Peppers-s-s-s-s in-n-n Spa-a-a-a-a-a-ce

Peppers-s-s-s-s in-n-n Spa-a-a-a-a-a-ce Comment Count

Seth June 18th, 2015 at 10:38 AM

peppers in space

After the spring game this year I was moved to write about the stuff Michigan was doing with Peppers. So moved in fact that I scrapped a "10 ways the NCAA can fix itself" feature for HTTV and wrote it on hybrid spacer players and how Peppers is a special type of that. If you'd like to read that, there are ways:


(not to scale)

Actual book: Free for a first-time Draft Kings user with $15+ deposit, or pre-order from our online store. ETA ~July 4

Digital book (a PDF version of the above): Draft Kings deal but $5+, or available now for $5 from our store.

e-Book version: Fewer photos, but a few paragraphs here and there that were cut for space. Now available from the Kindle store, working on iBooks.


Part of that article gets into how they aligned him (and Dymonte Thomas) in the spring game, but I wanted to explain more in detail what we mean by this:

Michigan will spend most of its time this year in nickel formations with Peppers acting as a hyper-athletic strongside linebacker. Against conventional sets they’ll be a base eight-man front with one deep safety (Jarrod Wilson) and Peppers acting as a maniacally aggressive strong safety, allowing the rest of the defense to play all kinds of tricks.

The gist is Michigan's defense, whether against spread or tight formations, is trying to have its run-stopping cake and eat the passing game too by putting Peppers in the slot, where his linebackerness can be brought to bear as well as his cornerbackosity.

Here's the Blue Team's first play in the Spring Game:

The soundtrack is off by a few seconds; sorry.

[There is Woodson after the jump]


Hokepoints: Earning the Right to Rush Four

Hokepoints: Earning the Right to Rush Four Comment Count

Seth September 17th, 2013 at 10:45 AM

That's my compilation of all the Zips passing plays and check-downs. What you saw:

  • Lots of quick, dinky-dunky passes (not on the DL)
  • A handful of screens the DL didn't chase
  • Black consistently getting into the backfield but nobody else.

The first complaint of many from the near-disaster on Saturday was the front four's continued inability to get any pass rush, with the bonus problem this time of no contain. Many observers noted, and the coaches confirmed, that part of the problem was the pass rushers were often chasing the quarterback instead of keeping him boxed in so the rest of the rush could arrive. Other culprits mentioned: Akron was doing a lot of max protect, a lot of uncalled holding, and of course the biggie: our DL getting completely owned.

So let's look at some Akron passing plays and see who to blame:

While the Zips are mostly a dinky-dunk offense, when they do go long they tend to leave the running backs in to help with pass pro. Max protect is generally a win for the DL already since spending seven (or eight!) guys on four DL gives the DBs an easy time. You usually want to call it against blitzes, since defensive linemen who don't have to worry about the run will break through eventually. (Unless they don't).

They did this a lot in the first half. On Akron's first drive there were two long pass calls on 2nd and 10 and 3rd and 10 that give us a baseline.

All Day

Michigan was in their base 4-3 under and rushed four. Akron had the RB and both TEs both stay in to block. Both back and the TE to the strong side help the RT block Heitzman; he's not going anywhere. Washington gets off slowly and is doubled by the right guard and center; he gets no push on the center and the guard only has to help a little while watching to see if Bolden comes.

Clark is doubled by the weakside TE and the LT—he tried to bull rush the TE, got stood up, then ripped around him and was in the middle of trying to split the two when the pass got off. Black gets the only single-team, but he tried to go inside of the LG who ran him right into Washington's mess; Black tried the other side and got held but that wouldn't have mattered since the pass is already gone.

Blame:  Knock QWash for not even moving his center, and Clark and Heitzman can't split their double-teams.



Hokepoints: Charting Defensive Rotation

Hokepoints: Charting Defensive Rotation Comment Count

Seth September 3rd, 2013 at 10:18 AM

Wot it sez up dere^. Despite the blowout nature we got a good look last Saturday at the various positions that Michigan will rotate this season. So I charted who was in at what spot for every play. The results (link to Google doc):


Here's your starting defense, with everybody in their base 4-3 under spots. I want to self-congratulate the MGoStaff for nailing the starting lineup in HTTV with the exception of free safety, since Avery, though out of the lineup, was nominally ahead of Wilson on the depth chart.


The corners lined up to the field or boundary; the line was usually aligned to the formation but then CMU usually aligned to the boundary anyway. The safeties were always lined up to the formation. They split who ended up the deeper guy; usually it was the field guy, and usually that was Wilson.


There was heavy rotation in the front four, an almost even three-man rotation in the linebackers, and the secondary stayed put until it was time to empty the bench. It was rotation, not platooning; guys would go in for a certain number of plays then come out. I charted 44 non-garbage (before 14:59 of the 3rd quarter) plays; rotations as follows:

[Jump for breakdown, nickel, garbage time]


Hokepoints: What's a Nickelback?

Hokepoints: What's a Nickelback? Comment Count

Seth May 21st, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Before we get to this, if you haven't yet go down to Heiko's Exclusive Interview with Borges. It is penetrating, and excellent, and kind of a coup that we got it.

averyNCAA99Upchurch -8646509558_8588cf3a37_o

I know what you were thinking. When spring practices meant there was actual FOOTBALL to pay attention to for a moment, you immediately sought the defensive back depth chart because:

  • You are aware that the original X-hating god resides in our backfield
  • You are aware that Jordan Kovacs isn't back there being your banky anymore
  • You remember how you felt about things before Kovacs became your banky
  • You remember we recruited a 5-star (to at least one service) this year and that he's enrolling early.
  • You can't really name all the various Cass Tech dudes so you kinda have to check in every once in awhile to figure out which you actually have to learn.

This is likely when you discovered the aforementioned 5-star was at nickelback and you did a double-take because you read Dymonte's scouting report, and "is a cornerback" wasn't in it. I am supposing further that you think "nickelback" equals "cornerback" because by golly you've played that game with Woodson or Desmond or Denard or a handful of less important schmucks on the cover, and know that nickelback is the guy you put third on the cornerback depth chart who comes in on passing downs. Right Inigo?


Back when your grandpa was playing NCAA '06 or whatever, base defenses were 4-3 or 3-4, backfields had four dudes, and teams would cordially run on 1st and 2nd down and if it was still long on 3rd down they'd put another receiver on the field, you'd put another cornerback on the field, and because this was a 5th defensive back you called him the "nickel" and everything was nice and sense-y-make-y.

Then everything changed.

[Jump to understand]