Solutions for the pass rush? Whatchu got?

Submitted by MichiganMan14 on September 17th, 2013 at 1:44 AM
As most of us have stated in the past 2 weeks...our anemic pass rush has really left our defense without a set of teeth. What is the problem...lack of talent? Ineffective scheme? What do you guys think we need to do to remedy the pass rush? Im wondering if we need to open up the competition and let some more young fellas spin in efforts to find an edge rusher. Taco was supposed to be a force off the edge and obviously Frank was being advertised as a possible All Big Ten guy...but it hasnt materialized. I think the heavy use of blitzing to cover our pass rush is really going to come to a focal point in B1G play. Teams will realize this weakness and dare us to blitz. Our secondary is going to find themselves in lot of one on one situations in space with some quality skill guys....could be interesting. Youve got to think that we have the dline personnel to generate a pass rush with 4 right? This is MiChigan forgodsakes! This Uconn game will be very intriguing to see if we can sprout some sacks and qb pressures b4 heading into B1G play. The maturation of this Dline will be the hinge point to a BCS season or another Outback or Gator bowl.



September 17th, 2013 at 8:20 AM ^

To be fair, a great majority of those were removed after the game and throughout part of Sunday because of the snowflake rule, but now that we've gotten to Tuesday morning, a thread or two likely will be fine since I am not anticipating a lot of further discussion. That being said, redundant threads addressing the pass rush will be removed now that this one is here. 


September 17th, 2013 at 8:29 AM ^

I have to say the "snowflake rule," particularly when applied to a game like Akron, only serves to stifle discussion, not to mention page clicks.

I'd love to discuss and read what people have to say about the game, but when there is SO much to discuss, I have no patience to wade through 100s of comments mixed together in one thread. 

I can't help but wonder if it would make for a better blog all around if there could be multiple snowflakes... providing focused, digestible chunks of discussion abou tthe game.  For example:

Defense Snowflakes

Offense Snowflakes

Special Team Snowflakes

Coaching Snowflakes

General Snowflakes



September 17th, 2013 at 8:41 AM ^

The subdivided snowflake threads are going to be the experiment this week actually. I have already taken some feedback on how this works, and going back through history, the longer the snowflake thread became, the grumpier people got about the restriction. I was hoping to start with "Offense", "Defense" and "Other", but coaching and coaching and special teams can be added to accommodate volume. 


September 17th, 2013 at 10:26 AM ^

But what there was before wasn't wading through 100s of comments in one thread, but hundreds of threads with a couple of posts instead (ok, dozens, but things would be getting pushed off the board every 5 minutes).

I for one am glad that they chose sanity over madness and page clicks. But it doesn't mean it can't be refined.


September 17th, 2013 at 2:37 AM ^

Remember that SNL character that Steve Martin played once? He was an old school football player who's nickname was 'The Gun' because he ran around with a revolver during the game and shot other players who tried to tackle him? We need something similar to that. Also, in before the delete.


September 17th, 2013 at 2:42 AM ^

yeah hope freak athletes like hand and others end up at um.  its not scheme....mattison is one of best d cordinators in college game and hes done an incredible job so far considering hes been hamstrung by inferior talent.  mattison has not had a decent pass rusher yet so hes forced to occasionally bring the house in predictable situations.  as with entire roster, they dont have the horses yet.  they have some really good players and some promising young talent on both sides of the ball.  but do not have anyone that can consistently win one on one matchups on DL as we all know....pretty sure that guy is not on current roster - and even if that guy is, hes year or 2 from getting it done.  solution....recruit elite DL prospects and coach them up.  one of several things all championship teams have in common....numerous elite athletes on DL who make game changing plays every week.  by all accounts, hand and mcdowell would be a good start

Indiana Blue

September 17th, 2013 at 9:32 AM ^

YES it is scheme.  Do you really think we have only ONE scheme ?    

When you rush 4 and they keep a back in, its 4 against 6 ... those odds will beat you 75% of the time.  And depending on the play call - it simply gives a decent QB too much time to throw. Plus we got beat deep on 2 throws ... both sideline throws and we have no safety close to either to help our CB.  Whatever scheme we were in was beaten on those 2 plays.  GM wasn't going to let ND have those deep throws - but I think he believed he could let Akron try them ... and to their credit the QB threw 2 great passes.

I still believe the problem last Saturday was turnovers.  Two red zones TO's and the pick 6 gave Akron TOO much confidence and deflated us.

Go Blue!


September 17th, 2013 at 2:48 AM ^

It looked like the D-line actually got decent push - the problem was that they all seemed to push into the same point and basically all cluster around the center of the line, making it easy for the QB to step out of the pocket and make a play or, even worse, tripping over each other and taking themselves out of the play.

It looked like they're so focused on beating their man sometimes that they don't have enough awareness of what's going on around them :|


September 17th, 2013 at 8:18 AM ^

That sounds on par with what I saw. I think we are just really young - need a couple games / years of experience to know where / when to push.

Remember how Hoke wants to "hear football" ... Guys reacting without thinking an putting a hat on the football. Right now we are still thinking and trying to read the O instead of using instincts.

Hopefully they'll get better as the season progresses - which they should.


September 17th, 2013 at 12:42 PM ^

I thought the dline got good pressure too, the problem the last two games has been quick throw after quick throw into soft coverage. Once Avery is 100% and Stribling and D. Thomas get onto the field more then Countess can stop playing nickel, the coverage can tighten up, and qbs will have no choice but to stand in the pocket for a second longer and get pummeled.


September 17th, 2013 at 7:38 AM ^

Just a bit of elaboration on your point, I don't think the defensive line is young, I think the talent on the line is young. We have a 5th year NT, but a very talented 2nd year NT behind him. We have a 4th year senior DT, but a trio of talented freshman DT behind him. We have a 3rd year junior WDE, but a pair of younger, more talented WDE behind him.

The D line, much like the O line, continues to be a frustrating work-in-progress.


September 17th, 2013 at 10:30 AM ^

At positions where size and experience helps we've got better talent that is younger behind more fully formed but less gifted players. Maybe Hand would be a guy who could walk in and play if he comes here but D-linemen who are really impactful as freshmen are maybe a few a year. Most take time.

See underclassman Brandon Graham vs. upperclassman.


September 17th, 2013 at 6:07 AM ^

But I think the problem is part scheme and part defensive playcalling. I refuse to believe our talent is not on par with the 90% of teams in the nation who are generating more pass rush than we are. Our Dline is overburdened with assignments, I don't think they're free to beat their man however they choose. I think they are forced to inside rush or outside rush depending on playcall, and I think it's killing a few of the negative play possibilities. 

Also Mattison is way too concerned with giving up big plays before the opponents reach the redzone. Too much 2 deep zone defense, not enough man coverage with pressure up the middle, the corner blitzes have yielded nothing so far.  It seems that MSU style double A gap blitz is the best defesive play in college football right now. I'm pretty sure that is what we ran on the last play of the Akron game. I have seen teams all over the country using it with huge success. I will add that I think ND used it on us and got torched, It looked to me like they were trying to mimic MSU's gameplan against us the last few years...kudos to Gardner for making them pay for it.


September 17th, 2013 at 8:14 AM ^

Thank god you are not our defensive coordinator. Our d-line is restricted by the fact that Mattison makes them play disciplined, gap-assignment football? Sorry, but this is not the problem. I think the problem is actually that our guys are not playing disciplined and maintaining their assigned gaps. I can think of at least a handful of times where Clark went inside rush and broke outside contain, leaving a huge hole for the QBS to scramble into.


September 17th, 2013 at 6:18 AM ^

They should be dropping 8 and maybe 9 into coverage sometimes because it looks to me like most passes are done right away. I think that is nd's deal in general, but getting the qb to hesitate a bit should help if they face another spread passing attack. I saw Boise switch between rushing three and six in a Bowl game against tcu once and I thought it was smart.

Blue Mike

September 17th, 2013 at 6:37 AM ^

The first thing they can do to improve the pass rush is get JMFR back on the field.  I think that will change a lot about how the defense works and what they feel they can do.  They other thing they can do is force the issue more with blitzes.  All we used to hear before was how creative Mattison was with his blitzing, how the offense never knew who was coming and who wasn't.  Now it appears that the offense always knows who is coming from where.  

It would also be nice if the cornerbacks would play some press coverage behind the blitz a few times so that the other team can't just check into a quick pass to beat the pressure.  You could see Saturday that when they forced the issue and played tight coverage, Akron didn't move the ball.  Especially against lesser talent, Michigan needs to force them to react more.

Mr. Yost

September 17th, 2013 at 7:47 AM ^

1. Stop relying on 4 guys to provide pressure out of base looks and stop with the "all (7+ guys) or nothing (3-4 guys) approach"'s okay to send 5 or 6.

2. Disguise defense WAY more than we do now...even if you only rush 4. Show blitz, but only send the 4 2-deep base and right before the snap, send your blitz to the line of scrimmage.

3. Zone blitz more than we have.

4. Overload blitz more than we have (meaning to one side or the other...not necessarily bringing 6+ players)

5. Only use the NASCAR package if you're rushing 5 (Black, Clark, Ojemudia, Charlton, Beyer)

Mr. Yost

September 17th, 2013 at 7:49 AM ^

...because over the past 3 years Mattison has shown and had success at each of these 5 items.

And this isn't saying complete get rid of the base 2-deep look or the all out 7-8 man's saying use the 5 things above in addition to what we do (probably more than what we do).


September 17th, 2013 at 9:29 AM ^

I think the difference this year isn't the line as much as the secondary (compared to last year, year one had Mike Martin, 'nuff said). We can't send an extra guy because Mattison isn't sure the secondary will mop up anything that might leak out. I think we will see a lot of the things you mentioned going forward because it's clear rushing 4 just exposes the secondary in a different way by giving the QB too much time and in some cases, running lanes.


September 17th, 2013 at 9:53 AM ^

The problem is if we rush 4 we get picked apart all day unless the offense self inflicts a problem.

If we blitz, we may give up big plays, then again we might pressure the QB into an INT or even just hit him enough to get into his head and affect mechanics and timing. It's high risk/high reward.

Seeing how the low variance approach almost cost us against Akron I think it's time to start blitzing.

Mr. Yost

September 17th, 2013 at 1:14 PM ^

...if we're not as good, USE CONFUSION AS A WEAPON!

Why does it have to be rush 4 and play safe or engage eight/send the house?

We're too predictable. We're clearly blitzing everyone or we're sitting back being picked apart.

Why not show the "send the house" blitz and only rush 4? Why not show the same blitz, but send 5 and drop 2-3? The offense doesn't know who's coming and who's dropping...that helps out the guys who are actually rushing.

On the flip side, why not show a base 4 man rush then at the last second send a couple of LBs so they can't slide their protection?


Why is this like rocket science? It's not. It's pretty simple stuff. And it's stuff we've done in the past.


September 17th, 2013 at 9:53 AM ^

Agree with all of your points. Maybe they're staying in 2 deep coverage because they're worried about the safeties more than any other part of the D and just want to get them as much experience as possible in coverage. Wishful thinking maybe, but plausible. We haven't had to complain about Wilson yet so that's obviously a a huge positive. If Mattison's approach to D is that "you're only as strong as your weakest man" then I would expect to see him start to challenge the safeties abilities in the next few games.


September 17th, 2013 at 10:30 AM ^

we have a new saftey in wilson instead of kovacs destroyer of all and until avery gets back have a freshman corner out there when in nickel (which is what we have been having to play the last two games with all the 4-5 wide sets). mattison would rather play bend but dont break with these young guys in the secondary because if they screw up in blitz coverage its probably a touchdown where if they have to dink and dunk you force the offense to be consistent and when they screw up its probably a punt or a turnover. Against central when we though we had a pash rush gordon was able to play more, washington or pipkins were out on the field and they have played much the last two games with all the nickel looks.


September 17th, 2013 at 10:53 AM ^

Good list. Mattison has done these things in past years, and I'm sure he hasn't forgotten them. I'm sure he didn't wake up one day thinking, "Forget aggressive defense! Bend-don't-break is the way to go!" Part of it is schemed. It seemed GM wanted to play this way moreso against ND so that they wouldn't go over the top on us. Akron strikes me as a vanilla experiment on both sides of the ball that almost went awry. But mostly, it seems to be a talent issue. GM knows something we don't - which is expected - and that's probably that we just don't have the horses right now to play more aggressively.


September 17th, 2013 at 8:09 AM ^

Bench Clark, move Beyer to WDE, put Cam Gordon at SAM. That puts a better front 7 on the field. Right now Clark is a dud and appears worse at every facet of the game than Beyer, while Gordon has shown to be an adept SAM so far this year.


September 17th, 2013 at 8:16 AM ^

Ugh, as much as I don't like staying "bench that guy!" I think you're absolutely right. On that last long pass by Akron that Brian highlighted in his column (the one in which all the Dline, except Beyer, are on the ground), I remember Clark doing some dumb, dance-in-place move in front of the Olineman. He didn't try to go around or through him, just kind of did a jitter-step until he got flattened.

I really want to believe the hype after some of his more memorable highlights, but right now Beyer, or even Ojemudia, seem like better options.


September 17th, 2013 at 10:51 AM ^

Similar thought process to you although I'd say move to backup who(m)ever is worse - Clark or Heitzman.  I have no idea which is less effective, they seem about the same.  By same I mean just eating up oxygen on the field.  So (a) whichever is playing worse send to backup role ... (b) put Beyer in as his replacement on the line while (c) having Cam be the starter until Ryan gets back.  We have depth at LBs and I feel more confident seeing a young Bolden (who yes struggles at times) over an ineffective (name any of the 19,290 backup DEs).  Asking Taco to do much as a true freshman is a bit over the top as it will be for Hand next year...freshman lineman are going to struggle period.  I'd also perhaps move Mario ahead of Clark because to my untrained eye he seems to do more but I'm no Greg M.  Last when Ryan is back I'd use him with his hand in the dirt on all 3rd down and 7+ yardage situations across from Beyer at the other end.  Yes he is a bit undersized to be a rush end but in the college game, maybe underweight by 12-15 lbs. 


September 17th, 2013 at 8:24 AM ^

Solution for the pass rush?  Patience.

Our upperclassmen are not very good, nothing is going to change that.  They are guys who would be on the scout team in year's not coached by RR. 

Our underclassmen are just raw at the moment.  We have two of the best defensive line coaches in the nation.  We will improve as the season goes on.

Think about how Ross came on in the middle of the season last year.  How Countess did 2 years ago.   Bolden etc.. Our D-Line will be more than serviceable in about 4 weeks of practice and 4 games from now.


September 17th, 2013 at 10:46 AM ^

I don't know, man. The fact that Akron has their line situation figured out to the point that they were dominating both of ours makes me think that we had enough time. I like the guy's idea that we move Clark to the bench, and Beyer back down to DE.