Picture Pages: Short Yardage Slant Comment Count

Brian October 17th, 2012 at 12:38 PM

fbz3gg[1]wsg Slanty, the football-playing, jean-vested gecko who is inexplicably the first hit in Google images for "line slant football", or at least was a year ago.

One of my main concerns going into the season was what would happen to the short-yardage defense that Michigan was so good in a year ago without Mike Martin and RVB. Turning a third and short into a punt is 50% of a turnover, and Michigan could paper over a lot of deficiencies last year by telling Mike Martin to destroy some guys on third and one, thus allowing other guys to tackle.

Illinois disclaimers are in full effect—they can't do anything against anyone—but the Illini could do even less of anything against Michigan Saturday, and getting bombed on short yardage was a major part of that.

Michigan blew up Illinois short yardage with slants. Multiple times we saw this pattern:

  1. Michigan slants away from a power run.
  2. The playside end gets inside and upfield of the tackle or end trying to block down on him.
  3. The pulling guard bangs into the playside end.
  4. Linebackers profit.

Actually, Michigan doesn't so much "slant away" as show one defense and run another. When Michigan isn't running their base 4-3 under call they are inverting it by blitzing Ryan and moving everyone else over a gap.

Let's see it in action. /fishduck'd

It's fourth and one on the second and final Illini drive to make it past midfield, just before the half. Michigan has just stoned a power run by Riley O'Toole for a half yard to set up this opportunity. Illinois comes out in one of their standard sets, a pistol with two tight ends to one side of the line and twinned WRs.

Michigan is in an over this time since the strength is to the boundary, but Illinois will move a tight end over and not have an unbalanced strength on the line on the snap anyway so whatever.


This is what Michigan does:


They're essentially moving everyone over a a gap and dropping Ojemudia into a short zone. On run plays he "folds" which consists of backing off, keep an eye out for cutbacks, and allowing the linebackers to run to the frontside. If you're watching a replay and are wondering if Michigan's doing this gap-shift thing, the WDE backing off the LOS is a sure tip. If you watch for it, you will find it—Michigan runs this on upwards of 20% of downs.

On the snap, Ojemudia backs off and the line shoots down. Gordon, who is right behind Ojemudia in the above frame, has followed the TE across the field and now takes contain responsibility to the playside.


You can see the slant better from this angle:


Campbell is now attacking outside the left tackle, like he's a WDE. Roh and Ryan both shoot gaps to the inside. They get penetration, giving up an outside crease to do so.


Ryan gets under fast. He's essentially through clean, so the pulling G has no choice but to pick him off. Demens is already a yard off the LOS and charging as the handoff is made.


Now it's all about tackling.





Demens went inside out here as the back tried to go north and south on fourth and inches. That allows him to use the pile as help, and look at Desmond Morgan popping up to say hi/clean up any messes.

If you take a second look at this frame:


Note how Morgan is also clean and has stepped playside as the slant develops. He's still trying to check for any potential cutbacks and find the gap he's going to fill; he is available if the back makes Demens miss or threatens to power to the line.


[After THE JUMP: play it sort of again, Sam.]

Play It Again (Except Before, And Only Sort Of)

This is actually an earlier play, but it's a very similar setup. Short yardage, Pistol, twin WR, a two-TE set that starts off twinned but ends up with an H-back to the play side. The major difference is that Michigan is not showing man, so the safety doesn't move with the TE and Ryan ends up the contain instead of Thomas Gordon.


Also, Michigan is not slanting. Roh is head up on the tight end, and Washington is actually moving playside into two guys.


Roh just destroys his guy mano-a-mano and gets into the backfield.


Also check out Washington just below Roh. He eats a double and gets kicked out of the hole, but his playside move forced that G to deal with him and no one releases to the second level.

The net effect is the same as the Ryan slant above, except it seems like the OL is trying to slide past Roh and Roh is actively trying to impact him. Above, Ryan's trying to make a tackle when he gets hit. Here Roh knows he's just clearing the way.



Thanks to Washington successfully occupying both guys he was whomping into, Michigan gets both linebackers to the hole clean.




(Also Jake Ryan helps out with the ankle tackle there.)


Just watch Roh, DE to the top of the screen.


Things And Stuff

Illinois disclaimers apply. Not good, not good, not good.

Either way the key is to get a two-for-one on the LOS and get that linebacker a free hit. Kenny Demens has improved massively the last couple weeks and is now getting approving profiles in the things that used to be newspapers largely because of plays like this where the defensive line has laid out a TFL for him on a golden carpet. (Also he is making plays in coverage.)

The line does this by either using their agility and a Mattison play call to threaten a single gap so effectively they take out a pulling guard, or by plain whipping a tight end, as Roh does. In both plays, Quinton Washington seems to do nothing but no one releases to the second level.

At some point Michigan is going to get a much stiffer test on the OL but after three weeks of seeing this from Washington and Campbell I don't think MSU is going to be that test.

Roh knows what he's doing and has absorbed a lot of technique. This is the kind of thing Roh has been doing all year, for a given definition of "all year" that does not include Alabama and an option team. He's not physically overpowering; he is good with his hands and smart about what his role is. He could have futilely attempted to chase the back here—in fact did on an early somewhat successful power play by the Illini:


eyes on the back here

He got to the sideline, likely got told that he should be going for the guard, adjusted, and picked off a third and one with a play that does not show up on the scoresheet. The play after the jump there is a +2 that involves flat beating a guy with no help from the playcall. Illinois disclaimers apply; don't really care. He's finally found a position where he can make plays. That position move has been a success.

Washington is also doing things that don't involve penetration. On both of these plays he keeps Morgan clean by occupying two blockers with a slant and then a playside step. He made other plays in this game where he shot into the backfield; do that and the OL starts worrying about you and second level blocks stop happening and linebackers walk around with feathers sticking out of their mouth, saying "what canary?"

The linebackers are generally more decisive. The Demens see-gap-hit-gap-eat-soul is one part of it; also you can sense Morgan feeling the play behind that. He eases to the playside a bit to give him an edge on someone who might be releasing backside. He's reading the play through, and he shows up to help at the right spot. There's an air of "I am no longer a confused freshman" to him.

They'll still go blank on plays here and there, so this is a trend instead of a law of nature. You can sense their confidence growing, though, as they gain faith in the idea they're not going to eat a block a nanosecond after the snap and that if there's a slant on the play isn't going to cut back like whoah.

I like Greg Mattison. Also turtles.



October 17th, 2012 at 12:56 PM ^

Now I completely understand what Hoke and Mattison (and, well, Brian) are referencing when praising Roh while pointing out that his contributions will not necessarily result in stats that show up on the sheet. These detailed analyses also give me far greater insight into how one missed assignment (that I could not spot on my own), one misread, one false step can negatively impact the entire defensive playcall.

"Footwork in unison..." Ah-ha moment. I got it.

Love reading these.


October 17th, 2012 at 1:03 PM ^

Does the openness of the slot guy bother anyone else?

I know this shifts the focus somewhat away from what actually happened (a run), but it looks like when Kovacs runs over to cover the slot guy, said guy has a good 7-8 yards to run a hitch or quick slant.

Is this something that a better QB will check into? It looks like once he has the ball in the video there's still plenty of cushion to work with.  Is our coverage always this soft?  Is this standard cushion when we "know" it's going to be a run?  I would think we would press a little.

Ali G Bomaye

October 17th, 2012 at 1:28 PM ^

That's the first thing I saw too.  In the very first picture, a bubble screen (or even just a "smoke" pass) is a free first down if the QB throws it anywhere near the WR.  Sparty historically isn't averse to audibling to bubble screens, so I hope the defensive backs' alignment is one that is used based on an opponent's tendencies.


October 17th, 2012 at 1:17 PM ^

Wow! From the video of the 4th down it is apparent our defense has thoroughly scouted the Illinois offense.  Notice how Gordon does not "follow" the TE across the field, he actually anticipates the movement and starts running before the TE does.


October 17th, 2012 at 1:48 PM ^

Don't have to look far at all for an example of this. They do this on the very 1st play of the game - slant left and Beyer steps forward then backs into the short zone. doesn't work so well this time though with both the safety and Ryan going wide with the jet action.

The FannMan

October 17th, 2012 at 5:38 PM ^

This post is great, why I love this blog.

It is also a postscript to all of the posts about why having Demmens line up a yard behind Martin so he could get killed by a guard on every play was a horrible idea.  GERG should be forced to read this post - and then be hit in the head with a beaver.  Not the stuffed kind (or the good kind - you know what I mean) but a real live water mammal with teeth and claws. 


October 17th, 2012 at 11:02 PM ^

In regards to D-line slanting, I know others have asked on these boards about the nuances of slanting and what it does/how it works, there was another 3rd & 1 play where Demens makes a stop/TFL (3:31 in the parkinggod highlight video); it's pure domination by the Michigan defense, reminiscent of last year. I rememberd the play from the game, saw the highlight video the other day, and made note of it in few-days-old thread.  I'm not a blog-master and can't break it down so eloquently, and maybe there's not as much going on in said play to break-down, nonetheless it's another play that exemplifies that this defense may still be a "3rd & short to bringing-out-the-punt-team", defense.


October 17th, 2012 at 11:04 PM ^

This is a perfect example of why it is not always necessary to slant toward the run play.  In college we had a similar play call with the line slanting and the LBs going the opposite way as the line.  This allows the LBs to fill those gaps even faster because they can anticipate where they need to fill.