown drive of the second half. Wisconsin comes out in the same I-form they showed on the play featured yesterday. Michigan goes with basically the same stack look as well, though they've flipped Kovacs and Avery. The backup DL (Banks, Patterson, Black) is in:

iso-no-1

A moment after the snap we see a difference: the backside tackle is releasing downfield instead of blocking Banks out of the play. That's left to the TE. He gets slanted under:

iso-no-2

A moment later we see that Patterson is getting playside of the center… and Demens is shooting into the same gap to take on whoever shows up. Banks is sliding down the line behind them; also note that Jibreel Black has beaten the block of the RT and is coming upfield.

iso-no-5

At the handoff point Patterson is beating his guy and Demens is about to slam into a guard at the LOS. In doing so he halts all progress from both the G bubbled over him and the FB. Massive cutback lane would result, except Banks is right on the center's hip. Black is now through the tackle totally and converging; tailback has nowhere to go:

iso-no-4

Wad of bodies…

iso-no-7

…and two yards.

iso-no-8

So. To continue the Week of Defensiveness, usually these plays are picked because they illustrate a larger trend—Kenny Demens runs at the playside guard all day and eats facemask, and I'm pretty sure the design of this defense has a backside DE assigned to an A-gap. My choice here was between criticizing Van Bergen for getting locked out so easily or Greg Robinson for putting him in a tough position. The right answer is some of both, probably.

Object lesson type objects:

  • This is a slight variation on the play yesterday. Yesterday Wisconsin kept the backside T in to block Van Bergen and ended up blocking Mouton with a guard. Here the guard attempts to slide over on Patterson and the T is assigned Mouton. These seem like subtly different playcalls with the first designed to cut back and the second to go straight upfield.
  • Kenny Demens really does just run to the playside A gap all game, where he enjoys a scone with the DT. Here it works, though the next play is a 12 yard Down G run, the play after a four yard power play, and the play after that a 23-yard Down G touchdown.
  • So that means your options on the cutback are backside DE or no one. Here Banks gets a relatively easy task since the guy lined up over him heads downfield and he can just slide along the line; Van Bergen had that guy blocking him. Still, the results were not so good and were repeated on a number of other runs.
  • I'm pretty sure this is a bad idea. And not just on general principles! Having the backside DE clean up behind the NT  seems like a thing that would work in the 4-3 where the backside DE is actually a DT inside of the tackle. In this scheme he releases downfield or he's got what seems like easy work to seal out a guy who's supposed to be an A-gap player.
  • How about Jibreel Black beating a block and being useful on a run play? Woo progress!

Picture Pages: Swallowing Kenny Demens

Picture Pages: Swallowing Kenny Demens

Submitted by Brian on November 23rd, 2010 at 12:55 PM

So… Greg Robinson doesn't know how to run a 3-3-5. For whatever reason, Michigan is running a 3-3-5. This results in situations like this first quarter run for the Badgers that echoes several themes from the This Is Not A Stack post: by lining up his MLB just behind his nose tackle he dooms that guy to take one step to the playside, whereupon he is eaten by a guard who has no one lined up over him. Even if Michigan successfully plugs that hole they are crazy vulnerable to cutbacks and counters.

It's second and three on Wisconsin's second drive of the day. they come out in an I-form with twins to the field side. Michigan aligns in its stack formation with Jordan Kovacs—supposedly the bandit—aligned to the strong side of the formation, with Cam Gordon hovering over the wide receiver stack to the outside:

 cutback-1

Wisconsin's going to run a simple iso play that's designed to go off the right side of the line. You can see in shot two Demens's alignment just three yards off the LOS:

cutback-2

Martin's getting momentarily doubled in the shot below but the G peels off quickly to block the rolled-up Demens. On the backside Ryan Van Bergen has gotten kicked out and Mouton is staring down a free release from the backside G:

cutback-3

Demens is swallowed. I think the idea here is to force Wisconsin to come off their double of Martin quickly, allowing him to run free and eat people, but don't quote me on that. Ezeh is attacking the FB, and there's nothing on the frontside:

cutback-4

Because Martin has slanted past the center and Van Bergen has gotten kicked out there's a big cutback lane. Mouton is in a bad situation, essentially standing still as a guard comes out on him. Demens is getting blocked; the OG has his arm around his back. This never gets called holding but he's being held:

cutback-5

Mouton gets blasted three yards downfield and gives up the inside. Courtney Avery was filling from his overhang spot and could have maybe held this under three yards but once Mouton gets hit in that position the RB cut past him and it's up to Demens and/or Martin to spin of blocks and close it down.

cutback-6

They can't. Vinopal is forced to tackle ten yards downfield.

cutback-7

Video:

Object lesson type objects:

  • Theory as to the deployment of Kenny Demens two feet from his NT. Demens threatens to shoot into the backfield immediately on plays like this, which seriously reduces the time Wisconsin guards have to double Mike Martin. This allows Martin to use his quickness to slant under the center, get to the playside, and close off holes.
  • Problem with the deployment of Kenny Demens two feet from his NT. Once you're engaged with an OL he is going to grab you and delay you and let go before he gets a flag, so you can attempt to get off him and close down the massive cutback hole you've opened up by shooting both your MLB and NT to the playside but you're probably not going to make it.
  • Second problem with the deployment. I imagine it has something to do with opponents' consistent ability to hit balls over the linebackers and in front of the safeties; having your linebackers five yards off the LOS gives them more time to reduce throwing windows. I've charted basically all of Tolzein's throws and three or four could have been shut down if the linebackers had been a yard or three deeper.
  • WTF Van Bergen? When Michigan is aligned in this fashion the overhang guy—in this case Courtney Avery—is in great position to shut down anything that bounces all the way outside to the short side. With both Demens and Martin headed playside RVB should be flowing down the line, relying on Kovacs to bounce anything that gets behind him and Avery to clean up. Instead he gets upfield and seals himself, basically, leaving Mouton in acres of space with a guard bubbled over him.
  • Mouton could do better here, too. It's never good when you're taking on an OL three yards downfield and that OL is moving while you're not.

Ironically, I think this MLB deployment would have worked out okay for Ezeh, who's a big guy with some pop but terribly indecisive. Here there's not much of a decision. Line goes one way, you pound the playside guard ASAP. It seems like a waste for Demens, who has displayed good read and react skills in his brief career as a starter.

I was looking for an adjustment here where Michigan would defense something like this by not having Demens right at the LOS but haven't found it yet. I've seen a lot of small guys getting battered and crappy pursuit angles. I'm not sure if my haziness on what the appropriate play is is my fault or the defense's fault; it seems like Michigan players are making basic errors but it could be a shifting scheme in which a guy like JB Fitzgerald's attempt to defeat a downblock sees him go from the LOS at the snap to six yards off the LOS outside the hashmarks.

More than anything this seems like another example where the scheme is either incoherent or the players don't know what they're doing. Van Bergen getting upfield is the killer here and makes no sense given the alignment of the D.