Picture Pages: EMLOS Keys Are Hard

Submitted by Brian on September 20th, 2011 at 3:01 PM

[Editor's Note: I was going to do a jet sweep post but got beaten to it by BWS. His conclusion is pretty harsh to Demens, and some of that is deserved. I don't see that as a specifically Demens problem, though. EMU used a ton of formations, unbalanced lines, presnap motion, and wholesale realignments to get Michigan's D out of position and confused. It worked. It worked on Demens and it worked on large chunks of the rest of the D. I think they're confused as a group.

That taken care of I'll move on to one of EMU's completed passes, which answers a question from earlier in the year.]

In the first week of the season we discussed Michigan's End Man On The Line Of Scrimmage (EMLOS is the commonly accepted jargon) and how his performance was hurting Michigan against power runs, particularly the counters that both WMU and Notre Dame used to good effect.

Part of that discussion was about how much Brennen Beyer was at fault for getting way upfield on our first example. Beyer was sent on a blitz, ended up three yards in the backfield, and made it difficult for Kenny Demens to close down a major hole. Demens lost contain, compounding matters. How much of that was on Beyer?

I thought the answer was "quite a bit" and the way Michigan handled a particular play-action showing the same counter action seems to confirm. It's the first quarter and EMU is on its second drive. They've got a first and ten. They line up in a three-wide shotgun with two backs; Michigan aligns in the under.


On the snap two things are apparent based on the Michigan line: 1) Jibreel Black v(top of line) is dropping off into a short zone and Jake Ryan (bottom) is blitzing as the rest of the line slants left:


EMU is pulling the backside G; the RB is taking a counter step, and the other RB is coming down the line to block. This is a close analogue to the Beyer counter. You'll notice that both linebackers are still waiting.

Here's how Ryan handles this:


LEFT: he reads the pulling OL.
MIDDLE: he flattens his approach and starts coming down the line.
RIGHT: he's in the running lane playside of the block, not kicked out.

Here's Beyer vs Ryan:


Beyer is three yards upfield. Ryan is two. You can't tell this in the stills but Ryan's momentum is also much better. He is heading down the line and can impact a blocker with force. Beyer had to come to a full stop and redirect. He did that impressively; it was not enough.

Move Beyer a yard towards the LOS in the left frame and he is either making a tackle for no gain or picking off the other blocker, leaving the RB for an unblocked Demens. Look at the distance between the DE/LBs and the DTs. Even though RVB is fighting playside in the left frame and slanting away from the play in the right, the gap is much larger in the former. Win for Ryan.

Great! Except the tailback doesn't have the ball.



Gillette rolls out as Ryan comes underneath the tackle and three WRs release to the roll side:


Ryan's there to provide some token pressure but it's not enough; a WR running deeper than Demens and Gordon finds a window. Gillette throws…


…for a nice gain.



Items of interest

Just because you're blitzing doesn't mean you don't have keys. My assumption is that Ryan is the guy doing what the coaches want here. He's got a year of experience, Michigan's been burned by this before and probably made a point of it in film study, and he's playing instead of Beyer (mostly).

You're sent on a blitz and get no resistance at all? Check for a pulling OL and get inside of him.

Just because there's obviously a key here doesn't mean there aren't more. The RB's second step here should be a giveaway that this is not a run play. My guess at Ryan's thought process:

  1. BLITZ WOO crap check the…
  2. Pulling G. Have to get inside pulling G to occupy blockers, restrict hole.
  3. Pulling G.
  4. D'oh.
  5. Token, too late edge pressure.

My guess at the ideal thought process:

  1. I have been assigned a blitz. Let's soberly check the…
  2. Pulling G. Have to get inside pulling G to occupy blockers, restrict hole. Hmm, maybe I should check the…
  3. Running back. He is past the mesh point but not following the pulling guys.
  4. ALERT

"Football is hard." -psychology majors who used to be pre-med

I'm not too bothered by the hole in the zone. Once Ryan loses the edge there that's a lot of time for the QB to sit and wait for his WR to run his way into an inevitable gap. I guess you could blame either Gordon or Demens, probably Gordon. He could sink back into the route by reading the QB's eyes and either get a PBU/pick or, more likely, force a less-damaging dumpoff to the underneath receiver.

That seems like Advanced Zone Mechanics 486, though. That's a place to get to eventually.

Kovacs is the free safety. Gordon/whoever rolls down into the box far more often than Kovacs does and it's almost always Kovacs who's coming down to fill against WRs when completions are made.



September 20th, 2011 at 3:15 PM ^

Is this simply a case of being RPSed by Eastern here, or is Jake Ryan really supposed to make all of those instantenous reads on one single play?  I would rather it be the former because I know there is no way in hell that I could go through a thought-process like the one you detail on most anything, let alone on one play!  Can we place blame on one of the LBs (Demens?) for not reading the rollout more quickly?  Or are they stuck simply covering their zones?  (Lots of questions)

We Do Not Sow

September 20th, 2011 at 4:08 PM ^

Let me try to tackle this (har har) as a former DT/DE. I think Ryan actually plays this about as good as he possibly could. We are in a zone here, so the LB's are gonna need to drop back to guard the pass. This leaves Ryan alone in outside run contain. He is blitzing, so he is going to take a step into the backfield and then make his first read. For me, that was always who was going to block me. When the TE or T on your side do not block you, the next step is to flow down the line, because it's either a power away from you or...IT'S A TRAP. If it's the latter, then it's coming right down your throat and you better blow it back up inside otherwise it's going for a long gain outside (see Jonas Mouton 2010). To Ryan's credit, he does eventually see the PA and gets after the QB.

I think that we did get kinda RPS'ed here. Perhaps if we played tighter zone coverage in the secondary this wouldn't have happened, but it's hard for me to tell on this picture page if the DB's hesitated before moving to their zones. 


September 20th, 2011 at 4:40 PM ^

But only because nobody ever expects Eastern to pass.  Seriously, 6 attempts vs. 46 rushes, and I'd be keying in on the run all day.  He plays this pretty well.

I mean... any time Eastern runs a play action they are going to suck in defenders because they run on 80% of their downs.  With that context I find it hard to assign anybody blame on this.

axel foley

September 20th, 2011 at 7:48 PM ^

Regardless of the other teams tendencies there is always a player responsible for contain run or pass. I don't know the play call so I assume he is coached to be deeper than the deepest and wider than the widest.


September 21st, 2011 at 2:29 AM ^

I think it's about 70% RPSed, 20% flaws in zone coverage a Nick Saban D wouldn't have, 10% Ryan not going through the ideal key reads. I think he might make this play as a senior. As a redshirt freshman I'd rather have him do what he does on this one.


September 20th, 2011 at 4:01 PM ^

How many times are you going to dump on this frosh with footage from HIS FIRST COLLEGE GAME ?  Did he nail your girlfriend or something?  Are you a graduate of Pymouth Canton?

Let him be, move on. 


September 20th, 2011 at 6:15 PM ^

Beyer had to come to a full stop and redirect. He did that impressively; it was not enough.


Brian was actually nice to Breyer, just said he was a freshman out of position.  Earlier he said he was freshman who was too small for his position.  Unless you are his mom take it down a notch.


September 20th, 2011 at 7:34 PM ^

Yeah, he's not that hard on him - I promise the coaches are much harder.  We're often critical of our team on this here blog, and our guys blow a play, it gets noted.  With UFR, they all get noted.

He's not calling Beyer names and he's not saying that he shouldn't ever see the field.  He's pointing out his mistakes, if for nothing else to point out how Jake Ryan does it better.  Which is good, since Ryan is our starter. 

Beyer looks promising though.  He's athletic and has a frame to pack on some beef.  In a year or two when he has the mental aspects of the game down a lot more and he weighs 15-20 pounds heavier, he could be a very good player.  Only problem is that he plays the same position and is the same year (eligibility-wise) as Ryan, who also looks like a guy who could be a star in a year or two. 


September 20th, 2011 at 4:02 PM ^

That seems like the perfect play for our offense. You can run the running back out of that package or you can do the play action and role Denard out which is where he is a much more capable passer since he's not behind the OL in the pocket (so he has better vision) and he's moving with his legs which will suck up some defensemen and most assuredly open up some big gaps downfield.


September 20th, 2011 at 4:08 PM ^

You have to give credit to EMU here on a good play design. They seen that our boys had trouble with the same backfield action from our first two games. The problem here is definitely the LB on the playside here. He only drops five yards or so by the time the QB runs from hash to hash. His first pass threat has more than cleared his zone. He's got to get under the deep threat here and sacrifice yardage underneath. Bend but don't break boys!


September 20th, 2011 at 4:30 PM ^

I agree that it just seems like a really good play. The only way I could see Ryan playing this any better is to read that fake a little faster and get that edge pressure like Brian mentioned, but man, to me, that seems like you're asking a whole heck of a lot from your players.

I'm satisfied with Ryan's play here. He still applies some pressure, where if the QB didn't have a man to throw to, Ryan is there for a sack or at least forcing the QB to throw it out of bounds or run out of bounds.

If Ryan is expected to recognize plays and react as fast as Brian is mentioning, it's only confirming the fact that I never would have made it on any football squad and I have been doomed to fan status since the beginning of time.


September 20th, 2011 at 4:49 PM ^

That's pretty much it.  It's actually not that hard.  In this play, since Ryan is EMLOS, all he has to think about is: I am the contain guy.  He has to attempt to have outside leverage, have flat shoulders, and keep the play inside.  if it's going away from him, he has to flow down the LOS.  Practicing this hundreds of times drills it into you.

In Beyer's case, he's nominally playing a SLB but his responsibilities are the same as a DE.  It just takes him a second to realize that college teams usually won't let you in free without a good reason unlike in high school where that happens all the time.  The extra second to diagnose the play is the difference between Ryan and Beyer's awwww hamburgers moment.


September 20th, 2011 at 4:47 PM ^

I can't remember where I read it, but I know it was in the context of RR's spread offense at the time: "the idea is to make the playside DE guess wrong".  I know this isn't a zone read play, but the net effect seems to be the same -- get the DE out of position.  All that is to say, man, it's a tough job.

Indiana Blue

September 20th, 2011 at 8:03 PM ^

is able to put into a scheme to be in position to stop these offensive sets.  The in-game adjustments are made to help this process, but they ONLY way a defensive unit can LEARN the changes in schemes is during the week of practice.  The coaches break down the film and then develop a scheme to stop these offensive sets.

Thus far, Mattison's in-game adjustments have been very good.  He is getting his defensive personnel to adjust.  This is simply not a defense built with 4 & 5 star players ... so hopefully we can start a game with a little more defensive success in the weeks to come vs. the first 3 games.

Go Blue!

steve sharik

September 21st, 2011 at 2:10 PM ^

EMLOS keys are simple.  They are:

  1. Offensive EMLOS
  2. Near back

The assignment depends on the following four factors, in order of importance:

  1. Base or blitz.
  2. The alignment of the rest of the defense, especially the (other) LBs and DBs.
  3. The alignment of the player; i.e., 7-tech., 8-tech., 9-tech., wide-9, or overhang/spur.
  4.  The type of player: DL, ILB, OLB, rolled up safety.

1. Base or blitz is most important b/c it changes the speed at which the player reads his keys and, thus, makes it impossible to change his squeeze/spill key on the fly.


Base: I pop my feet at the snap while reading EMLOS.  I get a down block from my key, so I'm going to squeeze or spill any kickout block depending on who/how quick the block is coming.  (Down block by TE + kickout by playside OT = squeeze b/c I don't have time to get underneath the kickout, but down block by TE + kickout from backside OG = spill b/c I have time to read and react.)

Blitz: I read the down block on the fly, and I will beat any blocker to the point b/c I am blitzing.  So, while my read tells me what to look for, I am assigned whether to spill or squeeze all kickout blocks based upon a) man or zone coverage--i.e., what's my pass responsibility?  b) the alignments and assignments of my teammates behind me.

2. Alignment of my teammates: Do I have immediate help to my outside or inside? If I have a stack backer or safety near me, I can spill the ball to him.  If the most immediate help is an ILB over guard or center, I should squeeze the ball to him.

3. My alignment: If I am outside on the shoulder of the offensive EMLOS, I will shoot my hands to his chest on any block and if he is trying to down block inside me, I will always be able to spill.  (Of course, if I am aligned this way, there will be a teammate aligned in a way to provide immediate outside contain.)  If I am aligned a yard or further outside the offensive EMLOS, then I can spill or squeeze depending on base/blitz, defensive formation, etc.

4. What am I?  If I'm a 280-lb. DE, I will likely be pre-determined to squeeze/spill b/c I am more limited than a 220-lb. OLB or 210-lb. safety.


So, for Ryan on this play:

1. Blitz: specifically a fire zone w/DL slanting weak and the opposite DE dropping into Cover 3, with SS (Gordon) spinning down into run/underneath dropper.  This means that I read EMLOS on fly and spill every kickout b/c...

2. Alignment/Assignment of my teammates:  I have immediate outside contain behind me by the SS.

3. My alignment: I am aligned 1+ yd. outside, so I can spill or squeeze (if it were base defense).  However, my blitz takes precedence.

4. What am I?  I'm an OLB, so I am athletic enough to spill or squeeze.

Conclusion: Ryan plays this properly b/c he's blitzing, he reads down block + run action by near back, so look for kickout and spill.  Note this does NOT mean that Beyer was incorrect vs. WMU b/c a) Beyer was primary contain w/no immediate help behind him, and b) Beyer was in man coverage and had the RB.  This is the polar opposite of what Ryan's assignment and alignment are here.

steve sharik

September 21st, 2011 at 2:09 PM ^

EMU's success on this play is due to incorrect LB play, specifically the MIKE and WILL backers.

When there is bootleg and/or rollout, the coverage rolls b/c a) you ignore the backside curl/flat area (which is why throwback screens and sprint draws are so effective) and b) one of the LBs must make the QB pull up and throw it.

MIKE and WILL should key OG over them to near back.  If their guard pulls across the formation, they should yell "PULL!", find a crease, and attack it.

WILL gets such a pull and should perform as indicated above.  The added dimension of pass means that a) it is a bootleg (since the guard pulling in front of the QB) and b) I am to find a crease and make the QB pull up.  On this play, our WILL drops back into pass coverage.

MIKE will get down block + near back away, and hearing a "PULL!" call should alert him to BCR (Bootleg/Counter/Reverse). The additional "PASS!" call from the entire sideline should alert him to get depth for the deep crosser behind him.  (The playside curl/flat player--SS--will take the underneath crosser, which is the back in the flat.)  On this play, our MIKE is a) not deep enough, and b) behind the QB, instead of even w/him.  The crosser will speed up or slow down to find an open window, but the MIKE should adjust to the QB's front elbow and shoulder in order to get in the passing lane.

Conclusion: MIKE and WILL both get -2 for MA

*Note: The MIKE and WILL can be coached to have the opposite responsibilities here; i.e., MIKE pulls up QB and WILL has deep crosser, but both assignments are blown, so both would get -2 for MAs regardless.