This is from the UConn game and has been discussed previously, but here it is in glorious coughing-up-blood Picture-Page-O-Vision. It's pretty simple but I don't think I've spent much, if any time, on the site discussing making reads in the passing game.
It's the start of the third quarter and Michigan is facing second and eleven. UConn comes out in their two-deep look with corners playing off. Unless the Huskies are disguising a coverage this is likely to be two deep, and since opponents are almost forced to play zone against a spread attack featuring one Denard "Shoelace" Robinson, Esq., Michigan has a pretty good idea that UConn is either going to play a standard cover two defense or a cover four "quarters" look.
On the snap Michigan does a half-roll of the pocket, which gets Robinson closer to his intended targets, can delay linebackers uncertain whether it's a run or pass, and opens up lanes for Robinson if his receivers are covered:
At this point it's obviously a cover-two zone with the two deep safeties and the corner sitting about seven yards downfield looking in the backfield. Roundtree breaks well outside of the playside LB, who was held inside by the threat of a run. That guy's not going to prevent him from turning upfield if the ball is accurately thrown.
This is a curl-flat package where the inside receiver runs a very shallow out and the outside receiver heads about ten or fifteen yards downfield, then sits down in what should be the hole between the corner and the safety. The cover-two corner then has to pick whether to sink deep to take away the curl, opening up the flat, or come up on the flat, opening up the curl:
Robinson cocks to throw, but there's a problem:
He's throwing the ball too soon, before the corner has been forced to make a choice. Stonum's not even five yards downfield. The corner is is looking directly at what's going on and can jump up into the route…
…and it's never good when you're catching the ball with your back turned to a blur…
…so Roundtree is daed:
Video of what went down:
- Opponents are going to have to play a lot of zone against Michigan this year. Anyone intent on having base personnel on the field—which both Notre Dame and UConn did the entire game—will be putting linebackers in space against slot receivers if Michigan goes to man, and possibly opening up big plays when those guys read run incorrectly. Also, man coverage against four verticals means a lot of guys are running downfield with their back to Denard. This is not good for a defense.
- Most of Michigan's routes will be zone beaters, then. This may be the source of criticism about Rodriguez's fairly primitive passing packages, but if you've forced the defense into a limited subset of available coverages you can get away with this, as Michigan did all day against UConn and on the final drive against ND, when Michigan ran several variations on curl-flat to march down the field.
- Zone-beating routes endeavor to make one particular zone defender cover two guys. Here it's the outside guy on Stonum and Roundtree. In the snag package Michigan ran all day against UConn it's the playside linebacker and sometimes the playside corner.
- Most of Robinson's reads are simple "if this one guy does this throw it here, otherwise throw it there" things.This is the privilege afforded him by his running ability. Exotic coverages are difficult to get away with unless you're really good. I expect Ohio State to be able to confuse him. Maybe Iowa, Wisconsin, and Penn State will be able to do this as well, though PSU and Iowa are replacing lots of linebackers and are dedicated to base defense, too, so man coverage will be hard to get away with.
- Here Robinson lacks the patience to let the play develop. If he just waits a second or two it will be clear which option is open.
Later today: Robinson learns from his mistake to Notre Dame's detriment.