Monday, November 3, 2014

Coaching Points: Indiana vs Michigan, 2014

Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images
Indiana O: Shotgun, 11 and 10 personnel.
Michigan D: Stayed almost always in 4-3 Over Base, Check Eagle vs Wildcat

Michigan O: Mostly 11 or 12 personnel, mostly shotgun until later
Indiana D: I think mostly 2-high zone schemes, not quite sure.

Indiana Run O vs Michigan Box
Coleman is a hell of a RB, one of likely four B1G RBs that will be drafted in 2015 (Coleman, Abdullah, and Gordon will almost certainly get drafted, at least one of Langford or Cobb is also likely, Ferguson is more of an UDFA type). The fact that he gained 4.0 ypc on 27 attempts is because he's a hell of a runner, because he was not given much help outside of that.

Here's the deal with the Indiana offense: You don't need a great QB in terms of tools for the offense to be successful; but you need some baseline in terms of experience. That doesn't always mean game experience, a lot of QBs have had success early at Indiana, but you need to be getting 1st team reps in practice for a while. Diamont hasn't had that luxury, and while I am not high on him as the solution for Indiana going forward, he's very much handcuffed by his experience right now. This offense is based on a making a few simple reads very quickly, and without that, it doesn't function very well.

Well, that played right into Michigan's strength. Michigan has struggled all year in space, but in a confined area has been stellar. Coleman is best between the tackles, and with no outside threat or intermediate threat, Michigan was able to dominate up front. The DL consistently not only won playside, but controlled the Indiana OL very well with their hands. They kept the LBs clean and then fought through gaps to get penetration into the backfield. In fact, most of Indiana's success with their RBs came off of over-penetration, when the DL didn't settle down enough to prevent Coleman from creasing through the DL and into open space.

You allow Michigan's LBs to play downhill and downhill fast. Ryan is a very good athlete who has stepped up to play at a All-B1G level at the MIKE position. Bolden has been very quick with his reads this year and you see the flashes of why the coaches raved about him, though he still struggles to finish in space (only rarely a problem in this game).

A changeup that Indiana went to was the Wildcat. I strongly, strongly dislike the Wildcat in most situations. It is a scheme that has it's time and place, but unless you have a guy that can be at least a marginal pass threat outside of wide-open receivers, that time isn't 1st down (goalline and and short situations work because the defense will react the same on the outside regardless of formation). The Wildcat is a free tip to the defense to check into a run focused formation and play the ball a certain way. In Michigan's case, they played an Eagle front and shot the outside to contain the jet motion. This made it so the OL couldn't get to the second level, it means the LBs could flow free and always get numbers to the ball. Diamont isn't giving you much, but it's not less than this; it's not a sign saying "This is what we're doing".

Lastly, I think you have to let Diamont run more. Diamont isn't a great runner, but Michigan was not even respecting him as a run threat. The few times Diamont kept the ball, he had running room. I don't know if Indiana is not utilizing a read here in order to simplify the scheme or what, but it's at best very conservative reads. You must keep defenses from focusing solely on the RBs.

Indiana Pass O vs Michigan D
Usually, especially with teams like Indiana, the screen game is part of the run package. But Indiana is struggling so much in the pass game that I'm putting the screen game here, because it's something to prevent teams from just stacking the box. Unfortunately, Indiana wasn't great at selling it, and Diamont was clearly uncomfortable with the read. I only recall once when Indiana tried going to it's two-way screen, with a quick flare screen option on one side and a tunnel on the other side. Ryan quickly traced parallel to the LOS to make the flare not optimal (though still open enough to throw), and the rest of the defense retraced on the tunnel in the other direction. No one was left to attack the passer, and Diamont was eventually able to scramble and throw it away, but this is a read thing where he's not setting up the D well enough or making the reads appropriately.

There really isn't a lot to say about the rest of the pass offense for Indiana. They only tried to throw 8 times and only got 24 yards. The Michigan DBs had pretty good coverage on the outside, but it wasn't very difficult because Indiana couldn't threaten with an array of route concepts. The biggest missing piece of the Indiana offense was any intermediate throws over the middle. Those are scary throws with struggling QBs (especially with defenses stacking the box and adding to the congestion), but Michigan's LBs were shooting everything; that was where things were potentially open. But it was rarely if ever even threatened. They allowed Michigan to sell out full-sale on the run game and never threatened them to stop.

This lack of threat even let Michigan come on a CB blitz a few times, which slid the DE inside a gap. On a well set up shovel pass given the down and distance, this put Frank Clark directly in the gap they were trying to hit and left the receiver with nothing. Michigan ran a few blitzes this game, but mostly just shot gaps on normal down and distance. I'll review one later this week.

Michigan Run Game vs Indiana Run D
One area where I'll give Indiana some credit is that they came down hill fast both in run support and screen support. They saw something and attacked full speed. Unfortunately for them, they are doing that in an effort to make up for the fact that they still aren't very good. Michigan ran wide open on a gap scheme on 3rd and short where the entire Indiana D committed on what they though was inside zone, and had no DB filling in the backside. In the 2nd half Michigan ran a lot of Power O back to the RB alignment; this looks initially like inside zone away from the alignment and was how Michigan had a ton of second half running success.

But, like I said, Indiana did shoot down hard and typically hit people when they came down in support. Michigan tried a screen and go that was covered well over the top (you have to think Indiana sees that a lot in practice) to attack this. What I'd prefer to see in this situation isn't a screen and go though, it's a screen fake with a hitch in front of it. Indiana will cover deep and they'll fire down short, it's the intermediate that's open. I also think Funchess needs to be a bit more patient on the outside and work back inside a bit better. You can attack vertical if it's open right away, but with Indiana shooting it, you need to set up the defender for your OT to kick him outside and work back inside of that. Funchess seemed to eager to work upfield, which held down some of the screens.

Michigan Passing Attack vs Indiana Coverage
A few times Gardner struggled identifying the coverage. Indiana seemed to be mostly in Cover 4 or Cover 6 I think (may have been some Cover 3, can't tell for sure). Either way, Michigan knew where they wanted to pick on the coverage: the outside flat.

Indiana was spot dropping, meaning they turn and run to a zone and then turn and find the QB (they should find a receiver first and spot drop to a correct location, but that wasn't often successful). The NB in this situation correctly dropped into the path on an outside hitch and almost got a pick 6. However, when Indiana attempted to do it with an OLB it was picked on time and time and time again. Michigan had a ton of simple outside hitches where the CB dropped off to a deep zone and the OLB failed to drop correctly. This issue can be mitigated slightly with some coverage adjustments, allowing the OLB to pass off the #2 immediately to work to the sideline (rather than carrying him). I just don't think Indiana's defense is good enough yet to add those sorts of wrinkles.

Indiana also struggled mightily to actually defend a receiver rather than a zone in coverage. Once, Michigan ran a simple two man concept with Funchess running a corner route and a receiver running a hitch underneath. It was essentially a smash route, but Michigan brought the smash receiver inside a bit more in an effort to clear out the underneath coverage on the corner route (so the flat defender can't drop underneath the corner route). Well, Indiana bracketed the corner route, and then a LB kind of stood about 5 yards from Darboh on the hitch route, and just stood there, and stood there, and DG was very late on the throw, but the LB never actually defended the receiver, and Michigan picked up a first down.

These are the sorts of issues Indiana has had this year and last. Indiana can typically easily be run out of zones, meaning a 2nd receiver into a zone will usually be open. Then they overreact to that and leave the deep man open.


  • Coleman had to make most of his yards on his own, not much help up front or from pass game
  • Michigan DL dominated up front, got into gaps, controlled OL with hands, split into backfield and allowed LBs to flow free, essentially formed a wall along the LOS
  • Wildcat is bad and you should feel bad, Michigan checked to Eagle front against this look (obvious lining up of QB in a wing position isn't any better)
  • No intermediate pass threat from Indiana, which was open because Michigan shot LBs; but tough to trust young QB to attack that area
  • Michigan had a lot of it's success with man schemes, either with a gap run or Power O back to the RB alignment. Indiana played downhill fast to compensate for not being very good, which helped them snuff out some zone schemes but forced them to really struggle against counters
  • Indiana has a lot of issues in coverage, especially a the LB level.


  1. Space Coyote,
    Thanks for the info. I have a question regarding Michigan's O-line splits, my observations: they have wider splits when they are going to run and narrower when they are going to pass, also it appears that the line lines up about a yard off the line, and finally they appear to line up as a "j" shape, i.e. the weak side appears to fade off the line of scrimmage; maybe I am reading too much into this, your thoughts are appreciated. Thanks, Vince

    1. Believe it or not, you'll actually see this with quite a few teams. If you watch closely, Michigan also will slightly change their splits at times when going to a man scheme, such as lining up the OT closer to the pulling OG on Power O plays. I'm not comfortable stating how bad it is, it's not something I've noticed to the point of bringing attention to it, but as long as they break tendency with it, either with PA, or false keys, then it isn't a huge issue. All splits are potential tips for the defense, including WR splits, RB depth, who the QB calls out as MIKE, etc. They'll happen, and if the advantages of lining up in a bit more preferable position outweigh the tip, then it's ok.

      The J shape is certainly not unusual. You see it exaggerated on FGs a lot. But the TE typically provides enough help where the strongside OT doesn't really need to added depth. As long as they can still run weakside to keep the defense honest, it typically isn't an issue (assuming they aren't lined up illegally). Remember, most teams do heavily favor the strong side for running, maybe something like a 35-65 split or even higher for the strong side.

      But, as I said, it wasn't something I noticed enough to pay much attention to outside of noticing it on some occasions (I actually noticed it more on the Power O example I said above). But I'll make sure to look for it next game and comment on it, because I think it's an interesting thing to look at. Thanks for the tip.

  2. Thanks for the info, Vince