Notes on the defense after re-watching the game in slow motion

Submitted by Erik_in_Dayton on September 5th, 2011 at 12:18 AM

I decided to re-watch the defense's performance in slow motion and then post my observations.  This is not meant as a replacement for Brian's UFR.  You’ll notice a lack of statistics.  The information below is just what stood out to me. 

Three disclaimers:  First, I am not a football coach.  Second, I may have confused Nathan Brink and Brennen Beyer on a few plays.  Both are tall, skinny white guys whose numbers end in 7.  The TV I watched the game on is not that big.  Third, everything below is written in the present tense.  The observations are only meant to apply to the play or drive that is being discussed (unless otherwise noted).    

I’ve put general observations at the end if you want to skip ahead. 

First Drive:

·         Mike Martin (“MM”) nearly sacks Carder on the first play despite the fact that it’s a bubble   screen.

·         MM and Ryan Van Bergen (“RVB”) get a good push throughout the drive and game.

·         Brennen Beyer (“BB”) plays.   He seems quick but too thin.

·         Jibreel Black (“Black”) rushes from a standing position on at least one play.

·         There is mass confusion before several plays for the DL and, to a lesser degree, the LBs.

·         The LBs are not particularly quick to react to bubble screens.

·         Nathan Brink (“NB”) plays and is unremarkable.

·         The DBs are better coordinated than the front seven but still seem confused before some plays.

·         Coverages seem well conceived.  Michigan just lacks play-makers at DB.

·         Michigan uses a three-man line on some plays.  They are gashed on a draw in which no LBs line up over the center or guards.

·         The team swarms to the ball.

·         Will Heininger (“WH”) plays some NT.  He’s not bad.

·         Jake Ryan (“JR”) makes a creative spin move to get to an RB that Demens has by the ankle on one play.

·         Brandon Herron (“BH”) generally looks a little lost before and during plays.

·         RVB does a good job of dropping into coverage on one play.

·         Blitzers come free on a play near the goal line, but it is for naught as a blown coverage by Carvin Johnson (“CJ”) allows for a completion.

·         WH is the extra DT on goal line, not Will Campbell (“WC”). 

·         There were blitzes by the LBs and Thomas Gordon (“TG”) throughout the drive.

·         Carder was very quick to make accurate passes to his receivers throughout the drive. 

Second Drive

·         The DEs tend to crash down on WMU’s RBs on what look like read plays.

·         WMU runs quick-hitting play after quick-hitting play.

·         Beyer seems to get himself out of position on a big run.

·         BH seems to only duplicate what Kenny Demens (“KD”) does.   

·         TG personally blows up a WR screen.

·         A delayed blitz by KD results in an incompletion in the end zone.  JT Floyd (“JT”) has good coverage (possible interference), but a better receiver would have caught the ball.

·         A blitz forces a quick third down throw for a minimal gain.

Third Drive

·         The field temp is 120 degrees.

·         WC appears at NT.  He wins the initial burst of contact on his first play but then is pushed back for three yards (apparently due to poor leverage). 

·         JB Fitzgerald (“JB”) enters the game.

·         WC is overcome by a double team on one play and is pushed back.  He is too high to hold his ground (only in the most literal sense of the term, I assume).

·         There is mass confusion among the DBs on third-and-inches play. 

·         The DL recognizes a RB screen pretty quickly.  The LBs do not, and it results in a good gain for WMU.

·         Jordan Kovacs (“JK”) blitzes from deep on 2nd and 3.  The play is a draw that the LBs are slow to recognize.  The play is blown dead.

·         KD blitzes several times during the drive.

·         The DLs run twists (“stunts”?) several times during the drive.

·         NB cannot hold the point of attack on a draw. 

·         Black is more noticeable than Roh, but he overruns plays at times.

·         WH and BB get a good push on a draw.

·         JB and BH don’t seem to know where to be before some plays and during some plays.

·         Courtney Avery (“CA”) blitzed on a play that ABC only partially caught on camera.

·         JR lines up between a guard and and tackle, gets between them quickly, and bats the pass that BH returns.

Fourth Drive

·         WH is stout on a run play while lining up at NT.

·         WH holds the middle and bats down a pass.

·         Only two DLs line up in three-point stances on a 3rd and 10 (WMU has four wideouts in the game).  Van Slyke is in the game at safety on this play.

·         Black times the snap count perfectly and helps force an incompletion with his pressure.

Fifth Drive

·         The kicking game is killing Michigan’s defense.

·         There are only 3 DLs on the first play but five men rush.  This pattern is repeated later.

·         Michigan rushes only three (all DLs) on one play, and the pressure is not bad.  Carder threads the needle for a completion, though.

·         A missed tackle by CJ allows for a big gain.

·         The D blitzes in a cover zero scheme.  They almost get Carder, who throws an incompletion into the end zone.  CA has good coverage on the play, but a better WR would have made the catch.

·         KD blitzes and almost gets Carder on the next play.  Carder throws an incompletion to a WR who is blanketed by TG.

·         Mattison sends seven men on the next play.  Carder throws the ball out of the back of the end zone. 

·         WMU kicks a field goal, and the half ends not long after.

Sixth Drive

·         BB starts the half at SLB.

·         The SLB often lines up in a three-point stance throughout the rest of the half, essentially as the fourth DL.

·         JT makes a nice play to stop a bubble screen for minimal gain.

·         Carder threads the needle again for a completion when BH and CJ were in pretty good coverage.

·         WC drops into zone coverage on a play that is blown dead.

·         Only two DLs line up in a three-point stance on a 2nd and 12 play. 

·         A KD blitz on the 2nd and 12 play forces Carder to run.  RVB and MM nearly take his head off.  Carder protests this treatment, but MM is unmoved.

·         Carder yet again completes a throw into good coverage with CA on his man.

·         A DL of Black, WH, NB, and Roh is used.

·         JK blitzes from deep in a sign of things to come on 1st and 15.

·         WH drops into coverage on the JK forced-fumble/BH touchdown play.

Seventh Drive

·         The D has to play two consecutive series for the second time.

·         WC comes in, as does BB (as he does for much of the 2nd half).

·         WMU runs a WR sweep on the first play.  All OLs but RVB’s make it to the second level to block LBs and DBs.  The play goes for 10.  WC chases the WR all the way through the play and appears to be gassed afterward.

·         JR comes in for second play.  He nicely diagnoses of a misdirection play that is blown dead.

·         JK sacks Carder.  MM may have got to Carder if JK didn’t. 

·         Mike Jones appears and makes a tackle on a screen.

·         MM drops into coverage on 3rd down when JK tips the pass.

Eighth Drive

·         WC is in.  He pushes his man back about a yard on a pass play.  JR hits Carder in the face on the same play.  Incompletion.

·         WMU’s TE seems to think that Roh cannot move before the snap.  He is wrong and is penalized.

·         Beyer’s inability on 2nd and 15 to take on a FB allows for a four yard gain.

·         BH lines up in a two-point stance between the center and guard on 3rd and 11 and gets a good push to the QB.  The pocket rolls away from a blitzing JK on the play, and Carder makes another completion.

·         JB is in for KD.

·         Marvin Robinson gets a good hit when given the chance on a long WMU gain.

·         WMU runs out of the I for a 15 yard gain.  NB, JB, and BH are all cleared out of the way by WMU’s line.

·         The DL is not lined up properly on the QB-center fumble play. 

·         WMU never gets the ball back.


General Impressions

On WMU:  I think, fwiw, that Carder will be in the top 25% of passers that Michigan plays all year.  Bill Cubit’s offense spreads you out and hits you quickly, making it hard to get sacks.  Carder is an excellent decision-maker and he is very accurate…Carder needs to tighten his chin strap.  He is going to get a broken jaw and/or severe concussion before this season is over if he does not. 

On the DL:  RVB and Martin were easily Michigan’s best (you’re shocked, I’m sure).  I noticed Black much more than Roh.  Heininger was strong at the point of attack.  It would be hard to argue that he was not one of Michigan’s best four linemen.  Brink was unimpressive.  Campbell was neither good nor terrible.  I did not see Ash or Quinton Washington.  

On the LBs:  There is Kenny Demens and then everyone else when it comes to MLB and WLB.  An effort to clone him should be made immediately.  I did not see Hawthorne or Morgan.  Mike Jones only played a little.  Herron had a wildly inconsistent day.  He often looked lost when he wasn’t snatching loose balls and running them into the endzone.

Michigan appears to have depth at SLB, especially given that Cam Gordon was hurt.  Ryan is a guy who just seems to do good things.  Beyer was neither good nor bad, which is fairly impressive for a true freshman in his first game.   

Michigan’s LBs were the least impressive defensive unit to me.  Herron’s touchdowns masked some pretty weak play from the non-Demenses. 

On the DBs:  They looked like they knew what they were doing more than any other unit.  No one could blanket a receiver on Saturday, but they were in the right places at the right times generally.  Thomas Gordon did some nice things.  Kovacs’ day doesn’t need to be described. 

On blitzing:  I think that Michigan blitzed more effectively as the game wore on but not necessarily more often, or at least not by much. 

On tackling:  It was good! Carvin Johnson (sorry to pick on you, old bean) had the only missed tackle that stood out to me all game.


Yostbound and Down

September 5th, 2011 at 12:28 AM ^

Interesting, but you missed Demens blowing a free shot/sack on Carder.

And I would dispute the fact that Carder is one of the best passers we're going to face: NW has Persa, State has Cousins, ND presumably has Rees, Ohio has Bauserman, Illinois' QB Scheelhaase (sp?) are all better. Carder didn't have that much pressure on him until later in the second quarter and then he started to screw up pretty badly. Plus White, the WMU wideout, was making some damn good catches and running great routes.

Incredible Hoke

September 5th, 2011 at 12:42 AM ^

I believe Carder had the 12th most passing yards per game in the nation last year. He's better than Rees, and Persa and Scheelhaase are both completely different quarterbacks. Both are mobile and will take off on you. And I disagree on Bauserman… I mean, he has started one game, against Akron. Akron went 1-11 last year. Jury is out on him, because with the secondary he faced and the time he had yesterday, Hellen Keller would have been able to find receivers. 

But Cousins is better than Carder, but not significantly better IMO. 


September 5th, 2011 at 12:50 AM ^

I would agree with the disagreement on Bauserman, if on nothing else than pure athleticism. From what I noticed, Bauserman doesn't have near the athletic ability that Carder does. I don't think Baus could have dodged Demens' blitz like Carder did. Even pre-snap, Carder was bouncing around like a little kid getting the play calls to his team, something I didn't see Baus do to the same extent.


September 5th, 2011 at 12:49 AM ^

Erik, on the plays where UM blitzed,  did you notice if the DB's were pressing or playing "off" their guys in coverage?

Also, on the plays we did not blitz were our guys (DB's) playing closer to the line of scrimmage? Sorry for the mundane questions. I didn't see the game.


CO Blue

September 5th, 2011 at 1:34 AM ^

In the series of three staright blitzes (resulting in incompletions in the end zone)  the corners were up on the receivers. When we were getting dinked and dunked the db covering the slot was playing off by around 10 yards, though I noticed a few downs where the end (or perhaps the SLB) came off the line at the snap to run with the slot.


September 6th, 2011 at 10:09 PM ^

My impression was that after the first two drives by WMU the DB's began to play the receivers much closer to the line of scrimmage.  Our DB's seemed very soft on the first two series and were possibly feeling out their ability to match WMU WR speed or just to avoid getting burned on an early deep route.  This allowed Carder to hit lots of quick passes given we were 8 yards off at times on the first two WMU drives.  Carder ealy on had lots of three step drops that would hard to get much pressure on him when he was throwing so quickly.  I think the tight coverage may have taken some of that away and allowed more rush pressure to develop.  I agree tackling was very crisp by our DB especially compared to last year. 

One Inch Woody…

September 5th, 2011 at 1:03 AM ^

I'd say of all the passing spread/pocket passer quarterbacks we see, Carder is worse than Cousins and Lindley, but better than Vandenburg, Rees, and Bauserman. Persa, Scheelhasse, Gray, and Martinez are valued differently. I'm not even including Eastern.

Therefore, it's safe to say the secondary will have some experience handling the same type of precision timing, route running, and throws that Carder/White displayed.


September 5th, 2011 at 9:04 AM ^

I think Cousins really has the potential to shred us. Accurate and experienced enough to not get flustered by a blitz. Lindley is the same, but with literally no WR he has chemistry with. At least Carder had a 6th year senior who caught half his balls. Persa is unknown because of his pimp walk. Bauserman looked good on his opener, but historically sucks.


September 5th, 2011 at 11:32 AM ^

I'd put Vandenburg in the unknown category. His only real experience was at the end of the year two years ago when Stanzi was out, and he looked good then, playing a very good game at the Horseshoe in the de facto Big 10 championship game (OSU won in OT). He could sneakily be the 2nd best pocket qb in the league behind Cousins.

Space Coyote

September 5th, 2011 at 1:12 AM ^

He looked like the top CB out there in coverage IME, but though he is often in good position, he refuses to turn his head and find the ball.  There were a few times where he seemed to be in a great spot but didn't find the ball and it ended up in completions or near complitions where it could have at least been a knock down.

One Inch Woody…

September 5th, 2011 at 1:17 AM ^

Yep this consistently frustrated me... If you're playing zone you have to stay looking at the QB the whole time and if you're playing man 2 deep you have to turn around on the first cut. It's only a matter of time before the QB puts it in a spot that the DB can't get to because he's not looking. He has good hip speed too, which is why this is confusing.


September 5th, 2011 at 1:13 AM ^

I know some people might be worried about all the blitzing to get pressure, but on most of the blitzes we were still only rushing 4 or 5.  We only brought the house on one play IIRC and that was in the 2nd quarter I believe when Carder threw the ball out of the endzone.  One player that has me worried is Roh.  He was unnoticable during the game.  Black seemed to still be somewhat of a liability in the run game also.  


September 5th, 2011 at 1:21 AM ^

I also only noticed one play with seven rushers.  There may have been a two or three with six rushers.  Mostly it was five or four, like you say.  There was at least one play when only three rushed.  A number of plays involved three down linemen and two blitzers from the LBs/DBs. 

I know I say this above, but I really don't think that the blitzes picked up all that much as the game went on.  Michigan was just more successful.  It struck me very much while re-watching the game that a blitz is a roll of the dice:  sometimes you overwhelm the opponent with numbers, sometimes the oppoent accounts for your blitzers with blockers, sometimes the direction of the opponent's play takes it away from the blitz, etc. 


September 5th, 2011 at 1:42 AM ^

While we adjusted well to the passing game as the game wore on, our defense against the run game seems fairly average (even below average). With Big 10 power football of running the opposition to the ground I can't see this defense holding up (particularly with the lack of depth).



September 5th, 2011 at 1:54 AM ^

I think that running right at Michigan would play to Michigan's strengths.  RVB, Martin, Heininger, Demens, Ryan, and Kovacs are pretty stout.  Black and Roh weren't getting pushed around as far as I saw.  WLB seems like the weak link despite Herron's TDs. 



September 5th, 2011 at 2:04 AM ^

To a degree I agree - that our starting line is okay. However, if one of those starters is out injured, WC et all don't inspire confidence against the run.

Also, while they are stout against a MAC team, can they be considered 'stout' against the likes of Wisky, Ohio, Nebraska - I would think we would be at par against the line - but playing against a quality RB would expose chinks in the armor of the D.


September 5th, 2011 at 2:13 AM ^

I kept waiting for the announcers to announce who made the tackle, and unless it was Kovacs or Demens (i.e. someone they were familiar with) they rarely did. I was shocked that Herron made 8 tackles because I only noticed him on the two big returns. I thought Avery was close to the WRs most of the time, but you are right that he doesn't turn his head and waits for the receiver to make a play for the ball, then he whacks them hard. In the short time he was in there, Woolfolk showed us what we were missing last year. I hope he contains Floyd. I saw some of the ND game and Floyd has got some massive arms for a WR.


September 5th, 2011 at 5:53 AM ^

Maybe it is just me, but watching the game, without looking at the stats, I had a totally different feeling with this defense over the past several years.  It seemed they knew how to tackle, didn't give up on plays, and were confident in what they were doing.  Granted a couple big plays really made up for the progress Western was making, but it is fun to be on the right side of some big plays for a change. 


I have no illusions that the defense will struggle this year, but if yesterday is any indication, I will at least enjoy watching us on Defense this year.  I certainly could not say that last year. 


September 5th, 2011 at 9:32 AM ^

UM's defense looked pretty good after UCON last year also.  Making any conclusions about the state of UM's defense verses a MAC team is ridiculous.  Next week were up against a team that can match us talent wise if not exceed us.  Then we will see what our defense can do.


September 5th, 2011 at 12:47 PM ^

I agree that making long-term evaluations based on one game is silly, but I do think we made more plays on D this time around.  In the UConn game, their QB was extremely inaccurate and bailed us out with poor throws regularly.   

The team the t…

September 5th, 2011 at 10:18 AM ^

for pointing out that it seemed silly for the national media to vote for Herron on stats's a team game after all, so all these individual awards are silly...but as I suggested, the film might show that Herron didn't have such an amazing day.   If you're going to give an individual award, I'd give it to Kovacs.

Now, I'll wait for Brian's UFR as the gospel noble truth on this matter  /s.  


...and perhaps an apology from the user who bashed me.


Elno Lewis

September 5th, 2011 at 10:34 AM ^ just about every game i watched on saturday, the defenses were a bit sloppy. So, i am not going to panic about a 10 point performance just yet.  i wonder if sometimes the defense trying to disguise their looks--could that possibly make them look more confused than they actually are. (or even less, i guess)


and uh, i'd rather be lucky than good.




September 5th, 2011 at 1:07 PM ^

"A KD blitz on the 2nd and 12 play forces Carder to run.  RVB and MM nearly take his head off.  Carder protests this treatment, but MM is unmoved. "   Well done.




September 5th, 2011 at 2:58 PM ^

I was concerned early on when it appeared this defense was going to be just as ineffective as last years, but I was really encouraged by the blitzes later in the game. That is something that was lacking under GERG. It seemed like his philosophy was "the DBs are our weakness, therefore only rush 3 and drop 8", whereas Mattison showed that pressuring the QB is his main approach, which I like much better.

Greg McMurtry

September 6th, 2011 at 9:26 AM ^

Not trying to be harsh on the kid, but I think he needs another year.  He is very tall and skinny and was running himself out of plays.  I think Mattison likes to play 2-deep a lot in the front 7, but you'll see that it will be Cam and Jake next week at SLB.  Beyer might end up a great player, but he's not quite ready.


September 6th, 2011 at 2:50 PM ^

They were Michigan's best DLs to me because they almost always either pushed their blockers backward a bit (if not more) or at least didn't give ground.  They were two pretty immovable objects.  Neither did anything particularly explosive, but I do think (as you say) that WMU's frequent use of three-step drops made it very hard for the DL to get any sacks.   WMU's offense is designed (in my non-expert opinion) very well to work around its limitations, i.e., they're not going to be able to block MM for three or four seconds, so they don't even try. 


September 6th, 2011 at 12:19 PM ^

Man, seeing Carder overrated like this makes me remember how everyone was going bananas over Indiana's QB last year (name?) after we barely squeaked by them. Carder is decent but most Big Ten QBs will be better. Our secondary will likely be vulnerable all year (but at least we're used to this by now).