Fee Fi Foe Film: South Carolina Offense

Fee Fi Foe Film: South Carolina Offense

Submitted by Seth on December 30th, 2017 at 9:00 AM

[UPDATE: Deebo Samuel is out with a broken leg/sprained foot]

Previously: Defense

[Author reliever note: Your Jack Morris of Foe Film is exhausted, so the Willie Hernandez of Foe Film is coming in to close out the season.]

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OBC left us this one magic spell

South Carolina’s offense is bad for good reasons, and Clemson’s defense is very good. Unlike some rivalry games however, the bad offense was just as unimaginative as it was feckless. In fact Muschamp fired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper a few days after it.

In the aftermath receivers coach Bryan McClendon was upgraded from nominal co-OC to official interim OC. For this one-game audition in Don Brown’s Hell they didn’t leave McClendon much to work with. Old Ball Coach Steve Spurrier retired two years ago and left his heirs with a handful of interior linemen, a tight end, some old golf clubs, and a strategy guide for stretching the definition of “on the line of scrimmage.”

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They’ve also rarely started the same 11 two games straight, a combination of minor injuries and sifting through their collection of teenagers for players.

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four guys on this offense held down a single position all season

The result of all this youth and mediocre coaching is the 88th offense this year to MGoBlog-favored fancystat S&P+. The running game is a grab-bag of stuff they don’t do very well. The passing game is West Coast dump-offs to the running backs and option routes to their one sophomore receiver. The one thing it has going for it is a good receiving tight end.

Personnel: My diagram gets bigger if you click it. (Also because I was at a wedding when Ace put the SC defense post together here's the promised chart for that).

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The RB rotation is three co-equal starters given the “OR” designation. Turner started the first half of 2016 before losing carries to Rico Dowdle, who’s out for this game with a broken fibula. The third, Ty’son Williams, got the majority of snaps against Clemson and was the least likely to run away from a gaping hole. Dowdle’s absence gives us room to include spectacularly named Randrecous Davis, the backup slot receiver who inherited injured Shi Smith’s snaps in the Clemson game. Both are freshmen.

Outside, Bryan Edwards gets over a quarter of their targets, often on sight adjustment (option) routes. Another true freshman receiver, OrTre Smith (no relation), has replaced injured Deebo Samuel, who was also their kick and punt returner. According to people who watched more SC than me that's a big loss.

None of the offensive linemen looked very good against Clemson, but Clemson’s DL tends to do that to mere mortals. Everyone got out-athleted at least once, but they also did a fair job at picking up Venables’s nasty blitzes—punt.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown]

Fee Fi Foe Film: South Carolina Defense

Fee Fi Foe Film: South Carolina Defense

Submitted by Ace on December 28th, 2017 at 4:19 PM

All-SEC linebacker Skai Moore covers a lot of ground.

South Carolina's schedule made it difficult to pick a game to scout. Over the last two months, they've faced two playoff teams (Georgia and Clemson), four SEC squads ranked worse than 80th in S&P+, and Wofford.

I chose Clemson given the comparably fierce defense to Michigan. The offenses are, uh, different. As such, I expect SC to take a slightly different approach than what I saw in this game, but thankfully Will Muschamp's schemes are well-known at this point. In this game, Clemson picked apart his pet coverage in a way Michigan should be able to reclicate. The Tigers jumped out to a 34-0 lead before setting it on cruise control for most of the second half.

Personnel: Seth's diagram will go up tomorrow along with the offense post, as he's currently at a wedding. South Carolina doesn't have any recent major injuries to report on defense; they lost talented SLB Bryson Allen-Williams early in the year.

Base Set? Multiple. Muschamp runs a DJ Durkin-like 4-3 (he's even used the same BUCK terminology for the weakside end) that often morphs into a three-man front, including quite often a true 3-4 look with a zero-tech nose.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]

Fee Fi Foe Film: Ohio State Defense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Ohio State Defense

Submitted by Seth on November 23rd, 2017 at 12:00 PM

[Author: sorry. Previously: Ohio State Offense]

You can’t take the sky from me.

Ohio State is everything wrong with America. While most hardworking football teams have to struggle day-in and day-out to make ends meet opposing quarterbacks, the Buckeyes have so much wealth they can leave most of it cooling on the sideline, chatting with the next wave of 5-stars and Bosas. They won’t even let any of it trickle out to the NFL or, like, Cincinnati. Three out of the seven hellbeasts they rotate through on the defensive line turned down this year’s NFL draft, and a fourth would be a top-five pick next April except he’s still too young to go.

With national economy-breaking riches up front, they can afford to play a ton of Cover 1 and Man 2 low—coverages that jam the middle of the field with fast players and take advantage of their natural athletic advantages over everyone they play on the outside. You can’t run on them or pass deep because of that line. You can’t spread ‘em out and throw short because they’re up in your grill and expecting it, and anyway you’re only getting to one read before a DE has turned the corner and your pocket’s bulged inward from a snap-jumpin’ Leviathan.

So how the hell did Iowa’s offense drop 38 points on these guys? For one they got to go a half and a drive with Bosa out for targeting. They also got a friendly flag. And their quarterback had an uncanny ability to shrug off tackles, going so far as to set up and throw a form TD pass with Sam Hubbard hanging on his leg the whole time. And most of all their offensive line held up in pass pro long enough for him to hit drags and comeback routes. None of this is relevant to Michigan starting John O’Korn and a right side of the line that couldn’t pass pro against Minnesota.

What is relevant is the week after Iowa, the Buckeyes held Brian Lewerke to an 11.5 QBR and 3 yards per dropback by accidentally fixing their one glaring defensive issue (they had a spacebacker playing middle linebacker). I watched both games, and while I’d love to tell you we’re too pretty to die on Saturday, the main takeaway here is Ohio State’s defense has it so Alabama-good these days they don’t even recognize how Alabama-despicable they’ve become.

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Personnel: My diagram gets bigger with a click, and requires explanation:

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#higdonis>

Last year at this time I told you Ohio State’s defense this year was going to be a lot like Michigan’s defense last year. Had they not lost some guys early to the NFL that would be true. It’s still mostly true, especially up front; their second team front seven would probably be a Top 10 national front seven.

Part of that is they’re not starting their best front seven. DE Nick Bosa isn’t a “starter” in only the most technical sense—see: Mo Hurst last year—despite being their best player to PFF and the eye test. Backup NT Robert Landers, a scrappy-ass, undersized muck-a-muck, is again behind a more ballyhooed space-eater—this year it’s Godin-like Tracy Sprinkle instead of Michael Hill (who’s all but disappeared), but any crucial down will see Landers (#67) in, and for good reason. The other backup DE Jalyn Holmes came back for a fifth year despite plenty of NFL interest, and has barely any drop-off from last year’s B1G DL of the Year Tyquan Lewis.

The main weakness all season was they moved extraneous spacebacker Chris Worley to MLB, and he’s not one. With their two starting OLBs (Booker and Baker) missing time in the last few weeks, Ohio State moved Worley back to WLB and played MLB Tuf Borland, a 2016 high four-star who played for friend of the blog Todd Howard in high school. Worley is listed first in the “OR” and I imagine they’ll play him at WLB in their 4-4 look; Borland is the better fit.

Against MSU and Illinois they also played a freak athlete, true sophomore Malik Harrison, as their TE-destructor SAM spot. Harrison is now listed as a co-starter on OSU’s official depth chart, and I didn’t even have room for him on my diagram. The starters at OLB are Dante Booker and Jerome Baker. Both are Viper types; Booker would have been the starter last year but for an early season injury. Baker who’s about 20 pounds lighter, was a PFF fave-rave last year as a sophomore. Neither have any trouble keeping up with backs—Baker can “get skinny in the hole” as the coaches say, but he had some trouble with fullbacks in his first go-round.

The safeties are the weakest point. SS Damon Webb is a quasi-nickelback who’s solid at run fits but remains a liability in coverage. FS Jordan Fuller is not the superior athlete Malik Hooker was. They’ll sometimes replace him with Erick Smith, who’s more of a run-stopper. I imagine if Michigan’s going heavy Ohio State will prefer to remove one of these guys to get Booker, Baker, Worley, and Borland all on the field at once. CB Denzel Ward is one of the fastest players in OSU history—he got bodied by Simmie Cobbs in the opener and has been lights out since. The other corner spot rotates between Damon Arnette and JUCO transfer Kendall Sheffield, both of whom rely on elite athleticism, which for Big Ten passing games is plenty.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown. Or don’t and go be with your family.]

Fee Fi Foe Film: Ohio State Offense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Ohio State Offense

Submitted by Seth on November 22nd, 2017 at 11:28 AM

[Recurring guest author note: Ace is on Hawaii time]

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RESISTENCE IS (/checks weather) FUTILE.

Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We are Borg. We have existed for hundreds of years, marching inexorably forward at a rate sufficient for first downs, passing only in conditions of peak efficiency as calculated by a quotient of run-pass-optimization. We have scored 200 touchdowns, accumulated 10,000 yards, won 35 of 41 games started.

Our ultimate goal is achieving perfection; to that end we have by maximum face-saving means finally removed creatively challenged Ed Warinner from our Collective, and assimilated the diabolical and technological distinctiveness of former Indiana  head coach Kevin Wilson to our own. His tempo, motion, and deep passing concepts have been adapted to serve us as we plod forward at optimal zombie efficiency.

I observed this collection of cybernetic organisms versus Iowa and Michigan State, two good defenses that lean on their cornerbacks. They’re a threat.

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Personnel:

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You know these guys. QB JT Barrett is trying to become the first quarterback in this rivalry to win four straight since Rick Leach ever. He remains what he is, an excellent runner with total command of an offense designed around his ability to get every inch (and sometimes more) available to him, and a meh passer. RB JK Dobbins is a low bugger who Wally Pipp’d returning starter RB Mike Weber. Dobbins has more speed and moves his feet so quickly he tends to squirt through no holes all the time. Weber is squatter, slower, and the better blocker.

Pay no attention to which receivers are “starting” because they rotate all of them often, though H-receiver (their term for slot) Parris Campbell is usually in. There’s a lot of athleticism, but all the outside guys still run routes like Michigan’s freshmen, i.e. badly. TE Marcus Baugh is rounding into a good blocker; as a receiver he’s more of a catch-and-run dude than a matchup problem.

The genetically perfect offensive line has improved despite losing a decent new starter at one of the guard spots. C Billy Price has been a starter since their national championship season. Now at center, most of the offense goes through him. LT Jamarco Jones didn’t impress me as much as I thought he would—he’s more of a finesse guy than a mauler, but he’s not long enough to translate that to elite pass protection; he’s on the border. RG Michael Jordan took over Price’s old job and is better at being a large object in the way than the more complicated stuff he was doing last year. RT Isaiah Prince had a great Penn State game and has improved as a pass protector, however he’s still quite the sieve. LG Demetrius Knox was the projected starter last offseason so replacing injured Branden Bowen with him hasn’t hurt them. I’m anxious to see what they’re like next year without Price and Jones.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown]

Fee Fi Foe Film: Wisconsin Defense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Wisconsin Defense

Submitted by Seth on November 17th, 2017 at 11:23 AM

Author: still definitively not Ace. Previously: Wisconsin Offense

Two weeks ago:

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One week ago:

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Football is stupid. Wisconsin has kept every opponent but two under 300 yards: opener Utah State and Nebraska. Most recently they gave up 3/5ths as many yards to Iowa as Ohio State gave up points to that same Iowa one week earlier.

I watched the 33 yards game and mostly Iowa was doing it to themselves. I also watched the Maryland and Nebraska games. I think this defense is really, really good, but it’s hard to tell because all of their opponents so far are liable to fall down and go bonk. It’s a lot like watching a 1970s Bo or Woody defense chew through the Little Eight and extrapolating what they’d do against each others’ pass-averse offenses: Do they have any holes? I guess we’ll find out in the bowl game.

Personnel: My diagram [click to embiggen]:

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BadgerGen Cloning Services has been doing work in the linebacker department, splicing Watt brothers genes with walk-ons to create the deepest three-assed pool of linebackers I’ve ever seen. Even with All-American Jack Cichy out, and Cichy’s backup Chris Orr out, there are stars all over the linebacking corps, including the guy who replaced Orr. WLB Ryan Connelly loves to shoot a gap when he sees one, and that tendency, though wild at times, is perfect for this defense where the linemen are taking doubles. MLB T.J. Edwards is every bit the coverage star PFF’s made him out to be, and perhaps underrated as a run-stuffer.

SOLB Garrett Dooley (6.5 sacks, 9.5 TFLs) is just as scary off the edge as Schobert ’15 or Biegel ’16 and perhaps better in coverage. The only LB I didn’t star was SOLB Leon Jacobs, the one they moved to fullback last year, and he’s got 8.5 TFLs (he can get squished by big OL I thought but he was close to a dangerman star too). Jacobs’s oft-used backup Andrew Van Ginkel has nearly as many sacks and TFLs as Dooley in half the snaps, but he’s more of a Uche pass-rush specialist.

Nobody on this front is less than solid. The secondary is ask-again-later since they haven’t faced any team yet, but it’s a potentially big deal whether questionable SS D’Cota Dixon can play this week.

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Base Set? 3-4. They lift the nose tackle when they go nickel for a 2-4-5 look, as 3-4 defenses do:

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[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]

Fee Fi Foe Film: Wisconsin Offense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Wisconsin Offense

Submitted by Seth on November 16th, 2017 at 12:55 PM

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[Guest author update: Since I nailed Maryland’s offense and was certainly the main reason Minnesota didn’t bother to block Khaleke Hudson, I’m removing the cyan circle from imagearound myself. Also, as a wife in the comments pointed out, I was using last year’s weight. Still not Ace though]

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It must have been very weird for Wisconsin when Gary Andersen was running zones out of ace formations using naturally born human beings from Earth. Having observed their bouts against Maryland* and Iowa, I’m happy to report things are back to normal in Madison again. Not only did they get the cheese factory that produces 6’6”/330 offensive linemen back online, but they’ve also made great strides in DNA splicing. We’ll talk about the three-assed “Watt-On” linebackers tomorrow. More frightening by far is what they’ve managed to come up with by combining every Wisconsin running back ever:

IT’S ALLLLIIIIIIIIIIIVE!!!!!!!! AND IT ONCE COMMITTED TO RUTTTTGEERRSSSSS!

*[Okay fine, I admit I looked past last week’s opponent. I take full responsibility for that 3rd quarter]

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Personnel: My diagram expands to 1080p if you click it.

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Wisconsin has some Dudes, and they’ve got some Pals, but precious few Guys. RB Jonathan Taylor is plausibly as good as Saquon Barkley, and given Michigan’s lighter defense he might be more of an issue. TE Troy Fumagalli is the best tight end in college football: an excellent blocker and Hornibrook’s primary target.

FB Austin Ramesh is projected to be the first round pick of the Chicago Bears when Jim Harbaugh takes over next year. Ramesh will sub in and out for a jet motion receiver, usually A.J. Taylor with Jazz Peavy out. As a nod to the last 80 years of football history Wisconsin always has at least one receiver on the field, and until recently that was Quintez Cephus, who was getting Fumagalli-level targets and catching them at a 79% rate (he was awesome vs. Maryland). Now Cephus has been replaced by true freshman Danny Davis, who’s averaging 13.6 yards per target with a 2/3rds success rate.

The line is getting Wisconsin-y but an injury to redshirt freshman C Tyler Biadasz could be a big deal. Biadasz, who’s listed as questionable, is thick and spry, and gave the Badgers’ power offense an extra dimension as they loaded up tight ends on one side to change the balance of the line then pulled Biadasz like a guard. When he went out against Iowa they skipped last year’s crummy starter, nominal backup OC Brett Connors (Jr*), for 6’6”/337 lug Jason Erdmann. The result was something like what you might imagine Ben Braden at center would look like.

If Biadasz can’t go, they could shift LT Michael Deiter back to center—Deiter was a star interior lineman the last couple of years but at tackle he’s Mason Cole minus a crucial notch of pass protection. The problem is like every other team in this conference they don’t have any viable OTs—RT David Edwards is Juwann Bushell-Beatty except not as consistent as a down-blocker—I ticked him for seven negative events in 20 pass plays versus Maryland’s crappy pass rush; very good Iowa DE Anthony Nelson turned Edwards-Beatty into silly-putty.

The guards are also 6’6” and Ben Bradenesque—RG Beau Benzschawel murders tackles and linebackers on downblocks and zone plays, and makes heady decisions when pulling. LG Jon Dietzen is a line-caver. The whole line is top-heavy and can be burled backwards.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown]

Fee Fi Foe Film: Maryland Defense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Maryland Defense

Submitted by Seth on November 10th, 2017 at 1:10 PM

[You’re not my FFFF author!: Yes, still Seth because basketball starts tonight, let Ace work]

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the way to go

Maryland is bad on defense again, especially off the backside edge, but that doesn’t mean look past the Terps. It’s a road game, after all, and you know former Harbaugh assistant D.J. Durkin would love to use this rebuilding year for Michigan to notch a scalp. That’s why I haven’t even looked at who Michigan plays next week.

What I did look into was the Maryland defense, who played some Big Ten West team we probably won’t have to face this year that was only interesting because they run a lot of power (and OZ) from heavy sets with big burly offensive linemen who did a good job in pass protection but their quarterback has a ducky arm and made some bad decisions. Also this opponent kept going to their tight end, who is really good, so I don’t know how much to ding the Maryland defenders trying to cover him.

Also also the offense that faced the Maryland defense has a really good freshman running back so it’s tough to judge things like Maryland’s defenders getting to him then just falling off. To illustrate, let me show you a clip that would probably be more relevant if we were looking at the team Maryland played two weeks ago instead of the team that Michigan is playing this week:

/pose /scene

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Personnel: My graphic gets bigger if you click it.

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M things: JBB gets cyan’d and Ruiz doesn’t for same fatal flaw bc I don’t want to judge two bad plays by a true freshman in his first start too harshly.

So my Draftageddon guys were a disappointment. DT Kingsley Opara, who’s been mostly at nose this year, got a chance to play a lot of 3-tech and didn’t get anything out of it. He wasn’t terrible, but he got blown downfield a few times and didn’t MAKE PLAYS to make up for it. He only got to play a half after getting cut-blocked. MLB Jermaine Carter wasn’t as big of a disappointment, and he did make a few plays, but he also ate blockers and got pushed around. He’s 6’0/228 and wracks up big PFF numbers when playing spreads, but this game was a hard reminder about Physics:

#1 the MLB

[After THE JUMP we shall explain using Newton’s Laws why Carter just went “boing”]

Fee Fi Foe Film: Maryland Offense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Maryland Offense

Submitted by Seth on November 9th, 2017 at 5:20 PM

[Guest author: Seth because Ace has bouncy hoopy ball season to preview]

this got charted as “LOLx”

Hi there. How you doing? Have you watched the above yet? Are you done laughing? It’s cool, you can watch it again. Here, have another angle. No, it won’t get old.

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So as you may recall, last year D.J. Durkin and his OC Walt Bell inherited a roster of interception-prone quarterbacks and zero viable receivers tall enough to ride a roller coaster. Their answer was to stack the wee little guys as far away from the play as possible.

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just go away

Sure, having all of your receivers bunched together limits the passing game to screens, but given that throwing downfield is more like playing “500” than football, that’s was fine. The payoff for this was fewer defenders in range to stop their two excellent scatbacks. I gave Walt major props for this. This is being the best you.

This year they’re down to their fourth string quarterback, and not even bothering to have one of those receivers eligible. Who needs five potential pass-catchers when the quarterbacks aren’t going to look for more than one or two reads? Every unit placed further from the running game is one less defender who can beat a bad blocker and corral the boys.

I watched the Wisconsin game, which featured an uncharacteristic surfeit of 5-wide sets and deep balls to their various Lilliputian receivers. This is not who you are, Maryland. You know who you are. The most success they had was running the same run play four times in a row from an unbalanced set.

Personnel: My diagram (click to enlarge):

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yes their base is unbalanced

(Michigan things: Solomon draws into the starting lineup since he’s been there more or less the last two games. Winovich gets flowing beautiful blonde locks by way of apology for having his number wrong all year.)

So, about the above. In early 2017 the Terps tried having a quarterback do more than hand off to Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison, and throw screens in the direction of D.J. Moore. Like run, maybe. Or pass.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown]

Fee Fi Foe Film: Minnesota Offense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Minnesota Offense

Submitted by Seth on November 3rd, 2017 at 10:07 AM

[Guest author situation: Still Seth.]

Previously: The Defense

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Minnesota quarterback Demry Croft, like you, is looking at the word Offense in the headline above and wondering if it ought to contain square quotes. “Probably,” he thinks, as his teammates studiously avoid looking at him, lest he see their disgust.

Demry Croft sees, and does not begrudge them that disgust. It is entirely reasonable after Demry has just killed their first 4th quarter drive by running out of a perfectly clean pocket to the side with zero receivers, taking a sack because nobody but Demry Croft (and some Iowa players) would ever think to wander out to the side with nobody to throw to.

Coach is probably pissed. Coach with his funny sayings and his go-getchya attitude and his funny shoes and football sensibilities learned from playing a ton of Madden. Demry Croft isn’t a Madden guy, really. Breath of the Wild is more his thing. Just exploring, seeing the world open up. What’s over that mountain? What’s in this cave? What do they do with the other half of the field on a half-field triangle read? Nobody had ever explored over there until Demry Croft. Let’s go look!

oops, we died. back to the save point.

What they think doesn’t really matter, anyway. Demry Croft is here, taking snaps, wearing a helmet that says “ROW” on the foreguard and “THE BOAT” in stacked letters on the stripe, because this is a metaphor his coach will use to replace all of the Demry Crofts with Big Ten-caliber players eventually. Until then, nobody is pulling Demry Croft, he of the sub-100 college QBR, 42% completion rating, and 4.4 yards per drop-back, right now. That would mean going back to Conor Rhoda, who is basically Demry Croft except he didn’t lead a near-comeback against Michigan State and can’t run at all. If you’ve got to choose between two Demry Crofts, take the one who can run some, that’s what Demry Croft always says. Maybe that’s what Ski-U-Mah means.

You know what, No on the scare quotes, Demry Croft decides. They’d probably mess with the link, and then nobody would learn a thing about the 2017 Minnesota offense. Hup-Hup!

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Personnel: My diagram gets bigger when you click it, but it won’t get any better.

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[The rest of the breakdown, after THE JUMP]

Fee Fi Foe Film: Minnesota Defense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Minnesota Defense

Submitted by Seth on November 2nd, 2017 at 2:00 PM

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Humble.

image[Author note: Ace is out sick this week; you’re stuck with Seth again.]

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Fancystats-wise P.J. Fleck’s first defense in St. Paul is treading water with the top 25 outfits that Kill and his successor were putting out: 23rd in S&P+, 21st in scoring, not standout in any facet. (Except the nose tackle, but we’ll get to him.)

We’ve said this before, but that appears to be a mirage. Throw a rock in any of a thousand Minnesota lakes and a magical fairy will appear to tell you the Gophers are banged up in the secondary and living on scrap, luck, and an easy schedule (against which they’re 4-4 but the offense is another day). The Gophers had to burn a 174-pound kid’s redshirt last week just to get two cornerbacks on the field. That, predictably, did not go well.

On paper, Michigan’s players are better. I’d be comfortable about this, if I wasn’t being reminded every day about the last time Michigan faced a paper-thin secondary in Ann Arbor in the rain at night with a trophy on the line. This thing isn’t that thing. But they’re not far off.

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Personnel: [Big formation diagram can be made bigger with a click]

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(Stelter was starting NT before Richardson emerged)

Michigan things: Sorry no star for Peters yet. Michigan lists Onwenu as questionable; I imagine Runyan will play if he can’t go by Saturday night.

Minnesota things: As you may gather from the cyan, the degradation from #DBU to a Rodriguez-era Michigan secondary has much to do with who’s not on the field. The sexual assault scandal that got embittered doofus Tracy Claeys fired hit the defensive backs hardest. For three and a half games this year, the lone survivor of those suspensions, spacebacker Antoine Winfield Jr. (yes, old person, you read that correctly) was the star of a defense giving up 4 YPP. His replacement Kamal Martin is closer to the linebacker end of the spacebacker spectrum and close to a cyan’ing—he’ll bust at least one coverage bigly per game but make a handful of good plays against the run.

The Gophers subsequently lost both starting cornerbacks, Kiondre Thomas and Antonio Shenault. Replacing one meant moving the Troy Woolfolk-like Kunle Ayinde to cornerback and dimeback Jacob Huff to starting free safety. This worked and didn’t: Ayinde is more natural at corner and his run defense is as valuable off the edge as it was coming down from on high. If Ayinde is Woolfolk, Huff is Michael Williams, i.e. a born nickelback who’s a bust waiting to happen as the deep safety. Losing Shenault was the last straw: true freshman CB Justus Harris started against Iowa and there’s your Boubacar Cissoko. They’ve also pulled the redshirt off of safety Ken Handy-Holly, the highest rated player of Fleck’s first class; he tends to fall down at an alarming rate.

The lone returning starter still on the field is SS/OLB Daletavious “Duke” McGhee, a heavy-hitter whose rap sheet of targeting suspensions is an apt description of his game.

MLB Thomas Barber (yes THOSE Barbers) passed 2016 starter/walk-on Cody Poock and has a knack for dodging OL then missing a tackle. WLB Jonathan Celestin doesn’t pop out but he’s decisive and avoids mistakes against the run, and can handle a large middle zone in pass pro.

NT Steven Richardson is trouble; he doesn’t have enough NFL hype to justify a shield, however his PFF numbers argue otherwise and I can see why: think Ryan Glasgow. The other inside spot is a rotation between planet-sized DT Merrick Jackson, who’s rather eventful, and Van Bergen-ian DT Gary Moore who’s more sound but more pliable. Former blue chip SDE Carter Coughlin is undersized for a 4-3 over strongside end and makes up for it by getting aggressive, for better and worse. In their passing down sets Coughlin will often drop into coverage, where he was a consistent disaster. WDE Nate Umlor is just a guy; he’s solid against the run and not much of a pass rush threat.

On passing downs Minnesota normally went to a 3-3-5 Okie look to get Jake Ryan-esque sophomore DE/OLB Blake Cashman on the field. Cashman had 10.5 TFLs and 7.5 sacks last year as a situational Furbush/3-4 OLB but they haven’t gotten him as involved this year.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown]

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