Picture Pages: Swallowing Kenny Demens Comment Count

Brian November 23rd, 2010 at 12:55 PM

So… Greg Robinson doesn't know how to run a 3-3-5. For whatever reason, Michigan is running a 3-3-5. This results in situations like this first quarter run for the Badgers that echoes several themes from the This Is Not A Stack post: by lining up his MLB just behind his nose tackle he dooms that guy to take one step to the playside, whereupon he is eaten by a guard who has no one lined up over him. Even if Michigan successfully plugs that hole they are crazy vulnerable to cutbacks and counters.

It's second and three on Wisconsin's second drive of the day. they come out in an I-form with twins to the field side. Michigan aligns in its stack formation with Jordan Kovacs—supposedly the bandit—aligned to the strong side of the formation, with Cam Gordon hovering over the wide receiver stack to the outside:


Wisconsin's going to run a simple iso play that's designed to go off the right side of the line. You can see in shot two Demens's alignment just three yards off the LOS:


Martin's getting momentarily doubled in the shot below but the G peels off quickly to block the rolled-up Demens. On the backside Ryan Van Bergen has gotten kicked out and Mouton is staring down a free release from the backside G:


Demens is swallowed. I think the idea here is to force Wisconsin to come off their double of Martin quickly, allowing him to run free and eat people, but don't quote me on that. Ezeh is attacking the FB, and there's nothing on the frontside:


Because Martin has slanted past the center and Van Bergen has gotten kicked out there's a big cutback lane. Mouton is in a bad situation, essentially standing still as a guard comes out on him. Demens is getting blocked; the OG has his arm around his back. This never gets called holding but he's being held:


Mouton gets blasted three yards downfield and gives up the inside. Courtney Avery was filling from his overhang spot and could have maybe held this under three yards but once Mouton gets hit in that position the RB cut past him and it's up to Demens and/or Martin to spin of blocks and close it down.


They can't. Vinopal is forced to tackle ten yards downfield.



Object lesson type objects:

  • Theory as to the deployment of Kenny Demens two feet from his NT. Demens threatens to shoot into the backfield immediately on plays like this, which seriously reduces the time Wisconsin guards have to double Mike Martin. This allows Martin to use his quickness to slant under the center, get to the playside, and close off holes.
  • Problem with the deployment of Kenny Demens two feet from his NT. Once you're engaged with an OL he is going to grab you and delay you and let go before he gets a flag, so you can attempt to get off him and close down the massive cutback hole you've opened up by shooting both your MLB and NT to the playside but you're probably not going to make it.
  • Second problem with the deployment. I imagine it has something to do with opponents' consistent ability to hit balls over the linebackers and in front of the safeties; having your linebackers five yards off the LOS gives them more time to reduce throwing windows. I've charted basically all of Tolzein's throws and three or four could have been shut down if the linebackers had been a yard or three deeper.
  • WTF Van Bergen? When Michigan is aligned in this fashion the overhang guy—in this case Courtney Avery—is in great position to shut down anything that bounces all the way outside to the short side. With both Demens and Martin headed playside RVB should be flowing down the line, relying on Kovacs to bounce anything that gets behind him and Avery to clean up. Instead he gets upfield and seals himself, basically, leaving Mouton in acres of space with a guard bubbled over him.
  • Mouton could do better here, too. It's never good when you're taking on an OL three yards downfield and that OL is moving while you're not.

Ironically, I think this MLB deployment would have worked out okay for Ezeh, who's a big guy with some pop but terribly indecisive. Here there's not much of a decision. Line goes one way, you pound the playside guard ASAP. It seems like a waste for Demens, who has displayed good read and react skills in his brief career as a starter.

I was looking for an adjustment here where Michigan would defense something like this by not having Demens right at the LOS but haven't found it yet. I've seen a lot of small guys getting battered and crappy pursuit angles. I'm not sure if my haziness on what the appropriate play is is my fault or the defense's fault; it seems like Michigan players are making basic errors but it could be a shifting scheme in which a guy like JB Fitzgerald's attempt to defeat a downblock sees him go from the LOS at the snap to six yards off the LOS outside the hashmarks.

More than anything this seems like another example where the scheme is either incoherent or the players don't know what they're doing. Van Bergen getting upfield is the killer here and makes no sense given the alignment of the D.


His Dudeness

November 23rd, 2010 at 1:05 PM ^

It is so frustrating to know that our DC has no clue where to even put the guys on the field let alone actually tell them what to do from there. I have zero confidence in his ability to do anything that even remotely would be considered correct. Apparently he can count to 11 though, so that is nice.


November 23rd, 2010 at 1:25 PM ^

...but do you really believe the defense they are playing is so unsound that all the coaches and players just keep going along with this at the University of Michigan?  Really?

You don't think if G. Robinson sat down with B. Cook for 5 minutes and went over this play and what the responsibilities were he would not have him convinced this was a good plan or at worst Brian would say well I don't agree with him but at least I know he just didn't have brain surgery yesterday?


November 23rd, 2010 at 1:56 PM ^

People need to be careful saying "Gerg doesn't understand the 3-3-5". He may understand it, but there's a difference between having knowledge and being good at running it. And with a young defense, if you're not an expert at a scheme, then the youth will compound the problem.

The scheme itself may not matter, but how you run it (and who runs it) makes a whole world of difference. 

All I have to say is...good luck RR fixing this defense. Some serious changes need to be made, because the flaws in how it's being run seem to be more fundamental than just "youth".


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:13 PM ^

I've said this before, but Brian is wrong criticizing RVB for what he's done on plays like this--Brian essentially has no idea at all what RVB's assignment is here. Watching film it is easy to notice when guys don't get off a block, are slow to react, take the wrong angle, make a poor tackle, etc. that is all good fodder for UFR. But IMO it is wrong to assume that any player has blown it or is "WTF?" No one watching film, no matter how diligent, can be sure that RVB hasn't been told to do exactly what he did.


November 23rd, 2010 at 5:17 PM ^

Brian can't know what RVB is coached to do there. So criticizing a player in UFR is really without foundation unless it's done over things such as I listed above. And criticizing GERG for what RVB did is also irrelevant--because there is no possible way to know what the coaching was for that play. There is plenty of ammo for Brian and others to fire at our defense, and it's legit to criticize it, GERG and players in UFR. But IME some of it shouldn't be done.


November 23rd, 2010 at 1:11 PM ^

I wonder what the guys are saying to each other when they watch film.  I am also wondering what Gerg is telling his players when they watch film.  It is pretty obvious that Demens is being coached to be that close to the NT or a coach or someone would have caught onto this by now.  


November 23rd, 2010 at 1:44 PM ^

Regarding the Demens issue......it was stated on this website that Demens personally complained about his alignment either at halftime or right after the Penn State game. HIs position was appropriately altered. However, this week it looks like his positioning has reverted to the Penn State alignment.

Both teams play a more traditional running offense than either Illinois or Purdue. At the least, that would indicate that GERG and Demens probably came to a sort of agreement as to his alignment this past week, since Demens has addressed it in the past.


November 23rd, 2010 at 1:17 PM ^

First of all, I agree that Demens should be playing deeper.  He's bound to get caught up in the wash if he's only three yards deep.

But once again, this is a gap-sound defense.  This play ends up with Mike Martin and Kenny Demens both in the playside "A" gap.  That gap should be filled by Martin or Demens, but not both.  I'm not sure who should have which gap, but the scheme is sound.

Unfortunately, as you said, Van Bergen does a poor job from his 4-tech position, and either Martin or Demens makes a mental mistake.

Ultimately, yeah...Greg Robinson is teaching a defense he doesn't understand, and his players clearly don't understand it, either.


November 23rd, 2010 at 1:24 PM ^

Magnus you really think RR would allow Greg to be sitting out there coaching a defense he doesn't understand?   With RR's job on the line he just continues to let this happen without vetting it?   You really think Robinson is confused by Wisc. offensive schemes  and that he hasn't gone up against 10 times more complex schemes in the NFL?

It does appear RVB is the main culprit here, but based on how the other LB's are attacking isn't Mouton at fault as well for not attacking his gap harder to squeeze it more?


November 23rd, 2010 at 1:50 PM ^

Nice response.

I'll assume you've seen RR on the sideline during the games and heard about his temper at practice.

Based on this evidence you don't think GR has had to defend himself to RR and D. Brandon who has said he has sat in the film rooms with the coaches. 

You think RR is just sitting back with the coaches laughing saying boy that youth really screwed up there oh well those wacky freshmen what can you do?


November 23rd, 2010 at 2:16 PM ^

If Greg Robinson understood the defense, we wouldn't be having so many problems employing it.  Our front six consists if a junior, a redshirt junior, a sophomore, a fifth year senior, a redshirt sophomore, and (on this play) another fifth year senior.  That's an average amount of 3.67 years of experience at the college level.

If you want to talk about the secondary, then okay.  There are a bunch of freshmen and walk-ons back there.

But the front six ought to be doing better, and they're clearly making mistakes over and over again.  I have a hard time believing that a bunch of guys who average out to be almost seniors are clueless without being coached to be that way.

Robinson doesn't understand how to employ the 3-3-5 defense, whether it's personnel or scheme.  There's no other explanation.  He doesn't know what to do, what positions to put his players in, where to align them, etc.  It's not entirely Robinson's fault (he's not a 3-3-5 guy), but partially, yeah, it's on him.


November 23rd, 2010 at 2:41 PM ^

VanBergen, Martin, Roh, Fitzgerald, Mouton, Demens.

Fitzgerald and Roh are good enough to make a two deep and the rest are good enough to start for most teams. The only reason I even include Roh is that he should be a red-shirt freshman and really needs to gain more weight to be a DE in a 3-3-5.


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:18 PM ^

I understand everyones frustration, I implore my wife to leave on Saturdays to avoid a possible divorce due to my rage.  Some of the play doesn't seem to make sense to me and I would employ a different scheme.  Oddly I was all in with Schaefer as I thought his scheme was exactly what I wanted to see.   Then he kept trying to play 3rd and 18 with John Thompson guarding slots and eveyone hated him and Brian thought he was a retard.  I thought oh well he doesn't seem very good.

Just so we're clear you think G. Robinson who has coached for 30-40 years in all sorts of defenses in college and the NFL and has said he coached a 3-3-5 at the Jets to confront the 4-5 wide packages in the NFL and has been here for 2 years and is coaching with 3 guys that came from WV and coached in the 3-3-5 that WV employs is lining guys up in the wrong spot and then setting up a defense where we have no gap integrity and can't defend a cutback?

While doing this RR  and the other coaches just let him sabotage the defense like it is a Buckeye conspiracy without stepping in?  

Despite all of RR's contacts and friends in the profession none of them have told him that Robinson doesn't know how to lineup your defense.

Hell you don't think D. Vermeil or P. Carroll or somebody would say Greg move Demens back 2 yards?

Obviously they have a plan that is not working.  They made some calculations on what they had in the spring and summer  and knew the talent and depth was a problem and thought this would be the best way to mask it over.  They made an error, but to think Greg Robinson doesn't know how to line up linebackers and that the whole Michigan family is standing around and not saying anything is ridiculous.

Oh and lastly C. Spielman who seems to be getting a lot of play on here lately and knows something about linebacking said right on the telecast Robinson has guys in the right spots they are just not making the plays.   




November 23rd, 2010 at 3:36 PM ^

I am quite frustrated by the common assumption around here that players are merely robots to be programmed and are incapable of independent action.  It then follows that they are executing perfectly all instructions given to them, and thus the problem must be in the instructions, as the players are obviously incapable of making errors.

I don't know enough about defense to be able to critique these things, but having been a coach I am well aware that there is often a very large gap between what you want the players to do and what they actually do.

The coaching may indeed be incompetent, but I prefer to make such an accusation as a last resort, not a first.


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:54 PM ^

Again, if Robinson DOES know how to run a 3-3-5 defense . . . then why isn't it working? 

And let's assume that Chris Spielman knows something about linebackers/playing defense.  I mean, he should, right?

Then on this play...tell me what guy is "in the right spot" but "just not making the play"?  I don't see any missed tackles.  I don't see guys getting outrun.  I do see two guys in the same gap, which is not good.


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:23 PM ^

There are a lot of guys floating around football who have coached in a lot of different places. The fact that they're still around doesn't necessarily mean they're good at what they do any more than the fact that I have a job means that I'm good at what I do ... it just means I know at least one person who either thinks I do a good job or was willing to give me a chance.

So Robinson used the 3-3-5 16 years ago for one season in the NFL on a defense that had a noticeable drop in performance. Yeah, some of that (or all of it) may have been due to other causes, but it wasn't an improvement, and it was a long time ago.

Assuming that he didn't use the 3-3-5 the next 10 years as a DC or in his 4 years at Syracuse, that would leave him with two bits of experience: one year at a different level more than 15 years ago where it wasn't necessarily a success and two years here where it definitely is not a success. If that's the extent of his "live" experience with the 3-3-5, then yes, I wouldn't be surprised if he was lining up guys in the wrong places and setting them up to execute poorly from time to time, just like if Brandon hired Dick LeBeau or resurrected Jim Johnson and asked them to run the 3-3-5, I wouldn't be surprised if they struggled with it.

Maybe it's more accurate to suggest that maybe Robinson is having difficulty trying to fit a defense ravaged by injury and lack of talent to a scheme with which he is not familiar. Maybe what we're seeing are attempts to make up for the times when the secondary resembles inanimate carbon rods. Maybe this is a no-win situation for any defensive coordinator ... but I don't think it's all on the players, and I certainly don't believe that we should automatically trust in Robinson because he has experience.


November 23rd, 2010 at 5:19 PM ^

You make some good points, but Robinson is not some vagabond positional defensive coach.  He won 2 Super Bowls.

I don't think Greg is a great defensive coordinator.  That is my opinion as a fan.

I just find it funny that that the great minds of the internet have determined that Greg Robinson has devised a scheme that does not work, but easy going coaches that have not experienced any success and don't care about winning chose to employ and coach that is such a  baffoon.

That list includes

Dick Vermeil

Mike Shannahan

Pete Carroll

Mack Brown

Rich Rodriguez


November 23rd, 2010 at 1:37 PM ^

I am no football coach but I am trying to get better at understanding schemes and responsibilities.

In this case what should Demens or Martin do differently? It seems like on the frontside every defender is matched up on a single Badger player when Demens takes on the guard. So is this defense schemed to force the RB to go outside where Avery or Kovacs makes the tackle?

And is the biggest mistake here RVB getting upfield instead of flowing down the line?


November 23rd, 2010 at 2:09 PM ^

Either Martin or Demens should have the backside "A" gap (to which the ballcarrier ended up running through). 

Mouton should be attacking the LOS, either stepping to his "B" gap or blowing up the guard and trying to stuff him back in the hole.

Van Bergen ought to be coming down the line, trying to squeeze down the OT and make a play.

Kovacs should have outside contain, so he's doing basically what he's asked to do and not getting sucked inside.

Our program doesn't run a 3-3-5 frequently, but we do have it installed.  That would be the gap responsibility of our defense, although I can't guarantee that every 3-3-5 is run the same.


November 23rd, 2010 at 2:28 PM ^

This is what picture pages do to me after a loss.  I see a title like "Swallowing Kenny Demens," followed by "Demens should have the backside "A" gap," and my mind flies to dirty places.

It sounds like the natural conclusion from your assessment is that either (1) MM or Demens was instructed to plug the backside "A" gap but failed to do so for (1a) physical or (1b) mental reasons, or (2) that one of them was not properly advised of his responsibilities. 

For now, I'm going with (1b).

Greg McMurtry

November 23rd, 2010 at 2:21 PM ^

Van Bergen is playing the C-gap.  I'm assuming Mouton has the B-gap, therefore Martin, by process of elimination, would have the backside A-gap, Demens playside A-gap, JB Fitzgerald (is actually in on this play rather than Ezeh) has playside B-gap.  Roh C-gap.

But, as both of you've stated, Martin is playing as if he's trying to avoid a double team and plugs the playside A-gap.  It doesn't make sense for him to do that though.  Shouldn't he be forcing a double team in the backside A-gap?


November 23rd, 2010 at 6:21 PM ^

it looks like he's reading fullback and jetting to that gap. so if they're doing it backward (giving martin the read) he's at fault.  but if it's happening regularly (and this happened in the State game too, no?) then there's some kind of coaching breakdown.  we should be able to play IZ iso with the players we have on that play.  martin/demens/mouton are all at least big ten caliber.


November 23rd, 2010 at 2:44 PM ^

right, the whole premise of the 3-3-5 is to make the NT "right" i.e., go to the gap that he didn't, otherwise the doom we see above.  but in demens' position, it might be too hard for him to tell which gap he should go to because it isn't yet clear which OL(s) is responsible for getting to the second level.  also, by setting him further back from the LOS, he avoids what mouton did here, and what we've seen ezeh do - sit there and absorb a block.  by setting him further back, he gets the chance to move uphill and take on the OL, potentially disrupting the play.  although demens is betting at reading and reacting than ezeh, no one can make the NT "right" with that little time.

Greg McMurtry

November 23rd, 2010 at 3:35 PM ^

By making the NT right, the MLB has to diagnose the play and then read that Martin is going playside. This should tell Demens to go backside A-gap, however this is virtually impossible at Demens pre-snap depth and the video shows that Demens does not read Martin. Demens instantly fires playside, so he's not reading Martin. If he's supposed to be reading Martin, then he made an error. But his body language makes it appear like he's going playside from the get-go.

Blue in Seattle

November 23rd, 2010 at 5:49 PM ^

We have assumed the coaches are telling Demens to play close.  Is it possible that Demens is deciding to do this on his own?  And against what the coaches are advising?

Think about the "statements" from the Penn State game.  Where Demens supposedly as a redshirt sophomore stated to the coaches "I should be playing 5 yards back".  I don't remember anyone sourcing the quote, but I think it's entirely possible that the conversation could have been, "Demens stop playing so close to the NT because you aren't getting to the gap you are responsible for."  And then the heated response was something like, "I know what you said, but I can't play it like that"

I mean, if we're going to speculate on things we don't really understand, and have nothing but picture pages from which to make a guess, shouldn't we consider some alternatives where the players are the ones failing to execute?  Wouldn't the above "straw man theory" fit with GERG staying with Obi, despite the fact that Obi just couldn't make a decision fast enough?  Did Obi play 3 yards off the LOS?

Michigan has been weak defensively in the LB core for a long time, IF they were facing a team that could effectively pass in the flats.  2007 turned out to be an OK year once we stopped playing teams like Oregon and Appalachian State.  Oops, forgot about Troy Smith too, always had trouble with mobile QB's.

I think the defense needs an overhaul on the same scale as the offense.  It didn't get one because Jeff Casteel did not follow Rodriguez, and once Shafer was fired and Michigan was in it's death spiral, what blazing star of a DC was chomping at the bit to go to Michigan?  Especially after witnessing the lack of talent that remained?

The path forward is to stick with GERG until stability and consistency of coaching technique gets this team to a level where they are challenging for the Big Ten Championship at the end of the year.  Then the blue chips will come, and also the coaches to be the next brilliant DC.  That's the only way Coach Rodriguez and David Brandon can improve the coaching situation, assuming GERG is also someone who is confused.


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:40 PM ^

are we saying (horror, of horror's) that MM is maybe to blame?  Most fans tend to think (me included) that we walks on water but is making the mistake here?  My understanding of the UFR points is that he maybe he should get a minus here but maybe GERG would have to tell us what actually responsibilities were?


November 23rd, 2010 at 1:35 PM ^

...be employed next year?  Is RR that committed to it?  And if so tell me how we will be better?  My biggest fear is that you could take this picture pages and in a year from today put 2011 instead of 2010 and nobody would know the difference.