Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs Illinois

Submitted by Brian on October 26th, 2016 at 3:15 PM


SPONSOR NOTES: I was struck when we were hanging out at the Bo Store that it was very cool that some of our main sponsors were very much like us: small businesses in the Michigan community run by guys who are just dudes, you know? I like to think that UGP and Homesure are the MGoBlogs of their respective fields: small, detailed, involved, pantsless.

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: Michigan ran a ton of their dime package, almost half their snaps. Included were a bunch of exotics, like this thing where the line slides way one direction and McCray ends up a standup end:

3-3 line slide

3-3 line slide, I said, because I guess?

Meanwhile this was 3-3 standup DT:

split line standup DT

Illinois ran at McCray and picked up 17 yards.

Meanwhile I titled this "ugh what is this" and don't remember if I called it anything in particular. Brown's defense quickly outstrips the reader's tolerance for formation detail.

ugh what is this

Bleah! I mean, hooray! But also bleah.

SUBTITUTION NOTES: The frequency of three-man lines and general dearth of snaps (just 42 on defense)  led to some absurdly low snap totals for the DL. Charlton led the way with 30; Glasgow, Wormley, Hurst, and Gary were around 20; Godin, Winovich, and Mone were around 13.

Gedeon and Peppers played every snap; McCray missed a few with an injury and was replaced by Devin Bush. Stribling, Peppers, Hill, and Thomas did not come off the field; Lewis was lifted at the very end. Extra DB snaps were scattered between Lavert Hill, Kinnel, Metellus, and Watson. Kinnel probably would have gotten 20 snaps if he didn't go out injured just before the half.

[After THE JUMP: if this is short it's not my fault.]

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O21 1 10 Shotgun twin TE 4-2-5 4-3 over Off one high Pass 4 PA post Lewis Inc (Pen+0)
Offsetting penalties as Charlton(+1) draws a holding call on a play that is otherwise not pressured. That’s a push. Lewis(-1, cover -1) gets hit with a dubious PI call on a massively overthrown ball for grabbing an arm (refs -2). Lewis didn’t impede the receiver whatsoever so there’s no excuse not to pick this up for uncatchable.
O21 1 10 Wildcat 3-wide 3-2-6 3-3 stack ??? Run N/A Inverted veer keeper Thomas 2
Three man line with Thomas creeping down into the box to be a third LB. He and McCray blitz. UI doesn’t actually pull a lineman and just runs Vaughn upfield at folks. Thomas(+1) feints inside and then redirects outside to cut the play off and force it back. Charlton(+1) has a problem because he blew up the TE too extensively and has ground to make up when the play cuts back behind him; he disconnects to tackle after a modest gain.
O23 2 8 Wildcat twin TE 3-2-6 Okie Press one high Run N/A Yakety snap N/A -5
Not great, Bob.
O18 3 13 Shotgun empty 4-2-5 Nickel even Press two high Pass 4 Slant Wormley Inc
Wormley(+1, pressure +1) deflects this ball at the LOS. It still continues on its merry way and is well behind the WR, which is fortunate for UI since Gedeon(+1, cover +1) is sitting on this route and has a play on an accurate ball.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 8 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-2-5 Nickel over Press two high Pass 5 Y cross McCray Inc
Blitz stunt combo sees McCray feint up the gut and then shoot around Charlton. McCray(+2, pressure +2) executes this excellently, shoving the LT to the ground as he gets quick pressure. George throws the ball as he’s nailed at a covered receiver. Hill(+0.5, cover +1) was in position to annoy or break up many throws.
O25 2 10 Ace twin TE 4-2-5 Nickel over Press two high Run N/A Crack sweep Wormley 1
Wormley(+2) gets a tight end blocking him and that only ends one way. He extends his arms to ward the guy off and then tosses him upfield once he actually gets outside of him. Peppers(+1) comes up to contain just outside the hash and forces it back to Wormley, who makes no mistake on the tackle. Gedeon(+1) also impressively flowed, avoiding the crack block. He was there to help if necessary.
O26 3 9 Shotgun trips 3-2-6 Split line standup DT Off two deep Run N/A Zone stretch N/A 17
Three DL all split way wide with just McCray in the middle as a standup DT. Illinois checks to a run right at McCray and gets paid. McCray(-1) in a difficult position but backs out and doesn't read run or even try to delay the back. Gedeon(-2) slashed down by a WR as he’s reading pass the whole way. Hill gets held(refs -1) but probably irrelevant as back is in a ton of space. RPS -3; M got got. Kinnel(+1) got off a block and made this tackle impressively, FWIW. Thomas was over the top but that saved a bunch of yards.
O43 1 10 Wildcat 3-wide 3-2-6 3-3 stack Half press two deep Run N/A QB crack sweep McCray -7
M times up a blitz from Thomas and McCray that sees McCray(+2) hit the LOS right on the snap and blow through an OL without even slowing. He gets to the RB way in the backfield and forces him to the sideline, where the cavalry arrives for a huge loss. RPS +3.
O36 2 17 Shotgun empty 3-2-6 3-2 dime Press one high Pass 5 Seam Gary Inc
Gary(+2, pressure +3) does benefit from Michigan moving around the interior, distracting the RT momentarily. This gives Gary an edge and boom he’s around the corner and thundering into the QB. George throws it downfield at anyone at all. On the other side of the line Winovich(+2) did the same thing and hit on the throw as well.
O36 3 17 Shotgun empty 3-1-7 3-2 dime Press two high Pass 4 Dig Stribling Inc
Not really even trying for the first down here; Gary(+1, pressure +1) has wormed his way through a couple OL to induce a throw; Stribling(+2, cover +2) all over it and gets a PBU.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 6 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O38 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-2-5 Nickel over Press two high Pass 4 In Hill Inc + 15 pen
Hill ends up playing field corner here with Peppers at S and Lewis over the slot. Matchup issue? Dunno. UI goes after that, with the WR feigning a fade and then breaking in. Hill(+1, cover +1) mirrors this and then watches the ball sail over everyone. Godin(+1, pressure +1) drove his guy back into the QB’s lap. Godin then gets hit with a dubious PF for roughing the passer as he falls into the guy around the knees. I know that’s a call but I mean cumong man.
M47 1 10 Wildcat 3-wide 3-2-6 3-3 stack Half press two deep Run N/A Zone read keeper Thomas 3
Another double blitz from Thomas and McCray. Stribling also comes off the corner; wildcat QB pulls and should not have as the edge is not open. He cuts back inside, following the back, and the delay allows M to rally. Thomas(-2) took a bad path. Stribling has the edge and Thomas needs to go inside; instead he ends up picking off the TE and acting as the force player. This creates room up the gut. M gets lucky with the pull, which allows Charlton(+0.5) and Glasgow(+0.5) to converge and keep this down.
M44 2 7 Wildcat 3-wide 3-2-6 30 nickel slide Half press two deep Run N/A Inverted veer keeper Peppers 2
M loads up to the veer side with three LB/S types in the area. They send all three to the interior with Kinnel the cleanup on a potential handoff. Peppers(+1) blitzes, forms up, and tackles; Wormley(+1) spun off a block and a couple other guys were in the area to keep it down if that didn’t happen. RPS +1.
M42 3 5 Shotgun trips TE 4-2-5 4-3 under Press zero Pass 7 Slant Stribling Inc
Michigan sends the world. McCray(+1, pressure +3) is free up the gut after timing his blitz excellently and hits just after a wild throw. Stribling(+1, cover +1) got a jam in and disrupted Turner’s route.
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-0, 14 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O15 1 10 Offset I twins tight 4-2-5 4-3 over SAM Press two high Run N/A Crack sweep Gedeon 4
This play ends up with no plan to block Gedeon(+1), who flowed hard on the sweep action and got there. Hill(+0.5) came up to force it back inside the numbers; kind of want Stribling(-1) to realize Hill is force and get more interior; he’s taking on a FB and it doesn’t go well. Gedeon ends up giving up some YAC because he’s hitting a good back from the side; Stribling could have held this to 2 or so.
O19 2 6 Wildcat 3-wide 4-2-5 4-4 under Press one high Run N/A Crack sweep Winovich 45
Many problems combine for a big play here. Winovich(-2) gets clubbed by a TE, which allows the edge guys to run unfettered around the side and helps cut off McCray(-2), who should still do better to abort and get to the edge of the field. McCray goes upfield of Winovich when he should be in panic/pursuit mode. Now 3 on 2 on the edge. Stribling(-1) takes a cut as the force guy and doesn’t fight back to get a tackle attempt in; Thomas(-2) gets cut to the ground and gives up the edge of the field. Peppers(+1) gets on his horse and saves the TD.
O36 1 10 Offset I twins 4-2-5 4-3 even SAM ??? Pass 4 PA Y cross Stribling Inc
All day for George(pressure -3). He’s got time to survey and fire; he picks a crossing route that Stribling(+2, cover +2) just about intercepts. He undercuts it but can’t quite haul it in.
O36 2 10 Wildcat trips TE 3-2-6 3-2 dime Off two deep Run N/A Bash keeper Thomas 2
Bash is an OSU staple and something we saw a lot against UCF; now I have a name for it. Basically RB tries to edge the D to the field as guys pull for a QB sweep the other way. Blocking looks odd on this one as McCray blitzes up the gut and one of the pullers decides he needs to abort and go get him. Probably wise, but upshot is that QB is forced outside into a free Thomas(+1, tackling +1), who makes a nice open field tackle. RPS +2.
O34 3 8 Wildcat 3-wide 3-2-6 3-3 split Press two high Run N/A QB Down G Kinnel 0 (Pen -10)
Playside G pulls and RB leads out for the nominal QB. Peppers(+0.5) manages to constrict space despite taking on an OL. Kinnel(+1) gets off a block from the TE to attack; Gary(+1) takes advantage of the crammed space to flow down the line and tackle for zilch. Guy blocking Peppers picks up a dubious holding call that wasn’t relevant to the plays. Refs +2.
O44 3 18 Ace 3-wide 4-2-5 Okie ??? Run N/A Down G Thomas 5
A give up and punt that momentarily threatens to break big as M has eight guys at the LOS; Gedeon(+1) shoves an OL trying to block him backwards and off balance; Thomas(+1) gets off a block and those two guys contain. RPS -1.
Drive Notes: Punt, 28-0, 7 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O30 1 10 Shotgun trips 3-2-6 3-2 dime Half press two deep Pass 5 Screen Thomas INT
M sends a corner blitz from the short side with Thomas coming down to fill the gap. The WR oddly chases Lewis back to his QB so Thomas turns his attention to the backfield, reads a high throw on the screen, and intercepts(+2, cover +2). Charlton(+0.5) and Lewis(+0.5) got in on George quickly and helped force the sailed throw. Kinnel is injured on this play and it’s noncontact, looks like a hamstring or an ankle or something?
Drive Notes: INT, 28-0, 2 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-2-5 Nickel even Press two high Run N/A Split zone Charlton 2
M running a stunt and blitz that sees Charlton(+2) slant inside directly into a full-on double team. He gives some ground on this and then tears both guys away, beastmode style. McCray(+0.5) came around the outside and adjusts to help tackle as well; because Charlton gave some ground the back can get a few. RPS -1; this probably should have been a gash because of the playcall.
O27 2 8 Offset I 3-2-6 30 nickel slide Press one high Run N/A Outside zone McCray 4
Wormley(+1) fires into the backfield; he’s nominally sealed to the inside but he’s so upfield that he’s threatening the running lane; Hill(+1) blitzed and dodged a blocker so a cutback is a must. I think McCray(-1) is supposed to be filling in as the missing DL here; he moves as if to blitz on the snap and then aborts on the outside motion. The he gets wider than Glasgow the NT, which is a problem because there’s a huge gap between him and Charlton. Cutback is profitable, for a definition of profitable.
O31 3 4 Shotgun 3-wide 4-2-5 Nickel even Press two high Pass 5 Scramble Glasgow 1
Comfortable pocket(pressure -2) but nobody open(cover +3) and George bugs out. Glasgow(+1) has the range to shove him out before the sticks.
Drive Notes: Punt, 31-0, 13 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O15 1 10 Ace 4-wide 4-2-5 Faux 3-4 Half press one high Run N/A Crack sweep Wormley 5
Wormley(-1) shoots straight upfield and is removed from the play; Gedeon shifted away from the play late as Illinois motioned a WR and gets caught up in some trash. Godin(+1) sheds his guy and flows down the line impressively; he’s the NT and makes this tackle outside the hash. Peppers(-0.5) was unblocked and overran it, getting cut behind. Forcing it back is never the worst thing and there is a bunch of space here; he could have cut a couple yards off the play.
O20 2 5 Shotgun trips TE 3-2-6 3-3 stack Off two deep Pass N/A Bubble screen Hill 0
Peppers(+1, pressure +1) is sent off the edge and leaps in the passing lane, threatening to INT. Either by luck or awareness George avoids that disaster; this pulls the WR upfield and ruins the timing. Hill(+1) does a good job to shoot outside the WR trying to block him and force Turner to stop and go back inside him. Cavalry then arrives.
O20 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide 3-2-6 3-3 line slide ??? Pass 4 Seam Metellus 42
This is a total guess because the useless Big Ten Network director zooms this play in and shows us a field level replay, but: Metellus(-4, cover -4) must vacate a zone in the middle of the field because there is no defense in the world that has Gedeon on Malik Turner by himself vertically. Circumstantial evidence; Metellus exits after this play and does not return. Gedeon(+1) in fact does yeoman work to tackle on this and prevent a TD.
M38 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-2-5 Nickel over Press one high Pass 4 In Hill 6
Quick in against Hill in off coverage; decent gain. Hill(+0.5, cover +1) does get his arms around to make this catch difficult.
M32 2 4 Shotgun 4-wide 4-2-5 Nickel even Press one high Run N/A Outside zone Godin 6
McCray(+1) blitzes and impacts the LG hard; he falls. Cutback a must now and available as Godin(-1) is shoved down the line and Wormley(-1) cannot recover in time to close it down. I do wonder if maybe Gedeon was supposed to be in that backside gap but am not sure.
M26 1 10 Offset I twins 3-2-6 Faux 3-4 Off two deep Run N/A Yakety snap McCray -2
Even I feel bad for UI about this. Credit to McCray(+2) for seeing the fumble and digging it out; tough ask.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 31-0, 6 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
M37 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-1-6 4-1 dime Press two high Run N/A Inside zone Charlton 2
Watson in instead of Metellus. M puts five in the box, daring UI to run, and they run. Thomas inserts himself on the snap. Charlton(+1) contains and then comes off his block to tackle; Thomas(+1) timed it well to get down and join him. Mone couldn’t get there but got doubled the whole play since there were five guys in the box; that’s okay. RPS +1.
M35 2 8 I-Form twins 4-2-5 4-3 even Off two deep Run N/A Iso Mone 5
Mone(-2) gets blown out by the double here. Gedeon blitzes; McCray scrapes over to that gap to clean up, and since I’ve seen this LB action before I assume that’s correct; therefore Mone ending up in the same gap is those guy is not good. He does; RB cuts back. Thomas(+0.5) is able to clean up with some help from Lewis.
M30 3 3 Shotgun 3-wide 4-2-5 Okie Press zero Pass 7 Rollout out Hill Inc
M sends the house; pressure is getting there despite the rollout as Gary(+0.5) extends to the sideline. Forced throw at Hill(+2, cover +2), who dominated this route. If he doesn’t get a PBU it’s because the throw wasn’t good enough.
M30 4 3 Shotgun 3-wide 4-2-5 Okie Press one high Pass 5 Improv Thomas Inc
Pressure(-3) nowhere near George despite a blitz as it looks like Charlton(-2) chases after the back when Gedeon has him. Otherwise he’s running free at the QB. Ton of time since this doesn’t happen; Thomas(+2, cover +2) is eventually able to peel back off his little spy zone and get a PBU on a throw that Gedeon(+0.5) has well covered even without the intervention.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 31-0, 5 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-2-6 3-2 dime Press one high Run N/A Inside zone Gary 0
Five guys in the box, again daring them to run. They run. M is moving down S types late but this is still pretty much five in the box. Gary(+3) just shoves the RT to the ground and disconnects to tackle for zilch.
O25 2 10 Shotgun trips 4-1-6 Nickel even Press one high Pass 5 Out Hill 3
Godin(+1, pressure +1) disengages from his blocker and is free up the gut as Gary(+1, pressure +1) comes around the edge to threaten; must throw. The throw is and out that’s upfield of where it should be and gets a few yards; Hill in push coverage.
O28 3 7 Pistol trips 4-2-5 Nickel even Press two high Pass 3 Out ??? Inc
Useless BTN but I remember live that this was open(cover -2) and George just missed his guy really badly. Couldn’t tell you who blew this but this was a first down waiting to happen. Horror.
Drive Notes: Punt, 34-0, 13 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
M43 1 10 I-Form twins 3-2-6 3-3 stack Off one high Pass 5 Fly Hill 43
Hurst(+2) splits two defenders and gets quick pressure up the middle; QB rolls out. Peppers(-1) is caught between two ideas of what to do: he runs up past the LOS, seemingly as the edge contain guy on the QB, and then runs out to the flat, where nobody is. George can load up and throw a bomb to Turner that Hill(-3, cover -3) misplays. Credit to UI, as this was a tough throw and catch.
M1 2PT 2PT Shotgun trips tight bunch 4-2-5 4-3 even Press zero Pass 5 Slant Stribling 1
Mone(+1, presssure +1) surges up the middle and forces a throw, but Stribling(-1, cover -1) doesn’t adjust to the bunch fast enough and George can fit the ball into the WR for the conversion.
Drive Notes: Touchdown(2PT good), 34-8, 10 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Pack Front Cover look Type Rush Play Player Yards
O49 1 10 I-Form twins 4-2-5 4-3 even Off two deep Run N/A Iso Winovich -3
TFL mostly on the back here because if he follows the play design he’s getting a few yards before an unblocked Peppers hews him down. Instead he bounces outside where Winovich(+2) is in excellent position as the force player. He extends for a solo TFL.
O46 2 13 I-Form twins 4-2-5 4-3 over Off two deep Pass 4 PA corner Winovich Inc
Winovich(+1, pressure +1) is let go and forms up, assuming some sort of read. When he reads pass he attacks the QB, running through the back assigned to him and forcing a back foot throw from George that is over his WR’s head. Turner had a window here but it was a small one, cover push.
O46 3 13 Shotgun trips 4-2-5 Nickel even Press two high Pass 4 Sack Winovich -13
QB sets too deep which helps a bit but Winovich(+2, pressure +3) is around the corner in a flash and forces a scramble. He misses the tackle; Hurst(+2) is in nearly as fast and makes no mistake on the cleanup.
Drive Notes: Punt, 41-8, 7 min 4th Q. Illinois doesn’t get the ball back.

Some bad things happened.

I mean, yeah. Did you think Michigan would never give up yardage again?

Kind of?

I'd like to tell you that's unreasonable. I cannot. I mean look at this

same old chart

chart, jaded-ass alter-ego.

[NOTE: PFF grading works out differently than mine. In UFR zero is bad for DL; it's average in PFF. Their scale seems to be about a third or a half of mine. PFF has a "penalty" section that I've elected to omit for space's sake, which is why the individual components might not add up to the "overall." number. I'll note when it's a big discrepancy.]

DL UFR grade PFF grade  
Player Snaps + - T Run Rush Cvr Over Notes
Wormley 20 5 2 3 0 0.9   0.9 This will a theme as numbers come down.
Glasgow 22 1.5 1.5 -0.1 1.9   1.8
Hurst 19 4 4 -0.1 1.9   1.8
Charlton 30 6 2 4 1.8 -0.9   1.0 Checked a WR on that fourth and three to give QB time
Gary 22 8.5   8.5 0.8 0.5   1.4 Couple of impressive plays.
Mone 13 1 2 -1 0 -0.4   -0.4
Godin 14 3 1 2 -1 0.5   -1.5 Got dinged a full point for the dubious roughing call.
Winovich 12 7 2 5 0.2 1.8   2.0 Two excellent rushes.
TOTAL   36 9 27         Not enough snaps to get the big numbers.
LB UFR grade PFF grade  
Player Snaps + - TOT Run Rush Covr Ovr Notes
Peppers 42 4.5 1.5 3 0.1 -0.5 0.2 -0.2
McCray 32 8.5 4 4.5 0.5 0.6 0.6 1.8  
Gedeon 42 5.5 2 3.5 0.5 -0.3 -0.8 -0.7 Hammering him for that long completion is harsh
Bush 7   -0.3 -0.2
TOTAL   18.5 7.5 11         McCray pretty good as well, don't sleep on hm.
DB UFR grade PFF grade  
Player Snaps + - T Run Rush Cvr Ovr Notes
Lewis 37 0.5 1 -0.5 0.7 -0.1 -0.7 -0.1 Hit with dubious PI on only target.
Stribling 42 5 3 2  -0.3 2.4 2.1 Zero completions in three tries.
D. Hill 42 6.5 3 3.5 0.3   0.9 1.2 Overcame big error to have positive day.
Thomas 42 7.5 4 3.5 0.8 -0.2 1.7 2.4 Same for him.
Watson 5         0  
Kinnel 8 2 2 0.1   0.1  
Metellus 6   4 -4   0.1 0.1  I hit him for the long completion.
L. Hill 5          
TOTAL   21.5 15 6.5          
Pressure   19 12 +7 Illinois did a pretty good job of keeping their guy clean. Still a win but much closer than most this year.
Coverage   18 7 +11 Two long completions the only minuses.
Tackling     0 Nothing that wasn't very contained.
RPS   7 5 +2 Eh.

The DL didn't put up the eyepopping numbers they usually do because they couldn't get in enough snaps. Proportionally they were still the killers they've been, with one exception: Illinois was vaguely competitive in the pressure metric.

Meanwhile both safeties overcame some negative plays to post nice numbers; Hill dominated passing routes and Thomas popped up in the run game over and over again.

But, I mean, total dominance over a team they were expected to dominate.

But bad things happened.

I can try to explain the bad things that happened.

Yes please.

The two passing plays are pretty simple. On the first, a safety busted. There is no defense ever conceived of that has a linebacker running down the slot with a receiver without help over the top. Since the BTN director was in full pore-o-vision mode and provided only a field-level replay I can't tell you exactly what happened. I can tell you that Metellus was in as the dimeback in the aftermath of Kinnel's injury and after that Michigan went with a lot of nickel; when they returned to the dime they inserted Watson at CB instead of using Metellus. He has been convicted on that circumstantial evidence.

On the second, Delano Hill misplayed the ball and Malik Turner, who's a legit All Big Ten WR, made a great play.

One of the two running plays to exceed five yards is also pretty simple: Michigan was RPSed when Illinois ran on third and nine. Mike McCray played DT; Ben Gedeon got cut by a WR he was trying to cover; it happens.

The 45 yard run is the only multi-player breakdown. The primary culprit was Winovich, who got annihilated by the tight end. He ended up back in McCray's lap; McCray went upfield in a panic situation and never got out.

That's a chunk, and then Thomas gets cut and gives up the edge. He's in a difficult spot with a blocker but you have to funnel back.

These three items are all slightly unfortunate trends. Winovich has a tendency to get blown up in a way that no other Michigan DL does, because everyone else is 40 pounds heavier than him. McCray has had three or four plays this year where he either gets blocked by a WR or ends up giving up the edge because he tries to go upfield of him. And Thomas gave up the edge on the UCF sprinter TD. Here they combine for a chunk.

How does this get fixed? The primary way is using Winovich as a pass rush specialist in competitive contests. This is already the case—he got two snaps against Wisconsin. I don't think it'll be an issue unless Michigan is up three scores.

And the other bad thing? The injuries?

I clipped the Thomas interception largely because in the background you can see what happened to Kinnel.

That's a non-contact injury, and those are usually problems. That might be a hamstring, in which case he'll be out a while.

Those DL snaps are so low.

Michigan played a ton of dime.

So we're playing a ton of dime against a run-oriented team deploying a bunch of wildcat?

Uh. Yes?

Does that seem odd to you?

Yes and no.

Yes because Michigan's DL is awesome and deep and most of the time I strongly prefer whoever the fourth DL is to Kinnel. No because this was another warmup game quickly out of hand and Brown always wants to keep adding things. Also no because this kind of three-man-line, attack-from-everywhere defense seems to be a favorite of spread coaches trying to nerf their own stuff. Gary Patterson in particular has been running out crazy light defenses at TCU for years now to good effect.

The dime stuff feels more rickety than a four-man line. Even when the opponent gains little there's a moment where a gap appears to be there. To some extent it is there since there are OL pushing on small guys and big gaps between bonafide linemen. If the opposition gets it right you're likely to get gashed, as Michigan did on the early Illinois first down:

On the other hand, if you get it right the opposition can take a massive TFL:

These were back to back occurrences.

I'm more comfortable with four DL out there,  especially with Michigan's line. The 3-3-5 stuff is often a response by talent deficient teams that can't win one on one battles and rely on subterfuge to get things done; they often feel like an admission that you are going to score points. Michigan probably doesn't need it, because this defense is elite.

But if they do happen to need it, they'll have spent the better part of two months refining it before Columbus. This is good, because you can see blips from time to time. Here Thomas blitzes into space that Michigan already has covered:

Michigan was fortunate that Vaughn blew his read here because a give sends the back into the secondary and is a huge play.


Some of the rickety nature of the 3-3-5 stuff is an unfamiliarity. Michigan ran this kind of defense as a passing-down rush exotic only last year. They've adapted extremely well to the various four man fronts Brown runs because they're close to what they did a year ago; this is new and has some holes a better opponent would exploit. 

When they do get it right Michigan inserts unblocked players into the area they need to be. Here a blitz gets Peppers unblocked in space with the QB, who's actually Vaughn again.

If Peppers doesn't come unblocked Gedeon does; either way the O is relying on a missed tackle by an unblocked player to get much of anything.

Michigan repeatedly used dime blitzes to insert unblocked players directly into the running lane.

OSU has some young OL, one of them a freshman, and they'll have trouble with this kind of stuff. Everyone would. Michigan will seek to keep them off balance so they cannot execute their trademark halftime download-and-destroy.

Any hints of how next year's defensive line is going to look?

Yessir. Rashan Gary only got 20 snaps but made impact plays on two of them. This edge pass rush resulted in an aimless punt that easily could have been intercepted:

(Meanwhile, Winovich is executing the same rush on the other side.)

Gary put the right tackle in timeout to crush a run play later:

Michigan was daring Illinois to run with five in the box. They ran. Gary ate it.

Gary hasn't burst through to start largely because of the monsters in front of him. He's progressing weekly and should be a monster SDE next year.

His projected bookend, Chase Winovich, is up and down but clearly has a bunch of potential. He got around the corner in the clip in the Gary section above; he was the main catalyst on Michigan's lone sack; he had two other nice plays on the final Illinois drive.

On the other hand, sometimes he gets blasted like he did on the long run. A full-time version of Winovich is probably going to feel a lot like early Jake Ryan: an explosive edge player who is mostly responsible for a couple of chunk run plays a game. Hopefully that improves by next year.

Line those two guys up and stick Hurst and Mone in the middle and you've got little to no dropoff amongst the starters. The second-team line won't be anywhere near this year's second team line, but there are worse problems to have.

The safeties made up for their errors?

They did. Thomas was excellent even setting aside the interception. He improvised on the fourth and three to get a PBU:

And he was a key cog in the run game. One of the oddities of this season is that Delano Hill is covering a bunch of slot receivers and Thomas keeps getting inserted into the box. It's working; you'd expect those responsibilities to be reversed.

On the other hand, whatever man, he's rolling.

Anyway, Illinois opens up with some wildcat stuff, and Thomas impressively redirects his blitz to the outside:

Michigan does this a lot, and I'm not sure I've ever seen it before. LB and S types will read run action away or outside and suddenly abort a blitz into flow right behind the line of scrimmage. As long as the play is reasonably contained this works better than you'd think: an OL is usually distracted by the threatened blitz and ends up blocking nobody, or blocking someone weakly. Meanwhile the player who redirects is not accounted for by the lead blockers; above Thomas is not IDed by the lead blocker and scoots through unfettered.

Meanwhile, Hill is really good at mirroring tight ends and slots on those third-and-short routes.

You seemed to think better of the linebackers than PFF did.

I did. I think this is because I throw various minuses in the RPS metric and I didn't put the long completion on Gedeon; Metellus got hit with it.

McCray was put in some tough spots by the dime packages and didn't perform there. I don't blame a LB much when he gets lined up at DT and comboed. It is possible to play that spot reasonably well if you're Shawn Crable; it's not part of any LB's wheelhouse.

When not put in near-impossible spots, McCray performed. He had an early edge rush on which his inside feint put the LT on the ground:

And while we're talking about linebackers, here's Ben Gedeon going upfield of a block so quickly it works for him:

That's some peripheral vision right there. Gedeon's not even looking at the WR trying to crack him and still shoots around his block at speed. I usually disapprove of going upfield because it can work out very poorly, but if you get there you get there. Gedeon does. Increasingly hard to believe he was buried on the depth chart.

(Also yes, Wormley makes this play, not Gedeon. At this point Wormley destroying a tight end is barely notable. I'll have 5,000 words on any play where he actually gets blocked by a TE.)

In the vein of that Wormley aside, anything actually surprising from the established players?

Not much that didn't get discussed in the section directly above. Taco Charlton did have an eye-popping moment when he slanted directly into a double team and beat it:

The other thing that was mildly surprising was a lack of tackles for loss. I attribute that to more aimless punts from desperate QBs and all those wildcat packages that gave Illinois an extra blocker. Those plays didn't gain much, but it was more difficult to get to them in the backfield.

Cornerbacks? I mean, I suppose they exist?

They do, and on one play you could tell.

Stribling continues to add to his highlight reel. He's got to be moving up draft boards in a big way.

Can we talk about punt blocking here? There is no special teams UFR.

As good a place as any. Here's this week's edition:

The three guys to the left of the center all get through scot free; the interior two attempt to split the gaps between the three protectors. Illinois probably makes the right choice to block those two guys, but this leaves Kinnel on a free run directly to the punter.

How do you deal with this? Someone has to block one of those three guys. All they have to do is chip him, but the guy lined up in a position to do so ignores Kinnel. Don't know if that's a bust or something Michigan saw on film.

It very well could be the latter; I mean, Michigan saw a flaw in the Rutgers extra point block and exploited it. All due respect to Baxter and Partridge but it wouldn't surprise me if the real hero of Michigan's suddenly-proficient kick blocking is an analyst looking at special teams film in the dungeon 24/7.


Everybody was about equally good.

Maybe not so heroic?

Metellus was the only player who didn't make up for his error with a bunch of good plays.

What does it mean for Michigan State and beyond?

The dime run-D package is a real thing and will be deployed from here on out. Brown's working it in gradually. He started with the bits of his kraken defense that were relatively close to what Michigan had run last year. As the D gets that down you're seeing more and more exotics inserted. You're seeing some busts like the ones Michigan suffered through whilst running their base defense early in the year; you are also seeing the promise.

Michigan is working towards another defensive system on top of their already historically great approach. They have a plan for what to do when and if they actually get in a fight with someone who can punch back.

Gary progresses. They feed him meat. They teach him names. They tell him the names are of bad men.

The linebacker crew takes another step towards legit good. Another week, another lack of big errors from them. The dime places more emphasis on their ability to get it right and so far so good.

Ditto Stribling. More data that he is 1a to Lewis's #1 corner.



October 26th, 2016 at 3:33 PM ^

This isn’t just a defense.

This is a 2011 Verlander Defense.


People are getting drinks, going to the bathroom, etc., when the offense is on the field, just so they don’t miss what might--will--happen.


They get a hit--we're surprised. They get a run--we're shocked.


Any given snap.  It’s the damndest thing.


lou apo

October 26th, 2016 at 4:11 PM ^

I've gotten to the point where any play for more than 2 yards against this defense feels like an utter failure.  I expect 3 and outs every time and only consider it one of their better defensive series when it nets negative yards.  It is going to be tough watching them play against a really good offense since I know this isn't realstic.  I'll have this gut feeling that we are getting beaten when/if the other team gets a couple first downs.  I'll have to reset my mindset on what it means to succeed at D.

Big Boutros

October 26th, 2016 at 3:24 PM ^

FWIW, I attended the game on the Michigan side of the field and Kinnel was warmed up and ready to go at the start of the second half. Don Brown called him over and gave him a hug and a pat on the helmet and Kinnel waved his hand in frustration.

He spent the third quarter on the bicycle and the fourth quarter standing on the sideline with his helmet on. He huddled with the defense whenever they came off the field. Obviously I am not a doctor, especially from several yards away, but I think he's fine.


October 26th, 2016 at 4:38 PM ^

I'm not saying I don't believe you...but I didn't see anyone in a banana hamock on the Michigan sideline during the game.


Seriously though, thanks for the update, I had asked that question in another thread and never got an answer.  glad to hear he appeared to be able to play if needed.


October 26th, 2016 at 3:46 PM ^

Re: Gedeon / Metellus, I was just as confused as you watching this live. I did hear Marcus Ray suggest that the team was running a Tampa 2 in which the LB carries the slot deep into the middle of the field allowing the safeties to remain wider. He didn't blame the safeties or Gedeon but suggested it was just a difficult assignment that sometimes gets beat when the offense is in the right call (RPS+ Illinois). Is it possible that's what that play was?


October 26th, 2016 at 3:51 PM ^

I was a senior during our 1997 season, and I was pretty sure that the 1997 defense was the best I would ever see.  I actually think that this defense might be just as good.  Love it.

Moonlight Graham

October 26th, 2016 at 4:44 PM ^

kinda bad. 

First, what's the same: The dominant defense. Peppers does not quite = Woodson but he is an apt stand-in. 

What's better than '97: The offensive talent and system top-to-bottom ... and Harbaugh.  

What's sorta worse: Ohio State is on the road. And beating them does not send us to the Rose Bowl to play a slightly inferior Pac 12 team and then season over, 12-0. We need to run the B1GCCG and CFP gauntlet, then face likely Alabama. 

I'm certain the '97 team would have won in Indianapolis. They probably beat 4-seed Florida State. But Nebraska ('97's Alabama) in the final?

Regardless, it's going to be a special season. 


San Diego Mick

October 27th, 2016 at 1:53 AM ^

but as I've mentioned on here many times before, our rush defense in '97 was lights out.

We would have stacked the box and dared a very average Neb.  passing offense to throw the ball against the best secondary in the country that year.

I think that game would have been something like a 23-13 M win.


October 26th, 2016 at 3:53 PM ^

If Kinnel is actually hurt long term, that could be a big issue. Our 5th DB would be (?). Watson? One of the freshman CBs? That could be an area opposing offenses could exploit. Granted we don't give any overly tough offenses until OSU, and even then their biggest weakness is the pass game and their WRs.

matty blue

October 26th, 2016 at 4:03 PM ^

here's what i said after game one of that season, a disembowellment of a supposedly good colorado team:  "that," i said, "is a defense you can win a national championship with."

yup.  this one, too.



Wolverine fan …

October 26th, 2016 at 4:10 PM ^

He was still in his stance for at least a handful of frames after the ball was snapped. Maybe he was surprised by the snap count or just processing his assignment on the play. I'm not too worried about it. As mentioned in Brian's notes, he was only in for 2 snaps agains the Badgers and will likely see no more than 5-10 snaps against the Buckeyes and/or Iowa unless things get out of hand.


October 26th, 2016 at 4:22 PM ^

There's a silver lining here: Losing all those guys unquestionably hurts next season. Those three would be mainstays.

But the scholarships they free up are going to allow us to go after guys that will be mainstays for three or four more years, just as Harbaugh is hitting this key recruiting sequence with a great team. *If* Michigan can fulfill its potential this year, and *if* the staff can close on some of these key guys, we lose a couple games next year in a rebuild sequence and then we spend the next five years in the top five every season.


October 26th, 2016 at 5:55 PM ^

Oh, I thought you were talking about the current freshmen.

Yeah, some of our upperclassmen didn't play much as frosh.  But honestly, even with a redshirt it's tricky to actually get four years of major contribution from a guy.  Either they're just not ready as freshmen (true or otherwise) or there is a lot of depth at their position - or conversely, they are ready off the bat, but then end up leaving early.



October 26th, 2016 at 9:39 PM ^

Of those guys at least Taco would be a lock to go pro even with a year of eligibility remaining, and the other two might have considered it as well if we were to win a championship. And people need to let go of the Dymonte thing, because I swear I remember hearing or reading that he was basically promised playing time as a true freshman and that was a big reason we were able to steal him from OSU.

RHammer - SNRE 98

October 26th, 2016 at 4:23 PM ^


"Michigan is working towards another defensive system on top of their already historically great approach. They have a plan for what to do when and if they actually get in a fight with someone who can punch back."

is exactly what you hope to see (nay, expect?) from a top-level coaching staff. kudos to them, and to the young men learning & implementing it.

what a season to behold this is...