Upon Further Review 2012: Defense vs Air Force

Upon Further Review 2012: Defense vs Air Force

Submitted by Brian on September 13th, 2012 at 2:38 PM

Formation Notes: Oh, the humanity.

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This is an I-form. Sweet. Air Force started out motioning the outside WR into the gap between the two backs, FWIW.

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This was called "near 3-wide unbalanced" because I think NCAA calls formations with RB alignments like that "near" and "far". Yes, large sections of my nomenclature are lifted from EA Sports. It is the closest thing to a lingua franca we have for footballing jargon. Note the covered-up slot WR. That's the unbalanced bit. You discovered this in the Picture Pages.

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This is "flexbone big," which means there's a TE on the line. Just flexbone means the two wingbacks and two WRs.

op-1

This was "near half-flex."

As for Michigan, they spend most of the game in a 4-4 with a three-deep shell. They would shift the line towards the field side. I called it "under" even when it was technically "over" because Michigan aligns to field and Air Force doesn't really have a declared formation strength because of all the motion they do.

Substitution notes: The humanity continues. Michigan started Roh-Campbell-Black-Beyer on the line, rotating in Clark, Heitzman, Pipkins, and Brink extensively. Ojemudia also got time, mostly after Beyer went out with his "knee strain."

At linebacker, Ryan got the most playing time; he was spotted by Cam Gordon on a couple drives. Michigan started with Demens-Morgan, then started rotating in Bolden and Ross. Demens did not appear in the second half; the final AF drive in their base offense featured Ross and Bolden both on the field simultaneously.

In the secondary, Gordon, Kovacs, and Floyd took every snap. Avery started out as the other corner and was replaced by Taylor midway through the second. Gordon moved down to the nickelback spot and Jarrod Wilson came in when Air Force was stuck in passing downs, which was rarely.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 I-Form 3-wide tight 4-3 even Run N/A Triple option Floyd 12
Wingback motions to backfield before snap, creating Maryland I. I am going to be guessing a lot here. Dive doesn't get it; QB and RB head out with the wingback as a lead blocker. Gordon(-1) motions inside of the tight WR on the AF motion and looks in the backfield, getting sealed away by the WR easily. Floyd(-2) doesn't know what he's looking at for way too long; Gordon's getting plowed for steps before he finally commits to a run fill. He ends up trying to dodge a cut block eight yards downfield; I'm guessing he probably needs to be turning this inside at the numbers five yards further up. RB gets the corner. Morgan had good pursuit and Kovacs makes a good tackle at the sticks, FWIW.
O37 1 10 Near 3-wide unbalanced 4-3 under Run N/A Counter dive Black 4
AF did this a lot: line up the slot on the LOS. This should scream run at that slot defender. Here they motion towards that and hand it off on the backside, aiming for the hole between NT Campbell and 5-tech Roh. Campbell(-1) gets blown up by a downblock; Black(+0.5) blasts a G trying to pull across his face. This prevents the G from getting out on Demens, but then Black gets confused and starts chasing the QB. FB blasts into the G, who is now blasting Demens, and can fall forward for a few yards.
O41 2 6 Flexbone Big 4-3 over Run N/A FB power Beyer 4 + 10 Pen
Power == pulling guard. This is not a true option as the QB is not looking at anything but the FB as he gives. Beyer(-1) is unblocked for a moment, thinks he has to get down on the dive back(?--I thought M used DEs for the QB) and then gets nailed by the guard. He's sealed inside, FB bounces out. Morgan(+1) is getting blocked, sheds to the outside, and tackles. He's just catching the guy because of the blocker and everyone falls backwards. RPS -1; this took a pretty good play from Morgan to not hit the first down. Campbell(-1) gets a flag for tackling an AF lineman [BWS] trying to get to the second level.
M45 1 10 N/A N/A Penalty N/A False start N/A -5
Freedom.
50 1 15 I-Form 3-wide unbalanced 4-3 even Run N/A Speed option Gordon -1
They motion a guy to the field and run to it. He goes for Kovacs. FB goes for Demens. Morgan(+1) forces the pitch and then pursues well; Gordon(+1) gets the edge on the WR and should force it back inside the numbers but seems to get held and falls; no call. Getz is at the sideline and has to delay to get around the falling Gordon; he falls at the LOS. Morgan was there for a minimal gain even if he keeps his feet.
O49 2 16 Ace 4-wide 4-3 under Run N/A QB draw Ryan 7
Acceptable given situation. Demens(-0.5) reacts quickly enough to get past a blocker and force a bounce but ends up falling; Ryan(+0.5) forces it back and trips the QB. Demens not being on his feet gives up some extra yardage. Morgan was pursuing and helps finish.
M44 3 9 Ace 3-wide Nickel under Pass 4 Scramble Demens 9
Dietz comes off first read as Avery(+1, cover +1) gets depth to carry a seam to the safety. Morgan(+1, cover +1) is on the other slant and the outside guys are covered; Demens(-1, cover -1) is nowhere near the RB release, which could go for the first; Dietz doesn't bother to throw it and takes off; Black(-0.5) and Ryan(-0.5) can't make shoestring tackles(-1), and Demens's late reaction gives Dietz a first down.
M35 1 10 Flexbone 4-3 under Run N/A Triple option Kovacs 1
Washington(+0.5) gets nice push, and there's nothing on the dive, so a pull. Ryan is sitting on the edge and takes the QB. Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) was not blocked on this play and so does what Kovacs does when you don't block him, which is plaster the ballcarrier.
M34 2 9 Flexbone 4-3 under Pass 4 Drag N/A 6
This is ludicrously bad refereeing. Two Air Force OL release downfield on a pass play. One of them cut-blocks Demens! By the time Dietz releases the ball these two guys are six yards downfield. Anyway. Beyer(-1) gets cut by an RB and allows Dietz outside, where he calmly hits a little drag that Ryan is in meh coverage on. Pressure -1, Refs -2.
M28 3 3 Offset I-Form 4-3 over Penalty N/A Offsides Washington 5
Washington(-1)
M23 1 10 Near 3-wide unbalanced 4-3 under Run N/A Speed option Kovacs 3
AF motion man moves back and then starts moving towards the LOS pre-snap, no call. He ends up falling to the ground, possibly on purpose, as he blocks Demens along with another Falcon. Ryan on the edge with QB; Dietz fakes keeping it and draws him, in then pitches late. Kovacs is a bit late on this one, but it's a three yard gain so call it a push.
M20 2 7 I-Form 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Roh 2
Campbell(+1) gets under his guy and pushes him back, which forces the RB to alter his flight path in the backfield a bit. Probably needed a little better angle but this was still good. Roh(-1) got blown out, though, so when RB alters path there's still a hole. Demens avoids one block only to eat the FB; Morgan(+0.5) and Ryan(+0.5) close to tackle in the hole. Call it a push for the LBs.
M18 3 5 Flexbone 4-3 under Run N/A Counter option Ryan -1
Roh(+1) does not get faked out by the dive action and is there to force a quick pitch; Ryan(+2) is on the edge one on one and makes the open-field TFL(+1)
Drive Notes: Missed FG(36), 0-0, 9 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option N/A -1
Gordon rolled down with three deep across the top. AF fumbles the dive exchange.
O24 2 11 I-Form 3-wide 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Morgan -1
Motion to Maryland I. Man, they have this as again Gordon(-1) get sealed inside way too easily but Dietz does not make Morgan(+2) commit; he shoots out on the edge and makes a TFL in space (tackling +1). Floyd(-1) ended up on his face five yards downfield; if Morgan is forced to take the QB this could have been a big gain.
O23 3 12 Ace trips Nickel even Pass 4 Corner Taylor 15
Taylor(-1, cover -1) does not get enough depth on his drop; he's seven yards downfield, sucked up on third and twelve when a corner route is going on behind him. He recovers well but the ball is a foot over his hand and AF's big leapy guy can bring it in in front of an immediate tackle from Kovacs. C. Gordon(+0.5, pressure +1) was in the QB's feet as he throws; without this being open a likely scramble and three and out.
O38 1 10 Flexbone 3-wide 4-4 under Run N/A Outside pitch. Floyd 9
No back; guy comes in motion and gets a quick pitch to the outside. C. Gordon(-1) gets crushed inside by a WR and ends up going upfield of him, which never works. This knocks a pursuing Roh out of the play as well. Downfield, Demens avoids one cut block only to take a second block as he's still trying to find his balance. Floyd(-2) again ends up on his face eight yards downfield. Morgan flows about as fast is as reasonably possible and manages to make contact from the side a ways downfield. Floyd needs to get on his horse as soon as he sees that WR crack down on the LB.
O47 2 1 Flexbone Big 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Washington 1
Dive. Washington(+1) actually does a good job of getting under his guy and pushing him back into the runner but he's got no help since Roh gave ground to a double. That's tough.
O48 1 10 Near half-flex 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Floyd 11
Kovacs again is supposed to have the pitchman; this time the WR releases downfield a bit, then cracks down on him. Floyd(-1) doesn't read this until it's way too late. RPS -1.
M41 1 10 Flexbone big 4-4 under Pass N/A PA waggle drag Gordon 18
This looks like a flood play but really there's just one WR this ever goes to. The guy who took Avery deep on a fly route is blocking the whole way. This is part structure(RPS -2), part Gordon(-1, cover -1) sucking way up. Fundamentally he was screwed, though, covering one of two guys.
M23 1 10 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Campbell 4
Campbell(-1) gets cut to the ground and the immediate release of the guard is not punished. Demens doesn't do great here but I'm not sure what he can do. It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, the freshmen are doing better.
M19 2 6 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Campbell 5
Same thing. When your NT is just falling to the ground on the FB dive that goes right behind him the linebackers cannot do anything about it, because they are getting insta-OL in their junk. Campbell -1. Brink(-1) also blown back.
M14 3 1 Flexbone Big Goal line Penalty N/A False start -- -5
Service.
M19 3 6 Near half-flex 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Taylor 7
Same thing: Block Kovacs, exploit crappy corner support. This time it's Taylor(-1) who gives up the corner.
M12 1 10 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A Counter dive Washington 8
Washington(-2) gets blown down the line; Roh(-1) is easily locked out by the LT. Big hole. Demens reads the play and tries to get to it but he's basically screwed. He gets blocked by a guy with a great angle. Morgan(-2) ran himself way out of the play and it's only a superior play from Kovacs(+2, tackling +2) to avoid a block and make a diving ankle tackle that prevents this from being six points.
M4 2 2 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Roh 1
Roh(+1) gets under his guy and pushes him into the running lane. This forces a cutback into Ryan(+0.5) and Demens(+0.5), who tackle for no YAC. Washington(-1) had gotten blown up, FWIW.
M3 3 1 Flexbone 3-wide Goal line Run N/A Outside pitch. Avery -1
AF blows this as the WR to the playside is headhunting Ryan, who's on the LOS and moving upfield at the snap this means he takes a bad angle that 1) immediately tips Avery that this is a run and 2) picks off the flex guy assigned to him. Avery(+1) moves up, forms up, and makes contact two yards behind the LOS. Ryan(+1) flattens the guy assigned to him and flows out to make sure there is no funny business. RPS+1. Putting Ryan on the line made AF go all crazy.
Drive Notes: FG(22), 7-3, 3 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O10 1 10 Flexbone unbalanced 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Bolden 3
Bolden(+0.5) in. He does do better than Demens on this dive, hitting the guard about a yard from the LOS. He loses the battle a bit but does hit the FB directly before falling over backwards. He saves Michigan a yard over Demens, so here's a half-point.
O13 2 7 Ace 4-wide unbalanced 4-3 even Penalty N/A False start -- -5
Service this time.
O8 2 12 Ace twins 4-3 under Pass N/A Waggle out Floyd 6
I think. He's the CB on this side and he is not even in the frame as this completion is made. Hard to tell if it's a good idea because they had to go deep or not. Still... suspicious. Floyd -1, cover -1. Fortunate AF does not execute better here, they could have turned this upfield at the sideline for first down yardage easy. Beyer(-0.5) gave up the corner, FWIW. Pressure -1.
O14 3 6 Flexbone tight 4-3 under Pass N/A Scramble Ryan 4
They fake that effective quick pitch and shoot three WRs the opposite way. Taylor(+1), Bolden(+1), and Ryan(+1), cover these guys... it's dodgy for the former two but they are enough to dissuade a throw, and then they attack at the right moment to prevent Dietz from running for the first. (Cover +3). Taylor came up late, leaving the deeper guy to Gordon and preventing AF from going over the top of these LBs.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 12 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Ace 3-wide 4-4 under Run N/A Counter dive Bolden 4
Bolden is staring right at this and gets no blocker so he just runs right up in the hole, making contact after a yard. That contact is won by the FB, who pushes Bolden over backwards. Clark comes to help finish. A push; Bolden could have done better here but did not screw up an easy play.
O29 2 6 Near half-flex 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Roh -2
Roh(+1) shoves the LT inside and releases into the QB, who has to pitch early. CGordon(+1) is the guy on the edge here and makes a nice open field TFL. AF RT stumbled here, making this easier for Roh.
O27 3 8 Ace trips Nickel even Pass 5 Throwaway Black Inc
Blitz sends Avery and Bolden with Gordon backing out; Black(+1) stunts around and gets through as the RG blocks air. Roh(+1) is coming up the edge as Black chases Dietz out of the pocket and he's all like F this I'm outie. This was a jailbreak [BWS]. (Pressure +3, RPS +2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 6 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O45 1 10 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A Counter power Demens 3
RT is pulling inside of the G here. Ojemudia almost tracks this down from behind but can't quite get there. Black(+0.5) constricts the hole, causing the RT to stumble. Demens(+0.5) is there for a tackle near the LOS.
O48 2 7 Flexbone 4-4 under Pass 4 PA throwaway Roh Inc
Fake pitch into a fake option to the other side and then into a pass attempt. Avery(+1, cover +1) isn't biting on that stuff and the deep route is not immediately open. Roh(+1, pressure +1) then chucks the LT and gets pressure—probably gets held—forcing a throwaway.
O48 3 7 Flexbone Nickel even Run N/A QB draw Roh 14
DTs split too much and give up a running lane; contain should be the name of the game here. Roh, Campbell -1. Now there's trouble as the LBs are pass dropping against blockers. Demens(-1) can't do anything; Morgan is trying to flow into the gap and may be able to make a tackle but one of the downfield blockers for Air Force literally tackles him, reaching out to grab his ankles. RPS -1. This opened up big. Just play it straight when they're in the bone, it's not like their passing game is forcing you into the nickel on third and seven.
O34 1 10 I-Form 3-wide 4-4 under Run N/A Lead zone Morgan 3
Heitzman(-2) gets scooped really badly. Insta-second level means Demens has to fight off a cut block, which he does. Morgan(+1) beats up the blocker on the edge and Gordon(+1) shoots past his, forcing a cutback. Demens could be there but for the DL. Beyer(+0.5) is there, but giving ground; momentum carries Getz for a few yards.
O31 2 7 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A Quick pitch Ryan 7 – 15 Pen
Ryan(-2) chopped to the ground by a cut block, back goes outside of him, no chance for anyone else to do anything about it. Brink was pursuing and may have had a shot. Demens again ate a block from a guy releasing right away; he kept his feet; not sure if there's anything at all he can do to prevent himself from getting hit there. Kovacs(+0.5) beat a block to get to the edge and prevented this from breaking even bigger. At the end of this play, the AF guy who took out Ryan gets up and clearly talks smack to him. Good on you, flexback. AF gets a call for tripping as that OL who cut Demens puts his legs up when Morgan jumps over him. Not relevant to the play.
O40 2 16 Flexbone Big Nickel even Pass 4 Dumpoff Floyd 6
I think Floyd(-1) blows a coverage on the TE here as he is headed for the corner and Floyd turns around and chases him; Gordon(+1) has his back, dropping into that route and preventing it from being thrown. With both of those guys focused on a deeper route the swing underneath opens up for good yardage.
O34 3 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Run N/A Speed option Kovacs 11
RB moves simultaneously with snap; legal. They get out on the corner quick. Ryan is unblocked and optioned off. Morgan(-1) is slashed to the ground. He takes two with him as AF ends up doubling him. Three guys on the edge now: Avery, Kovacs, and Demens. Demens(+0.5) takes a good angle past the guy trying to cut him and is in the area ready for action about four yards downfield; Kovacs(-2) goes upfield of his blocker and loses leverage; Taylor(-1) is aggressive but puts himself right on the sideline and doesn't keep this hole small. Demens flows to tackle, but too late.
O23 1 10 Near half-flex twins 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Ryan 4
Roh shucks past a tackle and then eats a cut block. Demens also gets hit with a block right away, he stays on his feet but he's been shoved away from the POA. Ryan(+2) is alone on the edge with both guys and splits them such that Dietz turns it up and Ryan can tackle him. Washington was coming from behind but fell, Clark pursued from the other end to help tackle. I should probably find a minus on a four yard run but can't. I plead option.
O19 2 6 Offset I-Form 4-4 under Run N/A End around Taylor 12
Dive fake and then a handoff to that guy going in orbit motion. Ryan is looking in the backfied and gets lit up by a receiver cracking down on him. Taylor(-2) is way off despite this being in the redzone and comes up poorly, getting cut to the ground and allowing the back to leap over him. Demens was flowing as soon as he figured out where the ball was going; he can't get to the sideline. RPS -1... hard to figure out how M will defend this.
O7 1 G Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Campbell 2
Campbell(+1) is falling over but in the running lane; RB falls over him. Demens(+0.5) is there to help stop his momentum as well.
O5 2 G Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Refs 5
This is the play where Arena league flex guy is hauling ass at the LOS before the snap and cuts Kovacs to the ground. Demens(-1) gets cut really badly here but once this goes outside Ryan there's no one to fill because Kovacs(-1) got blown up. Refs -2.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-10, 1 min 2nd Q. Hoke should have called a timeout once AF had second and goal with the clock running.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O12 1 10 Near half-flex 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Gordon 14 + 10 pen
So there's still no help on the edge as the flexback is running right at Kovacs(-1), who gets cut. Morgan(-1) also goes down. I don't think that's too much on Kovacs but on Michigan failing to adjust here. The CB has to respect the deep route being run by the WR, Gordon is on the edge, and he has support on the interior—he should take the pitch. Instead he takes QB, again corner is open, big gain. RPS -1. Campbell(-1) gets another holding call for tackling an AF OL, which is why Bolden is running free. Picture-paged.
O36 1 10 Near half-flex tight 4-4 under Run N/A Counter power Bolden 6
RT pulls. A back shoots down onto Clark, cutting him off, and then the RB moves through the backside hole between the NT and Roh. Bolden eats the OL in the hole. Morgan(-1) is gone to the fake; Michigan is fortunate that Ryan(+0.5) reads it and comes down on the RB to tackle as he shoots through the gap. Bolden(+1) did force the RB into Ryan, whether it was intentional or not. Result-based charting. Big hole as Roh and Campbell(-1) got kicked. I get Roh since he's contain on the backside. Not so much Campbell, who ends up father away from the play than two guys lined up outside of him.
O42 2 4 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Bolden 2
Straight ahead at the Roh/Campbell gap. Bolden hits it as fast as possible, they get a couple yards, everyone says that's how that has to go down, next snap. Bolden +0.5 I guess, for keeping this to two yards.
O44 3 2 Flexbone tight 4-4 under Run N/A Counter dive Bolden 3
Again at the same gap, with the LT coming off of Roh to hit Bolden. Contact is made at a yard, but Roh is on the side and Bolden's getting hit so momentum pushes the pile over the line. Another push; this is just what happens unless someone MAKES PLAYS.
O47 1 10 Flexbone 4-4 under Pass 4 Out Taylor Inc
Straight dropback! No pressure(-2), though I understand. AF WR does not sell his route and rounds it off, allowing Taylor(+2, cover +2) to break on the ball and break it up.
O47 2 10 Near half-flex tight 4-4 under Run N/A Counter power Washington 7
Same play they just ran. Clark(+1) actually does a great job to get under the same block he just fell victim to. He comes through it and shoulders Getz, but he's literally shedding this block as he makes contact and can't use his arms. Brink(-1) fights way far upfield; they block Ryan. Washington(-1) is buried. Bolden hits the pulling T right at the LOS but there's just huge amounts of space to both sides of him. He sheds and tackles downfield. Morgan(-1) again misses the T pulling in front of his face.
M46 3 3 Near half-flex 4-4 under Run N/A Quick pitch Morgan 11
Back goes in motion before the snap and they pitch it out; no adjustment from M before the snap. Gordon has to keep leverage and turn it in. He does. Clark(-1) doesn't adjust to the motion and goes upfield, no pursuit. Morgan(-1) starts moving about two steps after the OT flares out and has no shot. He leaps a cut, but the delay is more than enough. Kovacs(-1, tackling -1) isn't going to prevent a first down; his missed tackle adds five or six.
M35 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Pass N/A Waggle cross Taylor 17
Bolden(-2, cover -2) gets utterly lost on the play action and lets this guy get open by ten yards. Yeah, so now they're decisive. Taylor(-2, cover -2) also sucked way up and didn't get depth even when it was clear this was a pass. There's no run threat to his side and he's still flying upfield. Nyet.
M18 1 10 Flexbone Big 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Bolden 3
Campbell cut, ends up on ground, etc. Must be the scheme. Bolden(-0.5) there but not quite decisive enough and misses a tackle, Morgan and Floyd combine to finish the guy as he squeezes through the line.
M15 2 7 Ace twins 4-3 under Pass N/A Waggle hitch Floyd 9
Ojemudia(-1) flows hard down the line and gives up the corner (pressure -2). Floyd has to drop into the corner route and gives up a super easy completion in front of him, but that's a coverage thing—three guys ended up trying to cover one AF player. Cover -2, RPS -1.
M6 1 G I-Form 3-wide 4-4 under Run N/A Lead zone Roh 3
Roh(+1) thrusts playward, getting penetration and keeping the edge; he picks off the FB and forces a cut inside. Bolden(-0.5) gets past a blocker but his angle is not directly at the hole the RB must hit if he's going to be relevant. Ryan(+0.5) is containing but reads the cutback and gets a tackle in. Campbell did get a little penetration. FWIW.
M3 2 G Flexbone Goal line Run N/A FB dive Black 2
Black(+1) immediately hops inside his blocker, and though he falls he forces a cutback. Clark(-1) again just shoulders a defender and starts falling over; he's not there to stand the RB up, and he falls forward for two yards.
M1 3 G Flexbone Goal line Run N/A QB sneak Campbell 0
Campbell(+1) gets lower than two blockers and everyone falls at the LOS, not beyond it; Bolden(+1) is the first of many people to jump on Dietz. Roh(+1) also had a large hand in stalling the momentum of the pile.
M1 4 G Near half-flex tight Goal line Run N/A Quick pitch N/A 1
Michigan sends everybody, and Air Force calls rock to their scissors, shooting Getz outside and getting it easily since Taylor is blitzing. I don't RPS plays like this since you've got to roll the dice to stop them from getting a yard.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-17, 9 min 3rd Q. That's kind of depressing.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Speed option Ross 4
Our first all-freshman LB corps. AF motions a WR to the short side and runs a speed option at three WRs and not much space. Ross(+1) is blitzing with Bolden moving to cover him at the snap. He bowls over the WR who is trying to seal him inside, and the QB cuts up. Heitzman(-0.5) gets significantly delayed by a scoop block and blown off the line so there's a gap for him. Pipkins(+0.5) shot through the line at a crappy angle on the backside and manages to come around and tackle.
O38 2 6 Flexbone unbalanced 4-4 under Pass N/A PA fly Kovacs 32
They show their option and shoot that flexback downfield at Kovacs again. Kovacs is like NOT THIS TIME BUDDY, is determined to get outside of him, and... guy runs right by him. How the hell you're supposed to not have this happen I don't know. I guess you can key on is Roh getting blocked. Yes, in this case. Otherwise, screwed. I have to give him a -2, cover -4, but this is also an RPS -4, the culmination of Michigan's scheme leaving them vulnerable to this. WR is hit over the top with eight yards lead on the nearest defender, but bobbles the ball and falls over, which is the only thing preventing a TD. Picture-paged.
M30 1 10 ??? ??? Run N/A Counter dive ??? 0
I think. They are showing a replay on this down. No idea. Some pluses should be handed out for a zero yard run, and are not.
M30 2 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Pass N/A Waggle scramble CGordon 10
Coverage(+2) is good. Brink(-1) is chasing on the end but he's either slow or not going maximum speed. Either way this opens up more space than the QB should have. Bolden is underneath on a TE. CGordon(-1) roars up late when it becomes clear a scramble is coming but overruns it and gives up more yardage than is necessary.
M20 3 In Flexbone 4-3 under Run N/A FB dive Ross 2
They get it.
M18 1 10 Near half-flex tight Okie Run N/A FB dive Washington 2
Washington(+1) gets some push and impacts the FB with his blocker; Bolden(+0.5) pulls out of the seven man front and tackles unmolested.
M16 2 8 Flexbone big 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Black 2
Oookay. Black(+1) dodges a cut and Ross(+1) again plows a blocker back; those two tackle after the usual two yards.
M14 3 6 Ace 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A QB draw Bolden 6
Michigan stunts, pulling Black around and sealing the intended hole. Bolden(-2) does not read this and sits, waiting for the QB to come through the hole the stunt closes off; he cuts behind where Washington was always going to get sealed off from thanks to the stunt. Black almost makes a saving play after avoiding a cut and coming around but can't; Bolden is not where he needs to be and this breaks for the first down. Ryan, who starts a full three yards behind Bolden, actually makes this tackle.
M8 1 G Flexbone goal line 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Bolden 1
May be a bust as the playside G pulls. FB is running straight at where the G no longer is. Campbell(+0.5) comes under a block and helps tackle with an unblocked Bolden(+0.5) hitting it after a yard.
M7 2 G Offset I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A End around Ross 4
Ross takes one step playside and then bursts upfield as he sees the end around. Too far upfield. He's there to make the tackle but only from the side and just barely. Taylor(+1) provided good support here, getting into the lead blocker at the LOS and turning it in at then numbers. He also helps tackle. Ross gets a push; this was good recognition but that angle needs to be wider so that you're meeting the guy at the LOS instead of chasing him.
M3 3 G Near half-flex unbalanced 4-4 under Run N/A Outside pitch. Taylor 0
A crappy pitch bails M out, but I think they had this stopped. Taylor(+1) held the edge and dodged a cut, and Ross(+0.5) was going flat out for the outside. Bad pitch brings Getz into a ton of bodies and ends it.
M3 4 G Field goal 4-3 under Run N/A Speed option Ryan 2
Michigan leaves their defense on the field and AF still runs the fake. Not a good idea. Ryan(+1) forces it back and Bolden(+0.5) tackles with help.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 28-17, 1 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M39 1 10 Ace trips unbalanced 4-3 under Pass N/A PA fly Taylor Inc
Two deep routes draw man coverage, basically, as Gordon shoots up on the option fake. Taylor(+1, cover +1) is step for step with his guy and probably has a play on the ball if this is accurate enough to be caught; it's not.
M39 2 10 Near half-flex 4-3 even Run N/A Triple option Gordon 7
Same thing. Safety has to worry about getting burned over the top and by the time he commits it's too late. Gordon hops over a cut block but is still way far away from the edge once Ryan forces a pitch. I guess you can key on the OL releasing downfield and get on your horse. Gordon -1.
M32 3 3 Flexbone tight 4-3 even Run N/A Quick pitch Taylor -2
Taylor(+2) comes up hard on this one, smacking a blocker three yards in the backfield at the numbers. Other blockers run by Clark(+1), who delivers a thumping tackle. RPS +1, they were looking for this.
M34 4 5 Near half-flex 4-3 even Run N/A Triple option Gordon 6
Same thing, always. Gordon(-1) does not get outside the flexback, gives up corner, does tackle at the sticks but not enough. Clark is coming so hard from the back on this that if Ryan makes the QB turn up this is a stop, I think.
M28 1 10 Flexbone 4-3 even Pass N/A PA flare N/A Inc
Floyd(+1, cover +1) and Morgan(+1, cover +1) cover their guys, Floyd on a fly route and Morgan recovering from the PA. QB tries to flare it out as a checkdown and misses badly. Possibly thanks to Heitzman(+0.5) getting a nominal amount of pressure.
M28 2 10 Flexbone 4-3 even Run N/A Triple option Floyd 3
Ojemudia(-2) has no idea what he's doing and shoots down inside at the dive back instead of taking the QB. Floyd(+2, tackling +1) shoots by the corner and fills after the QB pitches for no earthly reason. Took a huge mistake by the QB and a great play to not have this break huge. Because the whole defense was going nuts about the dive back.
M25 3 7 Ace 4-wide 4-3 even Pass N/A Slant Morgan 10
Morgan(-1, cover -1) takes a weird bad zone drop and opens this up. OL had cut everyone, so this was coming out immediately or not at all.
M15 1 10 Flexbone 4-3 even Run N/A FB dive Black 6
DL shift does Michigan a disservice here; Black(-1) pops through the line at the wrong spot to do anything about this and LBs can't do anything about it either.
M9 2 4 Flexbone 4-3 even Run N/A Triple option Ojemudia 1
Ojemudia(+1) does hop out on the QB this time. He decides not to pitch for some reason and gets nailed. Pitch looked like a TD, FWIW.
M8 3 3 Flexbone 6-2 over Run N/A Triple option Morgan 8
M finally switches their scheme up, shooting Gordon at the QB from the corner. This forces a pitch. Morgan and Floyd are on the edge against one blocker... Floyd(-1) gets cut and ends up incapacitated at the three and Morgan(-2, tackling -1) overruns the RB entirely. TD.
M3 2pt 2pt Ace twins 4-3 even Pass N/A Waggle TE circle Bolden 3
Roh(-1, pressure -1) sucks up and does not get out on the edge. Bolden(-1, cover -1) also bites hard, so this is easy.
Drive Notes: Touchdown(2pt), 28-25, 12 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 Flexbone 4-3 even Run N/A Triple option N/A 2
Fumbled the dive fake.
O36 2 8 Flexbone tight 4-3 even Pass 4 Scramble Brink 1
One flex back is in a WR stance, so may tip pass. Dive fake and then Dietz drops back. He doesn't like what he sees(cover +1) and scrambles directly upfield. Brink(+1) and Pipkins(+1) collapse on him.
O37 3 7 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Speed option Floyd 13
Three AF players are moving before the snap, which ain't legal. Ross is hauling after this play—he really is decisive—but gets easily cut off by a guy blocking down. Kovacs takes another blocker and Floyd(-1) is one on one on the outside with a motioned flexback; he again gets taken out of the play. RPS -1. Schemed here, mostly. No response from the LBs to the motion.
50 1 10 Near half-flex 4-3 even Run N/A FB dive Campbell 2
Campbell(+1) shoves his blocker backwards and gets to the hole, tackling. C released directly into Ross; Campbell making this play saves a yard or two, an important yard or two.
M48 2 8 Flexbone 4-3 under Run N/A FB dive Roh 3
Campbell over C on this one, play goes behind him. Roh(+1) fights to the hole and helps tackle; Bolden(-0.5) isn't quite authoritative enough with his fill and shoulder-blocks the RB down.
M45 3 5 Flexbone 4-3 even Run N/A Counter dive Ross 2
Woo! Ross(+1) is going forward on the snap, splitting the two guys releasing downfield and blasting the RB at the LOS. Would be two but he does not wrap. Black(+1) ditched a blocker and takes out the pulling G; he uses the Ross-created delay to tackle.
M43 4 3 Near half-flex 4-3 even Run N/A Triple option Clark 0
Michigan stunts. They send Clark upfield and take Black out behind that. Clark(+1) takes out the lead blocker and forces Getz upfield. Black(+1) is now out on the QB, who ends up pitching it forward to a guy right next to him. Black and Ross(+1), who flew right by a blocker en route to the edge, make the stop. RPS +1. The stunt killed it. Way to pull that out at a critical juncture, Mattison.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 31-25, 4 min 4th Q. Okay, so ABC screwed up here and the tape misses the first three plays of this drive. They are INC, 7 yard completion plus 15 roughing the passer, Roh(-1), incomplete (Clark +1 for leaping PBU), and a sideline interference(!) penalty. We pick it up on second and fifteen.
Ln Dn Ds O Form DForm Type Rush Play Player Yards
O37 2 15 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Pass 4 Out Ryan Inc
Roh(+1) gets some pressure after initially getting stopped by the LT; Dietz is rolling out to his side after he dumps the tackle and has to throw. Ryan(+1, cover +1) is in position and breaks to break up a poorly-thrown ball.
O37 3 15 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Run N/A QB draw Clark -2
Mattison is so looking for this, running a stunt that sends Clark(+1) directly into the running lane AF is looking for. Ryan(+1) darted inside the tackle he's stunting and helps tackle. RPS +2.
O35 4 17 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Batted Ryan Inc
Ryan(+2) sets the RT up inside, looks like he's going to burst outside, and then is definitely bursting outside because the RB clunks into the RT. Ryan in, QB has to throw, Ryan knocks it down. (Pressure +2)
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 31-25, 1 min 4th Q. EOG for D.

That could have gone better.

Yeah. I found this reference to what Michigan was doing on The Birddog, the great Navy blog:

The biggest surprise in this game was how poorly Michigan defended the option. They spent most of the game in a 3-deep 4-4, with the safety assigned to the pitch man. Sound familiar? No wonder Air Force was able to move the ball. After playing both Navy and Air Force several times in his career, you’d think that Brady Hoke would have known better.

That link takes you to the Birddog's extensive breakdown of the 2008 Georgia-Georgia Tech game in which the Yellow Jackets broke a long losing streak against the Dawgs by completing one pass for 19 yards… and rushing for 409. In that game, the pitchman was the safety's responsibility, the safety started eating the flexback, and the Jackets looked like Las Vegas for a day. The Birddog chalks this up to old-timey ways to defend the wishbone that time-pressed coaches default to because they aren't up on the ways in which the flexbone makes those defenses invalid.

It's of purely academic interest until Michigan schedules another option team, but the similarities between how UGA defended Tech in 2008 and how Michigan defended Air Force in 2012 are extensive. If you just want to know why Saturday went down like it did, I can't recommend that post enough.

This is already nine thousand words.

Uh-huh.

What I'm saying is could I have some cliffs notes?

Ah so:

Fundamentally, the mechanics of your basic triple option play are the same whether you’re running it out of the wishbone, I-formation, spread, or whatever. Each of these formations, however, imply different overall philosophies. The underlying theme of the wishbone– bringing blockers to the point of attack to support a power running game– is very different than that of the spread. In the spread, you want to stretch the defense, both vertically and from sideline to sideline, in order to create running lanes. You might think these are just platitudes, but they aren’t; this difference, coupled with the threat of the pass, is why wishbone defenses don’t work against the spread option. The spread allows an offensive coordinator to use a greater variety of formations in order to create the space he wants for his ballcarriers. That advantage played a big part in Georgia Tech’s win over Georgia.

Mattison knows he was burned, and we won't see Michigan try this in purely hypothetical future option matchups. But when it came down to crunch time, he did respond.

Oh yes?

Oh, yes. On Air Force's final drive he had the luxury of the Falcons trying a shotgun passing attack but it's still a big plus when you call rock to the opponent's QB draw scissors, and on the even-more-critical final AF drive in their base offense Mattison finally pulled out a variation of his base defense that worked:

Clark bursts upfield and Michigan stunts Black outside, getting both a delay on the QB and a second tackler in space. Also featured is James Ross getting on his horse and doing what James Ross does: running at maximum speed somewhere. I assume there will be moments this year when Ross doing this leaves a tight end wide open, but you can't accuse Ross of being indecisive. If you need to figure out where to eat dinner with 12 people, invite James Ross.

He is in fact the only edge-type person on the—

probably pretty doomy CHART

--chart to not get a negative.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Roh 9 5 4 Size not a problem against Falcons.
Campbell 4.5 7 -2.5 I may have been a little harsh on some early cuts as AF didn't get that many yards on them.
Washington 2.5 5 -2.5 Right, this is more realistic than his Alabama number.
Black 6 1.5 4.5 Some big plays late.
Brink 1 3 -2 Eh.
Ash - - - DNP
Pipkins 1.5 - 1.5 Showed some agility after popping through the line at bad angle
Beyer 0.5 2.5 -2 Clark seemed a lot better.
Heitzman 0.5 2 -1.5 Probably shouldn't be playing yet.
Clark 5 2 3 Too bad impressive PBU not shown by ABC.
Ojemudia 1 3 -2 One bust on QB he got away with.
TOTAL 31.5 31 0.5 Step up from 'Bama; maybe not very telling anyway.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
Morgan 8 10 -2 Faded late after strong start, thus setting up allfrosh.
Demens 2 3.5 -1.5 Poor guy was dodging two blocks a play.
Ryan 13 2.5 10.5 Ran up the score with +4 on final three plays. Option blame fell elsewhere.
C. Gordon 1.5 2 -0.5 Will be viable depth for Ryan.
Ross 4.5 - 4.5 Goes, man, just goes.
Bolden 5.5 6 -0.5 Some nice plays, some getting lost.
Hawthorne - - - DNP.
TOTAL 34.5 24 10.5 Thought these guys did okay considering all the cut blocks
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 3 10 -7 Has always been a terrible run defender, this played into a weakness.
Avery 3 - 3 Did okay before getting pulled with back issue.
Taylor 7 7 0 Had some crappy plays, but also popped up to pop people.
Kovacs 3.5 7 -3.5 Really put in a bind by the scheme.
T. Gordon 3 5 -2 Did not do well compared to Ryan on edge.
Holowell - - - DNP
Wilson - - - Did not chart.
TOTAL 19.5 29 -9.5 No Marlin Jacksons here.
Metrics
Pressure 7 7 0 Not really important.
Coverage 15 15 0 Push good against this kind of offense.
Tackling 6 3 66% AF != Alabama
RPS 7 13 -6 Mattison said as much.

So… I did not get the Demens removal. I thought the DL was pretty scary save Roh, loved Ryan, thought the linebackers were otherwise eh, hated Floyd's run support, was disappointed in the safeties, and think Michigan got outschemed somewhat. Thus Air Force racking it up.

Ryan is so shiny here, but you thought he might be a problem live?

That was probably lingering Argh Ryan bias from last year. He made tackles in space, he was very likely not the guy who had the pitchman at any point except when he was making tackles in space, and he almost singlehandedly ended Air Force's final drive. Bennie Oosterbaan would be proud as soon as he stopped asking why a linebacker was wearing his number.

He also lowered some BOOM:

Note that the alignment there drives the blocking crazy. The WR is trying to crack down on a LB but he's on the line, so the CB knows right away that this is a run, and then the angle he has to take cuts off the guy assigned to Avery.

Ryan did have one ARGH RYAN; other than that he was stellar. Easily Michigan's best defender on the day. 

But Floyd not so much.

No. While he got a lot better in coverage last year—Gibson minus all of the points—he remained a sucky edge defender. Remember bubble screen fiesta by Northwestern? Etc. He is not real good at taking on blocks of any variety. This ends up a Morgan TFL but watch Floyd:

That was a constant occurrence, and it would have been a problem on this play if the QB had made Morgan commit before pitching. It cost Michigan lots of yards on others. On this one he's not even blocked and ends up in the parking lot:

I don't know why they're so far off. I do know that attacking Michigan's corners in the run/screen game has been easy money for a couple years now.

How did Taylor do in his first extended time?

He was uneven, as you might expect. I don't blame him on the easy pitch touchdown Air Force got since he was blitzing at the snap—watch Floyd for confirmation—and got blocked in the back something fierce without a call from this ref crew deathly afraid of throwing a flag on America. Mattison dialed up a risky play in an effort to get a stop and got beat, which is fine on the one yard line. You've got to dial it up somehow.

He did extend a few Air Force drives with rookie mistakes, like this corner route on which he has to know the situation:

That step up is the difference between a completion and getting off the field, and it was made against a stationary tight end three yards downfield on third and twelve. On the other hand, he recovered pretty well there. If Dietz doesn't put it up high he's got a play on it. He's got the athleticism. He needs to learn how to play zone coverage, is all. He might already be better than Floyd at run support.

Demens got pulled but doesn't stand out as terrible above.

No. I'm not sure what he could have done on most of these plays. I mean, the poor guy ended up dealing with multiple blocks for big chunks of the first half:

That is not one but two Air Force blockers who do nothing but go after Demens. No consideration for guys on the line, no one else to block, just Kenny Demens vs The World.

Bolden was okay, but I think maybe Demens doesn't get sucked to the frontside and makes a stop on this play:

That's pretty bad because of the stunt in front of Bolden. That hole frontside is going to get filled by the stunter, and that's something the LB should realize. I didn't see much from Bolden that was option-relevant. Michigan was using their MLBs mostly to nail that FB dive.

Ross showed that maybe there were plays out there to make, but I don't expect Demens to get buried. I also don't expect him to do much unless Michigan starts getting more plays from the DL.

So what about this covered slot thing?

I've never seen anyone do that with the frequency Air Force did, and wanted to know if Mattison was using that stuff as a run key. Answer: yes. Via Heiko:

MGoQuestion: A lot of times Air Force came out with two receivers lined up on the line of scrimmage such that the slot was an ineligible receiver. Do you coach your defense to use that as a run key?

“Yeah. We knew that. We knew that. In fact, if you watched that, you would have seen J.T. Floyd come over to him and know that he didn’t have to drop, and he didn’t. He became another run defender over there.”

Even so I was frustrated a couple times when that happened and the guy over the slot did not react quickly enough to the run. It is possible to pass out of it but the contortions you have to go through are extreme. Nebraska got a corner route TD on it against Southern Miss by not even bothering to move either of the outside WRs. [HT: Smart Football.] We saw the magical journey the covered slot guy went on on the long shoulda-been-TD in Picture Pages.

LOLrefs.

Just astoundingly bad. Here's an Air Force pass play on which not one but two Falcon offensive linemen release downfield:

vlcsnap-2012-09-10-20h32m02s57

Those two guys in the middle of the field are OL. One of them cut-blocked Demens. No flag. I know the packaged plays have made everyone aware that refs will give OL a couple yards, but that's ridiculous. There was that Arena-league touchdown, and Morgan got tackled on a critical third down:

I mean, call it both ways. We're part of America too.

Heroes?

Jake Ryan and James Ross.

Goats?

Floyd's run support, Mattison's antiquated approach to defending the flexbone option, the D-tackles (somewhat), and the safeties (somewhat).

What does it mean for UMass and the future?

Not a whole lot since option has just slid off the schedule. However: I think Taylor will have some rough spots but come through okay. He's an athlete. Ross is going to get more playing time until such time as his hypercaffeinated ways get Michigan burned, and possibly beyond that. Jake Ryan is developing as well as Michigan fans had hoped.

Still feeling pretty ominous about the line, unfortunately, but a lot of Air Force's success is not replicable by other teams. Since Alabama is way up there, UMass way down there, and Air Force way out there, our first read on how this defense is going to play against humans comes against Notre Dame.

Upon Further Review 2012: Defense vs Alabama

Upon Further Review 2012: Defense vs Alabama

Submitted by Brian on September 6th, 2012 at 2:47 PM

Formation notes: Nothing unusual. Here's a kitten in some marshmallows.

cute-kitten-marshmellows_large[1]

Substitution notes: On the line we got a ton of people: the starting four (Roh-Campbell-Washington-Black), Ash, Pipkins, Beyer, and Brink. James Ross rotated through both MLB and WLB, replacing Demens or Morgan on about half the drives. Cam Gordon saw a few snaps in place of Ryan.

In the secondary, Michigan first moved Gordon down to nickel and brought in Jarrod Wilson. After the long touchdown on Avery they brought in Raymon Taylor as a one for one replacement for Countess.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Ace 3-wide Nickel even Run N/A Inside zone Morgan 1
Michigan comes out with their nickel, moving Kovacs down into the box. Line is Ryan-Campbell-Roh-Beyer. Campbell(-1) and Roh(-1) get blown a yard or two off the ball Demens(+2) and Morgan(+2) have to flow very hard very fast; they do so, meeting linemen near the LOS before they can fully disengage. Demens gets outside his man and forces it back to Morgan; Campbell is also there.
O26 2 9 Shotgun empty Okie Pass 5 Hitch Floyd Inc
Ryan (+0.5, RPS +1, pressure +2) gets a free run off the edge. McCarron has to throw immediately and does to Lacy; dropped. Floyd looked like he was in okay coverage.
O26 3 9 Shotgun 2-back Nickel even Pass 4 Throwaway Ryan Inc
Morgan shows blitz, backs out. Michigan stunts; Ryan(+2) ducks inside the LT and runs through a crappy chip from the RB, getting pressure(+2) right up the middle as Black(+0.5) comes around the outside to contain. McCarron chucks it away.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O39 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Counter Iso Demens 9
Countess gone now. Kovacs rolled up for an eighth guy. The second TE is lined up as an h-back on the boundary and roars up in a gap. Demens(-2) eats him two yards downfield and lets him outside; Morgan(-1) gets lost on the counter action. Roh(+0.5) had disengaged and tackles; could have tackled near the LOS if Demens hadn't gotten blown up.
O48 2 1 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 2
Michigan slants away from the play, sending Ryan as they pull Black off the LOS. Roh(+1) ends up slanting into a double and gets buried, but holds up okay and does not allow anyone to get on the LBs. Demens(+1) flows into the hole next to Roh and gets a diving tackle on Lacy as he leaps; Morgan(-1) gets caught up in Roh's trash and cannot help. Otherwise this could be no gain.
50 1 10 Ace 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5? Waggle hitch Avery 7
I think this was a blitz the PA screwed up. There is no one on the edge(pressure -1) as McCarron turns, and it's an easy pitch and catch for him. Avery in coverage, not that close, does tackle on the catch.
M43 2 3 Ace 4-3 under Penalty -- False start -- -5
you gonna die now kid saban's gonna eat you
M48 3 8 Ace 4-wide 4-3 even Pass 5 Seam Floyd 19
Ryan gets dragged way out in to the slot. Play goes to the other side anyway. Michigan sends both LBs, dropping off Black short. Kovacs(-2, cover -2) goes for a chuck on the interior WR and doesn't get much; the routes are all past Black's little drop-off and the blitz is slow (Demens -0.5, Morgan -0.5, pressure -1); McCarron sees the big gap in the middle of the defense and hits it. Floyd tackles; he really had no choice here but to split the two WRs running in his zone and tackle. Kovacs has to get depth here as his man goes vertical. RPS -1.
M29 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Lead zone Demens 14
Floyd rolled up. Michigan slants away from the playside again, which means the line gets sealed inside. The LBs have to be hauling ass. Demens(-1) gets caught up in a lineman who is falling as he releases, but is releasing on the snap so that is tough. Have to have some DL make a play. . Morgan is trying to reach but wasn't done any favors by his DL; Roh(-2) and Ryan(-2) end up getting blown back two yards by single blocks and Morgan ends up in a pile of bodies. Gordon comes up to keep leverage and is kicked by the FB; thanks to Demens there is no one Gordon is funneling to. Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) comes up to make a nice openfield tackle to prevent a TD. RPS -1; slant made things tough.
M15 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Lead zone Roh 5
Morgan(-1) rushes at the LOS on some sort of blitz and gets chopped to the ground again. Roh(-1) gets blown out of his lane by his blocker. Brink(-1) also chopped to the ground on the backside. Washington(+0.5) actually gets some push and forces Yeldon into a relatively small hole. Demens is one on one with a guard and can't do much more than a helpless dive at feet. Gordon(+0.5, tackling +1) fills well.
M10 2 5 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Ash 5
Ash at NT. He's blown up(-2); Morgan(-1) is thumped backwards by the FB. Demens had no chance thanks to Ash getting blown up so fast.. They comboed him like it was nothing.
M5 1 G I-Form Big Goal line Run N/A Lead zone Heitzman 3
Michigan just chucking guys out there, anybody. Heitzman(-2) hurled to the ground and pancaked. This is the gap. Demens(+0.5) gets a good thwack on the FB at the LOS and forces it back inside, would be a no gain if that DE could just not die immediately. Guy who hurls Heitzman to ground then gets out on Morgan(-0.5); Black actually makes the tackle near the goal line.
M2 2 G I-Form Big Goal line Pass N/A PA TE corner Ryan 2
Ryan(-1, cover -1), loses the TE on the PA, but you can't blame him much.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 7 min 1st Q. Ugh, turn out the lights. Pick a DL, he got his ass kicked.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O33 1 10 Ace 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 PA throwaway Gordon? Inc
Ross has already replaced Morgan. Wilson playing FS. So much for no freshmen. Coverage(+2) is good off the PA; McCarron can't find anyone, at which point Ryan and Beyer are getting some pressure. He backs out and throws it away.
O33 2 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Demens 16
Morgan back. M slants again. This gets the two DL past their blockers; Morgan(+1) flows hard to the cutback lane these guys just vacated. Center comes out on him but he's at the LOS already and has funneled. Demens(-2) sits and waits for the ball, getting blocked by a fullback three gaps away from the play. Campbell(-2) didn't help by getting pushed past the play.
O49 1 10 I-Form 4-3 even Pass 5 PA fly Avery 51
Play action. All day for McCarron (pressure -2); Avery (-3, cover -3) falls on the double move and guy is wide open.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-14, 5 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M17 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Fly Floyd Inc
Overthrown and OOB. Floyd might have had a play.
M17 2 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Campbell 8
Pipkins in. Roh(+0.5) does a nice job to fight upfield of his guy at the numbers and force it back. Michigan has slanted to the boundary; Campbell's(-2) quickness gets him past his guy, and then he takes a terrible angle that is not along the LOS, so when the RB cuts back he's got a lane. Linebackers nowhere near the cutback, which I don't get since the line is slanting. They get swallowed.
M9 3 2 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Roh 9
Demens(+1) thunders into the FB at the LOS and forces a cut. There is one because Roh(-2) fought out of his gap and got shoved back; Floyd(-1, tackling -1) whiffs on Lacy afterwards. Mattison: "One of the touchdowns, for example, where Floyd missed the tackle in the hole, which would have been a two-yard gain, and he got a touchdown on it. Craig Roh just tried to make the play inside and should have stayed outside."
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-21, 1 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 Ace twins 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Ross 50
Nobody takes the C gap to the field. The line again slants to the boundary, and get under their guys. Penetration. Black is containing to the outside. Neither linebacker goes to the hole the line is funneling them to. Ross(-3), Morgan(-2), Kovacs(-0.5, tackling -1) for missing a tough tackle but not keeping leverage, Gordon(-1, tackling -1) for whiffing as he comes up, Taylor (-1, tackling -1) for whiffing, Ryan(-0.5, tackling -1) why am I doing this
M26 1 10 whatever whatever Penalty N/A False start -- -5
death
M31 1 15 Ace 3-wide Okie Run N/A Inside zone Morgan -3
M seven across the front, and they send six with Ross dropping off to clean up. Ryan gets upfield and forces it back, but he's way upfield, I don't think that's ideal. Beyer(+1) gets a little penetration and cuts off a cutoff lane the RB thinks about. Morgan(+2) beats a block and surges upfield as RB tries to break outside the tackles. RPS +1
M34 2 18 Ace 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 Scramble Roh 15 – 15 pen
Roh(+1) fights inside the tackle and his held, but no call; hold makes him fall. This spooks McCarron and Beyer(+1) coming around the outside flushes him totally. Contain is broken and McCarron gets a bunch of yards, but the missed hold probably made that possible. Bama guy gets a PF for hitting Floyd in the head at the end of the play. Refs -1.
M34 3 18 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Screen -- 26
Michigan gets RPSed hard(-3), sending everyone to the same side they blitz on. Yeldon has a free first down.
M8 1 G I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Lead zone Morgan 4
Again the slant, again LBs not flowing. Ross(+0.5) at least tears ass. Into a blocker, but okay. He pushes some guys back and makes the hole smaller. Kovacs cuts off the lead blocker and maintains leverage; Morgan(-1) slows up inexplicably and can only make contact from the side. Gordon(+0.5, tackling +1) meets him at the same time, preventing this from getting to the two.
M4 2 G Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Fade Avery Inc
OOB
M4 3 G Shotgun 3-wide Okie Pass 6 Throwaway N/A Inc
Michigan sends the house and gets free rushers(pressure +2, RPS +1). McCarron chucks it away. This should be grounding, as he's in the pocket.
Drive Notes: FG, 0-24, 10 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O47 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Cross N/A Inc
No pressure (-2); decent coverage(+2) and a checkdown. With Ryan coming up probably a 4-6 yard gain if caught; dropped.
O47 2 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Counter Ross 7
Big gap on the backside as the line slides towards the TEs. Alabama pulls one to the back, which neither LB reads, and kicks Black. Brink(-1) is blown up. Ross(-1) and Demens(-1) are gone. Kovacs is nominally in the box and comes down to tackle(+0.5, +1) as Hart breaks into the second level.
M46 3 3 Shotgun empty 4-3 under Pass 5 Sack Ryan -6
TE standing up a yard or two outside the line points Ryan out but no one picks him up. Ross is sent; Beyer backs out. Ryan(+1) flushes McCarron up into the pocket, where Ross(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5) combine to sack.
Drive Notes: Punt, 5 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Ace twins 4-3 under Run N/A Zone counter Kovacs -2
Not sure what to call this. Looks like standard inside zone blocking; QB flips the handoff around and gives it to the back going to the other side and he's headed backside from the start. Michigan is totally screwed on this with Beyer(-2) fighting inside and losing outside contain but for Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) shooting up past an attempted WR block and making a TFL.
O23 2 12 I-Form twins 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Ryan 3
Ryan (+1) gets into the FB at the LOS to the inside and clogs up the hole; Roh(+1) also fights through a block and ends up taking the pulling guard as well. Lacy slows up, confused, and shows why he'll lose his job to TJ Yeldon by not shooting outside immediately. Michigan should have had a guy there but Demens(-1), unblocked, is just sitting behind the line. The delay allows an unblocked Beyer(+0.5) to tackle near the LOS.
O26 3 9 ??? ??? Run N/A Draw ??? 9
We're watching a close-up of JT Floyd for this whole play.
O35 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Quick out Demens 13
A five yard hitch turns into more as Demens(-1, cover -1) overruns the play.
O48 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Out Floyd 12
No pressure(-2), WR wide open for about 15 (Floyd –1, cover -1). Easy.
M40 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Dumpoff Roh 11
Roh stunts with Beyer and gets into the LT, knocking him back on his heels. LT then tackles him. No call. because Bama needs that kind of help. McCarron scrambles out and dumps it off to Lacy. (Pressure +1, Roh +1, Refs -2) Lacy gets a first down but runs out the clock as he does so. Fumble pops out, because this is when we really need a turnover.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-31, EOH
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Pass 4 Waggle out Gordon 28
Coverage is fine here with Gordon prepped to make a tackle after this guy catches it three yards downfield; Gordon(-2, tackling -2) whiffs, turning this into big yards. Morgan(-1, tackling -1) compounds matters.
O48 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Pipkins 5
Pipkins in at NT. He gets good push(+1), driving the C back a couple yards and constricting any frontside hole. RB has to slow up awkwardly and cut back. Roh(-2) has taken a cut and gets up, then tries to do what he did on the earlier TD by over pursuing and getting out of his lane, opening up the backside. If he's more responsible likely TFL. Ryan then brings Yeldon down after he slices back upfield.
M47 2 5 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Campbell 15
Campbell(-2) ends up shoved two yards downfield and well down the line, opening up a big cutback lane. Pipkins(-1) took an angle too far upfield and helped open it up, too. Demens(+1) does a good job to dodge an attempted cut block and tackles as Yeldon shoots upfield; this is probably a touchdown-saving play.
O38 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 5 PA sack Campbell -16
Coverage(+2) is good, causing McCarron to hesitate. He spooks. Campbell(+2) has blasted the OL's hands down and starts coming around the edge. He has to go even further around as Black is now bull-rushing his guy back, but manages to get all the way around that and run the QB down for a sack. Impressive. (Pressure +2) Washington(+1) also beat a guy and forced a RB up; that's probably the reason for the McCarron spook.
M46 2 26 Ace Nickel even Pass 4 PA scramble -- 4
McCarron has nothing (coverage +2) and despite not getting any pressure just decides to take off. He gets a few.
50 3 22 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Tunnel screen Kovacs 15
Despite only sending four this gets dangerous. The LB to that side is sent and Michigan sends Beyer and Demens to the field; this goes to the boundary. Kovacs attacks this fantastically, getting past an attempted blocker, and... misses the tackle. He does delay the WR considerably, which helps the D rally. I'll give him a pass as this was a tough play. Gordon comes into tackle after a big gain, RPS -2; without that Kovacs play this could have been six. Bama has our screen number in this game.
Drive Notes: Missed FG(52), 7-31, 7 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O47 1 10 Ace twins 4-3 under Run N/A Zone counter Beyer 12
Again the backside DE here fails to keep contain. Beyer(-2) is the culprit. Kovacs is in man coverage and is not very useful; Michigan blitzed Morgan so there is no playside LB (RPS -1). Gordon(-0.5, tackling -1) comes up and misses a tackle but at least slows the guy and keeps leverage. Brink(-1) ended up on the ground, so even if Beyer contains there's a big hole to exploit.
M41 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Demens 8
Brink(-1) is instantly doubled away and sealed; quick G release on Morgan. Morgan(+0.5) gets to the G about a yard downfield and does get outside of him, funneling back; Demens(-2) is slow to the hole and then misses the tackle(-1). Kovacs(-1, tackling -1) also there and spun through.
M33 2 2 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Ash 0
Ash(+2) beats a block by swimming under it and coming back behind the OL so that he's still in the hole. He takes on the lead blocker and forces Lacy to slow up. Demens(+0.5) is free and comes up to hit. Campbell(+0.5) helped out, too.
M33 3 2 I-Form Big 4-3 under Pass N/A Waggle flare -- Inc
McCarron doesn't have it long(cover +1) and tries to flip it to the back leaking out but biffs it. Hard to tell if this makes it.
Drive Notes: FG(51), 7-34, 2 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Lead zone Kovacs 8
M does not adjust to motion (RPS -1) and Black gets sealed inside by the TE. Demens(-2) runs up in that same gap and is sealed by same TE, so it's Kovacs(-1, tackling -1) on the outside with a blocker and a ton of space. Kovacs damn near makes an awesome play but doesn't and loses leverage, so the minus. Black(+0.5) was actually in position to tackle if Kovacs forces it back.
O33 2 2 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Campbell 18
Campbell(-2) drives his man back, but his angle is way too far directly upfield and then he gets cut, falling over. Morgan(-1) and Ross(-1) both got blown up. Black(-1) ran way too far upfield and opened this gap up even further. I screenshotted this. It's turrible by everyone relevant. Long way to go. Long way.
M49 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Lead zone Ross 5
Michigan gets flanked a la MSU last year. Ross(-2) runs straight upfield, eliminating himself. The TE in position doesn't even have to block him, Kovacs gets walled off a bit but does come up to tackle once Floyd provides leverage at the numbers.
M44 2 5 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Pipkins 7
Pipkins(-2) blown up. Ross(-2) runs into his own OL instead of the FB.
M37 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Ross 0
Ross(+1) pops the FB at the LOS and shucks inside. Washington(+1) sheds his block around the LOS and provides a guy in the hole. Cam Gordon comes from behind to help out.
M37 2 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Pass N/A PA TE corner Taylor Inc
Roh(+1, pressure +1) is unblocked and dodges an RB block to get some token pressure that may see McCarron miss long on his TE; Taylor(-1, cover -1) had gotten sucked up on PA and this was open, but not mega-open.
M37 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide Okie Pass 5 Corner Avery Inc
Press coverage, Avery playing inside leverage, gets no chuck, lets slot have a step. Overthrown. Ryan and Roh got decent pressure from the edge, but it's a push.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-34, 12 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O43 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Campbell 3
Washington(+0.5) holds up to a double decently; Campbell(+1) gives ground on a double at first but comes through it after the second guy releases to block Ross(+0.5), who is trying to shoot the gap and at least a little aggressive. Black comes through a block but I'm not sure if I like this or not because if the back is aware enough to cut outside of this it could break big. Back doesn't, instead grinding for a few yards.
O46 2 7 Ace twin TE 4-3 under Pass 5 Waggle TE out Gordon 16
Gordon(-2, cover -2) bites hard on the play action, opening up not only the catch but a ton of YAC. RPS -1.
O38 1 10 Ace twins 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Campbell 11
Campbell(-2) gets clubbed to the ground by a double, which is a super quick release on Ross as a result. Kovacs(+0.5) attacks hard this time—makes me think he has not being doing well all game previous—and gets in for a tackle attempt at the LOS. He misses but at least forces the back away from the gaping hole Campbell left. Ash(-1) also got kicked pretty badly. Campbell could make a tackle now if he wasn't on the ground. Ross fights through his block and... misses a tackle(-1). Taylor comes in from the side to finish it.
O27 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Ash 6
Ash(-2) blown three yards off the ball by a single block from the center. Morgan comes up hard and takes on a G near the LOS, forcing it back, but Ash getting blown up doesn't make that relevant. Ross(-1) also got chopped. If he remains up he could make a tackle at about three yards. Pursuit catches up after a few more.
O21 2 4 I-Form twins 4-3 under Run N/A Power Brink -1
Brink(+2) manages to shoot between the gap left by the pulling guard, aided by the OT's odd decision to flare out on Beyer. He's falling but a couple yards oin the backfield, and tackles(+1) at his feet. Looked well defended otherwise. Heitzman(+0.5) and Washington(+0.5) but like whatevers.
O22 3 5 Shotgun trips TE Okie Pass 6 Fly Floyd Inc (Pen+15)
Mattison's zone blitz gets Roh(+1, pressure +2, RPS +1) in unblocked, forcing McCarron to chuck a hopeful one off his back foot. It is of course dead accurate. Floyd(-2, cover -2) is in good position but just gets outrun and ends up hooking the WR's arm, drawing a legit flag.
O7 1 G Ace twins twin TE 4-3 even Run N/A Inside zone Ross 6
Ross(-1) is sent on a blitz and shoots the gap between two blockers. He goes to the inside, gets shoved, and thus vacates his gap. RB hits gap. Kovacs(-1, tackling -1) gets run over at the five; Morgan has impressively leapt a cut block and manages to get him down before the goal line.
O1 2 G Goal line Goal line Run N/A Iso -- 1
They get it.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-41, 5 min 4th Q. Backups for both teams on the next two drives, charting ceases.

why are you doing this to me

WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME

i'm not doing anything

YES YOU ARE

just leave me alone

CHART

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Roh 7.5 8 -0.5 Surprised he came out this well.
Campbell 3.5 11 -7.5 Minor downgrade at this position.
Washington 3.5 - 3.5 ?!?!?!?!
Black 1 1 0 I guess.
Brink 2 4 -2 Blown up a couple times.
Ash 2 5 -3 See above.
Pipkins 1 3 -2 Etc.
Beyer 2.5 5 -1.5 Etc.
Heitzman 0.5 2 -1.5 Didn't register.
TOTAL 22.5 39 -16.5 erg
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
Morgan 5.5 10 -4.5 And this was the best ILB play!
Demens 6 12.5 -6.5 Seemed marginally worse than Morgan.
Ryan 4.5 3.5 1 I may have not picked up some things he was doing that were bad.
C. Gordon - - - Nothing of note.
Ross 2.5 11 -8.5 Welcome to college.
Bolden - - - Garbage time.
Hawthorne - - - DNP.
TOTAL 18.5 37 -18.5 urgh
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd - 4 -4 Bad PI extended Bama TD drive.
Avery - 3 -3 Big TD on his fall.
Taylor - 3 -3 One long TD on him.
Kovacs 4 5.5 -1.5 Poor day by his standards.
T. Gordon 1 5.5 -4.5 Missed tackles a plague.
Holowell - - - DNP
Wilson - - - Did not chart.
TOTAL 13.5 26.5 -13 Thanks for being inaccurate, Miller.
Metrics
Pressure 12 8 4 Do I hear bright spot?
Coverage 9 13 -4 Could have been worse.
Tackling 5 14 26% This probably could not have been worse.
RPS 3 8 -5 Blitzes exploited a couple times.

So that's a demolition, too. If you want to sanity-check those numbers, Alabama averaged 6.2 YPC while running two-thirds of the time. Other than the Avery fall, Michigan kept the Alabama passing game in decent check, but it doesn't matter when you get crushed that badly on the ground.

I'm shocked that Washington didn't pick up any negatives and can't vouch for that. It may be that there were just other places to run all the time. We'll see what happens this week.

Oy, Campbell.

Yeah. He flashed impressive closing speed to track down McCarron on his sack but unfortunately also vacated lanes like whoah. By the time Yeldon hits this hole, he is behind Desmond Morgan, like literally directly behind him on the field:

And, like… come on, man:

The last-second switch on the defensive line seemed ominous when it was made and even considering the opposition I think that disquiet is confirmed now.

So it was all on the line?

The numbers say no but I have to admit this was hard sledding for me as I tried to figure out what was going wrong. On last year's defense, it was usually a single thing, maybe two things. On certain plays against Alabama it became extremely difficult to pinpoint what was wrong because it seemed like everything was.

So take this Yeldon run.

Michigan is slanting away from the playside blocking, which is going to leave a gap to the outside. Alabama has a lead blocker who kicks a charging Gordon, which is fine for Gordon, as he's turning it upfield at the hash.

Everything else is broken. Three Michigan defenders are on the backside of the play with two Alabama blockers. Then there is a cavern. Roh and Ryan are both clubbed off the ball by single blocks. As a result Demens is slashed to the ground because the OL assigned to him doesn't even have to provide a token double. Morgan is trying to flow to the hole but has to jump over Demens because the lineblob has gotten back to him. Once Yeldon reaches the LOS there is no one to even slow him. He hits the secondary, where Kovacs makes an impressive touchdown-saving tackle on a guy who wasn't even touched before he passed the sticks.

Who is at fault here? That side of the line, definitely. Demens? I mean, he's trying to read in the backfield and he's already got a guy in his legs before the ball is handed off. Morgan? He probably could have taken a more conservative angle… and tried to tackle where Kovacs got him. Trying to judge linebackers under these conditions is trying to find out who's the best guy at reattaching limbs in a field hospital stocked only with Elmer's Glue and old copies of Guns and Ammo. When they just single-block the entire line and roar out on you on the snap, life as a linebacker is a sad, sad existence.

BWS said the linebackers were hesitant.

Yeah, he's right. I'm not saying the linebackers were good—they got hammered numerically—and hesitancy is the main problem to my eyes as well. Here's a very similar defensive call on which the line gets excellent penetration:

This leapt off the screen to both myself and Chris, who focused on it in the above-linked post.

Here your slant closes off most of the holes. Campbell gets shoved past his ideal location, and that's a problem, but watch Morgan and Demens mostly. Morgan is aggressive, getting to the hole at around the LOS and funneling to his defensive partner. Demens then gets blocked by an h-back(!) three gaps away from where the play is. Morgan's at the LOS; Demens is two yards behind it. Is Campbell at fault here? Yes, if he is in the right spot there is no gap in the line.

Did Demens screw up? I think so, but this happened with enough consistency that in an ideal world Michigan wants that to happen so Demens can track down that RB when he has to slow up and awkwardly pick a hole.

Here there isn't going to be one so you need to slam hard into that big gap. How do you know this? You probably don't. Your peripheral vision picks it up and you go, because you have instincts. Or don't, as in this case.

These are what James Ross are supposed to have, yes?

Reportedly, yes. It didn't take him long to leap Joe Bolden and become the #3 LB on the depth chart. He rotated in at both MLB and WLB and did a bunch of stuff wrong but at least was damned decisive about it. Here's a replica of the first play above, the lead zone. This one is still a lost down (four yards on first and goal from the eight) but the differences between Ross and Demens are notable:

WOOOOOO IMMA GET ON MY HORSE AND GOOOOOOOOOO

Ross pounds into the guys at the line and gets himself sealed, but at least the POA is still at the LOS and there isn't a huge body in the way of Morgan. Morgan then takes a false step and can't get to the hole despite this being Yet Another Slant on which cutbacks should be doomed. Watch Morgan slow up as the blocker reaches him despite Campbell being obviously unblocked directly in front of his face. Blocker gets into him a bit and instead of meeting the tailback in that hole, he does it three yards downfield from the side.

So what's the point of all the slanting?

This is one of those things that I still need coaching up on, but IME executing that slant where you pick a gap and get in it is designed to force the tailback into a specific gap your DL are not covering by design. This gap is ideally one-person-sized and can be filled by the nearest LB plugging a FB or leading guard at the LOS. This allows the other LB to play it a little cooler. When the gap is big enough that the back can pick either side of the block the fullback laid down then you need that second linebacker to haul ass, beat the block (which is almost always coming from a difficult angle for the offense to get you on the slant), and finish as a free hitter.

Michigan was getting large gaps without free hitters. Is this on the DL? Or LB? Or both? Hand me the glue and the March 1987 edition—you know, the one with that guy using an AK47 on a bear.

Because, man, the linebackers seem clueless. Michigan slants left on this play, leaving Black as backside contain. the linebackers go… left. so you've got a huge hole you were planning on putting there and honey linebackers don't care.

Long, long way to go. For everybody.

Pipkins?

Was not a step up or down in this environment. Is that good? If you want it to be, I guess. He did force a cutback by getting good push, something we didn't see much else of:

In general, ask again later.

Any unrelated complaints recycled from last year?

Spread punt plz.

vlcsnap-2012-09-03-20h51m14s111_thumb

vlcsnap-2012-09-03-22h41m26s162_thum

I know Hagerup's kicking the dickens out of the ball, but that's all the more reason to get those interior guys gone on the snap. Most of college football probably isn't wrong about this.

Heroes?

Nobody. I don't trust my Washington number.

Goats?

Oh hell let's just move on.

What does it mean for Air Force and beyond?

This made me feel much worse than the offense. Denard flashed greatly improved accuracy, we didn't have Fitz, Alabama is Alabama, etc. Here it's just a complete crapfest. You expect to lose the battle against this OL with Michigan's DL but they got so comprehensively owned that I'm worried this ends up being a harbinger.

Campbell was bad. Campbell is playing because Michigan has no other choice. Campbell can remain bad and not get pulled off the field. There is no reason to think Campbell will ever be not bad, etc. I'm expecting the DL causes Michigan to get gashed by Air Force—like, a lot—and we have an uncomfortable outing Saturday.

Preview 2012: Linebackers

Preview 2012: Linebackers

Submitted by Brian on August 29th, 2012 at 3:02 PM

Previously: Podcast 4.0, the story, quarterback, running back, wide receivers, offensive line, defensive line.

Depth Chart
SLB Yr. MLB Yr. WLB Yr.
Jake Ryan So.* Kenny Demens Sr.* Desmond Morgan So.
Cam Gordon Jr.* Joe Bolden Fr. Brandin Hawthorne Sr.
Royce Jenkins-Stone Fr. Mike Jones Jr.* James Ross Fr.

It's step-up time for the linebacking corps. They return every contributor from a year ago and get freshman-to-sophomore transitions from Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan. Kenny Demens, Cam Gordon, and Brandin Hawthorne are entering their second consecutive years in a sane defense for the first time in their careers and could/should see larger than average leaps in performance.

They will need to be much better. Mike Martin isn't going to bail them out on six plays a game anymore. Ryan Van Bergen isn't walking through that door. Ryan has to become an elite pass rush threat; Demens and Morgan need to take on blockers and funnel to help far more consistently than they did a year ago.

This is well within reach. Now about getting there.

Middle Linebacker

demens-nebraskademens-nw

Rating: 3.5

KENNY DEMENS
SLOWER THAN BLOCKS
eats MSU cut
eats OSU TE
eats him again
FASTER THAN BLOCKS
Minnesota, granted
flow hard son
GOT SOME THUMP
Iowa FB denied
No Coker part 1
BLITZING
blitzing
COVERAGE
line to seam PBU

In 2010, Kenny Demens was not Obi Ezeh, and this was enough. Expectations were sky-high for Demens in 2011 if only because he seemed so much better than Michigan's incumbent that he had to be pretty good. In retrospect, his somewhat disappointing output was always the likely outcome. Like almost everyone else on the defense, Demens had experienced position-coaching chaos and shifted from system to system on a semiannual basis.

Stepping into an entirely different coaching regime naturally meant hesitation, and hesitation was what we got. I put up this extremely scientific pie chart after Eastern Michigan put up 4.5 YPC despite throwing six times:

image_thumb_1241_thumb

We'll talk about the Jake Ryan edge allowance below; here we're fixated on the big red thing labeled "hesitant linebacker play." This was the week after I'd watched Notre Dame's linebackers tear ass after anything that moved, so I may have had a view of proper linebacker play improperly biased towards running your balls off as soon as a guard gives you a direction.

I don't think so, though, as Michigan linebackers were exploited on the edge for much of the year. Blue Seoul captured a Kain Colter option TD in With Pics(!), and while I suppose Carvin Johnson, who Seoul criticizes, could have been more Kovacs-y on the play, he did follow the golden rule of leverage by keeping Colter well inside of him. It's just that there was no one to clean up afterwards:

6231723730_6bb1ffe037[1]6231724246_09ca5bf9d0[1]

Johnson's mistake should have been worth a few yards, but not enough for Northwestern to convert. Earlier he was unable to shut down an outside run that got turned up at the numbers:

6231720430_62d9c3945c[1]

He's even with Hawthorne, who was the backside LB, and well behind nose tackle Mike Martin in his attempt to shut the play down. This is because he took an angle upfield of a blocker on a perimeter run, which is one of those "you better make the damn play" decisions. Demens wasn't close.

Demens got a –4 in that game and was negative the next week against MSU as the Spartans pounded the edges and found Michigan LBs a step slow. Too often Demens did not do what Johnson is managing above, like on this Ed Baker run against MSU. Watch him eat a block and let Baker to the edge:

I know this is not an edge play, but it's symptomatic of the main issue.
You want edge biff? Edge biff.

State couldn't get out to the second level on Hawthorne and he is free. This is a quintessential example of what you hear about the WLB in the under: he often ends up the free hitter because of the configuration of the DL whereas the MLB has to take on a block. Demens takes on a block, loses leverage, does not funnel to his partner, and off Baker goes. This was 60-70% of all the complaining I did about the linebackers last year and my A-#1 bitch about Jonas Mouton. Michigan linebackers aren't good about keeping leverage. (Yet.)

Before and after that, Demens was pretty good between the tackles. He pounded ND for twelve tackles and a +8.5 and was consistently above average late in the year, picking up three straight +4s against Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska before falling back towards zero in the OSU game. Late he started playing faster. His third-and-one stick of Marcus Coker was hands down Michigan's tackle of the year:

Yeah, Kovacs collapsed Alex Carder's lung. He did not stop that truck dead in its tracks. Demens was also the second key on that Braxton Miller rollout against OSU, tracking him to the edge and forming up at the right spot to allow Black to come from behind.

For Demens, it's about playing fast and going hard. Last year Mattison literally played him at nose tackle because he'd rather have Mike Martin blitz; Demens needs to go when he goes, and decide to go more quickly. That should be in reach. He'll be a solid run defender and decent down the seam, but a lack of raw athleticism probably sees him top out at a bit above average.

[hit THE JUMP for Bolden as Samson, Jake Ryan(!), and Desmond Morgan]

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-16-12: Brady Hoke

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-16-12: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on August 16th, 2012 at 9:27 PM

Programming note: Due to a poorly timed (but awesome) vacation, I was in California for the last several days. That's why Ace had to cover for me at Media Day and why *Jedi handwave* there was no coordinator presser on Tuesday. I'm back to provide uninterrupted coverage from here on out, though, so feel free to get off your tenterhooks.

News bullets and other important things:

  • Just completed 14th practice; did some scrimmaging.
  • Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson, and Erik Gunderson are all practicing at tackle.
  • No decision yet on Fitz Toussaint.
  • Roundtree's chances of returning for Alabama are "good."
  • Matt Wile currently holds a slight edge for the punting job over Will Hagerup and Kenny Allen.
  • Chris Wormley has not yet undergone surgery but will; as expected, will likely miss the entire season.

Brady Hoke

Football was being played.

Opening remarks:

“Thanks for coming. 14th practice, midway point, did some good things, did some things -- playing with a little better speed. I think the fundamentals and techniques that you always go back to. I think the guys are doing a pretty good job with that. I think we have to be more physical on both fronts. That’s not nearly solved yet for how we need to play, but for the 14th day, this is really grind right now and it should be because of the schedule that they’ve been on. You have to see how they respond. They responded pretty well to some situational things this afternoon, but as far as being ready for September 1st, we have a long way to go.”

By situational, do you mean scrimmage?

“It’s a little bit situations. You know, just give as many -- not a lot of plays, but enough to hear some football and those kinds of things.”

When do you plan to have a full scrimmage?

“Not until Saturday.”

Just wanted to ask about a couple Alabama guys: their QB McCarron and nose guard Williams. Thoughts?

“Well I mean, I think McCarron’s done a great job leading their football team. National championship quarterback. Plays with a lot of poise. The run game, he gets them in and out of the right places. They run the ball. He’s a very good leader. He seems to be on the field for them. Williams is a guy who’s disruptive. Somebody will have to contend with [him]. They have 10 teammates on each side of the ball, so they’re really part of a very good football team.”

Have you identified any backup tackles to Lewan and Schofield?

“You know, I don’t know. All those guys -- Ben Braden’s taken some snaps, Gunderson’s taken some snaps, Erik Magnuson’s taken some snaps. I don’t know I’d identify anybody who was it, I’d be honest with you, yet.”

Is it concerning that you have true freshmen at those positions?

“Yeah, always is. But it’s always -- those guys have to grow up fast. All of them are smart guys, and they’re coachable, so they’ll be okay.”

How many freshmen do you anticipate having in the two-deep on the offensive line?

“On the line? Oh maybe three. Maybe four.”

You didn’t get to spend much time with the freshmen earlier because they were in classes. What about now?

“Well they got out on Tuesday and today’s Thursday, so you still, from a learning and being comfortable with the terminology and what they’re asked to do, I think that part of it’s still early. I think they get through this week and into next week a little bit. You have a better idea. Can they play fast? Can they play with poise? Can they play with great technique? All those things are a part of it.”

Does anyone catch your attention in a positive way?

“Uh, you know, I would probably say they’re all -- I think they’re all working hard. I think they’re all eager. I think the talent level, the athleticism stuff is kind of what we’re looking at -- I don’t know. Not yet.”

Has Desmond Morgan made a leap this fall?

“Yeah, I think he did from spring and I think he has in the fall. I think he had a very good summer. He’s a driven, young man. And a very competitive person. I think the improvement of how he reacts -- he’s pretty instinctive. That’s why Yyu play as a freshman, because you’re an instinctive person and football player. And he’s pretty instinctive. I think the strength gains that he’s made, he’s a more powerful football player, linebacker.”

When do you make decisions on walk-ons getting scholarships?

“No we haven’t done that. It depends sometime before school starts if we’re thinking about that or if we have the scholarships.”

Are you thinking about it this year?

“Sometime before school starts.”

How has Fitz looked, and are you closer to making a decision on him yet?

“I have not, and he’s out there like the others running around.”

How do you plan to build cohesion as an offensive line while rotating three guys at left guard?

“What we’ll do is take a big part of scrimmage, practice situations, and keep playing a guy there so that there’s a comfort level between the left tackle and the center. I think Taylor can play basically with anybody because of his experience, and he knows more what to do. So that part of it, he’s pretty good so he doesn’t have to worry about himself as much as he does that guard.”

Has he been sort of an on-the-field coach?

“Yeah, he’s done a nice job. He’s done a nice job.”

When would you like to identify a starting offensive line?

“Oh, ten -- ten days before probably.”

Is that a rough guess? Why ten days?

“I think, you know, some continuity that we try to build consistently, but I think that’s part of it.”

Chris Wormley tore his ACL.

“Mmhmm.”

Has he had/will he have surgery?

“No. He has not and he will.”

When?

“Sometime in the near future.”

How did he sustain the injury?

“Just playing football.”

Any plans to redshirt him?

“Most likely he’ll miss the year.”

You have three guys competing for the punting job. Has anyone stood out yet?

“You know, not really. I would give right now -- probably Wile had the better day. But we’ve got to be consistent day in and day out. Today I thought Matt stroked it pretty well. I didn’t think Will was as consistent, but he was better than he has been. Both of those guys were a little bit behind because they didn’t get as many reps during the summer, so I think they’re catching up.”

How confident are you with playing an inexperienced guy like Jerald Robinson, who has reportedly been standing out at the receiver position, on September 1st?

“I think we’ve got to put enough pressure on him and get him out of his comfort zone that you test them as best you can, and he’s got to go out there and do it. I mean there’s no other way besides going out there on that stage and doing it. We can put him on situations and test him and make him uncomfortable and see how he reacts. But at the same time, he’s just got to do it.”

What would you do to get him out of his comfort zone?

“Well you give him a lot of reps. You see how he reacts when he gets tired. You do some things coverage wise to beat him up at the line of scrimmage. Just trying to get him a little bit out of the comfort level.”

How is Roundtree doing, and what are his chances of playing the first week?

“He’s doing great.”

Chances?

“I think they’re good.”

What is the clearing process for him to get back on the field?

“Him feeling better and the doctor feeling good and comfortable about it.”

Do you check up on him every day?

“Yeah he’s with a rehab specialist every day. We obviously communicate.”

What’s he doing physically at this point?

“With the rehab -- ”

Just that?

“Yeah.”

Has JT Floyd progressed since last season, and how has his chemistry with Blake Countess developed?

“Well I think there’s a chemistry before JT and Blake. I think they push each other. I think the consistency is always something that we’ve got to keep having out there. That’s kind of a position where you’re on the island, everybody sees it when you falter, but I think they both improved. I think they both worked very hard.”

How do Blake and JT differ?

“That’s a good question. JT’s a little rangier, a little longer-armed, a little taller. I would say Blake’s probably a little more physical, you know, of the two. I think JT showed some physicalness a year ago, too. ”

Do you think that they feed off each other?

“Yeah I think so. I think that and Tom Gordon and Kovacs. Kovacs [is] kind of the field general, and it’s part of being a safety. I think they feed really well [off] each other.”

Can you get a sense for what kind of team you are 14 practices in?

“No.”

Can you characterize anything about it so far?

“You know, we’ve got a lot we need to improve on.”

Do you like what you’re getting out of the seniors?

“They’re doing a good job.”

----------------BONUS PARAPHRASED PLAYER INTERVIEWS!----------------

Brennen Beyer

  • Likes his new position, prefers it to OLB.
  • Technique-wise working on bull rush and a couple other moves.
  • Says defense's strength is "technique." Weakness is "toughness." Needs to be "tougher."

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

Desmond Morgan

  • Father is a high school coach -- used to give him a bunch of pointers on technique, but now just watches the games as a fan.
  • Family attends every game.
  • Second year in defense, is picking up visual cues faster and therefore playing faster. 

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

Vincent Smith

  • Fitz's absence and return didn't affect running back practice. Fitz basically picked up where he left off. 
  • No sense of cutthroat competition between running backs -- they're all brothers and support each other.

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

JT Floyd

  • Loves watching film. Craziest place to watch film? In the shower. Did it multiple times last season.
  • I brought up the fact that he had only allowed one touchdown to opposing teams' No. 1 receivers all last season.
    [Paraphrased] 
    Floyd: "Which one? I just want to test you."
    Me: "The Iowa guy? McNutt? It was either him or DeVier Posey." [I didn't remember exactly, but it was Posey.]
    Floyd: "McNutt didn't score a touchdown on me!"
  • Awesome.

Michigan Museday Matches Nickels and Dimes

Michigan Museday Matches Nickels and Dimes

Submitted by Seth on August 15th, 2012 at 9:44 AM

Personnel

Background image by mgouser hillhaus

A thing I noticed this offseason while going over the depth and usage of various Michigan defenders is that Mattison used a lot more nickel than we gave him credit for. One thing Ace noted was that we're (finally) recruiting more cornerbacks. We shrugged a bit while losing two more CBs to playing time transferitis this fall, but I don't think we should be shrugging so much.

A little background (skip this if you already know personnel terminology and usage): Defensive coaches tend to match their personnel to the types of players on the field for the offense, NOT the formation. In general the number of backs and tight ends will be matched by linebackers, and the more that come out for receivers the more DBs the defense will send out. Three wide receivers generally means five defensive backs (i.e. nickel), two wide receivers equals four DBs (e.g. 4-3 or 3-4), etc.

The classic personnel shift is on 3rd and long, when the steady rock-pounders make way for the seven-yards-or-bust fellas. But it happens so often despite the situation that it's more accurate to see the game of matching personnel as another strategic aspect of the master's football game.

The offensive personnel is usually expressed in three digits meaning # of RBs, # of tight ends, and # of receivers, respectively. So 113 means 1 RB, 1 TE, and three WRs. Sometimes they'll call that same "eleven" personnel, referring to the first two digits. Examples below; click embiggerates.

Not different:

Personnel113-shotgunPersonnel113-iform

Different:

Personnel212-iformPersonnel221-iform5-3

How the matching up occurs is up to the coach. You could, for example, play a run-first OLB whenever a fullback is in, and sub him for a more rangy linebacker when the the fullback runs off the field for a tight end who's a known receiving threat. This happens all the time, but it's hard to track the defenses' reactions since we can't tell one linebacker in a formation from another in UFR. We do have data from which we can determine how many receivers were out there at any given time, and it's clear from these data that the more receivers the more defensive backs.

From the UFR defensive database, Michigan in 2011 was no exception:matchingpersonnel

  Avg. Personnel
WRs in Game DL LBs DBs
Four 3.8 2.4 4.7
Three 3.8 2.5 4.7
Two 4.0 3.0 4.0
One 4.1 3.3 3.6
None 4.7 3.3 3.0
Average 3.9 2.7 4.4

The last row is important because it shows Michigan left its base 4-3 Under set for an extra defensive back far more often than otherwise, usually at the expense of a linebacker. We didn't go to a nickel every time three receivers stepped on the field, in fact there were 22 plays charted where Mattison put his 4-3 personnel against four-wide (mostly against Northwestern and Purdue). But the charts not only say that Michigan was forced out of its base 4-3 set often; it says we played more Nickel downs than 4-3.6411555271_43a84798f0_o

  Receivers in Formation
Def. Form 4 3 2 1 0 Total
Nickel 121 155 14 1 x 291
4-3 22 34 195 29 x 280
Okie 20 32 2 x x 54
4-4 1 x 6 11 1 19
4-6 x x 10 5 x 15
3-3-5 5 7 1 x x 13
5-3 x x 1 2 1 4
Goal line x 1 x 2 1 4
3-4 1 1 x 1 x 3
6-2 x x 1 1 x 2
Dime-30 1 x x x x 1
Dime-40 x 1 x x x 1
Total 171 231 230 52 3 687

If I remove 4th quarters and all plays that occurred when Michigan was up by more than one score, the 4-3 just barely edges the Nickel, 147 to 140. This isn't opponents trying to play catch-up. It's two things: the personnel that Mattison inherited, and the spread offense forcing Michigan to adapt to it.

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

Why all the nickel and diming? The first part is a story about outside linebacker. Early in the 2011 season Michigan played Brandon Herron and Brandin Hawthorne at WILL, while at SAM we lost Cam Gordon to injury and his backup was a redshirt freshman. That freshman, Jake Ryan, was earning his way toward more playing time, but in the meantime we still had Carvin Johnson taking snaps at free safety while Thomas Gordon was in at the nickel role. Watch what happened at about mid-season:

TACKLESBYGAME

That is Gordon moving to free safety and splitting time with Woolfolk, while the freshmen linebackers had their usages increase. Greater faith in Jake and Des explains some of the variance, however the real story is matching personnel:

Opponent Receivers DBs Difference 4-3 Nickel Okie Other
Western Michigan 3.02 4.68 1.67 15.79% 59.65% 15.79% 8.77%
Notre Dame 3.05 4.49 1.44 25.00% 51.25% 12.50% 11.25%
Eastern Michigan 2.20 3.98 1.78 57.78% 17.78% 4.44% 20.00%
San Diego State 2.51 4.38 1.88 43.21% 44.44% 6.17% 6.17%
Minnesota 2.72 4.36 1.64 50.00% 41.67% 2.78% 5.56%
Northwestern 3.75 4.82 1.07 14.75% 80.33% 0.00% 4.92%
Michigan State 2.36 4.25 1.90 55.93% 32.20% 1.69% 10.17%
Purdue 3.07 4.30 1.24 60.87% 32.61% 0.00% 6.52%
Iowa 2.02 4.04 2.02 64.81% 16.67% 5.56% 12.96%
Illinois 2.83 4.57 1.74 25.71% 52.86% 14.29% 7.14%
Nebraska 2.83 4.28 1.45 37.50% 35.00% 15.00% 12.50%
Ohio State 2.48 4.19 1.71 58.62% 24.14% 12.07% 5.17%
Total 2.75 4.38 1.63 40.76% 42.36% 7.86% 9.02%

I pointed out the two extremes on the schedule with boldation: Northwestern used about twice as many receivers in their formations as Iowa did, but there was a limit to how many defensive backs Michigan would counter with. The nickel served as well for 4 WR as for 3, yet accounted for 4 in 5 plays. However when the opposition went to 2 WR (Iowa), Mattison could spend a majority of the game in the 4-3.

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

When Michigan's on offense. Nothing is out of the ordinary yet, but when we turn the tables and show how defenses have reacted to Michigan's personnel it gets interesting:

Season Avg. Receivers in Formation Avg. DBs in Formation Difference
2008 3.13 4.36 1.2
2009 2.84 4.46 1.6
2010 3.07 3.93 0.9
2011 2.62 4.2 1.6
Total 2.91 4.22 1.3

This is not including anything when Michigan was more than a score down, but the season averages counting everything say about the same thing. I went through the plays and even a few youtubes and yes, in 2010 they played one-high against us despite spreading the field to pass as much as Purdue. Michigan went bigger in 2011, and got more defensive backs, which is counterintuitive except for one factor: opponents in 2010 really really really feared the running game, and tempted Michigan to pass.

treecatching

Okie dokie. | Greg Shamus via ESPN

One more table to break this down by Michigan's opponents last year, 4th quarters and two-plus-score leads excised:

Opponent WRs in formation DBs in formation Difference
Western Michigan 2.41 3.97 1.6
Notre Dame 3.10 4.60 1.5
Eastern Michigan 2.71 4.11 1.4
San Diego State 2.44 4.89 2.4
Minnesota 2.31 3.77 1.5
Northwestern 2.55 3.89 1.3
Michigan State 2.54 4.00 1.5
Purdue 2.53 4.13 1.6
Iowa 2.67 4.08 1.4
Illinois 2.78 4.04 1.3
Nebraska 2.67 4.43 1.8
Ohio State 2.79 4.21 1.4
Total 2.62 4.12 1.5

Nothing really jumps out except perhaps more spread in close games, and SD State's apparent paucity of linebackers (weird—didn't they just have that guy who recruits lots of linebackers there?) Actually that's Charlie Strong's 3-3-5, and the GERG numbers from 2010 are similar due to the same effect.

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

What it means for this year. Alabama and Air Force aren't going to be spread it out—their challenges are elsewhere. However the Big Ten schedule is spread-heavy, with Ohio State joining the ranks of the many-receivered. Due to recent attrition, Michigan goes into 2012 with just six scholarship cornerbacks for three positions that will be filled half the time. It's a good thing the coaching staff has four guys coming in at corner to replace the one expected departure. These days, in order to keep up with the Joneses, that nickelback position has to be considered as much of a starter as, well, a third receiver.

Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: Linebackerites

Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: Linebackerites

Submitted by Seth on July 25th, 2012 at 7:46 AM

IMG_6292
Upchurch|MGoBlog

Previously: Offense, Defensive Line

This goes out to all those young linebackers out there who have given me your letters of intent:

♪ There was Bell, and a Hill, but I never saw them playing
No I never saw depth at all, 'till there was you.
There were safeties who gained weight, and a JUCO straight from Butler
But they were no Obianna Ezeh, 'till there was you.

Oh there were walk-ons, and converted fullbacks, they tell me,
And sweet freshman "Spinners," and Roh at "Quick"…

There was Ken-ny Demens, and a plush-toy Castor face-wash,
But no other linebackers at all, 'till there was you.

Till there was you! ♫

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

Linebacker depth: EXTANT!

This is Part III of the thing where I go over the depth chart and predict what will happen if the starter at any given position is hurt for an extended period of time in 2012: Who goes in?, What's the dropoff?, How do things shuffle?

And this time, there's goods here. There's depth in the SAMs and the WILLs and the MIKEs and the macks and the rovers. Whatayatalk whatayatalk: Where'd-we-get-it? With a Greg who knows the territory! With the jacks from the buckeyes, and the bucks from the mitten, and ROLBs from the overlooked, redshirted, 3-star, buck- and spart-passed over huckleberry bin. Whatayatalk, whatayatalk. Ya can talk, ya can talk, ya can bicker ya can talk, ya can bicker, bicker, bicker, ya can talk all ya want, but it's different than it was!

saturn-puntingzoltanQuickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.

SAM (Strongside Linebacker):

IMG_5182-croppedCGordon6087655821_7877ddac48_o

Starter: Jake Ryan 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Cameron Gordon 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Royce Jenkins-Stone ???, various WDEs

In case of emergency: Jake was a revelation last year as a redshirt freshman who as the season progressed kept giving the coaches less and less excuse to yank him. The nature of his position, which rotates often, and the nature of his cavalier game make it hard to quantify the effective difference of an injury here. By design he's the most replaceable guy on the defense; by the magnitude of his effect when he's in the game, there are few, if any, guys on the team who you'd less like to lose. He was far from perfect—his problems holding the edge led to some ugly things in the Northwestern-Michigan State part of the year—however there were also those times when a "running" quarterback would see this crazy freshman coming inside the edge blocker and think to himself "oh I'm so going around that idiot," only to end up flat on his back 20 yards in the backfield. Nothing was more satisfying to a fan base recovering from Passive 3-3-5 syndrome than seeing this crazed high-necked Viking bellowing something unintelligible at fast-retreating Logan Thomas.

JakeRyanSugarBowlInterview-Heiko

Heiko took this

Cam Gordon is the nominal backup, and since the freshman who played ahead of him last year (Beyer) has made the move to WDE, you would imagine the onetime receiver, onetime epitome of ethereal spring optimism at free safety, and onetime 3-3-5 spinner will have finally settled into a useful something. He spent most of last year with a back injury that gives us precious little information on what he might become. So is C.Gordon a junior stunted by position switches, bad fundamental coaching and injury who's now ready to erupt, or a guy with bad fundamentals doomed to be remembered for that one time he was badly cast in the hero role of a box office flop?

What you want are his credentials for a position that rotates like a train of traveling salesmen; what I've got for you is a barbershop quartet of coaches singing songs about him. One thing they don't say is "platoon." Despite his safety pedigree and safety frame versus Jake Ryan's oft hand-down deployment, the coaches haven't indicated Gordon is a situational backup. The SLB in this defense is supposed to be more like a WDE than the other two linebacker spots, and Cam is not that. On the other hand he seems tailor-made for the side-job of the SLB: covering the guy in the slot.

So I'm saying if Ryan goes down, Michigan probably goes with Gordon and eases off the gas a bit, leaning less on pressure and more on coverage from the position. The real drop-off won't be too severe, as there are other guys who can blitz if the SLB becomes more coverage-oriented, and there are rush options extant. The apparent drop-off will feel like when we lost Marcus Ray—the defense is still the defense but that sense that somebody's about to lose an important body organ will be appreciably depreciated. You'll see Gordon plenty either way.

In case of dire emergency: Well like I said this position rotates. Don't know what will happen with Clark, but if he's in at WDE that means Brennan Beyer can easily reprise his 2011 role over here. Mario Ojemudia could be pressed into service. And any of the freshmen linebackers could end up here. Of the four, I picked Royce Jenkins-Stone as the SAM since Bolden already seems to be the two-deep man at Mike, and Ringer was here for spring practice at Mike, and scouting reports say Ross is a coverage-y WLB-type, while RJS has been described as a raw, blitz-loving knife. That's an SLB. It'd be best if he redshirts to learn how to be the second-most aggressive guy on the defense (WDE is the first) while holding the edge.

MIKE (Middle Linebacker):

IMG_5220IMG_4747

Starter: Kenny Demens 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Joe Bolden 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Who? Mike Jones 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Kaleb Ringer 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, WLBs

In case of emergency: Responding to my size chart in last week's article, TSS started a thread about how Demens, who's listed at 248 on the spring roster (which is a copy of last fall's), has significantly Clipboard02-3more beef than the rest of the linebacking crew. The image above seems to reject the notion that he's the Carl Diggs among the Brackinses; the variability charts for the 2012 linebackers say he's huge (right, via TSS). So I checked the average listed size for a Michigan contributing linebacker since 1993, and it says he made big:

Season Demens M Avg
1st (Freshman-true) 224 225
2nd (Sophomore or RS Fr) 236 228
3rd (Junior or RS Soph) 246 232
4th (Senior or RS Junior) 248 233
5th year Senior 252 238

Most of our starters played over 240 in their 4th or 5th years. Over 230 is where it seems the contributors need to be. And when you look at the depth chart for 2012 there are exactly three dudes who seem likely to fit that description:

MLBs Wt SLBs Wt WLBs Wt
Kenny Demens 248 Jake Ryan 230 Desmond Morgan 220
Joe Bolden 230 Cam Gordon 222 Brandin Hawthorne 214
Mike Jones 224 Royce Jenkins-Stone 215 Antonio Poole 212
Kaleb Ringer 219     James Ross 209

Knock-knock … Orange … yada yada … you have Joe Bolden, the 2012 recruit I am most giggity about, and for good reason. He had the kind of performance as the starter (Demens was wearing that club you see above) in the spring game that makes even the cautious prognosticators say "I think we have something here." Then they pull out the David Harris comparisons.

There's nothing I can really add to the recruiting profile or the lofty expectations except to focus on what he brings to the table right now. That is a guy with freshman-grade Kovacsian play-diagnosis skills that must be tempered by "is a true freshman," plus a lot of range and athleticism that must be tempered by "is probably not strong enough yet to get off blocks." I don't think Demens should be worried about losing his job this year unless he's banged up, however in that eventuality Michigan has something between what Desmond Morgan was last year and a freshman Manti Te'o on hand, and should be just fine. Orange you glad!

In case of dire emergency: The phrase "Who? MIKE JONES!" had a very short meme life on the MGoBoards, and it is the considered hope of every Michigan fan that it should never become the headline of an MGoInjury Roundup or uttered without irony inside Michigan Stadium ever. Before the injury that ruined his 2009 coaches were suggesting he might displace Mouton; alas that seems to have been motivational spring hokum. More hype/hokum was Mattison saying he's an unstoppable speed rusher. We saw Jones a bit while Michigan was killing clock against Minnesota and he looked, um, safety-ish. There is a job for a safety-ish linebacker in this defense—the Will—but there are so many other slight LBs on this roster that tripping the 220-something wire puts you into the mix at middle. I would think before we see Jones start, Morgan would slide down to MLB and Hawthorne become the full-time WLB. While time is running out for Jones, he's not ignorable.

WILL (Weakside Linebacker):

IMG_4732IMG_5224

Starter: Desmond Morgan 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Brandin Hawthorne 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Antonio Poole 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, James Ross ???, MLBs

In case of emergency: You can argue about the stars being low for a sophomore whom I already said was at 3 stars when starting as a true freshman—that was at the end of last year and I expect Des should still be improving exponentially as this season goes on. I also predict this year you'll start seeing more Jake Ryan in him, since everyone from recruiting analysts to coaches have raved about grittiness, something we haven't had the opportunity to see much of just yet. If our next Eckstein McGritsalot loses that opportunity, the safety net is the the safety-like Brandin Hawthorne.

If you have the opportunity to give the coaches one suggestion for 2012, please join the MGoCrusade to have Hawthorne deployed as the WLB when Michigan goes to nickel. Until Morgan emerged in the second half of last year, Hawthorne had lain tenuous claim to defense's most open position. Brandon Herron, the beefy Yang to Brandin's Yin, dropped out of the race after the double-fumble touchdown rally and has graduated. Hawthorne was excellent in coverage, knifed into the backfield for a key stop against Notre Dame, and displayed Pahokeeian speed to all parts of the field … except when a blocker came near.

For you Tiger fans, Hawthorne is the Ramon Santiago of this defense. He is great at what he does, but playing him every down is going to expose his weakness against the run. So what does happen if Des goes down? It's probably Joe Bolden, but with more Hawthorne appearances.

In case of dire emergency: Trouble with capital T, rhymes with P, stands for…oh actually we don't know what we have in Antonio Poole except his name lends itself well to the Music Man theme. Really he's a redshirt freshman who was ignored by Rodriguez but picked up quickly by Hoke. His recruiting profile lists abilities of play diagnosis, tackling, and translating of the Facebook pages of CRex's in-laws. Third on the depth chart is where you'd want a redshirt freshman to be. Anyway if you see Poole that means he's better than expected, or that "dire emergency" includes the MLB depth chart too. Same goes for James Ross, who was at one point the highest rated linebacker of the 2012 uber-haul, and may yet have a long career beside Bolden (Orange!), however he's listed in the vicinity of 200 lbs. and would probably benefit from a redshirt more than Ringer, who was here for Spring ball. Since redshirting a consensus high 4-star is a luxury we haven't had around the linebacking parts in some time, I suggest we take advantage of it.

2011 Preview Review: Defense

2011 Preview Review: Defense

Submitted by Ace on April 25th, 2012 at 2:01 PM


Vastly underrated; properly rated

Previously: The Offense

My look back at Brian's epic 2011 football preview continues with the defense. This one got a lot more interesting than the offense, because despite all the warm fuzzies we felt from the GERG-to-Greg transition*, expecting a jump from the #110 total defense to #17 would have been outrageous. As in get-this-man-a-straitjacket outrageous.

Thankfully, the performance of the defense exceeded all reasonable expectations, and even most of the unreasonable ones. Let's peep last year's predictions, shall we?

--------------------
*Not to mention the Tony-Gibson-to-Anyone-But-Tony-Gibson transition.

Greatest Hits

The move to three-tech won't be an issue [for Ryan Van Bergen]. He played it two years ago and when Michigan went to a four man front last year they stuck him back inside. He's now 290, a three year starter, and a senior. He's a good bet to crack double-digit TFLs and get some All Big Ten mention.

RVB actually ended up at strongside DE, which probably helped him lead the team with 12.5 TFLs. He ended up earning All-Big Ten honorable mention from both the coaches and media and graduating as one of the most beloved Wolverines in recent memory.

Demens will benefit from the move to back to the 4-3 under more than anyone save Craig Roh. With RVB and Martin shielding him from linemen he won't be in nearly as many hopeless situations where he's one-on-one with a guard He should be the team's leading tackler by a healthy margin and see his TFLs skyrocket from the measly 1.5 he managed a year ago.

Michigan's defense will probably be too bad to warrant much All Big Ten consideration, but honorable mention seems reasonable.

A year after inexplicably having to move past not just Obi Ezeh, but converted fullback Mark Moundros, on the depth chart at middle linebacker despite subsequently making it painfully obvious that he should've been the starter all along, Demens had his breakout season.  He led the team with 94 tackles—second was Jordan Kovacs at 75—and saw his TFLs jump to a respectable five. Like Van Bergen, Demens was an all-conference honorable mention.

Even so, [Kovacs's] season was a step forward from obvious liability to "certainly not a liability." Even if he's a walk-on and even if he's obviously small and slow, he should continue improving. He'll be a little less small and slow with another year of conditioning. Being in a coherent defensive system should help put him in positions to make plays. His redshirt year was not spent on the team so he's not as close to his ceiling as your average redshirt junior.

He's not going to be Reggie Nelson. That won't keep him from becoming the first Michigan safety you only hate a little tiny bit since Jamar Adams.

This may still be underselling Kovacs, who took to competent coaching even better than expected and became the team's rock in the secondary, covering for his athletic limitations with usually-impeccable positioning. No, he's not Reggie Nelson, but I don't think you can find a remotely rational Michigan fan who harbors even the tiniest bit of ill will towards Kovacs. Michigan's shocking lack of big plays allowed—both against the pass and the run—can largely be attributed to his play; despite missing a game, Kovacs led the team with 51 solo tackles. He also notched 8 TFLs. All hail Kovacs.

I have the same optimism about this Johnson/Gordon combo that I had last year. This, of course, terrifies me. It seems unnatural to think an unproven Michigan safety could be competent. I like Gordon's agility and tackling, though, and while there will be rough spots early by midseason he should settle into that midlevel safety range like Englemon or Barringer.

This time around, the optimism regarding the free safety position was justified. Thomas Gordon had his share of struggles, especially late in the season, but for the most part he was quite competent. Around here, safety competence is a luxury on par with consistent placekicking.

Sacks almost double from 1.4 per game to 2.4. That would be a move from 98th to around 30th.

Michigan finished with 2.3 sacks per game. That put them at... 29th. Tip o' the cap.

Turnovers forced go from 19 to 27.

Brian's continued insistence that turnover luck would someday go Michigan's way finally paid off; the Wolverines forced 29 turnovers. It also helped that this defense actually tackled people.

EVERYTHING SEEMS WONDERFUL

YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW RIGHT THIS WOULD BE.

Close Enough

Morgan was the MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year based on a wide array of scouting reports that praise his instincts, lateral mobility, and toughnosed hard gritty gritness. I thought he'd have to cool his heels behind Demens for a couple years, but he may get on the field quicker than anyone expected.

No full credit simply because Mike Jones was projected as the starter at WLB, a fact I had completely forgotten about until I looked back at the preview. Morgan ended up playing in 12 games, starting seven (the first being in week two against ND), and finished fifth on the team in tackles.

If [J.T. Floyd] gets a lot better this year it's time to take the Gibson chatter seriously.

This wasn't really a prediction, but... yeah. Tony Gibson minus all of the points.

Beyond Talbott it's true freshmen, but at least there's a horde of them. Maryland's Blake Countess arrives with the most hype and should be the biggest threat to play. (Caveat: last year Cullen Christian arrived with the most hype.)

Points for mentioning Countess as the most likely freshman to see the field. No points for giving him one sentence when he took over the starting job by midseason, especially considering the Christian caveat. As you'll see, the hype that should've surrounded Countess went—justifiably, in the preseason—to Courtney Avery.

Not So Much

Healthy again and less abandoned in the middle of the defense, Martin's numbers should soar. Before the sprain Martin was on pace for 11 TFLs and 4 sacks; after it he got just a half TFL the rest of the year. While the front of the schedule is a bit easier, Martin had 8.5 TFLs and 51 tackles a year ago. Reasonable progression should have gotten him to 11.  Add in further progression plus three DL coaches plus a bit more help on the line plus a free-roaming QB attack role and 15 to 18 TFLs plus a little more QB terror should be within reach. He should be All Big Ten. He might be better.

I hate that I have to put this prediction in this category, but here it is. While Martin was the best player on the defense, his numbers were hampered by having to play the nose; he finished with six TFLs and 3.5 sacks. Despite the lack of statistical production, Martin's efforts were recognized with second-team All-Big Ten honors. He also forced a pitch on a speed option. See you on Sundays, MM.

"Experience" was why [Will Heininger] got the nod; that experience consists of backing Brandon Graham up. In is time on the field he rarely did anything wrong; he rarely did anything right, either. He was a non-factor. As a guy spotting Graham from time to time that's cool, but as a starter or a guy rotating with another equally obscure walk-on that's a recipe for zero production out of a spot that should see its fair share of plays. If this spot averages out as a zero next year that's probably good—and that's not good.

The biggest swing-and-a-miss on the list. Heininger swapped spots with RVB and started all 12 regular-season games at five-tech DT before missing the Sugar Bowl with a foot injury. He exceeded all expectations of a walk-on raised in the shadow of the Big House, proving he could hold his own against Big Ten competition and be a positive force on the interior. After the season, Brian ranked him as the third most siginificant departure on the defense, behind only Martin and Van Bergen. While part of that is due to the remaining depth along the defensive line, I don't think anyone thought Heininger's absence would be felt in such a way.

Brink will play. After mentioning Heininger's experience he said Brink has "practiced very well, played well, been productive" and promised to rotate six guys on the line. Six is a weird number because it means one of Black, Campbell, or Brink is on the fringe. Given the lineups Campbell seems the most likely even though that seems unlikely.

If you're saying "who?" you're probably not alone (though you read this blog, so you probably aren't saying "who?"). Walk-on Nathan Brink was penciled in as the starting SDE at one point in the fall, earning much preseason praise for his unlikely rise up the depth chart. After garnering all that hype, however, he made almost no impact, recording just one tackle while barely seeing the field. He's a prime example of why you must take all offseason practice hype with a grain of salt, especially when said hype involves previously-unknown walk-ons.

We've yet to see the much of the pass-rushing skill that made Roh a top 50 recruit. He's displayed hints of the ability to zip past tackles before they know what hits them when suffered to rush the passer—there's a chance that when he puts hand to ground and is told to let it rip that he goes bonkers. Roh is the biggest X factor on the team. He could end up with anywhere from a half-dozen to twelve sacks.

Playing his third position in three seasons, Roh didn't quite go bonkers, tallying four sacks and eight TFLs. Roh's play still markedly improved from his previous two seasons, but he still hasn't lived up to the sky-high recruiting hype. Much of the blame for that can fall upon the shoulders of Greg Robinson and Co., and we'll see if one last position switch, this time to SDE, finally results in Roh producing double-digit sacks.

In high school, Ryan was an outside linebacker in an actual 3-3-5. As such, he spent a lot of time screaming at the quarterback from angles designed to make life hard for offensive linemen. That's not far off his job in the 4-3 under but it comes with a lot more run responsibility—the SLB has to take on blockers in just the right spot so that he neither lets the play escape contain nor gives him a lane inside too big to shut down. Expect to see him on passing downs but only passing downs this fall.

Ryan became a pleasant early-season surprise when he started against Western Michigan and made his presence felt by batting an Alex Carder pass that Brandon Herron would intercept and return 94 yards to the house. While certainly more of an asset against the pass than the run—his balls-to-the-wall approach was great on blitzes, but not always sound when keeping contain—Ryan proved that he was by far the best option on the strong side. Just one year later, all-conference honors are very much in play.

Assuming he's healthy, another year to learn the position and get bigger should see him improve on his previous form. There is a nonzero chance his earlier performances were not representative of his ability, but the smart money is on Woolfolk being at least average. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him go at the tail end of next year's NFL draft.

Troy Woolfolk's return from the exploding ankle of doom wasn't as triumphant as we all hoped. While he started ten games—six at corner and four at safety—Woolfolk never looked fully comfortable on the field and was supplanted at each position by a younger player (Countess at corner, Gordon at safety). It would be quite a surprise to see him taken in this week's NFL draft.

Courtney Avery busts out. Going into next year people are talking about him as an All Big Ten performer.

After showing much promise as a true freshman, Avery was the obvious candidate to grow into a big-time role as the team's top corner of the present and future. Instead, he started the first two games, then ceded that role to J.T. Floyd, Woolfolk, and eventually Countess. Avery was a solid nickel corner, and should reprise that role in 2012, but his progression wasn't as great as expected.

Craig Roh leads the team in sacks with eight.

Nein. Despite Michigan's impressive rise in team sacks, they were spread pretty evenly across both the D-line and the back seven thanks to Mattison's blitz-happy approach. Ryan Van Bergen paced the team with 5.5, with Jordan Kovacs actually tying Roh for second with four.

Michigan noses just above average in yardage allowed. Advanced metrics have them about 50th.

I know Brian has no complaints about being so hilariously wrong on this one. As noted above, the Wolverines finished 17th in yardage allowed, and they also shot up to sixth (faints) in points allowed. Football Outsiders's FEI metric ranked them as the #16 defense in the country. Despite watching every second of the 2011 season (usually twice), I still have a hard time not believing I'm the victim of an elaborate hoax or a drug experiment gone horribly awry. If you see me waking up in a gutter and GERG is still the defensive coordinator, please do me a favor and run me over with an SUV. Make sure to double-tap, please.

Let's Overreact To: Spring Scrimmage Video!

Let's Overreact To: Spring Scrimmage Video!

Submitted by Brian on March 30th, 2012 at 11:55 AM

Via MGoVideo:

Items of admittedly flimsy substance:

Lots of Rawls. Thomas Rawls is the tailback in most of these sets; Hayes does not appear and Toussaint only gets buried on a flare screen. Rawls mostly gets buried himself. Maybe he's just an excellent vehicle via which to express defensive competence.

Morgan is all over the place. He goes sideline to sideline to thump Rawls on one moderately successful run and generally looks like Michigan's best linebacker. Again, it's one thing to go sideline to sideline against Rawls and another on Toussaint or Smith. Morgan still brings the wood.

Line bits. You can see Chris Bryant acting as the RG on a play where Miller is snapping to Gardner: second unit. Hypothesis: Michigan thinks Mealer can really hack it all of a sudden and is placing the usual pressure on Omameh's job. Either that or they're just getting Bryant some snaps at both guard spots so he's comfortable at either one in case of an injury. There has been a little buzz about Graham Glasgow, the second-team left guard, as well—unrelated to a tandem bike, even.

Also, your second string NT is currently Richard Ash. Not much of a surprise, sure.

Edge defenders. On the play where Gardner escapes Frank Clark pressure to bomb a pass to Jeremy Jackson in the back of the endzone it's the second team OTs—walk-ons—getting smoked. The player coming in from the bottom is redshirt freshman Antonio Poole, which strikes me as odd. He's presumed to be playing WLB, so if he's coming at the left tackle he's either engaged on a seriously long journey from blitz to the quarterback or he's practicing at MLB. (Or SLB, I guess, but I doubt it.)

Adding to the oddness of that play: it really looks like the guy trying to recover on Jackson is #35… Joe Bolden. I am confused about that defense.

Slant. Dime? Denard throws a slant to Gallon immediately in front of Terrence Talbott, who's on the field with Kovacs, Avery, and Countess. People have been talking Talbott up in the recent insidery posts across the web, and that is first-team run he's getting. Michigan seems to have enough depth at corner to consider some dime packages in third and long.

BUBBLE?!?! IS THIS A BUBBLE SCREEN TO DILEO?

image

AL BORGES IS CAPTURED AND HIDDEN SOMEWHERE IN THE MOUNTAINS OF AFGHANISTAN. WE LAUNCH OUR RESCUE AT 0600 SATURDAY.

Black appearance. Looks like Morgan and Black blow up the next play, one of those spring counters Michigan busted out against Minnesota for an unknown reason. Omameh gets beat, which I'd look at as a good sign since we know Omameh is a pretty good Big Ten player, one who has more trouble with strength than quickness. Black's being talked up as a quick penetrator.

Vincent Smith iso from the I. Zero yards. #sameasever. We get a glimpse of Cam Gordon rotating in with the ones on this play, which is good to see after he vanished last year. Smith does dance into the endzone a couple plays later on a power from the gun with #99 blocking—yeah, Michigan's rotating in a fullback wearing 99 now. Meet Paul Gyarmati.

On that play the second team is in. Poole gets on the wrong side of a pulling Barnum, which prevents Bolden from making a tackle. Then a safety I can't identify whiffs as he tries to fill. Bryant doesn't actually end up blocking anyone. Bolden's reaction time was impressive there: if Poole knows what he's doing that's going to be a thump for Bolden at or near the LOS.

Mmmm Denard. Next play is a QB power on which Barnum pulls. The TV always tells me that's a rare thing that can be of great utility to an offense. Barnum gets well downfield and crushes Morgan to the inside, opening up a lane Denard hits for six. Not Morgan's fault. I wish we'd see Demens doing some of the stuff Morgan is in these clips.

…and Morgan gets beat easily on the next play for a Vincent Smith dumpoff TD.

FIN.

WAIT.

BONUS TAKE: From Maize 'n' Blue Nation.

Coaching Clinic Notes: Brady Hoke

Coaching Clinic Notes: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Brian on February 22nd, 2012 at 3:31 PM

NOTE: it proved impossible to communicate what OL coaches were like without swearing more than I usually would in a post not about backboards in the immediate aftermath of last year's Wisconsin game. Keep children and the mad away from this post.

Faced with a difficult choice between seeing the head coach give his stump speech and talk about defensive line coaching and Al Borges talking about creating a play sheet and Michigan's passing concepts, I split the difference: one hour each. If I'd known I was going to get an excellent event recap from the Hoke presentation in my inbox that night I would have gone 100% Borges, but better to have it 3/4ths covered than half.

The emailer's notes follow. I was in the room for the first half of this and will interject some asides where appropriate; first a few general impressions from me.

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

no%20bread[1]world-of-shit[1]

loafs = bad; offensive line coaches, basically

My first exposure to the football coaching subculture was sometimes fascinating, sometimes boring, and full of swearing.

To a certain extent all football coaches emphasize the same things, and they tell you about these things every time. I get it: "loafs" are not tolerated. They are to you as scrubs are to TLC. [blank stares] I would like to move on from this because I have never tried to teach anyone and do not understand that without relentless consistency you do not get the results you want. Football coaches know you would like to move on but the relentless consistency is so ingrained in their nature that they can't help themselves.

Hoke was the most explicit example of this amongst the coaches I've seen over the past couple weeks. His presentation is on proper defensive line technique* and he says "I respect guys who just get into football and won't do all that philosophy stuff," he does a large section on philosophy stuff, and then sort of apologizes for it—only sort of because Hoke has a friendly bravado to him. Very few coaches can escape it.

Most of those guys are offensive line coaches. In a field of insane, profanity-prone sticklers for detail, OL coaches stand out. Collectively they have an air of weary acceptance. The best way to communicate this: a couple of the guys who presented in Grand Rapids have their own OL-specific clinic. Their logo is a mushroom because they're "kept in the dark and eat shit all day."

Funk was the first OL coach I took in so I didn't know how much of an exception he was. He may be the most businesslike individual I've ever perceived. No jokes, no swearing, just explanations.

What Funk shares with the other guys is an arcane language that's half signing, half jargon, half grunting, and I know that adds up to more than 100%. Jets consultant Jim McNally spent an hour talking about where a center's first step should be against a one-technique. He'd put his foot somewhere, say that was horseshit, put his foot somewhere else that you could just perceive was different, and tell you that this would prevent the motherfucker lined up across from you from putting you in a world of shit as long as you did six dozen other things right. But then some other motherfucker would put you in a world of shit some other way so you had to STEP [GRUNT] in this other particular way. A ballet eventually emerged in this quarter-full room as McNally scribbled his hieroglyphics on an overhead projector: step, grunt, swear. Step, grunt, swear. And so on.

So… yeah. Offensive line coaches.

*[Again it's worth mentioning here that Hoke is an outlier amongst head coaches. He still coaches a position. Meanwhile, he seems to have relatively little input on the coordinator-level duties. He is high and low and nowhere in between.]

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

hokesmug

Brady Hoke commands a room. I'd been in The Presence once before, when The UM Club of Ann Arbor invited me to be a panelist for their season kickoff Q&A. He started off with the same call and response he gives the team:

Hoke: YEAR
Team: 132
Hoke: CHAMPIONSHIPS
Team: 42

He then jovially mocks you for being meek little things and asks you to do it again. It's probably the oldest motivational/attention gathering technique in the history of man. He did it to the infinite coaches in the room by saying "GOOD EVENING" until the response was involved enough for him to continue. He does this with the team, obviously.

Over the course of the hour I took in he grabbed a half-dozen people out of the crowd to demonstrate certain things, told everyone to get up and actually get in a stance—this did not work well since the room was packed—and used a former Ball State player he called by a stereotypically defensive line nickname I forget as a proficient dummy. He got his points across, kept attention to him, and tossed off laugh lines with the casual air of a guy in complete control of a room. Which he was. As I noodled on my phone in certain other talks, Hoke's charisma became a more notable thing.

A couple days later eight four-star recruits would agree.

Now on to the email report.

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

HI Brian,

Last night I had the opportunity to hear Coach Hoke speak for 2 hours at a Glazier Clinic in Grand Rapids.  Hoke took the first five minutes to talk a little program philosophy and motivational stuff, he then launched into a very detailed 110 minute talk about D-Line rules/technique/drills/responsibilities.  I thought I would share some various bullets from the night.

Current Personnel

Roh move. Although already mentioned on the Blog, Craig Roh is definitely moving to the 5 tech! Coach hit on this a couple times while discussing drills.  Seemed to hint at Beyer and possibly Ryan moving to WDE?!  [Hint means he mentioned these guys as he was discussing WDE position...again nothing for sure, but just passing along info.]

[ED: I assume Ryan isn't moving to WDE. He probably gets mentioned amongst them because the SLB has a lot of responsibilities similar to the WDE. At the previous clinic Mattison mentioned that M has a defense in which the SLB and WDE essentially swap responsibilities that they ran 80 times last year. As always, SLB and WDE in the 4-3 under aren't that different. Also Ryan was a DE in the even-front nickel package last year.]

Campbell. Big Will came in for a little praise for his size and strength and it sounds like he is a "tremendous" individual, but Hoke didn't make you feel great about Will's chances to contribute at a high level.

Jake Ryan. Came in for some high praise as Coach Hoke called him "an unorthodox football player" and also said he will be a key to the success of the defense here at Michigan.  They showed the clip from the Sugar Bowl where Wilson tries to bounce at the goal line and runs 20 yards backwards then Ryan cleans up.

[ED:

This was one of two late-season plays on which Ryan's shocking upfield acceleration resulted in a big loss. A Taylor Martinez zone read keeper that ended up a TFL was the other.]

Hoke smiles and says, "That's just fun, isn't it?" Hoke went on to tell a story about a connection to the Ryan family and that Jake was interested in SDSU, but Hoke and his staff there never offered.  He then said something to the sound of, "times like this make you feel like a fool, glad we got him now!" 

Obviously. Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen came in for high praise as men who worked hard and set the tone as important Seniors on team #132.  RVB was credited as one of the smartest players on the team, Hoke then said, "Mike is really strong!"  That received a roar of laughs. (Quick side note:  Hoke is a great comedian and has a natural feel for comedic timing. [ED: It's true. He called a guy up to the front of the room to get in a stance, started adjusting him, and then asked if his feet were square. The demonstrator said "more or less"; Hoke repeated it in just the right way and got a roaring laugh from the room. Comedy without a punchline is hard.])

Hoke talked specifically about Martin not getting enough push earlier in the year and how, once he was attacking more, he was unblockable. 

Nathan Brink got a lot of love from Coach Hoke.  He said, "he is a limited athlete, but a tough sucker." Maybe he can add some valuable depth?

Desmond Morgan received some high praise.  However, every time they showed D-Line clips from game film, Des seemed to be out of place or getting killed! Coach Hoke talked about his smarts, strength, and instinct.

[ED: Morgan fared better in the clips from the Mattison session. I figure the bad bits are freshman being freshmen and they expect he'll be a lot better this year. Morgan will not go easily into the night what with the new kids around.]

Quinton Washington got some love from Coach.  He talked about his strength and good feet.  The only set back for Quinton is he is a "pincher bug!"  Meaning he doesn't get his hands inside and get extension.  With three D-Line coaches on staff, you have to get technique right or you will not see the field.  He said "we need Quinton to get this right before September 1st!"

Stories and Comments

0912 MICH2 PHOTO 3 SPORTS 1998
Photo By Frank Ordoñez/ SU's Donovan Mcnabb runs for a 11 yard gain that set up SU's first touchdown in the 1st quarter.

Cross is boss

The McNabb game. Coach Hoke talked about the 98' Syracuse game and mentioned that, "you guys know a guy by the name of Donovan McNabb?  He is just a little bit of good!" He went on to say, "I told Coach Carr that I take all responsibility for the loss."   Hoke talked about the fact that he didn't prepare his linemen properly and he let them down.  Some of this is coach speak, but he is so effectual with his speaking that I felt like he let me down too.  It was salt in the wounds man, salt in the wounds.

[ED: This was presented in the context of returning nine starters from the 1997 defense, which you may remember as pretty  good. Hoke was discussing the algorithm he has his players go through to get to the ball and how he thought his guys had it down after '97; now he teaches it every year without fail. Again we got back to coaches repeating everything for a reason.

nddf2[1]Hall. He talked about James Hall (right) as having the best hands he has ever seen.  He referenced this leading to a great NFL career, although he did mention that great speed/quickness helps!

Jabs. Hoke kept throwing out light hearted jabs at his assistants.  Gave you the feeling that these guys really like each other and work well together.

[ED: as I tweeted out, Borges was talking about how few people were in his clinic and Hoke was telling him "no one cares about offense" before they went on. In actuality both sessions were packed to the gills.]

T-Bone. I was surprised by how detailed he was in all the drills/technique portion.  One of his GAs from Ball State was in attendance, so he had "T-Bone" come up and be his personal dummy for the night.  Hoke repeatedly gave this guy huge shots on every demonstrated punch and extension.  T-Bone was tough, but by the end, he was grimacing each time.  I only include this to show how much Hoke is still a D-Line guy at heart.  He can't hold back and was working up a sweat demonstrating this.

[ED: T-Bone. Of course.]

Ohio. Following the clinic someone was asking him a question about the "Akron State Golden Bobcats" and this gentleman used the full given name of that said team.  Quickly Hoke corrected him and said, "You mean Ohio?" questioning which team the man meant.  I know it might seem played up with the whole "Ohio" thing, but that little interaction made me a bit more proud that he is our coach. 

Tremendous. Overall, there were 11 counts of "tremendous." 

I was very much on the fence about Coach Hoke until his introductory press conference.  Then I remained skeptical throughout the summer and even fall.  After getting to witness this talk on a Thursday night in February with a bunch of overweight D-Line coaches, I am thankful that he is our coach.  You can see why Mattison wanted to coach with him. 

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

So that's Hoke.

Clinic Items: Greg Mattison

Clinic Items: Greg Mattison

Submitted by Brian on February 15th, 2012 at 3:07 PM

mattison-hoke-p1[1]

So I hit up a Glazier Clinic last week. I'm not sure what the etiquette is about actually talking about this stuff since the atmosphere in the room was not at all similar to press conferences in which carefully evaluated non-statements are provided. For instance, at one point Greg Mattison said that "I've never seen such awful technique" than that of the defensive line upon his arrival.

Mattison didn't say anything offensive, but he was very blunt. If he knew someone would be posting about it on the internet he might not have spoken like that, which means I probably shouldn't be in the room. But being in the room was exceedingly useful for me as I try to figure out what people are supposed to be doing on the field. So here's a mostly paraphrased recap that I don't think anyone could possibly get mad at.

I also listened to an hour of Funk after Mattison was done; having missed two hours of table-setting and lingo I had a hard time grabbing anything that I could relate to you. FWIW, Funk's presentation was three hours of inside zone minutiae—I don't think we're dumping zone any time soon. Craig Ross took in the whole thing and provided a few notes that I'll post Friday.

Philosophy

Mattison. Very personable, obviously a veteran of the clinic circuit. At points reminded me of a folk singer in one and only one very specific way: after explaining this formation or this coverage or this defense, he would fire off some zingers, get everyone to laugh, and then continue with business. I can see why he's regarded as a great recruiter.

His interest in teaching was also clear. Occasionally it felt like it was a college class as Mattison asked the room what player X would be doing in a particular situation. That lent a lot of credence to his assertion that one of two primary reasons he came back to college was a desire to "influence young men—that's what we do." (Brady Hoke was the other.)

On message. Mattison kicked the session off with about 30 minutes describing Michigan's philosophy, goals, and motivational techniques before getting into Xs and Os. He started by talking about Hoke; that "the one thing Brady did was bring back what made Michigan what it is." Michigan hasn't been "one of those teams loaded with unbelievable stars" but plays fundamentally sound, tough defense with maximum effort. Etc.

There were then the usual bits about Hoke's "Years: 133, Championships: 42" call-and-response and a statement that the Sugar Bowl was "fine" but he would trade 100 of them for a Big Ten Championship. The rooms say "THE TEAM THE TEAM THE TEAM," of course. The program is on message.

Position switches. As I wrestled with how to handle this various coaches in the room told every-damn-body that Mattison said Brennen Beyer was moving to WDE and Craig Roh to SDE. This was explicitly stated. Adjust the wiki pages.

Helmets to the ball. A major theme: "loafs" are not tolerated and Mattison wants to see the jersey of 10 guys at the end of every play. When he catches a defensive lineman getting passed by another one he asks the kid how fast he is, and when they say "4.7" he says "well that guy must be a 4.3 then."

At the end of the session Mattison was discussing a corner blitz they didn't run much because the corners didn't come hard enough. One of the cut-ups was from the end of the third quarter against OSU. This play:

The coaches' film is a wider shot and emphasized the huge distance Floyd had to make up to catch Miller before the touchdown. Mattison took the opportunity to point out that this was an example of the corners not coming hard enough and gush over Floyd ("I love this kid") in general and specifically as an exemplar of the Michigan philosophy. Floyd's effort led to this:

And that led to a field goal.

Bonus: For those looking for a reason other than blind luck that Michigan recovered 80% of opponent fumbles this year, in practice all incompletions are live balls. Mattison credited this practice for getting players moving towards the ball at all times and being in position to scoop up live balls in actual play.

Technique a priority. This was a feature of both the general philosophical section and the chalk talk. Mattison did not select the cutups himself—that was delegated to a video coordinator—and didn't know exactly what would come up. This made for an interesting dynamic as he evaluated each play live. He repeatedly digressed from his main topic to note the footwork of his linemen: Van Bergen is getting distance with his first step. All of these guys have identical footwork. There was also a long discussion about why your rush end needs to start with his outside foot back when he gets a tight end to him*. Etc.

In the philosophical section he noted that Michigan was probably the only team in the country with a head coach who coaches a position, that nose guard. It was at this point he told the story about Hoke coming to him fuming, saying he "wasn't going to be one of those head coaches who just walk around" and demanding a position group. He took the nose. Zinger: "now… I question why he coached the best player on the team."

Here he also noted that everyone hits the sled every day and that this was not something the previous coaching staff did frequently, if ever. This is where the bit about "I've never seen such awful technique" came in. Pretty much the only thing negative Mattison said was about the state of the team he was handed. Everyone who's surprised raise their hand. That's no one.

The final bit on this: "don't go be a scheme coach, focus on technique."

*[The reason is the biggest threat to the rush end in this situation is getting reached and if the tight end flares out to do so that first step needs to be one that gains him distance, something you can't do while remaining square if your outside foot is to the LOS. Disagreement with this appeared to be a pet peeve of Mattison's.]

Big plays. Obviously a priority just from the play on the field. Section on this concentrated on the secondary, declared the biggest problem with big plays. Hates it when safeties "look like blitzing linebackers" when there is a pile. He wants a cup around the pile and safeties to make tackles at least six yards downfield.

Now, that doesn't mean Jordan Kovacs needs to make a tackle six yards downfield. In this context a safety is a player in a deep zone. This is most often the corners and Gordon/Woolfolk.

Rotation. This is a Hoke thing Mattison was skeptical about: Michigan rotates the entire defense on every play of practice. Run on—snap—run off. This is "not pretty" when your 21st and 22nd best defensive players are going up against the first team offense but builds conditioning and depth and was credited for "saving the team" in the Sugar Bowl when injuries whittled down available defensive linemen to dust. Think Martin and Van Bergen in the third quarter.

Situational

Goal line philosophy. To Mattison it's simple: one zone "you run perfectly" and an all-out pressure.

When they're backed up. Mattison asked the crowd to think of what they are thinking when they've got the other team backed up, and then said "how many of you are thinking 'don't give up a big play'?" Mattison's been there and tries to fight that. Now if you're backed up, "if we have a great run pressure, we're coming after your ass."

This goes here.

Not exactly a run pressure but Michigan is sending all five guys on the line there. "When you have a chance, when they're backed up, go after their ass."

Third down. "For us, we're gonna pressure." Mattison on the end of the Akron State game:

You saw the Ohio game, you probably thought 'this guy is the dumbest sonofabitch in the world' He turned a wide receiver loose against Ohio a couple minutes left in the game.

But we intercepted it on the next play. Did we win? Yes. So we were aggressive and we won. [laughter]

So they'll be aggressive come hell or high water, that's clear.

Scheme

4-3 versus 3-4: THE FINAL WORD. "We'd be here for hours" if someone tried to argue him away from playing the 4-3 under. Said something along the lines of "if you've got that 330 pound nose tackle and your ends and your linebackers, okay, God bless you." I thought of Pipkins—what is Mattison going to do with a 330 pound nose?

Anyway, Greg Mattison will never run a 3-4. End of story.

4-3 under assertions from the man himself. These aren't too different than the things you'll hear about the under when you read up on it on the internet but just to confirm, the basis of the defense:

  • Rush end: "The whole thing is predicated on the rush." Must be a great player, and athlete who can spill power (ie, get into a pulling guard and stop him in his tracks), drop into coverage, and win one-on-one battles with the tight end. All that and he's got to be a ferocious pass rusher. More similar to the SAM linebacker than the SAM is to the ILBs.
  • SAM linebacker. Must not be outflanked either in the run or the pass game. Hugely important not to give himself up one for one on the edge. [Editor's aside: that's something we were talking about a ton early in the year. It got a lot better as the season progressed.]
  • Inside linebackers. The usual: the mike has to be a little bigger, a little stronger, and the will has to be able to adjust to coverage outside of the box. An important difference between the two is the WLB has to be able to run vertically down the seam whereas the MLB can pass his guy off; IIRC this year the guy running down the seam was Demens, not Morgan. Adjustment based on Demens's surprising ability to stick with guys downfield?
  • Nose tackle. Also hugely important. "You cannot win with a weak nose." We should start calling our incoming five star "No Pressure Pipkins" right now.
  • Corners. "Corners are corners" but the field corner (Countess) is not involved with "heavy work" and usually just has to clean up plays that have been strung out. The boundary corner (Floyd) has to be a bigger guy better in run support. It's a seven man front; if you go eight you'd "better have a war daddy" at field corner because he's got to cover an outside receiver with little additional help.

Michigan does not align to strength but rather aligns to field—ie, if you're on the left hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field and if you're on the right hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field. You can flip your tight ends all around and Michigan won't flip in response. I assume the flipping from earlier in the year was a necessary evil as Michigan tried to get everyone up on the new system.

The most important thing. One of the line shifts Michigan runs is called "pirate technique."

Player Notes

Kyle Kalis. Mattison saw one of the St. Ed's guys and mentioned that Michigan had recruited a "real man" out that school, one that "may just maul some of our guys."

brennen-beyer-minnesotaBrennen Beyer. Beyer was talked up like a future star. Reportedly up to 250 pounds and will be given an opportunity to win the WDE job in the spring.

Jake Ryan. Mattison said Michigan was "blessed" at SAM linebacker—probably including Beyer in that assessment—and that Ryan was a major player. A major player they probably wished they didn't have to run out as a freshman, but a major player.

Mattison referenced a particular play against Nebraska on which he lined up on the wrong side of the field. I remember that but I don't think it was against Nebraska; there's no mention of it in the UFR. "Still a lot of coaching to do" with him but it's clear they think he has vast potential.

JT Floyd. As mentioned, Mattison seemed enamored with him. "Love that kid."

Desmond Morgan. Came up on a couple of clips where he ended up clubbing offensive linemen. Mattison said something along the lines of "think he'll hit you?" And "is that good or what? For a little freshman?" It is unknown whether he has ever said "freshman" without preceding it with "little."

Morgan tipped one of the blitzes they run; Mattison mentioned that he told Morgan he'd play three technique if he kept it up. This is a common threat, as…

Kenny Demens. …they literally did this with Demens, playing him at nose so they could have Martin run the blitzes he wasn't coming hard enough on. In contrast, the SAM (Ryan) was called out as a guy who does come hard.

Some secondhand reports that the implication was Demens's job is under threat have filtered out to premium message boards; I did not get that vibe.

Jordan Kovacs. Michigan's "down safety" or "close safety"—I'll stick with strong, FWIW—was "tremendous."

Departing DL. Heininger "really became a football player." Seems like they think they'll miss him. Van Bergen "really, really played" for M and Martin was of course the best player on the team.