Daniel Braverman stands at only 5'10, 177 pounds but he is the Swiss-Army knife of the Western Michigan offense. When watching his film, he reminds me of how Urban Meyer uses Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and his other exciting H-backs. I will get into detail about how Braverman is used in their offense, but he is used in creative ways that create match-up problems with opposing defenses. He makes defenders miss on the perimeter using his shiftiness, and their coaching staff does a wonderful job of maximizing his potential.
The thing about Braverman that makes him special is that he does not just pad his statistics against the porous MAC defenses, but he competes and puts up numbers against BCS schools. In 2014, he caught 86 balls; 10 against Purdue for 130 yards and eight against Virginia Tech for 100 yards. In the first game of the 2015 season against Michigan State, he burned Sparty for 13 receptions, totaling 109 yards.
During his call-in show this week in fact, he called Braverman "an NFL guy" and "probably the best we've faced this year". Braverman will be all over the field on Saturday, let's take a deep dive into his usage:
How Braverman is being used
As mentioned above, Braverman is the key player in the offense and he is used in multiple ways. This season, he has 40 receptions, which leads the country, on only 44 targets. That is an eye-opening completion percentage when targeting a player that many times. He is also getting 38.9 percent of his quarterback's targets.
Out of his 40 receptions, 20 of them have came on first down. Although they have the reigning MAC Offensive Player of the Year at running back, Braverman is used on jet sweeps and touch passes to attack the perimeter on first down. He is the type of player who is used to move the ball on short passes and sweeps, rather than being a red zone or deep ball target. They are going to get the ball in his hands quickly and allow him to make plays in space.
He touches the ball a lot on jet sweeps and tap passes behind the line of scrimmage, but as a route runner, he is treated like a NFL slot receiver. He runs good short routes and his quickness allows him to gain separation on defensive backs. He possesses a similar playing style to Julian Edelman, who also played in the MAC at Kent State.
I charted his touches versus Purdue last year:
|Out wide||Slot||Inside slot||Outside slot|
|0 (1 target)||8||1||2|
Out wide: Braverman was targeted once as an outside wide receiver. He ran a 5-yard hitch that was broken up by the defender. As a smaller receiver, I would not expect him to be targeted much on the outside.
Slot: He primarily lines up in the slot and he is used in a variety of ways. He ran three jet sweep, tap passes that all ended up gaining positive yardage. These are similar to the tap passes that the Buckeyes run to their H-backs. He also had a bubble screen and a reverse. The shifty pass catcher also ran a 10-yard in route, a short flag route and a go route down the seam that gained excellent yardage on the play.
Inside slot: When three receivers are lined up on one side, the inside slot is closest to the line of scrimmage. He only touched the ball on a jet sweep when lined up in the inside slot, but he does line up in this spot occasionally.
Outside slot: The outside slot is located in-between the inside slot and the outside wide receiver. He ran a hitch pattern that was completed and a jet sweep that gained positive yardage out of this position.
How Ohio State will stop him
Ohio State has two of the better outside cornerbacks in the Big Ten, with Eli Apple and Gareon Conley. This season, opposing quarterbacks are 0-of-4 when targeting Apple and 4-of-16 when targeting Conley. The trouble with Braverman, is that he primarily plays in the slot and his quickness could give the Buckeye defense trouble.
WIth Damon Webb in the dog house, Cam Burrows has been lining up at nickleback with Marshon Lattimore backing him up. Burrows did a good job last week, but he is inexperienced and could have trouble against the smaller, quicker wideout. When Ohio State is in their base defense, Darron Lee will be lined up in the slot to the field side, so that realistically erases Braverman's touch passes to the field side.
Ohio State's team speed on defense is what will limit Braverman's east-west running ability, so he may have to run more routes as a receiver, instead of carrying the ball on the perimeter. Limiting his perimeter running ability on first down will put the defense in a favorable situation on the next two downs. Vonn Bell will also have to continue his monster play by filling once he recognizes Braverman with the football in his hands.
Overall, Braverman is an excellent player who has performed admirably against the best defenses in the country but he is going to have a tough match-up against the Silver Bullets, who are playing lights out right now.