Picture Pages: Boiler Up, Man Up

Submitted by Brian on November 7th, 2008 at 12:59 PM

Okay, so we've just taken a spin through Michigan's hitch-susceptible cover three. What's the alternative? The Big Ten Network did give us one replay of something different. It comes on third and long in the third quarter with Michigan on offense. Threet is going to throw a hitch to Darryl Stonum.

(This camera angle is wider so I've cropped the pictures down; it'll be slightly fuzzy.)


This is pretty much the same as the first frame we saw with Morgan Trent earlier, except the defensive back is lined up a little further inside.


The Purdue corner turns his hips towards the receiver and looks directly at him. This is man coverage.


When Stonum starts making his break it's immediately apparent to the corner and he can turn his hips towards the receiver. Trent had to turn around the other way, taking himself away from the receiver until he can get his body around.


The ball from Threet is low and inside and gets marked IN in UFR, but Stonum still has a chance at a diving grab…


…but the Purdue defender is right there making life difficult. If the ball was better thrown he had a chance at a breakup or even an interception.

Here's the video on this one:

So it's pretty obvious why Purdue was able to play this sort of tight coverage on third and long: Michigan's receivers don't seem like much of a downfield threat and this guy has safety help over the top, a luxury not afforded Michigan's corners on the regular.

Okay. Question: does Michigan's coverage style (here's another example from Cissoko) make any sense given the defense they're running? I'm not a coach, but doesn't it seem like Michigan corners should be setting up outside of the receivers and funneling them towards the safety and/or zone dropping flex players and linebackers? Maybe Shafer thought Siller couldn't throw well enough to make him pay. He was wrong.



November 7th, 2008 at 1:30 PM ^

IMO, no I would not want our CBs positioned outside of their WRs. That would be giving away the quick inside slants, because our sucky LBs have proven they can be no help on those whatsoever. I would've preferred our CBs used the exact same technique that Purdue used: man coverage with inside leverage with the CBs looking at the WR, not the QB. 

Maybe Shafer was worried about the QB breaking contain, so he told our DBs to keep an eye on the QB and be ready to help defend the scramble?


November 7th, 2008 at 1:30 PM ^

we discuss football strategy and techniques. Most of us do this as an interesting diversion. Yes, I wished more of us could do this without hysterically calling for coaches to be fired and the assorted pompous indignation.

You know, there is a fairly large middle ground between blind allegiance to these coaches and wanting them OMG FIRED!


November 7th, 2008 at 1:32 PM ^

i think we should have played a 4-2-5 fire zone man under nickel corner blitz with an outside shade 


i dont know what that means, but it's the internet! 

chitownblue (not verified)

November 7th, 2008 at 1:36 PM ^

In short - I don't know enough about football to criticize this stuff specifically - RR and Schafer have forgotten more football than I will ever know.

But, obviously there's a problem - Trent and Warren weren't this bad last year. Getting torn up by Purdue's 3rd string QB shouldn't happen. I understand this.

But, this "it's either the coach's fault or the player's fault" thing is, in my mind a false dichotomoy. The answer, most likely, is "both".


November 7th, 2008 at 1:43 PM ^

I was always told that the philosphy of the 3-3-5 was to stop the run, prevent the big play, give up 3-5 yard outs/hitches because an offense will not be patient enough to throw those routes for a whole drive.  Any longer pass, and there will be pressure from somewhere, but with the way the defense aligns on every play its hard to tell from where.  On deeper throws, the corner still has to play his deep third.  Sometimes the corner will sink to the middle to defend 4 vert and use the sideline as an extra defender.  I don't know if Michigan played this way or not, but the flat defender has to get underneath the deep outs or comebacks and force a difficult throw.  This can force interceptions as well.  I'm not an expert on this defense by any means, but that is my understanding.

Also these are two different routes.  A deep out by Purdue and a deep hitch by Stonum.  If Stonum turns and keeps coming back to the ball, I think that is a catch and a first down.  However, he comes out of his break and stops his feet.  He could also get out of the break a little quicker, but that will come in time as he continues to work on his footwork.  The deep out is more difficult to defend especially with the way Trent is defending him.  This is why the flat player has to force a difficult throw.  We did do this a couple other times in the game if I remember correctly, and forced a bad throw or a throw away.


November 7th, 2008 at 1:44 PM ^

I don't know, the more I look at the info RR and SS had at the time, the more I'm okay with the strategy.  Trent's technique made us suseptible to quick outside patterns.  But when you have to pick your poison, I'd take that over getting beat on a slant or losing contain on a mobile QB.  Those sideline or out routes require some arm strength.  Also, we've been getting killed on slants. 


Hindsight is 20/20, so it looks bad now.  But I'm not so sure the strategy was halfway sound going into the game on the heels of the Toledo disaster.


November 7th, 2008 at 1:46 PM ^

it IS both. Hey, I find comments like Don's irritating, but we're not all in that camp. What we're trying to do is parse out what is a specific coaching error and what is just poor play. 

Is Brian or us wrong?


Do we OMG! know more than our excellent coaching staff?

Certainly not.

Can you afford us the opportunity to go through this exercise for our own sanity and/or enjoyment? 

Please do.

chitownblue (not verified)

November 7th, 2008 at 1:47 PM ^

I'm not complaining about dissecting it. I'm merely saying that most people are saying it's one or the other, and I think that's probably not true.


November 7th, 2008 at 1:57 PM ^

great counterpoints. I was also unpleasantly surpised by the rifle on Siller.  The kid flat-out made plays.  I just hope he can continue to be that good. If he looks like Juice Williams did against Minnesota the week after he played us, I'll vomit.

I'm weary of QBs have career days against Michigan. But you know, this isn't a new phenomenon. That's been happening since the days of Ricky Foggy and Rick Mirer, etc. etc. etc.


November 7th, 2008 at 1:57 PM ^

i have no problem with assessing and evaluating the coaches' decisions. i have a problem with people writing about (and getting worked up over) stuff they have no clue about.

that's not blind deference to the coaches. it's a hope that people stop talking out of their asses.


no offense, mr. brian 


November 7th, 2008 at 2:05 PM ^

our CBs were a minimum of 7 yards off the WRs and BAILING at the snap and therefore weren't taking away ANYTHING, even the quick inside slants that Toledo burned us with all day.  The only thing our coverage technique was taking away were deep inside slants and posts. Oh, and any scrambles longer than 12 yards.



November 7th, 2008 at 3:32 PM ^

Brian -

 Just a quick answer to your question (although it somewhat rhetorical), yes. I have been coaching for 14 years and a varsity DC for the past 8. To quote Lloyd, "Defense is knowing where your help is." If your looking to get the safeties over for help you force the WR into the inside where they can be of use. If you are playing inside leverage you are looking at Man or probably a Cover Three to use the boundary as a friend.

But once again, you already seem to have figured this out. Other than that, this is one of the worst disciplined defenses I have ever seen and I don't care whom you are, if you have a scholarship to a major, elite D1 program you have to be better than this. Additionally, if you have a full time job to do nothing but coach football at a major, elite D1 program you have to be better than this. Too many big plays. That is tackling (whoa boy), positioning, pursuit, and knowing where your help is.


Keep up the good work dude.