Spring Football Bits Defense: Thorns and Storms

Spring Football Bits Defense: Thorns and Storms

Submitted by Seth on April 18th, 2018 at 3:45 PM


chomp chomp chomp chomp. [Fuller]

This is the defense section: I had to split these up for length which means the offense bits are here.

So Let’s Start With More on the Offense

Yeah so the McElwain presser on Monday opened up a bunch of questions about who’s in charge of the offense. Let’s clear that up with a bit of Bo knowledge and some CK2 references, because everybody who covers Michigan football must understand those at least.

I think Harbaugh told us how he’s going to do it when he said Bo didn’t have an OC, and everybody—or at least everybody who didn’t buy HTTV 2015—missed the reference. Indeed, when Harbaugh was playing here, Bo had a defensive coordinator (Gary Moeller) and more or less allowed Mo to run his duchy. But there was no like position on offense. Instead Bo had a “quarterbacks coach,” Jerry Hanlon, Bo’s right hand man going back to their Miami days. Hanlon coordinated the offensive staff, and called the plays from the box, but never got the title. They also had two offensive-minded former head coaches on staff in Alex Agase and Elliot Uzelac, not to mention Bo was an offensive (line) coach at heart. With all of those vassals with kingship claims, hierarchy was less important than council positions.

That’s how I think it’s going to work now. Pep is your Hanlon—he’s got his job and if he cares what you call it he won’t say so publicly. McElwain is Uzelac—he’ll contribute his thoughts while getting back to position coaching and waiting for an OC job. Warinner is Agase, the guy we know all too well from a long career on opposite sidelines, here because he became available and we need him. They’re not Pep’s vassals because Harbaugh holds the Duke of O title himself, but Pep is the Marshall, and leads the armies.

There. Now the offensive staff makes sense, or if it doesn’t make sense at least now you know it’s only because you don’t know enough about Bo and CK2, and you need to rectify that.

Oh, and Sam’s apologizing to anyone he sees for not being hype enough on Joe Milton, with the why at the link($).


Defense in General


Really would like to know how solving your problems with aggression works in baseball [Patrick Barron]

The thing about Michigan’s defense is they return all but two starters from an excellent unit, and the coordinator has put out three top five defenses in three years—one with Boston College talent—so sunshine is to be expected. At places used to such riches they’ve learned to ask more about strategies for using the varied abilities they’ve collected. We haven’t learned to do this yet, so this is going to be mostly chatter about backup battles.

What we want to hear: Now that some of Dr. Blitz’s weapons are coming into their second and third years, how are they being incorporated into the defense?

What we’re hearing: This week new linebackers coach Al Washington met with the press. Washington played at BC and later coached (running backs and special teams) with Don Brown there. He was part of Fickell’s staff at Cincy that gave Michigan fits by going to a 3-4/4-3 under front and gap-switching a ton. He has been put in charge of Brown’s Swiss army knife position: the Vipers, SAMs, Edges, and whatnot, right when third year Brown hybrids like Josh Uche and Khaleke Hudson are coming into their own. Adam, our presser guy, has a one-week-old so he wasn’t there to ask our questions, and now I’ve got a beef with the Michigan press corps for wasting this opportunity for knife talk to instead lob questions about Mt. Rushmore. But we got one thing out of it:

He said this might be his fastest defense ever. What have you seen of the talent level out there?

“Man, I’ll tell you what, I made the comparison of somebody dropping a steak in a tank of piranhas. You see the quarterback drop back and it’s like…man, it’s overwhelming. So, speed is lightning quick, they’re physical, and they’re smart. That, to me, is probably the biggest thing.

“These guys get it. This is a lot of—I think he had two new starters last year. Ten new starters, excuse me. So, a lot of these kids are coming back and they know it. They have a mastery of it and so that just makes them even faster. They’re tough. They take pride in what they do. It’s a great group. A special group.”

Piranhas it is.

What it means: If a Minnesota Twins fan complains ask him what state Ron Gardenhire collects a check in.

[After the JUMP: The Piranhas]

Neck Sharpies: Air Force’s 50-Slant Defense

Neck Sharpies: Air Force’s 50-Slant Defense

Submitted by Seth on September 20th, 2017 at 11:54 AM

I thought Air Force had a very good defense. They weren’t big or super fast, but they were smart and sound—if a defense as a whole could get a nickname I’d call them Ol’ Eleven Kovacses.

Their gameplan was also brilliant. They knew Michigan wanted to run inside the tackles, get Speight some confidence, and get athletes out to the edge, so Air Force came in with a plan to jam up running lanes and make Michigan try to guess where the big hole would be. This is AF’s look on Michigan’s first running play:


They’re in base 3-4 personnel, with both ends lined up in 5-techniques (over the tackles’ shoulders), both OLBs in 7-techniques (over the TE or hypothetical TE’s shoulders) and one safety down at linebacker depth to react to Michigan putting a lineman (Ruiz) at tight end.

Now this is not Belicheck’s mother’s 3-4. That nose tackle was 5’11/260. He certainly wasn’t going to be two-gapping. Rather out of this setup Air Force’s plan was to have the nose attack almost like Brown’s 3-3-5 linebackers, appearing in any A or B gap on any given play and making life hard on Michigan’s inexperienced interior OL to figure out what to do with him.

If that all sounds familiar, it’s because you’re old, and it is:

That’s right: that sonovabitch Calhoun walked into Michigan Stadium and tried to run Bo Schembechler’s defense on us.


[After the JUMP: The 50 slant, and picking holes in it]

Neck Sharpies: That Old Fashioned Bo Drive

Neck Sharpies: That Old Fashioned Bo Drive

Submitted by Seth on September 28th, 2016 at 12:00 PM

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[UM Bentley Library]

It was 1986 and Michigan’s senior quarterback Jim Harbaugh was 30 minutes away from having to eat his brash prediction. That’s when Bo’s top assistant Jerry Hanlon told his troops how they’d attack the Buckeyes in the second half: MOAR tight ends. By John Kryk’s count, Michigan came out in some kind of balanced (a tight end on either side) formation just 3/38 plays in the first half, when Ohio State mostly shut down the Wolverine offense. In the second half that went to 25/38. Their plan was to see where Ohio State’s great linebacker, Chris Spielman, would line up, and go the other way. Here’s how Cam Cameron—yes the same guy who got Les Miles fired at LSU—explained their reasoning at the time in Kryk’s HTTV article:

“Real simple,” Cameron says. “We were just trying to balance up Ohio State’s defensive front. Really, it gave us a double strength formation. It gave us a strong-side running attack either right or left. Once you balance the defense, now you can run strategically away from the safety, and you just get stronger at the point of attack. They had shifted their defense to our tight end, and any time a team did that to us we were going to balance them off with two tight ends.”

The tradeoff was going with just one wide receiver, at which point either your running game is going to win its matchups or lose the game, because passing is severely nerfed. What made that a win for Michigan wasn’t this macro strategy, however, but the subtle blocking tweaks that Bo—ever the offensive line coach—and Hanlon had instilled in their linemen.

~~~~~~30 YEARS LATER~~~~~~

Penn State is, by some margin, the worst-coached team on Michigan’s schedule this year. I’m nobody’s idea of a football coach, so when I was picking up on things Michigan was doing in the middle of a series and Penn State wasn’t reacting, either I’m just guessing really luckily or it’s a REALLY bad sign for the sideline.

Wilton Speight said this in the postgame presser:

“Yeah, I think there was one drive—I think it was the third or fourth quarter—where we called the same play like eight times in a row. We would just flip it back and forth, and I started laughing looking at the play call because they’d do the same signal, same number in every time. The linemen were getting so excited because I’d call the same play. I think we were getting like nine or 10 a pop, so when that happens it’s demoralizing, probably, for a defense. I’ve never played defense, but I can imagine that would suck to go through that every single play having someone just run you over. That builds our confidence and probably makes them lose confidence.”

Calling the same play and relying on minutiae is a bit old fashioned, but not completely out of style, especially if your opponent has already thrown in the towel. This drive occurred after Penn State punted on 4th and 1 while down four scores with about a quarter and a half left to play. Michigan picked up a big chunk on their rollout draw and Speight turfed a throw to Perry when Mason Cole uncharacteristically got bowled back into the pocket. Then this sequence happened.

Bo would have loved it. And Michigan’s upcoming opponent Wisconsin would instantly recognize it. Let’s jump and see what Michigan was doing.

[After the JUMP: balanced formation and inside zone]