Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Counter draw play action

Denard had three unfortunate interceptions against Northwestern, but his first might have been the most regrettable because it wasted one of Al Borges' meticulously setup plays. Against Minnesota, Michigan unveiled the long-awaited counter draw to resounding effect. Though much of that was probably opponent dependent, the basic principles of the play are fundamentally sound. Given Borges' predilection for creating play trees (see: two-way Hopkins, 2011 version of QB Oh Noes, etc.), the conclusion seemed obvious:
In these images, the running back gets slightly more vertical than in the counter play above, but the principles are the same. In all of these, you can see the defensive line and linebackers flowing toward the play, often with sizable holes on the backside of the play. Lewan pulling across the play on the counter is a key to the linebackers, but I would be surprised if Borges doesn't tweak the play with that wrinkle involved to further confuse the defense.
Against Northwestern, Borges did almost exactly that (the pulling lineman was Huyge, not Lewan).

It's second and eight on the team's second drive of the game. Michigan comes out in a three-wide set with Koger lined up on the right side of the line of scrimmage. Vincent smith is in the backfield beside Denard.

On the snap, you can see Huyge step away from the line of scrimmage and begin pulling toward the backside of the play. Northwestern's WLB is blitzing and will be blocked by Huyge. Denard and Smith both take a step to the strongside of the field.

A moment later, Smith has planted his foot and begins running toward the weakside of the field like he would on the counter draw. Huyge is about to block the blitzing WLB.

After the play action, Denard now has a solid pocket with plenty of time to throw. Hemingway was lined up in the slot and will run a seam route. You can see him below running down the middle of the field. Northwestern is playing cover-3, so there's a deep safety that will be covering Hemingway.

This is where the trouble really starts. If you compare the previous and following screenshots, you can see that Denard, rather than setting his feet in the pocket and preparing to throw, is continuing to drift back and to the right. Molk is starting to lose his block, and as Denard drifts outside of the tackle box, the defensive tackle Molk was blocking will have a clear lane to Denard.

Denard continues to drift to his right. The NW defensive tackle has shed Molk and is heading directly for Denard.

While waiting for Hemingway to get deep, Denard has drifted about 10 feet to his right. As the defensive tackle rushes Denard, he's forced to fling the ball off of his back foot. He'll overthrow Hemingway by five yards, right into the hands of NW's deep safety.

Though the throw is Denard's fault, that he has a man in his face is also partially due to Molk not holding up his block. Denard had ample time to throw the ball but held onto it too long. In addition, he broke the pocket, which often causes offensive linemen to lose their blocks. Denard either has to throw this sooner or actually stay in the pocket. Doing both is preferable.

To compound matters, Michigan has now shown both the counter draw as well as the play action off of it. There's no doubt that this play will show up again, but using this play to surprise another team (and more importantly, successfully complete the play) could have meant an easy touchdown when Michigan might need it. If nothing else, this is further proof that Al Borges is better than you.


Andy said...

Do you think part of the reason Denard slides to the right is because he's behind the wall of Lewan, Schofield, and Omameh? Height may be a limiting factor for him here.

Chris Gaerig said...

That's possible but I don't think it's the case here. Denard is a few yards behind the O line and chucking the ball downfield. I don't think they obstructed his view at all. More likely, this is just one of those fundamental footwork issues you hear the coaches talking about.

Christian A. Robinson said...

yeah, i have to agree with Chris, I'm less inclined to think height is as big of an issue, but i wouldn't be surprised if its done to either cover up a different deficiency or purely just to provide a variety of looks

Dave55 said...

"Surprise" is overrated. We all saw the bubble screens coming and they still went for 7-8 yds a pop despite us knowing it was there.

Better to be able to run these plays in game action than pull it out of you back pocket in a big game (ala MSU). Yea they will prepare for the counter draw now, but they still have to stop it too.

Post a Comment