Lets start with the basics. The secondary as a whole sucked. Hard. It is impossible to explain away 405 yards, 4 TD's no picks and an 82 per cent completion percentage. Tyler Bray had a one game QB rating of 198.09 which is basically as good as it gets. That being said there are some things that you need to understand about this performance in particular. The UC defense approached the game exactly the way I expected them to. They set out to stop the run with the front four and play a zone in the back end to force Bray to beat them by throwing the ball underneath. In and of itself there was nothing wrong with that strategy. In fact I agree with it in principal. Going into yesterdays game Bray hadn't yet proved that he was capable of being that patient. His MO was to that point chucking the ball down field indiscriminately to his stellar world beating WR's and letting them make some plays. He hadn't yet proven that ability to paper cut a defense to death. The whole game plan was to make him prove that. He did. With vigor. Here is a handy chart of where Bray threw the ball yesterday and his success rate for each area of the field.
|1 of 2, 33 yards, 1 TD
|5 for 6, 89 yards, 2 TD
|1 of 3, 18 yards
|9 of 11, 85 yards
|9 of 9, 110 yards, 1 TD
|10 of 117 yards
Think of this chart as a diagram of the field. The middle columns represent the area of the field between the hashes. The top row is anything where the throw was longer than 15 yards, the bottom row is everything under.
During the game and the aftermath I received quite a few tweets and comments that basically laid the blame for Tyler Brays performance at the feet of the corner backs. That blame is misplaced. UC ran, almost exclusively cover 3 and cover 4. In both cases the responsibility for the deep outside thirds (or quarters) goes to the corners. There are some variations to cover 3 that don't require the corner to cover a deep third. And that will be touched on. Bray had the one TD, and Dominique Battle did play that one badly. But for the most part Battle, Deven Drane and Camerron Cheatham had very little to do and played reasonably well.
In fact given the way that UC chose to approach the game defensively that pass distribution chart looks almost exactly the way I would want it to look as a defensive coach. If I set up to make a QB beat me under the middle and he does that there isn't a whole lot that can be done. The one area of the chart I don't like is in the deep middle which coincidentally is where the worst player on the defense resides imagine that.
It is time for the defensive staff to face the fact. Drew Frey is terrible. This was my remark about Frey when I did my positional previews back in August.
...I will give Frey two weeks to prove me wrong before I start calling for his head. I would love nothing more than for every instinct I have about him as a player to be proven wrong. But based on what I have seen of him in his 5 years with the program it's probably not going to happen.
So this is me calling for the head of Drew Frey on a silver spike* There is no getting around it. Last year he and Wesley Richardson were often out of position, busted coverages weekly and were just generally. Wesley Richardson has worked his ass off and gotten leaps and bounds better than last season. Thats why he fended off the challenge for his job from Malcolm Murray who has far more talent than Richardson, but hasn't exactly mastered the art harnessing it. Wes will be fine, and I have confidence in his ability to abily perform his job.
*note: Were here at Down The Drive do not condone violence against other people in any regards, and certainly not because an inability to play a sport well. I think I am legally obliged to mention state this as a fact.
Frey on the other hand is terrible, and getting worse. The fact that he has started the last 25 games will be one of the great enduring mysteries of our time. He has started every game over the last three years when he has been healthy. And he has accomplished this feat without having a good game in two years. It's breathtaking to me that he continues to draw starts.
Two of Bray's TD passes yesterday lie directly at the feet of Fray, and a 3rd was probably his fault and resulted from him not having a clear understanding of defensive structure. The first was a flat out bust.
Frey haphazardly wandered into Wesley Richardson's zone in cover 2 leaving. This basically left 2 guys covering 5 square yards in the endzone while the rest was left uncovered. Why did Frey do this? Only he would know. Da'Rick Rogers ran straight up the seam to where Frey should have been, stopped and waited for the ball for possibly the easiest TD he will ever have..
The next TD wasn't as egregious, but it again boils down to a terrible understanding of the defense.
On this play UC is in a basic cloud Cover 3 look where instead of having two corners take the deep thirds one safety will rotate over to take the third of the field farthest from the the wide receivers. Against the formation and personnel grouping that Tennessee has for this play cloud is the right coverage to have. There is a basic caveat to this coverage though. It is susceptible to deep crossing routes because the safety who takes the strong side quarter has to bail at the snap to take away the corner route to the TE. Doing so means that he can't get back to the middle of the field to help against the deep cross. Basically as the safety in the middle third in cloud coverage you can't get beat across your face. Ever. So what happens? Frey gets beat across his face. Touchdown Da'Rick Rogers.
The third TD was another misunderstanding of the defensive structure and the position of the play on the field.
Tennessee has the ball on the UC 16 yard line its 1st and 10. UC has the nickle package in the game against Tennessee's Ace set. The call is cover two. In most areas of the field the biggest weakness of cover two is the area between the two safeties aligned on the hash. This is because both safeties have to bail out deeper to the numbers to provide help over the top for the corners. But the closer the offense gets to the end zone the smaller the need for safety help over the top becomes. In essence the back of the end zone becomes the safety over the top for the cornerback. Cover 2 is a good red zone coverage because in the red zone the need for the safety to bail out to the numbers to provide help over the top doesn't exist. Then ends zone serves as an extra defender. This allows the safeties to stay on the hashes and take away the seam routes. Drew Frey has started 25 games, and he has done nearly all of them in a defenses that ran zone schemes almost exclusively. By this point this is something that he should know.
So that background provided go back and watch the clip again. What does Frey do? He abandons the hash to provide help over the top on Da'Rick Rogers running a corner route. A corner route that is already being defended perfectly by Deven Drane or Dominque Battle (sorry I can't tell the difference from the video and ESPN3 keeps crashing on me so a guess is all you are going to get). Batrane is playing the route perfectly, squeezing Rogers into the back corner of the endzone. Its not fool proof, there is no guarantee that Rogers won't come down with the TD if Bray chooses to go there with the football. But with the way that Drattle are defending the route it will take a perfect throw to beat that coverage. Meanwhile, back in the place where Drew Frey should have been standing Zach Rogers catches a TD unopposed.
Plays like this aren't new. Frey has been busting coverages for the last three years on and off, but they are getting much more frequent. Truth be told Frey should have been benched about halfway through last season. He can't cover a soul, he has the football IQ of a gnat and he can't tackle a soul in the open field. The only reason that I can think of that can explain his continuing existence as a starter is that he has a tape of Tim Banks and Nancy Zimpher that he is using to blackmail Banks. Truth be told I do know why he starts. Kerry Coombs loves him. Frey is the consummate practice player. He shows up, he works hard, he kills it in the meeting room. Frey outshines everyone in practice and keeps his starting job in practice. But I don't give a shit how hard he works in practice because when the lights go on and the bullets start flying he can't play at all. The fact of the matter is that Frey hasn't had a good game in two years and has started the bulk of three seasons without improving even a little bit in the last two years. I have nothing personally against Drew. But when I see one player have such a catastrophically negative effect on the defense I am going to mention it. And I just don't see how any coach in his right mind can continue to let him play knowing not just that with him in the game massive game altering mistakes aren't just possible, they are inevitable. Drew Frey can not start for this team. Period. Why is it that everyone but the coaches see this fact for what it is?