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 1:28 PM ^

My favorite play from Jake. The 3rd and 1 when we were down 24-21 w/ like 3 minutes left. He blitzed and was on the running back in a split second, forcing a punt. Fantastic play that may have saved the game for us.


September 14th, 2011 at 1:48 PM ^

Winners expect to win and don't quit until they've won. It's the difference between Michael Jordan and Vince Carter.

I don't even think it's intangible. Attitude, effort, swag are all observable. And, combined with coaching that puts you in position to succeed, you get wins.

RR constantly said he wanted players to think less and react more. There was a study, I think Brian linked it years ago, that pointed out elite athletes don't think, they react based on training and if the start thinking or worrying then it reverts them to beginners learning a new rather than elites relying on muscle memory. This where confidence matters.

steve sharik

September 14th, 2011 at 1:42 PM ^

First, here's the embed. I'm doing this b/c it's easiest to watch the video ad nauseum and watch each guy play so you can figure out a) what he's trying to do and b) how it fits with his teammates.




  1. Brian is correct, this is 4-3 under with either Cover 1 or Cover 3.  The SS is the "spin down" guy, as you can see from Thomas Gordon coming down a run-fit position as the ball is snapped.  Against the original trey formation (TE, slot, flanker to strong side, X WR weak, 1 back), the SAM (Ryan) has to displace b/c he has double width (2 WRs).  Once the H motions into the backfield, Ryan can adjust to the common 9-technique.
  2. However, it is not quite base.  There is an E/T stunt on the weak side.  Watch the 3-tech (Washington #76) take an initial slide-step to his outside, then get upfield outside of the OT in the C-gap, while the 5-tech (Roh #88) pops his feet then come inside of the 3-tech.  Roh actually does a good job being disciplined here b/c if he tries to beat the back-block of the C, and with the WILL (Hawthorne #7) fast-flow over the top, it would open up the defense to a huge cutback run.
  3. The Big Question: Is this squeeze or spill by Ryan?  Well, it's hard to tell.  Some coaches tell their D-gap player in base defense to spill the first thing that shows after their key blocks down.  Other coaches say they will squeeze or spill depending on from where the block comes.  If the kickout comes from their side of the formation, it is considered to happen too quickly to spill, so it's a squeeze.  If the kickout comes from the backside of the formation, the player has time to recognize it and spill.  In my personal opinion, I think the primary contain player that close has time to attack off the butt of a down block and spill anything but a wing kicking out.  However, if it's a wing, that is the primary contain player's key, and since that key is kicking out, it's not a down block read.  (Note: I personally believe that a LOS contain player can spill any kickout block; I've always coached it that way and it's always worked.)
  4. Ryan does get his hands extended, and if it were a spill he would rip through the kickout block with his outside arm, then work upfield.  However, Ryan's hips and headgear are inside.  Therefore, we need to look at where the other players are fitting to help us determine.  The best way to tell is where the free hitter is.  In a 4-3 under with a "spin down" safety, the safety is either the cutback player or the free hitter.  As you can see, there are 7 blockers for 7 defenders until the 8th man (safety) comes into the box.
  5. It is the SAM's job to send the ball to the free hitter, so the safety's position should tell us where the ball should be sent and, thus, if it should be spill or squeeze.  Gordon comes down outside, suggesting that Ryan should be spilling here.  Now, Ryan could've simply had his head and hips incorrect b/c he's got his eyes in the kitchen looking for a goodie, and Gordon could've missed his assignment and spun down too far outside.  After all, if the SAM were supposed to spill, the MIKE (Demens) would've been coached to play off the spill and be outside of it.  OTOH, a well-coached MIKE would be taught to play off the SAM regardless of his assignment. That way, the MIKE is in the hole whether or not the SAM executes. 
  6. Make your own conclusion, but I believe the evidence points to this: Ryan was supposed to spill the ball to Gordon and used incorrect technique.
  7. However, even so this play shouldn't have gone for more than two yards.  The primary culprits for this being a 7-8 yard gain instead of a 2-yard gain are the strongside DE 5-tech (VanBergen #53) and WILL (Hawthorne #7).  RVB does not do a good enough job of keeping the OT over him to veer release to the 2nd level.  It's okay, but the OT still comes clean late and gets a piece of the WILL.  The reason he gets a decent piece instead of little or none is b/c Hawthorne doesn't recognize the OG over him pulling across quickly enough, and makes it easier for the O-Line to wall him off.  The well-played combination of the 5-tech keeping the OT at the line and a quick recognition of pull/fast-flow of the WILL keeps the damage minimal.

Possible Conclusion A: Ryan -1 (poor technique), Van Bergen -1 (poor technique), Hawthorne -1 (poor technique)

Possible Conclusion B: Gordon -2 (MA), Van Bergen -1 (poor technique), Hawthorne -1 (poor technique)

My educated guess is (A).

Number 7

September 14th, 2011 at 1:56 PM ^

great analysis, ss.  In Hawthorne's defense, he does do something that somewhat atones for what I am willing to believe is his mistake earlier in the play: he TACKLES THE DAMN BALL-CARRIER.  If the GERG era taught me anything, it is not to take the fundamentals for granted.  There was a lot of talk about getting back to fundamentals in the spring and summer, and this just might be one example of it paying off.

Number 7

September 14th, 2011 at 2:01 PM ^

If it is 'A', then I don't like that Ryan's job is to force the RB outside into a 1-on-1 situation with the safety.

Even if it's B, I'm not sure sure you can dump so much on TGordon. He's still the last line of defense if it does go outside, so he can't commit to the inside seam until he's certain Woods won't go there.  It makes him late, but my guess is that t would be unfair to say he missed his assignment. 


September 14th, 2011 at 2:52 PM ^

When it is possible to diagnose a play in two or more different ways, I would like Brian to consider incorporating a spread on his final results. From how you have it set, Gordon could have either performed at 0 or -2 (MA), so I would document this play as a -1 +/- 1 for Gordon to preserve the uncertainty in the diagnosis. While it's true that Brian's UFR isn't supposed to be a be-all end-all for determining the performance of a player, maintaining a variance would give more meaning as to how reliable Brian's final result is within his own performance metric when analyzing a game.

steve sharik

September 14th, 2011 at 3:02 PM ^

...would require too many hours.  UFR takes a shit-ton of time as it is (or at least it should).

If one is going to do a UFR, he/she has to draw his/her own conclusions and stick by them.

Personally, I think a blog with the level of following this one has owes it to the readership to have some credibility, and imo Brian doing it hurts credibility.  If he wants to pay guys to do the beat-writer stuff and recruiting stuff b/c they're qualified, he should do the same with scheme and technique.  Of course, if he wants other guys to do the beat-writing and recruiting stuff b/c it's important but he'd rather spend his time analyzing, that's his prerogative.


September 14th, 2011 at 3:31 PM ^

between his showing uncertainty and maintaining credibility for his UFR. In situations where Brian is going to say "I think Ozeh -1 on this" or the like anyway, it might be easier for him to simply track that as a -0.5 +/- 0.5 so he doesn't lose this in his final result (though he usually points out uncertainties in his notes/comments at the end). If he takes it a step further and questions his own results more, he looks like he is more willing to consult users like you, Magnus, and Larsenlo to see how you would diagnose this play (as you have done here); the extreme alternative is acting like his diagnosis is the only plausible option, which is Freep-level arrogance.

However, you may not be willing to provide too much insight on his UFRs for free, so it may be moot.

MI Expat NY

September 14th, 2011 at 3:35 PM ^

Eh, nobody should be taking his final UFR numbers and saying, "well, that's it, it has been told."  Brian seems to welcome comments and acknowledges different interpretations, often going so far as to post a follow-up on key plays.  

I mean, lets be honest, even football coaches, without the benefit of knowing the call, can struggle to identify exactly what all 11 should be doing, especially true on defense.


September 14th, 2011 at 2:48 PM ^

I'm not convinced the Hawthorne TFL is soley an RPS bonus (unless my definition of RPS is completely off base here).  Hawthorne's play was accentuated by the fact that RVB destroyed the TE, and the H-back went all candy-ass on his block of Ryan.  That play was going nowhere, regardless whether or not Hawthorne gets through.  It's my guess that the RT was supposed to pick up Demens, but because RVB is so disruptive, he knocks the RT off his path.  Since he can no longer get the playside LB, the RT sees MM and decides, "what the hell?  That guy isn't wearing this ugly ass gold helmet.  I'll hit HIM." 

It was a fantastic play by Hawthorne, no doubt.  But let's say the LG wasn't pulling and stayed home to pick up Hawthorne's blitz.  The ND playside line got man-handled and in my opinion, that's what truly stuffed the play.