Thursday, December 19, 2013

Film Review: How Michigan Can Use Their Base Offense to Attack KSU's Tendencies and Weaknesses


By most measures, the Wildcats appear to have a pretty good defense. According to advanced statistics they fall back into the average range. After watching them on film, I tend to lean toward the latter mark. While they can force offenses into so unfortunate down and distances, there appear to be some good ways for Michigan to get preferred match ups if they continue to execute in a manner similar to the OSU game. In this article, we will look at how Kansas State plays their defense and how Michigan can take advantage of some of KSU's weaknesses.

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3x1 Formations
When KSU goes to their nickel package, they line up against 3x1 formations (3 receivers to one side; 1 to the other) in a distinct way that isolates their CBs.


The OLB will carry the #3 up to the FS. He will also try to prevent any crossing route underneath. But this opens up everything to the outside and puts those DBs on islands. With Michigan having the quicker Gallon, who can work over the top on the fade, can work back shoulder fades, and is great at coming back to the ball, as well as Funchess on post routes and over the seam, this makes for a difficult match up on the outside.
Here is a double post by the #2 and #3, while the #1 runs a fade:

Here's Michigan running a double post. Note that this is a 3x1 formation with the TE staying in to block. This would likely suck the OLB in and leave leave the WRs with isolated match ups.

It also draws the coverage outside and gets them playing the receivers, both the CBs and safety. This means if RBs can burst through the first and second level, they will have ample room to eat up yards before the DBs converge. On top of that, if Michigan's QB is still a run threat, this puts the OLB in a position where he is likely uncomfortable handling the run QB run. Roll outs with the #3 in the flat become even more difficult to maintain outside leverage and cover the receiver.

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To read more about how Michigan can work within KSU's tendencies and weaknesses, follow the link to Maize n Brew

Thursday, December 12, 2013

State of the Blog - December 2013

TL;DR - Not enough pictures. I am sorry for that. This is a meta post. I tried to diagram that and failed. This will be an odd circumstance where a post doesn't have a diagram. Sorry.

So I wanted to do a State of the Blog post for a while now, and now that the regular season has wrapped, this seems like a good time do have such a thing. There are lots of people I would like to thank, but I'll save that for the end just in case that's not something everyone wants to read. What I want to address here is what I see from this blog, other projects I'll be working on, and where we go from here.

Breakdown Sports
Readership has gradually increased since the start of this blog, which is great. Much of this is still Michigan based readership, which I expected, but I've been lucky enough to expand a little bit, mostly to the Michigan State and Ohio State fanbase. I'd like to expand more, as I really want the focus of this blog to be B1G-based more than just Michigan-based with a sprinkle of the other stuff. I also want to keep up the quality of the work.

So with that in mind, posts may become a little more sporadic (though hopefully still a 2-3 a week) while I try to watch as much film on other teams as I can. My main source of film has been the great Noon Kick site, which has full game video from across the college football landscape. Unfortunately, the B1G decided it was in their best interest to take down all the video previously on youtube. This is less than fortunate. So I'll be working with what I can find, but this makes my job a little harder. In the mean time, I'm going to try to pump out a few posts on each of the teams and the teams that will be joining the league next year as well.

Hit the jump for a lot more

Friday, December 6, 2013

Know Your X's and O's - OSU vs MSU - B1G Championship

I've compiled a decent amount of work focused on these two teams this year. For those interested in some of the X's and O's and schematic things. Here's the links:

Ohio State
Thought I'd start a thread for those interested in what OSU runs, and that sort of thing. I should have two more posts come out today/tomorrow sometime, which I will link on here. I'll give a brief breakdown of each link so you know what you're clicking before you click it. Hopefully this is alright, and if you have any questions for me in regards to breaking things down, feel free to ask. Apologize as well for linking previews, but again, it helps me track readership better than I can on SBNation, and my goal is to start writing more non-Michigan-centric content and start getting further in depth with the other B1G teams.

Here's a general look at OSU's Flood play, which is probably their favorite way to attack defenses deep, something like this will be a play OSU will likely pull out on any down/distance, because it isolates defenders (including safeties and LBs) on WR in the cover 4, and it requires great communication and great eye-technique in cover 3 on the third and long plays:

Here's a corner-post concept. This is a lot like the flood route, but a little different. This will probably be done once or twice to take a shot more than anything, but against MSU's defensive scheme, I don't think this is a great option for them

Here's a link focused on OSU's pressure against Wisconsin. Somewhat similar personnel groupings and run-to-pass ratio, so expect this to be fairly similar

This is a play talking about Michigan, but OSU runs it much more (MSU runs it as well). It's how OSU uses a FB as an adjustment in to the inverted veer look.

OSU mixes up man and zone blocking schemes, but this year have gone mostly with a Power O concept (similar to MSU). Here's a round-up of Power O links for those interested

Here's a look at the origins of OSU's run game and how it relates a lot to the old single wing formation (something I coached for a few seasons, an interesting offense).

Here's a counter look that I hadn't seen before (didn't see it against Michigan, FWIW) that OSU runs out of the inverted veer. I wouldn't be surprised if they pulled it out against MSU if the backside LB chases and the backside safety focuses on coverage instead of LB level fill.

Michigan State
I also thing I've done some interesting things regarding Michigan State this year. Most of it is focused on their defense (I will have a post up tomorrow focused on their offense however, that I'll post here). Some of it is about their base 4-3 Over Cover 4, but I've also kind of fallen in love with a certain 3rd down nickel package Narduzzi pulls out a few times a game, and have written about it a few times.

How MSU will use their base offense to attack OSU's defensive weaknesses

How MSU will use their jet sweep package to take advantage of OSU's speed

Look at MSU's 4-3 Over and the adjustments their front makes and why (I would expect a lot of Jam and Cage this week)

A look at MSU's base cover 4 with it's strengths and weaknesses

A look at the adjustments they can make within that cover 4 scheme

How they adjusted that scheme to shut down ND

Ways offenses can attempt to dictate some things from Michigan State on defense

The simplified offensive playbook to get Cook into a rhythm (and really set the tone for the rest of the year)

Then 3 posts on one of my favorite nickel packages (I particularly like the last one below)

Film Review: How to Attack OSU within MSU's Scheme - BDS Exclusive

Ohio State has been a solid defense this year, but not without its flaws. In this post we are going to point out some of those flaws and look at them in the context of MSU, and how MSU can run certain plays within their playbook to take advantage of these weaknesses.

Power O to the Nub
First, let’s define what the nnub is to get that out of the way. The nub is a side of a formation without a WR. A nub side can have a TE or a TE and wing, just as long as there is no one split out wide it is considered a nub.

Generally, teams that run cover 4 will convert the nub side of their defense to a cover 2 while maintaining a cover 4 look to the other side. This is typically known as a cover 6 or a quarter-quarter-half coverage (this because of the deep defenders).

OSU runs quite a bit of cover 4, but they don’t adjust their front a whole lot and instead just check into their cover 6 defense. This tends to put a DB, particularly a CB, as the outside leverage defender.

As far as Power O is concerned, this means that the CB is the EMOL that the FB is kicking out. Because OSU’s CBs struggle to be physical at the point of attack in run support (or at most points tackling) this tends to lead to the FB heavily controlling the CB. The CB, shying away from the physical necessity of playing leverage defense, will try to step around the block. If they step outside and maintain leverage, they are easily kicked and driven wide to open up a large hole. They also tend to remain occupied as they aren't adept at taking on blocks and getting off of them to make a play on the football. If they step inside they are easily sealed and pushed back into the wash, preventing flow from making it to the RB and forcing a lone safety to make a play in a lot of space.

Power O being MSU’s favorite run play this year, expect them to go to it when running to a nub side when the ball is centered or to a boundary side the majority of the time they wish to run the ball.

Attacking Underneath Coverage
Running this cover 4, as well as when they run any other zone coverage, forces the LBs to cover space underneath. This has been a sore spot for OSU’s defense, as while the LBs are athletic, they often get stuck coverage grass in their zone rather than a man that is entering their zone. Much of this is eye discipline or struggling to properly drop.

MSU doesn’t really have the jitterbug type for the slot position. Kings is a quick player, but not really a player that has enough experience to be extremely dangerous working underneath. So much of what MSU will have to do is work from the outside-in or inside-out with their possession type receivers and occasionally their TEs. Dig routes on the hash when the #2 runs off the deep coverage, or some seam passes such as those MSU ran against Michigan with the #2 receiver – but instead of completing the seam, find the void and sit – can be really effective ways of stressing the LBs in coverage, especially if the run game is working.

I don’t think you want to get to far into the center of the field, as I don’t think Cook has developed to the point where you want him picking between small windows where there is all the congestion and confusion happening, but anything from the hash out, from 10-15 yards deep (up to 20 yards only if deep coverage is run off well) is where you would feel more comfortable on a regular basis.

Double Moves
I’ve talked about it in a post about MSU’s jet sweep package, but OSU is an extremely athletic defense but isn’t always discipline. They are attack oriented, first move they attack, both run and pass game. Now, recently, the Spartans have developed a bit more of a counter attack, and this will be helpful for the run game.

In many ways, that’s the double move equivalent for the run game. But for now let’s focus on the double move in the pass game. Players like Roby have probably as much or more athletic ability than any CB in the country. But OSU’s CBs are extremely aggressive to try to make the big plays. What this means is that they tend to bite on first movement.

What this means – particularly if MSU starts hitting on some of the intermediate gains when attack underneath coverage – is that the Spartans can pull out some of their double moves and find success. The key is going to be protection up front. MSU’s interior OL has been very strong this year. If OSU can pick and choose their blitzes correctly, though, particularly their pass blitzes, they can take advantage of MSU on the edge of their OL. Stunts and outside twists have been effective at rushing Cook, but those same blitz types often leave LBs out of position in the run game. So again, establishing the run game and putting yourself in a position for third and manageable rather than third and long is key.

Here’s an example of MSU running double move on a Michigan CB in their cover 4:

Note here that the CB plays this often how an OSU CB will play this. I went into detail at one point about the mistakes this CB committed in coverage, but in general he was being aggressive in an attempt to make a big play. It bit him as MSU ran the right route at the right time. That will be key. Also key is Cook’s improvement. In the throw against Michigan he’s a bit late almost allowing the defense to recover. OSU is a bit faster on the backend than Michigan currently is, so even a play that is breaking open may require a bit better timing that Cook has at times shown as the season’s progressed.

These sorts of things are what I’ve referred to as the match up advantage for MSU. I do think OSU is more talented, and I do think they would probably fare better against most teams than MSU would, but I really like the way MSU’s strengths align with OSU’s weaknesses, and how OSU’s strengths don’t align as closely with MSU’s weaknesses. On both sides it will start up front, as both teams need to establish the run in their offense. It will be interesting to see how often MSU takes advantage of the things I’ve noted above in this session of film review.

I have watched more film than just the OSU-Wisconsin game and the MSU-Michigan game this year. Unfortunately, my source for a lot of my videos got compromised and so I’m stuck without them for now. So this is the best I could come up with. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Inside the Playbook: MSU's Jet Sweep Package


Michigan State faces a very athletic defense on Saturday, when they meet Ohio State in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Title. For the past couple weeks, the Spartans have added several deviations of their base play calls, seemingly to set up and prepare them for the show down against the Buckeyes. In this post we are going to look at MSU's jet sweep package.

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Jet Sweep Fake - Counter Trey
So now you've forced the defense to flow both outside and upfield to protect against the jet sweep and the inside zone. Particularly when the inside zone looks to be going in the same direction as the jet sweep motion, it really pulls the defense in that direction and upfield. This really allows a defense to fairly easily get outside leverage and seal them inside as they get caught in the wash.
This almost works similar to a reverse, in that you are heavily selling one direction and then getting outside on the back end. As defenses roll their coverage toward the jet motion and get sucked up to the initial movement, MSU opens a big running lane on the backside.

MSU uses counter trey action this play (on the above blocking the playside TE and playside OT would actually double the DE to the backside backer - this is the "trey" block in "counter trey"). Note here that the first puller would prefer to seal the EMOL inside, but if he gains too much depth he will simply kick that defender and the RB will run off his butt.

Here's the video:

Jet Sweep - Run Play Action
Michigan State has been running variants of this from shotgun simply because the footwork is easier for Cook (it also gives him a peak of the defensive backfield). But there is little that prevents this from being run under center and with the same backfield action to carry the defense out of coverage.
Defenses start bring safeties up when they see the jet motion or blitzing off the back end with the CB and now you attack them over the top.

This video is a bit of a variant, mind you. It's off an end around look where the RB fake is first, but that's only because of the shotgun look and the fact that they are trying to run inside zone to the backside of the jet motion (if you ran jet sweep with that, the two players would run into each other, though you could jet sweep and run inside zone to the same side).

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To learn more about the Jet Sweep package and how it will work for MSU, follow the link to The Only Colors

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Inside the Playbook - OSU Passing Concepts to Take Advantage of MSU's Cover 4

PREVIEW [I'm going to start putting this on top of posts that are simply previews and links to posts I've put elsewhere, just to make that clear from the jump]

So it comes to this: one of the best defenses in the land against one of the top offenses in college football. Michigan State is well known for their cover 4 defense. This is a defense that allows the Spartans to match up on the edges and play with a quasi-9-man-box against any offense. Meanwhile, Meyer has brought his version of the spread offense to Columbus, and the Buckeyes are clicking on all cylinders. In my opinion, we know OSU's run game and what it pretty much consists of, and we understand MSU's run defense and how it plays. So the interesting matchup is what happens on the back end. It is these plays - set-up by the run threat - that can allow the Buckeye offense to get working up to their standard. We will look at some of the pass concepts within this offense that will force Michigan State's defense to respect the pass and allow Hyde and Company to do their work on the ground.

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Flood Concept
This has been Ohio States go to play for much of the year, and for good reason. It works to stretch the field vertically while attacking different levels of the defense when in zone. More importantly against MSU, it allows the Buckeyes to utilize play action and then get receivers in positions against safeties that are favorable.
What actually makes this so difficult is that OSU will run it from so many different looks, which force safeties and LBs to defend the entire field. On the play above, for instance, the safety lined up over the TE has to be prepared to cover a simple post or a seam, but by turning it into a deep cross, the defender's positioning on the TE must change as the receiver crosses the field. This is difficult in many regards and can cause confusion on passing off players or not (this is why this play is so effective against cover 3 as well).
And as you see, based on how the defense is aligned and the personnel, the Buckeyes can hit the different spots in their flood play with a lot of different players and from many different looks. For instance:
This puts those players in a precarious position to get good position in pass coverage, especially when they also must respect the run threat. This also gives Miller fairly easy reads for who to throw open. With speed at a lot of positions, this is a concept that could get players behind the coverage or open in space in the intermediate range.

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To learn more about OSU passing concepts, including the Sail route package, smash concepts with a backside post, and post-wheel and post-corner plays, click the link to Land-Grant Holy Land

Also, to read on about the flood concept, I wrote about one formation that utilizes it and how it works in more depth HERE.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Film Review: How OSU Stopped Michigan's 2-pt Conversion

Last time we looked at the theory of the 2 point conversion, triangle concept. In this part we will go deeper and figure out why it wasn't successful and what were some other potential plays for Michigan to run out of the same formation.

Video Recap

How OSU Stopped It

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Alright, now let's look at the coverage. This is your standard cover 2. A triangle concept should work perfectly. But, OSU does roll the backside safety. He takes the slant route. Open field is between levels for the Z-receiver, so he has to get upfield of the CB and then work outside. The CB though, does a nice job (in the context of this play, I'll explain more later), to get his arms out and really re-direct Gallon. This CB has outside leverage and inside help, his goal is to tighten that window by redirecting the receiver inside, and typically, if he does that, it will help him and the defense in coverage. This redirect shouldn't happen so easily here, but the CB does his job, and it takes Gallon off track for longer than it should. Because of this, Gallon doesn't draw his flat defender outside. This is the zone-beater remember, they are running and inside-out on the flat defender here with the horizontal stretch. But the redirect makes it so the CB never has to break to the flat (with the WR even horizontally with the safety and 6 yards shallower, that safety could not defend that route alone). The redirect makes it so neither underneath DB must commit.

Let's look at what this means: if Gallon gets outside, the two underneath defenders must commit to a direction.

Flat defender stays in:
Flat defender goes out, underneath defender stays inside:
Both commit outside:
It becomes extremely difficult for both to cover all that room for such a short throw. In fact, it's next to impossible. That's because the underneath defender is basically put in a no win position. He must commit one way or the other, and Dileo can either work against that action across his body, or Gardner can throw Dileo open to the outside. This play is hijacked by the well timed jam of the flat defender.

What this does is it gives DG a bad read. The window is tight, because Gallon hasn't "occupied" his defender. Because he doesn't occupy him enough to draw him out (it also doesn't allow him to commit inside, he doesn't have to commit at all rather), DG reads to throw at his chest as it reads as if that flat CB has coverage responsibility on Dileo. DG doesn't see the underneath defender because he reads the flat defender as his key for the throw to Dileo within that tight window. He's also forced to read this quickly because the pressure is getting home.

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To read much more on this play, including how OSU adjusted to stop any throw back and roll out from Gardner, as well as the other options that were available out of the stack formation, follow the link to Maize n Brew

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Inside the Playbook: Michigan's 2-pt Conversion and the Triangle Concept

There has been much consternation about the 2-point conversion play call by Borges last Saturday. In this article, I want to at least get a basis behind the theory of the formation and the playcall. In part II we will go deeper and figure out why it wasn't successful and what were some other potential plays for Michigan to run out of the same formation.

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Triangle Concept

Go to any football website, and most likely you'll find something about the triangle passing concept. Chris Brown (Smart Football) describes the concept very well (though, when he gets into specifics, he discusses a different play that utilizes the triangle scheme).

The insight behind the triangle is that the horizontal and the vertical stretch are combined to create a single straightforward read for the quarterback that provides answers no matter what the defense presents.
All of the major "new" (in relative terms) passing concepts are based on a triangle read. The weakness of the triangle stretch is that it's typically only possible to only get a two-man horizontal or vertical stretch, whereas with a true "flood" you can place three (or more) receivers across the field on a given plane to truly defeat a defense. This limitation means that a triangle can be throttled by certain coverages that rotate to the triangle side.
But all this is counterbalanced by the triangle's versatility: the route concept should result in a completion against almost any coverage, and, as will be shown further below, triangle stretches are also usually conducive to having a man-beating concept within them.
A true flood isn't realistic this close to the end zone, simply because there isn't enough room to operate. Meanwhile, a triangle concept is versatile against any coverage, fits within the limited space, and provides the QB a relatively simple read. Combine it with the fact that it only needs 3 yards, and you see why it is the favorite scheme of most pro-style (and most pass-based-spread) teams in modern football in those situations.

Michigan's Play Call
The X-receiver (Funchess) is running a slant to the goal post. This is the vertical stretch. It is also the first read against man coverage as slant, especially to the back of the end zone, is a very good man-coverage-beater.

The second route, by the Z-receiver (Gallon), is a corner/flat (run to open grass to the outside). This is a horizontal stretch. This is the first zone-coverage-beater. This can also be a man-coverage-beater if his coverage is coming from the inside because the X-receiver provides a rub.

The W-receiver (Dileo) thus is the 2nd read for both man-coverage and zone-coverage. He is also the hot read. He is provided with a rub from both the X and Z receivers. He is running an option route. With no inside help, his route becomes an angle route. An angle is generally a man-coverage beat verse outside leverage. By stemming outside initially, it gets the defender flat footed and moving outside, opening up room on the inside. In concept, coming from a stack set, this would work like a double slant against a standard man coverage. Now, if there is inside help, the W-receiver is essentially running a snag route. What this means is that he will run to the void in the defense (the outside release is merely to hide behind the receiver in front, providing a better rub) and hitch, and work inside-out. The QB will throw him open. This means that with inside help but outside coverage, the QB will throw to his numbers. If the outside, flat defender follows the Z-receiver, the QB will throw to the back shoulder into the vacated zone, or in other terms, throw the receiver open. The W-receiver is the 2nd read (outside of a hot situation), but the most likely target.

So in theory, with this combination of routes, you have 2-zone beaters (plus check to the Z-receiver) and 2-man beaters, with the option of working inside or outside with the third receiver. The concept should work against any coverage.


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To read more about this concept, follow the link to Maize n Brew

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Inside the Playbook: OSU's Inverted Veer Package

Ohio State does some interesting things within their offense that make it difficult for defenses to key them correctly. For one, they effectively mix up zone blocking and man blocking schemes, especially power blocking as of lately. In this post we are going to look at 4+ different plays which all utilize and inverted veer look, and explain why it is so difficult to stop them on offense.

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Counter Inverted Veer
As I described the inverted veer as power blocking from an option look, let's first look at how "counter trey" is blocked. "Trey" is a bit of a misnomer, as there often isn't a trey block, but it is the most common type of double team that comes from this blocking scheme and thus it is called trey.

To note:

Trey is a combo block from the playside PSE (playside TE) and the PST (playside OT) to the MIKE or backside LB. Deuce is a combo block from the PST and the PSG (playside OG) to the MIKE or backside LB. Ace is a combo block from the PSG and the C to the MIKE or backside LB. For many teams, the FB will typically lead the defense to the ball. The same is said for a typical counter play, where the FB will counter step and lead the defense to the ball. But on a typical "Counter Trey" the offense will pull two of the OC, BSG (backside OG), and BST (backside OT). The first puller will typically used to seal the playside EMOL inside (or kick him outside if he gains too much depth or width) and the second puller will pull up through the hole and lead to the playside LB.

Well OSU is running this by using the read option like the FB again. They are using the read to block the backside DE. In general, OSU will pull the BST and the C. The reason you pull the C is for multiple reasons: he's closer to the playside and will be more effective sealing the EMOL; the play is run from gun so it is easier for the C to pull compared to the play being run from under center; it messes with the defensive keys by not pulling an OG as you typically would to the playside.


Now this makes the read a bit more indirect. Yes, the read is the same, if the EMOL crashes you hand off, if he contains he is essentially blocked and you keep. That said, the QB's eyes are not in the area where he'll eventually be running, making the read indirect compared to where he is eventually going.

But like Counter Trey, it takes advantage of fast flow from the backside so they can't overload the playside.

(Note that the OT reads the defense incorrectly and passes by the MIKE)

And the give:

Now, it's interesting to note that Michigan has run what is a standard counter power scheme from an inverted veer look. This only pulls one player (the BST) and actually blocks the EMOL (because the FB on a counter power play will counter step and lead for the RB). Different philosophy, often something that true pro-style, I-form schemes will run both of once the blocking has developed enough.

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To read more about OSU's inverted veer package, including how they package it with a FB/Wing, and to learn about their pop pass and play action portion of their package, follow the link the Maize n Brew

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Inside the Playbook: Meshing Spread and Single Wing Concepts

Ohio State and Urban Meyer are best known for their spread offense. Meyer though, has taken the run-based spread and brought it full circle. Today what I want to do is compare Ohio State's offense to Michigan's offense. No, not to Al Borges's offense. No, not even to Rich Rodriguez's offense. I want to compare Ohio State to Fritz Crisler's 1947 Single Wing offense. In this article we're going show you one of the most innovative offenses of the day, by comparing it to one of the most explosive offenses of yesteryear. It will be light on words, but heavy on diagrams and old timey video.

Getting the Differences Out of the Way
Let's start by getting the differences out of the way. No offense to Crisler, but his passing concepts wouldn't cut it in today's game. While Meyer has a relatively simply passing playbook, it's vastly more advanced than the single wing playbook. Well, besides the jump pass; that's straight from the single wing.
Another significant difference is the personnel. The single wing looks like this
While a typical spread formation in Meyer's system looks like this
So Meyer is running a sort of spread out single wing. Well, I guess that makes sense.
Within the run offense itself is two fundamental differences. The first is the blocking scheme. Meyer is a big proponent of zone blocking, as most spread coaches are. If zone blocking existed at that time (I'm almost certain it did not), then it certainly wasn't prevalent or understood well enough for major universities to be using it.

The second thing, a thing that is both fortunate and unfortunate, is the distinct lack of a spin series from OSU. Here's an example of what is referred to as the "spin" portion of the single wing:

A couple schematic notes: the dashed blue line shows who the snap is going to. Typically, the ball will be snapped straight back and the back will adjust to it, but this is the easiest way to show who is receiving the snap.

The green lines and dashed lines indicate an option. In the OSU version of the plays, the option will actually be options from a single play call. From the old single win plays, each option will typically be its own play with its own blocking scheme, unless otherwise stated.

Keeper Off Tackle
Both teams will run a simple off tackle play with the person the ball is snapped to. For OSU, this is the QB. In the single wing, this is more often than not the FB.

OSU out of the spread:

The same play in the single wing:

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To look further into how OSU's spread-to-run offense borrows heavily from the old fashioned single-wing offense, follow the link to Maize n Brew.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Let's Speak Technique: Offensive Line Pass Protection

Last time we discussed pass protection schemes, but that's only a part of actually protecting the QB. The other vital part is technique, which many players lack coming out of high school. Pass protection is difficult, it's difficult for simply what it is, but it becomes especially difficult as defenses become more complex, defensive linemen grow bigger and faster, and defenders know they can pin their ears back and test your mettle. In this second part looking at pass protection we will focus on the technique that is involved in a standard pass protection scheme.

Protecting the Pocket
The pocket, also known as the passing area, changes depending on drop and set from the QB. In general terms, it is the area the QB needs to effectively move and step into any throw that he may make. It does differ, as I said, with various types of drops. For instance, on a 3-step drop your interior OL will try not to lose any ground. On a 7-step drop the interior OL can drop about 3 yards.

For common drops and protections, the interior OL will drop to a depth of 3 yards and are responsible for maintaining the depth of the pocket. The tackles are then responsible for the width of the pocket and will extend their depth to about 9 yards. On top of that, TEs will often assist in the protection of the edge, many times simply by slowing the speed at which the defender can gain depth and therefore squeeze the pocket. RBs, depending on their coverage, could be responsible for depth or horizontal maintenance. Typically, the RB will want to step up and into the defender, preferably setting no deeper than the heels of the OL, and never in front of the OL.

The Cylinder

There is this idea that an offensive lineman must essentially stay within "the cylinder". This is one of those cute phrases that coaches use to try to give players a picture of what is to happen. While pass blocking, the feet and knees must always maintain a stance outside the hips and the feet should be inside the outside of the ankles. This is the cylinder and it sounds completely confusing when it's simply in writing. All it's really directing is how to place your feet relative to your body. For example, stand up and put your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Now bend at the knees. If you have a normal stance, you'll see that your feet are still outside your hips but that your knees are generally aligned with your ankles or even outside. So to correct this, kick out your ankles so that they are parallel and once again bend at the knees. You'll notice now that your feet and knees are both outside your hips and your knees are inside the outside of your ankles. This is staying inside the cylinder.

Combined with proper weight distribution, this allows for proper center of gravity, leverage, and balance. If the knee rotates outside the ankle, for instance, the shoulder and hip open up and this creates a soft hip and soft shoulder in which a defender can drive through. Always stay inside the cylinder.

But this is just the lower body. The upper body must ideally remain inside the cylinder as well. This means the upper body should not lean, but rather the back should be flat from the waist through the shoulders vertically. Heck, even the chin should be back and the head up. Leverage comes from the hips. In every way, a pass protector blocks from the hips. While the arms may extend outward to maintain balance upon moving, when set to punch, the arms should drop down the sides of the body and tucked, the hands should be inside with the thumbs up, and the punch must extend out and up from the inside of the body. The offensive lineman will try to squeeze the rushers breast plate right around with his palms out and fingers open, as if, well, as if grabbing the rusher's breasts. So that's the cylinder. It also describes another key pass protection technique: the punch, which will be described more in a second.

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To read about footwork, the punch, RB pass pro, and more, follow the link to Maize n Brew

Friday, November 15, 2013

Inside the Playbook: Pass Protection Schemes

One of the big issues Michigan has been having is in pass protection. If I went into all the complexities and calls of all the different pass protections, you would quickly realize why young players have trouble with this part of the game (to go along with the vast complexities of the run game). There is a reason that offensive linemen are often considered the smartest guys on the field. Well, we're going to go over the basics just to try to get you up to speed a little bit. For briefing sake, there are three different types of blocking schemes: man, gap (zone), and combination.

Man Blocking
BOB. Big on Big; Back on Backer. This is a man blocking scheme that is optimal for many teams because of its ability to get a hat on a hat, an offensive lineman on a defensive lineman, and a back on a preferred LB (if a back is in to block).

First let's look at a world where 5 person blocks exist. Whoever is the uncovered lineman is will be the "double read" blocker. The OL always wants to work to protect against the most immediate threat first. Who that is may depend on defensive tendencies or personal preference, but we're not going to get into that in great depth in this article.

The Big on Big concept will always work to "half-man advantage", that is, a non-center offensive lineman will block a defensive lineman that is lined up directly over top or shaded over him (half-man). Whoever is the bubble offensive lineman (doesn't have anyone over him or shaded outside of him at the snap) will work with the person inside of him (typically an OG and center) to the MIKE (MIKE as defined by the offense, not necessarily the MLB). The center doesn't necessarily follow the half-man concept, he will make a right or left call and that will dictate the blocking scheme

Right Call:

Notice here that the OG and the OC can work together to pick up the NT and either the MLB or the WLB. In a 5-man blocking scheme, this is a 2-on-3 blocking scheme that can pick up the entire DL and one interior blitzer. It is important to note though that if both LBs blitz, they can't both be picked up, and must be accounted for with a hot read.

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To get a more in-depth look at how man pass protection schemes work, and catch up on gap and combination pass protection schemes work, head over to Maize n Brew with the link.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Power Football Links

I realized the other day that I now have a fairly healthy dose of Power Run breakdowns and how they can be utilized from different looks. At some point I'll get to the open side looks, but for now, he's a collection of the resources I've written about Power blocking.


Closed Power O

Power from the Spread

Unbalanced Double Lead

Inverted Veer, Power Blocking Schemes, 2nd Lead Adjustement

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

ItP: Power O, Inverted Veer, and the FB Adjustment to Scrape Exchange

In the picture pages post today, I feel I noted something of some significance. This isn’t supposed to be a post to puff out my own chest, rather, I merely want to give the other side of the argument my side of the argument for what it really is.

As an aside, there have been numerous people that have constantly misconstrued my argument lately. I understand that by taking a particular unpopular stance so strongly, that I have opened myself up to criticism. But within this article I also want to make clear up some of my stance, so towards the end I will get into some of that. Much of these will be related to the comments I made earlier (if not copy and pasted), the major difference is that I now have the opportunity to add accompanying pictures and diagrams to go with it. This is of importance because football isn’t really a sport that is best described with words. You can try to be as descriptive as possible, but there will always be a certain amount of failure to accurately convey your thoughts through this medium. So the pictures/diagrams help in that regard. So let’s begin.

Set Up and Play Design
I’m going to copy and paste Brian’s set up to his post as he does a good job getting us there.
Michigan comes out with an H-back and two tailbacks in a twins formation, which necessarily means that the slot receiver is not an eligible receiver. Nebraska responds with 7.5 in the box, with the gray area defender just about splitting the difference between Funchess and the tackle.

I’ll get to the covered receiver part later, I want to start off with the basics here about what the intention of this play is. Let’s first start with the most fundamental concept of any run play: the blocking scheme.
Inverted veer works with a Power O blocking scheme. Power is a type of man/gap blocking scheme, while “O” indicates the pulling of the backside guard. A simple power play looks like this.

The inverted veer meanwhile, takes the fullback and erases him. It utilizes the option read to kick out the DE because the DE must commit to the QB or the RB. If the DE commits to the RB, the QB reads this and shoots through the lane inside of him. If the DE commits to the QB, the QB gives to the RB and the RB attacks the edge. Here’s how the inverted veer looks:

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To learn about how the inverted veer and power blocking scheme adjusts to a 6i technique, and how a FB is utilized within the inverted veer framework to counter the scrape exchange, follow the link to MGoBlog

Friday, November 8, 2013

Film Review - Cleaning up Coverage

For the most part Michigan played pretty solid in coverage against MSU, but also had some significant busts that lead to big gains for the Spartans. There have been some questions about a few of the ways that Michigan has worked in coverage, and I'll briefly discuss how Michigan plays man coverage to help clear that up as well. At the end of the day, what you see from this exercise though, is that you can be very good most of the day, but if just a few mistakes get exploited, the opposing team can put up points.

Man Coverage

People have been wondering about if Michigan is doing this right. Namely, the common complaint is not turning back and looking for the ball. In man coverage, once you flip your hips, you have two basic techniques you will play: in-phase (in-sync, in-step, in-line, even) and trail. In-phase means that you have your hip on the front side of their hip and your shoulder on the front side of their shoulder, and you're using your body to gradually deflect them in the direction you want to push them. Trail means pretty much anything else.

When you are in-phase, you can feel where the WR is and feel where he's breaking. You are in contact with him with your body and he can't get around you without going through you, so you don't need to watch him. Otherwise, turning and looking for the ball is only slowing you down or putting you out of position as the receiver continues on his route. So when you are in a trail technique, your focus remains on the receiver and you try to go up and through the face, between the arms, and rake/rip down, only turning looking when you essentially catch back up, or in other terms, get in-phase again.

In this case, the LB never recovers to get back in phase. Instead, he is in a trail position. So what he's doing is reading the receiver's eyes. When he begins looking for the ball and he gets his hands up to catch the ball, Morgan goes up to make a play if the ball is put in a good spot.

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To learn more about coverage techniques, such as how to play outside technique, inside technique, some safety technique things, and LB drop technique, follow the link to Maize n Brew

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Film Review: Wisconsin's 3-4 Against Iowa's 2 TE Offense

This year Wisconsin has switched to a 3-4 defense, and one of the benefits is the benefits it gives verse defenses that try to spread them out horizontally. This can mean how it adapts to spread concepts, but also, how it adapts to many 2-TE personnel groupings that try to gain an advantage by creating more gaps for the defense to fill. The 3-4 puts 5 people on the LOS, it provides outside leverage, it provides strength at the point of attack, and makes it relatively easy for the ILBs to scrape to the ball. Basically, if defenses read their keys, the 3-4 is the perfect defense to handle a 12 personnel offense.

The 3-4 Against Iowa’s 2-TE Set
First, here is how Iowa will want to block this:

Wisconsin’s two DEs (DE and DT) are lined heads up on the OTs in a 4-tech. The ILBs are lined up in a 20 technique, which is heads up on the guards, about 3-4 yards off the LOS. The NT is lined above the center, and both OLBs are lined up in a 9-technique with their inside shoulder just outside of the TEs outside shoulder.

To the playside, the TE is tasked with reaching the OLB and sealing him inside. If he can’t, he will drive him to the sideline. The goal of the OLB is to get up-field about a yard into the backfield, keep his outside arm free, and anchor into that position.

Because the ILBs are lined up directly above the guards, it is unrealistic for the OGs to be able to reach the ILBs on their blocks. Despite having clean releases, the LBs are able to flow to the point of attack before the OGs can get clean blocks on them, meaning that it must come down to the playside OT (PST) and the OC to get out on the ILBs. Well, there are DEs lined up directly above the OTs and the OC, meaning they can’t get free releases. It also means that they have to at least hold the blocks at the point of attack long enough to hold up the DL and allow the OGs to get over and take over those blocks, before finally releasing to the second level.

So now everyone on the interior has a very difficult assignment. The PST must maintain a block on the DE for long enough to allow the OG to come underneath and take over the block on the playside. This must all happen fast enough for the PST to get out onto the ILB before he can scrape across and fill at the point of attack. The same can be said for the OC and backside OG (BSG) getting to the backside ILB.

Now, from these positions, knowing that Iowa is a primarily zone blocking team, Wisconsin will 2 gap with their DL. This means that upon Iowa’s first movement, Wisconsin’s DL will try to get their hat playside of the OL that is blocking them. They will grab and fight and occupy as many offensive linemen as they can to prevent them from reaching the second level. Meanwhile, the ILBs will flow to the ball and fill up, the LB to the primary hole, the backside ILB to the cutback gap. It will look like this:

What you see here is that, no matter what, Wisconsin is getting a free hitter at the point of attack. Either the gaps are filled playside and the RB is forced to cut back into the backside ILB pursuit, or the backside is filled and the free hitter is the playside ILB. Or, better yet for Wisconsin, both ILBs are free hitters because their blockers can’t get out to them in time.

Here’s the video:

How Iowa Adjusted
A common adjustment for zone based run schemes is to switch things up by running a pin and pull scheme. This is still a zone scheme, but it’s a variant.

Here are some ways to block the Pin and Pull variant. Oddly enough, the most similar thing to what Iowa ran was the “Wisconsin Version” that is described in this video.

Here’s how  Iowa ran it:

And here’s the video:

Because the playside features down blocks, the playside defenders are trying to get across the hat of the blocker. That means they are slanting away from the play and into a position that makes it easier to block. The down blocks are easy blocks on the heads up DE and NT, then the pulling players take advantage of the LBs that at least partially flow away from the play because of those same down blocks.

If any play is read correctly, if the defenders properly identify their keys, they can blow up a play. The 3-4 provides a way to read those keys in a zone scheme and beat the offense to the point of attack, getting a free hitter. The pin and pull adjustment takes advantage of this aggressiveness. Contrarily, with the pin and pull adjustment, if the OLB properly reads through the TE to the RB, then he should get upfield and squeeze down, getting the initial blocker in the backfield. This makes it nearly impossible for the second puller to get around to the ILB he is supposed to block because he has to not only loop around the whole play, but also gain more depth because the first puller got hit in the backfield.

But at the end of the day, this is easier said than done. The 3-4 puts the defense in a position that it is relatively easy to succeed if they make reads and react quickly. But it still takes reading the keys and acting quickly. It’s easier here than out of other formations, because it fills gaps at the point of attack and allows the LBs to flow freely, but that also means that those same players can just as quickly get out of position and taken advantage of if they fail to read their keys. That’s the thing with football. Every offense can be read correctly, but it still takes quick reactions and reads to successfully execute. And that is why football isn’t played on a chalk board.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Inside the Playbook - MSU's Nickel Seam MIKE 3

For how basic much of MSU’s defense is, on third downs when the offense is behind the sticks, the Spartan’s defense is anything but. Much of the focus is on Narduzzi’s blitz package, and often rightfully so. But what I took away from Saturday’s game against Michigan was a very interesting coverage on the back end. In this post we’ll look at how Narduzzi pulled out a very unique Cover 3 look (some have called it an inverted Tampa 2 defense, which it kind of is, but I honestly think it’s closer to a cover 3) and we’ll discuss why this is such an effective context within the scheme that MSU often runs.

MSU’s Cover 4
I’ll briefly discuss the Cover 4 just to give a primer of what it looks like. Basically, the cover 4 will look like a flat back. Two safeties will be even about 10 yards off the LOS and will not retreat on the snap. They have responsibility for the #2 receiver, while the CBs on the outside will essentially be playing man coverage on the #1 receivers.

Tampa 2
There is a slight but significant difference between Cover 2 and Tampa 2. Cover 2, as most know from their basic understanding of football, has two high safeties and is generally strong underneath, with the outside CBs taking the flats, and the LBs taking the zones in between.

The weakness here is in the corner, or perhaps more significantly, in the “hole”, which is the void in between the two safeties and the MLB. This is attacked with digs or posts and are difficult to defend, especially if the safeties also get threats to the outside.

So to adjust, football coaches decided to give a similar look but take away that void. As per usual, they also gave this a name and some weird lingo. Tampa 2 was actually developed by the ’75 Steelers, but it became famous when Dungy ran it heavily for the Buccaneers.  So that’s the cute name. As for the weird lingo, well, the MIKE will get sent down “the pipe”, which is the middle alley in the defense. This essentially turns the defense into a three high coverage, although the two safeties will generally still play a deep half to cover some of the deficiencies of LBs in coverage.

MSU’s Initial Alignment
This is a set up that I looked at earlier in the season, and this is just another wrinkle to it. I previously explained several ways that MSU could get pressure (or at least fake pressure) and run a solid cover 3system. Then they did this, which took advantage of some of the strengths of the defenses I discussed, but added the advantage of looking initially like cover 4.

We’ll call this alignment Nickel Seam, because that seems like an easy thing to call it and I feel like calling it something to make my life easier.

Nickel Seam Cover 3 Boundary Safety Blitz
Here’s how you would expect this to look, and possibly why you can justify calling it an inverted Tampa 2.

This would make sense and would be safe. This would put players in position off of their initial alignment. Rather than get two safeties to play seams to out as they did against ND, it would get a LB and a safety, but that’s alright, they’re playing underneath. It’s preferable to have more speed underneath maybe, but it’s also to have that speed in the deep third, so yeah.

But no, that’s not what MSU decided they were going to do. Narduzzi decided he was going to blow up the QB’s reads completely, and make this look almost exactly like a cover 4 look.

Here’s how this looks right after the snap.

Notice how the FS has stepped into the seam and the field SS has stayed in the seam. Gardner knows pressure is coming, which is fine, but this looks almost exactly like cover 4 behind that, which in general because straight man. But this isn’t cover 4, despite what it looks like.

Like I said when I last wrote about this defensive alignment, there are only 2 underneath defenders. They know that they are blitzing, and they know, or at least assume, that because of that pressure the QB will have to go to the initial direction he looks. As soon as the QB looks, both break in that direction.

Here’s what the coverage looks like in a basic sense

And here’s what it looks like after the QB commits his eyes.

So the coverage looks like cover 4 but has defenders that are shooting underneath anything to the outside. Tricky, tricky.

FWIW, I call this a cover 3 because the CBs don’t squeeze inside like they would in something that constitutes a Tampa 2 look. They generally stay outside on the #1 and play their deep third. There is no way they make a play in the center of the field here, they are looking for the MIKE to do that. This is a straight cover 3 look with the MLB taking the place of the FS.

Here's the video (wait for the replay to get a better view)

This shows improvement that MSU has made in this coverage since the Notre Dame game. In that game, the seam safety failed to read the QB’s eyes quickly enough and break underneath the throw to the sideline.

This also shows how Gardner, who has struggled with his reads a bit this year, needs to trust his WR more. If he keeps his eyes to the center of the field just a little longer, and then sets and throws quickly to the sideline, he completes this pass to an open Gallon. But it’s about trusting your read and your receiver, and to an extent, your line.

Why your line? Well, Gardner actually had more time here than he anticipated. Frankly, he anticipated he had less time than he did because by this point he had already been beat up a lot. But if he holds his eyes in the center of the field, he can then get a better feel of the actual coverage, key the underneath defender, and pick on him by going outside in with his reads. In fact, here there may be enough time for him to work outside, #2, to the opposite side of the field, which is absolutely wide open at this point. But that’s a tough thing to ask a college QB who has been hit a lot already.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Inside the Playbook - Ways of Dictating MSU's Defense

In this post we are going to look at a few different options that Michigan's offense has to get MSU a bit out of their comfort zone and to try to take advantage with favorable match-ups. In this instance, the run game would just be simpler to explain, so we'll focus more on how Michigan can do some things to present favorable match-ups for Michigan's passing attack.

Stack/Bunch Formations
Michigan under Borges helm has not shied away from stack or bunch formations. While they don't run them as often as I would like them to be run, they are quite prevalent within the offense. Against MSU's press coverage it makes sense to run them more. Why you may ask.
Well here's MSU's coverage normally.


Here is how they adjust




The big difference is that they no longer press the outside, instead preferring to play and in/out release against the stack and an in/out high/low against bunch.

What this allows is for the Michigan receivers to get off the line cleanly and into their routes. More than that, it forces MSU's DBs to pick up the receivers after they have gotten into their routes, which is necessarily an awful position to be in, but it does make it more difficult for them to dictate and control where the receiver can run.

From this they can run a variety of concepts to isolate themselves on certain receivers. With protection, this gives Gardner time to make a relatively easy read: throw to the receiver that doesn't get help. This is a key way that Michigan can stretch the field or run triangle concepts to pick on the LBs underneath or isolated DBs over the top.

Like all things there is downside here though. This, for the most part, completely negates any WR screen ability. Bubbles are nearly impossible (they are very difficult against a standard alignment) because you can't get outside leverage on the block. Throw backs are difficult because the aiming points and runs are directly in front of the DBs (the only advantage here is that you already have them off the LOS). With the stack, you are also really losing the ability to attack outside in that direction because you have no way of protecting the alley. Any sort of even off tackle run is easily threatened off the edge because the crack block is difficult to reach. Which brings up the last point: MSU can blitz DBs from this because it's difficult to get into routes quickly with enough separation to run good, quick, hot routes. So when these are run, they must be run with care.


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To look at a few other ways that Michigan can align to attempt to get favorable match ups, follow the link to Maize n Brew.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Inside the Playbook - MSU Defense Primer

Michigan faces off against one of the nation's top defenses on Saturday, and moving the ball through the air will be no small task. Michigan State's defense is legit, so let's not mince words there. Still, every defense has weaknesses or tendencies that can be exploited. Now, the Spartans have minimized these weaknesses, and when they do make mistakes they are often fundamentally sound enough to keep gains relatively low, which is what makes them one of the better defenses in college football. The goal of this article will be to look at some of the ways that Michigan can attack some of MSU's tendencies from a schematic point of view to get relatively favorable match-ups on their end.

MSU Primer
Over the summer I wrote two preview pieces about Michigan State's defense. One was about their 4-3 Over front, the other was about their Cover 4. For the vast majority of the snaps they will be in this set up. They will run some man under, they will run cover 3 behind most of their blitz packages, they'll at times switch to a quasi-nickel package to get a hybrid player on the field, and on 3rd and long, they'll run their 3-3-5 nickel package with their Okie front, which is where much of their complex blitz package originates.
Because, for the most part, they'll stick in their 4-3 Over Cover 4, we're going to focus this article on beating that. As not all cover 4s are the same, Narduzzi will also adjust within the cover 4 to take away certain things. Let's look at three basic ways that Narduzzi will play his coverage.

Keep his LBs in the box and keep the safeties at 10 yards deep and 1 yard outside the EMOL


This will be adjusted slightly depending on the alignment on the #2 receiver or if there are more than two receivers to a certain side. The main idea here is that this basic alignment will be the stoutest against the run. It allows the LBs to play directly in run support, fast flowing and getting in position to play the ball, and it also allows the front side safety to play leverage in the alley as well as the backside safety to fill into the LB level and play backside leverage. The weakness of this set up will be the short to intermediate flats, which can be attacked in certain ways but not necessarily others, which we'll discuss in a bit.


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To continue reading this MSU primer, follow the link to Maize n Brew