Blue Sam Breaks Down The Michigan Defense

Sam Webb has a coach's eye for the game, and will provide 'tape-breakdown' analyses of games. Here is his Purdue game breakdown of the Michigan defense -- and how this has strong implications for the Iowa game Saturday.

Defensive Tape Breakdown (Purdue game)

Michigan's defense did an excellent job of keeping Purdue in check, despite the close score.

Despite the narrow two point score differential, Michigan's defense performed well. There were a tremendous number of Purdue three-and-outs in the game, especially in the 2nd half. The Wolverines got very good pressure on the quarterback, and the pass coverage was substantially better than in past weeks. There were only a few breakdowns.

Jeremy LeSueur had a great game. He almost got beat for a John Standeford touchdown at 1:50 in the first quarter. He was locked in man to man on Standeford (in the slot). Jeremy 'squatted' at the first down marker and Standeford went deep. If the ball were thrown better, it would have been a TD. However, after that play, Jeremy was 'lights out' the rest of the day. He broke up numerous passes, made big hits, and came up big-time in run support as well.

The defense backfield also did a very effective job of playing zone. The DB's were very effective at keeping the plays in front of them and either punishing the receiver on the catch or breaking the pass up altogether.

However, there were some defensive tendencies that Iowa might attempt to exploit. The Purdue ground attack hurt Michigan more than the pass -- mostly on the legs of QB Kirsch. I spent quite a bit of time trying to analyze the tendencies on those plays because it will be extremely applicable to this week's game. There were a few very noticeable trends. Namely, Purdue got a lot of yards vs. the three-man front Michigan used a lot. It was obvious that they saw the 'voids' between lineman as an opportunity for an ISO, lead draw, or QB draw. Some examples of this:

1st quarter 7:42
2nd and 11. Purdue ran a lead draw vs. the three-man front. This was a great call because Michigan was rushing the passer (Kashama went on a speed rush to the outside), and the lead blocker got Hobson. This resulted in a first down.

1st quarter 7:20
This play is particularly important (I will explain why later). Michigan was in a three-man front on 2nd and 6. Hobson came up to the line directly before the snap to give the defense a 4-man look. At the snap of the ball Hobson was double-teamed and pushed back off of the line three yards. Cato June did a nice job of filling this void, but he missed the tackle and the Purdue RB was able to bounce it outside for a pickup of almost 6 yards.

1st quarter 6:40
3rd and 6. Michigan played excellent coverage behind a 3-man rush. Kirsch was flushed. Marlin Jackson came up to tackle him before the first down marker -- and whiffs.

2nd quarter 11:20
Michigan came with an inside blitz by both backers on 2nd and 13. Kirsch ran to the outside (Stevens unable to keep contain) and he gained 8 yards.

2nd quarter 8:33
1st and 10. Michigan was running a 3-man front and was bringing an inside blitz from both backers and the safety. There was a mix-up between Larry Stevens and Casseus on the left side. It was either supposed to be a DOG blitz (where Stevens rushes inside and Casseus loops around to the outside), or an inside LB blitz (in which case Stevens has outside contain). Casseus and Stevens both tried to rush inside the tackle and ran into each other. They left a huge void to the outside and Kirsch picked up 21 yards.

2nd quarter 7:51
1st and goal. Purdue ran play action to left and came back with a naked bootleg to the right. Hobson had outside contain and completely bit on the play-action. The outside was left wide open. TD Kirsch.

2nd quarter 5:10
1st and 10. Purdue ran a short side toss sweep. Kashama failed to attack his man's playside shoulder (which in turn sacrificed his outside arm) and immediately gave up the corner. If he'd been able to get to the outside, he would have slowed the play down by occupying the H-back and the tackle. Kaufman would then have had enough time to scrape over and make the tackle. Instead this play went another 10 yards for a first down.

For most of the day, the defensive staff called a good game and the defensive players played a good game. As mentioned earlier, they forced a great deal of three and outs. Further, there were some textbook examples of cutting off the outside rushing play.

2nd quarter 8:00
Hobson saw the sweep to the outside and shot the gap to the inside of the TE. The TE, in turn, missed his seal on Victor and he makde the tackle after the corner came up and cut off the outside.

2nd quarter 10:12
Dan Rumishek attacked the tackle with his OUTSIDE arm free. He effectively pushed the OT into the backfield. However, the back still tried to get to the outside. Danimal was able to thwart the play because he slowed the back down by pushing the OT into his way. Further, he was able to grab the back with his outside arm and hold him up for the other defenders to come and clean the play up. This is textbook DE play.

3rd quarter 10:19
Victor Hobson attacked the tackle with his OUTSIDE arm free. He was able to stop this play in much the same fashion that Rumishek was able to stop the play that I mentioned previous.

Defensive tendencies to be aware of against Iowa

Most important: Michigan has had the most trouble with rushing plays that attack the perimeter. They are only a few details away from stopping the big gains that have come on those types of plays. The difference in the plays that have been stopped and those tha haven't has been simple positioning. Michigan's defenders were not being blown off of the ball in the Purdue game. If the defense pays attention to those details in the game vs. Iowa, they'll do a good job in containing Fred Russell. If they don't, he will have a huge day.

Second: How much three man front will Michigan run on run/pass downs (1st and 10, 2nd and 5, etc)? In this set, Michigan often brings Hobson up to the line to give the 4-man look. However, the zone-blocking scheme is predicated on the double -eam. The goal is to get movement off the line with the double-team before one of the lineman releases to the second level of the defense to get the backer or DB. Hobson probably wouldn't hold up at the line of scrimmage as well as a DT (who may be able to occupy that double-team a little while longer). Penetration in the number one enemy to this blocking scheme. While Michigan doesn't have the quick gap-shooting lineman, they do have big guys who can hold up at the point of attack.

Another thing to be aware of is whether or not the front seven can maintain their gap responsibilities. There were of few breakdowns (mostly to the outside) vs. Purdue. Michigan's front must absolutely maintain gap integrity. A zone blocking run game relies on the cutback. If one of the defenders isn't in his gap, the play will go for big yards.

Against Iowa, Kaufman could be Key

My final note deals with a player whose effort might have been overlooked in the Purdue game. That player is Zach Kaufman. He may not be the fleetest of foot, but he exhibits textbook form in pass coverage and that should be highlighted.

Once the linebacker determines that the play is a pass, (and if he's not in man coverage), his job is to open his hips 45 degrees to the line in the direction that the quarterback is looking. He then progresses back into his zone (while keeping his eyes on the QB). If the quarterback starts to look the other way, the backer then opens his hips 45 degrees in the other direction and begins to progress back. On two separate occasions, Kaufman performed this technique by the book.

At 14:08 in the 4th quarter, Kaufman used that technique to get into perfect coverage position and break up the play (near interception). He then did it again at 3:15 in the fourth quarter to get the interception.

This linebacker technique is of particular importance to this week's game. The temptation to run 'cover two' on Iowa will be great. That would allow the defense to leave the corners rolled up for run support and keep the outside contained in case the quarterback scrambles. However, Iowa has the weapon that is the Achilles Heel of any 'cover two' defense…a great tight end. There's a huge void in the middle of the field when a defense runs cover two. Play action passes to the tight end, (who can get behind the linebackers when they step forward on the play fake), will gouge this defense. The only way to stop it is the have a LB who can get back into the middle of the field to cut off this play. Kaufman could pay huge dividends here.

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