Picture Pages: (More) Freshman DB Doom

Submitted by Brian on October 21st, 2010 at 11:33 AM

This one's not going to be a revelation. It's just more of the same from nickelback Courtney Avery, who you may remember from "aargh crippling third down conversion" and "I play man coverage always." But I'm grabbing it to show just how damaging it is to have these guys who should be redshirting running around on the field.

It's third and ten from the Michigan 14 on Iowa's third drive; Michigan has an excellent chance to boot Iowa off the field here. They come out in a three-wide set. Michigan responds with its 4-2-5 nickel package:


Courtney Avery is the nickelback and the key guy. Michigan's going to rush four and play three deep, leaving four guys in underneath zones. Avery is on the hashmarks to the top of the picture on the slot receiver:


Iowa's underneath receivers run crossing routes past each other—a mesh route. the two receivers to the top of the screen are going vertical, with Rogers on the outside guy and Avery on the inside one:


Avery is dropping deep to cut off space but turns his back to the QB. Has anyone else turned his back to the QB? No:


Here you can see two things: 1) Avery actually did a good job of rerouting the slot. Iowa's receivers are running paired posts and they are a yard away from each other. Cam Gordon should be in position to make a play on a throw here; it's unlikely Stanzi will force it if the drag isn't breathtakingly open. 2) Avery is completely out of his zone moving inside with his back turned to the QB:


Stanzi sees it and throws just as Roh lights him up:


Avery is nowhere. He can't change direction fast enough to get back out to his zone. No one could:




UPDATE: Video.

Object lessons:

  • Courtney Avery should be redshirting. He looks like a quarterback who played a little man coverage in high school, because that's what he is.
  • Courtney Avery is not redshirting. Never Forget.
  • Rerouting receivers is an important part of zone coverage. Avery changes the WR's route here and forces it deeper, into an area in which Cam Gordon is a threat.
  • …but you have to pass the guy off way faster than this. I can't imagine you're ever supposed to chase the guy this far inside, or totally turn your body away from the QB.
  • Demens is fine here, I think. Mesh is tough on LBs in zone. Here he lets the receiver outside of him but he has to expect Avery will be there. He also knocks down the other guy running a drag, which is a bonus.
  • This is four free points from a freshman DB after the rest of the team got a stop. Maybe if Avery pulls off the slot receiver Stanzi has a shot at him on the post but that's a tougher throw than the little drag route here and with the reroute and the pressure chances are Stanzi either throws the drag anyway and picks up five or eats a sack.
  • I would abandon the nickel. Thomas Gordon is almost exactly Avery—a high school quarterback switching to nickel-type DB in college—except he's got a redshirt year behind him. I can understand the desire to get another DB on the field in passing situations but Avery's been a huge liability so far; Gordon has not made similar mistakes.

So there's this and there's 404 Tackle Not Found—two huge swing plays that went against Michigan's freshman nickelback. Missing Troy Woolfolk is an enormous deal.



October 21st, 2010 at 11:40 AM ^

It's easy to think that missing one player is bad, but not the end of the world. That's what makes it so terrifying that missing Woolfolk legitimately cost us four points here on this solitary play. Frustrating to think what this defense would be like with him. Wouldn't solve all our problems, but dang.


October 21st, 2010 at 12:39 PM ^

On defense, if you take out a good DL and replace him with someone not ready for I-A competition, then you get more runs that reach the second level and more passes that get thrown because of lack of pressure.

If you take out a good LB, depending on the defensive scheme, you get more completions to RBs and TEs, more short-yardage runs becoming moderate-yardage runs, that kind of thing.

If you take out a good CB, you get more expletives. (If you take out several good CBs, you get a case of WTF that you keep on the sidelines and dig into after defensive series.)


October 21st, 2010 at 11:42 AM ^

i like that we try to do cartwheels on the field.  like in the second to last picture.  cartwheels are a proven defensive tactic.


October 21st, 2010 at 11:43 AM ^

I am viewing any and all defensive series as "practice for 2011" at this point.  Getting mad at Avery is unfair and unproductive.  OTOH, there are glimmers of hope from him- I think he will be an asset next year. 


October 21st, 2010 at 11:44 AM ^

he's good in man coverage, looks like he has pretty good hips and can run.  he'll get it eventually.  but right now, there's more to playing CB than that, and as of yet, he doesn't have it.


October 21st, 2010 at 12:26 PM ^

Interesting take. I viewed the 2008 season as nothing more than practice for the offense, even penned an mgodiary on the subject.

It's really one of the few ways to think about the D and not want to jump off a ledge. I agree, lot of potential there, but, of course, they will get worked by good experienced QBs and SR WRs, which is what's happened in three games of Big 10 play.

It's all about practice, man, and getting this D up to par in '11 and beyond


October 21st, 2010 at 11:48 AM ^

But raise your hand if you knew the most productive contributor in 2010 from the Cass Tech crew would be Thomas Gordon.


Big Will, BooBoo, Teric Jones (not assumed to be a major contributor, but still), and yet, it's prison abs who actually makes a play here or there.


October 21st, 2010 at 11:50 AM ^

This post highlights that defense is about 11 guys completing their assignments.  If just one guy messes up, bad things happen. 

It's not that the coaches are terrible, the 3-3-5 doesn't work, or any other nonsense.  It's that we have a lot of inexperienced players making mistakes, and mistakes = blown coverage.

Hopefully the defense will continue to improve throughout the year.  A month of extra practices before a bowl game would be really helpful...


October 21st, 2010 at 1:40 PM ^

Not sure where the coaching staff failed Cissoko, and in a lot of other cases the guys on this list didn't have the talent to develop. Let me know when another staff turns the guys that left into good players. Clearly, Rich Rod would've liked to keep some of these guys, but at what price? The program can't have entitled guys who aren't willing to work to earn their spot, and slow, oversized safeties weren't going to work out anyway. Give me 5 more Vinopals and Courtney Averys over some of the guys on that list. You could blame Rodriguez for Dorsey and Witty, maybe, but somebody should be telling him these guys can't get in. I guess it's not surprising they failed him there, since we've seen shortcomings with the support staff before.


October 21st, 2010 at 1:47 PM ^

Or we can let the rest of the season play out where we probably finish 7-5 or 8-4, which meets or even slightly exceeds preseason expectations, make a mid-range bowl game and look forward to improved secondary play in 2011 with the return of Woolfolk, experienced Christian, Avery, & Talbott and the arrival of our recruited freshmen.


October 21st, 2010 at 2:46 PM ^

Who cares who is to blame.

I blame Rich as much for transfers like Turner and Vlad as much as I blame Llloyd for a tranfer like Cobrani Mixon, who should be the fifth-year LB starting on the field right now instead of Ezeh. Which is I just dont blame either of them. Shit happens. Teens transfer. I almost transferred schools myself and I didnt have half as much going on in my life or half as much alleged future stakes to lose as these kids think they do.

Blame does not help. Its worthless. Recognize the situation and move on.


October 21st, 2010 at 11:52 AM ^

C. Avery went to my wife's High School and was indeed a QB.  He was the best ATHLETE on the team. He was not a highly polished CB ticketed to go right on to the filed of an elite D1 school.

Hopefully posts like this help people understand what Gerg is working with. As someone said last weekend, can't remember who, and I paraphrase "Lombardi could be coaching this D and it would matter much.

Guys like Avery are probably going to be solid defensive players once they learn their position and mature. Unfortunately, many fans don't understand this, and have the patience for the development to occur.

Everyone is working as hard as they can to do the best they can, but the talent and experience just isn't there yet.

Thank You for the post and the continued education of me as a fan.

myantoniobass …

October 21st, 2010 at 11:53 AM ^

Anyone else think we will be sooo thankful for another year of Troy with a more experienced, complete team next year?  Redshirting is a gift...Let's hope he's 100%. 

And much like Cullen didn't see the field last week, let's follow Brian's advice and go with T. Gordon.  Sound good GERG?


October 21st, 2010 at 11:54 AM ^

You know how you sometimes you instantly like or dislike a player based on something totally idiotic like a quote or how he looks in his jersey or his name or his hype etc.?

Well this is me with Avery, I liked how they described him as a born leader, I liked how he was described as really quick with good change of direction for a corner, then he came out in his uniform and just looked like a corner and I then he made that play where he actually got a jam on the slot and knocked down a pass and I thought to myself you are so smart you knew he was going to out pace C. Christian even though everyone told you no.  You should be a scout.

Then the last 3 weeks happened.  I totally give these freshmen a free pass for this year since none of them came in early, but geesh it's hard to logically justify in your brain.   How could a kid this smart continually play the wrong defense?

I've convinced myself of this, everyone say a prayer it is true.  

He is so smart and wants to win so badly he is trying to do too much and he's forcing things that aren't there.   That's the only explanation.  

Maybe he's so advanced he is already on to route recognition pattern reading?   The nice thing that he has shown is that reroute was a thing we haven't seen much of and he's trying to make plays.  This experience will help him immensely in the offseason.  When they look at film and going over responsibilities he will be miles ahead of where he would have been just redshirting because he lived it.  His understanding of offenses will be greatly accelerated and I expect him to be pushing Floyd next year and be in the nickle package., but this is the price we pay right now. 


October 21st, 2010 at 12:33 PM ^

Speed of the game, I think that's what it is. It's hard to replicate that in practice. Plus, the kids need fundamental work, but they're required to be on the field, so they spend probably way too much time in their development college years learning about gameplans instead of being drilled on the basic fundamentals they didnt get in High School. Plus, when you're a stud on the field in high school, you're used to swooping in everywhere, covering for people's mistakes. A huge mistake young guys new to college have is not trusting their teammates and thinking they need to run over there because I think teammate A just missed his assignment. Of course, that just means you've just whiffed on your own assignment. And then real trouble ensues.

It all adds up. And even knowing all that, it is hard to control your fandom brain from being down in the dumps frustrated.

I think this bye week will allow a week's worth of fundamental drilling for the freshmen without worrying about learning a gameplan. It's probably my delusions, but I am thinking this week's practice will go a long way in making things just a little bit manageable.


October 21st, 2010 at 1:17 PM ^

speed of the game is the biggest adjustment for true freshmen.  To them, everything seems like a blur because they're not used to seeing everybody who can run.  Not properly adjusting or continue to adjust to the speed of the game, they are more prone to make mistakes because they're too slow to react or everything is moving too fast for them.  I think that over the long run, the three players, Christian, Talbott and Avery will be better with experience.  I would bet that Michigan secondary will be one of the best in the country in a couple years and we would say that it seems so long ago when the secondary sucked and was full of players with youth and inexperience.

Big Boutros

October 21st, 2010 at 11:55 AM ^

Missing Troy Woolfolk is an enormous deal.

we knew it would be. I remember someone saying his loss would cost us an entire game all by itself...perhaps this was the one. Hopefully the only one


October 21st, 2010 at 12:01 PM ^

The only difference I see is that in a pro 3-4 the 4th LB is athletic enough to do what our "hybrid S/LB"  does with a little more size. That's the perk of being able to buy your LBs. The 5th/1st (not sure how to call it) DB basically justs sits low in the zone or blitzes. For those opposing this scheme, what do we switch to? Use a 4-3 and add more help to a good DL and take away people in coverage from a poor DB core?

I do like RR's solution and move Big Will to OG.......LOL WUT?


October 21st, 2010 at 12:08 PM ^

....without a call.  I thought Roh was held when I saw it live.  I checked the replay on my FanVison and confirmed it.  ESPN / ABC didn't have a good angle on the hold, but I did see one view where it was clear that Roh had beaten his block and was well-past the lineman, but the lineman had hooked him.  It seemed obvious to me, did anyone else see it that way? 


October 21st, 2010 at 11:59 AM ^

I would like to point out that this touchdown probably wouldn't have happened if James Rogers was even a decent tackler.  Rogers catches the receiver before he gets to the pylon, but he bites on a stupid deke - the equivalent of a QB pump-faking when he's scrambled 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage - and Rogers bites on it before attempting a weak arm tackle.

contra mundum

October 21st, 2010 at 12:06 PM ^

The last thing Rogers wants here, is to be beaten to the outside, and he should have been aiming at the receivers outside hip the whole time..if you get juked to the inside..well ok, maybe someone else gets the tackle, but he should be driving through the outside hip of the ball carrier.