Monday, January 5, 2009

Scott Shafer... Who is someone who has never been in my kitchen?

No that isnt the answer we are looking for. We were looking for... Who is SUs new DC?

Scott Shafer comes to SU after 1 year as DC at Michigan, preceded by 1 year as DC at Stanford, preceded by 2 years as DC at Western Michigan, preceded by 4 years as DC at Northern Illinois. Or for short a DC for 8 years. So how did he do? Well lets take a look, even though as Shafer puts it "stats are for losers":

Ranks____2008____2007 (year before)
PYPG_____87th____ 8th
TOs______77th____ 20th
Sacks_____33rd____ 33rd
3rd Down__60th_____33rd

Happy Thoughts:

They did do slightly better in rush D. That is a bit surprising for 2 reasons. First the B11 traditionally is a rushing conf. Second Michigan went 3-9 this year. When teams are winning they tend to run the ball to kill the clock. So logic says Mich shoulda been worse on run D. They also stayed the same in Sacks.

Dark Thoughts:

Well it was his first year and there are questions on how well he meshed with RRod and the D Assts. Which makes it hard to evaluate his performance. Even so it is Mich so he should have done better even with RRod sticking his nose into things.

Ranks_____2007____2006 (before)____2008 (after)
3rd Down__35th_____115th___________88th

Happy Thoughts:

PPG did a hell of a lot better his year there and slightly dipped when he left. Same goes for RYPG and Sacks. TOs and 3rd Downs also took a huge leap, but more importantly took a big dip when he left.

Dark Thoughts:

PYPG took a big hit with Shafer and improved when he left. Then again he was only there 1 year and couldnt fully implement his coverages. TYPG stayed the same as before he arrived, meaning he just traded RYPG for PYPG. When he left TYPG improved.

Western Michigan
Ranks_____2006___2005___2004 (before)___2007 (after)
3rd Down__14th____97th_____NA_________64th

Happy Thoughts:

PPG took a huge leap his 2nd season and dipped when he left. RYPG again went up in year 1 and continued in year 2, followed by a dip when he left. Same with TYPG, TOs, Sacks, and 3rd Downs.

Dark Thoughts:

PYPG actually got worse his first year, but then improved greatly in year two. However when he left there was more improvement. Either way that 2006 was a hell of a year. If he can reproduce that we will be lucky.

Northern Illinois
Ranks____2003___2002___2001___2000___1999 (b4)___2004 (after)
Sacks and 3rd Down NA for those years

Happy Thoughts:

PPG gradually improved and then dipped when he left. Similar for RYPG. TOs he was good minus 1 season and the team was worse the year after he left.

Dark Thoughts:

PYPG and TYPG never really came around. A little disappointing that he never had a Top 50 Pass D after 4 years as DC that were preceded by 4 as DB coach. You would think a DB coach would be better at pass D.

So what can we take from all of this? WTF does it mean? Hard to tell. I really wish he had a 2nd year at Stanford, but then we wouldnt have him. I also wish he had a 3rd year at WMU. Having him bounce around makes it hard to evaluate as he never settled in. Or as he put it, his 3rd job in the last 12 months. So lets take a look at each category:

PPG- he was pretty mediocre at NIU. The numbers at Stanford were also mediocre but that was a good job for them and likely his best year PPG wise. His one year at Michigan and first year at WMU were awful. He had a decent result his second year at WMU, but compared to the other D numbers that year it is high. He said he doesnt care about yards but holding the other team to less points. IMO he has had mediocre results.

RYPG- again mediocre at NIU. But after that he had 4 years where he produced improvement every year, topped off with the great year at WMU. IMO he has good results stopping the run.

PYPG- he has had poor results at every stop. You would think a former DB coach would have his strength be the pass D. Also you wonder if the run D is good because he is willing to trade it off for a weaker pass D. Then again it is possible that he hasnt been anywhere long enough, besides NIU, to fully implement his coverages. IMO this is a concern.

TYPG- he had one great year at WMU but seven years of poor results. The question is... Do the yards come from big plays or long drives? Long drives tire the D out, which makes stops even harder in the 4th Q. It also keeps the O off the field. While big plays you can live with if you are also creating TOs.

TOs- he has done a great job causing TOs, save his last season at Michigan. Having a pressure D in the Loud House will make things very difficult on teams.

Sacks- he has done a great job here as well. Just like TOs this will makes things difficult.

3rd Down- not much data here. I will give him a pass for the Michigan mess. The other three years he produced results. A D that gets off the field is important.

So overall I like his style a lot. I love the Sacks, TOs, and 3rd Downs. Being able to stop the run prevents long drives. However in todays College game it is important to be able to stop the pass. That worries me a little bit. What worries me more is PPG. IMO if you relying on outscoring teams every game you wont win a BE Championship.

How does his style match up with the BE?

Cincy- I think it depends on the QB. If the have a guy like Mauck, I think we get burnt. But a guy like Pike will produce a lot of INTs.

Pitt- I think their style plays right into Shafers hands. They are a conservative, running team. Shafer can stop the run but is prone to passing ayrds. I think he will shut Pitt down.

WV- without RRod the O got worse. And when White was out even more so. Now that White is gone the WV O seems mediocre. It is more of a run first system and I think Shafer will do fine.

RU- they lose Teel and Britt which will hurt them big time. But even if they both were back I like our chances of confusing Teel and getting INTs.

UConn- see Pitt

USF- I dont think there is much to their O. It is mostly Grothe. I think Shafer will be fine here.

Louisville- this is a team, with some talent, I think would give Shafer some fits. They have a balanced attack and are willing to air it out. But who replaces Cantwell? Simms?

Another point I would like to make is his Mallory connection. He started as a GA at Indiana. While there Bill Mallory was HC and Joe Novak DC. His next stop was DBs at Rhode Island under DC Mike Mallory, Bills son. Then he coached DBs under HC Novak and DC Mike Mallory at Northern Illinois. When Mike Mallory left Shafer became DC. So he took over a D in decent shape and had Novak to lean on. Since it was his first job as DC I cant knock his results for being mediocre. He then followed DC Mike Mallory at Illinois. Cant blame him for wanting some BCS experience. However he only stayed one year to go to WMU as DC, which was an interesting move. NIU DC to Illinois DB to WMU DC is a step down IMO. Anyway I see no connection to WMU and he was finally on his own. What happened? He produced his best results as DC. After only 2 years he left to be a BCS DC at Stanford, which was coached by Jim Harbaugh. Again we see a Mallory connection as Mike was Capt and Harbaugh was QB on the same Michigan squads. And I am sure these Michigan connections helped get him the DC job there, which was likely his dream job. Now he is DC of SU under Marrone, who coached with Mike Mallory on the Saints.

Bill Mallory is a respected coach. Having him in your corner is a good thing. However it worries me a little that every stop has had a Mallory connection and makes me wonder how much was merit. The thing that eases my worries is WMU. I dont see a Mallory connection there. And ironically enough he produced his best season as a DC there. But there is a lot of good from being a Mallory disciple. From Mallory he learned about character and how to win with less. Playing hard and giving a max effort. Having a passion for the game. This is what makes Shafer a solid hire IMO. We may not know what kind of results we will get on the field but at least the players are in good hands.

For those of you who may be concerned about his last stop at Michigan, I asked a knowledgable Michigan blogger (GSimmons) for his thoughts. Feel free to visit his blog. It has a lot of info on FB from a technical perspective and really isnt all that much about Michigan FB. Here are his thoughts on Shafer:

He needs time to implement his systems. He does rely on good lb's and Michigan was not good there at all. Michigan was also very bad at safety. When you are weak up the middle, you are going to give up big plays especially in 3rd down situations, and that is where Michigan suffered most. You will see in all his years, there is a huge jump from first to second year. He is a techniques coach, mutli-front. combo coverages, base out of a 2 shell. Lots of pattern read stuff.
Michigan was not patient and needed a scape goat for the season. So Shafer was it, very unfortunate.

-Why do you think he failed at Michigan? Didn’t Michigan have 7 starters back? Did he try and coach to his talent or did the talent just not fit his scheme?

If there is a fault that I agree with, its that he tried to implement TOO many things at Michigan in year 1. I think if the offense was humming along, you would have seen him stick to his 4-3 base, and his 3-4 okie. But with offensive woes, and the EXPECTATION of having a great D, Shafer felt like he needed to do more, and could do more with more upper classmen. What he found out though, was that his position coaches were not on the same page as he was (not involved in hiring any of them) and his players had not been fundamentaly coached since they had arrived at Michigan. If its not for a freak DE last year, and two great safeties, Michigan would have been terrrible on defense. This year, with a terrible lb core, and awful safeties, no defense would have worked. Despite the EXPECTATION of a great defense, the only strength on this defense was at dt. Every where else we simply were not very good. And with Michigans schedule, if you cant tackle in space, and if you dont have good safety play, you are going to be in trouble. To me Shafer's year one was one big long try out, where he saw the fundamental flaws with out players. I was looking forward to seeing those flaws fixed in the offseason. Fundamentals are not harped on during season, and Shafer is known for being a stickler for fundamentals.

-His Ds have been good at stopping the run, getting sacks, and causing TOs. However they have also given up a lot of passing yards and points. Is his system an all or none gambling type or has he just not been around any place long enough to implement passing schemes to limit yardage?

Its not a gambling defense, as much as its an exectuion defense. Every where he has gone, his defenses have made drastic improvements in his second year. It will be interesting to see how much better he could be in year 4 or 5. He does put a premium on stoping the run. It takes time to teach kids how to play the ball, but he breaks it down to very minute details, that I feel he just hasnt been able to get into the muscle memory of kids yet. If given time, I think he can be one of the very best. The defense requires people that can tackle, and Michigan was terrible at tackling in key positions this year.

-Reading about him I see the 3-4 Okie mentioned quite a bit. And at Michigan it seemed like the 4th LB was actually a S. Does he normally use a S as the 4th LB or did Michigan not have an LB that fit that role? What makes the Okie different than a normal 3-4? If he does use a S as an LB what makes the Okie different than a 3-3-5?

That was a post I did on the okie package that Shafer likes to run. The 3-4 is called okie by coaches who like to use it like the old 50' fronts. That is, they like to slant, pinch, twist, etc. stunts with the dline, and not be a 2 gap team all the time. It is very similar to the old 50 defenses that were made popular and used by people like Bo back in the day. This was one of his main packages against spread teams and in obvious passing situations. The Key is lb's safeties and the boundary corner all giving the impression that they MAY be blitzing. This may or may not be used with a base package or with a nickel package. Michigan did not have very good cover lb's. or lb's in general, so when the 3-4 was ran the best, was when they substituted one of the lb's for a nickel safety. Yet I think his best nickel package at Michigan became his 4-2 front. Especially against spread teams. I have some videos on my site, of my teams running the 3-4 okie as well. I really think alot of the questions regarding schemes can be answered by looking through the archives on my blog.

-Who runs a similar D to him? Is he an innovator? Or did he have a mentor?

If he is an inovator, its not becasue of his schemes. F State, and NC State all used forms of his walked up Lb' look from time to time, and the Dolphins run defenses very similar to his. What makes him an inovator is his coverages. Very complex, and hard to break down on film for an oppossing offense. Yet fairly easy to teach. His 2 rob, and 4 match, are very good coverages, that confuse offenses (hence the high turnover rates) yet have to be implemented over time (hence first year woes) puts a lot of pressure on having smart safeties, and athletic lb's. His fire zone coverage 3 deep 3 under concepts are pretty standard. But his actual zone blitzes are pretty unique. I compare him alot to Brett Venables. I do hope he doesnt stay in the box, I understand the reasoning, but a new DC espically needs to be teaching during the game, coaches and players.

I would like to thank GSimmons for his great analysis. Go Orange.

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