I don't have the time to hammer out a full length of analysis of what MSU is going to do. So I would suggest doing is take a look at what I wrote last year, which aside from a few things is sort of the same idea as to what they do this year.
http://monidasports.blogspot.com/2011/1 ... art-i.html
http://monidasports.blogspot.com/2011/1 ... rt-ii.html
I dont think things have changed much from last year. These above stats are somewhat the same this year. My stats file wouldn't load, but here is the truth. The Cats have thrown the ball about 60 times more, and run the ball about ten times more this year. Their offense is as potent, as efficient as last year.
The nuts and bolts of how they do what they do hasn't changed a whole lot. Kirk is a beast in the backfield. He isn't going to blow people away with cat like agility (pun intended), but he is a strong to the hole and is difficult to bring down with the first contact. Davis is a pinball machine. He manages to avoid direct contact and most importantly is difficult to center up. Davis is a far better zone runner whereas Kirk is still to this point a great iso-trap runner.
Teams have struggled this year to center up the MSU run attack. They are much more varied in their usage of McGhee as a threat to run. Last year in certain games it seemed as if McGhee was just a hand off machine. They use more zone read. Bobcats last year were a victim of their ability to impose their will by running down hill between the tackles football. In the Cat-Griz game last year, the UofM eliminated any chance MSU could use their running game to shorten the clock.
This year, the Cats running game is less down hill and a mix of several philosophies much like the Grizzlies actually. I wondered a bit last year why they wanted to have McGhee become stationary in the pocket, and become one dimensional as a quarterback. This year, there have been more cases of MSU using him in roll out situations, to get him out of the pocket.
For the Griz developed a methodology of defeating the Cats last year. Take away between the tackles and keep McGhee in the pocket. The ends played 9 technique for most of the game, and took deep back foot angles to McGhee. The reason was that a year ago McGhee was and is a pocket passer. Seemed to be a curious choice last year.
Either by design or McGhee's development as an all around quarterback, he seems to make some really good choices to keep the football. He isn't like most quarterbacks, he plays a bit like a full back with the ball in his hands.
MSU got caught last year in trying to take too much of one thing, Kirk carrying the football, and making it their focus. What happened to MSU in the Griz game and then later on in the Sam Houston game was that both teams were successful in taking away Kirk. I felt a year ago, the cats even with Akpla at receiver could be limited because so much of what they did on first down related to what they were going to try to do on second and third down. So of mathematic to me. MSU became very predictable, as are most teams, when certain conditions were met.
The brilliance of the game plan for the Griz a year ago, is they led those conditions do MSU in. That is why I love being a defensive coordinator. Sometimes you can happen on a tendency or a philosophy that a team employs and use it to do or undermine what they want to do. The Griz deployed linebackers on the edge to limit the use of the Cats quick screen game and their desire to deploy backs on the edge of the field in the passing game. FOr the same reason, MSU formationed themselves into allowing Trumaine and Houston Roots blitzing from the dead tight end side all game.
This year is less the case and I believe that is by design. However, what I would point out is that MSU still wants to do what they do well. Unleash Davis and Kirk on the defense and make them line up to beat it. Last year, the UofM was up to that task with their front seven. I do believe what was true a year to ago in regards to how MSU deploys their skill plays will make it a bit more difficult in that regard.
What I do know, is the UofM front seven is the most athletic bunch of box players that we have had in many moons. Tripp, JP, Wagennman, Holmes, Kidder and the rest aren't your fathers 4-3 defensive box players. They can move all over the field. This team at least in the front seven is ideally suited to stop most spread offenses.
Which is why Kirk scares me more this year than last year. He is a bruiser. Davis can power through guys. If there has been one achilles heel of the front seven is they can get beat up in the power run game.
What I think will happen is two fold:
1. Make the Cats receivers beat the Griz. While McGhee distributes the ball a bit more this year, Bleskin from his receiver position is a real threat. Montana's pass defense has improved with its ability to deploy its secondary pieces that are less predictable. Yet, as a Defensive Coordinator probably the wisest choice is to make the Cat receivers win the game for them. The Griz have a distinct advantage with the front seven as they had last year: they can trot out so many guys and not feel much of a drop.
2. Pressure McGhee. The Cats have given up a few sacks this year. Their offensive line while solid, isn't as dominant as it was a year ago. They have given up a little more than two sacks a game. The Griz have quickness with their backers and lineman that can create fits for most teams. They can't get as creative as they were last year, because of less talent on the edge, but continue to see Tripp deployed as a DE, MLB and OLB and even as a safety in certain situations.
I think finally, we will as fans see a similar deployment of defensive lineman as last year. Again this is a strength versus strength matchup. The Cats are a year wiser and better, and probably have some small advantage over the Griz as a whole unit.
Where the Cats are successful is they put teams in position to become predictable. In one way, the defense the Grizzlies have can throw a wrench in that plan. Most would assume the Cat offense holds a huge advantage as a unit in terms of experience and talent. That would be correct.
IF the Griz are going to win this game, it will be because the Cats will approach 40 pass attempts and less than 30 run attempts. I think unlike last year, the Griz are less capable at making the Cats one dimensional. Gregorak has been much more flexible with his deployment of assets the last few weeks and I wouldn't be surprised that he wouldn't unleash some front seven stuff the Cats haven't seen all year. As much as Gregorak wants to keep the defense in a base 4-3, I just don't think from a personnel postion that would equal a win for the defense.
The Cats have a clear advantage. But as a gut instinct I think Gregorak has some cards to play in terms of who he uses up front as well as changing what McGhee is looking at. Hermanson and Tully aren't ground chuck at safety, but they have been exposed. Expect to see them in different alignments this week, maybe even some 1 high stuff. They played well against WSU, and I would think Gregorak might try to parlay that with the extra week into some more varied looks.
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