Previously: UNLV Offense
SS Peni Vea (#42) is half of an aggressive UNLV safety duo.
In positive news, UNLV's defense didn't look as bad as their offense in their 37-3 loss to UCLA.
In negative news, UCLA left a ton of points on the board early, and that was with a hurry-up spread-to-pass offense that looks less suited to exploiting UNLV's weak areas than Michigan's smashmouth outfit. Let's get this over with.
Personnel: Like Oregon State, this is an inexperienced and undersized group [click to embiggen]:
Yes, that is a 230-pound DT, and he really does play DT.
Base Set? UNLV lists themselves as a base nickel and show two starters at DT, but they're really more of a 3-4 team. It's tough to tell what UNLV will run against Michigan because UCLA's offense almost never went fewer than three-wide and stayed in the gun. This was about as heavy as they got and UNLV countered with essentially a 3-3-5 under:
The standup rusher on the near side is listed as a DE on UNLV's depth chart; their two guys on the depth chart at that spot weight 230 and 245 pounds, so neither had their hand in the dirt much at all. The strong safety is creeping up to fake a blitz and take the H-back in man coverage. The 230-pound DT is playing nose on this play; he actually got decent push but the running back had ample room to the weak side with nobody else getting off their blocks. That would be a theme.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Man or zone coverage? UNLV ran a fair amount of man, especially when blitzing, though they'll go into a softer zone look on long passing downs.
Pressure: GERG or Greg? They dialed up a lot of heat in this game, though that mostly led to big-play opportunities for UCLA. This blitz and the man coverage are so telegraphed even a true freshman starter doesn't hesitate to hit the slant:
UNLV also tempted fate with a couple risky blitzes that left corners on an island against receivers going deep. Josh Rosen barely missed a pair of touchdowns. The first:
While the corners handled these relatively well, the opportunities were there for big plays. Of course, Michigan will need Jake Rudock to be more accurate with his deep throws if they're going to take advantage of this better than UCLA did.
Dangerman: I've nominally chosen strong safety Peni Vea, mostly because I felt obligated to choose somebody. Both of UNLV's safeties are aggressive and make a lot of tackles; they'll also miss a few. I planned to put free safety Blake Richmond in this spot after a couple nice plays like this:
He ended up making a few more poor plays than Vea, however, so I went with the steadier presence. Neither is a superstar, but they'll both make some nice tackles near the line, and with this front that's very necessary.
So... this is basically Oregon State but even smaller and less talented. UCLA ran for 5.8 yards per carry on a bunch of stuff that looked like this:
The defensive line got no push, the linebackers were unathletic and often caught up in the wash, and the play usually got to the secondary before initial contact was made. UCLA was able to do this while spreading out UNLV; Michigan should have even more success loading up and going right at them—they don't look like they can hold up against a big, run-heavy team.
Michigan should have a lot of success running power. UNLV's DEs had a tough time holding up when runs went right at them. Their linebackers weren't quick to the edge, either, and the defensive backs had issues tackling in space. De'Veon Smith should spectacularly run through a few tackles this week; even the linebackers had trouble bringing RBs down one-on-one.
To make up for their issues up front, UNLV has their safeties play very aggressive against the run, rolling them towards the line or blitzing them outright. This helped keep big run plays down but opened up major opportunities over the top; UCLA barely missed those, as shown above.
The defensive backs weren't bad in coverage over the top—they at least hung close when UNLV brought risky blitzes—but they were susceptible to underneath and intermediate throws. Rosen's first-half throw chart:
Slants were especially reliable, as were short throws to the flat when UNLV brought edge pressure—a couple times they failed to replace the blitzing boundary corner with anyone going into that area of the field. UCLA also came close to breaking a couple huge plays on screens, only for their downfield blocking to fail them when things were set up.
UNLV managed to get a little bit of a pass rush, though it was usually in the form of one D-lineman slicing through a gap; Rosen didn't have much trouble avoiding one guy and still making a throw.
Michigan should be able to dominate this defense with their size up front, like they did against Oregon State. Hopefully we'll see them hit something over the top, too—there should be a few opportunities to do so.