Picture Pages: Absolving Jibreel Black

Submitted by Brian on November 23rd, 2011 at 1:43 PM

If you're like me, there was a point late in the first half of the Nebraska game where you went "argh Jibreel Black" because Taylor Martinez burst outside for a big gain. After last week, when Nathan Scheelhaase got a couple of big runs because the backside end was unfamiliar with the concept of the zone read, this was a natural reaction.

A closer view shows Black was duped, but understandably so.

It's first and ten for the Huskers on the first play of their fourth drive; They come out in a pistol formation with an H-back and two WRs. Michigan is in their usual under. They've got a lot of backups in: Black, Campbell, and Beyer are three of the five folk on the line. Black is to the top of the screen.


On the snap Nebraska runs a pistol version of Michigan's staple play (this week, anyway): the belly. On the belly an H-back or FB will shoot into the backside end and the opponent will try to attack the weak spot caused in the backside of the line.

Michigan's LBs are prepared, attacking backside, and Kovacs has walked down to provide an eighth guy in the box.


The eighth guy is usually the solution to bounce issues; here having Kovacs behind him allows Black to shuffle down the line in preparation for this very play.

Except… what if you told your fullback to read the play too?


This is the frame were thing start going wrong. The fullback has convinced Black he needs to squeeze this space down, and now he's juking outside after Black has gotten set to take him on.


Now there are problems. Black has just realized Martinez has the ball. He's inside the tackle box a yard upfield. Meanwhile, the fullback has released outside to get the contain guy.


Because this is Taylor Martinez versus a defensive end the corner will be achieved. Kovacs takes the blocker on, but this is Kovacs kryptonite. Dude runs at your face in space. Block him and he gets put on skates.


Kovacs does not have a real good time here as he ends up giving up leverage eight yards downfield. Floyd is late arriving because he is in man coverage over a guy going deep and has a 54-yard pass in the back of his head.


I don't think the linebackers did a stellar job here—there are a couple of frames where they can reach out and touch each other—but when the ball goes outside the numbers behind a blocker they aren't doing much no matter how well they play.

Martinez jets down the sidelines, where he's barely forced by Floyd.


Nebraska would get outside on the next play for 23 yards before a holding call and Jake Ryan stunning Martinez with his acceleration put Nebraska in a big hole; they would punt on fourth and forever.


Items of interest

This could just be a playcall but I think it's a read. Nebraska's offensive coordinator is a mad scientist tinkerer who pulls out inverted veer triple options and inverted veer to speed options and it's not like Nebraska can possibly be doing anything else in practice other than relentlessly repping the option game. So I think this is not an out and out call but the fullback and the quarterback both reading the DE doing his shuffle down the line and punishing him for it.

So… yeah, this isn't on Black. Black was optioned off by a clever play requiring coordination between multiple readers and would have been wrong no matter what. Kovacs rolling down to the outside should free him to defend the belly, which Black does until it's clear he's in trouble.

If Black goes outside Burkhead's roaring upfield with Kovacs pulled outside. That is much worse news than what actually happened.

Kovacs gets owned. Not to be too hard on him because like some of the other stuff Nebraska pulled out of their bag of tricks this is a situation where you're caught off guard by the play developing in front of you. Martinez pulls, and the thought process goes:

Okay: I have to get infield to cut off cutbacks and then if he tries to bounce I will use KOVACSPOWER to tackle him in the open field.

But then it goes:

What's this? A blocker? My one weakness! Nooooooooooo…

This happened with some frequency last year when Kovacs was rolled up to the line more frequently. Some fullback or OL would latch on and then just donkey him off the field. This is not a huge problem for a safety—it's much more important to be able to run at guys full speed without ever missing a tackle—but I don't think anyone was surprised when this scenario on the edge went poorly.

Confusing the hell out of Michigan was the only way Nebraska moved the ball. Nebraska got Michigan misaligned here and there, caught guys off guard here and there, and burned JT Floyd (and Thomas Gordon) on play action. Other than that they got almost literally nothing. Michigan destroyed them up front.

Yes, I did exhale "finally" when this happened. I have been pining for this play since about two seconds after the UConn game started. It seems evil, unfair. So why didn't Nebraska run it again? I don't know. Maybe they didn't have an opportunity what with the fumbles and Mike Martin destroying stuff before they could get back to it.

Michigan's been running a lot of blocking schemes like this and it never seems like the QB and TE/FB are on the same page. When we do get a shuffle scheme with linebacker contain and Koger moves to the second level to block, Denard biffs it. Other times a slot LB gets sent and Koger goes upfield to block the guy who is containing the handoff.

O let do it. Nevermind. Need to rep it.

Nebraska's offense might ignite at some point in the next couple years. Martinez is a sophomore and has a couple more years to get better at his reads, and you can see pieces here and there of an offense that makes you wrong even in the world of scrape exchanges and whatnot.

I'm not saying it will happen. Their offensive line will have to get a ton better if they're going to get away with Martinez's arm. But if they get the blocking taken care of and maybe find a wide receiver who's not a liability, I can see Nebraska turning into an offense you loathe playing.



November 23rd, 2011 at 1:53 PM ^

I think Morgan is the main culprit here.  He pulls an Obi and barely moves throughout the sequence, gets engulfed and turned by a guard.

This is obviously a complicated play, but at the least I would think Morgan is tasked with staying to the outside shoulder of the guard so he can help with contain if the play bounces outside and funnel him to Demens if they go inside.


November 23rd, 2011 at 2:04 PM ^

This play illustrates (as brian pointed out) how bad a read Denard had on the picture paged play.  Denard was even closer to daylight when he turned it back that Martinez was when Black realized he had the ball. Advantage = Denard, until the cutback.  My guess, he is saving it for saturday.


November 23rd, 2011 at 3:49 PM ^

If Morgan shoots up outside the guard he could force the FB to make a decision on who to block and or stop Martinez for a loss.   This is a little much to ask since he is not Ray Lewis, but depending on his angle and ability to shed the block he could still stop this for a 5yd gain.    What I think is a pretty good possibility is he's not supposed to be standing right next to Demens and allowing himself to be blocked into him. 

If you don't think Morgan is supposed to absorb a block or be a free hitter on the outside of this play what do you think would Mattison would have expected from the defense to stop it or is this a pure rock paper scissors based on our alignment.


November 23rd, 2011 at 2:16 PM ^

Morgan took a step and took a down block from the tight right about at the mesh point.  This isn't on him.  Demens, in the meantime, does not start moving laterally until Martinez has gotten past the hashes.  I don't think Demens would have stopped this, but his reaction time was poor.

My question is this, though: shouldn't Black be attacking the H-Back as soon as he sees him coming across for the kick out?  If he absorbs that block in the back field, you have Kovacs, who was lined up 5 yards back at the hash keeping Martinez inside where an unblocked Kenny Demens should be flowing down the line to clean up.

This play worked because it is a slick play that was executed very well.  Black didn't make any mistakes that I wouldn't expect to see out of plenty of ends.  But if I'm Mattison, I'm telling Black to get aggressive and attack that block if he sees it coming.  Don't allow the H-back to make the read.


November 23rd, 2011 at 3:04 PM ^

You don't want to get too aggressive taking on that block because it can go badly if the RB bounces and you don't have any support. Black's play is stanard when the LBs aren't shooting behind you on a specific playcall.

When in doubt, assume the defense wants the player to go inside of the EMLOS.


November 23rd, 2011 at 3:43 PM ^

you may be right but i disagree with being passive.  i know this isn't the nfl but you've gotta blow up the blocker and attack the back field.  standing pat he had little chance at the rb or qb and the fb was able to block in the 2nd level.  it's a numbers game so if you at least take out a blocker you can still defend the play.  plus even if the fb blocks, if you wait for the hit it takes longer to get off the block.


November 23rd, 2011 at 9:01 PM ^

id be surprised if the ends are coached to let pullers come across their faces like that.

also demens getting caught up in the wash didn't help; it doesn't look like he was even blocked (thanks to will campbell holding up against a dbl), just let himself get sealed off on the wrong side of a scrum

turd ferguson

November 23rd, 2011 at 2:17 PM ^

Interesting stuff.

If there's any blame for Black, it's probably that the fake froze him more than it should have, but that's a brutal play to defend with a guy like Martinez at QB and a lot of time to practice it.


November 23rd, 2011 at 2:23 PM ^

After this play, Marlowe rushed for 23 yards. Then, M called timeout. After the timeout, Nebraska held, T. Martinez lost 7 yards, gained 2, and gained 8 on 3rd and 25. Question for Mattison's next press conference: What did you do during the timeout?


November 23rd, 2011 at 2:24 PM ^

I'm not trying to pile on jibreel but does he look slower out there to anyone else? he seemed a lot quicker last year. does anyone know if he has a nagging injury or if he's put on some bad weight? not trying to rip the guy i still think he's a solid player he just seems a bit slower this season. 


November 23rd, 2011 at 2:31 PM ^

he looks bigger, for sure. But its not necessarily bad. 

I would say he looked "faster" last year mostly because he had no contain...all he ever did was rush the passer (whether he was supposed to or not). I'm sure they've engrained contain and actual DE play instead of "rush the passer" in his mind since Hoke and Co arrived...I just hope you're not basing his looking slower to not being able to keep up with Taylor Martinez. There's very few DE who'd be able to make anything better out of this scenario. 


November 23rd, 2011 at 2:45 PM ^

I don't even remember him being that big of a liability against the run earlier in the year.  He seemed to have the quickness to overcome poor containment instincts.

Now he looks a lot heavier and a lot slower, and I'm beginning to wonder if Roh, Breyer, and especially Clark (who looks like he will be an absolute beast on the weakside) might have turned him into a SDE project.

He may have been the only one of the bunch with the body frame to step into the strongside role next year.


November 23rd, 2011 at 2:36 PM ^

If no one really screwed up, how can one defend this read?  It seemed Morgan and Demens could have taken the inside cut from Burkhead, so maybe Black shouldn't shuffle even if has Kovacs behind him?  Should he blow up the blocker and count on Kovacs and the LB to eat up the play for little gain?  How can he know when to blow up the blocker and when to shuffle?


November 23rd, 2011 at 3:59 PM ^

This is what Mattison preaches about how the 4-3 NEEDS at least one lineman to beat a one-on-one block.  In this play, notice both backside linemen (#97 Beyer and #53 Van Bergen) are single-blocked.  Heck, the RB actually had a seam, which leads me to believe the FB was the real read, and there was no QB option -- the RB was a decoy*.  That shouldn't happen, and that's why the play worked.  If either one can beat the block and enter the backfield before the mesh, one of two things happen, depending on what the fullback does:

1) The fullback prevents the play from blowing up by blocking the backside pursuit.  This takes away Kovacs' blocker, and now there's nowhere to go but upfield for maybe a couple yards.  Demens should stuff the handoff (though he didn't look in position to do so -- maybe he read the play before Black did?)*.  On a keeper, whichever way Black is "wrong", Kovacs will make the "option" wrong as well, as described above (sans kryptonite blocker).

2) If the fullback ignores or misses the backside pursuit, then there's no seam so a handoff would be a disaster.  One of several things now happens.  Seeing the RB has no lane, he can completely ignore his read and just go after the QB.  Or, he can take on the FB (a sort of "defensive block"); between the free lineman and unblocked Kovacs there's nowhere for the QB to go.  Howeva, it's also possible that he does the exact same thing and as what happened in the game, with the same result (because the idea is to option off Black anyway).

Depends on how fast the lineman gets there.  But, the odds of a TFL are drastically increased.  Out of five outcomes, four are either modest gains or TFLs.  Demens could've also blown up the play by shooting the gap instead of hanging around behind the line, but there's no evidence Mattison's coaching him to be that aggressive.  It'd have to be a pre-snap read.

The play isn't likely to work every time because it's tough to consistently keep Van Bergen contained like that with a single blocker.  It's possible to beat this play with a stunt.  If Beyer goes behind Van Bergen, then both the RT and FB are in bad positions to block him.  The danger, though, is that it completely gives up the weakside edge, giving the QB a free option.

*The seam is there because of Demens.  He's not in position to plug the gap.  It's possible he read the play before Black did (which would be impressive given he's behind the line) but he's not in any position to help Black or Kovacs, so I wonder what the hell he was thinking.  Even if you read the keeper the QB might inexplicably bounce backside, so why not just stick to your damn gap assignment??

El Jeffe

November 23rd, 2011 at 3:22 PM ^

I don't think that's a read on the H-back's part. For one thing, he's an H-back. This isn't Stanford, fergodsakes. My guess is that if Black had crashed, then the H-back wouldn't have done that deke and would have just headed out for Kovacs. But since Black didn't crash, he threw in the little head fake. I guess that makes it kind of a read, but not really.

The weird part of it is that if Martinez was reading Black, then shouldn't he have given it to Burkhead?I bet the whole thing was a pre-snap read and there were no reads post-snap except for the H-back head fake. It seems like it was a "read option" in the way that many of the plays last year that looked like "read options" were just either RB gives or Denard keeps.

Man, Nebraska has some cool plays.

Maize and Blue…

November 23rd, 2011 at 3:53 PM ^

Nebraska was without probably their best Olineman, OG Andrew Rodriguez, and they started a walk on in his place.  Long, their other starting guard, was limited after not making the PSU trip and their best blocking TE didn't play.  I'm not saying it would have changed the outcome, but Nebraska's Oline is better than what we saw on Saturday.