Inside the Playbook: More depth into Don Brown's Defense

Going a bit more in depth with Don Brown's scheme

Yesterday, Brian (mgoblog) discussed some Spring practice bits, within that, he talked about an assumption that Michigan was going to more of a quarters coverage, similar to OSU and MSU.
I pretty adamantly denied that claim.
Brown has been a single-high base coverage throughout his career. A hybrid-SAM player has no relation to an Over front or a quarters coverage other than some teams use them in that way, just like Under teams and some 3-4 (3-3-5) teams do.
Brown has always been a 4-3 Under/One-gap 3-4 guy. It appears he's running something closer to an Under because of the personnel he has, but even then, I wouldn't be surprised to see Taco in a 2-point stance (though he'll nominally rush the passer 95% of the time). That's Brown's deal.
Peppers will play some SAM. He'll cover some TEs and the safety over the top of him will rotate to deep center field (the far safety will have SKY support in Cover 3 and will have man coverage in Cover 1 over the slot or on a back, and may help check a TE crossing the formation). I would be flat out shocked if Michigan came out running a 4-3 over quarters base, as what I described has been Brown's recent MO and the quarters thing has never been.

However, while I still stand by that being Michigan's base coverage, I wanted to clear up a few things.

Don Brown does have match-up concents within his defense, in particular, two-high safety match-up concepts. He also have Cover 2 concepts in his defense. Brown will play two-high safeties in certain situations. It likely won't be the base, and it won't be the standard coverage throughout games more often than not.

As far as his formations of choice, I did mispeak there in a way. His standard, from what I've seen, is a one-gap 3-4 or 4-3 under principles, but he has often run an over front with what I've called a "Jam" adjustment (it's MSU terminology), but he uses what he calls an anchor. I've also used the term "anchor" in the past as a technique, that technique essentially being that you "anchor a gap". I've used it in terms of anchoring the outside gap or anchoring against zone blocking schemes, Brown uses "Anchor" for the SDE that is needed to anchor a gap in his defense. You'll also notice that the WDE is often in a two point stance.

Here's where Brown uses a different tactic than most.

Here's standard over and under formations from my preview of Brown
Here's how Brown typically runs an Over front, from James Light's blog (which has been linked on the front page several times). This is what Brown calls a "72" formation

This is Brown's "Eagle" coverage, which is essentially a Cover 2 Trap. The CB has no responsibility for the #1 WR, his eyes are in the backfield looking for someone to run a route to the flat. He'll sink to a deep quarter if no one threatens the flat, and he'll essentially bait a throw to the flat by being a bit more flat footed in his technique and breaking down hard on any throw there.

But also notice the "Over" front with the anchor position. The SDE lines up in a 6i technique, or inside the TE. This provides more cover to the SAM, such that blockers cannot get out to him. The SAM is aligned on the inside hip of the SDE. Just as often, the SAM will line up on the outside shoulder of the TE or even wider, in a 5x5 to 3x3 technique. But it is an Over front, because of the shades of the DTs.

This is the formation handling a detached WR, with the SAM playing in an apex position

Note that this coverage is Cover 6. One side is playing "Cloud" leverage ("Side" above) in which he stays in the flat no matter what. The other side is playing the "sight" technique (trap technique in most terminology I've come across) which results in a Cover 2 or a 1/4-1/4-1/2 Cover 6.
This is a formation for handling a knob, in which the SAM plays a "tilt" position (essentially a Under front SAM technique)

And in almost all these instances, unless the Anchor is slanting outside, the SAM has responsibility for that outside gap. The point being, that Peppers, from the SAM position, would not nominally be a box defender (as in, inside the tackle box). He's playing outside the TE as much as anywhere.
As I said, Brown does have two-high safety coverages. He essentially winnows it down to a single coverage, but there are various techniques he runs (from MEG and MOD Cover 4, to trap and 1/4-1/4-1/2). He also has Cover 3 and Cover 1 coverages, which tend to be his base. And he'll have some combo coverages. Why does he prefer single-high looks? Because it's easier to bring multiple pressure looks with a single high safety. The run fits are easier (you rely less on DBs, who are typically limited in their run fits), you can bring pressure from more places, etc. It allows them to stay in their base coverage while doing something different with the front. And much of these pressure games come from his Under front or 3-4 front.

But at the end of the day, he is a "multiple" coach, which Michigan has almost always been dating back a long time. This, in and of itself, makes it very different than what MSU and OSU are doing. Those teams have vastly simplified their coverage (essentially, Cover 4 base, and then Cover 0 or 2-low, 3-high (MSU) or 3-low, 3-high (OSU)). Michigan won't be that. They'll mix and match and adjust the coverage to the opponent.

But, I will also add, Brian isn't wrong here. Michigan will play some Cover 4. They will run what is an Over front. But it won't be base quarters. The "4-high" looks will be a part of the plan (again, Cover 2 Trap, Cover 4 MEG, Cover 4 MOD, Cover 6), it will likely be base single-high, but it will be multiple.

James Light has put together some nice resources lately of Brown.


Vs Empty

Fresno Blitz Package


2014 Don Brown BC Install