Hokepoints: Whence the Okie?

Submitted by Seth on July 23rd, 2013 at 2:07 PM


left: Monumental's* iPad app. right: Swag Mattison. *yes the wallpaper guy.

Brian forwarded a mailbag question I hoped to answer with the UFR database:

I recently re-watched the 2011 vs. Nebraska game, which was quite a defensive performance on Michigan's part.  Several times Mattison employed the always-entertaining Okie Package, often times with very good results (sack, QB hurry, etc.).  Anecdotally it seemed like we used that a lot less in 2012, in spite of the fact that we still had no natural four-man pass rush.  Any ideas as to why we went away from this?  It seemed like easy money to generate a pass rush and potential for turnovers. If anything I would have thought we would have been more prepared to use exotic blitz packages as our guys were 1 year more advanced in Mattison's system.  The only explanations I can think of are either we expected teams to be used to seeing it and adjust, or we did use it a lot last year and for some reason I didn't notice.

Was it Used Less?

For our purposes I also categorized "Nickel eff it" from the Notre Dame 2011 UFR (picture-paged) as an Okie, since it was clearly the forerunner to Mattison's particular way of using the package.

By volume it doesn't look like we saw it any less often.Okiedefense

Yeah, Shafer's defense is in there; GERG ran an Okie just once in '09-'10. Unfortunately I don't have data from Ohio State and the bowl game for 2012 because when Michigan loses those somebody (not saying who) can't bring himself to UFR them. Anyway I don't see a difference in Okie deployment last year. The tables agree:

Def Formation 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Mattison Avg
4-3 odd - 59.2% - 35.4% 30.5% 32.9%
Nickel 14.1% 2.9% 4.0% 42.2% 21.8% 32.0%
4-3 even 45.1% 7.1% 12.7% 5.7% 22.8% 14.3%
4-4, 5-3, Bear, etc. 2.1% 18.4% 9.8% 6.4% 13.0% 9.7%
Okie 7.8% 0.0% 0.1% 7.8% 7.1% 7.5%
3-3-5 29.4% 6.3% 59.6% 1.9% 3.2% 2.5%
3-4 - 6.2% 9.4% 0.4% 1.2% 0.8%
Dime 1.6% 0.0% 4.4% 0.3% 0.4% 0.4%

Big shifts: Mattison deployed the nickel less often last year and built even fronts into the defense. I thought the former was a result of fewer spread teams charted in 2012 but my data say Michigan faced MORE receivers in the formation (2.87 per play, 2.78 on 1st downs in 2012, versus 2.74 per play and 2.65 on 1st downs in 2011). The latter is an interesting wrinkle. Anyhoo the Okie he didn't seem to touch.

Since it's a situational package, we can see if it's being used less in those situations. By down:


The big difference seems to be 4th down but that's small sample: I charted 12 attempts on 4th down against Michigan in 2011, and 14 in 2012, so there were just two 4th down deployments: one against SDSU and one versus Ohio State. It's meant to be a surprise. What about by distance?

| Total attempts | % Okie Deployed
Down Distance 2011 2012 2011 2012
1st 0-5 yards 6 4 0.0% 0.0%
6-10 yards 288 270 0.7% 1.8%
11+ yards 13 13 7.1% 7.1%
2nd 0-5 yards 66 61 2.9% 0.0%
6-10 yards 114 115 7.3% 8.7%
11+ yards 26 41 10.3% 4.7%
3rd 0-5 yards 57 58 8.1% 13.4%
6-10 yards 37 44 39.3% 29.0%
11+ yards 19 22 24.0% 12.0%
Total   636 643 7.8% 7.1%

So a little less often on 3rd and long.

Success Rate

Maybe it wasn't as effective last year minus Martin/RVB? Well I tracked its deployment on long situations (6 or more yards), and called it a "success" if it prevented the 1st down on 3rd or 4th down, or prevented 1/2 of the yards necessary to move the chains on 1st or 2nd down. Success?

Down 2011 2012
1st 100% (3/3) 83.3% (5/6)
2nd 83.3% (10/12) 100% (13/13)
3rd 96.7% (29/30) 100% (21/21)
4th 100% (1/1) -
All downs 93.5% (43/46) 97.5% (39/40)

Success! Even with a tiny window for improvement, they found it.



Why Not Use it More?

The Okie package became a favored topic of discussion after it did mean things in the Illinois game:

the classic

Here's that play as drawn up on MonuMental's app, which is my new favorite toy:


Red=LB, green=DB, black=DL

Brian would come to call this "Okie one" for the number of safeties back in the formation. Michigan showed seven guys on the line of scrimmage but rushed just four. The right tackle and right guard were basically left alone while the rushers stunted around the guys on the left side and Illinois ended up blocking almost nobody.

Here a variation from 2012 used on 2nd and 12 on Minnesota's first drive:


Mattison senses this is an opportunity to kill the Gophers' opening drive. Here it's the 6th play of the drive and Michigan has already begun rotating the DL: the 5-tech is Heitzman, having come in for Roh on the 4th play of the drive, and Pipkins has just come in for Black. Michigan comes out in an Okie two, rushes five and drops to a Cover 2.

It turned out to be a run; Ryan managed to change course and hinder the RB in time for the Will (Desmond Morgan) to shut it down for a short gain, setting up a 3rd and 9. On the ensuing play Mattison dialed up another Okie:


Not 100% on the coverage. I think it's Cover 4 but the corners may be in man; Floyd is definitely giving his guy a tough release but Taylor is playing a Cov4. Crowd?

That's Avery (at nickel) playing back at the 1st down marker, and Thomas Gordon is also deep and went with that tight end when he motioned to the left side. Roh's back in for Heitzman and Black has come in for Washington (ALL THE pass rush!). In the diabolical world of Mattison's Okie package this is a Balrog with wings. Michigan lines up all over the tackles, and this time comes from the (offense's) left side. The two LBs on the weakside drop into short zones, as does the "nose" Black. Roh shoots past both the LG and LT to get into the center, and Morgan and Kovacs attack outside. The result:

Black seems to be in the wrong zone (he winds up all up in Demens's stuff), and that means the TE in the flat will be wide open on the sideline as soon as Taylor carries the X receiver's deep route:


That never happens; the QB has just enough time to see the slot's in-route has been disemboweled by Jake Ryan before the left side of his line not blocking anybody becomes his primary concern. The running back gets a delaying chip on Morgan and Kovacs gets a free shot and a forced fumble (which Minnesota recovered). You see there's weakness: Mattison's asking his nominal nose tackle to cover a deep zone when the receiver started 8 yards outside of him. But because the offensive line couldn't figure out who to block that never has time to develop. That's why the Okie is a changeup: the more Michigan uses it the more opposing coaches are going to prepare for it and the less valuable it can be as a situational ace in the hole.

One more from 2012. This is on 3rd and 8 from Michigan's 34 early in the 4th quarter and the Wolverines are down 9-16. Nebraska's kicker is Brett Maher, so every yard is a big deal for preventing the Huskers from going up by two scores.


Again, excuse me if I screwed up the coverage; here I'm guessing Gordon and Taylor were playing a read: they're both watching the inside receiver and break when he does. Nebraska's linemen mostly did their jobs here, though the guard (All-B1G Spencer Long) let himself get pushed really far backwards and that made room for Ryan to get into the center. Morgan took a few steps into a pass rush before backing into his zone but the RG and RT are not confused by this and do fine fending Heitzman off. The nickel blitz is unexpected but the left tackle did a good job adjusting and riding Avery behind the pocket. But for reasons passing understanding the tight end let Roh (playing WDE) past him and right into the RB. Ameer Abdullah can be little more than a piece of flotsam in the pile of mass about to descend on Martinez. It is beautiful.

You get a glimpse of Demens's coverage too as he got from the line to his zone in time to have pretty decent coverage on that slot receiver, not an easy thing. Anyway you can see how the Okie uses confusion to create a lot of places where things can go wrong for the offense, and if just one does you're out of FG range and punting in a one-score game. Of course the offense was Denardless that day and couldn't capitalize.

Still, as fun as these things are to watch you see each time Mattison was attacking from different angles and by the end of last year there were only one or two blocks the offense didn't pick up. If that diminishes to zero blocks, you give up six. Conclusion: the Okie was used just as often and incrementally more effectively last year as it was in 2011. However it's meant to be a changeup package; if opponents are sitting on it you'll get knocked out of the park. As something to pull out 7 percent of plays you're forcing opposing coaches to prepare for eight different attacks of which they're likely to see one or two, or giving yourself a situational out pitch when you're in a jam.



July 23rd, 2013 at 2:40 PM ^

IIRC, Ohio seemed ready for this and had Miller audible at the line. They then proceeded to call a quarterback draw/run from the package, which always seemed to get a first down. I don't know how many times this actually happened; it seems like a lot in hindsight but may have only been a couple times. Typically I love the Okie package but once Miller blew it up a couple times I was changing my tune for that game.

Mr. Yost

July 24th, 2013 at 2:05 PM ^

Think about it, you have DLmen running away from you, creating bubbles and pockets everywhere.

I LOVED the Okie package vs. a QB that's not going to run, but against mobile QBs it can hurt you.

I felt like that was part of the reason we ran that weird 3-3-5 vs. N'Western last year to end the game. We basically gave them the pockets and had an adjustment to take it away with a bonecrushing Demens hit.


July 23rd, 2013 at 3:09 PM ^

Edit: didn't see JeepinBen's comment before thisone

That gave up the go ahead touchdown to ND and nearly cost us the game in 2011 before the Gallon Cloaking Device was discovered? 

I think that's a good example of how it can fail.

Space Coyote

July 23rd, 2013 at 3:38 PM ^

  1. How did you like using it? I haven't used it but it looked fairly intuitive/simple by quick glance. Much easier than some of the programs I've used in the past.
  2. I assume it does offense? Give it to me straight man, does it do offense?
  3. Ok, by looking at the site you gave, you can do offense. But thanks for giving it to me straight. How simple are drawing up things on that side of the ball? Particularly blocking schemes because that's always been a pain in past programs I've used.
  4. Did you go with the free option or the apparent "pro package"? If so, what kind of benefit is there between the two assuming that it doesn't also have an option to call plays for you a la "Ask Corso".
  5. They hooking you up to advertise for them? I wanna be hooked up to advertise. Man, you guys and your big blogs where you make a living talking about football and other sports have all the fun. I'm gonna go kick a can down the street (or get back to work at my computer, damn, this just got more depressing).


July 23rd, 2013 at 4:34 PM ^

1. I mostly liked it. I wish there was a way to snap to a yard line or the L.o.S. since I found I spent a lot of time just trying to make sure my linemen were, you know, on a line.

2. YES. The first several hours of many I've given to this thing were spent drawing up Pistol plays (I like the Pistol.)

3. Drawing is simple but you're limited. Like unless I missed it there's no way to show PA. I started using the dotted line he built in for pre-snap motion as that. And I don't bother showing the QB's rollout because it gets in the way of the rest of the backfield.

4. I upgraded to Pro immediately since I knew otherwise I'd spend forever trying to get around paying for it, and I figure this is a guy who's done a lot for the blog; I can throw him $20 bucks. And maybe if I pimp him enough on here he'll throw it back, or, you know, move the basketball cover up his list of priorities.

5. We've discussed but I just went and did this because I enjoy the program and like I said, he's done a lot for us. 

Other thoughts: Wish I could print with the names I spent so long tagging my guys with. Also wish I could show defensive plays versus offense, options, man assignments, and that the background was just wider and zoomable because I want to show things like who's lining up on the numbers and how WR routes will use markers on the field. But his thing makes your X's and O's so big an offensive line and a TE take up the entire space between the hashes. Brady Hoke linemen I guess.

Overall the program was made for coaches to print playbooks for their QB's wrist, not so much for football writers to describe things.


July 24th, 2013 at 9:01 PM ^

I could email this, but you posted a comment so me too!

1. LOS Snapping - if you drag an offensive player icon up, it will stop at the LOS. Not exactly snapping but has almost the same effect if you try to drag beyond.

3. There's actually a zig-zag pre-snap motion line and I have some hacks for showing things like option routes and play action. I'll send you a few video demos on that.

4. Basketball cover priority enhancement has been engaged. 

5. Thanks!

All the stuff on your wish list is also on our wish list. Our update in a few weeks will include device-to-device playbook share/import. We're also working on a Telestrator feature for freeform drawing and text annotations for later in the Fall.

We really worked hard on the tuning of the position icons vs. field proportions and they're actually pretty close to real life. My guess is you haven't yet discovered the two finger swipe gesture for chaning the field position and hash - that will likely resolve the perceived issue of overscaled players.


July 31st, 2013 at 3:51 PM ^

Thanks! You really did great work here and I can't wait for the telestrator.

I used the swip gesture a bunch (note the plays take place where they started) but I can't get a view that shows me the whole field. Not a problem for my latest project (redrawing the plays I saw in Bo's 1987 playbook at Bentley last week) but for modern spread offenses I need that whole field.

My workaround so far has been to move everybody to the far side (especially when I'm doing an unbalanced formation) but it's tedious.

Also add an option when editing any guy to restore him to the formation's default spot.

And add an option to save your current look as a new formation.

And activate edits on the defensive players so I can show how the routes interact with the zones.

And take all of these suggestions as only a guy who is using your app a lot and plans to use it a lot more and therefore wants it to be perfect!


July 24th, 2013 at 9:23 PM ^

We put a ton of thought into how to handle the experience of drawing plays. I don't know if our approach is perfect but we stuck a nice balance between all the factors (multitouch interface vs. chunky-fingered coaches, freeform vs. precise drawing, etc.).

Drawing plays with legacy playbook software can be really tedious (especially blocking stuff) so we did a some things to reduce that pain:

  • For each variation of the game (i.e. 6 man, 9 man, 11 man) we have presets for the line caps (arrows for skill players, Ts for linemen). This was added after I started working on my playbook and realized that it required up to 4 taps per lineman on every new play.
  • Formation templates are used for organization purposes and to avoid the need to recreate the formation from scratch every time you add a play.
  • Duplicate play and flip+duplicate play are a big win for creating series or groups of plays where the blocking schemes are nearly identical.
  • Show opponent lets you show any defensive alignment against your offense. That combined with the duplicate play feature make it really fast to show the same play against a variety of fronts.

The free version of the app will let you try all of the play creation tools but is limited to 3 plays and locks down custom formations and sharing. We have a free version because we're coaches ourselves and we want other coaches to have the chance to try the app before committing to the $20 investment. 

Most of the coaches using our apps are from high schools and small colleges, and have made our app the primary system for their official team playbooks and scout team cards. We have a decent number of coaches using the wristband inserts, too.

You can check out our YouTube page for a full set of videos that demonstrate all of the app's features:


Ron Utah

July 23rd, 2013 at 3:42 PM ^

The obvious weakness of this defense is that it always leaves a gaping hole on one side of the line.  I remember ND '11 getting some first downs by rushing up the middle when we dropped Martin into coverage; it's very difficult to beat a block when you're backpedalling.

Obviously, Mattison knows his stuff and how to use it effectively, because he only employs this package 7% of the time.  This is one of those examples where a stats freak might say, "97.5% success rate?  WHY DON'T WE USE IT MOAR!!!"  The obvious answer: it has a 97.5% success rate BECAUSE we don't use it more; it gets us big plays when we need them most.

Very well-done.  Thanks.


July 23rd, 2013 at 3:44 PM ^

It was very entertaining to watch these clips and you did a great job with the positional layouts, showing areas of responsibility. As I've said often, Greg has learned and implemented a great deal since his first time as Michigan's DC.     *On a personal note, I love the Okie package and Bud, I don't know who his DC was, when OU started running the first 52 defense merely took a lot of the principles of the ND 44 stack and implemented them into a different look.  This is an extremely successful defense when run at the lower levels, i.e., high school when you are facing a run dominated offense. Like the 44 stack, and similar to your clips and diagrams with the signifant difference being you are employing a run blitz instead of the pass blitz.    ^Mattison, because he knows so damn much, is able to run elaborate schemes whereas the original Okie and 44 stack was used primarily in simple X blitzes with the lineman going inside or out and then the lber going opposite, often times untouched. The 52 X blitzes calls for the corners to replace the WLB and SAM and therein lies the connection to the ND stack. In this manner, just like with the stack, the 52 run blitz packages has eight men prepared to take place in some form of a blitz but seldomly using all, thereby allowing retention of the integrity of the second and third lines of defense.  It is very confusing to block these type of blitzes at that level.  This is what separates Mattison and other college DCs from the rest of the pack and why Urb wanted him in that role at Ohio.  The OC at the major level, as you also pointed out will ultimately make the correct adjustments so the DC has to be extremely careful and knowledgeable as to when to use it. Such is not the case at the h.s. level because many times the coaches are(best to say were) as clueless as the OL when they first see it. With all the clinics, et. al., they've come a strikingly long way in their counter measures.   The success rate you pointed out is nothing less than extremely impressive and always makes me wonder why he didn't get the DC of the year award in 2011. There might be a couple, but I guarantee they are few and far between-Saban, like Carroll,- are masters at this.  That is a rather exclusive club to be a member of.  ^ Again, great job and I apologize for having to use symbols to indicate a new paragraph but the format here or some setting I have and am not aware of simply does not allow for me to make paragraph breaks.  Very enjoyable reading and viewing!!!!!

Space Coyote

July 23rd, 2013 at 4:01 PM ^

It can be weak against the run, because ultimately you will have to drop defenders, taking their momentum away from the play. Certainly you can run blitz and have some success with an Okie package against the run, but draw plays and cut back lanes can get ball carriers free in the second level quickly, and then it's only the dropping secondary supporting the run.

Back to the passing side of things, one reason you can't simply just attack it as an OC is because you don't necessarily know that they are in fact bringing pressure. It's just as easy to run this like a 3-3-5 and drop into cover 3 or cover 2.

Perhaps the biggest weakness of this defense stems from one of its biggest strengths, and that's that it tends to overload the LOS and in particular certain segments of the O-line. Well, to do that, you are essentially also leaving a void behind that area in which you need defenders to fill as quickly as possible. ND took advantage of this by running verts on the blitz side. The defender responsible to get in coverage is in a dead heat against a guy that has a head start to a spot. If the blitz is called from the otherside it works perfect possibly (I don't remember the exact pre-snap formation of ND, but bear with me), but it's all a chess game. And just like in chess, if you pull out this move too often, the offense will learn how to counter it and make you weaker for it.

In Mattison's first couple years here he has been very conservative on the back end (not neccesarily up front, mind you). This isn't as safe, back there, and that's a big reason why I assume you don't see it as often. Michigan hasn't had the back end athletes to make this safe enough to run often, and until Michigan gets there, it will continue to be run at about the same rate. When they do get the athletes, it will still be a niche in the defense I would assume, but it would be one where Michigan can live with some more aggressive play from the back end more often than they currently do.


July 24th, 2013 at 9:00 AM ^

THIS is why I come here several times a week. Posts like these make my day, and I really love the simple breakdown of this particular defensive scheme. We should get the crowd chanting "Okie, Okie, Okie" at home games on third down when they line up in it. That'd be pretty cool, ya know? Can't wait until the season starts and I can watch the opener from the BIG HOUSE - Go Blue!


November 2nd, 2014 at 12:52 AM ^

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