Lizard Brain Tornado Apocalypse Derp Derp Derp

Lizard Brain Tornado Apocalypse Derp Derp Derp

Submitted by Brian on October 17th, 2011 at 11:49 AM

10/15/2011 – Michigan 14, Michigan State 28 – 10/15/2011, 6-1, 2-1 Big Ten

tornado-witchdenard-throwing-msu

right via Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com

WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING THROWING 30 YARDS DOWNFIELD IN A CYCLONE
YOU'RE ASKING DENARD ROBINSON TO BE JOE MONTANA IN A TRASH TORNADO
YOU'RE COMING OUT FIVE WIDE
RUN THE FOOTBALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-Brian Cook's brain channeling Mike Valenti, 3:07 PM 10/15/2011

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The now rapidly developing lizard brain theory of college football coaching states that there is a certain level of pressure above which rationality goes out the window and coaches revert to who they really are. It came to me in a horrible epiphany when Lloyd Carr punted in the 2005 Ohio State game less than a quarter after going for it on his side of the field. Coaches panic, go to their binkies, and then try to convince you otherwise in the post-game.

Different coaches have different levels. Ron Zook reverts to the lizard brain on the opening kickoff of every game. Kirk Ferentz makes it about five minutes in. We don't know about Tressel because he constructed his team such that the lizard brain was right. Les Miles exists on an entirely different axis with taffy on one end and victory on the other. He is the only one who escapes. The lizard brain is unavoidable.

Al Borges's lizard brain kicked in after Vincent Smith ran for two yards on Michigan's first offensive play of the second half. First and ten after that:

  1. Robinson sacked for –9 yards
  2. Smith rush for two yards
  3. Gardner incomplete
  4. Robinson incomplete
  5. Offsides MSU
  6. Gardner rush for four yards
  7. Robinson rush for –1 yard
  8. Robinson slant complete for 34 yard touchdown
  9. Robinson sacked
  10. Robinson rush for –1 yard
  11. Robinson INT

While this doesn't paint a pretty picture for the run game, either, after halftime Michigan passed on 60% of its first downs, got one completion on a short route that turned into a big gain when Roundtree broke a tackle, and did nothing else.

For the game Michigan tried to pass at least 41 times*, averaging 2.8 yards per attempt and giving up a defensive touchdown.
TWO POINT EIGHT YARDS
DEFENSIVE TOUCHDOWN
RUN THE FOOTBALL!!!!

Sorry. Sorry.

Michigan tried to run the ball 26 times and averaged… oh, Jesus… 5.2 yards per carry. Fitzgerald Toussaint got two carries, Denard twelve.

I just realized this is what it's like to be Walter Sobchak.

calmer-than-you-are

MARK IT 2.8.
(This is not a threat against anyone's person. Do I look like Will Gholston?)

So, yeah. There is no way to put this without getting an email from some guy concerned about his eleven year old without resorting to Bloom County methods. That was the dumbest goddamned $%&*^-*$#*ing #&!$brained dip*&%$ mother*(%$ing horse_+$# goat-&^%t &%$*y-infested $%^&stick playcalling I have ever &*$ing seen in my life. I see you, Valenti. I get it now. I get it.

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ON FOURTH AND ONE AL BORGES HAD THE QUARTERBACK, WHO IS THE MOST DANGEROUS RUNNING QUARTERBACK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL, TURN HIS BACK TO THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE AS IF EVERY DEFENSE EVER CONCEIVED AGAINST THE GUY DOESN'T HAVE EDGE CONTAIN OF HIM AS THEIR FIRST THREE PRIORITIES

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

ON FOURTH AND ONE AL BORGES HAD THE QUARTERBACK, WHO IS THE MOST DANGEROUS RUNNING QUARTERBACK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL, TURN HIS BACK TO THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE AS IF EVERY DEFENSE EVER CONCEIVED AGAINST THE GUY DOESN'T HAVE EDGE CONTAIN OF HIM AS THEIR FIRST THREE PRIORITIES

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

THAT AGAIN

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

Okay, okay… sorry. Sorry. I'm vented.

What we have to deal with now is the cold certainty that the honeymoon is over and our football coaches are football coaches, like they always are, and we cannot assume that everything will be honeydew and game theory from now on. Hoke punted on fourth and short-ish from inside the opponent 40. Borges did that above.

That's okay, really. Given the crapfest we endured on offense I almost can't blame Hoke for the punts. And in many other situations I prefer an offensive coordinator who wants to throw when he's in trouble to one who wants to go into a shell. The Morris/upperclass Gardner offense won't put the Ferrari in neutral until the second half. Recruit like they're recruiting and coach like it seems they can and eventually we'll get to a nice place to be.

In the near term, though, those happy thoughts over the first few weeks about Borges adjusting to Denard evaporated in a flurry of sacks after which you look at the receivers and there are three guys thirty yards downfield with no one between them and the carnage. You can fake it against defenses that can't play, but when it comes down to it the combination of Borges and Denard makes everyone wonder that bad old question about whether he should really play QB. IE: the worst-case scenario from the offseason.

A certain genre of Michigan fan will say this was always who Denard was, but last year he completed 58% of his passes for 9.3 YPA and a 12-9 TD:INT ratio in the Big Ten. Whatever his limitations were they seemed a lot less limiting last year, when Michigan stressed the defense to the edges and exploited the ruthless equation of the spread: a running quarterback means someone's open if you can just find him.

I don't blame Borges for that. You can't up and be someone else at the drop of a hat. If we are again pointing the finger of blame it's aiming at Rich Rodriguez for not deserving a fourth year. I do blame Borges for throwing almost two-thirds of the time when that should be inverted. The incoherent grab-bagginess of the offense is a natural effect of hiring a pro-style guy with a spread offense. Running Denard twelve times in a trash tornado is not.

So here we are, with football coaches instead of magical fairies who can do anything. That sucks. The honeymoon over, life re-asserts itself.

*[I'm not sure how many QB carries were scrambles. I counted the 8-yard Gallon scramble as a pass.]

Non-Bullets of I Wish They Were Real Bullets

Hurray clowniformz! So much for a one-time thing. It's as if they knew they would need to both play and look like Yakety Sax:

That's the third time this year we've had a uniform stunt, this one the ugliest and stupidest of them all*. It's like Dave Brandon took in the majesty that is the Spartan Stadium game experience and said "someday this will be mine." Chengelis's headline on the subject

Spartans, Wolverines compete with fashion statements, too

…is even more evidence that Dave Brandon Gets It less than anyone has ever not Gotten It before.

I had a wow experience. Did you? Everyone looking forward to the analwowing in Dallas next year when we take our freshman defensive tackles and paper-thin offensive line into a game we are absolutely not prepared for? CEOs are psychopaths.

[Bonus: last time we did this was 1976, the very heart of the era when people lost their minds about fashion. We lost then, too.]

*[No, that guy on every message board who could spin Denard Robinson's arm being torn off by William Gholston as a positive for the program, they did not look good. A sane political system would prevent you from voting. You suck. I'm sure you've got a comment all lined up to complain about the complaining. Bring it, I've got an itchy trigger finger today.]

Obligatory personal foul section. Yeah, it was ugly. The truly sad thing was that band of morons getting away with 120 yards in penalties without losing. If we had a sane offensive plan and/or a plan to deal with snap jumping those personal fouls are only 10% enraging—the intent to injure bits—and 90% hilarious Sparty being Sparty. That's where we are as a program right now: we can play the stupidest 85 people ever assembled on one football team and still lose by two touchdowns.

Gholston should obviously be suspended at least two games for the helmet rip—as bad an intent-to-injure play as the Reynolds-Sorgi incident—and the punch, which has been established by the great Jonas Mouton Suspension Fiasco as a one-gamer. There was also a less obvious judo chop that forced Lewan out of the game for a few plays. I bet nothing happens, because that's the way life goes.

This is the second consecutive year a player has been knocked out late after the game is decided by a dirty hit. Look at Dantonio's jaw… you are feeling very sleepy… you cannot put together incidents to see a pattern forming… so much… fake… bible… Spock.

I guess targeting other football players is progress relative to beating up mechanical engineers en masse.

Edge destruction. Early candidates for big negative days in the defense UFR: Roh and Ryan, who were targeted by the MSU offensive coaching staff to good effect. MSU's first TD drive was a series of easy outside runs as those two got destroyed. They improved a bit as the day went on but were clearly a weak spot targeted effectively.

Woolfolk also got pulled after a series or two; he's obviously hurt. Avery was the nickel corner since MSU doesn't spread to run much.

Man, Baker. It kills me whenever I see a really good running back go against Michigan because the mind immediately plugs that guy into rotation at the RB spot post-Minor and groans. Baker is one of those guys, a leg-churning tackle-breaker who would turn a lot of Michigan's two yard runs into five or six or more.

Penetration. They had it. Michigan didn't. Why not?

One part: It's clear all these late-developing passing routes are exposing the Mark Huyge we saw trying and failing to block for Tate Forcier as a sophomore. After a year of being covered up by the spread 'n' shred he's back to allowing sacks on a three man rush.

But the interior line? I saw Molk ole guys. Molk! How is this year four of MSU using a simple parlor trick of slanting under at the snap without two different coaching staffs being able to do anything about it?

Old school punting. Positive of a sort: When asked to coffin-corner punts Will Hagerup does a pretty good job. Haven't seen that in 15 years—you know it's old school when Sap is referencing Harry Kipke when handing out helmet stickers.

Why "of a sort": if you can coffin-corner a punt you probably shouldn't be punting.

The Minnesota plays. Doesn't seem too smart to have run a zillion new things against Minnesota now, does it? Michigan brought out the sprint counter once and it got stuffed—would MSU have been prepared for it if they hadn't seen it against Minnesota? Since Michigan isn't running the QB stretch that motion was a tipoff the counter was coming and an expected counter is a dead counter.

Here

Inside the Box Score points out a huge swing play:

The refs did miss one backwards pass from Cousins, who clearly let go of the ball on state’s 37 and hit his receiver’s hands on the 36. The explanation was really lame, something along the lines of Michigan didn’t recover the football right away. The way I saw it, the ball hit the ground and the Michigan defender bent down and picked it up. What am I missing?

With no one around the ball except Wolverines if that's correctly called that is a potentially game-changing defensive score. This isn't a bad offsides penalty or uncalled false start, it's a touchdown being wiped off the board because the refs blew it dead too early. Very frustrating. I thought they were supposed to let it go if it was too close to be sure about now.

Also there is this:

Our leading tacklers were Gordon, Kovacs, Roh, and Countess, with 8, 6, 6, and 6, respectively. Do you notice what’s missing? Linebackers. Demens was the leading tackler among the linebackers with 5. I noticed this week that Touch the Banner was high on Demens for last week’s performance against NU, but Brian was critical of him in the UFRs. I think this game was the tie-breaker. I don’t think our LBs were productive enough. Baker gashed us all day long. His longest run was only 25 yards, yet he gained 167 yards on 26 carries. State was consistently able to pound the football against us.

How many times did MSU linebackers shoot out to the sideline on plays that looked like they were going to work and hold them down to a few yards, and how many times did Michigan linebackers do that? That's not always on the linebackers—could be on the M OL not getting out or DL not taking on doubles effectively—but given what we saw against Northwestern I'm betting some of the big chunk plays from Baker see linebacker minuses aplenty.

Hoke for Tomorrow is briefer. I would like to interject about this amongst the things learned:

That strong winds + Kirk Cousins > strong winds + Denard Robinson.

Cousins averaged 5 YPA and threw a backwards pass that should have been a disaster. Drops had a lot to do with it but it's possible the wind messed with both WR and QB, which is even more reason that throwing 41 times in the trash tornado was inexplicably dumb.

Elsewhere

Media, as in stuff. The official site valiantly found highlight-type-substances in the wreckage:

There are also postgame interviews if you'd like to watch everyone on Michigan's team refusing to answer questions about the personal fouls. Mike DeSimone collects pictures from across the world.

Blogs. Come on, Braves and Birds picture comparison. Come on. The Hoover Street Rag does something long and complicated that I don't understand. Parody of a bad NBC hour-long drama? Mathlete says Michigan underperformed expectations by 28 points, his worst number of the season for all of I-A. Various bullets from MVictors. Touch the Banner also has them.

BWS says something about little brother, which no offense whenever I hear the word "brother" in relation to Michigan State now my eyes glaze over. Holdin' the Rope recaps. MZone as well.

National variety from Doctor Saturday:

On seven trips into MSU territory after the opening possession, Michigan punted on five and turned it over on downs on a sixth.

Series by series, punt by punt, the sense of progress over the first half of the season dissolved into a disheveled mess. The running game stalled. The two-quarterback shuffle failed to gin up any semblance of a steady passing game, or a big play with Robinson lined up as a wide receiver. The pass protection broke down. In almost every aspect, it was Michigan's worst nightmare: At the exact point on the calendar that optimistic starts began to give way to collapse each of the last two years, the Wolverines  looked like a team on the verge of collapse.

Newspapers. Michigan fell to 17th/18th in the polls. I did not find anything else of a newspapery variety that is open in my tabs.

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs SDSU

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs SDSU

Submitted by Brian on September 28th, 2011 at 3:41 PM

INTERESTING SCREENSHOT OF THE WEEK

sdsu-lady-board

Hey, that's a lady. BTN didn't show any shots of people you'd recognize, so this is the closest thing to evidence that they were holding up pictures of people who left. She must be support staff or something.

Formation notes: Mostly under, which they ran almost all the time when they were actually running what they wanted to. When SDSU went to spread formations the nickel package came in, with a good amount of one-high press…

slants-1

…and some regular old nickel even. IE: the usual. No funny stuff.

Substitution notes: Kovacs and Gordon went the whole way with Carvin Johnson re-claiming his spot as the fifth defensive back in nickel. Gordon is the nickelback; Johnson came in as a safety. Woolfolk went out with an ankle issue in the second quarter and Avery came in; Floyd went out with a ding in the third quarter and Countess came in. When Floyd returned it was Avery, not Countess, who took a seat.

At LB it was Ryan-Demens-Hawthorne almost the whole way. Morgan, Fitzgerald, and Beyer got a series or two each spelling the starters.

On the DL, the same four starters (Roh, RVB, Martin, Heininger) with heavy rotation from Campbell and Black with lesser rotation from Brink. I don't think I saw much of Washington. In the nickel package they lifted one of the DT types and left Ryan out as a DE.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form DForm Type Rush Play Player Yards
O18 1 10 I-Form Big 4-4 under Run N/A Iso Martin 3
RB takes the handoff to the right of the QB as the FB goes left—a bit of counter action here. Martin(+2) pushes the C into the backfield, forcing an awkward cut from Hillman; RVB(+0.5) has also gotten penetration, forcing Hillman to hit it up in the small crease between the two DTs. Martin chucks his blocker and comes off to tackle. I'm trying to figure out why this is three yards instead of zero—think it's the linebackers not being aggressive enough, but no minuses.
O21 2 7 I-Form twins unbalanced 4-3 even Run N/A Power off tackle Ryan 6
First of many flips by M's DL as SDSU flips the formation. This will have to get sorted out. They actually end up in an even formation with LBs from strong to weak Demens, Hawthorne, Ryan. Given the alignment of the other LBs this appears to be a bust by Ryan(-2), who did not flip when the rest of the line did. As a result they run power off the left hand side and one guy has no one to block. Demens heads straight upfield, taking on an OL peeling off RVB right at the LOS. This forces a bounce that may have been coming anyway because of the Ryan misalignment. RVB gets caught inside but I don't blame him since this is probably how he's supposed to play it when he's got an SLB. M gets lucky that the FB jets downfield instead of trying to block Hawthorne, who is scraping quickly from the interior. Hawthorne(+0.5) shoots between the FB headed for Kovacs and the pulling OL, forcing Hillman outside. He misses a tackle(-1) but his ability to get out in a flash forces Hillman outside into Kovacs(+0.5), who set up in a good spot; Hillman cuts back under where Ryan makes some amends by tackling before the sticks. Not an RPS minus because the error here is w/ player, not call.
O27 3 1 I-Form Big 4-4 under Run N/A Power off tackle Roh -1
Pulling guard trips as he comes out of his stance, which helps quite a bit. Roh(+3) is one on one with a tight end, pushes him into the backfield, and then throws him to the ground. He meets Hillman head-on a yard in the backfield for a thumping tackle. Strong possibility this is still stuffed with the pull since Hawthorne(+0.5) had flown up into the gap outside Roh and was in position to tackle behind the LOS.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Ace twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Jet sweep Ryan 10
Ryan(-2) straight upfield again, giving up the edge. When you're let into the backfield without being blocked and don't make this guy at least change his flight path you messed up. There's no way for the LBs to remain responsible on the inside run here and get outside to track the jet sweep down unless Ryan delays the guy; he does not. Gordon keeps leverage forcing it back; Demens is pursuing and Kovacs(+0.5) comes up to tackle at the sticks.
O30 1 10 I-Form Big 4-4 under Pass 5 Throwaway Heininger Inc (Pen -10)
Not really a blitz as this is a two-man route. Deep guy is bracketed by Floyd and Woolfolk; Kovacs is going with the TE who motioned out. I think Lindley sees Hawthorne in his throwing lane and decides to chuck it at his RB's feet, which causes Hawthorne to vacate that lane when he sees the QB's eyes leave. Also, Heininger(+1, pressure +1) got in Lindley's face, drawing a holding call. It kind of looks like the TE hitch might be open, but results-based charting. (Cover +2, Kovacs +0.5; Floyd +0.5; Woolfolk +0.5)
O20 1 20 I-Form 4-3 even Pass N/A Long handoff Woolfolk 8
Played poorly by Woolfolk(-1), who lets the play outside of him and gives up eight yards on a nothing screen. Either have to tackle more quickly or force it back to help; Hawthorne was probably there if forced inside.
O28 2 12 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Out Floyd 11
SDSU shifts from an I-form and gets a too-easy pitch and catch in front of Floyd(cover -1). Not really his fault as this was a zone blitz they had a good route on for (RPS –1).
O39 3 1 I-Form big 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Martin 7
TEs flip and this time Ryan has his head on straight. Martin(+1) slides through the center instantly. He's into the backfield, picking off a puller. This provides Michigan a free hitter, which is a hard-flowing Demens(+1), who is in position to tackle for loss; Hillman bounces. Woolfolk(+1) is there on the edge but is held to the point where his shoulder pads pop out; no call. Refs -2.
O46 1 10 I-Form twin TE 4-3 even Run N/A Power off tackle Hawthorne 7
So this is what happens when Michigan does not flip the formation: not good stuff. Michigan's defense makes no sense: they're outnumbered on the strong side so they slant weakside and blitz Floyd(?!?) from the weakside as well. Black(-1) is not done favors by the play call but gets nailed inside; Hawthorne(+1) takes on a lead block and gets crushed but manages to keep his feet and draw the attention of a second blocker, who kicks the poor guy's ass. Hawthorne falls backwards right into Hillman's feet, which he grabs. Woolfolk was also there. Demens did okay considering the circumstances; Ryan(-0.5) was lost on the backside of the play; would not have been available to pursue if needed. RPS -2.
M47 2 3 Shotgun twin TE 4-4 under Run N/A Zone read dive Demens 7
Neither DT needs a double. Brink(+0.5) and Campbell(+0.5) stand up single blocks and get upfield, so the A gap is where the play must go. Heininger(-2) ends up sealed a yard and a half downfield after only a momentary double. The linebackers take on blocks near the first down marker and converge to tackle. Hillman and various OL start pushing the pile, whereupon Hillman fumbles because Demens(+2) ripped the ball out.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-0, 7 min 1st Q. Not too peeved about this drive since it should have been booted off the field on a third and short but for a hold.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O30 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Pass 5 PA Deep out Gordon 21
Morgan in for Hawthorne. Late motion stacks the two WRs over each other; one runs deep and the other cuts out an out route. Deep guy has run off Woolfolk and Gordon is coming from the inside so there's a big hole in the coverage(-2). Martin(+0.5) had gotten some pressure on Lindley to force him to throw it off his back foot a bit; Morgan(-1) sucked way up on the playfake and let Hillman out into the flat with no one around him. Gordon(-1) didn't read this very well.
M49 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Ryan 3
Another formation flip, causing Michigan to do the same. TE then motions into the backfield as short side is overloaded. This time Ryan(+0.5) is in the right spot. He takes on his blocker quickly, standing him up at the LOS and further inside than he wants to be. Pulling G impacts him. RVB, Martin, and Heininger all do their jobs without doing anything spectacular, so there are no holes and a wad of bodies forms about two yards downfield. Half points for RVB and Heininger; Martin got pushed back a bit trying to shed and is the reason there's a little push.
M46 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 6 Out Woolfolk 10
Rhythm throw from Lindley comes too soon for serious pressure unless someone doesn't get picked up; SDSU stones the blitz (pressure -1, RPS -1). Woolfolk(+0.5) is there to tackle on the catch and has a decent shot of raking the ball out; he's about a half step from a PBU.
M36 1 10 Ace twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Pitch sweep Gordon 1
Both TEs block down as both guards pull. Ryan again flies straight upfield, avoiding the downblock but not doing anything useful. If he slows up here and picks off the pulling G he gets a plus, but he doesn't. Hillman is in business if he cuts upfield but he widens too much and too fast for his OL to keep up with him, allowing Gordon(+1) to flow hard upfield. Hillman tries to cut inside; Demens(+0.5) slows up and is blocked by the guy Ryan did not pick off. He is in a good spot to prevent bad things from happening, though. Hillman bounces back outside, where Gordon has beaten the other G's block. He can't make a tackle but does slow Hillman enough for Demens, Martin, and Morgan to tackle for little gain. One yard gain only gets 1.5 plus because I think this is a poor job by Hillman of reading his blocks.
M35 2 9 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 even Run N/A Inside zone Campbell 5
TE motions in and Floyd moves down in as a quasi SLB. Michigan slanting playside; Heininger(+0.5) gets upfield of his guy but Campbell(-1) does not, getting sealed away. Heininger's move robs SDSU of some of its blocking angles; there's an OL out on Morgan but no one on Floyd or Demens so those guys can shut it down after a few yards provided by the Campbell crease. Would like to see Demens(-0.5) hit this more authoritatively; he gives up YAC by making a bleah arm tackle.
M30 3 4 Shotgun trips Nickel press Pass 6 Slant Van Bergen Inc
Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) bats it at the line.
M30 4 4 Shotgun 2TE Okie press Pass 6 RB flat Demens Inc
So they do leave a guy wide open here, but they might have done it on purpose. SDSU misaligns, leaving a TE covered up. Johnson points him out out Floyd, and, then Floyd ignores him to double the RB coming out of the flat. Is Johnson IDing the guy as ineligible or telling Floyd to cover him and getting ignored? Don't know. In any case, Michigan sends six. Ryan gets a free run(+0.5, pressure/RPS +1) but Lindley has time to try to find a guy. It's his RB leaking into the flat after giving Demens(+2, cover +2) an ole; Demens pivots and is maybe a step behind him, making this throw all but impossible. Lindley has about a yard where the RB can catch it but it won't bounce off Demens's head, and Floyd(+0.5) is coming up to hit him at or near the sticks anyway.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 14-0, 3 min 1st Q. The coverage is just night and day. Sometimes guys get open but this is suddenly a much, much tougher secondary to go up against.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O27 1 10 Ace twin TE 4-3 even Pass 5 PA TE Seam -- Inc
I don't know what the hell they pulled to get this but Ryan is now lined up over the slot receiver. Michigan runs zone behind a blitz; Lindley throws a seam to a TE who is running an out. With three guys around this TE it was going to be a tough window on the seam.
O27 2 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Campbell 4
So... Campbell(+0.5). He gets doubled and holds his ground as NTs are supposed to do. Hurrah. This allows both LBs to flow to the hole unimpeded. Ryan(+0.5) gets into his blocker at the LOS, forcing the pulling G and RB outside; Fitz(+1) takes on the G at the LOS and forces it back to Hawthorne, his help. This should be a textbook stop except Ryan(-0.5) has started to cede ground quickly and is now behind the LOS. Cutback lane opens up. Campbell should be there to cut it off but has spent the entire play just burrowing into his two dudes. Gordon(+1) has flowed down with the time provided by the jam-up on the front and makes a solid-wrap up tackle(+1) to mitigate the damage but this probably should have been zero.
O31 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Dig Gordon Inc
This is so good. One: Martin(+2) rips through a double team and forces Lindley to throw to his first read(pressure +1). Two: Hawthorne is ripping upfield as Michigan sends three blitzers up the center as Black peels off to pick up the TE drag. Three: Gordon(+2, cover +2) reads the TE cut and jumps the route, arriving at the destination in front of the TE. If this is accurate Gordon has a shot at an INT; Lindley wings it wide. This is what a damn strong defense looks like.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, EO1Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O17 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Pass 4 RB flat Martin Inc
Martin(+2, pressure +1) roars up the center of the pocket, eventually pancaking the center(!) and causing Lindley to dump it inaccurately to a flat route Hawthorne(+1, cover +1) had blanketed anyway.
O17 2 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Pass 5 Out Woolfolk 13
I think Beyer needs to get some more depth on his drop here but this is a 12-yard out he can't help on. Far too easy for the WR here as Woolfolk(-1, cover -1) is beaten clean and can only shove the guy out after he turns upfield.
O30 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Pass N/A Waggle TE Flat Roh Inc
Roh(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5) don't bite on a weak fake and are right in Lindley's face(pressure +2), forcing him to turf it. Hawthorne(-1, cover -1) had gotten way out of position and this would have been open otherwise.
O30 2 10 I-Form twins Nickel press Run N/A Iso Van Bergen 9
Michigan goes nickel on second and long versus a standard set, and are one guy away from stuffing a run anyway. Martin(+1) slants under the backside G and just misses taking out the FB. Instead he's in the path of the RB, forcing him to stop and cut back behind. Both linebackers shed blocks and are about to tackle when Van Bergen(-2) gets blown way off the line after standing up initially, providing a cutback lane with no one in it because Black(-1) ran around upfield. Hawthorne nailed with a block in the back; no call. Johnson(+0.5, tackling +1) does fill well.
O39 3 1 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Campbell 2
Seems like M is playing this too conservatively, with two deep safeties and the LBs five yards off the LOS. Campbell(+0.5) stands up a G and comes off to tackle but it's not enough with the LBs having to come down from far away.
O41 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Pass N/A Post Woolfolk Inc
Good pocket(pressure -1) and Lindley seems to want a post on Woolfolk—you can tell how they're picking on him and avoiding Floyd. The receiver thinks it's a run play and starts blocking.
O41 2 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 3 Out Gordon 9
Gordon(-1) allows a five yard out, which fine, but then overruns the play (tackling -1), turning the five yards into nine. He does manage to tackle from behind when the WR slows up.
50 3 1 Ace twin TE 4-3 under Penalty N/A False start -- -5
This is why you don't talk into conch shells.
O45 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 6 Slant Woolfolk 9
No time to get to the QB here as it's slants; Woolfolk(-1, cover -1) is beaten, and while I wouldn't usually be so harsh here he's got a WR juggling the ball and if he hits him at all it's incomplete. Instead he's a step away. It's instructive to compare Floyd on the other side—he is covering his very well. Woolfolk leaves the game limping at this point.
M46 1 10 Goal line 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Hawthorne 4
Nothing on the frontside as Martin(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5) hold up; Heininger(-1) is blown up but Hawthorne(+1) slices into the gap before the guy coming off Heininger can pop him. Roh(+0.5) is flowing down the backside and forces a bounce all the way behind into an unblocked Avery, who tackles.
M42 2 6 I-Form twins 4-3 under Pass N/A Long handoff Floyd 5
Kovacs is charging hard from the inside and Floyd does play this better than Woolfolk, making a tackle instead of forcing him OOB. This means five yards instead of eight. Still less than ideal.
M37 3 1 I-Form Big 46 eagle Run N/A Down G Fitzgerald 2
Going at Fitz, lined up over the TE. He does an okay job to stay at the LOS but gets no penetration. Playside DE is RVB, who shoots into the backfield and gets blown out of the play. That is something that happens when you're gambling on short yardage. Demens(+0.5) gets to the lead blocker at the LOS and forces Kazee up the back of the TE; Hawthorne(+0.5) comes under a block to tackle but Kazee can fall forward for the first.
M35 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 4 PA Deep comeback Ryan 21 (Pen -10)
Ryan(+2, pressure +1) is blitzing off the edge and gets inside the fullback; he's held. Otherwise a sack is likely. Lindley steps around the hold and lofts an impossibly accurate back-foot deep comeback that nails a WR at the sticks 16 yards downfield in front of Avery. Dude made a lot of bad throws, but dude... this is dude. Avery(-1, tackling -1) compounds matters by missing a tackle.
M45 1 20 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Campbell 0
Campbell(+1) and Heininger(+1) both shove single blocking into the backfield, forcing the play behind into the unblocked Ryan(+0.5) for a TFL.
M45 2 20 Shotgun 2TE Nickel press Pass 4 TE flat Avery 2
Ryan(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5, pressure +1) bullrush right back into Lindley, forcing a quick throw for nothing that Avery(+1, cover +1, tackling +1) is all over.
M43 3 18 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Post Floyd Inc
Martin(+1, pressure +1) flushes Lindley up into the pocket; he has to throw as RVB threatens to come outside to take him out. It's a post. Similar to the previous incompletion on fourth down, here the Michigan defender is in very good position and Lindley's window is tiny. Floyd(+1, cover +1) doesn't get his head around for the ball and so doesn't pick up an extra plus; if he did you could have filed this under passes Lindley was lucky he didn't throw more accurately.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 6 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M48 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Pass 4 PA throwaway Martin Inc (Pen -10)
Martin(+2) blows through the center's block before Lindley can even turn around and his held. Lindley is all like GET IN THE CAR IT'S MIKE MARTIN and chucks the ball away. (Pressure +2)
O42 1 20 I-Form twins 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Demens -2
Hoo! Demens(+2) reads the play and roars to the LOS, blasting the pulling OL on his ass. Ryan(+2) set up the FB's block so that it would be in the wrong place, Harris-style, then explodes upfield at about the same time Demens is giving this OL the business, tackling for loss. Greg Mattison, man.
O40 2 22 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Slant Floyd Inc
Lindley wings a slant behind his receiver. Floyd(+0.5) seemed in position for an immediate tackle, which is fine in this D&D.
O40 3 22 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Dumpoff Black 8 (Pen +5)
Black(-1) jumps offside. Lindley checks down (cover +1) despite having a free play.
O45 3 17 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Comeback Martin Inc
Zone blitz with both LBs headed up the middle as the DEs drop off. Kovacs comes late. This is telegraphed and picked up; Martin(+2) quickly battles through the OT's block and gets a hurry on Lindley, forcing him to get rid of the ball. Comeback is well wide. Short of the sticks but in go for it range if complete. (Pressure +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-0, 11 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M39 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Ryan 2
Michigan slants the line away from the strength of the formation. This takes RVB(+0.5) into the playside G, eliminating him from downfield blocking. Ryan(+1) impacts both lead blockers, delaying the lead guy and taking the second one. Fitz's initial burst is taking him outside, where he'll need to be if there is a bounce against this slant, so he can't change direction fast enough to do much other than impact the FB that Ryan delayed. That's fine since the slant has left Hawthorne(-0.5) a free hitter. If he's as fast to the LOS as Fitz this is no gain; as it is he's a little late. He does tackle(+1). RPS +1.
M37 2 8 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Hitch Floyd Inc
WR beats Floyd(-1, cover -1) clean and Lindley can throw on rhythm. WR drops it. Pressure was getting there if there was a second read. (Pressure +1)
M37 3 8 Ace twins twin TE Okie press Run N/A Pitch sweep -- 22
Massive RPS here as Michigan is lined up in its okie set with one guy on deep and does not react when SDSU motions in a TE who was already split out. When the Aztecs run the toss to that side they've got Roh, Hawthorne, Kovacs, and Avery versus four OL. Yay. Roh(-1) crushed inside like Lewan is blocking him; Kovacs(-2) takes fatal steps to the interior. Hawthorne manages to spin outside one block only to get buried by another OL. Avery keeps leverage but has little hope of doing anything else. Johnson(+0.5) manages to dive at Hillman's feet as he nears the 15 despite taking on a block; Hillman runs through it but this slows him down enough for a pursuing RVB(+2) to tackle from behind, punching the ball free as he does. Ryan recovers. RPS -3. It is super inane that the replay focuses on Jake Ryan instead of the DT WHO RAN DOWN RONNIE HILLMAN. Guh.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 21-0, 9 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O23 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Yakety snap -- 1
Fumbled snap is picked up by Hillman, who rushes to the edge. Ryan gets lit up on a crackback block; Floyd cleans up. He's dinged on the tackle, paving the way for Countess.
O24 2 9 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Pass 4 TE Corner Martin Inc
This is open for a big chunk and just missed; Avery(-2, cover -2) has no threats in front of him and has to get much deeper on this to take it away. Ryan(+1) and Martin(+1) had both beaten blocks to pressure(+2) Lindley, possibly causing the incompletion. If Avery covers this is a sack.
O24 3 9 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Skinny post Countess Inc
Time, but no one open(cover +2); Countess(+2, cover +1 again) is tested and is running this skinny post for the WR; he's even got his head around. Ball is well behind the WR and incomplete.
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-0, 2 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M38 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 under Pass 4 PA something Countess Inc
Plenty of time(pressure -1); Lindley throws sort of in the direction of Countess and his guy but not, like, near them.
M38 2 10 I-Form twins 4-3 even Run N/A Iso Ryan 4
Ryan in space over the slot receiver. Campbell(+1) takes a double and doesn't move, then fights playside of his blocker. Hole is small. Fitz(+1) pops the FB right at the line; RVB(+1) fights outside to keep the bounce from happening; Ryan(-1) is hesitant about the bounce and fails to fill the last remaining crack of space Hillman has; he does tackle but the delay allows Hillman to get four where there were none. It is possible this is on RVB for bouncing out, but I doubt it since he's the senior.
M34 3 6 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Avery 7
This seems like about as good as you can defend this. Avery(+1, cover +1) does give up the inside but only barely; he's right on the WR's back and the throw has to be perfect and the catch good since Avery whacks the WR's hand just as the ball arrives, then tackles.
M27 1 10 Ace 3TE Nickel even Pass 4 PA TE Wheel Kovacs Inc (Pen -5)
Black(+1) beats a blocker and hurries Lindley(pressure +1), forcing a throw. This one is way off and wouldn't have mattered anyway since Kovacs(+2, cover +2) had run the guy's route for him, forcing the TE OOB of his own volition. Another good-thing-you're-inaccurate-buddy throw. TE was covered up anyway, illegal man downfield. I would not have taken a five yard penalty instead of an incompletion here.
M32 1 15 I-Form twins 4-3 under Pass 6 PA RB flat Hawthorne 13
Blitz gets a guy in but there is an easy dumpoff because of it; Hawthorne(-2, tackling -2) is running out to keep this down to a moderate gain but overruns the play badly, barely touching Hillman. Gordon comes from behind to tackle near the sticks.
M19 2 2 Goal line 4-3 under Pass 4 Waggle TE Flat Ryan 3
Hillman takes three yards on a TE flat. Okay.
M16 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 even Pass 4 Post Avery 16
I actually tend to blame Gordon more than Avery here; as soon as that TE in the slot goes horizontal you are no longer threatened in the deep middle and it's time to find the other WRs. That's speculation from me. Avery does get beat on the post but not by much. He's again on the back of the WR and forces a perfect throw, which Lindley provides. Am I being too nice here?
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-7, EO3Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
50 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Black 0
Black(+2) ducks under the OT's block and penetrates into the backfield, forcing Hillman away from blocking lanes and getting a diving arm tackle attempt that brings him to a near halt. Martin(+0.5) has held his position and pops off into a lane that Hillman might hit; he comes back inside, where Demens(+0.5) is there to finish the job.
50 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Slant Countess 10
Blitz up the middle with dropping DEs. I can't tell if this is Ryan's fault, Countess's fault, or no one's fault. Ryan drops back into the slot's slant instead of the outer slant, leaving it open; Countess is off the line. I'm watching Floyd on the other side play an identical slant and he's in much better position, so Countess(-1, cover -1) gets the ding. He does recover to tackle before the sticks. Also pressure -1.
M40 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 under Pass 5 Post Countess Inc
Ryan off the line. He approaches it on a late shift; Gordon comes down over the slot for a one-high look. Play action with the outside receivers going deep; Countess is in man with a guy on a post. He runs it for him (+2, cover +2) and Lindley adds to his list of thankfully inaccurate passes. Pressure -1.
M40 2 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Pass 4 Hitch Floyd Inc
Big personnel with Hillman spread out wide and a FB next to Lindley. They run a little hitch to Hillman, which might work okay if they'd successfully motioned out a LB on him, but it's Floyd(+2, cover +2), who breaks on the ball for a PBU. RPS +1.
M40 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 6 Fade Countess Inc
Blitz gets Morgan(+1, RPS +1, Pressure +2) a free run up the middle. Lindley makes a back-foot chuck a la Carder but this one is deadly accurate, a fade outside of Countess's guy(-1, cover -1) that he just drops.
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-7, 12 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Outside zone Ryan 14
I think. It's not really stretch blocking but the playside tackle is definitely sealing RVB inside. It bounces outside spectacularly because Ryan(-2) is hacked to the ground by a fullback block, giving up the corner. Demens(-2) is also cut to the ground, meaning there's zero chance anyone can get out there before the secondary.
O48 1 10 Ace twin TE 4-3 even Run N/A Jet sweep Van Bergen -5
A tiny little adjustment murderizes the play. Michigan goes to an even front, which shifts RVB outside over a TE. TEs fan out and RVB(+1). goes straight upfield to tackle(+1) for loss. Normally the TEs would block Ryan and the T would get Van Bergen but the shift to the even confused them. More bust than tactical checkmate but still RPS +1.
O43 2 15 I-Form twins Nickel even Run N/A Draw Van Bergen 4
Van Bergen(+1) blows his guy back as they make contact, forcing Hillman behind him and away from his blocking. Countess(+0.5) realizes what's going on and sees Hillman coming; he can't disengage smoothly but does manage to sort of arm tackle him; Demens(+0.5) finishes it off. I'll take a four yard run on second and fifteen when you're in nickel and they're in a regular set.
O47 3 11 Shotgun 3-wide Okie press Pass 6 Slant Countess 10
Countess(-1, cover -1) is beaten a lot easier than Floyd and Avery have been so far this game and can only tackle afterwards; no chance at a breakup. This sets up a fourth down.
M43 4 1 Ace 3TE 4-3 under Pass 4 PA TE Seam -- Inc
PA is wildly effective and this guy is wide open (RPS -2, cover -2) but either Lindley misses or his TE turns the wrong way and it's incomplete.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 21-7, 8 min 4th Q. Michigan scores quickly and SDSU gets the ball back with 6 minutes left down 21. Both starting units stay on so I'll keep charting, but with game situation in mind big minuses for chunks will be slim. I'm mostly just trying to get a grip on the D.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O27 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Out Kovacs Inc
Lindley badly misses on an out or the WR should have run a hitch; either way Kovacs(-1, cover -1) is way far off after a Floyd corner blitz.
O27 2 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Flat Countess 2
Okay pressure; Lindley has to check down (cover +1). Countess(+1, tackling +1) is the hard corner in the zone and comes up for an immediate tackle.
O29 3 8 Shotgun 4-wide Okie press Pass 5 Skinny post Van Slyke 23
Van Slyke in tight man against an SDSU TE and just gets outrun by yards. Man. That guy cannot play in real games, I don't think. No cover because I don't think this is relevant to actual games.
M48 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 3 Dig Hawthorne 15
Hawthorne(-2, cover -2) busts, flying out on an out route and leaving a big hole in the zone.
M33 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Post Gordon 14
Out and and a post behind it; Gordon starts moving out on the out, then realizes that's not a good idea and sinks back. On the throw he's right there but the WR undercuts him a little and gets to the ball first, making a juggling catch. He's there and he's got a shot at an INT; could have played it better when the ball got there. (-0.5)
M19 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Sack Roh -8
Not instant BG death pressure here as Lindley sits for a second or two before trying a deep corner route, but Roh(+2) does beat the OT and hit the QB as he throws, forcing a drive-ending fumble. Pressure +1.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 28-7, 5 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O17 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 TE seam Demens 30
Martin and Lindley are out there so I guess I'm charting. I have no idea what to do with this one since Demens is in great position and actually has this ball go off his head before the TE Prothros him. I think (+0.5, cover +1) but please get your head around son before you Todd Howard us all. I mean... this throw was really hard and so was the catch and Demens could have done better but he didn't do bad.
O47 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Out Countess? 13
This may be on Countess (-1, cover -1), as this appears to be zone; Countess sits down on a short hitch, opening space up behind him that Gordon and the S can't cover. He should definitely be dropping deeper in this situation; who cares about a little hitch?
M40 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Countess 1
Michigan misaligns and SDSU busts. Opa! Hawthorne(-1) lines up wrong but the WR out on the bubble doesn't block so okay. Countess tackles for a minimal gain.
M39 2 9 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Slant Gordon Inc
Gordon on the slot; pocket is okay; Black is getting there but Lindley can step up. Zinged to Denso, who makes a one-handed grab with Gordon in pursuit. Gordon was riding him but couldn't make a play on the ball. -0.5. It's dropped because of the tough throw.
M39 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Screen Ryan Inc
Ryan(+1) and Campbell(+1) read screen and snuff it out; Lindley turfs it. RPS +1. Black(-1) was offside.
M34 3 4 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Slant Gordon 9
Gordon(-1, cover -1) beaten, and fairly easily.
M25 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Slant Countess 6
Six yard slant with instant tackle... I usually don't ding these on first down since you have to be wary about longer routes.
M19 2 4 Shotgun 4-wide tight Nickel even Pass 4 Out Countess Inc
Wide. Probably right at the sticks if completed.
M19 3 4 Shotgun trips Nickel press Pass 4 Hitch Hawthorne 6
Hawthorne in tight coverage but Lindley fits it in and Hawthorne can't rake it out.
M13 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Throwaway Black Inc
Black(+1) gets some pressure and Lindley chucks it OOB due to good coverage(+1).
M13 2 10 Shotgun trips Nickel press Pass 4 Corner Countess Inc
Corner route against man is a TD if well thrown; this is too far inside. Countess(+0.5) is there and can make a play on the ball as it gets there, though, so there's that. M making it tough.
M13 3 10 Shotgun 4-wide Okie press Pass 7 Seam Floyd Inc
Unblocked guy, naturally, Lindley chucks it off his back foot inaccurately; Floyd(+1, cover +1, RPS +1) was riding the WR before the throw to make sure that was the case.
M13 4 10 Ace twins twin TE Nickel press Pass 4 Slant Gordon Inc
Gordon in trail position again and seems beaten but as the WR catches it he double clutches; Gordon(+1, cover +1) punches it loose.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 28-7, EOG.

OH MAH GAWD WE HELD A ACTUAL-ISH TEAM TO SEVEN POINTS

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

EEEEE—all right.

Yes. Right.

Composure.

Yes. Yes, smooth out the jacket.

Insert bubble pipe.

Adopt calm, professional mien.

How about a chart?

Yes, that will help.

image

That's not very professional.

I took out the reference to "sex."

You have multiple exclamation points… and did you put the title at a jaunty angle? IS THAT AN EMO-KID LOWERCASE LETTER AMONGST CAPITALS IN THERE?

It's not in comic sans at least.

Pretty soon you'll be referring to Michigan's coaches as "CBH, CGM, and CAB."

Hater. I'm not even going to let you say chart.

Already did.

Oooooh. Fine.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 8.5 2 6.5 Forced fumble was big deal; solid otherwise.
Martin 15.5 - 15.5 Unblockable today.
Roh 6.5 1 5.5 Not bad for splitting time.
Brink 0.5 - 0.5 Sporadic PT.
Heininger 3 3 0 I'll take it.
Black 4 4 0 Not much impact; two offsides calls.
Campbell 4.5 1 3.5 Keep hope alive.
TOTAL 42.5 11 31.5 Martin wrecked these guys. Check the pressure metric.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
C. Gordon - - - DNP
Demens 9.5 2.5 7 Not sure what to do with his Howard-esque coverage but I liked it.
Herron - - - DNP
Ryan 9.5 8 1.5 Paging Jonas Mouton to aisle reincarnation.
Fitzgerald 2 - 2 A couple plays.
Jones - - - DNP
Evans - - - DNP
Beyer - - - Did not register.
Hawthorne 4.5 6.5 -2 Half of minuses came on final drive, fwiw, but he did bust a coverage there.
Morgan 1 1 0 Eh.
TOTAL 26.5 18 8.5 A better day from most; Ryan makes plays but really needs to settle down on the edge.
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 5.5 1 4.5 Tony Gibson -1000
Avery 2 3 -1 Tough completions made against him.
Woolfolk 2 3 -1 Didn't seem right even before the injury.
Kovacs 3.5 3 0.5 Got him on the long RPS run.
T. Gordon 5 4 1 All safeties > 0 against real QB.
Countess 6 4 2 Not as rapturous as we thought but still pretty good, full stop.
Johnson 1 - 1 A couple of fills.
TOTAL 25 18 7 Stunning.
Metrics
Pressure 20 4 16 Jeepers.
Coverage 25 19 6 Flabbergasting.
Tackling 5 5 0 Could use work.
RPS 8 10 -2 Blitzing reduced as not necessary; did get RPS-3ed on a big run

To sanity check those numbers, SDSU had thirteen drives and got seven points. Four drives started at midfield or worse. When Michigan punched in their final TD to end the game with about six minutes left, SDSU had 266 yards. Michigan at least sort of forced three turnovers.

I think they're right. With a few exceptions on too-easy short passes and busts on edge contain, San Diego State got dominated.

But Lindley was terrible. This means nothing!

I don't think Lindley was good by any means, but in a way the Aztecs were lucky he was so off. On multiple plays Michigan had defensive backs in position to either get PBUs or intercept the ball only to see Lindley miss by miles. A lot of the time the reason those balls were so off was pressure applied by Martin or others.

Lindley is no joke, either. He is a legit NFL prospect:

Overall, he’s got a strong arm, showcases the ability to look off defenders, find a secondary option and when given time he can get his feet around toward his target. However, he doesn’t possess the kind of coordination/balance from the waist down that you want to see from an NFL quarterback, especially in today’s NFL where you need a QB who can escape pressure both inside and outside the pocket, settle himself quickly and burn a defense that wants to bring the blitz. Something I have a hard time seeing Lindley doing consistently at the next level.

Lindley is certainly worth a draft pick and has the skill set to go somewhere in the early/mid round range, depending on how well he performs the rest of the year/post-season. However, if he doesn’t improve his overall footwork/coordination from the pocket, it’s going to be tough for him to make plays in the NFL when he doesn’t have a clean pocket.

While he's not Tom Brady I don't have to remind anyone reading this of the murderer's row that carved Michigan up last year.

ben-chappellllllllmatt-mcgloinfootball-cat

The Michigan secondary held a fifth year senior NFL prospect QB to 5.3 YPA, which is also known as "Threet/Sheridan production." Take whatever coaching-upgrade-based optimism you held going into the season and triple it.

Okay, okay, no receivers and a lot of Mike Martin tearing through the line. Sure. San Diego State is going to backslide this year. I refer you to the above murderers row, though. Upgrade: massive.

Here's where I want to embed several plays that showcased Michigan's newfound talent for making life tough on opposing receivers, but I'm still trying to figure out what my status is there. But, man, even when SDSU was completing stuff they had guys in their grill. Lindley had to make some perfect passes to complete slants on Avery and often just missed because a guy like Demens had given him the choice of throwing it high/wide or throwing it into his helmet.

And the run defense?

There are still problems on the edge. Ryan did end up positive but is dinged for losing contain on three separate occasions that resulted in 30 yards. So there's that. There was also the massive minus rock-paper-scissor run that ended in the Hillman fumble. That was another 30 yards. So the SDSU run game:

  • Ryan losing contain on edge (w/ assist from Demens once): 3 carries, 30 yards
  • That one RPS play: 1 carry, 30 yards
  • Everything else: 24 carries, 77 yards

As a wise groundskeeper in a Snickers commercial once said, great googly moogly. Say what you want about Lindley and his receivers, SDSU returned essentially their entire running game and was shut down when not exploiting one freshman's issues with keeping the edge or running that one play. Those things seem fixable. Even if they aren't, Michigan held the Aztecs to 4.2 YPC.

I'm getting closer to believing that Campbell can be an average three-tech in the Big Ten. Like, a guy who doesn't get blown up and is mildly positive. Weakness at LB outside of Demens is going to be an issue that prevents Michigan from having a really good run defense, but I think they're 80% of the way to the best case scenario already.

So you're down on Ryan, then.

Relative to the rest of the internet, yeah. I think he's promising. I also think he's making four or five really obvious mistakes per game. Maize Pages picture paged the second play of the game, a six yard run that was the first of Michigan's Flip You For Real plays. Notice something?

flip-you-for-real-5

The middle linebacker is… Brandin Hawthorne. The line is… undershifted. Jake Ryan is… definitely not in position. When Michigan meant to run an even front this is what it looked like:

even-for-real

Demens in the middle, line slid more playside. Maize Pages dinged the D for not adjusting but they didn't have to; a safety slid down when the TE went in motion. If Ryan's where he's supposed to be Michigan probably defends this play.

COUNTESS!

I'm a little less thrilled than I was on gameday but I'm still pretty impressed. Even more impressive: when SDSU runs double slants and I look across the field at Floyd to see if he's playing it better, he is. Maybe we should be saying FLOYD!

Seriously. When the starters were in there, SDSU went after Woolfolk. When Avery was in there, they went after Avery. Floyd came up with a jumped-route PBU and ended up significantly positive despite being a corner. I'm still leery about the depth of the transformation here but each game adds evidence to the pile indicating Floyd can play now and Pitt fans should get used to shootouts.

Back to Countess: he ran some routes for guys, which puts him in a group with Gordon, Kovacs, Floyd, and not quite Avery. I be like dang.

image

Speaking of being like dang…

Yes. Mike Martin in full effect, never more so than when he literally ran over the SDSU center en route to the QB. A large number of Lindley's hopeless mortar shells can be directly attributed to Martin ripping through those guys like they were not there. This was a solid offensive line he did it to; with his quietly plus-double-digit day against Eastern (no passes to be devastating on) he seems poised to wreck the Big Ten. I can't wait to see him matchup against MSU's center, who will be a freshman coming off injury or a converted DT.

Why is your eye twitching?

BOY I'M GLAD TERRANCE ROBINSON CAN TACKLE DESPITE BEING SIX INCHES TALL

punt-wtf

That's a lot of grass, man. That is all.

Heroes?

Mike Martin, JT Floyd(!?!), RVB, and Kenny Demens.

Goats?

If I had to pick a guy it would be Ryan, but even that is a guy who ended up positive on the day. Black also should be mentioned—if you're going to take two offsides penalties you need to have one big negative play to compensate and he didn't.

What does it mean for Minnesota and beyond?

They should do about what they did to SDSU to Minnesota, a team in disarray that can maybe run a little bit when Gray is in there. I actually expect them to hold the Gophers to not many points.

As far as beyond, it seems like they've plugged a lot of their holes. I'm still worried about what happens when Michigan goes up against a serious offensive line but it's hard to find any until the last couple weeks of the schedule. There has been ever less firedrill confusion as the season progresses and in two weeks when they start the Big Ten schedule in earnest it's not too much to expect it to be largely gone. Then it's just a matter of getting improvement from Ryan/Hawthorne/Campbell/Johnson to bring the starting defense up to "decent to good Big Ten team." There's still a lack of out and out stars behind Martin but it's hard to point to a truly gaping hole at the moment, either.

This could all blow up against Northwestern if they've got Persa back. Right now, though, the defense is currently executing the best case scenario.

Boot On The Other Throat

Boot On The Other Throat

Submitted by Brian on September 26th, 2011 at 11:11 AM

9/24/2011 – Michigan 28, San Diego State 7 – 4-0

imagebracelets-doylebrunson2005hokesmug

A long, long time ago now a Lloyd-Carr coached Michigan team was struggling through the 2005 season when they met Northwestern. A lot of throws to Tacopants (Jason Avant's 11-foot-tall imaginary friend) on both sides later, Michigan emerged with a 33-17 win and I embarked on one of the first of an endless procession of stat-nerd diatribes about the evils of punting.

You've probably heard it already: punting decisions have not kept pace with the increasingly offensive nature of the game, leaving coaches in a perpetual state of risk- and win-avoidance. Romer paper, Pulaski High, Mathlete chart. Etc.

In this particular Northwestern game, though, Carr went for it on fourth and five from the Northwestern 23, a decision I thought was too aggressive(!). When paired with a number of similarly aggressive calls from earlier that season, it seemed like a sea change for the old man:

In multiple cases he's made tough, correct decisions: going on fourth and goal from the one against Wisconsin, pounding it into the line twice against Michigan State, etc. Even when the strategy has backfired, he accepts the downside and persists in a more aggressive posture.

In context, the Penn State gaffe seems more like one last hit of that sweet Bombay Popsicle* snuck in-between rehab sessions than evidence of 1970s thinking taking hold. Lloyd Carr has checked himself in to the Betty Ford Center for Coaches Addicted to Low Variance. I wouldn't expect a flying-colors discharge any time soon, but he's made the first, biggest step.

*[I don't know either.]

That change lasted into the fourth quarter of that year's Ohio State game. Having acquired a two-score lead by converting a fourth and inches around the Michigan 40, Carr reverted to his primitive instincts at the crucial moment. With three minutes left from the Ohio State 40, he called for a wide receiver screen on third and ten. It gained six yards. With a two point lead, three minutes on the clock, no Ohio State timeouts left, and a fourth and four on the Ohio State 34, Carr punted. Ohio State drove for a touchdown; Carr would never again have the opportunity to kill a game against the Buckeyes.

In the moment, Carr choked. Six years on that single decision seems like the best way to explain why a lot Michigan fans found his tenure frustrating despite its high rate of success: the program was perpetually making poor decisions because a combination of fear and arrogance. Something could go wrong if you made a high variance decision, and Michigan could spit on expected value because This Is Michigan. See any game in which Michigan acquired an 18-point lead or the first half of the Orange Bowl for confirmation.

Carr coached like he had a kickass running game and killer defense no matter the facts, which was the difference between being a legend and a being a B+ coach who lost the battle with Tressel authoritatively. Hell, even Tressel blew games when he failed to adjust to the reality that sometimes his defense and special teams were not enough, and he ran roughshod over the Big Ten for nine years.

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

Part of the reason a segment of the Michigan fanbase (including the author) blew up at Hoke's hire is because it seemed to represent a return to that expectation-spurning 1970s decision-making.

Brady Hoke put a lot of those fears to rest by going for—and getting—the win against Notre Dame with eight seconds left. That decision was a no-brainer. If the field goal team had run out onto the field, I would have been livid. That was a test he passed, but it was one with a low bar.

On Saturday, Hoke sent out the punting team with about two and a half minutes left in the first half. It was fourth and two around midfield, and I was mildly peeved. It was not the percentage play, but I've watched a lot of football and it seemed too much to hope that even the rootin'est, tootin'est, eyepatch-wearingest pirate of a head coach would go for it. Needing more than a sneak and up fourteen in the first half, the world punts. My peevishness was directed at football coaches in general, not Hoke in particular.

And then.

And then an angel came down from the sky, and signaled timeout. Great trumpets erupted from the flagpoles, playing a fanfare as a golden staircase descended. Each of the steps was engraved with the names of World Series of Poker winners. Down from the clouds strode Doyle Brunson, clad in a jacket of hundred-dollar bills. And lo, Texas Dolly spaketh unto the people: "check-raise." Brady Hoke sent the offensive line onto the field.

This was a really, really good decision. Even if you don't believe the exact outlines of the Mathlete's calculations, it is not close: average offense versus average defense means the break-even line is around eight yards. This was not an average situation. Michigan had Denard Robinson against a pretty horrible run defense. And that number does not take into account the game situation. If Michigan gets the first down they are almost certainly robbing San Diego State of a possession. Punting gets you thirty, forty yards of field position. Getting the first down puts you in good position to score and is essentially another +1 in turnover margin. You need two yards and you have Denard Robinson.

(caption) Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson breaks away from the San Diego State defense for a big gain in the second quarter. Robinson rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, a 9.5-yards-per-carry average. He struggled in the passing game, however, completing just 8 of 17 passes for 93 yards with two interceptions.  *** After jumping out to a 21-0 lead by halftime, courtesy of three rushing touchdowns by Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, the Wolverines turned the ball over three times in the second half, but held on to beat coach Brady Hoke's former team, the San Diego State Aztecs 28-7 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Photos taken on Saturday, September 24, 2011. ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )

stealing a joke from the internet: the guy on the right looks like he just looked into the Ark of the Covenant. via the News.

One speed option later Michigan was en route to the endzone and had essentially ended the game. Without that massively +EV decision they go into halftime up maybe 14, maybe 11, maybe 7 points. That ugly third quarter becomes the gut-check time most were predicting before the game. Maybe Michigan comes out on top (24-21, say). Maybe not. That didn't happen because when Michigan had its boot on San Diego State's neck, Hoke called Z 22 stomp right.

The Lloyd Carr example above shows we don't know that Hoke's going to do this consistently, that he'll stick to the non-pejorative MANBALL when the pressure is at its greatest, but so far so good. Even my doubts about Hoke's ability to math up in the waning moments of an Ohio State game are faint. When things go wrong he does not scowl or pout or throw headsets like Rich Rodriguez or Brian Kelly or Bo Pelini. He does not go on tilt. He calmly talks to guys about what in the hell they were thinking.

Hoke continues to leave best-case scenarios in the dust. Saturday night I watched Dennis Erickson punt on fourth and five from the USC 37 and thought "my coach would never do that." Then I watched Erickson chew out the punter who put the ball in the endzone because that's what happens when you punt from the 37 and thought "my coach would never do that."

That felt good. It felt invent-a-time-machine-to-assure-yourself-its-all-going-to-be-okay good. It feels like Michigan has finally learned how to gamble.

+EV Non-Bullets

Boy do I want to play poker with certain people on the internet. Evaluating the decision has popped up on every Michigan message board. It's mostly been met with praise, but man, there are a lot of people who can't estimate and multiply out there. Maybe it's Carr Stockholm syndrome.

Photoset. The SDSU photoset comes via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer:

A reminder: anything on the MGoBlog photostream is creative-commons licensed, free to use for non-commercial applications. Attribution to Eric Upchurch, the Observer, and MGoBlog is appreciated.

Mark Huyge is delighted to be here. From the above SDSU photoset.

huyge-1huyge-2huyge-3

It's not quite the Molk death glare. It's more like Shifty-Eyed Dog.

Try to look at Mark Huyge ever again without having that play in your head.

Eric also managed to get a picture of Denard looking sad after a win, which I thought was not possible, and this shot of a fully-padded Van Bergen about to opine on Kant:

ryan-van-bergen-kant

That's a great question. Just as our rationality leads us to a belief in an objective reality, Kant believed there is an objective morality we can locate from the same process. The Categorical Imperative is an absolute, fundamental moral law on par with Minnesota losing to teams from the Dakotas. Things are either right or wrong—there are no gray areas, and context does not apply. You could call him the BJ Daniels of philosophy*.

*[Ten-cent summary of Kantian philosophy cribbed from Three Minute Philosophy, which is terrific. Philosophers wishing to quibble with my paraphrase of a comedic summary are invited to consider the moral consequences of their actions and also jump in a lake. USF fans wishing to WOO BJ DANIELS can skip to the latter.]

And the internet eeeed Countess. When Troy Woolfolk headed to the sidelines, all Michigan fans everywhere winced. When Blake Countess replaced JT Floyd in the third quarter, all Michigan fans everywhere prepared for the deluge.

It never came, and as a result everyone from my uncle to the internet to the newspapers are having little freakouts about Michigan's #4 corner. I am with all of you. The only thing stopping Countess from having a few PBUs or interceptions was Ryan Lindley's inability to throw the ball anywhere near the guys Countess had blanketed but Lindley targeted anyway.

For most of the third quarter I stopped watching the offensive backfield and started watching downfield coverage and while I won't be able to confirm this on the tape I think Countess was doing really well even when people weren't going after him. I'm with the rest of the internet when I suggest that Troy Woolfolk should take the Minnesota game off to recover from his multiple nagging injuries so we can see some more of the freshman.

I thought Avery did well, too. He had a third-down slant completed on him and was the DB victimized on the touchdown but in both cases he was right there tackling/raking at the ball. Is he doing something wrong I'm not perceiving yet? Because I think he's playing better than Woolfolk, who gave up some groan-worthy easy completions. (I don't blame him for allowing Hillman to bounce on one third down conversion because he was clearly held.)

Release the Martin. This week in the I-told-you-so files: Mike Martin is just fine. His good day last week was obscured by EMU never throwing and having quite a bit of success attacking away from him. Against SDSU he was nigh unblockable, bowling a veteran offensive line over backwards multiple times and drawing holding calls left and right. Craig Roh had two big plays and will show up doing little things when I do the UFR; Will Campbell had a couple of line-pushing plays. Hillman's YPC was still over five, so there are issues but I think a big chunk of them are localizable to…

Problems. So… everyone's talking up Jake Ryan, too. I'm with everyone in a general, long-term sense but a little less enthused about his performance on Saturday. One of the results of the first few weeks of UFRing/picture paging is that whenever the opponent tries to get outside I immediately focus on Ryan. Result from last week: three "aaargh Ryan" screams that no one in my section comprehended. He's still giving up the corner way too easy.

Also, there are two caveats to an otherwise encouraging performance from the secondary. One: Lindley and his receivers were flat bad as a group. Drops, bad routes, and bad throws artificially boosted Michigan's efficiency against him. Some of that was caused by pressure. Some of it was just a crappy opponent. Two: I wonder if Michigan's familiarity with the SDSU offense allowed them to beat the Aztecs' favorite routes into Michigan DBs heads.

Still, 5.3 YPA and actual depth at corner. +1 Mallory.

Offensive construction bits. Another week, another confirmation that running Denard is the offense. While I still groan whenever they line up under center, snaps from there were limited. I would really prefer it if they never ran I-form power on first and ten again, though. They've mixed in some inexplicably effective short play action so far; if they can't run that will probably dry up.

Things I liked: That screen to Smith. The essence of an RPS+3 is when three offensive linemen have no one to block for 30 yards. And then the much-discussed speed option debuted. I'd gotten a couple insider emails telling me it was part of the offense but thought it would be extremely bad form to publish that, so I'd been waiting. It was quite a debut.

I'm hoping we see Borges add wrinkles at the same rate Rodriguez did. He'll have to to keep the run offense ahead of the wolves. He's off to a good start.

vincent-smith-sdsu

via the Detroit News.

Tailbacks. I'm suddenly happy with Michigan's tailback situation after Vincent Smith made a lot of yards on his own, including the above touchdown where he kept his balance at about the five and managed to drag a safety into the endzone. There was also the zone play where he squeezed through a crack in the line it's possible literally no other D-I back would have fit through.

Toussaint, meanwhile, didn't have the yards Smith did but ran hard on the inside; I still like him best but understand if they're going to split duties between the top two. I feel bad for Shaw—maybe it's time to put him on kickoffs? He's got speed Smith does not.

The Denard question. So they did run a curl-flat. Denard went to the curl way late and threw his first interception. Not sure if that was schemed or just bad execution by the offense. If it's the latter that might be attributable to not running it over the offseason as Borges attempted to install his route packages, route packages that now seem like things Denard just can't do.

A three-point plan in an attempt to get Denard back on track:

  1. Stop throwing on the run.
  2. Provide some easy throws early—all hitch, snag—in an effort to get him calmed down.
  3. Develop some sort of counter-punch to the opponent getting all up in Denard's face on the rollout PA. A shovel pass?

Bending but not breaking. Michigan's giving up a lot of yards but not a lot of points. Frankly, some of this is luck. They are acquiring turnovers at an unsustainable rate. Not unsustainable for a mediocre defense, unsustainable for Michigan 1997. When the well dries up they'll do some more breaking.

The other thing is the secondary. Michigan's newfound ability to make plays on deep balls and Jordan Kovacs being stone-cold reliable (so far /crosses self) have erased cheap touchdowns for the opposition. WMU's touchdown came on a 15-play drive. ND touchdown drives went 7, 10, 7, and 4 plays. San Diego State's took six plays but started from the Michigan 38. The only quick drive Michigan's given up all year was ND's desperation drive, on which Michigan gave up chunks on purpose because of the time situation and then tried an NFL-style defense they weren't ready for and blew it. The longest touchdown other than that was the 16-yard pass Lindley hit in the third quarter.

Opponents have ripped off chunks on occasion, but they have not been handed free touchdowns. Michigan's at least making them earn it. That's a necessary first step on the road away from completely awful.

The next opponent. When Minnesota managed to hang with USC on the first weekend of the season they seemed like they might be more intimidating than your average Minnesota team. Then they lost to Not Even The Good New Mexico and North Dakota State and seemed even less intimidating than your average Minnesota team. Compounding matters: Jerry Kill is again out of commission with his seizure issue.

Drumline? Drumline:

Here

I did not VOAV this week for reasons of being spooked. Boyz In The Pahokee provided the usual bounty if you are jonesing.

ST3 goes Inside the Box Score:

Matt Wile. Wait, let me try that again. MATT WILE!!! Yeah, I think he was properly pumped up to play his Dad's team. Net yards per kickoff were 50 for SDSU and 49.2 for UofM. To be even on kickoffs is a win for us. Net yards per punt were 34.7 for SDSU and 43.5 for Michigan. To gain almost a full first down per punt is huge. Two punts were inside the 20, and two were 50+ yards. #82, Terrance Robinson had 2 ST tackles and did a great job as the gunner on punts.

Wile's just lost his punting job; if that allows him to improve his kickoffs and compete for the field goal job, Michigan's kicking could be one of those strength things by midseason. 

Lordfoul's weekly Hoke for Tomorrow:

Michigan needs Hagerup back.  Maybe Hagerup isn't the only answer.  Wile's kicks are improving it would seem, both on KOs and punts, possibly because his nerves are settling down.  Kickoffs regularly made it to the goal line and only 1 of 4 punts was returned for much while they averaged 49 yards per with a long of only 51(!).

Player participation notes from jtmc33.

Elsewhere

Media, as in files: Brady Hoke pointing at something. Hugs and Ryan Van Bergen's ripped jersey. AnnArbor.com's photo gallery.

MVictors got a few sideline shots, including SDSU's mascot:

1montazuma_thumb[1]

You see that conch shell he's got in his hand? At some point in the first half he was talking into it like it was a cell phone. That is all.

Media, as in blog rabble. BWS hops aboard the Countess bandwagon and points out Denard can't throw.

MGoBlog : The Big Lebowski :: The Hoover Street Rag : The Hunt For Red October:

After the Notre Dame game, I tweeted very simply: "And the singing, Captain?" "Let them sing."  The moment was too good to start worrying about the future.  But at some point, the future arrives and you need to deal with it.  How well prepared you are for that future plays a large role in how well you're able to handle it when the moment arrives.  The non-conference schedule, particularly one played as four games at the start of the season should, theoretically, be a nice combination of challenges and the working out of kinks.  Before the mission starts, you must know the capacity and capabilities of your crew.

Touch the Banner provides the usual breakdown, says we should see "no one" less on the defense. Whoah. MGoFootball highlights the tailbacks, says D is a live.

Media, as in local newspaper. John Niyo on the defense, which is extant. Chengelis on the fact the team is not vintage. San Diego State had big pictures of their former coaches as signals. The Daily on RVB's Hillman chase:

Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen caught Hillman from behind inside the 10-yard line and knocked the ball loose for the second fumble.

Try reading it this way: a 288-pound defensive tackle caught the nation’s second-leading rusher from behind in the open field — 30 yards away from the line of scrimmage.

Van Bergen got a block from fifth-year senior defensive tackle Mike Martin, but most of his help came from practice.

“But when it comes down to it, we have the most explosive player in the country in our backfield,” Van Bergen said. “We get to play against (junior quarterback) Denard (Robinson), so we’ve learned how to take angles at guys who have speed.

“I took off on my horse just thinking, ‘I’ve almost caught Denard before, maybe I can catch this guy.’ ”

AnnArbor.com writes similarly. The San Diego perspective:

“They were very emotional after the game, depressed, disappointed, upset, however you want to say,” said Long, whose team dropped to 3-1 after Saturday’s 28-7 defeat. “It was a very emotional locker room after the game and not in a good sense.”

They probably would have done a “poor job” of answering questions, Long said, so he kept them behind closed doors. “It’s my job to protect them,” Long said Sunday. “This is not pro football.” …

"The defense got shocked by the speed of especially one guy (Robinson),” Long said. “They got shocked by the strength they had up front and the speed of quarterback early in the game.”

Nesbitt on Denard's twitter adventure. Meinke points out Michigan's massive uptick in red zone efficiency:

• Offensively, Michigan is 13-for-13 on red-zone opportunities. It is one of 13 teams in the country to have scored on every trip inside the 20-yard line this year.

• Even better? The Wolverines have scored touchdowns on 12 of those 13 trips. That 92-percent touchdown rate trails only Texas Tech nationally.

One of the main arguments made in favor of Shotgun Forever is that red zone efficiency is not a stat that shows much repeatable skill year to year and that the huge chunks of yards Michigan picked up without, you know, scoring in 2010 would turn into points if you just left the damn thing alone (and got a kicker). The early returns are excellent.

National takes. Smart Football:

- Michigan 28, San Diego State 7. Brady Hoke’s new team faced his old team, and I’m still not sure, despite their 4-0 record, that we know anything about this Michigan football team. The defense seems to be improving under DC Greg Mattison, but they’ve been using so much movement and motion to cover up their talent weaknesses it’s unclear how the defense will fare against a polished opponent. And while the offense has found a better rhythm running a Rich Rodriguez-lite Denard Robinson attack — including Denard’s long TD run on the speed option — his passing line was abysmal: 8 of 17 for 93 yards, no TDs and two interceptions. He’s obviously uncomfortable in the new offense. He looked like a more polished and comfortable passer last year. I chalk some of this up to the fact that the very techniques he’s using are new, but he’s going to have to improve for UM to have success. That said, given Michigan’s favorable schedule — no Wisconsin and the easy part of the Big 10 schedule up next — we may not learn anything about Michigan until the last three weeks of the season, when they play Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State.

No one else bothered. A couple weeks after puntosauring himself into a loss against Iowa State, BHGP documents Kirk Ferentz opening Iowa's game against ULM in a shotgun spread, demonstrating the Carr thing above perfectly.

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs EMU

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs EMU

Submitted by Brian on September 21st, 2011 at 3:56 PM

Gratuitous video of the week:

Substitution notes: The secondary was Woolfolk/Floyd/Kovacs/Gordon almost the whole game, with Avery coming in on the garbage time drive and one snap for Marvin Robinson towards the end of charted time. When Michigan brought in a nickelback, which wasn't often, it was Raymon Taylor; they left Gordon at safety.

Demens, Hawthorne, and Ryan were almost always out there at LB. Fitzgerald, Morgan, and Beyer got one or two drives each as backups.

On the line there was more rotation. Black and Roh just about split snaps at WDE. Martin and RVB were usually out there and then Heininger and Campbell split snaps at the other DT spot. Brink and Washington made cameos.

Formation notes: A lot more 4-3 this week going up against a team that uses fullbacks and TEs and stuff. This is your 4-3 under in the flesh:

hawthorne-angle-1

Line shaded to the weakside, Ryan on the line over TEs, two MLB types in the backfield.

There was also this, which I was at a loss to name:

4-4-something

Let's get a closeup of the line here:

4-4-something

You've got an undershifted line, linebackers shifted over… and JB Fitzgerald lined up shaded inside the TE. I called this 5-3 under. If anyone knows what an actual coach might call it let me know.

On with show:

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O10 1 10 I-form twins unbalanced 4-3 under Pass 5 PA Fly Woolfolk Inc
PA with two guys in the route. One is a fly on Woolfolk(+1, cover +1), who is stride for stride for the guy and has a play on the ball if it's accurate. It's not.
O10 2 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Run N/A Jet sweep Ryan 13
Pretty much all Ryan(-2), who flies directly upfield and loses contain instantly. Gordon and Woolfolk are on the edge with Demens pursuing from inside but not much chance for anyone to do anything about it since there's a blocker for each player and just tons of space.
O23 1 10 I-form 4-3 even Run N/A Power off tackle Heininger 6
Heininger(-2) clobbered off the ball by a double team. He gets shoved right out of the hole. Demens is immediately under pressure by a guy with a great angle on him and Hawthorne has to take on a tough lead block despite being 214 pounds. They both do credible jobs(+0.5 each). There is no crease for the back. Unfortunately there's another blocker coming and no one to tackle because of Heininger's play, so the pile lurches forward for a significant gain. Picture-paged.
O29 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Run N/A Power off tackle Black 3
Taylor in; TGordon stays at S. RVB(-2) is blown up this time and Hawthorne(-1) is pancaked by the guy peeling off RVB. Large gap. Demens(-1) comes up to fill, this time keeping leverage when I'm not entirely sure he should. He's got Gordon as a free hitter outside of him. In any case, the blocker kicks his ass. This is about to be EMU RB versus Kovacs for TD when Black(+3) saves everyone's bacon. He shoved the TE into the backfield, forcing an awkward cut inside, then dove to tackle(+1) the guy as he passes. Major bailout.
O32 3 1 Goal line 4-4 even Pass N/A Flea flicker (scramble) Hawthorne 19
Black and Hawthorne both get in basically unblocked and are there to pressure(+1, RPS +1) Gillett. They miss because Hawthorne(-1) gets too fast and Gillett manages to move around them. Demens is then trying to scrape to wherever Gillett's going to pop up when Martin pops back out of his stance and trips him. Just one of those things.
M49 1 10 I-form 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 12
Michigan is slanting away from the play(RPS -1), which makes it tough on the DL. Still, RVB(-1) should do better to hold his ground and Demens(-2) definitely needs to get outside the first blocker to funnel the RB back to his help. He does not. Ryan did okay on the edge, it's just everything else here. RB into the secondary Black(+2) read the OL pull (apparently we can do that!) and immediately peeled off to pursue from the backside; he is almost the only thing between EMU and a touchdown other than a blocked Kovacs. He gets there to tackle at the sticks. The +2 is just for the pursuit and the tackle; the forced fumble is a bonus.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 0-0, 12 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O27 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 4-3 under Pass 4 PA Deep cross Ryan 18
This looks a lot like the shotgun counters that have burned Michigan the first two weeks: counter step from the RB, pulling backside G, another lead blocker, this time another RB. Instead of a handoff Gillett spins backwards and rolls out. Later this will hurt EMU. Ryan is sent on a blitz, reads the pull, and dives inside to blow up the counter he thinks is coming. Hard to fault him for that. This gets Gillett out on the edge; Ryan does come through the block to provide some token pressure. This isn't enough to throw the QB off; he finds a receiver open for a chunk. I guess you could blame Demens or Gordon here but that seems really harsh to me. (RPS -1, pressure -1, cover -1.) Kovacs(+0.5) comes up to tackle immediately. Picture paged.
O45 1 10 Shotgun 2TE unbalanced 4-3 over Run N/A Jet sweep Ryan 18
Ryan(-2) again gives up the edge on the sweep action. He compounds matters by falling to the ground as he tries to get outside. Demens is held inside by a QB run fake momentarily; Woolfolk comes up to the outside and is cut inside of. I do think Demens(-1) could have reacted more quickly here—RVB was going to be in the QB's face if he kept—and held this down to eight or so. BWS picture pages.
M37 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 over Run N/A QB down G Hawthorne 8
EMU motions a tight end over late and snaps quickly; Demens shifts a couple yards strongside but Hawthorne does not match him; on the snap they're right next to each other. As a result Hawthorne(-2) gives up the corner, getting blocked by the RB. Black(-1) had gotten blown off the ball by a double and there might have been room inside as well, but there's no question to the outside.
M29 2 2 I-form 5-3 under Run N/A Down G Van Bergen -3
Michigan crushes this. Van Bergen(+2) shoots straight upfield, blowing up the lineman trying to pull around and getting through into the backfield. Heininger(+1) slants past his blocker on the backside to show up in the running lane; Fitzgerald(+0.5) is three yards into the backfield taking on the puller RVB blew up, and Martin(+1) has shed a blocker. Nowhere for the RB to go. RPS +2.
M32 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Run N/A QB power Hawthorne 4
S brought down for an extra guy. FWIW, Gordon is coming down instead of Kovacs. He's your SS. Ryan(+1) is left alone for a pulling guard to take. He takes the guy on a yard into the backfield over where the tackle was and stands his ground. Gillett doesn't really know where to go; the back also impacts Ryan to provide a corner. This gives Hawthorne(-1) a free run. All he has to do is form up and he's got a TFL; instead he misses the tackle(-1), allowing Gillett to spin inside and start picking up yards. RVB tackles from behind; Kovacs(+0.5) stands Gillett up as he nears the sticks, forcing a fourth down.
M28 4 1 Ace Firedrill Run N/A Tricky pitch Kovacs 14 + 7 pen
EMU to the line quickly and snaps before Michigan is prepared; line dive blocks as if they're going for the QB sneak. Everyone bites on it; they pitch outside, where there isn't anyone. Kovacs(-1) was the playside guy who did not stay responsible on the RB, but this is mostly an RPS play as EMU caught Michigan unprepared. Growing pains. RPS -2. Taylor gets a legit but pretty weak late hit after.
M7 1 G I-Form trip TE 5-4 under Run N/A Power off tackle Ryan 4
Either Ryan or Black screws up here. Black dives inside the last TE on the line, then heads upfield a bit to pick off the fullback. Ryan hangs outside as well, allowing the pulling G to not even block him. Need to have one of those guys cram that hole down. I vote Black(+1) for taking out two blockers and against Ryan(-1) for not even hitting a guy on this play. Kovacs(-0.5) is also slow to react, waiting for the RB to get to him instead of IDing the hole opening in front of him and hitting it.
M3 2 G I-Form trip TE Goal line Run N/A Power off tackle Van Bergen 1
EMU flipping TEs everywhere and Michigan not reacting quickly enough—Heininger is trying to get Martin to slide over at the snap. He does just make it. RVB(+3) blows this up himself, though, sliding through a downblock and into the pulling G. The RB has to cut behind this mess and ends up falling over the G RVB had put on the ground moments earlier. Martin(+0.5) had gotten through a block to show up in the hole just in case.
M2 3 G Power I Goal line Run N/A Iso Martin 1
Michigan again having a hard time lining up. This time Black trips over himself trying to get to the wrong side of the line. He gets up and just gets into place on the snap. Martin(+2) takes a guard's block and chucks the dude past him, then comes under the tackle trying to deal with RVB to meet the second FB—actually an OL—a yard in the backfield. The pile of meat gets a yard.
M1 4 G Power I Goal line Run N/A Iso Kovacs -
Everyone does the low-man-wins goal line blocking as EMU tries it again. Roh(+1) is in the path of the pulling dudes and wins his block, penetrating into the backfield. The second FB is tripped up/leaps from about the three. The RB tries the same thing only for Kovacs(+2) to roar around from behind him and stall his momentum, spinning him to a halt short of the goal line with an assist from Demens(+0.5). Picture-paged by MGoFootball.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 0-0, 4 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M24 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Down G Campbell 4
Campbell's been in a bit and this is his first noticeable play. This appears to be a slant to the playside here, which is good for M as it gets Campbell(+1) past his assigned down-blocker and into the guy lined up right over him who pulled. Roh(+1) swam through his blocker to set up outside of the Campbell mess; cutback. RVB(-1) is flowing down the line; he's too far upfield after shoving a DL and allows the guy to dive through an arm tackle for positive yards.
M20 2 6 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 even Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 2
Miss part of this play; looks like counter action from a tight shot of the RB. M gets lucky as the guy blocking RVB thinks the blitzing Ryan is a major issue and peels off; pulling G now has to take RVB. This leaves Demens(+0.5) unblocked in the hole. His tackle is spun through but that takes a long time to happen; Ryan(+0.5) comes from behind to finish the job but there's some YAC here.
M18 3 4 Shotgun trip TE 4-4 under Run N/A Pin and pull zone Hawthorne 7
Guh. Triple TEs to one side and Michigan slants away from it. Guys right over the LBs are pulling and both are so late. What can they be keying on? Hawthorne(-2) is especially late; Demens tries to shoot a gap without effect but it was a good idea given that setup. M blitzed from the weakside, had no support over the top, and even if Hawthorne plays this perfectly this doesn't look like a stop (RPS -2)
M11 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Pin and pull zone Van Bergen 3
Van Bergen(+2) shocks his blocker with a quick punch and gets playside of a downblock. He ends up driving to the outside, sucking up both lead blockers and forcing a cutback. Demens(+0.5) pops up in a hole; more cutback. Roh has hesitated a bit in case Gillett keeps, which is fine, but Heininger(-1) got blown up and ends up pancaked so when Roh comes down the line he's only able to tackle from behind; forward momentum is slowed by Hawthorne but not stopped.
M8 2 7 Shotgun 2TE 4-4 over Run N/A Power off tackle Hawthorne 2
EMU seems to have a bad playcall on because there is no blocker for Hawthorne(RPS +1). Block down, pull backside T and G around. Ryan is kicked out by G. Demens kicked out by the T. Hawthorne(+1) is free to meet in the hole; Demens peels to help tackle.
M6 3 5 Shotgun 2TE 4-4 over Run N/A Jet sweep Demens 2
Finally some contain. Gordon(+1) is creeping up looking for this on the jet motion and forces a cut up, picking off a blocker. Ryan does better but still gets too far upfield, IME. No delay in the guy's path because of him. Thanks to the contain Demens and Kovacs have shots at this; Kovacs(+0.5) takes a hit from a block and stays upright; Demens(+1) has flowed to the sideline and tackles(+1) near the sticks. Picture-paged.
Drive Notes: FG, 0-3, EO1Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M47 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 4 Waggle Ryan 6
Morgan in. Waggle action from EMU is poorly executed so RVB is out on Gillett; he falls down (-1, pressure -1). Gillett can only come underneath to a WR drag rout a couple yards downfield. Ryan(+1, tackling +1) helped take away one of the deeper routes then rallies to tackle almost on the catch, holding this to a minimal gain (Cover +2).
M41 2 4 Ace diamond Firedrill Pass N/A Double pass Gordon Int
Michigan is horribly misaligned at the snap, with only three guys against the four out to the right. If this is just a screen it could get some yards, but it's trickery. Okay. Defense freaks out, TGordon(+4(!), cover +2) goes with the WR and makes an incredible one-handed INT. Should have tried the transcontinental here. RPS -1 for misalignment, or RPS +1 for covering the trick play? Aw, hell, the latter.
Drive Notes: Interception, 0-3, 13 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O40 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Counter Iso Martin 10
Campbell in, Morgan still out there, Brink at SDE. EMU basically runs an iso but the RB takes a counter step like he's headed outside. This works like crazy, sucking every playside defender to the outside. Martin(-1) is the biggest offender; Brink(-1) is pancaked. Morgan(-1) is cut to the ground and Demens(-0.5) has a really tough job but pulls the Ezeh by just sitting there. Gordon fills to tackle. I am actually a fan of the EMU running game. They are a confusing bunch to work against.
50 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Counter Iso Ryan -2
Basically the same play from a different formation with the same counter step. This time Ryan(+1, RPS +2) is blitzing from the counter side and crushes the guy in the backfield. Martin(+1) had blown back blocking so even the cutback wouldn't have been there.
O48 2 12 Shotgun twins unbalanced 4-3 under Run N/A QB power Black 3
EMU flips their RT to the left side after they align and Michigan flips their entire front five in response. They run the jet motion but have the QB take it upfield with help from a puller. Martin(+1) beats a downblock and cuts off a cutback lane. Campbell is on the playside and doesn't do great. Black(+1) gets into the TE trying to double Campbell instead of shooting down the line, then takes on a block to the outside, defeating it. Campbell is just kind of there, being large(+0.5) so Gillett has nowhere to go except up the backs of some of his dudes; Black tackles.
M49 3 9 Shotgun trip TE 4-3 under Pass N/A PA TE flat Gordon 5
This orbit boot motion again; Black(-1) flies upfield at it but is chopped down by a cut block. Demens and Taylor are blitzing, though, and get through untouched to provide pressure(+1) and force a dumpoff short of the sticks. TGordon(+1, cover +1) belts him OOB.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 6 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O44 1 10 Ace 4-wide 4-3 even Run N/A Trap Heininger 0
Fitz in. Heininger(+1.5) is passed off by the G over him as he runs downfield to hammer Michigan's spread-out LBs. He keeps his feet and gets popped by a pulling G, fighting playside of him. Martin(+1.5) beat a downblock; the two DTs converge to tackle.
O44 2 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Counter Iso Hawthorne 0
M moves Kovacs down late for another guy in the box. Campbell(+1) slants under his blocking, which is pretty good on this play since they're trying to dupe you to head outside; this time he comes under and heads backside for the RB. Hawthorne(+2) read the play on the counter step and attacked the backside hole that opens up; FB can only make a diving stab at him. This does get him to the ground but he's falling forward into the path of the runner, whereupon he grabs ankles; Campbell comes in from behind.
O44 3 10 Shotgun empty 2TE Nickel Run N/A Jet sweep Kovacs 4
This is a formation with a covered up slot WR on third and ten and run a jet sweep towards it. I take back what I said about the EMU running game. Kovacs(+2) is sent on a blitz up the middle, reads the play, adjusts his flight path, and meets the WR after a couple yards to make a nice open field tackle(+1).
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 3 min 2nd Q. M scores, then squibs to terrible effect right before the half. Next drive starts w/ 33 seconds left.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O48 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel Pass 4 Scramble -- 8
Clark in for the first time, I think. Four man rush gets nowhere(pressure -2) but the coverage is good(+2) and Gillett has to scramble out. He picks up eight, which seems more due to the situation than a breakdown.
M44 2 2 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pass 4 Rollout scramble Black 4
Sprint draw fake as the pocket rolls. Coverage is good(+2) but Black(-1) loses the edge and ends up falling to the ground, giving Gillett the corner.
M40 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Run N/A TGDCD Black 1
That God Damned Counter Draw... is defended. Wow. Martin(+1) reads the play and chucks his defender past him, peeling back to close down the hole as Hawthorne steps up to take on the lead blocker. Black(+2) collapses down to close off the hole outside Hawthorne, then extends back outside when the RB bounces, bringing him to a complete stop and eventually tripping him up when he breaks outside again.
M40 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pass 4 Scramble Martin 7
Roh(+0.5) gets around the T enough to force Gillett to step up, where Martin(+1.5) has beaten a couple blocks to rush up the middle; Gillett has to bug out lest he gets crushed (pressure +1). Gillett has room to run after he breaks the pocket but, like, fine.
Drive Notes: Missed FG(50), EOH.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O33 1 10 Ace 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 PA sack Roh -7
This doesn't end up under because of motion, but whatever. EMU goes play action and Roh(+2) reads the PA seemingly before the mesh point with the RB. This is not hell-bent QB obsession, as he takes a step inside, sees the puller, and then heads upfield. He gets outside Gillett; Gillett slows up, Roh still grabs him; Martin(+1) beat a block and comes into finish the job. (Pressure +2)
O26 2 17 I-Form 4-3 over Run N/A Power off tackle Ryan? 5
Ryan(-1) is not used to playing off the line and it shows, as he sits in the hole way too long. RVB(-1) is the playside DE and fights inside his block, which seems like a good idea only if there's a LB containing—if you're in an under. They aren't. Here Ryan is off the line and once RVB fights inside there is a bounce. RB takes it. Gordon(+0.5) fills quickly; Floyd(+0.5) comes up on the edge to tackle.
O31 3 12 Shotgun empty 2TE Okie Run N/A QB power -- 5
A give up and punt. Jet sweep action, Michigan is pass blitzing. Combo is a bit odd and gets Gillett to the second level, where Floyd(+0.5) comes up to whack; Hawthorne(+0.5) finishes him off.
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-3, 7 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O35 1 10 Ace 4-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Power Campbell 5
DTs are Campbell (nose) and Washington (3tech). EMU runs a-gap power, pulling a G around into the hole between Campbell and RVB. Campbell(-1) gets pushed out of the hole easily and RB is into the second level without delay. Demens(+0.5) forms up, takes on a blocker, and disconnects to tackle with help from Hawthorne(+0.5). RVB(-1) was easily passed off, allowing that block on Demens to be executed.
O40 2 5 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Campbell 4
Campbell(-1) stands straight up and gets Heininger'd. This provides a small crease for decent yardage; RVB(+0.5) held on the edge and Demens was there to close it down.
O44 3 1 I-Form trip TE 4-4 under Run N/A Power off tackle -- 3
Line shifting in response to the formation flip and Michigan has this defensed for a loss except for a pretty good cutback by the EMU back. He just manages to squeeze through a gap between RVB and Martin's blockers, tripping as he goes; Demens is there to bump but the cutback was too quick—guy just went straight upfield, really—to do anything about it.
O47 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 Flare screen -- Inc
Dropped. May or may not have worked if completed.
O47 2 10 I-Form 4-3 over Run N/A Power off tackle Roh 1
Running at the strong bit of the line. Roh(+2) slants under the TE, gets held, takes on a lead blocker, and fights through all that to tackle for no gain. RVB(+0.5) held up well on his block and helps constrict the hole; this was a blitz that worked against power (RPS +1).
O48 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide Okie Run N/A TGDCD Hawthorne 10
Kovacs(-1), blitzing off the edge, does not execute the look-for-puller-flatten key like Ryan did earlier and gets upfield/outside of the guy. Hawthorne(-2) reads the play and has no one blocking him but takes a shallow angle and misses a tackle(-1) that would boot EMU off the field.
M42 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Down G Hawthorne 10 (Pen -10)
Okay, Michigan is slanting to the weak side after aligning to the weakside, which means you're going to have a lot of players back there and not up there, if you know what I mean. In the past when I've seen something like this both linebackers bug out for the playside because they are needed. Here Demens does, getting outside and forcing a cutback; Hawthorne(-2) does not, getting blocked by the backside tackle. Ryan(+1), the SLB, had slanted inside the pulling T and was tackled, drawing a flag that erases the gain. Kovacs again cleaned up (+0.5, tackling +1).
O48 1 20 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Pin and pull zone Ryan 12
SDE Brink(-1) handled by single blocking from an EMU TE as two OL pull around. Ryan(-2) gives up the edge; three tech Heininger(-1) was blown up, erasing Hawthorne. Demens gets blocked by a puller. Black(+1) was tearing hard on pursuit from the backside and tackles from behind(!) after about ten yards. His pursuit has been outstanding; on this play all he needed was a little delay on the edge to tackle from behind at the LOS.
M40 2 8 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 over Run N/A Down G Black -2
Michigan slanting playside since they're lined up away from the strength of the formation. Black(+2)slides past the TE's block and gets into the puller in the backfield. Campbell(+0.5) threatens to get into the backfield and draws the C's attention; Hawthorne(+1) shoots the gap in front of him for a TFL.
M42 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pass 4 Rollout scramble Roh 2
Gordon to nickel as MRobinson comes in. Sprint draw fake to Gillett rollout. Roh(+1) is on the edge and starts chasing (pressure +1), causing Gillett to abandon things after his first read is covered(+1). His scramble goes for little.
Drive Notes: Punt, 28-3, 11 min 4th Q. Last drive is garbage time; not charted.

THEY ALL BE RUNNIN' YO

Yeah… they do all be runnin'.

BUT WHHHHHHHHHHY

It's a combination of things. Abitrary pie graph? Arbitrary pie chart:

image

For confirmation of this, let's check the

ARBITRARY PIE CHART

We already checked that.

BORING ASS NON COLORED CHART

Chart. A disclaimer: since Eastern hardly threw there were scant opportunities for DL to pick up bonuses on plays where they get collective minuses for lack of pressure, so even-ish is okay.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 8 6 2 Had some trouble holding up; also made some big plays.
Martin 10.5 1 9.5 Consistently fought playside of blocker appropriately but got bupkis for it.
Roh 7.5 - 7.5 Did some things.
Brink - 2 -2 Handled one on one.
Heininger 2.5 4 -1.5 Got blown up more often than he made plays.
Black 12 3 9 A monster in pursuit and played well at the POA.
Campbell 3 2 1 Doesn't seem that real.
TOTAL 44.5 18 26.5 Goal line stand is a major reason this is so positive, but, hey, goal line stand.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
C. Gordon - - - DNP
Demens 3.5 4.5 -1 Slow to diagnose some things.
Herron - - - DNP
Ryan 3.5 7 -3.5 Eaten up on the edge.
Fitzgerald 0.5 - 0.5 A few plays.
Jones - - - DNP
Evans - - - DNP
Beyer - - - Did not register.
Hawthorne 5 11 -6 Slow reads really got him.
Morgan - 1 -1 One drive.
TOTAL 12.5 22.5 -10 Edge edge edge edge edge.
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 0.5 - 0.5 Day off.
Avery - - - DNP in charted time.
Woolfolk 1 - - Day off
Kovacs 6 2.5 3.5 I don't even know what to do.
T. Gordon 6.5 - 6.5 Two solid safeties? Is this legal?
Taylor - 2 -2 Personal foul.
Robinson - - - One play before charting ceased.
TOTAL 12.5 4.5 8 Half of that the INT.
Metrics
Pressure 6 3 3 Ignore
Coverage 9 1 8 Ignore
Tackling 3 2 1 Need Hawthorne to get guys down.
RPS 8 6 2 Hugely reduced numbers as M goes vanilla

So the defensive line numbers came out more positive and the linebackers more negative than I expected, but a quick glance at the chart above shows a lot of EMU success on the flanks, where linemen are doing well just to remain in the picture. Even on the power stuff the theme is obvious:

Demens(-2) definitely needs to get outside the first blocker to funnel the RB back to his help. He does not. ... Hawthorne(-2) gives up the corner ... they pitch outside, where there isn't anyone ... Guys right over the LBs are pulling and both are so late. What can they be keying on? Hawthorne(-2) is especially late ... Hawthorne(-2) reads the play and has no one blocking him but takes a shallow angle and misses a tackle(-1) ... In the past when I've seen something like this both linebackers bug out for the playside because they are needed. Here Demens does, getting outside and forcing a cutback; Hawthorne(-2) does not, getting blocked by the backside tackle.

Linebackers not getting to the hole, Hawthorne especially. This is a great example of the day's theme:

1: The three tech is not helping matters. Here it's RVB.
2: Hawthorne + block = done
3: Y U NO DEMENS
4: Jibreel Black bailing our asses out.

Here's another one. Watch RVB get blown out and Demens not funnel back to Hawthorne, and Jibreel Black bail our asses out:

Why would Hawthorne be so disappointing a week after a good game against Notre Dame?

Hawthorne didn't blitz or cover against EMU, two things he flashed great skill at in the ND game. Instead of sending him places where he has a job and is suppose to do it, they asked him to play linebacker straight up and he got blocked tons. The rest of it is just not reading the plays quickly enough, something I noted last week.

I'm curious as to what he was doing when Michigan slanted its line, though. When I've seen this in the past—and I have plenty—what happens is the line slants one way and the LBs roar over the top the opposite direction. This eats up cutback lanes and gets that offensive lineman who releases downfield immediately blocking no one, leaving the weakside LB a free hitter. Michigan didn't do that when they slanted:

Look at this:

image

There's nothing but a TFL on the back side of this play because the line slanted to the weakside of the formation. Hawthorne has to get playside of that guy releasing because there's going to be a hole. It's going to be a hole without anyone to block him in it if he gets to it quickly enough; instead he gets hammered.

EMU also tested him—and the rest of the defense—mentally by changing formations and using motion constantly. He didn't do so well, and even when he did he missed some tackles. Just a rough day.

When he did things right—and he did a couple—he was a decisive slasher. He, more than most LBs, needs to figure out the play and hit a gap before blocking can get in place. He's not going to make a lot of plays by taking on lead blockers. Diagnosis skills are key for him.

I think EMU actually did us a favor here by exposing a lot of mistakes in the defense. The film room this week is going to have a lot of "ohhhhhhh" moments; hopefully we can iron some of this out before Ronnie Hillman shows up this weekend.

So, Jibreel Black and Craig Roh both did things.

Yes, yes they did. A lot of Black's positives are encompassed above, and Roh got off the stat schneid with a sack and some other tackles. It's not that Roh has been actively bad. He's done a number of quiet things that help the D without showing up on the statsheet. For one, he's the hidden reason Michigan made that fourth down stop on the goal line. He got penetration and caused a lead blocking EMU OL to leap at the endzone from the three. RB had to follow, Kovacs came in from the side, stop. He's probably not going to be James Hall at this point but he can be solid.

Black looks like a different player, though. That downfield pursuit on the fumble recover is both smart and fast. He did that all day. If anyone was holding the edge on a number of plays he would have been crushing dudes from behind. He's holding up at the POA better (against Eastern, granted) and seems to be emerging into a starter.

Here's a thing that has a 50-50 chance at happening: Michigan starts playing both at the same time, with Roh (probably) at strongside DE. Roh's bigger, Black's pursuing like a mofo, and Roh has far too much experience coping as an SDE, which he played as a freshman when he was too exploitable alone on the edge and sort of played last year when he moved to a three-man line. Is he ideal? No. Is it a way to get better personnel on the field? I think so.

What's wrong with Mike Martin?

I don't think anything is yet. He's having a hard time making an impact when everyone's heading outside.

The secondary?

They get an incomplete on the day, though Thomas Gordon did take another step forward, and not just because he speared a pass I would have rated an 0.5 if he was a receiver.

Heroes?

Jibreel Black had his best day in a winged helmet; Martin was solid inside; Roh got off the schneid; Gordon interception hello.

Goats?

Pick a linebacker, with Hawthorne having the toughest day. Also the three-tech is a sore spot. Heininger got blown out, yeah, but you can see that RVB suffered the same fate in a couple of those clips above.

What does it mean for SDSU and the future?

Unfortunately, Hawthorne has not locked down the starting WLB job and will probably have to fight for it as long as he's not diagnosing pulling linemen more quickly. The three tech spot is a sore one and will need to be addressed if the interior run D is going to hold up; choosing between freshmen at SLB is leaving Michigan vulnerable on the edge.

I know everyone says the three tech gets one on one blocking, but that has not been the case so far this year and the inability to hold up there has caused a multitude of problems.

As for the rest of it… Black may or may not be a player. Check back in a couple weeks to see if he keeps it up against better competition.

This is the point at which we see learning happen—they're not very good right now but since they won't be swapping systems midseason these issues with play diagnosis should get better. We are all scarred by the last few years; here is where they start sucking less when people teach them how to play football.

Hypothesis! Michigan is going to start slanting heavily when they feel they're in trouble. The three tech is not holding up well, the linebackers are not good when being asked to read and react, but they've got a lot of DL who can get penetration when tasked with being aggressive one-gap players and linebackers who can come over the top to the other side. It will be a high risk, high reward system but against teams with good running games the alternative is getting bled to death because your guys are getting plowed or are hesitant.

Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-20-11: Coordinators

Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-20-11: Coordinators

Submitted by Heiko on September 20th, 2011 at 9:40 PM

Al Borges

Does this game feel different for you because it’s SDSU? “Well, looking at that part of it, I guess is different. We’re obviously more familiar with this team because we just coached the team. It’s nothing to do with any of that stuff. It’s about San Diego State against Michigan. Anything else is just smoke and mirrors.”

Rocky Long said you have advantage because you know the SDSU players and their signals. How much does that come into play? “No. I really don’t get caught up in that too much. Signals and all that stuff, it’s overrated. Way overrated. There are 17 teams in the NFL that run the same offense. They use the same terms. Nobody changes -- they may change a little bit here and there, but not significantly enough to where it scares people.” Do you use the same signals here at Michigan as you did when you were at SDSU? “No we don’t. A lot of ours is sent in on wristband calls anyway, so it’s difficult for anybody to get what we’re doing because they’d have to have the wristband.”

Were you involved in recruiting Ronnie Hillman? “Hillman was already committed when we got there. Our job was really just hanging onto him.” Did he look good back then? “Oh yeah. The kids that we kept, we thought were pretty good players.”

Are you surprised by how prolific they are offensively? “No. No. Not at all. Not even a little bit.” Does that make you feel good? “No. We have to play them. Made me feel great last year. They’re a good team and they deserve respect, and we’re going to give it to them. Our kids are well aware of what they’re dealing with here. We’ve made it clear that this is going to be a tough contest. We better come ready to play.”

(more after the jump)

Picture Pages: EMLOS Keys Are Hard

Picture Pages: EMLOS Keys Are Hard

Submitted by Brian on September 20th, 2011 at 3:01 PM

[Editor's Note: I was going to do a jet sweep post but got beaten to it by BWS. His conclusion is pretty harsh to Demens, and some of that is deserved. I don't see that as a specifically Demens problem, though. EMU used a ton of formations, unbalanced lines, presnap motion, and wholesale realignments to get Michigan's D out of position and confused. It worked. It worked on Demens and it worked on large chunks of the rest of the D. I think they're confused as a group.

That taken care of I'll move on to one of EMU's completed passes, which answers a question from earlier in the year.]

In the first week of the season we discussed Michigan's End Man On The Line Of Scrimmage (EMLOS is the commonly accepted jargon) and how his performance was hurting Michigan against power runs, particularly the counters that both WMU and Notre Dame used to good effect.

Part of that discussion was about how much Brennen Beyer was at fault for getting way upfield on our first example. Beyer was sent on a blitz, ended up three yards in the backfield, and made it difficult for Kenny Demens to close down a major hole. Demens lost contain, compounding matters. How much of that was on Beyer?

I thought the answer was "quite a bit" and the way Michigan handled a particular play-action showing the same counter action seems to confirm. It's the first quarter and EMU is on its second drive. They've got a first and ten. They line up in a three-wide shotgun with two backs; Michigan aligns in the under.

rollout-1

On the snap two things are apparent based on the Michigan line: 1) Jibreel Black v(top of line) is dropping off into a short zone and Jake Ryan (bottom) is blitzing as the rest of the line slants left:

rollout-2

EMU is pulling the backside G; the RB is taking a counter step, and the other RB is coming down the line to block. This is a close analogue to the Beyer counter. You'll notice that both linebackers are still waiting.

Here's how Ryan handles this:

rollout-3rollout-4rollout-5

LEFT: he reads the pulling OL.
MIDDLE: he flattens his approach and starts coming down the line.
RIGHT: he's in the running lane playside of the block, not kicked out.

Here's Beyer vs Ryan:

counter-not-so-much-4_thumb[1]rollout-5

Beyer is three yards upfield. Ryan is two. You can't tell this in the stills but Ryan's momentum is also much better. He is heading down the line and can impact a blocker with force. Beyer had to come to a full stop and redirect. He did that impressively; it was not enough.

Move Beyer a yard towards the LOS in the left frame and he is either making a tackle for no gain or picking off the other blocker, leaving the RB for an unblocked Demens. Look at the distance between the DE/LBs and the DTs. Even though RVB is fighting playside in the left frame and slanting away from the play in the right, the gap is much larger in the former. Win for Ryan.

Great! Except the tailback doesn't have the ball.

rollout-5

Nuts.

Gillette rolls out as Ryan comes underneath the tackle and three WRs release to the roll side:

rollout-6

Ryan's there to provide some token pressure but it's not enough; a WR running deeper than Demens and Gordon finds a window. Gillette throws…

rollout-7

…for a nice gain.

rollout-8

Video

Items of interest

Just because you're blitzing doesn't mean you don't have keys. My assumption is that Ryan is the guy doing what the coaches want here. He's got a year of experience, Michigan's been burned by this before and probably made a point of it in film study, and he's playing instead of Beyer (mostly).

You're sent on a blitz and get no resistance at all? Check for a pulling OL and get inside of him.

Just because there's obviously a key here doesn't mean there aren't more. The RB's second step here should be a giveaway that this is not a run play. My guess at Ryan's thought process:

  1. BLITZ WOO crap check the…
  2. Pulling G. Have to get inside pulling G to occupy blockers, restrict hole.
  3. Pulling G.
  4. D'oh.
  5. Token, too late edge pressure.

My guess at the ideal thought process:

  1. I have been assigned a blitz. Let's soberly check the…
  2. Pulling G. Have to get inside pulling G to occupy blockers, restrict hole. Hmm, maybe I should check the…
  3. Running back. He is past the mesh point but not following the pulling guys.
  4. ALERT
  5. EDGE PRESSURE WOO

"Football is hard." -psychology majors who used to be pre-med

I'm not too bothered by the hole in the zone. Once Ryan loses the edge there that's a lot of time for the QB to sit and wait for his WR to run his way into an inevitable gap. I guess you could blame either Gordon or Demens, probably Gordon. He could sink back into the route by reading the QB's eyes and either get a PBU/pick or, more likely, force a less-damaging dumpoff to the underneath receiver.

That seems like Advanced Zone Mechanics 486, though. That's a place to get to eventually.

Kovacs is the free safety. Gordon/whoever rolls down into the box far more often than Kovacs does and it's almost always Kovacs who's coming down to fill against WRs when completions are made.

Picture Pages: Jake Ryan Fights The Power, Again

Picture Pages: Jake Ryan Fights The Power, Again

Submitted by Brian on September 14th, 2011 at 11:55 AM

Last week we highlighted a couple of power plays on which Jake Ryan Brennen Beyer was out of position to disastrous effect. He screwed up the second one in a totally different way than the first one, though, so at least he's trying something new, and while Michigan got scorched by Cierre Wood I haven't run across too much that's his fault this week. [Ed: uh… because he didn't play. I have a nasty cold that is damaging my brain; bear with me. This is still a good example of where the guy on the end needs to be when power gets run at him.]

I hadn't run across a power run at him, either, until early in the fourth quarter. I wonder how he's doing?

Here's the setup. ND is in its two-TE set; Michigan undershifts their line and has Ryan over their third-stringer in the slot—by this point Mike Ragone is out with an ACL tear:

power-off-tackle-1

ND motions the TE in to act as an H-back so Ryan slides down to the more traditional SLB spot.

[SIDE NOTE: I really like what ND does with their TEs. This was a consistent theme: spread it wide and motion the TE in as an H-back. Provides a tough decision for a defense when you've got TEs as athletic as ND does. He's way more of a threat as a receiver than a generic fullback.]

Eifert's going to block Ryan. Presnap:

power-off-tackle-2

An instant post-snap:

power-off-tackle-3

Check that out compared to Ryan's Beyer's earlier adventures against power:

counter-not-so-much-3second-counter-3power-off-tackle-3

LEFT: Three yards upfield against WMU. His porridge is too hot.
CENTER: At the LOS having lost outside leverage against WMU. His porridge is too cold.
RIGHT: One yard upfield w/ outside leverage against ND. His porridge is just right.

He was blitzing in the first still, granted, but I wonder what his angle would be if sent on a blitz this time around.

By the time the tailback gets the handoff he's set up in a good spot. He can release outside on a bounce and string it out for the secondary. He has restricted the available space between himself and Van Bergen:

power-off-tackle-4

Unfortunately for Michigan, they've still got problems. Look at Hawthorne(#7) and the ND center currently releasing from Van Bergen. Demens will take the pulling G, leaving Hawthorne as the free hitter…

power-off-tackle-5

…unless he doesn't read the play fast enough, runs upfield, and gets blocked by the center.

power-off-tackle-6

Flarb.

power-off-tackle-7

Closer, though.

Video

Object Lessons

By positioning himself correctly Ryan takes the bounce away and makes the rest of the defense's job easier. The porridge just right shot means the RB has to start running laterally, even bouncing upfield, if he's going to get outside the tackle. His positioning maybe a yard inside his starting position restricts the available space on the interior, making it easier for the linebackers and three-tech to shut down the hole. This is "squeezing" power.

This is a lot closer to successfully defending the power with a base defense. On the very next play Notre Dame will line up on third and two to run this again and get stuffed thanks to a run blitz that gets Van Bergen penetration and allows Hawthorne to slice through the backside of the line when the guard over him pulls:

That's an RPS play. Michigan needs to get better at defending things without RPS getting involved, because it doesn't always get involved in a good way. Here it's second and ten and Michigan gives up a chunk, but it's not nearly as open as Western's counter power schemes were.

On second down, all Hawthorne has to do is step playside of the ND center and fill that little crease and this play is a minimal gain; Michigan also might have gotten a bit better play from Van Bergen and gotten that crease closed off without help from the linebackers. It's a lot easier to diagnose what went wrong here because the answer isn't "everything."

Given what happened the rest of the game it's obvious they've got a long way to go. You can see the beginnings of improvement.

Jake Ryan is getting better. He does this again on the next play and seems in position to at least string the run out if Wood gets to bounce, which he doesn't because Hawthorne makes the play before he has to.

I've got him with a big minus on a 38-yard counter on which he is crushed inside, but on the next play—the Wood fumble—he's in even better position on an inside zone that goes nowhere. Michigan's defense obviously has a lot of problems but he wasn't the major issue on the line. Heininger, sorry to say, was.

Hawthorne can play. Needs work, but that second play is a thing of beauty. I wonder if that run blitz is specifically designed to hit that gap caused by a pulling OL or if was just a fortuitous occurrence; either way that's beautifully timed and executed. Two plays earlier he got a PBU on Eifert with beautiful coverage. He's ascended to the top of the depth chart; hopefully he secures that over the next couple weeks. That would be an Ezeh to Demens upgrade at the sorest spot on the D if it pans out.

Monday Presser Transcript 9-12-11: Brady Hoke

Monday Presser Transcript 9-12-11: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on September 12th, 2011 at 3:55 PM

Brady Hoke

News bullets and other important items:

  • Eastern Michigan is 2-0 and is averaging 331 yards rushing, which is scary to Hoke. Fear level now up to 2.
  • Fitz Toussaint (shoulder) will likely return this week.
  • Brandon Herron (unknown), and Cam Gordon (back) are questionable. Will need good week in practice to return.
  • Woolfolk had a bit of a nose injury, but re: his ankle -- "He's fine." Period.
  • Marell Evans still working on eligibility. Currently operating as scout team linebacker.
  • Jake Ryan playing with hand down primarily in nickel package.
  • Need to see more from Will Campbell in practice for more playing time.
  • Odoms working his way back into rotation.
  • No student-body tryouts until January.
  • No. 21 jersey will likely go to wide receivers in the future. Unknown whether Raymon Taylor is wearing the Desmond Howard patch.

Press Conference (filmed)

"Does that make sense? It does to me ..."

Opening remarks: “You guys ready? Thanks for coming.

“Saturday was obviously very exciting in a lot of ways. The crowd, the passion, how both teams played 60 minutes of football. It was a neat environment, fun, all those things. Obviously a record crowd to see a college football game, and it was good to have the outcome the way it did. It was hard fought, not a perfect game. When you look at it offensively and defensively, things that we need to get a lot better at before we’re going to be any kind of a football team -- we need to focus in on those things, and as a team, we’ve gotta do a good job of coaching, number one, and teaching, and then playing. Our expectations are high, and we won’t get that way if we don’t possess the ball offensively to help the defense, and if we don’t do a better job in third-down conversions from a defensive standpoint.”

What did you see from Brandin Hawthorne and Will Campbell? “I thought Brandin got in there and did a nice job and made some plays. I think it was good to see him be productive in that role. Part of it [was] he did a nice job reacting and seeing the ball and focusing in on keys and finishing plays. And that was good to see from him. He had been banged up about the last week of camp. He practiced, but he had an ankle problem and still does to some degree, but it was good to see him play full speed.”

Overcoming adversity, was it especially hard trying to overcome a 24-7 deficit or trying to score with 30 seconds left? “Probably both. Our team stayed together. At halftime, we went in, and we just talk about -- asked a pretty simple question, ‘Have we played our best football?’ … ‘Are we playing our best football?’ and ‘Are we coaching our best football?’ and it was a unanimous ‘No.’

“Al and the offensive staff did a good job in some adjusting that they did. You’ve got to get Notre Dame a lot of credit. They’re a pretty good football team. Their biggest Achilles heel is they’ve turned the ball over, and you can’t do that. I’m not coaching them, but I’m sure Brian is sick about that. I thought the guys complement each other as a team, and they stayed together.”

What did you say to the team yesterday to get them to move past Notre Dame? “We were going to spend Sunday talking about the things that we did [well] and didn’t do [well]. Eastern -- they’re 2-0. They’re a confident team. I think Ron’s done a nice job. They’re averaging 331 yards per game rushing the football. That’s pretty impressive -- I don’t care who you’re playing. I think you’ve got a staff over there of guys -- with Mike [Hart] and Kurt Anderson, Steve Morrison, who are all products of this program as players -- that understand about coaching hard and doing those things, and you know just from being around those guys that’s how they coach their kids. And you can tell, with Ron’s influence as a defensive coach and defensive minded guy and an aggressive personality guy -- that’s the way they’re playing football. They’re impressive. They’ve got 10 sacks in two games. They’re doing a lot of good things.”

Did Denard have a rough game, great game, or little of both? “Probably a little of both. Obviously he made some plays when we needed to have some plays made, which a guy of his capability and caliber can do, but we also needed to make better decisions at times. He was the first one to come off the field after one [bad play] and say, ‘My footwork was bad.’ So that’s good to see. The whole thing is a process to some degree, and we’re learning everyday.”

What is Fitz Toussaint’s status, and are there concerns about repeated injuries to him? “I don’t know much of his history. I think he’ll be okay. He just bumped up his shoulder a bit against Western. Didn’t see as much as we’d like to for him to be ready for the Notre Dame game.”

You’re blitzing a lot. Are you concerned that it’s taking the linebackers out of the running game? The middle of field did look pretty open. “Well … honestly it shouldn’t have been. It’s open for a second, and then we’ve got to execute a little better at closing it off. You can get hurt, no question. If they want to take that gamble depending on who they are, depending on down and distance, they can check into a run, and sometimes you want them to. But you got to execute the defense when you want them to.

“Does that make sense? It does to me …”

Do you need to blitz more based on pressure (or lack thereof) from the front four? “I think yes, we have had to be more aggressive. At the same time, you’ve got to look at your match-ups pretty hard, and what you want to do with your guys in the back end, and how you feel about that.”

What was postgame like for you? “I have a lot of family in the Midwest, believe me. We had 35 or 40 people at our house. Nephews, nieces, brothers, sisters, and in-laws -- the whole deal. Everybody found a place on the floor and went to bed, but it was late. 3:30 maybe by the time you say hello and talk to everybody and be as gracious as I can be.”

Other health updates? Anybody definitely out for Saturday? “We’re pretty healthy. We’ve got some nicks and those kind of things, but I’m trying to think if, uh … Cam is gonna see what it feels like tomorrow. He feels better. Brandon Herron felt better but we’ll see what he’s like. I think Fitz is going to be fine. I don’t think we’re in too bad of shape.”

When you were down 17 points, was the offensive play-calling based more on Borges’ offense or 2010-Denard’s offense? “One of the key plays in the game was McColgan’s catch. Coming off the play-action, and we didn’t run a whole lot of play-action with I-backs and all that. A lot of the stuff was just being basic third-down offensive stuff and being in the gun anyway on third downs. It was a good mix, I would say.”

How much of last couple drives was within framework of offense, and how much of it was Denard making rainbows? “The rush lanes kind of went like this. And he did what he’s coached to do. Step up, step up in there, and keep pushing the pocket up when you feel it on the perimeter. It was pretty open. They were spying at times – one of the linebackers – but in that situation, they were playing pretty far off, so it bought time for Gallon. It really bought time for the sail routes, the cross, to take and suck their secondary that way, and Gallon was there by himself.”

Are you still trying to identify playmakers on defense? “I think we still are. Practice is one thing. Game time stuff is a little different. I think who plays with the lights on … we’ll see. It was good to give Will [Campbell] some snaps against good competition. Like I said, they’re a good football team, they’ve got good personnel. Right now the difference for them probably is turnover margin.”

What’s going on with Brandon Herron? “He’s got a little bit of a leg problem.”

Linebacker rotation/competition … how many linebackers are you comfortable with? “I think J.B. [Fitzgerald], all those guys, we feel pretty comfortable. I think it’s who you identify as taking most of the snaps. You work through. Kenny is pretty solid in what he does. J.B. has an opportunity to get in there and rest Kenny a little bit, which is important in the fourth quarter. There will be a rotation, and it really depends some on what package we’re in, if we’re playing out of our base front, or if we’re in our dimes and nickels.”

How would you assess D-line play? Are there things you see in practice that aren’t translating onto the field? “We’re not near to the expectations that we have. I think the kids feel the same way at that position. I think there are things that Ryan Van Bergen has done at times that are really well. I don’t want to get specific, but I think we have to feel those guys. We need to get a little big more pressure with four guys rushing the quarterback, so you don’t put J.T. or Courtney Avery out there on an island. I think we’re a work in progress in a lot of degrees. Some of it is because it’s a little different schematically, and how you attack the line of scrimmage, take on blocks, and get off blocks. We would think we’d be further along.”

Talk about efficiency of red-zone offense (Michigan was 5/5). “I think we’ve got a pretty good package down there, and the kids are executing. I don’t think it’s anything more than that. Certain teams, defensively, always are going to have certain teams they like in the red zone, and I think the kids have been executing what the plan has been.”

(we're bringing back the jump. so ... more after the jump!)

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs WMU

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs WMU

Submitted by Brian on September 8th, 2011 at 3:20 PM

Gratuitous video of the week: is obvious. Sorry about the weird audio delay. (Anyone know why compressing a ts file into a WMV would do this and how to fix it?)

Substitution notes: Massive in the front seven. After the first few plays there was no SDE; he was lifted for a safety. Martin, RVB, and Roh were frequently replaced by Heininger, Brink, and Black respectively. Campbell got a little time and didn't do well. The SLB alternated between Ryan and Beyer. MLB was Demens and Fitzgerald. Herron started at WLB and got most of the time; Mike Jones was the only other guy to draw in.

The secondary was consistent: Avery and Kovacs the whole way, Woolfolk until he got hurt then Floyd, Johnson after the first few plays until he was pulled in favor of Marvin Robinson late.

Formation Notes: Michigan's first few plays were in a 4-3, after which they lifted a defensive lineman for an extra safety (Johnson) and moved Gordon down to the nickel. Frequently they would put a nominal SLB, either Ryan or Beyer, in a three point stance as another down lineman.

soft-hitch-1

As the game progressed, Michigan got more aggressive. This is what I called "Nickel press"—you can see the one deep safety with press coverage on the outside WRs and a 3-4 front. This was blitz-heavy:

3-4-nickel

And right at the end of the first half Michigan showed a something I called "Nickel eff it"…

eff-it

…which was 11 guys within five yards of the line. This ended with Kenny Demens running straight up the middle at Carder both times it happened.

On passing downs we saw the return of Scot Shafer's "Okie" package, which is a two-deep shell behind a zone-blitzing 3-4 like so:

okie

And that was it. Will be interesting to see what they do when ND tries to manball these guys.

Show? Show:

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O26 1 10 Ace 3-wide Base 4-3 Pass 4 Bubble screen Woolfolk 6
Michigan comes out in a 4-3 with no one over the slot receiver and WMU probably has an auto-check into a bubble. I can't tell if what Woolfolk does is good or bad: he comes up hard and gets cut easily. He does force the WR inside of him—over him, actually. He manages to leap up and grab his ankles as he passes. Still a good gain. (RPS -1. I guess +0.5, tackling +1 for Woolfolk. ) Martin(+1) had torn through the center and hit Carder on a bubble screen. I be like dang.
O323 2 4 Shotgun 4-wide Base 4-3 Pass 4 Hitch Herron? 3
Soft corner from Avery means Herron is stretched horizontally. He drops into the inner route, opening up a short hitch near the sticks. Should have been seven or eight but Carder's throw was upfield, taking the receiver off his feet. RPS -1, cover -1.
O35 3 1 Power I Base 4-4 Run N/A Iso N/A 2
This was the chaos play Blue Seoul noted. They did get set eventually in a 4-4 with six guys on the LOS, including Kovacs and Herron and Demens as MLBs. They run at the gap in the shifted line between Martin and Roh, doubling both. Both hold up; Roh manages to slide inside the LT and restrict the hole but can't get any penetration. He's kind of being held but no way they call it. Herron (-0.5) reads the play maybe a hair late or is lined up too deep, meeting the FB at the first down marker instead of the LOS. That's a stalemate and the RB can fall down across the line in a heap of bodies.
O37 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Base 4-3 Pass 4 Bubble screen Woolfolk 13
First DL backups in; I won't be able to track the comings and goings efficiently, I don't think. Doesn't matter here. Michigan again aligns to give the bubble and WMU throws it. Ryan(+1) is tearing out at it quickly and may be able to hold it down for minimal yardage but Woolfolk(-2) commits the cardinal sin of the bubble screen by losing leverage and letting the play bounce outside of him. Ryan still almost gets him on the sidelines but does not make the play; Gordon escorts him OOB after the sticks.
50 1 10 Shotgun diamond Nickel Run N/A QB draw Martin 2
Intended to go off tackle until a Michigan stunt gets Ryan(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5) enough penetration that Carder has to cut behind everything into the unblocked Black and RVB recovering from a cut. RPS+1
M48 2 8 I-Form twins Nickel Pass 4 Deep hitch Herron 12
Michigan is in a quarters zone that has four guys in short zones, or three guys in short zones and Brandon Herron(-2) running man coverage on a shallow crossing route, opening up a hitch between Gordon and Demens that should be exactly where he's sitting. (Cover -1) Martin stymied by a double; Black had fought through the RB's block to provide some token pressure. Still (Pressure -1)
M36 1 10 Shotgun empty TE 3-3-5 Nickel Pass 5 Flare Woolfolk 2
DL: Brink/Heininger/Black. Mike Patrick: “now they're back to more of a traditional look” instead of the odd stack they're in on this play. Michigan sends Ryan and Gordon and gets nothing, but this spooks Carder into a nothing dumpoff that Woolfolk(+1, tackling +1) reads and levels for no gain.
M34 2 8 Shotgun 2-back trips 3-3-5 Nickel Run N/A Triple option dive Demens? 9
Beyer in for Ryan. Unbalanced formation w/ covered slot. Michigan is ridiculously misaligned (RPS -2). Black charges upfield as the tackle releases and has to form up to respect the option. Beyer(-1) drops into coverage. Demens(-1) is originally lined up outside of the tackle and starts to come back inside but that just makes him a sitting duck: he's moving backwards as the OL impacts him and gives huge chunks of ground because of physics. Running back cuts behind him into gaping space because Beyer is still looking at the bubble screen.
M25 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Pass N/A Tunnel screen Gordon 1
This confusion might actually have helped M: they shift late with Woolfolk getting out on the outside receiver just as the snap is arriving. If they have an autocheck into this screen we may have dummied them into it. As a result the inside WR takes Woolfolk(+0.5), who does a good job to stand him up near the LOS, and the tunnel guy is running right into Gordon(+0.5). Gordon gets beat to the inside but slowly enough for the cavalry to rally. RPS+1.
M24 2 9 I-Form big Nickel 4-3 Run N/A Inside zone Demens 2
I think it's inside zone but might be wrong. Nickel personnel; Gordon as an OLB. RB takes the handoff to the side opposite to where the FB goes and will look to cut back. Martin takes a double and sits at the LOS. Gordon takes on G and gets annihilated but the RB cuts back. Probably a bad move. Demens(+2) is sliding playside, reads the cutback, and gets to the POA in a flash, making a diving tackle despite a lunge from the backside G, who fell trying to get out. He was supposed to be blocking Herron(-1), who ran so far to the playside that by the time the RB had cut back he'd passed Demens. I think RVB and Ryan are stunting and sort of think Ryan is doing a bad job but I'd like some outside opinions. This one is confusing.
M22 3 7 Shotgun 4-wide Okie Pass 5 Deep hitch Gordon 14
Michigan sends five, dropping RVB and Herron. This gets Gordon(-1) in clean (RPS +1, Pressure +1), but he takes an angle too far outside and slips. He should be in the QB's face leaping at him and forcing him to bring this down. He's not so Herron is given the tough job of hauling ass across the field to hopefully cover the slot on the other side of the play. He doesn't, and he gets a (-1) for running away from the QB and letting the pass get over his head. He will do this better later. I have Picture Pages to show it. Cover –1.
M8 1 G Shotgun 2-back trips 3-3-5 Nickel Run N/A Triple option dive Demens 1
They figure it out this time with men tight over the WRs and one deep safety in an obvious run-prevent D as discussed by Blue Seoul. This time Ryan(+1) blitzes at the snap and drives past the G into the path of the RB; cutback. Demens(+1), now properly aligned, hits the LT while moving forward and pushes him back this time. Black(+0.5) forms up and crashes after the handoff; he and Demens tackle (RPS +1)
M7 2 G Shotgun empty TE Okie Pass 5 Hitch Johnson 6
RPS -2; Carvin Johnson(-3) leaves Avery on an island with two receivers. Avery(+1, tackling +1), does as good a job as possible in the situation he's put in, splitting the WRs and smashing the short hitch they complete short of the goal line. Too bad, too, because the blitz had gotten Demens straight up the middle untouched. Johnson aligning properly might make this a sack.
M1 3 G Wishbone Goal line Run N/A Iso Van Bergen 0
RVB(+1) times the snap perfectly, shooting through the G assigned to him and nailing the FB at the two. RB hits FB. Martin has made a pile at the one and the delay allows the massive pile of meat to not end up in the endzone. Whoah: actually, they messed up the handoff and Carder followed it up. Same result.
M1 4 G Power I Goal line Run N/A Iso squared -- 1
They get it this time by running everybody on their offense straight up the middle.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 7 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O45 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pass 4 Out Avery 7
Jones in at WLB; they send him while dropping Roh. WMU picks it up and hits an out in front of Avery(-1, cover -1). No chance for the D to get there if it's going to be first read three-step stuff.
M48 2 3 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Run N/A Counter Demens 25
Mattison is sick of this crap. Michigan goes into bump and run on the outside receivers and brings Kovacs into the box, leaving one-high. WMU gets a big gainer on a counter. Beyer(-1), unblocked on the backside, does not read the pull and rushes too far upfield. He's easily kicked out. That DE is critical on a power play like this; he needs to get into the puller and force a bounce or restrict the hole. He does neither. So it's a tough job for Demens against the pulling TE, but Demens(-2) pulls a Mouton by losing leverage. If he gets outside the blocker there's a decent chance RVB(+1) , who has given a little ground to get playside of his blocker, makes a great play to prevent this from going a long way. He'd have to do that because Johnson(-1) sucked up on the counter step and got lost in the wash. Picture paged.
M23 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pass 4 Tunnel screen Gordon -2
Gordon(+2) reads, attacks, and destroys.
M25 2 12 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 6 Fly Floyd Inc
Demens's delayed blitz gets him in free(pressure +1, RPS +1) but I wonder if he didn't time it quite right. Another step and Carder is seriously harried. As it is he gets off an accurate deep ball on Floyd's guy, who's got a step. Floyd runs his ass off, starts tugging jersey early, and... I'll be damned. He strips the ball loose(+2, cover +1). That was textbook. Gibson -1.
M25 3 12 Shotgun 4-wide Okie Pass 5 Slant Van Bergen 2
Van Bergen(+2) slants past the G before he can react and is up the middle on Carder before his receivers can even get to the sticks(pressure +2). Carder dumps it off on a little in at the LOS that takes the receiver off his feet; Kovacs(+0.5) likely had it covered for minimal gain anyway.
Drive Notes: Missed FG(40), 7-7, 12 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M47 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Run N/A Yakety sax -- 3
Looks kind of like a QB draw but this is a busted play. RB thinks it's a speed option; Carder extends for a mesh point. Then he runs. Frontside has a totally unblocked Fitzgerald because of the bust; Carder cuts it back. There's room because Campbell(-1) gave a lot of ground fighting playside. Fitzgerald(+0.5) chases Carder around RVB, who held up to a double, and tackles with help from Ryan(+0.5). Ryan flew upfield and recovers with a flying squirrel tackle.
M44 2 7 Shotgun empty 2TE Nickel Run N/A QB power off tackle Fitzgerald 6
Poop all around, I say! Campbell(-1) is blasted back by a double. He gives a couple yards and that's two too many. Roh(-1) runs too far upfield and almost doesn't have to be blocked; G peels at the last second when Roh finally starts coming down. Big hole. Fitzgerald(-2) doesn't read a single key ON A PLAY WITH PULLING OL and starts dropping into coverage, whereupon a TE cuts him. Carder's about to be one on one with Johnson for the endzone when Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) cuts him down after taking the exact right angle to get there.
M38 3 1 Wishbone Base 4-4 Run N/A Iso Herron 2
Someone's got to win an individual battle here to prevent this from happening and no one does. Martin holds up to a double; Fitz takes the FB, and Herron(-0.5) hits the RB after a yard. I think he can get to the hole more efficiently.
M36 1 10 Shotgun 2-back Nickel Pass 4 Screen Herron 7
This is tough for Avery since he's in press man. Hard to read this quickly. Herron would be the guy who could diagnos this early since he's dropping while looking straight at the QB; he reacts just as fast as Avery. Herron(-0.5) takes an angle a bit too far outside and allows the RB to spin through for an extra couple yards. Not terrible but he could have done better. Beyer did do a good job of recognition and helps tackle, FWIW. Tackling -1.
M29 2 3 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Penalty N/A False Start -- -5
Turrible!
M34 2 8 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 6 Improv -- 17
Michigan sends six and gets picked up (pressure -2) until Black(+0.5) worms his way through on a stunt. Too long; Carder rolls away from the pressure and hits a receiver. Kovacs(+0.5, tackling +1) is there immediately.
M17 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Run N/A Counter Beyer 11
Beyer(-2) can't win for losing here: after getting burned by going too far upfield on the last counter he does squeeze down this time... way too far. He needs to thunder at the pulling guard and cut his ass to the ground in the backfield in a spot where the other lead blocker will run into the pile. Instead he just gets sealed and allows everything to bounce outside. Herron(-2) compounds matters by also getting sealed, not that it would have mattered much because Fitzgerald(-1) took a counter step and then got sliced to the ground on a cut block that also took out Johnson. Kovacs(+0.5) cleans up. It's like these guys don't have OL keys. Picture paged.
M6 1 G Shotgun 3-wide? Nickel press? Pass 6 Out Kovacs 2
Some technical difficulties. As we come back six guys are rushing Carder including Avery(!). Brink(+0.5) is running free (pressure +1). Carder dumps it off into the flat, whereupon Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) tackles immediately for little gain.
M4 2 G Ace 3-3-5 Nickel Pass 5 Batted Ryan Int
Ryan(+3) lined up as a standup DT next to Martin. He rips through the RG like he isn't there and leaps at Carder as he tries to get the ball out, deflecting it into the air. Herron(+2) makes the easy interception and then runs a long way for points. Should I give Ryan more here? I've never given more than +3 for any play. Picture paged @ TTB.
Drive Notes: Interception, defensive TD, 14-7, 7 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O30 1 10 Shotgun 2-back trips Nickel Run N/A Triple option dive Heininger 0
Heininger(+1) takes a double; Jones(+0.5) moves to fill quickly, causing the RB to hesitate as he nears the LOS. This is a bad idea, and Heininger(+1 again) eats him.
O30 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Pass 4 Hitch Heininger Inc
Looks like Carder is going to zing it on a hitch near the sticks that Mike Jones(-0.5) got a little out of position on; Heininger(+1, pressure +1) bats it down.
O30 3 10 Shotgun 4-wide Okie Pass 5 Out Kovacs Inc
Blitz does not quite get home but RVB(+1) is pushing through the line just as the routes break; Carder has to throw to his first read. This is against Kovacs(+1), who is in good coverage(+1) against the outside guy as he breaks his route at ten yards. Carder's throw is downfield and the WR has to stab at it one handed; Kovacs hits him and breaks it up. Live I thought M got lucky here; on tape Kovacs's coverage is good enough to require a perfect throw. If this is just a little upfield he tackles short of the sticks.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-7, 6 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O38 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Seam Johnson 20
Zone blitz sees RVB drop into a short screen-killing zone. Blitz does not get home (pressure -1). It's hard to tell who's at fault for the seam coming open but if I had to guess it would be Johnson(-1, cover -2), who is the deep center in a three deep and is way late, overrunning the play. Floyd comes from the outside to tackle.
M42 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 Nickel Pass 3 Hitch Van Slyke 7
Martin(+1) bowls over the center and then fights past the guard to get pressure(+1) up the middle pretty quickly on a three man rush. Van Slyke gets a chuck on the slot receiver, who sits down in between him, Herron, and Demens; he immediately tackles. (Cover -1)
M35 2 3 Shotgun 3-wide Okie Pass 5 Out Johnson 16
Five man rush gets there(pressure +1) with at least two guys; Carder throws a quick out as Demens(+0.5) flies up the middle on a well-timed stunt past two guys doubling Martin. Johnson(-3) is late reading the little out and has already given up the first by the time he forms up; he then whiffs the tackle(-1), turning five yards into 15.
M19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Eff It Pass 7 Fly Avery Inc
Sends: house. Obviously something gets through(pressure +1); Carder chucks it deep to a fly route Avery(+2, cover +1) has step for step. He's right in the WR's chest as he goes up for the ball. WR leaps, then reaches out and low in an attempt to stab the ball. Avery rakes it out. Gibson -2. Demens(+1) leveled Carder, BTW.
M19 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 6 Corner Gordon Inc
Demens(-1) comes on the same blitz untouched (pressure +1); Carder dodges him. He sets up and chucks it unsurprisingly, the corner route was long. Gordon(+1, cover +1) was step for step with the slot.
M19 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Eff It Pass 7 Corner -- Inc
Demens(+0.5) charging again(pressure +1); this time the corner is more open but Carder chucks it way long off his back foot. RPS +2 for this sequence, which clearly got in the QB's head.
Drive Notes: FG(36), 20-10, EOH
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O13 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Run N/A Zone read counter Martin 3
At first I thought this was a stunt by the DTs but not so much after I look at it a while; RVB(-1) just got bashed inside by a double while Martin(+1) read the G pull and fought through his downblock to flow down the line. Demens(+0.5) takes on that G about a yard past the LOS—not ideal—but does turn the play inside with an assist from Gordon(+0.5), who plunged down from the slot. Herron(+0.5) is about to tackle but Martin beats him to it.
O16 2 7 I-form 3-wide Nickel? Pass N/A Bubble screen Floyd 3
Jebus, Michigan is begging for a bubble in its face on this play. There is one player within ten yards(!) of the twins side, that being JT Floyd. Autocheck to bubble is autochecked to, whereupon Floyd(+3) dodges a cut block and tackles the bubble by himself for three yards. (RPS -2.) Great play on an island.
O19 3 4 Shotgun 4-wide Okie Pass 5 Hitch Herron 7
Part II of “they can learn”: This is a very similar blitz and play to the previous Herron hitch that resulted in a first down. This time Herron's steps are better, as is his angle, and he's in position to make a play if he'd just look for the ball/get his hands up. He doesn't and Carder hits the small window provided. I guess Herron(-0.5), cover -1. Pressure -1 as well; Carder would have had time to go to a second read.
O26 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Run N/A Yakety snap N/A -2
Who knows what this was going to be; the snap is high and Carder manages to bat it forward to his tailback, but then he's submarined. I think it was going to be a QB power off tackle, FWIW.
O24 2 12 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 5 Scramble Kovacs 3
Carder's first read is a hitch around the sticks that Kovacs(+1) has dropped right into from a blitz position(RPS +1) and is bracketed over the top by Avery. Late movement and a blitz by Demens(+1) flushes Carder up in the pocket, where RVB and Martin combine to tackle after an eh gain. (Pressure +1, cover +1.) Picture paged @ BWS.
O27 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pass 4 Out Avery 14
Avery(-1, cover -1) gets no chuck on the WR at the line in press and does not protect the sticks with his break despite having deep help; Carder hits his WR with a nice rhythm throw. Not horrible but you could do better.
O41 1 10 Ace 3-wide Nickel Penalty N/A Illegal Snap -- -5
UR TURRIBILBLBLBLBL
O36 1 15 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Run N/A Inverted veer Demens 1
Late shift sees Kovacs run down into the box as Herron blitzes. Herron is blown up by the RT, but that takes some time and prevents any release downfield. Beyer's upfield blitz convinces QB to hand off and takes the pulling G. Reason you run this is so that Beyer does one or the other, not both. The blitz means Kovacs(+1), who is now in the box, nails the FB near the LOS and turns it inside. Demens(+1) got a free scrape because of the blitz (RPS+1) and tackles with authorita.
O37 2 14 Shotgun 4-wide Okie Pass 4 Sack Kovacs -6
Yeah, that play that instantly changed everyone's opinion of Kovacs? Four man rush. NT Heininger backs out and two guys take Brink; Kovacs, who has been backing out on these so far, lines up outside of Herron, who also comes, and adjust his route after a beat. This allows those two guys to occupy themselves with Brink and gives Kovacs(+3) a free run at Cader, which he takes LIKE A BOSS, depositing his helmet on the ball and knocking it free. Herron(+2) gets more credit this time for the presence of mind to scoop and score. Kovacs. Like a boss. Picture paged @ BWS as well.
Drive Notes: Defensive touchdown, 27-10, 9 min 3rd Q. Do you know what I love? The camera settles on Carder after this play; as this happens the replay hits the scoreboard and the stadium goes “OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH." That is what I love.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O37 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Run N/A Jet sweep M. Robinson 11
Marvin Robinson still in for Johnson. Here there are two keys. Black(-1.5) is unblocked and scoots upfield fast. He does not read the jet action until it's too late and runs by it without forcing the WR to orbit around him. He's never going to make this tackle but he can delay the opposition; he does not. By not blocking him WMU can double Demens, who read and flowed with aplomb but can't do anything about an OL and another dude blocking him. Gordon(+0.5) fills to the outside, forcing a cutback. Robinson(-1.5) is filling until a WR slices him to the ground. RB leaps over MRob and rumblestumbles for a first down.
O48 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Penalty N/A False Start -- -5
YOUR PARENTS ARE ASHAMED
O43 1 15 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pass 6 Sack Kovacs -8
This does go one high because Kovacs is sneaking down, kind of telegraphing his blitz. Martin moves left, taking the G, as Jones moves up the middle. RG shoves Martin and moves to Jones; RB shoots up the middle, leaving both Martin and Kovacs(+2) unblocked. Kovacs has the agility to cut inside Martin and nail Carder again. By the time this happens Martin is already peeling back to the LOS in case this doesn't work out. Kovacs has this, ese. (Pressure +2, RPS +1)
O35 2 23 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Penalty N/A Delay -- -5
YOU SHOULD HAVE GONE TO MICHIGAN STATE LOL
O30 2 28 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pass 4 Screen Jones 13
Stunt seems harmful here as by the time the four rushers realize what their lanes are and what's going on the screen is already happening. Martin(-1) should read what it is faster, I think, and peel back. Avery(-0.5) comes up a bit too hard and lets things in front of him; safeties are way off. Jones(+0.5) gets hit by an OL but recovers to make a diving dodgy ankle luck tackle. Dangerous. Demens(-1) also slow reading. RPS -1
O43 3 15 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Out Kovacs Inc
Despite what Patrick says, blitz not actually coming; four guys. Martin backs out. Roh(+0.5) threatens to split a double and Ryan(+0.5) does the same, spooking Carder. Probably for the best since because of these things if Carder delayed Demens was going to annihilate him. Carder throws an out short of the sticks that Kovacs(+2) has dropped into and breaks up. Wasn't getting the first anyway. (pressure +1, cover +1) Picture paged @ BWS.
Drive Notes: Punt, 27-10, 6 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O37 1 10 I-Form tight Nickel 4-3 Pass 4 PA Out Ryan Inc
Ryan(+2) swims past the LT like he's not there and gets in on Carder just after he gets the PA fake off (pressure +1), causing him to throw his out wide. Good thing. Either Avery(-1) or Herron had biffed his zone drop (cover -1) and this would be open. I think it's Avery, but your guess is as good as mine.
O37 2 10 I-form Nickel 4-3 Penalty N/A False Start -- -5
LOL
O32 2 15 I-form Nickel 4-3 Run N/A Inside zone Martin 4
Martin(+1) splits a double and threatens to tackle in the backfield, forcing a cutback. He just misses a TFL. Herron(+0.5) reads the backside cut and does fend off a free-releasing tackle to get to the RB and begin the takedown. Kovacs arrives in time to take him down.
O36 3 11 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 6 Rollout out Gordon 12
They're finally tired of getting destroyed by Kovacs and roll the pocket away from him. Martin(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5) still bust through blocks and force a throw (pressure +1). This is in front of Gordon(-1), who can't react quickly enough to tackle on the catch(cover -1) on a third and long, allowing the WR to fall forward for the first.
O48 1 10 Ace 3-wide Nickel Run N/A Inside zone Beyer 9
Martin(+1) slants past the backside G, getting playside and rapidly flowing down the line in the backfield; Black(+1) also gets good position and helps close down the POA for what should be a TFL... if not for Beyer(-2) tearing after the QB on his boot fake and Herron(-1) not reacting to the cutback as quickly as I'd hope he would. May be harsh on Herron.
M43 2 1 Ace 3-wide Nickel press Run N/A Inside zone Fitzgerald 4
A 3-4-ish look with press on the WRs leaves six in the box. Black(-1) gets banged inside as blitzers come from the edges, leaving a big hole for the RB. Fitzgerald(+1) takes on a block and bounces out to help contain, eventually making contact just past the sticks. MRob helps clean up.
M39 1 10 I-Form Nickel 4-3 Run N/A Power off tackle Brink 14
Brink(-2) at NT nailed inside, blown behind Heininger at DT. Really cannot give that much ground. Herron(-0.5) and Fitzgerald(-0.5) both have tough jobs and don't really do them, getting cut and not being able to slow the RB. This is really on the lack of impedance through the hole, though. Kovacs(-0.5) comes to fill and misses his tackle(-1); his angle did drive the RB into Gordon, who's angling back from his duties over the slot.
M25 1 10 I-Form Nickel 4-3 Run N/A Yakety snap -- 0
Fumbled snap that M recovers.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 34-10, 3 min 3rd Q. Game is called on next drive.

How was that?

That was kind of like watching last year's Michigan offense.

Wait, what?

WMU's offense was like Michigan's offense last year insofar as they drove the ball down the field consistently but only got ten points because they missed field goals and shot themselves in the face with turnovers. The touchdown returns were a zesty bonus on top of the turnover sundae, but it was basically the same.

So we made Western look like Denard Robinson was their quarterback?

Er… not exactly. The Broncos had a distinct lack of explosion in their giddy-up, averaging just five yards a play. They were only on yardage parity with Michigan because of the two defensive touchdowns and their drives only got as threatening as they did because of some crappy special teams on Michigan's part.

By drive:

  1. 16 play touchdown. Bad.
  2. Drive starts at midfield, basically, and after a long run we discussed earlier WMU is booted off the field. They miss a FG. Correctable.
  3. WMU drives from midfield to the Michigan ten, whereupon Herron INT TD.
  4. Three and out.
  5. Two-minute drive starts at 40 and gets to the Michigan 19 before Mattison goes blitz nuts. FG.
  6. WMU finally has bad field position (their 13) gets a couple first downs, and then Kovacs fumble TD.
  7. One first down, then punt.
  8. Drive starts at 40, moves to Michigan 25 before fumble.

Carder started off hot and Michigan's defense was a confused shambles for the first drive. After that it wasn't too bad.

How about that Herron?

Er, it's just that…

Chart?

Chart.

[Introductory section for new people and those who need reminding:

UFR points are handed out to players who seem to have a direct impact on the success or failure of a particular play. The system has historically favored linemen, who are put in a position to Make A Play frequently, and been tough on defensive backs, who have usually screwed up when they are in your picture. I can't fix that without putting a crippling amount of time into grading players not directly affecting the play and frankly I am an amateur, so I might not do it right. By focusing on the directly involved I can used Results Based Charting: I can hand out things based on the success of the thing that actually happened.

Points usually range from –3 to +3 with half-points available. When particularly incensed I have given out bigger minuses.

There are also four metrics:

  • TACKLING: Points handed out for good open field tackles that cut down on YAC. Subtracted for whiffs that do not serve a purpose. (It's okay to whiff outside because you know there will be gang tackle when the guy cuts back.)
  • PRESSURE: Points handed out for getting to the QB, subtracted for not getting there. As a general rule when the QB is not able to get to a second read that's a plus. If he's able to get to three that's a minus. Pressure is graded on a curve: it's easier to get a plus rushing three than rushing six.
  • COVERAGE: Points handed out for covering a guy and subtracted for not doing so. Running a guy's route for him is a +2, being in position to do something about it is a +1. Usually you will have to be far enough away to allow YAC to get a –1. Huge minuses are possible here when you DON'T COVER THAT GODDDAMN WHEEL—ahem.
  • RPS: "Rock-Paper-Scissors." This is a proxy for the coordinator battle. When Michigan does something that the opponent can't deal with, like blitzing Kovacs into the QB's chest, they get a plus. When they send seven and get a screen on their face they get a minus. End section.]
    So I completely screwed up the RPS. The rest I'll vouch for.
Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 5 1 4 Not as much pass rush as you might want but did get a litte push.
Martin 6 1 5 Not really seeing the criticism. He made a few plays in about a quarter and a half of time and was often dropping.
Roh 1 1 0 This, on the other hand, was disappointing.
Brink 0.5 2 -1.5 Blown up on a run late.
Heininger 3 - 3 Made a few plays on a second half drive.
Black 2 2.5 -0.5 See Roh.
Campbell - 2 -2 This is not happening.
TOTAL 17.5 9.5 8 Uninspiring. Mitigating factors: heat, lack of 4th Q, zone blitzes, mega pressure number.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
C. Gordon - - - DNP
Demens 7.5 5 2.5 Kind of a rough start but played in odd conditions.
Herron 5 9.5 -4.5 Not good when ball wasn't finding him for touchdowns.
Ryan 8.5 - 8.5 Can really get to QB. Most consistent rusher on the day.
Fitzgerald 2 3.5 -1.5 Slow to react.
Jones 1 0.5 0.5 Not much to go on.
Evans - - - DNP
Beyer - 6 -6 Highly irresponsible against the run. Doubt we see much of him this week.
Hawthorne - - - DNP
Morgan - - - DNP
TOTAL 24 24.5 -0.5 Schizophrenic day; will get better with more Demens, less Beyer. WLB a concern.
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 5 - 5 One great play on a bubble, one endzone PBU.
Avery 3 3 3.5 Another endzone PBU but not so hot underneath.
Woolfolk 2 2 0 Mostly bubble action before injury.
Kovacs 13.5 0.5 13 Impeccable. Some of these points might belong to Mattison.
T. Gordon 4.5 2 2.5 I like him.
Johnson - 8 -8 Looked lost.
Robinson - 1.5 -1.5 Also not much to go on.
TOTAL 27 15 12 Wow?
Metrics
Pressure 15 5 10 Alex Carder is still coughing up blood.
Coverage 6 11 -5 A lot of this was Herron, frankly.
Tackling 6 3 3 Meh.
RPS 10 9 1 A bit more on this later.

I think that's mostly on point. While the corners gave up some short plays they coped well with the bubble and both had endzone PBUs. Our first tenuous suggestion that Tony Gibson may be an evil spy has been achieved.

Meanwhile, Carvin Johnson had a rough day that ended with him getting pulled for Robinson, Jake Ryan was excellent, about which more later, and Michigan got very little out of the WDE spot. I'm not that worried about RVB or Martin since they didn't get much action and still had a few plays to their name; extrapolated across an entire game they'll be fine.

And then there's Kovacs. That is a record-shattering performance for a member of Michigan's secondary and it is absolutely deserved. Kovacs led the team in tackles, only half-missing a couple of those. He led ballcarriers into other defenders, which is why Western had to go on long marches—they couldn't bust it past Kovacs. He annihilated Carder on two sacks, one of which produced a game-sealing fumble. While Mattison got him those runs at the QB, his execution was flawless. On the first, he had the agility to slash back inside of Herron and the technique to put his helmet directly on the ball. And he added two PBUs for good measure.

But he's a walk on and not very good.

Screw it: Kovacs is good now, no qualifiers. I have just doomed him to awful play against Notre Dame, but whatever.

What about that RPS?

Obviously that should not be right when the QB has been forced into two turnovers and has been eating linemen all day. I think Mattison was brilliant, at least as far as you can be against a MAC team, and have to adjust my grading to account for these "blitz" things he's introduced.

Yeah, how about those?

Last year I started tracking the number of rushers M sent at the quarterback because Greg Robinson kept sending three, which I defended as not totally insane at the time. Like everything else, it was totally insane.

The number of three-man rushes against WMU? One. That stuff about being aggressive that every defensive coordinator says? 100% valid. The really cool thing about being aggressive? Mattison is doing it while often getting seven guys into coverage by bringing zone blitzes. 

This kind of stuff isn't anything new to NFL watchers or teams that deploy a non-GERG as a DC. But being able to do it well is a massive advantage because it makes life hard not only on the opponent's bodies but their minds. There were points in that game when Carder was just dumping the ball out of the endzone so Kenny Demens wouldn't hurt him so much, and Mattison confused the hell out of the Bronco OL.

Brandon Herron's two touchdowns make him awesome. /national award thingy guys

Er… no. I generously gave Herron four points for not dropping the world's easiest interception and doing the scoop and score on the fumble, and the fourth point is really just for running 100 yards without passing out. Outside of those plays in which other folks did the work Herron was –8.5 on the day.

A typical play follows. On it, Kenny Demens makes a tackle in the hole as Herron, who was lined up closer to the eventual hole, actually passes Demens halfway through the play:

That sort of slow reading was rampant.

Did anyone impress you, sourpants?

Apparently Jake Ryan can do what he did to a freshman walk-on in spring to backup JUCO MAC guard and an actual starting MAC guard, too. You've probably seen him rip through the line on the INT TD plenty but there was also this:

I have him down for a couple additional pressure and one hell of a debut. It sounds like Cam Gordon's out this weekend too; he might have lost his job by the time he gets back. Or maybe they'll move stuff around to get more production out of the WDE and WLB spots.

Heroes?

This was a very black and white game: Kovacs and Ryan were awesome.

Goats?

The black: Herron makes me very worried about WLB, Beyer shouldn't have been on the field, and the lack of production out of WDE is alarming.

What does it mean for Notre Dame and beyond?

That nickel package is probably going to be on the field a lot against ND's passing spread. Rees is not mobile and they seem mistake-prone so we could see a fair share of helmets deposited in to ribcages in the backfield.

Downfield they'll chuck it up to Floyd a lot, which means Woolfolk will need to be  back and healthy and he'll need some help. Though Avery and Floyd did well against Western, ND is a whole additional ball of wax. If Woolfolk does end up fully back—sounds like it—I wonder if Michigan will put all three corners in and drop Gordon back to the other safety spot. That will be key, as will getting a better performance out of WLB. And Craig Roh's got to step up.

Preview 2011: Linebackers

Preview 2011: Linebackers

Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2011 at 10:39 AM

Previously: The story and the secondary.

A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.

obi-ezeh-hurdlejonas-mouton-after-illinois

 

Well… they're gone. For better or worse the two linebacking stalwarts of the Rodriguez era are out the door, destined for San Diego or the real world. Though no one's going to memorialize Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton in song, they endured the transition from Ron English to Scot Shafer to Greg Robinson to Dr. Vorax, the stuffed wolverine Robinson insisted was the real coordinator of the insane 3-3-5 Rodriguez demanded. If anyone can feel hard done by the Rodriguez era it's them.

HOWEVA, Dr. Vorax and other assorted coaching indignities cannot explain away much of the horror Michigan suffered at their hands. Mouton was linebacker Janus, singlehandedly crushing fullbacks and even pulling guards en route to TFLs a few plays before losing contain yet a-goddamn-gain against opponents as meek as UMass.

Ezeh, for his part, was first amongst equals as this blog's whipping boy the last couple years until the Penn State game, when Greg Robinson became public enemy #1. His trademark move was sitting completely still until an offensive lineman screwed him into the ground.

Midyear, former Michigan linebackers were dropping the word "inexcusable." A fresh start is called for.

Depth Chart
SLB Yr. MLB Yr. WLB Yr.
Cam Gordon So.* Kenny Demens Jr.* Mike Jones So.*
Jake Ryan Fr.* Marell Evans Sr.* Brandin Hawthorne Jr.
Brennen Beyer Fr. JB Fitzgerald Sr. Desmond Morgan Fr.

Middle Linebacker

Rating: 4

kenny-demens-iowakenny-demens-beaver

Right: Demens hangin' with Doctor Vorax

MICHIGAN PROVIDES THAT with three relatively new starters. The most established new blood is redshirt junior Kenny Demens, the man who inexplicably languished behind not only Ezeh but walk-on and converted fullback Mark Moundros at the start of last year. That seemed like plenty of evidence to write the kid off, so this blog did:

The enigmatic Kenny Demens is third string in the middle; after a seemingly productive spring he dropped off the map and has generated zero fall mentions as Moundros climbs the depth chart. He played sparingly in the fall scrimmage; last year he was passed over for walk-on Kevin Leach when it came time to replace Ezeh temporarily. He's spinning his wheels, seemingly on track to watch this year. Next year both of the guys above him will be gone and he'll get one last chance to step forward; the tea leaves are not encouraging at the moment.

Demens then watched as Ezeh played at his usual level until the Iowa game. Desperate for anything after being gashed by Michigan State, Robinson finally put Demens on the field. We finally saw what was keeping him from playing time:

Only the machinations of the traitorous Vorax. That's not a play Ray Lewis is going to have on his hall of fame reel but it stood out to me after years of watching Ezeh try to clunk his way through traffic. Demens steps to the right as Iowa runs a counter but reads it, steps around traffic, and is there to tackle once Mouton forces it inside. Demens did that on a consistent basis against all opposition (except Purdue, oddly). The sumptuous conversation about him after the Iowa game was excited:

Demens. Wow.

Yeah. Watching the game live I thought that he was an obvious upgrade over Ezeh but expected that when I went over the game in detail I'd find he was at fault for some of the longer Iowa runs or third down conversions, or had messed up in some way that had gone unexploited. I didn't. I found little things that I thought were good plays I hadn't seen live

How many times did Iowa RBs find themselves facing a line with no penetration and no holes in it? Several. How many times did previous Michigan opponents face this? Essentially never. Good DL play with crappy linebacker play yields a lot of penetration and a lot of lanes where the DL aren't. Crappy DL play with good LB play is this, a bunch of bodies on the line with no windows to squeeze through.

At least, he did when he was not subject to further machinations. Vorax saw his nemesis had escaped confinement and immediately upped his insanity level further. Below are Michigan's alignments in the first and second halves of the Penn State game two weeks later:

demens-1_thumb[12]demens-2_thumb[15]

left: first half. right: second half.

After getting annihilated by a terrible run offense in the first half Demens actually had to ask the coaches to move him more than a yard away from the nose tackle's rear. He struggled, but who wouldn't when the only thing between you and two guards is Adam Patterson and far too little space?

Demens recovered from that to register as one of the "heroes" of the Illinois game—he managed a +8, leading to cries of Anyone But Ezeh favoritism from readers—before registering his first clunker against Purdue. Demens got hooked pretty badly on a play that, in retrospect, I should have been harsher to the DL on since Dan Dierking roared through a truck-sized hole. Later he got lost and let Rob Henry rip off a big gain. He was one of few Michigan defenders to come out of the Wisconsin game with something approximating dignity.

KENNY DEMENS
plays in space
quick but under control
make a leaping PBU
killshot shakes the ball loose
tackle on the catch
jars the ball free
picking through trash
goal line gap shoot
slants past the tackle
reads and fills
scraping, waiting, tackling
picture-paged this.
not quite harris
runs to the backside
pulls an Ezeh and sits
wanders backside
smart
removes cutback

When everything was over Demens had racked up 82 tackles despite playing sparingly in the first five games. If he'd gotten the whole season he would have had numbers like that random Northwestern linebacker who ends up with 130 tackles at the end of the season because he's the guy roping down tailbacks after they pick up six yards.

It's clear by the rating above that I'm a Demens believer. I liked what I saw last year and I've seen MLBs who are pretty good to compare him to. David Harris, for one. He's not Harris but I think Demens is closer to him than Ezeh already. He just has a knack for getting to where the play is going. Though his coverage still needs some work he was decently effective in short zones last year. As a bonus, one of the few things practice reports have been consistent in is their Demens praise.

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.

Backups

Marell-Evans(CAPTION INFORMATION)
Purdue's Joey Elliott is sacked by Michigan's Al Backey in the first quarter.         Photos are of the University of Michigan vs. Purdue University at Michigan Stadium, November 7, 2009.    (The Detroit News / David Guralnick)

I can't believe we had commemorative spring game jerseys
Also: Evans left, Fitzgerald right

Prodigal son Marell Evans returned from exile at I-AA Hampton to rejoin the team for his fifth and final year of eligibility. He probably wasn't expecting to see too much time after doing so, but there he was in the spring game, starting in Demens's stead. How well he did was in the eye of the beholder; around these parts I was "extremely leery" of the depth but offered up no reason as to why.

If forced into action Evans will be a wildcard. He hardly played at Hampton because of injury and hardly played at Michigan because of youth. He's probably not going to be that good. Over the course of the last month I received a couple of practice reports that slammed him pretty hard. Those aren't gospel, but that and his vagabond career to date are all we have to go on.

Fellow senior JB Fitzgerald is also hanging around this area of the depth chart, though no one knows exactly what linebacker spot he's backing up. It's never good when you've been around for four years and no one knows where you're supposed to play.

At least Fitzgerald is used to it by now. He's been kicked around since he arrived. On occasion he's even been drafted to play DE terribly when Greg Robinson runs out of ideas. When he pops up in UFRs doing something well, as he's done from time to time for years, I get all excited he might be finally breaking through. Then he never does. Fitzgerald's about out of time and there's no reason to think he's suddenly going to get it. He was passed by Evans as soon as he arrived; Jake Ryan emerged to back up Cam Gordon in spring; Michigan has a vicious melee for the WLB spot that Fitzgerald isn't even involved in. Without a plague of injuries he'll spend most of his final year providing leadership on special teams.

Strongside Linebacker

Rating: 2.5

cam-gordon-notre-damecam-gordon-osu

less deep half, more linebacker plz

Cam Gordon has finally found a home. He can buy a new couch and maybe a speaker system that attaches to the walls and everything. That it took this long is another symptom of the madness on defense last year. Gordon is linebacker sized and plays like a linebacker, except he was playing receiver as a freshman and thus tackled people in the same way a coke machine would: by running your bulk into a dude and hoping he falls over.

This was Michigan's last line of defense, and they paid for it many times over, starting against Michigan State:

His shoulder-block style of tackling was something he got away with before he faced Michigan State but against MSU he was bouncing off ballcarriers because they were big and strong enough to take the blow. Then he would try to drag them to the ground, which only worked sometimes and always gave up YAC.

Worse yet were Gordon's angles, which alternated between vastly too aggressive…

…and vastly too conservative…

…depending on which flaw he had just spent the week getting chewed out about in practice. And then there was that rainbow thing. I'm embarrassed to have pumped him up a bit after the Indiana game, though to be fair he did have an interception.

Gordon got shuffled to spur, a position roughly analogous to the strongside linebacker in a 4-3 under, for the Penn State game. Thrown into the fire at yet another position he had only the barest clue how to play, he struggled there as well. He was emblematic of that game's defensive implosion:

It's symbolic that this is the play where it all went to hell.

Demens has that dead to rights if he can just get some gang tackling help. Marvin Robinson whiffs, Cam Gordon vacates the only area Royster can go, and Royster makes a terrific play to spin outside for the first down. Great play, but you can't spin past three guys without something having gone horribly wrong. That's a true freshman and a redshirt freshman who was a wide receiver last year and a safety last week. FFFUUUUUUUU.

CAM GORDON
tackling issues
whiffs but gets lucky
safety ugh
takes a horrible angle on the pass
lost in coverage
too far off
some good stuff
intercepts Chappell
delivers a nice hit

Cam Gordon had a rough freshman year. Worse for our purposes is how useless it is for projecting his future. With half of his season spent at a position he'll never play again and the other half spent in an incoherent defense at a spot he'd learned for literally two weeks, his UFR chart isn't even worth looking at.

If you insist, it's not pretty even after he moved to linebacker. He managed to stay on the positive side against Illinois by blitzing a ton. I did note that "Gordon brings a physical intimidation factor the other two spurs don't." He didn't do much other than scoop up a fumble and run a long way against Purdue. Against Wisconsin he failed to register even a positive half-point and picked up this note: "Not involved much and didn't do well when he was." After that the malaise took over. He did have some TFLs in the final two games.

That doesn't mean much, though. Bounced from position to position and ill-served by the coaching of Greg Robinson and Adam Braithwaite, Gordon was put in a position to fail. He did. 

Now he's at a spot that makes sense being coached by people who make sense. Since he wasted a redshirt year playing offense and his freshman year trying to play safety he'll be farther behind the curve than an average third-year player. He's also pretty light for a strongside linebacker at 224. That will serve him well when he's asked to drop into coverage but will make fending off tight ends a struggle. A reasonable level of development gets him to a bit below average this year.

Backups

jake-ryan-mbrennen-beyer

Ryan, Beyer

There is one. The spring game was a dreary, depressing thing mostly notable for the various ways in which the quarterbacks looked awful, but one of the certifiable bright spots was the rampaging play of redshirt freshman Jake Ryan. Ryan had a pick-six, sacked Devin Gardner at least a couple times—hard to tell exactly what would have happened if they were live—and generally gave second-string OT Kristian Mateus more than he could handle. Mateus is a walk-on and all spring impressions come with free grains of salt, but as of the moment Ryan Rob Lytle-ed his helmet in spring, the hype train has left the station and will build up steam until such time as there's another guy to get hyped about.

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.

Third on the depth chart is true freshman Brennen Beyer, one of the most highly touted recruits in this year's class. His recruiting profile has the goods: excellent speed and lateral mobility on a frame that needs and can put on a lot of weight. He was expected to play WDE and flipped to SLB after Frank Clark showed very well in fall. He was 100% lineman in high school and will need some time to adjust to new responsibilities. Hopefully they can get a redshirt on him this year.

Weakside Linebacker

Rating: 2

103109_SPT_UM v Illinois_MRMbrandon-herron-msu

it's tough to find shots of Jones and Herron in the wild

This is the most uncertain thing about the defense. Mouton left no ready heir apparent thanks to an injury that forced Mike Jones out for the entirety of 2009. Top competition Brandon Herron also missed a big chunk of last year. When he returned he mostly sat.

Jones returns atop the depth chart out of little more than momentum. Michigan fans haven't seen much out of him other than a few redshirt-burning tackles on kickoff coverage, so his recruiting profile will have to stand in for actual knowledge.

For what it's worth he does seem well suited to be one of those blitzer guys Greg Mattison promises will exist this year:

Exceptional edge blitzer that has great timing and quickness; speed rushes by the offensive tackle before he can get set. Offensive backs can't or won't block him when blitzing off the edge; really creates havoc in the backfield. Does a great job of using his hands to shed blockers in order to get to the ball carrier.

As a bonus, he's beefed up from 208 to 224, which is reasonable WLB size. Folks were talking him up as a "playmaker" during spring practice last time around. Little's been heard since. That goes for all of his competitors as well.

Backups

Those competitors are serious threats for the job. Michigan spent much of the fall shoving every plausibly-shaped available body to WLB, suggesting they aren't confident in Jones. Either that or they actually think they have depth. Mattison was unusually positive when asked about the WLB spot a couple weeks into camp:

That position and again I hate to ever say anything positive, I love how those guys are playing at times. At times, they are playing with such energy and such speed and such explosiveness. One day one of them, I’ll go wow that’s what we’re looking for and the next day he may have not as good a day and the other guy will step up. I think that one is a battle. That one is a battle right now and it is kind of a good battle to have.

Reality or Johnny Sears airy pump-up? We won't know that for a while. There are three experienced scholarship options. Whoever ends up winning the job might be bad; they probably won't be awful. There are three upperclass options before we dig up a freshman.

The second guy on the depth chart is fifth-year senior Brandon Herron, who's bounced all over the front seven in his time in Ann Arbor without managing to see the field much. He's got thirty-four tackles to his name, many of them in garbage time or on special teams.

Just when it looked like he might have a role in the 3-3-5 he came down with an injury and forced Roh to move back to LB. As a recruit he was middle-of-the-road, reputed to be a raw athlete. He'll probably see some time and not do anything spectacular with it.

Brandin Hawthornedesmond-morgan-25jpg-14ccbad0d4cfe4f1_large

Hawthorne, Morgan

Junior Brandin Hawthorne and true freshman Desmond Morgan also feature on the depth chart. Hawthorne is one of the Pahokee crew. He was a hilariously undersized high school player and has been bouncing between linebacker and safety the past couple years. He's happy to be back in the front seven:

"I was actually recruited as a linebacker so to be back feels really natural to me," said Hawthorne. "This is the position I played my whole life until I got to Michigan so it's nothing new, but I've had to learn the system, my responsibilities, and that takes time." …

"I'm not a real physical player - I'm more finesse - but I'm fast and smart," he said. "You need a brain on defense and I'm smart enough to recognize formations, and help move guys around. And I think I'm pretty good at making plays. I know I'm not going to overpower someone but I'm pretty good at slipping through the cracks."

Now up to 214 pounds, Hawthorne was getting some time with the first team during the select plays the media was allowed to watch. If his self-scouting is accurate he may be more of an option against spread teams. The weakside linebacker does get protected in the 4-3, so if he's got the speed and smarts Michigan might deal with the size.

The Big Ten Network was told to watch out for Morgan when their tour hit Ann Arbor, so they did. Viewers were treated to a shot of Morgan getting plowed over and over again as Gerry DiNardo tried to convince them he was the new hotness on the weakside.

Hoke has been talking him up. When asked about the linebacker situation outside of Demens Hoke went to Morgan first:

I think Desmond Morgan is a guy who we think is going to play some football for us. Mike Jones, we’ve played a little bit of MIKE and a little bit of WILL. Marrell Evans is playing some in there.

That was just a few days ago. 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.