Picture Pages: Swallowing Kenny Demens

Submitted by Brian on 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.



November 23rd, 2010 at 2:13 PM ^

He was double teamed. I think if that is the case Kovacs has to be more aggressive in getting into the backfield. Also, Avery has noone to cover so either he or Kovacs has contain and the other has to make a play. I think its on Avery to get to the hole since there are no wide receivers to his side. If he diagnoses the  play earlier, he is meeting the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage. Avery is 6 yards from the line and the running back is 7, so he should get there about the same time, but Avery doesn't move until the running back has the ball and a full head of steam 3 yards from the line of scrimmage.

This is another example of why having true freshman on the field will hurt you in ways that don't jump out immediately.


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:03 PM ^

I see 3 defenders on 2 blockers there, too.  RVB takes the double team and the other 2 play passively.  Looks to me like Mouton is on the wrong shoulder and Avery should be filling faster.  OTOH, if Mouton was on the other shoulder he would have been crushed and Avery would have had a huge hole to fill.

Also, if I count the gaps correctly, it looks to me like they need both Martin and Demens on the play side to have sufficient numbers.  Otherwise, you have the iso working perfectly with the rb choosing sides off of the block.


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:58 PM ^

That's the point of an iso.  It's to get a hat on a hat and see if your RB can make the right read.

To defend an iso, you need one (or more) guy to beat a block. 

In this case, no one beats a block . . . and we have two guys in one gap.  That's a lethal combination.


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:32 PM ^

It looks like Kovacs has contain and Avery is late filling but I still can't figure out what Demens is doing?  Is he acting like a fourth D lineman?  If so, it puts a lot of pressure on Mouton, Kovacs, Avery.  It seems like all big plays this year have been cutbacks...I would think the coaching staff could diagnose why....


November 23rd, 2010 at 2:34 PM ^

the coaches don't recognize the capabilities/limitations of their players.

They expect too much and don't seem to be very good at teaching.

The whole D staff needs to go the day after the OSU game.


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:15 PM ^

The only way this defense works is if somebody beats a block against an offensive lineman who weighs 40 pounds more than him. Letting an offensive guard plow one-on-one into Mouton just plays into Wisconsin's strengths.

If we're trying to use our speed to our advantage, then I'd rather see the defensive ends pack in tighter, and rely on our linebackers to flow over the top to contain the stretch plays. That's actually doable in the context of a 3-3-5; we're just not calling it. As Brian says, this is not a stack. We're doing it wrong.


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:29 PM ^

and we call it a stack....why are doing it wrong?  Do the coaches not see the same tape we see here?  Or are the players just doing it wrong week after week....I have to believe the former is more true than the latter.  It doesn't look like we are being physically blown off the ball, does it?

Greg McMurtry

November 23rd, 2010 at 3:49 PM ^

Which would basically replace JB Fitzgerald here with a down lineman, perhaps Banks or even Patterson. Everyone else is the same. It doesn't drastically alter the defense and puts a bigger player on the line. Also, watching Patterson run the field with Cam Gordon on his fumble return leads me to believe that there would be little sacrifice on speed.


November 23rd, 2010 at 9:02 PM ^

a 4-2-5 would be any better than a 3-3-5 against Wisconsin's alignment? I still count 7 blockers for 6 UofM defenders, and 5 DBs guarding 2 WRs. There are too many little guys out there in a X-Y-5 against giant corn-and-cheese-fed Badgers. Bringing 2 little guys into the box to even things up leaves us with DBs getting flattened by pulling guards, fullbacks, and 260 pound TEs. At least another big linebacker in the set would help a little, no?

Greg McMurtry

November 24th, 2010 at 10:31 AM ^

you have to count the the gaps between each offensive lineman (TEs included.)  The reason I want to see a 4-2-5 is because you remove JB Fitzgerald or Ezeh at about 250lbs and you replace him with a 290lb lineman.  This puts Roh at DE and Martin at DT instead of NT.  As strong as Martin is, I don't think he is a pure NT.  Count the gaps, labeled A, B, C, etc., and you need a defensive player to be responsible for that gap.  You are correct about having an extra man in the box, 8 in the box, you will stop the run more easily, but you can do this with any defense.


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:28 PM ^

Watching that replay was like reliving the entire Saturday afternoon.  Bielma didn't have to say one bit of trash talk.  20+ consecutive (or whatever it was) run plays says it all.

Fix this defense, plz!


Crime Reporter

November 23rd, 2010 at 4:44 PM ^

Especially against a power team like Wisky. Instead, this staff insisted on this bullshit scheme and we got gashed all day. And did we adjust? I didn't really see anything in the second half to suggest otherwise.

Like I said, I was not mad that we lost. But I do get annoyed by the perceived stubbornness of this staff.


November 23rd, 2010 at 9:45 PM ^

Wisconsin has a 6 man line, a FB, a TB, and 2 WRs. Why do we need 5 DBs to cover the 2 wide receivers? I'm freaking pulling my hair out at the incredibly stupid scheme. Wisconsin is a smashmouth, run downhill, offense. To have any hope here, we've got to go with a 3-4 or 4-3, and pull the safety into the box. They have 7 blockers, we have 6 DL and LBs. That leaves a guard to decimate a 200 pound DB. The 3-3-5 or 4-2-5 defenses are intended to stop the spread attacks, you know, the ones with quick players that employ 3, 4, or 5 WRs. I'm all for the 3-3-5, when it's used against Purdue, Oregon, Appy State, etc. But when we're playing I-formation offenses (MSU, Iowa, PSU, Wiscy) we've got to play big guys against big guys. Otherwise, our little guys get pushed back 3 yards from the LOS and the LBs get caught in the wash. This is fundamental defensive football, and that UofM is not getting it I just have no answer, except they are really, really worried about the secondary (and Tolzien did carve us up when he threw the ball.)

I think the execution is also wrong because Martin heads to his left, or gets pushed to his left by three interior linemen. RVB is taking care of 2 blockers, the LT and the TE. So if Martin would take care of 2 blockers, the LG and the C, Mouton could fill the gap between RVB and Martin. Roh should occupy the RG and RT, instead, he lets the RT take him on 1-on-1. Demens would fill the gap between Martin and Roh. We should have OLBs forcing the action back inside, not Cam Gordon helping with pass coverage and Avery guarding empty space.


November 24th, 2010 at 9:10 AM ^

The 3-3-5 wasn't designed to stop the spread.  It was designed to stop the run.

The defensive linemen aren't necessarily supposed to occupy two blockers each on every play.  You're expecting a lot from Roh.  And the only reason Van Bergen is occupying two blockers is because it took a second for Kovacs to read the play.  Once he tried to attack, the TE peeled off to Kovacs.