Film Room: Irish Defensive Line Mauls Michigan

It’s been a while since I’ve stepped into the 18 Stripes film room. I apologize for my absence over the last year; I’ve been sequestered in a top secret facility, deep in the Canadian backcountry, training grizzly and black bears to be defensive linemen. Although, I’m not at liberty to share much in the way of details, I can tell you our work is going well. The foraging and mauling levels have been exceptionally high. If we can just get one of these bears into school, I think we’ll turn the college football world upside down.

This past Saturday the Notre Dame defensive line decided to forgo foraging and instead focused on mauling the Wolverine offense. The end result was a dominating performance that led the Fighting Irish to their first victory of the 2018 football season. In particular, the Irish used a variety of pre-snap looks and stunts to confuse the Michigan offensive line. Let’s take a look at the film and I’ll show you what I mean.

1st and 10 late in the 4th quarter. Defensive coordinator Clark Lea comes out with a pre-snap look designed to confuse the Michigan offensive line. They show a traditional 4-man front but add linebackers close to the line of scrimmage (yellow arrows). At this point, it’s hard for the Michigan offensive line to know if the linebackers will rush or drop.

The linebackers drop into coverage and Notre Dame uses a pretty standard 4-man rush (red arrows) with Daelin Hayes (# 9) and Julian Okwara (# 42) at defensive end and Khalid Kareem (# 53) and Jerry Tillery (#99) at defensive tackle. What’s interesting here is Kareem lining up in the interior, it almost seems like Notre Dame is setting something up.

It’s 2nd down after an incomplete pass by Michigan on the previous play. Look at the pre-snap alignment here. At first glance, it looks similar to the preceding screen shot in that there is a combination of down linemen and players standing up in a two-point stance close to the line of scrimmage.

However if you look a little more closely, this pre-snap alignment is actually quite a bit different from the pervious play. Okwara is now at the top of the screen (white arrow), Kareem remains lined up in the interior (green arrow), Hayes is lined up in the interior, in a two point stance (yellow arrow), while Jerry Tillery is lined up like a defensive end to the outside (red arrow). I sense Clark Lea is going to dial up some defensive line tomfoolery with a pre-snap alignment like this.

When the ball is snapped, Okwara is going to take a traditional outside pass rush (white arrow). Kareem is going to get crazy and loop all the way around to the outside (green arrow). Daelin Hayes is going to engage the guard and rush inside (yellow arrow) and Tillery will rush hard up field, engage the offensive tackle and then work to the inside (red arrow).

A fraction of a second after the snap. The non-traditional pass rush scheme the Irish employed has already created confusion on the Michigan offensive line. One of the guards (blue circle) is in no man’s land, lonely, hoping a defender will show up so he can make a block.

The confusion has spread. Our lonely guard remains lost (blue circle), still looking for someone to block. The funny thing is, before this screen shot he actually started to help block Okwara, however he quickly abandoned that strategy so he could return to covering an empty part of the field. The offensive tackle (blue arrow) lets Tillery go so he can focus on Kareem on the outside. Oddly enough, the center (purple arrow) completely ignores Tillery (red arrow) and for some bizarre reason chases Kareem on the perimeter. This reminds me of that scene from the movie the Other Guys where Will Ferrell’s ex-girlfriend chases him across the city. This odd decision leaves Jerry Tillery (red arrow) unblocked.  That seems like a bad idea.

Yup, that was a mistake. That’s Jerry Tillery (red arrow) knocking the ball (yellow circle) out of the quarterback’s hand as the rest of the defensive line closes in like hungry bears on a bloated moose carcass. Game over, the Irish win.

Final Thoughts

Talent and scheme are a deadly combination. There is little question that the Irish have talent on the defensive line. Based on early observations, it looks like Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea has developed a scheme that will compliment that talent. In back to back plays, the Irish provided a confusing pre-snap look. In one instance they came with a traditional 4-man rush, in the other they used a non-traditional pass rush that included a defensive line stunt. I think it might be a lot of fun watching the Notre Dame defensive line torture opposing offensive lines this year.

By |2018-09-03T21:54:48+00:00September 4th, 2018|18S Reads|29 Comments

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idocd
idocd

Welcome back! Thanks for this…great stuff.

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

Thanks for the breakdown. I had noticed Kareem in the middle sometimes and thought it a little odd. As stunts go that seems to be a pretty large one too.

IllinIrish20
IllinIrish20

Awesome work. I noticed some of the odd (long) stunts in this game and was a bit worried about their use. Obviously, it worked against a bad and inexperience offensive line. How effective are these weird pre-snap looks against better O-Lines? Does it mainly just make the DL take longer to get to the QB?

On another note – anyone notice a DE drop into coverage and come away with an interception?

KG
KG

“If we can just get one of these bears into school, I think we’ll turn the college football world upside down.”

/bear decides it wants to make the most of college life, spends fall break in Britain, goes to South Africa in the summer, takes acting classes; ND fans and broadcasters question its commitment to football, but are happy when it returns for its senior year and mauls and forages with a game winning strip-sack in the first week.

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

From PFF:

Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
Week 1 grade: 92.2

Tillery might have been the best player on the field against Michigan. Moving all across the line, he beat nearly every Wolverine offensive lineman at least once. He was very good in run defense, but it was his sack and two other hurries from an interior position that was particularly telling.
https://www.profootballfocus.com/news/college-pff-ncaa-week-1-team-of-the-week

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

Coney made the PFF list too.

KG
KG

Embarrassing confessions: I kinda dig the white shoes.

Nice breakdown, Larz. Clearly the UM line was dazed and confused, but it’s nice to see that our coaching staff helped pile on that–and it led to the game saving turnover. I have a good feeling about Lea.

goldendomer0209
goldendomer0209

Thanks for the film room post! Love these so much. Wondering if anyone has a participation chart of who played against Michigan. Just curious which freshman played, how many snaps did backups get, etc.

If anyone knows where to find this please let me know. I’ve used the Google quite a bit trying to find something but to no avail.

Hitman
Hitman

Welcome back Larz, great analysis.

My only fear is that the bears may go into hibernation when it gets cold, but that may help explain our less than strong finishes over the past few years.

juicebox
juicebox

2 years ago they started hibernating in August

mihalko35
mihalko35

No need to worry about that. Our D linemen are grizzled veterans

Notre_Dame_Joe
Notre_Dame_Joe

Wait, is this real life??? I’ve bee languishing at the old site for the last 2 years. Once you cool kids packed up and left, they kinda fell apart…and I basically wasted the 2017 season without a great blog to enjoy. Hat tip to Bleacherreport for linking this article, or else I’d still be stuck in the desert. Had no idea 18S existed, so I started reading the review with low expectations.

The headline should have given it away, but I thought to myself, “Maul” is a common enough word for great D-line play. The next thing I knew, I was reading words like “Canadian” and “Foraging,” and I think my heart skipped a beat. THAT’S LARZ! He’s back at it! I wondered if anyone else is around. A quick perusal of the site got me pretty pumped, and the next thing I knew, Burgs was posting his own film review!

I can’t say how excited I am to s̶t̶a̶l̶k̶ thoroughly read and comment on the new site! Birth of my kids, marriage to my wife, and all that other crap aside, this is the best day ever.

KG
KG

Dang! He found us!