Sunday - September 06, 2009
I Am Not Blogging
This is a one-off. I am not blogging. Please do not expect regular bloggingl; you will just be disappointed.
And one other disclaimer: this is not a highlight reel. This is not a collection of the best or most interesting plays from from Saturday's game, rather a collection of plays that which serve as examples of something I saw, thought I saw or need an explanation for. You aren't going to see Hemingway on a fly pattern beating a DB because I think we all pretty much know what happened there; Hemingway is fast and Forcier throws an accurate deep ball. No story.
QuarterbacksLots of good things evident, like this: Tate Forcier to J.R. Hemingway for the TD. It looks really simple ... the CB comes up when he sees Forcier scrambling and Hemingway beats him over the top. But what is really encouraging about this is that Hemingway breaks long because Tate Forcier tells him to. The true freshman in his very first drive as a college QB is directing traffic and generating big plays. Just one example of the fact that he sees the field better than you would expect a true freshman to.
Speaking of which, here's a play I could use some insight on. A nice run on the read option. Forcier appears to make the right read when the DE crashes (the DEs for WMU seemed to crash inside a lot, which is probably why Forcier kept the ball so often). Forcier makes a nice move on the DB and picks up good yardage. The question, I guess, is why was this so much work? Forcier made the right read and yet we were outnumbered. Did Webb make the wrong call by going downfield instead of blocking the DB (#28)? Was it just a really good read by 28? Or was WMU coming with a DB run blitz of sort?
Obviously, the other big positive from the QB play was Denard Robinson's big play ability. Yes, there are a lot of nice moves there and some flat out speed, but what I'd really like to draw attention to is Martavius Odoms. Presumably, he was the intended ball carrier here, on the end around. Or at least he was an option. But when Robinson dropped the ball, Odoms didn't miss a beat and took off like a missile to block the outside DB who could have stopped this play for a relatively short gain. Nice play by Odoms.
For the one bad note: this is going to happen, but Forcier did have a moment or two where he looked like a freshman. On one play early in the game, He missed a sure touchdown. If he throws this to the outside, to Daryl Stonum, there isn't a Bronco within 2 miles. Trust me on this, that is not a case of a DB breaking off coverage because the ball was thrown elsewhere; there was no DB with a play on Stonum. Forcier just didn't see it.
Speaking of WRsWe saw two good things out of the WRs that we did not see last year. (1) They did not drop passes. That was epidemic last year. Instead, we saw 0 drops and a couple of great grabs (Kelvin Grady early, and Koger's one hander late). (2) The blocking on the perimeter and downfield by WRs was vastly improved. There was mention of Odoms above, but another great example was Daryl Stonum, on Kelvin Grady's end around. He knocks one guy off balance, then turns and takes another guy out of bounds, allowing Grady to pick up a 1st down despite Western having numbers in the open field.
Defensive LineBrandon Graham had a great game, getting after the QB repeatedly and making Western's line (and RT in particular) look very much like a MAC line. But that was expected. What was nice to see is that the true freshman Craig Roh joined him in the backfield on numerous occasions. Here, he blows up a draw play by taking an inside move on the RT. Here, he gets a sack just going through the RT. The nice thing about that ... true freshman, and he's getting it done multiple ways. He's not just going around the corner and trying to use his speed to beat the RT every time. And while it's tempting to say maybe the Western RT is just not very good, While Brandon Graham blows up the RT, here's Roh using a 3rd method of getting into the backfield, a spin move this time. Focus on the DL this time. That's nice versatility from a freshman DE. And that versatilty is a key part of the spinner position, because he'll be called on to do things like this. Dropping into coverage from an LB spot, and getting good depth (and width, I guess) on his drop. While Graham blows up the RT again.
Defensive BackfieldProbably the single most exciting thing to come out of the defensive performance yesterday was the tackling and hitting, particularly by the secondary. Very few missed tackles, and some solid hits. It's hard to give examples of things that don't happen, but some gratuitous "nice hit" video never hurt. Donovan Warren (though he didn't really jar that ball loose - reverse angle shows the guy dropped it even before Warren hit him). Boubacar Cissoko.
Read Options?I don't think we've seen the whole playbook yet. There's a lot going on that maybe the freshman QBs aren't ready to use yet, but is there because it will pay dividends down the line. Two examples:
We seem to have a simple "QB keeper / quick flare" option, where the QB takes few steps on a sweep before deciding whether to run or throw to the WR. We saw it a couple times, mostly in the form of a pass play. I don't know if it was a real option, as we ran it (or whether the QBs were instructed to throw), but it will certainly be an option down the road.
Far more intriguing, I think, is the triple option that we showed but didn't use. Watch how wide open Kelvin Grady gets at the top of your screen. This is setting up. The QB reads the DE and if the DE crashes (pursuing the RB handoff) the QB keeps. And as he starts to run, if he sees the CB peeling off his outside coverage to shut down the run, he pulls up and throws to the now abandoned slot receiver. It's not the easiest read, to pull up from a run and throw the ball as the traffic is headed your way. A late read makes it a dangerous throw, so it's not surprising that Forcier never attempted the pass, but at some point this season Forcier will feel comfortable enough to make a corner pay for coming up to take away the run.