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

by Mark Edwards

Truth be told, this weekly feature has been in the works for weeks.  However, if I hadn’t planned on writing it and I watched the Florida game anyway, I’d still have ended up writing it because Michigan’s pressure was a HUGE factor in the game.  Don Brown’s calling card is pressure and I have to assume that Florida knew that.  It was interesting that the majority of Michigan’s defensive alignment stemmed from a 3-3 base and not the traditional 4-3 base.  Why did Brown use the 3-man front?  It’s a pretty easy answer…Florida was not going to press their run game into the A Gap (see diagram), therefore, he traded the standard one technique (Bryan Mone) for a linebacker that could run.


By trading the defensive lineman for a linebacker, it allowed Michigan the opportunity to be more unpredictable in their pressure package.  Last season, Michigan almost never showed a 3-man line in part because of the NFL talent that they had up front.  I would surmise that Michigan’s talent is just about as good but the athleticism of the front 7 (defensive line and linebackers) is just better than it was a year ago.  That’s not a shot at Wormley, Glasgow, Taco and the gang.  It’s analysis that was visually present on Saturday.


SITUATION:  3rd & 8, Florida ball on their own 27

TIME:  4:48 left in first quarter

WHY THIS SERIES:  Michigan had just answered the Florida opening FG with a Quinn Nordin FG and the defense had Florida on the brink of their first punt.


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OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Trio Right (Twins Wide with an H back and a Split End on the backside)

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


MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES:  Michigan has Chase Winovich (#15) in a zero shade with both Maurice Hurst (#73) in a 5 shade and Rashan Gary (#3) in a 9 shade to the left of the defensive front.  Devin Bush (#10) is a stand-up linebacker with Noah Furbush (#59) originally in a 4-shade with his hand on the ground.  Mike McCray (#9) is a rush linebacker in a ghost 7 technique.

NOTE:  Khaleke Hudson (#7) has split the difference between the H-back and the #2 WR.  This allows Hudson the opportunity for an edge run if Gary stunts inside (WHICH HE DOESN’T) and he can get back into pass coverage if that is the call.

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What is Florida doing here?  The ball has just snapped. NOTE MICHIGAN ALREADY INTO THEIR MOVEMENTS AND FLORIDA (with exception of the center and right tackle) HASN’T MOVED YET.

What has changed:  Hudson (#7) is bailing into pass coverage while Furbush (#59) is now standing up and Bush (#10) has vacated the line of scrimmage (LOS).

Michigan’s pressure:  They are bringing a three-gap pressure all off of the offense’s right side.  Notice that this is away from the running back.  If Florida was a speed option team or one that ran the quarterback, Michigan would be super vulnerable to the offense’s left.  But since Felipe Franks is in his first start AND not a design runner, Doug Nussmeier (Florida’s O-Coordinator) has very little that can go away from the designed pressure.

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What is Florida doing here?  After a token ball fake to RB Mark Thompson, Franks is dropping back.  Both receivers on the Trio side have initiated vertical stems.  The H-back, after a big collision by Rashan Gary, is attempting to run a bubble (this is very uncommon and most likely an adjustment to getting knocked into the backfield).  Franks is looking left but the WR on the single-receiver side is being controlled by Michigan CB David Long (#22).

What has changed:  Furbush is now in the middle of the field getting depth for a crossing route (WHICH WILL NOT SHOW).  McCray is also gaining depth (AND WOULD’VE UNDERCUT any slant route by the backside WR.

Michigan’s pressure:  Hurst and Winovich have ripped to the gap to their right (Notice the four Florida linemen sliding to their left).  The guard and tackle are sliding to nobody, which is not a great idea.  Bush has now established himself as a B gap blitzer and is already running downhill.

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What is Florida doing here?  Florida has two offensive lineman looking backwards.  The center has failed to block Hurst while the right guard only now sees that Bush is unblocked.  This is part communication and in part a failure of technique by the right guard.  If you look back to Frame #3, his eyes are down while engaged with Hurst.  By the time his eyes came back up, Bush was two yards behind him.  NOTICE THE RIDICULOUS SPACIAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE QB AND THE H-BACK.  That’s why you never see a bubble out of the H-back.

What has changed:  Bush (with a free run) and Hurst (who has been pushed from behind which is legal in the trenches) have both infiltrated the Florida pocket and Franks now knows that he has to abort the pass and scramble.  Long (top of screen) is still locked on his man.

Michigan’s Pressure: Notice that Winovich (25 yard line) has eyes in the backfield as he is the contain responsible rusher in this pressure.  Gary is demonstrating the same technique on the bottom of the screen.

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What is Florida doing here?  It’s now a QB scramble at best and a sack at worst.

What has changed:  Winovich has disengaged from the left side of the Gator line and is now running to his contain landmark (outside shoulder of Franks) while Devin Bush is two yards from Franks and accelerating to full speed.

Michigan’s Pressure:  This is going to be over soon.  Notice Mike McCray’s relationship as he is running to the ball in case Franks evades Winovich and Bush.

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What is Florida doing here?  This is a QB sack.  Franks, not being fast enough or elusive enough to evade the pursuit, is in the middle of a Winovich-Bush sandwich.

What has changed:  Winovich has been re-engaged by the LT to no avail.

Michigan’s Pressure:  McCray is still in good position which is a good sign for the discipline of the defense.


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FINAL THOUGHT:  With Michigan’s activity in the Florida backfield, there were many options to choose from.  How much will we see of the 3-3 base from Don Brown?  That’s a question that we will get more answers to this Saturday when Cincinnati invades the Big House.  I still think Michigan is a base 4-3 team but you can see after one game that the Don Brown attack has been diversified.  This I do know…you will see pressure week in and week out from this defense.


Michigan Runs Away with Win Against Florida


The University of Michigan football season started September 2nd against the Florida Gators. The game was hard hitting and very balanced by Coach Jim Harbaugh’s team. They focused on the run this game with some issues with the passing game in the first half. Michigan won the much anticipated contest 33-17 giving Florida their first opening season loss in 28 years.

This game was hard fought by a very young Michigan defense. They put pressure on each of the Florida quarterbacks the entire game.  The Michigan defense forced fumbles and recorded six sacks. The Michigan defensive line was continually quick off the snap and stopped the Gator’s rush allowing only 11 rushing yards all game.

The questions leading up to the game were all answered very early on. Wilton Speight was the starting quarterback and the young defense held up very well. The big surprise was the exceptional play of sophomore Linebacker Devin Bush. Bush had two sacks, five solo tackles with two assisted tackles. He was all over the field the entire game.

The shining star for the game was freshman kicker Quinn Nordin. He showed the confidence to make four of six field goals. He even made field goals from 55 and 50 yards.

Quarterback Wilton Speight had a rough start to his season. He threw two interceptions in the second quarter that were returned for back to back touchdowns. He was replaced by John O’Korn after the second interception. Speight however, came back into the game a couple series later completing the game for the Wolverines. He had 11 completions on 25 attempts for 181 yards and one touchdown. His only touchdown was caught by freshman wide receiver Tarik Black for 46 yards.

The Michigan running game was very active today with 5 separate players combining for 215 net yards. Chris Evans had the majority of the workload with 22 carries for 78 yards with a long run of 29 yards. Ty Isaac added 11 carries for 114 yards for a long rush of 36 yards. Karan Higdon was not to be outdone today with his 7 rushes for 29 yards and a touchdown.

A surprise in the game was the emergence of plays from the tight ends in this game. Sean McKeon caught 3 passes for 25 yards with a long reception of 10 yards. Nick Eubanks caught 2 passes for 61 yards and a long reception of 48 yards. This is the bread and butter of the Michigan offense and they were very effective in the second half of this game.

Freshman wide receiver Tarik Black saw looks early from Speight. He caught 2 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Grant Perry also showed his abilities with 4 receptions for 46 yards with a long reception of 28 yards. Perry is a person of need with all the youth at the wide receiver position.

Coach Harbaugh showed his determination to his players with pulling quarterback Wilton Speight for a couple series so he could reflect and take a breather. Speight showed why he was named starter in the second half but he now needs to show his ability through the whole game next week versus Cincinnati.

This game was a lot closer than it should have been with the play of Florida and the Michigan defense. If not for the 2 interceptions for touchdowns the game would have looked much different.

The season is very early for team 138 from Michigan but we were shown glimpses of what is to come in the next weeks. This team is motivated and ready to compete every week.


Michigan, Florida Must Handle The Heat – Game Prediction

by Mark Edwards

In this battle of staple programs in the world of college football, it’s certainly fitting that the game will take place at “Jerry World” in Dallas.  Have you ever been to the home of the Cowboys?  The only redeeming quality (besides the 80 yard scoreboard that towers over the field) is the Walmart across the road where you can save yourself from the Texas heat.  There it is…let’s talk about heat.

If you’re Michigan, you’ll inevitably feel the heat as you attempt a complete defense rebuild/reload.  However, Don Brown always says, “solve your problems with pressure.”  So, I expect Michigan to play really aggressively in terms of bringing more than the four-man pressure that is so vaunted (Gary, Hurst, Mone, Winovich).  Much has been made of the inexperience in the defensive secondary.  But think about this…If you can pressure the quarterback, you don’t have to cover for as long.  So I do expect Michigan to be all over Gators quarterback (insert name of starter and replacements here).  Offensively, I think Michigan will show a marked improvement from the Orange Bowl in terms of blocking a talented front, which I think Florida has.  However, the trio of Evans, Higdon and Isaac will be far more difficult for the Gators to handle in comparison to the ‘Noles last December.  It will be interesting to see how all of the backs are used.  I also would count Eddie McDoom in that category as I’m sure he’ll have a nice part of the “Special Runs Package” that we always see from a Jim Harbaugh offense.  Now, the worst kept secret in A.A. is that Wilton Speight will start at QB.  That bodes well for Michigan as Speight can run the offense and distribute the ball to open receivers.  I expect the passing game is the biggest surprise for Michigan fans.  More spread concepts and a nice mix of youth and experience will see as many as seven wide receivers and four tight ends contribute.  If you’re looking for a workhorse in the receiving category, Michigan isn’t that team yet.  With the national media permeating the story of the lack of returning starters, remember that Jim Harbaugh played so many freshmen early last year in games because he was always planning for this game.  I wouldn’t be shocked if Zach Gentry and Tyrone Wheatley Jr. had big games.  This team is far more the 1999 Michigan Offense than it is the 2016 version.

If you’re Florida, the heat started to rise when Jim McElwain laid naked on a shark and smiled.  Yeah, yeah…I know he says it isn’t him and while I agree, it’s close enough for the History Channel’s Amelia Earhart producers to start comparing photographs.  Let’s not forget Doug Nussmeier, Florida’s Offensive Coordinator.  Despite his one-year run at UM, Nuss has always been decent at coming up with an initial game plan.  However, what doomed his 2014 here and what I think will hurt on Saturday is that his offense’s struggle to adjust to the defensive tweaks that the top coordinators (Don Brown included) always have in store.  Shameless plug here but I will be posting a weekly column called “Don Brown’s pressure of the week” midweek starting after the opener.  I expect Florida to attempt the run the ball because their playmakers on the edge are unproven.  Big mistake.  If Nuss has guts, he goes after those rookies on the back end of the Michigan defense.  The problem with that is the Michigan pressure will become a big problem.

FINAL SCORE:  Michigan 42, Florida 17

PICKS TO CLICK:  Offense – Grant Perry, Defense – Chase Winovich

CONFIDENCE LEVEL:  Fairly confident (Not sure you can ever go higher with a first game)

ONE THING THAT MAY SURPRISE:  Devin Bush Jr. will look like a faster, trimmed down version of his 2016 version.  I expect to see him in the backfield a lot.

ONE THING THAT MAY DISAPPOINT:  Freshmen Wide Receivers.  I think that Peoples-Jones, Black, Collins and Martin all play but none really light up the stat sheet.  But that’s okay…all in due time.

Florida vs. Michigan Opener

Michigan will renew its rivalry with the Florida Gators on September 2nd, at 3:30 pm. This game is at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Michigan and Florida have faced off 3 times before, all during bowl games. In 2003, 2008, and 2016. Michigan has won all three meetings. 2003 38-30, 2008 41-35, and 2016 41-7.

This Michigan football team is coming off back to back years with 10-3 finishes. They also had 11 players selected in the NFL draft. In all, the team lost most of its senior leadership and most of their defensive starters.

There are question marks all over the roster entering this pivotal contest. There is no depth chart for Michigan’s team #138 yet, but we can speculate who will start at all the positions.

Quarterback and Corner is the most contested spots of them all so far in fall camp. Wilton Speight, John O’Korn, and Brandon Peters are in a pretty fierce contest to be the quarterback for the Wolverines. Speight has the advantage because of his playing most of last season, but Coach Jim Harbaugh says the best player will start no matter their playing experience.

Lavert Hill and David long are locks to start as cornerbacks for this team but not much is known about the rest on the team and their development. Wide receiver is one of the deeper positions on the team coming into this season with the addition of the 2017 recruiting class. Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black are the front runners from the freshman class to start right away. We will find out more on August 30th when Michigan releases their first depth chart of the season.

Some of the other starting spots that are unknown are: kickoff and punt returner, field goal kicker. These will be resolved finally on September 2nd. Michigan has depth at these positions but no clear starter has been named yet.

More intrigue leading up to this matchup is the 7 Florida players who have been suspended for the game. How much will this affect the Gators ability to compete in this Game? Who will the starting quarterback for the Gators for the opener?

The Florida football team is also having a contest to see who the starter at quarterback will be. No clear cut starter has been named as of yet, but it is believed that graduate transfer Malik Zaire from Notre Dame is the front runner for the quarterback job.

Michigan football is the winningest program in college football history and we will see the next team hit the field this September 2nd at 3:30 pm.  I believe Michigan will win by at least 3 points.

Michigan Ranks No. 11 in Preseason AP Poll

Today around noon the Associated Press released their official college football 2017 preseason rankings:

  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio St.
  3. Florida St.
  4. USC
  5. Clemson
  6. Penn St.
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Washington
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Oklahoma St.
  11. Michigan
  12. Auburn
  13. LSU
  14. Stanford
  15. Georgia

Michigan landing the #11 spot will force them to earn a playoff contending rather than be given one prior to the season.

Three Big Ten teams cracked the top ten on Monday, Ohio State no. 2, Penn State no. 6, and Wisconsin no. 9. In the 2016 season, Michigan was 2-1 against the same three teams, only losing by three in an overtime thriller to Ohio State.


Harbaugh’s Fake Quarterback Competition Part 3

Jim Harbaugh is somewhat of a great football mind, and he’s proven that time after time. The former Michigan QB’s football IQ is off the charts, and that’s normally the case for a vast majority of head football coaches. He’s known to primarily specialize in quarterback play, and is credited with the emergence, and the success of multiple quarterbacks in the NFL.

The third fall camp for the Harbaugh era at Michigan features a very familiar headline — a quarterback battle. It’s a good thing though, right? In my own opinion, competition brings out the absolute best in everyone. I also believe that there has never been a real competition at Michigan under Harbaugh yet to date.

I personally believe that the Wolverine head coach knows exactly whose job it is to lose going into every season, and he likes to make them feel like their job isn’t secure, so that they have motivations to up their level of play. I would go as far as to say that if you asked Jim Harbaugh who the 2017-18 starting quarterback was going to be on December 31st of 2016: he would’ve said Wilton Speight.

Speight is, and has been the clear-cut, obvious, most-experienced, candidate for the starting job this coming season, and the prior talks of RS-freshman Brandon Peters taking on the starting role were ridiculous. Peters is talented, great potential, likely one of Michigan’s future, down the road, starting field generals; he’s not ready for the spotlight just yet, Speight will be the starter this season, and depending on draft stock — the redshirt junior will be back for 2018-19 to start.

I went into 2016 hoping to see finally eligible, Houston, transfer QB, John O’Korn, take the field against Hawaii in the season opener, after-all he was more experienced, had entertaining highlights from his freshman season, seemed poised to win the job. After watching every game a season ago, including the Indiana game, I have not a doubt in my mind that Coach Harbaugh made the right call with his man, Wilton. A lengthy, strong armed, 240 pounded quarterback with elusive, smart, pocket escape ability is the exact type of guy that a pro-style offense, which Harbaugh runs, needs. Jim had his primary eye on Wilton from the get-go if you were to ask me.

The 2015-16 “quarterback competition”, between Jake Rudock, and Shane Morris, was about as fake as it gets. The talent, and experience deficit at the time between the two was massive, but if it weren’t for Rudock’s transfer decision: Morris would have started in 2015, and potentially could have saved his career at Michigan. Nothing against the former 5 star quarterback, very talented, and I’m very happy that he’s found a new-home in Central Michigan with the expectation of winning the starting role. Jake Rudock came to Michigan with a great deal of experience to work with, I compare his playing style to a certain former Michigan QB named Tom Brady. Shane Morris will only be remembered at Michigan simply for this mess. There’s a reason Jake Rudock chose to come play for Michigan, he knew he’d be the starter, and so did Jim Harbaugh.

This tactic isn’t exclusively to heighten the play of his quarterbacks, but it’s also done for the media, and to cause uncertainty in the week one match-up preparation.

It’s done for the media to simply keep Michigan in the headlines — to keep his program in the minds of recruits.

Lastly, it’s done to stir up the week one preparation, in other words: he’s playing mind games. Why let Florida know who to prepare for? Instead, let them prepare for a possible 2-3 quarterbacks, and keep them guessing. It’s not exactly a standout tactic, but it’s just genuinely smart, and I have a hard time understanding why teams are so quick to reveal their starter.

A majority of the seasons in Harbaugh’s tenure will very likely feature a supposed “QB competition”, and this is not a bad thing by any means. You’ll find out who Jim Harbaugh’s starter is after Michigan’s offense takes the field. Wilton Speight will be the starter in 2017 because the best quarterback will always take the field for a Jim Harbaugh coached football team.

Just keep in mind next time you’re in a Michigan Football blogger chatroom, a twitter thread, or a Facebook comment section arguing who you think the starting quarterback will be: Harbaugh’s likely known for months, and the competition that you’re so educated on, is all smoke and mirrors.

Michigan Offense: What to Expect

The 2017 season is only 18 days away and Michigan’s biggest uncertainty is our offense.  

This off-season, Michigan graduated 43 seniors, which means PT is up for grabs. Important spots like TE and WR will have some tight position battles.  But, places like LT and LG are set in stone.  

Wideouts- Michigan brought in the best receiver class in program history this off-season. And with returning starters like Grant Perry and Eddie McDoom, we will have some experience. The 4 receivers I expect to start are Donovan Peoples Jones, Kekoa Crawford,  Tarik Black, and Grant Perry.  This core 4 of receivers lacks experience, but makes up with it in talent. 

OLine- Michigan lost 3 of its starting lineman this year.  Even though, they’re gone Michigan can easily still open holes and protect the QB.  The 5 I predict to start are LT Mason Cole LG Ben Bredeson C Cesar Ruiz RG Mike Onwenu and RT Juwon Bushell-Beatty.  These 5 men can pack a punch and gash the Defense. Luckily we struck it rich on NSD with 5🌟 Center Cesar Ruiz.  He is highly skilled, and I got the opportunity to watch him play in person.  And he allowed the QB to rush for 120 yards on QB draw plays.  So, with his addition,  Michigan has their Center for 2-3 years.  Overall the OLine should take care of business. 

Quarterback- The rumor mill was stirring this summer that Brandon Peters had a chance at the starting job.  But Speight,  will run the show again in 2017. If Speight can play phemoneal and stay healthy.  Then we have a good shot at playing in Indy this December. 

Running Backs- With the departure of 2 year starter Deveon Smith,  Michigan has some big shoes to fill.  The expected starter is Chris Evans with Ty Isaac carrying the rock in heavy situations.  Evans showed some flashes of a great shifty back in limited action last year.  The addition of Coaches Greg Frey and Jay Harbaugh,  should help boost IQ and fundamentals. But hopefully those coaches will carry on the platoon system like Ty Wheatley used in the past.  Expect our backs to do great things this season, and don’t be surprised  if Evans rushes for more than 1000 yards. 

In the end,  Michigan will do great this year.  The offense starts at the QB position  and we have a pretty good one.  So hope for the best,  and never doubt them.  GO BLUE!