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.


contra mundum

October 21st, 2010 at 12:03 PM ^

But I think, Avery should have opened up to the inside after bumping the slot..and thereby having a view of the QB and the developing drag route.

I  know that Iowa ran the TE over the middle to pull Demens out of position so that:

1. he couldn't get a bump on the crossing DJK.

2. He wasn't into the curl to force a throw over him to the slot..and if DJK gets the ball, he's not in a position to help.


October 21st, 2010 at 12:04 PM ^

but playing DB in college is hard enough if you've spent 4 years working on it in HS, let alone being a converted player to a new position.  Wouldn't it just be safer to play man with two deep safeties?


October 21st, 2010 at 12:06 PM ^

Some other observations:  Gordon is too deep throughout the play.  He should never be 3 yards deep in the end zone.  The curl was wind open and he could never react in time.  J.T. is pressing the receiver (who eventually catches the ball)-but not misdirect let alone contact.  What is the point being up there?  Should Mouton have hit the crossing receiver?  Not sure, but he isn't either.  The inside stunt by the tackles is slow and ineffective.  I like Black's rush though. 

contra mundum

October 21st, 2010 at 12:08 PM ^

This is a perfect example of how the youth of our team hurts us. This is NOT a condemnation of Courtney Avery. He has the physical attributes to be a fine CB. Given four years of solid instruction and a desire to learn, he'll be fine.


October 21st, 2010 at 12:37 PM ^

...for saying that.  I have complete confidence Courtney will grow into a fine CB but right now, given any other choice, he shouldn't be on the field. IMO  We're hamstrung into playing a true freshman right now.  Not his fault.  There are few that could do better than him given the very unfortunate circumstances.


October 21st, 2010 at 1:24 PM ^

This is an honest-to-goodness question.  When you put inexperienced and unprepared young players out on the field before they're ready, does it stunt their future growth?  Does a DB who gets torched because he doesn't know which way is up actually recover to be competent or even good, or is he scarred for life because of the experience?

I have thoughts about players like a young Rick Ankiel not being able to keep his pitches even remotely near home plate, and how he had to remake his entire baseball career from scratch. 

I honestly wonder if whether throwing freshman DBs to the wolves hurts their ability to develop to their full potential.  If not, then I would agree that they'll be fine.  If so, then our secondary is in for even more trouble in ensuing years.

It sounds like a MgoBlog research project -- what relevance does poor freshman year performance have on future individual development?


October 21st, 2010 at 12:23 PM ^

Stanzi is on the 22 set to throw with his WRs 50% into their routes and one of the DTs is at the 15, theres no hope to get even close to either applying pressure or break-up the pass. 

contra mundum

October 21st, 2010 at 12:25 PM ^

Yeah, I'd like to see Mouton bump the route..but. Jamming an under route comes at the expensive of depth on the drop. If you don't get deep enough, it makes the throw to the post or curl easier, as the QB can rifle it in instead of having to manuever the ball around a dropping backer.

That's why Iowa runs the TE between the LBs..to hold them and distort the zone to open up the post or curl. As a LB here, you are kinda caught between a rock and a hard place. Get too shallow you open up those curl and post routes..get too deep and the drag has a free run across. Exactly what Iowa intended.


October 21st, 2010 at 12:38 PM ^

Our (my) coaching staff preaches one particular mantra over and over, all week long, every week....

Do.  Your.  Job.

It seems rather simplistic, but it's vital to the success of the team.  If everyone KNOWS their job and performs it, success can be expected the majority of the time.

The $64,000 question is: does Avery know what his job is on this particular defense? 

If YES, then he can be taught and corrected

If NO, then we got bigger problems than young kids playing when they shouldn't be.


October 21st, 2010 at 1:21 PM ^

If he knows his job but isn't doing it, then hopefully it's just a matter of practice, repetition, and experience. 

If he DOESN'T know what his job (meaning, he doesn't know he's not supposed to turn his back and follow a receiver out of his zone), then the coaches are not doing their job.  That's why that is more disturbing.


October 21st, 2010 at 1:50 PM ^

have to give benefit of the doubt to the 50 year old men with decades of coaching experience over the 19 year old former QB on that one. Look how nervous Hagerup was just punting his first few games, and that's relatively simple. Now imagine being tasked with covering wide receivers 4 years older than you in front of 113K while learning on the job. The kid's clearly in over his head and making panicky mistakes as a result. I don't think there's any question that it's a player thing and not a coach thing, at least in this instance.


October 21st, 2010 at 12:38 PM ^

This is true.  It is also true that there should've been a "Courtney Avery type" player here last year who redshirted and is now playing.  Where are these players?


October 21st, 2010 at 1:08 PM ^

Got it - thanks for the link.

So, Cissoko situation aside , where does the responsibility fall?  All these transfers, non-adminttance and leaving early for NFL go?  RR (and staff) get a pass on this?

I understand that the defense has limitations due to talent and that the backfield is made up of "leftovers."  However, my question is why is it that way?  I may have missed it, but, I haven't heard a good answer for this attrition rate, yet.


October 21st, 2010 at 1:18 PM ^

Hi there - knee jerk reaction much?  Gear down, big shifter. :-)

I'm just asking questions here.  Why do these transfers happen?  Is it normal to have this many transfers from one position area in such a short time?  Has it happened in the past?  Does it happen on other teams?  

I don't know why this has happened, just trying to find out if there are any explanations out there.


October 21st, 2010 at 1:26 PM ^

Oh sure, now you're going to try to pretend that this wasn't where you were going with your questions.  There are only two possible answers:

  1. Bad luck
  2. Fire RichRod

If you really thought it was answer #1, you wouldn't be asking the questions.  So I just skipped over all the crap in the middle and just got to your point.


October 21st, 2010 at 1:40 PM ^

Really?  Only 2 possible answers?  Pretty simplistic viewpoint.  I think there is probably much more grey area than that.  It's very rare that it's either up or down, left or right, black or white.  As the poster above stated, there isn't one factor that unifies all of the attrition.  There is the correlation between RR's arrival and the attrition, but, that doesn't mean it's his fault completely.  When it comes down to it, it's his responsibility (as with any head coach - anywhere), but, it may not be right to blame him.  Heck, maybe all these transfers didn't like Barwis.  Point is: we don't know.  

You have an awfully quick draw on the "he must want to fire RichRod" response there.


October 21st, 2010 at 2:58 PM ^

 Point is: we don't know. 

Well thanks, that's the point.  If you already know that, then why did you ask:

So, Cissoko situation aside , where does the responsibility fall?  All these transfers, non-adminttance and leaving early for NFL go?  RR (and staff) get a pass on this?


You're trying to make sound like you're just curious, but really you making nicely worded ASSIGN BLAME posts.


October 21st, 2010 at 3:42 PM ^

I asked that because I genuinely want to know why this happened.  Maybe there is a "Decimated Defense-type" post out there that compiles the reasons for transferring and compares to other schools?  Maybe there is a compilation of reasons given for these recent transfers?  Maybe there has been an explanation that I've missed?  What is so hard to understand about that?  I suppose I could just make an uninformed, shoot from the hip judgement like you did about me, but, that's not how I roll.

You clearly believe that the attrition is all bad luck.  You offer no facts or explanation for this other than lashing out at anyone who is curious about the actual reasons.  That's a shallow response and defensive reaction made by someone who obviously thinks that the question is all about allegiance to the coach or not.  That's not what it's about.  It's an honest inquiry requesting information to better understand the situation.

Assign blame, I'm glad you brought that up.  Interesting that it's not okay to try and assign blame for the attrition or even inquire as to the possible reasons for it, yet, we are discussing this from a main page post that assigns blame to Courtney Avery for the Iowa TD. Oops, I guess there's only 2 reasons that Brian would picture page that.  

  1. Bad Luck
  2. Fire RichRod


October 21st, 2010 at 3:52 PM ^

We all hated Charlie Weis.  He was an arrogant asshole who didn't know how to develop highly-rated high school players.

We all laughed at the rampant attrition at Notre Dame and blamed it on The Whale.

Let's not be hypocrites. RR and his coaches might be a big reason for all of this attrition.

But here's the silver lining: Bo was a total a-hole. He had MASSIVE attrition that makes what we've seen here under RR look like a joyous family singing "Cumbaya."

The point is, attrition isn't always the sign of a bad coach.


October 21st, 2010 at 1:18 PM ^

to this question and I don't know if there is one.  Looking at the list I posted earlier, these are guys who would have had eligibiility this year:


Artis Chambers -- Transferred before RR
Donovan Warren --  Early to pros, hindsight probably a bad choice
Michael Williams --  Concussions limiting time, but not really panning out before
Boubacar Cissoko -- Jail
Brandon Smith -- Didn't want to move to LB, tansfer to Temple, I believe gone from there
Justin Turner -- Transfer to WVU.  Supposedly buried on depth chart after subpar off season
Adrian Witty -- Academic casualty
Demar Dorsey -- See Witty
Vlad Emilien -- Buried on depth chart, transfer to Colorado
Troy Woolfolk's Ankle -- Angry DB hating UM God
The point is there's no real unifying theme in the above.  Certainly at the end of the day you need to examine why there has been so much attrition and I think it's an approprate question to ask.  Can the coaches not bond with kids like Warren, Turner and Emilien such that they won't leave when there' clearly playing a need and playing time to be had?  Should RR not have taken chances on Witty and Dorsey?  Was Cissoko a lost cause?  Is this all just a string of bad luck and unfortunate timing?
I don't know the answers to all of these questions and I'm not sure that there are any.  I know people need to find the root cause and blame a single person but I don't know if that's appropriate here or not.  Now at the end of the day is RR responsible for the product on the field?  Absolutely, but that's regardless of whether its negligence or just bad luck.


October 21st, 2010 at 1:31 PM ^

Thoughtful response.  Thanks.

I agree - no unifying theme - which is what makes it so frustrating.  I wonder if there is any data on other college teams to see if this is just a recent Michigan issue or it's happened before.

Certainly, there is a correlation between RR arriving and all this attrition.  However, that does not necessarily equal causation.  The attrition also seems primarily isolated to the Back 7, or, is certainly having the most effect there (see: Boren transfer not really bothering the OL...currently, anyway).  The fact that the defense is so bad and young, as well as the fact that attrition has been blamed for it, would generally indicate for people to look to what is different (the head coach).  It certainly seems more than just coincidence that all this happened after his arrival.  

I'm not convinced that is RR's fault.  I do know that he's ultimately responsible, but, I just don't know why this has happened to this team.  I was just wondering if there was any data out there to help me make a more informed judgement.  

We'll probably never know.  RR "doesn't talk about players who don't play for Michigan" and rightfully so.  I've only heard the occasional negative comment (Boren's 'family values' schtick seems to be an outlier) and the rest go relatively unexplained.  Is it possible that highly recruited players can't ear PT on this team and so they transfer?  Hard to know since we never really get the full story.

Dr. Doom

October 21st, 2010 at 1:48 PM ^

Where does the responsibility fall? Why wouldn't it fall on the shoulders of the kids making these decisions? They're the ones deciding to go pro, and they're the ones choosing to take the summer off & getting buried on the depth chart behind possibly less talented players.

Dorsey was a gamble, but based on some of the other borderline guys that had gotten into Michigan under Lloyd it probably seemed like a pretty safe bet and when you're that thin at a position and have the chance to get an awesome player, you take the chance. Personally I don't blame RR for that but if you don't think he should have gambled on it, I'll give you that one. Witty should have qualified. That one is a mystery and even though I looove me some conspiracy theories, I'll give you that one too.

So I guess my answer is, most of the blame is on the kids with just a smidgen on RR and staff. 


October 21st, 2010 at 2:00 PM ^

Dorsey: I like the gamble.  However, my suspicion is that they didn't think/know it was a gamble.  My understanding is that DD was cool with NCAA, but, UM Admissions said no.  My suspicion is that RR thought he could get in because the NCAA stuff was cool.  I don't follow recruiting tho, and, admittedly don't know hardly any of the rules.

The kids have a part in this, too, to be sure.  Going pro, I can understand.  I don't know who "took the summer off."  I don't remember that being an explanation.  Has this been verified somewhere or is it just speculation?

I imagine that RR and staff should shoulder some blame for the transfers, but, there are plenty of good examples of kids sticking around (BG, etc) and growing as players and people as there are of transfers.  

Objectively, I don't know how anyone can look at the facts that are out there and put all the blame in one place (not that you did this - just sayin').  There's just not enough evidence on either side.  To me, "Fire RichRod" because of all the attrition is unfair.


October 21st, 2010 at 2:19 PM ^

"There hasn't been a guy that left that would've helped us. They left for a reason. That's why I don't talk about them. I talk about the guys that play for Michigan. The guys that left weren't playing for Michigan anyway."

For your other questions please search Decimated Defense..do us all a favor and read all of them.


From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20101021/OPINION03/10210333/Michigan%E2%80%99s-Rich-Rodriguez--Don%E2%80%99t-judge-us-too-soon#ixzz131DgpBsO


October 21st, 2010 at 3:10 PM ^

Let's look at Justin Turner for example and the well travelled version of events.


Turner supposedly got lazy in the off-season and ended up buried on the depth chart at CB.  He then transferred.  So yes, an out of shape unmotivated Juston Turner would not have helped this team.  But what about a properly motivated player that had been in the program for a year after a RS year.  I have to imagine he would have helped on some level.


So with that being said,  I think it's fair to ask, why a 5*, No. 1 player from Ohio and lifelong fan of UM lost his desire to play football at UM?  Is it in his nature or was this a failure of the coaches to reach him?  Or is there something else there altogether?  And I don't know the answer and no one here will know the answer, only RR and Turner know the true answer.  And I'm not even making a judgment.


So while yeah, the September 2010 version of Turner probably wouldn't have helped, I think it's fair to ask, or at least wonder, how it came to that. 


October 21st, 2010 at 3:19 PM ^


I read that RR quote from the Wojo interview.  It doesn't make any sense for him to talk about why guys transferred.  Getting into a "he said/she said" think isn't good for him, the player or the University.

As for guys wouldn't have helped/weren't playing anyway: fairly surprising statement, to me. Either it's sour grapes that they left (clearly, UM needs all the help they can get) or he's just getting defensive.  Hard to say what that means.

As for the Decimated Defense: I have read it.  Thanks.  It's a great piece of work laying very little of the defensive attrition at the feet of RR.  Generally, the conclusion is that Carr shares a bit of the blame for the lack of defensive depth with the "cupboard was bare" theory:

Very, very little of the overall attrition on defense seems to be related to the coaching change.

However, things have changed since it's writing.  Namely, there has been more attrition (Smith, Emilin, Turner, Witty) since.  I'm asking for information relating to this latest batch of defensive players leaving.  I haven't found much so far and don't really expect to find much else.  I just don't think it's out there.  This type of things seems to be handled within the program and not talked about publicly (see: RR quote from your post).

A lot of people I talk to directly blame RR for the defense being this bad and when I point out the youth of that part of the team he's blamed for that as well.  I don't think that's fair due to the lack of info available on the subject.  


October 21st, 2010 at 12:51 PM ^

They need to know which direction to go when they exit Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork. Otherwise, they'll end up marching in circles, setting each other on fire and poking their own eyes out.


October 21st, 2010 at 1:31 PM ^

You'll see this until Michigan stings together a good season. Most Michigan fans don't pay attention to what happens before the football team takes the field, as such, they don't think too much about the players that left early, didn't qualify, or got injured during the spring. The only thing they see is a defense that has more holes than swiss cheese and they want to know who or what is to blame.