Ryan under the microscope [Eric Upchurch]
Hello. As per usual, a game against a tomato can causes me to dig up something negative because I figure that the bad things that happen against weak teams are more likely to recur than the good ones. I'm not being negative, I'm being useful!
After this opening paragraph it may not surprise you that I didn't think Ryan had a particularly good game as Michigan's MLB. There were a couple of opportunities to contrast him with Desmond Morgan on similar plays that didn't come out well for Ryan. To the stillmobile!
Taking on blockers
App State had one drive of any consequence before Michigan started throwing third stringers on the field. That was a 75-yard march on which they ran an old Rodriguez staple, the "belly," repeatedly for good yardage.
Belly is designed to attack the soft underbelly of the backside of a defense facing inside zone. The end gets optioned off and then the goal of the defense is to use the backside DT's natural desire to shoot the gap to the playside against him. This usually sees the backside tackle get a free release on a linebacker on a quick-hitting play. (A quick google search indicates that this is Rodriguez-exclusive terminology, so your local guru's verbiage will vary.)
This was tough for Michigan to defend as aligned because the backside DT saw zone action and went GRRAAAH at it, driving himself way out of the play because he's Willie Henry and he is 1) strong and 2) not yet super disciplined. This put linebackers in bad spots, facing free OL while trying to shut down a ton of space.
Here's Morgan in that situation:
It feels like Michigan is a little misaligned here, with the linebacker shaded to one side against a formation that has no TE.
On the snap Beyer is let go and must respect the keep, so he flows upfield. Henry will get his own momentum used against him and get way out of the play, which I have designated by putting a frown at the end of his line. Morgan has an OT coming at him and a problem.
Beyer plays the mesh point well, inducing a give but forming up near the LOS so he can respond to a handoff. Henry is about to leave.
Here is the the key thing for Morgan on this play: he takes the contact. He in fact initiates the contact despite not having much forward momentum (which it is hard to get on a quick hitting play like belly). He impacts the OL and rocks him back:
Note that the guy next to him is Henry, who is trying to fight back to the play by giving ground. Also note that if Henry was anywhere near where the line would like him to be, Beyer is tackling as people wall up.
The back actually bounces off the OL…
And then a bunch of guys tackle him after six yards.
This is not a good result and I think Morgan's original alignment had something to do with that. He ends up taking the block to the inside instead of square and that gives the back room to the outside when otherwise this could have been a third down coming up. But: tough job in a lot of space. I gave him a half point for slowing down what could otherwise have been bad.
[After the JUMP: Jake Ryan tries his hand.]
Jake Ryan saw the same play a few downs later, and things did not go as well. The good bit:
That alignment seems better to me.
Wormley will play the Henry role on this play, attacking "inside zone" hard and running himself out of things. Ryan takes on the block like a SAM linebacker trying to make a play after being the force guy. IE: not taking it on.
At the mesh point, same situation: Beyer forming up, backside DT creating a problem, Ryan gets the backside tackle by himself. But when the time comes, he tries to dodge the guy:
Nobody gets more than Joe Bolden's desperate hand on him until the safety.
I didn't slow these down because the real time is the best for feeling Morgan's impact and there's no technical stuff here. It's take on a danged block yo.
Things and stuff
This is how an edge player plays MLB. When you have an opportunity to make a play as an edge defender it is usually because you have already forced the guy inside of you and now you can attack hard after the back commits. Only in extremely rare circumstances are you ever going to have to truly play both sides of a block.
That is not the case at MLB. Here Morgan mitigates damage not by avoiding the block but by moving it. He knows that all he can do is put an inert roadblock in a position, and if he does so by hitting the guy so he rocks back a yard that is helpful. Then he can try to shed the block to the correct side when the RB commits and make a tackle.
Ryan is trying to MAKE PLAYS and as a result becomes a nonfactor. His block is not in a position to do anything to the running back.
Losing Morgan is a blow. I'll get to this in a later post but the two times Appalachian State gained any yards at all in the first half were both plays on which Frank Clark played "MLB" but ran at the line just before the snap; this created frontside chaos and backside creases as Ryan and Bolden did not understand that the defense Michigan was running was designed to put player Y in gap X to the backside and that you should be there to tackle with bells on. Michigan yanked Ryan after both of these plays, and Bolden after the second, in favor of Ross and Morgan.
Morgan's not a thrilling high upside player. He is Kovacs at MLB. That was enough for him to be Michigan's best linebacker by some distance in this game. MLB is about being boring, like safety.
"Belly" is foremost a DT thing unless you're going to game it. This was not going to go well without an awesome play on either of these once the DTs got blown out.
On any of these plays M could have shot Beyer down and flared the LB to the edge to nerf the play but at this point they seemed much more interested in trying to get it right with base D up 42-0 in the third quarter. They met with little success on this drive, giving up 25 yards on four attempts. It was Ondre Pipkins who actually played it best on the last one:
That is a situation in which three yards is a win from the back, and that's how you beat that play when you play it straight up: the backside DT winning his block in such a way as that gap is not there.