Picture Pages: (More) Freshman DB Doom

Picture Pages: (More) Freshman DB Doom

Submitted by Brian on October 21st, 2010 at 11:33 AM

This one's not going to be a revelation. It's just more of the same from nickelback Courtney Avery, who you may remember from "aargh crippling third down conversion" and "I play man coverage always." But I'm grabbing it to show just how damaging it is to have these guys who should be redshirting running around on the field.

It's third and ten from the Michigan 14 on Iowa's third drive; Michigan has an excellent chance to boot Iowa off the field here. They come out in a three-wide set. Michigan responds with its 4-2-5 nickel package:


Courtney Avery is the nickelback and the key guy. Michigan's going to rush four and play three deep, leaving four guys in underneath zones. Avery is on the hashmarks to the top of the picture on the slot receiver:


Iowa's underneath receivers run crossing routes past each other—a mesh route. the two receivers to the top of the screen are going vertical, with Rogers on the outside guy and Avery on the inside one:


Avery is dropping deep to cut off space but turns his back to the QB. Has anyone else turned his back to the QB? No:


Here you can see two things: 1) Avery actually did a good job of rerouting the slot. Iowa's receivers are running paired posts and they are a yard away from each other. Cam Gordon should be in position to make a play on a throw here; it's unlikely Stanzi will force it if the drag isn't breathtakingly open. 2) Avery is completely out of his zone moving inside with his back turned to the QB:


Stanzi sees it and throws just as Roh lights him up:


Avery is nowhere. He can't change direction fast enough to get back out to his zone. No one could:




UPDATE: Video.

Object lessons:

  • Courtney Avery should be redshirting. He looks like a quarterback who played a little man coverage in high school, because that's what he is.
  • Courtney Avery is not redshirting. Never Forget.
  • Rerouting receivers is an important part of zone coverage. Avery changes the WR's route here and forces it deeper, into an area in which Cam Gordon is a threat.
  • …but you have to pass the guy off way faster than this. I can't imagine you're ever supposed to chase the guy this far inside, or totally turn your body away from the QB.
  • Demens is fine here, I think. Mesh is tough on LBs in zone. Here he lets the receiver outside of him but he has to expect Avery will be there. He also knocks down the other guy running a drag, which is a bonus.
  • This is four free points from a freshman DB after the rest of the team got a stop. Maybe if Avery pulls off the slot receiver Stanzi has a shot at him on the post but that's a tougher throw than the little drag route here and with the reroute and the pressure chances are Stanzi either throws the drag anyway and picks up five or eats a sack.
  • I would abandon the nickel. Thomas Gordon is almost exactly Avery—a high school quarterback switching to nickel-type DB in college—except he's got a redshirt year behind him. I can understand the desire to get another DB on the field in passing situations but Avery's been a huge liability so far; Gordon has not made similar mistakes.

So there's this and there's 404 Tackle Not Found—two huge swing plays that went against Michigan's freshman nickelback. Missing Troy Woolfolk is an enormous deal.

Midseason Re-Eval: Secondary

Midseason Re-Eval: Secondary

Submitted by Brian on October 20th, 2010 at 2:43 PM

Taking stock during the bye week.


People thought I was depressive when the secondary preview started "what's the point of anything?"


WHO'S DEPRESSIVE NOW!?!?! YEAHHHHH. Score one for cold-eyed realism. This could be the worst secondary in a BCS conference. It's definitely the worst in Michigan history.

Anyway, cornerback got a 1 and I thought about breaking the rules to go lower:

Nothing has ever gotten a zero before even jokingly, not even the 2008 offensive line that consisted of seven guys who could plausibly play and actually started a defensive tackle who had been switched in the middle of fall camp. But I thought about it here. What Michigan has to offer at corner is going to be substandard unless a great miracle falls from the sky, and will probably be no better than last year's fare even before Woolfolk moved.

Some vague hopes were offered for JT Floyd despite his ugly, brief tenure as the starter opposite Donovan Warren once Boubacar Cissoko went ham. These were based on constant positive reinforcement from the coaches and the occasional mysterious practice observer, with the latter given more credence because they didn't have an obvious ulterior motive. "Average" was the "best anyone could hope for," though.

Opposite Floyd I took a wild guess that Cullen Christian would end up starting—if not immediately by the time the Big Ten season hit—because he was the most highly-touted recruit and was not James Rogers. Avery and Talbott were regarded as basically identical recruits who needed a year and 20 pounds before seeing the field. They wouldn't be allowed that luxury.

At safety 2 was offered, "generously." Jordan Kovacs was said to be totally incapable of playing a deep half but "pretty good as a tiny linebacker." In sum:

So Kovacs is going to have to cover a deep half sometimes. This won't go very well, and Michigan's defense will be limited by it. On the other hand, the run defense shouldn't be nearly as bad with Kovacs filling the weakside alley; last year he racked up 75 tackles despite the late start. Marvin Robinson will press Kovacs for his job, but probably not take it. Iowa and Wisconsin have gotten away with players like him for years.

At free safety, Cam Gordon was named the Grady Brooks memorial King of Spring Hype. The usual accolades were relayed, the thing about how he should probably be a linebacker mentioned, and a projection of a sort offered:

As a redshirt freshman, a "big year" would be wrapping up his tackles and not letting anyone behind him for crippling long touchdowns. … Repeating [Brandon Englemon's] +0.7 per game would go a very long way towards bringing Michigan's defense back from the dead. That's optimistic. Cam Gordon will chase more than a couple opponents into the endzone. But not on third and twenty-four.

Fast forward to NOW!


nothing really matters… anyone can see… that nothing really matters to meeeeeeeeeee

Depressingly accurate overall even considering the original depression that was depressing. Michigan is 118th in pass defense and 94th in efficiency.

Maybe the corners have been slightly less atrocious than expected, but Michigan's been limited when they try to play man coverage because things like Iowa's last touchdown happen when they do. On that play, Michigan sent the house and JT Floyd gave up a slant despite starting with inside leverage. They make plays on occasion, but lord they're not good. Michigan's defense is limited in the same way their offense was in 2008—with deficiencies that severe man coverage is a dangerous gamble every time it's deployed.

Floyd is significantly improved, so there's that. He's still below average. He's not a total liability. On the other side, Michigan hasn't been able to displace Rogers despite his tendency to go into anaphylactic shock whenever he comes within five yards of an opponent wide receiver…



…because the freshmen have been playing like typical three-star true freshmen: badly. They first started rotating into the lineup against BG; since then

  • Cullen Christian was burned twice against BG and gave up an easy long touchdown against Michigan State,
  • Terrence Talbott was primarily responsible for turning third and fifteen into first and ten on Michigan State's second touchdown drive and gave Indiana their last touchdown by dragging out of his zone, and
  • Courtney Avery was personally responsible for large chunks of Indiana yards, gave up a touchdown on third and ten against Iowa by dragging out of his zone, and turned what should have been another third and ten stop into a whiffed tackle, 20 yards, and the field goal that was the final nail in Michigan's coffin.

This is disappointing, especially Christian's failure to beat out not only Rogers but apparently his classmates. Talbott and Avery feature in the nickel and dime packages while Christian backed up the outside guy; he has apparently lost that job. too—Avery came in against Iowa when JT Floyd missed a few plays.

At safety, Kovacs has been Kovacs. He's small, he's not very fast, but he's probably the team's best tackler and he's been in the right spot more often than anyone on the defense. This has resulted in a bunch of UFRs where he's got several half-points in each direction and comes out at zero. He could be the fifth-best player on a good defense.

Cam Gordon has been rough, honestly little better than the mess Michigan threw out last year. He racked up a double-digit negative day against Notre Dame and followed that up with another one against Michigan State. His angles have been too aggressive or too conservative with little porridge in-between, and he's failed to shake a nasty habit of not wrapping up his tackles. He's pretty good running downhill, and that's about it. Preseason hype has given way to cold reality. Gordon is a redshirt freshman converted wide receiver who should probably be playing linebacker. He plays safety like he's a bowling ball: he goes fast in one direction and hopes to knock over the pins with momentum because he has no arms.


Fast forward to LATER!

What can we expect the rest of the year? Pain, but less of it.

Rodriguez made an offhand comment about maybe moving someone from one safety spot to another when discussing the possibility of a Will Campbell move, but that would either be Jordan Kovacs or Marvin Robinson. Kovacs's tenure at deep safety last year was hardly less disastrous than that of Mike William or Gordon; Marvin Robinson is yet another freshman who is likely to make the same sorts of mistakes.

Gordon's it unless Michigan wants to turn to true freshman two-star Ray Vinopal, who picked off a pass from a third-string Bowling Green walk-on and has therefore made the best play by a Michigan safety in the last ten years. I'm not sure if that's a joke.

Floyd's not very good, Rogers is what he is at this point, and the freshmen are clearly not instant impact types, except insofar as they give up an extra touchdown per game than a Michigan secondary featuring Troy Woolfolk. That is an impact, just not the one you're hoping for.

Your best hopes the rest of the year:

  • Courtney Avery learns WTF a zone is and how to play it.
  • Cam Gordon's angles and tackling improve marginally.
  • JT Floyd progresses towards average and at least gets basic things right.

Actually, your best hope is this: Michigan did okay against the two rookies and/or flat bad quarterbacks they've faced to date. Zack Fraser didn't do anything. ND's three-headed QB was contained. Bowling Green couldn't do much of anything. Michigan's next three opponents all feature freshmen at QB; they're ranked 104th (PSU), 105th (Illinois), and 107th (Purdue) in passing efficiency. They're bound to be less effective than the last three guys, a senior returning starter, junior returning starter, and senior returning starter who are all in the top 30 in passer efficiency. Tolzien will shred, but who knows what Terrelle Pryor will do? (Probably shred, actually—he has no problems against awful Ds this year.)

By the end of the year Michigan's numbers will be slightly less grim as the schedule eases and the freshmen learn WTF a zone is. They will still be grim.

404 Tackle Not Found

404 Tackle Not Found

Submitted by Brian on October 18th, 2010 at 12:05 PM

10/16/2010 – Michigan 28, Iowa 38 – 5-2, 1-2 Big Ten


When Michigan needed a stop to get the ball back with a chance to tie and plenty of time on the clock they failed to get it, twice. The second time Michigan cut off Iowa's routes past the sticks, forcing a dumpoff to Adam Robinson. Courtney Avery was there.

imageLast year at this time Avery was in high school. He played quarterback, and basically only quarterback. Plans to have him play his college position were thwarted by an injury. In a presser earlier this year, Rich Rodriguez said in any situation short of the Bohemian Crapsody that is this secondary, the entire freshman defensive back class would redshirt. But File Not Found, man. File Not Found.

Avery did that thing you see above. It doesn't appear that he even touched Robinson, something Crapsody-projected starter Richard Nixon probably could have managed. My immediate thought was watching baseball highlights on Sportscenter during the Dan and Keith glory days. Dan Patrick's signature strikeout call: "the whiff."


And so Michigan football falls into that old incredibly fun debate for the next two weeks before the Penn State game quiets it, one way or the other. Rodriguez proponents point to the shocking lack of talent in the back four and say it's not his fault; Rodriguez opponents point to the same thing and say it's his fault.

They're both sort of right, sort of wrong. Boubacar Cissoko has 99 problems but what to do on a Friday night is no longer one of them. Troy Woolfolk was struck down by Angry Michigan Secondary Hating God. These are cosmically decreed absences from the secondary.

On the other hand, it's hard to look at the addled underclassmen out there with cornerback Nick Sheridan and not wish Rodriguez had sucked a little face to get Donovan Warren or Justin Turner or Vlad Emilien to stick around. Emilien departed the Michigan secondary in an effort to find playing time. Something is not quite right with your roster management when you lose the only non-freshman free safety on the roster.

As he left he said something along the lines of "I'm the best safety on the roster."* He probably isn't, but this is the point at which a desperate Michigan would give it a shot anyway. They did with Kenny Demens and found out that Obi Ezeh is not the best MLB at Michigan; maybe that would have happened with Emilien. Instead there is a walk-on-sized true freshman and air backing up Cam Gordon and Michigan will ride and die with another guy who obviously shouldn't be on the field this year.

This is what Michigan football is these days—trying to figure out which incredibly inexperienced player has the least business being on a Big Ten two deep, let alone field. My vote is for James Rogers, but I get it if you're arguing for any other member of the secondary not named Kovacs. Srsly. Pick one.


cigar-guyOf course, Avery's mistake was as far from an isolated an incident as possible. The reason it's emblematic of the game is that you could have picked a dozen other players if their incident had happened right at the end. Another field goal was blocked, with a bonus: team walks off field still featuring live ball, Iowa returns it a goodly distance. The Taylor Lewan Drive Killing Penalty and its sequels. Two(!) kickoffs sailing out of bounds. Facemask calls. A –4 turnover margin. It's all very grrraaarrgggh. The people on the internet who say "THAT'S COACHING" are saying "THAT'S COACHING."

Maybe it is, but how would anyone know when freshman quarterbacks are waving at Adam Robinson's feet? In one very limited way it would be nice if this was a Tim Brewster situation where galaxy-spanning incompetence met a total lack of a track record and firing the guy was obvious. That's not this. We have very good reasons to expect what is happening to happen but don't know if it's ever going to stop.

*(to someone in the media, but not to the public at large.)


To repeat. We've got five additional opportunities to find out whether or not the mistakes were just one (er… two) of those days or a systemic issue—or, more likely, a systemic issue less severe than it seems this instant—so no job talk. I will say that my position at the start of the year was that 7-5 was the expected result and that would be good enough for me since 2011 sets up as a perfect prove-it year, and that I don't see why that would change. If they can get a half-decent defense they should blow up.

Iowa's defense may have been something of a paper tiger but even so Michigan came up ten yards short of its season average against the #4 total defense in the country; they're now #3 in total offense. They have two seniors who start and three on the two-deep. As long as they don't tank the rest of the season that seems like a good enough reason to give it a shot in 2011.

Crap, I guess that's job talk.

Kenny! After two three-and-outs featuring Kenny Demens at middle linebacker, Obi Ezeh returned to the field to start the third drive. On his first play he was humiliatingly owned  by an Iowa OL, getting pancaked as Robinson whizzed by for his first real gain of the day. I started complaining to everyone in the vicinity about Ezeh's presence as Iowa marched down the field; Demens returned as Iowa neared the redzone. Ezeh's Michigan career is for all intents and purposes over, and Demens is the new king of everything.

How did he do? I don't actually know yet, but if you take out the three Robinson runs (14, 8, 5) when Ezeh was in the game Robinson rushed for 116 yards on 28 carries, 4.2 per. That's not terrible and for the most part it was done without Mike Martin, who missed the entire second half and was not effective when he did play in the first.

Last I said I was rooting for an inexplicable personnel decision here and it looks like that's the case: Demens is considerably better than Ezeh. That's a nice boost for the rest of the season and the next couple years. If Demens was really Ezeh's equivalent or worse we'd be facing down MOTS or freshmen at MLB next year; instead it looks like we'll get the upperclass years of a decent recruit who's already an obvious upgrade.

Ezeh epilogue. I will remember him as that guy from Memento.

Khoury! The most encouraging part of the game was Michigan owning the Iowa DL despite playing most of the day without Molk and a chunk of it without Lewan. Michigan averaged 4.8 YPC on the ground despite not breaking a run longer than 15 yards, gave up just one sack, and saw its quarterbacks go 30/44.

The lack of long runs is a function of the Iowa gameplan, which left six-ish guys in the box most of the day and gave Michigan a numbers advantage, but Michigan took advantage of that against a massively hyped DL. They did it without their starting center. At this point they've established themselves one of the best units in the conference.

Tate! Hell of a relief appearance there, and more indication that keeping Forcier in the program is an important offseason task. Also: pretty sure they ran the midline option for their last touchdown.

Lewan sad face. It's a good thing that late false start was on Schilling; if it was on Lewan blood vessels would have burst all over Michigan Stadium. I don't have to remind you of the three crippling penalties that ended Michigan drives, because you were doing your very best not to unleash a torrent of boos at the kid.

On the upside, I hear that Clayborn did nothing when Lewan was in the game; if that proves true on tape you can ramp your Lewan==Long hype up to maximum.

Turnover damage metric. Tate's last desperate chuck on third and nineteen == 0. Not completing a pass in that situation is almost a turnover anyway.

Robinson's interception == 2. It was third and ten and he didn't have underneath options apparently; in that situation a deep INT is basically a punt. The problem was with how terrible the throw was. When the receiver can't even get over to tackle that's a problem.

Vincent Smith fumble, First Forcier interception == 8. Guh.

Hagerup. At least the punting issues have resolved themselves spectacularly. Hagerup averaged 50.3 yards a kick and yielded no return yards. Net punting is now above average. It's just everything else that's terrible.


Photo I was looking for found at Mets Maize, which focused in on that same moment as the tale of the game. BWS recap is a little down on RR's playcalling with Denard in the game; I just see third and okay turned into third and long by Lewan penalties. With Denard, Michigan is a team on a schedule, like option teams. Getting off that schedule is very bad. I should dig out my old third down code after the year so we can see the big red bits from third and seven out.

Meanwhile, In Rod We Trust kicks off its post like I wanted to:

Something, something, realistic expectations, something, something, glass half-full, something something, more experience needed, something, something, witch hunt commence, something something, life goes on.  Something, something, not 2009.

While it could have ended there, it continues. Meanwhile in the News, John Niyo says "OMG 2009," something only a Penn State win will fix. The Ann Arbor News launches "moxie" to describe Forcier's day.

Michigan Exposures has a pregame gallery. Also game and postgame. The Ann Arbor Chronicle has an MMB photo gallery:


BTN highlights:

Michigan-slanted ones:

Via BitP. Finally, Lloyd Brady is sad:


Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com

I hate it when he is sad, and not just because I feel the same way.

Upon Further Review: Defense vs Indiana 2010

Upon Further Review: Defense vs Indiana 2010

Submitted by Brian on October 7th, 2010 at 1:52 PM

Substitution notes: The base secondary was the same and played every snap IIRC. At linebacker Mouton played every down and Ezeh was the MLB but pulled regularly for the dime package; Carvin Johnson started the game but was pulled in the first half and replaced by Thomas Gordon. The line did its usual amount of rotation (mostly Martin, Banks, always RVB, a little Patterson and Sagesse) with one exception: Jibreel Black got a significant amount of time in passing situation, replacing Banks.

Formation notes: A heavy dose of the dime package that pulls Banks/Ezeh off the field for Avery and Talbott. Meanwhile, Indiana had all manner of weird stuff. I called this "Empty bunch quad":


This was "Pistol FB twins"; note that the TE is covered up on this play:


The FB is more of an H-back on this play; he was lined up next to the QB on most other plays of this variety. The rest of it was fairly straightforward.

Insanely long show:

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M23 1 10 Shotgun empty 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Rollout throwaway Banks Inc
Roh lines up over the center. Martin and RVB flip positions. Indiana rolls the pocket away from Martin but lets him in free anyway; Banks(+0.5) drives through the tackle to force Chappell to pull up. He has to throw before his receivers can force Floyd(+1, cover +1) into a choice, so he chucks it OOB. (pressure +1)
M23 2 10 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Power off tackle Ezeh 6
Not to be that guy who hates Ezeh but this is pretty much Ezeh. IU brings Doss in motion and fakes an end around, then runs power at Banks. Banks(+0.5) fights inside and Mouton(+0.5) takes on the FB at the LOS, cutting off the frontside. Roh recognizes and attacks through a gap in the backside of the play and could get this at the LOS or in the backfield but slips, so no plus or minus. He does force the RB to head outside of Banks, where he finds room because Ezeh(-1) stepped towards the end-around and did not get back; Martin actually peels off a blocker and heads downfield to tackle.
M29 3 4 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 nickel Pass 4 Slant C. Gordon 14
Michigan threatens blitz and does come, dropping Banks and Roh off into short zones; Indiana picks it up (pressure -1) and a slant comes wide open (cover -2) with Cam Gordon(-1) sinking on a route Rogers should have covered. Good tackle by Kovacs(+0.5, tackling +1).
M43 1 10 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass N/A PA WR flare Johnson 15
Fake end around, fake handoff, throwback to Doss after everyone chases after the fake. IU has acres of space since Roh(-1) chased after the fake even though he's the linebacker to this side and abandoning the WR means there's no one out there; Johnson(-1) gets sealed, Rogers(-1) never does get off his blocker, and it's an easy first down (cover -1, RPS -1).
O42 1 10 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run RVB Inside zone Mouton 2
Willis decides to cut this back despite no penetration; it looks like they were trying to scoop Martin(+0.5) but he knocked the C back and ended up occupying two blockers; still, Willis might have a crease on the frontside. Instead he cuts it back into a huge space because Banks(-0.5) was kicked out easily; Mouton(+1, tackling +1) reads and reacts to tackle.
O40 2 8 Pistol trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Power off tackle Martin 24
Man, this should be easy to read: the pulling G starts pulling out before the snap, a dead giveaway. It doesn't turn out that way. Martin(-2) completely misses the pull, fighting into the space the G has just vacated. This opens a huge gap and allows the guy doubling him to get a release on Ezeh; pulling G hits Mouton and the two LBs just have too much space to shut down. Willis is through the crease between them as their waving arm tackles are unsuccessful. Floyd(-1.5) is playing deep safety here and comes up to make a tackle(-1) attempt after ten yards but almost misses it and allows Willis to drag him another 15 yards. This is an example of how useful Cam Gordon is as a run defender; this has happened zero times to him.
O16 1 10 Pistol trips 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Inside zone Martin -1
Some redemption as Martin(+1) drives the C backwards and causes the back to hesitate, allowing Renaldo Sagesse(+0.5), unblocked on the backside, to close and tackle with help from Kovacs(+1), who read the play and shot the gap at the right instant, beating a block and getting in on the TFL.
O17 2 11 Shotgun empty bunch quad 3-3-5 stack Pass 5 Slant Floyd 12
Terrible terrible coverage by Floyd(-2), who has one receiver to his side of the field and is in the redzone and lays off this slant to the point where it's unbelievably wide open on the world's easiest read (cover -2). Michigan had gotten a free rusher and if Floyd is up on this Chappell is running for his life. Terrible pairing of pressure, coverage, and game situation. I really hope this isn't how the play was drawn up. Floyd then compounds things by getting dragged past the sticks by Belcher(tackling –1).
O5 1 G Pistol twins unbalanced Base 4-4 Run N/A End around Kovacs 2
Kovacs(+0.5) is out providing contain and forces the play into Mouton, who helps tackle.
O3 2 G Pistol twins unbalanced Base 4-4- Run N/A Power off tackle Van Bergen -2
Fake end around, hand it off. RVB(+3) comes underneath a guy trying to downblock him, reads the handoff, and meets the tailback two yards in the backfield. He holds him up and help arrives.
O5 3 G Shotgun empty bunch quad 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Improv ? 5
Absolutely forevvvver on a three man rush that gets nowhere and doesn't even have Roh in it (RPS -1, pressure -2). Martin eventually comes through blockers to hit but it's too late as one of IU's receivers has separated from the coverage of Mouton and found an open spot in the endzone.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 9 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O39 1 10 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Throwaway ? Inc
IU runs a series of hitches that are all covered by Michigan's eight-man drop (cover +1), at which point Martin(+0.5) flushes Chappell and forces the throwaway.
O39 2 10 Pistol trips TE 3-3-5 stack Penalty ? Delay ? -5
O34 2 15 Pistol trips TE 3-3-5 nickel Pass 3 Out Rogers Inc
Rogers in a three-deep zone and beaten badly for at a ten-yard completion but Chappell chucks it well OOB, then starts grabbing his hand. (Cover -1) Actually, I think the player most at fault here is Avery(-1) who sucked in on routes others were covering instead of sinking back into this one.
O34 3 15 Shotgun 3-wide 3-2-6 dime Pass 4 Scramble Roh 10
Floyd lines up as a deep safety, then runs to the LOS to threaten a blitz. Roh rushes! Chappell sets up but can't find an open guy(cover +1) at first, then moves up in the pocket thanks to Roh(+0.5) and Black (+0.5) coming around the end. He takes off to run, which works about as well as you might expect. Roh runs him down from behind. (Pressure +1.)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 7 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O26 1 10 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run N/A Power dive Ezeh 3
Martin again seems like he's about to get sealed and let his blocker out on a linebacker, and does cede a big hole here. He jumps back and flows down the line when he reads the play, though, so no minus. Ezeh(+1) reads the play and blasts into the pulling G, forcing the play back inside, where Martin and Mouton come off blocks to tackle after a moderate gain.
O29 2 7 Wildcat 4-wide bunch Base 4-3 Run Banks QB stretch Banks 0
They start out in one formation then motion all around and end up in the wildcat. Why? Who knows. They then run a stretch that Banks(+1) strings out, occupying two blockers and giving no ground. This allows Mouton(+1) to attack the edge when Doss commits to it, tackling for no gain. Roh flowed down the backside to help tackle.
O29 3 7 Shotgun trips 3-2-6 dime Pass 4 Slant Roh 14
Two blitzers up the middle (Black one of them) with Mouton and Roh dropping into short zones. Michigan again pairs a blitz like this on third and medium with a soft zone that sees a slant route open up as Roh(-2) sucks up on a two-yard drag that had no chance at first down. (cover -2) Chappell got wasted by Martin as he threw; just a second more in coverage and this is a stop, but I say that all the time.
O43 1 10 Pistol FB Base 4-3 Pass NA PA TE corner Kovacs Inc
Kovacs initially beaten on this but tracks the TE down by the time this ball gets there and has a chance to maybe make a play on the ball if it's in a certain spot. It's long. Floyd, playing FS here, had been sucked to the other side of the field by a roll away from the route—this is a tough throw. No coverage +/- since this is mediocre.
O43 2 10 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Out Rogers Inc
They're going high-low on Rogers and he sinks back so the out is open; Chappell misthrows it. (Cover -1)
O43 3 10 Shotgun trips 3-2-6 dime Pass 4 Drag Roh 6
Roh(+1) rushes. He sets the OT up outside, then dives inside of him to get pressure(+1) on Chappell, hitting him as he throws short (cover +1) to the drag route; Floyd and Mouton tackle.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-7, 3 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O1 1 10 Ace 3-3-5 stack Run N/A QB sneak -- 1
They get a yard.
O2 2 9 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 4? Rollout hitch Rogers 9
Okay, so this is going to happen sometimes but the thing that grinds my gears is that this is a five yard route that a good defense would tackle immediately and ours would give up a first down on, which they do. Rogers -1; his ability to change direction is not so good, and it results in stuff like this here. (Tackling –1)
O11 1 10 Pistol trips TE 3-3-5 stack Pass   Bubble screen Johnson 7
Johnson(-0.5) and Rogers(-0.5) both get blocked, opening up the corner.
O18 2 3 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run RVB End around Roh 7
Roh(-1) sucks in on the playfake and even though Johnson(+0.5) does a good job of funneling it back inside Roh's slow reaction opens up a crease for the first. This was the kind of stuff he was always going to be vulnerable to as a linebacker. C. Gordon comes up for a killshot that lands a glancing blow; Roh wraps up from behind.
O25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Base 4-3 Pass 4 Hitch Johnson 5
Roh rushes; neutralized. Martin is coming in on Chappell eventually, forcing a throw. Chappell finds a guy open but could have had a better option to the outside; as it is Ezeh and Johnson(+0.5, cover +1) tackle immediately.
O30 2 5 Pistol FB twins Base 4-4 Pass N/A Waggle corner Floyd Inc (Pen +10)
Floyd does grab his jersey in a flamboyant fashion as the guy cuts outside and uses that to stay in contact and make a good PBU(-1, cover -1). I'd rather see this than Rogers not being within three yards of a guy.
O40 1 10 Shotgun H-back bunch 3-3-5 stack Pass   Long handoff Rogers 1 (Pen +15)
Rogers(+1) does react to this quickly, forcing the WR inside of him at the LOS and allowing Kovacs(+0.5, tackling +1) to plant the guy; Rogers gets flagged for a face mask. I don't minus stuff like this that's accidental instead of dumb.
M44 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Dumpoff Ezeh Inc
Good coverage downfield(+2, Ezeh +1 for a good drop in space that took away the primary read) induces Chappell to chuck a three-yard checkdown that he overthrows and nearly sees intercepted.
M44 2 10 Pistol 3-wide Base 4-3 Pass 3 Out Johnson 7
Another frustrating dink of a pass that should be shut down for little but ends up giving IU third and short. Johnson(-0.5) was too far to tackle right away and Roh(-0.5) was awkward in space instead of aggressive. (Tackling –1)
M37 3 3 Shotgun trips bunch TE 3-3-5 nickel Pass 3 Flare ? 5
With Mouton chucking the TE Chappell reads his flare is open and throws it on the money, giving the RB the opportunity to get the first despite Kovacs(+0.5, tackling +1) coming downhill and making a solid tackle almost on the completion. Excellent execution from IU and a conversion that would not have happened with better tackling on the previous play.
M32 1 10 Shotgun empty 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Tunnel screen C. Gordon 9
This is a bubble fake that counters into a tunnel screen and gets Cam Gordon(-1) shooting up to the outside of the play; Roh(-1) also headed outside despite watching the OL release downfield; there is much space. Gordon does recover to tackle solidly(+0.5). This is a clever play we should consider adopting.
M23 2 1 Shotgun empty 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Hitch Floyd Inc
Open in front of Floyd for four yards; in this down and distance whatever, it's probably right to play it safe. Pass is a bit short and dropped.
M23 3 1 Shotgun empty 3-3-5 stack Run N/A QB sneak ? 1
Chappell runs up under center and takes a snap; they get it. Very tough to stop this with how they've spread the field.
M22 1 10 Pistol FB twins Base 4-3 Run N/A Inside zone Johnson 22
So they've been putting Johnson(-2) on the interior on these plays right over the tackle. IU runs right at him and he makes a critical mistake by doing… something, I don't know what. He steps to the right for some reason, maybe because IU has an end-around fake; this allows an IU guard to seal him easily. Ezeh(-1) also stepped right, getting blocked out of the play, and Gordon(-1) moved over too with the WR motion. As a result there's a big hole right where the RB is hitting it up and three players who should be in the area are all gone because they moved to combat a playfake that was not their responsibility and they could do nothing about.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-14, 11 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O31 1 10 Pistol trips bunch TE Base 4-3 Pass 4 Flare Roh Inc
Roh rushes. He draws attention from both the LT and the LG, giving RVB a free run at the QB despite no blitz. Chappell is forced into a quick swing that he throws wide of the tailback. This is pure bust by IU but Roh did run right by the tackle to pressure, as well (+1 Roh, pressure +1)
O31 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide Base 4-3 Pass 4 Flat Floyd 9
Roh rushes; LT fends him off. RVB(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5) are crushing the pocket so Chappell has to get rid of the ball (pressure +1); Floyd(-2, cover -2) is jumping a slant route that is not open because Mouton is dropping into it(+1). This opens up a nothing pass in the flat for major yards.
O40 3 1 Ace 3-wide Base 4-3 Run N/A QB sneak ? 1
They get it.
O41 1 10 Pistol Trips TE 3-3-5 stack Pass   Bubble screen Roh 8
Rogers(+0.5) and T. Gordon(+0.5), in for Johnson, recognize this, attack it, and cut off the outside, where Roh(-2) awkwardly overruns the receiver and turns 0 yards into eight. (Tackling -2, Cover +1)
O49 2 2 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Inside zone Mouton 3
Linebackers on their heels here. Martin(+0.5) absorbs a double without giving ground or allowing a guy off on a downfield player but Mouton(-0.5) took his first steps into a zone drop and can't hit the hole before Willis is through for the first; he does come up to tackle after the short gain.
M48 1 10 Pistol trips 3-3-5 stack Run RVB Inside zone Martin -1
Martin(+1.5) takes a double and drives it playside by himself, cutting off any hole. Willis has to cut to the backside, where Sagesse is unblocked. He misses but delays the guy, allowing four Michigan players to come through the line and surround Willis; Mouton(+0.5) tackles for a loss; Ezeh(+0.5) had dipped past a blocker to cut off another lane; everyone else just had to run to the ball.
M49 2 11 Pistol 3-wide 4-1-6 dime Pass 4 TE Seam Floyd 27
Roh rushes, Stoned. Chappell is looking right down the center of the field where Mouton and Floyd are; both suck up on a little drag route and subsequently leave a TE seam wide open (cover -3); Cam Gordon comes over to bash the guy to the ground. I am not entirely sure what is desired here but I find it hard to believe that Floyd(-2) isn't supposed to carry the receiver deeper; Gordon may have been late as well.
M22 1 10 Shotgun empty bunch quad 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Slant Floyd 6
Fake blitz gets Banks in free (pressure +1, RPS +1), but there's no zone under the slant to the short side and it's an easy pitch and catch. Immediate tackle from Floyd(+0.5, cover –1).
M15 2 4 Pistol FB twins Base 4-3 Pass 4 Rollout corner Gordon Int
They roll away from the pocket to the wide side of the field and leave everyone in to block; Chappell makes a horrible decision to throw to a guy on a corner route that Gordon(+2, cover +2) has blanketed; he intercepts and manages to not fumble it back.
Drive Notes: Interception, 14-14, 6 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O28 1 10 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Run ? Draw Martin -3
Martin(+3) zips between the C and G with evil intent on the QB but has the agility to change direction and swallow the draw well in the backfield.
O25 2 13 Shotgun 3-wide 4-1-6 dime Pass 4 Flare screen Kovacs 12
Guh. Okay, Black(-1) does not recognize this and just runs at the QB. Talbott(-1) eats an OL and doesn't seem to even think about getting off his block. And Kovacs(-1) came up slow, didn't recognize where Mouton was coming from, and ends up making a weak ankle tackle that turns this from third and medium into third and two. (Tackling -1)
O37 3 1 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Hitch Floyd 7
DL tight in case of a sneak so not likely they'll get pressure; IU does not sneak, instead hitting a receiver in front of Floyd's soft zone (cover -1).
O44 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 Hitch C. Gordon 17
Zone blitz sees Banks and Martin drop out as two guys come from the linebacker level, getting a free run on Chappell, but since it's backed with a three deep zone he has a wide, wide open guy on a hitch that he hits (cover -2, presure +1). C. Gordon(-1) was not in the deep zone and needs to react more quickly to this; another example of M giving up a ton of YAC. This could have been eight; it's seventeen.
M39 1 10 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Throwaway ? Inc
No pressure(-1) but the coverage(+2) is very good and Chappell has nowhere to go when Patterson eventually gets through and flushes him.
M39 2 10 Shotgun trips bunch 4-1-6 dime Pass 4 Corner Rogers? 24
NFW Michigan can defend this as aligned, as Rogers has a nasty choice between giving up the corner or the flat and chooses poorly by not sinking into the corner. (Cover -2, RPS -2); Gordon has no prayer of getting over in time and can only hope to tackle. Also, Avery(-1) appears to be abandoning his zone to ride the WR on a little hitch farther, which means the flat is wide open; Michigan is putting lots of guys in the same areas on their zone drops.
M15 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Slant Roh 13
Roh(-1) fakes a rush and then drops into a zone; his drop is not good and Chappell can just wait for the receiver to clear him on the slant; C. Gordon(+1) does read this and delivers a hellacious hit just as the ball arrives; receiver hangs on but that was a monster hit that could force an incompletion or fumble. (Cover... 0). Also this is an example of Indiana's pass offense being flat good.
M2 1 G Pistol FB twins Goal line Run RVB Inside zone Van Bergen 1
Van Bergen(+1) surges into the backfield, cutting off the RB's intended path and forcing a cutback. Martin(-0.5) has been shoved down the line and eventually collapses in a heap of bodies; Campbell(-0.5) is also on the ground, so no loss here; Mouton(+0.5) and others converge to tackle short of the goal line.
M1 2 G Pistol FB twins Goal line Run RVB Power off tackle Van Bergen -1
Van Bergen(+2) slants past the tackle into the play, absorbing the pulling guard and forcing the RB up the middle of the field, where Demens(+1) forms up and tackles, driving the tailback backwards with help from Mouton, who basically tackled Demens from behind to provide extra momentum.
M1 3 G Shotgun empty bunch quad 3-3-5 stack Pass 6 Circle Talbott 1
Rush gets unblocked guys in (pressure +1) and Chappell has to get rid of it, which he does by throwing a circle route in front of Talbott, who is right there but can't do anything about a perfectly placed pass that required the 6-5 Belcher to lay out. Again: Indiana's passing offense is legitimately good.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-21, EOH. Indiana had 45 seconds and three timeouts when they got to first and goal and still would not have had a fourth down play here.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O24 1 10 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass N/A PA WR flare T. Gordon 15
A repeat of a play from the first drive. Roh(-1) hauls ass after the handoff fake despite RVB sitting there unblocked to handle any cutbacks, opening up space for Doss; T. Gordon(-1) also bit inside pointlessly and gave the IU WR a great angle to block him despite having no earthly way to do anything about a hypothetical run from this far outside. C. Gordon makes a solid tackle(+0.5, tackling +1) but not before the first down.
O39 1 10 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass 5 Hitch ? 11
Easy since M is playing the same soft zone behind their blitzes, giving Chappell plenty of opportunities to hit guys. Man coverage does not exist. (Cover -2, RPS -1). T. Gordon and Rogers tackle after the first.
50 1 10 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass 5 Bubble screen Rogers 3
Blitz caught(RPS -1) and leaves a ton of space since Michigan has sent it from the receiver-heavy side of the field.
M43 2 3 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Inside zone Banks 1
Martin(+1) and Banks(+0.5) shoot through the line immediately, crushing the play's blocking and forcing the RB outside, where Floyd(+0.5) comes up to tackle. Banks let the RB outside, so no +1.
M42 3 2 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run RVB End around T. Gordon 0
Van Bergen(+1) sets up outside and maintains contain responsibly, stringing the play out. This allows T. Gordon(+1) to get outside his blocker and string it all the way to the sideline, with Rogers adding the final dainty shove OOB.
Drive Notes: Insane punt, 28-21, 11 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O39 1 10 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Fly Rogers 46
This is a cover two that Rogers(-2) immediately gets burned on, a step behind the receiver and unable to do anything about a good pass; Gordon(-1) was also late after not reacting to where the vertical routes were coming from. (Cover -2.)
M15 1 10 Wildcat 4-wide bunch Base 4-3 Run N/A Zone stretch Van Bergen -1
Indiana throws away a down so okay. RVB(+1.5) drives into the backfield, forcing a cutback into Banks(+1), who came under a blocker, and Kovacs(+0.5), who was free on the backside.
M16 2 11 Shotgun empty 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Flanker screen Mouton 5
So this is what I would like to see on this: okay, you gave up some yards but not that many. Floyd(+0.5) took on his blocker quickly and Mouton(+0.5, tackling +1) thumped the ballcarrier after a modest gain. Not third and one coming up.
M11 3 6 Shotgun 4-wide bunch 4-1-6 dime Pass 6 Out Talbott 8
Blitz does not get there in time (pressure -1) and Talbott(-1, cover -1) is smoked in man coverage.
M3 1 G Pistol 3-wide Base 4-3 Run Banks Power off tackle Banks 3
Banks(-1) tries to slant inside and gets shoved out of the play without taking out another blocker, leaving a lot of space and a lead guy. RVB has come all the way from the backside of the play and Martin is also there; they connect at the LOS but get dragged into the endzone.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-28, 6 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O39 1 10 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Waggle deep cross Floyd 19 + 15 pen
Linebackers suck up to the playfake but recover decently; Ezeh(+0.5) is just a step behind the receiver and Chappell has to fit it in a tight window (cover +1) since Floyd is on the edge; Floyd(-1) then misses a tackle(-1) and turns this first down into a first down plus like ten more yards. Black(-0.5) shot into the supposed run play and gave up the corner, giving Chappell some time. He then gets a roughing the passer call(-1.5).
M27 1 10 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Run N/A Draw Martin -1
Another stupid wasted down. Martin(+1) pushes through the IU blockers; no one bothers to stay with him, and since he's so agile he can shut down even mondo space like this. RB does run past him but the blocking angles are screwed up and Ezeh(+1) can read it and move up to make a solid TFL(tackling +1).
M28 2 11 Shotgun trips bunch TE 3-3-5 stack Pass 5 Angle Ezeh Inc
Mouton(+0.5) gets a free run but no RPS plus on this because Indiana has a hot route that looks like it will work since Ezeh(-1) is in man on the RB and flies out expecting a flat route only for the RB to dive back inside. Pass is too hot and dropped. First IU drop of the day. (Cover -1)
M28 3 11 Shotgun empty 3-2-6 dime Pass 3 Throwaway Black Inc
No one open immediately (cover +1) and then Black comes around the corner with enough of an angle to force Chappell to start moving his feet. Black then comes around like he's taking another pass in a bomber, forcing Chappell to the sidelines, where RVB can help chase; they force him to chuck it OOB. +1 Black, I think, and pressure +1.
M28 4 11 Shotgun empty 3-2-6 dime Pass 3 Cross Black Inc
Black(+2) shoots inside the tackle and is tripped by the guard, drawing a holding flag and forcing Chappell to start moving his feet; RVB(+0.5) takes advantage of this to start chasing from the outside. Chappell throws to a guy well-covered by Floyd(+2, cover +1) and the pass is broken up.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs,35-28, 4 min 3rd Q. Couple of nice plays by Black there.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Pistol trips TE 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Sack Banks -11
So this is pretty weird from IU, with the RT just sort of holding off Banks and expecting inside help that the G is not providing. This allows Banks to head upfield pretty much unmolested and sack. +2 for him, though that may be generous given the bust, and +1 for good coverage downfield.
O9 2 21 Shotgun trips 4-1-6 dime Pass 3 Dumpoff Mouton 5
Martin playing DE here and though there's not much pressure Chappell gets spooked and tosses a dumpoff (cover +1) that Mouton(+1, tackling +1) closes down.
O14 3 16 Shotgun 4-wide 3-2-6 dime Pass 3 Deep hitch Avery 17
BWS picture-paged this and I agree: Avery(-2) abandons his zone responsibility to essentially play man on the slot receiver and opens up a 20-yard completion. (Cover -3) Rogers(-1) was also passive here; he's never close to receivers.
O33 1 10 Pistol 3-wide Base 4-3 Pass 4 Long handoff Floyd 12
Floyd(-1.5) sucks in on play action and gives up an easy first down. (Cover -1)
O45 1 10 Pistol trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run RVB Dive Mouton 3
Martin(-0.5) controlled and sealed though he doesn't give up too much room; Mouton(+1) slams into the lead blocker at the LOS and Black(+1) chucks his blocker away, forcing a cutback from the RB that Kovacs(+0.5, tackling +1) tackles on.
O48 2 7 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 7(!) Out ? Inc
Inevitable someone gets a free run here and it comes right up the middle; quick throw is wide of the WR. Rogers did not have very good coverage. (Pressure +1)
O48 3 7 Shotgun trips bunch 4-1-6 dime Pass 4 Hitch Avery 10
Roh(+1) spins inside the RT and nails Chappell as he throws (pressure +2) and Banks(+1) is coming around the edge; any hesitation and this is a sack. There isn't any because Avery(-2) has again totally vacated his zone in favor of chasing a guy across the field, providing a huge window in which to throw (cover -2). I can't believe they haven't ditched this package yet; Avery has no idea what he's doing.
M42 1 10 Pistol trips TE 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Out T. Gordon 12
Plenty of time (pressure -2) but good downfield coverage(+1) leaves nothing but a short out; T. Gordon(-2, tackling -1) is there and whiffs, turning four into a first down.
M30 1 10 Shotgun trips Base 4-3 Pass 3 Flare screen Floyd -1
No one out on Floyd(+1) so he rolls up on the RB and makes a solid open field tackle(+1) for loss. I assume the WR busted here?
M31 2 11 Pistol 3-wide Base 4-3 Pass 3 Sack Martin -15
Eight man drop sees no one open immediately (cover +1) and Martin(+3) shoves the center backwards, forcing him to trip over one of his linemates. Free, Martin consumes Chappell's soul.
M46 3 26 Shotgun 4-wide 3-2-6 dime Pass 3 Dig ? 10
No one gets near Chappell this time (pressure -1) and he has plenty of time to find a WR for about half of it; Roh(-0.5) overruns a tackle but Mouton(+0.5) makes up for it and they get him down about where he catches it. In this situation, fine.
M36 4 16 Shotgun 4-wide 3-2-6 dime Pass 3 Scramble Van Bergen 7
Coverage(+1) at first, then RVB(+1.5) chucks away a guard and threatens to come up the middle, flushing Chappell; Black(+0.5) comes from behind to chase and Chappell has to scramble fruitlessly. (pressure +2)
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 35-28, 12 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O18 1 10 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run RVB Dive Ezeh 2
RVB(+0.5) heads upfield and past his blocker and Ezeh(+1) thumps into the pulling guard at the line, causing the RB to head to the backside where Mouton(+0.5) is unblocked and makes the easy play.
O20 2 8 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Throwaway ? Inc (Pen +15)
Michigan blankets all three of the bunch receivers(cover +2) and then Martin(+0.5) fights through blockers to force the dumpoff. Michigan is hit with a borderline roughing the passer call as Martin bangs into Chappell after the throw (-2).
O35 1 10 Pistol trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Zone stretch Banks 0
Banks(+1) takes the double but doesn't get sealed, leaving Mouton(+0.5) to slam up into the frontside gap before the OL can get out on him. This forces a cutback into Ezeh(+0.5), who is unblocked but in good position and tackles(+1) for no gain.
O35 2 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Hitch Ezeh Inc
Michigan has this bunch set down and has again covered(+1) the options. Ezeh(+0.5) drops right into the TEs route, and Chappell has to scramble as RVB(+0.5) comes free. He chucks it at one of the covered receivers; pass goes wide. (Cover +1, again.)
O35 3 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Post Floyd Inc
This same route package with one exception: deep receiver to the bunch side runs a post. Short guys covered, deep guys covered, and Floyd(+2) drops right into the targeted area. Chappell throws it well long, which is fortunate for IU (cover +2).
Drive Notes: Punt, 35-28, 9 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Pistol FB twins 3-3-5 stack Run Banks End around Kovacs 13
Kovacs(-1.5) is too focused on the dive playfake and gets thunderously cut to the ground; Banks(-0.5) also sucks inside, leaving Doss wide open on the corner; Floyd(-0.5) comes up and gets run over without so much as an attempt to wrap up; he doesn't force the ballcarrier back into help, either.
O33 1 10 Pistol 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 PA WR flare Rogers 8
Third time for this play; this time T. Gordon(+0.5) gets into his blocker and forces a choice, which is outside; Rogers(-1) beats his blocker but overruns the play to the point where he runs up between Rogers and the guy trying to block him. Cam Gordon makes a solid tackle after all that.
O41 2 2 Pistol trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Inside zone Martin 2
Martin(+1) jams up the frontside, forcing a cutback with help from Banks(+0.5); IU G attempting to block Martin successfully diagnoses that he's screwed and makes a really smart play to peel off and hit Ezeh just as he's about to hit the RB at the LOS, allowing him a tiny crease for the first.
O43 1 10 Pistol trips 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Bubble screen Roh 9
T. Gordon(+0.5) does zip past his blocker and get into the WR at the LOS. He could/should have this for nothing but the throw is a ltitle bad—inside and upfield—which gives the WR some momentum away from where Gordon expects him to be and he ends up missing the tackle. He's still disrupted the play, but Roh(-1) bit on the run fake and is late, and Rogers(-0.5) makes a really weak tackle(-1) that sees the guy pick up 4-5 YAC. Our corners don't tackle well.
M48 2 1 Pistol FB twins Base 4-3 Run N/A Inside zone Patterson 8
Patterson(-1) sealed easily enough for the C to pop out on Mouton(-0.5) who had a tough job but had help in the box from Kovacs and should have attacked the hole here more aggressively. Ezeh had another gap that was open to sit in.
M40 1 10 Pistol FB twins Base 4-3 Penalty   False start ? -5
M45 1 15 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Hitch ? 5
Open. T. Gordon and Rogers are running out on it but it's upfield and the WR can't catch it and stay on his feet. M has pulled Roh for Fitzgerald on this play.
M40 2 10 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Dumpoff Roh 5
Roh's absence was very temporary; he's back. Good coverage(+1), no pressure(-1); Chappell dumps it off, where Roh(+0.5) does make a good tackle(+1) after little gain.
M35 3 5 Shotgun trips bunch 3-2-6 dime Pass 3 Hitch Roh Inc
Chappell misses an open out in favor of throwing a deep hitch that Roh(+1, cover +1) is right in front of. Chappell throws it really high and uncatchable; if not this high could have been deflected/picked.
M35 4 5 Shotgun empty bunch quad 3-2-6 dime Pass 3 In Roh 11
Man. Black(+2) smokes the LT and gets inside of him, nailing Chappell as he throws (pressure +2) and forcing a throw short of the sticks. This is a little in that Roh(-1, cover -1) is just a yard or two too deep on but there was a route behind him. This is just outstanding from Chappell to get this pass off and get it to the right place. I do think Roh took his eyes off the QB for a moment for whatever reason and that's why this ends up in a first down.
M24 1 10 Pistol FB twins Base 4-3 Run N/A Dive T. Gordon 0
Mass of bodies, no creases in the line, and T. Gordon(+1) moves up into the gap, hitting the lead blocker in the backfield and forcing a cutback. Kovacs peels back and Mouton(+0.5) stands up the RB at the line.
M24 2 10 Shotgun empty bunch quad 3-2-6 dime Pass 3 Dumpoff Patterson Inc
Time(pressure -2) but good coverage(+2) and Patterson(+0.5) bides his time, coming through blockers as Chappell starts moving around the pocket to force an inaccurate throw on a dumpoff.
M24 3 10 Shotgun trips bunch 4-1-6 dime Pass 4 Middle screen Martin 5
Just one LB in the middle of the field and Indiana runs an RPS+2 play against it that could/should obliterate this D except for Martin(+2) peeling back and tackling the RB from behind. How many DTs can do this? That saves Michigan's bacon temporarily.
M19 4 5 Shotgun trips bunch 4-1-6 dime Pass 4 RB flat Talbott 19
This is another clueless freshman essentially playing man in zone; do not listen to the man with the telestrator blaming Mouton. Talbott(-2, cover -3) runs with the slant way too far, opening the RB flat wide open and giving up the first down. Kovacs(-1, tackling -1) makes a heady, gritty play by missing the tackle and giving Denard time to work with. That's the ticket!
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 35-35, 1 min 4th Q. Last drive happens with 12 seconds and is not charted, but Talbott does make a good play on the slant that was play 1, FWIW.

This is the UFR that never ends / it just goes on and on my friends / some people started charting it not knowing it was the 2010 Indiana game / and they'll keep on charting it forever just because…

Michigan gave up a lot of first downs, yes, and many of them were on stuff like this:

That should be two yards, and then it should be four yards, and then it is six. The next play is a little flare that Kovacs tackles on immediately:

That's about as well as you can play that and if Michigan had held two yards to four it would have been fourth down (and Indiana would have gone for it). This happened a lot. When you're playing against Indiana a lot of defensive execution is keeping dink passes dinky, and Michigan did not do this well at all. This is because of crappy tackling, the lack of defensive backs athletic enough to tackle on the catch, and…

This is the UFR that never ends / it just goes on and on my friends / some people started charting it not knowing what it was / and they'll continue charting it forever just because…

I mentioned this in the game column and saw it when I reviewed the game: Craig Roh is oh exploitable in space.

As we'll see in a bit, this was not a good day from him and it was mostly stuff like that; you'll note that the clip in the first section above also features Roh being uncertain about attacking the guy with the ball.

I'm confused by the decision to play him at LB in this game after we saw him be effective against a passing spread at DE in the Notre Dame game. Okay, Brandon Herron is out, but how much worse than Herron can JB Fitzgerald be? And isn't the passing-down upgrade from Banks to Roh worth it?

The only thing I can think of is that Roh is not a guy who is going to beat two blockers and Michigan was addicted to the three-man rush, but even that's weak.

This is the UFR that never ends / it just goes on and on my friends / some people started charting it not knowing what it was / and they'll continue charting it forever just because…

The natural effect of the three-man rush is to not give up anything long—Indiana's long reception on the day was a 46-yarder to Doss on one of the few instances where they tried to play man and Rogers got burnt. The next longest was a 24-yarder, again to Doss. It also does a crappy job of getting negative plays and booting people off the field, yielding lots and lots of long drives.

This is the UFR that never ends / it just goes on and on my friends / some people started charting it not knowing what it was / and they'll continue charting it forever just because…


This is the UFR that never ends / it just goes on and on my friends / some people started charting it not knowing what it was / and they'll continue charting it forever just because…

This is going to sound like the self-serving thing fans do where the opponent is total crap that will fall weakly until they actually do, at which point they were a colossus overcome by derring-do and iron, but you can check the game preview to confirm this is what I thought after taking in the Western Kentucky-IU game: Indiana has a legitimately very good pass offense. They had 41 opportunities to make catches and made 40. Chappell almost never went to the wrong guy and missed on maybe five of his 65 attempts. Their receivers are tall and fast and shifty. One dollar they're the most productive pass offense in the conference at the end of the year.

This is the UFR that never ends / it just goes on and on my friends / some people started charting it not knowing what it was / and they'll continue charting it forever just because…

Chart. Keep in mind that the numbers for DL will be inflated to the positive simply because of how many plays they got; similarly, the defensive back minuses will be larger than usual.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 12 - 12 Excellent against the run, got some pass rush, mentally round this down to a +8.
Martin 16 5 11 Actually got beat out by someone, also round this down to +7 or so.
Banks 8 2.5 5.5 Still adequate, though his sack was a gift.
Sagesse 0.5 - 0.5 Hardly used.
Patterson 0.5 1 -0.5 Also infrequent.
Black 7 3 4 Nice performance for a freshman.
Campbell - 0.5 -0.5 One short yardage play.
TOTAL 44 12 32 Or around +20 for three DL, which is a decent, not great day.
Player + - T Notes
Mouton 9.5 1 8.5 Er?
Roh 5 12 -7 I totally took clips off all his bad stuff so people wouldn't yell at me. Not deployed properly; this is hardly his fault.
Johnson 1 4 -3 IME the primary guy on the long Willis TD..
T. Gordon 3.5 3 0.5 I think he's the starter here for a bit.
Leach - - - DNP
Moundros - - - DNP
Demens 1 - 1 Goal line only.
Herron - - - DNP
Fitzgerald - - - One play IIRC.
TOTAL 26 23 3 Players other than Mouton struggled tackling in space.
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 7.5 11.5 -4 Busy day came out to the negative mostly because of bad tackling.
Rogers 1.5 7 -5.5 Beat up pretty good for the first time.
Kovacs 3.5 3.5 0 The king of moderate-moderate-0.
C. Gordon 4 5 -1 More on him later.
Talbott - 4 -4 Zone vacancy.
Christian - - - DNP
Avery - 6 -6 Zone vacancy II.
Ray Vinopal - - - DNP
TOTAL 16.5 37 -20.5 Chappellbombed
Pressure 14 11 3 I'm still having a hard time judging what is reasonable in the three man rush.
Coverage 28 34 -6 Possibly too kind.
Tackling 11 11 0 I should change this to a percentage: 50% on this sample size is not good.
RPS 1 8 -7 Chappell found holes in the zone all day.

[RPS is "rock, paper, scissors." Michigan gets a + when they call a play that makes it very easy for them to defend the opponent, like getting a free blitzer. They get a – when they call a play that makes it very difficult for them to defend the opponent, like showing a seven-man blitz and having Penn State get easy touchdowns twice.]

Again, there are a lot of factors throwing off the numbers: a vast number of plays. The reliance on the three-man rush. The 3-3-5. I'm still searching for my footing in a new environment. These things are just supposed to be guides surrounded by plenty of context, though, not gospel.

As for the guides: I thought Mouton was good, Kovacs and Gordon okay and reliable, and all cornerbacks not good. Floyd is the best of the bunch right now and he has major issues tackling; his coverage is much better than last year but still only brushes up against adequate. Rogers plays it safe because whenever he doesn't he gets burned. Roh was covered above: he's not being done a favor by this D.

Any bright spots?

I like Cam Gordon. He imploded magnificently against Notre Dame but this week very little of what went wrong can be put on his head. There was the interception, of course. And he did this:

I know he didn't get a PBU or wrap up but that's a hit with the potential to jar a ball free. When was the last time a Michigan safety did that? In contrast, this is JT Floyd moonlighting at safety:

That stuff happens all the time with defensive backs trying to tackle, but so far Gordon has not fallen victim. Through five games the longest run an opponent has had on Michigan was the 29 yards Armando Allen picked up on an edge pitch that Michigan was doomed on because they were blitzing Kovacs right past it. While he took a dodgy angle on that one it's hard to remember another run on which I thought "argh Cam Gordon." The run minuses have been few and far between for him.

He's off to a good start for a redshirt freshman who just flipped to defense. As he gets more comfortable the wood will be brought with more regularity.

Elsewhere, the linebackers who are actual linebackers did little that was objectionable, though the big tests for them come the next two weeks. And Jibreel Black got a +4 in limited time, showing good pass rush ability against an Indiana line that is at least competent at protecting the passer. That seems like the first step on the way to a productive career; if he can push through a competent Banks into the starting lineup that will be encouraging int the same way Lewan's emergence has been. Even if he just ends up in heavy rotation and does fairly well with it that will probably plug one of the three holes in next year's starting line up with an upgrade.


Martin, Van Bergen, Mouton. I thought Kovacs and Gordon had a lot of opportunities to make big errors and did not, as well.


Any of the four cornerbacks, and the linebacker version of Roh. I think all save Rogers (who is what he is as a fifth year senior) can and will get better, but in this game they were the guys most responsible for giving up 35.

What does it mean for Michigan State and beyond?

Maybe not that much since Michigan is done playing passing spreads until they meet Purdue; I'm actually more worried about what happened in the UMass game re: MSU, Iowa, PSU than anything that happened against Indiana. Okay, a veteran, accurate quarterback and his band of tall, excellent receivers burned Michigan's secondary. This is not shocking. Michigan State is not likely to come out throwing on 80% of first downs anyway.

I think this dime package can work once the freshmen get some more experience; many of the errors were correctable. If guys start dropping into the right zones Michigan's front three has shown enough pass rush to get opponent offenses off the field somewhat regularly, and "somewhat" should be enough.

Roh should and probably will play way more defensive end against the rest of the schedule; at the very least when he's a linebacker Michigan should be sending him on blitzes at least 70% of the time. The extra guy in coverage just isn't that useful compared to the extra pressure he can bring. 

Some issues are fixable, but the lack of raw talent in the secondary isn't. Roh's inability to move like a linebacker and the lack of pass rush from the starting DEs are also issues that will persist throughout the year. The best I can offer is that I'm not 100% sure that State will shred Michigan's D for 500 yards because the linebackers have picked up their play and this could turn out to be an all right run defense and Indiana could turn out to be the best passing offense in the league by some distance. I don't think it's quite as bad as it looks right this instant.

I will reserve GERG bashing until I see what happens the next two games. There are clear problems that can be addressed by player development or scheme adjustments; hopefully Michigan can get the ship somewhat righted.

Picture Pages: Cover Two Corner Route Doom

Picture Pages: Cover Two Corner Route Doom

Submitted by Brian on October 7th, 2010 at 10:53 AM

Why so the suck against Indiana? A few things leapt out on the tape. One was YAC given up by a physical inability to be close enough to the receiver to tackle on the catch. This is the James Rogers problem, and it isn't going away. Another problem might: freshman defensive backs think "zone" means "man." BWS caught an instance of this and picture-paged Courtney Avery giving up a big gainer on third and sixteen because he dragged out of his zone.

That was an excellent example of cover three. Here Michigan will run cover two and get nailed on it. However, it's not Avery's aggressive coverage that's the problem here, it's the Michigan zone's obviousness and inflexibility.

The setup: Michigan is trying to keep Indiana out of the endzone on the final drive of the first half. IU's driven it just inside the Michigan 40 and has a second and ten. They come out in their bunch shotgun set. Michigan shows two high safeties:


At the snap four guys rush and Michigan is obviously in zone. They have JT Floyd and Mouton in the middle of the field, Courtney Avery playing in the slot, Terrence Talbott and James Rogers on the outside, and Kovacs and Gordon as deep safeties. Mouton drops into a zone to cover a potential slant and Floyd is sitting in the middle of the field about ten yards deep:


A split second later we see what's going on with this bunch at the bottom of the screen: two short routes breaking inside and out with one guy headed deeper. Rogers is essentially motionless as Avery starts moving with the interior WR: corner-4

Avery follows… Rogers is motionless…


Avery follows… Rogers still not going anywhere… IU receiver still running to the sticks… Chappell throwing…


Alert: someone done failed.


Gordon comes over to clean up:


Indiana gets a first down inside the 20.

UPDATE: duh forgot the clip.

Who's at fault here? I don't know. I don't think anyone, really. Some guesses at object lessons:

  • This, like Odoms sitting way down in the hole, is a pass that takes advantage of cover two. The sideline 15-20 yards downfield is always a weak spot. Not a lot of quarterbacks can exploit that as ruthlessly as Chappell can, though in this instance it's so open a lot of QBs could make the play.
  • Michigan made this read easy by showing cover two and running it. Chappell knew it was zone because Michigan just about always plays zone and did not put another guy over the bunch, and as soon as Rogers sat down on the out he knew the corner was going to be open.
  • Advanced zone defenses that use pattern reading can adapt to these routes better. I'm not sure about this, but the key is that someone has to be responsible for #2 going vertical and go with him. That would be either Avery or Rogers. The other would come up on the out, leaving the drag to Floyd. Michigan doesn't do this here and probably doesn't ever do it because they've got a secondary with three sophomores, two freshmen, and positional vagabond James Rogers. Also some defensive coaches think pattern reading is suboptimal for reasons I'm not 100% clear on yet.
  • Avery seems like he's in great position if this was man coverage. He also broke up a slant against BG impressively. If Michigan ever ran man I bet he'd be pretty good at it. Can they do that? Eh… maybe against teams that don't spread the field. Here I think his coverage is good given the situation and the assumption Michigan is not pattern reading.
  • But it's not man and the freshman corners do this all the time. There's the BWS post with an example, and Indiana's last touchdown was Terrence Talbott in great man coverage on a slant… when he had a zone to the short side of the field that held Darius Willis and no one else once he covered the slant.
  • Can Gordon do anything more here? I don't think so, but I'm asking anyone with the knowledge. Is the safety's role here tackle and live to fight another day? What if this was Reggie Nelson?

There is some good news: Michigan did adapt to this route pattern, stoning it several times late. Indiana adjusted by sending the deep WR on a post and Floyd dropped back into it, forcing Chappell to chuck it high.

Upon Further Review: Defense vs Bowling Green 2010

Upon Further Review: Defense vs Bowling Green 2010

Submitted by Brian on September 30th, 2010 at 1:42 PM

Formation notes: A couple new formations. One was a 3-2-6 dime package on which Banks and Ezeh were pulled for Avery and Talbott:

3-2-6 dime

Roh moves down to DE and Leach was usually in for Gordon for whatever reason. Sometimes this was a 4-1-6 with Mouton at DE, sometimes a 3-2-6 with Mouton a linebacker. Floyd would drop back to play safety when they went to this. The other was a nickel package where Avery would replace Gordon. This aligned just like Michigan's usual defense.

Substitution notes: plentiful. The usual rotation on the DL. Cullen Christian got a couple drives in place of Rogers (he struggled). Leach played a lot in place of Gordon; Fitzgerald and Demens saw some time at linebacker but less than I expected and neither did much of anything.

Charting note: I've changed up the points distribution to be more generous to CBs who make a play. Usually a zero-yard run will be +2 or +3 to the defense. When a CB breaks up a pass that's a zero yard play I've been giving a +1 to; I'm bumping that to at least +2 unless it's clear the offense is more responsible for the incompletion than the D.


Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O28 1 10 Shotgun trips Base 4-3 Pass NA PA out T. Gordon Inc
Michigan sucks up on fake and Pankratz has two receivers running wide open (cover -2) as Mouton(-1) doesn't get anything resembling a zone drop. Could this be man to man? I don't know; Rogers is looking at the QB but hops up on the curl, leaving T. Gordon chasing a WR on an out that he lined up inside of. His guy is open but he really had no chance to cover this. I'm not sure which guys to individually minus since the coverage doesn't make sense to me. (RPS -1.) Oh, right: Pankratz chucks it wide.
O28 2 10 Shotgun heavy something Base 4-4 Run ? Dive Martin 1
BGSU deploys two H-backs directly in front of their tailback and goes right up the middle. Martin(+1) engages his blocker and then discards him behind, popping up in the hole the H-backs are hitting. He does this despite being lined up outside of the C. He takes out a second blocker. T. Gordon(+0.5) is rolled up to the line and is now free; he forms up to tackle with help from Kovacs(+0.5), who was free on a backside blitz and leaps on the RB's back after making sure the handoff was actually made.
O29 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide 3-2-6 Dime Pass 3 Dumpoff Van Bergen 4
DL: Roh, Martin, RVB. LB: Mouton, Leach. Normal DBs plus Avery and Talbott. This is kind of rushing two since Martin just sits at the LOS after taking two blockers. Screen coverage? M covers the first read(+1) and then RVB(+0.5) gets upfield and harasses the QB into moving. Martin starts charging the QB down as he rolls, forcing a dumpoff as downfield options are covered(+1).
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 11 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O30 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide bunch 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Hitch Mouton 3
Martin(+0.5) plowing through blocks to force a throw here; Kovacs(+0.5) covered the flat route, so the QB throws a hitch that Mouton(+0.5) was in position on, tacking immediately (cover +1)
O33 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide Base 4-3 Pass 3 Flanker screen T. Gordon 6
Major overload with a TE covered up and a WR in motion so everyone is to the right side of the field. They throw a screen out there. T. Gordon(-1) and Rogers(-1) are both cut to the ground but good flow from Mouton(+0.5) and Ezeh(+0.5) runs the play down before the WR can test Cam.
O39 3 1 Wildcat 3-3-5 stack Run ? QB lead draw Banks 4
Think the RB takes a bizarre cut here since it looks like the play design has the first easily. Banks(-1) was blown way out of the hole and Mouton(-0.5) took a weird angle right into Kovacs, giving BGSU a lot of space and blockers for everyone left over. So of course the RB cuts back behind everything, getting tackled by unblocked guys on the backside including Banks, who got really, really blocked. M fortunate to not give up more here.
O43 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Pass 5 Sack Mouton -10
WRs to the paired side are stacked, and Rogers(-1) starts covering the same guy Gordon is(cover -1), so this post should be open. Qb decides not to throw it, though, and rolls right into a very blocked Mouton(+1.5), who to his credit does get off that block, close the space quickly, and tackle for a sack. Maybe Cam had this covered but I couldn't see it; I really doubt it. Think M got lucky with the n00b QB here.
O33 2 20 Shotgun 2TE Nickel 4-3 Pass 4 Slant Avery Inc
Avery in for T. Gordon. TE motions well outside to be a flanker. Avery(+2) is in man on a receiver and looks like he's biting outside as the WR takes a step out then slants; Avery recovers to get a hand in and break the pass up (cover +2).
O33 3 20 Shotgun 4-wide 3-2-6 Dime Pass 3 Throwaway Roh Inc
No one open(cover +1) as M drops everyone deep; Roh(+1, pressure +1) comes around the corner and his held, drawing a flag. QB scrambles out and chucks it away.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 6 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O35 1 10 Ace twins 3-3-5 stack Run ? Inside zone Martin 1 (pen -10)
Demens in for Ezeh on this drive. Martin(+1) again through the line before anyone can think of blocking him; Banks(-1) single blocked and easily sealed on the edge. Martin makes that irrelevant; Mouton(+1) gets into the lead-blocking TE at the line and erases any creases, forcing a bounce outside that Floyd(+1) has covered; he's held, giving the RB the corner, except for Kovacs(+1) roaring downhill and tackling at the LOS.
O25 1 20 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Out Mouton Inc
No pressure(-1) but no one open (cover +1) and the BG QB airmails a checkdown (cover +1) that wasn't going anywhere.
O25 2 20 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Hitch Floyd Inc
No pressure(-1) again; this time a 10-yard hitch is blanketed by Floyd(+2, cover +2) and broken up.
O25 3 20 Shotgun 4-wide 3-2-6 Dime Pass 3 Dumpoff ? 15
Again little pressure but Roh(+0.5) does come through quickly enough on a three man rush to prevent a minus; this forces a dumpoff(cover +1) in front of the coverage that Talbott and Mouton run down.
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-0, 3 min 1st Q. On the next drive lots of backups. Patterson, Black, and Sagesse are the DL for most of this drive, with Demens and Leach playing LB and Christian coming in for Rogers.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O36 1 10 Shotgun trips TE Base 4-3 Run ? Inside zone Kovacs 2
Three guys block Patterson so Kovacs(+1) can come in and thump the ballcarrier (tackling +1) without anyone bothering him.
O38 2 8 I-form big 3-3-5 stack Run ? Counter Patterson 4
It's hard to tell how the linebackers actually did on this play because Patterson(-1) is ejected from the center of the defense like he's Kovacs and Sagesse(-1) doesn't read the pull. He goes down to cut the lead blocker and create a pile but starts moving upfield and gets pancaked. So Mouton and Demens have blockers all over them and can't possibly shut down all the space. Both get blocked and Mouton gets pancaked, though, so -1 for Mouton; Roh fought through blockers to slow the tailback a little bit but it's an authoritative fill from Cam Gordon(+1.5, tackling +1) that holds this down when it could have been ugly.
O42 3 4 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass 6 Out Kovacs 5
WR motions from trips side to create a 2x2 formation with two guys stacked, and then runs a pretty blatant pick on both M defenders, opening up an out. Kovacs(+0.5) is still right there to tackle, but just beyond the sticks. Blitz did not get there(pressure -1).
O47 1 10 Ace twins Base 4-3 Run   PA draw Sagesse 7
Screen fake to draw. DL slanting, getting Patterson(+1) in and disrupting anything up the middle. Problem on the backside is Sagesse(-2) getting way too far down the line and opening up a cutback lane. Mouton reacts and attempts to tackle but gets hit by a G peeling off Sagesse and has his tackle run through. I will -0.5 him but this is tough (tackling -1). Demens runs the guy down.
M46 2 3 Ace Base 4-3 Pass 4 Corner Christian Inc
Starting DL back. BG goes play action and finds a wide open receiver on a corner route because Christian(-2, cover -2) completely whiffed a chuck and got beat by yards. QB throws it long. Decent pressure and coverage everywhere else; coverage from Christian might force a sack.
M46 3 3 Shotgun 4-wide 3-2-6 Dime Pass 6 Slant Kovacs 20
This one is on Kovacs, who is in man on the second stacked receiver and gets smoked(-2, cover -2) to the inside so badly he can't even make a tackle on the catch. Mouton(+1) was flying over a cut block from an RB on the blitz(pressure +1) and hit the QB; an instant more coverage and this is end of drive. RPS -2 for getting Kovacs in single coverage for 20 yards.
M26 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run   Inside zone Martin 2
Christian exits for Rogers. Martin(+1) absorbs a double team without giving any ground, allowing Mouton(+1) to attack unmolested and tackle.
M24 2 8 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 Rollout hitch ? 6
Ezeh back. Roh running out on the edge but the little hitch here is wide open; not sure why but it just looks like this is a hole in a cover three. (cover -1). BWS disagrees.
M18 3 2 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Post Fitzgerald 17
Ezeh gets sucked up to a little drag route which is understandable, but Fitzgerald(-1) doesn't get any depth on his drop despite not having anyone in front of him and C. Gordon(-1) reacts late and there's a monster hole in the zone that's easy to hit for first and goal. (Cover –2.)
M1 1 G Goal line Goal line Run   Power off tackle Van Bergen -2
Campbell(+1) drives his man backward, gets lower than him, and falls in the backfield. Van Bergen(+2) does the same, stalling the RB and allowing Demens to run downhill at him for the stop.
M3 2 G Wildcat 3-3-5 stack Penalty   False start ? -5
M8 2 G Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 6 Scramble Van Bergen 7
House sent and gets there (pressure +2), with Leach(+1) immediately in the QB's feet after getting cut, forcing a scramble from a not-mobile QB that RVB(-2) badly overruns, turning a sack into a scramble down to the goal line.
M1 3 G I-form big Goal line Penalty   Offside Martin 0.5
Oh well.
M1 3 G Wildcat trips Goal line Run   QB draw Banks 0
QB motions out, no one covers him, it's a wildcat formation. Banks(+1) shoots past blockers into the center of the defense, eating blockers and creating a pile; Ezeh(+1) cleans up.
M1 4 G Wildcat trips Goal line Run   QB draw Campbell 1
Just a wad of bodies I can't make much out of; Campbell was right there but the guy managed to slam it up into his OL and fall forward into a massive pile of bodies that no one has a good view of. The refs eventually signal TD, but it's not like they have any idea.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-7, 8 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O29 1 10 Shotgun empty 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 Tunnel screen C. Gordon 71
The big bad thing from the day. I'm not actually that mad because this is kind of a freak thing. T. Gordon takes a good angle to the ballcarrier only to see the guy bang into one of his own OL and sort of get tossed upfield, which Gordon was not expecting; he ends up whiffing an attempted ankle tackle. I will give him a -1 here, but only 1 (tackling -1 as well). So now he's on a totally different vector than would otherwise be possible and there' no contain because Rogers is held and can't get outside and force it back into Cam Gordon. Cam gets a -2 for fighting to the ball too much when he had the other Gordon, Kovacs, Ezeh, and a billion other guys; he should never have been that eager to close down the space he tried to. So that's it. -3. The other -3 you can tack on the refs who missed the Rogers hold. I mean, the WR grabs the back of Rogers's jersey and pulls him four or five yards infield.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-14, 5 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Screen Mouton 0
Very slow developing. M only rushes three but Mouton is the only player in the area with Ezeh and the safeties very slow to read the play. Mouton(+2) evades a blocker and tackles the RB just as he catches the ball for nothing. Timing seemed off for BG so this is  only +2 because part of the screwup is on the QB.
O20 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel 4-3 Pass 5 Out Floyd 4
Avery in. M sends five and doesn't quite get there but does force a throw; this out is open just in front of Floyd(+0.5). He's there to tackle, which is good enough on a four-yard pass on second and ten.
O24 3 6 Shotgun 4-wide 3-2-6 dime Pass 4 Sack Van Bergen -7
The four man line with Mouton down. Martin and RVB stunt, with Martin(+1.5) driving the center back and threatening to sack as RVB(+1.5) comes around in the lane he's moving into to tackle(+1) for a big loss (pressure +2). Martin also draws a holding call.
Drive Notes: Safety (on terrible snap), 23-14, 13 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O10 1 10 Ace Base 4-3 Run   Power off tackle Ezeh -2
This is completely obliterated by everyone, with about four M players in the backfield. Ezeh(+2) saw a gap and attacked it, blasting a pulling guard two yards in the backfield and slowing the RB, at which point he's dead meat. Banks(+1) was just behind cutting off any lanes to the back and Leach(+1) beat a tight end, almost getting held; those two combine to finish the TFL.
O8 2 8 Shotgun empty Nickel 4-3 Pass 3 Tunnel screen Kovacs 24
Guh, Ezeh(-1) gives it right back by dropping out of a threatened blitz into a short zone and then running well upfield and out of the play when he reads screen. There is room as a result. Floyd(+0.5) does a good job of forcing a cutback inside, but Kovacs(-2) doesn't have faith his CB will do this and ends up overrunning the play in an embarrassing fashion. (Tackling –2.)
O32 1 10 Ace Base 4-3 Pass 4 Waggle deep out Mouton Int
Mouton(+3) bites on the play action a bit but then gets a great, great drop, going from two steps towards the LOS to 12 yards deep before the route can develop. By the time the QB throws it's right to him. +0.5 to Martin for getting in on the QB and possibly forcing a bad throw. (Cover +2.)
Drive Notes: Interception, 37-14, 7 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O31 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run   TGDCD Mouton 16
Ezeh starts charging upfield to contain what looks like a rollout and Mouton(-1) sucks out of position to the frontside of the play; Martin(-1) is also handled and gives up a gap to the outside when Mouton may have had a chance if it was forced inside. This always works, I want us to run it so bad.
O47 1 10 Ace Base 4-3 Run   Quick pitch Black? 8
Floyd(+0.5) cuts off the outside well and Banks(+0.5) reads the play quickly enough to seemingly close down the hole; Geter pauses, then stumbles, then cuts back across the field—and I'm not sure who to blame. Roh(-1) definitely eased up when he thought the play was going away from him and I think Black(-1) took an angle too far downfield instead of a proper cutback pursuit one. But I'm really just guessing here. Gordon and Christian converge after a nice gain.
M45 2 2 Shotgun twins 2TE Base 4-3 Pass 4 Rollout scramble ? 5
Excellent coverage(+2) from Christian and Gordon(+1 each) forces the QB to pull it down; Black(-2) again gets out of his lane fruitlessly, giving the QB an alley when he was about to be sacked. He scrambles for the first.
M40 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 5 Sack Banks -5
A quick look to one side is a feint and QB comes to the bottom of the screen where Mouton(+1, cover +1) has the first read covered, which gives the rush time to get home; Banks(+1) fights through a blocker and reaches out to grab the QB as the pocket collapses and Leach(+1) blitzed from the outside, coming around to finish the tackle.
M45 2 15 Ace Base 4-3 Pass 5 Waggle deep out Christian 12
Roh(+1) quick out to the edge, cutting the QB off and forcing a throw that's short and lofted (pressure +1), but Christian(-1, cover -1) is easily beaten in man coverage and should give up the first down. The BG player drops the ball, boots it skyward, and sees one of his teammates come down with it.
M32 3 3 Shotgun 4-wide 4-1-6 dime Pass 6 Slant Floyd 11
Blitz picked up (pressure -2) and Floyd(-1, cover -1) gets beaten on a slant for the first.
M21 1 10 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass NA Flanker screen Leach 20
Michigan is misaligned with no one shifted to the trips side. Given earlier formations this is on Leach(-1), who compounds his error by getting cut(-1) to the ground; Cam Gordon(-0.5) has to take on a blocker and attempt to make a diving tackle off of it and can't, allowing the WR to get down to the one. (RPS –2.)
M1 1 G I-form big Goal line Run   Iso Campbell 0
Campbell(+1) runs over his guy, essentially pancaking the OL(!) and ending up two yards in the backfield, forcing a cutback since Martin(+0.5) and Banks(+0.5) clogged the middle; Mouton(+0.5) fills unblocked and tackles with help.
M1 2 G I-form big Goal line Pass NA Fade Floyd Inc
Overthrown; Floyd doing okay enough I guess.
M1 3 G I-form big Goal line Pass NA      
RVB(+1) is lurking on the edge of the line and shoots out on the QB when he sees the roll, forcing a quick pass that ends up being inaccurate. It would have had to be just right with C. Gordon(+0.5) sitting there in proximity to the target. (Pressure +1, RPS +1)
M1 4 G Wildcat twin TE Goal line Run   Power off tackle ?- 1
Michigan totally stuffs this, with RVB(+0.5) and Campbell(+0.5) driving blockers backwards and Mouton(-1) giving the thump that ends his forward momentum but not wrapping up. RB bounces backwards, rolls out, cuts inside of a block, and scores. C'est la vie.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 44-21, 2 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O35 1 10 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass NA Rollout out T. Gordon 5
Starters still out there; weird. M not fooled by the PA and has good coverage on both these receivers from T. Gordon(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5, cover +1), who converge to tackle the receiver immediately.
O40 2 5 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run   Inside zone Mouton 4
Mouton(+1) hops in the hole before any one can peel off on him, which is good because he ends up cutting off the hole and drawing two blockers as Ezeh(-1) was dropping into coverage without so much as reading a key. RB cuts back where Kovacs(+0.5) fills quickly, causing the RB to delay and allowing Banks(+0.5) to come off a blocker and help tackle.
O44 3 1 Ace twins Base 4-3 Run   Power off tackle Ezeh -2
QB stumbles and this throws off the RB but this was dead anyway with T. Gordon(+1) setting up his blocker with the right shoulder and Ezeh(+1) clubbing the pulling guard in the hole, leaving nowhere to go; Banks(+1) takes the opportunity from the stumble and the jammed up front to tackle(+1) in the backfield.
Drive Notes: Punt, 51-21, 12 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O27 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 TE out Moundros 6
Scroobs finally come in with the score 58-21. At this point I'm just looking for individual performances and will discontinue metrics. Here pressure is poor but coverage is right there to tackle on the catch, with Moundros(+0.5) there. Campbell is not exactly Martin when it comes to pass rush. He just kind of sits at the line.
O33 2 4 Shotgun 2TE twins Base 4-3 Pass 6 Batted Campbell Inc
Rush is picked up as BG leaves a couple extra guys in to block. Campbell(+1) gets a hand up to bat the ball down.
O33 3 4 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 6 Out Avery Inc
Moundros(+1) does bash the tailback and get to the QB but Avery(-1) has been beaten in coverage and this should be a first down. Pass is too far upfield and bobbled, allowing Avery time to close and break it up. This bobble was super-slow-mo extended, which is why no plus.
Drive Notes: Punt, 58-21, 6 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O31 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run   Inside zone Demens 0
I'd love it if Demens did something awesome here but no one even thinks about coming out to block him so it's pretty easy for him to step up and tackle. +1 for the hell of it, and +0.5 for Black, who came around a tackle and helped.
O31 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Out Anderson 6
Good coverage, quick tackle.
O37 3 4 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass   Out Moundros 13
Moundros is actually in pretty good coverage here for an out ten yards downfield but the throw is low and to the outside where he can't do anything about it. Campbell did beat a blocker and then sort of lumber in at the QB.
50 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel 4-3 Run   Inside zone Campbell 7
Campbell(-1) sealed as two guys release downfield into Demens, so he can't do anything about it; Marvin Robinson comes up to make a good open field tackle.
M43 2 3 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run   Inside zone Robinson 5
Moundros(+1) shoots upfield into a blocker as he tries to disengage from Campbell and delays the RB, allowing Robinson to come up and tackle, but the RB pops off and manages to drag Robinson forward past the sticks.
M38 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 3-3-5 stack Pass   PA post Vinopal Int
Play action leaves seven blockers against three rushers so the QB has all day; he fires a post that Vinopal(+3) steps in front of and intercepts, immediately sending everyone back to videos of Michigan safeties of the last 20 years to find out the last time that happened. Vinopal fumbles, of course, but whatever.
Drive Notes: Interception, 65-21, EOG. There is one more play but I can't believe I stuck around this long.

I'm so confused. Was that good or not?

I kind of think it was, though extreme caution should be read into that given the epic suck of the backup BG QB. I saw a number of missed opportunities that I duly minused; there were probably a half-dozen more I could not see or did not notice. Here's one; watch the two receivers at the top of the screen…

…and also the guy on the drag there. Problems: we haz them.

Even so, BG tailbacks combined for 21 carries and averaged 2.8 YPC on them. Part of that was their inability to slam it into the endzone from the one, but stopping tailbacks for no gain or a loss five times on the goal line is a good thing.

Meanwhile, Spankratz had one screen pass for 71 yards and 27 other attempts on which he netted 5.9 YPA. That screen should have been about 20 yards, IME, as on replay the holding committed against Rogers is both flagrant and the main reason the play broke very long instead of sort of long:

Also the pinball game with the OL was a fortunate thing. Cam Gordon did screw up by fighting inside and not having faith that his teammates would deal, and then was outrun to the endzone, and these things add to the Hill of Cam Gordon Worry founded in the Notre Dame game.

That isn't exactly reassuring.

No, but at least this year our safeties are getting outrun by an actual wide receiver instead of a thumping Indiana tailback. So far. Still, the—


--is decent. Also chart.


Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 5.5 2 3.5 Decent impact in little opportunity.
Martin 7 1 6 Quick passing offenses reduce DL impact; still did well when called upon.
Banks 5.5 2 3.5 Totally adequate.
Sagesse - 3 -3 Seems I was wrong about him.
Patterson 1 1 0 Occasionally blasted to moon.
Black 0.5 3 -2.5 Got out of rush lanes a couple times.
Campbell 3.5 1 2.5 Impact in short yardage.
TOTAL 23 13 10 Three step drop city.
Player + - T Notes
Mouton 13 5 8 Sacks, TFLs, INTs.
Roh 4.5 1 3.5 Impact waning?
Johnson - - - DNP.
T. Gordon 1.5 2 -0.5 Banks at linebacker, except a freshman.
Leach 3 2 1 Bounceback.
Moundros 1.5 - 1.5 Only played in garbage time.
Demens 1 - 1 And that +1 is generous.
Herron - - - DNP
Fitzgerald - 1 -1 Eh.
TOTAL 29 13 16 Much, much better.
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 4.5 1 3.5 Been solid except for run support issues vs UMass.
Rogers - 2 -2 Eh, fine.
Kovacs 4 4 0 Burned in man coverage a couple times.
C. Gordon 3 3.5 -0.5 I feel like these numbers do not give him enough credit for not screwing up on run angles.
Talbott - - - Did play, did not register good or bad, which is probably good.
Christian 1 3 -2 Seems like the other two are ahead.
M. Robinson - - - Scant time.
Ray Vinopal 3 - 3 Go, Spinal Tap Drummer. Go.
TOTAL 15.5 13.5 2 Did what they should against a team like BG.
Pressure 9 5 4 Revenge of the three man rush.
Coverage 18 12 6 Could be an artifact of confused QB.
Tackling 4 4 0 Okay.
RPS - 5 -5 One misalignment, no free rushers.

[RPS is "rock, paper, scissors." Michigan gets a + when they call a play that makes it very easy for them to defend the opponent, like getting a free blitzer. They get a – when they call a play that makes it very difficult for them to defend the opponent, like showing a seven-man blitz and having Penn State get easy touchdowns twice.]

Looks about right to me. The line didn't have much impact except when good coverage downfield allowed them to get to the QB or it was time to man up around the goal line. The linebackers made few errors, though part of that is no doubt BG's reluctance to test them in coverage with the backup QB. Mouton had an impact day and didn't do much to criticize, nor did Ezeh. And the secondary made about as many plays as they did errors.

I do chalk this up largely to the competition and expect that we'll be looking at some tattered numbers after Chappell gets done with Michigan's back seven.

Did we learn anything about new players?

Despite contrary indicators from the passing skeleton in the pregame, your #3 corner appears to Courtney Avery, a part of both the nickel and dime packages. Avery had an impressive recovery and PBU early:

We still don't know much about him but that's a good start. He seems obviously ahead of Cullen Christian, who did not have much to the good Saturday. Terrence Talbott was not tested.

Campbell was the other guy who leapt out as potentially useful. Though his strategy in the pass rush is "sit at the line of scrimmage and maybe raise your arms," he was a major reason that Michigan's goal line defense was so stiff, consistently driving his guy in the backfield and falling over. He's never going to be Mike Martin and has a long way to go if he's even going to be Gabe Watson, but for the first time he looked useful.

What about the so fresh, so clean linebackers?

Yeah… I've heard a lot of people talking up Kenny Demens after the game but I didn't see him do anything of note until the last drive when he was able to stroll into the BG backfield and make a tackle since three Falcon OL decided to block the same guy. It's possible I got 25 and 45 mixed up on a couple plays but since whenever Ezeh did something aggressive and successful I said "is that Ezeh?!" and double-checked, I don't think so. Talking up Demens seems to be a case of hoping something is true instead of thinking it.

And the old hands did have a good day. Mouton got an easy pick on a great pass drop after play action for the second time, and at no point did I get frustrated with Ezeh.

Hey, how about a special teams digression?

Yeah, I never ever cover special teams and so haven't systematically quantified how much additional suck there is this year in the unit. There is lots, obviously, but by virtue of not kicking anything but a point after and deploying that three-man punt return formation Michigan had its best week of the season. We heard all about how Drew Dileo was being recruited mostly as a returner, thus justifying yet another slot receiver, and the early… uh… returns are good. This is slick:

That's a punt a lot of guys would fair catch; Dileo WOOPs two gunners and then a third guy before getting taken down. That's a twelve yard return and potentially a 20- or even 30-yard swing in field position compared to a single returner like Gallon watching that thing bounce. Dileo is not that fast but he's got some skills.

Dileo === PR win.

Suck on that, low-rated-white-guy-offer complainers!

Yeah! And we totally weren't those guys. As long as we're on the topic of low rated white guys who the internet wasn't happy to see commit, how about Ray Vinopal?

Enormous disclaimers apply since by that point BG was down to their third-string walk-on but damn if that isn't the best play I've seen a Michigan safety make in a long time. This caused everyone to get way ahead of themselves about moving Gordon to bandit or linebacker in 2011; while I'm still keeping my hopes for an anonymous two-star in check that was about as good a start as you could hope for minus getting clocked and fumbling.

Maybe these guys really do have a knack for unearthing uncut gems.


Jonas Mouton was the most productive Wolverine on the day, notching a sack, an interception, and failing to notch any Mouton brain meltdowns.


No one stands out as a huge problem. The backups on the DL made some crappy plays, but that's to be expected, and some of the freshmen in the secondary had issues. Those guys aren't likely to play unless injury strikes, however. If I had to pick someone it would be Cam Gordon, who was one of three reasons Bowling Green hit the big play. That's weak, though, on a day when you hold the opponent under 300 total yards.

What does it mean for Indiana and beyond?

Not much, I'm afraid. Spankratz (in his first start, no less) is likely to be by far the worst quarterback on the schedule at year's end. Even second stringers or freshmen like Nathan ReallyDutchLastName at Illinois or Robert "Rob" Henry at Purdue will have way more experience when Michigan rolls into town, and there's no comparison between that guy and Indiana's Ben Chappell, who was genuinely impressive against Western Kentucky even when you take the opponent into account.

At least Michigan seems comfortable enough with the freshmen corners that they can throw them out there on passing downs—which will be most of them against IU—and get guys like Banks and Ezeh off the field. Avery showed well and the rest of the secondary kept it safe. I can see Michigan trying to get to Chappell with a four-man rush of Roh, RVB, Martin, and Mouton all day, content to take their chances when IU runs and bleed yardage until Michigan gets a sack or a couple incompletions, and I can see this working somewhat frequently. This year's IU team is far less of a threat on the ground than last year's, which still wasn't much of a threat.

UMass will probably be Michigan's worst defensive performance of the year; if the linebackers just play it safe and Michigan makes Indiana kick some field goals—probable once the field compresses and IU's total inability to run block comes to the fore—Denard and company should get a comfortable distance by game's end.

As far as beyond… not much. Indiana will give us way more information.

As a side note, I'm happy that the staff put in two new packages (the dime and the punt return) this week that are creative ways to address deficiencies. Minus punt fumbles, special teams has been a strength at Michigan under RR; moving towards a rugby-aware punt return system is another way in which Michigan's current coaching staff displays their willingness to adapt on a year-to-year basis. (The most powerful example this year is the near-shelving of the zone stretch in favor of QB lead draws and a lot of inside zone).

Preview 2010: Secondary

Preview 2010: Secondary

Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2010 at 2:42 PM

Previously: The Story.

never_forget-500 Never forget.

What's the point of anything?

I ask this question for reasons existential and practical. Earlier this summer Eleven Warriors pinged me for some help previewing Michigan's defense, so I talked about Mike Martin and the rest of the promising defensive line and mentioned the trouble at linebacker; the section on the secondary was simply this: "rank them last." At this point Justin Turner was still on the team and Troy Woolfolk's ankle was unaware of what Angry Michigan Secondary Hating God had in store for it.

When it, he, and we found out AMSHG's true power in mid-August I started drinking immediately, resulting in a night where I finally used twitter as God intended by blathering about having a power drill, burning my elbow on tea, coughing, not coughing, and finally drinking a horrible concoction of Cointreau with anything (the whiskey had been exhausted) and eating cold squash pakora with a slice of American cheese while mournfully contemplating everything from Mike Floyd to whatever 5'8" guy UMass will throw out there this year. The next day Henri the Otter of Ennui made his earliest-ever appearance on the blog (setting a record that will probably stand for all time) while I enumerated the options left at corner, mentioning Richard Nixon twice before a nominal first-string player at the semi-public fall scrimmage. Even if I've calmed down since, and I have a little bit, that's the existential chunk.

The practical chunk: the probable starters at corner, safety, and the safety-ish position that was called spinner (except when Greg Robinson was denying such a concept ever existed) and is now called spur are:

  • at free safety, a redshirt freshman
  • at spur, a true freshman (who will be treated as a linebacker, FWIW)
  • at bandit, a redshirt sophomore walk-on
  • at one corner, a redshirt sophomore pulled in favor of Mike Williams last year, and
  • at the other corner, a true freshman.

Meanwhile, literally every backup except the aforementioned Williams has never played a meaningful snap at Michigan because they arrived two months ago or, in the case of James Rogers, was just one of those guys who seems like they're never going to play from day one. I could just point you to their recruiting profiles, tell you they'll be in the conversation for worst secondary in the league, and resume cowering in a closet. Previewing this position group is almost totally pointless: I've never really seen anyone play. They're probably going to be bad.

If this is an insufficient description of the situation, though, well, here's all this stuff. 


Rating: 1.

Corner #1 Yr. Corner #2 Yr.
JT Floyd So.* Cullen Christian Fr.
Courtney Avery Fr. James Rogers Sr.*
Terrence Talbott Fr. Tony Anderson Jr.*#

[* = player has taken redshirt. # = walk-on.]

Technically, the position preview scale goes from one to five. Nothing has ever gotten a zero before even jokingly, not even the 2008 offensive line that consisted of seven guys who could plausibly play and actually started a defensive tackle who had been switched in the middle of fall camp. But I thought about it here. What Michigan has to offer at corner is going to be substandard unless a great miracle falls from the sky, and will probably be no better than last year's fare even before Woolfolk moved.



The big touchdown.
doomed from the start
knocking it down
fade cover

The single person at this position who Michigan fans have seen on the field is redshirt sophomore JT Floyd. On the one hand, he was so overmatched last year that Michigan decided they should move Troy Woolfolk to his spot and unleash Mike Williams on the world; Williams promptly gave up a third-and-twenty-four conversion to Iowa and was subsequently swapped with freshman walk-on Jordan Kovacs, leaving a tiny, slow, inexperienced guy no one even recruited in the most critical spot on the defense. This went exactly as well as you might expect. The coaches thought this was preferable to having Floyd on the field.

For my part, the Indiana UFR waved a white flag even at 4-0:

Whatever lingering hopes you had that the corner spot opposite Warren could turn into a non-liability should be put in the corner and told to  be quiet for a while. JT Floyd did better than I thought he did live but still remains a timid redshirt freshman who transparently lacks the speed to be an elite corner. Michigan is going to have to cover up for him.

So did the game column:

Seeing an Indiana freshman zip past not only the walk-on safety gamely pretending he doesn't run a 4.8 but the scholarship, potentially-starting cornerback not named Donovan Warren was alarming. If JT Floyd is going to play corner in the Big Ten he's going to do it ten yards off the line of scrimmage.

Floyd held onto his job for the Michigan State game, but that game saw Michigan adopt a fundamentally unsound formation featuring Floyd in the parking lot. State exploited this with a ton of virtually uncontested wide receiver screens:

They then countered those with the outside pitches that were the only consistently successful running plays Michigan State managed all day (QB scrambles were another story). Floyd may not have gotten smoked deep but it was only because he was playing Hail Mary defense all game. Seeing how untenable that situation was, Michigan's coaches made the move to Woolfolk at corner, thus opening up the already pretty much wide open floodgates. Except for sporadic plays and special teams duty, thus ended Floyd's participation in the 2009 season.

On the other hand, the coaches have been talking up his improvement since spring and have continued to do so through fall. Rodriguez 4/13: Floyd has "played well." Rodriguez 8/2: Floyd is coming off "a great spring." Also on 8/2: Rodriguez expresses "particular confidence" in Floyd and drops the t-bomb—"tremendous." Greg Robinson 8/11: Floyd is showing "a lot of progress." A spring practice source: Floyd is "vastly improved." And Robinson and Gibson on 8/25:

"J.T. Floyd may have been the guy that made the biggest jump from last season to the end of spring ball in so many ways," Robinson said on Sunday. "There's nothing any different - he's just worked really hard. J.T. just has a way about him - he leads well and his work habits - he's just a harder worker than he was at this time last year."

Gibson concurs. "He's done such a complete turnaround. You just take last year at this time, and he was just a guy really trying to work to the point that he’s at right now, and he’s done it."

UFR '09: JT Floyd
Opponent + - T Comments
WMU - 5 -5 Yikes.
Indiana 4.5 8 -3.5 Tries hard. Clearly
physically deficient.
MSU 3 3 0 I'll take it.
Wisconsin - 1 -1 Eh.

How meaningful is any of this? The fear is not very. This is replica of the Johnny Sears hype down to the sweet dreads: after being largely responsible for that heart-stopping moment when Ball State had a first and goal with a shot to tie Michigan in the '06 season, Johnny Sears was in line for a starting cornerback job after the graduation of Leon Hall. Sears was talked up all offseason, failed miserably during the Horror, was quickly yanked for true freshman Donovan Warren, and was off the team a month into the 2007 season. While that outcome is an negative outlier even with Angry Michigan Secondary-Hating God at full wroth, it goes to show that sometimes a coach praising a kid who's struggled and is being thrust into a prominent role is more hope than anything else. Our best hope may be that anonymous spring observer, who has no reason to pump up a kid in the hopes he'll keep it together.

Floyd was just a freshman last year and should improve significantly. The chatter's consistent enough and from enough sources that some of it is probably real. Average is about all anyone can hope for, though.


The other corner spot will probably (50.1%!) end up in the hands of freshman Cullen Christian. James Rogers had a tentative hold on the first string in the semi-public fall scrimmage that he maintained to the release of the fall depth chart, but since he hasn't played at all in his Michigan career—not even when the walls were falling in last year—he's likely to cede that by the time the season rolls around. If not by then, probably by the Big Ten season.

Christian gets the ultra-tentative nod here simply by virtue of his recruiting rankings, which were strong. He checked in a near five-star at Scout, a top 100 guy at Rivals, and hit three other top 100 lists. He's not a burner; his main assets are his size (6'1"), leaping ability, and excellent hips. ESPN praised his "coveted size, quickness, fluidity and savvy" and said he would enter college "ahead of the curve in terms of technique, understanding of coverages and size," and assessment basically echoed by Rivals and the rest of the chattering class. His main problem is tackling, at which he's pretty sucky.

How doomed is Michigan here? Still pretty doomed. But it is worth pointing out that if there's one spot on defense where a freshman can walk onto the field and not spoil everything, it's corner, where conservative play and safety help can mitigate the damage.

What, Me Backups?

The backups are unknowns or freshmen. The aforementioned James Rogers was a lanky high school tailback reputed to have great straight-line speed but no hips; Michigan took him as a flier recruit. He has not panned out, bouncing from wide receiver to cornerback for the duration of his career.

Rogers did come in for some fall fluff during Rodriguez's post-scrimmage presser:

James Rogers is a senior that has played over that position. He has had a really good camp. Some of the young freshman that are competing out there at that position … Again, James Rogers is a veteran. He has been around a little bit, so we have a little experience with James out there as well.

He has to play and may even get the bulk of the time early. The assumption here is that even if he's currently ahead of the freshmen he probably won't remain so for very long.

sns103109spSpringfieldFB2 courtney-avery
Talbott #14 left, Avery right

The two remaining freshmen are extremely similar. Terrence Talbott and Courtney Avery are middling three-star types from Ohio; Avery is probably the better athlete, since he was a star quarterback; Talbott is more polished since he's been a full-time corner but spent a lot of his high school career injured. Both approached but did not get four stars on one of the big three recruiting sites; both got "meh" from the other two; both are generously listed at 5'10" and truthfully listed at 165 pounds. They need 20 pounds before they're anything approximating Big Ten corners. Instead they get thrown into the fire immediately.

Talbott in a sentence:

The book on Talbott: short, smart, agile, excellent in coverage but needs a year or two to bulk up for college.

I don't have anything quite as neat on Avery but both Scout and ESPN praise his "exceptional athleticism" while calling him very, very small.

Reports out of fall camp have been conflicting, with certain folk claiming one or the other will play, possibly a lot, while the other is way too small and a guaranteed redshirt. There wasn't much to tell them apart during the scrimmage; whichever one does get drafted into playing this year is going to play a lot of conservative zone coverage and miss a lot of tackles.

There were rumors Kelvin Grady might get a shot at corner but with Martavious Odoms apparently moving outside full-time there's room for him to play at slot and he's been prominent this fall; if he does end up moving it will be a midseason panic thing. Teric Jones was moved back to offense after spending a year trying to learn cornerback, getting moved to safety, and then getting moved to cornerback again; obviously he's just not a D-I caliber player on D.


Rating: 2, generously

Bandit/SS Yr. Free Safety Yr.
Jordan Kovacs So.*# Cam Gordon Fr.*
Marvin Robinson Fr. Jared Van Slyke Jr.*#
-- -- Vlad Emilien Fr.*

[* = player has taken redshirt. # = walk-on, or former walk-on]

111409_SPT_UM v WU_MRMSafety has been the positional bête noir of the Michigan fan for going on a decade now but things had never been as black or beastly as they were last year, when Boubacar Cissoko's epic flameout forced Michigan to go with the doomed Jordan Kovacs-Mike Williams combination. Williams was the most confused, least useful player I've ever broken down film of; Kovacs was just slow and small. Their powers combined in episodes like "Iowa tight ends are open by 15 yards," "We don't have a guy in the deep middle on third and twenty four," and "What would Juice Williams be like if he was an unstoppable 500-foot-tall robot?"

Williams has been shuffled off to third- or fourth-team spur to cover punts for all eternity,  but the situation here is hardly less bleak than it was a year ago. Jordan Kovacs is now a sophomore walk-on and probable starter. Last year he debuted against Notre Dame, was one of two Michigan secondary members to be blazed on the infamous 85-yard Indiana touchdown, and then actually started making a name for himself as a solid box safety in the Michigan State game:

Jordan Kovacs registered a +4.5 and is single-handedly responsible for about half of the + tackles Michigan saw yesterday … Kovacs provided hard-nosed run defense that makes me think he'll be a positive contributor going forward.

Williams imploded in the next game, Michigan dropped Kovacs to free safety, and the walls caved in. The dividing line was clear as day in UFR:

UFR '09: Jordan Kovacs
Opponent + - T Notes
Notre Dame 1 - 1 Nice story.
EMU 2 1 1 Hasn't cost Michigan anything yet..
Indiana 3 4 -1 Hardy, but slow.
Michigan State 7.5 3 4.5 Some of these were just backside blitzes that he tackled on, but he did tackle. At other times he displayed a real knack for getting to  ballcarriers.
Iowa 2.5 3 -0.5 Missed one tackle, made another few, good downhill box safety.
Penn State 1 6 -5 Just can't play a deep half.
Illinois - 3 -3 Again burned as a deep half safety.
Purdue 1 5 -4 Enormous bust #3.
Wisconsin 4 4 0 Did pretty okay. No idea why they moved him to deep safety; he's pretty effective in the box.

The Mike Williams bit is handled in the linebackers and has more on just how disastrous a switch this was, but the morals of the story: Kovacs cannot play free safety and is pretty effective as a tiny linebacker when he doesn't have to take on linemen.


jet past blockers
tackles Caper from behind
takes down the RB
shoot up through a gaping hole
doesn't bite on the bubble fake
doomed from the start
bails and bails

Michigan moves him back to tiny linebacker this fall, but it's not that easy. When Steve Sharik explained how you defend four verticals in the three-deep coverage Michigan would love to play all year if they can get away with it, he made it clear such a move was how you draw it up but not how it plays out much: frankly, three deep, one-high coverage sucks against four verticals. You know how a bunch of Michigan's passing plays in spring and fall came when the quarterbacks nailed the slot receivers in between levels in zone coverage? That's what happens, Larry, when you meet a stranger in the alps by playing exclusively one-high coverage.

So Kovacs is going to have to cover a deep half sometimes. This won't go very well, and Michigan's defense will be limited by it. On the other hand, the run defense shouldn't be nearly as bad with Kovacs filling the weakside alley; last year he racked up 75 tackles despite the late start. Marvin Robinson will press Kovacs for his job, but probably not take it. Iowa and Wisconsin have gotten away with players like him for years.

Freshman safety Cameron Gordon plays in Michigan's spring football game on Saturday, April 17, 2010 at the Big House.  (ARIEL BOND/Daily)

At free safety is this year's Grady Brooks memorial King of Spring Hype award: Cam Gordon. Though Gordon was recruited as a wide receiver, everyone on the planet expected he'd get his token chance at the position and then get flipped to defense, where Michigan desperately needed bodies and he projects better anyway.

This duly happened, except when Gordon and his 6'3" frame moved it was to free safety, not linebacker. This was pretty weird, and it got weirder still when the hype machine starter cranking out superlative after superlative. A sampling follows. Rodriguez:

“Cam Gordon has been really consistent all spring,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. We’re “really getting some confidence with him.”

MGoBlog's own Tom Van Haaren reporting back from some conversations with players on the team:

Cameron Gordon is the most surprising for everyone. His name keeps coming up. I’ve heard that he tackles well and has really good coverage skills. The people I’ve talked to say he’s just a natural ball hawk. Good decision to move him to safety.

By the spring game he was the undisputed starter at free safety; he managed to get through that without anyone even noticing him. In the safety business this is a win.

Unfortunately, Gordon struggled in the fall scrimmage, failing to wrap up on a number of tackles. Rodriguez was sticking to his guns afterward:

"Yesterday was not his best day practice wise, but other than that, he has a really good camp. He is a very physical guy and the game is really important to him. Again, he has not played. He has not played in the big stage yet. There is going to be nerves and there are going to be some mistakes, but he has just got to limit them… we look for a big year for him even though he is a redshirt freshman.”

As a redshirt freshman, a "big year" would be wrapping up his tackles and not letting anyone behind him for crippling long touchdowns. With his lack of blazing speed and inexperience, actually making plays seems out of the question. Misopogon dedicated a couple of his epically researched posts to the safety play and found that Brandent Englemon's traditional 1-0-1 as a junior was actually the second best performance of any safety in the UFR era (with Jamar Adams obviously finishing first).

Repeating that +0.7 per game would go a very long way towards bringing Michigan's defense back from the dead. That's optimistic. Cam Gordon will chase more than a couple opponents into the endzone. But not on third and twenty-four.


marvin-robinson-abs marvin-robinson-no-shirt

Marvin Robinson is the most shirtless recruit in the world

If you've been watching the Countdown to Kickoff videos frequently, you've probably experienced the same sort of cognitive dissonance I have when #3 comes roaring in from somewhere else and whacks a guy to the ground authoritatively or picks off an errant pass. This is not the competent-to-good LB hybrid version of Stevie Brown, it's Marvin Robinson, Michigan's first great hope for bandit. As a true freshman, the book on Robinson is contained in his recruiting profile, but you're probably familiar with the general outline by now: hyped Florida recruit enamored with Michigan since a freshman trip to Michigan's summer camp, early offers from USC, Florida, and the rest of the world, precipitous fall in the rankings, still a highly regarded prospect with athleticism Jordan Kovacs can only dream of.

Robinson's early performance has him pushing Kovacs. Woofolk noticed him even before practice started, and Greg Robinson knows a lady-killer when he sees one:

"I know this: he walks around the building looking really good."

His performance in fall was highlight-heavy and caught the attention of his teammates. He finished second to Jonas Mouton when AnnArbor.com media day poll asked who the hardest hitter on the team was. Ricardo Miller was one vote:

"When he comes to hit, everyone knows it. I think he's cracked his helmet twice this camp, and if that doesn't show you enough that he can, I don't know what could."

Robinson has huge size and speed advantages on Kovacs and will certainly play this fall, possibly as a passing-down replacement, possibly as something more. In an ideal world he would be so good he would ease Kovacs out of his starting role by midseason. I don't think that's likely since the bandit position is extremely complicated, but I do expect some sort of platoon where Robinson gets ahold of some parts of the playbook he executes better than Kovacs and is brought in regularly.

 Michigan freshman safety Vladimir Emilien snares a pass during Thursday afternoon, August 20th's practice at the Michigan practice facility. 
Lon Horwedel | Ann Arbor.com
At deep safety, Vlad Emilien still seems like the first option behind Gordon but his initial returns have been discouraging. He enrolled early—giving him just as much experience as Kovacs—and then never played, Turner-style, despite the debacle going down on the field. Word was that the senior-year knee injury that cost him almost all of his senior season and his Ohio State offer lingered through the year. With that almost two years in the past now that can no longer be an excuse—any damage still lingering is permanent.

There may be some, as it was Emilien who was left in the dust by Roy Roundtree on the 97-yard strike from Denard Robinson in the spring game; Teric Jones caught and passed Emilien en route. Getting instantly passed by a position-switching guy the same class as you is a bad indicator, as is ending up behind a walk-on on the depth chart.

That walk-on is Jared Van Slyke, about whom nothing is known except his father is really good at baseball. True freshman Ray Vinopal (recruiting profile) is also at free safety. Rodriguez did mention him as a guy who has "a chance" to play this fall, he didn't show up on the first depth chart and he's probably going to redshirt.

The deep safety situation is grim past Gordon; if he doesn't work out you're either starting two walk-ons, moving up Emilien, who doesn't seem ready, or shuffling Robinson and or Kovacs around.

Unverified Voracity Has Only Done This Once Before

Unverified Voracity Has Only Done This Once Before

Submitted by Brian on April 21st, 2010 at 2:43 PM

Safety not guaranteed. This is a photo from 1940 that clearly shows a TIME TRAVELER who has visited the re-opening of the South Fork Bridge in British Columbia:


The time traveler is the guy in the crazy sunglasses who looks like he walked out of Bursley and into history. That shirt he's wearing has a block M on it:


If you doubt this is actually a time traveler please note that Skinner from the X-Files is keeping a close eye on him. QED.

This guy's next mission is to find a sleepy bungalow in Mentor, Ohio and bang really loudly on the windows on the night Jim Tressel is conceived. Oh no… what if he's already done it?

Next guy hi. Michigan's looking for an assistant basketball coach and with the public "no thanks" from IPFW head coach Dane Fife—Mr. Self Aggrandizement also publicly shot down overtures from Indiana despite not being offered a job by either—speculation focuses on a trio of guys with state of Michigan ties. If you're looking for a guy with high major experience, Lickliter assistant LaVall Jordan is your man. If you want a guy who's recruited one of the better mid-major teams in the state, Oakland assistant Saadi Washington is your man. If you want a former Globetrotter who is "one of the most fashionable coaches around" and has a name that sounds like a vicious mixed drink of rum and bitters, Bacari Alexander is your man.

That's what I thought. Bacari Alexander for the win.

Meanwhile in attempting to get someone, anyone to join the basketball program: Sam Webb reported on WTKA this morning that Isaiah Sykes did pick up a Michigan offer this weekend. Surprisingly for a guy who's bounced around so much, his transcripts are in fairly good shape. So that's good news.

It's less good that Sykes didn't commit immediately and plans on trips to Central Florida and Arkansas. Orlando may be a trip to take a trip but anyone going to Fayetteville is going on business. Michigan fans grimly remember the recruiting saga of Chicagoan Patrick Beverly. Michigan had late-rising Beverly all locked up until a trip to Arkansas resulted in a Razorback commitment and rampant speculation about payoffs. The parallels are uncomfortable.

Cover three pattern read. Clemson blog Shakin' the Southland has a fantastic analysis of a cover three system that uses "pattern read" principles to prevent itself from getting sliced into little tiny cubes in the passing game, something that would be pretty nice if Michigan could swing this year. Pattern reading is pretty much what it sounds like: the defensive backs read what the receivers are doing and react accordingly. Here's an example:



Flat defender [Ed: SS] drops to the flat zone and picks up the RB when he crosses his face. The H/C defender [SLB] starts his drop up the seam but then takes the first receiver that breaks inside, and tries to wall him off. The deep corner takes the deepest threat, which in this case is the TE on a flag route.


Flat defender [WLB] starts his drop underneath the #1 receiver who is running a Dig route, and keeps inside leverage on him. Once he sees someone cross his face he jumps him in the flat (#2).

The H/C defender (MLB) runs with the #1 receiver on the Dig, remember he's supposed to cover any inside breaker into his zone. If the Z couldn't be walled off and breaks underneath, he must keep him in front of him, and try to stay under that Dig route.

The Corner closes on the most dangerous threat he sees, while the FS is reading the QB and breaks on any throw.

Depending on the formations and routes presented, the players in the zone take different actions. If everyone's on the same page (and has the requisite athleticism) your zones become hellishly adaptable man coverages that provide most of the advantages of zone and most of the advantages of man. The catch is that "if." Smart Football explains in a post on Alabama's pattern reading defense:

The two zone-dropping schools of thought are to teach “spot-drops” or “pattern-reading.” One can overemphasize the distinction, but generally spot-dropping is easier to teach and was the traditional approach. For example, if your outside linebacker is responsible for the weak-flat, he will take his read steps and, upon reading pass, will drop to a spot and then react to the QB’s eyes. A big advantage with spot-dropping is simply that it is easy to teach to, say, a run-stuffing inside linebacker who spends most of his time on run game pursuit and shedding blocks.

The difference between a spot drop and a pattern read is in the complexity of the algorithm. Spot drop:

  • GOTO X

Hypothetical Pattern read for a hook/curl defender:

  1. If (receiver #2 goes vertical) goto seam
  2. If (receiver breaks outside of me) goto smash
  3. If (receiver breaks inside) goto dig

One of the reasons Alabama is so good is that Saban is crazily efficient at coaching his guys up with pattern reading. Robots make robots, and robots are good at algorithms.

Will Michigan use this? Eh… I'm not sure. The linebackers were pretty clueless against both run and pass next year and have seen their defensive responsibilities shift. Adding complicated pattern reading on top of that is probably a bridge too far. Maybe we'll see it in some of the players, but probably not Mouton and Ezeh. It sounds like a move to a pattern read is one akin to moving from a regular gap blocked scheme to a zone running game: you've got to commit to it 100% or it doesn't help.

Chicago is full of lies. Remember early this week when everyone was panicking about the imminent expansion of the Big Ten and dissolution of the NCAA? Yeah. Here's Teddy Greenstein repudiating a previous report that sent everyone into a tizzy:

Big Ten expansion timetable isn’t on fast track

Commissioner says conference will stick with 12-18 month window

Good work! That will show whoever wrote that spurious article about Big Ten expansion acceleration. Who was that again? I couldn't find it on Bleacher Report… hmm, weird, there's a link right on this page…

Looks like Big Ten expansion timetable accelerating

Conference could decide to add schools in next few months

April 17, 2010|By Teddy Greenstein, Tribune reporter

Whoops. The Sun-Times would not let Bob Stoops-to-ND die and is still leading the race to the Bleacher Report bottom, but here's a point for the Tribune. I am not holding my breath for an orgy of clucking akin to the one after the BR-spawned and KC Star-abetted Pitt-to-Big Ten rumor.

First chance to see. If you haven't gotten enough of slightly disorganized football games with unexplained strictures on the defense, the North-South Ohio All Star game is Friday at 7 PM on "SportsTime Ohio," which you probably get if you live in Ohio. Math demands that Lexington quarterback/defensive back Courtney Avery will be on your screen at all times:

A four-year starter at quarterback for Lexington, Avery is just one of four defensive backs on the North roster and one of two true cornerbacks.

"It's going to be a little different, because I'm not playing quarterback," said Avery, a two-time All-Ohio first team defensive pick and the owner of virtually every Lexington passing record. "It will be nice to focus just on defense. It will give me a taste of what I'll be doing at Michigan."

Antonio Kinard and Jake Ryan are also on Avery's team; the Talbott brothers are on the South team. Preferred walk-on kicker Carey Spear is on the North team, too. It's a little more data on all those guys, at the very least.

Etc.: Blurry Evan Smotrycz video. Guy has more driving ability than most of our guards. Touch the Banner previews the NFL draft, and MBN has a couple of nice videos from the Spring Game.

2010 Recruiting: Courtney Avery

2010 Recruiting: Courtney Avery

Submitted by Brian on April 6th, 2010 at 12:03 PM

Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson.

Lexington, Ohio - 5'10" 165
courtney-avery Scout 3*, #35 CB
Rivals 3*, NR
ESPN 73, #94 CB
Others NR
Other Suitors Stanford, Louisville, Vanderbilt
YMRMFSPA Grant Mason
Previously On
Commitment post.

When you need a fawning quote about the newest commitment or signee, no matter how obscure, the kid's high school coach is the #1 source. I've read hundreds of these things, but I've never seen anything quite like this:

“He’s the type of kid that if he wants to be president of the United States one day, he will be. I got two compliments I could give him. That’s the first, and the second is if my daughter was 18, she could date him."

That's Lexington High coach BJ Payne on star quarterback and corner Courtney Avery.

Avery was the first cornerback Michigan picked up in the class, receiving an offer after showing up and dominating Michigan's summer camp. Payne again:

"He had a phenomenal workout at Michigan, which is exactly what we expected of him," Payne said. "He was the top defensive back there and he performed as such." 

Shortly afterward Avery switched his Stanford commitment to Michigan, ensuring one Wolverine coed a gentleman suitor in the near future.

Unfortunately, the local paper is one of many under the misapprehension that locking your archives behind a paywall will do anything other than annoy bloggers so Avery's high school exploits are a bit foggy. We do know he was an explosive full-time quarterback as a freshman and sophomore before starting both ways as an upperclassman. He started every game of his high school career he was healthy for, and his TD-INT ratio was something any of Michigan's QBs would aspire to:

Courtney Avery, QB, Lexington - Four-year starter and Michigan commit is as good an athlete as we'll see at any level. He threw 26 TD and just 3 INT last year.

That goes double for his completion percentage as a junior:

A starter at quarterback since his freshman year, Avery completed 73 percent of his passes during the regular season (122-for-166) for 2,095 yards, 21 touchdowns and one interception and was the Ohio Cardinal Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

Too bad he's not 6'3". Avery also runs track and was the star of Lexington's basketball team. Too bad he's not 6'10". Avery wasn't too shabby as as a defensive back, either, finishing his career with seventeen interceptions and being named first-team All Ohio last year. He did this despite an ankle injury that limited him in a few games and forced him to miss a couple others. By season's end he was a player who had "battled injuries all season."

Scouting Avery might as well start with another ridiculous quote from his coach. Payne's in the tank for this kid to the point where his praise can't be taken seriously. I mean:

“He a true cover corner,” Payne said. “He’s a Deion (Sanders)-type corner. He’ll lock you down. And he’ll come up and hit. He thinks he’s 6-3, 220. We had to tell him, hey, tone it down a little bit because he was our quarterback, too.”

He's like Deion Sanders, except an awesome hitter. All right, then. Does he also peel garlic?

Payne does claim that Avery is the best athlete and football player he's ever gotten his hands on, which means something since Payne coached former Ohio State receiver and current Miami Dolphin Brian Hartline. Hartline was a productive starter at OSU and a fourth round draft pick; if Michigan gets that sort of production out of an anonymous three star that's a major win.

Hartline has the advantage of being 6'2", though. Avery doesn't. He's 5'9", although that seems like an actual 5'9" and not a fanciful Cass Tech 5'9". Even so, the common thread in scouting reports is "this guy is good, but tiny." Scout's evaluation:

A good football player who possesses above average speed and good quickness and agility. Is smart and understands the game. Picks up quickly on routes and has the athletic tools to close on plays. He does not have prototypical size, but is able to play up on the line. He is a well built kid, but is not real tall.

FWIW, Scout was much higher on Avery than other sites. When he switched his commitment to Michigan he was on the fringe of four stars, and though he's slid because of the ankle he's still fairly close.

ESPN's evaluation is surprisingly positive for a guy they give a MAC-like 73:

Avery is an exceptional athlete that his only limited by his physical size. He is light weight but has very good speed and excellent quickness. … Has good hips and can turn and change direction without any loss of balance or control. Shows the ability to play man to man coverage as a corner and can run stride for stride with the wideout on the takeoff route. Closes quickly on the receiver when playing zone coverage. Displays good tackling abilities but size makes it difficult to really explode through the ball carrier.

As a bonus, longtime Ohio high school football observer and Bucknuts guru Duane Long thought highly of Avery, calling him a "borderline Buckeye caliber recruit." That's pretty good for your fourth cornerback.

Avery's offers are probably not a good barometer of his talent since he committed to Stanford in April of last year, short-circuiting other schools' efforts. At the time of his commitment he had a smattering of offers from MAC-type schools, with Vanderbilt and Louisville coming in after he was supposedly off the market. Just before signing day there were rumors Florida was taking a look after hiring the coach who recruited Avery to Stanford, but those didn't materialize into anything.

Why Grant Mason? I remember Mason being considerably shorter than the six-foot he's listed at in his various NFL bios, just like Avery is considerably shorter than the 5'11" he's credited with on Michigan's official site. Anyway, Mason was a slight cover corner who transferred from Stanford and developed into a fairly decent starter as a senior. He had similar meh recruiting rankings and was also a smart, athletic kid limited by his size. It sounds like Avery may be a better athlete.

Etc.: He'll play in the North-South Ohio All Star game on the 23rd of April, FWIW. A JJHuddle article on his improvement as a junior. Now this is a list from a guy who cares about academics:

"When Courtney started narrowing down his schools, he had Stanford and Michigan and Northwestern and Vanderbilt and Duke. They all are great academic schools," Payne said. "A lot of kids would be glad to have one of those schools interested and Courtney had offers from all of them.

In case you were afraid Rodriguez was restricting his corner recruiting to the juvie halls of America.

Guru Reliability: Low. Avery is a known quantity in high school circles but nowhere did I find any mention of a camp or combine at which recruiting gurus could have been present. Combine that with full-time duties at quarterback and a senior-year ankle injury and it's tough for anyone to project Avery to the other side of the ball.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Avery seems like a better bet than most three stars because he's walking around with whatever the opposite of a red flag is. He's smart, athletic, and has transitioned to corner well. Michigan saw him in a camp setting. His size doesn't seem like a huge problem if he's going to be a cover corner.
Projection: Likely to redshirt since Michigan will have four or five corners in front of him this year. He does need a little more beef than he's got currently. After that, time on special teams and maybe a nickel package or two with an eye towards starting as an upperclassman.

Recruits On Western Michigan

Recruits On Western Michigan

Submitted by TomVH on September 8th, 2009 at 12:47 PM

ricardo-miller-pioneer The Michigan win yesterday was huge for the program on the field, and was also a help in the recruiting department. The first game of the season was taken in by a handful of committed recruits from this year's class and plenty of the top players in 2011.

MI WR Ricardo Miller, the new mayor of Ann Arbor, was pleased by his now-obligatory appearance. "It was a good win," he said, "and it was a real good atmosphere. I was with some of the other kids, and they liked it too. I know Dior [Mathis, the Cass Tech cornerback] liked it a lot," Miller said.

When asked what the difference was between this game, and the game he attended last year, he told me, "Well, first, we won. That part was great, it was a good feeling." Miller continued: "The second was that everyone just seemed more with it. The players seemed like they were more in the game than last year."

Ricardo also mentioned the fans' support for the team and Rich Rodriguez, "A lot of people have jumped on the wagon, it seems like. They won, and everyone was happy. I didn't like that they weren't supporting him before, but I know there was a lot of fans there showing him how much they care."

Miller made a point about how living so close to the Big House will prepare him to see the field next year:  "I'm going to every home game, and every time I go into the stadium, I get less and less nervous. So, each home game for me is going to help calm my nerves for when I actually get to play."

Ricardo Miller gallery by Paul. It's from Pioneer's 32-28 win over Inkster.

courtney-avery-2 On the defensive side of the ball, PA DE Ken Wilkins and OH CB Courtney Avery (right) made it up for their first ever Michigan game. Both were excited about what they saw. "It went real well," said Wilkins. "I loved it. The fans were crazy, it seemed like they all knew my name. The Victors Walk was crazy too, it was just nuts. I was honestly surprised, I didn't know it was going to be that loud, and that crazy."

The coaches and the game gave Ken a better look at how he'd be used in the game. "I talked to Coach Robinson a little before the game," he said, "and I think I'll be used like Craig Roh*. He had a really good game, so it was just exciting to see that in person."

Courtney Avery said the game was a good way to get to know his future teammates. "I had met Ricardo before," he said, "but I had never met Kenny." Avery was impressed with his first visit to Michigan Stadium: "This was the icing on the cake. I was amazed at how many people were there. I loved the atmosphere all together. It was cool to see the game in person, because you get to see how excited the sidelines get, and the players that aren't on the field," said Avery.

The visit also gave Courtney a chance to see how he'd be used on defense. "I talked to Coach Gibson, Tall, and Rodriguez before the game," he said. "During the game, I was just watching the corners and their technique. It was cool to see how they play, and that I'll be out there soon," Courtney said.

*[Editor's note: Wilkins is being brought in as a deathbacker but given his size and Michigan's depth chart, I'm betting he ends up in the Brandon Graham role eventually.]