Upon Further Review 2010: Defense vs UMass

Upon Further Review 2010: Defense vs UMass

Submitted by Brian on September 22nd, 2010 at 2:51 PM

Substitution Notes: Starting secondary, Kovacs, Mouton, and RVB went the whole way. Patterson and Black got some time on the DL; Leach substituted in for Banks on passing downs and for Gordon a little bit. Moundros got one series at MLB; Fitzgerald came in for Roh a tiny bit.

Formation notes: More of the same, with Michigan spending most of the day in a stack but occasionally shifting to a 4-3 front (sometimes Roh did not put his hand down in the front but it was a 4-3) and using the same nickel rush package they've shown in the first two games.

Against the twin TE formation Umass showed a lot the stack looked like this:

 ezeh-nt-right-1

Kovacs is rolled up tight to the line there. Michigan appears to be aligning based on pass strength, so whenever they saw a formation like this it was Banks and Kovacs to the run strength.

Chartin' note: the "Rush" column contains the number of pass rushers on a pass; on a run I attempted to determine to which side of the line it was run, doing this by the Michigan DE that was nominally run at. "Banks" is a run at (surprise!) Banks. NA is for something that went either right up the middle or the DEs weren't relevant.

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O35 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Inside zone Mouton 9
This is supposed to go right up the middle by the looks of the blocking scheme but Martin(+1) tears through the center's block and Ezeh(+1) shoots past an attempt to get him on the second level, forcing a cutback. Kovacs has cut past his blocker too and the RB has to head way outside, where Mouton(-1, tackling -1) is unblocked and has an opportunity to tackle for loss but overruns the play, which lets the RB dart upfield because Banks(-1) was easily single blocked and controlled. Floyd is also out there with Mouton but his weak diving tackle attempt (-1, -1 tackling) is run through.
O44 2 1 Ace twins twin TE 3-3-5 stack Run RVB Down G Roh 0
TEs originally split but one motions over the other as they test the other side of the M DL. Roh(+2) slants past the TE's attempted down block, sliding in between two guys and meeting the RB in the hole a yard behind the LOS. He comes around to tackle, but the RB can fall forward because of the OL blocking Roh. Ezeh took on a blocker in a way that would have funneled the RB to an unblocked Gordon, FWIW, if that was necessary.
O44 3 1 I-Form big twin TE 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Iso Banks 4
Martin(+1) blows through a double and occupies two blockers; Banks(-1) is bashed back and sealed by a momentary double, opening up just enough space for the RB to run through a Mouton tackle. No minus because he had to fight through a FB block and did well to slow the RB; Floyd(-1) is slow recognizing and can't clean up in time. His tackle(-1) is run through but the RB falls afterward; Michigan fortunate.
O48 1 10 Ace 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 PA waggle Rogers 12
First of the many rollouts. Gordon covers the short guy well enough but Rogers(-1, cover -1) has his hips turned way early on the play, even before people scroll offscreen, and is easily beaten on the hitch. Roh(-0.5) sucked into the PA and gave the guy a wide open corner (pressure -1)
O36 1 10 Ace 3-3-5 stack Run RVB Down G T. Gordon -2
UMass center stumbles as he gets out of his stance and Ezeh(+0.5) reads the direction of the play, flowing to it under control. They've only got two guys blocking three defenders as a result; Ezeh takes the correct shoulder of his blocker and T. Gordon is the free hitter. He makes a solid TFL in some space (+1, tackling +1). Lower than normal plus for a TFL because Ezeh had it easy on the stumble.
O38 2 12 Ace trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run NA PA draw Mouton 5
Bubble fake to a draw. Martin absorbs a double, getting pushed a few yards downfield but occupying two blockers for the duration. This gives Kovacs and Mouton free runs at the carrier; Mouton(-0.5) makes a dodgy tackle after slightly overrunning the play, turning 3 yards into 6.
O33 3 7 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel rush Pass 4 Slant Ezeh 14
The reason this simple slant on third and seven is wide open is Ezeh(-1, cover -1) bumping a tight end two yards from the LOS instead of getting a zone drop. A senior four-year starter doesn't know to drop to the sticks on third and seven.
O19 1 10 Ace 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass NA PA waggle hitch Floyd Inc
PA fake is to the backside of the play so the LBs are there; Mouton(+0.5) gets a bump on the releasing RB, forcing him into Ezeh and forcing a throw from the QB that Floyd(+1, cover +1) breaks on to break up.
O19 2 10 Shotgun twins 3-3-5 stack Run RVB Zone read inside Mouton 2
Center again stumbles. We'll give some credit to Martin(+0.5) since he's occupying those guys. RVB(+1) has also flowed down the line, occupying the hole; the RB cuts back all the way to the backside where Mouton(+1) has scraped and tackles with T. Gordon. RB does a good job of getting YAC.
O17 3 8 Shotgun trips bunch 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 Drag Leach 5
Leach blitzes from a slot LB spot as the other three DL and no one else come; QB has to roll out away from Leach(+0.5, pressure +1) and away from his trips bunch. One of those guys is on a drag route and the QB hits him; Mouton(+0.5, cover +1) is there for the immediate tackle.
Drive Notes: FG(31), 0-3, 10 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O49 1 10 Ace 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run RVB Inside zone Roh 1
Martin(+1) shoves his blocker back into the path of the RB, forcing a cutback into an unblocked Roh(+0.5), who closes from the backside to tackle for minimal gain.
50 2 9 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass 5 Hitch T. Gordon 3 (Pen -10)
T. Gordon(+0.5) gets out on the edge, forcing a throw on a short hitch that Rogers(+1, cover +1) can tackle on immediately. UMass gets a holding call but I have no idea who draws it because of crappy BTN production.
O40 2 19 Ace twins twin TE 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Down G Mouton 1
Banks gets doubled and blown back but does absorb two without crumbling. Mouton(+1) reads the OL pull and shoots into the play, cracking into one of the pullers in the backfield and drawing attention from both. This creates a pileup in the backfield; RB comes through the mess; the delay has allowed Kovacs(+0.5) to fill and tackle at the LOS.
O41 3 18 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel rush Run NA Draw Roh 3 (pen +5)
A give up and punt; Roh(-1) jumped offside.
O46 3 13 Shotgun 2-back Nickel rush Pass 4 Scramble Martin 6
Martin(+2) shoots past a double and is then flagrantly held, preventing a thunder-sack. He does force a rollout; no one is open and Havens has to run, whereupon the DEs converge. (Pressure +1, cover +1.)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-3, 6 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O33 1 10 Ace Base 4-3-ish Pass 4 Improv Roh 7
Moundros in for Ezeh. Roh as a standup DE with Gordon playing back; more of a standard 4-3 look. Roh pwns the TE(+1, pressure +1) but is almost literally dragged to the ground by the guy; no call. Very frustrating. He gets up and forces a scramble from the QB; as he rolls out he finds a TE open for several. He's immediately booted OOB. This drive likely ends immediately if the refs get this obvious call right.
O40 2 3 Ace twins twin TE 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Power off tackle Moundros 4
Backside G pulls around but is tripped because Martin(+0.5) is slashing into the backfield and pushed his guy back a little. Banks is cutting inside, as is Mouton, so this should provide an opportunity for Moundros to get a free hit if he hits the hole fast enough. Instead he sits around the first down marker and accepts a block(-1). Mouton rolls off a block and Kovacs comes up to tackle just past the first down sticks.
O44 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Power off tackle Banks 4
TE covered up and can't go downfield, so I'm a little disappointed Mouton isn't more aggressive here since he won't be threatened by the TE. Banks is sealed and bashed back a bit, allowing the RT to get a hat on Mouton and opening up what looks like a crease, but Banks(+0.5) fights through and sets up to tackle after a few yards. Cutback lane was there but untaken because Moundros(-1) immediately went into a pass drop without even checking a key.
O48 2 6 Ace twins twin TE Base 4-3-ish Pass 4 PA deep hitch Rogers 15
Covered TE. Martin is coming around on a stunt and is going to get there somewhat fast, but not fast enough if the primary read is open, which it is in front of Rogers(-1, cover -1) and behind Gordon(-1, cover -1) as he came up on a shorter receiver.
O33 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 3-3-5 stack Run RVB Power off tackle Van Bergen 1
RVB(+1.5) surges into the backfield past an attempted down block, cutting off the hole in the center and picking off the pulling guard. RB has to cut way outside where T. Gordon and Ezeh(+0.5 each) are waiting; they tackle.
O32 2 9 Ace 4-wide bunch 3-3-5 stack Pass NA PA drag Mouton 12
Pretty slick with the RB motioning in from an empty set and UMass faking a pitchout to him. This sucks in Mouton(-1, cover -1), opening up a drag route, though to be fair to the D the window here was not enormous because Kovacs was in decent position and this is just a good play. Catch is turned upfield for good yardage.
O20 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Pass 5 Flare screen Mouton 5
Mouton(+1) appears to be pass rushing. He bumps an OL and then reads the flare screen, getting out between the releasing OL and running the RB down for a minimal gain despite a corner blitz that could have made this very bad. RB does fall forward so no tackling +1.
O15 2 5 Shotgun 3-wide Base 4-3-ish Run Banks Reverse Banks 5
End around coupled with a reverse gets Michigan confused as the motion sends Michigan into a check they never get completed. Mouton gets chop blocked by a guy coming upfield of him, which was apparently a penalty on Kelvin Grady last week but isn't here... which is it? Kovacs bit; it's Greg Banks(+2) who sets up outside in a bunch of space, positions himself so the WR cuts inside of him, then disengages to tackle and possibly prevent a TD. (RPS -2)
O10 1 G I-Form Big 3-3-5 stack Run Power off tackle 10
They load up the short side with two TEs and pull a guard around to go with the FB: 4 blockers. TE blocks down on Banks. Kovacs and Mouton both attack, getting caught in the wash but also jamming up the LOS and wiping out the last TE and the two lead guys, leaving Floyd(-2) totally unblocked on the edge with a RB; he lets the guy outside; touchdown. Good lord, if you're going to get beat get beat to the inside. Turrible.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-10, 14 min 2nd Q. Floyd's run support: very bad.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O15 1 10 Ace 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run NA Inside zone Mouton 16
Ezeh back, Patterson in, and as always the opponent goes right at him. Patterson(-1) goes behind the single block of the center, which might work if the linebackers were making him right but Mouton(-1) starts flowing away from the play instead of attempting to fill his gap, which is a shame because Ezeh had gotten playside of his blocker and could have held this down to a few otherwise. I do not understand the gap integrity here, but what it looks like to me is Mouton thinking this is play action. Kovacs(-0.5) does just manage to tackle(-1), but it's very tenuous and gives UMass another 5 yards. Given the blocking scheme I don't think this is a good play by Patterson.
O31 1 10 I-Form 3-wide Base 4-3-ish Run Banks Quick pitch Mouton 7
The FB-dive/quick pitch combo suckers Mouton(-1), who should at least be looking at the tailback on a running play, and Banks, which is more understandable. Mouton closes it down fairly well but misses a tackle; Floyd(-0.5) wasn't much help on the corner.
O38 2 3 Shotgun twins Base 4-3-ish Run NA Inside zone Gordon 12
Guh, come on, you're on the backside of a run play that happens to have 2TEs to the backside, maybe a cutback is coming? Roh(-1) is ridden down the line out of the play; T. Gordon(-1), crashes down way too far, opening up the cutback, and Ezeh(-1) just eats a block as per usual. Mouton was free and could have finished a play if someone had funneled to to him, but no one did.
50 1 10 Shotgun trips bunch 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Sack Martin -12
Martin(+3) tears through a double team and authoritatively sacks. Beast mode. (Pressure +3)
O38 2 22 Ace twins twin TE 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Down G Mouton 3
Mouton(+1) flashes to the hole immediately, blasting the pulling guard and forcing the play inside where Banks(+0.5) and Floyd can combine to tackle.
O41 3 19 Ace trips 3-3-5 stack Run NA Draw Martin 1
A give up and punt, but Martin(+2) still blazes past blockers and then forms up, having read the play, to tackle for no gain.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-10, 8 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O21 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Power off tackle Banks 4
Leach in for Gordon. UMass runs power at Banks(+0.5) and he seems to get doubled out of the play but comes around it to help tackle with Floyd(+0.5), who set up well and came off a block to deal with it.
O25 2 6 Ace 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 PA rollout flat Roh 13
Roh(-1) sucks up too far after the play action instead of taking an angle that goes straight outside; Leach(-1) overruns the play and allows the receiver inside of him for big yardage. (Cover –1.)
O38 1 10 Ace 3-3-5 stack Run RVB Pin and pull zone Roh 10
New play sees three UMass players pull around. RVB(-1) gets pushed out of the play pointlessly, leaving Roh and Leach and Ezeh on three blockers. Play goes outside so Ezeh has no chance. Leach has to turn it inside and does. Roh? I think he's held, personally, but I'll leave the question open: is this is egregious or not? I am going to -1 him for not forcing it back inside. Michigan was caught in a slant away from the play, too. (RPS -1) Rogers(-1) was weak on the corner.
O48 1 10 Ace Base 4-3-ish Pass 4 PA Scramble Roh 3
Play action pass sees no one open at first (cover +1), at which point Roh(+1) spins off a blocker and charges in on Havens. He scrambles for a few yards. (Pressure +1)
M49 2 7 Ace 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Slant Leach 14
Leach's(-2) drop is terrible, opening up the easy slant because he took a step forward without so much as a PA fake (cover -1)
M35 1 10 Ace twins twin TE Base 4-3-ish Run NA Inside zone Mouton 15
More completely terrible outside angles reminiscent of last year. There is nothing inside thanks to RVB(+0.5) and Kovacs(+0.5) shutting down running lanes and the bounce meets an unblocked Mouton(-2.5), who can force the play back inside to two unblocked LBs but instead lets the RB outside, turning nothing into a first down. Awful, awful, awful. Picture-paged yesterday.
M20 1 10 Ace twins Base 4-3-ish Run Banks Dive Banks 5
Backside G pulls; this is supposed to go more directly upfield. Banks(-1) gets rudely escorted out of the play like he's Kovacs, providing a ton of room the LBs can't shut down. Ezeh does force it back, where Kovacs(+0.5) tackles solidly.
M15 2 5 Ace twins twin TE 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Power off tackle Mouton 6
Sagesse(-0.5) gets pushed too far inside; Floyd takes out a blocker as the outside contain, leaving a guy one on one with Mouton and Kovacs coming up to help; Mouton(-0.5) doesn't really take either shoulder of the defender, instead plowing into him and giving the RB a lane to the inside that Kovacs can't close down.
M9 1 G Ace twins 3-3-5 stack Power off tackle Ezeh 9
Ezeh(-2) has a simple job: get the outside shoulder of the lead blocker and let unblocked Mouton pound the guy; he doesn't do it, instead letting the RB outside, where he scores a touchdown. His uncertain waddle to the line is incredibly depressing.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-17, 1 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O36 1 10 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass 5 Rollout hitch T. Gordon Inc
Leach in for Banks with Roh playing DE. Mouton(+0.5) is blitzing from the backside and is fast enough to make this a problem; coverage(+1) is good enough for the QB to hesitate, then try to hit a drag route late that he ends up turfing. Rogers +0.5, T. Gordon +0.5, Ezeh +0.5.
O36 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run NA Inside zone Leach 20
Martin(+1) shoves his guy back and cuts off any holes in the middle of the play, forcing a cut outside. Leach(-3) is sitting approximately a thousand yards outside, sitting and waiting and watching the bounce here cut up for major yards. He should be there for a free hit, or at least a delay, on the back. Instead we again get a big gainer when the DL set the LBs up for a zero-yard run. Kovacs(+3) comes in from the side, strips the ball out, and recovers.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-17, 50 seconds 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O26 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Inside zone Ezeh 6
So in the 3-3-5 the job of the MLB is to make the NT right, which means when he closes off one A gap (between a C and G) you close off the other. Martin(+1) blasts the C back and cuts off one A gap; Ezeh(-1) flows into the same gap instead of shooting into the huge gap in the line on the other side of the center created because of Martin's disruption. This allows a G to come off and harass him and allows the RB to cut back. Banks and Kovacs are doing a meh job, standing up but not making any headway, and there's a TE out there to block Mouton. Mouton scrapes over; RB jukes out, Mouton cuts it off; Floyd's corner support does the exact same thing, meaning both guys head outside for a bit, providing a crease; Floyd and Kovacs tackle, but not before the RB plows for six. -0.5 Floyd, -0.5 Kovacs, though Kovacs's minus is simply because he's leetle.
O32 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide bunch Base 4-4 Pass 4 Out ? Inc
Roh hops down to the line and C. Gordon comes up in the box as a fourth linebacker. Simple out is open for the first (cover -1) but dropped. Pressure was getting there.
O32 3 4 Shotgun empty 3-3-5 stack Pass 6 Out Floyd 16
Confusion from Roh as he flops over to the other side of the line only for Ezeh to point him back where he used to be. Doesn't really matter since six guys are rushing and Martin dropping off into one of those screen-destroyer zones; another quick out at the sticks is thrown, with Floyd making a great break on the ball but whiffing (cover -1), yielding a tackle and some YAC. Kovacs(-1) misses an open field tackle(-1); Martin is the guy who tracks him down. Actually, I won't minus Floyd here since he did deflect the ball and the receiver was just lucky it bounced off his facemask and into his chest.
O48 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE Base 4-4 Run NA Inside zone Ezeh 4
Zone read look from UMass. Ezeh(-1) has another one of those plays where he just sits exactly where he is and eats a blocker as the line flows down, leaving absolutely nowhere for the RB to go (+0.5 Martin, Roh). T. Gordon(+0.5) maintains contain and then crashes down after the handoff, tackling the RB from behind as he passes the LOS.
M48 2 6 Ace 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Inside zone Martin -3
Martin(+3) blasts through the line into the path of the RB, tackling for loss by himself. Banks(+0.5) had also fought through a block and was there to help if Martin couldn't get the job done himself.
O49 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide Stack rush Pass 5 Out Mouton Inc
Mouton(+0.5) gets a free run on a Michigan blitz, with Martin again dropping out (RPS +1, pressure +1). This forces an errant throw, though it's depressing how open this is in front of Floyd(-1, cover -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 28-17, 10 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O30 1 10 Ace twins Base 4-3-ish Run RVB Off tackle Ezeh 4
Michigan slants, leaving Ezeh(-0.5) alone with a motioning TE. He takes the wrong shoulder of the defender, leaving a big gap between himself and Gordon, who's set up outside the slot receiver; Cam(+1) fills quickly and makes a good open field tackle to hold it down(tackling +1)
O34 2 6 Ace trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run Banks PA draw Kovacs -2
Martin(+0.5) shucks the C to the ground and gets in on the G; RVB(+0.5) and Banks(+0.5) also do good jobs of driving into the backfield without vacating lanes. RB has to cut outside, where Kovacs(+2) reads the play, shoots the gap, and tackles(+1) behind the LOS, albeit a tiny bit shakily. He is a good linebacker. He should play middle linebacker. I am not kidding.
O32 3 8 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel rush Pass 4 Drag Leach 9
Leach(-1) and Ezeh drop super deep, leaving this simple drag route open for the first (cover -1)
O41 1 10 I-Form 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Quick pitch Floyd 8
No idea what Floyd(-1) is keying on but his run read is way late given the single receiver to his side is obviously blocking from the snap. Kovacs(-0.5) also could have read this faster.
O49 2 2 Shotgun twins twin TE Base 4-4 Run NA Inside zone Roh 1
Roh(+2) slants into the backfield into the path of the runner and tackles at the LOS. Since he gets no help from the LBs the RB can fall forward near the sticks.
50 3 1 I-form big 3-3-5 stack Pass NA Waggle out Rogers 9
Michigan in man, biting on the fake. (RPS-1) Open in front of Rogers(-1, cover -1) and UMass converts. RVB charging down the QB, but for naught.
M41 1 10 Ace twins twin TE Base 4-4 Run Banks Power off tackle Banks 5
Banks(-1) doubled and blown too far back this time. Ezeh(-0.5) sits and eats another block; Patterson(+0.5) does an admirable job to eventually fight through his block and make an ankle tackle as the RB slashes past the LOS.
M36 2 5 Ace 3-wide Base 4-4 Pass NA Waggle hitch ? 8
An absolute ton of time (pressure -2, RPS -1) as Michigan is slanting towards a run play and needs Mouton/Kovacs in coverage (cover +1), which they do well. Havens comes off those two guys, finding a third open for the first in front of Ezeh. No blame there; just too long.
M28 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 3-3-5 stack Run RVB Power off tackle Fitzgerald 0
Fitz in for Roh. Not sure about this play since it looks like an off tackle play with a backside guard pulling but the RB's angle is kind of directly upfield. Maybe a bust by the RB. Anyway, Fitzgerald(+2) is being blocked down by the TE but gets in the gap, picking off the pulling lineman and causing the RB to try to bounce outside; he can't because Fitzgerald throws him to the ground. Possibly the best play by a LB all day?
M28 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 6 Seam T. Gordon Inc
Michigan sends six and does not get there (pressure -2); T. Gordon is in man on the slot receiver and his man gets a step (cover -1); ball is low and tough to dig out and not dug out. Probably a TD if accurate.
M28 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel rush Pass 5 Tunnel screen 0
Man to man, tight man, and Rogers(+1, cover +1, RPS+1) is right there for the tackle. Maybe some credit to Martin(+0.5) for harassing the QB and forcing a suboptimal throw? Sure.
M28 4 10 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel rush Pass 6 TE corner Mouton 13
Five or six sent; not sure WTF Mouton is doing. He chips the TE and then starts moving inside, which is weird since that means there's no contain to the short side of the field, where the QB rolls and finds the TE, who's broken just in front of Kovacs in man coverage. (Pressure -2, RPS -1) Anyone with a theory as to what Mouton's assignment is here please inform. Man cover on the RB?
M15 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 3-3-5 stack Run NA Inside zone Ezeh 9
RB makes a quick cut to the backside as Martin cuts off the playside A gap. Mouton attempts to funnel the RB to help, which is Ezeh(-1), who stepped to the wrong side of the play and had to leap a cut block and is late. A desperate ankle tackle from Kovacs(+0.5) prevents a TD. Please tell me if I'm right and Ezeh is insane or not here.
M6 2 1 I-Form Big 3-3-5 stack Run RVB Iso Ezeh -1
Martin(+1) pounds the center back, allowing Ezeh(+1) a lane he takes, shooting up between the C and G and pounding the fullback. No room, RB slides along the line, meeting RVB(+0.5) for no gain.
M7 3 2 I-Form big 3-3-5 stack Pass Waggle scramble Kovacs 7
Kovacs(-2) bites like a mother on the run fake, opening up the corner wide enough for Havens to stroll in. Mouton(-1) also bit, and then passed up a chance to pound the guy at the two.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 35-24, 13 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O27 1 10 Ace Base 4-3-ish Pass 3 Deep hitch Floyd 19
Just bad luck and bad refereeing here. Play action sees RVB and Martin through the line, with Martin(+0.5) recovering in time to force a throw(pressure +1) that Floyd(+1, cover +1) deflects. Receiver steps OOB, is STILL OOB when he touches the ball, and somehow gets credit for a completion.
O46 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE Base 4-3-ish Run NA Inside zone Ezeh 4
I am really, really frustrated with Ezeh(-1) at this point. Here he is totally unblocked but just sits on his ass the whole play instead of hitting it up in a gap that opens behind RVB and in front of Roh. RB goes through a gap, Ezeh tackles, but it's four yards instead of zero.
50 2 6 Ace Base 4-3-ish Pass Waggle hitch Rogers 15
No pressure (RPS-1, pressure -2) and all day for Havens to hit his receiver in front of Rogers(-1, cover -1)
M35 1 10 Ace 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run NA Inside zone Martin 0
Martin(+1) blasts the C back and sheds to the playside, forcing a cutback. RVB(+0.5) got inside the pulling WR block and forces the RB into Mouton(+1), who zipped past a blocker. The trio tackles for nothing.
M35 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 C. Gordon Int, fumble
Corner blitz from Floyd is picked up; Banks(+0.5) gets enough pressure to force a rollout from havens once his first read is covered by Ezeh(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5, cover +1). As he rolls out he throws it to a drag route still pretty well covered by Ezeh(+0.5 again). Pass is way overthrown and intercepted by Gordon, who runs it back to the 30 and fumbles it because of course.
Drive Notes: Interception, 42-24, 10 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M26 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run Banks Down G Banks 5
Patterson in. Banks(+1) holds up to a double team well enough to occupy two guys and get Mouton in clean on the tailback; he hits him, so does Kovacs, and there are like five M guys and three UMass guys as this tailback just drags a pile five yards. I'm not minusing anyone because who do you minus? Impressive by UMass; kind of depressing for M.
M21 2 5 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass 5 Slant Floyd Inc
Fake six, drop Ezeh into short zone, open up slant in man from Floyd(-0.5, cover -1) that is behind the WR and dropped.
M21 3 5 Ace Nickel rush Run NA Down G Martin 2
Martin(+2) shoves back the C, refuses to get sealed, fights off a hold, and runs down the tailback for nothing. Ezeh and Mouton were around but not needed.
M19 4 3 Shotgun 3-wide bunch Nickel rush Pass 4 TE out Leach 4
Wide open; totally lame coverage from Leach(-1, cover -1, RPS-1)
M15 1 10 Ace trips bunch 3-3-5 stack Run RVB PA draw Ezeh 6
Ezeh(-0.5) drawn out of position by the fake; RVB(-0.5) rushes upfield after the passer and vacates the lane.
M9 2 4 Shotgun twins twin TE Base 4-3-ish Run Banks Inside zone Ezeh 8
More zone read action. M slants the line again and totally destroys the play, with Martin and Roh ready to obliterate; Ezeh(-2) ran himself way to the frontside of the play, got sealed, and there's no one back there. T. Gordon blitzed at the QB, opening up a lane, too. (RPS -1)
M1 1 G Goal line Goal line Penalty False Start ? -5
Oops
M6 1 G Ace twins Base 4-3-ish Run NA Inside zone Martin 0
Martin(+2) flashes into the backfield impossibly quick and almost has a five-yard TFL but a last-second shove from an OL causes him to miss the tackle. Still, he's destroyed the play and Michigan just has to clean up. Ezeh(-1) overruns a stationary RB and Gordon has to clean up at the LOS.
M5 2 G Ace 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 6 Waggle cross C. Gordon 5
Man coverage as Michigan is going heavy after the run; Cam Gordon(-1) is beaten easily by the WR, opening up an easy TD (RPS -1, cover -1)
M3 2pt 2pt Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Improv Kovacs Int
Drop eight, covering everyone(+1) for the first read, at which point the QB starts scrambling because of good pressure from RVB(+0.5, pressure +1). He rolls out, finds no one, and chucks a hopeless pass back across the field that Kovacs(+0.5) picks off.
Drive Notes: Touchdown(2pt failed), 42-30, 5 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 Ace 3-3-5 stack Pass NA RB scramble ? 5
They try a halfback pass but it's covered(+1). RB decides to scramble and picks up five. Not charting this one too harshly since this is such an outlier of a play.
M20 2 5 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Out Rogers 7
Martin(+1) rips through the line instantly (pressure +1) on the roll but the soft corner (Rogers) opens up the little out for the first. (Cover -1)
M13 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 Dumpoff ? 6
Good coverage(+1) downfield forces a checkdown as Banks is collapsing the pocket; Ezeh tackles immediately.
M7 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 7 Fade Rogers Inc (Pen +5)
Michigan sends the house and gets there(Pressure +1) so the QB chucks one off his back foot that's too long; Rogers(-1, cover -1) is called for PI. Weak call, but they all are.
M2 1 G Goal line Goal line Pass 2 PA flare Kovacs 2 (Pen -5)
Kovacs(-1) overruns the play and the RB cuts past him into the endzone. This ceases to exist because of a false start but no one knew it when he scored.
M7 1 G Shotgun trips bunch 3-3-5 stack Pass 7 TE corner Mouton 7
Mouton(-2, cover -2) doesn't bother to cover the TE.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 42-37, 2 min 4th Q. M gets the onside kick and runs out the clock.

Down or across?

What?

Should I cut down or across with the razor? The former is just a cry for help, the latter is srsly.

Maybe on the diagonal?

I HATE YOU

Yeah, okay… chart?

Yeah.

If you'd like an answer to "what if Brandon Graham played every snap against Delaware State like his life depended on it," here you go:

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 5 1.5 3.5 Lots of half points for doing decently on run plays.
Martin 25 - 25 I just write the numbers down! More on this later.
Banks 6 4 2 Not great but not the big problem.
Sagesse - 0.5 -0.5 Very few snaps.
Patterson 0.5 1 -0.5 Not exactly Martin but seems okay.
Black - - - Did play, didn't record anything.
TOTAL 36.5 7 29.5 Hulk smash.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
Ezeh 4.5 12.5 -8 Hopeless.
Mouton 7 10.5 -3.5 Reversion.
Roh 7.5 4.5 3 Okay, not great.
Johnson - - - DNP.
T. Gordon 3 0.5 2.5 Doing okay.
Leach - 8.5 -8.5 Extremely poor performance spotting Gordon and acting as a passing down LB
Moundros - 2 -2 Poor on single series.
Herron - - - DNP
Fitzgerald 2 - 2 +2 play may have been in error but it worked.
TOTAL 24 38.5 -14.5 What the hell happened? This was +21 last week against ND!
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 2.5 8.5 -6 Major issues in run support..
Rogers 2.5 5.5 -3 Guys were open in front of him consistently.
Kovacs 7.5 5.5 2 Michigan's best linebacker.
C. Gordon 1 2 -1 Not tested much.
Talbott - - - DNP
Christian - - - DNP
M. Robinson - - - DNP
Ray Vinopal - - - DNP
TOTAL 13.5 21.5 -8 Corners were exploited for the first time.
Metrics
Pressure 12 9 3 Pretty mediocre.
Coverage 12 19 -7 Scary against a I-AA team
Tackling 3 5 -2 Dodgy.
RPS 1 11 -10 GERG fail.

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

What didn't go wrong?

Mike Martin.

First a word on that number: holy pants. I don't even know if I can stand by that but what I saw is Martin either occupying two blockers or obliterating the blocking concept on almost every play. He tore into the backfield for +3 TFLs twice and got a a pair of +2 near TFLs. He was completely un-containable, and the number is just this side of literally incredible because what would happen if a ridiculously good player happened to be on a terrible defense that kept him on the field the whole game and saw the opponent put together multiple grinding drives on which to rack up points by destroying run concepts only to see the confused ducks behind you clack heads and fall over?

He would get a damn lot of points, is what. That's a UFR record.

Also, I went into the UFR after watching UMass go at Banks and Kovacs all day to good success and thought I would end up with big negatives for at least one of those two guys. I didn't. Neither exactly covered themselves in glory but both ended up on the positive side of the ledger, and on this day that makes you immune from criticism. RVB had a solid day. You'd like to see him do better than that against a I-AA team but he was not tested much what with all the running at Banks. For the record, I have ten rushes at RVB for 2.1 a carry and 18 at Banks for 4 a carry, so the intuition wasn't wrong: UMass ran at Banks a lot and did better than they did when they ran at RVB, but the defensive ends weren't involved in the big gainers much.

And that is all.

I trusted you! Linebacker GERG fairy theory! I HATE YOU

Yeah, man, hell if I know. A week after racking up thirteen tackles and getting talked up by the NFL risers and sliders guy, Mouton forgot seemingly everything he'd learned over the offseason, repeatedly getting lost. Ezeh, meanwhile, is back to that thing where he stands around until someone blocks him, whereupon he starts moving backwards and maybe falls over to make an ankle tackle:

And then:

And then:

At this point it's almost hopeless. What are the chances Obi Ezeh learns how to be a linebacker in the last ten games of his career if he's still making incredibly basic mistakes like that after starting for three years? This has nothing to do with scheme. This is basic play recognition/ability to remember how to make your legs go.

Mouton's mistakes, too, are things common to every defense like "don't let the tailback outside of you when you are a force defender," but at least he makes some plays to help with his deficiencies. The ugly fate foretold by the "Mark Moundros could start" preseason meme appears to be coming true.

Here is where I take up the shield of someone who knows what he's talking about to forestall the inevitable complaints that I'm not being very nice and we should really give Boubacar Cissoko a chance before declaring him not good at football: this is an opinion shared by former M LB Ron Simpkins, whose latest interview with Rivals($) has the word "inexcusable" in the title in re: linebacker play and is even less kind behind the paywall. These seniors are not good at football.

What are they so indecisive?

So I think what the coaches mean by "this is not a stack" is that in a stack everyone has a gap. The line will slant one way and from a combination of blitzes and other attacking bits all the non-DL gaps get filled. Usually the OLBs and DEs will have specific B and C gaps depending on the slant; the goal is to kick runs out to the spur and bandit or just fill your gap and tackle there. The MLB's read depends on the NT. The NT has to take a double, and then he has to slant into a gap, and the MLB has to figure out which gap he's covered and attack the other one.

Here's Ezeh not doing that even a little bit on a counter:

Ezeh does not key off Martin or he'd shoot the gap in the backside after Martin closes off the frontside A gap. He reads the running back, steps to the wrong side of the play, does not take the opportunity to shoot in a gap for a TFL, and allows the back to run up the backside of a bunch of blockers for decent yardage. He did this all day. He does not have a gap, he has to figure out what's going on and then try to close it down, usually with poo results of poo.

Why isn't it a stack?

Don't know. I think it should be because anything that gets Ezeh moving forward is good. Especially when you've got Martin, an incredibly active NT who is going to be able to close off big gaps frequently, I'd rather have Ezeh shoot gaps and get guys in the backfield or at the line than rely on all this reading business that the linebackers suck at and ends up bleeding the kind of yards UMass had on the ground last week. My complaint here is they didn't go far enough.

What can we do?

The worst part is that when Michigan got tired of Ezeh they put in Moundros for a series and Moundros proceeded to do the exact same things, except in his case it's obvious why: he was a fullback last year. He's no substitute, and he's the #2 guy on the depth chart! JB Fitzgerald and Kenny Demens: where are you? You are nowhere.

Everyone's got their crackpot theories of how to fix the defense with random positions switches or, in the case of a couple dedicated caterwaulers, overhauling the scheme to be more of a 4-3 to take an extra defensive back off the field, which makes zero sense because Michigan's 4-3 would have the exact same personnel as last year's 4-3 and this year's 3-3-5. None of that is going to do anything, and Will Campbell is not a useful football player right now.

My suggestion is going to sound utterly ludicrous but here it is anyway: replace Ezeh with Kovacs and bring Marvin Robinson in. This is nuts, I know. Kovacs is a leprechaun-sized walk-on. But I go back to the stack DVD Casteel put out back in the day. In it he made two things clear: the NT is by far the most important player in the defense and makes things go (check), and the middle linebacker can be spectacularly undersized as long as he is a heady, instinctive player who can put a hat on the right shoulder of the right guy at the LOS after "making the nose tackle right". Casteel specifically says that the player they had the previous year was 190 pounds. Raise your hand if you'd take West Virginia's 2002 defense right now. That's everyone.

I mean, Kovacs does this:

He is a decisive slasher. Mike Martin is peeling the faces off of people right now and Kovacs will have free runs to the ball plenty. It won't be good, lord knows, but it almost can't be worse.

Enormous secondary minus?

Part of that was the return of rollout doom reminiscent of that Toledo game. Midnight Maize tallied up the results of those:

  • Out of 11 Roll Outs or Moved Pockets UMASS hit on 8 of them. Two were good Michigan defense and one was a UMASS holding call.
  • UMASS gained 87 yards on Roll outs
  • James Rogers was to blame for 5 of them.

This is also a major source of the crappy RPS metric; Michigan had no effective response to these all day, though that may be due to the fact they couldn't consistently stop a I-AA team's running game.

Not sure what to do about that since M is in cover three a lot and the cornerbacks are so weak they have to play soft, basically. Floyd did make a few plays on the ball, though he had the misfortune to see two deflect to his receiver anyway; Rogers was not going to challenge anything. I might do more edge blitzing against QBs who can throw on the move, and though Rogers hasn't been a huge liability it might be time to start seeing some of the freshmen work in.

Goats?

Mouton and Ezeh primarily with assists from the corners. Especially Ezeh. Also Kevin Leach managed some impressive minuses in a brief window. Missing Herron and Jones is hurting; where is Hawthorne?

Heroes?

Mike Martin a thousand times. Not exactly heroes but okay: the Gordons, Kovacs, the DEs.

What does it mean for Bowling Green and the future?

It means the linebackers are going to either revert back to their decent form of the first couple weeks or it's happy-happy walk-on time again, at which point they'll basically play like the starters and we'll get a rotation and everyone's brains will explode. I do think this game was a perfect storm of crappy play by Michigan and excellent execution by UMass and that there will be a couple Big Ten teams that get Denarded this year and fill their message boards with threads like "but UMass scored 37, fire everyone!" Michigan did not see that level of offensive execution from their first two opponents and it's hard to picture some of these upcoming Big Ten foes matching it what with their freshman quarterbacks and stapled-together run games.

But, really: it's time to replace Ezeh once and for all, except they can't. Mouton will turn in up and down games but as long as Ezeh is on the field Michigan is going to get gashed, nice guy though he may be. Who do you do that with, though? Michigan's inability to see the enormous problem mounting here and have four kids shoehorned into the position who aren't former walk-ons is a failing on par with starting Sheridan over Threet. Fitzgerald and Demens should have been backing Ezeh all year; their failure to develop, and Michigan's failure to acquire and keep any reasonable linebacker sorts in the last three years, is killing the defense.

QB pressure does remain an issue, though against passing teams Michigan has used a series of blitzes that get free guys in because you have to deal with Mike Martin before outside threats. Play action and rollouts will be issues; passing downs will be okay if they can just get some zone drops.

Picture Pages: Someone Fed Mouton After Midnight

Picture Pages: Someone Fed Mouton After Midnight

Submitted by Brian on September 21st, 2010 at 11:42 AM

This is just pure aaargh right here, but how about a preview of why the Michigan defense was so terrible against UMass?

It's first and ten on the Michigan 35 on what will be UMass's second touchdown drive. UMass comes out in an ace set with two tight ends to the short side of the field:

 awful-mouton-1

Michigan is in a 3-3-5, basically, but the twins formation and the double TEs distort it. Roh's off the field momentarily, replaced by JB Fitzgerald. UMass is going to run it up the gut:

awful-mouton-2

There's no pull on this so it's an inside zone. There's nowhere to go with RVB shoving his guy into the backfield, Kovacs beating the second TE to the inside, and Leach blitzing unmolested off the weak side. Michigan has basically killed this play as the RB has no choice but to head outside, where…

awful-mouton-3

…Mouton is totally unblocked. You can also see Kovacs poking his head through at the top of the line and Van Bergen getting his shove on.

Anway, Mouton: with no one outside of him because of the alignment he's the force defender who must get the tailback inside of him, where Leach and a scraping Ezeh can deal with the tailback if he cuts back inside tackle. (For some reason, this is "keeping leverage on the football.") And he's playing against a I-AA tailback. So he runs up real fast…

awful-mouton-4

…lets the tailback outside of him…

awful-mouton-5

…and personally turns zero yards…

awful-mouton-6

…into 15:

awful-mouton-7

Takeaways:

  • AAAAARRRRRGH

Seriously, there's nothing else here except Mouton making an enormous mistake. The good news is that if they fix that stuff the scheme of the defense is fine. It's not like they're asking the players to do anything particularly difficult or novel: make tackle. If cannot make tackle, funnel RB to help. Do not let RB outside of you. This has nothing to do with a shift to a 3-3-5. Look, here's Mouton doing the pretty much the same thing last year, albeit against a blocker:

That's the bad news: if these linebackers have been starting for three years and are still making these mistakes, why would they stop now? GERG linebacker fairy theory is about it and that took a major hit against UMass.

Maybe it was just an off day, one on which the linebackers took it easy and reverted to old, bad habits. Yeah. That, too, is the ticket.

Player Presser Notes 9-20-10

Player Presser Notes 9-20-10

Submitted by Tim on September 20th, 2010 at 5:45 PM

IMG_7919.JPG

Darryl Stonum

First: Look at those glasses! He says they're not prescription.

When he made two big plays late in the first half "I just felt like it was the momentum changing." The offense started poorly, and he needed to provide a boost. "I don't know if 2 touchdowns in 45 seconds is quite the dream," it might be better. "I was always the big-play guy in high school, I was always the deep threat in high school. I've always wanted to get that transition over to Michigan."

In the third year of the offense with Denard throwing well, it's not just Stonum that's blossoming. Everybody knows stuff so can go out there and play fast.

"I try to lead by example most of the time. I'm not really a vocal screaming yeling in the huddle type of guy." He lets his work ethic speak for itself. Always works as hard as he can in weight room, in class, and on-field.

Patrick Omameh

Defenses play differently with Denard in the game. They'll contain instead of trying to sack Denard. He's making the right reads and is pretty dangerous. "We knew we didn't want him carrying the ball 30 times a game every game." They were able to get the ball to some RBs and establish something else on the ground.

"We've got some pretty athletic offensive linemen." They relish the opportunity to show off that athleticism by getting downfield and making plays. "I knew we had playmakers, it was just a matter of us getting the ball into the laymakers hands and setting up opportunities for them through our blocking."

The OL is coming together each week, as they have pretty good experience. Molk jumped back in where he left off with his injury last fall and spring. Taylor Lewan - "I watched the whole game yesterday, and he seemed to have a pretty good game." He and some others have been performing well in practice, even if they haven't seen the field much.

"There's absolutely more [offensive improvement] to come. The offense is clicking but we're still not performing to our full potential and capability."

Craig Roh

IMG_7918.JPG

UMass was a "mini wakeup call." Seniors have been good at getting them pumped, but they need to do better than last week. "I'm frustrated now and I was frustrated then. You just can't do anything about it now." The defense needs to prepare better and be more hungry going forward.

The first two games were good for the defense. Against UMass "looking at the tape, we just didn't tackle well." Were surprised by a few schemes as well. Have to have a certain persona to tackle well. "I really did think every guy came in with that" and it just didn't work out for some reason. They'd hit guys in the backfield, or allow 5 yards to be stretched into 10. Don't want to let guys get more than they should.

"With our training from Mike Barwis, we don't get very tired ever." The fourth quarter points for UMass were not a result of that.

Taylor Lewan played well. Proud of him because they've been buddies for a couple years. "He's finding a happy medium between being aggressive and holding a lot." That style will work well in the Big Ten.

Mike Martin "he is the strongest person I' ve ever seen in the weight room, and it's really showing on the field." Beat a double team to sack the QB.

It won't be tough to get up for BGSU. "From our performance this Saturday, this team is definitely going to get up for this game."

"The offense really helped us out this past Saturday, and that's why it's a team." One side will have to rely on the other from time to time.

Craig doesn't listen to music before games to get pumped up - reads a bit of the Bible.

Jordan Kovacs

Being a hometown guy, it'll be a different experience to play BG. He doesn't know anybody on the team though, outside of Bryan Wright. "It's gonna be weird" being on opposite sidelines. Knows him well, good kicker. They keep in touch a little bit, but haven't been trash talking yet.

Defense mindset - "Obviously we aren't satisfied with the way that we played defensively." It's much nicer to get that out of the way early in the season, and with a win. "I expect it to be a 1-game slip-up. I'm sure we'll make our corrections today."

Feels different than last year's struggles. They'll move forward. "I think they're pretty simple things." Technical errors and a couple missed assignments. Players might have been hesitant after giving up big plays to Notre Dame "maybe guys are just inexperienced and aren't feeling comfortable in their zones yet."

Obi and Jonas are the senior leaders on D. Each said a few things after the game in the locker room, as did Craig Roh.

"If you can control the ball, you can wear out a defense." The D didn't do their job to get themselves off the field.

Cameron Gordon

Interception - "The first thing I was thinking is 'yes I finally got one.' Sometimes, you don't want to do too much." He should have tucked the ball better.

The team will be very focused after a letdown against UMass. "Last game was a reality check for many games to come. Of course, it's a good thing that we still got the win." There's a small margin for error at this level. The other teams prepare, too. "You have to prepare even better. It's not like high school."

The defense wants to do their part like the offense has been doing. "We're still not as good as we need to be or want to be." Both sides of the ball can improve, but there's only been three games.

Going against Michigan receivers in practice helps prepare for other teams' best receivers.

Transition to safety is good. Still room for improvement. "What's the best room in the house? That's room for improvement."

Choosing Michigan - "I love it here." Everyone will face adversity growing up, and he's learning at Michigan that working hard and staying in the fight will help you through.

Post-UMass Presser Notes

Post-UMass Presser Notes

Submitted by Tim on September 18th, 2010 at 4:41 PM

Rich Rodriguez

Not pleased with the way they played, but happy with the win. All three phases of the game had letdowns. "As quiet a winning locker room as you'll ever see."

"I can promise our guys will look at the film, coaches will look at the film, I'll watch everything on all three phases." "Defensively we thought they would pressure us a little bit" so Denard couldn't run. Has to talk to D coaches to see if UMass did surprising stuff. "They're pretty good up front."

Nobody was injured outside of Banks, and his injury isn't serious.

Take what they give us. Stonum made plays, Shaw stepped up. Not worried about starters being tired because they only played 56 snaps.

3-4, 4-3 shift "We saw the same thing last week." Switch just about every other snap. "That's kinda part for the course. Our guys have seen that." UMass adjusted at the second half. UMass played a lot of cover-0, gave up lots of 1-on-1 opportunities. Maybe Michigan should have taken even more deep shots. Wanted to run to give the D a break.

"[Denard] was pretty sharp with his eyes and his decisions." Ball-handling was the problem. Denard not as sharp as he was first couple weeks. "Amost like a first-game feel." Execution wasn't clean. Denard made some great throws, a few good runs. "We didn't run him as much. We didn't want to." Shaw stepped up.

Offense is QB-centered, he has to run sometimes. More designed RB runs today to give him some relief. Shaw - "runs hard, got great speed, used his vision well today." Team's biggest homerun threat.

Lewan - "we should have played Ricky Barnum too some." They'll decide if a few more guys should have gotten onto the field. "If we'd have payed better, we could have played more guys. Didn't happen, so we've gotta play we've we've got to to win the game."

"We have some warts, that's still out there. Let's not pretend that we're the 1985 Chicago Bears." Have to play with passion, intensity, and intelligence in all 3 phases, but especially on D. Didn't get better today, but the guys know without being told that they need to work hard this week.

Some of D struggles lack of execution - missed tackles, losing contain, "there's a lot of things that we've gotta clean up, and everybody knows that." Going against a different scheme this week, made some mistakes. Has to watch film to compare where the breakdowns were. Losing contain to our left was bad, because they knew it would happen coming in. Lost contain 5-6 times at least.

Kovacs strip - scored quickly, then got the turnover for 2 quick scores. Momentum with the ball in third quarter. Didn't happen to shut them down and put the game out of reach. "They played well." Went into the UMass locker room to tell them that.

Special teams - The return game was OK, a couple times Darryl almost broke one. Missed only field goal, kick coverage needs to improve. Kickers make them in practice. Will just dropped the snap on the block.

Thought Seth Broekhuizen kicked better for kickoffs. Placekicking - "We had a student body tryout. Any student out there... we'll have another tryout for you.

Darryl Stonum

"You never know" how many points you'll need to win. UMass is a good team. "They gave us a run for our money." The D carried the offense last week, so in the team concept, it's time to pay it back a bit. "They'll make some corrections, and so will we."

Came out slow, but for the most part did a good job executing. Offense knew they were shooting themselves in the foot early, just started executing better.

"On that play, I'm usually a backside outlet" on the long TD reception. Omameh and Grady did a good job blocking to open the hole.

Last time he scored 2 TDs back-to-back like in the second quarter was in high school. Personal breakthrough game? "With all the talent we have at receiver, you never know who's gonna be the hot hand for the week." Just his job to show the coaches he's capable of making plays. He and Roy joking about who would be the guy this week.

On his long (non-TD) reception "Denard fakes the sprintout, and we knew that the whole defense is gona key to his running." Just had to run past the cornerback.

Denard throwing: "His accuracy and his... total quartebrack, just being a pocket passer." His accuracy has improved. Puts the ball where the receivers can run away from the defender after the catch.

Michael Shaw

"[Denard] told me on the sideline, mid second quarter, that he was gonna start giving up the ball a lot more." Denard's been getting yards because Ds are keying Shaw instead of Denard. Today was different. Other guys need to step up so the offense can click without Denard having to do it all. "We have playmakers, but now we're coming into our own as an offense."

There's no way to tell from film who the end is keying on. Had an idea they'd try to contain Denard (like ND, which didn't work out for them).

He was trying to hit the hole fast early in the game, but the DL was 2-gapping the OL, so he tried to hesitate on his long TD run to make sure he had the right read.

Offensive pressure opposite that D? "We added pressure to ourselves." Held each other up each of the past two weeks. Denard kept the team poised when they were down 17-7.

Special team struggles? "I don't really expect our kicking game to miss kicks. We all have faith in all of our teammates." Offense's job is to score TDs and not have to rely on those guys as much. "Those 40-yard kicks can turn into 2-yard extra points."

Jordan Kovacs

UMass held onto the ball well. Defense didn't do their job to get them off the field. "You've gotta give them a lot of credit they're a very good team. Maybe they caught us off guard." "They've got some big offensive linemen, I know it's nothing like we'll see in the Big Ten."

"We're happy that we didn't lose, but we're not satisfied with the way that we played defensively." Defensive play overall: "Clearly it's disappointing." Better to have that happen in a game that they still win, instead of have them cause a loss.

On his strip and recovery: "At that point in the game, they had a lot of momentum." Knew his team needed a big play, noticed the guy was carrying the ball low.

Losing contain - "Tough to see defensively. I'll admit that it happened to me a couple times." Need to get back to fundamentals and responsibilities. Would have been a different story if everyone executed well.

Mike Martin

"We never underestimate a team. We're not good enough to just walk in and get a victory." The team just has to play hard. "I think a focus that we needed" was lacking. Had a good week of practice. Need to get back to fundamentals this week in practice. "Michigan came out with a victory, and that's all we can ask for."

UMass offensive line - "They had a good line. They were smart and they did a good job with positioning their bodies a certain way." Called some plays to keep UMass unbalanced, disguise some things. They did a god job reacting.

Fighting through doubles. "It feels good as a nose guard because you don't get a lot of chances to be free." If you hit a rock over and over and it breaks after 100th hit, it's not the 100th hit that breaks the rock, it was the 99 before that.

Fewer sacks - "We've just gotta keep playing hard." Last year, it took BG 4 games to get a sack, there's still a lot of football to play.

Cam Gordon int/fumble "That's tough. I think it's just one of those freak things." The way it happened, they didn't complain and just went to go play the next play.

The team has done a good job not getting worried, pointing finger. "That's what we did in the past and we've done a better job this year in that aspect." Just do your job to win.

Coach went over a few things on the drawing board, and the halftime message was to go out and play as hard as they can for the final 30 minutes.

Make sure guys buckle down and get ready for Bowling Green.

Denard Robinson

UMass is a good team on both sides of the ball. "We watched film and knew they was pretty good." The team just came out sluggish. Can't come out sluggish and expect to win. That was the lesson they learned today. Have to re-focus to make sure this doesn't happen next week.

"We just had to focus and everybody had to play as one, play as a team, play smart" when they were down 10. Team started slow, and everyone needed to whole team to play.

"They really didn't contain me, I guess. That's why Shaw had a great game." UMass made that decision, not Denard. "It was great to have [Shaw] running the ball like that." All the running backs are threats, they just needed a D to give them a chance to break out.

"I'm all in for Michigan. Whatever it takes to win. We winning for Michigam, we're not just winning for me." Doesn't care about his stats if they win. "If we get a W, that's good." Nobody's perfect. He knew he wasn't going to go a whole season without throwing a pick. "We're gonna face adversity the whole season."

He thought he would play the whole game, until the coaches tell him otherwise.

On the long Stonum touchdown, "It was designed, he read the blocks perfectly, he made one guy miss, and got going." It was a big shift in momentum before the half. The offense just had to make the plays happen. Everybody knew they had to step it up.

"We've moved from that Notre Dame game, that was last week. And will move on from UMass after we watch film tomorrow to Bowling Green."

UFR Errata: Notre Dame 2010

UFR Errata: Notre Dame 2010

Submitted by Brian on September 17th, 2010 at 5:11 PM

Didn't get any awesome emails this week but there are a few bits from the comments and other blogs. Anyway:

Offense

GS's run chart comes to a lot of reassuringly similar conclusions as the UFR did: the left side of Michigan's line struggled against Kapron Lewis-Moore but the right side and Molk got their pwn on; he was way more impressed with the tight ends (8-0=8 combined!) than I was and similarly down on Shaw. More Omameh hype:

Much better from Omameh. The 2* who was a 250 pound DE in high school crushed the 5* all-world linebacker multiple times, with brutal efficiency.

I meant to mention this in the UFR, but BWS also picture-paged some running back inefficiency. This is a key point:

nd-zone-read

As you can see here, the defensive end is staying high, forcing Denard to hand the ball off. But the Notre Dame linebackers have engaged with the offensive line before they were able to get upfield. If Michigan's linemen were given a free release to the second level, they're fast and smart enough to make the block. But instead, Notre Dame's linebackers were told to plug the holes at the point of attack and make Shaw slow down at the line and pick a hole. In doing so, it gives the weakside defensive end enough time to crash down for the tackle.

Last week against UConn we saw a lot of holes open up; this week ND linebackers were clogging the LOS. I made my position on this clear: Michigan really needed to exploit this tendency more. The other play he cites is the frustrating Shaw dance where this…

shaw-dance

…turned into no yards because Shaw cut behind Schilling and then tried to spin to the backside of the play.

Magnus also criticizes the play design of the Te'o sideline to sideline play. Might and Main points out that Stonum got chewed out after the Vincent Smith swing pass that Calabrese killed for a minimal gain on third and seven. This is what I said:

Last week this was paired with a slant and I'm confused why it's not this week. ND is in man-to-man for once and the deeper hitch is covered by the CB, leaving the flare open; accurate, but Calabrese is all over it for minimal gain. (CA, 2, protection 1/1)

Given the reaction of RR, it's likely this was supposed to be a slant after all.

Defense

Didn't get much feedback this week, but here's Magnus making a valid criticism of the 53-yard touchdown breakdown:

Rogers shouldn't get a -1 for the 53-yard TD pass to TJ Jones.  Here's why:

In a Cover 2 defense, the flat defender (Rogers) is supposed to play any receiver in his zone.  If no receiver enters his area, he's supposed to gain depth.  On that play, an underneath receiver entered the flat zone; furthermore, the QB was rolling to his side.  When a QB rolls to the flat defender's side, there will always be a receiver in the flat - that's just how plays are drawn up.  So when that receiver enters his zone, Rogers had to suck up closer to the line of scrimmage.

Meanwhile, Cam Gordon's job is to play the deepest man on his half of the field.  Whether one, two, or three receivers enter his zone, he has to play the one who runs farthest down the field.  It was a well designed play to pick on an inexperienced safety.  Gordon got caught looking in the backfield and didn't see TJ Jones streaking up the sideline.  By the time Jones came open, he was no longer the responsibility of James Rogers - that was all Cam Gordon.

This is the exact reason that Michigan wants to run a lot of Cover 3.  Gordon doesn't have the speed/experience to cover a deep half, and Kovacs doesn't have the athleticism to make a play on the ball, either.

On the other hand, this seems reasonable to me too:

Magnus, I think you should look at the video again......Rogers doesn't even react to the fact that both receivers are going vertical.  He almost immediately looks up #3 and starts to jump the route (completely disregarding his coverage duties).

Rogers was the one caught looking in the backfield. He should be reading 2 to 1.  When 2 gets vertical, he should immediately get into phase on #1.  He jumped the flat route and disregarded the fact that 2 receivers had gone vert, putting Cam on an island.

Who is right? Video:

I can see it either way. It's tough to zone up when you've only got six guys in the coverage, and Rogers was faced with a choice of sinking back on the vertical routes, leaving Rudolph wide open, or leaving Gordon one-on-one with two guys. From his play it looks like he's not even considering dropping back into coverage, which is either a major bust on his part or just the way the D is drawn up. Either way I should have RPS –2ed the play.

Magnus also disagrees with my minusing the linebackers on Armando Allen's nine-yard run off tackle late (the play before the epic Mouton hold:

By alignment, it looks like Kovacs has outside contain to the bottom of the screen.  He steps down to get a jam on the TE and replace his feet, but he then gets caught inside.  If Kovacs can keep contain here (like he did earlier in the game when he fought off a block from the pulling OT), he's funneling the running back to the inside.

If Kovacs holds the edge, Mouton is stepping up to take on the pulling OL.  Ideally, Mouton would stuff up the OL, cut his legs, or take him on with the inside shoulder and force the RB further inside.  But Mouton gets caught up in the wash of Kovacs getting blown down the line.

Meanwhile, Ezeh is scraping unblocked and would presumably make the tackle after a minimal gain.

This is plausible, but it's hard to see how Kovacs can possibly maintain contain when he's one guy lined up opposite two ND tight ends and the fullback. This is bad defense design and should have been RPS-1ed.

Please Notify Rainbow Of New Address

Please Notify Rainbow Of New Address

Submitted by Brian on September 13th, 2010 at 10:31 AM

9/11/2010 – Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24 – 2-0

image  
The Daily's Sam Wolson.

Sometimes even the corner of the endzone is a perfect vantage point to see something, and we were right on line to see Dayne Crist heave up what looked like a punt in the general direction of a covered Kyle Rudolph. We saw Cam Gordon take the wrong angle, backtrack desperately to take a futile swat at the ball, and twist his body around as quickly as possible to chase Rudolph. From there it's a dull haze as Notre Dame stadium erupted. The public address announcer, normally as staid and even-handed as Carl Grapentine, finished relating the details by exclaiming something about the rainbow Providence had directed to appear above the stadium at that exact moment.

Michigan fans are no strangers to this sort of thing. Ask anyone who's been around the block a couple times about Notre Dame Stadium and you'll get a recounting of injustices cosmic and otherwise perpetrated on not only Michigan but the idea of free will. Find them in a quiet moment in the dead of winter and get a couple drinks in them and you might hear a rigidly controlled statement about how the things that happen to Michigan's football team in South Bend make the speaker just… I don't know… unsure about certain things. Doesn't matter if they're religious or not. If they are, it's the existence of a just and loving God. If they aren't, it's the absence of a wrathful one. Either way the intensity with which your conversation partner is focusing on the rim of his glass will be unsettling.

The last time I went was 2002. Michigan fumbled four times, committed ten penalties, missed a 32-yard field goal, gave up a safety on a Courtney Morgan holding call, saw a Carlyle Holiday fumble at the two ruled a touchdown, and lost when Navarre's first pass on Michigan's last-ditch drive was batted directly to a Notre Dame defender. Michigan lost 25-23; in their previous two outings Notre Dame hadn't scored an offensive touchdown. I wrote two things about it in the aftermath:

The thesis statement of the latter:

To a Michigan fan, every Irish loss over the past ten years has been due to an unfortunate confluence of unlikely events: fumbles, ridiculous refereeing, blocked punts, hilarious deflected passes, etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not (though it is): that’s what it feels like. It feels like Michigan has nothing to gain and everything to lose, and everything gets lost on a biannual basis.

When Kyle Rudolph crossed the goal line the thing I thought was not an unprintable string of expletives. It was "of course."

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

Before the season a reporter from the Hartford Courant called me up for a story he was doing on the UConn game, probably because he saw me as a way to tap into the zeitgeist of the Michigan fan. As these things usually go, he only used one sentence from a fifteen minute conversation. This left out what seemed to me like the most interesting bit of the conversation, where he asked what I thought Michigan football stood for, what made it special and unique.

I had no answer to this. I said "that sounds like a question a Notre Dame fan would love to answer"—which caused the reporter to laugh a little more heartily than objectivity would approve of—and then launched into a narrative that won't be unfamiliar to anyone who's been around here a while. The post titles say it all, really: "Empire of the Fallen." "You Were Killed By A Bear And I Am Sad."

I told the guy that my inability to answer that question any more was kind of the point. The thing that was is dead, having expired from natural causes after a long illness. The thing that replaced it wasn't really anything except incompetent.

Basic understanding of the Michigan zeitgeist is understanding that now there is no answer to the question. Advanced understanding adds that until the Horror there was no program in the country with a more confident answer to it, and puts the two together to find a large number of sad pandas.

denard-robinson-is-a-sad-panda denard-postgame-smiles

And then with 40 seconds left Denard Robinson stared down a blitzing, unblocked Manti Te'o and fired a dart to Roy Roundtree for fifteen yards on third and anything but a field goal attempt. Michigan had done its best to gaffe its way out of it like this uniquely frustrating rivalry demands, but after that it was academic. You try to stop Denard Robinson from going two yards, or seventy-two, or eighty-seven.

The rainbow was not Providence, except insofar as Denard Robinson might be it. It was the Shoelace bat signal, or rather one of many Shoelace bat signals: Flagpoles. Trees. Corned beef sandwiches. Damn near anything. Once summoned not even the vast historical juju of Notre Dame Stadium can do anything about him.

So this thing you dared not hope for starts to coalesce just from the things that happen on the field, and then yesterday morning I was struck by a sense of profound gratefulness when I watched the MGoBlue video of Denard's postgame presser:

I love how he smiles all the time and wears his heart on his sleeve and goes "AHHHH" when someone mentions Roundtree blocking for him and seems about as amazed as everyone else as what he's doing. I love how he drops to one knee after he scores in a way that seems genuine in a way I couldn't comprehend until I saw it. I love that if you ask him he'll sign your forehead. I was going to let my skepticism overwhelm, to wait until it was obvious that 2010 was not going to be 2009, but I lasted two games. I'm in the tank again.

That feeling Johnny identified in 2008 when it became clear that neither we nor Michigan had any idea what it was any more is obliterated. I've got an answer for the Courant now: Michigan is receivers blocking like tiny mountain goats 40 yards downfield because it matters, because if you set Denard free he'll go "AHHHH" at you afterwards. He'll smile and it will seem like the sun is poking through dark clouds, scattering colors in a circle all around you.

BULLETS ARE NO LONGER BULLETS

They're annoying. Now bold section titles. More room. Easier blockquoting. Win.

The unsung hero: Shavodrick Beaver, the backup at Tulsa. Does anyone else remember the sick feeling in your stomach when you found out that Michigan had lost a desperately-needed QB recruit to Tulsa? Funny old world, isn't it?

Denard is like a video game, but to Google it's NBA Jam:

denard_robinson_on_fire

HT to reader Apoorva Bansal.

Crist return. We were only getting the usual scattered texts that actually got through but by halftime it was clear that Crist had some sort of head injury that prevented him from seeing out of one eye. I laughed at my friend's concern that Crist might come back in the second half, reasoning that a head injury severe enough to keep someone out of a half of football is severe enough to keep someone out of a game of football. But lo, Crist rose after this:

Q. What play was it that you got dinged up on and what happened?
DAYNE CRIST: Just running the ball, just took a hit kind of on the side of the helmet. I had trouble seeing out of my right eye after that. Tried to get back into focus. …

Q. Was it your vision?
DAYNE CRIST: Just kind of dazed a little bit and couldn't really see out of my right eye. But that was really it.

How would you feel if Michigan's coach had done that after everything we've heard about concussions the past couple years? Apparently they "did the tests" on the sideline and determined he didn't have one, but it's hard to be comfortable with that decision when it's a debate about in what particular way Crist's brain was messed up.

Ref argh. There have been a lot of complaints about Michigan's many penalties and the lack of ND holding calls—especially after Mike Martin described Chris Stewart getting a "warning"—that I can't comment on yet since I haven't seen the tape, but we saw this live since our endzone was the one it happened in:

What is it with Notre Dame getting free touchdowns on a balls they fumble at the one? No one from Michigan jumped on it, unfortunately, or a review would have been uncomfortable for the home crowd. What happens if a player fumbles into the endzone and it just sits there forever? Does anyone know what the result would have been? You can't claim an inadvertent whistle ended the play until after the ball is out. Commenters seem to think it would have been ND's ball at the one.

Tailback argh. Thirty yards rushing is not so good for all your tailbacks, though as we'll see below Fred Jackson thinks Notre Dame made a bizarre decision to put it all on Denard's shoulders. I'll reserve judgment until I see the tape since the corner of the endzone isn't a great vantage point to draw conclusions, but with a couple of less challenging games coming up it seems like its time to pull the other three kids out of mothballs and see what they can do. Tousssaint's Mike Hart and Chris Perry except fast, after all. That sounds okay.

Flagpole argh. One thing that did not factor into my decision as to which tickets I'd use and which I'd give to my friends: whether or not the flag would be 1) in my LOS and 2) at half-mast. It was kind of hard to see stuff inside the 20 on the far side of the field; people twenty rows higher were probably steamed about Al Qaeda in a way they'd never thought possible.

Denard implosion argh. In the aftermath of another OMG Robinson day the questions about his durability continue. I think they're slightly overblown since Robinson takes way fewer hits from the pocket than most quarterbacks, and hits in the pocket to a stationary target are always the most dangerous. Even so they're not entirely so, which means Robinson should see a reduced workload over at least the next two weeks and hopefully three as Michigan tries to find some confidence in the backup quarterbacks and find a tailback. If it comes down to it, though, you have to put the ball in his hands when it's do or die.

The truly terrifying thing about Denard Robinson is how often he was one downfield block from being gone like he was on the 87-yarder. These blocks got missed way too often, but I guess it's a lot harder to make them when you don't have any idea where the runner is going to be.

Game theory stuff. I agree vigorously with this message board thread about how the Rudolph touchdown was a blessing in disguise since any Notre Dame touchdown drive of actual length would have pulled so much time off the clock its hard to see Robinson leading a drive to win. He can execute a three-minute drill now (obviously), but with one and a half minutes I keep going back to those seams to Roundtree in the third quarter. The first was thrown directly at a linebacker when lofting it was a touchdown; the second was lofted and would have been a touchdown except it was considerably overthrown.

Giving up a 95-yard touchdown is obviously bad, but I think the play once Rudolph is behind the secondary and around the 35 is to let him score. Michigan didn't do this intentionally, but they did prevent the same sort of agonizing touchdown drive they gave up against Wisconsin and Ohio State in 2005, where they soft-shell their way down the field and allow the opponent the opportunity to score for the win with vanishingly little time left.

While we're on the topic, Kelly's decision to go for it from the three at the end of the first half has come in for rampant bashing by Notre Dame fans because it didn't work out but to me it seems like one of those decisions that's so close there's no right or wrong answer. We happen to have a huge database of one-shot plays from the three because that's where two-point conversions are attempted from. The expected value of a field goal from there is basically 3 points. The expected value of going for it is 45% of 7, or 3.15 points… if you assume an average defense and offense. Michigan does not have an average defense but Notre Dame's offense while directed by a third-string walk-on is probably even further below average, so in terms of pure points expected I'm betting Kelly gave up a little when he went for it. On the other hand, when you're down 14 points and you might not get many opportunities to score because you're down to the third-string walk-on you take variance where you can; you should be willing to give up some expectation for it. My gut feeling was that I was unhappy with the decision to go, which means it's probably the right call.

Yardage bit. This has been noted elsewhere, but what a bizarre game. Over 1000 yards of total offense but a winning score of just 28 and 18 punts. In a game where yardage was dead even Michigan was +3 in turnover margin and barely won. This happened because they lost about 40 yards of field position on punt exchanges, missed two field goals, got away with giving up the bomb at the end of the first half, shot themselves not in the foot but the head with penalties, and intentionally gave away 50 yards on Notre Dame's final drive.

So… yeah, Michigan functionally outgained ND by 50 since they weren't trying to stop those first two passes to Floyd, which makes the second week they did that against a BCS opponent. That didn't happen until the Purdue game last year.

Defense? Caveats about the backups in the first half apply but the defense managed to hang in there. Cam Gordon is going to come in for some huge minuses in UFR, but the rest of the defense can't be blamed for 200, maybe 250 (Jones phantom TD, Rudolph TD, long pass @ end of first half, final drive) of ND's 500 yards. Given the number of drives in this game holding ND to 24 points is an accomplishment. After Crist came out of the locker room and led ND right down the field twice I thought we were doomed, but the D got a stop after first and goal and then got five straight stops after. Say what you want about rushing three but I'm pretty sure all three picks were thrown into a three-man rush when the QB could not find anyone open. I'll be adding a "players rushed" tracker to UFR to see if the thing everyone hates actually hurt M.

Field goal argh silver lining. Rodriguez may be forced to do mathematically correct things on fourth and three from the 25.

ELSEWHERE

AnnArbor.com slideshow. Genuinely Sarcastic column makes a good point about Cam Gordon and a box safety spot: ideally that's where he'd be. Doctor Saturday says "at some point you begin to run out of perspective, and adjectives." HSR took video of postgame celebrations. Wolverine Historian has a three-part set of highlights up. USA-Algeria-style bar explosion video from NYC's Professor Thom's. MVictors bullets. The Daily ranks the greatest individual performances in Michigan history, slotting Denard #4 behind three guys who killed Ohio State singlehandedly.

MGoReader scores tickets at face when ND opens up wheelchair seating to the public, sits next to Brock Mealer, and gets told this story:

He told me and a couple of nearby patrons a story about Denard: last week, before the game, he asked our QB if he ever thought about cutting off his dreads in case someone tried to pull him down (a la Polamu). Denard's response?

"If they ever catch me, they can have 'em."

Amongst the great many articles using the above picture and declaring Robinson to be hotter than the surface of Mercury but deploying the same stats and quotes as all the others is Mike Rothstein's from AnnArbor.com, which quotes to Fred Jackson about all those carries:

Notre Dame (1-1) offered no choice. With the defensive fronts the Irish presented, it was Robinson’s ball to carry over and over again….

“A lot of times, his reads tell him to give the ball to the running backs,” Jackson said. “But this game, they were forcing him to run it. They were probably trying to beat him up. But he’s too quick to beat up.”

That's an… interesting decision on the part of the Notre Dame coaches there.

I missed a few of Ryan Terpstra's postgame videos. Here's Jordan Kovacs:

JT Floyd and Craig Roh round them out.

(HT: GMBW.)

UFR 2010 Errata: UConn

UFR 2010 Errata: UConn

Submitted by Brian on September 10th, 2010 at 10:29 AM

I tried this last year but then dropped off, but I'll try it again: when you write 15k words about a football game people who know more than you are going to point out errors. This will be a collection of items people send me about stuff they think I got wrong; if I'm sticking to my guns I'll mention why, but this is all very complicated so reasonable people will disagree at times.

Anyway:

Offense

Chris Brown of Smart Football added some stuff that's not actually a disagreement but it would be a shame for it to molder in the inbox:


1. Michigan ran this play a few times with good success:

It was probably the best "dropback" pass I saw Denard run. I saw him throw both to the outside receiver and to the RB. In your description you called it a "slant" and the RB's route as a "screen," but the concept is called the "snag" concept (or triangle). I'd say it's currently the most popular route combination in the Big 10, as Ohio State, Purdue, Penn State and now Michigan all feature it as a staple play. I discussed it on Smart Football.

On the backside Michigan has some kind of fade/out combo but we'll see if he gives the QB freedom to go that way. It's a good play for Denard (and Terrelle Pryor, for that matter) because it's easily completed.

[Ed: this was the first instance of this route combo in the game; as the game progressed I got a handle on the combo and how frequently it's used. Good to know it's widespread and effective. Robinson completed each instance of the snag for good yardage except once when he threw the flare route when the LB was charging it down, opening up the slant bit.]

2. Denard's worst pass of the game was the bootleg where Roy Roundtree gets lit up. I think you were right that it should have been thrown to the outside receiver in the hole before the safety could get over.

3. The really encouraging thing though is that he followed it up with his best pass of the night [to Grady on third and eleven]. The long fake bubble pass was fun, but this was a college throw. The best part? The play was four verticals (I think you said it was a deep hitch). This wasn't exactly a "read" route but clearly the receiver had freedom to bend it and find the hole, and Denard threw it in the open window -- this wasn't where he was told to throw it, he reacted to the coverage. Great throw.

[Ed: Part of the disconnect here is I usually put down the route instead of the concept; that's something to work on.]


Genuinely Sarcastic's run chart is up and it's mostly in line with mine, though it appears toBrian is less inclined to give out pluses and minuses. He's higher on Molk than Schilling but still high on both, thought Koger was way better than Webb, and gave Omameh a solidly negative –6. Also Denard picks up a –2 but toBrian admits "this is where the metric is flawed." FWIW, I'm handing out pluses when the tailback does something that gains yards past what the blocking sets up.

Elsewhere, MGoUser "me" points out the Shotgun H-back position was around for last year's game against Western, and probably most of last year's games. So… yeah. No so much on "debut."

Defense

Some complaints in the comments that I've been too harsh on Ezeh, and a response from Burgeoning Wolverine Star about the play specifically highlighted:

He picture-pages the play, highlighting Kovacs dropping into the deep middle and thus taking himself out of position to fill the hole on the interior.

Here, you can see that Kovacs is still backpedaling, now 4 yards deeper than he was pre-snap. Mouton is being hit by the playside slot receiver. UConn's left guard has now pulled across the formation and is in perfect position to block Ezeh. Ezeh's job here is to plug the hole that Todman is supposed to run through. He does this by hitting that pulling guard. It's then Kovacs' job to come into the play and make the tackle. Unfortunately, Kovacs isn't done backpedaling yet.

I don't know about this one. I pulled the play to highlight a trend I saw all day—Ezeh getting put on his butt—and wasn't really focused on the action of the deep safety. I think BWS is right that I should have minused Kovacs for a late read, which turned this from four or five yards into nine, but a linebacker in that situation needs to keep his feet and look to come off his blocker and tackle, which is something Ezeh managed on UConn's last meaningful(-ish) snap but didn't do the rest of the day. Whatever the responsibilities of the MLB in the 3-3-5, they include staying on your feet.

MGoUser AAL sent in some clarifications as well:

  • On a 15-yard dumpoff to the FB (UConn drive 2, play 4), which I said "looked like a busted coverage" but could not tell who it was on: A misalignment and a bust. Michigan is playing Cover 3 behind a weakside zone blitz. First, Kovacs has the boundary third and is absolutely toasted if this ball gets thrown his way. (You can see he was busy trying to get untoasted, too, when Gordon arrives in the frame toward the end before he does.) The de facto OLBs should have curl-to-flat responsibilities and they both take initial curl drops. The curl zone is a greater threat because a pass to the flat takes longer to arrive and the defense can use the sideline to help. For some reason Ezeh is lined up over the center, then aborts his drop at the curl. Roh would be the hook-to-hole guy and takes a really poor drop which is probably due to lack of experience in pass coverage. The #1 receiver to strength runs a hitch, but given how long that ball would take to arrive there is enough time for the CB to recover and for the OLB to rally to the ball.
  • On the next play, a 20 yard power run: I’d give Floyd more credit. If he allows himself to be reached, there’s one OL left to block Kovacs and the RB is going to the endzone. On the other hand Ezeh does everything wrong. One of the first things you learn as a LB is not to go underneath blocks. If you do, you have zero chance of making the play. There is a point where Ezeh sees the WR(!) coming to block him and makes that decision anyway. It cannot be more easily demonstrated than the WR doing nothing, but inviting him to go underneath and barely even touching him as he flails to the ground. By doing this, his chance of making the play went from 30% to near 0. [Ed: I did not minus Ezeh at all on this play.]
  • On the next play, which was the post thrown to the goal line but low and not dug out: Gordon was very disciplined here. He has the deep middle third and has two verts coming up the hashes. He’s dead center and favoring either is certain death. For some reason Floyd had plenty of depth and doesn’t close down on the WR with the ball in the air. Could be mental/freshman/other mistake. Impossible to say. [Ed: I didn't neg the coverage or Floyd here; I did think Gordon was in position for a potential killshot if the ball was better thrown.
  • First play of drive three, the first ball over Carvin Johnson's head, the dropped one: Another manipulation of Cover 3. UConn was using a levels concept into the sideline (deep/intermediate/shallow) to put the deep third and flat defender in a bind. Lots of time to come open when rushing 3. No idea what Gordon is doing. Also, more importantly this: when M was in Cover 3 vs. no width (TE only), Kovacs was playing up on the line and responsible only for running w/ the TE. He is absolutely toasted. [Ed: I gave a –2 to Johnson there; I've heard from other people that even if there's going to be a window there in cover 3, it shouldn't be as large.]

The overall impression is one of deep fear about Kovacs against Notre Dame, especially in his effort of cover Rudolph, though elsewhere AAL says he's not that impressed with ND's TE… when it comes to the NFL. Okay. Relevancy against Kovacs? Eh… not so much.

Elsewhere, the UConn blog takes a look at their first offensive snap, which didn't go well thanks to Cam Gordon.

Preview 2010: Secondary

Preview 2010: Secondary

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

Previously: The Story.

never_forget-500 Never forget.

What's the point of anything?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cornerback

Rating: 1.

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

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

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

jt-floyd-vs-indiana

JT FLOYD

SMOKED LIKE GANJA
The big touchdown.
NOT FAST
doomed from the start
MADE A PLAY!
knocking it down
fade cover

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

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

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

So did the game column:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cullen-christian-action

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

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

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

What, Me Backups?

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

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

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

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

sns103109spSpringfieldFB2 courtney-avery
Talbott #14 left, Avery right

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

Talbott in a sentence:

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

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

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

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

Safety

Rating: 2, generously

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JORDAN KOVACS

EFFECTIVE RUN BLITZER
jet past blockers
tackles Caper from behind
takes down the RB
WOULD BE A GREAT LB IF HE WAS 50% BIGGER
shoot up through a gaping hole
doesn't bite on the bubble fake
NOT FAST
doomed from the start
bails and bails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Backups

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

Marvin Robinson is the most shirtless recruit in the world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coaches' Clinic Tea Leaves: Defense

Coaches' Clinic Tea Leaves: Defense

Submitted by Brian on April 14th, 2010 at 12:44 PM

Continued from yesterday's extended look at the offense.

Scheme vs. Fundamentals: Fight

If you ask about the 3-3-5 and pull the string on a Michigan coach, this is what you get:

"Too much has been made out of it, scheme-wise," Rodriguez tells Ryan Terpstra on ESPN 96.1. "I mean, a lot of people are saying we're doing this or that, but basically, what we're doing this spring more than anything else is fundamentally trying to get better – trying to tackle better, trying to be able to react to the ball better so we get more people around the ball."

Greg Robinson said much the same thing to Adam Rittenberg and reiterated that to the folks at the coaches' clinic: "The fundamentals of leverage and angle and how a player uses his eyes and hands is more important than any scheme." I'm sure if you bugged any of Michigan's position coaches they would robotically intone a similar paean to fundamentals.

To this I say: 50% bollocks! It's not that fundamentals aren't important. Anyone who saw the performance of Craig Roh and Stevie Brown relative to expectations last year knows that how you tackle, cover, and read the opponent is a huge part of a football team's suck or lack thereof. You can ask Florida State about that. But I interpret "too much has been made out of it, scheme-wise" as "I would not like to talk about the details here; let's focus on platitudes." Certain defenses have strengths and weaknesses and fit other players better or worse, and while a defense that is robotically efficient is probably going to be decent that will depend on how well the players fit into the scheme.

Defensive Line

willcampbell-kills-youThe line should be the strength of the defense again. Will Campbell is rounding into a load, a true NT who requires a double team and holds up against it most of the time. At other times he gets too high, but they're working on that and by fall they hope he can be an anchor in there. Van Bergen is a redshirt junior who played well in a tough spot as a starter last year and is at a more natural position where he's doing well. No one's 100% sure that Mike Martin is going to be the other DE—the coaches will try him at both spots in fall—but Campbell "needs to be on the field" and Martin is likely to be Michigan's best defensive lineman, so that's the logical spot.

Michigan would like to get Campbell down another 10 pounds or so.

At end, Banks is starting in Martin's absence. Rodriguez mentioned yesterday that they've moved Adam Patterson to the nose, which 1) just about spells the end of Patterson as a potential contributor and 2) hints that Martin is going to start in the spot Banks currently occupies. I can't imagine a 272 pound senior is going to get substantial playing time as a zero-tech NT. He may be a situation substitution in pass-rush situations, but I kind of thought they might move Martin back inside and let Banks or even Roh take a crack at a speed rush when that happened.

The backups here are pretty sketchy without the freshman reinforcements, but Anthony Lalota was a regular entrant into the backfield against the second-string offensive line. He's RVB's backup with Heininger out.

Linebackers

craig-roh-versus-purdue There were some concerns about Craig Roh, who's a great athlete going directly upfield but doesn't have the lateral mobility to shuffle a step or two one way and then re-route his body in time to avoid blocking angles or get a proper zone drop. He'll be blitzing a ton; Michigan will be vulnerable when the opposition is running misdirection and Roh is being asked to execute linebacker responsibilities. Think waggles, counters, reverses, that sort of thing. He has displayed an aptitude in one-on-one coverage, though. He tracked a Michigan State tight end down and raked a ball free last year in a matchup that you'd think heavily favors the receiver; there were a couple other instances where his ability to cover a guy downfield was a surprising bonus.

There didn't seem to be a whole lot of progress with Ezeh and Mouton, though it's hard to tell with the move to the new system. Their responsibilities have changed and there's a learning curve that anyone would have. Moving to the 3-3-5 should allow Mouton to blitz almost as frequently as Roh; this is Mouton's main strength.

A surging Kenny Demens has been held out the last few days.

Observer A is a major believer in Robinson, though, citing that Roh play and a few others as an example of Robinson's ability to coach up players in a short amount of time. He was in charge of Roh and Brown last year; this year he's got all three linebackers. Robinson himself believes Mouton could be a breakout player. Here is a classic Robinson-ism that will make Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician delighted: "We just need to get him to slow down to play faster." Mouton overruns plays because he's "too instinctive" and doesn't always follows his keys, as anyone who remembers his 5-minus 8-minus 3 lines in UFR can tell you.

111409_SPT_UM v WU_MRM Spurs

I've been pretty positive about the idea of running Jordan Kovacs out as a box safety since he was a heady kid and solid tackler and in the 3-3-5 DVD I have that is no longer a wasted purchase, Jeff Casteel repeatedly emphasizes that those characteristics are by far the most important when it comes to spurs and bandits. As a bonus, as the weakside guy Kovacs has the luxury of playing in space (usually) unblocked, so his size won't be a major hindrance.

HOWEVA, discussions with Observer A made it clear that running a 1-high defense* constantly is a recipe for getting four verticals in your face time and again and that teams could force Michigan into a two-deep alignment by formation or playcall. Jordan Kovacs being a walk-on sort of guy, they will do this constantly until Michigan proves they can deal with it.

Why not just deposit Marvin Robinson or Josh Furman at this spot in fall? Think about it: the bandit has to roll up to the line of scrimmage and act as a force player in the 3-3-5. Force players are important. It's their job to funnel everything inside of them. (This is often called "leveraging the football.") If they screw up, the runner is outside everyone and loping for a first down. In pass coverage they have to read and drop into flat zones, play something called "flat buzz" that I'm not quite clear on yet, and generally act as a cover two corner would. So there's all that. Then the bandit will have to rotate back into a two-deep on occasion, play a deep third when they switch up coverages, blitz, respond to motion, etc etc etc. It's probably the most complicated position on the defense. Throwing a freshman in there is asking for it.

Kovacs is Michigan's best option at the bandit, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's a good option. 

Spur is also sketchy. Mike Williams has plummeted down the depth chart and is now behind both walk-on Floyd Simmons and redshirt freshman (and scholarship possessor!) Thomas Gordon. Williams is healthy, FWIW. Gordon did get some daps/love/props from observers who thought he was aware and athletic enough to deal with the coverages he'll be asked to run—a "pleasant surprise"—but he's safety-sized and is going to be asked to play over a tight end. He's also a redshirt freshman. Simmons also made a few plays and might be an okay option as a backup.

Observer A evaluated this group of eight players as "slow, small, inexperienced, or injured." He didn't add "pick three," but my brain did. Michigan's got a couple of fantastic prospects for the future in Josh Furman and Marvin Robinson (plus Carvin Johnson), but a couple of painful years beckon before Michigan has any chance of getting a guy who has both athleticism and a clue on the field.

The combination of cluelessness and lack of crazy athleticism led to a couple plays were Michigan just ran a tight end straight down the seam without a bump and gave up 30-yard plays. Michigan has an adjustment they want to install, but they haven't done it yet.

*(A one-high defense has one safety in the middle of the field and is usually cover 1 or cover 3 unless the defense is playing a disguised coverage. A two high defense has two safeties approximately on the hashes and usually suggests cover 2 or 4.)

Secondary

The three members of the secondary proper actually didn't scare Observer A very much. Woolfolk is pretty good, Floyd is improved—though he shared my skepticism he would ever be above average because of his speed deficiencies—and Turner, while rougher in drills, got the proverbial "just makes plays" endorsement. It's tough to tell a kid's playmaking rate based on limited observation, but the general impression I got was that Turner should be okay eventually. It seems logical that when the freshmen arrive, there might be some reshuffling with the spurs and safeties. Observer B also thought Turner "was OK."

James Rogers seemed to be doing well in drills, too. He's "beginning to learn the position," which is a sad thing to say about a fifth year senior who's bounced around so much.

Cam Gordon is the guy at free safety, but you knew that.

Miscellaneous

Robinson's entire session at the coaches' clinic was on his tackling system, which is unusual in a couple ways: it uses different aiming points than conventional systems and doesn't ask the player to break down and wait for the ball carrier to arrive; you "shimmy" to the ballcarrier. It's also unusual because Robinson picked it up from a high school coach, something the old regime "wouldn't be caught dead" doing. Michigan's current group of guys seems far more likely to pick up an innovation being run by high schools or lower division schools than the old guys, who talked to the NFL and only the NFL, which is probably why they couldn't defend the option worth a damn for almost a decade.

Here's how Greg Robinson explains Braithwaite's hire:

Robinson used the new coach, Braithwhite as a demonstrator of technique. He said the “best demonstration” coach he ever saw in his life was Jim Colletto but he says that AB is every bit as good. The impression they give is that this guy was hired because a) he knows what he is doing and (b) he is great at demonstrating techniques to the players.

Observer B notes a difference between the offensive and defensive coaches: the offensive guys are "tireless" explaining and drawing their schemes, but it's hard to get anything out of Robinson. Where Robinson gets expansive is when it comes to the aforementioned fundamentals. There was a chalk talk in which Robinson spent a good deal of time illustrating the right way to do a "dip and rip"; Bruce Tall was also in the midst of an animated technique discussion that lasted two hours.

One of the best things about having a hybrid-laden defense is it minimizes situational substitutions in today's fast-paced modern football environment. You should be able to respond to whatever the offense throws at you without having crazy packages where non-starters get pushed into the lineup, and can adjust to bizarre formations (wildcat) on the fly.

Defense In Toto

I got a vastly different perspective from defensively-oriented observer than was provided by the posters here over the weekend. We're going to have to score some points. I think in objective "this is Michigan" terms the defense is going to be bad, but one of the main confusions batting about the internet at the moment is someone asking "is this defense going to be (as) bad (as last year)?" and someone answering "(in terms of what I have come to expect from years of watching Michigan play and taking that as a baseline) yes."

I had this same sort of foreboding Q&A with Observer A, but when I asked point-blank "will they be better" I got a pretty solid "yes," albeit with the caveat that the same guy thought they'd be considerably better than they were last year.

That doesn't mean the defense is in a spot where it will remind anyone of 2006, or even 2005. In the Saturday scrimmage the defense did well on the first couple series but "after that the carnage was brutal," with the offense moving the ball "almost regardless of what unit was facing what unit." You can get a hint of that in the quarterback stats provided by MGoBlue in the most recent Inside Michigan Football, which are 9/11, 9/12, 100 yards rushing, made a pony sort of things.

Special Teams

There aren't any walk-on punters who are serious threats to play; the best guys they currently have are averaging in the 30 to 35 yard range. This is Will Hagerup's job as soon as he steps on campus.

Placekicking will be an adventure. Brendan Gibbons has a big leg but is "erratic at best." Walk-on Justin Meram was the other kicker who participated in the scrimmage; he seemed accurate on short stuff but his range might top out at 40 yards on a good day.

Unverified Voracity Could Beat Up Godzilla

Unverified Voracity Could Beat Up Godzilla

Submitted by Brian on March 15th, 2010 at 2:30 PM

Truth. From the message board: a post entitled "Jake Long is bigger than you" that is 100% truth.

jake-long-huge

The third guy in that line is a 6'1", 235 pound former D-III linebacker.

[David Chappelle racist white guy voice] "They have such animal passions." [/dcrwgv] One of the main tensions on the message boards around here is between people who reflexively attack people who write anything even slightly negative about Michigan and people who push back at them. I thought the latter group was more correct after the signing day press conference when Dave Birkett went into I Are Serious Reporter mode and latched onto Rodriguez's pant leg for a series of questions about Demar Dorsey.

Yeah, it was kind of a dick move, but if you're going to add every reporter who sees a piece of meat and goes after it to the enemies list there isn't going to be anyone left off that list in short order. QED: even Angelique Chengelis got knocked around after she said the Victors Rally was dumb. Birkett was one of the people pointing out that the ridiculous Freep story about Rodriguez invoking Hurricane Katrina left out that thing called context.

This from the latest chat on AnnArbor.com, however, is indefensible. Birkett is out and pops back in. He offers this apropos of nothing:

Dave Birkett: Sorry had to run for a more. A buddy came over to look at my home repair issue. I'm back.

Dave Birkett: If anyone needs any home improvement done, try Nelson Home Improvement. I've been using them for years.

Dave Birkett: And thanks Demar, I'll see you here shortly. No need to bring your crowbar.

There is absolutely no context for that. So… wow. Cheapshotting a kid who hasn't even enrolled, you've never talked to, and is trying to turn his life around. Classy. How about we wait for Dorsey to do something, maybe?

First in line. Due to a walk-on snafu, Michigan is only going to be able to enroll 26 of their 27 players this fall. This will leave at least one scholarship open, and the guy at the top of the list will surprise no one:

UM coach Rich Rodriguez maintained throughout the season that it's his intention to include Kovacs among his scholarship players. That process has seemingly progressed this offseason.

"He'll have the first one available in the fall, and it looks like one will be available," Rodriguez said. "I'm hoping it will be available for this summer because he's earned one."

I've seen a couple people react to this article as if Kovacs is now a full scholarship player, but that does not seem to be the case. If Michigan actually has 85 scholarship players on the roster in 2011, Kovacs will have to pay his way. Given the way Michigan recruits—not oversigning like a mother—that's not likely.

Also in that article is a rundown of the players who will be unavailable for spring: Brandon Herron, Mike Martin, Vincent Smith, and David Molk. Junior Hemingway has a minor injury and will miss a week or two.

No thanks. Chengelis suggests the spring game should be held at night. I'm not one of those guys who hates night games, but that seems like an epically bad idea. Reasons:

  • In April it's often really nice out during the day and super cold at night. One of the main draws of the game is to have an excuse to sit outside in the spring sun after the traditional Michigan hibernation period.
  • Attendance would be depressed since people aren't going to get a hotel room for the spring game.
  • Michigan would have to shell out for portable lights.
  • Any Michigan football game that starts after 3:30 is like feeding Gizmo after midnight. Do you want a zombie apocalypse?

I would like to see Michigan push the start time back to two or three so I can take the rare opportunity to tailgate properly.

In which you prove their point anyway. WLA tiff with the Buckeye Battle Cry, the new-ish SBNation Ohio State blog. In sum: WLA posts picture of Kevin from the Office on blog to imply that while the "writers" there are probably not handicapped that's something you would need careful examination and probably a DNA test to confirm. Kevin from the Office deletes, bans, and then contacts the poster's employer.

I'm not sure why SBN even has an Ohio State blog if that was the best one they could sign up. Talk about damaging your brand.

Etc.: Jimmy King interviewed by Lost Lettermen. New blog by a diarist around here is up: Wolverine Tactics opines on what to do with Denard. Discount tickets available for the CCHA Championships. Markus previews UConn. Yes, in March.