Week 4 Film Study – Defense

Courtesy heraldtimesonline.com

Courtesy heraldtimesonline.com

I was going to write some stuff about the defense progressing, applying pressure without blitzing . . . and then the Darius Latham news broke. Now we’ll spend our Film Study pondering how defensive coordinator Brian Knorr is going to replace the most irreplaceable player on the IU defense.

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A few words on the substitution patterns against Wake:

  • In general, I’m seeing somewhat less rotation than last year. For most of 2014, almost every position saw 50/50 splits, or maybe 60/40, between the 1st and 2nd teams. Since IU has been at full strength in 2015 (so the last two games), IU’s top DE (Nick Mangieri), DT (Darius Latham), Bandit (Zack Shaw), field corner (Rashard Fant) and field safety (Jonathan Crawford) are all playing at least two series for every one played by a 2nd teamer.
  • Still no Kiante Walton at boundary safety. No word on a potential injury, but even if he is injured, he wouldn’t start over a healthy Chase Dutra. Dutra played roughly two-thirds of the snaps there[ref] Far more than in his 2015 debut last week.[/ref], with Jameel Cook Jr. covering the rest. At field safety, Jonathan Crawford continued to get most of the reps, with Tony Fields filling in for about a series per half.
  • After unexplained absences in the 2nd half vs. WKU, Nate Hoff and Shawn Heffern were back in the DL rotation. Heffern replaced Patrick Dougherty as the primary, and somewhat infrequent, sub for Darius Latham as DT. Hoff and Adarius Rayner spelled Ralph Green at nose tackle.
  • Elsewhere on the DL, sophomore Robert McCray saw the most action of his career in this one, after making his 2015 debut against WKU. He spelled Mangieri at DE and regularly played DE opposite Mangieri on passing downs.
  • At SLB, similar to last week, Clyde Newton started, but the playing time was split fairly evenly into thirds among Newton, Dawson Fletcher and Zeke Walker.
  • Dameon Willis, Jr. returned to the MLB rotation, albeit only for a single series in the 2nd half. The three-man rotation of Simmons, Oliver and Scales still dominated the non-passing down playing time.
  • Rashard Fant played most of the game at the field corner.[ref] And to those of you following closely, yes, I’ve finally settled on the conclusion that IU is using a field/boundary split at corner.[/ref] Andre Brown played roughly half of the snaps at boundary corner, with Ben Bach and Noel Padmore splitting the other half. Devonte Williams, who had seen significant action at corner the last few weeks, did not see the field on defense. Andre Brown moved over to field corner when Fant was out.

On passing downs, IU returned to what we saw in the FIU game – Cook at nickel back, Scales and Zeke Walker (instead of Clyde Newton) at ILB, Latham at NT, with McCray and Mangieri at DE, and Shaw at Bandit.

Say It Ain’t So, Big Business[ref] Latham’s Twitter handle is @BigBusiness_25.[/ref]

Urban Meyer caused a minor stir among #IUFB Twitter on Monday when he said that IU started out in the 3-4 against SIU, but has showed 4-3 over the past three games. I can’t get inside Coach Meyer’s head[ref] If I could, I’d figure out why he really left Florida.[/ref], but I suspect what he is talking about is a change to the alignment of IU’s defensive line.

When Darius Latham and Ralph Green returned from suspension in Week 2 against FIU, the Hoosier D-line utilized an alignment that looks a little more like a traditional 4-3: Green aligned in a “1 technique,” in the gap between the center and field-side guard.  Latham lined up head-up on the boundary-side guard – a 2-technique.  Nick Mangieri, at defensive end, usually lined up just outside the field-side tackle, a 5-technique, or occasionally head-on on the tackle, a 4-technique. The bandit, Zach Shaw, lined up head on the tight end to the boundary-side, or outside the tackle. To compare, against SIU and almost all of last year (except for passing downs), IU used a true nose tackle over the center and defensive ends that both lined up as 3-techniques between the guard and the tackle – a traditional one-gap 3-4 alignment.

Well, things have changed. Namely, Darius Latham has been suspended indefinitely. Can’t sugarcoat it, this one stings.  6’5, 300-lb dudes that can stuff the run and rush the passer – both of which Latham demonstrated last Saturday against Wake – are extremely difficult to find, especially for programs like Indiana. We’ll see if he returns to the team this season, but I’m not holding my breath.  In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see what Brian Knorr does against Ohio State.  One option is to stick with the faux-4-3 by moving Ralph Green (or maybe Shawn Heffern) to the spot previously manned by Latham and pairing him with Nate Hoff or Adarius Rayner at the 1-technique.  You lose some pass rushing prowess there, but hopefully not too much against the run. The other option is to go back to the traditional 3-4.  As you may recall, Green occasionally lined up as a defensive end last year in that alignment, and we might see that again.

But yes, we should all anticipate that Latham’s absence will have some negative consequences against the run[ref] Remember that SIU game without Latham and Green? I suspect Ohio State might be a little better than the Salukis…[/ref] and the pass.  Hey, at least only one player is suspended![ref] …braces himself for the next press release from the Athletic Department…[/ref]

Still Some Secondary Issues, But Tony Fields Made a Play

Against Wake, the secondary benefitted from an inaccurate, young QB and a disruptive pass rush, but they also made some plays, perhaps none more surprising than the pick-six turned in by sophomore safety Tony Fields. We’ll get to that. First, the bad.  With a 14-point lead and less than three minutes to play, IU rushed only three on a 3rd and 8 from the IU 29.  It looks like IU was in a 3-deep, 5-under, “Cover 3” zone, with field safety Jonathan Crawford taking the defensive-left deep third, and boundary safety Chase Dutra taking the middle third.  Here’s what happened:

Based on a replay shown on the broadcast, it didn’t look like Dutra was threatened to his right so he probably should have moved a little quicker to pick up the receiver that ultimately caught the TD, who came from the right slot. Likewise, Crawford may have moved a bit too quickly to the outside, where there wasn’t a direct threat. Either way, you’d expect these guys to clean these things up the more they play together.

Now, back to Tony Fields.  In 2014, while Fields saw frequent playing time as a true freshman in relief of Antonio Allen, he didn’t make what you might classify as impact plays.  In fact, he happened to be on the field for a disproportionate amount of big plays by IU’s opponents.[ref] A big run against Mizzou and a pass against Maryland spring to mind.[/ref]  With last year’s starters at safety gone, many thought Fields had a good chance to start coming into 2015.  So far, however, true freshmen Jameel Cook and Jonathan Crawford appear to have passed him by.  Then this happened:

Fields was in the right spot, and he made an aggressive play on the ball. While this one play probably won’t push Fields into a starting role, it was good to see him make a play when given the opportunity. Hopefully he’ll build on it.

And we don’t need to talk about the defensive lineman whose pressure helped make the pick possible. It’s too soon.