Neck Sharpies: The Tunnel Screen of Doom

Neck Sharpies: The Tunnel Screen of Doom

Submitted by Seth on September 13th, 2017 at 8:42 AM

Re-watching Saturday’s game the damage didn’t look so bad—take away Cincy’s illegal picks and we’re down to quibbles about McCray’s position and Kinnel finally taking a bad angle that one time. There was only one play that Michigan didn’t seem to have an answer for, despite Cincy running it SEVEN times: The tunnel screens.

This is not a new problem; Maryland got 103 yards on four of them last year. Did Fickell find a hole in Don Brown’s attack? Was it a certain player? Was Cincy just good at that?

Quickly: WHAT IS: A TUNNEL SCREEN

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 10.02.35 PM

Coincidentally I got this from Kyle Jones of 11W’s Cincinnati preview in 2014

A tunnel screen is kind of the reverse of a bubble: you block outside-in with a slot guy and bring your receiver inside-out. Typically covered linemen will seek to delay an insta-pass rush while uncovered OL release to cut off the second level.

It’s mostly a counter versus an aggressive man defense because you’re punishing linemen from running upfield so far you can squeeze a ballcarrier and his convoy behind them.

However in this game Cincy was doing some odd stuff with it. I’ve listed them by increasing order of weirdness:

1. Get the Ball to Your Athletes

Like Maryland last year, Cincinnati came into this game with a plan to negate their offensive linemen and trust their athletes in space. Michigan for its part refused to back off the pass rushers, or to change up their simple man assignments for this game. Even on the 7th time they see this, Don Brown is not going to give any quarter inside to win a DT spy. He’d rather David Long wind up the Viper:

Bush did as well as you could ask to redirect with a TE cutting his legs out, but Cincy’s RB caught it in stride and accelerated quickly. Long on the other hand was way more hesitant in his turn at trying to woop the OL and ate a block. Kinnel arrived just in time to make this a 4th and 2.

Part of Michigan’s problem with these all day was the screen targets were very precise in their routes and excellent at accelerating with the catch. Running back Mike Boone (above) and slot receiver Kahlil Lewis were Cincy’s best offensive players, and this play was a good way to put them in a position to make that count.

2. Tight End is Blocking a CB Off the Snap Like It’s a Run Play

Here’s the first tunnel screen against Michigan last week and you can watch the tight end motion across and make the key block on the CB (Long) in man coverage on the screen target (Michigan’s in straight-up Cover 1, with Hudson following the TE across rather than switching with Kinnel).

That gives Cincy a TE rather than a slot receiver removing the man in man-to-man coverage.

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You’d like David Long to realize faster what’s happening and attack but that’s asking for him to make a big play.

By the way if you’re wondering if the TE can cut block while the ball is in the air, this is contact within a yard of the line of scrimmage and thus a legal block:

ARTICLE 8. b.Offensive pass interference is contact by a Team A player beyond the neutral zone that interferes with a Team B player during a legal forward pass play in which the forward pass crosses the neutral zone. It is the responsibility of the offensive player to avoid the opponents. It is not offensive pass interference (A.R. 7-3-8-IV, V, X, XV and XVI):

  1. When, after the snap, a Team A ineligible player immediately charges and contacts an opponent at a point not more than one yard beyond the neutral zone and maintains the contact for no more than three yards beyond the neutral zone.

The releasing center’s block on McCray wouldn’t be a legal block if he made contact with McCray, but he is just getting in the way and that too is legal.

image

Hudson is able to recover but now the receiver has momentum and gets 6 yards. Now that it was on tape Cincy eschewed the subterfuge and usually lined up the receiver directly behind the tight end in a stack.

On the second tunnel screen (to the RB) they get Devin Bush playing off coverage, but the TE can still lock onto Long and take him for a ride.

image

I circled the TE’s block on Long this time because this play erroneously made the (mostly legit) list of missed offensive PI plays. But read that same rule above again:

ARTICLE 8. b.Offensive pass interference is contact by a Team A player beyond the neutral zone that interferes with a Team B player during a legal forward pass play in which the forward pass crosses the neutral zone. It is the responsibility of the offensive player to avoid the opponents. It is not offensive pass interference (A.R. 7-3-8-IV, V, X, XV and XVI):

The ball is caught behind the line of scrimmage, which the NCAA defines as a run for downfield blocking purposes. With Long blocked out by a TE it’s now all three interior OL escorting the RB downfield. Two of them are doing what you’d expect: the right guard authoritatively cuts out Devin Bush’s legs to make a lane, and the center is trundling downfield to take out Michigan’s last defender, Tyree Kinnel.

[After the jump: Seth loses his sanity, then we have five more of these]

This Week’s Obsession: Giggity

This Week’s Obsession: Giggity

Submitted by Seth on September 7th, 2017 at 9:12 AM

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[Christopher Cook]

This is our weekly staff roundtable. Readers are always welcome to submit questions.

The Question:

Most encouraging thing you saw this weekend?

The ResponsesNyah-Nyah

BiSB: Two related things struck me on the offensive side of the ball. The first was that the running backs looked really good. In particular, Evans, Higdon, and Isaac all showed good vision, which was a continuation of something we saw in the spring game. Other than the sprint draw to Higdon in the 2nd quarter, it didn't seem like they missed any obvious reads. All three did a good job of pressing the hole and looking for a crease. This was the kind of game that would have seen a number of Michigan backs of recent years get regularly buried in the line. On Saturday, the only TFLs were the ones where the line just gave them nothing to work with, which will happen against a defense like Florida's.

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Ain’t stoppin. [Cook]

The second thing was how consistently Michigan moved the ball. They only had two three-and-outs in the entire game: the first O'Korn series, and the drive with two minutes left in the game where first downs weren't really the point. Other than those two, every Michigan drive in the game (that didn't end with a pick or a the end of the half) either scored points or gained at least 30 yards. After Michigan took a 9-point lead in the middle of the 3rd quarter, they moved the ball 30 yards and pinned Florida at its own 8. Then they moved the ball 51 yards before a false start and a missed field goal. Then they moved the ball 58 yards into the red zone before they missed another field goal. People talk about the offense's ability to "close out" games, and to me, THAT is what that looks like. With that kind of help from the offense, this defense can turn a nine point lead into a stone cold lock. (edited)

[After THE JUMP things make us happy with Florida caveats]

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

Wednesday Presser 9-6-17: Brian Smith

Wednesday Presser 9-6-17: Brian Smith

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 6th, 2017 at 5:00 PM

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[Fuller]

Your guys played pretty well. Talk about how they played.

“Yeah, I thought Josh [Metellus] and Tyree [Kinnel] both did a solid job just overall. Just running to the football, they were aggressive, and I thought we tackled well, so I was happy with the way they played.”

Assignment-wise did you think they pretty good, too?

“Yeah. Assignment-wise I thought we were pretty clean. Communication, didn’t have a lot of issues that way so we’ve just got to keep it going going forward and maintain that same level.”

Tyree yesterday was talking about some plays where him and Khaleke [Hudson] were able to switch spots. What does that add when you’re able to do that?

“I think it helps out a lot. Having Khaleke, he has some experience playing safety. That versatility, being able to move to different places, kind of helps out the defense as a corps when you can get guys lined up and give the offense different looks. I think that helps out.”

What are the looks that change when they switch?

“Well, it depends. I’m not sure exactly what you’re talking about in that case but there are different situations where we can end up in different positions.”

[After THE JUMP: communication clicking, Josh Metellus’ ceiling, and the bygone era in which Don Brown brought… more pressure?]

Unverified Voracity Settles For Usher

Unverified Voracity Settles For Usher

Submitted by Brian on August 17th, 2017 at 12:28 PM

What, you couldn't get Ginuwine? Swoons are in order!

No, you're only embedding this so you can use the "Jim Harbaugh's sick beats" tag.

A Michigan soccer blog. Early days for Michigan Soccer Now, but if you've been frustrated that we don't cover M soccer much since it overlaps with football, they're off to a promising start. Here's a roster overview for the upcoming season.

Get ready for a lot of Fox. I'm still a little leery of FOX broadcasting a bunch of Big Ten games because their coverage feels somehow wrong. I can't explain why. They've cut back on the robots and band shots but it doesn't feel that college-y, I guess?

It matters not, we will be watching it this fall:

Fox and FS1 will be the home of 24 – 27 football games, nine of which will be aired in primetime. Fox will air the football championship game every season.

You’ll see 39-47 men’s basketball games on Fox/FS1 with as many as ten aired on Fox.

Fox will have the first priority of games for much of the football season, although ESPN will get first pick in some weeks. It means you’ll see games like Ohio State-Michigan on Fox rather on ABC.

Michigan is going to be a first pick many weeks. If that means we get Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt or anybody and Spielman I'm totally cool with that. 

Metagame moves. Ian Boyd on "confuse and clobber," which is a pretty good name for Harbaugh's approach even if he's not talking about Michigan directly in this piece except when he's referencing Michigan's comical lack of preparation back during the Horror. The bit relevant to the modern day:

The main idea with this style of offense is to use a variety of formations, sweeps, and multiple ball carriers to obscure the fact that the offense is ultimately just blocking a few base run schemes and to provide easy constraints for the offense to punish the defense with. Rather than using the option, the spread, or the passing game to protect the base runs the offense uses confusion.

Maximizing a market inefficiency

It used to be that when people thought about prototypical football players they thought of guys like running backs and fullbacks. Elite, physical runners and big, burly blockers who lived for the contact of the game. But nowadays the game is increasingly dominated by QBs that can process and make decisions under fire and then deliver the ball down the field through the air to receivers who are processing and making decisions on the fly.

It’s not too terribly difficult for a program like Appalachian State or NC State to load up with multiple solid running backs, nor to find blocking fullbacks and tight ends. It’s even possible to find really good ones because they no longer have as much value at the bigger universities that are only looking for TEs that can run routes.

There could probably be some advantage gained by recruiting good tailbacks and then using something like the I-formation, which is no longer common at all, to feed them the ball. That and great defense is more or less how San Diego State has been winning the Mountain West the last few years. However, that’s not what these teams are doing. Instead they’re utilizing even more old school sets like the old Wing-T combined with modern shotgun, pistol, and spread-option tactics to feature multiple ballcarriers at the same time.

Michigan hasn't been going as far as the schools mentioned in this piece, but they've shown little bits and pieces. This was more prominent last year when the T-formation showed up against Maryland and the second ballcarrier was a fullback taking a trap 30 yards; last year the relative unsuitability of the fullbacks meant that on anything except a one yard dive there was only one potential ballcarrier.

I'll be interested to see if that changes this year. The current vibe is that Michigan's going to look like more of a passing spread, but the versatility of Evans and Isaac—while still currently hypothetical—gives them some options to have two potential ballcarriers on the field simultaneously without removing the possibility of having four efficient receivers in the pattern.

Somewhat boring anonymous coach quotes. SI surveys rivals about the top 25 teams and gets a rather tepid set of responses for Michigan. The most interesting bit is further confirmation that Don Brown will get after you:

They’re so aggressive on defense, whether they’re playing man coverage or in their zone packages and third-down stuff. Don Brown is the most aggressive defensive coordinator I’ve seen in a long time. That system has worked for him for 25 years and he keeps tweaking. Now he’s got a lot of high-level talent and depth. You can get some chunk plays against them because of all the man coverage, but you’ve got to finish drives. They’re stingy in the red zone.

This year will be an acid test for the secondary and Brown's approach. Also in things you already knew stated anonymously, Rashan Gary "will be an All-American."

That is good. John Beilein gets shots up. They are good shots:

That's good news! The bad news: they only got 23% their shots there, which was 346th nationally. They finished with the 7th-highest eFG%, though, so we'll let it slide.

Jabrill is good. Surprise. The Ringer talks to Jabrill Peppers about his weirdly insulting draft process:

He said that “88 percent” of teams hammered him for playing too many positions in his college career and not playing his eventual NFL position—safety—enough. (For his part, Peppers said he doesn’t regret where he played because his Wolverines won a lot of games during his tenure.) A typical conversation with teams during predraft meetings, Peppers told me, went like this: “They said, ‘You do everything. You’re here, you’re here, you’re here. We’re going to play you at one position. How can we be sure that you’re going to master this position?’”

You'd think they'd ask Harbaugh about that, and Harbaugh would have sworn up and down that Peppers would pick it all up. He had one year in Don Brown's system and played both safety and SAM. I mean, cumong man.

A couple corrections to the Florida suspensions. When I posted about the seven guys who will miss the Michigan game I said they wouldn't be impactful outside of Antonio Callaway. Florida's 24/7 site has some additional details. Kadeem Telfort was apparently in the two deep:

Telfort was one of the players that Florida was hoping it could rely on as a key backup at tackle after he enrolled early this spring. He had put together a decent start to fall camp and appeared to be the next guy up at tackle. …Florida's fine if it can stay healthy at tackle against Michigan. If not? Things get dicey very, very quickly.

And don't expect there to be much impact on UF's DE play:

The good news is defensive end is Florida's deepest position. CeCe Jefferson, Jachai Polite and Jabari Zuniga have been three standouts on the edge, while Antonneous Clayton has also shown promising signs of development.

The right tackle gets thrown into the fire against those dudes.

Quinn Hughes is going to be good. A friend has been taking in the USA WJC camp currently going on in Plymouth and reports back that Hughes already looks like a first-pairing defensemen for them. Michigan Hockey Now interviewed him:

The coaches have certainly noticed his skating abilities – “yeah, I think I’ve always been a pretty good skater” – and his comfort level in all three zones. The fact that he grew up playing forward certainly didn’t hurt.

“I was a forward until I was 13,” Hughes said. “Just because my dad was a D and everyone in my family was a D, so I just wanted to be a D. That’s why.” …

“I think everyone says bigger and stronger, that’s what everyone says, but just get better at everything,” Hughes said. “Even work on my academics – I’m going there as a student-athlete, so to work on my academics as well. I think just overall as a person, as a hockey player, just get better at everything I can.”

So did NHL.com:

Despite being one of the younger players for the U.S., he's had little problem keeping up with the pace. His effortless skating and poise with the puck has been obvious, and he's also played well defensively.

"Definitely the first couple shifts the first game you have to get into it," Hughes said. "By now everyone is pretty much caught up. I feel like I've played really good competition [last season] so it feels kind of the same thing." …

With the U.S. looking to replace No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy (Boston Bruins), Hughes could be in line to absorb some of his ice time.

"Offensively absolutely," U.S. coach Bob Motzko said. "Right now we don't have any concerns. The snapshot we have from this week, we're very excited."

He will instantly be the #1 PP QB and probably on the top pairing. Looking forward to it.

Etc.: John Niyo on Michigan's revamped staff. BHGP on the Deadspin SBN thing. Jane Coaston on Colin Kaepernick. Am I a bad person if support NJ.com's petulant FOIA of Michigan's roster? The Stephen A Smith tweets in repose. I did not realize this was an Onion article for about 15 seconds. Coach paranoia is fun.

Neck Sharpies: Don Brown Blitzes IV

Neck Sharpies: Don Brown Blitzes IV

Submitted by Seth on October 11th, 2016 at 12:11 PM

Okay so I’ve talked about this before. Maybe more than once. But Ohio State loves this play, so much that its variations account for 3 of the first 4 plays on Curtis Samuel’s Oklahoma highlight reel (and 2 more are counters off it).

Inverted Veer (again)

This play is called “Inverted Veer” or “Power Read.” It was the staple of the Borges-Denard/Devin fusion cuisine era, because it is the mullet of offensive plays: manball business in the front, spread party in the backfield.

Here’s a basic setup:

image

The offensive line is blocking like power C: block down and pull from the backside, and cave the frontside.

A second after the snap reveals why it’s such a devastating play:

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While a good ol’fashioned zone-read might option a backside defender, inverted veer options the playside end man on the line of scrimmage (EMLOS). That defender is allowed into the backfield and optioned: if he comes up too far, the ball is given to the running back, who accelerates away to the outside—You’ve been EDGED! If the end gets wide to prevent the running back from getting the edge, that opens up room for the quarterback to dive into the gap behind him—You’ve been GASHED!

[Hit THE JUMP for variations, and how Michigan defended this]

Wednesday Presser 9-21-16: Don Brown

Wednesday Presser 9-21-16: Don Brown

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 21st, 2016 at 6:00 PM

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[Fuller/MGoBlog]

“How’s everything goin’?”

Good. How about yourself?

“Good, good.”

You look kinda tired.

“Eh, a lot of early mornings.”

Talk about some of the issues that you guys had the last week with the plays in the passing game.

“We gave up two big pass plays. I mean, those are issues. Obviously we’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to clean it up. Worked really hard in the run game, obviously, coming off the UCF performance. Maybe too hard. I also attribute, you know, we’re still learning how to play this style of defense.

“The good thing is I think our guys have understood enough concept that we’re able to adjust as the game goes on and play much better in the second, third, and fourth quarter. Really disappointed with a fundamental coverage mistake that we made, and I thought there was a 10-play period during the course of the game where we needed to do a better job of tackling.

“Like I told the kids yesterday, all the mistakes belong to me, so if anybody wants to point the responsibility I don’t want them to have any. It’s right here. That’s the way we handle it, and I just tell them I want you to play as hard and as tough as you can and all your mistakes belong to me.”

The stretch of bad tackling: is that because they’re still learning and just--

“I don’t think so, no. Just think we didn’t do a great job. It was a ten-play segment during the course of the game and there were three missed tackles. You know, we were fortunate because the one that resulted in a 48-yard gain we were able to find a way to get off the field and they missed a field goal on one of those opportunities. Thought we settled down and played really well throughout the second quarter.

“We come out and have the bad play in the third quarter. The disappointing thing there is it’s happened to us coming out of the locker room two games in a row, so we’ve got to pay more attention. And one of our goals is a third-quarter shutout, so that’s a disappointing deal.

“I thought we really settled in. What did we give up, 200 yards in the first quarter and basically 100 yards in the second, third, and fourth. What were they, 0-for-12 on third down against our ones and 1-for-whatever counting fourth down. So there’s some things I’m feeling really good about. The best part of it is we were able to make adjustments moving forward as the game kind of progressed. And we’ve been tested with no-huddle, up tempo.

“I think they were faster than UCF. With all credit to Scott Frost; he’s probably one of the fastest guys in the country. And if you watch our tape, and, you know, you can come up and look at it all you want, we’re lined up ready to go every snap. I think we’ve made significant improvements in terms of our sense of urgency to get line up and get ready to play, we just need to play better during stretches. It’s 41 snaps or 46 in the run game against UCF [and] they have 63 yards.

“Now you come back and you’re looking at your deal here, we give up, what, three pass catches. We give up 100-whatever yards of offense. You must be doing a pretty good job during the course of the rest of the game. We just need to make sure we’re totally clean and as I told ya, understand the concepts. But our mistakes belong to me, not the players.”

[After THE JUMP: Don Brown’s defensive disquisition]

Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs Hawaii

Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs Hawaii

Submitted by Brian on September 7th, 2016 at 2:50 PM

HomeSure-Lending_logo_tagSPONSOR NOTES: Homesure Lending returns to sponsor this post, and as a bonus he's sent the blog to Iowa by finding us a block of five together. This will create glorious road trip content. (Matt has stipulated that I clarify he is not to blame if the Iowa game turns out like that stupid triple overtime Penn State game; we have agreed to collectively blame the first commenter on this post.)

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, he is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

PRO FOOTBALL FOCUS NOTES: Good news, everybody: we've purchased PFF's Michigan and opponent data for the season, which will allow us to do a bunch of things previously impractical. We've got snap counts, for one, and their grades, and some drill-down stuff I'll reference when it seems relevant to what I'm saying.

One important disclaimer: I'm not looking at this stuff until I go over the game myself, to prevent confirmation bias.

FORMATION NOTES: Normal Brian is super happy Don Brown is Michigan's defensive coordinator. UFR Brian is frickin' pissed. I'm going to split the next UFR's "Formation" column into "personnel" and "formation" because I give up trying to jam that all into a few words. Even that figures to be insufficient.

About halfway through this game I decided that:

  1. Michigan is a 4-2-5 defense.
  2. Sometimes they run a 3-2-6.
  3. I need a "box" column denoting persons in said box with maybe a .5 for gray area guys.
  4. I need to stop bothering with even-odd stuff since that's not actually important for this level of analysis.

And then momentum carried me through. You improve the most between week one and week two; I'll endeavor to do so.

Anyway. I'm going to try to call out safeties and depth, insofar as this is possible. This is nickel one-high:

4-3 nickel

And this was 4-3 over two high:

base 4-3 over

These are the same personnel packages. Hill is the gray area guy kind of over the slot and Stribling has dropped to be the nominal second safety. Everyone in this secondary has to be able to play multiple roles.

Nickel two high:

cover-2-outside-run-1

And honestly I don't know what to term this:

peppers abort

That is two "safeties" at like six yards. Peppers would bail into a deep zone until he read run, FWIW. Nickel two low, I called it. /shakes fist at Don Brown.

I don't even want to get into the various fronts yet.

PERSONNEL NOTES: Deep breath. The back seven was pretty static and has a clear depth chart. Without Lewis, Stribling (45 snaps) and Clark(51) went just about the whole way until garbage time. Ditto Thomas(54), Hill(54), Peppers(54), McCray(44), and Gedeon(54). Brandon Watson (28 snaps but most of those late) had scattered snaps as a nickel corner on passing downs. Usually Michigan lifted a DL when this happened. Tyree Kinnel did get five snaps before the backups came in en masse.

The backups at all these spots are also clear: Kinnel and Hudson at safety, Long and Lavert Hill at corner, Devin Bush and Wroblewski at LB, File Not Found for Peppers.

The line started out with Wormley, Glasgow, Mone, and Charlton across it. Once Mone was out Michigan played a lot of Matt Godin, and they yanked Chris Wormley early. Gary actually got 32 snaps to Wormley's 27. Winovich went the whole way after Taco exited and actually racked up more DL snaps than anyone else with 40.

About midway through the third quarter Michigan unearthed Lawrence Marshall, Michael Dwumfour, Michael Onwenu, and redshirt junior walk-on Garrett Miller. Miller actually played 21 snaps and graded out well per PFF but at 271 on the roster it is highly unlikely he's going to be a contributor going forward unless things are in the darkest timeline. I didn't grade him well, FWIW.

[After THE JUMP: Viking raiders from across the sea / they've come to plunder you and me / oh no i've been stabbed / but our defense makes me glad]

Neck Sharpies: Don Brown Owns Your Edge

Neck Sharpies: Don Brown Owns Your Edge

Submitted by Seth on September 7th, 2016 at 2:08 PM

The spread-'n-shred was a defensive coordinator's worst nightmare. At BEST a well-run spread offense can be beaten if you can match up talent on talent. Overnight it made obsolete so many long-developed defensive tools that coordinators could use to take advantage of the defense's numeric advantage in the running game. It also took a game that was mostly played between the tackles and moved the action to the edges. Remember those unblockable wide defensive ends who could blast into OTs then come hellfire for quarterbacks? Now imagine having that guy spend most of the game shuffling, unblocked, waiting for the quarterback to do whatever the end didn't. I'm no defensive coordinator, but I'm pretty sure that bugged them. What makes Don Brown a spread's worst nightmare, is he finds ways to get that back.

A few weeks before the season James Light retweeted the above blitz from ND-Boston College last year. It went viral because of course it did. Light also found the All-22 of it:

Let's draw it up!

[After THE JUMP: it's a TRAP. No, a RUN trap! No, Kizer, don't trust it!!!!]

Preview 2016: Five Questions And Five Answers On Defense

Preview 2016: Five Questions And Five Answers On Defense

Submitted by Brian on September 2nd, 2016 at 2:02 PM

Previously: Podcast 8.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive End. Defensive Tackle. Linebacker. Cornerback. Safety. Special Teams. 5Q5A: Offense.

1. Is The Don Brown thing really a big deal?

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[Patrick Barron]

Yes. When he was hired a wide selection of ACC folk whooped with joy and Boston College fans put on their NIN, and the proof is in the pudding. At three different stops over the last seven years, Don Brown has turned middling or worse Power 5 defenses into top 20-ish units, with the most recent one at BC a straight up Murder Castle:

[metrics are yards per play, FEI, and S&P+; national ranks are presented. final column is the average of the three. Bolded years are Brown years.]

Year TEAM YPP FEI S&P+ AVG
2008 Maryland 56 63 75 65
2009 Maryland 87 64 44 65
2010 Maryland 14 20 31 22
2011 Maryland 83 74 102 86
           
2010 UConn 40 40 63 48
2011 UConn 56 23 34 38
2012 UConn 8 22 38 23
2013 UConn 64 56 72 64
           
2012 Boston College 63 81 80 75
2013 Boston College 92 98 80 90
2014 Boston College 30 68 36 45
2015 Boston College 1 5 3 3

That is a hell of a track record. Not only does he improve units way beyond previous expectations, his departure also immediately deleterious to the school he's left. That is highly suggestive of a guy who is a cut above as a tactician and playcaller.

And not to dump on DJ Durkin excessively, but he had close to no track record before his hire at Michigan. Being defensive coordinator under Will Muschamp is an assistant (to the) regional manager job. I think Durkin's going to be a good head coach—he's recruiting like gangbusters already—but there is simply no comparison between Durkin and Brown if you're talking about putting a defense together.

This goes double for the Big Bad at the end of the schedule. Michigan's gotten gashed for years by Ohio State, and last year was no different. A lot of this went directly back to Durkin's simplistic and static approach: man free, man free, man free. Steve Sharik pointed this out after the Indiana gashing:

Why Michigan has been really successful on D this year is b/c it can lock up on receivers, put an excellent, smart safety deep, then play with a man advantage in the box b/c the QB was not a run threat. In some sense, it was throwing rock every single time, believing (like Mickey from Seinfeld) that nothing beats rock. They're not alone.

It is widely known among coaching circles that gurus Bill Belichick and Nick Saban believe that (all else being equal) man-free defense is the best in the game: you're strong up the middle, you're protected deep, and you have an extra defender in the box vs. run.

When you're facing option football (which the NFL never sees), this is a fallacy, and Michigan fell victim on defense last Saturday.

Long story short there was zero adaptation against Ohio State and after halftime it was all over but the grinding.

This will not happen to Don Brown, who has been fighting spread offenses with defenses made out of a sock, a paperclip, and some mint gum for years. Never in Don Brown's career has he been able to sit back with minus one in the box and watch his guys whip it up one-on-one. He's got a ton of different ways to deal with the perimeter issues that Michigan endured a year ago, and spent his entire presentation at Michigan's coaching clinic talking about how to defend the inverted veer and its brethren.

I was straight up terrified about all the rumors about NFL guys under consideration. Every single one of those guy would walk into the OSU game as unprepared as Durkin. Don Brown is the best possible hire for Michigan, not just because he is Don Brown, but because he is the best choice for the Game. Even Brown's average defenses over the past five years have been that because of the pass; five straight years Brown has had a top five rush defense. At UConn and BC.

Don Brown is a huge hire. Huge.

[After THE JUMP: additional strategically located Peppers talk.]

Unverified Voracity Says Up Periscope

Unverified Voracity Says Up Periscope

Submitted by Brian on August 17th, 2016 at 1:02 PM

BTN preview. BTN had their day at Michigan and came back with some video and some nonsense—on the television a person said that Michigan would be running a lot more man coverage, which is a literal impossibility. I'm not doing a recap post this year since specifics were thin; MGoVideo has the show up if you missed it.

The most interesting bit was Howard Griffith and then the rest of the crew advocating for Ben Bredeson to start immediately at left tackle because he is "elite":

Dave Revsine did have a couple of things of interest, including a Rashan Gary-Bredeson battle:

Bredeson got some rep at the UA game as the only guy who could even sort of slow Gary down, and here he sort of slows Gary down. Given the roster tackle reps for Bredeson are an inevitability—he can play it even if it's not an ideal spot and options past the starters are extremely questionable. Sufficient tackle reps to convince onlookers that Bredeson should play now are a bit of a surprise.

A bit more from Revsine:

And yes Gerry DiNardo said some nice things. I can never take them seriously:

"When I saw them in the spring it was like a war at the line of scrimmage. It was what you imagine it looks like at Alabama and all the downhill teams."

"How Michigan football returned to its smashmouth roots" was written before the 2013 season and remains the single least correct thing ever put on paper.

Let's infer things from this still shot. Via Chris Evans:

That appears to be ones versus ones. Items:

  • David Dawson is at right guard. Kyle Kalis was spotted in a non-contact jersey earlier in fall camp so that's probably an injury issue rather than Dawson making a move past an established starter; he appears to be the top backup option at guard.
  • Evans is in an H-back spot, not at tailback, His best fit on offense is as an OSU-style H-back in the vein of Jalin Marshall or last year's version Braxton Miller. While Michigan's offense doesn't have a dedicated spot like that, they did end up with a guy more or less in that role: Jabrill Peppers. With Evans impressing and Peppers around the offense figures to use a hybrid RB/WR guy on a lot of snaps, especially because you can do a lot worse than having De'Veon Smith block for you.
  • Michigan is very spread out across the defensive line and features both Wormley and Gary at defensive end. Wormley is likely to split his snaps close to evenly between DT and DE; reports that Gary will start get another bit of weight to them.
  • Pretty sure that's Peppers man up over a tight end I assume is Butt.

This is a good amount of data from a still shot.

It's a competition. All those #1 jerseys handed out? It's a competition like everything else:

“The one is not really given to me. Right now, I don’t really know what I’m wearing,” Crawford explained at Michigan’s Media Day. “I’m just wearing it right now, so we’ll see. There’s a couple players that want it. Whoever gets on the field first is going to get it.”

The hybrid space player breaks out. Excellent Andy Staples article on Jabrill Peppers and his ilk:

Since 2008, when the NCAA adopted the current clock rules and spawned an era of up-tempo offense, defensive coordinators have tried with little success to devise a system that can match up with an opponent who won't allow the defense time to substitute. The answer, it turns out, wasn't a scheme but a person. What those coordinators were seeking was a human Swiss Army knife, a player who can successfully operate on any of the defense's three levels and move effortlessly among them from play to play. With such a player on the field, a 4–3 base can morph into a 4–2–5 nickel without a single substitution or presnap move to tip off the quarterback. That 4–3 could also transform into (what appears to be) a blitzing 3–4 by walking the hybrid player to the line of scrimmage. Of course, the hybrid doesn't always have to blitz when he drops deep into the box (the area that encompasses the width of the offense's down linemen and extends about five yards beyond the line of scrimmage). He might bail and cover a receiver. Or he could come screaming off the edge faster than any defensive end or linebacker an offensive tackle has ever seen.

BC's Matt Milano, FSU's Derwin James, and Duke's Jeremy Cash are also this variety of hyper athletic linebacker/mean-ass safety. Read the whole thing for a picture of what Peppers's role will be this year.

Doctor Blitz. The Ringer's Jack McCluskey on Don Brown:

BC sent so many defenders into the backfield that it produced four players with at least 14.5 tackles for loss (no other team had more than two). Yet the Eagles failed to land a single player in the top 20 in that stat — they didn’t have transcendent talents like Clemson’s Shaq Lawson (25.5 TFL, 12.5 sacks) or Penn State’s Carl Nassib (19.5 TFL, 15.5 sacks) inflating their numbers. Their best pass rusher, Matt Milano, led the team with 17.5 TFLs (tied for no. 21 nationally) and just 6.5 sacks (tied for no. 72 nationally).

And though the Eagles had been vulnerable to giving up big plays on the back end in Brown’s first few seasons in Chestnut Hill, by Year 3 they got the personnel and the scheme to the point where they were solid on both ends. In 2013, Brown’s first year helming the defense, BC gave up 47 passing plays of more than 20 yards (tied for no. 97 nationally); in his last year, it gave up just 29 (tied for no. 10).

Someone is also using CFBStats.com, and well. That stat about 20 yard pass plays is clear evidence that Brown's reputation as an attack guy is warranted, and extends even to situations where his teams are getting burned on the back end as a result. Michigan probably won't have an issue as severe as BC 2013, but the Boring Old Jarrod Wilson days are probably behind us, for good and bad.

Hype hype hype hype. Michigan's gotten a lot of it this summer and there is naturally a tendency to check on this since Michigan hasn't been a truly elite team in a long time. (The Sugar Bowl was fun, sure, but if we're being honest that team was crazy lucky.) Dan Murphy analyzes the situation an article; he also gets a telling quote from Jake Butt:

“We were struggling with toughness our first few years,” Butt said about his underclassmen days under the former coaching staff. “Down the stretch of games when our backs were against the wall we struggled and we lost a lot of games. Coach Harbaugh identified this, and he made the changes necessary and it worked for us last year. I think it will continue to pay off for us going forward.”

Brady Hoke talked a lot about toughness but he wasn't having four-hour practices.

Injuries across the league. Michigan hasn't been hit yet, knock on wood. Others have not been so fortunate:

Thing I don't care about anymore. Harbaugh blazing people on twitter was fun over the summer, but it's more or less football season now. Now we talk about football. I do not care about Harbaugh ending an interview early because Mark Snyder has the social grace of an autistic llama on PCP, or moistly goateed Jim Rome turning that into #content, or Harbaugh spending ten seconds of his life googling "Jim Rome Jim Everett".

It does not matter. Rich Rodriguez was nicer to the media than any Michigan coach ever has been or will be and they stabbed him in the back at every opportunity. The media read Goodnight Gorilla to Brady Hoke every night and Michigan fans still abandoned the stadium in droves rather than watch his offense-type substance. I don't think it's a negative. I don't think Ty Duffy's right when he says it's a positive:

Harbaugh has spent two years playing the pied piper and dropping the occasional crumb on social media. Every media member is talking about him. Every major college football coach is answering questions about him. He’s been forced to reveal nothing. He doesn’t demand media members go along with it. He knows they will.

Everyone is talking about Michigan. Harbaugh has kept everyone’s attention deflected away from Michigan’s quarterback battle, from Jabrill Peppers being poised for a breakout year, and from Rashan Gary arriving on campus as the No. 1 overall recruit.

Harbaugh has been “handling” the media, masterfully, since he arrived in Ann Arbor. The implication is that “the media” are going to turn on Harbaugh and somehow this fact will have some grave karmic implications for him. Spoiler: it won’t.

It's nothing. It is noise made by people who don't really understand what they're watching. Andy Staples doesn't care. He can write a thing about hybrid space players. Mark Snyder has nothing other than press conferences to live on because he's never cared to learn one thing about the sport he covers even after 20-some years.

Here's the thing: a large number of people like open contempt for sports press since so often they're contemptible.

This is not a problem for most fans because given the chance they'd stuff most of the media in a broom closet.

Anyway. This admittedly longish section is the last I'll mention it unless something really amazingly tone deaf happens.

Etc.: They're run/pass optioning safeties now. Also still getting illegally downfield. Gentry as a tight end. Harbaugh hides at Coach and Four. The Hoover Street Rag turns ten. Probably not.