Friday, November 13, 2009

GBMW: Coach's Corner -- Things I am thinking about

GBMW: Coach's Corner -- Things I Am Thinking About

There is no insider information that is embedded within the comments that follow. This material below is simply the reading of some tealeaves from various message boards and is in part based on information from these boards. I could be 100% wrong. But I could also be 100% right. So what is it that is of interest enough to write a separate column? If Brandon Smith does start Saturday, is Michigan going to play him in the box with more of a 4-4 look?

Here is the rationale surrounding this perhaps pertinent question:

1) Playing B. Smith in space after ten weeks at the line of scrimmage is risky, especially when coverage skills and playing in space was never an identified strength. However, Wisconsin is the type of team that a 4-4, eight in the box is not a bad idea of all.

2) Playing Brandon at the line of scrimmage plays to his strength, he is a physical player who will play a physical game.

3) Putting that eighth man in the box makes sense against Wisconsin’s running game and size.

4) Playing a bigger athlete like B. Smith at the line of scrimmage rather than Michigan's present athletes also makes sense (due to the above).

5) Playing a 4-4 means Michigan will probably have to play less (or none) cover 2: this change takes away a soft area between cornerback and safety where opponents have hurt Michigan. Think of the times you have read about the deep out even before the games.

6) A 4-4 with two outside linebackers will give Michigan a second flat player to help against Wisconsin's screen game. This is defensive balance, assuming the outside linebackers can do the job (the scheme is fine).

7) Two outside linebackers gives Michigan another underneath player to help reroute and get under some of the short outs and such. This assumes the linebackers do something to reroute the receivers.

8) Playing B. Smith at the line of scrimmage makes sense with Wisconsin playing as much two tight end looks as they; this allows Michigan to cover both tight ends with outside linebacker type athletes.

To every position there is juxtaposition, and so on we go.


1) Playing a different/new scheme is always risky. But what does Michigan have to lose at this time? This might be a good thing and hopefully it will not be like Purdue last year when we tried something new as an experiment that was a dismal failure that led to ugly repercussions..

2) Playing with three defensive backs makes adjusting to four wide receivers sets difficult. Confusion of assignments can result in monster big plays. Without a good pass rush, receivers can run long posts and crossings, get lost or sit in a soft or vacated spot.

3) Playing with one player between the hashes makes the area up the seam a bit vulnerable. A very fast reacting and smart safety is the last hope. This helps with the deep outs, but in every zone there are triangles between linebackers and deep coverage. This provides two such soft spots behind the linebackers and between the hashes. If the center fielder goes off somewhere else this is a 20-yard plus play.

Note: Something to watch for (along the lines above), if Michigan does go to a 4-4 with B. Smith, does Troy Woolfolk move to free safety with JT. Floyd playing cornerback? Troy Woolfolk is athletic enough to cover the space between the hashes.

Coach Webb comments: We actually play quite a bit of 4-4 defense. It is a great run support defense. I do think Michigan has already shown this look this year. The biggest weakness in pass coverage is the two seams running down the hashes.

If you are an outside linebacker you better get a piece of those slots so they do not run free. We would never play man against a trips look; we would bounce a linebacker out. I also think a 4-4 is the easiest (at least for us) to make defensive adjustments. A 4-4 can mean that you are in a three deep with inside help from the outside linebacker, but it also means you have no help over the top.

CoachBt comments: Few years ago we went to "The Mega Clinic/Geiser's" where the Virginia Tech staff talked about playing a 4-4 as base and discussed how to adjust to different offenses and packages, etc.

One of the things they (VT) do against trips is similar to what Coach Webb talked about. They called it cover 6, it is basically moving an outside linebacker outside to cover #2/wide slot/flanker and play 1/4, 1/4, 1/2 in the secondary. The free safety cover #3 at about seven yards and cornerback cover #1/split end. Other thing they did was bump the backside outside linebacker; they called the whip, into a safety like position and play 4-3 in box.

Doc4blu comments: I coached defensive backs long before cover 2 and I have always liked to work with a 4-4 scheme out of a cover 3. Coach Webb is right about UM likely has played a 4-4. It is really tough to place a number/scheme on where the UM defense lines up. But Coach Bt scores some big points in the logic of trying something like this against Wisconsin. A 4-4 helps against the bullyboy offense. A 4-4 provides help against the screen. If the linebacker can jam up the tight end then that part of Wisconsin’s offense can become a little less threatening. And the distance is shorter for the d-backs to get to the deep out. Sounds good on paper. I think using this at judicial times is a good idea for Wisconsin. The possible confusion could be costly and none of this discussion will matter if Wisconsin gets 5 and 6 yards against an 8 man front. There is zero excuse to chase all over the field out of position in a 4-4. It is a just take care of your area type of defense.

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Written by GBMW -- CoachBt, Coach Webb, Doc4blu, and ErocWolverine


adam said...

I think it's unfortunate that us playing a 4-4 has gotten out. It seems like it would be much better for Wisconsin to be surprised by this. That way, they would have to wait until halftime to make adjustments. But now, they can practice adjustments in these few days and be ready.

ErocWolverine said...


First off the game is tomorrow at noon ... also it isn't that big of a difference than what Michigan is running now -- just personnel more than anything.

Also do you really think that Wisconsin will not be prepared for about anything from a team that is desperate to get into a bowl game?

This got out this morning and also we did not say it was going to happen, but it is possible.

This isn't like some trade secrets here.

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