Picture Pages: Jake Ryan Fights The Power, Again

Submitted by Brian on September 14th, 2011 at 11:55 AM

Last week we highlighted a couple of power plays on which Jake Ryan Brennen Beyer was out of position to disastrous effect. He screwed up the second one in a totally different way than the first one, though, so at least he's trying something new, and while Michigan got scorched by Cierre Wood I haven't run across too much that's his fault this week. [Ed: uh… because he didn't play. I have a nasty cold that is damaging my brain; bear with me. This is still a good example of where the guy on the end needs to be when power gets run at him.]

I hadn't run across a power run at him, either, until early in the fourth quarter. I wonder how he's doing?

Here's the setup. ND is in its two-TE set; Michigan undershifts their line and has Ryan over their third-stringer in the slot—by this point Mike Ragone is out with an ACL tear:


ND motions the TE in to act as an H-back so Ryan slides down to the more traditional SLB spot.

[SIDE NOTE: I really like what ND does with their TEs. This was a consistent theme: spread it wide and motion the TE in as an H-back. Provides a tough decision for a defense when you've got TEs as athletic as ND does. He's way more of a threat as a receiver than a generic fullback.]

Eifert's going to block Ryan. Presnap:


An instant post-snap:


Check that out compared to Ryan's Beyer's earlier adventures against power:


LEFT: Three yards upfield against WMU. His porridge is too hot.
CENTER: At the LOS having lost outside leverage against WMU. His porridge is too cold.
RIGHT: One yard upfield w/ outside leverage against ND. His porridge is just right.

He was blitzing in the first still, granted, but I wonder what his angle would be if sent on a blitz this time around.

By the time the tailback gets the handoff he's set up in a good spot. He can release outside on a bounce and string it out for the secondary. He has restricted the available space between himself and Van Bergen:


Unfortunately for Michigan, they've still got problems. Look at Hawthorne(#7) and the ND center currently releasing from Van Bergen. Demens will take the pulling G, leaving Hawthorne as the free hitter…


…unless he doesn't read the play fast enough, runs upfield, and gets blocked by the center.




Closer, though.


Object Lessons

By positioning himself correctly Ryan takes the bounce away and makes the rest of the defense's job easier. The porridge just right shot means the RB has to start running laterally, even bouncing upfield, if he's going to get outside the tackle. His positioning maybe a yard inside his starting position restricts the available space on the interior, making it easier for the linebackers and three-tech to shut down the hole. This is "squeezing" power.

This is a lot closer to successfully defending the power with a base defense. On the very next play Notre Dame will line up on third and two to run this again and get stuffed thanks to a run blitz that gets Van Bergen penetration and allows Hawthorne to slice through the backside of the line when the guard over him pulls:

That's an RPS play. Michigan needs to get better at defending things without RPS getting involved, because it doesn't always get involved in a good way. Here it's second and ten and Michigan gives up a chunk, but it's not nearly as open as Western's counter power schemes were.

On second down, all Hawthorne has to do is step playside of the ND center and fill that little crease and this play is a minimal gain; Michigan also might have gotten a bit better play from Van Bergen and gotten that crease closed off without help from the linebackers. It's a lot easier to diagnose what went wrong here because the answer isn't "everything."

Given what happened the rest of the game it's obvious they've got a long way to go. You can see the beginnings of improvement.

Jake Ryan is getting better. He does this again on the next play and seems in position to at least string the run out if Wood gets to bounce, which he doesn't because Hawthorne makes the play before he has to.

I've got him with a big minus on a 38-yard counter on which he is crushed inside, but on the next play—the Wood fumble—he's in even better position on an inside zone that goes nowhere. Michigan's defense obviously has a lot of problems but he wasn't the major issue on the line. Heininger, sorry to say, was.

Hawthorne can play. Needs work, but that second play is a thing of beauty. I wonder if that run blitz is specifically designed to hit that gap caused by a pulling OL or if was just a fortuitous occurrence; either way that's beautifully timed and executed. Two plays earlier he got a PBU on Eifert with beautiful coverage. He's ascended to the top of the depth chart; hopefully he secures that over the next couple weeks. That would be an Ezeh to Demens upgrade at the sorest spot on the D if it pans out.



September 14th, 2011 at 2:38 PM ^

The point of that motion is to concentrate the S on the run. While majority of times it will follow the power and run the ball, with a WR like floyd you wont make up the ground lost on a 2 step move up if you try to jump the run and they playaction.. (think that the coaches up in the booth for ND we doing exactly this.. daring Mattison to call a S blitz and just air it up.. again.. to floyd)


September 14th, 2011 at 2:49 PM ^

But there's already another safety back there to help. As Sharik noted this isn't a cover 2. And if you watch the video again you'll see that Gordon does come down when the slot goes in motion... initially Gordon's lined up just behind the 20, but by the time the ball is snapped he's come up to the 17 or 18.


September 14th, 2011 at 3:12 PM ^

But he is sitll playing pass first, hesistanting/backpedaling on the snap and only committing to the run once he saw blockers come off aggressively.

And the issue I have with the 1 safety back there isse is that if they run twin steaks or fades of a sort, theres no way our S (I assume its M Rob or Kovacs) will have the ability to get to the ball playing center field if Rees doesnt loft it. 

I would much prefer a 5 yard gain occasionally because they walled off Roh by accident and hooked Hawthorne than to give up 50 on a fade.


September 14th, 2011 at 12:11 PM ^

I don't think it changes anything but it was the RT who comes out to get Hawthorne on the first video, the Center gets Roh.

Either way, Hawthorne still gets eaten up and I don't think it matters who got  him, unless he is supposed to be reading what the OL is doing. I don't know enough about D to know if it makes a difference.


September 14th, 2011 at 12:17 PM ^

RVB looks like he got held right when it looks like he was going to make a play in the backfield. Looks as if an arm is wrapped around his neck...? Any thoughts?


September 14th, 2011 at 12:24 PM ^

Big chunks came when Mattison got RPSed, MRobinson lost leverage, and Morgan tipped his blitzes. They figured it out pretty well late. On ND's last four drives where running was a possibility they got:

24, 0, 5, -4, 1

8, -2 (these two plays)

2, 2

3, -2

That's 3.3 YPC, and the 24 would have been about 10 if not for Robinson messing up.



September 14th, 2011 at 1:33 PM ^

I think we have to remember, MR is a SS.  He was behind Kovacs until we had to put 5 DBs on the field with Wolf out.  The you have to move TGord to nickle, Floyd and Avery at CB and your choices left at FS are MR and CJ.  I take MR in that choice any day.  I think he  is learning valuable lessons that will pay dividens when he takes over for Kovacs and mainly lacks the quickness to be an above average FS. (and on some plays and average one)

A;so, as it pertains to this play, MM got singled, RVB was passed off to a TE and still didn't make a play (he was held). and we were still only better leverage by a first time player in hawthorne from stopping this <5 yards.  Diffinitely a sign of improvement if you are looking at it with any optimism at all.

EMU game should do Hawthorne a word of good.





September 14th, 2011 at 12:38 PM ^

Let's not make it seem worse than it was.  They scored 31 points, but 7 was at the very end, and most of it was because they had tons of drives with good field position when our offense couldn't move the ball.  I'm not saying our defense played well, but ND has a good offense.

I agree with the Floyd point as well - needing to keep an eye on him all game makes everything else a little weaker.  We won't see a guy like him again this year.

Number 7

September 14th, 2011 at 1:48 PM ^

The story of ND's success in the first two-and-a-half quarters was its ability to make a check at the line.  At this point, I'm not sure it is so much classic RPS as it is RPS-with-cheating.  Cheating, except in football one must prevent the other guy from looking at what you're playing, and Michigan didn't do that.

Hawthorne played great, and I'm sure part of that was reading during the play.  I'm guessing that he also did a better job disguising what he was doing than his predecessors.

Also Hawthorne has a cool uni #.


September 14th, 2011 at 12:25 PM ^

Very interested in your takeaways from dropping Mike Martin into zone coverage.....seemed to me there were 2-3 big time Irish runs that took advantage of him vacating his space to cover people. This might set records for minus-RPS



September 14th, 2011 at 12:30 PM ^

Give me a competent LB in Hawthorne. Not superstar, just competent.  That would be an upgrade. 

The drop back of Martin was stupid because it was done so often.  You take out your best run stopper?  No wonder Wood ripped apart for 150 yds or whatever. 


September 14th, 2011 at 12:38 PM ^

I think defense still lacks pieces to completely counter someone like Floyd with just personnel matchups. So they need to take some risks in defensive alignment - sometime they work (the Kovacs interception) and sometimes they don't (last TD, MM dropping back). However, I am all for it because that makes the defense high variance - and you need a high variance defense to stop drives when you don't have personnel.

When you have low variance defense AND no personnel - then you get the Illinois game of last year - sustained drives after drives. This way we will give an occasional big play but we will also kill drives. Now, it is up to the offense to use those opportunities when we do manage to kill drives.


September 14th, 2011 at 12:42 PM ^

If true, this D has significant upside. 

Floyd is monumentally more competent this year than last, though I know he got beat quite a bit Saturday.  He was playing tough and close and made some plays.  If we can get some production out of Roh/Black, see Martin return to form, and get some glimmers from BWC, this could go somewhere. 


September 14th, 2011 at 12:45 PM ^

Since we're talking about Ryan, even though this isnt the play....you know what I loved? I loved the way he held his arms up in the air and howled at the moon while standing over the pile as MICH recovered the Rees fumble in the fourth quarter.

We talked about a lot during hoops season about how guys like D-Mo, HAM and even Novak were brining a swagger back to the court that Michigan hasnt seen in years.

Ryan--and even Black (who played his best game at MICH), Hawthorne and BWC--brings that same SWAG. They just need to keep it.

I realize its one of those intangibly things, but its important. There has been no confidence and swag on this D for a couple years, save for BG55. Hopefully their play continues to back it up

Magnum P.I.

September 14th, 2011 at 1:06 PM ^

Agreed. The psychological ramifications of losing and being beaten down for three years can't be measured, but they surely have compounded the awfulness of the defense. Having the attitude of being an elite defense is critical. We're not elite, but we need to lead with our attitudes while the talent and technique builds back up. Hoke and Mattison have these guys believing. #thisismichiganfergodsakes