Film Study: Michigan Duo and Counter Iso vs D Focus on Stopping Interior Run

From the recent Upon Further Review - Michigan Offense vs Florida Defense a couple plays came up that I think could benefit from a bit more depth.

In this article, we talk Duo

And Counter Iso

In this game, Michigan has been struggling quite a bit with allowing quick penetration from the DL. This penetration was worst on the right side of the OL, mostly from 3-technique DTs or DEs spiking from a 7-technique into a 5-technique post snap.


From Zach Dunn link below

This play was the offseason play du hour which everyone many seemed to write about (I'll link some at the bottom of this section). It's Power without the pulling OG. It gets doubles at two locations along the OL, including at the point of attack, and FB kicks the EMOL while the RB read the MIKE (if he crashes down, the RB bounces). This specific play is blown up because the double between the RG and RT doesn't get any push, leaving the MIKE free. If one of those guys gets out on the MIKE, the RB then has a safety one on one with some room to either cut inside the FB or bounce outside to grass.

James Light (I've linked him; follow him on Twitter, he's a great X's and O's follow) has posted some cut ups, including from Michigan, that are worth embedding.

In fact, at the time James Light even detailed the difference between Iso and Duo quite well

With some Iso examples

And Duo examples

(In this case, this is a "Lead" Duo play, the H-back kicks out the EMOL, the FB leads to the playside LB. In nomenclature I use, this is Called Power F because it's a basically a Power O play but the FB replaces the Opposite Guard on the playside LB block).

Zach Dunn was one of the main drivers of this play being talked about so much. Here's his post, focused mostly on a single back version of the play.

It includes former NFL Guard Geoff Schwartz (good follow if you're interested in getting more into OL twitter) video discussing it (he was the other primary driver of this play getting so much attention, IMO)

Counter Iso

This play isn't Iso as most know it, though it is an iso play with an important distinction. On Iso, the FB is isolating a playside LB, but here, he is blocking the backside LB and sealing him in the direction the RB is initially going. This is a designed cut back known as "Counter Iso" or "Lead Counter" or "BOB" or "Blast" (or a million other names), depending on where you hear it.

Like Iso (and unlike Duo), you are only reliant on one double, and in this case, that double doesn't even have to get a ton of vertical movement. Here, the LG and C are doubling the NT with the LG combo blocking off to get to the playside (playside in this case is the initial RB direction) LB. Meanwhile the FB is working through the LOS to get to the backside LB. The playside of the OL seals the defense further playside, the backside of the OL seals the DL to the backside. Other than the NT, if the DL wants to get penetration, they are really only taking themselves out of a quickly developing run play.

There isn't a lot elsewhere regarding this play that I've been able to find so I'll go through this specific play step-by-step.

Pre-snap, Florida's DTs are shifted over to strength. The DE has pinched inside at 5-technique and the SAM is lined up on the edge.

The WR goes and motion and the CB alerts the safety to a potential crack block. This is done by design by the offense, to get the CB/Safety/SAM potentially thinking crack sweep and attempting to take them out of the play as their initial footwork is to challenge upfield to defend against the strongside sweep, and also just to give the WR a better angle to the safety. UF calls it out but doesn't really get impacted immediately, and actually it puts the CB's eyes in the backfield (looking for crack exchange) and when he reads run he lets the WR go to the Safety (he's eventually the free defender that limits this play; but RB vs CB in a gap is not the worst option).

Now, also note the direction the QB turns out of the pocket. The RB is going in that direction as well (to the weakside of the formation). This, in combination with the double at the point of attack, give the look of a weakside inside zone. But then note the backside of the play. They are not zone blocking. They are not doubling and working to the second level, they are not zone stepping at the snap, they are gap blocking. The 3-technique has already gotten penetration, and the RG allows the DT to take himself out of the play and simply buries him. The RT and TE both down block the defenders lined up outside of them.

The handoff has pulled the LBs to the playside. This allows the angle for the LG (who really only mimicked a double at the point of attack before releasing) and the FB to have adventageous angles in an effort to seal the LBs to the playside. Again, this is a designed cut back. The LG can't quite get out on time to maintain his block and gets juked a bit, but he's forced the LB to react to a run in his direction, and effectively enough taken him out of the play.

The other thing I like to note about this still image is the placement of the FB's helmet. He gets his head on the backside of the LB to seal him back inside. Because this LB is biting to get playside, the FB is going to use his momentum against him, seal him inside, and give his RB a great read.

Eventually the SAM gets off his block with the TE (the TE allowed the SAM's hands to get inside of him, allowing him to relatively easily disengage from the block) and the CB comes down to combine for the tackle, but not until after an 8 yard gain, and threatening more.

Why These Two Plays
First, Duo. The idea here is that you are getting a double team at the point of attack, and the two blockers converging on the 3-technique can limit his penetration. It does, but neither of them get out to the second level, and that generally limits the play. The penetration was still enough to disrupt the timing of the block because they were never really able to start driving the DT and release off (they both wanted to maintain the double because they weren't getting push). The other aspect of this is that UF was playing to take away the interior run but was allowing plays to bounce as they repeatedly failed to set the edge effectively. Duo is a great run play in that the play design allows for the bounce against teams focusing on taking away the interior run. In this case it didn't work, but you would see the bounce effectively throughout the game.

So on the Counter Iso, they can now use this penetration against the defense. Any DL to the backside of the play are only burying themselves out of the play design immediately at the snap. Similarly, the OL doesn't need to worry about working a combo to the second level, instead, they focus on one game and focus only on not allowing the DL to cross their face, everything else is gold. So this play mitigates some of the advantages UF had against the right side of Michigan's OL. I like this play especially because the handoff is on the opposite side of where the ball carrier is going to go and mimics a quick hitting downhill run. Because of that, it really forces the defense to react, but that reaction just sets up the angles to help spring a big play.


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