Picture Pages: How Not To Defend Power, Part I Comment Count

Brian September 7th, 2011 at 12:21 PM

People are worried about the defense, and with good reason. The worrying bit isn't so much the best quarterback in the state averaging 5.9 YPA and being forced into two turnovers by getting clobbered, but rather Western Michigan running for almost 5 YPC with guards they picked up at a yard sale in Jackson.

I have good news and bad news about this. The good news: a major reason for these issues was a true freshman in his first game who made obvious errors. He fixed some of those errors. The bad news: he fixed those errors so hard he made the opposite error. More bad news: he wasn't the only culprit.

We're looking at two successful first-half counters run by the Broncos. Here's the first. It's second and two on the Michigan 47 on Western's second drive of the day. Western's all like "look, ma, I'm the 2010 Michigan offense" and Michigan brings out its aggressive one-high press man for the first time:


You see the 3-4 front with three tight corners. Kovacs is out of the picture deep. The slot "corner" is Thomas Gordon. The LBs from top to bottom are Herron Jones, Johnson, Demens, and Beyer, with Roh/Martin/Van Bergen the DL. Your key players are the bottom three guys in the front seven: Beyer, RVB, and Demens.

A moment after the snap:


The tackle blocks down on RVB, leaving Beyer free to fly into the backfield. This is an Admiral Ackbar situation that Beyer is too pumped up on adrenaline and youthful stupidity to recognize. He's all like "gonna get me some QB."

Meanwhile, the RB is moving right, but check out that OL directly in front of the QB: he's pulling left. This is a counter.


A moment later Beyer is recognizing his DERP far too late. He's already three yards into the backfield and his momentum is stopped as he tries to change direction now that the QB doesn't have the ball. the pulling G is going to hammer him.

Not all is lost, though: Demens has read it and is moving into the hole. And you see a lot more of Van Bergen's jersey, don't you?


RVB has given about a yard but now has his helmet across his blocker. Beyer defeats the OG's block and would have a shot at a tackle if he hadn't flown upfield so fast. There's that lead blocker and a lot of room for Demens to close down but he could…


…just about turn it back inside to RVB, who has now totally defeated his block, or he could…


…turn into Jonas Mouton and lose leverage.



That's 25 yards before Kovacs can come up and save the bacon.

Video, with annotation!


I learned this from Spielman. There are two main ways to defend the power play: "squeeze" and "spill." Squeezing is getting into the guard upfield a bit so that the RB has to take it inside into a more restricted hole. Beyer would have to be a yard or two closer to the LOS and to the inside to be squeezing. From that spot he can make a play, or at least make it harder to burst outside that LB.

Spilling is kind of a scrape exchange type deal where the playside DE roars down the line at the pulling G and cuts his ass to the ground. This is intended to create a pile that takes out the other lead blocker and forces the running back to bounce outside, where a linebacker scraping over the top should clean stuff up. Beyer would have had to shoot directly at the G as soon as he reads the pull.

Obviously, he does neither and gets kicked out of a very large hole. If he's in the right position he's dealt with the block well enough to make a tackle. He's not.

Demens did Mouton it. He's got a tough job here with the fullback and a big hole, but letting the guy outside of you is a cardinal sin—unfortunately, one we're all too familiar with. If Demens gets outside that fullback WMU might get a big run anyway but "losing leverage" (the jargon) guarantees it.

Another quiet Van Bergen plus. This is the kind of thing I am talking about when I say RVB is good but the things he does often go for naught. Here he beats a downblock, which is tough, to show up in the hole and potentially rescue Johnson, who you may note ran ridiculously playside and ends up farther away from the play than double-teamed NT Martin. Demens loses the plot and Van Bergen's reward is just a UFR plus and a chase downfield.

Ugh Johnson. To reiterate: the guard directly in front of Johnson's face pulls and he ends up yards away from relevance.

Kovacs. He tackles. He does not not tackle. Here he sort of misses, but this was very rare. This may not hold up against Big Ten teams but there were plenty of opportunities for the Broncos to pick up a touchdown that they could not because Kovacs tackled them.


a non emu

September 7th, 2011 at 12:36 PM ^

Brian must have some good reason for not banning you, but I don't see it. You are probably the single most annoying person on the board. Your posts add nothing - they are not funny, they are not even snarky. They are just plain idiotic.

I have been on this blog everyday for over 5 years now. While I may not post a lot, I have an interest in seeing the level of discourse here kept high. At least BGH whose comments disappeared in the Misopogon post has had a long history of quality posts on this blog dating to the haloscan days. Unfortunately with WLA usurping some of these posters and turning into the 4Chan of the MGoBlogosphere, they think it is cool to come here and troll.

Anyway, I just hope you are banned. I am tired of clicking on every FP post and seeing your ridiculous drivel.

a non emu

September 7th, 2011 at 12:50 PM ^

Damn. I must admit that I stopped visiting the WLA a long time ago. Seems to have changed quite a bit. I don't see uniscorn linked anymore. But anyway, my point was that a lot of quality posters from the haloscan days moved to the WLA. I used to wander over because I enjoyed their take on things (you included). But then every uniscorn chat over there was about how something was stupid on Mgo, or how someone was being an idiot here, and one of the WLA crew would come over here to troll. I mostly lurked, but I got tired of that, and some of the other memes that you guys had going there, and so I stopped visiting. The site seems a lot different now.


September 7th, 2011 at 12:54 PM ^

yeah, it happens. I mean, there are a number of people who comment over there, and they have opinions, as do we. MGo is the bell-weather Michigan blog, and so what it says is frequently a topic of conversation.

But, I mean, the site isn't responsible for what people that read it choose to type here.


September 7th, 2011 at 12:34 PM ^

Just think, if Cam Gordon's back wasn't hurt, we wouldn't even know about Beyer yet on defense.

Let's hope Gordon plays this better than Beyer. Heck, I suspect Beyer from now on will play this better than Beyer.

Greg McMurtry

September 7th, 2011 at 12:34 PM ^

I am pretty sure  that as soon as Cam is healthy, this week from what we've heard, it will be Cam and Jake at SLB not Beyer.  Mattison likes to sub out winded players and Beyer was the only other SLB option vs. WMU.


September 7th, 2011 at 12:40 PM ^

less experienced guys learned some valuable lessons early on against WMU.  The only problem was it took at least 1.5 quarters to get it.  Against ND and with Cierre Wood running the ball, one quarter of it will cost UM about 21 points.

I find myself having a lot of confidence in this defensive staff to correct these wrongs and help the guys "see" these setups better pre-snap.  If they can contain Wood and Gray early on, that may push Kelly to call more vertical pass plays which should play into Mattison's Blitz happy plans.  At least that is what I am hoping for.

Part of me thinks this is going to be a last team with the ball wins and a part of me thinks, Mattison and company confuse the crap out of rees and he throws three picks to avoid getting clobbered in the pocket all night long.

Either way, I like our chances as long as Woolfolk and Floyd can stay with M. Floyd all night.

ND Sux

September 7th, 2011 at 1:06 PM ^

sure they all gave up completions, but in general the coverage was fair.  Nothing like last year with recievers open and no DB even in the frame. 

I don't have time to study the film, but can't wait for the UFR.  Indeed, Kovacs makes tackles, and I've noticed that he tries to strip the ball whenever we have a gang of guys in there.  I always thought the UFRs were tougher on Kovacs than what I saw on the field.  The kid just seems to make a lot of solid plays. 


September 7th, 2011 at 12:42 PM ^

I'm not sure if Demens lost contain here or if he's not supposed to contain.  I mean...a middle linebacker's job is rarely "contain."  That's the difference between what Demens did and what Mouton did last year.

Middle/inside linebackers are often taught to take on lead blockers head on and force them back into the hole.  If Beyer doesn't get so deep or if he spills down the line, Demens forcing the lead blocker back into the hole creates a perfect pile-up.  Unfortunately, that doesn't happen.

The main culprit here (as you noted) was Brennen Beyer.  It's a freshman mistake and hopefully it will be corrected soon - or hopefully Cam Gordon will return.  It would also be idea for Beyer to keep his shoulders square to the line rather than opening up his chest to the kickout block.  He's kind of in a No Man's Land between squeezing and spilling.  If he's going to squeeze, his shoulders should be square to the line of scrimmage.  If he's going to spill, then he should be coming down the LOS harder.


September 7th, 2011 at 1:05 PM ^

I'm not sure Demens is totally off the hook - by the time he engages, it's clear that Beyer has run past the play and will be neutralized. It may not be his "job" to contain, but he needs to be aware that he's the outside defender on this play (whether by design or not) and anything that gets outside him is a guaranteed big gain.

Also, if Beyer had gone harder down the LOS and executed a "spill", wouldn't it still fall on Demens to stay outside to tackle or at least contain?


September 7th, 2011 at 1:22 PM ^

I'm not going to fault a MLB for failing to keep contain when it was the SAM's job to keep contain.  While it's true that Demens could have made the play, it's also true that it was Beyer's play to make.  That Demens didn't do two people's jobs on one play can hardly be held against him.

No, it would be Beyer's job to keep contain.  That's the role of the SAM.  There's no base defense in which a MIKE is tasked with outside contain, unless there's some fancy stunt on (which isn't the case here).


September 7th, 2011 at 2:06 PM ^

But is this a called blitz (edge blitz from both Beyer and Herron)? In that case doesn't Demens' role change? It certainly looks as though Beyer is taking off right at the snap as if it was a blitz all the way.

Agree contain isn't the Mike's job in base defense, and he shouldn't be "expected" to do the job of two guys. So you can't ding him too much if he played his assignment. But this is where a smart, adaptable player should recognize that things are rapidly going to hell, know that he has help inside but only green to the outside, and make the reaction that minimizes damage. The play may not be his fault, but he was the guy with the best chance (other than Beyer) to keep this play under 10 yards, and he didn't do it.


September 7th, 2011 at 2:12 PM ^

I don't know if it's an edge blitz or not.  Herron and Beyer are both played like OLB/DEs in a 3-4 scheme.  It just depends on your definition of a blitz.  It doesn't really matter, though.  Beyer's still got the same responsibility.

Like I said, I agree that Demens COULD have made the play...but it's not his responsibility.  He couldn't do his job in part because Beyer didn't do his.  This is unlike Mouton from last year, who simply screwed up on his own.


September 7th, 2011 at 1:02 PM ^

first of all i love the counter out of gun.. I think it is a great offensive play...  second its a really great play against this particular defensive call...

i still think the play could have been stoped with minimal damage, had the fs made his proper run/pass reads, and filled the funnel appropriately.   


An outside linebacker is NEVER going to spill a pulling guard unless the defense is angling someone to be the contain man.  In this case with a single high safety, the OLB IS the contain man... Obviously they would like for him to constrict the hole more, attack with his shoulders parralell to the LOS and not give up his chest, keeping his outside arm free.  But reagardless the hole WAS contricted enough for the olb to have done an OK job.  If anyone was going to spill, or squeeze it would have been the end, the problem is that it looks like Michigan is "pinching" its ends, that is the ends are playing "b" gaps.  In that case,  the end would not be able to get to the pulling guard.  The best case scenrio is that he defeats the downblock of the tackle and is able to disrupte the play from the inside.  the back side end if squeezing, needs to do a better job of attacking the shoulder of the pulling guard.  the guard was able to get out of the hole, before the end touched him, and the tackle was able to cut him off from properly pursuing the pulling guard.  


The lb's i beleive are too slow to step to the C gap, assuming that the ends are pinching.  The playside lb looks to take a false step, and is therefore one step late in covering the open gap...  


however the FS should never be 20 yards down field on a pulling counter play.  and should be at the point of attack, by the time they slow developing counter gets to the gap.  His first steps after seeing the down blocks of the tackles should be down hill,  and then funneling to the playside with the backfield action and the pulls in front of him..  at WORST, he should be just off the outside shoulder of the lb and in possition to make a play before open field...


steve sharik

September 7th, 2011 at 1:18 PM ^

  1. This is a double-edge blitz by Herron (Jones?) and Beyer.  Watch the video and you will see them attack immediately w/no read steps (pop feet).
  2. Demens has no gap to his side since Martin is shaded on the center to his side (A gap), RVB is the 3-tech. (B gap), and Beyer is outside (C gap).  Therefore, Demens is the free hitter to his side.
  3. Beyer can be coached to either spill or squeeze the kickout block of the pulling guard--doesn't technically matter, just depends on who's coaching it and how they like things done.  I prefer to spill because it makes the ball bounce sideways and the play is designed to be a downhill run.  Squeezing can work and requires less teaching of the DE/OLB b/c he can always be a get-up-the-field, new-line-of-scrimmage guy, but it facilitates what the offense wants to do on the power play.
  4. Either way, Demens needs to get to the hole quickly and meet the pulling H-back on WMU's side of the LOS and hit him w/his outside shoulder.  As you can see from the stills, Demens is still flat footed after the snap while Herron (Jones?) is already on the move. 
  5. Demens' help is to the inside and none outside (in run support), so he should squeeze the H-back.  Doing so on WMU's side of the LOS will cause the back to take the ball deep and to the sideline, or back inside to pursuing teammates, especially Herron (Jones?) off the back edge.
  6. It appears that our ILBs are taught (as many college ILBs are) to key the backs.  IN BASE DEFENSE, I think it's best to key guard or tackle over you (depending on the scheme you face that week--e.g. vs. Wisconsin key uncovered OL over you b/c Wiscy pulls uncovered OL) and then key the backs.  Done this way, Herron (Jones?) gets a pull across read and communicates that to Demens, giving them both a quicker read.  Keying the back gives a slower read in this case due to the counter action.
  7. However, in a Cover 1 (man-free) blitz, even the ILBs have a man, and that is back their way, so you can't fault them for not keying guards if this is a blitz.
  8. To me, the biggest minus on this play goes to Mike Martin.  The DL is not slanting left (you can tell from RVB, Martin, and Roh's footwork b/c if they were slanting left their first steps would have been a slide step left with their left feet) so Martin should have been in the A gap.
  9. Martin in the A gap would've cause the guard to block him.  Instead the guard sees his A gap unoccupied and thus goes directly to cut off Johnson.  Had Martin been in his gap and Beyer/Demens did their jobs, the ball would've cut back to an unblocked Carvin Johnson in the hole.
  10. Since this is a blitz, we don't know for sure whether or not Beyer is doing his job Though his correction to get inside the guard leads one to believe his angle stunk and he was supposed to spill, it could be he's just a freshman trying to get off the block and get to the ball.
  11. Conclusion: Martin -2 for MA (missed assignment: A gap) and Demens a -1 for not doing his job well enough.



September 7th, 2011 at 1:21 PM ^

Does blitzing the guy absolve him from responsibility to read the play and not get out of position? I'm genuinely asking this. It seems to me that Beyer still has to realize what's going on and get in better position once he sees what's going on in the backfield.

steve sharik

September 7th, 2011 at 2:23 PM ^

And since this is the return of Fort Schembechler, we'll probably never know.  In his alignment, Beyer should be taught to point his toe at the near back and strictly read him, if indeed it's a blitz.  (I'm about 95% confident this is a blitz.)

What we don't know for certain is what type of edge blitz it is.  He could either be assigned to crash tightly and spill all kickout blocks or blitz high and be the contain guy.  Since Beyer is a true freshman playing his first collegiate game, we can't assume either.

Furthermore, Beyer could either have no man responsibility or be a blitz-peel guy and be responsible for the back if he swing releases to the outside.  If it's the latter, we certainly can't fault Beyer too much for his angle.

Watch the video at full speed with no speed and imagine you are Beyer.  You're on an edge blitz and have the back if he comes to you.  Your job is to hug up the back first, contain any lead blocks second, pressure the QB if the back pass blocks, pursue on run away, and be reposible for BCR (bootleg, counter, reverse).  Those are in order or priority since they will happen in that order from quickest to slowest.

Basically, he very welll could have done his job pretty much correctly, and to expect even a senior to react and get back to the football if he's a blitz-peel guy is asking him to serve two masters, a no-no in sound defense.



September 7th, 2011 at 4:10 PM ^

We've got four knowledgeable guys, one who breaks down every single M game on film every year, watching every play over and over again, and three other guys who are actual coaches. And all of them have slightly different takes on exactly what is happening--on ONE PLAY. It really show how difficult it is, for anyone, doing what Brian does on UFR. 

And I think because if this example that UFR readers, of which I am one, really should hesitate before leaping to conclusions of praise or blame on individual players. Without knowing precisely what the playcall is, no one that is not a M coach can tell for sure what each guys responsibility is.


September 7th, 2011 at 1:17 PM ^

There is much more going on than the initial analysis stated. 

Coaches talked about the most growth happening from Game 1 to Game 2.  Plays like this aren't going to be wasted.


September 7th, 2011 at 1:48 PM ^

I am encouraged that this defensive staff will be able to coach this stuff up quickly. It's obvious they can make adjustments faster, and calm the defense down in-game a lot better than GERG could, so I can only imagine stuff like this will be corrected in practice better.

Great insight tho. Love reading this crap. My F5 key is going to break on my keyboard because of this site.


September 7th, 2011 at 1:48 PM ^


is an excellent name for this defense. none of the words are very threatening, it could be a serious situation, but more than likely its just a mild inconvenience.