ED - Sorry this is late this week. Had some trouble actually getting around to the game.
Michigan's defense, for the second straight game, struggled to apply pressure on the QB. Seth over at MGoBlog took a look briefly at the front four, so I won't discuss that much here, but there are other reasons that the defensive line failed to generate many statistics. As I've stated several times now, the defense needs to work as a unit in order to be successful. Every person must succeed at their assignment, and if they don't then there will be breakdowns. Then the pressure from the DL won't get home before the QB can get the pass off. The back seven in pass coverage is just as responsible for generating pressure as the front four. In this piece, we are going to look at how Michigan struggled in the secondary against Akron, and what must be done to fix it.
Here, Michigan is in a Tampa 2 defense, where the MIKE will drop into the bubble between the two deep safeties, preferably to take away post and digs across the middle. This is one way to prevent those timing passes that ND gashed Michigan with.
The problem here isn't the initial drop - which gains Bolden good depth - it's his eyes. Typically in zone coverage, you want to be looking through the receiver in your zone to the QB. Obviously, for Bolden, that's not possible. But he still needs to cover his receiver. He instead peaks in the backfield, breaks his route off flat, and the ball goes over the top of him. His drop itself isn't bad; he gets in the position he needs to be. But he fails to find the receiver in his zone to realize he's running a post rather than a dig, and it results in an easy deep completion.
First, watch the bottom of the screen. This is Countess playing hang coverage in a basic cover 2. Notice how he puts himself in a position to see the receiver and the QB. When the receiver breaks, Countess immediately steps inside and sticks on the receiver's upfield shoulder.
Now look at Taylor on the top of the screen. It's difficult to see with the camera angle, but what you see initially is he is in press coverage. First, he allows an inside release too easily and the WR gets off clean, so he's already in trouble. If the WR is adement about releasing inside, he should be running nearly parallel to the LOS by the time he gets off.
However, he lost, so let's move on. Once Taylor gets beat inside, he should just adjust and play it as if he's playing a trail technique, as he has help over the top from the safety and he won't be able to get back on top of the receiver. This means he needs to come underneath to the receiver's inside hip and press him. As soon as the receiver breaks inside, he can then fight across his body and break up the pass. But instead, he gets beat inside, then opens his hips and tries to chase downfield, and when the receiver breaks Taylor's momentum is taking him further downfield rather than chucking the receiver off his route. This is way too easy for the receiver to get open.
Akron motioned into a bunch formation. If there is motion at the snap heading from the inside to outside on a bunch, you need an in/out call or check, otherwise Taylor is completely walled off inside by Akron's other bunch receivers and Michigan's defenders. Taylor should have stuck on the hitch man - the inside releasing receiver - and Lewis jumped outside as he should. The defender over top of the on-line receiver is pressing his man. He does this to throw off the timing of the other receivers coming off the bunch so that they can't run rub routes as effectively.
This is a common check in goal line and "in short" situations, where a short completion results in a very negative situation for the defense. If they don't have this check, Taylor is no where even close to the receiver and it's an easy completion to either the outside or hitch receiver. This man adjustment is something they need to have a better feel for to the point it's automatic, because there wasn't time to communicate it with the motion.
There are more techniques that are being done incorrectly, but the three things above give a basic premise of what is happening. It's poor technique, from hands, to footwork, to where to put your eyes. And it's happening at all positions. These aren't things that can't be cleaned up, but they are also things that aren't just happening against Akron. There are lots of complexities when it comes to pass defense, but the fundamentals need to be sound no matter what or you will not be successful in coverage. Michigan must improve this area of their defense going forward.