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