Hokepoints: Charting Defensive Rotation Comment Count

Seth September 3rd, 2013 at 10:18 AM

Wot it sez up dere^. Despite the blowout nature we got a good look last Saturday at the various positions that Michigan will rotate this season. So I charted who was in at what spot for every play. The results (link to Google doc):


Here's your starting defense, with everybody in their base 4-3 under spots. I want to self-congratulate the MGoStaff for nailing the starting lineup in HTTV with the exception of free safety, since Avery, though out of the lineup, was nominally ahead of Wilson on the depth chart.


The corners lined up to the field or boundary; the line was usually aligned to the formation but then CMU usually aligned to the boundary anyway. The safeties were always lined up to the formation. They split who ended up the deeper guy; usually it was the field guy, and usually that was Wilson.


There was heavy rotation in the front four, an almost even three-man rotation in the linebackers, and the secondary stayed put until it was time to empty the bench. It was rotation, not platooning; guys would go in for a certain number of plays then come out. I charted 44 non-garbage (before 14:59 of the 3rd quarter) plays; rotations as follows:

[Jump for breakdown, nickel, garbage time]

Nose: 32% Washington, 20% Pipkins, 48% lifted for nickel back.

3-tech: 61% Black, 30% Glasgow, 2% Henry, 7% lifted for nickel.

5-tech: 36% Heitzman, 34% Wormley, 27% Godin, lifted once for nickel.

WDE: 61% Clark, 39% Ojemudia

SAM: 57% Beyer, 39% Gordon, 5% lifted for nickel.

MIKE: 66% Morgan, 34% Bolden

WILL: 77% Ross, 20% Bolden

Safeties: 100% Wilson and Furman

Corners (4-3): 100% Countess at field and Taylor at boundary

Corners (Nickel): FCB was 60% Stribling, 40% Hollowell, though when CMU was still within three scores that was more like 85% Stribling. 100% Countess at nickel and Taylor at boundary.

Beyer got the majority of snaps while the rest
of the starters were in; both he and Gordon
kept playing into garbage time. Final snap
count: Beyer 32, Gordon 22. Will wait for UFR
but I thought Gordon was clearly better.

Type of Defense Breakdown:

CMU played with a lot of 3-wide, especially once they fell behind, and Michigan matched with the nickel. Non-garbage:

Defense Plays %
Nickel 21 48%
4-3 Under 16 36%
3-3-5 3 7%
Goal Line 2 5%
3-3-5 WTF 1 2%
3-4 1 2%

During that time the nose tackles basically disappeared. There was a stretch of 15 plays covering most of the 2nd quarter and the start of the third when Michigan played a nose tackle just once. On the 3-4 they just had the WDE stand up.

Nickel Packages:

The rotations stayed the same. Stribling was the usual extra DB until the last real drive of the 2nd quarter, when it became Hollowell. Countess went to nickel. Usually they'd run out 3-3-5 personnel but the SAM had his hand down on the weak side (the usual WDE lined up to the strong side) to make it a good ol' fashioned 4-2-5 nickel. The guy removed for the nickel back was usually the nose tackle (Washington stayed in on a few).

They also brought out a 3-3-5, and this:


…which got Cam Gordon a free sack. You may remember this as "3-3-5 WTF," the thing they used to blow up Northwestern last year:


…except CMU has a TE in there instead of a 2nd back so Clark isn't spread out half-way to the slot.

The next play, on 3rd and 15, they brought in Dymonte Thomas for WLB James Ross, and then put him right on Clark's toushie:


Result was a false start.

Goal line:

Only got to see two plays. Strobel came in as an extra DE. They lifted a cornerback (Countess).

Garbage time things:

They did the same things, lifting the NT for a defensive back, but instead of a SAM with his hand down they put Taco Charlton on that end of the line and Ojemudia at WDE.

Gedeon is ahead of RJS and you can see why: he played very well. I hope Brian gets to this part in the UFR because Gedeon made a string of nice plays, picking through traffic and beating a block for a TFL on a stretch play, and immediately sticking on a 3rd down catch that was short. Mark it down now: I'm on the Gedeon Hype Train.


Space Coyote

September 3rd, 2013 at 10:27 AM ^

I never did really try to confirm too much, but it seemed like when I looked, Mattison kind of lied about no longer having a BCB and FCB. I didn't see a right CB and left CB and mixing of responsibilities when I looked for it, and it seemed pretty clear they were still to some degree playing boundary and field. Did you notice the same thing or is the table more a guess in that regard?


September 3rd, 2013 at 10:32 AM ^

Almost every play I was able to see where the corners were lining up. Taylor was always to the boundary. Countess was always to the field except when he was the nickel and then Stribling or Hollowell were to the field side.

When they played all the freshmen in the 4th quarter it was the same; Stribling was the field corner and either Hollowell or Jourdan Lewis was the field corner.

Space Coyote

September 3rd, 2013 at 10:36 AM ^

I think it's ok. I wasn't overly happy with Taylor coming up in run support, seemed a bit tentative and didn't always bring his chest and legs when tackling, but I do think it's probably better having him at boundary and Countess at field. As I noted in my recaps, the corners were certainly playing soft and doing things to try to protect the safeties, so some of the easy catches or some of the lack of great run support was because of that.

Thanks for throwing this together.

Space Coyote

September 3rd, 2013 at 10:40 AM ^

I don't care what he does as long as he does what he thinks is best for the team. I don't care if he tells the media he's doing one thing and then does another. Call it "lying", "gamesmenship", whatever, I don't really care. He had stated previously that they were getting rid of field and boundary distinctions; they didn't, fine. He "kind of lied" about that. I'm not losing sleep over it or even worried about it, I was just trying to clarify if they were actually doing what they said they were going to in the media or not. You seem a little too upset by my choice of words.

Space Coyote

September 3rd, 2013 at 10:46 AM ^

As if I thought Mattison was under some sort of obligation to tell me exactly what he was going to do. Maybe you're confusing angry and upset. The fact that you felt the need to basically say "you expect Mattison to tell you exactly what he's going to do as if he has an obligation to do so" gives you the appearance of coming off as a little upset that I would have the audacity to believe that, even though I indicated no such belief. The fact that you typed LOL certainly gives off that impression, as if it's really funny I'd actually believe that. So yeah, I don't think I was kind of lying that you're a bit too upset that I'd say "kind of lying".


September 3rd, 2013 at 11:37 AM ^

Hoke also stated that Michigan would be attempting some sort of fake kick. Either a fake punt or field goal but it ended up being a "blocked" punt.

I think the Michigan staff are throwing off foes through the media. I don't have a problem with this as the over saturation from the media gives opponents way too much insight on a team's plan.


September 3rd, 2013 at 11:18 AM ^

You have a strange definition of "lying" in my opinion. I think of lying as knowingly saying something false. No additional "obligation" to the listener is required, as one has an obligation to one's self to speak truth.

Are there ever contrary obligations that override the obligation to tell the truth? I think so. It also may be that Mattison intended not to have FC and BC when he said it, but changed his mind. Maybe he didn't lie. But it's sad to live in a world where a knowing misstatement would not be considered a lie.


September 3rd, 2013 at 10:37 AM ^

Man, those Glasgow brothers are the best walk-on duo we've ever had. I thought Willie Henry would play more, but Ryan Glasgow took almost all the back-up 3- tech snaps.


September 3rd, 2013 at 11:56 AM ^

People make these kind of comments all the time and I just don't get it. Why does his ceiling have to be higher? People said the same thing about Kovacs and Desmond Morgan. Is a white thing? Is it a walk-on/recruiting hype thing? Both guys are in their second year of college football. Why are we so sure Henry's ceiling is higher?


September 3rd, 2013 at 3:42 PM ^

But it's not like Henry was a big recruit. He was an a super powerhouse HS team and still had very few offers.

But that still doesn't make sense. No one is calling for Magnuson to play over Braden or Terry Richardson to play over Stribling or Hollowell (or even Raymon Taylor). Throw that stuff out the window once they've been here a couple years.


September 3rd, 2013 at 10:48 AM ^

Has got to be my favorite formation of all time. You think you have number's in the box as an offense, then BOOM TFL. BOOM sack. BOOM Offsides. 

[edit:] And the fact I am actually shocked Beyer got more reps says good things about Gordon. When he was on the field, I took notice. Maybe Beyer is more sound at the dirty work, but Cam came up huge. 

I gotta say, we are pretty set at the SAM spot. We don't have room for JMFR! 




September 3rd, 2013 at 10:47 AM ^

I really, really hope Brian gets to the garbage time UFR. I understand why he doesn't, but with all the new guys we've been following intently as recruits seeing the field for the first time, I think it would be good to see how they did.

Stribling has to be the steal of the century. He went from a 2* camp sleeper to starting* in season the season opener as a true freshman, without even enrolling early no less.

*starter in nickel package only, but still.

Space Coyote

September 3rd, 2013 at 10:50 AM ^

For what it's worth, GERG kind of tried to use the 3-3-5 WTF and got flamed for it. The problem isn't the formation. The formation can actually be quite successful, as it makes it extremely difficult to get blockers out on the closely stacked LB and it gives great possibilities for stunts in the pass game. GERG's problem was that he essentially didn't know how/when to deploy it. He was using it kind of as a base, rather than a change up. This all gets back to people hating the 3-3-5 as if it's some sort of ugly step-child of a real defense. The defense is fine, in fact it's potentially fine on all downs, but you have to put a DC in a position where he can succeed. If a DC doens't understand the full intricacies of the defense, how is he supposed to put his players in the best positions? That's pretty much the difference.


September 3rd, 2013 at 4:38 PM ^

I just recall opposing linemen taking two quick steps and being all in our linebackers' grills. If your front guys are getting overwhelmed half a second after the snap, the play won't end well. As Mattison uses it, the LBs have some specific assignment - a gap to attack, a short zone to fill - and aren't just in 'react' mode. If you're that close to a blocker, there isn't much time to react, after all.


September 3rd, 2013 at 10:55 AM ^

what with simultaneously playing two positions and all. He's a baller.

For real I think this is incredible. I bet some grad assistant on some team this season is going to discover this after he charts it all himself and be irritated that he didn't think to check online first.

Space Coyote

September 3rd, 2013 at 11:37 AM ^

Remember, he's still young and digesting a lot. As far as responsibilities go, they may just not feel comfortable with him getting starting time at NB because of knowledge of responsibilities (he's likely getting S reps, NB reps, and special teams), or it could be a match up thing. By the time the 2nd string was in, just as far as getting guys on the field, it was probably easier to put him in at S.


September 3rd, 2013 at 11:53 AM ^

Wasn't Demens similarly placed very close to the DL in 2010 3-3-5 against PSU  as Gordon is here?

I recall a great deal of bandwidth being used decrying the stupidity of this placement.

I don't recall all the details and I am certainly not going to expose myself to the trauma of checking. But I thought that was interesting.



September 3rd, 2013 at 12:53 PM ^

Both Beyer and Gordon played very well on Saturday.  Don't understand why everyone feels the need to push one over the other.  Both of their strengths are being utilized on the field.  Both took advantages of the moments that they were given in the game.  This week will be a much stronger test.  Don't need to lift one above the other, appreciate what they both bring.


September 3rd, 2013 at 12:58 PM ^

Thanks for the list play by play - that's great.  A couple things - sure shows Stribling is the 3rd CB and one wonders even when Avery comes back if they might not be interested in pushing Blake to nickel IF (big if) Stribling continues his 45 degree angle ascent.   The other thought was they dont yet trust the guys behind Black as he played much more in relation to his backups than say Washington who most consider a superior player.  I didnt realize Ojemudia played that often early - I am liking it.  I will be curious to see how he does against the ND OL ...he was the one DE that flashed to me v CMU often.


September 3rd, 2013 at 5:36 PM ^

This is really interesting. One question, how many snaps did Thomas see? That info might be in the doc, but I'm on mobile right now and couldn't get the link to open.

This is really interesting information though, I hope you continue this through the season. It will be interesting to compare the breakdowns at the end of the season compared to week 1. That should help gauge who makes a big jump (or falls back) over the course of the season.


September 3rd, 2013 at 7:43 PM ^

Even though I've been watching football religiously for about 5 years (it was a habit I picked up in college), as a non-football player I've only had vague ideas of most positions.  That's the first image that's managed to make the defensive lineup absolutely clear.  So props for that.