Preview 2010: Linebackers

Preview 2010: Linebackers

Submitted by Brian on August 31st, 2010 at 11:28 AM

Previously: The story and the secondary.

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


Rating: 2.

ezeh-quarless Title - Battlestar Galactica

Depth Chart
WLB Yr. MLB Yr. SLB/Spur Yr.
Jonas Mouton Sr.* Mark Moundros Sr.*# Carvin Johnson Fr.
Mike Jones So. Obi Ezeh Sr.* Thomas Gordon Fr.*
Kevin Leach Jr.* Kenny Demens So.* Mike Williams Jr.*

As far as massive disappointments go, linebacker outstripped even last year's secondary (which was clearly in trouble from the word go) and the series finale of Battlestar Galactica. With two returning starters entering their redshirt junior years and a hyped senior recruit moving away from the safety spot he could not manage, I was torn between a 3 and 4 last year. As the season progressed and both starters were replaced by their backups only to see those backups flail and the starters re-enter it became clear that something was drastically wrong.

Actually, it didn't even take that long. Even though Michigan won the Notre Dame game the linebacking corps came in for a hiding afterwards:

Words cannot describe how bad Obi Ezeh was in this game. It was a disaster, and this is a guy who's in his third year starting. Maybe the double switch of defensive coordinators has him behind the times for a third-year starter but that doesn't go much towards explaining a –8.5 that would have been worse if he hadn't been turned loose on a couple blitzes. Meanwhile, Jonas Mouton has been negative in both games so far after a promising finish to last year.

And the something didn't seem that mysterious:

Mouton and Ezeh belong to Jay Hopson, and the inside backers are the only guys who belong to Jay Hopson, and they're playing terribly. … Unless the two inside guys get radically better over the rest of the season, I wouldn't be surprised if Hopson was replaced.

The hope is that Hopson's coaching was as ineffectual as it appears—Mouton went decidedly backwards last year after a promising end to 2008 and Ezeh's gone nowhere in two years—and that the move of Greg Robinson to linebackers coach can adequately triage the two years of damage done.

mark-moundros-anthemMiddle Linebackers

Rating: 2.

This covers the middle and weakside linebackers since they seem close to interchangeable. Spurs are handled after; the bandit was classified a safety and handled in the secondary preview, the deathbacker is still a defensive lineman.

When The Sporting News's Dave Curtis published an article in early August declaring that converted walk-on Mark Moundros was the player on Michigan's team that needed to "step up" more than any other, that claim was met with derision on the message board. This was well and just because obviously that was insane. A few weeks later, Moundros is the projected starter at middle linebacker and one of Michigan's two permanent captains. Score: Dave Curtis one million, Everyone Else zero.

Moundros is a walk-on and spent last year playing mostly fullback, but his rise into the starting lineup has gone from probable motivational tactic to just plain probable as fall has gone along and Michigan's scrimmages have approached game conditions. In the semi-public fall scrimmage, Jonas Mouton was held out with a minor injury, leaving Moundros to start at MLB as Obi Ezeh tried out WLB. In Michigan's "Beanie Bowl" ones-vs-ones fall run-through, you can see Moundros paired with a healthy Mouton at around 2:00 minutes in the official site's highlight reel. It's too late for his prominence to mean anything other than a likely start on Saturday even if he is listed next to Obi Ezeh with an OR. He's some Rodriguez talking to confirm:

Rodriguez said he was initially opposed to fullback Mark Moundros making the move, but he came around quickly. "I told him I didn't think it made sense, but he said, 'I think I can bring something there'—and he has. It's not only learning the defense and the physical presence, but his leadership. He's going to compete and will be right in the mix based on spring."

This is a fantastic story but also a worrying one. The single clip I've got on Moundros from last year is a nice block on a linebacker in the Illinois game, which you'll note doesn't involve playing, you know, defense. One of this blog's primary heuristics for determining whether you can expect a position group to be good is the "position switch starter," which proclaims that any position group where a guy who played one thing last year is in position to start at another thing the next is always scrambling to control the damage as best they can. [Ed: Holy pants, I forgot about this in re: Cam Gordon, though that move was more foreordained than panicked.]

Run_AwayThis comes in varying levels of severity: moving a weakside linebacker to the middle is not a big deal. Flopping sides of the ball is. For example, in 2008 when Michigan moved defensive tackle John Ferrara to guard and started him that was a definitive sign the offensive line was in shambles. In this context, "sparsely deployed walk-on fullback to starting middle linebacker" is as much of a flashing sign that says DOOM as anything I've ever seen.

On the other hand, during the Illinois game last year Ezeh actually ran out of a hole Juice Williams was about to enter with the ball so he could chase after a running back. It looked insane, causing me to dig out the "run away" bit of "Janie's Got A Gun" and the fake Magic card you see at right. By the end of the year whatever hope remained for Ezeh was vestigial indeed; merely having options other than him could maybe possibly hopefully slightly improve matters?

This is admittedly a faint hope, but merely going from whatever that was last year to okay would be a major step forward. Moundros is seriously pushing Ezeh at least gives the defense another bullet in the chamber. For what it's worth, I talked to a just-graduated walk-on in NYC would called Moundros a "beast" and thought he was at least physically capable of the job. Production from this spot should improve; Ezeh won't get worse and anyone who replaces him will be better since he's still around.

(caption) Michigan linebacker Jonas Mouton (8) and linebacker Craig Roh (far right) tackle Iowa running back Adam Robinson (32). Robinson rushed for 70 yards on 10 carries. *** Despite a late touchdown drive engineered by backup freshman QB Denard Robinson, the Michigan Wolverines came up short, losing to the unbeaten Iowa Hawkeyes 30-28 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. Photos taken on Saturday, October 10, 2009.  ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )

On the weakside, Jonas Mouton returns for his third season as a starter. In 2008 he started off wobbly (he actually spent the Utah game backing up Marell Evans, who is now playing for Hampton) but found his feet in the Big Ten season and looked for all the world like a guy ready to blow up. Last year's season preview approvingly cited his UFR chart—solidly positive in every Big Ten game save Michigan State—and proclaimed him "easily Michigan's best linebacker," "an excellent, explosive blitzer," and even "surprisingly stout when it comes to taking on fullbacks and even guards" before predicting a breakout season.

That didn't happen. Mouton's '09 via the lens of UFR:

Jonas Mouton 2009
Opponent + - T Notes
WMU 2.5 4 -1.5 Seemed irresponsible.
Notre Dame 3 8 -5 Major regression from last year; often went into pass drops without bothering to see if it was a run.
Indiana 7 8 -1 Surprised he came out this close to even. Major culprit on a few big plays.
Michigan State 7 8 -1 Exact same numbers from last week as he alternates great plays with killer mistakes.
Iowa 6 9 -3 Three weeks in a row: alternates great plays with killer mistakes.
Penn State 4.5 8.5 -4 Ugh.
Illinois 5.5 9 -3.5 The usual at this point. Excellent athlete, many mental mistakes.
Purdue - 6 -6 Did this in like a quarter of playing time.
Wisconsin 6.5 11 -4.5 Jonas Mouton: big positive, bigger negative.

Instead of breaking out, Mouton regressed. His '08 numbers were the inverse of the above, usually a hair above zero with the occasional big positive. He was lethal in the Fandom Endurance III game against Northwestern; the only times he was lethal in '09 were to his own team. By the Iowa game the pattern was established, with Mouton turning in a series of excellent plays unfortunately outstripped by his tendency to run himself out of plays and get lost in zone drops.

This kept happening until Mouton, like Ezeh, found himself on the bench after taking a series of angles so bad they were immediately apparent even to the dedicated amateur. There was this one against Indiana, but even that can't live up to whatever this was:


opens up cutback lane
desperate diving tackle
way too far inside
fails to get outside
first enormous bust
wide open receiver
ride the TEs downfield
digs out a tough INT
into the backfield
screaming downhill at this
blows through his blocker
slashes past

It was around that point that JB Fitzgerald started getting more time, if only so the coaches could get in a proper row with Mouton on the sideline. Fitzgerald quickly proved himself just as liable to bust and Mouton got his job back, but only by default.

So that's the downside. The upside of Mouton can be found at right under "good vertically": when sent forward with malicious intent he's effective. If Michigan's actually moving to a 3-3-5 or is just set on letting Mouton go nuts in an attacking one-gap scheme, he might be able to shake off his '09 and recapture the erratic but generally positive form of '08. After I gave my grim assessment of the back seven to the New York alumni club last week, the same guy who said Moundros had a shot told me I was far too pessimistic about Mouton. He certainly has the raw athleticism—he was a top 50 recruit—to become a ruthless, Crable-like playmaker; he's also held off what seems like a serious challenge from comer Mike Jones. There are some arrows pointed in the right direction still.

Unlike the situation at middle linebacker, it seems within the realm of possibility Mouton's light goes on and the talent he's flashed the past couple years turns into an All Big Ten kind of season. To deploy a cliche, he is the X factor, the guy with the greatest possible variance in his play on the defense. I'd settle for a return to his 2008 level; he is capable of more. There's a 25% chance he's awesome, a 50% chance he's okay, and a 25% chance he gets benched.

The hope here is for the Bennie Joppru.



eats blocker v WMU
guy comes right at him
driven out of the hole
fills same gap as Mouton
pancaked by Rudolph
shoots through
wrests the ball out
zooms up into the hole
drives the LG back
reads the pull
raking the ball free
sucked too far one way
in man against a guy
Incredibly open dig/seam

Obi Ezeh came in for quite a bit of discussion above by way of figuring out how Moundros could possibly ascend to the top of the depth chart, so this won't be much of a surprise: wow, he was bad last year. This is my (least?) favorite demonstration:

I admit that when it comes to my knowledge of football, linebacker play remains an intricate mystery that I'm probably wrong about more than anything else, but whatever your scheme it ain't right when your middle linebacker doesn't move forward—like, ever—on a running play.

That Wisconsin game was the defense's nadir. The Badgers punted once en route to racking up 45 points and did this mainly by exploiting the linebacking. The sheer incompetence of it all, especially Ezeh's –10 on the day, prompted this response:

You rage, contrary to the above statement, seems particularly well-focused.

…you know the story: Mouton and Ezeh. Wisconsin's passing game was almost exclusively zingers over the middle to incredibly open receivers 20 or even 30 yards downfield. On every damn one both MLBs were vastly out of position and the throws were easy. The pair was also very poor in run support: Graham and Martin combined for 21 tackles. They combined for eight!

These are returning starters and redshirt juniors. They have gotten so much worse this year, and it's obvious to everyone from Bret Bielema to stupid bloggers with charts.

Ezeh hadn't developed one bit from the previous season and Hopson wasn't long for Michigan. Where Mouton has held onto his job and manages to enter his senior season with at some tattered hype dragging behind him, Ezeh's apparently lost his job to a walk-on, and not even the same one he was benched for last year.

With Moundros unlikely to nail down every snap, Ezeh will find himself on the field frequently. I'm not expecting a whole lot of improvement. But I think I am expecting some, for the reasons listed above: Greg Robinson in charge, another year of experience, a defensive coordinator who knows his name.

kenny-demens-vs-iowa jb-fitzgerald-purdue

Demens left, Fitzgerald right

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


epically bad angle
runs out of position
angle way too far upfield
no idea what he's doing
zipping up in a small crease
recognizes the play
flipped the line

JB Fitzgerald is now the third string at what this site dubbed "deathbacker" a year ago; since he's behind Roh and Herron at a spot that's at least half defensive end he'll get some further discussion in the defensive line section. But if he plays he'll probably play as a true linebacker; Rodriguez has called him a "swing" guy they can play at any of the two and a half linebacker spots.

Can he play well? That's the question. He didn't play well when the Jonas Mouton Suspension Fiasco forced him into the lineup against Eastern Michigan, committing some of the same sins Mouton does above. On the other hand, his most extensive experience outside of that game was a start against Purdue during which he got a 3-4-negative 1 line and I said he was preferable to other options because he "didn't make me want to die more than once or twice," which woo linebackers.

I may be reading too much into this, but after the fall scrimmage Rodriguez was specifically asked about Demens and Fitzgerald and rambled this out:

They have played a lot of special teams. They’ve had good camps. JB is a guy that we really like because we can swing him. He’s knows our defense, so we can put him at a couple of different linebacker positions and he’s had a good camp. Kenny Demens has had a pretty solid camp. So I think we’re going to have more linebackers to play, but the veterans, Obi Ezeh, Mark Moundros, even though he is new at linebacker, Jonas Mouton, those veterans are going to be the biggest key because usually when you’re a senior you’re going to have your best year, or at least that is what you hope.

That reads like "yeah, they're not going to play unless Ezeh, Moundros, and Mouton can't."

103109_SPT_UM v Illinois_MRM 103109_SPT_UM v Illinois_MRM

Jones burning his redshirt left, Leach tackling an unstoppable 500-foot-tall robot right

On the weakside, sophomore Mike Jones is listed as the backup to Jonas Mouton. Jones spent last year taking a Carr redshirt by playing on special teams and driving me crazy about not having the option of bringing back a fifth year senior in the near future; he spent fall and spring lighting up opponents and building some real buzz for himself. He, too, was held out of the fall scrimmage with a minor injury; before that he was flying around like his recruiting profile suggested he might. The key passage from ESPN:

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

In his profile everyone from Jones to his coach to the gurus say "this kid loves to hit," a description that's being borne out by practice chatter. He's still pretty slight at 210 pounds, so a starting role is probably not in the offing. When Michigan's "multiple" defense phases into a 4-3 under, though, the weakside linebacker is a guy who doesn't usually have to take on linemen and can be a smaller, speedier defender. If Mouton's angles are still ugly and his are better he can find himself in a platoon role; he'll probably have to settle for providing breathers in anticipation of starting in 2011.

Walk-on Kevin Leach is third string here and should see his playing time restricted to special teams. It's a testament to something that Michigan's best option after Ezeh last year was a 205-pound sophomore walk-on. Leach actually got mixed reviews in UFR save the one "enormous bust" per game in his two starts against Illinois and Purdue, but at his weight he's not a long term solution at MLB and he obviously lacks the athleticism required at WLB.


Rating: 2.


both Johnson (left) and Gordon (right) rocked the #1 in high school

It's too bad the official depth chart had to go and upstage the prediction here that after Carvin Johnson's "Beanie Bowl" audition for the starting job at spur would be a successful one sooner rather than later. Rodriguez did hedge a bit in Monday's press conference by saying that position was "not set" and there could have been an OR there, but they didn't.

So it's his job. Despite Johnson's status as a true freshman, in some ways this is the more experienced player winning out. Johnson was 100% safety at Rummel, the "heart and soul" of the crushing defense that took his team all the way to the state final. A multi-year starter, Johnson's recruiting profile is full of praise for his football smarts and advanced technique. When Rivals bothered to rank him after his Michigan commit they were pleasantly surprised by what they saw:

Johnson is a fantastic tackler. He can tackle in the open field or fill the alley. He brings a pop at the point of contact and always has the ball carrier falling backwards. Johnson is a smart safety in the run game, picking his spots to make an impact and not overpursuing or being too aggressive.

The only negative mentioned was a "lack of elite straight-line speed," something that shouldn't be a problem at spur. There he'll be tasked with covering the flats in zone and riding tight ends into the deep seam. His recruiting profile picked him out as a true sleeper likely to exceed his relatively modest rankings based on local praise and late SEC offers, and while my usual heuristics lead me to be skeptical about a true freshman beating out a redshirt freshman with nary a fourth star to be seen, I've just got that feeling—what's it called—you know—optimism. Optimism enough to throw this position a 2, anyway. While two less-than-touted freshmen are not likely to be average Big Ten players in year one, I don't think we'll be looking back at 2010 and saying "oh God, what about that mess at spur."


Though Thomas Gordon has been on campus for a year, before he toured Michigan and Michigan State's camps before his senior year of high school he was strictly a quarterback. It was only the prospect of securing a D-I scholarship as a defensive back that saw him switch to defense, and that move was often restricted to passing downs by a hamstring injury. That combined with his status as the lowest-ranked member of Michigan's '09 class made his redshirt a fait accompli; that accomplished, he ascended to the starting job at spur in spring before Johnson's arrival put his job under fire.

Since Gordon hasn't played and I didn't pick up a word of practice buzz good or bad on him in his apprentice year—odd for a guy who was slated to start—I can't offer much more than what's in his recruiting profile. If I had to guess I'd say he's more athletic than Johnson since Rodriguez dubbed him "Prison Abs" and he played quarterback in high school, so if the two platoon for any reason other than keeping the two fresh, Gordon might be a passing-down substitution. More likely the PT he sees is in response to Johnson errors or long drives on which he gets tired.

Walk-on Floyd Simmons is third on the depth chart; he saw time on special teams last year and will again. Since he's a walk-on with scant playing time information on him is limited to his height (six foot) and weight (200 pounds).

(caption) Michigan safety Michael Williams (40) tackles Purdue Ralph Bolden in the first quarter. ***  The Michigan Wolverines host the Purdue Boilermakers in a must-win game. A Michigan victory would make them bowl eligible before their final two games at Wisconsin and home against Ohio State.  Photos taken on Saturday, November 7, 2009.   ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )



into the backfield
just a huge bust
a killer touchdown
first enormous bust
way too far inside
overruns play

Venturing into the wooly depths beyond the sanctioned two-deep we find Mike Williams, erstwhile free safety starter from last year. It looked for a second like he was being auditioned for that two-deep when he got plenty of playing time in the fall scrimmage, but now that he's still behind the guys he was behind in spring and the newly ordained starter, that looks more like an attempt to see whether or not Williams can contribute outside of special teams at all. The answer for a redshirt junior on the fourth string behind a walk-on is "no."

I won't belabor the point made in this space with DELICATELY PHRASED QUESTIONS during the season, but the video to the right should provide plenty of evidence as to why this is the case. That he's fallen so far down the depth chart after starting at the most critical position on defense goes a long way to explaining '09 and providing hope for 2010: Michigan may be losing crazy outlier Brandon Graham but they're also losing a crazy outlier in the opposite direction, too.

Upon Further Review: Defense vs Purdue

Upon Further Review: Defense vs Purdue

Submitted by Brian on November 11th, 2009 at 3:31 PM

Personnel notes: Leach started the game and got pulled after he busted an assignment on a third-and-five TE cross that turned into 56 yards and a backbreaking touchdown. Ezeh replaced him for the remainder of the game. Mouton started the game and got pulled after he busted an assignment on the first Purdue touchdown. Fitzgerald replaced him until he took a bad angle on a Bolden touchdown, at which point he was replaced by Mouton.

You might sense a theme here. It will be addressed later.

Other than that it was the usual: zero rotation in the secondary, Brown in on every play, regular rotation on the DL. Banks was out so Campbell was Martin's backup. I don't know if I saw RVB ever leave the game.

Formation notes: That thing where Michigan drops the MLB to safety depth, or near it, returned again. I'm calling this "Tampa Nickel":

what the hell

The dude in the deep middle is Kevin Leach; you can see Kovacs just off the edge of the screen at the 35. My best guess here is that this is an attempt to replicate a Tampa 2 defense with a walk-on linebacker or Obi Ezeh, which necessitates starting him well back of where a middle linebacker would normally end up.

Michigan's also running some even fronts—I think:

nickel even

Look at the alignment of the two DTs relative to the DTs in the shot above. In this defense, Brown acts as a nickelback and Michigan plays, or at least shows, two-deep with the safeties.

AAARGH Notes: argh.


Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun trips Tampa Nickel(?) Pass Jailbreak screen -- 9
What the hell? [Ed: see above] Michigan has five guys in the box with Brown split out over to the trips side and Williams walked up outside of Mouton, who's lined up over the tackle. Leach is playing nine yards deep. Kovacs is 15 yards deep. Purdue throws a jailbreak screen on which Roh, who's dropping into coverage, reacts to. With both DTs sucking upfield Michigan has no one else in the area because Leach is 10 yards downfield. Leach recovers to tackle—barely—after making up the ground he gave presnap. The way this aligned Michigan had little chance to defend it. (RPS -1)
O21 2 1 Shotgun trips TE 4-3 under man Run Power O -- 30
Roh again dropping into coverage so he falls off the line of scrimmage attempting to cover the TE, who's moving out to block Leach. Leach is reading the play and manages to keep his feet as the TE dives at them, but is slowed and as a result the pulling guard gets an easy block on him. There's no one else on the corner. WTF? (RPS -1, Roh -1, as this must be some screwup on his part.) BTN says Troy Woolfolk is from “Suger Land, TX.” Really? Suger Land?
M49 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Hitch Woolfolk 14
Woolfolk(-1) is backing out into a deep zone and reacts slowly to the short hitch Purdue is going for. He then overruns the play and turns this from five yards into 14. (Cover –1, tackling -1)
M35 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Pass Wheel Mouton 35
Mouton(-4) is in man on the tailback and decides man coverage is for losers. (Cover -4) I assume this is his bust because he got yanked; Mike Williams was also coming up on the TE Mouton decided to cover, and cover pretty well, actually.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 13 min 1st Q. Somehow they won't score more than a FG for the rest of the half.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O23 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 4-3 under zone Run Power O Fitzgerald 1
Michigan has flipped the line to the short side of the field, which happens to be the open side of the field, and is in zone coverage with Warren lined up over the TE. Purdue runs basically the same play they did on the last drive except with only one pulling guard. They double and down-block Graham. Warren hops out for contain and draws the pulling guard; Fitzgerald(+1) reads the play and shoots into the hole, tackling(+1) for a minimal gain.
O24 2 9 Shotgun Twins Twin TE 4-3 under man Pass Hitch Leach Inc
Yikes: looks to be a coverage bust with no one going with the TE hitting it up into the seam, but Elliot's already decided to come short. Ball is dropped; would have been six and an immediate tackle if caught.
O24 3 9 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Jailbreak screen Fitzgerald 17
Fitzgerald and Williams do a great job of reading the play and attacking the LOS, giving Purdue no chance to block them. WR heads inside, right into Fitzgerald, who's just coming through a block and has his hands down; they collide and the RB runs through the contact. (-1, tackling -1); Roh(-1) can't make a diving ankle tackle attempt despite the slowdown and Purdue makes an unlikely third down conversion.
O41 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Fade Woolfolk 30
Cover two and Purdue runs a play that attacks it with an out underneath holding Woolfolk(-1) as a receiver goes over the top; Williams(-1) can't get over in time. Ball is well underthrown, which gives Michigan a chance to make a play on the ball; they don't. (Cover -1)
M29 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Run Draw Leach 4
Leach in a tough spot because RVB(-1) is stood up by the RG and eventually driven back, conceding holes to both sides of him. Leach picks one that he thinks Bolden is hitting it up into and gets it right; Bolden has to cut, and Leach(+1) manages to trip him as he runs by. Bolden falls forward for a bunch after contact but Leach did well in a lot of space in a tough situation.
M25 2 6 Shotgun trips Tampa Nickel Pass Out Woolfolk Inc
This... thing again. Quick out open in front of Woolfolk(cover -1); dropped.
M25 3 6 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass Scramble Graham 1
Michigan shows a 3-man front with threatened blitzes from the linebackers, then drops out of it. Graham(+2) immediately pwns the RT and forces the QB up in the pocket; good coverage(+1) from the eight guys downfield allows Graham to come around from the back and tackle, though it doesn't go down as a sack because Graham hits him across the LOS. (Pressure +1)
Drive Notes: FG(41), 7-10, 7 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O19 1 10 I-Form Twins 4-3 under Run Down G Leach 13 + 15 pen
Heininger doubled and removed from the play, leaving a pulling G and the FB on Leach and Brown. Brown heads outside for contain. Leach(-1) badly overruns the play, providing a quick cut-up for the RB when he could have slowed up, let Brown cut off the outside, and slowed the play down. I'm not sure what to make of Fitzgerald here, who might be a step slow, might have stumbled, but took on a block and shed it, but then couldn't make a tough tackle attempt at about five yards. This penalty is probably a bad one but definitely stupid... Williams(-1) knows he's right at the sideline and there's zero upside to hitting a guy who's running OOB.
O48 1 10 I-Form 4-4 under Run Rollout something Brown -4
This looks like a busted play as Elliott rolls out with a couple of lead blockers and his receiver goes to block some guys. Unless this is just a called bootleg run for Elliot without so much as a fake, which I find hard to believe. Brown(+1) does to a good job of containing, and Fitzgerald comes to tackle.
O44 2 14 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass Dig Brown 13
Brown(+1, cover +1) right there on the play and has a swat at the ball but misses it. He's still there to make a tackle, though the receiver drags him for a few yards. Excellent coverage; Michigan made it tough this time. Graham did tear through late, but this is a pressure -1... Elliot could stand and fire.
M43 3 1 Shotgun trips TE Nickel even Pass Bubble screen Woolfolk 6
Tough to stop on third and one with Michigan loading the box and with only two guys on the edge here. Brown does a decent job getting out; Woolfolk(-0.5) was late reacting after the guy was clearly stalk-blocking him off the line; he does shed and force the player out of bounds.
M37 1 10 I-Form 4-4 under Run Draw Van Bergen 4
Campbell in; Michigan stunts through the line(RPS +1), with Van Bergen(-1) coming through clean only to overrun the play and let Bolden through the hole he just came through. Bolden ends up tripping over the guy blocking Campbell.
M33 2 6 Shotgun empty 2TE 4-3 under Pass TE Out Brown 3 (Pen -5)
Caught; Brown(+1, cover +1), in a cover-2 zone, lights up the TE as soon as he catches it. Illegal motion brings it back.
M38 2 11 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass Wobbler Leach Int
Michigan gets a gift as Elliot gets time (pressure -1) against a three-man rush and finds someone to fire to. The ball flutters at it leaves his hand and is reeled in by Leach(+1).
Drive Notes: Interception, 10-10, 2 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O39 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 4-3 under Run Pin and pull zone Graham 5
What? See the Smart Football link. Basically any covered OL blocks down and anyone else pulls around. Graham(+1) shucks his blocker and gets playside of him, shooting into the hole and delaying the running back. And I thought I was going to give a big minus to one of the linebackers here but it turns out that JB Fitzgerald is held by a Purdue OL—like the guy grabs him from behind, this one is no question—and thus can't get out to the corner. That turns this from zero to five.
O44 2 5 Shotgun 2-back Base 4-3 Run Triple option keeper Graham 1
Refs miss a Purdue false start. Elliott pulls it out when he doesn't like the dive fake, but Graham(+1) is not crashing and gets out on Elliott, forcing him back inside; Graham and Fitzgerald combine to tackle(+1) for minimal gain. Pitch guy was covered too, so Elliott didn't make the worst read possible.
O45 3 4 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Corner Brown 6
Line shifted as per usual but the LBs are off the line and tucked in; weird. Michigan blitzes; Graham tears around the corner and beats one blocker, forcing another to come out on him. Purdue is clearly trying to pick Warren and get the slant as a result; Warren(+1) does a fantastic job of coming under the pick and having this blanketed. Holding? Maybe, but not called. Brown(-1), however, reacts to that route when he's in man on the slot guy and leaves his little corner route open, so Elliot has another option other than “die because of Graham.” Tough leaping catch from the WR.
M49 1 10 Shotgun Twins Twin TE 4-4 under Run Zone read stretch Leach 6
Unfortunate for Michigan as Purdue gets an inadvertent chop on Graham, who they tried to double but did not seal, because the guy coming off Graham dives to cut Leach(-1) and Graham trips over the mess, opening up a crease just before the play reaches the sideline. Leach went down hard and heavy to the cut block, allowing his blocker to take out two guys.
M43 2 4 I-Form 4-4 under Run Inside zone Roh -2
Michigan's got a line slant on that murders this dead(RPS +1), as Roh(+1) is unblocked on the backside and blitzes right into the path of the tailback before the offset fullback has a chance to do anything about it.
M45 3 6 Shotgun empty 4-3 under split Pass Jailbreak screen Roh Inc
Roh(+1) is either spying on this or reads it because he does not pursue the QB but rather holds up and occupies the LT, which prevents him from getting out and allows Fitzgerald(+1) to flow unimpeded to the receiver. Ball is dropped anyway. (RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 17-10, 11 min 3rd Q. What is this “punt” you speak of?
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O24 1 10 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel under Pass Swing Brown 3
Trips bunch set takes Brown out to them and he plays head-up on the guy on the LOS. Michigan drops into a zone; Purdue receivers attempt to run it off and hit the swing pass underneath; Brown(+1, tackling +1) makes a good open-field tackle to turn this into a meh play.
O27 2 7 I-Form Twins 4-4 under Pass Rollout Woolfolk 16
This will be annoying for the rest of the game. Michigan in what looks like man on the outside receivers, playing pretty far off. It's not man, as Warren drops off into a deep zone and Woolfolk(-1) is supposed to have an outside zone. He ends up getting run off and leaves a 15-yard out wide open(cover -1). Roh was chasing Elliott down but fell as he tried to avoid a desperate cut from an OL, so there's no pressure(-1) on this.
O41 1 10 I-Form 4-4 under Run Power O Martin 0
Martin(+2) darts between the center and an attempted down-block from the RG, coming under the pulling LG to tackle Bolden in the backfield with no help from anyone else. Bolden coughs the ball up but it falls right to him.
O41 2 10 Shotgun trips Tampa Nickel Pass Hitch Brown 5
Brown(cover +1, +1) is again right in the receiver's grill as he makes the catch and has a swipe at the ball for a PBU, but can't make it. He does tackle(+1) with help.
O46 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass TE cross Roh Int
Warren spends the run up to this play leaping up and down trying to get other secondary members' attention. He does. Michigan runs a crazy zone blitz with both Roh and RVB dropping off the right side of the line into short zones; this gets Brown, blitzing off the corner, in clean (pressure +1, RPS +1). The zone drops from the DT end up covering(+1) the short options but Elliott gets a crazy accurate pass off that manages to find his tight end despite the tight end taking a detour around Roh after the ball was thrown. Tight end gets his head around late to find the ball almost there already and can't bring it in; Warren(+1) picks off the deflection.
Drive Notes: Interception, 24-10, 6 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O18 1 10 I-Form Twins 4-4 under Pass Rollout deep hitch Leach? 12
Part II of rollout extravaganza. No pressure(-1) on the corner and this seems like it's got to be a coverage bust from one of the linebackers because both Leach and Fitzgerald tear after the rollout, opening a lane for Elliott when Williams heads out for his flat zone. (Cover -1)
O30 1 10 Shotgun 2-back Twins 4-4 under Pass Bubble screen Warren 3
Michigan man up on the corners and Warren(+0.5, cover +1) reacts to the bubble very quickly, getting in on it basically as the catch is made. Unfortunately he gets stiffarmed(tackling -1). Roh also overruns the guy as he cuts inside of Warren but the delays mean there are now five other Wolverines in the area and he can only get three.
O33 2 7 Ace Twins Twin TE 4-4 under Pass Rollout TE Out Williams 7
TE pulls across with presnap motion and Purdue runs him into the flat, where he catches the ball in front of Williams for near first down yardage (cover -1, pressure -1, RPS -1).
O40 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Hitch Warren 9
Warren is bailing out into cover-three and Elliott finds the hitch his coverage leaves open (cover -1).
O49 2 1 I-Form Twins 4-4 under Pass Rollout scramble Brown 3
Still no one on the edge here (pressure -1) on the fourth rollout of the day. Leach does get a good chuck on the TE; he's covered; Brown has a guy in the flat(cover +1) so Elliot is forced to scramble up for the first down.
M48 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass Fly Warren Inc
Warren(+1, cover +1) in great position. Ball is high and short so Warren doesn't have a play on the ball; leaping WR can only get one hand on it and it falls incomplete.
M48 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run Trap Roh 3
Roh(+1) responsible enough here to not fly upfield as Purdue leaves him unblocked and pulls two OL around attempting to trap Michigan up the middle. He gets into a blocker and when Bolden cuts up—Leach(+0.5) had contain—Roh fights playside of the blocker, gets held pretty badly, and sort of tackles Bolden with his back. Help came from RVB and Graham.
M45 3 7 Shotgun empty 3-3-5 stack Penalty False start -- -5
50 3 12 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Penalty Delay -- -5
Oops. Why does the clock keep running after penalties like this?
O45 3 17 Shotgun 2-back Tampa Nickel Pass Hitch Warren 6
Whatever. (Cover +1)
Drive Notes: EOH, 24-10.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
M19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Run Power off tackle Brown 19
Ugh. Center actually pulls here as two guys double Roh and Purdue goes for the outside. Roh(-1) gets sealed really quickly and is both out of the play and not occupying a double. Brown(-1) comes down too far inside and gives up the corner; Leach(-1) is sliced to the ground by the TE coming off Roh, Williams(-1) overruns the play as it nears the sticks and turns it into a touchdown.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-17, 13 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O9 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel under Pass Hitch -- 8
Weird LB/secondary config. Purdue runs a three-step drop that finds a hole in the zone(cover -1) between Williams and Leach. Fitz got a free run, but it didn't matter. (Pressure +1)
O17 2 2 Ace Twins 4-4 under Pass Rollout throwaway Graham Inc
Graham(+1) tears through the line and is fast enough to get in on Elliott, forcing a throwaway. Good flat coverage from Brown(+1, cover +1)
O17 3 2 Shotgun Twins Twin TE 4-4 under Pass Hitch Fitzgerald 6
Guy comes open underneath a zone and Elliott hits him quickly; immediate tackle. Excellent catch on a poorly thrown ball by the TE.
O23 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Pass Rollout hitch Warren 6
Quick throw, not a long rollout, and Warren is there to escort out of bounds immediately. I'm not negging these quick throws with immediate tackles but I am getting cranky.
O29 2 4 Shotgun 2-back TE 4-4 under Run Zone read stretch Martin -2
Martin(+1) blows the center back, forcing Bolden to delay a bit to get around the disruption. Graham(+1) blows into the backfield as well, cutting off the outside and taking out two blockers. and Fitzgerald(+1, tackling +1) uses the delay and the lack of blockers to dart into the backfield and make a solid TFL.
O27 3 6 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Hitch Fitzgerald 9
Four man rush is stoned (pressure -1) to the point where Elliot doesn't even have to worry about any issues, and Fitzgerald(-1, cover -1) sucks out of his zone, opening up a slant. Leach had the slot receiver; Fitz is busting a coverage here.
O38 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Run Zone read stretch Brown 16
Purdue motions in a slot WR to act as a second TE and Michigan does not react (RPS -1); Brown(-1) fails to get outside the slot guy and gives up the corner; Roh(-1) ends up spinning inside of the OT despite this run obviously going outside; Leach(-1) is indecisive and ends up getting blocked into oblivion. Bolden gets the corner and a bunch of yards.
M46 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass Rollout corner Kovacs Inc
Kovacs(-1, cover -2, RPS -1) in man on this and that is a terrible matchup against a good Purdue receiver lined up in the slot. Elliott has the guy for at least 20 but throws it too far in front of him and the receiver can't make a tough catch.
M46 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel under Pass Rollout deep hitch -- 14
This is more of a half-roll and there's max protect, but Michigan is still not getting anywhere near this guy (pressure -2) on a deep drop. Elliott has plenty of time to come to a second receiver, wait for him to get open, and fire in a pass to a tight window in front of Brown. Lot of time, still pretty covered receiver, no cover minuses. These rollouts are killing me.
M32 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Quick out Brown 8
Brown(-1) has the flat here and instead attempts to cover a TE that is running into Leach's zone; Warren has a deep half and is not responsible. (Cover -1)
M24 2 2 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run Zone read keeper Herron 6
Herron(-1) dives too far inside and gives up the corner. Pretty sure this isn't a scrape exchange; if it was Herron would not even think about responsibility.
M18 1 10 Ace Twins Twin TE 4-3 under Run Draw Leach 3
Plays off the rollout stuff with it looking like a rollout and then the counter draw coming. Martin seems like he's about to come around his guy and make a tackle at the LOS but a hold prevents him; OL then gives the “I ain't doin' nothing” hands up thing and lets him go, preventing a penalty. Borderline; can see letting it go. Leach(+0.5) slices between a couple OL to make a diving, face-first, sketchy tackle attempt; Roh(+0.5) loops around on what is probably a stunt to provide enough Michigan jersey to cut off the hole.
M15 2 7 I-Form 4-3 under Pass Rollout FB Flat Williams 5
Williams takes a step inside, biting on the run fake, but then gets out quickly to cover and tackle the FB flat immediately. No plus, no minus, eh.
M10 3 2 Shotgun trips TE 4-3 under Run Zone read stretch Fitzgerald 10
Ugh. This is a game-losing play. Martin(+1) does great, slanting from the backside and taking two blockers directly into the path of Bolden. This play has to be dead now; a guy has occupied two blockers and delayed the RB. It's over, except Fitzgerald(-2) takes an angle way too far upfield and can only make a diving arm-tackle attempt on Bolden, which misses (tackle -1). Roh's stunted himself out of the area and the resulting mess prevents RVB from flowing; Ditto Kovacs, so Bolden gets into the endzone. Really, really should have been a TFL and a FG attempt.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 30-24, 5 min 3rd Q. Onside kick gives it right back to Purdue. Spectacular execution by the kicker.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O46 1 10 Shotgun trips Tampa Nickel Pass Fly Kovacs 54
Four man rush, a zone blitz, gets nowhere near Elliott (pressure -2) and so he can half-roll a bit and look deep, where Kovacs(-4) has completely busted on the only deep receiver on his side of the field; guy is so wide open that even a terribly underthrown pass doesn't prevent him from scoring. (Cover -4). Enormous bust. Walk-on freshman safety.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, FML, 30-31, 5 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O42 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-4 under Pass Bubble screen Woolfolk 6
Michigan in a zone; Woolfolk(-0.5) is unblocked but reads it a little late and almost misses a tackle, allowing the receiver to make some YAC.
O48 2 4 I-Form Twins 4-3 under Run Pitch sweep Graham -3
Graham(+1) slants inside, meeting the playside G a couple yards in the backfield as he pulls; he drives the G back, forcing Bolden outside. Graham gets stiffarmed but his interior play has allowed Brown(+1) to finish the TFL after he got outside his blocker effectively.
O45 3 7 Shotgun empty 3-3-5 split Pass Hitch Graham Inc
Graham(+1) tears around the RT, flushing Elliott up into the pocket on a three-man rush (pressure +1) and forcing him to throw as he knows Graham is coming up for EXTREME VENGANCE behind him. Mouton(-1, cover –1) vacates his zone to chase Elliott, opening up a receiver for a first down; RVB(+1) is looping around and bats it down.
Drive Notes: Punt, 30-31, 1 min 3rd Q. You can tell what the coaches' reaction was to that Bolden touchdown: Fitzgerald out, Mouton in.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O31 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Pass Jailbreak screen Roh 1
Kind of a similar deal to a failed Michigan version of this earlier: Roh(+1) actually hooks the playside tackle, which prevents him from getting out to get a block; three Wolverines, including Roh, come in to crush the play. (RPS +1)
O32 2 9 Shotgun empty Tampa Nickel Pass Scramble Brown 4
Fake bubble to the slant Michigan likes to run except Brown(+1, cover +1) is not biting and Elliott has to look elsewhere, at which point Graham(+1) tears through on a three man rush and flushes him out of the pocket. Coverage remains good downfield so Elliot has to scramble; lot of short routes mean no one can peel off until he crosses the LOS. (Cover +1)
O36 3 5 Shotgun 2TE Base 4-3 Pass TE cross Leach 56
Michigan sends six and plays man behind it; Leach(-4) is looking in the backfield and covering the wrong tight end because he's playing zone. This opens the tight end up wide open, and he grabs a short cross and turns it up for a huge gain. (Cover -4)
M8 1 G I-Form 4-4 under Pass Scramble Roh? 8

I'm not sure why this lane opens up. Martin is slanting and slants from one side of the line to the left, coming around as if he's the DE on the opposite side of the line and dragging the RG with him; Graham does his usual tear-upfield-speed rush thing. Roh and RVB are slanting away from Martin; this results in a big pocket opening up and a major cutback lane no one is in because they're trying to cover receivers. I think Roh -1, RVB -1. Maybe Martin. Not sure. BTN analyst calls out Mouton, but he's in pass coverage on a guy who would otherwise be open, right? I dunno.

Hmmm. Official call: minus halves for the DLs, minus one for Mouton. Help here?

Drive Notes: Touchdown, 30-38, 10 min 4th Q. Aaand exeunt Leach.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O11 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Run Zone read inside Roh 4
Martin(+0.5) holds up decently well, which causes a slowdown and allows Roh(+0.5), who's crashing from the backside, to come from behind and snuff this out. Pile then falls way forward. Martin holds up a little better and this can be 0.
O15 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass Dumpoff -- Inc
Graham(+1) starts the tear-around-corner-business and it looks like Elliott can step up into a pocket but I think he's spooked and decides to dump it off to the releasing RB, who drops an iffy pass. (pressure +1)
O15 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 split Pass Hitch Warren 5
Wow, close to a chop block as a guy Martin isn't expecting gets into his knees. C was not engaged but it was close. The chop indicates a pass that must get thrown immediately and indeed, Elliott chucks it in between Kovacs(+1) and Warren(+1)—very dangerous. Cover +1. Ball is caught but the TE is falling back upfield because of the tight coverage and ends up short of the first down.
Drive Notes: Punt, 30-38, 7 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O18 1 10 Shotgun Twins 2TE 4-4 under Penalty False start -- -5
O13 1 15 Shotgun Twins 2TE 4-4 under Run Down G Graham 4 (Pen -7)
Graham(+2) tears through a TE trying to down-block him and heads out to the edge, where he gets into both pulling blockers and is tackled to the ground, drawing a holding call. The result is a strung out play that Ezeh and Brown end up overrunning, allowing Bolden to pick up a few.
O6 1 22 I-Form Twins 4-3 under Pass Rollout comeback Woolfolk Inc
Elliott wants to go to the TE but Brown(+1, cover +1) has him covered and Elliott keeps rolling and rolling. He's late; as he reaches the sideline he chucks it to the other receiver, who Woolfolk(+1) has under control and makes a pass breakup on. (Pressure -1, cover +1)
O6 2 22 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run Trap Roh 4
Roh(+1) slants inside the attempted trap block and gets in the lane, meeting the RB at the LOS. Bolden powers through for a decent gain, though... Roh needs some more weight.
O10 3 18 ? ? Pass Sack Van Bergen -4
Tape does not have this play. Abbreviated replay shows RVB(+1) the beneficiary of a coverage sack(cover +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 30-38, 3 min 4th Q. Final drive for Purdue is not charted since it's an extreme run situation and not representative.

How's the ichor?

Don't I ask the questions?

Just talk before I dispel you.

The ichor is dry and rubbery. If I attempt to stroke my luxurious goatee it comes off in little gooey balls that are faintly warm to the touch and smell like an oil slick with an otter drowning in it.

Dude, you are evil.

Not as evil as Michigan's linebackers. ZING!

Sigh. How about a special mailbag question?

Sure, what the hell, I just want to talk Cowherd.

Defensively, I don't understand.  My biggest concern is not the big plays, but how they look.  I understand we have three walk-ons playing significant time, as well as a freshman D-lineman. Mistakes will happen. What I am worried about is the ease of which we are beaten.  I don't have a problem with Kovacs being outrun or Leach getting blocked. That is expected. I have a problem with completely blown assignments.  To get beat on a fly pattern by a guy who is faster - acceptable.  To get beat on a fly pattern because you were tackling the fullback when the wideout was your responsibility - unacceptable. That is where we are. It can't all be Rock-Paper-Scissors playcalling.  It is coaching.  They have got to get these kids in the right position.  Williams total disregard for Juice responsibility is a perfect example.  The coaches have got to figure a way to get through to him. Then if Juice breaks his tackle or fakes him out of his shoes, good job Juice.  We don't even challenge our opponent to out execute us. 
In a nutshell, I can be patient with the offense. Improvement, youth, blah blah blah.   I can't be patient with this defense, and I believe it is on the staff.  Coach Rod will have some tough decisions to make this offseason.  Don't know if Gerg is the answer, but position coaches should be feeling the heat.
Just needed to vent.  I want Rod here 5 years minimum.  I hope his delegation of defensive authority doesn't doom him sooner.
Go Blue!
Jim Cunningham
Well, first, let's look at the—



Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Graham 12 - 12 Killed all runs to his side; somewhat culpable for poor pressure metric but those were rollouts.
Heininger - - - Didn't record anything.
Watson - - - DNP.
Roh 6 4.5 1.5 Extensive discussion below.
Herron - 1 -1 Only contribution was blowing contain once.
Martin 4.5 0.5 4 Relatively quiet; not getting much pass rush this year.
Van Bergen 2 2 0 Not a major factor.
Banks - - - DNP, I think.
Sagesse - - - Also DNP, I think.
Campbell - - - Didn't do anything of note but did play.
TOTAL 24.5 8 16.5 Step back from usual effort, especially given the pressure metric below.
Player + - T Notes
Ezeh - - - Nothing particularly good or bad on late cameo.
Mouton - 6 -6 Did this in like a quarter of playing time.
Brown 9 4 5 Built to play his position against a team like Purdue.
Fitzgerald 3 4 -1 I am actually encouraged by his play.
Leach 3 8 -5 Basically even except for the monster bust.
TOTAL 15 22 -7 Is it a positive that this is positive but for the –8 on huge coverage busts? No?
Player + - T Notes
Warren 4.5 - 4.5 The NFL wants you to stay in school.
Cissoko - - - Happy trails.
Floyd - - - DNP.
Turner - - - DNP.
Woolfolk - 4 -4 Rough day in zones.
Williams - 3 -3 I'll take it.
Emilien - - - DNP
Kovacs 1 5 -4 Enormous bust #3.
TOTAL 5.5 12 -6.5 Better than against Illinois, I  guess.
Pressure 5 12 -7 Poor BG.
Coverage 15 24 -9 Did a good job when they remembered at all where they were supposed to be.
Tackling 5 5 0 I really need to definite this more precisely.
RPS 5 5 0 Still working on this, too.

[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.]

It's basically the usual: pretty decent on the DL, Graham destroys, Brown does well or okay, other linebackers and people in the secondary who aren't Warren make graves. Hidden in the raw numbers is the distribution: –12 in coverage and the above numbers goes to three separate enormous busts. If Michigan does not make those busts it seems reasonable to assume they hold Purdue to something like 10-14 fewer points. If they don't bust, there is the talent, it seems, to have an average defensive performance against Purdue.

The emailer is correct that it's the busted coverages and disaster that makes this defense a disastrous disaster of disastrous proportions. Is this "acceptable"? Well… let's rephrase that into something that's less vague and standoffish. How much of this is a reflection on poor coaching by position coaches on up to Rodriguez? How much should this deflate expectations about how well this team can play on defense going forward?

I can point you to any number of metrics that suggest there are plenty of reasons that Michigan sucks on defense for reasons other than coaching. Here's a new one:

Comparing Michigan's defensive upperclassmen [ed: 3rd, 4th, 5th year players; RVB counts] not only to Ohio State, Penn State, and Notre Dame, but to the rest of the conference as well...

Ohio State - 22
Northwestern - 21
Indiana - 19
Illinois - 19
Michigan State - 19
Penn State - 19
Iowa - 18
Wisconsin - 18
Minnesota - 17
Purdue - 15
Notre Dame - 15
Michigan - 12

The rest of the Big Ten averages 50% more upperclassmen on defense.  We are dead last in the conference by a wide margin in terms of experienced defensive players.

Then you add in the defensive coordinator carousel—three in three years—and the wholesale changeover of position coaches last year and, like, doy: this just about has to be a bad defense. If it was even average it would be a miracle. The emailer dismisses the idea of youth being a factor; again, I have no idea how you can do that. The raw numbers defy you.

So it's bad and it should be bad. Is it worse than it should be considering the incredible paucity of not even talent but mere bodies on the team? I don't know. Assuming that a busted coverage is necessarily on a coach not getting his guys to go to the right spots is dodgy. It could just be that the guys they have to start are either not ready or just not that bright when it comes to football and would be mediocre backups on another team. Sometimes people just can't hack the mental side of the game no matter what.

So maybe it's on the coaches. That is a blindingly obvious possibility. But there are plenty of mitigating factors that suggest it is not necessarily the case. The only way we will find out is with more time. They've got to be a lot better next year or things will get ugly.

[Note: the criticism that Rodriguez forced various kids to get R-U-N-N-O-F-T is another show. Presumably, attrition will be normal in the future. Rodriguez's previous stop did not experience undue attrition after his transition. Going forward, Michigan can expect to get its numbers back into the pack here.]

On to specifics, maybe?

So what was with the rollouts?

Purdue was very clever. Remember this thirty-yard run?

That's run directly at Roh and RVB and linebackers because Michigan's aligning based on the hash these days and not the formation. So they've got a lot of open space if they can blow Roh off the line, which is pretty easy right now because he's a 220-230 pound true freshman. Here he's not blown off the line, he's tasked with coverage. and gives up the corner. Okay, that's not going to work. RPS –1 was born for this.

Later Michigan flips the line so that Graham is to the open side of the field:

That play picks up one because two guys have to take on Graham and Michigan is using someone else. On the first play of Purdue's third drive they run an outside zone like the 30-yarder to start, and Graham tears through it; a hold from Purdue gives them five yards but the play is basically blown up. Purdue picks up a big run later with Heininger in in an I-Form twins; it's clear that BG is the only thing keeping Purdue away from major gains outside the tackle. So it's the strong side for him.

Now Graham is away from the receiver side of the field on the formations above and the rollouts can take advantage of Roh not being Brandon Graham; the one rollout on which Michigan did get pressure was from Graham. Later in the game, Roh gets sealed away on a 19-yard touchdown by Bolden when Michigan puts Graham on the weakside and gets another excellent run when Roh comes inside a TE. (Plenty other folk—three—picked up minuses on that play but if that's run at Graham they are not likely to have much success.) Purdue made Michigan pick its poison.

Roh did some good stuff on slants and was responsible when he had an opportunity to overrun plays, which gives him that modest positive score above, but big minuses in pressure fall mostly on the shoulders of the DEs and when one of the DEs is Brandon Graham they fall mostly on the shoulders of the DE who isn't Brandon Graham. So if you apply a chunk of that pressure metric to Roh, you get a solidly negative day. I think that's a realistic take on is game and am going to incredible lengths to justify that assessment because apparently Roh's dad reads UFR, which is something I'd really rather not know. The eyebrow furrowing!


Shut up, imaginary Cowherd. Anyway, Purdue did a really good job of exploiting the true freshman defensive end in this game. I think Danny Hope has shown that he was an excellent choice for Purdue's coaching transition; he will be a success. Probably.

Aaaaargh linebackers.

I know, man. Mouton busts huge on the first drive and gets yanked. Ezeh has already been yanked and so you've got a couple sophomores out there and you're thinking 'hey, maybe this is where they show their mettle, they're gamers' and then by the end of the game they've both busted huge and the nominal starters are back in and if you go back and chalk up the number of Purdue points that came directly from the linebackers not knowing WTF they are supposed to do you get something like 14. They are terrible, and it's all mental.

This is one spot on the field where I lean towards the torch and pitchfork crowd. It could just be a couple busts and no depth with any experience, but Mouton was better last year and the vast improvement from Stevie Brown stands in stark contrast… since he's coached by Greg Robinson.


Brandon Graham remains Brandon Graham. Also, Stevie Brown's short coverage was excellent all day and though he missed on a couple opportunities to get PBUs he made it very tough and was a sure tackler. I'm so happy we blew his redshirt on kickoff coverage.

Warren also turned in a good day; I know it looked like he was leaving a lot of guys open during the game but I am pretty confident that those were not his issues because he was a deep half in cover-two.

Goat-type substances?

Pick an enormous busty guy: Mouton, Kovacs, Leach. And as discussed above, Purdue's game plan other than "hey throw it to that wide open guy" was focused on exploiting Roh's lack of size and experience.

What does it mean for Wisconsin and beyond?

Despite the re-insertion of the nominal starting linebackers at the end of the  game I assume that the linebacker question is an open one for Saturday and probably until the UConn game next fall. I graded Fitzgerald out at a –1 despite the crippling poor angle on that Bolden run and he looked physically capable; I'm pulling for him because he's younger, seems less prone to implode, and hasn't made me want to die more than once or twice.

At middle linebacker, I think Leach is seriously mediocre at this instant but so is Ezeh; there are no good options there. He, too, is a sophomore with a lack of on-field experience, so he seems more likely to have a light go on than Ezeh.

At this point the line is basically status quo, as is the secondary. I thought Williams did okay after a monstrously poor day against Illinois. So there's that.

Upon Further Review: Defense vs Illinois

Upon Further Review: Defense vs Illinois

Submitted by Brian on November 4th, 2009 at 2:24 PM

Video note: Unfortunately my computer rebooted itself after applying an "important update" last night, which obliterated a 14-hour process via which I convert the torrent into something clippable. So no video today. I will go back in an add it later, and I'll revisit the key points in a couple of Picture Pages posts.

Personnel notes: Leach replaced Ezeh until very late; Ezeh and Kenny Demens were part of the goal line package, though, with Leach apparently relegated to the bench because he's slight. The rest of it was as per usual, thought it seemed like the starting DL got more time than usual.

Michigan did continue its passing down substitution package, replacing Williams with JT Floyd.

Formation notes: This is what I'm calling "4-3 under split" based on an earlier Steve Sharik post:


Both outside linebackers are on the LOS with Leach a single middle linebacker. Michigan went to this frequently against 2TE formations.

And this is what I'm calling "nickel even":


It's not really a nickel package, with Brown on the slot receiver, but it functions more like a nickel package than a standard 4-3 as Michigan would play two deep behind it unless Williams rolled up into the box. Note the position of the DTs right on top of each other, with both guys playing 1-techs over the center. This was probably an adjustment to what Illinois runs more than anything else.

Possibly annoying terminology note: I tried to call Juice Williams "Juice" because if I call him Williams sometimes Williams does something to Williams and that gets confusing.

On with the show:

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O18 1 10 Ace 4-wide 4-3 under Run Inside zone Roh 0
Roh(+2) shoots inside the tackle at the snap into the intended hole, is held blatantly, and is basically tackled, but still manages to force the RB back behind the play and tackles with help from Mouton, who didn't have to do much other than clean up with Leshoure already going down by the time he arrives. (tackling +1)
O18 2 10 Shotgun 2-back Twins 4-3 under Run Triple option veer Graham 27
Uncalled illegal formation as Illinois only has six on the line. It's hard to hand out minuses here because I'm not sure who's got which assignment. Graham crashes down on the dive fake and tackles it; Mouton hangs inside and gets blocked by a guy who should not have an angle on him. I definitely blame Mouton(-1) for sucking in; even if this was a dive he was going to get obliterated by the tackle for not knowing WTF was going on; Warren comes up to support on the pitch guy but with no one on Williams it's an easy big gain. I also blame Graham(-2), though, because this dive was stuffed anyway and if he had stayed out Illinois had nowhere to go. Good job by Leach to hop into the appropriate hole, FWIW.
O45 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 nickel even Run QB counter trap Mouton 6
Both the backside T and G pull around as the rest of the line blocks down; Juice fakes a handoff to Leshoure that holds Graham outside. Roh(+1) actually does a good job of reading it and getting inside of the puling G, but Williams(-1) and Mouton(-1) run themselves into blocks passively; here the pulling OT has to route around the Roh-based disruption and he still gets a good block on Williams. Result: six yards.
M49 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass Flare -- 14
Williams rolls up to the LOS and blitzes; no one gets out on the tailback rolling out of the backfield on a flare route and he's wide open(cover -2) for plenty of yards. I don't know if this is on anyone specifically; sometimes you have a blitz read that changes if you see the RB head out of the backfield like that, sometimes you don't. (RPS -1)
M35 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass Scramble -- 4
Busted play. Illinois wants to throw a long handoff to Benn but Benn runs a route. Juice improvises for a few yards; Leach did a decent job of reading it and coming to tackle.
M31 2 6 Shotgun 2TE 4-4 under Pass Long handoff Warren 12
Warren(-1) playing in the parking lot and giving this to Illinois (RPS -1, cover -1). He then misses a tackle(-1), adding several yards.
M19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 nickel even Pass Long handoff Warren 4
Man, Warren keeps bailing into three deep at the snap here and Illinois is looking for it; they get it again here but Warren and Williams do manage to hold it down to four yards. A small victory.
M15 2 6 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run Speed option Williams 5
Benn goes in motion and Kovacs immediately signals for Williams to attack the LOS. Looks like Michigan has this scouted and expects Illinois to run a speed option to the now-overloaded short side. They do. Williams(-1) gets crushed by the TE and driven back; Warren is bailing out into cover-three and can't help on the edge.
M10 3 1 Shotgun 2-back 2TE 4-4 under Run Zone stretch(?) Brown 4
Illinois confuses Michigan by shooting one RB past Juice and using the other one as a lead blocker for him; Brown(-1) ends up sitting back the whole play, sucking inside when Williams does his draw fake and giving up the corner for the RB instead of following his assignment and getting out on the edge to hold this down. He was not blocked at all and could have crushed this since Graham absorbed a double team and no one was out on him.
M6 1 G Ace Twins 4-3 under split Run Inside zone Leach 1
Think this is just Michigan beating the Illinois playcall with this split formation. Playside TE is taken upfield by OLB Mouton; DE Roh slants inside, taking the tackle with him, and Leach(+1) reads the direction of the play, shooting into the hole to tackle with help from Williams. (RPS +1)
M5 2 G Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 nickel even Run QB zone stretch Leach 2
Roh(-0.5) is flowing down the line okay when he trips and hits the ground, opening up some space. Leach(+1) reads the direction of the play, flows outside too quickly for a guard getting a free release to get an angle on him, takes on the lead block from the RB, sheds, it, and tackles(+1). Very good play from him.
M3 3 G Power I ??? Run Power off tackle Williams 3
2TE, I-form, Benn lined up next to the fullback. You tell me what to call this. [Update: it's the power I.] Illinois runs a version of a power o; Williams(-1) is blitzing and gets in unmolested but goes inside of the fullback and fails to string the play out enough because Mouton got slightly chopped by a linebacker. Mouton keeps his feet but is off balance and in no shape to hold up to the RB's lead block. Warren makes a valiant effort to get out on the edge; Benn leaps over him for a score.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 9 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O19 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 nickel even Run Speed option keeper Roh 2
Roh(+1) gets into the DE, refuses to get sealed, and strings this out to the sideline, cutting off the room and forcing Juice OOB basically by himself. Leach had also flowed down the LOS and was there to assist on the escort.
O21 2 8 I-Form Twins 4-3 under Run Pitch sweep Mouton 6
Ford, the FB, motions out; Warren is in zone and follows. Play is a pitch sweep with pulling linemen on which Graham(+1) shoots into the backfield, taking out a pulling guard and absorbing two blockers. This leaves Mouton(-1) totally unblocked; he overruns the play and is fortunate to grab the RB as he passes; this could have been two yards and was six because of Mouton.
O27 3 2 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 nickel split Run Zone read stretch Van Bergen -1
Backside of the line just doesn't get blocked as Martin(+0.5) and Graham(+0.5) slice up, but the key is RVB(+1) coming upfield of an attempted double despite another blatant hold and getting in the running lane, forcing a cutback into doom. I don't know if this was a technically sound play by RVB, who ended up attempting to shove his back into the RB, but it worked. James notes that Williams is totally irresponsible on the read here, and this will bite Michigan later.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 2 min 2nd Q. Michigan muffs the punt.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
M41 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 nickel even Run QB counter trap Williams 14
Same play as earlier, with the backside tackle and guard pulling around to the backside as the RB makes a fake out to the edge. Juice keeps it, following his lead blockers. Roh heads inside, drawing a blocker; Mouton(-1) also dives inside even though any tailback handoff is something he's not going to be able to get to; he's run himself out of the play despite a bleeding obvious double pull from the OL. This leaves Williams(-1) on the edge with an OL. He compounds matters by losing leverage and letting Juice outside of him. Even if Mouton had played this correctly, it wouldn't have helped. Juice breaks outside for good yardage.
M27 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 nickel even Pass PA seam Williams Inc
Play action gets Michigan sucking up, with Williams(-1) reduced to an ineffectual chuck on Benn as he realizes he's not about to get blocked into next week but is instead going to give up a wide open route(cover -1). Juice turfs it. Mouton(+0.5) did a pretty good job of avoiding the RB's block to get some pressure.
M27 2 10 I-Form 4-4 under Run Speed option Warren 6
Michigan drops back into a two-deep look as Benn comes across the formation with Warren dropping into a second deep safety slot; Illinois runs at the vacated area. Graham forces a pitch; FB crushes Williams(-0.5) back; he has no chance to do anything once he guy locks on. Warren(-0.5) reacts late and can only undercut the RB as he nears five yards; he cartwheels forward for more. (RPS -1)
M21 3 4 Shotgun 2TE Twins 4-3 under split Pass Hitch Brown Inc
RB motions out and Leach goes with him in man. Michigan sends six, with Brown(+1) coming unblocked to hit Williams as he throws (pressure +1), which might be the reason this hitch is thrown wide of the receiver. Might be just Juice, too. (RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Missed FG(38), 1 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O10 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under split Run Zone veer handoff Mouton -3
If this is a read, Juice made the wrong one, because he hands off to the back when Mouton(+2, tackling +1) is coming up on him hard and it seems like an up-the-middle keeper is called for. This is impressive change of direction and tackling from Mouton.
O7 2 13 Shotgun 2-back 4-3 under Run Triple option dive Brown 8
This isn't so much a dive as an off tackle but eh that's life. Brown(-2) ends up totally unblocked in the hole as he crashes down from the slot receiver but whiffs a tackle(-1), turning zero yards into eight. Leach cleans up; I'm impressed Leach read the play well enough to get over to tackle. He's played well so far.
O15 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 nickel even Pass Sack Martin -9
DTs twist and Michigan blitzes two linebackers, causing Martin(+2) to slant into the backfield past the center and the guard, who have other problems, as the Michigan blitz causes Illinois to bust a pickup. (RPS +1) Martin gets there first and forces Juice to pull the ball down; RVB(+1) follows it up to crush Williams for a big loss. (Pressure +2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 11 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O27 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run Zone read keeper Mouton 5 (Pen -10)
Given future events this is scary: Illinois runs a read intended to shoot the right between the backside tackle and DT and should have a huge gainer, but Juice keeps it. I mean, really, if this is a handoff it could be a 70 yard touchdown. Juice keeps it and fakes a bubble, which is also there since Mouton(-1) has failed to cover either the handoff or the bubble or the keeper, and Williams picks up five before the other Williams tackles him. Holding brings it back.
O17 1 20 I-Form 4-4 under Run Speed option Williams 3
Usual course of events: Illinois doesn't block Graham and forces him to force a pitch; this time Williams(+1) gets to the outside shoulder of his blocker and drives him upfield, forcing the pitch man to the sidelines and making this a minimal gain. (RPS +1) Good blitz call.
O20 2 17 I-Form 4-4 under Run Inside zone Roh -1
Roh(+1) on a slant, he steps inside of the guard(!) and gets upfield into the path of the run, forcing the play to the backside. He gets a hand on the RB's thigh, slowing him and allowing Williams to finish with an easy tackle. (RPS +1)
O19 3 18 Shotgun 2TE Twins Nickel Pass Sack Graham -9
Williams pulled for Floyd; M drops seven guys off into deep coverage but it doesn't matter much because Graham(+3) murders the freshman RT and crushes Williams almost before he can set up in the pocket (pressure +2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 10-7, 5 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O29 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run Zone read keeper Graham 1
Graham(+1) stays home, drifting slightly inside. Juice pulls it out and Graham gets out on him as he passes, grabbing Juice from behind and tackling with help from Williams (+0.5), who makes the easy fill given Graham's presence all over Juice's back.
O30 2 9 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run Speed option Williams 3
Williams(+1) reacts quickly and fills to the short side of the field. Unblocked, he tackles(+1) for a minimal gain.
O33 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass Sack Leach -9
First read is a hitch that Roh(+1, cover +1) has dropped out on and covers; Juice probably has a slant against Woolfolk but can't find it before Leach(+2), who's looped around on a delayed blitz, gets in on Williams and forces him to take evasive action. Leach comes in under control and reads Juice's planned scramble, securing a solid tackle against a guy considerably more athletic than him. Very nice play; I've seen so many guys overrun this. (Pressure +1, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 13-7, 30 sec 2nd Q. Rodriguez doesn't call timeout with a minute left in the half. They go after the punt, but don't get it.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O1 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Run QB sneak -- 2
O3 2 8 Ace Twins 4-3 under Run Zone stretch Roh 5
Frontside jammed up by Graham(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5), forcing a cutback into Roh(+1), who has zipped into the backfield. Ford ends up carrying Roh, though—he used power—a couple yards downfield, at which point Williams(-1) lays a wicked hit on... Roh. Leshore gets another three yards out of it. (Tackling -1)
O8 3 3 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run Speed option -- 4
Illinois motions Benn to the short side of the field for a trips look and run their speed option. Michigan is slanting away from it, which means Graham sucks in and is blocked by the line as Mouton shoots upfield unblocked; Juice pitches outside, where there is no support. Would rather see Michigan force Juice to take the ball here, but that's not how they've been playing it. (RPS -1) Williams does come up through blockers to lay a pop on the RB as he reaches the sticks, but the RB wins that battle and gets the yard he needs.
O12 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Run Draw? Brown 1
Illinois OL sets up to pass block, sliding the line one way and then handing the ball off the other way. Handoff is awkward and almost fumbled but I don't think it would matter because Michigan's slant + RVB stunt leaves no holes and gets three guys in unblocked on the tailback. He goes nowhere. (RPS +1) I guess Brown (+0.5) for keeping contain.
O13 2 9 Shotgun 2TE 4-4 under Pass Hitch Mouton 17
Same setup as the previous play except Juice keeps it. TE Cumberland runs a good hitch route but Juice is a little late and Mouton has a shot at making a play here; he fails(-1), diving over the top without getting the ball and giving this guy another 7 YAC. (Tackling -1)
O30 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel under Run Zone read dive Leach 70
I don't know who's issue this is. Michigan is in a pure two-deep with Mouton rolled up the LOS and Brown over one of the slot guys, with Leach the only real MLB aligned like that. On the snap, Michigan's DL slides a bit and Roh gets kicked out by single blocking, opening up a hole here. Roh's not really defending Juice or the dive, so he gets a -1. Then: Mouton backs out and appears to be spying on Juice on a potential keeper, and Williams is sucking up as Benn runs a bubble route. Reasonable. However, Leach(-3) runs himself way out of the play in anticipation of a stretch that Illinois doesn't really run much; they run this all the time. He then compounds the error by not freaking out and running back downfield away from a releasing C; he gets blocked out of the play. Kovacs(-2) is dropping into a deep zone and does not come up soon enough to get an angle to slow the RB down, and he runs for a long way. Oh, and hell, Mouton(-2) had no idea who had the ball way too long and failed to close down either Juice or the RB.
Drive Notes: Touchdown,13-14, 9 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O21 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run Triple option dive Williams 27
Ugh, ugh, ugh. Illinois motions a guy into the backfield for a two-back look and Williams is keying on this so he flies to the LOS. Illinois runs a triple option look off of it; Williams(-2) blitzes into the backfield and has this dive dead to rights, but comes in way too hard and gets back-juked. Freakin' disaster. Opposite of what Leach did earlier. Guy now has a huge cutback lane since the linebackers are to the playside and Roh(-1) got his ass kicked and let himself get shoved out of the hole. Probably wouldn't have mattered much but might have held it down if Roh could provide some delay here. (Tackling -2)
O48 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-4 under Pass TE Wheel -- 34
Michigan in a two-deep zone that Williams cannot get out onto his guy on because he's picked by Benn and rode down the field. Probably should be offensive PI but they never call that. Can't really blame Williams here; he can't run through a dude. Result is an open bomb that Michigan can't do anything about. Pocket was great for Juice, too. (Pressure -1, cover -2, RPS -1)
M18 1 10 Shotgun 2TE Twins 4-3 under Run Zone read keeper Brown 2
Michigan slants so hard that the backside TE and OT have no one to block and can just roll downfield. Herron crashes down on the RB, causing Juice to pull it. Mouton(+1) came up to the line, read the RB's path, and hopped playside of the C's attempted block, which lets him flow down the line past the guys who released downfield, and Brown is unblocked coming in from the edge. This makes the bubble pretty open but it works. Brown(+1) sets up and makes a good open field tackle(+1).
M16 2 8 Shotgun 2-back 3-4 nickel Pass Wheel Brown Inc (Pen + 14)
Brown(-2) is decent position on this play but never turns around to look for the ball and ends up pushing this receiver before the ball gets there because it's underthrown. I hate these calls, which reward the offense for being inept more than anything else. Pressure was coming, possibly resulting in a marginal throw. I keep watching this and I hate this call so much. It's ridiculous. Guy is in position and trying to make a play and should have a right to his momentum; instead he gets a call.
M2 1 G Power I Goal line Pass Waggle flat Ezeh 2
All eleven players freak out assuming it'll be the same Benn sweep, leaving both TEs wide, wide open. Ezeh(-1) and Mouton(-1) and cover -2.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 13-21, 5 min 3rd Q. aaaargh
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
M45 1 10 Ace 4-wide 4-3 under Run Inside zone Sagesse 5
Blocking the backside DE here and shoving Sagesse(-1) way down the line opens up a hole that Mouton can't fill fast enough despite reading the play quickly and getting to the ball as fast as you can reasonably expect. Hole too big and Sagesse moving too far out of it in anticipation of a stretch.
M40 2 5 Shotgun 2-back Twins 4-3 under Run Triple option dive Banks? 7
This really should go nowhere as the two backup DTs get some push and Brown gets past the slot receiver to sit unblocked in the hole. But Sagesse bulling his way into the back of the LT doesn't prevent the LG from getting out on Leach and when the RB tries to cut back into the mess that is the four guys in the middle of the line he somehow squirts through for first-down yardage. I'm not sure who, if anyone, is to blame here other than bloody-minded fate. I'm going to -0.5 Banks for getting kicked out of the hole eventually, I think.
M33 1 10 Shotgun 2TE Twins 4-3 under split Pass Sack Brown -8
OLBs flanking the LOS here on this two TE package and both are sent on a blitz. RB has the pickup on Brown(+2), who sets up inside then bursts upfield of his blocker, sacking Juice when he tries to move up in the pocket only to hit his own RB. Graham(+1) was driving the RG back into the pocket, creating the restricted space in which Juice had few scrambling options. (Pressure +2)
M41 2 18 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Fade Woolfolk 37
Of course. Michigan sends four with Herron backing out into a short zone and Graham(+1) immediately crushes the guard attempting to block him, hitting Juice as he throws what's basically and arm-punt, Juice Williams gets nailed as he throws. Juice Williams. His throw? Perfect. Woolfolk(-1) was beat deep in man press (cover -1), but not that badly and the receiver made a spectacular catch. I mean... Christ.
M4 1 G Ace Twins 4-3 under split Run Inside zone Martin 1
Martin(+1) back in; he drives playside of his blocker and forces a cutback into Herron(+0.5), who is one-on-one in some space with the TB and holds him to basically no YAC. Maybe one before the cavalry arrives.
M3 2 G Shotgun 2-back TE 4-3 under split Pass Zone read keeper Williams 3
Williams(-2), the contain guy, completely overruns the play and Juice takes it in for an easy touchdown.
Drive Notes: Touchdown,13-28, 1 min 3rd Q. Here's to you, worst third quarter ever.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O21 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 nickel even Run Veer handoff Martin -6
Play Illinois has run earlier with a veer outside look paired with the backside guard and tackle pulling around. This time Juice hands it off... for some reason. This doesn't seem like it can be a real read because it just doesn't block two guys on the frontside of this play, and Martin(+1) and Graham proceed to crush this guy in the backfield. No idea how this handoff ever works.
O15 2 16 I-Form 4-3 under Run Pitch sweep Mouton 4
FB motions out for three-wide look and Illinois runs a down G scheme with a pitchout, pulling the playside G around as the down-block Graham. Mouton(+1) gets outside of the pulling guard and upfield, forcing the play back inside to Leach, who tackles(+1) a couple yards downfield with help from Williams. Graham also did a good job of flowing down the line and preventing the other pulling OL from getting out on Leach.
O19 3 12 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under split Run QB draw Graham 26
Oh, right. This. This looks like a scramble at first blush but there are linemen releasing downfield, it's a called run. Graham(-1) comes too hard inside and vacates a passing lane. Martin(-1) is doubled and blasted way out of the center of the field; Leach(-1) ends up way overrunning Juice's cutback lane, and the safeties are nowhere to be found. (RPS -1)
O47 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run Zone read dive Leach 5
Martin(+1) and Graham do a good job of cutting off any potential frontside holes and there's nowhere to go there; there's a cutback from the RB into unblocked linebackers since Martin absorbed a double. Leach(-1) does not read it quickly and ends up taking a hit from the RB two yards downfield, getting bowled over for another 3 YAC. Should have/could have reacted more quickly to hold this down.
M48 2 5 Shotgun 2TE Twins 4-3 under split Run Zone read dive Kovacs 22
Same play. Michigan is stunting, which ends up seeing RVB run outside and out of the play, opening up a crease. This time Leach(-1), who can't win, has delayed waiting for a cutback to the Martin/Graham side and gets sucked into a mess. Herron(-1) could not hold the POA on his stunt and gets blown back, which doesn't help matters. Kovacs(-1) then misses a tackle(-1) and turns this from a first down into lots of yards.
M26 1 10 Shotgun 2TE Twins 3-4 Base Run Zone read keeper Williams 23
is this on Williams or Mouton? Williams blitzes off the snap and can be thought of as a crashing backside DE. Is Michigan supposed to scrape here, then? That would make sense to contain this, as Williams has the dive dead to rights and Mouton could scrape out to contain Juice. I don't know which it is. I originally gave Williams minus two billion because I'm just fed up with him, but I think this might be on Mouton, who lord knows has had some serious mental issues this year. One of these two guys gets a negative two billion. I tentatively assign them to Williams.
M3 1 G Power I Goal line Run Speed option Ezeh 1
Brown pops up on the QB, forcing a pitch, and Ezeh(+1) manages to get outside the lead blocks from the FB and TE to force the play back inside where Demens and Graham are; RB falls, possibly because of Graham, for no gain.
M2 2 G Power I Goal line Run Iso Martin -4
Absolutely nowhere to go as Martin(+1) wins the battle with his guy and Graham dives forward, creating an impenetrable pile of bodies. Campbell(+1) cuts through a block on the backside and grabs the RB's foot, causing him to fumble. (For a loose definition of "caused".) Illinois gets it back, though a few yards short of the LOS.
M6 3 G Shotgun 2TE offset Goal line Pass PA TE corner Williams Inc
Unbalanced formation with both Ts on the same side of the line; this is an attempt to fool Michigan into leaving the RT—actually a TE—uncovered. That doesn't quite work but Williams(-1) gets beat by Cumberland and Juice can hit him for a TD; it glances off his fingertips. Brown was applying pressure on the corner. Bonus: Cumberland was covered up on the LOS and that went uncalled. Woo Big Ten refs.
Drive Notes: FG(23), 13-31, 9 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O11 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Run Inside zone Watson 8
For some reason, Steve Watson is in at deathbacker. Watson(-1) falls to the ground as Michigan flows down the line against the zone blocking, opening up a cutback lane the RB hits. Ezeh's in and gets blocked; Williams(-1) basically whiffs a tackle but the RB falls as he cuts behind it.
O19 2 2 Shotgun 2-back Twins 4-3 under Run Busted play -- -2
Juice fumbles the snap.
O17 3 4 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run Speed option Watson 6
There is no one on the edge as Watson(-1) drops off into a zone, weirdly, and Mouton gets caught up in the wash of the WR blocking the hell out of Watson. Juice has an easy time moving up for the first down. (RPS –1)
O23 1 10 Shotgun 2TE Twins 4-3 under Run Zone read keeper Watson 1
WOOO THE DRIVE OF WATSON. Here Watson(+2) does a great job as the unblocked DE, convincing Juice to keep the ball by coming down a little bit on the RB, then hopping out to contain him. Forced back inside, Juice is tackled by Watson from behind.
O24 2 9 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run Zone veer keeper Ezeh 11
Here's why Ezeh's lost his job. Michigan slants and shifts Ezeh right over the hole where this Illinois veer play goes if Juice keeps the ball. Mouton has shot upfield to erase the potential handoff, leaving Ezeh(-2) alone in the hole with one assignment: Williams. Ezeh, of course, decides to run out and try to tackle the tailback. Who Mouton has owned. And doesn't have the ball.
O35 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 nickel even Run Inside zone Mouton 3
Good by the DTs to hold the POA and Mouton(+1) attacks quickly, swallowing the RB in the backfield when he hesitates.
O38 2 7 Shotgun 2TE 3-4 Base Pass Long handoff -- Inc
Behind the receiver and incomplete.
O38 3 7 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass Cross Brown 5
Dumpoff short of the sticks.
Drive Notes: Punt, 13-31, 4 min 4th Q. Charting stops. I would have stopped it already if I had known Watson was in. Graham(+3) blocks the punt.

What's this coming out of my eyes?

It looks like ichor of some variety.

Gross. Are you sure it's not blood?

I didn't think tentacled Cthulu-beasts had blood.

I thought I was Boubacar Cissoko.

Fine: tiny tentacled Cthulu-beasts with poor ability to model the future.

I think a chart might focus the pain emanating from my eyesockets into one white-hot point. I heard people undergoing torture do stuff like that Chart?


Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Graham 11 3 8 Not quite up to the usual standard as I think he got suckered on a couple of runs, but still pretty good.
Heininger - - - Didn't record anything.
Watson 2 2 0 Replacing Patterson because he got on the field late.
Roh 7 2.5 4.5 Effective slanting all day; not great in pass rush yet.
Herron 1.5 1 0.5 Eh.
Martin 7 1 6 No frontside creases all day; too bad about the linebackers.
Van Bergen 2 - 2 Not a major factor.
Banks - 0.5 -0.5 Played less.
Sagesse - 1 -1 Meh.
Campbell 1 - 1 Good play on the goal line.
TOTAL 31.5 11 20.5 Same total number as against Penn State, weirdly.
Player + - T Notes
Ezeh 1 3 -2 Managed to do this on like five plays.
Mouton 5.5 9 -3.5 The usual at this point. Excellent athlete, many mental mistakes.
Brown 4.5 5 -0.5 He's okay. 
Fitzgerald - - - DNP
Leach 4 6 -2 Better than Ezeh, and did okay, with half of his minuses coming on the big play.
TOTAL 14 23 -9 Also the exact same total as against Penn State.
Player + - T Notes
Warren - 1.5 -1.5 Not tested.
Cissoko - - - Happy trails.
Floyd - - - DNP.
Turner - - - DNP.
Woolfolk - 1 -1 The one bomb, otherwise not tested.
Emilien - - - DNP
Kovacs - 3 -3 Again burned as a deep half safety.
TOTAL 2.5 20 -17.5 Blar.
Pressure 9 1 8 Poor BG.
Coverage 1 9 -8 Argh.
Tackling 5 7 -2 First negative tackling day.
RPS 8 7 1 Scheme seemed fine.

[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.]

That appears to be a huge negative number next to Mike Williams's name.

Yeah. First a disclaimer: it is possible some of those minuses should migrate over to other folks on the defense because Williams wasn't actually the guy who was supposed to have contain as Michigan was running a scrape exchange. I watched the plays a lot, though, and think there's only one instance where that is a serious possibility. On the others it seemed obvious that Williams was irresponsible.

This is not a surprise. Williams was –6 against Iowa and –4 against Penn State, and the Penn State numbers were generous. It was evident Michigan was trying to use him to defend the long handoffs, which he could not do for whatever reason. Against Illinois he had a huge problems.

So… yeah. He's the reason—or at least, the emblem of the reason—Misopogon spent the last week of his life composing a master's thesis about Michigan's defensive recruiting and retention relative to its rivals. He's a weak link, probably the weakest, and Michigan has no alternative the rest of this year. Next year they'll have to hope he gets better or that one of the freshmen passes him. I can't see him getting any better after the last three games.

In an SAT analogy:

2009 Michigan Football : Mike Williams :: _______ : ________

A. 2008 Michigan Football : Nick Sheridan
B. Notre Dame Football : South Bend, Indiana
C. MAC Football Programs : Former Lloyd Carr Assistants
D. Life : Entropy
E. All Of The Above

Next year Williams will either be much better or on the bench.

Aren't those sorts of errors on plays Michigan practices against every damn day?

Uh… yeah. I do think it's a bad sign that Williams is making really basic errors that no one should make. "Hey, you have QB contain" is not a thing that should be dependent on which coordinator you're playing for. "Do not let the QB outside of you." Not hard. Apparently, Robinson has taken over coaching the safeties. Eventually he'll be the everything-except-DL coach.

So how was Kevin Leach?

He was okay. There were a lot of plays I thought he did well on that did not rise to the level of a + given the standards I've set for them over the past few years, and the mistakes he made were less mindboggling than the ones Ezeh did in his brief time on the field. Ezeh's main contributions were leaving an Illinois TE vastly wide open on first and goal and running out of a hole that Juice was in when he had the ball. It looked like he though Juice was the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.

Er. Check that.


Leach did not remind me of any scenes from Monty Python. He didn't do anything that made me want to hit my head against a wall. There was the one big error on the 70-yard touchdown where he sucked out of position because he was keying on the OL instead of the backfield, but that error was shared by at least four other people.

After a game of Leach I do think he's better than Ezeh, which is a mindboggling statement in a thousand different ways. Redshirt sophomore walk-on > scholarship third-year starting linebacker (and Butkis semifinalist!). Is that a failure to develop talent or just an indictment of Carr's ability to recruit the right sorts of guys late in his career? I hate 'em both.

Should we be grumbling about Robinson? If not, who should we be grumbling about?

I can't imagine the defensive coordinator who can mash these parts together and come up with something good. I have been saying this since the start of the year, though: the linebacker play has been consistently terrible despite experienced players returning and at least some continuity at coaching the position. Maybe it's just that Michigan picked up a bunch of duds, but Mouton's stunning regression is a black mark from any angle.

Other than that, read the masters thesis. We dead, and we aren't going to be in a position to be good next year. Better? If not, heads will start rolling in earnest. Good? No.


Graham and Martin both played very well.


See SAT analogy above.

Also, Jordan Kovacs was much better in the quasi-LB role than he is as a deep safety. This is not really his fault.

What does it mean for Purdue and the future?

Oh, hell. It seems likely that one of these days Michigan is going to have a game in which they do not have huge screwups that yield long touchdowns for the opposition and everyone moaning about it is going to have to take a step back, but that day seems likely to come in 2010 at the earliest. The safeties are just totally inadequate, the linebackers remain subpar even after the Ezeh-Leach switch, and the DL is making a valiant effort only to see huge cutback runs and ridiculous lost contain submarine all their efforts.

As for Purdue, they picked up 140 yards last week, so there's a chance if we catch them on one of their bad Boiler days, but this is an offense designed to tear up the middle of the field with short passes and Michigan is uniquely positioned to not stop this sort of offense. The defense will remain terrible until 2010.

Postgame Presser Notes: Eastern Michigan

Postgame Presser Notes: Eastern Michigan

Submitted by Tim on September 20th, 2009 at 12:42 PM

After a little time to digest it all, here are important notes from the postgame press conference.

  • David Molk suffered a potentially serious foot injury, and Rodriguez hopes it's not broken. If he's out, Moosman and Khoury will step in at the center position. Tate's injury was just bruised ribs, and he should be fine. Rodriguez didn't say it was anything serious in the press conference, but I saw Mike Williams wearing a walking boot outside Crisler Arena after the game. Sitting Minor was precautionary, because he's still sore.
  • Rodriguez seems pretty angry about the Mouton suspension. The worst part: the team wasn't informed until after practice Thursday, which means they didn't even get to practice with the backups in the game. That's inexcusable by the Big Ten, IME. Rodriguez plans to make sure the Big Ten is equally diligent for the rest of the season in suspending players from every team around the conference. He specifically mentioned something that happened at the end of an early game yesterday when a Purdue lineman went after an NIU player with an elbow.
  • The team only had 2 penalties for 20 yards in the game, a major improvement to this point. RR implied that he thought one of them wasn't a great call (I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Cissoko PI), and wasn't happy about it.
  • Coach Rodriguez and Brandon Graham both said they don't want Michigan to be a second-half team, but rather a 4-quarter team. However, it's not surprising with their conditioning that they can wear teams out in the second half.
  • Kevin Leach and Brandon Graham both said there weren't many schematic changes at halftime, but rather an emphasis on players sticking to their gaps and executing their assignments.
  • Craig Roh said he didn't have to think about his interception - he just reacted and came down with the ball.
  • When asked if he really likes running into the South endzone, Denard Robinson had the quote of the day: "I think I had one going this way, too." Rodriguez emphasized that Robinson is a passing threat, and Robinson said his picks were mental mistakes, a result of inexperience.
  • Carlos Brown said it feels good to be healthy, and noted that he ran for more yards in the first half yesterday than he did for all of last year.

[Editor's note: here's the obvious cheapshot by the Purdue player:

You made this bed, Jim Delany, and now it's time to lie in it.]