Don Brown’s “Pressure of the Week” – Ohio State

by Mark Edwards

Well…that sucked.  Actually, it sucked “big time.”  Michigan, a huge underdog, had Ohio State on the ropes.  I, along with much of the Michigan fan base, is going to feel the sting of that loss for the entire winter.  However, before all of our psychologist bills go up, let me bring you the good news.

Our defense was really good.  Not great…but really good.  Quite honestly, they’ve been really good for 11 games (sorry Penn State but you didn’t beat us with our “A” game).  With the knowledge that the defense would have to carry this team, I would say they held on for as long as they could.  The biggest encouraging thing was the start by this team.

THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE

SITUATION:  1st & 10, Ohio State ball on their own 17 yard line

TIME:  5:56 left in the first quarter

WHY THIS SERIES: With Michigan scoring the first touchdown of the game, the vaunted Buckeye offense took the field for their second series of the game.  After a three and out, this was the drive where all of America thought that J.T. Barrett would march down the field and put doubt into Michigan.

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FRAME #1

OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Trio Flex Left (You have twin receivers to the boundary while the H back is aligned to the field)

OHIO STATE PERSONNEL: 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end)

DEFENSIVE BASE:  4-2

MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES:  This is the classic 4-2-5 alignment.  You have Rashan Gary (#3) to the H back side in a 7 technique.  Maurice Hurst (#73) is in a 3 technique to the H back side while Bryan Mone (#90) is is a 1 technique away from the H back.  Chase Winovich (#15) is in a 5 technique to the boundary.  Mike McCray (#9) is aligned outside of Winovich to keep leverage against the slot receiver.  Devin Bush Jr. (#10) is stacked behind Hurst.  Viper Khaleke Hudson (#7) is four yards from the line of scrimmage on the outside shoulder of the H back.  Cornerbacks David Long (#22) and Lavert Hill (#24) are in their customary press coverage.

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FRAME #2

What has changed:  The ball still hasn’t snapped but OSU is running jet motion to the field.  Michigan’s defense has already adjusted to the motion with Hudson now on the line of scrimmage with McCray moving with the Buckeye slot receiver Paris Campbell.

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FRAME #3

What is Ohio State doing here?  It is Jet Sweep to the field.  The running back Mike Weber and the H back are trying to double team Hudson (#7).  Notice the Buckeye offensive line has blocked a zone play to their left.

What has changed:  Michigan defensive line has matched their Buckeye counterparts.  Gary (#3) has squeezed it down and is playing the quarterback.

Michigan’s pressure:   Khaleke Hudson is the disruption here.  He is defeating the double team block while Lavert Hill has read jet sweep and is seemingly blitzing (it’s really just a reaction) while defeating the block of the OSU WR.  Devin Bush Jr. (#10) has flowed over the top of the jet.  Michigan has three players outside of the ball right now and all three are functionally unblocked.

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FRAME #4

What is Ohio State doing here?  Two of their blockers have turned their backs to the line of scrimmage.   That’s never good for the offense.

What has changed:  Hudson is the key to the run pressure.  He already has his hands on the ball carrier and Hill is free from the WR as well.

Michigan’s pressure:  Hill is setting the edge with Gary and Bush Jr. are running inside out to tackle the jet.

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FRAME #5

What is Ohio State doing here?  They are going to be tackled for a loss of 5 yards.

What has changed:  Hudson is parallel to the ground (how cool is this shot?) while Hill is engaging Campbell as well.

Michigan’s pressure:  It’s perfect execution of a pre-snap adjustment to motion and a great read by Hill to recognize jet sweep and immediately attack it from the outside.

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FRAME #6

The epitome of the Don Brown defense has now shown up.  Attack your problems with pressure and aggressiveness.

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FINAL THOUGHT:  It’s been a joy to write this column and I look forward to one more “Bowl Edition” of the “Pressure of the Week.”  It’s so obvious to me that this defense will make another huge jump next year and that Captain Blitz is the right guy to lead this squad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How Offenses Attack Michigan’s Pass Defense…You’re Seeing This Every Week!

by Mark Edwards

In the build up for the opening game versus Florida, many (and dare I say most) national pundits were quick to point out the youth factor of the Michigan defense.  While I thought it was overstated, it really was true.  While many Michigan fans took that as a slight on the talent of the players, the experience metric told all of us that there would be “growing pains.”

I can actually make the argument that Michigan’s defense has far exceeded national expectation.  However, this column isn’t intended to rail on the Trevor Matich’s of the world.  As of November 20, Michigan has the #1 ranked pass defense in the country.  They yield 144.4 yards per game.  That’s almost never going to get you run out of the stadium in college football.  Couple this with the #15 ranked rush defense (115.6 yards per game) and I think it’s obvious that the defense has performed at a ridiculously high level.

As the offense has been “hit or miss” this year, the defense has taken the field and known that they would have to be “lights out” to have a chance to win.  The youth metric should have told us that being dominant for the whole season was a pipe dream.

Couple that with the fact that offenses only need to hit a few big plays to turn the tide against Michigan has forced opposing offenses to look for their “one shining moment.”  This article will show you what Michigan’s philosophy is, how teams shift personnel to try to beat it and how Michigan can adjust to the current attack by opposing offenses.

MICHIGAN’S BASE COVERAGE BREAKDOWN

Michigan has changed the defense constantly this year from a 3-3 to a 4-2 front.  While that is not important to the pass coverage, it needs to be stated for the record.  I applaud Don Brown for trying to get as many athletes on the field at once.

Michigan’s primary coverage is “Cover 10.”  Cover 10 is a man-to-man coverage with a single-high safety in the middle of the field.  Depending on the pressure/blitz that Don Brown calls, the free safety “may” have responsibilities in the run game.  Why does this matter?  The answer is that you really are playing with no “help over the top.”  Lloyd Carr believed in safety help for corners (Charles Woodson excluded).  Don Brown almost never does this.

In the diagram below, you see where a single-high safety defense is vulnerable.

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Teams are targeting the Michigan safeties in man-to-man coverage.  Whether it is Tyree Kinnel or Josh Metellus, most teams are running a three wide receiver set and isolating the non-cornerback on a wide receiver.

Let’s be honest here…Michigan’s David Long and Lavert Hill have been outstanding against the pass this season.  Considering the fact that all five members of last year’s secondary are in the NFL right now, you have to praise the Michigan defensive staff for their development of so many young players.

However, safeties versus wide receivers are generally bad matchups for most defensive teams.  Teams have figured this out and now they all are attacking Michigan in a similar fashion.  Given the fact that they only need to hit a few passes to turn the tide, Penn State showed everyone how to do it and people are following their lead.

SHIFTING PERSONNEL HAS BEEN GOOD FOR OPPONENTS

While opponents have struggled to run the ball against Michigan, the passing games have attacked this coverage every week.  This section will detail the adjustments.

Collegiate passing games come down to design and matchups.  While the Green Bay Packers have been doing this for years (ever use the Packer personnel group on Madden?), college teams are starting to do it as well.  Specifically, they are doing it to Michigan to really attempt to get their top receiver on a safety.

EXAMPLE #1

In the first clip, Penn State puts DeSean Hamilton in the slot as the #2 receiver.  This gets their all-time leading receiver working against a safety (in this case Josh Metellus).  The popular route combination is an outside release hitch by the #1 receiver and a fade route from #2.  To be fair and give credit, Michigan State became elite doing this with Kirk Cousins and Connor Cook.  Notice in the clip below that Metellus is giving a three yard cushion.  Michigan is doing this to help the safety against a faster receiver.  Why not press the #2 receiver?  It’s an adjustment to give the safety a chance to run with Hamilton.  The true breakdown is that Metellus never gets his hands on him during the entire route.

Michigan’s coverage technique is all about being physical with receivers and tugging the inside arm (think MSU 2013).  This is a technique breakdown added to a personnel mismatch.   Penn State, on that one evening, was good enough to do it.

EXAMPLE #2

In this example from the final minute of the second quarter, Penn State gets TE Mike Gesicki (6’6″) lined up versus Khaleke Hudson.  Hudson, who has had a great season, is 6’0″ and has been more of a run player than a pass defender.  Gesicki is runs a “sluggo”, which is a slant and go look at Hudson.  Functionally, it is a fade.

Gesicki gets a back should throw from McSorely and as Hudson is trailing the route, the throw is indefensible.  This isn’t horrible coverage but it certainly was an effective plan for Penn State.

EXAMPLE #3

This clip comes from the Maryland game.  It would be easy to surmise that you’re only picking clips where the offensive talent is better than that of the Michigan defense.  This is the example that should tell all fans that the offensive coaches in the conference are seeing the same thing.

Maryland lines up in 11 personnel (1 RB and 1 TE).  So here’s your customary 3 wide receiver set with twins to the field.  Maryland, on their fourth quarterback, decided that they also could get the fade route.  While being incomplete on review, Maryland Taivon Jacobs beats Michigan’s best cornerback in Lavert Hill.  This clip is tough because you can’t see the route.  However, you can see that safety Tyree Kinnel almost got their from the middle of the field.  Undoubtedly, the QB looking at the receiver the whole way let Kinnel get that close.

This is a breakdown in technique by Hill.  Jacobs is a middle of the pack receiver yet still gets behind Michigan on the fade from #2 route.  He couldn’t gain any separation on other Terrapin routes so you have to assume a weakness in the Michigan pass defense exists and opponents know it.

Maryland wasn’t going to beat Michigan so it’s a fairly forgettable play but if the talent of the two teams was closer, you would’ve seen Maryland try this a lot.

EXAMPLE #4

This past weekend, Michigan held a 10-7 lead near the later stages of the third quarter at Wisconsin.  The Badger running game was fairly stifled so what did they go to to not only flip the field but also turn the tide?  You got it.  A fade route from #2.  Now for the sake of transparency, they hit this pass on Michigan freshman Jaylen Kelly-Powell.  Kelly-Powell was forced into duty because Michigan’s normal nickel defender Brandon Watson started at corner due to the Lavert Hill injury.

Wisconsin WR A.J. Taylor actually got off of press contact from Kelly-Powell and ran away from him while QB Alex Hornibrook threw a really good pass to the open receiver.  Notice, this is a 51-yard connection that represented 33.3% of their passing yards for the day.

WHAT MICHIGAN WILL DO (AND WON’T DO) TO ADJUST MOVING FORWARD

The breakdown for Michigan is not corrected by scheme.  Don Brown IS GOING TO continue to bring pressure and play man coverage.  In all of these clips, the QB is not pressured.  Hence, the defensive backs have to cover longer.  Given Michigan’s propensity to bring the blitz, the pass rush has to get home and at least pressure quarterbacks.  They’ve done a really good job but it’s when they don’t that we see opponents pass efficiently against Michigan.

Don Brown isn’t going to become a two-high safety team.  I not suggesting that he should by writing this article.  It’s never one thing that is the fix-all.  Michigan’s defenders will get better at their press technique, faster due to training and more aware of what teams are doing to them.  Michigan’s a single-high safety team 95% of the time.  They will continue to be that.

In this current world of college football, offenses are scoring at rapid rates.  So here we are breaking down a pass or two per game that hurts the Michigan hopes.  Football is a team game and the stress that Michigan’s defense must feel is massive.  This week in “The Game,” look for Ohio State to attempt the same attack.  While each team is different, we are seeing this approach week in and week out.

 

 

 

 

Don Brown’s “Pressure of the Week’ – Wisconsin

by Mark Edwards

Michigan’s defense is ridiculously young, elite and athletic.  However, the thing I marvel at week after week is that the defense KNOWS that they have to play at a level that most defenses cannot ever reach just to keep the opponent down.  Why?  With Michigan’s struggles on offense, Michigan cannot spot a team 14 points and realistically expect to win.

On a cold, windy day in Madison, the defense lasted as long as they could.  This week’s pressure is a great example of a relentless effort to get to the quarterback.  Regardless of the situation, we’ve seen effort like the one below all season.  That is something that should be enjoyed and celebrated as we look at this season.  I know Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown would say this is the expectation but as fans, we still need to appreciate it.  It’s rare in this world of college football.

THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE

SITUATION:  2nd & 15, Wisconsin ball on their own 7 yard line

TIME:  10:20 left in the third quarter

WHY THIS SERIES:  While the offensive red zone struggles were continuing, the defense had Wisconsin backed up and quarterback Alex Hornibrook was shaky.  This series was where most Michigan fans thought, “If we can hold them here and get the ball in good field position, we can take the momentum.”

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FRAME #1

OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Pro Right I (The tight end is to the right along with the flanker.  The split end it to the left.)

MARYLAND PERSONNEL: 21 (2 running backs, 1 tight end)

DEFENSIVE BASE:  3-3

MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES:   In a second and long situation, Michigan is in a 3-3 personnel package and alignment.  The defensive front is DE Rashan Gary (#3)  in a 4I-technique (inside shoulder of tackle) while DT Maurice Hurst (#73) is at nose and DE Chase Winovich (#15) is in a 5-techjnique to the top of the screen.  Viper Khaleke Hudson (#7) is in an “over” alignment, which is outside shoulder of the tight end.  Cornerbacks David Long (#22) and Brandon Watson (#28) are in press alignment.  LB Mike McCray (#9) is stacked behind Winovich while middle linebacker Devin Bush Jr. (#10) is aligned over the right guard.  The key is LB Noah Furbush (#59) who is stacked behind Gary.  He will be moving pre

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This is from the Detroit News and Daniel Mears.

snap to join the five-man pressure.  Safety Josh Metellus (#14) is eight yards deep and responsible for the tight end in pass coverage.

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FRAME #2

What is Wisconsin doing here?  It is still before the snap but they are going to run a screen pass into the boundary (top side of the screen).

What has changed:  Furbush (#59) is coming down in between Hudson and Gary.

Michigan’s pressure:  This is a five-man pressure from the strength of the formation.  In a pro formation, the strength is determined by which side the TE lines up on.  Metellus (#14) has also moved a yard closer to the line of scrimmage.

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FRAME #3

What is Wisconsin doing here?  Both wide receivers and the tight end are vertically releasing, as is customary with a screen pass.  The fullback is fitting into the middle of the line so that he can release to the top of the screen after the defensive line passes him.  The offensive line is take a vertical pass set.  The left guard & left tackle will end  up climbing to level two to the top of the screen.

What has changed:  You now see Metellus and safety Tyree Kinnel (#23) in the screen.  Linebackers Mike McCray and Devin Bush Jr. are dropping into cover zone coverage.  Michigan is playing man-to-man outside with the WRs while they have a they have the linebackers covering each running back.  Metellus has the tight end in man coverage.

Michigan’s pressure:  Hudson is on the attack.  Functionally, he is a “ghost 9” and is rushing to the depth of the QB.  Furbush is blitzing through the right tackle.  Gary has ripped to the A gap on the tight end side while Hurst has ripped into the other A gap.  Winovich is an outside rusher to the top of the screen.

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FRAME #4

What is Wisconsin doing here?  Badger RB Jonathan Taylor has taken a poor path to block Hudson.  You can see the left guard and left tackle leaking out to the left.  The fullback is in the middle of the offensive line.

What has changed:  Hornibrook  knows (and feels) that he’s going to have to evade the rusher to throw the ball.  Michigan has changed their pass coverage responsibilities as Metellus is covering Taylor while Bush Jr. is running with the tight end.

Michigan’s pressure: Michigan is very disciplined in this pressure.  Besides Hudson’s pressure, Winovich has done a nice job setting the edge of the pocket.

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FRAME #5

What is Wisconsin doing here?  The fullback screen is set up but Hornibrook is throwing it too early due to pressure.

What has changed:  The play is actually set up.  If not for the pressure, you are looking at a nice play for Wisconsin.

Michigan’s pressure: Hudson, Hudson, Hudson.

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FRAME #6

Incomplete pass.  The ball was thrown into the ground.

 

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FINAL THOUGHT: I thought Michigan’s defense played a really good game and showed that a power-run approach by an opponent is not a great idea.  Wisconsin scored 7 on special teams and hit two passes.  With the exception of Penn State, it’s not been the run game that hurts this team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Have You Gone Open Receivers?

by Mark Edwards

We’ve all heard it before when the 20/20 hindsight groups breakdown Michigan’s 2017 passing game.  The blame started with Wilton Speight, then moved to the offensive line and then the lack of a dominant run game which eliminated quality play action passing.  The honest, blunt truth is that the Michigan passing game has held back this team all season.

Sure, there have been flashes of efficiency like Florida’s Tarik Black deep ball and Chris Evans running wheel routes out of the backfield.  Those are good things to see but the Michigan attack has been far too inconsistent this season.  But if we just stop at the 20/20 view that Michigan is struggling to throw the ball, we are selling ourselves short of true analysis.

Whether it be Big Ten Network, the local newspaper writers or the ESPN staff, none of them have dug deeper to see how the passing game has changed from year one of Harbaugh to year three of Har-ball.  When Jim Harbaugh replaced Brady Hoke, he brought Jedd Fisch on board as the passing game coordinator.  We were impressed by Fisch’s credentials of having worked for Steve Spurrier to the Jacksonville Jaguars.  If 2017 has proven anything, I think those credentials continue to impress so many followers of college football.

When Fisch left for UCLA, Jim Harbaugh went to the NFL and hired Pep Hamilton as his passing game coordinator.  Due to the playcalling style of the offensive staff, we have to believe that Hamilton is in the same exact position that Fisch held in 2015 & 2016.

So what’s the difference?

2015 & 2016 – It was always something new and unique

In the first two years of the Harbaugh Era, film study shows us a great propensity to throw the ball downfield and a premium was placed on creative play design.  I acknowledge that Michigan had two NFL rostered wide receivers and the best tight end in college football who will at some point make his NFL debut.  With that being said, Michigan didn’t just say, “Go win the 1-on-1 matchup.”  That was not the approach of the Fisch-led passing game.

I have pulled two clips to show you that by mid-season of 2015, Michigan was running pass schemes that broke keys for defensive teams.  Defenses “key” up what Michigan has shown them by assigning different defenders to react based on movements from the Michigan offensive personnel.

In our first example, Fisch against BYU knows that the Cougar linebackers are keying the running back movements.  While there are many ways to combat this offensively, Fisch designed a double-screen look while letting Tight End (and now Fullback) Khalid Hill to basically be “left alone.”

It’s not just the execution of the play, it’s how the design turned the defensive coaching staff at BYU into liars for their players…albeit just for one play.  Fisch was showing new wrinkles weekly and it made Michigan really difficult to prepare for.

In the second example, you see Michigan run play action to the left and Rudock boots back to his right.  It is very similar to Brian Griese in 1997.  The intricacy of the design is that the TE starts his customary drag across the field.  As the Northwestern secondary recognizes the movement, Jake Butt plants his foot and redirects to the left which is not some the Wildcats had seen.

Why was the play so successful?  Was it scheme or athletes?  I would argue that it’s 100% scheme and that has to go to Fisch.  When you design pass routes to break “keys”, you will find open space for receivers (even tight ends) to work in.

2017 – A NFL Approach

With the addition of Pep Hamilton, Michigan’s 2017 passing game is well-grounded in solid football theory.  Anyone who argues that it’s not is just plain goofy and deserves to be on the C’mon Man segment before Monday Night Football.  However, as you look at this year’s passing game, there is a CLEAR philosophical difference between that of the former passing coordinator.

Pep Hamilton came to Michigan from the Cleveland Browns.  He is a really good coach and I believe he is a good teacher of the game.  The NFL game is so different because there is parity in the talent around the league.  Any team can win on any given Sunday…even the Browns (I think).  The NFL passing game comes down to one thing.  Match ups.  Where the 2015-16 offense had great players AND an evolving week-to-week scheme, the 2017 offense is built on winning the match up.

The problem is that Michigan isn’t ready to win the 1-on-1 match up.  Their best option to win that match up is TE Zach Gentry versus a linebacker.  However, that has not shown up in a down-the-field manner.  So we can deduce that the short-range design of the NFL passing schemes is what we see from 2017 Michigan.

In our first example, you see a TD pass from Speight to Grant Perry vs. Cincinnati on a “Layers” concept.  The route is a shallow cross out of a four-wide set.  How is this NFL like?  Substitute Julian Edelman for Perry and it looks like the Patriots.  Does Perry win the route?  Yes.  Have we seen it since?  No.  It’s not a design-based play, it’s a player A vs. player B play.  Michigan wins a few of those but the victories have been very infrequent.

You can see that Hamilton puts Perry and Donovan Peoples-Jones mirror each other across the field horizontally.  This allows the tight ends to play outside/deeper down th efield and is a staple of the ’12 personnel.’

In this second example from last week’s game, you see a classic “Mesh” concept.  Two receivers run shallow crosses with a 10-yard dig behind it.  This is where you see Michigan with Gentry and McKeon play a lot of snaps in the passing game.  However, if you substitute NFL caliber tight ends and slots for the Michigan personnel, now it’s about who can beat the defender.

Michigan is very successful with the “Mesh” concept and actually used three tight ends.  Michigan actually forced Maryland to bust a zone coverage.  But once again, match ups dictate the day.

In conclusion, the major differences are the coaching philosophy of how to scheme a collegiate passing game.  Fisch believed in the scheme exacerbating the defensive personnel while Hamilton has said, “Get great athletes in space and they will be defenders who aren’t quite as fast.”

For Michigan to win the final two regular season games of 2017, I think the nuances of 2015-16 will need to appear because I am not convinced that you will see multiple match ups that Michigan will win consistently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.

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FRAME #1

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.

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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.

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FRAME #2

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.

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FRAME #3

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.

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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.

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FRAME #4

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.

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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.

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FRAME #5

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.

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FRAME #6

Incomplete pass.  Quarterback on the ground.  Punt it!

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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.

 

 

 

“This one’s for you, DJ!” – Maryland Game Prediction

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by Mark Edwards

Let’s be honest…Michigan Football has suffered from some painful losses in the last 10 years.  I’m sure everybody is now thinking of their list.  The Horror, The Snap, etc…they’re all real.  For me, there was no bigger gut punch that the 2015 visit to Michigan Stadium by Ohio State.  I entered the Big House thinking that this Michigan team was ready to compete (and in some respects still believe that they were ready).  After the game, D.J. “Benedict Arnold” Durkin took the Maryland job.  There’s no fault in that. Then the details started to leak and I’m still livid two years later.  Durkin met with Maryland during the week of prep for the Buckeyes.  Listen, here’s Durkin’s response to the request if he asks me:

“I’m honored that you would think enough of me to reach out to measure my interest.  But please know this…I coach at Michigan.  We have Ohio State this week.  I’d love to talk to you but you have to WAIT until after the game Saturday.  I’m singularly focused on giving this team all that I have.  If you want to at Maryland, you will get that kind of focus, loyalty and attitude but I have one more week to give MICHIGAN all that I have.”

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Ironically, Durkin did none of that.  I know that Jim Harbaugh let him speak with Maryland but I find it almost impossible to believe that Bo would’ve done that.  I left the stadium that day livid with Durkin and my brother was telling me to calm down.  Matter of fact, he still is.  So this column is dedication to the guy who coined the phrase “Those who leave will be Terrapins” and that is DJ Durkin.  This one’s for you!

OFFENSE

Maryland has one of the worst pass defenses in the country (99th in the country).  So is Brandon Peters going to throw the ball all over the field on Saturday?  I don’t think that’s the plan.  Michigan, with the power running game, will employ the Higdon-Evans tandem to try to impose their will on the Terrapins.  Maryland has the 74th ranked rushing defense, which allows 174.8 yards per game on the ground.  I expect to see a balanced approach with Peters throwing 20-23 times.

On the ground, can Michigan continue to find success with their toss, counter, power and zone schemes?  I think they will but it won’t be “Minnesota type” success. This is the game where we find out what the plan is as we move to Wisconsin next week.  I was encouraged by the creativity of the TE screen last week and expect that we will see more wrinkles this week to take advantage of a Maryland scheme that Harbaugh knows all too well.

DEFENSE

Maryland could possibly play their 4th string quarterback on Saturday.  That alone has to have Don Brown & Co. licking their chops.  If you haven’t seen Maryland play, WR D.J. Moore is “the guy.”  Let’s be honest, he’s a dude.  Everything Maryland wants to do will revolve around getting him the ball (i.e. WR slip screens, jet sweeps, possibly a wildcat run).  However, Maryland will be one dimensional because that is exactly what Don Brown wants an opponent to be. This isn’t the same Maryland offense that beat Texas in Austin in September.  They are beset by injuries and mostly at the QB position.

The strategy of the day is to blitz…A LOT!  Expect to see a lot of Devin Bush Jr., Khaleke Hudson and even CB David Long.

FINAL SCORE:  Michigan 42, Maryland 7

PICKS TO CLICK:  Offense – Mike Onwenu,  Defense – Maurice Hurst Jr.

CONFIDENCE LEVEL:  10

ONE THING THAT MAY SURPRISE:  Michigan have two 100 yard rushers and one of them isn’t named Evans or Higdon.

ONE THING THAT MAY DISAPPOINT: The punting situation will again be meh.  Brad Robbins, who in pregame launches punts to Mars, will fail to have a 40 yard net average.

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

by Mark Edwards

Defensive football is an ever-changing strategy in terms of complexity.  When the spread offense was “invented” two decades ago, it inevitably forced defenses to account for so many components of one play.  From the days of the Bo Schembechler “5-2” to Lloyd Carr’s “4-3 Over” to Don Brown’s “3-3”, it’s all about taking away what the offenses of those eras want to do.  In the “Ten Year War” between Woody and Bo, you had to take away the fullback belly and then the option game.  Lloyd’s defenses needed to be able to handle the shotgun passing game.  Now, as we find ourselves with “Dr. Blitz” in Ann Arbor, never has a defense had to be so multiple in what they have to do on  a given play.

This column is all about “pressure.”  To the casual fan, the term “blitz” is what they think of when they see “pressure.”  In our ninth installment of this column, the reader has to know that there are “run pressures” and “pass pressures.”  Run pressures and stunts/movements/blitzes design to foil a running play.  These are fairly new in terms of designation because of the spread offense.   The pass pressures are the “go get to the QB” types of movements that almost always include a non-defensive lineman being included in the rush.  This week’s pressure is a “run pressure” that not only highlights the defense’s design but also the discipline that the Michigan Defense is playing with.

THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE

SITUATION:  1st & 10, Minnesota ball on Michigan’s 49 yard line

TIME:  12:47 left in the third quarter

WHY THIS SERIES:  With Michigan up 20-7 and having had to punt after receiving the second half kickoff, Minnesota made their way into Michigan territory.  This was the pivotal possession that could have seen the Gophers get within a score.  Never have the design and the discipline been so clearly on view for the 2017 Michigan Defense.

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FRAME #1

OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Trio Flex Left (You have twin receivers to the field while the H back has motioned from right to left.)

MINEESOTA PERSONNEL: 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end)

DEFENSIVE BASE:  4-2

MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES:  In this look before the ball has been snapped, we see that Michigan is in their four-man defensive line to combat the run heavy attack that Minnesota used.  Rashan Gary (#3) is in a 5-technique to the top of the screen while Maurice Hurst (#73) is in a 3-technique on that side as well.  You might ask “why are they shaded so heavily to the short side of the field?  The answer is that they are not setting the front based on where the ball is.  They are setting the front to be strong on the opposite side of the back.  Aubrey Solomon (#5) is in a 2-technique which is head up on the guard.  Chase Winovich (#15) is in a ghost 9 meaning that he is aligned on the outside shoulder of the “imaginary” tight end to the bottom of the screen (look at the endzone view and the H back *86).  Devin Bush Jr. (#10) has been faking a blitz and is in retreat back to normal linebacker depth.  Mike McCray (#9) and Khaleke Hudson (#7) are aligned at four yards from the ball and both have leverage on the play.  You can see the alignments in the picture below:

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Cornerbacks Lavert Hill (#24) and David Long (#22)  are in their press alignments.  Notice that safety Tyree Kinnel (#23) is the safety to the twins side and is rolled down a bit while Josh Metellus (#14) is deeper.  More on their depth later.

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FRAME #2

What has changed:  The ball still hasn’t snapped but as Bush Jr has dropped back to a middle linebacker alignment, you can see Viper Khaleke Hudson (#7) start to come down toward the line of scrimmage.

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FRAME #3

What is Minnesota doing here?  Minnesota is running a “counter option” play.  Their offensive line is blocking an inside zone play to their right.  The H back is “arcing” to the outside linebacker.  The QB and RB have both stepped right and are now moving left.

What has changed:  Hudson is the key to the run pressure.  He is “free” off of the edge.  Winovich (#15) is unblocked and in great position to force the pitch, which he does.

Michigan’s pressure:  Hudson has entered the Minnesota backfield while the defensive line has played their technique and responded to the offensive line’s movement.  Notice Kinnel has backed up to normal safety depth while Metellus (top of screen) is running down hill to replace Hudson, who has vacated his pre-snap position to bring pressure.  Metellus is attempting to provide inside help to Lavert Hill on the top of the screen.

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FRAME #4

What is Minnesota doing here?  While the ball has been pitched, the offensive line is in decent shape.  The problem comes from the fact that the H-back has arced to the mike linebacker (Bush Jr #10).  This forces the slot receiver to try to “crack block” the force player, which is Mike McCray (#9).  As you can tell, he’s going to miss that block badly.

What has changed:  While Hudson is still coming off the short side, McCray is now running directly at the RB who is looking back for the pitch.

Michigan’s pressure:  It’s a Viper crush pressure on the short side with all kinds of technique and gap responsibility being shown out of Winovich, McCray and Bush to the wide side of the field.

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FRAME #5

What is Minnesota doing here?  Minnesota is demonstrating that in the option game, if you miss blocks on edge defenders, that’s where the play inevitably breaks down.

What has changed:  McCray has officially beaten the slot receiver while not allowing the RB to run around him.

Michigan’s pressure:  Hudson is still coming but notice that Winovich (#15) has redirected to become the inside-out player to “sandwich” the RB (with McCray being the other piece of bread).

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FRAME #6

What is Minnesota doing here?  They are losing three yards.

What has changed:  Khaleke Hudson’s great effort has forced three Michigan defenders to converge on the ball carrier.

Michigan’s pressure:  The discipline/effort of the Michigan Defense is on full display as Kinnel (#23) is running the alley to get to the ball while Josh Metellus (#14) and Aubrey Soloman (#5) are in pursuit from the back side.  The only disappointing thing is the Devin Bush Jr. (#10) has been driven five yards by the H back.

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FRAME #7

Gang Tackle!  Regardless of the defensive eras listed in the intro, gang tackling is still a desired activity by the best defenses.  The Spread Offense tries to get the one-on-one matchup so this obviously isn’t what they are trying to do.

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FINAL THOUGHT:  Hudson gave great effort all night long and it would’ve been easy to pick a play where he made the “one-on-one” play.  In Don Brown’s system, gap accountability and discipline are key.  The work of McCray, Winovich and the pursuit players is the thing that enables Michigan to have an elite defense.

QUESTIONS/COMMENTS:  If you have any questions or comments, please let me know at markedwardsum@yahoo.com.