by Mark Edwards
This week’s edition of Don Brown’s “Pressure of the Week” will show the evolution of offensive football and why getting pressure on a quarterback can prove to be so difficult. Any defensive coordinator will tell you that if you get a backup quarterback into the game (or in this case a 4th string quarterback), you dial up so much pressure that the quarterback’s inexperience becomes the 12th defender.
If that quarterback is leading a spread offensive team, offensive coordinators can do things to make that pressure really difficult to achieve. Maryland’s game plan from the get go was to attack the edge of the defense and to utilize quick throws (i.e. tunnel screens, bubble screens, etc.) to protect the quarterback.
‘Ay, there’s the rub’ that presented itself to Don Brown yesterday. So, how did he choose to attack this philosophy? Early pressure from a 3-3 alignment. This week’s pressure highlights new contributors, eye discipline and athleticism.
THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE
SITUATION: 3rd & 7, Maryland ball on their own 30 yard line
TIME: 11:34 left in the second quarter
WHY THIS SERIES: Michigan, already up 14-0, was presented with yet another chance to get the ball back in decent field position and deliver a potential knockout blow. Maryland had yet to really do anything except throw a double pass back to the quarterback who dropped it. This was the moment that the Michigan defense could take a strangle hold on the Maryland attack.
OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Trips Right Packer (The #3 receiver on the trips side is on the line and is outflanked by two receivers who are off of the line)
MARYLAND PERSONNEL: 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end)
DEFENSIVE BASE: 3-3
MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES: Defensive end Rashan Gary (#3) is in a ghost 9 technique to the trips side while Maurice Hurst Jr. (#73) is in a 3-technique to the tight end side. Chase Winovich (#15) is aligned in a 9-technique outside of the tight end. The defensive ends are assigned to keep any run play “in the box,” which funnels the ball to the linebackers. Michigan has three linebackers standing on the line, which is normally a sign that at least one of them is a part of the pressure. Mike McCray (#9) is standing over the right guard while Josh Uche (#35) is over the center and viper Khaleke Hudson (#7) is standing over the top of the tight end.
Notice that Devin Bush Jr. (#10) is six yards from the line of scrimmage and heavily shaded to the running back side. The reason for that is if Maryland runs a speed option to the tight end side, Bush Jr. has to take the pitch back. On the edge, Michigan cornerback David Long (#22) is in press coverage over the Packer alignment while safety Josh Metellus (#14) is four yards off of the #2 receiver. Why are they not all in press alignment? Michigan is anticipating crossing of the receivers. If the defensive back are at the same depth, they will get picked off. Go back and watch the Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl final play.
What is Maryland doing here? Maryland is going to run a tunnel screen to the #2 receiver, which is D.J. Moore. They are also going to “flare” the RB to the top of the screen. This should get Bush Jr. to vacate the middle of the field.
What has changed: You can see that Michigan is not going to “bring the house” here.
Michigan’s pressure: This is actually just a four-man pressure that includes the defensive line and Josh Uche (#35). Gary and WInovich are working around the edge of the offensive line while Uche and Hurst (#73) are going to run a cross stunt. Uche is going to the A-gap to the boundary side of the center while Hurst is going to cross around Uche to the A-gap to the field (trips side). The irony is that this pressure is designed to get Hurst to the quarterback. Maryland’s lack of execution actually presents Michigan with the opportunity to get home quicker, which helps defeat the tunnel screen.
What is Maryland doing here? The quarterback is looking to the RB flare to move the defense, which he does effectively The right guard is already moving downfield to level 2, although there is nobody there to block. The center is the problem. He passes off Uche to the left guard. That’s an issue when the left guard is still caught up with Hurst. The #3 Packer alignment receiver has done a nice job of blocking David Long.
What has changed: Uche is three yards from the quarterback and is unabated to his goal.
Michigan’s pressure: This is a basic pressure. Uche and Hurst are it. Metellus (#14) is late to see the tunnel screen while McCray is spying the QB. Hudson (#7) is in man-to-man with the tight end.
What is Maryland doing here? They actually have a tunnel screen set up to be successful. The right guard just has to block Metellus and the ball needs to be caught by Moore and Michigan has a problem on their hands.
What has changed: Winovich has defeated the left tackle although this pressure is all about Josh Uche.
Michigan’s pressure: Notice that Hurst has read the screen and is starting to retrace the line of scrimmage. McCray (#9) is reading the QB’s eyes and moving into the potential passing lane.
What is Maryland doing here? The quarterback has thrown the tunnel screen while being hit by Uche and Winovich. Maryland’s center and left guard have also moved to level 2 to block downfield.
What has changed: Besides for Uche and Winovich, Mike McCray is in position to intercept the pass. Due to the pressure, the ball is thrown into the ground and not into McCray’s hands.
Michigan’s pressure: Michigan showed a six-man pressure and only brought a four-man pressure. The spread offense makes six-man pressures really difficult to execute. If you had seen the free safety (Tyree Kinnel #23) in the screen before the snap, that would’ve been a clue that Michigan was bring more that four people.
Incomplete pass. Quarterback on the ground. Punt it!
FINAL THOUGHT: It’s been refreshing to see a rotation of young players early in games. This tells me that the young guys are earning it in practice and that’s so positive heading forward. The usage of the 3-3 alignment also lets Don Brown get more speed on the field/ I expect to see a heavy dose of the 4-2 package this week at Wisconsin.