Indiana defense
Riggins is back. But why? [Eric Upchurch]

Fee Fi Foe Film: Indiana 2018 Defense Comment Count

Seth November 16th, 2018 at 9:49 AM

Previously: The Offense

Resources: My charting, IU game notes, IU roster, Bill C profile, CFBstats Also a huge thank you to MGoArchive for providing the footage.

Tom Allen's single-year turnaround of #CHAOSTEAM can't be understated. It earned him the head coaching job when Kevin Wilson was let go. Last year proved it was no fluke; Allen's defense finished just outside the Top 25 in most fancystats, and littered my diagram with stars.

This year was expected to be the rebuild, Discount 2017 Michigan, if you will, when the Indiana Hills and Longs and Bushes and Winovichia replace the inherited Lewises, Striblings, Gedeons and Tacos, take a step back because they're all sophomores, but portend great things once Allen's guys in Allen's system are all shaving. So far, those guys are all no-shows. Other than some part-time starters in a shaky secondary everyone on the field either was in Bloomington or committed to be before Allen was.

The film: What if Michigan was an up-tempo spread team with a stand-and-deliver quarterback who got the ball out quickly to his slot receivers all the time? And then imagine if it went against Indiana's defense? What would that even be like? I was wondering the same thing so I found…okay you got me. Also I've been using Tom Allen's defense as a stand-in for Michigan's all year so I didn't bother wasting precious The Game scouting time for another game.

The diagram:


PDF Version, full-size version (or click on the image)

Whereas last year Indiana had a star on every level this year each position group has a problem. The official depth chart has NT Mike Barwick starting over NT Ja'Merez Bowen but both rotate equally, with Syracuse transfer NT Kayton Samuels occasionally spelling them. DT Jerome Johnson split time last year with DT Jacob Robinson who is expected back for this game. None of these guys is liable to do more than push back and maybe knock a lineman upfield. Ditto SDE Gavin Everett, but his pass-rushing freshman backups are a huge liability on standard downs. WDE Allen Stallings and backup WDE Nile Sykes have just 4 sacks and 8.5 TFLs between them.

Linebacker issues were expected, and are extant. MLB Dameon Willis is that undersized guy we played last year and gets positive press for being second on the team in tackles, but PFF (54 grade on the year) hates him, and my charting (+6/-10) was hit-and-miss, with lots of missed tackles and coverage issues. Both of his ILB mates might be out. WLB Reakwon Jones (+10/-13 in this game) is volatile: a knife when he knows where to go and hesitant when he's got to read something. He is listed as questionable and the less likely to be available. Backup WLB T.D. Roof, a Georgia Tech transfer, returned from his own ding against Maryland but is back to questionable this week. He's also hesitant and tends to wander out of his lanes. The next guy on the depth chart, LB Thomas Allen, is a redshirt freshman and played some in this game but I couldn't get much of a read on him. LB Micah McFadden is a true freshman and  "Husky" #HybridSpacePlayerTerms Marcelino Ball is a serious athlete but much less of a threat now as a cover 2 slot defender, which exposes his tendency to bust assignments. Backup HSP Cam Jones is another in Ball's mold.

The corners are all guys who've started opposite Rashard Fant, and none are Rashard Fant. CB Andre Brown is better at Fant's boundary role than he was playing in all that space. The two guys who used to start ahead of him, CB A'Shon Riggins and CB Raheem Layne have to be driving Allen mad: Riggins gives up a ton of cushion while Layne tries to pick off everything. Both strategies are justifiable in this defense because they're often covering for SS Khalil Bryant, a lost puppy who was finally replaced last week with redshirt freshman SS Bryant Fitzgerald, who is a younger lost puppy. Classmate Juwan Burgess was supposed to win that job, but has been grooming instead to replace FS Jonathan Crawford, who has been starting so long he features on Jehu Chesson's highlight reel, and is back to his photobombing pictures of other peoples' touchdowns ways. If CB Jaylin Williams (#23) steps on the field throw at him immediately.

[after THE JUMP: meh]

Base Set: Like Michigan they're a 4-2-5 over, but they've gone to a much more two-high look this year after all the graduations hit the back seven.


They are mostly content to spend all day in their 4-2-5, though their opponent was content to spend their entire day in 11 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs) personnel so that doesn't tell us much, so I'll show the line shift instead:

2018 Indiana vs OSU D Shift   Safeties   Rushers
Situation Over Under Odd Other 1-high 2-high 3 4 5 6+
Normal Downs 29 11 5 11 20 36 3 39 13 2
Passing Downs 11 8 3 4 10 16 4 12 9 0
Total 49% 23% 10% 18% 37% 63% 9% 62% 27% 2%

That is a big departure from last year's approach. They were blitzier and more under-ish against Michigan State FWIW. They still surprised with some cool formations. This was what I meant by "Odd":


That's a 3-3-5 sorta. The standup guy on the bottom edge is a regular DE. The guy at the top is the middle linebacker. As for "Other" most of those were even fronts or wide split evens but I also spotted this exotic alignment a few times.

That was a passing down thing that tempted the quarterback to scramble into a linebacker waiting for it.

Man or zone coverage: Surprisingly more zone, again a huge departure from last year. Their corners are not good at press and can't be left alone on an island, so Indiana was leaving two high most of the time and living with what happened underneath. What happened underneath was usually a 7-yard pass. That's better than what was happening when they were still running Cover 1 with this crew:

Pressure: GERG or GREG: Again, this is not like them at all, and here I blame the opponent for a gameplan built around not getting their quarterback to take any contact. On the other hand, Hi, I'm Michigan. I've gotten my starting quarterback healthy through The Game exactly once since 2007.

The thing they'd like to do is bring Ball

#42, the slot defender on the upper hash

They call this blitz "America." They used to have all sorts of other fun blitzes too, but Ball isn't up on all the newfangled motion techniques:

I mean, I think Ball (#42, the slot guy) is supposed to take Campbell coming across the formation but it could easily be #43, the middle linebacker who had to swap with the WLB when Parris jetted across. That would make more sense schematically (the #3 receiver often goes to an inside LB) and also make no sense from a matchup perspective because Parris Campbell versus your Mike means you're gonna have a bad time. Neither answer is good so Allen mostly leaves this stuff in the barn.

Dangerman: I guess it's still Ball? PFF gives him a 78 for this year and he's the third-leading tackler behind the free safety(!) and the MLB. Ball's certainly the best athlete on the team, but he's not super-instinctual or anything. When he comes on America it is kinda scary.

OVERVIEW: The strictures and conventions of Foe Film demand I make the opponent sound fearsome, even if they're 74th in rushing S&P+, 107th in passing S&P+, 94th in highlight opportunity rate, 102nd in stuff rate, 107th in passing efficiency defense, 101st in explosiveness, 66th in completion rate, 76th in standard downs, 110th in passing downs, 108th in sack rate, and look like it:

✔ DT blown out by a double.
✔ DE caught on a tight end
✔ Cornerback with no idea where he's supposed to be
✔ WLB facing the wrong way
✔ MLB staring at the play until it's too late for him to do something about it
✔ Strong safety missing a tackle
✔ Marcus Ball arriving from the opposite side of the field just in time to witness the end of the play
✔ Good pursuit

Normally I can point to something the defense does well consistently to justify fears of a Michigan underperformance. For these guys all I can come up with is they're 21st in the country at 3rd and short, and Tom Allen knows what he's doing.

Well, usually. His wards weren't even ready to defend the passing play Ohio State loves so much we drew up in this year's HTTV:


What does it say is the first read Tom? Did you even order Hail to the Victors 2018 Tom? Tom?

Really I can only think of one thing Indiana's defense has that Michigan should be at all worried about. It's a little thing called…



Trader Jack

November 16th, 2018 at 9:58 AM ^

I think Runyan is a perfectly fine player and his rapid improvement from the ND game to now is nothing short of impressive, but if he deserves a star then so do Gentry and most of the rest of the OL.


November 16th, 2018 at 11:53 AM ^

We've actually begun discussing the "Star" things seriously internally now because the diagrams have become such a familiar feature of the site. I'll tell you where each guy stands right now:

PATTERSON: His passing went to the next level on this one but it's his legs plus his passing that make him one of the best QBs in the conference this year.

Higdon: Solid star; this was his first bad game all year. Expect he'll be a 1st day NFL pick.

Evans: Man, if we got to see him more he'd have a star, yeah.

Mason: I've been having fun all year accessorizing him, and was worried that a big outing against MSU or Wisconsin would force me to star him before I've got all the bits I've planned. Then he disappeared from the offense in favor of optioning guys, and there was no reason to use up his body against Rutgers. Might earn a star against Ohio State.Never had a guy "on watch" play as little as him except the time Chesson was injured.

DPJ: Solidified a long-coming star with his blocking the last few weeks. He's still behind guys like Cody White and Felton Davis as a killer downfield threat but he's getting there, and his return skills, though not relevant to offense, give him an extra benefit of the doubt. He can afford a couple of bad games before we'd consider removing the star now.

Collins: Might be getting there. A breakout OSU performance would probably do it.

Black: Let's see when he's healthy. It wouldn't take much since there's ample evidence he's the best receiver on the team when not hurt.

Gentry: First big game in awhile. Would have to be Butt-level at receiver for more than one game to make up for his Butt-level blocking.

McKeon: Was a candidate at the beginning of the year but solidly not right now. Would need a renaissance from him as a blocker or receiving target.

Runyan: Been tracking him closely and his play over the Gauntlet earned him a star. Is he the best left tackle in the conference this year? I think so--I liked him better than Wisconsin's pair and that is the only true competition. He was put "on watch" for the PSU game and delivered. I think his Rutgers game makes that dodgy again if he has a bad outing against IU, but he was a major reason Michigan rolled over Wisconsin-MSU-Penn State, and the latter two have some LEGIT defensive ends.

Bredeson: Been just on the edge of a star but not quite there for some time. Waiting for a breakout game to put him on notice. I asked Brian about him again this week.

Ruiz: A bit behind Bredeson but everyone believes he'll get there eventually. Still whiffs on guys in space too much. Hard to tell about line calls but I'm pretty sure he's doing a great job there and that's a secret reason Michigan has the best OL in the division.

Onwenu: Same spot as Bredeson.

JBB: Won't ever be a star because we've seen too much of his pass pro and never seen that actually be good, but he's firmly out of cyan territory now with is run blocking.

Mone: The defensive version of JBB: no pass rush = no star but he's great as a run stuffer

Solomon: Defensive Ruiz

Kemp: A guy.

Dwumfour: Volatile. Keep an eye out for him late 2019 though.

Winovich: The best DE in the country, should be in the Heisman conversation, belongs with Messner, Woodley, Oosterbaan, Petoskey, and Goebel among the all-time greats. Had the worst play of his career this week and I still say all this.

Gary: Low-key one of the best strongside ends in the country but stats not showing it.

Paye: Low-key becoming a guy who'll get a star early next year.

Uche: If we had a bench he's a star but you saw his run defense.

Bush: Probably the best MLB in the country this year. All-American for sure. 1st round draft pick. Easy shield.

Hudson: He's mostly avoided now, which tells you what you need to know. Best HSP in the Big Ten, might not win because of avoidance stats.

Gil: Alright. Would need one or two more games as bad as his Rutgers game before we thought about a Cyan.

Ross: Better than alright. Probably needs till next year to earn a star unless he has a monster day shutting down Dobbins and Weber.

Long, Hill, Watson: The first two might be shields if they came back--all three deserve to be all Big Ten along with Oruwariye of Penn State.

Kinnel: Is what he is.

Metellus: I gave him a star and he immediately gets injured. OSU game will be the real test, because their slots mostly outran him last year and Michigan needs to be able to win that matchup to control that offense without resorting to weak strategies. Hold Campbell and Hill to bad days and he'll probably graduate a star. Have a repeat of last year and he'll need half a season to earn it back.

Hawkins: Everyone gets a bad game. A bad game and a lot of bad highlights from extended playing time makes me cock an eyebrow. A bad game against Indiana, who is built to attack this matchup with their slots, would put a cyan on him.

Blue In NC

November 16th, 2018 at 4:09 PM ^

First, thanks for doing this.  I enjoy the "star" debate and this brings gobs of relevant info.

Second, I am not necessarily disagreeing with you but the following jumped out:

Runyan: Been tracking him closely ... Is he the best left tackle in the conference this year? I think so--I liked him better than Wisconsin's pair and that is the only true competition.

Ruiz: ...Hard to tell about line calls but I'm pretty sure he's doing a great job there and that's a secret reason Michigan has the best OL in the division.

I mean these two statements are just mind-blowing and not because they are necessarily false.


November 16th, 2018 at 10:30 AM ^

And if we can pick up "America", then Shea will torch that shit.  We should be able to scheme them into that look and have a pickup assignment.  BOOM ... over the top to DPJ against one of those bumbling DBs that can't play man.  

IU's defense is terrible and our D is going to get revenge for how we played Ramsey last year.  The tour continues.  On a mission.   Go Blue !!!

UM 42  IU 13


November 16th, 2018 at 10:49 AM ^

I know I am jumping ahead and I will probably be negged for this, but I am curious to see Alabama in the FFFF segment.  Would their entire defense be dangermen and all americans since they are the best college football team to ever play since the 1869 fighting Rutger.  Just wondering.  /s


November 16th, 2018 at 12:06 PM ^

Time for me to chime in with my "I actually went to an Indiana game, here's all the neat stuff I learned" post on the defense:

It's not great.

Minnesota brought an all RPO/slant/inside zone strategy to their game and had a lot of success with some not-so-great players. After Indiana came back to tie, Minnesota did one pretty cool tactical move--bringing on Seth Green, their wildcat QB that they use basically for runs, and putting him next to Tanner Morgan (who had basically thrown nothing but slants all game long). This, to my eyes, served as a run tip for a team that was playing for overtime. 

The result was that Rashad Batemen got single coverage in the slot. He ran right past his defender and Morgan hit him with a great pass for a loooong TD that won the game.

Minnesota murdered Indiana with its receivers and meh running game. It seems like Michigan should have good success even if they basically just xerox the Rutgers gameplan Saturday.


November 16th, 2018 at 1:02 PM ^

Have we had a "trouble spot"/cyan circle guy turn into a star midseason before Runyan this year? I'd assume no, but I don't recall how many years of FFFF this is. I'm sure a couple may have started their career with the dubious distinction and blossomed into dangermen, but the rise of Runyan is kind of nuts.


November 16th, 2018 at 1:16 PM ^

I want to be more scared, because we always play crazy games against Indiana but...

In Big 10 play(excluding Rutgers because they are Rutgers) they have given up an average of 38.1 pts per game. And there wasnt like a 70 pt game that distorts those numbers. They have given up 35,49,42,33, 38, and 32 pts in their Big 10 games(gave up 17 to Rutgers fwiw)

So that means we should score atleast 30 pts, probably closer to 40, and there is no way they are getting close to that against us.