If you stare long enough a magic picture appears [Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Fee Fi Foe Film: Rutgers 2018 Defense Comment Count

Seth November 9th, 2018 at 10:18 AM

Previously: The Offense

Resources: My charting, RU game notes, RU roster, Bill C profile, CFBstats

You gotta wonder right now if Ohio State and Rutgers ever thought of trading back. Buckeye secondary coach/DC Greg Schiano is a legend in Piscataway, but the single-high man-all-day defense he's installed there, while a good way to use that talent advantage without having to do a ton of coaching, isn't putting up the results Ohio State fans came to expect during their Quarters Period with Ash. Meanwhile at Rutger Ash has proven himself an eminently capable secondary coach. Three years of recruiting the secondary and installing his schemes in the secondary is finally starting to pay off in the secondary. And if opponents ever did have to pass against Rutger, I'm sure they'd be wary about passing into that secondary.

The film: Wisconsin shoved Rutgers downfield all day. Sometimes they went down and snapped it again, but that wasn't always the case.

That came after a very Wisconsin drive that featured 12 straight runs down the middle.

The diagram:


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

They're 94th in S&P+ defense but the personnel isn't as hopeless as on offense on an individual level. NT Willington Previlon will play either DT spot and I don't know why they spend more time with DT Jon Bateky on the field than NT Julius Turner, a guy I compared to Renes last year because he's a burrower. SDE Kevin Wilkins is another DT type I like less than his backup, redshirt freshman DE Mike Tverdov, who rotates equally with both DEs and leads the team in sacks. The new rush end is WDE Elorm Lumor, who leads the team with 6 TFLs and yes you can find an article that points out this is more than Rashan Gary has this year. On passing downs they go to a 3-3-5 with Previlon, Tverdov, and Lumor.

The secondary is again with out 2016 star corner Blessuan Austin but has the poor man's Marlin Jackson CB Isaiah Wharton around, though there's no reason to throw his way. When they lost all three of last year's safety rotation—one a transfer to FIU, one a behavioral dismissal, and their slot-turned-SS to the San Diego Padres—in the offseason I suggested Wharton might move to safety, but Rutgers instead moved the guy who was Austin's quite decent replacement last year, now-SS Damon Hayes. They also got back athletic (once earned a Don Brown offer) FS Saquan Hampton, who was injured last year. Hampton had two picks in this game but isn't a great help in run defense. When they go nickel they bring back that FIU transfer, SS Kiy Hester, who had to cancel his Florida plans because he hadn't graduated. Hester comes in as the safety while Hayes moves down to the slot.

You'll note I skipped the linebackers. They're still the same guys from last year.  Two-year captain and beatwriter-beloved MLB Deonte Roberts is probably a very honest guy because he doesn't believe in counter action or play-action. HSP Tyreek Maddox-Williams is back off a medshirt and splitting time with the more safety-like OLB Olakunle Fatukasi, who's the better blitzer. And then there's longtime WLB Trevor Morris, who I'm going to try not to bag on too much. Wisconsin ran half of their base offense (24 plays) at him or his backup WLB Tyshon Fogg, and those rushes averaged 8.04 YPC. Michigan did the same last year. It probably really sucks to be the reason your team sucks.

[after THE JUMP: bagging too much on Trevor Morris]

Base Set: They're a "Buck" 4-3 Under, by which I mean the WDE stands up like a 3-4 linebacker but the defense is still entirely gap-based like a 4-3.


Their nickel defense thus looks like a 2-4-5 because they remove the nose. The charting totals reflect the fact that Wisconsin rarely got into a long down.

Situation 4-3 4-2-5 3-3-5 1-high 2-high 3 4 5 6+
Normal Downs 49 2 4 28 25 1 33 19 -
Passing Downs - 6 6 3 9 1 9 2 -
Total 73% 12% 15% 48% 52% 3% 65% 32% -

Also the 1- and 2-high safety numbers are misleading because Rutgers was still in their Quarters coverage all day but were walking down safeties to respond to Wisconsin's heavy sets.

The more interesting thing I thought was how their linebackers were firing. They started the game playing really soft, then Roberts began firing off at anything while Morris was pondering.

Qtr hard med soft
1st 4 7 5
2nd 3 3 3
3rd 7 6  
4th 7 2 1

Man or zone coverage: Quarters all day.

Pressure: GERG or GREG: Ash has long believed in getting pressure with 4 rushers, though when Wisconsin was just running every play Rutger finally started sending a 5th guy from their five-man front as a run plugger (getting caught with nobody on the RB once).


On passing downs they will vary who comes, not how many. Even with the "bring 5 against a heavy front" bump they were down with Maryland and only ahead of wishy-washy GERGites SMU. Ash used to be this same thing with Ohio State. They're going to bring four.

Dangerman: I snagged a few, and again: this is relative—I'm not calling any of them all-Big Ten, but I am going to point out the guys who might start for most of the Big Ten. Sadly I clipped nothing this game from CB Isaiah Wharton except when he was the primary defender getting escorted by a pile for 15 yards, as UW decided to mostly avoid him in coverage. He's legit though, and might have made a run at all-conference if he wasn't on a team that can't buy a passing down.

The other guy of that secondary that people have known about for awhile is FS Saquan Hampton, who had his best game yet last week. His first interception was just a gift but his second was a classic bait 'n break:

Hampton is also very good at driving on passes beneath him. This is the kind of play that teams use against aggressive Cover 2 defenses all the time, creating space for a slot receiver to "square-in" against a linebacker with outside leverage and hitting him between the safeties. To beat it you need a safety athletic enough to drive down on it. Michigan State is jelly:

And the new discovery this season is the DT who makes a hypothetical All-Big Ten Name Team under the "Most esteemed member of an extremely exclusive Palmer House men's sitting club," Willington Previlon. He was an ironman, playing all three interior positions as the rest of the guys rotated. As you can imagine he's best as a 3-tech, where he can convert his quick get-off into instant pressure:

But the times he owned all-conference center Tyler Biadasz from nose tackle were peepers-inducing:

And as a 5-tech he worked his way across the entire front of outside zone-running Badgers to kill a 3rd and 1 all by himself:

#96 the second guy down from the top on the line of scrimmage


Last year I suggested Michigan could run all day by picking on whatever gap it seemed WLB Trevor Morris was supposed to get, and Michigan exploited that guy as ruthlessly as everyone else on the schedule. In response this year Chris Ash decided to disguise Morris by changing his number from 15 to 5. It took me exactly one play to find him. Wisconsin ran 24 plays at him or his equally hapless backup, and all game he helpfully stood, analyzed, then either ran the wrong way or accepted his fate. Linebacker is hard. Linebacker when you've got no idea what you're supposed to do when your guard pulls and your defensive line is just trying to fit their gaps is a nightmare:

I think this is why Rutgers (thinks it) has to stay in a vanilla defense all the time. The one thing they do to change up their look is slant a lot, but when that happens you put Morris on the edge. You've seen Mike McCray or James Ross or Devin Gil jump out to set the edge enough that I think you'll recognize what's wrong with this picture immediately:

I just want to shout at this guy. DO SOMETHING FIVE! He's just standing there watching the running back like the inside gap is his problem. Shimmy-shimmy and voilia, another highlight where the audience gets to watch his back.

Morris isn't the only problem at linebacker. I hate to bring these guys back up again but if Morris is Obi the rest of the ILBs are the worst sort of Moutons. Watch the reaction to the tiniest bit of counter action:

And I have no idea what #6, longtime starter and defensive captain MLB Deonte Roberts is looking at here:

#6 the LB on the left

The other LB on this play, #8 WLB Tyshon Fogg, is a true sophomore but I don't care if you're a high school sophomore: when your guard pulls you don't bounce the opposite direction. I don't know what their keys are but I'm certain, after three years of this, that Rutger's linebacker coaching is the worst in the conference. Who is this guy anyway?


Oh he's got a Twitter. Hmmm… I really shouldn't. I should not. I absolutely shou…I did.

I think at this point they'd be better off just sending Morris. His one positive contribution all game came late when he blitzed, caught a running back, and the RB had no choice but to draw a hold lest his QB get wrecked.

That was a +2 on a +2/-23 day. His backup, Fogg, was +2/-10, getting a couple positives for hard run action and coming off the field whenever there was a remote possibility of a pass.

I would take the extremely aggressive guy over the passive reader any day. At least if you're screaming at the first shiny thing you're bound to pick up a few pennies—if you're sitting back and waiting for the offense to sign a form specifying, absolutely, that they're running Power-O over your face, you're going to get blocked whenever your linemen can't keep the OL on the first level, and you're always going to give up five yards when they do.

The contrast between Roberts and Morris is so stark that you often see them cross each other as Roberts screams to what looks like a gap and Morris hangs back studying. On the one above Roberts is correct and sets the edge, and since Morris is clean all he has to now is meet at the RB for no gain. Instead he waits for the RB to come to him, then goes to hit, and ends up whacking Roberts, who's draped on the ballcarrier. That got a –1. Some of the above were –3. This has been Seth's rant about passive linebacker play.

Since Rutgers can't get this fixed in a week I expect Michigan to run all over them. Last year the Wolverines punished the slanting by running out the backside of Power.

I predict a bloody game that is 75% rushing followed by JDue51 going ballistic on Twitter the next morning. READ YOUR DAMN GUARDS!



November 9th, 2018 at 11:44 AM ^

Runyan is a dangerman?   This needs rationale.   I want to believe it, but I want someone to tell me why I should believe it.  (Other than the good games he's had. I need specifics.)


I'm mean "dangerman" doesn't just get handed out.   There needs to be some event like a bar mitzvah or something.  He should read from the playbook.  Danger Mitzvah?


November 9th, 2018 at 1:31 PM ^

Not at all sad to see that guy gone from this blog. He used to be a decent poster, then turned into a jerk for a while, left and returned to be decent again and then took his final form as a complete weird ass. His constant graphic assertions of what Michigan was going to do to ND were particularly idiotic.


November 9th, 2018 at 10:41 AM ^

Runyon has got to have one of the more surprising seasons in recent memory. Ruiz would be the next one to warrant a dangerman imo. Not there yet but i think he’s a four year guy anyway. The Rutger D might hold our seconds to a few quick drives and punts, but Higdon and the run game are gonna drag their sweaty balls across their face. I predict over 300 yards rushing. Damn the U of M oline is HUGE.


November 9th, 2018 at 10:43 AM ^

Great analysis as always. 

I never appreciated how great the sideline camera angle is at Michigan Stadium.  Comparing it to Camp Randall, it's night and day.


November 9th, 2018 at 10:45 AM ^

Runyan got a Dangerman star! I will happily admit that I would have given better odds to a meteorite strike at Spartan stadium this Saturday than Runyan becoming a Dangerman this season.

Props to him, crow-eating for me. Yum. Tasty crow.


November 9th, 2018 at 1:16 PM ^

Thing is though, with a couple good players on offense you can do some things against most people.  You can install schemes and call plays that utilize your strengths and minimize your limitations.  But on defense, if you have a critical weakness anywhere then your opponent can mercilessly exploit that and ignore your strong areas.  So having useless LBs could be about as devastating to their defense as the overall lack of competence is to their offense. 


November 9th, 2018 at 4:39 PM ^

It's a nightmare match up for their defense though. Yeah, they got a DT, but when Michigan puts 7 or 8 interior gaps on the line with their jumbo sets, avoiding him is easy. Harbaugh's calling card is screwing with LBs and he makes even good ones look silly by inserting unexpected gaps and messing with keys and tendencies. Rugters's strength in the secondary won't really be relevant when Michigan is in 3rd and short all day and sucking them up with play action. 


November 9th, 2018 at 11:26 AM ^

Compared to the last three games, I’m having a hard time getting excited about watching this game, except watching the younger players work could be interesting.

I sure hope the team doesn’t share my lackadaisical attitude.