Don Brown’s “Pressure of the Week” – Cincinnati

by Mark Edwards

The Michigan defense was really good yesterday.  Were they as dominant as in week one vs. Florida?  No but in  the quest for full disclosure, Cincinnati is a much more diverse and better-prepared offense than the Gators.   The Bearcats used a completely different approach to counter Michigan’s attacking defense.  Middle screens, commonly referred to as “rocket screens” because Raghib “Rocket” Ismail was featured  in the late 1980s with this type of screen.  Florida used edge tunnel screens, which allowed the UM defense to redirect and run to the football.  Cincinnati’s screen game was much better designed to counter Michigan blitz heavy philosophy.


SITUATION:  2nd & 1, Cincinnati ball on their own 34

TIME:  6:18 left in first quarter

WHY THIS SERIES:  With Michigan already leading 14-0, the feeling in Michigan Stadium was that Cincinnati was on the verge of getting blown out.  Therefore, getting off of the field would have been huge.  Also, Cincinnati had gained nine yards on first down so Don Brown’s belief that “you solve your problems with pressure” is going to come into play.

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OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Spread Left Tight (Twins into the boundary with an tight end and a flanker to the field)

CINCINNATI PERSONNEL: 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end and 3 wide receivers)


MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES:  Once again, we see Michigan in a 3-3 base alignment.  Rashan Gary (#3), Maurice Hurst (#73) and Chase Winovich (#15) all have their hands on the ground.   Hurst, aligned head up on the center, will be the key to understanding the design of the pressure.  Khaleke Hudson (#7) in walked up on the line of scrimmage and is an over alignment, which is proof of Michigan’s 4-3 philosophy.  Note that Michigan’s safety Josh Metellus (#14) is in a bump alignment on the flanker to the bottom of the screen.  Brandon Watson (#28) is in pressure coverage on the very top of our screen.

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What is Cincinnati doing here?  The ball has just snapped. The Bearcat offensive line is in a pass set position (more on this to come).  The wide receivers are into their release.  The flanker to the bottom of our screen is inside releasing, which is usually the beginning of either a crossing route or a pick concept.  This will be a pick with the running back running to the flat.  Linebacker Noah Furbush (#59), who had stepped up to the line presnap, has now joined the run.

What has changed:  Devin Bush (#10) has already initiated his pressure while linebacker Noah Furbush (#59), who had stepped up to the line pre-snap, has now joined the rush.  Notice that #14 Josh Metellus is not bumping the receiver and instead he has properly anticipated that someone is coming back to him.  In this case, it is RB Mike Boone (#5) on an out cut.

Michigan’s pressure: The defensive line plus Furbush are slanting to the right while Gary is using an outside rush to pull the left tackle out of protection.  You can already see that the B gap is going to open because of the design of the pressure.

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What is Cincinnati doing here?  Cincinnati’s offensive line has handle the Michigan front’s pass rush.  However, the right guard is double teaming Furbush while Bush is already in a dead sprint with the quarterback in his sights.

What has changed:  Mike McCray (#9) is looking for the crossing wide receiver while Hudson is in a trail technique.

Michigan’s pressure:  This is a straight five-man pressure.  It’s in no way exotic but is going to prove to be effective.

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What is Cincinnati doing here?  They are running a variation of the “snag” concept to the bottom of the field while crossing receivers to the top of the screen.  Once again, four Bearcat interior offensive linemen are blocking three Michigan defenders.  On the offensive line, they are clearly running a slide protection, which causes a B gap run through due to poor communication.

What has changed:  The receivers are not ready for the pass.


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What is Cincinnati doing here?  They have turned a 2nd & 1 into a 3rd &10.

What has changed:  Not only has Bush wrapped up the QB but Hurst has defeated the left guard and will get “home.”

Michigan’s pressure: Gary is now beginning to pursue across the field.  McCray has missed the receiver on the hash and is chasing the back, which makes me think this could have proven to be a blown coverage.

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Do I need to analyze anything else?


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FINAL THOUGHT:  I think going forward that we can expect to see the newly introduced 3-3 base used.  However, next week it will be difficult  to use that because Air Force will run a triple-option, no huddle offense that can really hurt a three-man front.  I don’t expect to see the same amount of pressure but we will all have to wait to see what Dr. Blitz will have in store for us.


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