Fee Fi Foe Film: Maryland Defense

Submitted by Seth on November 10th, 2017 at 1:10 PM

[You’re not my FFFF author!: Yes, still Seth because basketball starts tonight, let Ace work]


the way to go

Maryland is bad on defense again, especially off the backside edge, but that doesn’t mean look past the Terps. It’s a road game, after all, and you know former Harbaugh assistant D.J. Durkin would love to use this rebuilding year for Michigan to notch a scalp. That’s why I haven’t even looked at who Michigan plays next week.

What I did look into was the Maryland defense, who played some Big Ten West team we probably won’t have to face this year that was only interesting because they run a lot of power (and OZ) from heavy sets with big burly offensive linemen who did a good job in pass protection but their quarterback has a ducky arm and made some bad decisions. Also this opponent kept going to their tight end, who is really good, so I don’t know how much to ding the Maryland defenders trying to cover him.

Also also the offense that faced the Maryland defense has a really good freshman running back so it’s tough to judge things like Maryland’s defenders getting to him then just falling off. To illustrate, let me show you a clip that would probably be more relevant if we were looking at the team Maryland played two weeks ago instead of the team that Michigan is playing this week:

/pose /scene


Personnel: My graphic gets bigger if you click it.


M things: JBB gets cyan’d and Ruiz doesn’t for same fatal flaw bc I don’t want to judge two bad plays by a true freshman in his first start too harshly.

So my Draftageddon guys were a disappointment. DT Kingsley Opara, who’s been mostly at nose this year, got a chance to play a lot of 3-tech and didn’t get anything out of it. He wasn’t terrible, but he got blown downfield a few times and didn’t MAKE PLAYS to make up for it. He only got to play a half after getting cut-blocked. MLB Jermaine Carter wasn’t as big of a disappointment, and he did make a few plays, but he also ate blockers and got pushed around. He’s 6’0/228 and wracks up big PFF numbers when playing spreads, but this game was a hard reminder about Physics:

#1 the MLB

[After THE JUMP we shall explain using Newton’s Laws why Carter just went “boing”]

The guy I did like is Cavon Walker, who’s normally the DT and got to play 5-tech in this game. He’s smart and greasy, and the only Terp who was regularly getting off of blocks (in fairness a lot of that was Wisconsin holds like muthas). Walker’s play might have been the reason I liked SAM Jalen Brooks and SS/HSP Antoine Brooks. Both Brooks brothers close a lot of ground quickly but Jalen is too light for SAM vs a meatball offense and was part of their problems against play-action. Antoine is normally their starting nickel but moves to strong safety in heavy sets, which puts SS Josh Woods mercifully on the bench. They’ll rotate the guy who comes in between DTs Mbi Tanyi, Oluwaseun Oluwatimi, and Keiron Howard. Tanyi is meh, the other two got pretty beat up, but mostly I thought that was due to the play of the excellent center of the opponent that I forget the name of because I wasn’t paying strong attention to anyone but Maryland on this the week we play Maryland.

The secondary wasn’t tested much but when they were they were terrible. Cyan circles are for guys not in man defense with no help from their linebackers who are going on vision quests and (understandably) freaking out about play-action, and like no pass rush whatsoever from the weakside end.

I’m speaking of course of WLB Isaiah Davis, who’s playing for suspended problem guy (and sometime quarterback) Shane Cockerille. A few highlights from my internal notes on Davis:

  • 22 (+) attacks, beats lead blocker. Why was Cockerille ahead of this guy?
  • mesh, 22(-) follows not his guy, multiple guys wide open
  • 22 (-) starts chasing wrong guy
  • 22 where are you going that’s your hole (-!!!)
  • backside flips 22(-) swallowed
  • PA and 22 is 20 yards from his TE, FS10 is deep man and bracketed wrong guy, starts yelling at 22 while TE still walking in for a TD this is such a bad defense.

That’s just the first half. He got worse. This has been your Seth Hates on WLBs moment of the week. The other big hole is BUCK (weakside DE) Chandler Burkett, who’s not a good pass rusher and way too easy to move when you kick him out. I think Michigan is going to run for a lot of yards.

But they’ve got a 29-year-old Aussie punter who can place it on the 3 yard line. So more yards.


Base Set?: You remember D.J. right? 4-3 over with a “Buck” linebacker who’s really just a weakside end, strong safety walked down over the slot like a nickelback, and everyone in man except the free safety who’s so off screen even Rick the Fox camera guy couldn’t get him in the picture:


Versus the heavy stuff they’ll play the SS off the edge like a spacebacker:


They also occasionally line up in a Michigan State-like even formation. On these they often bring pressure up the gut from both middle linebackers.


They also go into a 3-3-5 sometimes.



Man or zone coverage? Man. They’re almost exclusively a Cover 1 team. Good ol’ D.J.

Pressure: GERG or Greg? Greg. I actually charted it this time for some reason that has nothing to do with their opponent’s ability to deal with blitzes because why would I be interested in that on Maryland week? Anyway here’s the average guys coming per down:

Down Rushers
1st 4.18
2nd 4.24
3rd 4.58

That is high. They have to bring pressure to get any pressure. When it works it’s because they got someone in unblocked.



Strongside end Cavon Walker is hard to block and the opponent smartly ran away from him after a few otherwise well-blocked plays got beat by this guy. I called him “greasy” because Wisconsin’s big right tackle kept trying to hold him and Walker kept slipping out of his grasp. Apparently that’s not just a this-game thing since PFF’s been putting Walker on the All-B1G lists. The one chance I had to ding Walker in this game was because he missed a tackle in the backfield. But to even get that tackle attempt he shed a downblock then leapt upfield. And that attempt might go better against someone who’s not a crazy hard-to-tackle running back whom wasn’t scouting for next week:

#5 the DE on the bottom of the screen

On the rare occasion that Maryland forced a cutback, Walker was there.

DE #5 at the top

I also really liked the new spacebacker, who was nominally the strong safety in this game. Antoine Brooks Jr. was on track to be a high 4-star on offense before shattering his wrist in high school, and that elite athleticism is apparent in his play. He’s the other guy making the tackle on the backside on that play above, and made a few clippable spacebacker players of his own:


OVERVIEW: It’s not a good defense, despite some good players and a few more players who used to be good. Their secondary might be terrible but that’s not relevant enough yet to Michigan to make it a focus. What is important to us though is they are INCREDIBLY susceptible to play-action:

And motion and play-action:

Even without PA the linebackers are lost in coverage. Here’s Jermaine Carter giving up a 3rd and 12 conversion by abandoning his rat zone to chase a tight end who’s outside his window and way short of the sticks.

And the weakside guys are bad in a kind of way you can’t hide and the tackles aren’t doing enough to hide. Here’s a 3rd and 16 and the linebackers are firing at the line the second they read run. But then then the WLB slows up, lets a blocker get playside of him, and wheeee.

Also terrible awareness by the DT #8. That’s Kingsley Opara. He used to be good.

Maryland’s problem is they’re too light at linebacker, and their DTs don’t know how to play heavy enough up front to make up for that. Durkin tries to make up for it with aggression, which is laudable and might work if his tiny linebackers could ever actually ID the running back instead of flinging themselves at the first thing they see:

(flag was for the chopblock that knocked out Opara)

And of course all of that linebacker aggressiveness comes with Caveat Play-Action:

As long as he’s not eating blitzes (Maryland’s opponent is much better at picking those up than we are), Brandon Peters’s first road game is a pretty good setup for him: simple man coverage with the run game keeping the linebackers from getting too involved. Leave your deep safety deep, Durkin, is all we ask.

I want Michigan to copy this tomorrow with Khalid Hill:

That’s the SAM #43 left unblocked against a fullback dive that looks like the split stuff everybody runs. It’s gorgeous because it creates that moment of hesitation, but also because that wee dude ain’t stopping Ramesh…I mean the fullback I don’t know what his name is, it’s Maryland week I’m totally focused on Maryland.

*(Maryland’s opponent is much better at picking those up than we are)



November 10th, 2017 at 1:27 PM ^

How do you think Maryland would do on defense in the game you studied if it had, say, two monster DEs and an all-world DT, backed up by a young-but-fast MLB, flanked by a DB who plays close to the LOS and specializes in TFLs, and supplemented with an emerging lock-down cover corner but a couple of shaky-in-coverage safeties? Just hypothetically, I mean.


Tom Pickle

November 10th, 2017 at 1:49 PM ^

Michigan Football Twitter account just posted a picture of Onwenu travelling with the team so my guess is he's playing.

Also, how close is Higdon to getting a star?


November 10th, 2017 at 2:53 PM ^

Not sure if I missed a paragraph... Why does Lees' star look like Gregor Clegane squeezed it to death in a trial by combat?

*edit: Looks like that is Australia.  I still prefer the idea of his star laying in a pool of blood.