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

Brian September 7th, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Last time on Picture Pages we saw how hopeless n00b Brennen Beyer made life very difficult for Michigan on a 25-yard counter play Western ran in the second quarter. Poor linebacker play from Kenny Demens and Carvin Johnson contributed.

A bit later in the half, Western would go back to the well. How would Beyer react?

It's first and ten at the Michigan 17 on Western's third drive. They've taken the ball from the Michigan 47 to get here. Western comes out in the same look-ma-spread-in-shred formation and will run the same counter play they ran before. Michigan is again in an aggressive one-high press look:


A lot of backups are in. The DL is Beyer/Heininger/Brink/Black. LBs are Herron, Fitzgerald, and Johnson walking down into the box.

On the snap it's the same business, with the backside G and H-back pulling around. This time Beyer's got it figure out, though. You can just see his head popping out from behind the tackle who is releasing downfield:


All right, now we are in the business. Or not. You can read the title.


Beyer disappears in the above frame because he is making contact with the G at about the LOS. Also look at the linebackers. Fitzgerald has not moved; Herron is starting to run at the play.



Beyer has run inside and gotten sealed at the LOS approximately where the center started the play. The fullback sails outside no problem. Instead of making a pile he's just created a huge hole by removing any leverage available.

Meanwhile Fitzgerald is getting cut to the ground. He's hardly moved despite a guard pulling in front of his face, and thanks to that Johnson can't flow. Neither can Brink, who is giving ground to pursue but just gets cut.

Herron, for his part, is going to blow the leverage again…


…but it wouldn't have mattered much because there's hardly anyone behind him.



Kovacs cleans up again.


Video with dramatic pause:

Object Lessons

Someone took Beyer aside and told him how he'd screwed up on the first power and what to do. If you look at the comments on the last one there is some debate about whether or not Beyer was absolved because of a blitz. I don't think that's entirely possible; if you're blitzing and no one's blocking you off the edge while the QB executes a mesh point you need to slow your roll and adjust. Beyer didn't; someone told him he should do that.

Beyer took that advice and overcompensated a la Cam Gordon playing safety last year. I'm still not sure if they were playing to squeeze or spill. I'm guessing squeeze. This is the cost of playing freshmen. This kind of thing will get better.

I do wonder why he's even on the field. If they're going to run a four-man line I'd rather have Brink and Heininger out there than Beyer, since at least they've played football in college before. I guess you have to chalk that up to the heat and the necessity to play the walk-ons on the interior, which means just terrible things about Ash/Campbell/Washington. If Cam Gordon returns next week it wouldn't surprise me to see Ryan in Beyer's role.

Yet more indecisive linebackers. A guard pulling is a dead giveaway as to the direction of the play and twice we see Michigan players not reacting to it at all. If they're not reading the G whatever they are reading is not giving them a heads-up quickly enough.

This may be four defensive systems in four years with three coordinators; it may be a talent issue. Demens suggests it's at least some of the latter. Either way, Fitzgerald sits entirely still until he's chopped to the ground by a Western OL, which eliminates not only him but Johnson and Brink thanks to the location of the block. Meanwhile, Herron has a tough job that he does poorly with, losing leverage on the play.

I assume days that aren't blistering hot will see Demens on the field for every snap, but if he's hurt we're screwed and WLB is a real problem. Herron had two touchdowns and is going to end up significantly negative on the day.

Heininger does not accomplish what RVB does. He gets sealed away and is trying to spin free when the LB-FB contact occurs; he's in no position to help if Herron turns it inside, which he doesn't because no one turns it inside ever. This may be a slight exaggeration born of frustration.



September 7th, 2011 at 3:09 PM ^

I would expect this unit to struggle against just about any competent offense.  I also doubt we'll see this kind of squad out there too often in games against better opponents that don't take place on the sun.

A lineup of true freshman/walk-on/walk-on/true sophomore playing in front of two career backups at linebacker isn't really a recipe for success.


September 7th, 2011 at 3:17 PM ^

Not exactly encouraging.  Especially considering the Irish moved the ball at will against a much better opponent - maybe a better defense than Michigan.  Had ND not imploded and turn the ball over so much they would have likely won by 2 or 3 touchdowns.  I have a bad feeling about this game Saturday.  BTW, what is Michigan's night game record?   I'm not recalling too many good memories from night games.


September 7th, 2011 at 3:51 PM ^

I thought so myself and I got shat on by many posters who proved me wrong about our night game records.  I guess it all depends what you consider a night game.  I just have this memory of walking back to my car when we played both USC and Texas in the Rose Bowl in the dark.  That is why I have a bad feeling about night games.


September 7th, 2011 at 3:19 PM ^

It is quite frustrating/disconcerting that Big Will played such a small amount on Saturday. Didn't Mattison state that the success of the defense rests on him earlier this spring? Granted, he may have said that to spur Will on, but if not then his lack of play out there is not a good sign.

The Squid

September 7th, 2011 at 4:36 PM ^

Did BWC even get on the field in a non-special team situation in the first half? I watched the game twice (and pretty closely at that), and I don't recall seeing him playing defense until the second. This includes the obvious goal line and short yardage situations in the first half was a theoretically immovable 330 pound object would have some utility.

When he finally came in the second half (or at least the first time I saw him), some sort of zone blitz was and he actually dropped into pass coverage. And my draw dropped to the floor.


September 7th, 2011 at 3:35 PM ^

Dramatic pause?  More like Traumatic pause...

How can BWC be less effective inside if you move RVB outside then Henninger on the outside with RVB inside?  At least BWC would take up space in the middle blocked one on one...I would think. 

Mattison will come up with something right?  Someone reassure me!


September 7th, 2011 at 4:28 PM ^

I have to believe that BWC, Washington, and Ash are not the absolute flaming tires they appear to be based on playing time last week.  Maybe they were nurisng injuries and the coaches didn't want to push it with ND coming up?  I'm sure the reality is just that they are that bad, but maybe it's like Moundros last year and the coaches are keeping those guys on ice/doghouse until later.  Because right now, this unit is so thin that I have a hard time believing they'll be even competent against a good offense. 



September 7th, 2011 at 5:26 PM ^

Is it an orchestrated teaching moment for the freshman or others inexperienced?

Heat/weather issues?

Way to instill accountability for all players on the depth chart?

Saving the beef for ND?

Previous year, the defense played poorly with same guys but they were kept in the game.  Is it better to rotate this much as a way to find a playmaker like Herron?  Two defensive TD guarantees him some more playing time this week, doesn't it?

Size alone, BWC and Ash would at least plug up more of the holes, I would hope. 

The Squid

September 7th, 2011 at 5:40 PM ^

Beyer's not a guy who's coming on the field instead of BWC or one of the the other DTs. He's a backer or a DE.

If you want to talk about interior D-linemen, look at Heininger and even Brink playing DT to give Martin and RVB a blow.  That tells me that BWC, Washington and Ash are some combination of a) injured and b) really, really bad.

Regarding Herron, I'd wait until Brian's UFR comes out before labelling him a playmaker. I think we're going to find out that he had the very unusual luck of being in the right place at the right time not once but twice in a game and that on the whole his play was average or mediocre.

steve sharik

September 8th, 2011 at 6:57 AM ^

  1. This is a base 4-3 (over) cover 1 out of 30 nickel personnel, hence Beyer playing a 5-technique and Carvin Johnson playing a stack backer.
  2. There is no blitz.
  3. This is a very different defense from a completely different front, so naturally Beyer's alignment, assignment, and technique are different from Picture Pages I.  The only similarity b/w PP I and PP II is the press man-free.
  4. Beyer is now playing a DE, so he has no man responsibility.  You can see he is shaded on the OT (as opposed to 1-2 yds outside) and in a 3-point stance (as opposed to standing up).
  5. Beyer is a C gap player, so if the OT in front of him down blocks, he is to close the C gap and spill any kickout block.
  6. A well-coached spill is when the defender rips his outside arm (in this case Beyer's left) through the middle of the blocker, and then turns and gets upfield to take away a cut-back seam.
  7. Beyer does his job almost to perfection.  The only criticism I have is not getting his hands on the OT, who takes a free shot at JB Fitz and chops him down.  However, if our DEs are taught to get penetration, they may not be required to get contact on a OT inside veer release/down block.  If not, then he's doing exactly what he's coached to do.  I cannot give Beyer a minus on this one, either.
  8. Heininger plays this one pretty solidly.  No, he doesn't Mike Martin the down block, but from an x's and o's standpoint, you don't draw it up saying "okay, here the 1-tech is shaded on the center, strikes him, then (feeling the pressure of the guard's downblock) turns and defeats the guard and gets into a proper pursuit angle." Asking a nose to do more than Heininger does here is like saying, "okay, son, on this play you must be an NFL 1st round draft pick."
  9. Herron is absolutely awful on this play.  He's the B gap player with that open gap right in front of him.  When the OT releases inside, the B gap is closed.  On run to him with B gap closed, he should scrape downhill off Beyer's butt and squeeze any block because all his help is inside.  If he does this, ball carrier has nowhere to go but into the guard's ass that Beyer just spilled. 

Conclusion: this one is almost all on Herron, -2 MA.