IU Stealing Defensive Signals?

Submitted by Everyone Murders on November 4th, 2014 at 9:40 AM

Angelique Chengelis REPORTS that Coach Mattison believes that IU was using spotters to steal Michigan's defensive signals to gain an unfair advantage. 

"You know what they do? They get up above (in the press box), and they watch you signal, and then when they see you signal, they call on their headset from upstairs over to the other sideline and they tell them what you're going to run.

My understanding is that this is not currently against the NCAA rules unless you deploy an extra coach or assistant (beyond allowable amounts) to do the sign stealing.  If that's right, do the football experts and others here think we should be doing this - or is it too much of a distraction? 



November 4th, 2014 at 9:44 AM ^

typically with about 1.5 to 2 seconds left in the clock. We are lucky to get the snap off most times, adjustments are out of the question even if the opposing team calls us and tells us their call. THAT is how dumb our coaches are. 


November 4th, 2014 at 11:37 AM ^

If Michigan decided to "steal" the opposing teams defensive signals like IU does, then our adjustment to offensive play call based on the intelligence gained from those "stolen" defensive signals would presummably have to be signaled into the offense in a timely manner.

#2 was saying we don't have time to make those adjustments the way we currently run our offense, so "stealing" the opponents defensive signals (like the OP is suggesting) wouldn't help.


November 4th, 2014 at 10:03 AM ^

The OP asked if the stealing of the other team's defensive signals is something Michigan should be doing.  The person you are replying to answered, reasonably, that no--this is probably not something that Michigan can do because of its offensive style.

Mattison even said in the presser "this practice is more prevalent among no-huddle teams."  So he agrees that this is probably not something Michigan could do.

I Don't Read Blogs

November 4th, 2014 at 9:46 AM ^

I don't see where he accused IU. In fact, I think he intentionally avoided accusing a specific team.

In context, I think this may be a response against MSU. Look carefully at what he said (both here and in the transcript). What tells him a team is stealing signals?--When the defense aligns properly (think RPS advantage) and the offense counters. 

Everyone Murders

November 4th, 2014 at 10:12 AM ^

I agree there's no express accusation, but Mattison did reference "they" in response to a question about why he had GA's following Towlie's sage advice of "don't forget to bring a towel!" during the IU game.  So I think Chengelis drew a very reasonable inference.  That stated, you're right to underscore that there was no direct accusation.

I agree even more so regarding your thoughts about MSU.  I think that Dantonio, Narduzzi (and Saban at Bama, for that matter) work hard on this.  And Gus Malzahn has been accused of doing it for years. 


November 4th, 2014 at 9:49 AM ^

who cares? why is this always an issue? hide your signals better if you think someone is stealing them. why does everyone go the such drastic measures to hide their signals and then get upset when they think people are trying to steal them? obviously people are always trying to steal signals or nobody would try to hide them so much.

I Don't Read Blogs

November 4th, 2014 at 9:53 AM ^

Issue: make a few inferences, and you can tell that (1) someone stole signals from GMatt and (2) the stealing hurt the team.

A few more inferences...

GMatt's defense played Belichick. He knew about the prevalence of signal theft. Despite this, he failed to implement a proper system to prevent signal theft. As a result, signal theft hurt the team.

I love GMatt, but this reeks of poor coaching. 

Everyone Murders

November 4th, 2014 at 9:57 AM ^

The core of my question was whether Michigan should be attempting to steal other teams' defensive signals.  On my part, I've got no moral issue with it if it's within the rules.  The deeper question to me is whether it is worth devoting resources to.

I agree it's prudent to hide your signals, and that signal-stealing has been going on for a long time.  (In fact, that's part of the reason the huddle developed.)  The question is whether we should be trying to crack other teams' codes.


November 4th, 2014 at 9:54 AM ^

My opinion: You should steal signs if you can (and if the team is dumb enough to not have the ability to change signs), but you can't make a gameplan out of it. If you're worried about the other team stealing your signs, either change it up or deal with the consequences of being predictable.


November 4th, 2014 at 9:57 AM ^

Right.  I think this is bad reporting.  Mattison specifically said that any team that calls their plays from the LOS could potentially benefiet more from stealing signs, and so as a preventitive measure he blocks signs.

Also, I always tried to see what direction my friend was pressing when he called his plays in Tecmo Super Bowl (not that it mattered when Bo Jackson could outrun every other player in the game)


November 4th, 2014 at 10:18 AM ^

I'm sure they were stealing the symbols. I watched this last game with someone who used to play on the team and has since graduated, and he could predict certain things (i.e. a specific player would blitz) on multiple occasions based on signals he saw from the Telecast. 


November 4th, 2014 at 10:21 AM ^

I found this quote from Mattison in the article interesting:

"Honestly, I can't wait for the time where we're going to have enough good football palyers, where I'm going to be able to say, 'We're running this, so you don't have to bother looking down at the towel and everything like that. Here's what we're running now you go ahead and go.'"

(emphasis mine)

Even if true, that probably won't go over well with the players.

MI Expat NY

November 4th, 2014 at 10:57 AM ^

That would have to be a pretty amazing defense, no?  Basically would have to win a game playing your base set all game long without blitzing.  Who can do that?

I think Mattison should spend more time on making sure the offense doesn't know what's coming and then maybe the defensive players will be shown to be pretty good. Is it really that hard to do the offensive signaling route of having two or three guys signaling in the plays?  Is it really that hard after you show a blitz to have the defense give one or two signals that means either revert to defensive call x or continue with the original call?  Most other teams manage to do this.

The ability of offenses to get to the line and have an audible called in from the sideline based on what the defense shows is a huge advantage and a relatively modern one.  That Mattison refuses to adjust beyond simply putting towels up is not a good thing.  


November 4th, 2014 at 11:06 AM ^

Defensive signaling is more tricky. Offensively, once the play is called, there is nothing outside of the play clock to rush you.

Defensively, you have to get the play in a lot quicker, because the offense can snap it at any time. That's why defenses have never gone the multiple signalers route. How could you justify not getting a call in on time?

I agree that we should be developing something, maybe switching signals by quarter or drive or something. But the process itself has to be pretty damn quick, which limits your options.

MI Expat NY

November 4th, 2014 at 12:24 PM ^

I guess I don't understand why multiple signalers is slower.  High tempo offenses do it.  If Mattison is making the call and someone is signalling in the plays, how is it slower to have one guy signalling in the play while two other guys are simultaneously faking signals?  Does Mattison signal in the plays himself?  I guess I could see how it would be slower to relay it to signallers.  But again, other coaches who DC from the box have someone relaying their calls in, I don't see why we couldn't do the same.

And yeah, it doesn't have to be multiple signalers, but do something besides holding up some towells.  I think simply throwing your hands up in the air and saying "that's life" is a deteriment to the team.  I understand that he thinks the worst thing to do is not get everyone on the same page, but be a problem solver.  


November 4th, 2014 at 12:57 PM ^

Its the relay. It might only be a second or two, but that is enough to completely screw a defense. One second late might as well be one year late.

Again, you cant compare an offense, no matter how high tempo, to a defense. The offense, even if they only take 10 seconds between plays, has the option to take that 11th. The limitations are their own. The defense is totally limited by the offense's pace. If the offense takes 10 seconds, the defense had better only take 9, and fewer seconds are even better. They don't have the extra 30 seconds to fall back on, and they won't get a 5 yard penalty. They will give up a score.

The defense, in practice, has only as much time as there is from offensive substitution (if they even do at all) until the snap. The DC can't call the play before seeing what personnel the offense is in. As for how it works with DCs in the box, I'm really not sure. I've never been a part of such a team. I think it is a lot less common in college as opposed to the NFL, where I believe the DC has a direct link to a defensive player's helmet. I could be wrong about that.

I agree with the need for some sort of innovation. I just don't know what it is. We all love tempo offenses because they can use this advantage. Well, we also have to realize that the defense is at a natural disadvantage here.

MI Expat NY

November 4th, 2014 at 1:08 PM ^

Narduzzi is in the box, no?  I do see your point, though, and agree it's a natural disadvantage.  In all honesty, I'm probably not all that worried about actual sign stealing.  I'm more frustrated when we show a blitz and the offense sees it, has a play relayed in from the sideline and we go ahead and run the blitz anyway seemingly every time.  I know part of all that are simply head games, not knowing whether the offense is actually changing when the whole team looks over at the coaching staff.  I guess I'd just like to see us participate rather than simply being caught with a tipped blitz.  

East German Judge

November 4th, 2014 at 10:28 AM ^

I truly do not get the whole nonsense about "STEALING SIGNALS" when it comes to any sport.  If someone were to burgarlize someone's office and steal a playbook, but short of that, if you can visually decipher their signals among all the decoy signals, then good for you, you are a genius!.  Coaches should stop crying about signal stealing and either make your signals and decoy signals tougher to decipher or have players run the play in and no need for signals.  MAN UP, THIS IS MICHIGAN FER GOD SAKES!